VOV: Rotterdam, Netherlands – Day 1

Monday, July 25, 2022

Regular pre-dinner activities. Played a couple of slots and listened to the pianist in the Ocean Bar. We ate in the main dining room tonight. I had lamb chops and Chuck had roast beef. Another great meal.

HAL was showing the BBC Movie: Planet Earth II with the Ocean Bar band doing the background music. I’ve seen it on previous cruises and while I like it overall, I don’t like the scene where the snakes are trying to get the baby lizards as the lizards run for the safety of the rocks. Too much Mother Nature.

The piano bar singer had the night off, so we listened to the Ocean Bar pianist and then made it an early night in anticipation of our early tour to Amsterdam.

I got up at 5:30 and watched some of the scenic cruising down the canal as we headed to our port of Rotterdam. The ship’s bow was open to passengers, but I did not go up there. The canal was busy even this early in the morning.

We passed the Holland America Volendam ship which has been temporarily taken out of service in order to shelter Ukranian refugees. It is the sister ship of the Zaandam. They are the only two left of this size in the fleet.

We docked right next to the Erasmus Bridge aka Swan Bridge.

Our breakfast was delivered at 6:45. I’ve been impressed that the delivery has always been on time. Everything that is supposed to be hot is hot and everything cold is cold. I just wish there was a little more variety to the menu. However, it is wonderful not to have to stand in line for breakfast when you have an early tour.

Our HAL tour today was titled “Full day Amsterdam on Your Own.” The tour description was

This transfer may suit you if you would like to explore on your own. It consists of a motor coach ride from the ship in Rotterdam to central Amsterdam.

You will be dropped off at Museum Square, where the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the most famous shopping street are all located. The coach escort will provide you with city maps and information and will advise you of the pick-up time for the return journey. You will have approximately five hours to shop and explore on your own.

Notes: This tour is available only to guests whose cruise does not begin or end in Rotterdam. Guide service, taxi transfers, entrance fees and lunch are not included in the transfer price. It will be your responsibility to be at the pick-up point at the given return time. An English-speaking escort will be aboard the transfer motor coach to answer questions en route. Travel time to Amsterdam is approximately 1½ hours each way. Traffic can be unpredictable. The driver will do his/her best to keep moving safely. Your patience is greatly appreciated. Delays occasionally extend tour duration.

We enjoyed Amsterdam so much when we visited in 2019 that we wanted to see it again. We figured taking the HAL bus would be easier than trying to find and figure out the train station location and schedule in Rotterdam.

Our first clue that we had chosen unwisely was the stop and go traffic trying to get over the Swan Bridge. What should have been no more than a 5-minute drive took 20 minutes. Bicyclists were flying by us in their lane, not to mention the joggers that waved at us as they ran by us in their lane.

The escort tried to keep up a running commentary as we slowly made our way through the snarled traffic of Rotterdam. Once we finally made it out of Rotterdam, we were able to pick up some speed.

We passed by several towns – Delft – famous for its ceramics; the city of Hague where government including ambassadors and the Royal family reside, and Leiden – home of the oldest Netherlands university and the birthplace of Rembrandt. In the countryside, you could see the canals were higher than the farmland reminding you that a lot of the Netherlands is below sea level.

We briefly stopped for a photo of an old windmill. I was more interested in the nearby stork and the two tiny horses. We are going to see several windmills tomorrow.

As we got close to Amsterdam, the escort said we would be parking near the Amsterdam train station. Since the description said we would be parking in the museum district, people started complaining because they had tickets to museums and the museums were still under a time system. If you missed your time window, you didn’t get to tour.

He said he was sorry but there was no bus parking in that area and busses had to park at the train station area. He said it would be easy to catch a cab to the museums. As people didn’t count on that expense, they were not mollified. Poor communication between HAL and the people that run these bus shuttles.

We didn’t care where the bus parked because our plans didn’t include any tours. We were just going to wander back to the area of the Banks Mansion. It was the hotel where we stayed in 2019. But this time, we would take streets we hadn’t walked last time.

