Sunday, September 6th
Today is the day we are getting on our beautiful ship. And even though we have been on this ship, The Royal Princess, 18 months ago on our last cruise, we are still excited to be getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. One of the things that we love about cruising is the chance to get away from work phone calls and emails and just gives us a chance to relax.
This morning we had another delicious breakfast at the Novatel hotel and then got ready to head to the ship. A 10 minute taxi ride and we were there. We were extremely surprised and thrilled that the check in process went so quickly and easily. We were dropped off at the pier at noon, done with security at 12:15 and walking onto the ship at 12:20 pm. It really pays to be a repeat customer with Princess cruises as we had priority check in. Fortunately we got there when we did because I heard other passengers talking about getting to the pier at 1:30 pm and having had to stand in a very long line due to a fire alarm. We were able to go straight to our rooms and after dropping off our carry-on luggage we headed to the Horizon Court for lunch.
There weren’t too many people on board yet so there were lots of tables with window views. I was trying to be good so had a huge salad and Chuck had a sandwich. The goal is to not gain too much weight during this 15 day cruise, BUT with all the delicious choices in front of us, it is always hard to not gain at least a little bit of weight on a cruise.
Above is a picture of our mini-suite on the Royal Princess cruise ship. Our steward in charge of our room came and introduced himself to us. His name is Gabriel and he is from Romania. He brought us each a complimentary glass of champagne which is customary for mini-suite customers and above. We are still trying to get used to the time change so we took a nap, and wok up in time to go to the mandatory safety drill where everyone is instructed on how to use the life jackets. After the safety drill we headed up to the top deck for the sail-away party. Usually Princess Cruise lines does this up and a lot of the entertainment crew get people up and dancing and there are prize drawings. We were surprised that none of this was going on. There was a band, and there were waiters taking orders for drinks, only a few couples were dancing and there were no prizes or staff anywhere to be found. There are a lot of older people on the ship and we thought that may be why they didn’t really push a dance party. In fact, I have only seen one child so far, and she was eating with a woman and a male crew member so she is probably related to him. Here’s a cruise tip for you: If you don’t want a bunch of kids on your cruise, make sure to go when the kids are in school! We found a couple of lounge chairs and toasted our cruise with a glass of wine and enjoyed relaxing in the sunshine as it had been in the high fifties since we got to Southampton and today was the first day we actually saw sunshine, although it was still in the low sixties.
After the sail-away party, Chuck went to the work out center to do a work out and I went to the outside deck at the top of the ship to walk on the walking track. I loved walking here during our last cruise because it is really high up and I always brought my camera and got some beautiful pictures from up there. I walked a mile and then used a few of the arm and leg exercise equipment that they have around the walking/jogging track and went down to meet Chuck to get ready for dinner.
We were still tired from the time change so rather than get all dressed up for dinner, we stayed in our jeans and went back to the Horizon Court buffet and had our choice of delicious foods to eat. Chuck had prime rib that he loved and I had some delicious bow tie pasta. And we both enjoyed the mashed potatoes with gravy. My favorite dessert on this shop last time was the peanut butter cookies and they did not disappoint!
After some relaxing back in the room, and reading our, “Princess Patter” the daily schedule the Princess puts out each night with the following day’s activities, we called it a night. We are excited to head into Amsterdam tomorrow. But before we go to sleep we have to set our clocks ahead one hour because we are losing another hour between Southampton, England, Amsterdam, Holland.
Monday, Sept. 7th Day 5
We had a good night’s rest last night, except I guess I am not adjusted to the time change and woke up at 6:00 am. and went to breakfast. I had a little bit of a variety of foods for breakfast including oatmeal, yogurt with a raspberry swirl, watermelon, a pear, banana bread, pumpernickel bread spread with raspberry jam, and grilled hash browns. There are so many different choices of foods here on the ship it is hard to just choose 1 or 2 things for breakfast. We spent the morning sailing up a channel to get into the port of Rotterdam. It took a few hours to get there and we saw a lot of industrialization along the way. There were a lot of wind turbines along the canal for power. We also saw many tall apartment complexes with a walking/biking path all along the canal. Many people waved and took pictures of the ship as we passed. I was surprised by all the groups of swans we saw along the way. They were beautiful and I am sure I saw at least 60 in small groups of 4 to 12 as we sat at breakfast.
