We recently returned from an epic cruise completely circumnavigating South America beginning and ending in Ft. Lauderdale Florida. The trip was offered by Holland America Line and we cruised on their ship Volendam. This blog will touch on the highlights and summary of the 74 day trip. Subsequent blogs will dive a little deeper into the details and stories.
Our journey began January 3rd with a rental car drive from our home in north central Florida to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale. We went to Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Antarctica, Brazil (including nearly 1000 miles up the Amazon River), French Guinea, Barbados, Dominica, St. Thomas and San Juan. In total we visited 3 continents, 34 ports in 12 different countries over our 10+ week journey. The captain tells us we sailed 18,649 nautical miles or 22,446 statute miles.
Holland America has really found a niche in offering long cruises to experienced travelers. The majority of our fellow passengers were in their 60s and 70s with quite a few 80s and even some 90s. We had one gentleman traveling alone who never ceased remining us that he was 97 and a half! We had many singles including a woman from NYC who was taking her first cruise. Another woman traveling alone was a retired prison guard from a maximum security prison in Canada. Speaking of Canada we had many from that country just enjoying a winter holiday. Some couples had taken this exact cruise 4 and 5 times. There were a good number of Dutch and German cruisers too. For us this was an opportunity to see many countries we had never visited as well as see Antarctica and the Amazon for the first time. Our ship, Volendam, had 1175 passengers out of a possible 1475. By today’s standards this is a smallish mid-size ship. She was built in Italy in 1999. We had to pack for very cold, windy conditions (Antarctica) and extremely hot (Buenos Aires 102) and humid conditions (Brazil).
While we have been regular cruisers since 1992, this was more than twice as long as any previous trip. It was interesting how we got to know so many crew members and fellow travelers. By the end of the trip we really felt like a community. This was our extended family we had developed. We made some friends, others we knew pretty well, some we just recognized and some we kinda avoided like an annoying cousin. We had several medical evacuations and at least one death – a 34 year old guitar player from the entertainment team who the captain could not get to a hospital fast enough. There were rumors of several more deaths but none confirmed. Over a period of almost 3 months things will happen to a community.
Holland America did a great job of providing lectures and information along the way. Debbie from Shore Excursions was very informative about ports and ship offerings and Jeremy, our cruise director, was excellent in his port talks about history and what to see in each port. He was all around a great presenter and super nice guy. We changed captains mid way thru the trip but each was very informative, friendly and had a sense of humor. Some of our favorite crew members were Eleanor, Esther, Eko, Anna, Ace, A-frame, Tanisi, Mr. T and Wisman. Eko actually remembered us from a cruise 3 years ago! While cruising the west coast of South America we had a university professor lecturing on those countries. During our Antarctic cruising we had 3 scientists on board providing lectures and commentary. In Brazil HAL brought on a team from “Oui Brazil” who performed dance and music and also taught Brazilian samba, capoeira and drumming. The Brazil team also had a great lecturer who gave us so much history and cultural info. During overnight stays Holland offered outstanding on shore performances including tango in Buenos Aires, Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro and a big band show in the world famous Manaus Opera House.
One more footnote about this cruise is about our travel agency, Cruise Specialists. Somehow over the internet we found them (they found us?) and we booked this trip thru them. Little did we know the benefits we would receive by using their agency. First off we got an additional $600 in fully refundable cruise credits to use on shore excursions or whatever. Then at the first of 3 cocktail parties we received very nice embroidered Columbia hats and embroidered tote bags. We also had 2 on board hosts to chat with and get advice and questions answered. They also provided 2 complimentary shore excursions and a premium dinner. If you wish to contact them, our agent was Bridgett Webber.
Overall this was the trip of a lifetime. We had so many educational experiences and some exhilarating ones too. To be able to see and do all this without an airport and flying is just incredible. Holland offers more Grand voyages including ‘around the world’. You can be sure we will consider every offering.
So glad you had such an awesome time. Can’t wait to hear more and see more pictures of your travels!!
A year to remember. What a great excursion. We are semi thinking of moving further north. Closer to our summer place in Mts. and we got lucky with Ian, but our luck may not hold out for next one. Where in central Fl. did you relocate. We like low key population areas. Any suggestions, and what do you like about where you moved to. Pine Is is not thre same after Ian, and will take 2-3 yrs. to clean up and put back. So glad you are enjoying you retirement. Wendell and Linda Davids.
What no trains? 🙂 wow what an adventure. Love your posts.
Jay and Carol
Wow, what a trip of a lifetime! Exciting and, like you say, no airports! You’re sure getting a great education and know how to do retirement! ☮️💙🌹🛳️
What a great experience…you sure know how to get the most out of your trips. I really enjoy traveling the world with you .