Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cruise Photos on Flickr

The photos from our transatlantic and Rhine River cruises are now on Flickr. They are a collection titled Transatlantic & Rhine River Cruises - 2009. Comments must still be added.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back Home

After a very enjoyable trip (really trips) we are home at last. Left London Heathrow at 10:35 AM with Mrs. Eagan in First Class and Mr. Eagan in Business Class. Now to put the photos on Flickr but not tonight.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

London - Heathrow Airport

We got up at 4:15 AM this morning in our hotel in Basel and took a cab
to the EuroAirport serving Basel. Because we had paid extra for "Speedy
Boarding Pass" we were the first on the plane and got aisle seats in the
second row. Almost like First Class but not quite! Arriving in Gatwick
airport and going through immigration (we came from a non-EU country) we
got our luggage and bought a ticket for the National Express coach to
Heathrow. This is a little over an hour trip. At Heathrow we had to
hunt to find where the hotel shuttle buses but eventually found them.

Had a late breakfast (actually an early lunch) in the restaurant of the
hotel. Right now (3:40 PM) we are relaxing and go to eat later. The
first shuttle bus in the morning is at 5:19 AM and you can bet that we
will be on it! Got to get our name on the stand-by list and hope we can
get a seat to Miami at least in Business Class. We shall see. Should
be home sometime in the afternoon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Still in Basel

We are still in Basel. Our original plan was to take the train and go to
Luzerne for the day. This was contingent on the rain. The forecast for
today was rain all day and this morning it looks like it was ready to
rain. As a result, we canceled our plans for Luzerne and stayed in
Basel. Guess what happened, the sun came out and it was beautiful for
most of the day until this afternoon when it did rain.

We will be leaving hear early tomorrow morning for London. Our EasyJet
(can't wait to try that sucker) is to Gatwick so from there we take the
hour and a half coach ride to Heathrow and from there a shuttle to our
hotel. It looks like this vacation is beginning to end but it has been
very good. Let's see, we visited eight different countries and each was
unique. Quite a vacation.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Luzerne, Switzerland

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This morning after breakfast we took the bus to the train station here
in Basel to catch the train to Luzerne to spend the day. The
transportation in Europe is great whether it be train, tram or bus. The
hotel gave us a "mobility ticket" that is valid for all public transport
in the city of Basel and its surrounding areas. However, this does not
cover the train. The trip to Luzerne was just about an hour and the
trains between Luzerne and Basel run about every half hour so it is
pretty convenient. In addition, as with most cities in Europe the train
station is in the heart of the city so when you arrive at any place you
are in the town or city center.

On the train ride as we came closer to Luzerne you could see the
mountains in the background. Luzerne is the beginning of the Alps. The
city is very picturesque with the water and the mountains. Lake Luzerne
is right there and the city wraps around it. We took our walk around
the city with a map that we picked up at the tourist center in the train
station. On our Rhine River cruise someone told us to not miss the Lion
Monument carved into the side of a granite hill. It is a monument to
Swiss mercenaries that were killed fighting for the French King during
the French Revolution. These same mercenaries are those today that
guard the Pope.

Another site that we wanted to see was the church of St. Leodegar that
sits at the end and overlooking the Schweizerhofquai, a main waterfront
street. The church has a main high altar and many side altars, all very
ornate. Near the baptismal fount is a 'mural' with pictures of about 75
or so pictures of babies that had been baptized there in the last couple
of years. Around the outside of the church are burial sites of members
of the church. No dates were very old, most within the last 50 years or so.

While we were walking along the water looking for someplace to have
lunch we ran into two couples from Tennessee that were on the Rhine
River cruise. They had come to Luzerne yesterday directly from the
cruise and were taking the high-speed train to Paris and then flying
home. We picked a spot outside for lunch on the water and the menu had
something I had never seen before - horse. That's it, horse, as in
equine. Turns out the horse (roast horse) was more expensive than the beef.

