We rang in 2018 while sailing on Holland America Line’s ms Koningsdam cruise ship in the Western Caribbean.

Holland America Line, ms Koningsdam, Georgetown, Grand CaymanWhile we’ve previously enjoyed two other cruises on 2,650-guest ms Koningsdam (including a July, 2016 Norway cruise and a November, 2016 cruise to the Southern Caribbean), we found some new ways to appreciate this ship during this New Year’s Holiday cruise.

Georgetown, Grand Cayman was one of four ports during our 7-day cruise. Georgetown is a tender port and is also a popular cruise port; we appreciated that Holland America used local large-capacity tenders to speed guests getting off and back onto the ship.

lido pool, Koningsdam cruise ship, Holland America LineWe avoided the rush to get off the ship in Georgetown and other ports.  Instead of joining the crowd hurrying to get off the ship when it was in port, we spent relaxed mornings enjoying the mostly empty ship. While the Lido Pool area on the Koningsdam was packed on sea days, it was quiet when the ship was in port.

Holiday cruises include special decorations around the ship; notice the subtle silver ornaments to the left side of the pool in the photo above.

Panorama Deck, Koningsdam cruise ship, Holland America LineA unique feature on the Koningdam — compared to other Holland America ships — is the Panaroma Deck. These comfy chairs and couches that overlook the lido pool are a hot ticket on sea days, but when there is plenty of space when the ship is in port.

Dutch Cafe, Koningsdam cruise ship, Holland America LineAnother venue that we love on the Koningsdam is the Dutch Cafe. It has very special decorations for the holiday cruises.  The windows in the cafe area were decorated to look like a Dutch city at Christmas.

holiday decorations, Dutch Cafe, Koningsdam cruise ship, Holland America LineThe Dutch-inspired decorations were three-dimensional, and quite detailed.

flowers, Koningsdam cruise ship, Holland America LineFresh flowers are always a signature trademark of Holland America ships. This unique arrangement included the exotic “Monkey tails” plants.

crab legs, Koningsdam cruise ship, Holland America LineWe always enjoy the Pinnacle Grill specialty restaurant on Holland America ships. Usually, the best choices at the Pacific Northwest-inspired steak restaurant is filet migon.  We branched out — and are happy to report that Mr. Jones (a native Alaskan) gives two thumbs up to the Alaskan King crab legs on the Koningsdam cruise ship.

Cioppino, Pinnacle Grill, Koningsdam cruise ship, Holland America LineMeanwhile, I found the cioppino to be packed with flavorful, fresh seafood.

COURVOISIER NAPOLEON COGNAC, Koningsdam cruise ship, Holland America LineWe tried the Elite Beverage Package on this cruise. By purchasing this drink package, we were able to try new-to-us wines and spirits. As an after dinner drink in the Pinnacle Grill, Mr. Jones tried the Courvoisier Napoleon Cognac.

Jeorge, Koningsdam cruise ship, Holland America LineThis is Jeorge, the hospitality superstar who manages Notes whiskey bar. It is an intimate tasting bar with a large variety of brown spirits from around the World.

Have you sailed on Holland America’s ms Koningsdam? Do you have a favorite highlight from your time on the ship?

Please let us know.  

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In December, we made a brief weekend trip to Denver to see long-time friends. Wanting to be downtown and close to public transportation, we chose to stay at the Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center Hotel.

lobby, Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center Hotel, ColoradoThis is the view — complete with a giant Christmas tree — that greeted us as we entered the three-story interior atrium of the Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center Hotel.

This Renaissance hotel — opened in 2014 — was formerly the Colorado National Bank building — which dates to 1915 — when its location was in Denver’s “Wall Street of the Rockies.”

The marble found throughout the Greek revival building was from the Colorado Yule Marble Company, the same marble used in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Visitors to the hotel lobby can still peek into one the most secure bank vaults in existence at the time – which is today has been converted to a private dinning room.

While the building is still true to its history, the hotel rooms are packed with modern amenities.

A Look Inside Room 436

Room 436, Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center Hotel, ColoradoNote the CNB (Colorado National Bank) detail on the sign for Room #436 at the Renaissance Denver Downtown Hotel.

Entrance view, Room 436, Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center HotelThis is the view upon entering Room 436, a King Deluxe at the Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center Hotel.

seating area, Room 436, Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center HotelThe long, somewhat narrow room has a dedicated seating area, with its own television.

desk and 2nd TV, Room 436, Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center HotelAcross from the king bed is a comfortable desk and a second flat-screen television. The door below this TV hides a mini-fridge.

bathroom, Room 436, Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center HotelThe wall art in the bathroom of room 436 celebrates the building’s marble columns.

shower/tub, Room 436, Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center HotelThe walls of the shower/tub are tiled with marble, in the otherwise standard bathroom.

Our Bottom Line

We enjoyed our brief stay at the Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center Hotel.

The Pros:

  • The hotel atrium is stunning, as was especially festive for the holidays.
  • No cookie-cutter hotel, this property is unique in its reuse of a historic bank restore to its glory days.
  • The rooms have every modern convenience, from a comfortable bed, to good lighting to an effective desk for work.
  • The dedicated seating area and second television would be nice for relaxing with friends.
  • The hotel location is ideal for exploring downtown Denver on foot.

The Cons: 

  • As beautiful as it is, the three-story atrium seems impractical for a hotel. We could not enjoy a drink in the beautiful lobby at “Tellers” bar, because it closed before 10:30 pm on a Saturday evening in December. We were advised this was due to sound-proofing issues between the atrium and the guest rooms.
  • The executive lounge was in a beautiful location overlooking the lobby, but it felt like you were in a library or a museum rather than a hotel.