We checked out the ship’s stores for fun, and headed back to the room. Chuck watched a bit of TV while I went and found the ship’s laundry room. One of the nice things about Princess Cruise lines is they let you do your own washing and ironing with a laundry room on every floor. A lot of my shirts had gotten wrinkled along the way so I got them all ironed this morning while talking to a very nice older couple from…wait for it: Atlanta, Georgia! Funny to have crossed the ocean to England only to meet some people who live an hour away from us on this ship.
We docked next to the Erasmus Bridge (above with the sea walk on the ship showing to the above right) which is pretty impressive from an engineering point of view! At 1:00 pm we met with a bunch of other people in one of the ship’s dining rooms to get ready to board buses for the drive in to Amsterdam. The drive in took 90 minutes. We tend to enjoy the types of cruise excursions where we are bused somewhere because we can just sit back and relax and enjoy the scenery while the tour guide tells us what we are seeing out the windows. We find it much easier than renting a car on our own and trying to figure out where we are going on our own. We passed many fields of cows, horses and sheep on the way in. We also passed a lot of windmills and large wind turbines and I did my best to get a picture of them as we passed.
Once in Amsterdam, we got dropped off near the central train station. This is a part of Amsterdam we have never been to before, even though Chuck has been three times and I have been twice. I had made a list of things I thought would be interesting to see depending on where we got dropped off. The guide was very good about helping everyone figure out how to get where they wanted to go, and within 20 minutes we had arrived on foot at the Amsterdam Museum. I thought it was fitting that as we followed the guide to the Dam Square where he was going to give us directions to a museum, some young guys got in between us and the guide as we walked along the sidewalk, and they reeked of pot. What’s a trip to Amsterdam without a whiff of pot to remind visitors of the laid back attitude of the people of Amsterdam?
The Amsterdam Museum has an interactive exhibit which seemed to take a long time because you had to wait your turn and pass a special code on front of a machine in order to hear the automated description at each station about the history of Amsterdam. I was much more interested in the permanent exhibit of paintings and art so was happier when we got to that. There are many paintings by Dutch artists of 16th through 18th centuries, but my favorite one by anyone recognizable was part of a painting by Rembrandt called, ”The Anatomy Lesson.” In Rembrandt’s time, once a year doctors would have this special day when they would actually use a cadaver to teach their patients about the human body and Rembrandt painted a scene from this day. The human body they used belonged to a deceased criminal. The original Rembrandt painting was actually destroyed by a fire, and so all that remains is a much smaller portion, but it is of a physician’s assistant’s hands holding the scalp of the cadaver, with the brain exposed. Holy cow, I couldn’t believe Rembrandt had painted that so I had to take a picture.
After the museum, we were pretty hungry since we hadn’t eaten lunch so headed out to find a restaurant with traditional Dutch food. I also wanted a Heineken because although I don’t drink much beer, I had really enjoyed Heineken on draft when we were in Amsterdam a few years ago. We stopped at a place that looked good and traditional but after we ordered our Heinekens we realized it was just a bar with no food. It was really a quaint place though with real blue and white painted tiles on the walls and wooden booths. The date outside the building said 1869. We asked the bar tender where we could get some authentic Dutch food and he sent us to a place down the street that was absolutely perfect. The name of the restaurant is, “Restaurant Haesje Claes.” This is pronounced “Haajee KlaJee.” The building dates from the mid-1600s and was wonderful inside with lots of beams and dark wood. Chuck had been wanting some traditional Dutch pea soup that we had had on a previous trip. They served it with a side of rye bread and a slab of meat, and it was just as good as he remembered it. He also had a very thin beef, cheese and greens plate that he said was wonderful. I had beef stew which was a slab of extremely tender beef served over mashed potatoes with a beef gravy, sweet cabbage and applesauce were also served on the side.
