Friday, June 29, 2012

Saturday, June 16, 2012 – Leknes (Lofoten), Norway – Sunny – 59F

Amsterdam, The Netherlands to Leknes (Lofoten), Norway: 1017 Nautical Miles

Leknes is in the center of Lofoten Archipelago on the Island of Vestvagoy.  The city has a population of about 2000.

Leknes Norway from Constellation (Small)

Leknes from Ship 1 (Small)

Leknes and Environs from the Constellation

Norway uses the Kroner as their currency.  Norwegian Kroner exchange rate is 0.16 – 0.20. 

Leknes is a tender port – the tendering process was nice and orderly.

Leknes from Tender (Small)

Tendering In

We are not on a tour today and plan to see what Leknes has to offer.  The ship has provided transfers from the tender port to the town for this and the next port.  It is too long a walk to the town.

Constellation from Tender Port (Small)

Constellation from the Tender Port

The bus let us off in the center of town.

Beautiful downton Leknes (Small)

Beautiful Downtown Leknes

The shops will take Euros and sometimes Dollars but they all seem to have their own exchange rates (a little like Mexico).  But the bottom line is that Norway may be the most expensive country we have visited to date.  We usually base this on the price of a Mc D ice cream cone but there were none in Leknes so I checked out the coffee – about 30 Kr or almost $6 (just coffee nothing fancy).  Baseball caps are 125kr or $25.00. A small bottled water runs around 18 Kr ($3.60).  Norway has a strong economy and it is reflected in the cost of living.

The town has a massive mall at the far end that really looks out of place among the small wooden structures.  The mall also has a very nice supermarket.  We walked around the mall and the sidewalk sale they had outside.  We had lunch – sandwiches - on a bench along the main road.

We stumbled onto some free WiFi at Pepe’s Pizza.  Pepe was closed but the WiFi router was on so we logged in and caught up with mail and sent along some pictures.

After walking the length and breadth of Leknes, we took the bus back to the Tender Pier.  Behind the pier, there was a hill that everyone seemed to be climbing.  Why not…we were off and climbing. 

Ellen on the climb (Small)

Ellen on Hill near Tender Port (Small)

Ellen climbing the hill

After some tricky footwork, we both made it to the summit.  Even more amazing, we found someone who was willing to take our picture.

At the Summit together (Small)

King and Queen of the Hill in Leknes

The views from the Hill were terrific.  There was a little beach that can’t get much use considering the weather in the area.

Beach Leknes from the Hill (Small) 

Leknes Beach – Bottom of the Hill

Constellatin from Summit (Small)

Constellation from the Hill

Leknes Tender Port from hill (Small) 

Tender Port from the Summit

I was able get a great picture of the tall mountain near Leknes on the tender ride back.

 Leknes Mountain (Small)  

The Sail Away from Leknes was made that more interesting because of the great visibility (next seven photos).

 Leknes Sail Away (Small)       Leknes Sail Away 1 (Small) Leknes Sail Away 2 (Small) Leknes Sail Away 4 (Small) Leknes Sail Away 6 (Small) Leknes Sail Away 7 (Small) Leknes Sail Away 8 (Small)

Finally back into the open sea. 

Dinner in the San Marco Dining Room was very good.  Our waiter has been very good at getting the chef to make us a veggie version of the pasta of the evening.

Showtime tonight was Niels Duinker – Juggler/Comedian.

Pedometer: 4937 steps; 2.34 miles; 242 calories

Friday, June 15, 2012 – At Sea – Crossing the Arctic Circle – Sunny – 50s

Another cool day at sea.  The water is almost like a lake and in the distance you can see the west coat of Norway.

  Smooth Seas and the coast of Norway (Small)

Smooth Seas

Coast of Norway 6-15-12 (Small)

The Western Coast of Norway

Tonight is Formal Night.  I did bring along a shirt and tie and I hope that will be enough to get me into the Dining Room.  The Maitre D’ said I needed a jacket and he would loan me one.  I didn’t have to wear it just drape it over the back of my chair. I did – no muss; no fuss.

The Headliner at Showtime tonight is Lorraine Brown – Vocalist.  She did some standards, some Motown, and some ballads.  She had a good voice.

After the show, we stopped in to listen to Perry Grant in Michael’s Club.  Perry really grew on us – good piano player and singer and he has an unusual comic shtick that he does with members of the audience.  He asks them about their homes and the features in the various rooms.  For some reason, it is really funny.  He is also very funny when he is faking various languages.  He was a hoot.  Luisa told us that he was very popular.

