Amsterdam - Day 2, July 31, 2013

Weather: Cloudy, hi temp in mid 60s

There was no rain today and some periods of good sunshine.  We left the ship about 9:00 and arrived at the Anne Frank house (2 short tram rides) about 9:30.  The line snaked around Westerkerk, the church where Rembrandt is buried (Anne Frank writes about hearing the bells of this church).  We waited about an hour and 1/4 to get to the ticket counter and the tour through the building was very slow with so many people.  No photos are allowed inside, so we bought some postcards.  The hiding place consists of several levels and the stairs were steep with narrow steps.   The most interesting thing we learned was from a video where Otto Frank talks about Anne's diary.  He said that he didn't know anything about the feelings and thoughts she wrote about until he found the diary and read it (it took him a long time to read it).  Thankfully he had the diary published and shared this remarkable girl's story with the world.  A visit to Amsterdam wouldn't have been complete for us without a visit to this house.  We went back to the ship and had another life boat drill before we sailed in mid-afternoon.  Our day and a half in this busy city was over, and we had successfully avoided being hit by a tram, car, or most likely of all, a bicycle.  We won at Name That Tune trivia (Broadway shows) and Barbara won $40 in a penny machine in the casino.

Anne Frank House and Westerkerk

Anne Frank House and Westerkerk

Anne Frank House (tree in front)

Anne Frank House (tree in front)

Bookcase conceled entrance (postcard) copy

Bookcase concealed entrance to hiding place (postcard)

Anne Frank's room (postcard)

Anne Frank's room (postcard)

Houseboats on canal

Houseboats on canal

Dam Square

Birds and bikes in Dam Square


Royal Palace (Koninklijk Palace) on Dam Square

Amsterdam - Day 1, July 30, 2013

Weather: Cloudy, some rain, hi temp in mid 60s

Today was a long but satisfying day.  We left the ship after breakfast and walked about 3 miles to the Rijks Museum, the National Museum of Holland.  It has recently been renovated and has so much art on display you could spend days there.  We concentrated on the Dutch painters Rembrandt and Vermeer.  The crowds were so big it took some time to get around.  From this museum we went to the nearby Van Gogh Museum, where we again stood in line for 45 minutes to get tickets (we passed the time talking to an English lady about travel in England).  The Van Gogh is a much smaller museum in a contemporary building and it was easier to see the paintings.  It was raining when we left the museum and we wisely decided to take the tram back to the ship instead of walking.  We gave our feet a rest for a couple hours and then had dinner.  There were some old navy submarine guys at our table, and one of them told an interesting story about JFK visiting his sub in Norfolk VA in 1962.  They built an elevator because of Kennedy's bad back, and he brought a big party of senators, congressmen and supreme court justices with him.  The guy at our table said he had about 20 minutes alone with JFK.  We left the ship again about 8 o'clock to take the tram to our Candlelight Canal cruise.  We got there early, so we walked over to the red light district.  The ladies were in windows but also leaning out of their doorways.  No photos are allowed, or you know we would post one.  The Candlelight Canal cruise was from 9 to 11, and the boat had white tablecloths, cheese, bread and plenty of wine.  It was a good way to celebrate Barbara's birthday.  We learned that Amsterdam has about 1,200 bridges, and that if you want to buy a houseboat for about a half a million euros you can live on a canal.  Our table mates were a youngish man and wife from near Cologne,  Germany.  They were very friendly and luckily spoke enough English for us to be able to converse.  He showed us pictures of his 4 cats.  The pedometer shows 9.61 miles walked today.  Ouch!