We are back in Basel at the hotel now and tomorrow we will probably take
the train in the morning to Zurich. Zurich seems to be the same
distance as Luzerne was. We will have to see what the weather brings then.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Basel, Switzerland

During the night, probably sometime after midnight, we arrived in Basel,
Switzerland after going through three or four locks in the Rhine.
Unlike ocean cruises we have taken where the luggage has to be packed
and outside the cabin door around midnight, eight o'clock was the
appointed time for us so we put it off the packing as long as we could.
After breakfast and last minute good-byes a taxi picked us up at 9:15 AM
and we were at the Dorint Hotel twenty minutes later or so. Luckily our
room at the hotel was ready so we were able to get in it right away.

After a short nap we took the tram to the Marktplatz (Market Plaza)
where we strolled around, had lunch, strolled some more and then back to
the hotel. Tomorrow we will probably take the train to Luzerne as we
understand it is only a one hour trip.

Black Forest in Germany and Colmar, France

On Saturday morning were arrived at Breisach, Germany to go to the Black
Forest. Docked in Breisach I was impressed by the large numbers of
swans in the Rhine on both sides of the river. And also the number of
people water skiing on the Rhine.

We boarded a bus to visit a church (the term among the cruise folks was
ABC - Another Bloody Church!) and on the way spotted a large stork nest
atop a tall building. The storks spend summers in the this area and
spend the winters in Africa. I would include the photo but it was too
dark so I have to adjust it. We will see additional stork nests in
Colmar later in the day. The first stop was at the Church of St. Peter
in the town of St. Peter. Again inside the church everything was very
ornate. The guide noted that this was the site of a seminary but was no
longer used for that. While we were in the church was either practicing
or tuning the pipe organ and if nothing else it was loud.

The scenery along the way to St. Peter and then later to the
cuckoo-clock place was spectacular. It was everything that I expected
the Black Forest to be. The guide on the bus had an accent that I could
not place. I knew that it was not German but found out later that he
was from Wales. I guess you'll find Germans as guides in Wales, too.

The next trip was a cuckoo-clock 'place' (I don't know what to call it)
and there was a huge clock on the side of a building. At the hour and
the half hour dancers dance around the clock. A video of this will
eventually be found on YouTube.

In the afternoon we took a trip to the town of Colmar, France across the
river. I Colmar we took a couple hour walking tour of the town and it
was here that we saw another stork nest on the top of a church. In
Colmar we visited on of the homes of Bartholdi, the designer of the
Statue of Liberty.

Strasbourg, France

I am trying very hard to catch up on our stops and ports along the
Rhine. (Today is Sunday and we are in Basel, Switzerland.) Friday
morning we had the opportunity to visit wheelhouse while we cruised down
(actually up) the Rhine. This was possible because we did not reach our
destination for the day until 2:00 PM. This was Kehl, Germany just
across the river from Strasbourg, France.

After the ship docked in Kehl, we boarded a bus for Strasbourg, France.
There we toured the city passing the Council of Europe, the Court,
library and eventually the Cathedral, a very impressive structure. As
with most of the large, old churches in Europe the stained glass windows
are works of art. Quite a few of the stained glass panels were in the
process of being replaced. The high point of the cathedral was the
astronomical clock which not only gives the time but gives the month,
season, moon phases. Everything but football scores!

After viewing the inside of the cathedral we were looking for a rest
room (a/k/a toilet, WC, etc.) which we thought was to be to the right of
the Post Office but could not find it. We found an alley behind the PO
to search the other side of the building and what did we find behind a
fence but a lone tomb. I did not find out who it was buried there but
never passing up a grave I took a picture of the grave. And so much for
Strasbourg.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Heidelberg, Germany

Yesterday morning we arrived in Mannheim, Germany at about 10:00 AM and
took a bus to tour the Heidelberg Castle high on the hill above the city
of Heidelberg. The photo was taken from the castle looking down on the
Nekar River, a tribute of the Rhine. The city of Heidelberg is noted
for both its castle and also its university which was founded in 1386.
The castle has had some extensive damage during the Wars of Succession
(succession to the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) in 1689 and from a
storm where lightning struck the arsenal causing an explosion. The
castle is large so there is still a lot to see.

