This journal documents my activities, observations and thoughts on the ms Rotterdam, Fjords and Highlands Cruise, May 16 to 31, 2009. I booked the cruise through Cruise Specialists, Seattle. The focus of the cruise for me was to visit the island of Saint-Pierre off the coast of Newfoundland, Ireland and the D-Day Landing Beaches in Normandy, France.
Overview of the trip route:
· Fly from LAX to EWR via DEN:
· Overnight Thursday and Friday at my daughter Robin’s house in Montclair, NJ
· Board the ms Rotterdam in New York City
· Cruise to:
· Halifax, Canada
· Saint-Pierre, France
· St. Johns, Canada
· Belfast, Northern Ireland
· Liverpool, England
· Dunmore East, Ireland
· Plymouth, England
· Le Havre, France
· Dover, England
· Rotterdam, The Netherlands
May 14, 2009 (Thursday) Fly – Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey
The start of another of Ed’s Experiences was two days earlier than the cruise departure from New York City. My plan was to fly to Newark and spend some time with my daughter, Robin, her husband Dan and my grandchildren, Emerson and Rex. Last summer I had flown on United a number of times to a project in Boston and I had accumulated a number of Upgrade Certificates that would expire in August, so I chose United to fly from LAX to EWR.
Unfortunately, United no longer offers a non-stop on the route so I scheduled a flight via Denver that departed LAX at 06:25.
Normally I take a Prime Time shuttle to the airport, but they require a pick-up three hours in advance. At 03:25 in the morning it would take less than an hour to reach LAX even if they had to pick up additional passengers. For this trip I book a car service and scheduled a 04:30 pickup.
I awoke at 02:30 to give myself time to make sure I didn’t leave anything I needed behind. Judy was still asleep. The previous week I had MOHS surgery on the back of my head and my left ear. With Judy asleep it was a little tricky to change the bandages, but I was able to do a reasonable job. At 04:15 I went out front to open the gate for the car service and discovered that the car was already there with its lights out. I was determined to not rush and told the driver I would be back at 04:30. I did use the last 15 minutes to make a final check and did find a few odds and ends that I hadn’t packed.
The ride to the airport was quick and the check in smooth. I had to wait a bit at the security check point to receive my additional “wanding” and consequently my luggage on the belt backed up the flow so the people behind me could not retrieve their belongings. I alerted the TSA agents and finally a male agent came over and removed my stuff and gave me my “wanding” and pat down. I proceeded to the Red Carpet Club and had a light yogurt breakfast and then proceeded to my gate. To my surprise I was not on the upgrade list. The flight was United 58 and the plane was a B-757 with 24 first class seats and there were 4 open seats and no one on the standby list so I was able to upgrade and was issued my boarding pass for seat 6A right after the First Class passengers were seated. This resulted in my not being able to store my carryon above my seat, but I was able to find an open bin and sat down to fall asleep. When I awoke we were in the air leveling off. I guessed we departed at 07:00.
I had a nice omelet for breakfast and read some magazines during the hour and fifty minute flight. We arrive at the gate right on the scheduled time of 09:50. When I turned on my cell phone I had an “East Update” message from United informing me that due to high winds in the New York/Newark area my departure on United flight 422 was delayed thirty minutes. I stopped at the Red Carpet Club and checked on my upgrade and was told that since it was an Airbus with only eight or twelve first class seats that I didn’t have a chance, but check at the gate. I called Judy to see how she spent the night and was interrupted with another “Easy Update” message with another delay. At noon I left the Red Carpet Club and bought a Salad at a Quzinos outlet and proceeded to the gate. By now they had pushed back our 10:45 scheduled departure to 13:20. There was no agent at the gate and I read until one showed up. She informed me that First Class had checked in full.
Eventually a crew arrived and I ate my salad and we boarded at 13:20. I was assigned seat 10D and I thought I would have an open seat next to me but at the last minute a number of people arrived and the plane was full. We took off at 13:45, three hours late. The movie was Inkheart, which I never had heard of. Brandon Frazer played a man who restored books and when he read books out loud the characters in the book became real. It was bazaar to say the least and I sleep through most of it. We made up a lot of time and landed in Newark at 18:45, only two hours late. Robin had ordered a car service and after gathering my bags I wheeled them to the pickup point and was met by the driver. I arrived at Dan and Robin’s by 20:00. The driver was about my age and engaged me in conversation so when I unloaded at Robin’s I left a small brief case in his car that contained my passport. I realized it just a few minutes after he departed and we called his service and he returned within five minutes.
The boys were excited to see me. I had been able to arrange visitor passes to the cruise ship for them through Holland America. They are one of the few that still allows visitors but you have to provide seven days notice to get on the security list. The boys were running around the house chanting they were going on a ship. We calmed them down and put them to bed. Robin and Dan had waited to eat with me and we had tacos with lentil beans instead of meat.
I watched the TV show Survivor with Robin and Dan and parts of the Yankee game with Dan and then retired.
May 15, 2009 (Friday) Montclair, New Jersey
Robin had a 09:00 doctor’ appointment and I slept late and awoke to an empty house at 09:00. I had a bowl of cereal and then took a shower and changed the bandages on my ear and the back of my head. Robin returned after 10:00 and at noon we drove over to Montclair State and picked up Dan to go to lunch. After lunch Dan showed me some of the buildings under construction on the campus for which he was the Project Manager.
Robin had to go in the city to set up a reception at her boss, Gerald Peters’ apartment. The plan was for me to accompany her for the party setup and leave before the guests arrive. I was then going to see the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum, four blocks from Gerry’s 85th Street apartment.
Robin and I took the 4PM train into the city. The weather was beautiful and we walked across Central Park to the Gerald Peters Gallery on 78th Street to stop by her office just as Gerry and two other ladies were leaving, so I was able to meet him for the first time (Robin has worked for him for four years). Robin manages the Gerald Peters Gallery and she gave me a tour of the Gallery. She recently has been trained to take on the additional duties of producing photographs of the Gallery’s art work. They have set up a studio with special lights, a Nikon camera and a Apple Mac computer linked to the camera. Very impressive arrangement!
We walked the seven blocks to Gerry’s apartment on 85th Street. It was on the 20th floor with grand views of Central Park and the city. The two ladies I had met with Jerry were already there setting up. After a tour of the apartment I left for the museum. The plan was for Robin to call me when she was no longer needed and we would have dinner in the city and take either the train home or a car service. When I arrived at the museum I found it was closed for a special “Members Only” event. I walked back down to the Metropolitan Museum and when I attempted to enter I saw a sign prohibiting cell phones. Since Robin was to call me when she was no longer needed at the reception I decided not to enter and instead took a long walk around the area.
At 20:00 I returned to 85th Street to see people leaving the building that appeared to be the types that would have been attending the reception. It was a tour of art lovers going from apartment to apartment to see the works of art in the apartment. Jerry made his fortune as a broker for Georgia O’’Keefe and he has a number of her originals in the apartment plus other fine pieces.
Robin soon called and told me that Jerry had invited us to join him for dinner. I went back to the apartment and talked with the ladies while Jerry completed some phone calls. When he finished Robin and I left with him for a close by French restaurant. The place was crowded and the maître d' seemed to know Jerry and asked him if he had a reservation. When Jerry replied he didn’t, the maître d' looked perplexed but said he would see what he could do. There were a number of people waiting for tables but the maître d' returned and asked us to follow him to a table in the back. On the walk over and in the restaurant Jerry talked about his deals, dropping names like “now Hillary can get that done for me”, etc. (Jerry used to loan his plane and apartment to Bill Richardson and hosted many fund raisers for Richardson).
We talked about Western Artists that I knew from Westport and it turns out he had an Uncle that lived in Westport and was an Illustrator that my father might have known from the Westport-Weston Artist Association.
After dinner we walked back to the apartment and Jerry told Robin to take a cab home and expense it. We flagged down a cab and asked him if he could take us to Montclair and after a call to his dispatch he told us he could and we were back to Robin’s by 23:00.
May 16, 2009 (Saturday) Sail from New York City
I slept until 09:00. The boys were continuing to get excited about the cruise ship visit. They had an inflatable model of a Royal Caribbean ship and where running around the house with it. Robin was getting her hair done so Dan and I had breakfast and then showered. We had a concern about fitting my bags in the back of their new Mazda 5. It has three rows of seats but the boys car seats take up the back seat and in the third row it splits. When Robin returned, Dan and I visited the local CVS (I had forgotten to bring spare razor blades) and when we returned I loaded the luggage in the back of the car on one side where the seat folded down. My laptop bag fit behind the seat so we were set to go.
The weather was forecast to be drizzle but just like the day before it turned beautiful, warm and clear. We left for the city at 11:45, Robin and the boys napped on the way. We encountered a big back up to the tunnel and turned on the radio to learn that a car had caught fire in the tunnel and although it had been removed the backup still lingered. It was after 13:00 before we arrived at the cruise terminal. Robin, the boys and I got off at the baggage drop off point while Dan searched for a place to park. The in processing was on the second level and there was no provision for visitors. Eventually I found a woman who contacted Holland America and was informed that visitors needed to go in through the street level. We proceeded down to that level and there was a roster with their names on it.
I now had to process in and a group just arrived ahead of me so it took me a little while to get processed. Robin called me and they were waiting for me on the “A” deck. I boarded on deck 3 and proceeded down to the A deck to find two bored boys waiting. We got them in and we walked up to deck 1 and found my cabin. One bag was already outside the door. The boys were impressed and jumped on the bed to look out the window. We left their bag in my cabin and walked to the elevator to start the tour. The first stop was the Lido Deck for lunch. They wanted Cheeseburgers and Pizza, so we skipped the buffet and sat by the pool to eat our lunch.
After lunch I started to show them the ship the boys were so excited, they ducked under ropes into areas they were not supposed to go, ran down the corridors, but at times Emery held my hand when we entered and exited elevators. As it approached the Life Boat drill time we returned to my cabin to find all my bags had arrived and picked up Robin’s bag and proceeded to bid farewell at the A deck.
My cabin EE1841, was mid ship on the Starboard side (very similar to the cabin I had on the Statendam). One difference between the cabins was the Rotterdam cabin safe had a key rather than using a credit card or the room pass. I asked the cabin attendant to get me an extension cord for my CPAP machine and he got me a power strip which was just long enough for the extension code I carry to get to the bedside table.
