View the best of Istanbul's stunning architecture and attractions. Your first stop will be at the impressive Blue Mosque, named for the vivid Iznik tiles which line its interior. Take a short walk to the ancient Hippodrome—once the largest chariot racetrack of the Byzantine Empire. Next, you will browse on your ownat the amazing Topkapi Palace—official residence of the Ottoman Sultans—with courts, pavilions, mosques, fountains and a treasury. After lunch at a city hotel, you will stop at the jewel in Turkey's Byzantine crown—the Museum of St Sophia. This splendid Church of Divine Wisdom was originally built in the 6th century, and was lovingly restored in the 1900s, reflecting the true history of the glorious city of Istanbul. Finally, pause at the Grand Bazaar for a little shopping and a demonstration of carpet weaving.
HOLLAND AMERICA PARTY AT
Underground Cistern, built during the reign of Justinian. This 6th-century subterranean water reservoir features a ceiling supported by 336 Corinthian columns and is known as the Underground Palace.
This half-day excursion will introduce you to Salalah, the Sultanate's summer capital. Begin with a drive past beautiful scenery to a grove of frankincense trees—a species unique to Southern Arabia that originated in the Dhofar Valley. This nondescript, smooth-barked tree produces a substance that was once one of the most prized items in the ancient civilized world. After hearing about the key role frankincense had played in the region and taking in its unique scent, you will proceed to view Mughsail Beach. It is nearly two miles of white sand and features high cliffs at both ends. If the tide is right, you will witness the sprays of water up to 45 feet tall gushing from the natural blowholes in the rock face. Next, drive through the picturesque mountains to the Tomb of Job. Job was the long-suffering biblical hero admired by Muslims, Jews and Christians worldwide. Visit his simple tomb, located on a hilltop overlooking Salalah, and see what locals believe to be the footprint of Job himself, pressed into the floor. Departing the tomb, you will stop at one of Salalah's lush orchards growing coconut, banana, papaya and guava, to enjoy a local favorite—fresh coconut juice. Returning to the city, pause for photos at the majestic Al Husn Palace, summer residence of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, before continuing on to the vibrant Frankincense Souq (market) in the old part of Salalah. Enjoy the fragrance of frankincense and sandalwood as you walk through the maze of narrow lanes. After exploring the delightful wonders of the souq, you will return to ship.
To experience the highlights of Mumbai, you must start with the city’s most famous landmark—the Gateway of India. This Indo-Saracenic archway was built in 1911. Continue on to the Victoria Terminus railway station, built during Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year. It is an extraordinary conglomeration of domes, spires, Corinthian columns and minarets in a style described by journalist James Cameron as Victorian-Gothic-Saracenic-Italianate-Oriental-St. Pancras-Baroque. The first train in India left from this station in 1853; now, half a million commuters pass through the station every day. Next, you’ll stop at Mani Bhavan—Mahatma Gandhi’s Bombay base from 1917 to 1934. This building is now a museum and memorial to the famous leader of ‘non-violent non-cooperation’. The room he slept in has remained unchanged and still contains his bed and many of his personal possessions. From here you will drive to Dhobi Ghat where you can take advantage of a unique and colourful photo opportunity—laundry from all over Mumbai is brought to be soaped, soaked, boiled and beaten here. You will also visit the Prince of Wales Museum with its white Mughal-style dome by architect George Wittet. Inside, you will find displays of jade, Mughal Empire weapons, 3rd-century BC terra cotta figures from Gandhara—a former colony of Alexander the Great. However, the museum’s main attraction is a superb collection of Indian paintings, illustrated manuscripts and exquisite miniatures.
The Queen's Necklace: Mumbai by Night
Ride through the city during the early evening hours. Some of the highlights you will see include the Indo-Saracenic Gateway of India, where you’ll stop to take photos; then, you will continue on to Marine Drive. You will follow Marine Drive, with its glittering lights visible from across the bay. Known as the Queen’s Necklace, this road boasts beautiful views of the ocean and its graceful curve is a favorite evening promenade for the locals. Continue past Chowpatty Beach and many old Victorian buildings that are charmingly illuminated at night. Your guide will point out the fine Victorian Gothic architecture of the Victoria Terminus, which is the main railway station of Mumbai and was built during Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year. The first train in India began its journey from there in 1853. After the drive, you will return to the ship.
An ideal "first experience" overview of dynamic Singapore, this tour features many highlights of this island nation that is known for its extraordinary tidiness and its friendly people. First, you will drive to the heart of Old Singapore, passing St Andrew’s Cathedral, City Hall and Padang. Disembark the motor coach at Esplanade Walk to discover on footthe splendid architecture of the historic Colonial District. From here, you can also see the Merlion—the half-fish, half-lion symbol of Singapore—welcoming visitors to the harbor. You might also catch a glimpse of the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel at a distance (weather permitting). Re-boarding the coach, continue to Arab Street to take advantage of an opportunity to photograph the beautiful, gold-domed Sultan Mosque. Next stop, Chinatown! Walking through the alleyways around Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple, you’ll see that the building is flamboyantly graced with multi-colored gods and goddesses. And finally, before returning to the ship, visit the National Orchid Garden to feast your eyes on the largest orchid display in the world, featuring more than 60,000 orchid plants. Pause for photos at Raffles Hotel en route.
