Saturday, April 25, 2009

Port Information - Volendam, Edam

Easter Sunday - Volendam & Edam

The Amalegro set sail from Amsterdam to Vollendam at noon on Easter Sunday. We cruised north on the IJ River passing through a small lock, one of many that surrond Amsterdam and help to regulate the water. The lock brought us to Marker Lake (Markermeer) part of a larger lake called the Ijsselmeer. The Ijsselmeer used to be known as the famed Zuiderzee before it was closed off from the North Sea by the Great Enclosure Dyke in 1933.

We arrived at the fishing village of Volendam after sailing about three hours. There were two other river boats docked at the harbor, so the Amalegro tied up to them. We had to cross over the top decks of all three ships to go ashore.

We walked along Volendam's main street and then through the streets until we arrived at our motorcoaches which were waiting to take us to our first stop, Edam.

Ten minutes later, we arrived at the charming village of Edam, famous for cheese. Our guide took us on a walking tour through the village which is one of the highlights of Northern Holland. After touring the Dam Square, we had free time to explore the village before returning to the Cheese Weigh Station and then back to the motorcoaches.

It was a beautiful day in both Volendam and Edam. We thouroughly enjoyed our stay in Edam and then returned to Volendam where we had time to explore the streets behind the dyke and shop along main street before returning to the ship.

Words can't do justice to these charming villages, so once again, I've posted some of our pictures for you to enjoy.

Volendam and Edam photo albums:

Amsterdam to Volendam
Amalegro - Edam
Amalegro - Volendam

I hope you are enjoying our Tulip Time River Cruise so far. It's hard to believe that this is really the first day of the cruise. There is so much more to see yet. Make sure to come back to visit my blog as I continue the story.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Port Information - Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the capital city of the country known as the Royal Kingdom of the Netherlands. Holland, as many believe the country to be called, is the name of 2 provinces within the Netherlands: North and South Holland.

The seat of the government is located in the Hague, Den Haag in Dutch. The Queen lives in the Hague and every April the biggest celebration of the year takes place on Queens Day. This year, it falls on April 30th. This national holiday honors the birthday of the current Queen Beatrix's mother, Queen Juliana.

Seventeen million people claim the Netherlands as their home while 20 million people in the world speak Dutch, the national language. Dutch is a Germanic language, so you may recognize some of the words and phrases.

Amsterdam is known as the "Venice of the North" due to the web of canals that encircle the city. It is easiest to get around by "tram", bicycle, or on foot. One of our guides told us that it is very costly to own an auto. You have to pay for your parking spot, if you can even get one.

We spent all day Saturday and part of Easter Sunday in Amsterdam. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are links to the first of many photo albums documenting our Tulip Time River Cruise on AMA Waterways Amalegro.

Amsterdam Photo Albums:

Amalegro - Amsterdam
Amsterdam - Canal & City Tour

The next post will include our Easter Sunday ports of call: Volendam and Edam.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day


Today marks an annual event where we are asked to take a close look at the way we use Mother Earth's natural resources. Over the years, mankind has taken natural resources more and more for granted and the truth is, there isn't a limitless supply of resources.

Cruise ships have been educating their customers for years about ways to conserve resources while onboard. Little things, like putting your towel back on the rack and using it for one more day, can save a lot of water and the energy needed to wash the towels. Not changing sheets on the bed is another easy way to help conserve natural resources.

During the mandatory safety drills, the crew also reminds passengers not to throw anything overboard and into the sea. There are two reasons for this of course, one is to protect the sea and the creatures that call the sea their home and the other reason is to protect all of the passengers and crew onboard. If you were to throw a lit cigarette overboard for example, it could be swept out to sea or it could end back on a balcony of some cabin and start a fire.

Modern cruise ships are being built with the latest technology employed to conserve natural resources. So you can see the cruise lines are doing their part to save our planet, I suggest that he next time you are onboard a cruise ship, or at your local hotel, you read the signs posted and attempt to conserve by using your towel one more time for example. If everyone of us takes little steps like this, the remaining supply of natural resources can last for many more years, a legacy we'd want to pass along to future generations.

This is a situation where one person can make a difference. Happy "green" cruising.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

AMA Amalegro - Amsterdam, Netherlands

Port Information:

In Amsterdam, river cruise vessels dock behind the Central Station, along a street called de Ruyterkade. This is very close to the city center. You can walk along the waterfront to the back side of Central Station. When you cross through the Central Station building you exit the station in the center of the city.
Unless you want to drag your suitcases on public transportation, the best way to get from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport to de Ruyterkade is by taxi. You'll be able to hire a taxi from the taxi stand in front of the airport. You might want to negotiate price with the driver before you enter the taxi. We paid 51 euros (including tip) from the airport to the ship. The taxi back to the airport was arranged by our Cruise Director for a flat fee of 35 euros (plus tip). We also shared the taxi back to the airport with another couple, which reduced our cost more.

