Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Amsterdam - Boarding the Avalon Panorama

The Seven Canals and Bridges

We arrived in Amsterdam on Tuesday night, May 17, and spent the night at Hotel Fita, a small quaint boutique hotel a block from the Rijksmuseum. On Wednesday, after dropping our luggage off at the NH Amsterdam Hotel, the meeting place for our cruise, we walked back to the museum and had a nice visit. We then walked through the streets of Amsterdam until it was time to meet up with the bus and head to the Avalon Panorama, our home for the next two weeks.


We boarded the brand new Panorama on Wednesday afternoon. Our luggage was waiting for us in our 200 square foot “suite” room. The rooms on this ship are beautiful. We have a sliding door that opens giving our room the feel of being one big balcony when we want. The bathroom is “full size” with a full size shower, marble floors and granite counters. We have a desk, a small sofa, and a table and chair so that we don’t have to use our beds as our loungers.

The top deck (Sky Deck) is the length of the ship, which has 67 rooms on three levels, a large lounge, dining room, small lounge, spa, and fitness room. It is very comfortable.

Our ship has approximately 128 Aussies, about 12 New Zealanders, 2 Canadians, and a handful of Americans on this cruise. We met a couple about Brian’s age from Australia, Doug and Debbie, who we have joined up with at meals and on tours (alas, Brian – no “geriatric cruise” for you!). The population is mid-forties and up. Most people have seemed to group up at this point so we are glad that we found these new friends from a different country to spend our time with.

Our first meal on board was, like all the rest so far, delicious. Open seating in the dining room allows us to change tables at meals and meet other Aussies. While this ship has no want for food, it is not exactly like ocean cruises. The breakfast and lunch buffets have plenty of healthy choices, and some not-so-healthy, but they are not exorbitant and fairly consistent. Lunch is usually salads, a couple of choices for main dishes (if you can’t do with salad and the daily pasta), and fruit, ice cream and small pastries for dessert. Dinner is usually 4 or 5 course, with small portions and always with a fish, meat, and vegetarian option. Wine with dinner, soft drinks with lunch – we really couldn’t ask for more. The lounge usually has cakes and coffee (nothing spectacular) around 4 p.m. and a lounge at the back of the ship with a cappucinio machine, fresh fruit, biscuits and juices.

Canal Cruise of Amsterdam

On Thursday May 19, we all flocked off the ship onto buses, which took us a short distance to board canal cruise boats. We cruised the canals of Amsterdam for about 1 ½ hours, and then returned to our ship to prepare for our departure from Amsterdam. We passed by the elegant homes of the canals, houseboats, and the home of Anne Franck, the teenager whose diary shared with the world her family’s trials for two years living in a small back house hidden from the Germans. Eventually, her family was all massacred at the concentration camps, except for Anne’s father, who in later years brought her diary to publication.

We passed by the "public parking lot" for the thousands of bicycles that those in Amsterdam use for getting around town. They have the right of way, not the pedestrian - and watch out, because they DO NOT stop for you if you are in their path! We were amazed at the number of bikes parked alongside the bridges lining the canals.

The Bicycles of Amsterdam

The Panorama left Amsterdam and cruised out of the Netherlands and onto the Rhine overnight, eventually bringing us to our first stop of the trip in Cologne, Germany on Friday around 1:00 p.m. As we cruised up toward the Rhine on Thursday afternoon, we saw our first lock, which was designed to bring our boat up to the higher water level. Two of the many barges we are seeing on the river joined us in the lock along with a smaller boat. As the gate closed behind us, we wondered how we were going to all fit in there! But, slowly we watched water being let into the lock, and as the front gates rose, the water flowed in as our ship rose to the new water level. And, off we went, cruisin’ down the river!

Entering the Lock

Barge Next to Ours - with Dad, Mom and 2 Children

The Lock Opens after Filling

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