Port of Call Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Heart of The Netherlands

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.

Transportation

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.

Currency

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.

Attractions

Anne Frank Museum

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.

Keukenhof

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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Port of Call Tenerife

Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands

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.

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.

Transportation

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.

Currency

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.

Attractions

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.

The Cristo de La Laguna

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.

The Cruise Port of Curaçao

Curaçao, Perfect Blend of Two Worlds

Wouldn’t it be great if we could move tropical seas, palm trees and great beaches to Northern Europe? It’s not going to happen, but the next best thing is to move the Netherlands into the Caribbean. Welcome to Curaçao.

Queen Juliana Bridge

There are a number of European influenced islands in the Caribbean but no place expresses it as well as this little Dutch island. While Aruba has succumbed to run-away Americanization you can still stroll the streets of Willemstad, sit in a café for a Cappuccino or stop in a small bistro for lunch and it isn’t hard to think you are in Amsterdam.  Add to that the great beaches and resorts, balmy weather and turquoise seas and you have Curacao.

Neighborhood under the Queen Juliana Bridge

Where Your Ship Docks

Willemstad is the activity center of Curacao and most ships will tie up very near the center of town. Located at the dock is a hotel area with a shopping and restaurant area. A short stroll along the water brings you to the unique Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge. On the other side of this floating bridge is the downtown area of Willemstad. There are also public facilities near the dock.

 

Transportation

Curacao is a larger island and while there are taxis available they tend to be pricey. Public transportation is sparse and difficult to make use of. If you really want to go out and see this charming island a tour or renting a car is probably your best bet.

Currency

Curacao while a major Caribbean destination and many places will accept U.S. Dollars it is usually limited to smaller purchases. The Netherlands Antillean Guilder (ANG, locally referred to as NAF, an abbreviation of the Netherlands Antillean Florin) is the official currency of Curaçao. It is benchmarked to the US dollar at a stable rate of US$ 1 = NAFl. 1.77. Most credit cards are welcome and there are ATM’s available.

Attractions

Curaçao has seen explosive growth in upscale resorts and residential neighborhoods in recent decades but the old world charm has remained intact. Over a period of time there was a huge migration of Dutch retirees, much to the consternation of the locals, and that drove up the cost of living, but it didn’t negatively impact the atmosphere of the island.

Dutch Colonial architecture

In the center of Willemstad is a channel that is part of St. Anna Bay and the primary way of getting across is the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge. The bridge opens by breaking its connection on one side and an outboard motor pushes it out of the channel anchored by a hinge at the other end. Fun to watch and fun to ride.

On the northwest side of town is a neighborhood that has been restored and turned into a resort, visitor center and museum known as the Museum Kurá Hulanda & Sonesta Kura Hulanda Village & Spa. Where you can walk cobblestone streets and visit cafes and shops. There is also a floating market in town where boats come over from Venezuela, only 70 miles away, to sell produce (current conditions in Venezuela have probably eliminated this business). The island also boasts the Curacao Sea Aquarium and Dolphin Academy Curacao which is worth a visit.

If you like to dive, snorkel or just relax on the beach, you have come to the right place but you may have to get a ways out of Willemstad. There are dive shops everywhere and great resorts around every turn. The language is Papiamentu which is a blending of Dutch, Spanish and local Indian. Greetings are Bon dia – Good morning. Bon tardi – Good Afternoon. Bon nochi – Good Evening/Good Night and Danki – Thank you, Di nada – Your welcome.

Port of Call Brunei

The Sultanate of Brunei

Brunei is a tiny nation on the island of Borneo. It’s known for the opulent Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, adorned with chandeliers, stained glass and Italian marble, and surrounded by a lagoon. Nearby, the Royal Regalia Building showcases a gold carriage and lavish gifts presented to the sultan. To the northwest is the Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, with 29 golden domes.

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

The country is modern, clean and the people friendly and welcoming to visitors.

Where Your Ship Docks

The port

The Brunei seaport is Muara located 20 miles away from the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, Most visiting cruise ships will provide shuttle busses to the capital.

 

 

 

New water-village

Transportation

Bandar Seri Begawan is a very walkable city and water taxis are easy to locate for trips and tours. While there is a good bus system, Brunei now boasts their own ride share service called Dart Brunei with apps available on on the Apple App Store and Google Play. Reports are that the system is safe and easy to use and fairly priced.