I put on my life jacket and found my lifeboat station. About a dozen people were there and as we waited for the announcements I took the time to clean up the messages on my Blackberry. After the drill was over I dropped off my life jacket, got my camera and proceeded to the upper decks to take pictures of our departure from New York City.
At the sail away party the Cruise Director was introducing her staff. Much to my surprise and pleasure the Cruise Director for this voyage is Susan Wood, who was the Cruise Director on the South American Cruise Judy and I took in 2004 with my brother, Marc, his wife, Barbara and our cousin Sam and his wife Becky. That was also the great event when the Red Sox’s won the World Series, after 85 years. Susan got to know us since Sam, Becky, Marc and Judy won many Trivia contests.
My picture taking was not the greatest because the sun was behind the Statute of Liberty so it was difficult to get a good picture. The Verrazano Bridge had a cloud bank which would make a beautiful shot but since it was straight in front of the ship I couldn’t find a location to take the picture. I walked up to the Crow’s Nest hoping the windows were clean enough and was stopped by Elliot Finkel, one of the entertainers that boarded in New York. He was razing me about my Red Sox hat. We had a discussion about the fate of the Yankees and the high price for tickets and hot dogs. Before I realized it we were under the bridge and the cloud bank had dissipated so I never got my picture. Elliot has a brother that also performs on the Holland America ships and his father is the Emmy winning character actor, Philip “Fyvush” Finkel. Salima Wasir was also with Eliot. She is a Brit that moved to New York in January and was invited to attend a Yankee game that night but had to cancel to work the cruise. She is in her thirties and was embarrassed to admit she smoked. They were both fun people and I hope to see more of them on the cruise. I got so wrapped up talking with Eliot and Salima that I missed taking the photo of the bridge I wanted.
I returned to my cabin and prepared for dinner. I was assigned to “Open Seating” which gave me the flexibility to eat whenever I wanted. They start seating at 17:30 and I went to the dining room about 17:45 and was seated at a large table of elderly people. I ordered the Santa Fe salad, since I did not have my customary salad for lunch. It was fair and not at all spicy.
The first meeting of the single and solo travelers was scheduled for 19:00 and I skipped the dessert at dinner and proceeded to the Crow’s Nest for the meeting. I was a little late, but to my surprise, Ed, one of the Dance Hosts from the WWII Pacific Island Cruise, was there. We recognized each other since I often ate with him and his roommate Charlie, on that cruise. The Dance Hosts left for another event and I talked with Christian, a German man who was taking the cruise back to Europe after a meeting in New York.
The meeting adjourned and I went to the Queen’s Lounge for the evening’s entertainment. Susan introduced her staff again and then encouraged the audience to meet and greet the people around them. She singled out the woman behind me and came down from the stage and asked her name and she was a Reynolds from New Hampshire. After the show we talked a little. Her husband is originally from Midland, Texas, so I don’t think there is any relationship to our branch of the Reynolds family.
The show was a Comedian named Milt Abel, and he told the typical cruise jokes about the size of the cabins and the vacuum flush toilets, etc. He had good timing and made me laugh even though the subjects were not new.
After the show I returned to my room to unpack. On the way I picked up the Internet instructions and to my surprise my cabin has a three bar wireless connection. With closet and drawer space for two it didn’t take me long to get unpacked.
It had been an exhausting day. The ship’s clock was set forward one hour at 02:00 the next morning. I set my clock, cell phones and watches forward and retired at 23:00 (revised time).
May 17, 2009 (Sunday) At Sea
I didn’t set my alarm, but awoke a little after 07:00, showered and shaved and proceeded to the Lido for breakfast. The weather was not great with a brisk breeze and temperatures in the low 50’s. I was dressed very casual with a Tonga T shirt which I found was a little too light and I was a little chilly.
At 10:00 I attended the Shore Excursions Overview in the Queen’s Lounge and didn’t learn anything new.
For lunch in the Lido I made my own salad. I ate by myself and returned to my cabin to check email and write my journal. At 14:00 I attended the Belfast Port talk in the Queen’s Lounge. Barbara, the lecturer was leaving the ship in Halifax the next day so this was her farewell talk. It was nothing special to write about.
It was the first formal night so I returned to my cabin early to prepare. I again went to dinner at 17:45 and was seated at a different ten seat table. At the table were two ladies from New Jersey, Lois Hawkins and Bobbie Cushing. Bobbie knew the waiters by their first names and they all seemed to cater to her every wish. Two other couples from New Jersey were at the table and Christian, the German solo traveler, and a couple from New Orleans, Henry and Jane Spengler.
Earlier I had received a card from the Captain congratulating Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds (It didn’t say for what). At dessert time, a waiter arrived and asked for Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds and delivered a small cake with Happy Anniversary written on it. They lit a candle on the cake and asked me to blow it out while the waiters in their accents sang “happy anniversary” they were joined by people at other tables singing “happy birthday”. The whole event was embarrassing since Judy had cancelled out of the cruise and our wedding anniversary is the 18th, not the 17th. I don’t know where they received their information.
After diner we adjourned to the Queen’s Lounge for the evening show. Bobbie is an ex-psychologist who now works with battered women and she gave me the tenth degree on my marriage and why Judy was not on the cruise. I explained Judy’s health situation and from that night on Lois or Bobbie asked every day if I had heard from Judy and about her health.
The show was titled “Unforgettable”, performed by the ship’s cast. They sang the great old songs we all knew and loved. At one point I thought we were listening to a Perry Como or Andy Williams TV show. The cast did a good job and they had good strong voices.
After the show I swung by the Ocean’s Bar and talked with Marvin Hoesly, a Dance Host from Las Vegas. He is a member of the Travelers’ Century Club and is very interested in taking Advantage Travel & Tours trip to the Guayas. He gave me his card to pass to Bob and Cathy and tell them he is interested.
I retired to my cabin, checked email and wrote in my journal and turned the lights out at 23:00.
May 18, 2009 (Monday) Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
I awoke to my alarm at 07:00, showered, shaved and changed my bandages. The excursion I signed up for was a ticket on the “Hop On - Hop Off, Fully Guided, Double Decker Bus Tour”. The first bus was scheduled to depart at 09:00. The weather was forecast to be cold with rain showers. I ate breakfast in the Lido and then prepared for the tour by getting out my raincoat with hood.
They had three bus routes, “A, B or C” that pretty well cover the main part of town. Each bus runs their route every 30 minutes. In the winter of 1993-94 I commuted to Halifax from Los Angeles. The bus routes didn’t go out into the suburbs where I worked but they did go by the hotels, bars and restaurants that I frequented.
We used to eat the best fried clam lunch in a Pizza joint outside of town. I was set to take a cab out there but one of the bus drivers told me he knew the place and it changed hands and went back to pure Pizza. He recommended a sea food restaurant in the city on one of the bus routes. I took all three routes and got off at the Maritime Museum which I never took time to see when I worked there.
After the Museum I walked to the Sea Food Restaurant and ordered the fried clams. Two Norwegian women from the ship sat near me and ordered lobster. My clams were terrible. The breading was dark brown, I guess over cooked oil. The ladies told me later that their lobsters were great. To compound the experience when I walked the block to the bus stop it started to rain and I had to stand in the cold rain for 20 minutes before a “Hop On” bus arrived.
Back on the bus was a family of a mother and three children from Danbury, Connecticut. The boy wore a Red Sox hat. They had been in the line behind me when we processed on board in New York. We had a nice chat on the way back to the ship.
Back in my cabin I lay down and fell asleep for a bit.
I went to dinner at 17:30 and was seated at a ten seat table with Christian and next to me were David and Fran Burgess, from Jonesboro, Arkansas. David was an ex-football coach. He coached and taught high school and then college at North Texas State and ended up at Arkansas State where he finally got tired of the coaching and just concentrated on teaching. I was still wearing my New Balance shoes and a polo shirt with collar. He was wearing a jacket and made some comments about the definition of “Smart Casual”. I guess he was offended by my casual attire. We had long discussions about SMU football players and pro football, but I sensed he was a little to formal for me.
Eliot Finkel was the performer that night and I sat with Bobbie and Lois, Henry and Jane. He played a variety of songs, show tunes, and pop using the Ship’s band on some of the numbers. It was a terrific show and Eliot received a standing ovation at the finish.
After the show I returned to my cabin, called Judy and checked email. The ship’s clock was set forward one hour at 02:00 the next morning. I set my clock, cell phones and watches forward and I retired at 23:00 (revised time).
May 19, 2009 (Tuesday) Saint-Pierre, France
We were not scheduled to dock at Saint-Pierre until 14:00 so I did not set an alarm and slept until 09:00. I showered and shaved and replaced my bandages. I am getting the hang of getting the gauze with the Polysporin over the wound and using a hand mirror getting the bandage over the gauze. The Cabin Attendant had delivered a bowl of fruit to my cabin the night before and I had an apple, banana and an orange for breakfast in my room.
The weather was lousy with a smooth sea but a thick fog and drizzle. At 10:00 I visited the Excursion Desk to reschedule my Belfast and Liverpool excursions to replace the excursions they cancelled. Next I stopped at the Travel Guide Desk to see if he could look up my Booking Number for my August cruise so I can schedule some excursions on line. I had left the paper work at home. There were a couple of people in line waiting for the Travel Guide. One of them was complaining that she never gets upgraded and the Guide told her how Holland America determines the priority for upgrades.
First they offer passengers the option to purchase and upgrade for $1,400 on cruises less than 30 days.
Second they select Mariner member couples
Last they select solo travelers.
The reasoning is that solo traveler cabins do not spend as much per cabin as a couple would. It is the spending on drinks, casino, bingo, and shops, etc. that the cruise line makes the highest margin.
A Single and Solo Luncheon was scheduled at noon. Ed, the Dance Host, saw me in the hall and asked me to join the group for lunch. I sat at a table with Jane, Bobbie and Lois from NJ that have been at my dinner tables previously. I was at the window across from Jane and next to me was Gloria, from Toronto. Across from Gloria was Marvin, a Dance Host from Las Vegas. They all were season travelers with many stories about their experiences on Holland America and other lines. Marvin is a retired US Navy Reserve O-5, and a member of the Traveler’s Century Club. I had a Cobb Salad for lunch but joined the others when they all ordered the Berry Sundae for dessert.
During the lunch the Captain announced that due to the heavy fog they were going to dock an hour early. Saint-Pierre is an unusual port. The cruise ship dock is a mile from town so even though the ship is at a pier they tender people that don’t want to walk a mile to and from town to a dock in the center of town.
