Holland America Visits the City of the Future in Valencia, Spain

A cruise to Spain on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam showed us there are many contemporary reasons to consider the ancient city of Valencia as a top-notch vacation destination.

Since the time of El Cid – over the last thousand years or so – Valencia has seen Christian and Muslim conquerors come and go. Its history also includes being the birthplace of three European kings and two Catholic Popes. However, for the most part, Valencia played a quiet role in Spain’s colorful history – until the decade of the 1990s.

We walked from the cruise port to the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences

If Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry (1921-1991) had lived to see the creation of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias by renowned Valencian architect, Santiago Calatrava, he might not have selected Marin County, California as the 2161 building site of the Starfleet Academy. Instead, he may have asked Senor Calatrava to design it for him in Valencia.

Construction on Calatrava’s amazing complex of otherworldly buildings began in 1998 along the old bed of the redirected Turia River at a reputed cost of more than $2.5 billion dollars.

The main structures

The Umbracle is the huge promenade entrance to the City of Arts and Sciences. Numerous lofty arches are covered in verdant vines that protect a garden and several species of tropical plants and trees. Along the colorful walk you will also find the ‘Stroll of the Sculptures’ an outdoor gallery of nine unusual figures by contemporary artists.

The Prince Phillip Museum of Sciences opened in 2000 and its design is often said to resemble a whale’s skeleton, or a dinosaur’s spine. Whatever your muse, this magnificent exhibit is actually an interactive museum that will prove fascinating to anyone interested in the scientific disciplines that study everything from questions about The origin of the universe to contemporary issues like the enigma of climate change.

The Queen Sophia Palace of Arts sits amidst a setting of Mediterranean blue reflecting pools. When it opened in 2005, it became the signature performing arts center in Spain for opera, theater, and dance. At 248 feet, it is the tallest opera house in the world. The site encompasses four multi-purpose auditoriums and the smallest hall seats 400, the largest 1,700 people.

Proudly, the Queen Sophia Company hosts the Centre of Perfeccionament Placido Domingo, which is a celebrated program for young talented opera artists. As the name indicates, the program honors Spain’s most famous tenor, Placido Domingo.

The Oceanographic is like an underwater city and is the largest aquarium in Europe. It features over 500 species of fish and mammal inhabitants collected from the world’s oceans. The oceanographic compound covers some 20-acres and includes an unusual aquarium restaurant with floor to ceiling glass walls where curious fish can watch you savor the catch of the day along with your paella.

The Hemispheric is a visually striking eye-shaped Planetarium in the midst of a stunning turquoise pool. This popular attraction has a computerized astro-projector that shows the night sky with all the planets and stars on a screen so large you feel like an astronaut.

There is also a laser show displayed on a 900 square foot screen, and visitors can watch IMAX and 3-D journeys through space. It is no wonder that the Hemispheric Planetarium is now one of the top five buildings visited in Spain.

The Agora is the latest structure created by Calatrava’s architectural genius. This surrealistic multi-use sports arena is 262 feet high and seats over 5,500 spectators.

The combined images

The various buildings of the Valencia City of Arts and Sciences have been called ‘techno-palaces’ and they certainly live up to the name. The scope of this unusual complex is breathtaking and an architectural marvel. The light, reflecting waters, shapes, and structural designs are a photographer’s dream. This is an intellectual Disneyland and could be a megalopolis base in the Galactic Empire in Star Wars. Speaking of which, do the views of the Palace of Arts remind you of Darth Vader for any reason?

Don’t miss the rest of Valencia

Visitors to Valencia will want to tour other attractions in the ancient city, like the Barrio del Carmen. Our bet is that your most cherished memories of Valencia will include both Calatrava’s brilliant gift of a glimpse of the future right along with the historic monuments of the past.

If you go

Valencia is 220 miles south of Barcelona on the sunny eastern coast of Spain. Valencia is easy to reach by all means of transportation.

We flew to Barcelona from New York, with a stopover in Dublin via Aer Lingus. We enjoyed the Irish hospitality in the air. Check out their flight schedule *here*.

 

We then boarded the luxurious Nieuw Amsterdam for a wonderful trans-Atlantic cruise back to the United States. For more information, or to book a cruise on Holland America, click *here*.

Happy travels!

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© 2017 Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

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Exploring the Amenities Aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam

capt Mercer

Captain Jonathan Mercer

Holland America has been building  great ships for cruise vacations for 138 years. The ms Nieuw Amsterdam is no exception.