Dancing Houses (the ground shifted beneath them)


A Rembrandt at the Rijks Museum


Canal near the Rijks Museum


The Rijks Museum

Van Goth Museum

Van Gogh Museum


We thought we were in Amsterdam

Canal Cruise

Candlelight Canal cruise (Barbara's best side)

Canal Cruise-2

Candlelight Canal cruise

At Sea, July 29, 2013

Weather: Mostly cloudy, hi temp in upper 60s

Today was a relaxing sea day.  Candee gets off the ship in Amsterdam tomorrow, so we asked a bar attendant in the Crow's Nest to take a photo of our trivia team. We had a lot of laughs together.  Tonight we went to cheer on our Name That Tune friend Rick in the finale of Dancing with the Stars at Sea.  He came in third, but they were all good.  One of the contestants was a 70 year old woman in a bright blue wig who did the samba.  A nineteen year old boy won doing the jive.  He was traveling with his grandparents and is one of the few young passengers on the ship.  

Trivia Team

Candee, Judy, Linda (Cruise Director), Jay, Barbara, Dahlia. Ilan

Dancing With The Stars

Dancing With The Stars finale

Stavanger and Lysefjord, July 28, 2013

Weather: Cloudy, hi temp in mid 60s

Stavanger on a Sunday morning was very quiet compared to the bustling city of Bergen yesterday.  We walked around for several hours and saw some locals walking their dogs, but mostly saw people from the ship,  We visited St. Swithun's Cathedral, which is about 900 years old.  Their brochure said the population of Stevanger declined with the Black Death epidemic in the late 14th century and that it was several hundred years before the town recovered.  Today the  population of the city is about 120,000, but when the surrounding area is added, the total is around 400,000.   The main industry is petroleum and the unemployment rate is about 2%, so the area is very prosperous.  The architecture is a combination of pretty old buildings and ugly modern ones. 

After trivia today, we stayed in our window seats in the Crow's Nest and drank wine while we cruised through Lysefjord.  We had more than 2 hours of beautiful scenery.  At times it rained very hard, but there were patches of sun.  Salmon farming is big in the fjord.  There is a popular tourist spot on top of a rock, 1,982 feet above the water, called Preikestolen or Preacher's Pulpit.  The people on top were barely visible when  we zoomed in with the camera.  There's a photo we took below, and also one from Wikimedia that shows the crowds of people that go to this spot (they wave at cruise ships).  We had an interesting dinner tonight with a professor who taught medicine at both MIT and Harvard.  He was from China and told us that his father had worked in Chiang Kai-shek's government.  We redeemed ourselves in Name That Tune tonight because the questions were based on music from the 50s (Everly Brothers, Platters, Perry Como, Patti Page, etc.)  We didn't win but came close.  The North Sea was pretty rough last night - stuff was flying from the shelves in the bathroom.


Stavanger from ship


Pretty quiet on Sunday 




Boats of all sizes






Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 11.06.32 AM

Preikestolen or Preacher's Pulpit

File:Preikestolen platform2.png

Preikestolen from above (from Wikimedia Commons)

Bergen, Norway, July 27, 2013

Weather: Rainy, then sunny, hi temp around 70

It rained most of the morning, so we waited to go out until around noon.  There were two other cruise ships here (one was the QE II) so there were lots of tourists walking around.  Bergen is a pretty city with beautiful flowers and cobblestone streets.  The greater Bergen area has a population of about 400,000.  It is the second largest city in Norway.  The sidewalk cafes and shops were very busy, as the afternoon turned out to be very pleasant and warm.  We were here in 1994 when Anne did a Scandinavian tour with Angelica Cantanti.  Jay thought he remembered the square where they sang.  Barbara remembers the music festival in Stord, an island south of here.  There were singers there from all over the world.  Jeff had a unique experience--he had an ear infection, and a doctor came to where we were and examined him in a men's restroom.  We won tonight at Name That Tune.  The theme was songs from the 80s--a guy named Rick was on our team and he knew almost every song and artist.  He got 29 points and the rest of us on the team got 1 point.

