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Holland America’s launch this summer of the ‘new’ Nieuw Amsterdam was a heralded event and a ship that we couldn’t wait to experience. All of the wonderful amenities and gracious service that we have come to expect from Holland America are combined with premium shipboard innovations like pan-Asian themed Tamarind restaurant, an expanded cyber-coffehouse in Explorations Café, flat-screen televisions in all cabins, Cabana club pool lounges, relaxing Hydro pool and Thermal Suites in the spa, luxury retailers, and, oh so much more.

And the itinerary (Mediterranean Empires) was spectacular. Embarkation in Venice with an overnight on the front end afforded two full days to explore the most beautiful city in the world. From there, a day in Split, Croatia, combined the old of the sprawling ruins of Diocletian’s Palace with the new of the cosmopolitan feel of the Riva promenade.

Greece was well-represented on the itinerary, with stops in Piraeus (the gateway to Athens), the stunning islands of Mykonos and Santorini (with their picturesque pastel and whitewash architecture), and the ancient ruins of Olympia in Katakolon (enhanced by a tasty shore excursion off the ship in order to get the full flavor and history of the area).

Our first visit to Turkey was filled with opulent mosques (Ramadan provided a unique time to be in the Muslim country), the thrill of shopping (and negotiating) in the Grand Bazaar, being introduced to exotic new spices at the Spice Market, lessons in rug making (was tempted to bring one home with us), the history of Ephesus, delicious Turkish wines, fortunes read by Turkish coffee ground mystics, and the generous hospitality of the villagers in an intimate lunch excursion offered by Holland America.

It truly was a lesson in old world meets new world--all enjoyed on the Nieuw Amsterdam.