Following the castle, we visited the Church of the Holy Spirit, a former
Catholic church and now a Lutheran Church. At one time the church was
used by both Catholics and Lutherans with the two using different altars
and altar areas in the church. In addition to the different altars,
both congregations had there own organs so they probably did not have
services at the same time.

Rather than returning to Mannheim, he went to Speyer as the ship had
moved down (or up) the river while we were at the castle. After an hour
on the ship there was a one hour walking tour of the town of Speyer but
we begged off on that.

This morning we are on our way to Kehl, Germany where we will go by bus
to Strassburg, France. In this portion of the Rhine, Germany is on one
side and France is on the other. And right now we have just entered a
lock and is beginning to darken until the water rises!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Koblenz, Braubach and Rudesheim, Germany

This morning we arrived at Koblenz at about 7:30 AM. After breakfast,
we took a bus to Marksburg Castle situated above the city. The
Marksburg Castle has been many owners over the years since the 13th
century. Today it is owned by a German government castle authority.
Individual tours of the castle are not allowed but only group tours
coordinated by a tour guide. To ensure that unauthorized tours get in,
the tour guide gets a key to the one gate to get into the castle and
then the guide locks the gate from the inside. The key is huge, about
12 inches in length, and the guide keeps it until the tour ends and she
(or he) unlocks the gate.

The castle has been renovated in stages but most is from the 15th
century. The paths are cobblestone but very rough cobblestone and with
old people (like us) it is sometimes hazardous. None today though.

(I've always wondered who in the castle staff was in charge of replacing
in batteries in the smoke detectors. I didn't relalize that they had
smoke detectors in the middle ages but I see them all the old castles!)

To get to the Marksburg Castle to ship stopped in Koblenz and we took a
bus to the castle. After touring the castle the buses took us to
Braubach where the ship was waiting for us. Then we cruised for most of
the afternoon down the Rhine. It seemed that almost every 10 km or so
the was a camp site for hunbdreds of tents and campers.

We saw plenty of castles along the river. There seemed to be a couple
every town we passed. All high up the towns in the hills.

At about 4:00 PM we arrived at Rudesheim where we visited a museum for
mechanical music instruments. Not just player pianos but those with
violins, drums, horns. Pretty much any musical instrument you can think
of. I did videos of a number of the instruments and will put them on
YouTube when we get home.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cologne, Germany

This morning was a very pleasant cruise down the Rhine River with small
towns and farms as we moved toward to Cologne. Along the river are
kilometer markers with tenths of kilometers markers between. According
to the map, we started this cruise at 867 kilometers from its source and
the end of the cruise at Basel, Switzerland is at 170 kilometers. Right
now in Cologne we are at the 685 kilometer mark. Before we reached
Cologne we passed Dusseldorf, a large city but not as large as Cologne
(or Koln in German).

We arrived at Cologne at around 12:30 PM and we are docked right in the
center of the town. That is one benefit of river cruises as opposed to
ocean cruises, the ship (or boat) can get much closer to the town or
city you are visiting. Because we are so close to the city center we
took a walking tour from the ship that took about 4 hours. We went by
any number of churches but the largest and most famous is the Cologne
Cathedral. This cathedral is monstrous as you can see from the photo
with its twin spires that are 157 meters in height. As most large
churches and cathedrals in Europe it took a long time to build and
complete. In this case 632 years! The inside of the Cathedral was
huge. I don't recall being in a church where the ceiling was so high.

Along with the many side altars and some sarcophagi (most tombs are in
the crypt the high altar has a reliquary (repository for relics) that is
purported to hold the remains of the Three Magi. The guide noted that
these were the oldest Christian relics as those of the shepherds have
not been found! I would not bet any money on the authentication of the
relics but I'm sure that some believe that they are the real thing.

Following the Cathedral we went to the Roman-Germanic Archeological
Museum that had a remarkable collection of Roman burial tombs and burial
goods. And then to the brewery for beer and very good beer at that.

Tonight we had German entertainment in the lounge. Dancing, singing,
and all out crazy stuff. The two guys that did the show were absolutely
nuts but very good. It was a very good evening.

So to quote Samuel Pepys, "And to bed."

