Saturday, September 04, 2010

Cruise, North Sea Region

This year my mom and I took a two-week cruise to northern Europe. I have been wanting to take my parents to Russia for years, and a cruise was a safe and comfortable way to do it. I had actually offered to stick to just Moscow and Saint Petersburg, but Dad said if he was going to go all the way to Russia, we were going to darn well cross Russia on the Trans-Siberian. Although I am anxious to do that, planning for the Trans-Siberian was just too much for me, and I wasn't getting it done. True to his word, Dad didn't come for just Saint Petersburg; but Mom did. The cruise was her idea.

We flew into London Heathrow and boarded a transfer bus to the cruise ship, Regatta on Oceania cruise line. Really, don't ask me for a cruise line recommendation; I prefer to stay in a mountain hut. I did like getting lox for breakfast every morning, though.

The cruise line always arranged for its guests to have an escort. Even for the bus to the ship, there was a local guide on board. She was amusing--something like an older and slightly more reserved Bridget Jones. I managed to sleep through some of the chatter. England was also my first experience with having to hurry up and get back on the bus after a brief stop. Needing to meet schedules while on vacation was something of a first for me.

We traveled through the North Sea. Our first stop was Belgium, where Mom and I took a full-day excursion to Brussels. This guide was the absolute best tour guide in the whole wide world, so I was feeling pretty positive about tours at this point. He knew his material, he was funny, and he made sure we always knew where there was a restroom. What more could you ask for? We had a fun time driving around and seeing the sights, we got a walking tour too, and he turned us loose for lunch. Mom and I ate an extravagant lunch of mussels and French fries, a local favorite dish, along with some Belgian beer, Leffe Blond.

The next stop was Amsterdam, where one of the things our guide talked about was how great the tour guide in Brussels was. She herself could have looked after people a little better, but the scenery was positively delightful. We passed one dream house after another in the Dutch countryside. I've always thought I wanted a cottage with a small garden in place of a lawn, Such houses are nearly nonexistent in the States, so I was surprised to see one after another after another.

We stopped a couple of times to view windmills, and we spent a long time visiting the porcelain factory in Delft. We were given free time for lunch in Delft, and then we drove back to the ship, taking time to stop in The Hague at the Peace Palace. I have read so many scholarly materials that were published in "The Hague, Netherlands" that I was really psyched to see The Hague.

After the Netherlands, we had a lazy day on the ship, crossing the Kiel Canal. We landed in Warnemunde on day 5 of the trip.


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