The ship may also be located at Veemkade, which is behind the Central Station to the left, or further down at the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam (PTA). The PTA is where the larger cruise ships dock. We docked there on our past cruise vacations that included Amsterdam.

We were able to easily explore Amsterdam from where we were docked. As I mentioned in my earlier post, we walked along the waterfront and Central Station and into the heart of Amsterdam from our ship. When we returned to Amsterdam later in the week, we were also docked in the same location. This time, we used the Stop/Go Bus to take us to some shops near Anne Frank's House. From there we walked back to the ship, shopping along the way. It only costs 1 euro for an hour on the Stop/Go Bus - this is a great deal.

Amsterdam is a very easy city to get around on your own. There are several public transportation options. For those that wanted some exercise, the Amalegro also had bicycles that you could check out if you desired.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Sunday on Amalegro

After a good night sleep, we awoke Easter Sunday and had breakfast in Amalegro's main Restaurant. The Restaurant featured a full buffet breakfast each morning. Most mornings the buffet breakfast was served from 7:00 AM - 9:00 AM. Early risers could find pastries in the Lounge from 6:00 AM.

The breakfast menu included a large selection of pastries and breads, fruits, scrambled eggs, sausges, bacon, hashbrowns, cheeses, cold cut meats, various breakfast fish dishes, and a featured menu item. Other selections included omlettes made to order and waffles. Of course there were a variety of juices, milk, coffee, and teas to chose from. This isn't the complete menu, but it gives you an idea about the range of choices each morning.

Following breakfast, we met in the reception area for our first excursion. We departed at 8:30 AM by motorcoach for an Amsterdam City Tour followed by a Canal Boat Cruise. Local guides accompanied each group, explaining the sites along the way.

Amsterdam is known as "The Venice of the North". Canals encircle the city center like a spider web. The best way to enjoy the beautiful homes that line the water is by canal boat. The canal tour passes through all of the major canals the encircle the city. In the picture below, I've included one of the popular sites, Anne Frank's House. You'll see a long line waiting to get into the house. You can bypass that line by booking online in advance. Doing so you'll avoid the wait time of 45 minutes or longer to get in.
On a previous visit to Amsterdam, we took the Hop on Hop Off Canal Boat tour. A canal boat tour is a must see when you are in Amsterdam. This was one of the included tours on our river cruise.

At the conclusion of our canal boat tour, the motorcoaches were waiting to return us to the ship which wasn't far away. Everyone was back on board Amalegro by 11:45 AM and we then sailed for Volendam. Since it was a beautiful day, most passengers were on the sundeck watching as we sailed away from Amsterdam.

Lunch was served at 12:30 in the Amalegro Restaurant. Following lunch, at 2:00 PM, there was a mandatory Safety Drill by the Captain. After the drill, our Cruise Director, Bartel Tourny, gave a briefing about the afternoon activities. I'll continue the adventure in my next post.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter from the Netherlands

I'm writing this post from AMA Waterways Amalegro enroute to Volendam. We arrived in Amsterdam yesterday and took a taxi to the ship which was docked at Ruijterkade oost. For those that have been to Amsterdam before, that is just a few blocks from Central Station.
It is also a few blocks from the Passenger Terminal where the larger ships dock.

The crew took our bags and we checked in at the reception desk. They kept our passports, at least for the first couple of days, since the cruise goes from the Netherlands to Belgium and back.

The cabins wouldn't be ready until 3 PM, so we relaxed for awhile in the lounge and then had some lunch before taking a little stroll along the waterfront and the area near Central Station. There are lots of shops and places to eat nearby. Not far from there is the famous Red Light District.

Since we didn't want to wear ourselves out the first day, we didn't do too much walking. We have been to Amsterdam twice before, so that was another reason why we could relax a bit.

Shortly after returning to the ship, our cabin was ready so we went there and unpacked. We had free time until 5 PM when the crew gave us a briefing about safety and our itinerary. The evening festivities started off with a local dance group providing entertainment and was followed by dinner.

After dinner, everyone went to bed, especially since most people had flown in the same day and were feeling a little jet lag. Today started early with breakfast followed by our first excursion. I'll tell you more about our Easter Sunday in my next post.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Will Cruise Prices Rise or Fall

Will Cruise Prices Rise or Fall? Should I Book Early?

Those are very good questions. Despite the bad economy, cruise ships are still sailing near capacity. It is always a good idea to book early if you are concerned about location and type of cabin accomodations. The best cabins always go early. In addition, the cruise lines offer incentives, such as onboard credits or special pricing, for booking early.

The way pricing works in the cruise industry is as the ship fills up, the prices rise. Recall that I said the ships are sailing full, so expect to pay top dollar at the last minute for certain cabin categories, that’s only if you can even get a cabin at the last minute.

You aren’t penalized for booking early when you book with us. Should the prices fall, we can usually get your price adjusted. There are exceptions to this, such as one day only sales which might be restricted to new bookings only.

