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|HURRICANE EARL||Orkney Islands (Scotland)|
|Amsterdam and Netherlands (Holland)||Faroe Islands|
|Royal Tattoo||Canada - Newfoundland|
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Review of ship/cruise
GENERAL: Read the page on the hurricane to see our advantures with that. It was quite an experience, although not one I'd like to repeat. We ate too much as usual. We were gone for 23 days. Unfortunately, Al caught a cold in Iceland and then I caught it. So we didn't mind missing the stops in Nova Scotia even though I'd like to go there. We met some nice people, had great entertainment, and enjoyed ourselves. We were glad we stayed overnight in New York City. Flying out, Al's suitcase was 11 pounds overweight and we had to pay an extra $50. We knew that with the souvenirs we bought that we would be heavy coming home. Across from our hotel was a UPS store so we bought a box and packed up dirty clothes. We shipped 28 pounds home for less than what the airline would charge. One of our stops, I think it was Scotland, we found a hand scale that someone on the ship had told us about. We were able to weigh our bags to be sure we were within limits. Of course, there's always something that makes you glad you took out travel insurance. This time it was luggage. When Al got his bag off the dock he found that it had been damaged. In the hotel he found it was damaged beyond repair. He could use it to get home but not wheel it. My garment bag is also ripped but I think it can be fixed.
Ship: This is a much larger ship than we're used to with HAL. We definitely prefer their smaller, 1200 passenger ships. Check-in was long but organized. They couldn't use their usual port because Amsterdam was having a Tall Ship Festival in the City Center so we had to board at the container terminal away from the city. The first few days, you were served in the buffet rather than being able to help yourself. They explained they did this to be sure there was no sickness on the ship. Several cruise ships have been quarantined due to the novo virus but HAL has a perfect record on this. They constantly stress washing your hands and using the purell dispensers that are all around the ship.
We had a verandah cabin which is like the ones on their other ships. Beds are very comfortable, lots of closet space, and bath robes provided for on board use. The TV had several movie channels, CNN, TNT, ESPN and a few others but the satellite transmissions were not always available and particularly from Iceland to Canada. Even in Newfoundland or around Nova Scotia they were dark. We wondered if they didn't want us worrying about the hurricane. So basically we had only movie channels which are broadcast from the ship. They do have a small theather and we went to one movie there.
We tried Open Seating for dinner instead of our usual set table seating. It was interesting meeting different people each night but I think we might go back to the reserved seating. You never got to really know anyone. We did meet one couple we ate with several times. The Pinnacle Grill restaurant was as spectacular as usual but their portions are so large we could only manage eating there once. Another alternative restaurant is the Tamarind, Asian food. While the service was great, the main courses were not so we did not return there. Most of our meals were in the dining room for dinner. Breakfast and lunch we alternated the buffet on the Lido, the poolside grill, and the dining room, depending on our mood. We did have room service for dinner one night when Al wasn't feeling well.
AMSTERDAM: Of course we loved Amsterdam but will not stay at that hotel again. We stayed there in 2002 and I don't remember the rooms being so small. When we first checked in we got this tiny room where the window did not open (no AC in hotel). It was stiffling and we went back to the desk to ask for another room. They moved us to another small one but at least the window opened. They said they would have a better room for us the next day. Although that one wasn't too much bigger. The hotel is the Die Port Van Cleve. The one thing going for it was it was right in the center of everything we did so we didn't have to go far. We ate at our favorite pancake house. Toured Madam Tussaud's. We took a bus tour of northern Holland, stopping at Edam (they make the cheese but it's really pronounced "A dam" not "E dam". We saw the dike they built to shut out the North Sea, windmills, a wooden shoe maker, and a small fishing village. We had lunch in Volendam. The sites were interesting but the tour was too rushed and not enough time to look around and shop. One thing to note in Amsterdam. We found that their banks do not have cash. The only way to get cash is from an ATM machine. We had brought traveler's checks but the banks wouldn't cash them. There were some currency exchanges that would but their rates were terrible.
SCOTLAND: I definitely would like to go back to Scotland and do a land tour. We anchored off South Queensferry and the first day walked around the small town. That evening we went to the Royal Tattoo. See my page on that. It was absolutely spectacular. Some people said they took the cruise simply because of the Tattoo. It is worth it. Even though it was raining during the performance, and then absolutely pouring for the finale, we wouldn't have missed it. Everyone went back to the bus soaked to the bone. The next day we took a bus tour of Edinburgh and the castle. It was very nice but would have liked to be able to spend some time in the town itself but the ship was leaving at noon.
Orkney Islands: These are part of Scotland, they speak English and use the pound as their currency. We took a bus tour of the countryside. They were a major base during WWII. They showed us a chapel that was built by Italian prisoner's of war. We also toured the Highland Park Distillery. You can't go to Scotland and not taste the scotch! These are very beautiful islands and friendly people.
Faroe Islands: These are protectorates of Denmark but everyone we met spoke English. Their currency is the Danish Kroner. We didn't take any tours here, just walked around the town. The school children were all around us and very eager to pose for pictures. Their standard of living on these islands is quite high and you can see that in the very well maintained houses. They are also very "connected" with every household having a computer. On leaving the islands we cruised around some of them.
Iceland: Next to New Zealand, this would have to be my favorite place. Very beautiful countryside with glaciers, waterfalls, gysers and modern cities. Everyone speaks English, Icelandic, and usually another language. They took a big hit with the economic crisis but it doesn't show. They love tourists. The currency is the Icelandic Kroner. At first, the exhange rate makes you feel rich. I got 2,700 Kroner for $20. But then I spent about 1,000 kroner on a coffee and pepsi. We took a bus tour that was all day so we didn't get to see the city. In fact, at the first stop our bus got a flat tire and we had a short wait until they could get another bus to us. We still got to see everything and made it to the ship on time. The Icelandic horses are beautiful. Smaller than our usual horses but they are NOT ponies as some people on the bus wanted to call them. They work hard to keep their bloodline pure and no other breed of horse is allowed on the island. Our tour guide talked about how important these horses are to their culture and you could hear the passion in her voice.
Greenland: First we cruised through one of the Fjords and it was breathtaking. We came upon an iceberg of a considerable size that we had to maneuver around. The Fjords are not very wide. We sent one of our small rescue boats to gather some ice from it. There is a small settlement in this Fjord and we also sent the boat to deliver pizzas and some supplies to them. In the winter they are totally cut off from the rest of the country. Then we got to Qaqortoq where we tendered for the day. There were more people on our ship than in that town. Al caught a cold on the Iceland tour so we just went into town to see about getting some medicine. We found their small grocery store but here very few people speak English. It is Greenlandic (Inuit) or Danish. The population is native Inuit and some Danish. Their durrency is the Danish Kroner. This country has beautiful scenery but not much in the way of tourism. It's not a place you would go to unless you were on a cruise or some expidition.
Newfoundland: It's about this time that we started hearing about the hurricane. Our first stop was a small town, St. Anthony. We walked around the town and found a Tim Horton's (Canada's Starbucks). We also found a pharmacy where Al could get some cold medicine. By this time I had gotten his cold but not as severe as his. There wasn't much to see so we didn't spend a lot of time in town. The next stop was St John's and it is a much larger city. We were anxious to find an internet cafe. The people are very friendly and they had guides all over to direct people. We found a cafe and stayed there for a couple of hours, having coffee, then lunch. We got to check all our email that we hadn't checked since Amsterdam, and went out on the web to see about this hurricane.