Amsterdam

This morning after breakfast, we took a canal boat ride for a couple of
hours. There were four buses of folks from the Viking Helvekia to took
this this tour on four canal boats. The tour was through the major
canals throughout the central portion of Amsterdam. I don't know which
canal it is in the photo but it is one of the larger ones. After the
canal boat tour we went to the Van Gogh Museum and that place was
packed. We were there two years ago after a transatlantic cruise. To
really see all of the museum you need more than just a few hours but
what we saw again was good.

Back at the ship and having lunch the ship left the pier in Amsterdam
and we are heading for the Rhine River. We have to take a river (or
canal) to get to the canal and we may be there now as we are at a lock.
We are in line to get in the lock so we are tied to the side of the
canal waiting for boats to get out of the lock and another passenger
river boat is ahead of us in line.

Cruising on a river boat is quite a bit different that cruising that we
have done on ocean cruise ships. First of all is the fewer passengers.
On the Maasdam coming from Boston to Rotterdam there were about 1300
passengers. On this boat there are about 190 passengers. Everybody
eats at the same time, no Bingo, no casino - the pace is a lot slower
and more leisurely.

Tonight we will cruise all night and arrive in the center of Cologne,
Germany late morning. Right now it is time for cocktail hour and our
martinis.

Update: It is now Tuesday morning and I have been unable to send this so
I will try again this morning. The satellite is unreliable lately.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Aboard the Viking Helvetia

After quite a hunt for our boat we are finally in our cabin aboard the
Viking Helvetia. We got a taxi at our hotel and told her that we wanted
to go to the Viking river cruise boats. We also told her that we did
not know where these particular river boats were but we thought that
they were on either side of the central train station. Unfortunately
she did not know where it will be and she spoke very little English.
After back and forth (and I am not a very patient person, as my wife
will tell you!) we decided -against my better judgment - to go to the
Central Station. At the location where a number of the river cruise
boats were docked we came across another party in a taxi looking for the
Viking Spirit (a sister boat of ours). Unfortunately their taxi driver
did not know either (or speak very much English) but we met a stranger
who thought they may be on the other side of the Central Station. To
make a log story short, we found the Viking river boats.

The cabin that we have is nice and is about the size of the hotel room
we had last night, although the shower/bathroom is a bit small but that
is the case in even in large ocean-going cruise ships. In our cabin we
found a bottle of champaign courtesy of our neighbor and travel agent,
Lin. That's the way to start off.

The boat stays at the pier tonight and we will take a tour or two
tomorrow and leave Amsterdam about 1:00 PM.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Amsterdam, Netherlands

We are getting closer to our first river cruise. Right now we are in Amsterdam after taking the train from Rotterdam. I guess I screwed up when picking the hotel here. Apparently I did not look very closely at the map when I picked the hotel. We took a taxi from the Central Station and it was a 20 minute ride to the hotel. We are inthe boonies! However, the hotel is very nice and the rate I got from hotels.com was very good. The published rate was 202 euros (about 289 dollars) and we paid 105 dollars.

That's it for now.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Gouda, Netherlands

Today I have found that accent makes all the difference in the world. Let me give you the two examples. The first happened at the Central Station here in Rotterdam. We were taking the train to Gouda and the schedule showed that the train to Gouda would be leaving from track 11. On track 11 the sign showed that the next train was for Utrecht (or someplace else) but track 12 showed a train to Gouda so I asked the conductor on track 12 if this was the correct track for the train for Gouda (I pronounce it GOO-DA as in the cheese) and he said that he didn't know of any train to that place. I pointed to a sign and spelled out G-O-U-D-A and he said, "Oh, you mean GOW-DA! Yes, this is the right train." It's all in the pronunciation.

After visiting Gouda (as in GOW-DA) and we were on the tram back to our hotel and paying the conductor I said that we were going as far as the stop at Leuvehaven and the look on her face told me that the did not have a clue as to what I was talking about. I tried, "Just before the bridge" (the Leuvehaven stop is just before the Erasmus Bridge) and she asked, "What do you want to go to the beach for?" The Beach! I didn't want to go to the beach I wanted to go to Leuvehaven but this time gave it a hard sound on the "haven" part rather than a soft sound. That she understood! Again, it's all in the pronunciation.

