Approaching The Netherlands from the North Sea cruise ships navigate the North Sea Canal. The canal runs from the IJmuiden locks to the Coenhaven. East of the Coenhaven, the waterway is called the River IJ (both letters are capitalized) and continues up to the Oranjesluizen locks located in the eastern part of Amsterdam. Than from the Oranjesluizen up to the Passenger Terminal in Amsterdam. Unfortunately ships that are transiting into Amsterdam often come in before dawn so as to be tied up early in the day. Passengers that are sailing out of Amsterdam late in the day get a much better appreciation of the systems that protect Holland from the North Sea.
Amsterdam is the largest city in the Netherlands famous for tulips, cheese, marijuana, red light districts and canals,. Many people call the country Holland but the true name is the Netherlands with Holland being the name of two of its states. The people are Dutch as is the name of their language.
The most important thing to know about Amsterdam is when walking in the city, pay attention and stay out of the bike lanes and watch out for bikes! Everyone rides bikes to get around in this city and in most areas there is a designated bike lane between the sidewalks and the street. The biggest mistake visitors make is seeing the traffic stop and step off the sidewalk without looking for bicycles. Keep you eyes open for bikes – a bicyclist moving at ten miles an hour can do a lot of damage to a pedestrian.
Where Your Ship Docks
Your ship will dock at the Cruise Terminal on the river IJ. The cruise facilities are modern with good access to public facilities. From the terminal it is just a 10-minute walk to the central train station. With the cruise ship at your back walk off to your right along the waterfront to reach the station and central Amsterdam.
The cruise terminal is only a 20 minute ride from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and just a ten minute walk to Amsterdam Central Train station. There is also frequent train service from the station to Schiphol Airport. Amsterdam has an excellent and inexpensive bus system
The city is laid out like a fan with major streets radiating out from the Amsterdam Central Train station. The major canals arc across the fan along with a number of city streets. Most major streets are serviced by trams which run every few minutes.
Traveling within Amsterdam by public transportion is easy to understand and very convenient. The network is operated by GVB throughout the central city and connects its neighborhoods with trains, trams, metro, bus and ferry. The least expensive and most convenient way to see the city is with GVB day passes. Available from 1 to 7 days, with prices starting from €8.50 per person, per day and valid on trams, buses and metros operated throughout Amsterdam. You can buy your tickets in advance from the GVB website HERE.
The Netherlands, like other members of the EU uses the euro as its official currency. You will often discover that to avoid the use of the 1 and 2 cent coins, many cash transactions are rounded to the nearest five cents in the Netherlands. Credit and debit cards a commonly accepted but U.S. Dollars need to be changed into Euros.
This is a beautiful city and great for walking (watch out for the bicycles!). Canals lined with boats are at every turn and like most major cities there are books dedicated to seeing this city. Museums, galleries, gardens and historic places are everywhere but often it’s just the cities neighborhoods that make a visit memorable.
Rijksmuseum – One of Amsterdam’s most popular attractions – and certainly its most important art repository – the Rijksmuseum was founded in 1809 to house the country’s huge collection of rare art and antiquities.
Van Gogh Museum – A must-visit for art fans and historians, the spectacular Van Gogh Museum has been one of Amsterdam’s top attractions since it opened in 1972.
Vondelpark – The largest and most visited park in Amsterdam, Vondelpark occupies 116 acres.
The Anne Frank House – On the Prinsengracht, the Anne Frank Museum is dedicated to the all-too-short life of one of the world’s best-known Holocaust victims.
If you are visiting in the Spring (between 21 March to 10 May, 2020) a must see is the Keukenhof Gardens, one of the worlds largest flower festivals featuring acres of tulips. Visit our article on the Keukenhof HERE.
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Our first newsletter is dedicated to everything cruising and is ready to deliver. Inside you will find informative articles on selecting cruise lines and itineraries, saving money on booking and land tours along with information on what to expect at ports of call.
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The Cruise Port of Civitavecchia is a seaside city and the port serving the city of Rome. The city is served by frequent train service from and to Rome along with regular service to other Italian destinations. The Cruise port is only a short five or six block walk from the train station along the waterfront on Via Aurelia. Once at the port there are usually free shuttles to the cruise ships. From where and how the shuttles run seems to change often.