I had purchased the “Highlights of Saint-Pierre” bus tour. They do allow the two school buses to pickup passengers at the Cruise Dock, but they couldn’t start early so most of the people had left the ship either by tender or walking to town by the time we boarded our bus. I was the first on the bus and sat behind the driver who also was the tour guide. In one hour he drove us over every road on the island, pointing out the shops, government buildings, schools, the one church, the hospital and the various forms of architecture. The houses were painted bright colors. I read in a brochure that it was done so sailors could distinguish their house from the sea, but the tour guide told us it was done to cheer people up in the dreary weather that covers the island most of the year. He pointed out several view points where he would stop if it wasn’t for the thick fog where we would have had great views of the town and the other islands.
For me the highlight of the tour was the local airport. It was built in 1999 and has a hanger that could house a wide body jet, I beautiful terminal and a tower, though not as high is as big as the tower at LAX. The airline currently has only one airplane and flies into the island once a day rotating between Halifax, Montreal and Saint John, Nova Scotia. One reason for the modern airport was to create work for the locals and also to provide a facility that could land the planes in zero visibility. Overall, despite the poor visibility on the tour I think I got a better appreciation and understanding of the island then if I had ventured into town on my own.
Back on the ship I had a phone message from Judy, so I called her to find out how her doctor visits went. She was still at her doctor’s office and the receptionist balled her out for using her cell phone. I attempted to get on the internet but they didn’t have a link. Funny that I can get a Blackberry connection but the ship can’t get a TV or Internet connection.
Judy was finally through with her doctor visit and we were able to talk. She had a fatty lump removed from her wrist that was hampering her watch wearing and her primary care doctor changed her medicines. She told her to take some medicine to stop her upset stomach since she thinks that could be a root cause of her cough. Overall, she sounded strong and her sprit was high.
I changed for dinner and walked around the ship waiting for the dining room to open. I was the first in and was seated at a ten person round table. I was soon joined by Inge and Tom from Palos Verdes, LA, Jane and Bob, from Rhode Island, my German friend, Christian, Pam and John from Anchorage, Alaska, and a couple from McKinney, Texas. I had the New York Steak.
After dinner I found a quiet place with a strong signal and called Judy again. She was supposed to get a new mattress delivered, two weeks late. We have a Standard or Eastern King size bed and it had to be special ordered and didn’t arrive on the original scheduled date before Mothers Day, nor on the next scheduled date the week following so we anxious to see if it would be the right size when it was finally delivered. It hadn’t arrived, so I then went to the Queen’s Lounge for the 20:00 show. They were having a special Bingo at 19:30, so I waited outside the Lounge and talked with Jackie, the Cruise Director’s Special Events, coordinator and the one that arranges the Single and Solo events.
Jackie, has been with Holland America for over three years and we were discussing the various Cruise Directors we have both experienced and she told me that Peter Deams, who I really enjoyed on the Africa Cruise had quit last year but visited the ship in New York on Saturday. I had remembered that he was marrying a woman from Philadelphia and now lives and works there.
When the Bingo finished, the room was full but there were a few seats open on the front row and Bobbie and Lois invited me to join them. The Entertainer was Phil Hitchcock, an outstanding Illusionist. His acts were amazing! He had a table float around the stage, flames move around, paper in the shape of a flower float around and when he set it on fire a real flower took its place. His final act was to blow up a huge balloon with an electric pump and then get inside it and hop around the stage.
After the show I stopped by the Ocean Bar and talked to Marvin about travel, being a Dance Host and his Navy experiences. He has really traveled a lot. I had a dance with Aubrey, a Cruise Specialist client that was on my 2005 cruise from Athens to Lisbon and with Ruth, an Asian woman from Montclair, who is traveling with her daughter. When the music stopped I returned to my cabin to write my journal.
The ship’s clock was set back one half hour at 02:00 the next morning. I set my clock, cell phones and watches back and retired at 24:00 (revised time).
May 20, 2009 (Wednesday) St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada
For me it was a short night. My tour was scheduled to depart at 08:20 so I set my alarm for 06:30 but slept until 07:00 and decided to skip the shower and shave. I ate the apple, banana and orange in my room and got dressed to go ashore. We docked at 08:00 so I went up to the Sports Deck to take pictures of the town. The weather was better than the day before, overcast and cold but with no fog. On my way down to the Queen’s Lounge, I stopped in the Lido and had a yogurt and a cup of tea. At 08:15 I was in the Queen’s Lounge waiting for them to call my tour. Again, I was the first on the bus. This group had not figured out how to get from the Queen’s Lounge to the A deck, as yet. Since the stairs to A deck are close to my cabin on deck 1 I had the route down pat.
On the walk across the dock to the tour buses we were greeted by two black dogs, a Labrador Retriever and a Newfoundland. Beautiful dogs! The tour bus was a city bus with a back door and some side facing seats. Our guide was an elderly gentleman named Bob and the driver named Rod. The side facing seats were reserved for handicapped and the Tour Guide. I sat in the first seat facing front just past the side seats. The Holland America escort for the tour was Hans, one of the Dance Hosts. Hans has been doing dance hosting for ten years and on this cruise he is rooming with Ed, my acquaintance from the WWII Pacific Island Battlefield Cruise last year.
The tour hit ten sights in St John’s starting up the center of the town from the dock passed the Court House, Anna Templeton Center, the War Memorial, Harbourside Park, up to Signal Hill, past a museum and the old hospital grounds. At Signal Hill the bus stopped and we walked around the area. Signal Hill gets its name from the fact that it was were Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal on December 12, 1901. On the highest point of land is Cabot Tower which looks like a small fort. In the tower is a gift shop on the first floor and a small Marconi exhibit and SONRA amateur radio station on the second floor. The spot was originally called “The Lookout” as it overlooks the mouth of the harbor. In 1762 the name was changed to “Signal Hill” and cannon were used to fire signals to warn the town of fire or enemy attacks. Several transatlantic cables terminated in the cove below the point. In 1827 a fortified citadel was established on the point. The initial build on the site was destroyed by fire in 1894 and the Cabot Tower was constructed in 1897 to 1900, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s landing in North America.
When we returned from the bus a little pushy lady took my seat and I sat next to her. Hans was the last on and sat next to the tour guide. Several people were upset that people had not returned to their original seats. I don’t understand the thinking of people. The woman that took my seat was European and why she didn’t sit with her husband I don’t understand.
The next stop was Quidi Vidi (kidee videe). It is a Williamsburg style interactive museum “town” that operates in the tradition and authentic lifestyles of the colonial era. The Mallard Cottage in the center of town dates back to 1750. It was very picturesque with a small harbor and lobster shacks across from the cove. We walked around taking pictures and when we boarded the bus the woman had left her bag on my seat. I let it be and took the aisle seat. From the “town” we drove past Quidi Vidi Lake which is the site of the St. John’s Regatta, considered to be the oldest continuing office sporting event in North America. Across the road from the lake are the buildings of the former Camp Pepperell, a World War II US base. I remember when Judy was teaching at Ernest Harmon AFB in Western Newfoundland that her English text books were stamped as belonging to Camp Pepperell.
The next stop was Bannerman Park where we walk through the park to the Government House built in 1827 and is now the residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Park had beautiful tulips in bloom. We boarded the bus and drove past the Colonial House where the local government holds their meetings. The next stop was the Catholic church:“Basilica of St. John the Baptist”. There were no services in session and we were able to tour inside and take pictures of the beautiful stained glass windows. The church was built to hold 2000 people. It is on a hill with a good view of Signal Hill. The local militia used to fire a gun every day at noon to enable people to set their clocks. The story goes that at one point the local clergy asked them to stop because it was upsetting the noon services.
Next we stopped at St. Andrews Church and then drove past St. John the Baptist Anglican Cathedral, City Hall and the Mile One Stadium. After the bad experience with the fried clams in Halifax, I asked the bus driver to recommend a place to have a lobster for lunch. He recommended K Café which happened to be on the route back to the ship. A couple from Worchester, Mass, got off with me and we crossed the street to the K Café. It was a little early for lunch and we were the only ones there. The couple wanted a lobster roll or lobster salad, neither which was on the menu so they ordered chowder and a chicken sandwich. I went for the lobster and again was disappointed. It was small and they had some strange flavoring in the melted butter. It had a lot of red inside and the tentacles were too small to get any meat from them. A major disappointment!
I walked back to the center of town and stopped in the Information Center to ask where I might purchase a small note book. The pointed out a Pharmacy down the block and I found exactly what I was looking for. Next I walked around town and took pictures of an interesting sculpture of actors and musicians.
Back on the ship I laid down in my cabin and fell asleep. When I woke I checked my email and called Judy and then I changed clothes for dinner.
At 17:45 I meet Bobbie and Lori for a dinner she arranged with Eliot Finkel. Henry and Jane Spengler from Bobbie’s Trivia team, and Jo and Ida Grover joined the table. Eliot entertained us with stories of his show business experience and his father’s show business experiences. Talk about six degrees of separation. The previous week he played a concert at Wilton High School and he knew Weston very well and often attended parties at Gerry Mulligan and Sandy Dennis house, a walk through the woods from the house I grew up in. It was a memorable dinner.
The show that evening was Salima Wazir, the Oboe Virtuoso that I met with Eliot on the first day in the Crow’s Nest. She put on a great performance. At one point she changed from the Oboe to another similar instrument and her spiked heel got stuck in a hole in the stage and the stage manager had to come out a free her. After the show I returned to my cabin to check email and write in my journal.
The ship’s clock was set forward one half hour at 02:00 the next morning. I set my clock, cell phones and watches forward and retired at 23:30 (revised time).
May 21, 2009 (Thursday) At Sea
I awoke to my alarm at 07:30. It was a Sea Day with many events that I wanted to attend. I again ate a banana and orange in my room and put on my casual slacks and Cape Horn sweat shirt and proceeded up to the Lido. On the way I stepped outside to find it cold with snow flurries.
After a yogurt, English Muffin and tea I strolled to the Queen’s Lounge to attend the Port Talk on Dunmore East and Plymouth. From the talk I learned that there is not much to do around the Dunmore East port and that I was smart to sign up for a shore excursion to venture out into the country side. Plymouth was another story and maybe I should not have scheduled a tour at that stop.
After the Port lecture I returned to my room to check my email. My Blackberry was no longer receiving emails. The ship was rocking a lot in the stormy seas. The satellite connection was poor. The ship lost the TV connection and the Internet was flakey. I was not able to connect to my Credit Union to pay a bill or to QMX to check email.