As you can tell from the above we spent the day in Gouda and had a very good time. Although yesterday when I checked the weather forecast for today it called for rain in the morning and cloudy. Well, the forecast was close . . . it was warm, sunny and not a cloud in the sky. As with most cities in Europe, the central train station in Gouda was very close to the central part of the city. We visited a number of churches and the Stadhuis (town hall). The clock had a 'puppet show' as a part of it that went off two minutes after the hour and half-hour. I just uploaded it to YouTube for your viewing pleasure.

Our time in Rotterdam was been great. We will be leaving probably around noon tomorrow for Amsterdam where we will spend the night and then join our Rhine River cruise there. The only prt that we are not looking forward to a schlepping the luggage up and down the stairs at the train stations to the platforms. Both of our suitcases are on wheels; Nancy's is a regular wheeled bag and probably weighs 40 pounds. Mine on the other hand is a huge duffle bag on wheels and it is probably close to 55 pounds. (Flying to Boston it was 52 pounds.) Because it is shapeless you can put so much more in it than a regular suitcase but that sucker is heavy. We'll see how we fare.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Nieuwe Maas and Lek Rivers to Kinderdijk

This morning after breakfast we wandered down to the waterfront and
bought tickets for a boat ride down (or up,I'm not sure which) the
rivers to Kinderdijk (children's dike). The river ride is about an hour
and goes down the Nieuwe Maas (which flows right outside our hotel room
window) pass the Rotterdam skyline and more canals and then goes down
the Lek River. Nice scenery along the way and we were on the outside
top deck so we could see everything. The weather also cooperated as it
was probably in the low sixties.

At Kinderdijk, there are 19 windmills that line the banks of the
canals. Up until the 1950s these were operating mills that operated the
pumps that drained the marshland in the area. Even though they were
retired they still work and have been put on the United Nations world
monument list. The tour is three hours in length and it is an hour each
way on the rivers so we were limited to only an hour seeing the
windmills. Quite a site, though. Pictured is one of the windmills there.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rotterdam and Delft, Netherlands

We have been in Rotterdam since yesterday morning after leaving the m/s
Maasdam and the first leg of our vacation trip. We are staying at the
Grand Tulip Hotel just across the Erasmus Bridge where the cruise ships
dock. The photo was taken from out 9th floor room and it is a great
location. Unfortunately, the wireless service in the room is not very
good because it is the farthest away from the antenna. However, if I
carry the laptop closer to the door I can connect to the access point
and then take it back to the desk. The woman at the desk said that she
would change us to another room with better access but we like the location.

After we checked in to the hotel, we walked down the main street
(Coolsingel) that the hotel is located on toward the Central Station so
we would have an idea where we had to go to get the train to other
cities. We also visited some of the shops and then stopped to have
lunch at an outside cafe. The sun was shining and pleasant (about 60)
so it was nice even when the sun went behind a cloud. Later we took a
boat tour of the port for a couple of hours and probably saw every crane
and shipping container in the port. The port is huge. Later we had
dinner in the bar of the hotel and, as Samuel Pepys would say, "and off
to bed." (If anyone has read Pepys' diaries you would recall the he
ended always every days activities with that phrase.)

This morning (Wednesday) after breakfast we took the tram to the Central
Station and took the train to Delft. It is only about a twenty ride and
getting off at Delft we got off at Delft Suid (Delft South). We just
stayed and waited for about 30 minutes for the next train to get us to
Delft. In Rotterdam when we left it was overcast; as we arrived in
Delft it was raining. And it continued to rain for the rest of the time
that we were there. I did not even take my camera out of my backpack
while we were there it was so bad. There were a couple of churches
there and other things that we wanted to see but it was terrible. We
had a late lunch in Delft and then took the train back to Rotterdam.

