Rising to Sea Level, the North Sea Canal.

We are onboard and underway, on our cruise to Iceland and Greenland.  But we weren’t sure that this would happen.  I had complications from surgery the week before we left for Amsterdam and I didn’t get clearance from the docs until Friday afternoon.  We flew to Amsterdam on Sunday.   While waiting I could not bring myself to do things that I normally do in preparation.  I didn’t want to psych myself up by organizing, or packing and then be disappointed.  So from the OK until we left it was a bit chaotic.  For instance, I forgot to pack a sweater, sweatshirt or fleece for travel to Iceland and Greenland.  I forgot to pack a tie, and, most importantly I forgot to check some important details.

So in Amsterdam I bought a hoodie and a tie and called Holland America in Seattle to find out what time we needed to get on the ship.  They told me the ship sailed at 7, that if we got there after 5 we would have schlepp our own baggage and after 5 30 we would not be able to board.  The nice lady told me we could get there at 11:30 for lunch and get to our room after 1 PM when embarkation officially began.  I believed her.  The ship actually sailed at 4:30.  We arrived at 2:30, just in time to not have to schlepp our own bags.  There was one, and only one, very attractive blonde female Dutch stevedore who took our bags and told us where to go.  We went and there was no one there except a few staff.  When we got to the counter the nice lady told us they had been waiting for us.  That almost everyone else was on board and we had a lifeboat drill to get to.  Even the photographer who usually takes those annoying pics of everyone getting on and slowing the whole boarding process had packed it in.  So with no lines we were whisked on board, greeted by a security guy-greeter who remembered us from two years ago, got to our room, went to the boat drill and our bags were in the room when we got back.  It was the most hassle free boarding I have ever had.  Our room steward is the same one we had on the 68 day South American cruise.

The sail out from Amsterdam is fascinating.  We start in the River Ij and travel for two hours through the North Sea Canal.  The river and canal are two meters below sea level so we had to go through locks to get into the North Sea.  On the way out we passed a giant cable laying ship.  One of the staff gave a running commentary which included the history of Dutch Pirate Radio as we passed a floating restaurant which used to be Radio REM.  That was a good start.

Through the locks we sailed past a pair of lighthouses and beach full of kite surfers and into the choppy North Sea where the pilot made his jump to the pilot boat.

This is a sea day, and a rough sea day it was.  Many absent from the dining room but I am happy to report we were fine.  Tomorrow we make landfall in the Shetland Islands

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