Have you stayed at the Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center hotel? How did the hotel rate for you?

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Want to learn more about the history of Denver, Colorado? Check out these books:

Friends on the 2018 Viking World Cruise will be visiting Taiohae on the island of Nuka Hiva — the largest of the Marquesas Islands. We were curious to learn more about the Marquesas Islands in the Pacific Ocean that make up one part of French Polynesia.

Nuka Hiva, Marquesas Islands14 Fun Facts to Know About the Marquesas Islands

1. The Marquesas Islands are some of the world’s most remote islands. They are about 3,000 miles from the west coast of Mexico, the nearest continental land mass. The Marquesas are 850 miles northeast of Tahiti.

2. The Marquesas Islands form one of the five administrative subdivisions of French Polynesia, which is considered an overseas collectivity of France. Taiohae — a settlement on the island of Nuku Hiva — is the capital of the Marquesas Islands administrative subdivision.

The Marquesas Islands

The Marquesas Islands

3. There are 15 islands with a combined land area of 405 square miles that make up the Marquesas Islands group. Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou, Ua Huka, Hiva Oa, and Fatu Hiva are the major islands. All the Marquesas Islands are of volcanic origin, except for Motu One.

4. Temperatures in the Marquesas are stable year round, with average daily temperatures ranging between highs of 83°F to 87°F, with average daily lows ranging between 72°F and 76°F. Rainfall, however, is highly variable, ranging from 100+ inches on windward shores and mountains to as low as 20 inches in the “desert” region of Nuku Hiva.

Stone tiki on Nuku Hiva Island in the Marquesas archipelago.

Stone tiki on Nuku Hiva Island in the Marquesas archipelago.

5. Recent research suggests that the Marquesas Islands were colonized rapidly between 1025–1120 AD by native people from West Polynesia, leading to development of a “remarkably uniform culture, human biology and language.” The islands’ rich environment supported a large population, who lived on a diet of fish and breadfruit supplemented by cultivated crops.

6. The islands were given their name by Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendaña, who stopped at Fatu Iva on July 21, 1595. He called the islands Los Marquesas after the wife of the Viceroy of Peru.

United States Navy Commodore David Porter's fleet off Nuku Hiva in October 1813.

United States Navy Commodore David Porter’s fleet off Nuku Hiva in October 1813.

7. During the War of 1812, American Commodore David Porter claimed Nuku Hiva for the United States. On October 25, 1813 Captain Porter sailed his fleet to the island for repairs before continuing his raid against British shipping.  Captain Porter renamed Nuku Hiva “Madison’s Island” after President James Madison. On November 19th, Fort Madison –constructed on a hill next to Massachusetts Bay– was the site of an official U.S. flag raising ceremony with a declaration that the United States had officially laid claim to the island. In December 1813, Captain Porter left Nuka Hiva to continue raiding British whalers.

Captain Porter, who intended to sail back to Nuka Hiva, was captured at the Battle of Valparaíso on March 28, 1814. His claim on Nuku Hiva was never ratified by the United States Congress.

8. In 1842, France conducted a successful military operation on behalf of native chief Iotete and laid claim to the whole group of islands.  France reestablished control over the island group in 1870, and later incorporated the Marquesas into French Polynesia.

9. Of all of the Polynesia, the Marquesas suffered the greatest population decline from diseases brought in by Western explorers.  With no immunity to infectious diseases as smallpox and measles, the eighteenth-century population of more than 78,000 inhabitants declined to 20,000 by the middle of the nineteenth century, and to only 4,000 by 1900.  By 1926, the population reached an all-time low of 2,255 residents. Since then, the Marquesas population has continued to increase, reaching 9,346 inhabitants at the August, 2017 census.


10. Living in the Marquesas inspired American novelist Herman Melville’s first bookTypee: A Peep at Polynesian Life, first published in 1846. The book is a romantic account of his experiences with  of the people of Taipivai. Melville is better known for his 1851 whaling novel, Moby-Dick.


The grave of Paul Gauguin in Atuona, Marquesas Islands, is topped with a sculpture of Oviri. Photo by Christopher Brown

The grave of Paul Gauguin in Atuona, Marquesas Islands, is topped with a sculpture of Oviri. Photo by Christopher Brown.

11. Noted French artist Paul Gauguin spent the last years of his life in the Marquesas. He lived in Atuona on the island of Hiva-Oa and was buried there following his death in 1903.


12. In Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World, the Marquesas Islands are used as a place of exile for persons who think independently and have been identified as dangerous by the World State.


13. The Marquesas Island group is mentioned in the lyrics of the Crosby, Stills & Nash song Southern Cross: “off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas.


14. In November 2001, the Marquesas island of Nuku Hiva was used as the filming location for the fourth season of the reality television show Survivor 4 Marquesas, airing in the United States in 2002. The Marquesas Islands, originally a backup location were for this season, were used when the original location, Jordan, was discounted as a result of the September 11 attacks and Middle East political situation.

Have you visited the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia? What fun fact can you add?

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15 Fun Facts About Andorra

November 16, 2017

In anticipation of visiting Andorra – a new country to add to our list of Traveler’s Century Club destinations — I did a little background research on the 181-square-mile, land-locked country in Southwestern Europe’s Pyrenees mountains. 15 Interesting Facts About Andorra 1. The Principality of Andorra — as it is officially named — is the […]

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