I was invited to attend the Holland America Mariners luncheon so I dressed up for the 11:00 lunch. I was seated at a table with a couple from Halifax, a couple from Victoria and a retired school teacher from Long Island. The all had cruised a lot with a lot of different lines. The retired school teacher had been cruising since the 1950’s. The all seemed to like Holland America the best.
After lunch I returned to my cabin and picked up my laptop and carried it to the Internet Café hoping a stronger signal would enable me to get to my Credit Union and QMX email. After twenty minutes I gave up and attended the Celebrity Chat with Phil Hitchcock, the Magician. Henry and Jane were there so I sat with them. I learned that Phil had won a contest as the best Magician in the UK.
I again lugged my laptop to the Wi-Fi hot spots and after a while I was able to connect long enough to my Credit Union Bill Pay to pay my Fry’s bill on line. I was also able to connect to my QMX email for the first time on the cruise and clean out the spam emails.
At 15:00 I attended the Exploration Speaker Series talk on Ireland by Joe Barghothi. Interesting but I didn’t learn anything new. After the talk I returned to my room to write in my journal prepare for the evening formal. On the way back to my cabin, I saw Cindy and Fred from my lunch in St John’s. They told me that they had just met with the Captain over an incident they had in Saint-Pierre, they were on a ship’s tender returning from the city that got lost in the fog and it took over an hour for the sailor to find the ship.
The show schedule had been changed so the first show would be at 18:30. I prefer attending the first show so if I really like the performances I have the option of seeing it again. In order to ensure I could finish dinner before the show, skipped the dining room and had dinner in the Lido. They had the same menu in the Lido. At first I sat by myself at a small table but as I waited for my main course, Phil Hitchcock sat down at the table next to me. I introduced myself and he invited me to join him.
The weather had been unusual. The temperature was in the high 30s and there had been several snow showers but not enough to stick. Every once in a while we get hit by a wave at the wrong angle and a lot of coffee cups and glasses have been broken in the Lido but overall it is not too bumpy a ride. It 1was noisy when the big waves hit the ship but it was not a sea sick type motion rather the bangs and crashes make it scary, especially in the elevators.
As I moved to Phil’s table there was a big crash of cups and glasses. Soon, the Captain made an announcement that he was changing course to avoid the side hits. Apparently we have both high seas and a strong cross wind.
I had a pleasant conversation with Phil about his career, his family and his love of cruising. He wouldn’t give me any hints on how he had a table float around the stage except to tell me the table cost him $3,000. We finish dinner in time to attend the 18:30 show which was a performance by the ship’s singers and dancers. It was beautifully costumed, the songs were old favorites and the dancing was entertaining. Nothing spectacular but it was entertaining.
Following the show I returned to my room to see if anything had been damaged. It was OK, so I wrote some emails and in my journal until after 21:00 when I proceeded to the Crow’s Nest to attend the Black and White Ball. It was a little early but the band was playing. At 21:45, Bobbie and Lois came in. Bobbie, had started drinking Margueritas’ at 10:30, at the Mariners pre-luncheon cocktail party with the Captain. She has over 820 days on Holland America ships. No wonder the staffs all call her by name. Any way, I got them seats and joined them as the Ball started. She told me that she didn’t dance but when Jackie from the Cruise Director’s staff started the dance with a dance with the Captain, Bobbie got up and cut in to dance with the Captain. I saved Jackie embarrassment by asking her to dance.
The Crow’s Nest dance floor became very crowded. I had one other dance with Ruth, from Montclair, and then I retired early to my cabin and tried to catch up on my journal.
The ship’s clock was set forward one hour at 02:00 the next morning. I set my clock, cell phones and watches forward and retired at 00:30 (revised time).
May 22, 2009 (Friday) At Sea
I sleep soundly and awoke to my alarm at 08:30. Again, I just had a banana and orange in my room for breakfast and wondered up deck 4 to turn in my Airport Transfer request from Rotterdam to the Amsterdam airport. At 09:30 I attended the Celebrity Chat with the Oboe Virtuoso, Salima Wazir, whom I had met with Elliot Finkel, in the Crow’s Nest when we left New York. She has a very interesting background. She was born in Germany and lived there five years and then lived another five years in her father’s country of Afghanistan before settling in London where she took up the Oboe at the age of 14 and attended the Royal Academy. In January she moved to New York to study jewelry design.
At 10:00 I attended The Exploration Speaker Series talk by Joe Barghothi, on the British Parliament.
At 11:00 I returned to my room and checked my email. At noon I had a salad lunch in the Lido followed but more Journal writing. The weather temperature was about the same as the previous day without snow showers. The sea was as rough but was not hitting us on the side so it was more of a gentle rocking motion. I heard fewer bangs and not any crashes of glasses and dishes.
At 15:00 I attended a classical piano concert by Eliot Finkel. I sat with Bobby, Lois, Henry and Jane. Bobby and Lois had lunch in the Pinnacle Grill with Captain Krombeen, the Hotel Manager and Susan Wood. She showed me a picture from the Mariner’s lunch the day before with her platinum medal flanked by the Hotel Manager and the Captain. On the back each one had written a nice note.
Eliot played pieces by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt. His encore was a medley of Cole Porter tunes. He received a standing ovation. After words I bid Bobby and Lois farewell and had a brief chat with Eliot before returning to my cabin to prepare for dinner, check email and write some journal entries.
I showered, shaved and replaced the bandage on my head. I did not bandage my ear. Casablanca was on the TV so I watched the ending. The show times are like the day before with the first show at 18:30 and the second show at 20:00 so I skipped the Dining Room and ate in the Lido by myself. I briefly talked with Phil but he came in as I was finishing my cod diner.
At 18:15 I went down to the Queen’s Lounge and sat on the front row with Henry, Jane and the Grover sisters. Ida thanked me for the Champagne Wednesday night. We talked a little about their cruise experiences and then the show started. The featured performer was Sally Jones, a singer and comedian. About mid way through the show singled out Ida and me and wanted to know if we were married. Next when she sang “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” she had me come to the edge of the stage and kiss her hand. Later she had me join her on the stage and sit in a chair while she messed up my hair (I bet she was surprised when you encountered the big bandage on the back of my head which she would not have seen when she picked me out of the audience). Next she had me Tango three steps toward the audience and then stuck a rose in my teeth and had me do it again.
After the show a number of people complimented me for being a “good sport”. I don’t know what else I could have done.
Earlier, I had taken a thumb drive with the picture I took of Bobbie, Lois and Eliot at dinner, to the Photo Gallery to get prints made. After the show they were ready for pick-up. I got two envelopes at the front desk and confirmed the correct spelling of Bobbie and Lois last names and their cabin number. I then went up to the Lido and found Eliot and Salima having dinner. They had seen the show and congratulated me for my fine performance. I asked Eliot to autograph the pictures for the ladies. When he was finished signing the pictures a gentleman came over with a camera and asked me if he could take my picture. Here were two performers and he didn’t ask them. I thought it was hilarious. I asked Eliot if I was now eligible to join SAG and get a fee for my performance. He told me if I was in the next show I could join and I would get half of what he was going to make that night and he gave me the zero sign. I deposited the autographed pictures at Bobbie and Lois cabin.
I returned to my cabin and checked email and wrote some journal entries. At 21:00 I left to see if I could catch Sally at the end of her show and thank her, but I was late and the Queen’s Lounge was empty. I ran into Bobbie and Lois. They saw the second show and I told them that they missed Ida and I performing in the first show. They didn’t know about the pictures yet.
The 50’s and 60’s Sock Hop was scheduled in the Crow’s Nest at 22:00. I went up early and talked with the DJ and then rounded the corner to the bar and there sat Phil, Eliot, Sally and Salima. I had my chance to thank Sally and bought her a drink. We joked a bit about the performance and then Eliot got to telling stories about the great comedians, and entertainers, like, Phil Silvers, Sid Ceaser , Steve Martin, Cole Porter. He has a wealth of stories. At 22:30 I decided to call it quits and as I said goodnight to them Sally, discovered for the first time that her roommate Salima and Eliot were among the first two people I met when were set sail from New York and that we have been socializing all through the cruise. She got a big kick out of that. As I entered the elevator outside the Crow’s Nest a gentleman called out my name. I gave him the “do I know you look” and he replied. I saw you in the show. My fifteen minutes of fame!
Back in my cabin there was a reminder that the ships clock was going to be set ahead another hour, so I set my cell phones and alarm clock, checked email, wrote in my journal and turned out the light at the new time of 00:30.
May 23, 2009 (Saturday) At Sea
I slept soundly and woke just before my alarm at 08:30. The weather was rain, fog and heavy seas. I ate my orange and banana and proceeded to the Lido. On the way I stopped at the Medical Center. I had discovered that Frank, the male dialysis nurse, and Susan Blackwell, one of the Susan’s from the WWII Battlefield Island Cruise were onboard this cruise and wanted to say hello, but neither were in. Ed, the dance host, walked by on his way to breakfast so I accompanied him on the elevator to the Lido and we were joined by Chris, the Port lecturer, which reminded me that I had better have a short breakfast if I was to see his presentation.
I decided to have oatmeal for breakfast and sat with Joyce, a single lady from Arkansas. She had been on other cruises with Ed and he had introduced her to me at a Singles and Solo Meeting. She also planned to attend the Port Lecture so it was a quick breakfast and we hurriedly finished and walked down to the Queen’s Lounge to hear Chris talk about Dover and London.
After the lecture I returned to my cabin to check email and write journal entries. At 11:45 I stopped by the Medical Clinic to get some alcohol swabs to remove some of the adhesive from my ear and this time Susan was there. She gave me a big hug and we made plans to meet for a drink at 21:00.
I then proceeded to the Lido for lunch where I had a tuna sandwich and a Greek salad. As I was leaving Bobbie and Lois were just sitting down for lunch and asked me to sit with them. They had to tell me the story of their problems. They are in an inside cabin on deck 6 over the ceiling of the Atrium and one of the ceiling plates has its rivets come loose and is banging as the ship rocks and rolls. The noise had kept them awake at night and there are no better cabins to move them to. They have been in contact with the Ship’s Hotel Manager and even the Captain was trying to resolve the situation.
