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Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2019
Amsterdam and Norwegian Explorer - part 1
  Map Southampton, UK Amsterdam, Holland Alesund, Norway Narvik, Norway Tromso, Norway Stavanger, Norway

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Amsterdam - Sunday 6 and Monday 7 October
Only a few hours in Amsterdam

We know Amsterdam, having visited on business, on holiday and then on several cruises. The Queen Elizabeth arrived early on 7 October and departed at 1430 on 8 October. There was a good regular free shuttle bus service all day and every 30 minutes all night. Having originally been scheduled to berth in the centre of Amsterdam it was later changed so that the ship now berthed at the Felison Cruise Terminal at the Port of IJMuiden. The advantage for Cunard was that it saved going down (yes, Amsterdam is below sea level) the locks into the River IJ and the extra time travelling from there to the Amsterdam Cruise Terminal. For passengers it meant there was little alternative to the shuttle bus as there was nowhere to go from the bottom of the gangway, except for a walk around the remains of the WWII military defences or a taxi or a much longer walk out of the docks and towards the small town. As we left we could also see there were beaches but the other side of the river.

In our stateroom on the bow we had a large balcony on the starboard side, dockside, which faced towards the locks. Our forward view window faced towards an island which was part of the defensive system with remains of an important central fortification and four bunkers at each corner. The DFDS Ferry Terminal nearer the locks was the base for a water-taxi which delivered tour groups to explore the island. It was cold, windy, it rained all day, and we stayed on board enjoying the “Elegant Queen Elizabeth” and taking a leisurely breakfast and lunch in the Princess Grill.

The weather was predicted to improve on the second day and we walked onto a shuttle bus just after 0900. It took over an hour to go into Amsterdam, along the river, but only 35 minutes to return. It depends so much on the traffic. The last shuttle bus returned to the ship at 1300 and we planned to return closer to 1230. Our bus parked near to the Central Station alongside the River IJ, next to a row of river hotelboats. Our target was to explore but also to buy some cheese, coffee, chocolate and tulip bulbs. With less than 2 hours in Amsterdam there was no time to visit museums or churches.The walk began by crossing under the railway lines then over the bridge near the Central Station, towards the Schreierstoren and St Nicholaas Kerk. The Sea Palace floating Chinese Restaurant was still moored on the left. Rows of canal cruise boats leave from the Prins Henrikkade outside the station and also from the Damrak nearby.

Damrak is a wide street with frequent trams which joins the Central Station with the Town Hall in Dam Square. It was named as the site of the original 13th century dam on the Amstel river. Damrak has several hotels, including the 3* Hotel Delta where we stayed when there on business. Our 45 wedding anniversary is linked to blue gifts and so we bought a packet of blue tulip bulbs and a blue biscuit tin from a souvenir shop. We also had the choice of several cheese shops, including 2 of the Old Amsterdam cheese company. The Stock Exchange building, Beurs van Berlage, was opposite. Dam Square has important buildings on all sides : the famous department store De Bijenkorf, the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, the National Monument obelisk, the Koninklijk Paleis, the Nieuwe Kerk and finally Madame Tussauds on the corner.

Continuing along the Rokin there was water ahead, and another canal cruises base. The Rokin ended at the Muntplein with the Munttoren, and met the Singel. The Flower market is here along the banks of the Singel. There were not many fresh flowers but there were lots of plastic tulips and an enormous number of different tulip bulbs. There were coffee shops and another cheese shop. The Singel and the Herrengracht are quite close and there was yet another cheese shop on the corner of the Herrengracht. As we admired this canal one of the canal cruise boats came by followed by a HopOn HopOff canal boat. This was the end of our walk and it was time to go back towards Central Station.

Reaching the Damrak there was time for a detour along Oudebrugsteeg to the edge of the red light district. We crossed 2 bridges and looked back at the Oude Kerk, then turned along Geldersekade. There were 2 nice canal boats on the other side of the canal, and at Oudezijdskolk we saw a large converted warehouse. Only when we were leaving along the River IJ did we notice that the canal cruise boats were dwarfed by the commercial river traffic. On the other side of the River IJ is the EYE film museum and blocks of modern housing. There were good views of the River IJ as we drove back to IJ Muiden and the docks, but the trip was too fast to focus on photos.

To our surprise we were back and sitting at a table in the restaurant just after 1300 with plenty of time before we left for Southampton.

Southampton - Tuesday 8 October

After a short overnight voyage we were back in Southampton early the following morning. 8 October was our day in transit in Southampton and we moved from our Princess Grill cabin to a balcony cabin and a different restaurant. Moving staterooms is easy. Clothes hanging in the wardrobes are moved without effort, but the rest has to be packed so there is a small amount of unpacking in the new stateroom. After transferring our valuables into the new safe we left the ship leaving all our baggage to be transferred by housekeeping staff. Mayflower Terminal is not close to town so we hitched a lift on the crew shuttle bus but walked back.  

The story continues at Alesund, Norway after a day at sea.

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Content revised: 30th October, 2019