In our last article, we wrote about the four ships that have proudly borne the name ms Nieuw Amsterdam. We also reviewed the many on-board dining options available to passengers.

Today, we complete our story by listing a multitude of other on-board amenities. We also want to give prospective cruisers some insight into a ship’s crew – and how they contribute to a memorable cruise.

Exploring the ship

Front glass

Starting at the top – on deck eleven – there is an Observation Room with a forward-looking 180-degree vista.

Library Lounge

At this location, there is a coffee bistro, a bar, and an excellent library, with books, newspapers, and magazines.

Library

There is also an Internet Café, game tables, and numerous easy chairs.

One deck down, Club HAL (Holland America Line) provides supervised entertainment for the 3 to 12 set. The Loft is not far away and is a comfortable lounge where teenagers can meet and mingle, and play age related games. The Loft’s unique New York design is complete with street signs, a Yellow Cab, and a Hot Dog Stand.

beauty

There is a fully equipped Fitness Center and Spa and Salon on deck nine where you can completely immerse your mind and body into a retrofit, or just rejuvenate and relax.

If you are tired from a hard day at sea, enjoy a movie in the ship’s 36-seat Screening Room – on deck three – and, it’s complete with cushy-chairs and free fresh and delicious popcorn.

shopping

Also on deck three, and after your workout or spa-treatment, you might like a go at upscale shopping in the ship’s Signature Shops

casino

or try your luck at the slot machines and gaming tables in the glittering Casino on deck two.

Queens Lounge sign

culinary school

If you like to cook, the Food and Wine magazine Culinary Arts Center on deck two will be a big hit. There you will find a state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen where gourmet-cooking lessons are provided by celebrity food preparers and the ship’s own master chefs.

Digital Workshop

Elsewhere on deck two, computer aficionados can take free lessons in the Digital Workshop powered by Microsoft Windows. Holland America’s Microsoft trained “techsperts,” will demonstrate photo editing tricks, and provide participants with general computer tips in an interactive classroom setting. Computers are provided.

strings

As the sun goes down, many of the day activity rooms magically morph into exciting cabarets, and like the other lounges situated throughout the ship, many offer passengers the opportunity to dance the night away.

art

While on board, you can view and purchase your captured exploits at the ship’s extensive photo gallery on deck three, and don’t miss the fine art gallery where treasures are for sale and auction.

If for some reason you would prefer to spend your ocean holiday in your stateroom, you might enjoy a long soak in your cabin’s tub and pamper yourself with the provided Elemis bath amenities. After a slow dry with a plush Egyptian cotton towel, slip into a waiting deluxe terry cloth robe. You might then pop one of the thousand or so ship’s library DVDs into your flat panel wide-screen TV.

To complement your relaxation and entertainment, may we suggest a beverage from the mini-bar and a snack or full meal from the complimentary room service menu. La bonne vie! 

Shore Excursions

shore excursions

Holland America has an extensive array of port tours for passenger enjoyment. A good reason to avail oneself of on-board tour booking is safety. Another is that the contracted operators know when you need to be back at the ship for departure. Yes, it can happen. 

Live entertainment on board

swinger

We have been on many cruises, and after awhile the stage productions on cruise ships tend to do a mental merge – but not on this cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam.

Group ensemble performers on cruise ships are selected randomly and put under various length contracts as individuals – which means, they work with many different people in the course of their engagements at sea.

Q&A with performers
Laura Parkes and other performers answer guest questions

The assembled performers in the stage productions on our Nieuw Amsterdam sailing were absolutely the best we have ever seen. The dancers and singers on board were exceptional to a person. Their physical attributes and artistic talent were well above what you would find on the average cruise.

Kudos to the HAL talent scouts responsible for bringing this amazing group together. Sorry, we have no pictures of the group in action. Photography of stage performances is not permitted for legal and safety reasons.

One possible explanation for the quality of the talent is that unlike some other lines, HAL does not require double-duty from its performers. That means you will not see professional artists performing “welcome aboard duty,” or running daily bingo. Cruises that require artists to do something other than perform tend to attract less experienced talent.