The main gate to the port is next to Forte Michelangelo and the nearest to the train station and across the street from the McDonalds. Recently the cruise shuttles are being organized nearer the Roman Dock entrance about 5 blocks farther up Via Dalmazia from the main gate.
Rome Cruise Port Civitavecchia is both a cruise ship embarkation port as well as a popular port of call and for that reason it can have a large number of ships in port at times. On one day we counted seven large cruise ships tied up along the sea wall and piers. Because it is a working port and its size the port normally requires a shuttle to get out of the port or to your ship.
Where Your Ship Docks
The seaport stretches along the waterfront in downtown Civitavecchia and there are no cruise terminals or public facilities. Walking out is usually not permitted because it is a large working port but usually there are free shuttle buses to one of two gates. The city near the the port has a nice stretch along the sea toward the train station featuring a number of outdoor cafes. There are a number of nice shops in the colonnade strip behind the port and a walking mall just two blocks up from the McDonalds at the seaport.
When you are cruising out of Rome, Italy the distance to the port requires you to do some planning. If you are arriving at Fiumicino, Leonardo da Vinci airport specifically to get to your cruise ship you can save a lot of money by taking a train. The airport train station is inside the airport and a ticket to Civitavecchia is around €5 (* see note below). It does require taking a local train and switching trains at Trastevere station. Taking a taxi to the port can be an expensive trip with fares running from €150 to €300. If your not inclined to go the train option most cruise lines will offer transfer services to and from Rome airport at an additional fee. When booking your cruise usually transfers are provided as an option.
While most cruises offer tours into Rome with some being nothing more than round trip bus service the fare can run $80 or more per person. If your cruise is ending in Civitavecchia or if it is a stop on your cruise itinerary the best way to get into Rome is to take a train. It’s only a short six to ten block walk up Via Aurelia to the station. Trains run as frequently as ever 20 to 30 minutes. From Civitavecchia a typical trip to S. Pietro (Vatican City) takes 40 minutes, Trastevere 50 minutes, Ostiense 55 minutes and finally Termini (the central train station) 70 minutes. Fare starts at €5 one way on the commuter trains but can cost up to €25 round trip if using regional trains depending on ticket class. There is a manned ticket booth at the station along with vending machines. We would strongly recommend getting a metro train map ahead of time and plan your route before getting to Italy. Our experience is that buying tickets ahead of time online doesn’t save anything and can actually cost you much more.
In Civitavecchia taxis are available but are famous for overcharging with the short ride from the port to the train station (6 to 10 blocks) quoted as high as €10 or €15. Taking a taxi into Rome or to the airport can be an expensive trip with fares running from €150 to €300.There are also shuttle services to the airport with an average price starting at €25 per person. It is recommended that reservations be made ahead of time as schedules can vary a lot.
The local currency is the Euro and the U.S. Dollar is generally not accepted. Most most major credit cards are accepted and an easy way to exchange money is to use an ATM machine if you have a debit card.
We have stayed overnight in Civitavecchia a number of times. It is a pleasant city with a number of nice hotels and restaurants within walking distance of the port. One happens to be our favorite pizza parlor (HERE). The main business district is next to the port and there are a number of nice shops in the area as well as a pedestrian mall. Via Aurelia runs along the waterfront from the train station to the ports main entrance and has a number of restaurants, most with outdoor seating available. There is also a nice park area along the water which is a popular place for locals to stroll in the evening.
Forte Michelangelo is a historic monument erected as a fortress in the 16th century that runs along the waterfront behind the port. In the day time there is a central courtyard open to the public and on the street side it features a colonnade and also offers panoramic port and ocean views.
Terme Taurine, also known as the Taurine Baths, is an archaeological site of a Roman bathhouse complex outside of Civitavecchia. The site features ruins dating to the Republican and Imperial eras with the oldest structures dating to the first century BC.
The National Archaeological Museum Of Civitavecchia, also known as City Museum, is located inside the eighteenth-century building commissioned by Pope Clement XIII in the eighteenth century, a block away from Fort Michelangelo. It features exhibits from the dawn of civilization, during the whole Roman times, up to the Middle Ages.
