Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012 – Amsterdam, The Netherlands – Partly Cloudy – 64F

Bergen, Norway to Amsterdam, The Netherlands: 525 Nautical Miles

Total Voyage: 3598 Nautical Miles

Wake up call at 6:00 AM and then breakfast at the Seaside Cafe.  Relatively light crowd at the buffet for a Disembarkation Day.  We get a table and are able to enjoy a nice, semi-leisurely, breakfast.

At  8:30 AM, we go to the Rendezvous Lounge, our meeting place for the Airport Transfer.  We don’t even get a chance to sit down before we are told we can disembark.  The process is quick – passport control is a breeze – and soon we are on our bus headed for the Airport.

Back in Amsterdam (Small)

Back in Amsterdam

The ride to the airport took about 45 minutes (traffic – it took 10 minutes to make one light).  Along the way we saw some examples of wild architecture (below).  There were no buildings like this in walking range in Amsterdam during our stay.

Architecture on way to Airport (Small) Schipols International Airport (Small)

Schipols International Airport

The process at this airport is a bit different than at other places.  We checked in at a kiosk and printed our boarding passes.  We then waited in a line to check our baggage.  The line moved pretty fast.  From there, you take your carry on bags and enter the shopping area.  There is no main security checkpoint (at least for our set of gates) – each gate has its own security area.  Essentially, you report to your gate, get screened, and you are right there. 

We found our gate and had lunch before going through the security process.  At this airport, your shoes stay on but you do get a full body scan.  I got a chance to look at the monitor during one of the scans.  The software puts a cartoon face on the image and the whole image is softly blurred.  Even though I had nothing in my pockets, I still got a pat down. Even so, the screening went pretty quickly and we were in the waiting area about 90 minutes before departure time.

KLM611 – a 747-400 aircraft – is due to depart at 12:40 PM.  When we got to the gate, the plane was not there yet.  As boarding time approached, the gate agent went over to the window to see if the plane was there – it was not.  She kept coming back to see if the plane was there – pretty low tech.  The crew was there and soon the Captain – yes, the Captain, came on the PA and said that the plane was late arriving and would be here in the next few minutes.  He said it would take about 20 minutes to fuel and ready the plane but he thought he could make up the lost time in the air.

He was right.  The plane did arrive but it was towed to the gate (it must have been in a hangar and did not arrive late).

Where did the plane come from (Small)

Our 747-400 being towed to the gate

It took a bit longer than 20 minutes to ready the plane.  The fuel truck was the last to arrive.  The fueling took a long time so I suspect that this plane was pretty much at E for fuel.

KLM611 getting ready (Small)

KLM611 Being Readied for Flight

We boarded about 30 minutes late.  Passengers boarded through two extremely long jet ways so the process was relatively smooth.  I had paid a premium for two exit row seats.  When I tried to get into my seat, I couldn’t – it was too tight.  The flight attendant told me that stuff in my pockets was the problem.  I took everything out of my pockets and still no fit.  Ellen was OK in her seat.  The passenger in the window seat (a nice kid from Ireland) offered to switch with me.  The window seat was constructed differently and I had no problem getting seated.  I sat in the same seat in our incoming BA Flight so KLM will hear about this.  This would be the first time that I have been in a window seat for as long as I can remember.  It turned out to be very nice looking out of the window for the whole flight.  I could also take a lot of pictures from this seat.

We pushed about a half hour late and taxied for takeoff.

Taxiing for Takeoff (Small)

Taxiing for Takeoff

Takeoff (Small)

Take off

The plane did not climb out over Amsterdam as I was hoping.

Takeoff 1 (Small)

Climb Out

Above the Clouds (Small)

Above the Clouds

The climb out was smooth.  Shortly after we leveled off, the Captain pointed out that we were over Scotland so I took a picture.

 Ireland (Small) Ireland 1 (Small)

Scotland (two above)

We were served nice Kosher Lunches (beef with veggies).  It was the first meat we have had in about a month.  Supplied by a Dutch company, it was pretty good.  They are still working on perfecting cole slaw. The lunch also came with one piece of cold chicken.  A nice pastry was also included.  Overall, not bad.

Our route was pretty similar to past flights.  On this particular flight, our aircraft passed a little closer to Greenland than normal.  I captured the big island on my camera.

Greenland (Small)


The flight was smooth as silk – the seat belt sign never went on.  This is the way it should always be.  I used my new Noise Cancelling Earphones to listen to some music and they worked great.  Even without any music, most of the engine roar was electronically removed.

Soon we were over Newfoundland.

Newfoundland (Small) 

Over Newfoundland 

Michigan (Small)

Over Upper Michigan

I was hoping for a UFO but instead I spotted another aircraft a few miles off our left side.  He was tracking with us and emitted a brown contrail – after about 10 minutes, he went his own way (heading west).

