Monday, September 12, 2016

Voyage of the Vikings Cruise - Cruise Day 19 - Rotterdam Day 2

Today we had a ship’s excursion that took us to Amsterdam to explore the city on our own.  There was also an Amsterdam canal boat cruise thrown in.  It did leave quite early so we had to be up by 6:00 to get ready and eat to make it on time.  We weren’t very happy to hear the alarm go off, but we made it to the bus on time and were on our way by 7:30.

We arrived in Amsterdam just before 9:00 and were dropped off across the street from the Amsterdam Central Train Station.  This weekend was Gay Pride Weekend in Amsterdam and the big parade was yesterday.  We heard there were 400,000 in the city for the celebration and the amount of trash we saw on the streets attested to that.  There were crews everywhere cleaning up the debris so it wouldn’t be long until things were back to normal.  It was still early so most of the revelers were still in bed and the streets were relatively empty.

As you can see, lots of debris from the big parade and party yesterday, but it was quickly cleaned up.

We headed into the city to explore and after taking a while to get oriented we figured out where we wanted to go.  We basically just wandered around and checked out the old buildings and explored.  We remembered some of the spots we visited from our visit back in 1985, and one of those was the flower market.  The flower market is a block long market mostly selling flowers and tulip bulbs – a really amazing array of tulip bulbs.

Amsterdam's floating flower market.

Like everywhere we’ve been in the Netherlands, bicycles are a major mode of transportation in Amsterdam.  There are separate roadways for bicycles and motor scooters, which it seemed are designated by being brick.  One thing we quickly learned was that you’d better look both ways when you cross the bike roads, because they do not yield to pedestrians.  One of the most amazing things we saw was a three story parking garage only for bicycles and it was full!  It certainly does cut down on the number of cars on the road, there is much less traffic than in an equivalent city in the US.

When we arrived in Amsterdam the weather had been clear, but that changed as the morning wore onAt least it stayed warm so we were very comfortable as we wandered around.  By late morning we started getting hungry as breakfast was pretty early this morning and we found a café on the edge of a large square and sat down and got something to eat.  We opted to get a breakfast, which consisted of a sampling of croissants and breads as well as an assortment of meats and cheese.  It all tasted good, but the croissants were just as we remembered them from our last trip; so light and delicious it made us wish we had more.  We sat and watched the growing crowds walk by as we ate, but the wind picked up and suddenly it started to rain so we had to move back under the umbrellas.  It didn’t rain very hard and quickly passed, but the temperature stayed lower and the overcast skies stayed darker the rest of our visit.

After finishing our meal, we walked around a bit more checking out the open air market and shops and then we headed back to the Central Station area. 

When we were here in 1985, it was for a month long work assignment for me.  Back then we flew into Amsterdam and spent a day, but our real destination was Paris where my work would be.  My boss and his wife were with us and we bought Eurail passes to travel by train so we caught the train to Paris at the Amsterdam Central Station.  I had taken a picture of Val in front of the station and I wanted to take one now, over 30 years later, in the same spot.

We made our way towards Amsterdam Central Station (center).

There are many old buildings in Amsterdam and they have settled over the years giving them an uneven look.
Bicycles everywhere.

I got my picture although there were a lot more people there today than when we were there in 1985.  The station was swamped with people returning home from the big celebration; we were glad we had taken the bus from the ship rather than doing this on our own.  We looked at some of the numerous shops in the station before heading back across the street to meet the group for our canal cruise.

Val at Central Station in 1985.
And in 2016.  The buildings the same, but there have been many changes.  I'm not even sure this is the same entrance as it is very large and there are several entrances.
After everyone had gathered for the canal cruise, we were taken across the street to a boat waiting for us and we were off on an hour long tour of the Amsterdam canals.  It was a very interesting cruise, which definitely gave us another view of Amsterdam.  There were many types of boats using the canal including over 2,500 houseboats, which housed permanent residents of the canals.  You must have a permit to live on a houseboat in the canals and right now all the permits are taken so it is very expensive to buy a houseboat.  After doing a circle of the city through the canals and the harbor, it was back to the bus for our trip back to Rotterdam.