Bergen from ship

Bergen from ship






At Sea, July 26, 2013

Weather: Cloudy, hi temp in upper 50s

We had a very lazy sea day today.  Didn't even think very hard at trivia.  We're on our way from the Faroe Islands to Bergen, Norway.  This seems like a good time to vent about various things.  First:  typical annoying/strange people like the wife who chastised her husband for getting a little pepper on the tablecloth.  Or the man who told us several times that he didn't like "red" sauce on his pasta, then ordered it in spite of having many other choices.  After he ate it, he complained about how bad it was.  Jay found out that the guy next door, who we thought must be a throat-clearing champion, is Carl, who is from San Francisco and was at our table for lunch early on in the cruise.  We chuckle when we see a couple that dresses identically--jackets, hats and pants.  Our chief bone to pick with HAL is that they're not giving us the printed information about ports as they have in the past.  On this cruise we've had to glean it from the port talks, pick it up in the port visitor's centers or ask the locals.  I guess it's a small thing, but we would rather they didn't give us 2 chocolates in a gold box, each in its own drawer, than cut back on the port information.  The food has been pretty good most of the time and the entertainment worthwhile most of the time.

Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, July 25, 2013

Weather:  Foggy, then sunny, hi temp in low 70s (turned clocks ahead 1 hour last night)

The Veendam docked in Tórshavn around noon in thick fog.  We waited a few hours before we went for a walk and it was still foggy when we visited the Old Fort.   The weather keep improving as we walked around this town of around 18,000 people.  It is quite hilly and there are many curvy streets and cobblestone walks and stairs. This is the capital of the Faroes and is located on the island of Streymoy.  The island is centrally located in the  archipelago and is the largest.  The Faroes were discovered about 1,000 years ago by the Vikings.  Tinganes, pictured below, is the parliament of the Faroese government and is the oldest parliament in Europe.  We just missed a wedding in the cathedral.  Like other churches in the ports we've visited, the ceiling is blue with models of ships hanging from it.  With the heavy fog earlier, it was a pleasant surprise to get some good photos of this very attractive town.  We enjoyed dinner tonight with Mike and Alice from Dallas.  They entertained us with stories of their travels--the best was about the time baboons got in their tent in Africa when they hadn't zipped it completely when they left.  The critters trashed the place and took a t-shirt.


Old Fort


Pipe organ in Cathedral

Pipe Organ in Cathedral



Tinganes, Parliament of the Faroe Islands


Tórshavn from ship

Seyðisfjörður, Iceland, July 24, 2013

Weather:  Sunny, hi temp in mid 50s

Another day, another fjord.  The ship docked around 7:00 and Jay went on deck and couldn't see anything.  Around 9:00 the fog started lifting and the pretty little town of Seyðisfjörður appeared.  About 700 people live in this east coast village that has always been involved in the fishing industry.  The homes in the Old Town section were pre-fabricated in Norway.  The town's claim to fame is that the first telegraph/telephone cable from Iceland was placed underwater in 1906 from here to the Faroe Islands and on to Scotland.  We visited the museum and took a tour--learned that the fiber-optic cable that was placed in 2003 had 11 million times the capacity of the first cable.  In 1906, 14,000 telephone poles were placed between here and Reykjavik to connect that city to the world.  In the pretty little church we learned that Iceland became a Christian country in the year 1000 and that the state religion became Lutheran in 1550.  The guide in the church added that both decisions were political.  Our guide yesterday said that pagans who became Christians believed they could keep their old beliefs about "hidden people" and other superstitions.  The ship left town around 3 o'clock and the fog moved in again very quickly.  We went to the Indonesian tea after trivia and tasted some of their sweets.  The bonus question in trivia was about the  problem with the oscar Spencer Tracy received as best actor in Boys' Town.  We didn't know that the name engraved on it was Dick Tracy.  We did guess correctly that the Titanic had 20 lifeboats.