We took a particular interest in a vocalist named Laura Parkes. She has a fantastic range and superb stage presence. Laura hails from England. She has been performing on the cruise ship circuit for several years as a lead production vocalist, and aspires to Las Vegas Cabaret. If any of our readers are connected in Las Vegas, Laura could be your greatest find – drop us an email.

theater

show back

All this talent was supported by the ship’s backstage hands at the Showroom at Sea. This beautiful theater spans two decks, and the seats are most comfortable. The stage-sets in the Showroom were brilliant, and the costumes were professional, chic, and alluring. The Nieuw Amsterdam has the best of all of it. 

Service Maximum

A cruise ship is basically a floating resort hotel. Therefore, it only makes sense that the majority of shipboard employees would report to the Hotel Manager – who in turn reports to the Captain. At the time of our sailing, there were 868 crewmembers aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam. 756 of them reported to the Hotel Manager.

When we spoke to Mark Zeller, the amiable Hotel Manager aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam, we asked why he thought his ship was so well received by his passenger guests. He replied without hesitation, “It’s the quality of the crew.”

There are dozens of countries represented in the ship’s complement, but the vast majority of the service personnel come from Indonesia, Bali, and the Philippines – all countries whose people have reputations for being gracious, outgoing, and caring.

We found Mr. Zeller’s pride in his staff to be highly warranted, as the crew of the Nieuw Amsterdam was particularly delightful and friendly. We were not surprised to discover that Holland America has recruiting centers and training schools in both Indonesia and the Philippines.

Crew members aboard cruise ships work hard and are away from their families for long stretches. Typically, they sign on for a ten-month tour, and may rotate their assignments on several ships during their sea-going careers.

 Captain on the bridge

capt

There is a common misconception that all Masters on Holland America’s ships are Dutch. Maybe they were at one time, but not now. Our cruise was under the able-command of  Captain Jonathan Mercer, who hails from Britain, and now resides in Florida with his American wife.

Captain Mercer is one of the most personable and visible ship’s Master that we have encountered during our many years at sea – meaning he was frequently out-and-about chatting it up with the guests in his domain – all of whom seemed delighted by the attention.

We had a stimulating interview with the Captain, and we think it would be hard to find a better ambassador for Holland America.

In closing

NA in Lisbon

A few interesting facts about the ship. The Nieuw Amsterdam weights 86,273 tons, and is 936 feet long. She has 1,056 staterooms, and a crew of approximately 900. She can desalinate 500,000 gallons of potable water per day, and she consumes 75 gallons of diesel fuel per nautical mile. Her maximum speed is 24 knots or 27.62 miles per hour. 

If you go

For more information about cruising on the Nieuw Amsterdam or any one of Holland America’s elegant ships, go to their website at www.hollandamerica.com or call your favorite travel agent.

We had a delightful flight from New York to Europe on Aer Lingus.

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Vacationing Aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam

front of ship couple

The ms Nieuw Amsterdam is first and foremost a high-caliber floating resort. It was designed to appeal to both first time cruisers and well-seasoned cruise veterans – it has everything the sea faring vacationer could desire. 

in port

We booked a 20-day passage on the Nieuw Amsterdam. The itinerary included ports in Italy, Monaco, Spain, and Portugal before heading across the Atlantic for the ship’s repositioning to Florida for its winter schedule in the Caribbean. It was a fabulous cruise.

This is the fourth Nieuw Amsterdam

In 1626, Dutch settlers named their new-world Atlantic colony “Nieuw Amsterdam.” It was not until the Dutch turned the island over to the British in 1664 that it became New York.

Holland America Line (HAL) was founded in 1872. In 1906, HAL began a tradition of honoring the old-Dutch colony and launched the first ms Nieuw Amsterdam cruise ship. That first namesake served until 1932.

In 1937, at a time of growing global unrest, the second Nieuw Amsterdam was christened. Like other great cruise-liners including the Queen Mary, the new Nieuw Amsterdam was conscripted to military service early in WWII. After the war – having served admirably in the conflict – she was again outfitted for cruise service and fulfilled that charter until 1974.

The third ms Nieuw Amsterdam was an instant hit when it began its Rotterdam to New York run in 1983. For 20-years, she was recognized as an elegant star by ocean-going celebrities in ports around the world. After a life of uncompromising reputation and service, she was sold in 2003 to make room for the current ms Nieuw Amsterdam.

Homage well paid

apple long

The Nieuw Amsterdam is a fitting tribute to New York City. Its passageways, lounges, and public rooms are filled with nostalgic artistic renditions and iconic images depicting historical, social, and multi-cultural aspects of The Big Apple – there is even a seven-foot shiny aluminum apple that welcomes exiting elevator passengers on the Port Deck. 