Downtown shopping mall

Currency

Brunei has its own dollar with an exchange rate of one Brunei Dollar equal to US 75¢. Major credit cards are widely accepted.

Brunei In General

The Sultan’s Palace on the hill

Bandar Seri Begawan

There has been some controversy recently involving the Sultan and “his” nations strict interpretation of Islam and Sharia Law. In Hollywood there was a call to boycott the Salton’s five luxury hotels that included The Beverly Hills Hotel. If anything this sheds a light on just how wealthy Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is (his full name is Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien Sultan and Yang di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam).

The countries wealth is based on oil. There are huge offshore deposits controlled by the Sultan and his companies. While the Sultan controls every facet of the economy and government he is a very benevolent ruler. Currently the average income in the country is US$40,000 and most everyone that wants to work has a job. He provides free college education and government subsidized housing.

The modern outdoor market

Bandar Seri Begawan

This area of the world is famous for what are called water-villages and Brunei is home to some large water communities. A serious issue with these villages is sanitation where waste is simply flushed into the sea. To fix this problem the Sultan has been building new, modern water-villages with proper plumbing and has systematically been relocating his people into these new facilities. Generally, the people love and support their Sultan and he invests heavily to provide for his people.

 

A conversation overheard on a bus in Brunei:

  • Canadian tourist – What form of government do you have here in Brunei?
  • Local young man – We have the Sultan and the Legislative Council.
  • Canadian tourist – So the Sultan is the head of government?
  • Local young man – Yes, he takes the role of Prime Minister
  • Canadian – How often do you have elections and are there a number of political parties?
  • Local young man – Oh, we don’t have parties or elections. The Sultan appoints each member of the council.
  • Canadian tourist– Does that much power concern you? Don’t you fear corruption?
  • Local young man – No. The Sultan would remove anyone that was corrupt.
  • Canadian tourist – But don’t the people want a say in what the country does?
  • Local young man – Why? We have the Sultan. He takes very good care of us…

 

Port of Call Nha Trang, Vietnam

Nha Trang, Vietnams Resort City

Nha Trang is a major Vietnamese resort area famous for beautiful beaches and a growing entertainment venue. It is Vietnam’s most popular coastal town that has benefitted from its proximity to a number of beautiful beaches. Directly across the water from downtown is Tre Island that boasts an amusement park and some additional nice beaches. The area’s beaches attract people from all over the world and seems particularly popular with Russian tourists.

Where Your Ship Docks

Nha Trang is a tender port with a landing location south of the city at the port area. The pier does have public facilities nearby and when ships are visiting a market is set-up in the port selling t-shirts, crafts and souvenirs. Hint – when buying t-shirts it’s a good idea to buy a couple of sizes larger than your used to.

 

Cruise ship at anchor off Nha Trang

Transportation

Vendors at the port

In the city of Nha Trang there is one of the worlds largest cablecar systems connecting to Tre island across three miles of water to Vinpearl Amusement Park. The most convenient way to get around is by taxi where most drivers speak English. The trip from the port into the tourist center of town is about five miles and should cost about five US Dollars. The city of Nha Trang is a good walking town as a number tourist attractions, popular restaurants, bars and nightclubs, and shopping are within walking distances in the center of town.

Vinpearl Amusement Park

Approaching the port of Nha Trang

If you’re more adventures Nha Trang also has a bus system with six routes. This is another good way to get around with fares being no more than 5000 Dong. The buses are air-conditioned and comfortable. Through the tourist area of Nha Trang are two popular routes, the No. 2 and No. 4 that cross near the center of town.

 

Currency

Excursion poster

The local currency is the Vietnamese Dong that runs between 20,000 and 25,000 to 1 US$. Also the U.S. Dollar is welcome, actually almost preferred almost, everywhere at good exchange rates as are most major credit cards

Attractions

The major attraction are the beaches. The largest resort beach area is along the coast ten miles south of the port toward the town of Biển Đông, but there are good beaches north of town and over on Tre Island.

 

Po Nagar temple

Nha Trang also has a number of cultural sites including the Long Sơn Pagoda a Buddhist temple in the city. It is regarded as one of the main attractions in the city, along with the Hai Duc Temple. There is also Po Nagar, a Cham temple tower built sometime before 781 AD and located in the medieval principality of Kauthara, near Nha Trang. It is dedicated to Yan Po Nagar, the goddess of the country, who came to be identified with the Hindu goddess Bhagavati.