Fog Rising from the Fjord




Old Town house

Blue Church

Blue Church


Waterfalls everywhere

Technical Museum of East Iceland

Technical Museum of East Iceland

Akureyri, Iceland, July 23, 2013

Weather: Sunny, hi temp in upper 60s (Sunrise/sunset 3:21 am/11:16 pm)

Today we were docked in the town of Akureyri, which is located at the bottom of the Eyjafjörỗur fjord along the northern coast of Iceland.  The population is around 18,000, and the town is considered the northern capital of Iceland.  Only Reykjavik, the capital, is larger, and it is about 45 minutes by air or 4 1/2 hours away by car.  We went on our first shore excursion today and had a lovely guide with an unpronounceable name about ten syllables long.  She told us that the entire country of Iceland is in one phone book and many people are related.  We went to Goðafoss  one of the hundreds of waterfalls in Iceland.  The terrain was rocky lava and difficult to navigate in places.  We also visited a Laufás, which is a church site and vicarage.  The farmhouse is turf-clad timber and is an example of a wealthy vicarage many years ago.  Last on our tour was a botanical garden that's 100 years old and very pretty.  It is the northernmost botanical garden in the world, and the town also claims the northernmost golf course in the world.  Our team won convincingly at trivia and we watched the Polar Bear Plunge this afternoon.  The Plunge is to prepare for our crossing the Arctic Circle this evening.  This part of the world has about 20 hours of sunlight this time of year.



Godafoss (Waterfall of the gods)

Goðafoss (Waterfall of the gods)

Laufás (ancient manor farm)

Laufás (ancient manor farm)

Botanical Garden

Botanical Garden in Akureyri



Ísafjörður, Iceland, July 22,2013

Weather:  Mostly cloudy with some patches of blue sky, hi temp in upper 50s

Ísafjörður is located on a peninsula in a fjord of the same name.  The ship docked around 8:00 and many of the passengers, like us, were happy to get off the ship after 4 days and be able to walk around this town of about 2,600 people.  The houses in Old Town that were built in the late 1800s are made of wood, but the newer buildings are made of corrugated metal.  The town is the largest of those in the Westfjords area, where fishing used to be the main industry.  Tourism is now the fastest growing industry.  The locals actually wear Icelandic sweaters.






At Sea, July 21, 2013

Weather:  Foggy, hi temp in upper 40s

There's nothing to see today--the fog is so thick the foghorn is sounding every 2 minutes.  We are almost at the Arctic Circle at 65° latitude.  We went to hear Location Guide Barbara's talk about the Vikings--hadn't known that they tried to sack Constantinople.  When they failed, they started a lucrative trade with the Turks.  Jim McParland's talk was about the natural history of Iceland.  The island is only 18 million years old (the continents pulled apart 250 million years ago).  Iceland is being torn apart by the Icelandic Rift.  Jim said that there are signs that a volcanic eruption will happen soon and that if we're lucky we'll see it.  Barbara went to watch our trivia teammate Candee compete in the cha cha in Dancing With the Stars at Sea.  Very complicated dance, but she and her partner came in second.  Tonight we played Name That Tune again and were lucky to have a guy named Tom on our team.  We won because he knew almost every top Billboard hit, and the artist, for each month in 1968.  Jay and Barbara were pathetic.  We skipped the ball tonight. 

Talk about Iceland1

The Iceland Rift (Jim McParland's talk)

Sports Deck at 9:30 PM

The Sports Deck at 9:30 PM -  The sun will set at 11:43

At Sea, July 20, 2013

Weather:  Rainy, windy, hi temp in upper 40s (turned clocks ahead 1 hour last night)

The captain woke up some passengers when he announced we could stay in bed, as we weren't going to be able to go to Prins Christian Sund today.  We went to hear a lecture on humpback whales, which was very interesting.  It turns out the lecturer is a fellow from Ottawa that we had dinner with a few nights ago.  His name is Jim McParland and he's traveling with his daughter Charlotte.  He told us that the 30 minute time changes in Canada are mainly about publicity.  A few facts about humpbacks:  the average female weighs about 90,000 pounds, their hearts are about the size of a VW and the male sexual organ is about 2 meters long.  There have been some whale sightings on this cruise but we haven't been fortunate enough to see any.  Played Name That Tune tonight with Judy and a young couple (40s?) from Switzerland.  Had fun but no chance of winning, as one team had a perfect score--even knew an obscure song called Bridget the Midget.

