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As promised, June 1st Dover to Stockholm Diary Part I


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We arrived in London on the morning prior to embarkation. TA’s driver (Stanley) picked us up at Heathrow and took us to the Savoy. Walked along the Thames to the Tate Modern for the afternoon. Dinner at the Grill Room and then walked to the West End for a play ( Jerry Springer the Opera). Don’t know if it was jet lag or the fact that I have never watched the Springer show but we left at intermission. Next morning Stanley picks us up early for the drive to Dover. On the way we stopped off for a couple of hours at Leeds Castle. Interesting interior but the grounds are the real show. Due to rain we decided not to go on to Canterbury for the afternoon. Arrived at Dover dock about 1:30 pm. Embarkation was a breeze; suite wasn't ready so we were escorted to the Terrace Room for lunch on board. After eating we made an excursion of the ship, scheduled some meals at Toscana and the Polo Grill, booked some massages and beauty salon visits and got to our suite about 3:30 pm. Bags showed up right behind us and Nino the butler followed soon after the bags. Obligatory Safety Drill, finished unpacking and settling in. Dinner at Tapas on the Terrace (not my favorite meal) then on to the introductory show in the Regatta Lounge. Cruise Director Dave was enthusiastic and friendly. Wiped out and went to bed, ship left port about 10 PM. The cliffs are really grayish white.


Still rainy and cool. Got off ship at 8:45, no lines no muss or fuss. Bruges Taxi Service [url="http://www.brugsetaxiservice.com/"]www.brugsetaxiservice.com/[/url] right on time at 9 with our name in the window. Twenty minute drive from Zebruges to Bruges was efficient if uninteresting. We were dropped off in the center of town near the tourist information office. Horse carriages lining up, drivers with straw hats and big smiles. Even the light drizzle cannot dampen the magic of Bruges. Took the suggested walking tour; took a one hour canal boat ride (outstanding) with English presentation by boat captain. Continue walking around the cobblestone streets viewing shops, prancing horses and stopping at the outer embankment canal to which the commercial boats chug by. Walk back to central marketplace stopping for a few chocolate shops (gifts and treats), lunch at a small café off the marketplace for Mussels and Frites (for Elizabeth) Croque Monsieur (for me) and strong Flemish beer for both of us. After lunch Elizabeth went round the corner to Norma’s watched a lace making demonstration and then purchased some goodies. At 3 we met up with Bruges Taxi Service at the appointed spot and returned to the ship. Whirlpools and naps followed. Ship left port at six. Dinner a Toscana (excellent), casino for an hour or so and back to the room for reading, planning and rest.


Grey and Cloudy…still cool. Previous trip to Amsterdam included City Hall, Church on the Dam, Anne Frank’s house, Rembrandt’s house, a canal boat tour and a visit to Kinderdyke. So this time we left the ship at 9 am, walked to the central station square (10 minute walk) and secured a one day transit pass for all buses, trams and the metro. Took the tram to the Riksmuseum and used the audio self-tour. Walked down the street to the Van Gogh Museum and again took the audio tour. Both museums have great collections although the Riksmuseum is current undergoing a complete interior renovation and had a best of the best exhibit only. Took a tram back to Spui to meet a friend who did not show. Sat in the square and watched Amsterdam walk (bike and drive) past; it was peaceful but unproductive. Had lunch at an outdoor café, herring, sandwiches and Dutch beer. Walked around the Spui area with picturesque canals, narrow cobblestone streets and tall thin buildings from the 17th century. Walk down to the Dam and took a different tram to the old Jewish neighborhood, went through the Jewish museum and the Portuguese Synagogue and took the tram back to the Dam. Walk around the Dam enjoyed the wildlife and street theatre then transferred to a tram back to Central Station and walked back to the ship about 5 pm. Nice day, sad to have missed our friend. Ship left port at 6 pm. Plenty of action in the port, spent a bunch of time on the verandah and enjoyed the action, bridges, cranes and boats. Late diner in the Grand Dining Room was excellent, a little casino time (not as successful) and a good night’s sleep.

Kiel Canal

Foggy and Cool…again. Slept in. Had a workout in fitness center, lunch in the Grand dining room and lots of verandah time watching the scenery go by. Enjoyed the canal, it felt like driving a ship through the middle of Wisconsin dairy country. We were the main attraction up and down the canal with people taking pictures from the banks as we passed. Lots of farms and lots families walking along the canal. People fishing under large green umbrellas and a number of ferries crossing our bow. A large number of camper parks along the way. Reading and resting for me, a massage for Elizabeth. Enjoyed the locks at the end of the canal; not large like panama but more like a local river lock and dam. Dinner at Polo Grill was excellent steaks, shrimp cocktails and lobster. Met the usual suspects at the casino and had a good night, Elizabeth has won everyday. To bed early tomorrow is a long and early day.


Surprise, it is rainy, cool and foggy. Continental breakfast at 6 am off the ship at 6:30. Car and Driver from Berlin Sightseeing [email]info@berlin-stadtfuehrung.de[/email] was waiting to take us to Berlin. Two hour drive in rain with not much to see. Comfortable car nice young English speaking driver. Picked up our guide who was waiting at a local McDonalds in Berlin and began a four hour whirlwind tour of Berlin. First to Charlotteburg Palace then a visit to the 1936 Olympic Stadium. Drives through Unter the Lindens, a walk at the new Helmut Hahn Sony platz, Checkpoint Charlie and the remaining Berlin Wall Segments, drove through the Museum Island with its modern Koncerthall and Meis Vandr Roe designed modern art museum, then past Humboldt University, embassy row and stopped at the Brandenburg gate. Walked through the gate to the Reichstag, Victory Column and the government house and office buildings. A quick drive through the Tiergarten and a trip through a Turkish ethnic neighborhood. Berlin cannot possibly be experienced in a four hour tour. It is spread-out, very green and startling for its dramatic architecture, history and striking vistas. At the end of the 4 hours we were dropped off at Ke Da Wal, a Harrods like department store complete with an outstanding food court divided into sections. Each section has an open kitchen with counters serving food from the surrounding area. The place was packed with people eating and buying. Found two spots at one counter which turnout to have a potato theme. Enjoyed potatoes pancakes, baked potatoes and superb dark German beer. Bought some cheeses. Sat out on the square in front of the store at the head of unter the lindens watching the crowd go by. The driver showed up at the appoint time and took us to Berlin’s incredible Jewish Historical Museum. It is a haunting labyrinth of remarkable exhibits, a disorienting column garden and was jam packed with German students trying to better understand their country. Outstanding architecture, great interactive and remarkably informative exhibits. By now it was 6 pm and time to hit the Autobahn back to the ship. Reached speeds of 220 plus kilometers per hour which seemed fast to me. Great day with much mixed emotions and awe. Still sorting it out even now. Must go back for more. Back on board and exhausted. Opened up a chilled bottle of wine, broke out the cheese order up some crackers and mustard and ate dinner in the room. Thanks Nino. Peeked down at the Casino but should have stay in the room.
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