I love Amsterdam so took as many pictures as I could on the walk back to the bus. There’s just something about the beautiful old houses all crammed together along the canals that just speaks to me.
After our bus ride back, we headed up to the food court as we had not had time for dessert at the Dutch restaurant. They have tea and coffee and iced tea that guests can help themselves to so I had two cups of orange spice herbal tea, 2 peanut butter cookies, and a few bites of angel food cake with vanilla sauce and whipped cream. It was all delicious. Chuck was able to get some vanilla soft serve ice cream that was a favorite treat of his on this ship. He said it was as good as he remembered it to be. Something tells me we are going to gain a few pounds on this cruise!Tomorrow we are going into the city of Rotterdam.
Tuesday, September 8th, Day 6
Today we didn’t have to get up early because we were just going to take a free shuttle into the city of Rotterdam. We ate breakfast (my favorite items are now Rye bread and banana bread spread with raspberry jam) and headed off the ship at about 9:30 am. We had to wait in a very long line to catch the shuttle bus, but spent the time talking with 2 women who are very experienced cruisers and have traveled all over the world. I think they were retired but I honestly don’t know how they have the money to cruise as often as they have. Once we caught the city bus shuttle, which was provided to the Princess cruise passengers as a courtesy of the city of Rotterdam, we were dropped off at the city market. This is an amazing place, divided into 2 parts: the first part of the market is housed in a HUGE dome shaped building with a glass window on the front and back that is almost as large as the building itself. Inside of this dome is almost any kind of food being sold that you can imagine. There are stalls for meat, candy, spices, a bakery with amazing looking cookies, doughnuts and pastries, coffee, fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts, etc. Downstairs is a wine shop, a grocery store and rest rooms which cost 70 euros to use (about 85 cents American money). Outside of this building is the outdoor market which consists of rows and rows of goods being sold. Some of the items are food like fish and produce but there were also stalls with clothing, shoes, electronics, sheets, coats, and hot foods for lunch. All of this is right in the middle of the city with lots of modern buildings all around. Most of the town of Rotterdam was leveled with bombing during the second world war and they had to rebuild it all over again so chose modern architecture. There is an old harbor area that got the least amount of damage and I would have loved to have gone there but we didn’t have time. We only spent a little more than an hour at the market then had to get back on the ship. We ate lunch and watched the shop leave the dock and head back down the channel we had just come up the day before.
After lunch I did laundry which is a whole crazy experience. Each floor on Princess Cruise ships have a laundromat, with at least 2 washers and 2 dryers, but lots of people want to use them so you sometimes have to wait awhile. I wandered around the ship with our small bag of laundry and finally found an empty washer one floor up and on the other side. We used to have to use quarters for the machines but now you buy tokens and they charge it to your stateroom. It’s $3.00 to wash and $3.00 to dry a load of clothes. Good thing we brought Tide packets and dryer sheets from home or it would have cost even more. If you go on a Princess cruise, definitely bring laundry soap and dryer sheets from home.
We are still tired from the time change and our busy day in Amsterdam so we took a nap and Chuck worked out while I used the walking track. We went to dinner around 7:45 and we had to wait for a table because we chose anytime dining, but the wait was only 20 minutes. I had a crab and artichoke dip served with toast points, a Caesar salad, a pasta dish with oxtail gravy, and chocolate mousse cake with ice cream. The ice cream was butter pecan and was delicious. Chuck had shrimp cocktail, a tossed salad, smoked pork roast with a potato patty and carrots and the butter ocean ice cream for dessert. It was good and our waiter in the main Symphony dining room was excellent.
Although there was a show, I felt like I could fall asleep at dinner so I was ready for bed at 10:15 pm and fell right to sleep. I hope we adjust to this time change soon. Between the time change, my body waking up early, and exploring ports every day, I am still very tired.