Azamara Cruises has actually formalized this with their Azamara Assurance program. If the price of your selected cruise drops, they'll honor the lower rate. Speaking about Azamara, there are currently great offers to Europe. With up to 2 for 1 savings on select Europe sailings, this is the perfect chance to reconnect with someone special in gorgeous Europe, starting at just $135* per day.

Europe is still a great destination for a cruise, this year and next. The Princess 2010 Europe sailings which I announced in an earlier post, are available for bookings as of today.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Paul Gauguin Cruises Joins CLIA

Introducing Paul Gauguin Cruises

Paul Gauguin Cruises just became the 24th member of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). You probably already know Paul Gauguin Cruises as the operator of the highest-rated and longest continually sailing luxury cruise ship in the South Pacific. Since 1998, the m/s Paul Gauguin has completed more than 500 South Pacific cruises and served more than 140,000 guests.

Reservations are now open for Paul Gauguin's 2010 season, which features 38 luxury cruises to Tahiti, French Polynesia, and the South Pacific. Customers who have sailed previously on Paul Gauguin Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea, The Yachts of Seabourn, Crystal Cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club, or Windstar Cruises will enjoy additional savings of 5 percent and exclusive recognition benefits with membership in the m/s Paul Gauguin Society.

To learn more about Paul Gauguin Cruises, send me an email or give me a call. Don't miss exciting information like this. Make sure you take advantage of all my communications: weekly eSaver newsletter, my Facebook page, and this blog.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fools' Prank - No Laughing Matter

April Fools' Day
Traditionally April first is a day marked by the commission of hoaxes and other practical jokes of varying sophistication on friends, family members, enemies, and neighbors, or sending them on fool's errand, the aim of which is to embarrass the gullible.

It is now after 12 noon local time as I write this post. If you haven't been fooled by now, perhaps you are safe. At least you should be in many countries around the world. If someone plays a trick after noon they are called an "April Fool".

If you've been reading the news lately, you've no doubt heard about the Conficker worm that some reports say was scheduled to strike on April 1. Information Technology departments around the world have been scrambling to make sure that all PCs are adequately protected to defend against any attack by this worm. If you think about it, simply the fear of the problem and the amount of work being expended to check computer systems could be the desired effect. Let's hope so anyway. Either way, a computer virus (real or imagined) is no laughing matter.

I mention this only as a lead up to an April Fools' prank that I experienced while on a Carnival Cruise many years ago. Shortly after 5 AM on April 1st we were awoken by an announcement from the bridge. Actually, that coincided with being awoken by the noise created when the ship threw on its thrusters and made a sudden turn.

It seems that someone reported a "man overboard" and the captain had immediately put the ship into rescue mode. The ship "turned on a dime" and went back to the spot where this was to have occurred. The captain also ordered a door by door search of the entire ship to account for all the passengers and crew. There was a knock at the door and a crew member asked that all passengers in the cabin come to the door so he could "count heads". No sooner had we gotten back to sleep, and there was another door knock. My husband stayed in bed, but the crew member insisted that he get up so that they could double check the count.The local navy also joined in the search and rescue mission.

After about an hour, presumably after getting the confirmed passenger and ship count, the rescue mission was called off and the ship changed course back to our original heading. We arrived about an hour late in our next port of call, seriously impacting all the passengers and crew, as well as the local tourism companies that had been awaiting the ship's arrival.The good news is that noone had gone overboard. The crew didn't speak about this event, so I can't say if there were any charges made against someone for what appeared to be an April Fools' prank.

Cruise lines, the captain, and the crew take safety very highly. I know that you hear about incidents from time to time and rarely do we get all the details. When you look at the number of passengers that sail in a year, and the number of real incidents that occur, the safety record is very impressive.If you happen to be on a ship on April 1, please do not consider a prank such as the one I described here. This was no laughing matter.

Take the Family
to the Mexican Riviera
March may have ended, but the specials are still coming across my desk. Here's one that I thought might be of interest to many of my readers. Why not take the family to the Mexican Riviera?
You’ll love everything about Mexico; the beautiful scenery, the water sports, the bright colors, festive music, delicious food and more. Royal Caribbean is offering a special deal now through April 30th. Take the family of four or tag along with a group of four friends on a Mexican Riviera cruise from $1,999. Travel the Mexican Riviera on the Mariner of the Seas® and enjoy all that Mexico has to offer.

Onboard the Mariner, you can ice-skate, climb mountains at sea, even play a round of mini-golf with the horizon at your back. Once you arrive in Cabo San Lucas you will encounter dazzling tropical fish and beautiful rock formations. Complete your trip by sunbathing on Mazatlan’s beautiful beaches and visiting Puerto Vallarta’s countryside or perhaps a tequila factory.

Act fast, these special prices are only available through April 30.

Mariner of the Seas®
7-Night Mexican Riviera

June 28; July 5, 12, 19; August 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; September 6, 13, 20, 27, 2009
Los Angeles, California ; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Mazatlan, Mexico; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Los Angeles, California

Plus as an added bonus set sail in September and enjoy an even lower price of $1,799!

Contact me for complete details, including restrictions.