Back in Rotterdam we tok the tram that we thought would take us to our
hotel but when the conductor came to take our fare he informed us that
we were on the correct numbered route but were going to wrong way. We
got off at the next stop, went across the street to the tram stop and
waited for the next (correct) tram. The correct tram was jam packed
(and it was raining so everything smelled) which was good and bad. It
was bad in that it was packed and had to stand; it was good in that the
conductor could get down the aisle before we got off so the ride was free.

Right now we are resting in the hotel and the next important decision we
have to make is where to eat. It probably depends on whether it is
raining or not.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Evacuation at Sea

While having breakfast this morning, the Captain announced that the ship
has changed course and we were heading toward the west coast of Britain
due to an medical emergency. We would be going to Castlebury or a
helicopter would come to the ship and evacuate a passenger who has a
medical emergency. Later in the morning the Captain announced that a
helicopter would meet the ship and take the passenger.

When an announcement was made that the helicopter was on its way I went
up to the Crow's Nest to see if I could see the helicopter. I was not
there for long when all passengers were asked to leave the Crow's Nest
and then to leave the 12th deck. Giving up to see the helicopter I went
down to the Casino and was playing a slot next to the window when I
heard the helicopter overhead. From my vantage point at the slot
machine I saw the RAF Rescue helicopter hover overhead and saw then
lower the basket. They first hoisted the passenger's luggage into the
helicopter and then the basket with the passenger. Then they were off
to the coast of England.

We have seen passengers taken off ships while in port by ambulance but
this was the first time we had seen a helicopter evacuation at sea. The
cruises that we take generally have an older crowd (we are 70 and are
among the young folks!) so it is not uncommon to have medical
emergencies. In fact we have been on cruises where passengers have
died. Today was a first.

Edinburgh, Scotland

This morning we are in the North Sea on our way to Rotterdam,
Netherlands. That means for us packing! This has been a short cruise
for us, only two weeks and a few days. It has been enjoyable (as have
all of our cruises) but we are looking forward to the next phase of this
trip.

Yesterday we were in Queensferry, the port city for Edinburgh. During
the day we took a trip to see the Falkirk Wheel, a engineering marvel
shown in the photo. It is used to connect two canals at different
levels. In the past the two canals had been connected by a series of
about 10 locks to raise and lower boats between the two canals and it
took a few hours. The wheel, built in 2000 and opened in 2002, takes
boats and its canal water and raises (or lowers) the boats in about four
and a half minutes. It is quite a deal.

In the same area is remnants of the Antonine Wall that I was anxious to
see. In the past I had seen Offa's Dike, a dirt dike separating the
ancient kingdom of Mercia and Wales, and Hadrian's Wall, separating
Roman-Britain and Scotland so I wanted to see what was left of the
Antonine Wall. This wall was constructed about 124 AD and it is north
of Hadrian's Wall and, unlike Hadrian's Wall, it is a dirt wall rather
than a brick and stone wall. It was an attempt to extend the Roman
presence in Britain further north. Not much of the wall is left as it
passes through people's back yards but at least we were there to see
it. We were going to see the location of a Roman fort (the fort is long
gone) but Nancy couldn't keep up so we begged off. But it was a good walk.

Before dinner there was a Scottish show including pipers, drums, dancers
and the like. It was 'standing room only' in the Rembrandt Lounge
unlike some of the shows during the cruise. Then in the dining room
there was a ceremony to 'bring in the Haggis.' Haggis is a traditional
Scottish concoction of sheeps' parts and oatmeal (and other unknown
things) and people actually eat it. I have had it in the past and it is
one of those that it is only necessary to try it once!

As noted earlier today is packing day and tomorrow we will be leaving
the ship and will spend four days in Rotterdam. Our hotel in Rotterdam
- the Grand Tulip Centre - has wifi facilities so we can continue
documenting this trip.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Invergordon and Inverness, Scotland

Yesterday was a relaxing day at sea. (Actually all of these cruise days
are relaxing.) The only news of any import was the first bingo winnings
of the Eagans. The prize for that game was $141 but unfortunately there
were two additional winners for that game so we went away with $47.