I was planning on attending the Celebrity Chat with Sally Jones at 13:30 and so were the ladies so I left them and walked down to the Wajang Theater to get the ladies a front row seat. Susan conducted an interesting interview. Sally first started performing at the age of five as the youngest girl in the Sound of Music. She performed in Annie and many shows as she grew up but got a degree in Marketing and Advertising and after a few years of working in the field after graduation she returned to the theater. She met her Canadian born husband in London and when the play they both were in moved to Toronto they settled in Toronto. She had nine call backs for the lead in Mama Mia but was bumped at the last minute by a Canadian actress who had just returned to Toronto after a stint in a US soap opera. Discouraged from auditions she decided to create her one woman show and was recruited to play cruise ships.
After the chat I returned to my cabin to check email and write in my journal. The ship’s clock was set forward one hour at 02:00 the next morning. I set my clock, cell phones and watches forward and retired at 01:30 (revised time).
May 24, 2009 (Sunday) At Sea
I didn’t set any alarms and naturally work at 09:30. I ate my orange and apple in my cabin and proceeded to the Queen’s Lounge for the “Captain’s Corner” where the senior officer’s of the ship sit on stage, tells us how they got into the business and then take questions from the audience. I sat with Henry, Jane, Lois and Bobbie as usual.
After the talk I hurried to meet the Singles and Solos Group in the Explorer’s Lounge. The group had already left for the Dining Room but Jackie was still there instructing us to go to the Dining Room. I was seated at a table with Greer, a woman from Hartford Connecticut, a woman from Kingston, NY, a woman from Victoria Island and next to me, Carmine, an Accountant from New Jersey. As usual the talk was about cruising and what experiences they had on other cruise lines. The woman from Kingston had taken a Grand Circle Tour at one time and told us she called their Headquarters to get off their daily mailing list. I told them how I get daily mail from either Grand Circle or OAT. The gentleman likes to travel on Carnival. None of the people at the table had cruised on a mega ship like Royal Caribbean. The Kingston woman says she sticks with Holland America because their single supplement is lower than the others. Her next cruise is scheduled for Bermuda and I told the group about some of my Bermuda experiences.
After lunch Aubrey told me how she won the prize on the Prinsendam when she guessed that our fellow traveler, Yosi, was Mrs. Prinsendam. The next to the last day they asked Yosi if anybody had asked her if she was Mrs. Prinsendam and at that point nobody had ask her. The next day at breakfast she asked Aubrey if she was Mrs. Prinsendam and when she said no she returned the question to Yosi and she replied yes. Aubrey didn’t think it was fair but Yosi told her the staff wanted someone to win. Judy and I had spent a lot of time on that cruise with Yosi and had never thought of asking her.
I returned to my cabin and checked email and wrote in my journal. The Stewards had not made the bed and when they came I left the room and walked the deck. It was very windy outside but there were some open spots in the sky. Selima was in the Explorer’s Lounge limping along. When I inquired: “what was the problem?” - She showed me a lump on her knee cap that she got last night hitting the sink in her cabin bathroom.
I exchanged $100 for Euros which is used in Belfast, France and my post trip. Eliot was at the front desk and told me that I was just going to get “chunk change” because the conversion rate was so poor (Actually, I got €70). I also changed $20 for English Pounds and received two £5 notes.
Back in my cabin I checked email and wrote in my journal. The night’s dress was formal – the last one “thank goodness”. I showered, shaved and changed my head bandage. I am still leaving the ear open and it did bleed a little on the towel I covered my pillow with last night.
Bobbie had invited Eliot, Salima and Sally to her table for dinner. The woman turned her down because they had packed their dress clothes since they were leaving the ship in the morning and didn’t want to enter the dining room dressed in casual clothes.
Eliot did show up and we were joined by Henry and Jane, plus a couple Roger and Margaret, from Halifax who we had not met before. Eliot continued to delight us with stories about the great song writers and composers that he had worked for and some of the older musicians that his father knew.
One story I liked was he was when he was attending a small NYC Music College before he entered Julliard. The emphasis was on classical music but some of his classmates wanted to learn Jazz and formed a club. Eliot was walking down the street one day and saw Benny Goodman entering a building near the college. He asked the doorman if Benny lived in the building and he was told he did, so Eliot wrote him a note explaining the club and asking if he could attend a meeting. Eliot was surprised that Benny called him and thought it was a great idea for young musicians in the late 1960’s to have an interest in Jazz and he would be delighted to attend a meeting. He was so impressed with the interest and enthusiasm of the club members that he told them he would teach his Jazz techniques for free and started meeting with them frequently until the classic music teachers heard the playing and asked what the racket was and bawled out Benny and the club members for the “noise”. Benny told him that he wasn’t going to take that “crap” especially when he was giving it free and left in a huff never to return.
I told him that I regularly listen to the Goodman 1938 Carignie Music Hall Concert and Eliot asked us if we knew who wrote “Sing, Sing, Sing”. I should have known but couldn’t remember that it was Louie Prima. When he told us I remarked that Louis Prima and Keely Smith was another of the albums I listen to on my iPod on a regular basis, he replied that that is the CD he has in his car.
After diner I thanked Eliot for providing me with an entertaining cruise, wished him bad luck for his Yankees, and good luck on his Broadway show.
I rushed down to the Queen’s Lounge to reserve Bobbie’s favorite seat. The show was titled: “On The Air”, performed by the ship’s cast. The songs were the ones you heard on the radio from the late 1940’s until the 1980’s. There was a lot; I can’t over emphasize it, a lot of energetic dancing.
After the show I had one dance with several of the ladies I have talked with in the Singles and Solo group. In addition to Aubrey, I discovered that one of the other ladies is a Cruise Specialist client. At 21:30 I returned to my cabin to check email, write in my journal and packed away my tux for the next cruise.
May 25, 2009 (Monday) Belfast, Northern Ireland
During the night I was awakened by the buzzing of my Blackberry. We were now in range and 70 messages were being sent to my phone. As soon as they were all received I fell back to sleep until I was awakened by Susan Wood’s good morning announcement at 08:00 coupled with my alarm clocks, all at the same time. We had docked in Belfast at 07:00. I had finally made it to Ireland. It was the country more people had visited that I had not visited in the world. Actually, Belfast is in Northern Ireland which is technically a part of the UK so I will have to wait a couple of more days when we were scheduled to visit Dunmore East.
The weather was cool and overcast. I ate my orange in the room, dressed and proceeded to the Lido for yogurt, eggs and sausage. My tour, “A Day in St. Patrick’s Country” was not scheduled to depart until 09:15. Back in my cabin I packed a back pack with a raincoat and as I walked up to the Queen’s Lounge, I stopped by a desk where they were handing out booklets and maps, unfortunately, I was too late for the map.
They called the tour ahead of the scheduled time at 09:05 and I again was the first on the bus and sat in the second row. Our Guide was named Nollag which means Christmas in Gaelic, the driver, Alex and Angie from the Fitness Center was our escort. There were 24 people on the tour. The only one I knew was Carmine, who sat next to me at the Singles and Solo lunch the previous day. The first sight of note on the tour was the hull of the Nomadic, which was the tender that ferried First Class passengers to the Titanic. It served as a troop ship in both World Wars and most recently as a floating restaurant on the Seine in Paris. I ate in it when I worked in Paris. The next site of note was the new spire that had been attached to a church in the center of the city. The bus drove us around the city with Nollag pointing out and discussing various sites, such as the house that George Dunlop lived in when he invented pneumatic tires, the Customs House, Saint George’s Market, Queen’s University, the leaning clock tower, city hall with its Ferris Wheel, the ship yard that built the Titanic, and the George Best Airport.
After passing the airport we headed south east out of the city to Castle Ward, near Strangford. The estate is administered by the National Trust on 820 acres overlooking Strangford Lough with beautiful gardens. It is a stately house with both Gothic and Classical design of the exterior and interior. We arrived at 11:00 and spent an hour on a tour of the house.
From the Castle Ward we drove down the Strangford Lough. The weather was very foggy and we were unable to see the mountains and ocean views the guide told us were there. As we approached Newcastle the fog lifted enabling us to see the Mourne Mountains. We passed the Percy French Restaurant (Percey French wrote the song about the Mourne Mountains) and stopped at the Slieve Donard Hotel for lunch. By this time it was 13:45 and the people were getting hungry. It was a good lunch of a chicken breast stuffed with cranberries and boiled potatoes and a glass of wine. After some picture taking of the hotel, beach and grounds we set out again at 14:55 for Downpatrick. At Downpatrick we stopped at the Saint Patrick Center and viewed a 20 minute movie about the life of St. Patrick. We left the Center at 16:00 and drove up the hill to the Down Cathedral and St. Patrick’s grave. We had a talk on the history of the Cathedral which was built on the high point in the town and departed the town at 16:45 for a one hour drive back to the ship.
Since we didn’t arrive at the ship until 17:45 I decided to not change clothes and eat in the dining room. An outdoor BBQ was scheduled for the Lido Pool so I headed up there only to find that it had been cancelled because of rain. They served the BBQ food in the Lido and I ate there. There was no entertainment scheduled until 22:30 when the Filipino Crew Show would take place in the Queen’s Lounge.
I returned to my cabin and wrote in my journal and checked email. I skipped the show and went to bed at 23:30.
May 26, 2009 (Tuesday) Liverpool, England
I awoke to my alarm at 06:00, falling short of my goal to get 8 hours sleep every night but I had a full day ahead of me and I needed to shower, shave, change my bandage and most importantly, send my laundry to get washed. Holland America has a deal where they will wash all the clothes you can stuff in a blue bag they supply for $20. I have been stuffing that bag since the being of the trip and found I could squeeze in 10 sets of underwear, 10 pairs of wool socks and assorted t-ships and black socks in the bag. I had to dump it and count what was in it and re-stuff it before I could turn it over to the cabin attendants. I haven’t mentioned the cabin attendants on this cruse. I had two and they don’t wear name tags nor did they leave a note with their names. I rarely saw them but once they told me that when I was ready to just leave the bag on the bed and they would take care of it. Today was the day to give it a try.
After my shower, shave, bandage replacement and laundry preparation I set forth to the Lido for a quick breakfast and some picture taking of the city. At the Lido I stepped outside to take the pictures and was greeted by a very strong wind, so I quickly retreated, had some eggs, yogurt and an English muffin. I chatted briefly with the nurse, Cindy, and the Crew’s Doctor and headed back to my cabin.