We crossed Arctic Circle crossed at 11:45 PM.  From this point on, there will be no sunsets.   We didn’t how big an issue that would be for our sleeping habits (since the curtains and shades did not block out the sun completely).

Seas are still smooth.

Thursday, June 14, 2012 – At Sea (Norwegian Sea) – Mostly Sunny – 60sF estimating

A pretty day at sea – to cool for the deck but nice views.

At Sea 6-14-12 (Small)

My first morning at the Breakfast Buffet – usually my quiet time.  Not this morning – the place is packed – don’t these people sleep.  Breakfast was waffles, cottage cheese, and fruit topping (this will be the breakfast for nearly the entire cruise).  The chatter was too much so breakfast was very short.

A relaxing morning.  I attended the first talk given by the Destination Speaker – Niki Sepsas.  He had a good crowd and did a nice job. 

Lunch was in the Aqua Spa Cafe – fresh grilled Tuna on a bun.  It was really good.

My first talk – “The CSI Phenomenon” – is scheduled for the Celebrity Theater for 3 PM.  The crowd dribbled in slowly but, at the start, there were about 120 attendees.  Steve, the Cruise Director, was on hand to introduce me.

Steve and Me Talk 1 (Small)

The attendees were big CSI Fans (80 plus percent). I was very pleased with the attendance and the venue.

We arrived at our new table for dinner – as it turned out, our new waiter (from Romania) is terrific – friendly but not hovering.  We had Cobia (“Black Salmon”) tonight.  I had just been reading about Cobia being one of the foods of the future. 

Dinner took a little longer than it should have and we didn’t get to the 7:00 PM show on time.  This put us in the balcony.  The Show, “iHollywood”, was all about the Music of the Movies.  The Singers and Dancers did a nice job.

Seas are still smooth.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 – Amsterdam, The Netherlands – Partly cloudy – 60s

Embarkation Day – Cruise No. 2 – Arctic Circle – Celebrity Constellation


Breakfast at the Hotel – OK again – cereal and toast and jellies.  We also reserved our room no. 5 for our next trip to Amsterdam.  The Hotel clerk also called a cab for us - he said the cabbies were “crooks” but I’m sure he found us a reputable one. 

The Cab showed up in five minutes and for 10 Euros (negotiated no tip and meter) we were at the ATP once again.  Check in was pretty smooth and we were on the ship pretty quickly.  Lunch was in the Sea View Cafe and it was good.

 On Board the Constellation (Small)

The River Ij from the Constellation  

We are in Cabin 3004 (Forward Starboard Side3).  It is a great room with a big window and roomy (for a ship) bathroom.  Plenty of room for toiletries in the bathroom. 

Cabin 3004 (Small)

Cabin 3004 1 (Small)

Cabin 3004 – Very nice and spacious

The Cruise Director for this voyage is Steve Gayda and the Activities Manager is Luisa Lopez.  There is a note in my room asking me to meet with Luisa at 5:00 PM (following the life boat drill) to go over the schedule. 

We headed to Shorex to sign up for excursions.  We have never been to these ports of call so we put our names down for just about all of them.  There weren’t many excursions offered and a large percentage of them were activity type tours rather than sightseeing. 

We then checked with the Maitre D’ about seating.  We are for late seating tonight but waitlisted for early seating. 

After the safety drill, we watched the Sail Away from the Solarium – this would become the most popular venue of the ship. 

Best way to watch the sail away (Small)

Best way to watch the Sail Away

The Sail Away from Amsterdam up the River Ij to the North Sea was very scenic – the time to open sea was at least an hour so we had a chance to see much of the Dutch countryside.

Sail Away River Ij (Small)

City Center – Sail Away

We saw what appeared to be floating hotels or Condos along the River.  Low maintenance and a water view.

Sail Away River Ij Floating Hotel (Small)

Living on the River

As we continued along, the city of Amsterdam really came into view. The Central Station and the church spires were also very visible from the ship.

Sail Away River Ij Downtown Amsterdam (Small)

City Center – Sail Away

Sail Away River Ij Central Station (Small)

Central Station – the Hub of the City

Sail Away River Ij 1 (Small) 

Hotels, Businesses, and Ferries

As we proceeded along, we moved out of the city and into rural Holland.  Eventually, we met the open sea – there was a beach (not expansive but a beach).

 Sail Away River meets open water (Small)

Beach along the North Sea

 Sail Away Open water (Small)

Leaving the Mainland Behind

As we sailed along the River Ij, we saw a wind turbine or two.  Once in the open sea, we ran across a flock of wind turbines.  I wonder how deep the water is to be able to put these turbines out in the middle of the North Sea.