This morning we are in Invergordon, Scotland and it looks to be a very
nice day. When we pulled in the harbor you could hardly see anything
with the fog. As the early morning (8:00 AM) goes on it is clearing
up. In a few minutes we will get a bus and are going to spend the day
in the city of Inverness. Will continue this when we continue.

And now we are back after visiting Inverness. It is about a 45 minute
bus ride from the port of Invergordon. We were under the impression
that there was a "hop-on hop-off" bus in the downtown portion of
Inverness. We stopped at the tourist office and asked where we could
get the "hop-on hop-off" bus and the girl informed us that they did away
with it. We had used the "hop-on hop-off" buses in Copenhagen, Rome,
Paris and a number of European cities and have found a convenient way to
see a number of the sites when you have a limited time to see them.

Armed with a map of the downtown area we took off on foot. Climbed up
to the top of the hill to see Inverness Castle that looks out over the
city and visited the Town House (called Town Hall most places), the
Cathedral and the Victorian Marketplace. The River Ness goes through
the center of the city and the river is crossed by an number of
convenient pedestrian bridges and small park-like areas along the
river. Eastgate, a continuous of the High Street, is closed off to
motorists and stalls a located in the middle of the street. It being
Saturday and the weather was very nice, a large number of people were
out and about.

We are back at the ship and will be leaving for Edinburgh at about 6:00 PM.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Seydisfjordur, Iceland

In yesterday's post from Husavik I neglected to point out one unusual
thing (at least I thought it was unusual) that we encountered there and
that was mosquitoes. As we were walking back to the ship they drove us
nuts. This place has more mosquitoes in the summer than Florida does.

Today we are in Seydisfjordur located at the head of a 10.5 mile long
fjord of the same name. The town was established by Danish merchants in
the mid-19th century as a trading post. Today it is the site of a
somewhat busy port for ferries from Europe. As we were walking into
town all numbers of trucks, cars, campers, motorcycles and bicycles came
from a large ferry to had just arrived. Most looked like they were here
for camping and exploring. Even the motorcycles and bicyclists were
loaded down with gear and looked like they were to be here for a spell.

The scenery was wonderful and have attached only one photo because it
take so long to send. (All of the photos from this cruise and the river
cruise will be posted on my Flickr account when we eventually get
home.) When we walked to town it was very nice outside - about 56
degrees. Unfortunately after we were out for an hour or so it started to
sprinkle and that continued off and on. Not a hard rain so we kept at it.

We had coffee and pastry as we were out but no other shopping so as a
result we have 675 kronas (a little over $5) in change that we didn't
get rid of. We have 2000 kronas that we will be able to exchange but
banks and currency exchanges don't take coins. It looks like some of
the grandchildren will get some of the 'neat' coins.

After we leave Seydisfjordur we will head east across the Norwegian Sea
and tomorrow we will be at sea as we sail toward our next port,
Invergordan on the east coast of Scotland.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Husavik, Iceland

As most cruise ships have some sort of ceremony when crossing the
equator or the International Date Line, they also have one when crossing
the Arctic Circle (and probably the Antarctic Circle). For the Maasdam
that crossing ceremony took place last night about 10:30 PM. It
consisted of persons with any type of mental derangement (i.e., any damn
fool) donning their bathing suits and jumping in the outdoor pool on the
Navigation deck. As you can tell from the photo there were quite a few
participating (yours truly is not a damn fool!) despite the fact that
the temperature was in the 40s, the wind was blowing and it was
raining. Quite different than we have seen when crossing the equator
and the International Date Line.

Today we are in Husavik a bit further east on the north side of
Iceland. The Navigation description for the port notes that it is "in a
cove between Husavikurhofdhi and Humpbaksniff." I can pronounce
neither name and have no clue as to the meaning of the first. If I had
to guess the meaning of the second I would guess 'place to sniff
Humpback whales.' Probably not even close but then it really doesn't
matter.

The village of Husavik (and I can pronounce that one) is another of the
former whaling stations on the Icelandic coast. Today the industries
are fishing, tourism and "Eco Tourism" as it touted as the "Whale
Watching Capitol of Europe." We have yet to hear of any whale spotting
since we have been here. There is a interesting Whale Museum in the
village in addition to the typical shops and cafes. One interesting
spot that I had never heard of was the Phallus Museum (also known as The
Icelandic Phallological Museum) - displaying the phallus of any number
of mammals but mostly whales. I guess there are museums of everything.