I packed a back pack and headed to the Queen’s Lounge. There was a big crowd lined up for my scheduled “Lake District Explorer with Train and Lake Steamer Tour”. I was not the first to get a sticker but again I was the first off the ship. I haven’t figured out what holds up these people but since the only stairs to the A deck where we exit the ship is just a few cabins from my cabin I know the route like the back of my hand. I was the first to exit the ship and immediately was faced with the strong wind. The ship was tied to a floating pier and we had to walk the length of the ship to climb a gangway that connected us to shore. The tide was out and the gangway was very steep. When I got to the top, Angie was there with our bus sign and I looked down and had already lost my sticker. She told us to wait until everyone in our group had gotten to this point and she would then lead us to the bus which was a long block away in a parking lot. The next guy up the gangway had picked up a sticker and Angie told him I was the one that lost it. The wind was still very strong. Eventually everyone arrived and we departed for the bus parking lot. I was still one of the first on the bus and got the third row seat (the first two rows being reserved for handicap). After everyone was on board the second row was not taken so I moved up (the third row had a column making it difficult to take a picture).
Our guide was Valarie and the drive was Jeff. There were two buses on this tour. We had 28 on our bus and Carmine was again the only one I knew other than Angie. At 08:37 we left the lot and toured Livermore for 30 minutes with Valarie pointing out the sites and giving us a history of how the growth of trade with Ireland, America, the West Indies and the Slave Trade coupled with manufacturing in the area grew the importance of Liverpool as a sea port. In 1830 a railway was constructed between Liverpool and Manchester which made Liverpool the hub of an extensive rail network. Liverpool was the busiest port in England in the 19th century and is second to London today.
After the city tour we headed north on the M6 through Lancaster to the Haverthwaite Train Station. At 10:05 we make a 15 minute pit stop at truck stop and we reached the Train Station at 10:50. We had over an hour to look around the Train Station with its old steam engines and an Engine Barn full of railroad cars, engines and steam rollers (why, I don’t know) that were in various stages of restoration.
The train departed at 11:55 for a 20 minute ride to the Lakeside Station on Lake Windermere. I sat with Carmine and Angie and the train tour guide provided running commentary for the length of the ride. The area once was an important industrial area. Fine steel for medical equipment was manufactured in the area and blue wash soap was another product he discussed.
At the Lakeside Station we boarded the Swan steamboat at 12:30 we set out up the lake for a 30 minute cruise to the town of Windermere. Angie entertained Carmine and me with stories about her experience on the World Cruise, and how the staff and the passengers got to know each other very well. She had a great time with Eileen and Tom who were the Cruise Specialist escorts.
At Windermere we had 45 minutes to wonder around the area. I didn’t go into the town but instead visited the tourist shops near the dock. I met a couple from Trumbull, Connecticut and chatted about growing up in Fairfield County. Her father managed the Stratford, CT movie theater that Bob and I would go to when we stayed with my mother in Devon in the late 1940’s.
Our bus finally arrived and we boarded for a short drive up a steep hill to the Windermere Hydro Hotel overlooking the town and with great views of the lake. Lunch was a couple of slices of lamb with boiled potatoes, mashed sweet potato and broccoli. We finished lunch in an hour and after a short tour of the Windermere town area, with a story that William Wordsworth lived in the area and fought to not allow the train to be extended into the area because it would bring uneducated people from Manchester and Liverpool that would not appreciate the beauty of the area.
The ride back to Liverpool took two hours and when we got to the ship it started to rain lightly and the wind was still strong.
I was able to change and get to dinner just before Bobbie and Lois. Henry and Jane had not returned and we had a couple from Banning, CA, a couple from the Hyde Park area of NY and a woman from upstate NY join us. Bobbie and Lois had taken the Hop On Hop Off tour of the city. I had a escargot and mushroom mix, a Caesar Salad and prime rib with Peach Melba for desert.
A lot of the discussion at the table centered on the experiences the couple from Banning and Bobbie had traveling in Russia before the Berlin Wall fell. Bobbie was with a group that included a sports writer from the New York Times who was held up at the border and spent a day in jail because he listed journalist as his occupation. The couple were in a bus from St. Petersburg to Finland that was stopped and every one had to dump the contents of their suitcases and all reading material was confiscated. They didn’t give me warm and fuzzy feelings for my train trip next week across Kaliningrad to Vilnius.
After dinner I stopped at the Ocean Bar to say hello to Ed the dance host who was standing with Greer. During the course of the conversation I learned that Greer now lives in Greenwich, Ct. We both departed to attend the “Marriage Game” in the Queen’s Lounge. I sat with Bobbie and Lois in our usual front row seat. One of the three couple chosen to play the game was a couple I met processing onboard in New York. They looked my age and I have seen them dancing in both the Ocean Bar and the Crow’s Nest. It turns out they have been married 60 years. The shortest marriage was a couple from Dallas, Texas, that had been married only eight years. During the course of the game we learned that they met at SMU. They were the ones that won the game.
The show started as soon the game was over. The entertainer was Paul Brogan, an Irish Comedian. I had heard many of his jokes before or could guess the punch line but his delivery and timing was excellent and he was very entertaining.
After the show was over I started out to met the SMU couple but Chris, the woman from Danbury, stopped me and asked how Judy was doing and what had I done that day. She and her kids had taken the North Wales and Conway Castle tour and they just loved it. By the time we finished chatting the SMU couple had left the Lounge.
I returned to my room to write in my journal, and check email. The day before, in Northern Ireland, I was receiving my emails on my Blackberry Storm and was even able to send an email to Judy and track the Red Sox game until the ship departed Belfast. This morning I got no reception and where during the Atlantic Crossing I always received my Red Sox SMS messages, I didn’t even receive those today. One of the reasons I bought the Blackberry Storm was to receive email in Europe and to track myself on the GPS. The GPS has not worked since St. John’s and then it didn’t display a map. I had called Verizon before I departed the US to set up Global Roaming but I don’t know what I should expect to work and what I such expect not to work. I have not been able to make a call and am very disappointed in the phone.
I wrote Wendy an email and since she has a Blackberry Storm she may be able to find out what I should expect and if I am doing anything wrong.
After finishing my journal entry it was midnight and I turned out the light at 00:30.
May 27, 2009 (Wednesday) Dunmore East, Waterford, Ireland
The weather system that had troubled us across the Atlantic stalled over Ireland and created a problem at Waterford. The original plan was to anchor off Dunmore East and tender into a dock but the Captain changed plans and was able to cruise up the river to the Belleview docks. The storm had 50 knot winds and the cruise up the river was rocky and the pitching awoke me before my 07:00 alarm. Since again I got less than 8 hours sleep I stayed in bed until the alarm went off.
I showered, shaved, changed my bandage and ate my orange before getting dressed and going to the Lido for a more substantial breakfast. I dressed for the shore excursion and took my backpack with me. I sat with Christian and had oatmeal, yogurt, an English Muffin and tea.
I was happy to discover that, back in Ireland, my Blackberry was working again.
The ship had docked at 08:00 and the buses were waiting. I went straight from the Lido to the Queen’s Lounge which was packed so I visited the front desk and exchanged some money. When I returned the earlier departing tour groups had been called and the Lounge was less crowded. While I waited I talked to two women that looked familiar. It turns out that there are three nurses working the dialysis area and these two work with Frank and had also been on the Statendam. Also, in the Lounge was the SMU couple, Cindy and Steve. I congratulated them for winning the Marriage Game and introduced myself. They were ten years behind me at SMU. They dated during school but married other people and then divorced and hooked up again and were married eight years ago.
They called our tour at 09:00 but I was not able to exit as fast as on previous days – the passengers were catching on to the fast routes from the Lounge to the dock. I sat in the 5th row. A solo guy was across the aisle and the nurses sat behind me. The guide had worked a Belfast excursion two days ago and some of the people knew him. He was a tall good looking actor working as a tour guide between gigs by the name of Paul. The driver was named Colin. There were 30 passengers on our bus and two buses were being used for this excursion called “Exploring Tripperary”.
The weather was overcast but not raining. We left the dock at 09:05 and by 09:20 we were passing through the city of Waterford on our way in the country to the town of Cashel. The hour and ten minute ride was delightful because of Paul’s commentary and humor. One of his bits was to recite the same sentence in the various accents of the different areas in Ireland. He was a lot more understanding than the guide we had in Belfast whose pronunciation of town sounded like tyne and had us confused several times during that tour as to exactly what she was meaning.
At Cashel we stopped at the “Rock of Cashel”. The place is also known as “The Rock of St. Patrick, Cashel” and was known from about 370 A.D. as “Cashel of the Kings”. St. Patrick visited the Rock about 450 A.D. and baptized the reigning Munster king. The story goes that during the baptism service St. Patrick was emphasizing a point and raised his Bishop rod and slammed the rod down and mistakenly punctured the foot of the king, nailing it to the floor. The king did not murmer and after the ceremony St. Patrick apologized and asked the king why he didn’t cry out. The king replied that he thought suffering the pain was part of becoming a Christian.
The site was built as a fortress but was turned over to the church in 1101. In 1134 Cormac’s Chapel was constructed by the King-bishop of Cashel, Cormaic MacCartach, and is considered one of the finest Romanesque buildings in Ireland. It was raining when we left the bus and we had to walk up a hill to the entrance of the Chapel and the tour of the ruins was mostly in areas that once had a wooden roof and is long gone. There were enough overhangs to keep us from getting soaked. The tour took one hour and we had 25 minutes before lunch which was in the Bru Boru down the hill adjacent to the car park.
The Bru Boru had a museum in its basement with an exhibition on the history of song and dance in Ireland. It was worth the time to visit as we waited for the dining room to open. When we were seated, I sat with my back to a fire place with my raincoat on the back of my chair to dry out. Joining me at the table was a couple with their grown son from Ontario, Canada. The father retired from the Ontario Nuclear Power Plant, and the son was now an engineer there. They were on their way to a Alternative Power Conference in Copenhagen, the week after the ships docks there.
Lunch was what they called vegetable soup but it was more a thick potato and carrot soup. It was hot and good for the wet damp weather. The main course was chicken with boiled potatoes and carrots. Desert was apple pie and cream like you get with stones. One free drink came with the meal and some had Irish whiskey which was served as a double shot in a tumbler, they didn’t have any Irish beer but they had cider beer.