Speaking of elevators

elevators long

Many contemporary cruise ships have glass elevators in the interior of the ship’s atrium. The Nieuw Amsterdam also has four outside glass-enclosed elevators – an interesting novelty – and lots of fun as they zip up eleven decks and provide ocean views on the way to the ship’s spacious Observation Deck. 

Always a lady

best lounge

Walking the decks of the Nieuw Amsterdam is a visual delight. She is outfitted in gleaming chrome and deep rich tones of red and tinges of other subtle hues. Call it understated elegance, or simply chic – in any case she is entirely comfortable. 

An unexpected test at sea

We boarded the ms Nieuw Amsterdam in Barcelona. During our first night at sea we encountered gale winds upwards of 80-miles per hour and 25 foot sea swells. Our balcony stateroom was on Deck 5, and we experienced drifting rushes of spray on our glass door throughout the evening.

The Nieuw Amsterdam listed occasionally and slightly from the starboard battering of the storm, but rode the waves like the 86,273-ton technical marvel she was designed to be. There was little discomfort among the 2,016 passengers and 868 crew members.

During that first night’s gale, and during much better days thereafter, our veranda stateroom was quiet and we could hear neither the wind outside nor our neighbors on either side of our stateroom. There was the occasional door slamming along the passageway, but even that sound was so muted as to not be disturbing. We heard no other noises, and nary a squeak. She is a well-put together craft. 

The staterooms

stateroom

IMG_1826

The staterooms are of comparatively good size, and the addition of the Holland America tub shower in the bathroom will appeal to those who enjoy a good soak, and those who need a little extra room. If you cannot easily navigate over the side of a tub, you can request a cabin with the more traditional cruise-ship shower stall. 

Tempting your inner gourmet

tam food

The Nieuw Amsterdam has a dazzling array of eating venues to satisfy every palate. As You Wish® dining on all HAL cruises means guests can chose from a wide selection of dining times and eating places.

man din long

There’s the two-level Manhattan Dining Room that is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is the main dining room and appeals to those wanting a more formal dining affair.

lido line2 best

lido cheese

On the other end of the spectrum is the Lido Restaurant on Deck 9, where comfort food and ethnic/regional dishes from around the world are all offered up buffet style. Self-seating ocean view tables are always available at the Lido.

Casual table service is available at the adjacent Canaletto restaurant, which specializes in delectable Italian cookery.

hot dogs

There are two poolside walk-ups near the Lido Restaurant. The Terrace Grill serves hot dogs, burgers, paninis, pita sandwiches, and fries. The Slice is a poolside stand that serves up piping hot pizza by the slice or whole pie – with your choice of toppings.

Guests can also enjoy their food selections along-side one of the two swimming pools on the Lido Deck. There are open seating tables, and if so inclined, private cabanas. There are also bars at both locations.

pool

The larger Lido Pool has three hot tubs, and the entire area is covered by a retractable dome, which is open in fair weather and closed in foul. The aft Sea View Pool provides reflections of where you have been as well as the ship’s wake. Holland America thinks of everything. 

Specialty Restaurants

tam entrance 

tam food best

We also had the pleasure of dining in the Nieuw Amsterdam’s specialty restaurants, the Pan-Asian Tamarind

pin grill

and the Pinnacle Grill, specializing in steaks and seafood. There is a nominal charge for each guest at both of these reservations-only restaurants. The food is excellent at all the ship’s eateries, but these two choices are truly special.

The Pinnacle Grill features Sterling Silver Beef® and fresh seafood served on Bvlgari® china, Riedel® stemware, and Frette® linens and is well worth the money for a quiet evening of fine dining, or for celebrating a special event. 

Of course, if none of the above is appealing, there is always the complimentary 24-hour room service menu.

In our next article, we will reveal many more of the gratifying features and amenities that Holland America has thoughtfully included on the Nieuw Amsterdam. We will also give our readers some insight into the personalities of the Captain, Crew, and Entertainers that were part of the launch of this beautiful high-seas resort.

For more information about the ms Nieuw Amsterdam or any of the other Holland America Line ships, check out their website at www.hollandamerica.com or contact your favorite travel agent.

We had a delightful flight from New York to Europe on Aer Lingus.
Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/