Another aircraft (Small)

Another aircraft

The plan then crossed the far end of Lake Michigan, crossed the entire width of the Lake, and came into Illinois somewhere near Evanston.

Far Shore Lake Michigan (Small)

Over Lake Michigan far shore

The plane flew directly over O’Hare Airport on its approach.  You may not be able to see it, but I caught a plane taking off under us.  That was very cool.

Chicago and Ohare Plane Taking Off (Small)

O’Hare Airport (plane taking off)

The airport was so striking and planes don’t always fly directly over the facility so I took two more pictures

OHare (Small) OHare 2 (Small)

Over O’Hare Airport

The plane proceeded further west and made a big turn toward the airport.  The Captain told the crew to “sit down” so I knew we were on final approach.

Final Approach 1 (Small)

Final Approach

A super smooth landing completed what I would call a perfect flight.

Passport control was pretty quick (all about timing).  We waited a while for our luggage.  I called a taxi and he was there in five minutes. 

A long trip with lots of variety – from the beach days of Bournemouth to the city at the top of the world. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012 – At Sea – North Sea – Cloudy/Partly Cloudy – 50s

On our final leg…

A nice day at sea but still to cold for the outside deck.

 2012-06-24 At Sea (Small)

Oil Rig North Sea (Small)

Oil Platform in the North Sea

I attended Niki’s last talk on “Mysteries of the Sea” (that title sounds familiar).  Had my talks been scheduled differently, we might have been giving talks with the same titles on the same day.  He spoke about Ghost Ships and the Bermuda Triangle – interesting.

A do nothing day at sea.

My final talk - at 2:15 PM - “Identifying the Famous and Infamous” – drew the largest crowd of this voyage - 200 plus attendees (we stopped counting at 200).  It was a very successful series of presentations.  I like this portfolio of five presentations and plan to use it whenever the itinerary permits.

Another nice dinner and a farewell to our wait staff, who did a great job for us on this cruise.

We passed on the Farewell Show.  I stopped in to see the Cruise in Review Video (it wasn’t shown). We finished our packing and put our bags out. 

We have transfers to the Airport tomorrow – we do not have to pick up our bags in the terminal – instead we get our bags at the airport.  We don’t have to haul our luggage to the bus – certainly an improved system.

An early night – tomorrow is a big day.

Saturday, June 23, 2012 – Bergen, Norway – Rainy – 60s

Molde, Norway to Bergen, Norway: 133 Nautical Miles

Bergen Norway from Ship (Small)

Bergen from Ship 2 (Small) Bergen Norway (Small)

Bergen, Norway from Ship

Bergen. located on the far western edge of Norway, is the country’s second largest city with a population of approximately 266,000 people.  It was founded in 1007 and was originally the capital of Norway.  It is known for its wet weather and sees rain over 200 days a year.

Claim to Fame: Birthplace of composer Edvard Grieg

No tours again today, so we are off to see Bergen and its scenic downtown and wharf area.  It is, of course, drizzling, but not really enough to pose a problem.  The ship is docked conveniently next to the road to the downtown area, which is less than 10 minutes away.

On the way to town, the first structure we encounter is the Bergen Fortress

Bergen Castle (Small)  

Bergen Fortress

We don’t stop – we will visit here on the way back to the ship.  The Bergen Marina is the focal point of the City Center. 

Me and the Harbor (Small)

Me and the Bergen Marina

The row of Hanseatic Buildings on the Bryggen (Wharf) have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Bergen has suffered numerous destructive fires in its history and the Bryggen has burned several times. The colorful buildings have been rebuilt to their original appearance.

Bryggen in Bergen (Small)

The Bryggen

We walked into several of the shops along the Bryggen (also very expensive).  We also walked up to and explored the second and third levels of one of the buildings (housing businesses).  The levels have uneven wooden plank floors, very low ceilings, and very narrow stairways.  They have been restored to original specifications.  The floor creak and give under your feet – yet, there are shops on these floors and people work there.  I was happy to get down.

As you reach the end of the Marina, you enter the Torget – an open Air Fish Market, where you can get any type of seafood imaginable.  Salmon (Lox) is popular and samples were being handed out.  Proper food handling did not seem a priority so we did not sample any of the local fish (still some cruise days left).

E in the Fishmarket (Small)  

Ellen at the Torget

  Fishmarket (Small) 

The offerings at the Torget

Just behind the Torget, we spotted a Pepe’s Pizza – just as in Leknes, earlier, Pepe’s WiFi System was open.  While protecting our phones from the light rain, we were able to check our e-mail and send home some pictures.  Thanks again, Senior Pepe.

From there, we walked away from the Wharf and into the surrounding residential/business area.  Along the way, we saw the Karskirken (17th century church)

19th century church (Small)


Nearby was the Domkirken (Bergen Cathedral), which dates back to the early 12th century.  The Cathedral has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries.

