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Let's play pickleball on a cruise ship

Mike and Marga Kidd wipe the floor with us.

Or, more precisely, they wipe the pickleball court with my wife, Kerry, and I, giving us an 11-2 drubbing.

We're so unevenly matched that Kerry and I cheered each of the two points we scored as if we won the world championship.

You see, we're on the Holland America Nieuw Statendam cruise ship going from Copenhagen to Rome and pickleball is the hot new sport onboard.

Shuffleboard move over, please.

</who>All smiles, from left, Steve and Kerry MacNaull pose with the couple that handily beat them in pickleball -- Marga and Mike Kidd.

Our match up with Mike and Marga was part of the kick-off pickleball tournament on day two of the 11-day cruise while we're at sea between Copenhagen and Dover, England.

We quickly find out why Mike and Marga of Canyon Lake, California are so good -- they play competitively on a Southern California circuit.

Kerry and I are neophyte casual players from Kelowna, British Columbia.

But we immediately become enamoured with pickleball on the high seas.

</who>The pickleball courts on deck 11 of the Holland America Nieuw Statendam cruise ship.

We show up for the daily tournaments on sea days between Dover and Porto, Cadiz and Barcelona and Barcelona and Rome.

We squeeze in games around our onshore excursions while the Nieuw Statendam is in port.

And we show up for the tutorials with the ship's sports director Vikas Sharma from India to learn the basics, how to score (it's notoriously difficult), how to dink and drive and lob, backhand punch and cross-court shot.

The assembled crowd of players is no surprise -- boomer couples -- the perfect demographic for pickleball and cruising.

Holland America has recognized this big-time and it's become the official cruise line of the Professional Pickleball Association.

</who>Sports director Vikas Sharma is the pickleball expert and instructor aboard the Nieuw Statendam cruise ship.

The partnership means the association trained Vikas so he in turn can teach us, it provides all the paddles, balls and nets for play on the two courts on open-air deck 11 and its paddles, balls and apparel is also for sale in the shops onboard.

"I'd never even heard of pickleball in India," said Vikas with a laugh.

"But now I'm a pretty good player and instructor. This sport is so popular that people are making decisions on what cruises to go on based on whether or not they have pickleball."

</who>The Holland America Nieuw Statendam sailed 11 days, Copenhagen to Rome.

Of course, there was way more to our cruise than pickleball.

As always, Kerry and I find a cruise the ideal holiday to unpack once, live the ship life of eating, drinking, sleeping and being entertained onboard what is essentially a 14-storey floating hotel while travelling to exciting ports for fun on land.

In this case, that means hiking above the White Cliffs of Dover, wine tasting in Porto, a motorcycle sidecar tour in Lisbon and beach time in Cadiz and Barcelona.

</who>The requisite Steve and Kerry MacNaull pickleball selfie.

Kerry and I always try to do pre-and-post cruise overnights in the best hotels in the cities where the cruise starts and finishes.

That meant a luxurious stay at The Nimb in Copenhagen, a 38-room boutique hotel that looks like a Moorish palace right in Tivoli Gardens.

And an indulgent overnight at the Hotel de la Ville in Rome, the 18th century Italian palazzo ideally located atop the Spanish steps.

</who>The exterior of The Nimb Hotel in Copenhagen, above. A room at the Hotel de la Ville in Rome, below.

We also always fly Air Canada, which is especially good for cruises because we can use the airline's multi-city option to fly Kelowna-Toronto-Copenhagen outbound and Rome-Montreal-Kelowna on the way back.

When flying to Europe, we also like to upgrade to Air Canada's Signature Class so we have one of those pods up front with a lie-flat seat so we can sleep and arrive refreshed and ready to take on the continent.

Check out HollandAmerica.com and AirCanada.com.

</who>Air Canada flies the fast, quiet, comfortable and fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner in and out of most European hubs.



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