The weather today started out terrible. When we arrived here early this
morning it was raining and that lasted until about 9:30 AM. Then it
cleared up and just after noon the clouds cleared making it a very
pleasant day. Right now we are leaving the port and the temperature is
probably in the sixties. Let's hope it stays like that tomorrow.

Tonight we will again cross the Arctic Circle but no ceremony. Then on
to Seydisfjordur.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Akureyri, Iceland

Today we are in Akureyri on the northern side of Iceland. Akureyri is about 33 nautical miles in the Eyjafjordhur fjord. (I don't have the slightest idea how to pronounce the name of that fjord . . . I have enough trouble pronouncing the word 'fjord.') Akureyri is the second largest city in Iceland with a population of 15,000 and is an important trading and commercial center for the north of Iceland. As I guess with most fjords, both sides of the fjord ( and the city) are large mountains.

When we arrived at the port city this morning it was almost 50 degrees and the sun was shining. Quite a change from the past few days. After breakfast we left the ship and walked into town which was only about a ten minute walk. As we walked and sat for a coffee it warmed and in the sun it was probably close to 60. I hope that it stays like this for this part of the cruise.

Nancy purchased her standard postcard for her father (which he will probably receive after we get home!) and looked for Christmas ornaments. Although the local currency is the Icelandic krona, shops will also accept US dollars and Euros. Change of course is in krona. After spending most of the morning in town we returned to the ship for lunch. The ms Maasdam is scheduled to leave Akureyri about 6:00 PM and until then the casino and shops are closed.

After we leave the dock we will head back up to fjord (whose name we can't pronounce) and the sea. From there we will pass Grimsley Island which is about 45 miles from the mouth of the fjord and then head for tomorrow's port - Husavik, Iceland. The only reason for sailing north rather than east right away is so that the ship (and passengers) can cross the Arctic Circle.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Isafjordur, Iceland

Yesterday was a day at sea after leaving Greenland. During the night we
continued to cross the Denmark Strait on our way to Iceland. We
continue to go further north so as a result the nights are not very
long. In fact, the sun probably did not set at all. We went to bed at
about midnight and the sun was still up. I woke up a couple of times
during the night and could see light outside.

Today we are in Isafjordur, Iceland, it is about 52 degrees, windy and
raining. Just a lovely day! We may or may not go off the ship if the
rain lets off. The town is not much of anything of a town as you can
see from the photo. Even if we do not make it off the ship today we
still have three more ports in Iceland. These three ports are on the
north side of the island and after those stops we will head for Scotland.

During the night the seas were very rough and because are cabin is
toward the the front of the ship every time the bow rises on a wave it
will crash down in the trough with a very load bang. Nancy is still
convinced that we hit something but I am trying to convince her that we
hit nothing but the sea.

The rest of the day is eating, bingo, casino and eating again. No
wonder people put on weight on a cruise. Horrors, one should ever miss
a meal (or even a snack) on board a cruise ship!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Prins Christian Sound

This morning we entered the Prins Christian Sound, a narrow passage on
the east coast of Greenland. This narrow passage (very narrow in some
places) runs between the mainland and mountainous islands. We had a
pilot on board that probably came aboard in Nanortalik and he assisted
the captain as we passed through the ice fields in the sound. There
were some very nice looking glaciers but it was evident that most had
receded back. There were also large numbers of birds. There are seals
and we spotted two or three on an ice floe. Could not get a good
picture as they were too far away as we saw them.

On deck it was very windy and very cold. I don't know what the
temperature was but earlier when we awoke the outside temperature was in
the 40s. Right now (6:15 PM) it is probably in the 50s. Tomorrow is a
day at sea but the next day we should be in Iceland. Iceland should be
a bit warmer than it was in Iceland based on the Gulf Stream that comes
toward Iceland after passing Ireland.

Right now we are getting ready for Martinis and then dinner. Thats it
for now.