The area also has a number of highly rated skin diving and scuba sights. As an interesting note the waters around Nha Trang support a thriving seahorse collection industry much to the objection of the UN and wildlife protection groups.

 

Port of Call Fredireksted, St. Croix

Visiting The Cruise Port Of Frederiksted

At 84 square miles, St. Croix is the largest island in the Virgin Island group and significantly more rural than the others. The island features a rain forest in its western interior, an arid climate in the east along with two historic towns.

The island was a possession of Denmark until the early nineteenth century and boasts a deepwater port at the west-end town of Frederiksted. The port was defended by Fort Fredirek as far back as the mid eighteenth century. A second deepwater industrial port was developed on the south coast in the nineteenth century. The island, along with St. Thomas and St. John was bought by the United States in the early nineteenth century. That means you don’t need a passport to visit and best of all you can bring back to the United States five liters of liquor duty free.

Where Your Ship Docks

The more popular destination town on St. Croix is Christiansted but it sits inside a protective coral reef with no good anchorage or pier. Cruise ships will dock on the far west end of the island at the Frederiksted pier. The island and town are developing the area around the pier and historic customs house and there are public facilities available. There is no terminal or facilities on the pier.

 

The Hotel On The Cay

Transportation

Leaving Fredireksted pier and the fort

Other than taking a tour the best way to see the island is to rent a car. Prices are reasonable but arranging a car can be an issue. On our most recent trip we had reserved a car through Avis which indicated they had an office in Frederiksted – they didn’t and we wasted an hour figuring this out and getting them to bring us a car from the airport. So be caustious in reserving a car. Driving is on the left side of the road which can be awkward because most of the vehicles come from the American market and have the steering column on the left. Taxis are available but they are expensive but you can negotiate a tour with the drivers. There is also limited bus service and “taxi buses” which have dedicated routes and a flat fare. The system is a bit freeform and isn’t something a visitor can rely on.

Lunch on the water in Christiansted

Currency

The U.S. Virgin Islands use the U.S. Dollar but credit cards and debit cards are welcome.

Attractions

Frederiksted is a town that seems to always be redeveloping starting tomorrow. For decades it has been taking two steps forward and one step backwards – sometime three steps backward. It is a historic town with a colonial fortification and customs house. There is a small strip of beach in town but the nearest good beach is Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately(?), to protect the sea turtle nests the beach is closed between April and September.

Historic Christiansted

As mentioned already, to really see the island you should rent a car. Christiansted is about twenty five miles from Frederiksted and there are some glorious beaches scattered around St. Croix. Christiansted to us, represents the quintessential tropical waterfront. It is located on the north central coast. The waterfront is fringed with a boardwalk and small boat docks, protected by a natural reef and a close-in small island occupied by a hotel. The harbor features sailboats at anchor, crystal clear water and a number of small hotels and restaurants along the boardwalk. Running up from the waterfront is a colonial era town where the stone and brick buildings include colonnades protecting the sidewalks from the frequent tropical rainstorms. Most of these buildings feature galleries, shops and restaurants along with a couple of small hotels. Just to the east on the waterfront is the old Fort Christiansvaern operated by the U.S. Park Service. The small island in the harbor is Protestant Cay and features the Hotel on the Cay which is serviced by hotel launches. Its beaches are open to the public but there is a small fee to take the launch from town.

Another area, which we love for its beaches and good snorkeling is Davis Bay. Located along the western north coast it has always been pretty isolated and primitive but the beaches are some of the best on the island. Some thirty years ago the Rock Resort people built an exclusive resort above Davis Bay called the Carambola Resort but a combination of things, including a storm named Hugo, caused the venture to fail. Today it is alive again as the exclusive Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Resort and, based on location alone, it is worth visiting.

Fort Christiansvaern

Up in the rain forest is a bar with a pig and back in day you were expected to buy the pig a beer by simply tossing a can into the pen. The pig would pick up the can, raise its head, crush the can and drink. If you got there too late (or early depending on perspective), the pig was passed out drunk. I never actually knew the places name but apparently it is the Montpellier Domino Club and I would bet that that pig is long gone. It has been replaced we’re told by a couple of pigs and now seems to be a “must do” tourist destination.