Bergen Cathedral Domkirken (Small)

Domkirken (Bergen Cathedral)

Some residents live in flats off the main street.  Access is through a very narrow passage way and up several flights of steep stairs.

   Narrow Streets (Small)

Apartments of Main Street

Coming back to the pier, we found the only McDonald’s in Norway (at least where we went).  This store was pretty low key with it’s signage.  I went in and it was pretty deserted – I asked about WiFi (none) and then I asked the most important question:  How much is your Ice Cream Cone?  The answer: 18 Kr or $3.60.  I believe that settles it – Norway, based on the Cono standard, is the most expensive place we have visited on our travels.

McD in Bergen (Small)

McDonalds in Bergen

On the way back to the ship, we entered the Bergen Fortress

Rosenkrantz Tower (Small)

and got a view of the Hakonshallen (ca. 13th century).  This Ceremonial Hall was built by King Hakon in 1261 for his son’s wedding. 

Haakons Hall 1 (Small)


Also part of the fortress is Rosenkrantz Tower (1560s) which resembles a Renaissance Castle.

Haakons Hall (Small)

Rosenkrantz Tower

Some parts of the Fortress are inaccessible but we are able to see the interior court yard – now only the ruins of the old walls remain.

Castle Grounds (Small)

Bergen Fortress Wall Ruins

There is a wedding in the complex today – at least it’s not raining

Wedding in the Castle (Small)

Soon, we are back on ship just in time for a late lunch.  We find some quiet time before dinner and I spent some time in the Thalassotherapy Pool.  A good time to be in the pool since people are not back from their excursions yet.

Again, the food in the Dining Room is great.

Showtime Tonight: “Discover the World”.  We have seen this show before – about the songs and dances around the world – but it is still very enjoyable.  The best parts are the Tango segment (some of the girls are excellent) and my favorite – The Irish Step Dance (below).

 Discover the World Showtime (Small)

Discover the World 1 (Small)

Celebrate the World – Irish Step Dance Number

We caught Perry Grant’s performance in Michael’s Club

Perry Grant (Small)

Perry Working

The packing process has already begun.

Pedometer: 7020 steps; 3.33 miles; 344 Calories

Monday, July 2, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012 – Molde, Norway – Party Cloudy – mid 70s

Honningsvag, Norway to Molde, Norway: 683 Nautical Miles

A gorgeous day in Molde, Norway.

Molde is located along the Romsdalsfjord – several islands in the fjord can be seen from the city.  The current population of Molde is approximately 22,000.

We are the only ship here today (not sure if the port can handle more than a single cruise ship at a time).

We are not on tour today and it is a beautiful day so we set out to explore this city. The city is quite modern with upscale shops and boutiques. Again, things are very expensive (I thought that the larger cities might see more competition which would force down prices – not so).  The city is known as “The City of Roses” – as the weather gets a bit warmer, the city will start to show off its flowers.  The park in the picture below already has a nice flower garden.

Flower Garden in Molde (Small)

Another place with a well known garden is the City Hall with its rooftop Rose Garden.  Ellen found her way to the roof to check out the flowers and I stayed behind to capture the moment.

E on Roof Rose Garden (Small)

Ellen on Roof of City Hall

Ellen also shot a picture of the square below – Can you find me in the picture?

Me from Rooftop Garden (Small)

Hi…Up there

We took a turn toward the Fjord.  From there we got some terrific shots of the Constellation and Molde.

Molde and Constellation (Small) Constellation docked Molde (Small)

Celebrity Constellation and Molde, Norway

Molde Me and Constellation (Small)

Molde Constellation and Us (Small)

Yes, we were there

This location was also a good place for views of the fjords, nearby mountain range, islands, and the ferry boats.

Romsdalsfjord from Molde (Small) 

View across the Fjord (Small) 

Ellen and the Fjord (Small)

Ferry Boat on Fjord (Small)

Strolling among the shops on the main street, we came across a bench occupied by, I believe, Queen Sonja of Norway.  The Queen didn’t mind sharing the bench with my princess.

 The Queen and My Queen (Small) 

The Queen and the Princess

We also found a neat statue of a girl holding roses – no doubt a symbol of the city.

Lady offering Up Roses (Small)

After walking the whole length of Molde, we headed to the pier and the Constellation.  It was so warm that we could actually use the chairs on the open deck for the first time on the cruise.

  Warm enough to be on Deck (Small)  

Ellen on the Open Deck

When it got a little cooler, Ellen found a unique, quiet place to hang out.

    Window Seat (Small)

After dinner, we went to the Theater to catch California Soul Man Bruce Parker.  Not sure what California has to do with it, but he put on a very nice show – singing classics and new songs.  He never stopped moving the whole time – he probably lost 5 pounds during the performance.

Now that we are below the Arctic Circle, we saw our first sunset in days and it was a beautiful one.

2012-06-22 Molde Sunset (Small)

First Sunset in a Week

Pedometer: 5437 steps; 2.57 miles; 266 Calories