It has always seemed best to start a new year as you mean to carry on and this one is no exception. In previous years (too many to recall) during January we have embarked on one travel adventure or another, last year was a cruise to Australia via the Panama Canal and this year we are attempting to redress a failing of two years ago when we aborted a trip to the River Amazon due to Sue’s illness.
So, on the 8th of Jan. we caught the 8.45am train to St. Pancras Station, London and then a taxi to the cruise terminal at Tilbury Docks. Apart from a minor problem with locating the pick-up point with our driver, the journey to our ship for the 42 day round trip to the Brazilian rainforest went smoothly. At the usually lengthy and thorough ship’s check-in, for some reason we were waved through security and documentation checks without having to join a lengthy queue of fellow case-packing passengers. Feeling a little confused as to why and unsure as to whether we had been mistaken for Harry and Meghan (easily done), we were equally surprised to find that the cases that had been whisked away from us as we stepped out of the taxi had already been delivered to our cabin. Perhaps, I had misjudged who the crew thought we were, surely not Elizabeth and Philip (do we look that old) ?
As seasoned cruisers we first hit the buffet restaurant to take on essential calories, before visiting the ship’s library so that Sue could grab a pile of the best novels before the newbies and less fleet of foot discovered its location. Afterwards, we occupied ourselves with discovering those parts of the ship that from experience were essential for our own particular enjoyment of the trip. We were pleased to discover that the main theatre venue was well seated, affording good views from every position. This was not so on our last ship and required strategic occupation of seats well before the start of a performance. No problem here if we arrive late. The show that evening was a medley of songs and dances performed by the resident, singers and dance troupe supported by the ship’s orchestra. Not bad.
We prefer to dine formally in the evening and had selected a 2nd sitting slot on a table of eight, but were not displeased when we were allocated a table of six, especially as they all turned up (it’s not always the case). Our fellow diners are Barry and June from Bicester and Ken and Chris from Spain (ex-pats). As usual, we were all keen to get to know each other and by and large it seemed a good mix, though Barry appears a little eccentric and hopefully won’t test my diplomatic skills too far. It’s early days yet.
After a quiet and stable nights sleep we found ourselves in the drizzly Dutch port of Rotterdam (Europe’s largest). Breakfasted we found our way onto the first complimentary shuttle bus into the city centre. We were eager to see the famous ‘Cube House’s’ situated next to the large and architecturally impressive indoor market, but we discovered that the one house that you could gain entrance to didn’t admit visitors until 11am. We spent the time mooching around the indoor market with its internal arched surface covered in one vast mural. The roof itself housed apartments, with small internal windows that poked through a depicted scene of strange shrubbery and fruit. The outer structure of the apartments, apart from their sloped and elevated position seemed more traditional, but I guess would have stunning views over the city.
We continued using up time by meandering through the surrounding shopping district looking for a a bow-tie, I had forgotten to bring one and my DJ wouldn’t look the same without it. We eventually found one as the the clock stuck 11.
Returning to the ‘Cube House’, we climbed the ridiculously steep stairs, paid our two Euros each to a rather bored looking young girl sat at a desk situated in the corner of what I suppose was the lounge. There were a few other visitors that morning, but this one bedroom, tilted, dice shaped house perched on a concrete trunk was not large and probably couldn’t take more than half a dozen tourists at a time. Built in 1982, there were 38 of them in all, with an asking price of 320 000 euros. The place is unique, looks ridiculous, architecturally cutting edge and an intriguingly fascinating place to live. You have to mind your head on the sloping walls and not bother that there is no way to clean the crazily angled windows. You have to wait for a storm to wash the city grime away. If I had to live in the Netherlands I can’t think of a more perfect place!
Our next port of call was to the oldest harbour in the city where the Maritime Museum was located. This area still retains a little bit of its past character with the remnants of past ships now converted into waterside hotels and restaurants and now moored up permanently alongside the cobbled dock.
After paying the entrance fee (no reduction for the aged) we first tackled the interactive Oil Rig experience. As authentically as it could be, we were whisked onto the deck of a North Sea oil rig where we had to perform several simulated tasks to illustrate living in such a dangerous environment. Absolutely absorbing and an innovative exhibition, loads of fun and great education. We next took a simulated elevator to the bottom of the sea to witness the work that also goes on there underneath the platforms. The most surreal and beleivable 3D holographic image displays I have ever seen, totally convincing, from the little crab crawling over the tool kit to the deep sea diver welding a pipe. Not to mention the shark or whale. It has to be seen!
Leaving the museum we checked out a few of the dock side exhibits before purchasing several Dutch beers for later consumption on the ship at a nearby supermarket.
Returning by shuttle bus to the Magellan we quickly immersed ourselves back into routine: eat, rest, show (Abba tribute), eat, sleep.
We left port a couple of hours later than scheduled due to a late bulk delivery of necessary food items. We wouldn’t want to starve would we? Especially with two sea days coming next.