If you are a skin or scuba diver, or just a novice swimmer, one real “must do” on St. Croix is to visit the underwater National Park at Buck Island where the whole island, not just the reef, is the park. Located 1.5 miles off the northeast coast, there are a number of boat tours from Christiansted out to the area and the reef is spectacular. There is also an underwater trail on the eastern tip. If you can convince yourself to take this trip and put on a face mask you will never forget it.

A good driving circuit is to drive out Centerline Road where you should visit the Estate Whim Museum, the only surviving plantation great house in the Virgin Islands. Go on into Christiansted for lunch and a walk around the historic district and the waterfront. Skirt along the northwest coast from Salt River a stop at Davis Bay, the scenery is spectacular. On your return to Frederiksted drive through the rain forest on Mahogany Road with a stop off for a beer with the pig if you are so inclined.

Port of Call Lisbon Portugal

It’s easy while walking the streets of Lisbon to think you have somehow slipped back in time. The port of call of Lisbon really seems to live in the past. Quant cobblestoned streets lead to plazas bordered by palaces, churches and castles. Attractive small cafes and restaurants abound and shops and galleries invite at every turn. Streetcars that look like they really belong in another time, glide down narrow streets. Even much of this cities graffiti rises to the level of fine art. Portugal seems to have deliberately let the world speed on by, having discovered a comfortable place to sit back and watch everyone else frantically race on to – not sure where.

Where Your Ship Docks

There is a stretch along Lisbon’s central waterfront where cruise ships dock. There are two terminals not far apart, Terminal de Cruzeiros de Lisboa and Terminal de Cruzeiros de Santa Apolonia. Both feature good access to ships and town and have free public facilities. Much of central Lisbon is within a mile of the cruise piers.

Transportation

Lisbon features a good public transport network, both underground and surface with buses and trams and can also add the Transtejo (river connection). Lisbon Metro is one of the most cost efficient and flexible ways of traveling around the city.

There are 24 and 48 hour passes available and the funicular system can also be used.

 

1 Day ticket (24h)

Carris/Metro 6.40€ -Valid for unlimited journeys on Carris and Metro, networks during 24 hours following the first validation.

Carris/Metro/Transtejo (Cacilhas) 9.50€ – Valid for unlimited journeys on Carris, Metro and Transtejo (river connection), during 24 hours following the first validation.

Ticket Offices are open every day 7:45 a.m – 7:45 p.m at the following Metro stations:

Marquês de Pombal, Campo Grande, Colégio Militar/Lu, Jardim Zoológico, Marquês de Pombal

Rossio, Baixa-Chiado, Cais do Sodré, Oriente Aeroporto. There are also vending machines at every station.

There is also a visitor’s card called the Lisboa Card where you get unlimited travel for 24 hours for just €20 that also includes free access to Lisbon’s best museums and attractions like the Torre de Belem, Jeronimos Monastery and the Santa Justa Elevator and more. You can buy the card online HERE.

Currency

The currency of Portugal is the Euro and major credit cards are welcome almost everywhere.

Attractions

Castles, museums, churches and palaces all within a mile or so from the cruise ship.

Castelo de S. Jorge at R. de Santa Cruz do Castelo

Hilltop Moorish castle & palace ruins

Jerónimos Monastery at Praça do Império 1400-206 Lisboa

World heritage listed Gothic monastery

Oceanário de Lisboa at Esplanada Dom Carlos I

Waterside aquarium with ocean ecosystems

Museu Nacional do Azulejo at R. Me. Deus 4

Ceramic collections located in a church

Belém Tower at Tower at Av. Brasília

Medieval defensive tower

Padrão dos Descobrimentos at Av. Brasília

Concrete monument to maritime explorers

Santa Justa Lift at R. do Ouro

Elevator linking city levels from 1902

Carmo Convent at Largo do Carmo

Medieval ruins & archaeology museum

Basílica da Estrela at Praça da Estrela

Baroque church with twin bell towers

Ajuda National Palace at Largo Ajuda 1349-021

19th-century royal palace and museum

Arco da Rua Augusta at R. Augusta 2

Triumphal arch with a viewing platform

Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte

Popular destination for city views

Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga at R. das Janelas Verdes

Historical art collection in old palace

Palácio dos Marqueses da Fronteira at Largo São Domingos de Benfica 1

Grand palace

Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen at Calçada da Graça

Terrace park featuring sweeping city views

Museu de Marinhaat Praça do Império

Maritime museum in sixteenth century monastery