We're off on our canal cruise.
We saw numerous houseboats tied up along the canals.  They ranged from very basic to many very lavish ones.

This is a poor picture taken from the bus, but we had to get a photo of one of the Netherlands iconic windmills.
We arrived back at the ship just after the all-aboard time and when we went through the terminal we saw everyone on the decks of the ship looking at the dock.  We thought “wow, everyone is waiting for us” :-), but it turned out a Rotterdam choral group (I don't know their name) was serenading everyone  before the ship left.  When we got back on the ship we went out on our balcony and enjoyed the concert.  Evidently, it is a big deal  for the locals when the Rotterdam is docked in Rotterdam. The Holland America Cruise Line was founded in the Netherlands and since the Rotterdam’s home base is the City of Rotterdam it is the city’s namesake.

It was evident that our ship's departure was a big deal as we could see people gathering in the areas along the docks near the cruise pier as our departure time drew near.  Just as we were scheduled to sail away, the captain made an announcement that our departure would be delayed as one our fellow passengers had been injured and would have to be evacuated from the ship before we could leave.  It made us feel a little somber and sad to realize that someone’s cruise had come to an abrupt and sudden end.

It took about a half an hour for the ambulance to arrive and take the injured person off the ship, but departure time finally arrived.  The choir sang its final song, the lines were cast off and with three blasts from the ships horn, we moved away from the pier.  There was an Oceania ship docked in front of us and they gave us three blasts from their horn, which our ship returned.  We couldn’t see it from our balcony, but people who were out at the back of the ship on the Lido Deck said that there were people repelling off the tower of bridge that was just off the rear of the ship.  As we sailed out of the harbor there were many people in boats and along the shore lined up and waving to us as we departed.  Large and small boats would greet us by blowing their horns, which were always returned by the captain of our ship.  One highlight of our departure was sailing past the previous Rotterdam, which was built in 1959 and is now a museum.    The original Rotterdam went into service in 1872 and was the first in a long line of Holland America ships with that name.  In all there have been six Holland America ships named the Rotterdam including the ship we are currently on, which is number six in the line.

We were serenaded as we prepared to sail away.
Everyone waves goodbye as we sailed away.
There were many people on the docks as we left.  The crew said it is always a big deal when the Rotterdam leaves it's namesake port.
More people on the dock.  The building in the middle is the New York Hotel, the original Holland America Headquarters, and this side has the original Holland America Cruise Line sign still on it.
This is the original Rotterdam built in 1959.  It is now a museum.
People are on the decks waving goodbye to the new Rotterdam.
We are on our way out of the Port of Rotterdam, but it would take a while as the port is huge.
The Rotterdam Harbor is huge and it would take us almost three hours to sail out of it.  We could see numerous huge cranes for loading and unloading the container ships, and when they came to an end we were in an area of refineries and areas to load and offload tankers.  We watched all this on and off from our balcony until we neared the harbor entrance and a strong wind came up making it too cold and windy to stay outside.

It was getting near time for dinner, but instead of going to trivia tonight, we had to go to a lifeboat drill that we had missed because we were on an excursion.  A little inconvenient, but it’s better to be safe than to not be prepared.  After the drill it was not quite time for dinner so we headed for the MIX Lounge where trivia was wrapping up.  Our two team members had paired up with some others and had just won the nights competition so I guess we know who the trivia experts are (hint: it’s not Val and I).

After congratulating the victors, we made our way to the dining room where we caught up on what Ken and Mary Beth had done in Rotterdam.  After dinner we had a very short session in the casino and went back to our room.  Good news tonight, we will finally start gaining back the hours we have lost and the clocks will be set back an hour tonight.  After getting up at 6:00 this morning, that extra hour is welcome.  Tomorrow is a sea day so it will be a leisurely day.

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