A TASTE OF SINGAPORE
In Singapore’s Chinatown you will walk through the alleyways to the colorful Indian templelocated here. In a quaint Chinese tea house (where Queen Elizabeth once visited), listen to a talk on how the Chinese brew tea, take in the flavors and aromas of the tea leaves, and take time for tea tasting. Unique Chinese teapots and tealeaves are also sold here. Next, visit exotic Little India to be charmed by the many shops selling spices, snacks, colorful saris, glittering jewelry, accessories, brassware and other exotica. Taste some spices, then continue past Arab Street and the beautiful gold-domed Sultan Mosque. At the famous Raffles Hotel, enjoy a Singapore Sling at the historic Long Bar, where the cocktail was invented in 1915. A sumptuous buffet curry lunch will be served in the elegant Tiffin Room. The high ceilings and colonial architecture of the room reflect the era of British rule, from 1819 to 1963.The buffet features traditional Indian and Asian specialties and is a favorite with visitors and locals alike.
Drive from Phu My through pretty countryside dotted with rice fields and rubber plantations. The main ‘highway’ is packed with bicycles, heavily laden buses and people making their way to market. This tour introduces the major highlights of bustling Ho Chi Minh City, still commonly referred to as Saigon. Among the grand old buildings, you will see colorful markets selling everything from chilies to French baguettes. The former Presidential Palaceis now known as Independence Palace. This historic building was made famous when a North Vietnamese tank crashed through its front gates in 1975, signaling the end of the Vietnam War. It has changed little since that time and is now retained as a museum. Your tour will include the reception and dining rooms of the President’s quarters, and the basement with its ancient American-made telecommunications equipment still in place, and strategic military maps lining the walls. Drive by the Notre Dame Cathedral—a neo-Classical structure dating back to the 19th century. The imposing twin spires have long heralded arrival in Saigon to passenger liners that travel the winding Saigon River. Enjoy a sumptuous buffet lunch of Asian and Western dishes at one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most luxurious hotels. After lunch, visit the History Museum. Built in 1929, this facility houses an excellent collection of artifacts illustrating the evolution of the cultures of Vietnam, from the Bronze Age Dong Son civilization to Cham, Khmer and modern-day Vietnam. Visit a lacquer ware workshopbefore returning to Phu My port.
Travel time to Ho Chi Minh City is approximately two hours each way.
Hue was the Imperial City of the Nguyen Emperors, rising to glory during their reign from 1802 to 1945. Drive through the Hai Van tunnels from Da Nang, to arrive in Hue. Your visit will be to the Imperial Citadel. Passing through the impressive Mon gate, you will reach the main pavilion—the Palace of Supreme Harmony. It was here that important ceremonies took place. Recent reconstruction has seen this building restored to its former splendor with regal red and gold columns and ornate furnishings. Much of the ground beyond the Palace suffered damage in the Tet Offensive of 1968, and beyond the walls, entrepreneurial farmers work the fertile land. You will see the immense Dynastic Urns, each depicting a different Vietnamese region, and the Pavilion of Benevolence. A buffet Imperial Feast lunch is served at a local hotel. Enjoy your meal featuring Asian specialties including those of Hue, where Vietnamese cuisine is more extensive than anywhere else in the country. After lunch, drive through pine forests and orchards to visit one of the numerous imperial tombs which dot the surrounding countryside. Built by the Nguyen Dynasty Emperors, each tomb was meant as a place of recreation before being utilized as a final resting place. Tu Duc Tomb resembles a miniature royal palace with an attractive pavilion overlooking a tranquil lake, ornate buildings, fragrant gardens and hunting grounds.
Travel time to Hue is approximately 2½ hours each way.
Bay of the Descending Dragon is the English translation for Halong Bay. This remarkable natural wonder and UNESCO World Heritage Site became famous in the West when it was featured in the French film Indochine. Halong Bay is dotted with an estimated 1,969 islands spread over 900 square miles. Some islands are covered in dense vegetation; others are bare and rocky. Sail gracefully past these imposing formations on a converted fishing junk. See tiny islands dotted with rock arches, sheer cliffs, innumerable white sand beaches and peaceful coves. You will stop at Thien Cung Cave and wander through the cavern to marvel at its stalagmite and stalactite formations (suitable only for the agile).
Drinks and western-style restroom facilities are available on board. There are about 120 steep steps to reach the Thien Cung Cave, which is an optional visit