At 13:30 we departed for a 30 minute ride to Cahir Castle. Cahir Castle is more of what one would expect of a castle than the “Rock”. It was built on a limestone outcrop in the middle of a river. It had the gate that drops down like what you see in the movies. As a matter of fact it is the only gate it in operation in all of the Ireland Castles and has been used in several movies. Over the gate and other entrances is the shoot where boiling oil could be dumped on anyone attempting to enter the Castle. The Castle had been attacked several times in its history and it two places there are cannon balls stuck in the wall. We had a 40 minute tour of the Castle and in one room was an exhibit which had a description of 15 Irish Castles. I took a picture of each of the 15 descriptive panels for future reference.
At 15:00 we departed for Waterford via a more scenic route initially south from Cahir through the mountains with a photo stop 30 minutes out to take pictures of the lush green pastures in the valley. Coming out of the mountain road we headed west to the highway north to Waterford. I finally got my Blackberry GPS to work as we headed to Waterford. On the outskirts of Waterford we passed the Waterford Crystal factory which surprisingly had gone out of business.
We arrived at the ship at 17:15, along with six other buses. The enry way had been moved to Desk 1 mid ship, just down from my cabin and I had to walk almost the length of the ship and back again to get to my cabin. By the time I got to my cabin and changed my clothes for dinner it was almost 18:00 and I decided to eat in the Lido. After the big lunch I had a Chicken Caesar Salad for diner and sat with Aubrey and Joyce two of the single ladies. During the course of our conversation it turned out that Joyce thought I was a Dance Host and was surprised when Aubrey talked about Judy and some of our experiences on the Cruise Specialist Egypt tour in 2006.
Following diner I accompanied the ladies to the Ocean Bar, but talked with Greer about her living in Greenwich, CT. It turns out that Greer was a Cruise Director on several Cruise Lines in Europe and had also work as a tour guide for groups going to China, Australia, her native New Zealand, and for Holland America as an Arts and Crafts instructor. She married a widower from Greenwich who had 7 children. He died two years ago of cancer, her mother and father died of cancer and she was taking this cruise after recovering from chemotherapy for cancer herself. She left to attend a party for ex-HAL employees in the Crow’s Nest. I left for the show and ran into Bobbie and Lois. They wanted to know all about my shore excursion so I showed then some of the pictures which were representative of my days actives that were still in my camera. They were planning on skipping the show and play the slot machines.
Susan Wood came by and stopped to chat. I had received a joke via email I thought she could use and read it to her. She thought it was funnier for men than woman but laughed anyway. The ship was not going to depart until 20:00 and I left Bobbie and Lois sitting at the slot machines waiting for them to be powered on.
The performer was Chris Watkins, a 28 year old violinist with an eclectic repertoire of a wide range of musical numbers. I sat with Henry and Jane and he was surprised the ladies were skipping the show to gamble since they had seen every show since we left New York. The performance was entertaining and the ship did start out on time at 20:00.
I returned to my cabin to work up the day’s events and check email. Lights out at 01:30
May 28, 2009 (Thursday) Plymouth, England
Since my tour had been cancelled I didn’t set an alarm and got my 8 hours of sleep. I showered, shaved and changed my bandage. My laundry had been delivered the night before and they put all my undershirts on hangers so I spent some time folding socks and removing the shirts and folding them. Susan announced that the ship had dropped anchor off the city of Plymouth, England and they would start tender service at 10:00. The weather was cloudy with a temperature around 60° F.
I ate an apple, banana and an orange in my cabin in lieu of going to the Lido for breakfast. After dressing to go ashore I headed for the Wajang Theater to get a tender ticket to go ashore. On the way I took pictures from deck three of the shore from both sides of the ship. We waited about ten minutes to have our tender number called. They filled the tender and we pushed off about 10:35. It was a 15 minute ride to the Plymouth Ferry Terminal dock. There was a visitors center set up on the dock and they handed out maps. The city was running a free shuttle service to the City Center. It was supposed to run every ten minutes but it took us 25 minutes to board a bus for the 10 minute ride to the City Center. I had asked the lady handing out the maps if she could recommend a Pub that sold Ploughman’s lunch. She recommended that I walk to the water front area where the Mayflower steps are and they were a series of Pubs and Restaurants along the harbor that would sell a Ploughman’s Lunch.
I walked 20 minutes passed old churches and rows of old town houses, down cobblestone streets to Sutton Harbor. There were a string of Pubs and Restaurants facing the harbor. One called the “Watering Hole” advertised a Ploughman’s Lunch. It was only 11:45 so I walked on passed a carousel to the “Mayflower Steps”, the steps the Pilgrim’s had to use to board the Mayflower on their sail to America. In this area I started to run into a number of familiar faces from the ship. At one point the two nurses from the Dialysis Clinic were at an advertized Wi-Fi Hot Spot sitting on the sidewalk accessing the internet on a MAC Net book. They were checking for an email from one of the nurses’ daughter with the measurements of a table they hoped to find a table cloth for. They asked me which direction I had come from and recommended that I walk back around the Royal Citadel.
After visiting the “Mayflower Steps” I returned to the Watering Hole for lunch. By this time it was 12:20 and I was ready but there was no waiter serving so I went into the bar and ordered my Ploughman’s Lunch and a pint of Carling’s beer. They told me that they would deliver it outside. I picked up a London newspaper and returned to the sidewalk patio. Across from my table was an artist in a clown suit painting a clown’s face on a little boy. I took some pictures of his progress. It was a cute scene.
The big news in the London paper was that Simon Cowl was going to fly Demi Moore and her husband from LA to London First Class to attend the finals of the "Britain's Got Talent" how because Demi has been a big fan of Susan Boyle, the Scottish woman in the finals.
The lunch was not as good as I expected. The Pub I used to get my Ploughman’s Lunch used iceberg lettuce and tomatoes and this lunch had other types of lettuce and no tomatoes. The beer was good and before I finished the clown artist had stated to paint the face of a little girl. He did the face painting for free. Also, before I finished Henry and Jane walked by from the Citadel area and suggested that I take it back to the bus.
It was a pleasant walk although up hill at the start. Chris, the Travel Consultant was taking pictures of the Citadel as I walked by. The Art Deco Tinside Lido was an interesting attraction with a large swimming pool built out into the bay. It has been a popular swimming area since the early 1800’s. Down the street was the Belvedere built in 1891 and further along was a Children’s amusement park with a carousel and a small train for the kids to ride. I took a picture of the one train engine with a Wendy plaque on its side.
I reached a point where it would have been shorter to walk back to the Ferry Dock but I decided to continue back to City Center past the great old Duke of Cornwall Hotel. As I arrived at the bus stop there was a shuttle bus loading. Aubrey and Joyce boarded after me and in just a few minutes we were on our way back to the Ferry Terminal. Because the Ferry was loading the bus dropped us short of where we had met it earlier and we had a nice little walk to the tender dock. To my surprise we boarded a party boat instead of a tender and had a more pleasant write to the ship in the open air with the chance to take better pictures than if we were crowded into the enclosed tender. In 20 minutes we were back on the ship at 14:30.
I returned to my cabin and wrote in my journal. At 16:30 was the sail-away party in the Crow’s Nest so I dressed early for diner and went up to check it out. They were selling two for one drinks and I ordered a Manhattan or two which were doubles. Tonight was a special dinner of New England lobster tail and baked Alaska. Bobbie Cushing, the “Auntie Mamie” type whose table I have often eaten at had invited Paul Brogan, the Irish Comedian to dine at her table. Lois, Henry, Jane and I were invited to join her and a the couple from McKinney, Texas, that sat at our table the other night were added to the mix. I didn’t have the rapport with Paul as I had had with Eliot so even though he sat just one person from me I didn’t really engage him in conversation like I had with Eliot. The couple from Texas, sat next to me on the other side and I spent more time talking with them. Still it was interesting to hear some of Paul’s stories and experiences since he had performed on cruise ships for nine years.
After dinner we adjourned to the Queen’s Lounge for the show. The night’s performer was Hilary O’Neil, billed as a singer, comedian. She starred in the UK TV Series, “Copycats” and has appeared in several Westend Musicals. She performs voiceovers for TV and Radio and her voice is used in the Chatterbox Greeting Cards. Bobbie, Lois, Henry and I had our usual seats on the first row and during her act she picked Henry out of the audience to hold her hand at the edge of the stage for a number. Later she picked me to come up on the stage and had me take her jacket off and hang it on the microphone stand and joked that that is the first time I had probably hung up a piece of clothing. Next she started sing while I was supposed to sit on a stool. She was holding my hand so I got up and started to do a dance routine with her that cracked her and the audience up. So now I have 30 minutes of fame on this cruise. Two double Manhattans can make you do funny things.
After words I stopped by the Ocean Bar and saw Cindy, the nurse. I wanted to get the name of the two Dialysis nurses. She was sitting with the ship’s doctor and introduced me to her. The doctor is a female doctor from a small town north of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Sitting with the doctor was Ruth, the Asian woman from Montclair and her daughter, who is also a doctor.
I obtain the names I was looking for and retired to my cabin. We had to set the clocks forward and my tour in the morning to the D-Day landing Beaches was scheduled for 08:00. It would be a short sleep. I set the clocks forward turned the light out at 24:00 revised time.
May 29, 2009 (Friday) La Havre, France
I awoke to my alarm at 06:00. The ship had already docked in Le Havre, France. The sun was up and it looked like it would be the best day we had since New York City. Since my shore excursion was scheduled for 08:00, I quickly showered, shaved and changed my bandage. Susan made her announcement at 07:00 that the ship had been cleared by France Authorities and those not on tour were free to leave the ship. I ate an apple, banana and an orange in my cabin and packed my back pack and proceeded to deck three to take my customary pictures of the harbor area from both sides of the ship. When I walked over the exit gangway point, Susan Wood was down below and gave me a big wave for my picture taking. She was such a marvelous Cruise Director. We had a great time with her on the ms Amsterdam in 2004 and she was still as friendly and funny on this cruise five years later.
The Queen’s Lounge was packed. Six buses were going to Paris for the day, one bus to Roan and three to the D-Day Landing Beaches. The Paris groups left first which cleared out the area a little and they called the D-Day Landing Beaches Tour at 07:50. I was again the first one to exit. I was not the first out of the Lounge but people had not remembered that there is only one set of stairs between deck 1 and A deck and that the stairs are on the port side.
I sat in the third row again. The Tour Guide was named Sandra and the driver Evon. John and Sandra from Trumbull, CT were across the aisle from me and Cindy and Steve from SMU were also on the bus. As we waited for the bus to leave I learned that John and Sandra had worked in Stratford, CT at the same plant that my mother worked in during World War II. It just recently closed and they are now retired and cruised once a year.