At Sea, July 19, 2013

Weather:  Cloudy, windy, hi temp around 40

Today we were supposed to be in port at Qaqortoq (pronounced cork-a-talk), a small island near the southern tip of Greenland.  We were getting pretty good at pronouncing it, but around 8:45 am the captain announced that there was too much ice and fog for us to go there.  He said we would try for Nanortalik, a port scheduled for the return trip.  At lunchtime, as we were skirting some large chunks of ice, he announced that plan B would not work either, so he was going to to try to reach Prins Christian Sund today.  The passage is so narrow that the ships are not able to turn around if there is too much ice.  Around 4 o'clock captain Pieter Bos (he looks like Leslie Nielson) said we would not be entering the sund today but he will position the ship to cruise it tomorrow if weather permits.  Jay got some good pictures of the rugged Greenland coast.  A bizarre thing happened today.  Last night we almost turned the cabin upside down looking for Barbara's small purse for formal night.  It was truly a mystery.  She had a dream about where it was and got up this morning and found it in seconds.  Her concussed brain is truly weird.

We almost made it to Qaqortoq

We almost made it to Qaqortoq



Entrance to Prince William Sund

 Near entrance to Prins Christian Sund

At Sea, July 18, 2013

Weather:  Chilly, windy and rainy, hi temp in mid 40s, wind about 45 mph (set clocks ahead 30 minutes last night)

 It's a good day to stay inside.  Not much going on, so we counted our bites from the flies in Red Bay.  Barbara, who used bug spray, had 9 bites.  Jay, who didn't use bug spray, had 0 bites.  Go figure.   Forgot to say yesterday that our team won at trivia.  Today Barbara's head is hurting so she stayed in the cabin and put ice on it.  Jay played part of the quiz but the team didn't do well.  Barbara read a little and Jay spent a few hours working on the Grant Park Asset Reserve spreadsheet.  We had a special dinner tonight at the Pinnacle--the menu is from Le Cirque restaurant in NYC.  Everything was wonderful--lobster salad, butternut squash soup with huckleberries (to die for), Chateaubriand and creme brûlée.

Red Bay, Labrador, July 17, 2013

Weather:  Sunny, temp in low 60s

Red Bay was inhabited in the 16th century by Basque whalers from France and Spain.  We were told that it was called Red Bay because the color of the water was red with blood when the whales were being harvested.  The current population is about 200, but it's quite a walk from some of the homes to the stores or restaurants.  The interpretive center contained a lot of whaling memorabilia and was interesting.  There are very few trees in this area, but there was a chunk of ice near the dock.  Red Bay also has some of the largest flies we've ever seen--we came prepared with Off but Barbara still got a few bites.  We've had dinner with Ilan and Dahlia the last two nights and have enjoyed hearing about their growing up in Israel and emigrating to the US.

Red Bay

Red Bay-1

Red Bay-2

Red Bay-3

Bonne Bay (Woody Point), Newfoundland, July 16, 2013

Weather:  Sunny, high around 60

What a gorgeous day for our visit to the picturesque town of Woody Point!  About 500 people live here and they go all out when cruise ships visit, as only a few ships stop each summer.  We walked around the entire town and saw 3 churches, several restaurants, 1 gas station, several convenience stores, a theatre for local productions, but no bars.  The ship will use tenders at quite a few stops on this cruise because the towns are so small.  Though tiny, the town had great internet service, unlike the ship.

Woody Point, Newfoundland

Woody Point, Newfoundland

Woody Point, Newfoundland-2

Woody Point, Newfoundland-3

Woody Point, Newfoundland-4

Ar Sea, July 15, 2013

Weather:  Sunny, temp in upper 60s (set clocks ahead 30 minutes last night--really!)

Another game of trivia, but a second place finish!  There must be 50 people playing and they're a pretty competitive bunch.  We're enjoying the rewards of being 4 star mariners with Holland America.  This is the first cruise where we've had complimentary laundry, so we didn't spend a couple hours in the launderette-- just sent our dirty clothes off to be washed, dried and pressed.  We also get a 50% discount on the wine packages and specialty restaurants, so will be taking advantage of that.  The seas have been calm and smooth.  This photo of the sea and sky was taken about 9 pm.