*Please Note: If you are taking a train during morning or evening rush hour many of the local trains are commuter trains and if you are traveling with suitcases the Italians may get upset with taking up extra seats. Put your bags overhead or at a car entrance.
Cruise Tips – Ideas on saving money, communication, land tours, the Jones Act and more.
Itineraries – Ideas like cruising the Mediterranean, Alaska, the South China Sea and other itineraries.
Ports of Call – Currently find out what to expect in over sixty port and more added all the time.
We love cruising…
and we’d love to share our experiences with you in this guide to cruising. We enjoy the onboard entertainment and the food and there always seems like there is something to do. It also gives us an opportunity to do nothing – we read and relax by the pool and just watch the ocean roll by. It takes us through a world of interesting places. We get to meet lots of people from all over along with friends that share our interests. We like it so much we have taken over fifty cruises – and have been around the world and from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica.
Scroll down for the cruising table of contents.
We think we’ve learned a few things over the years and we’d like to share our tips, itineraries, and destinations, so take a look through the currently eight dozen articles listed below…
A few things we’ve learned over the past twenty years. Ideas for saving money when booking a cruise, making us of loyalty programs and more. If you are new to cruising and are ready to book a cruise we got some advice that could help…
The age of the old ocean liners was marked by trans-Atlantics, Mediterranean and round the world cruises and were mainly for the very wealthy. Some twenty to thirty years ago cruising came into a new age as first-time cruisers selected the Caribbean, Hawaii and Alaska for their cruising vacations. As those cruisers returned, the industry enticed new customers with bigger and grander ships. Now to keep everyone coming back the industry is looking for new destinations. Australia, the South China Sea, South America and Antarctica to name a few.Every cruise port is different. Some see a virtual parade of cruise ships each week and some rarely have one visit. Being informed about facilities and what’s near the port before you arrive can help you make a plan on how best to get around, what attractions to see and what to expect when disembarking. For warned is forearmed.
We’ve visited over a hundred cruise ports of call. Here we offer our impressions and what we’ve learned about each. So far there are around fifty port articles and we are adding more as fast as we can. Please check back often or better yet become a subscriber and get a notice about each new article.
Every cruise port is different. Some see a virtual parade of cruise ships each week and some rarely have one visit. Being informed about facilities and what’s near the port before you arrive can help you make a plan on how best to get around. As you explore your itinerary choices, check here to learn what to expect in those ports of call. Do you tender or dock, are there terminals or is it a working port? How far to town from the cruise dock? What does the port have to offer.
If you are new to cruising and are thinking about what you should book next you should first decide what you are looking for in that cruise.
Everybody seems to be cruising. It’s actually gaining in popularity every year, but all cruises are not alike and it’s important to understand what to expect. Consider, you’re looking for a calm, relaxing, short ocean cruise and you don’t want to find yourself surrounded by a noisy party crowd that celebrates way into the early hours. Be careful or you could select the wrong itinerary.
Often the character of a cruise comes less from the cruise line or a particular ship and more from the passengers a particular cruise attracts. With many cruises, the passenger character changes with the seasons. Summer is school vacation season so if you would prefer to avoid children on your cruise, summer Caribbean and Alaska cruises probably aren’t your best choice. Not sure you would be happy with a wild, party crowd on your cruise? The shorter winter time Caribbean Carnival cruises are probably not the best fit. Also, if you have children and you would like a cruise with an active children’s program avoid those wintertime longer cruises. They tend to attract a more mature passenger and less families. On a number of the longer cruises that we’ve taken, if there were any children onboard they actually belonged to the crew.
If you are thinking of booking a cruise from a distant port, which is becoming much more popular lately, you need to also consider some additional possibilities. In the case of Royal Caribbean they are working at opening up new international markets by stationing some of their ships in Asia and South America for extended seasons. While you will always find a passenger compliment that represents a good number of countries some of these sailings can have very few English speaking passengers. We had friends that sailed out of Japan with Royal Caribbean and there was only one other English speaking couple on board. The good news for them was that most of the crew spoke English and they ate dinner with the Captain almost every night. It seemed he also didn’t speak Japanese.