We left the dock at 08:00 for a two hour drive in the Normandy country skirting Le Havre and Caen. Le Havre is the second largest sea port in France, situated at the mouth of the Seine River. It was destroyed by 170 bombing raids in the war and was rebuilt after the war to be France’s most modern city.
After driving past Sword and Juno Beaches our first stop was Gold Beach at Arromanches. Gold Beach is where the British built a harbor by sinking a row of old ships to form a sea wall and creating piers from large concrete structures towed across the Channel and filled with water. The old ships are gone but many of the structures are still there. We visited a museum dedicated to the building of the harbor. The US built a similar harbor on either Utah or Omaha Beach but it was destroyed in the storm of June 16th. We saw an animated diorama of the first days of the invasion and then a film of the building of the harbor (also known as Port Churchill).
Knowing that immediately following the invasion the troops would need to be refreshed with supplies the need for a harbor to support the logistics was a major consideration in choosing the invasion point. The logical thought held by the Germans was the invasion would take place next to one of the harbors along the European side of the Channel, which is why the Germans were surprised when the invasion took place on the Normandy beaches. Churchill is credited with the idea to pick open stretch of beach to invade and build a harbor right after the landing.
We left Arromanches at 11:15 for a fifteen minute drive to Ferme de la Ranconniere, a Hotel Restaurant, near the village of Crepon. The hotel is a series of stone connected building that date back to the 1700’s. Lunch was up to French standards. They started with a pave d’isigny cheese cake with lettuce and a wine sauce. It looked like a thin French toast and tasted a little like brie. The main was chicken with an apple stuffed with a cheese soufflé and asparagus wrapped in bacon. Dessert was a rum soaked layered cake with chocolate icing.
We left the Restaurant at 12:50 for an hour drive to Point du Hoc where we toured the German Bunkers on the point of land between the US Omaha and Utah Beaches. It was believed the bunkers held large guns that could fire on the invading ships and troops so a group of Ranger’s were put ashore before day light and scaled a thirty foot cliff to discover the bunker’s empty and guns had been moved. The eventually found them and disabled them. There were a number of ruined bunkers and bomb craters in the area. We spent forty minutes walking around taking pictures of the area.
From Point du Hoc we started back stopping at the west end of Omaha Beach where there is a Memorial dedicated to the Nation Guard units that took part in the invasion. We spend fifteen minutes taking pictures and then drove twenty minutes along the five miles of beach and up to a bluff overlooking the beach where the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial is located.
It is a beautiful site, very well groomed but the reflecting pool was covered and the grave markers roped off as the workers were preparing the site for the Allied Heads of State that will be taking part in the 65th anniversary of the invasion in a week.
A little side story is the Queen of England was not invited, yet she is the only world leader alive that took part in the war, but she is not a “Head of State”. President Obama was scheduled to attend the ceremony.
We spent an hour at the Cemetery and then it took two hours to get back to the ship. A long day but the highlight of the cruise and the weather cooperated.
I ate in the Lido with the brother and sister from Glendale, CA, that sat in front of me on the bus and who I ate lunch with. She is a nurse and they take one cruise per year alternating who picks the cruise.
At 19:25 they announced who were Miss and Mr. Rotterdam and the people who first asked them. The Mr. Rotterdam was in the Single and Solo Group but I never talked to him and the Miss Rotterdam, I never saw the whole cruise but, Greer Melling, the recovering cancer lady from Greenwich, CT was the first to ask and won the prize. At 19:30 Susan gave the departure briefing.
The show was “Love Songs From Broadway, Costumes From Mackie” performed by the ship’s cast. I sat with Jo and Ida Grover, Aubrey and Joyce, Bobbie and Lois, Henry and Jane. It was entertaining. The Grover sisters were getting off in Dover so after the show we bid them farewell and after stopping by the Ocean’s Bar to congratulate Greer, I returned to my cabin to write this journal, and send some emails.
The clock was going to be set back again so we would gain the hour we lost the night before. I went to bed at 23:00 revised time.
May 30, 2009 (Saturday) Dover, England
I awoke to my alarm at 07:00. We were already at the dock. It was the last day of the cruise although over the years I have sailed in and out of Dover I never spent time in that part of England so I signed up for two tours. The morning tour was scheduled for 08:45 so I showered, shaved changed my bandage, ate an orange and apple and got ready to tour.
The Queen’s Lounge was not very crowded when I got there because most of the people going on tour were on the tours to London and they had already departed. I was scheduled to tour Sandwich one of the oldest towns in England with old buildings and narrow streets. It was a walking tour since the buses have to park on the edge of town. Marlin, the Dance Host from Las Vegas, was the tour escort. I boarded the bus at 08:40 and we departed the terminal just a few minutes later. Our guide was Gunda, a German who came to England 40 years ago and stayed. The Reynolds’ from New Hampshire were on the bus and a couple from San Diego sat across the aisle. We had 27 people on the tour. It took us thirty minutes to drive through Dover and to stop in Sandwich to start a walking tour.
The drop off point was a town square where a Saturday market was set up. We spent a few minutes visiting the various tables in the square and then set off to walk the narrow streets past the “No Name Shop” which reminded me of my brother Bob working at the “No Name Bar” in Sausalito in the late 1960’s.
Our first stop was St. Peter’s Church which is believed to be the center of the town and destroyed during a French raid in 1216, after which it was rebuilt by Carmelite Monks from Normandy. Most of the building is 14th century. In 1661 the south aisle was destroyed when the tower collapsed and was rebuilt by French refugees in a Flemish-style cupola. The medieval practice of ringing the curfew bell at 20:00 is still carried on. It originally announced the time for geese and pigs to be turned out into the streets to consume household rubbish. A 05:00 “goosebell” warned householders to retrieve their animals before they were impounded. Inside the church is a War Memorial designed by Omar Ramsden, with a bronze of St George and the Dragon, which honors the men of Sandwich who died in both World Wars, Korea and the Falklands. The church also contains a display on the history of Sandwich and the Earl’s of Sandwich.
After the tour of St. Peter’s Church we walked past the old town jail and down the very narrow Holy Ghost Ally which the prisoners had to walk down on their way to be hanged.
The next stop was at The Parish Church of St. Clement. The church is Saxon in origin, though rebuildt by the Normans in the 12th century. The roof is East Anglian style which is unique in Kent . The titled floor dates back to 1400 AD.
Until 1683, the Mayor was elected in the church by common consent. No one declined the offer to be Mayor because it was the right of the townspeople to demolish the house if he refused the honor.
From St. Clement was walked to the river front and the Barbican (the main gate to the town). Our bus was parked along the river and we were given time to tour on our own.
In front of the Barbican is the toll bridge across the river. Beneath the arch of the Barbican is a list of the toll charges for the bridge and a plaque recording their abolition in 1977. I walked around the town down the streets we had not toured until it was time to re-board our bus.
From Sandwich we drove along the coast to Walmer Castle about 25 minutes away. Walmer Castle is a furnished castle with half the building serving as a residence for the current Earle. It has beautiful gardens and a view of the beach. Historical families that occupied the Castle included the Duke of Wellington and the family that the novel Brideshead Revisited was based on. The current resident is a retired Admiral. It was a very interesting building to tour, more of an old English mansion with historical furnishings and plaques describing the history of the rooms and the residences, than of a castle. They had an Audio Tour but forbid photographs inside.
On the return to Dover we stopped for a photo op of the Dover Castle. After a quick lunch I boarded the same bus with a different guide for a trip to Canterbury were we toured the Canterbury Cathedral and saw the place where Thomas Becket was killed in 1170. We were then given time on our own to tour the city. Canterbury is divided into a new and an old section with limited traffic in the old section. I walked past the Canterbury Tales Attraction building which has an entrance fee and requires 45 minutes to see.
At one point I passed several people from our bus eating at a McDonald’s. I guess the just couldn’t wait to get back to the US. As I walked from the Cathedral I passed a pub advertizing “The Very Best Ploughmans Home of the Shepherd’s Pie”. I wish I had not eaten the quick lunch on the ship and would have had room for what looked like a better Ploughman’s Lunch than I had in Plymouth. Instead I had a local beer in The Old Butter Market Pub next to our rendezvous point. The Old Butter Market has been an Inn for over 500 years and is believed to be built over a Roman ruins and as a result its cellar is believed to be haunted with the ghosts of Romans.
On the return trip we drove through the village of St Margaret’s which had a light house, was the starting point for trails to the White Cliffs, and had another view of Dover Castle.
The tour didn’t return me in time to have my farewell dinner with Bobbie and her group. Instead I ate in the Lido with the dance hosts and attended the early 18:00 show which was the “Farewell Variety Show” with Hilary O’Neil, Chris Watkins and Paul Brogan.
After the show I returned to my cabin to pack. The challenge was to figure out what I needed for the Baltic tour and cram it in my new carry on and then divide the rest between the two big bags so they would weigh approximately the same. I got the bags in the hall in time but we lost an hour crossing into Europe so after I sent out email it was after midnight Amsterdam time before I turned out the light.
May 31, 2009 (Sunday) Arrive - Rotterdam, The Netherlands
The alarm woke me at 06:00. I had less than six hours sleep because of the packing and I still had to shower, shave, change my bandage and pack all the CPAP and other electronic stuff, toilet articles and medical things into the carry on.
I had bought a transfer through HAL to the Schiphol airport and my assigned baggage tag color’s (Blue) departure was estimated to be between 08:00 and 08:15. This gave me some time to eat an apple and orange in my cabin and then go to the Lido for a yogurt. I talked briefly with two of the Dance Hosts: Marlin and Bobby. Their contract finished in Rotterdam. Bobby was going to revert to be a paying passenger and take the Baltic part of the cruise ending in Copenhagen.
At 07:55 I started down to the exit level on Deck 2. Christian was there waiting to get off. He had a Blue tag so I stopped and chatted with him. They called Blue tags about 08:20 and since we were not far from the exit we were two of the first of the Blue group to exit. Christian walks with a cane and told me to pass him and bid me farewell. We I got to the baggage area it didn’t take me long to find my bags and they were next to each other. I found a porter and exited the building and as we approached the buses the guides told me to get on the first bus that was just closing its doors because it would be thirty to forty five minutes before the Blue buses would depart.
The bus was only about a third full and I sat in about the sixth row. We were cleared to leave at 08:35 and as we were leaving they stopped and Christian got on sitting in the first row handicap seat.
In exactly one hour we arrived at the airport. The Holland America Cruise was over.