We assumed that the bus would leave Amsterdam later than published since we were so delayed getting out of Rotterdam. Wrong again. The bus was still going to leave at 3:00 which cut down the time spent in Amsterdam by an hour. More grumbling from the passengers. I just know some people headed directly to the Shore Excursions desk to register their feelings as soon as we got back.

Since the ship wasn’t leaving until tomorrow, there was no danger of missing it, but they were sticking to the departure schedule. Some people talked about just staying and catching a train back to Rotterdam. Since we had no idea what the train schedule was like, we opted to still take the bus back.

There was a lot of construction near the Amsterdam train station and the workers did not want the bus to stop there to let us off. The escort had some heated words with the workers until they relented. I am sure the escort did not want to hear any more grumbling from us if we had to go to a different spot.

Once we got off, the escort pointed out the cab area to those who needed it, and then walked the rest of us to the designated pick-up point at the Victoria Hotel. It was so crowded in this area because people were swarming in and out of the near-by train station – many dragging luggage with them. It was chaotic and claustrophobic. We were glad to start walking away from it.

With the help of Google maps, we meandered down different streets and along the canals. Periodically, we would stop at an outdoor cafe for a refreshment and to people watch.

Unfortunately, at one of these stops, Chuck left his backpack that contained all of his and some of my rain gear. When we realized he didn’t have it, we rushed back to the cafe to where we were sitting but it was gone. I assumed gone forever and had already started thinking about where we could replace the items.

However, fortune smiled upon us and the waitress who had waited on us came out of the restaurant, spotted us, and said that she found the backpack and it was behind the counter inside. Though she said she didn’t want any compensation, I pressed it upon her and thanked her profusely. While the stuff inside the backpack wasn’t valuable, replacing it would have been a very big hassle.

Soon it was close to 3:00 so we started back to the Victoria Hotel. I needed to use the restroom and didn’t want to use the one on the bus, so I went inside the hotel hoping for a lobby restroom. Of course, you couldn’t access it without a key. I went to the desk and told him we were meeting our tour group here and could I please use their restroom? Sometimes it pays to resemble people’s grandmothers because he said he was supposed to stay “no” but he would make an exception for me.

I assumed the ride back to the ship would be much smoother because the escort said they would take a slightly different route when we reached Rotterdam, avoiding the bridge area. I have got to quit assuming. We hadn’t made it that far down the highway when we came upon a 5-car accident that blocked both lanes of traffic. The cars were a mess, but we saw people walking around and there were no ambulances, so I hoped there were no injuries.

We were an hour late getting back to the ship but at least we got back safely.

This morning we had been let out off the ship directly into the bus parking lot from the gangway on level 2. However, to enter the ship this evening, we had to go around to the front of the building and enter like we were embarking – through security screening and up the ramp to the ship on level 3. There were a number of crew members and guests using the free WIFI in the port lobby area. I didn’t blame them. The ship’s Internet has been abysmal.

As it was now nearing 6:00 and we hadn’t eaten much since breakfast, we were definitely ready for dinner.


Travel Trivia

Rotterdam, The Netherlands

The extensive distribution system including rail, roads, and waterways have earned Rotterdam the nicknames “Gateway to Europe” and “Gateway to the World.”

During World War I, the city was the world’s largest spy center because of Dutch neutrality and its strategic location in between Britain, Germany and German-occupied Belgium.

During World War II, the German army invaded the Netherlands on 10 May 1940. Adolf Hitler had hoped to conquer the country in just one day, but his forces met unexpectedly fierce resistance. The Dutch army was forced to capitulate on 15 May 1940, following the bombing of Rotterdam on 14 May. The city was almost completely destroyed by the Luftwaffe.

Rotterdam has the tallest residential building and tallest office building in the Netherlands.

Snert is the Rotterdam term for pea soup.

Rotterdam is also known as the “City of Architecture”. It has the highest number of architectural firms in the Netherlands.

*Trivia provided by Wikipedia and Holland America documents.

Author: mmmtravelmemories

A retired college administrator who loves to travel. I write to remember the experiences and, I hope, to inspire others to make their own travel memories.

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