For the third week of our summer vacation, we planned to take a cruise in the Norwegian fjords with Holland America Cruise Line. Both our families joined us (1st time meeting!) and we were scheduled to depart from Amsterdam on Sunday August 7. I previously visited Amsterdam in ’07 when I studied abroad, but this was Andrew’s first visit. Andrew and I, my mom, my sister Corinne, and Andrew’s parents all flew in on Saturday August 6 and Kelly and Gregg (my uncle & his girlfriend) flew in on Sunday (after narrowly missing our cruise due to a delayed flight, thank goodness they made it!).
We had checked the weather before our cruise, and all of us had noted that it was not looking so great. Forecasts were for rain and clouds 😔. But I do not think any of us knew the extent of the storms nor the impact they would have on us, as immediately upon checking in to the cruise, we learned that due to a storm coming across the North Sea (a body of water we needed to cross) our departure from Amsterdam was delayed one day and they cancelled a stop in the port of Ålesund. This reduced our stops in Norway from 4 days to 3 (out of a 7 night cruise). Speaking for myself, this was a disappointment since this took time away from Norway and I was looking forward to seeing the destination. However, when in these situations I do realize that we have to accept that the cruise line makes these decisions for our safety and comfort. Also, when you choose to go to a cruise destination in a northern region, you are more likely to experience inclement weather.
We stayed near the museum district at the Leonardo Hotel Amsterdam City Center (formerly a Best Western). It had a bus station nearby that was a direct shot to the airport, which was convenient, and it was next to a very big park that was great for my Sunday morning run with Andrew’s Dad and my mom.
Saturday night in Amsterdam, we planned dinner with my Mom and Andrew’s parents at Restaurant Dubbel, a great spot along one of the canals. It would have been my Dad’s 58th birthday (August 6) so we downed a couple Belgian ales in his honor.
With a one day delay in departure from Amsterdam, we had a little extra time to explore the city, which we all took advantage of.
On Saturday we began a walking tour from the Rick Steve’s guide book and quickly ran into the source of a high volume of colorful people running around town: The Amsterdam Pride Parade on the canals! We had fun watching the crowds and the boats packed with dancing partiers in bright colors for a bit and then we continued on our walk.
On Sunday morning we woke up for a run in the park and then took a canal boat tour with Lovers Canal Cruises. It was only an hour but it was a great way to get to see the city sights and canal house boats from the water. While we ran, Andrew and his Mom did a self-guided walking tour through the Jordaan neighborhood.
On Monday we had until 1 pm to explore the city a bit more before our departure from port. We all split up to do our own thing, and my mom, sister and I did some walking through the city for a bit. Andrew and his parents went to the Amsterdam museum and Kelly and Gregg did a little tour through the city.
First days at sea on the MS Koningsdam Monday and Tuesday (Aug 8-9):
This was my first cruise, so I was really interested to see how it would go. Our ship is brand new and launched in May 2016. The itinerary had us at sea from Monday afternoon through all day Tuesday with our first day at port in Geirangerfjord on Wednesday August 10.
Shortly after we began cruising, the captain came on and notified us all of the planned time at sea and also the weather forecast. We learned that there would be high seas and worse weather than we had hoped.
It’s hard to tell in the below photograph, but we made it through 10-12 (approx. 32-39 ft) meter waves and 56 knot winds. They had to close the decks on all the floors so we could not go outside. The ship’s stabilizers were able to prevent the rocking side to side, but there was still plenty of pitch (rocking from front to back).
As I have never cruised before, all of this fascinated me. People were walking around as if they’d had one too many drinks and all needed to hold on to things. Even in my shower the water was sloshing around and I couldn’t help but laugh when I tried to reach for things and missed. There were people getting sea sick quite often (unlucky me saw one of them). Many things were cancelled due to sea sickness or to prevent people from getting in a situation that might lead to sea sickness. Luckily our group of 8 made it through the seas without getting overly ill, but I think most (aka me) had to take it easy all day.
We made it through, and while I will say I would not ever want to go through seas like that again (okay, who does?), I am so glad that our ship was able to make it through. The captain of the ship said it, and I believe him, that if our ship had not been as strong and capable as it is (and the newest ship in its class in the world) then we would have had to cancel the cruise or delay further, cutting the trip even more. In fact, two other cruise ships that left Amsterdam for Norway on the same day as us had to cancel their trips entirely.
So, we all did our best to enjoy the cruise ship on these first days at sea despite the weather. We tried out the restaurants (I was impressed by the cuisine on the ship!), the gym (for those of us who could handle the motion of the ship!) and even checked out the spa (pedicure for me, massages for Kelly & Gregg). There was a really fascinating interview with the ship’s captain I attended with my Mom and Andrew, plenty of live music, trivia (which we never managed to win the entire trip, though we came close!) and plenty of chatting over drinks or as we looked over the water.
Wednesday would be our first day in port, so we rested up and prepared to wake up early the first day as we were planned to ride into the fjords early in the morning and the views were promised to be good!