To celebrate the close of 2014, we were sailing on the 14-Day Asian Holiday cruise on Holland America’s Volendam cruise ship.New Year's Eve, VolendamCelebrating New Year’s Eve at sea is one of our favorite traditions to ring in the New Year.

New Year's Eve, VolendamFirst, we put on our formal wear, and headed to the main dining room. The evening menu was printed in a special “gala” booklet.

New Year's Eve, VolendamWe ordered a bottle of festive champagne and tried on our party hats as we contemplated the menu.

New Year's Eve Menu, Volendam

There were special cocktails and appetizer offerings, featuring seafood, caviar and sweetbreads. bisque and the celebration salad were the biggest hits among the soups and salads.

New Year's Eve, VolendamThe entrees all sounded pretty great, but we all ended up making the same selection. Can you guess which one?

New Year's Eve, VolendamThe surf and turf was terrific.

New Year's Eve, VolendamChoosing a dessert was tough, the most festive and delicious was at the top of the list.

New Year's Eve, VolendamThis is the Chocolate Decadence 2014, and it was a good way to end the year.

New Year's Eve, VolendamThe big countdown event was in the showroom with a live band.

New Year's Eve, VolendamWe choose to ring in the New Year in the MIX (the just added new open area with the piano bar, wine bar, martini bar, and spirits and ales bar.)

New Year's Eve, VolendamWe celebrated with new friends, like Virgil from central California.

New Year's Eve, VolendamAfter the clock struck midnight, we headed to the Crow’s Nest where the party continued.

Have you spent New Year’s Eve on a cruise ship? What is your favorite tradition? Please share in comments below.

To read more about our Asian Holiday cruise experiences, check out these posts: 

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Today, in a snowstorm, some 300 Auschwitz survivors and other guests gathered at the entrance to Auschwitz II Birkenau to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the camp’s liberation. I was reminded of my visit in April of 2000.

In all of my travels, a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp has been the most awful place that I have experienced.

Auschwitz II-Birkenau

The rail track in Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp.

The horror of the place is seared into my soul.

Auschwitz-BirkenauAlthough my visit was nearly 15 years ago, just a fleeting thought of the place makes me break out in chills.

Auschwitz crematorium

The crematorium of Auschwitz.

To be reminded that mankind could even dream of that level of depravity shocks me to the core.

Schindler's List survivorBefore our visit in 2000, my group had lunch with the last living survivor of Schindler’s List in Poland at the time. He is pictured above second from the left.

AuschwitzAuschwitz was first constructed to hold Polish political prisoners in May 1940, with the first extermination of prisoners in September 1941. From 1942 through 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the Auschwitz II–Birkenau gas chambers from all over German-occupied Europe. At least 1.1 million prisoners died at Auschwitz, around 90 percent of them Jewish. Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Romani and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and tens of thousands of people of other nationalities. Many of those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.

As Soviet troops approached Auschwitz in January 1945, most of its population was sent on a death march. The prisoners remaining at the camp were liberated on January 27, 1945. In 1947, Poland founded a museum on the site. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

Auschwitz The most important lesson that I took away from my visit to Auschwitz is summed in the quote above. “The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.”

If you have the opportunity to visit Auschwitz in Poland –as painful and shocking as it is –please go and have that experience.

Read more about today’s events in this NPR story: A Holocaust Survivor, Spared From Gas Chamber By Twist Of Fate.

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Exploring Langkawi, Malaysia by Taxi

January 27, 2015

We had the opportunity to visit Langkawi, Malaysia during a recent a 14-Day Asian Holiday cruise on Holland America Line’s ms Volendam. Since we had researched Langkawi before our arrival, we decided that we did not need a tour, and would just take a taxi to the attractions that we wanted to see, with a ride on […]

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6 Weekend Travel Tidbits

January 24, 2015

After we visit a new destination, we find ourselves paying attention anytime we hear about that place in the news. We recently spent three days in Myanmar, so this New York Times article got our attention: In Far-Flung Myanmar, a Land of Contradictions, as did this editorial: The Plunder of Myanmar. United Airlines says it will treat First and […]

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