Sunset near Bonne Bay

Sunset near Bonne Bay

At Sea - July 14, 2013

Weather:  Foggy, cool, hi temp in upper 60s  (turned clocks ahead 1 hour last night)

Today was a fun sea day.  We played trivia and have a nice team of six.  Candee is from IL, Judy from Virginia, and Dahlia and Ilan live in CA but are from Haifa, Israel.  We did pretty well--the bonus question was to name the 7 deadly sins.  We got 6 of them right but missed lust.  After lunch we went to a complimentary wine tasting and sat with an interesting couple from Montreal.  Tonight was a formal night and we had dinner with 2 ladies from FL.  The day was so foggy that we didn't take a single picture.  The temp is comfortable for us, but a couple from Las Vegas, where it's 115°, have been complaining about the humidity.  Except for them, we've been enjoying the company of everyone we've met.

Boston - July 13, 2013

Weather:  Light showers early, then cool and cloudy

The JFK Presidential Library was our destination for today, so we got an early start and took the subway south.  The library, located on the water near the UMass campus, was most interesting and educational.  The visiting exhibit on the Cuban Missile Crisis was especially fascinating.  A film about Kennedy at the start of the visit was very touching--we heard a lot about him that we had either forgotten or never knew.  Lunch today was a yummy lobster roll (all lobster and no filler) at James Hook Lobster on the water at Seaport and Atlantic Avenues (we may mention food frequently in this blog).  There were almost no lines when we embarked the Veendam around 2:00.  The first security person we saw in the terminal said "please smile at me--I've dealt with so many rude people today!"  Hope we can avoid them.  It's good to be on the ship, unpacked and settled in for this 35 day cruise. 

JFK Presidential Library

JFK Presidential Library

JFK Presidential Library-2

1960 Democratic Convention

JFK Presidential Library-3

JFK's Desk

Boston - July 12, 2013

Weather:  Overcast and cool - perfect for sightseeing

Today we took the Hop On Hop Off Trolley for our one full day in Boston.   The route has 18 stops and while some sights are close to the trolley stops many require a lot of walking.  Boston has countless historical sights and we saw many of them and also walked part of the Freedom Trail.  Locals were incredibly friendly and asked if they could give us directions when they saw us studying our map.  The trolley went by Fenway Park and also through the MIT campus in Cambridge.  We had great pastrami sandwiches for lunch at Sam LaGrassa's deli near the Boston Common.  Our last stop was at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum.  Actors reenact the Tea Party and fire up all of the patriots (tourists) and then invite them to board the ship and toss the tea overboard.  It was an educational and entertaining experience with a combination of talks, videos and some Disney-like talking portraits and other visual magic.  We were on the trolley tour from 9 to 5 and walked almost 8 miles in addition to riding many miles on the Old Town Trolley.   Every joint ached by the time we got back to the hotel.

Granary Burial Ground (Paul Revere buried here)

Paul Revere's Grave

Boston Common - Swan Boats

Swan Boats - Public Garden

Boston Tea Party Ships and Museums

The Boston Tea Party

Boston - July 11, 2013

Weather: Warm, muggy, temp in hi 80s

We stayed  at the Westin Waterfront in Boston for 2 nights prior to our cruise.   The highlight of our first day was dinner at the Atlantic Fish Company on Boylston, right near the site of the Marathon bombing.  The New England lobster dinner we enjoyed included steamed lobster, clams, mussels, red potatoes and corn on the cob.  We had taken a cab to the Back Bay area but used the subway to go back to our hotel.  The Charlie tickets are named for the fellow in the Kingston Trio's song about the man who didn't have a nickel to get off the subway.  "He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston, he's the man who never returned…" 

Back Bay Neighborhood

Atlantic Fish Co.

Atlantic Fish Company

© Jay 2013