Our cruise started in Amsterdam, 13 days of lazy crazy fun!
We love cruises; this is our second cruise in the Mediterranean and it is a joy to go bed at night and wake up in a new city, all laid out in front of us and ready for our exploration, without having to pack our bags, shelp them into a train or plane, or check into a new hotel. On a cruise we unpack once and it is done for 10 or more days – pretty sweet. But we also figure that that few number of days is not long enough to make the long flight to Europe worthwhile, so we like to add a week or so on our own onto each end of the cruise. So after 5 days in Paris and Amsterdam, on day 6 we boarded our ship for the next part of our trip.
We spent the next 13 days onboard and traveled from Amsterdam to Rome with stops in many varied ports along the way in Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, and Italy. While onboard we enjoyed the many varied amenities of the ship (restaurants, spa, pool, casino, bars, and much more) and also participated in nearly daily excursions into the port cities and other nearby destinations.
Upon awakening in Amsterdam we could see our ship (Celebrity Silhouette) moored our window. After a leisurely breakfast we checked out and walked over to the cruise port next door. After we checked our bags, the lines to board the ship were comparatively short and we quickly made many new friends, people we would hang with during the cruise, our new homies. We quickly checked in and boarded the ship, all set for another kind of adventure. Ah but life is sweet!!
A fun day seeing the sights in the center of Amsterdam.
After a restful night in one of the nicest hotels of our entire trip, we had a nice breakfast and were ready to roam around Amsterdam. We had pre-purchased another hop-on hop-off combo ticket, so we planned to spend much of the day on the bus and the tour boat, not to mention having a few more of those Heinekens and another of those great falafel sandwiches.
Of course Amsterdam’s history and architecture are certainly much less dramatic than what we had seen in Paris, but Amsterdam does have a great deal of charm. Bicycles are much more abundant rather than the streets being clogged with cars. And many of the streets are lined with canals lined with houseboats, something not seen in too many other places.
The canal tour was much more fun than the Seine river cruise in Paris and we were able to cover much more territory than we would ever have covered on foot. After the tour we walked back down to the red light district for drinks and to enjoy the the energy of the crowds. Later we walked back to our hotel, which was located adjacent to the cruise port. We could see a cruise ship docked where we expected our ship would be docked the next morning and we packed it in for the night.
We arrived at the Gare du Nord train station early and traveled by high-speed train to Amsterdam.
A rushed cup of coffee and we were quickly whisked by cab to the Gare du Nord train station to catch the high-speed train to Amsterdam. Train travel is a comfortable, efficient, and affordable mode of transportation in Europe with trains going virtually everywhere. Our train traveled at about 150 MPH and the trip took a little over 3 hours with quick stops in Brussels and Rotterdam.
Outside the huge Amsterdam train station were thousands of bicycles in extensive bike racks. We saw people towing suitcases behind their bicycles, so apparently many people ride their bikes to the train station. We learned that bicycles outnumber people and cars in Amsterdam by a lot!
After some minor issues with our train station to hotel transfer and with our reservation, we checked our luggage and walked to nearby downtown Amsterdam. We quickly learned to stay out of the bike lanes to avoid being run over and joined the tourist throngs walking through the colorful canal-lined streets.
That evening, after checking into our room, we walked back downtown where we enjoyed a red light district tour and saw the other side of Amsterdam. Girls in the windows, cops on horses breaking up disturbances, and many many other things fill my memory but photos were not allowed in most places so use your imagination. It was a pretty lively area indeed.
Lots of fun things to see all over Amsterdam with distinctive architecture all around and many houseboat lined canals. We sampled some locally brewed Heineken beer and some very nice local wines. I know it would be a sacrilege to some of the foodies we know, but we had lunch at Maoz Vegetarian, which offers great U-build-it falafel sandwiches for less than 5 Euros. We had discovered this chain of vegan fast food restaurants in the the Latin Quarter of Paris and I was thrilled to also find one in Amsterdam within walking distance of our hotel.