Windmills in the North Sea (Small)

Wind Turbines in the North Sea

Not wanting to eat in the buffet for dinner, we went to the San Marcos Restaurant to see if anything had opened up.  After some checking, we got a table for two with a bit of a view.  It would not be our final table – only for tonight.  The dinner was good and the best thing was that the Maitre D’ stopped by to tell us that a table for two had opened up.  It was around the corner from this table – sign us up.  We now had a home at the Dining Room.

We went to the Welcome aboard show at 7:45 PM.  The A Capella Group – Blend Tech – performed along with the French Aerialist Group and the Celebrity Singers and Dancers.

We witnessed a great sunset – these would be rare in the days ahead as we crossed the Arctic Circle.

Sunset North Sea (Small)

Sunset – North Sea

Seas are calm.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 – Amsterdam, The Netherlands – Mostly Cloudy – 55-60F

A cloudy day – we are heading for the Dutch countryside.  We came up with some options based on brochures at the Hotel.  The destination was Koog-Zandijk, a little town less than a half hour from Amsterdam.

We had planned to get there by bus but when we arrived at the Central Station, we were told that our bus information was out of date.  With the help of a patient Central Station Employee, we finally got our tickets for the train instead.  It turned out to be a good call since the trains are clean, quiet, and fast.  The tickets were reasonable – 11.6 Euros roundtrip for the both of us.

The trip was short and we got off at the edge of town.  We walked a bit to the bridge that would lead us to the little Dutch Village complete with shops and windmills.  We knew we were going in the right direction when we spotted a windmill near the bridge (below).

Koog-Zandijk windmill in town (Small) 

The view from the bridge was perfect – a line of windmills lining a river (below).

Windmills in Koog-Zandijk 1 (Small)

Windmills across the bridge

We had to wait for a boat to cross under the river – it made for a nice shot.

Bridge to Koog-Zandijk village (Small)

Boat passing under the open bridge

While we waited for the bridge another tourist took our picture.

We at Koog-Zandjk (Small)

By this time, we were getting hungry so we had lunch (homemade cheese sandwiches – very good) on a bench along the waterway running through the village.  After lunch, we started our exploration.  The garden below had a elegant sundial but also had swarming gnats – a quick picture and we were gone.

Sundial in Koog-Zandijk (Small)

It was a little chilly out in the country (Ellen was dressed appropriately) so I actually had to use a scarf to keep from freezing.

Ellen in Koog-Zandijk (Small)

Ellen by the water

There were fields and animals. I got a picture of one of the fields but the animals were pretty far away – make believe you can see them.

Koog-Zandijk farm and animals (Small)

Field and animals

Many of the houses (actually looked occupied) were situated on the water.  The one below had a little dock for a boat.

House boat in Koog-Zandijk (Small)

In the wooden shoe Koog-Zandijk (Small)

There was a woman who lived in a shoe…

We entered one of the stores inside a windmill.  This particular windmill – not sure if it was operational – was used to grind spices, which were sold in the store.

Spice grinding windmill (Small)

Spice Grinding Wheels

We also visited a Cheese Store.  This one had samples for tasting – all kinds and colors of cheese.  I had no idea what I was trying but for the most part, the cheeses were good (even a green one). 

 Grazing in the cheese factory in Koog-Zandijk (Small)

Ellen trying some cheese

Swan in Koog-Zandijk (Small)

Picture perfect picture of a swan

I had heard that the Netherlands had been using a new type of DNA-based theft deterrent system.  This system, once tripped, sprays the thief with a fluorescent dye plus unique DNA sequence.  Once of the stores in the village had installed the system and displays the warning side near the store.  That should stop any theft – really.

Protected by DNA (Small)

DNA Spray Deterrent System

Before leaving, we filled out postcards and mailed them from this unpronounceable town. 

Mailing Postcards from Koog-Zandijk (Small)

We waited just a short time for the train and soon we were back at the Central Station.  We walked around a bit which gave me a chance to take a picture of the flower mart at the Nieuwe Markt (below).

 Nieuwmarkt and flower stands (Small)   

Nieuwe Markt

We purchased a cone at the supermarket for 50 Eurocents and headed back to the hotel.

We asked another person at our hotel to recommend an Italian Restaurant.  He recommended a different one near the Zoo.  As we were almost there, a waitress from another restaurant just doors away told us that her restaurant was the “best”.  On her recommendation and the fact that the pizza was just 5 Euros, we stayed.  We had salad and pizza and both were very good.  Bread and butter came without any charge and there was no discussion about tap water.  We will return to this restaurant the next time we are in Amsterdam.

Tomorrow – The Celebrity Constellation

Pedometer: 16,655 steps; 7.89 miles; 815 calories