Cruises out of New Zealand and Australia are growing in popularity and also very popular with the locals so you will have an opportunity to make a bunch of Australian or Kiwi friends if you choose those itineraries. Cruises out of
Southampton naturally attract a large number of Brits and Canadians are frequent Alaska cruisers out of Vancouver, so there are opportunities to make some new international pen pals.
We have friends that are frequent Disney cruisers and they claim that while there are a lot of children on board, Disney is very good at providing and enforcing adult only areas. Much better, in our experience, than other cruise lines.
While Carnival is famous for its Caribbean party cruise atmosphere, its Alaska cruises aren’t usually anything like that. Royal Caribbean is very good for families with an excellent kids program. Early in our cruising we had trouble getting our youngest to leave the kids program. The teen also had a great time in the teen hangout. One thing that we find we really enjoy about Celebrity is their lecture series. We’ve listened to lectures by the director (retired) of the Kennedy Space Center, a government official (retired) that spent decades in Asia and professors on dozens of subjects.
There is also a world of cruise lines out there and while a number base their operations on serving American cruisers there are lines that have been focused on Europe, Asia and other regions. For examples, with Carnival, almost all your fellow passengers will be American, giving Carnival cruises a real American feel. On Costa and Azamara, passengers are usually from a number of different, mostly European countries. MSC historically has been another line focused on the European market but is now reaching for a share of the American market. It is based in Italy, but now with a U.S. office in Florida and a number of Caribbean itineraries.
Cruising is a truly international business, Ownership and managed can be headquartered in one country, with a crew from dozens of countries and passengers from all over the world. It is recognized that Cunard is a British company and it was founded in the UK and still has its headquarters there, but its ships are registered in Bermuda. It’s owned by a Panamanian corporation (with headquarters in Miami), and while officers onboard are still mostly British, crew members come from around the world.
Most travel agents that specialize in cruising are a good source for recommendations about what to expect on various cruise lines and itineraries. We strongly recommend you select a travel agent and develop a relationship. It won’t cost you anything additional and can help to save you money and grief.
Disclaimer – While we have now taken over fifty cruises, as far as firsthand information is concerned we can only speak about cruise lines and ships we have sailed. These include Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival and Viking River Cruises. Loyalty programs have rewarded us enough benefits that we return often attracted to that extra value. We have booked an NCL cruise next year primarily because it offered an itinerary we couldn’t get through our preferredcruise lines which provides some insight into why these companies are doing the things they are.
West of southern Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean sits a cluster of volcanic islands called The Canaries. The Canary Islands feature a rugged volcanic landscape known for the black and white sand beaches. Tenerife, the largest island, is dominated by an active volcano Mt. Teide, which has its own astronomical observatory and is part of Teide National Park. Tenerife hosts a huge pre-Lent Carnival each year in the capital of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Where Your Ship Docks
Most cruise ships will dock at the piers in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. There are no cruise terminals or readily available public facilities at the pier. While docked in the city it is still a good walk to reach the central business district. At times there can be shuttles available to get out of the port area.
The island does have a good bus system (CLICK HERE) that uses a pass card, the Ten+ Travel Card. It can be used on most all bus routes. The plastic card itself can be purchased at various outlets around the island for €2 plus a €5 minimum charge amount. The island of Tenerife is large covering almost 100 square miles with a trip from one end to the other being about fifty miles.
Because of the distances that you need to cover to see the island on a short visit it’s recommended that you rent a car or take a tour.
The Canary Islands, like Spain are part of the EU making the local currency the Euro. Credit cards are widely accepted but you will need to use the Euro for cash transactions.
The Canary Islands are a favorite holiday destination for Europeans, particularly the British. It features a good selection of fine restaurants along with a thriving wine industry with a number of vineyards of note.
Because of the volcanic nature of the island there are a number of interesting sights focused on the geology. The Cueva De Los Verdes, lava-formed tunnel with guided tours. Also the Jameos del Agua, a volcanic cave system with dining & music that opens each day at 10 am.
Blessed with a near perfect climate, Tenerife has a number of good beaches like Playa de Amadores, a busy beach for swimming & sunbathing. There is also Palmitos Park, a botanic park with an aviary & dolphinarium or Siam Park a Thai-themed adventure water park.
A good location to book independent tours while in Tenerife is a tour operator called TravelOn.