We recently returned from spending five weeks on a rather significant trip – a 21 day transatlantic cruise from Florida to Rome and then a two-week land tour of Italy. Without hesitation, we declare it a wonderful trip. We saw and learned so much. We were happy enough and busy enough that our thoughts turned homeward only in the last few days of the five weeks.
This trip was a second or third iteration of pre-Covid travel plans. Even until the last day, we were not certain it would really happen.
Because I planned to write about the trip, I took notes along the way. Putting our memories on the blog will give us an opportunity to remember. I am assuming this will be a summer project because there is a lot to unpack and revisit. Spoiler Alert: There are a few cathedrals coming!
“Andiamo, guys” (“Let’s go” in Italian and a favorite phrase of Fabrizio, our guide)
As Randy and I have come to love cruising, we have grown to really, really like sea days – those days when you don’t have a port to visit. We enjoy the extra activities on the ship and just sitting on our balcony watching the sea go by. (Balconies are required in our opinion.)
As such, we were booked on a transatlantic cruise where our ship was transitioning from Caribbean season to Mediterranean season. We were set to sail on a Sunday in April from Florida and were required to have documentation of vaccinations and boosters, and a negative Covid test within three days. All of that was accomplished and we flew uneventfully to Fort Lauderdale the day prior to boarding.
Usually embarkation goes very well for cruise lines but nothing is predictable in a Covid world. The lines were very long for several ships – ours included. We never learned exactly why but an additional Covid test certainly was a contributing factor!
None of our ship embarkation documentation or any research I did on-line prior to the cruise indicated there would be an additional test. We were put into groups of about 30, tested, and then seated in a very large holding area until our results were known. As we heard different groups called, most were told to proceed. We believe that meant everyone in that group passed the last hurdle. Occasionally, there would be a hold up with a group, presumably because someone failed, or had to be retested.
Our group was eventually cleared (after 20 minutes) and told to proceed. As a result – once we finally got on board, we felt good about the safety precautions and the health of our fellow passengers. Masks were recommended in the communal areas and we usually wore ours.
This is our ship – The Nieuw Statendam, a member of the Holland America Line. We have sailed a number of cruise lines but generally seem to gravitate back to Holland.
This is our cabin. Cabins are similar industry wide but this one had an exceptionally efficient bathroom that I did not take a picture of.
Our cabin had a larger balcony than normal. I know it looks small, but trust me, it is twice as deep as most. We had sky above the outer half instead of just the balcony floor above. Research matters and I knew what to ask for when booking. Sections of Deck 4, some port-side, some starboard, some forward and some aft, have extra large balconies. We were starboard aft.
Holland America Ships all have a godmother – many from the monarchy of the Netherlands. A few are from other areas of life including the Olson Twins and Oprah Winfrey. Oprah Winfrey is godmother of the Nieuw Statendam.
We soon learned our way around and grew to love the ship. We did think, however, that it had strange art. Pieces would be in the central spaces near the stairs and elevators on each deck. Here is a sampler.
Even towards the end of 21 days, we would occasionally see a piece that we hadn’t seen before -depending on where in the ship we were going, and how we happened to go there.
We started our sail with sea days, heading towards Bermuda and beyond. Even though Bermuda seemed to be a logical port, we sailed right by. We’ve been there before so weren’t disappointed.
Our first four days were sea days, a wonderful respite after the business of trip preparation and wondering if it would actually happen.
Next time – our shipboard activities on those great sea days!