It was strange seeing all luggage lining the halls on Sunday night and ours was not there. Others were wrapped up in packing, we were not but could enjoy the evening. On Monday Morning when we went to a fashionably late breakfast it was strange seeing all the big laundry bags full of bed linen outside cabin doors, but none outside ours. We didn’t know it but we were joining a new Holland America Club, “The Cruise Collectors” folks who take two back to back cruises. We already have earned the titles of Bronze Cruisers, Four Star Cruisers, and Shell Backs. Now we are also Cruise Collectors. I suppose that will mean more email but immediately it had two positive results, we were invited to a Cruise Collectors’ Brunch on Tuesday and we got to sit out the “Mandatory Life Boat Drill.” I could sit in Crow’s nest reading a book while everyone was out on the dreary and damp deck learning about how to put on their life jackets. A lifejacketed crew member approached me where I was sitting asking why I was not at the drill, but then he smiled and said “Cruise Collector.” I didn’t even have to show him a membership card, if I had one. I did have a letter, but I left it in the stateroom. The real advantage is that for sail-out we had the front row captain’s swivel chairs in the “crows nest” to watch our passage through the North Sea Canal and locks. Apparently, this “drill free” privilege is not forever. If I were to stay on for the leg after Norway, I would have to go to the drill again. Under SOLIS (Safety of Life at Sea) I need to do a drill every 30 days.
It was a damp and drizzly day in Amsterdam and we had thought about staying on board to see how they “flip the ship.” Quickly clearing out and cleaning the rooms for the next batch of cruisers but it turns out that everyone had to clear the ship and check with EU immigration. We could opt to go out at 9:30, wait in the terminal and be the first escorted back on board when the ship is cleared but one crew member told us that could take until 11:45, two hours in the terminal? Well with free wi-fi some fellow “cruise collectors” took the option. Not this collector. We opted to see a little of Amsterdam.
We took the tram to the Amsterdam Centraal (Where else) where I looked at some of the station renovations and we got on an hour long canal cruise, we did some shopping for necessities for the rest of our cruise (I needed a new Ace Bandage, for instance) and I checked to see if the White Pass and Yukon Route poster was still up at the A Train Hotel. It was.
Then we took the free ferry from Centraal to the north side of the harbor and back, allowing us to get some pictures of Prinsendam with a big cheery picker hanging out from the dock to allow for painting. They will be giving the ship over to its new German owners in 50 days but painting is ceaseless. Some Germans were on board in Amsterdam taking measurements.
The ship is a little more crowded for the Norwegian Fjords Explorer (665) than it was for the Celtic Explorer (567) and it feels a little more crowded. But capacity is 800 so it is not a full ship.
The North Sea Canal connects the port of Amsterdam with the rest of the world. When we start out there are so many boats in the way I wonder how we will ever get away from the berth. The trip takes us past one of my favorite sites. An old platform that sat in the North Sea for some sort of defense. It was one of the early pirate stations. It was brought into the harbor and is now a restaurant.
The North Sea Canal has locks which keep the water level of the port and canal constant. The last time through we went at high tide so the locks raised us to the North Sea. This time the was very little difference between the canal and the sea so locking was less dramatic.
Nest to our lock we could watch construction on the new lock. It will be the biggest lock in Europe and will accommodate new Panamax ships designed to fit through the new locks on the Panama Canal, helping Amsterdam retain its status as a world port.
This is both the last blog post of Celtic Explorer Cruise and the first of the Norwegian Fjord Explorer cruise. It the end I will probably have some concluding observations on both and probably something on Prinsendam, which changes owners and names on July 1. But for us, Oslo tomorrow!