June 30, 2019

Ruijterkade Oost Docks

Dateline: Ruijterkade Oost Docks, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Today was a slow day by design. I had no idea how much time boarding the ship would take. I’ve never been on a river cruise before and boarding ocean cruises with thousands of other people can, at times, be a chore. I need not to have worried. It turned out that the river boat docks were walking distance from my hotel (I still took an Uber – luggage). And, when I got to the boat. The check in process was all of five minutes. I used the extra hours on board to take a nap. My body still isn’t sure what time zone it’s in.

So, my home for the next two weeks is the MS Esprit operated by Tauck travel company. I have a comfy and relatively spacious cabin (for a cruise ship). One of Tauck’s selling points is that it limits the number of passengers so that it can keep its cabins larger. The ship is standard river boat fare. Four decks and about 200 feet long. It took all of five minutes to explore the public areas which consist of a lounge, a dining room, a grill, a sundeck, and a spa/gym. If the boat were full, it would have a maximum of 90 passengers. There are 63 of us heading south this sailing. With such a small complement, I assume I’ll get to know people fairly easily. At first glance, it looks like it’s mainly well heeled folk in their 60s and 70s. I’m on the young end but there seem to be a few people in my age group scattered about.

MS Esprit – Home for two weeks

Given the small space, the crew all do double and triple duty. My room steward is also the afternoon barman and dining room server at night. They were kind enough to pass out a passenger manifest to us all. Looks like mainly US with a few from various other English speaking countries: England, Australia, New Zealand etc. The crew is mainly European except for the above mentioned factota who seem to be mainly Indonesian.

Tomorrow, we are still in Amsterdam – a visit to the Rijksmuseum which I may skip (having spent a number of hours there yesterday seeing what I wanted to see at my pace) and a canal boat tour complete with lunch. I suppose it’s for those who just arrived today and haven’t had time to spend in the city as of yet. Then we’re bussed half way across Holland to meet the ship which moves on its own route on its own sweet time.

I chose Tauck as it doesn’t require a single supplement. Fixed price per person. I suppose I could have taken someone with me but I don’t know that a lot of my friends would have been insterested in sharing a queen bed in a small cabin with me for two weeks. It’s also all inclusive including the drinks. No bar bill at the end of the trip. This could be dangerous. Two beers before dinner and two glasses of wine with dinner and I can write this but I’m probably not much good for anything else. I’ll try to stick to coffee before noon.

The Fair Princess – much smaller than the cruise ships of today

I didn’t tell a story yesterday so I probably should today. Nothing outrageous happened on my first visit to Amsterdam all those years ago and nothing untoward has happened this time around either so I’ll have to go outside of that particular box. Steve and I loved cruise vacations and we took a number of them over the years. River cruising didn’t really become a thing until after he died so we never did one of those together but we almost certainly would have had he lived longer. One thing we figured out years ago was the smaller the boat, the better time we had. Our best cruise together was with Princess for eleven days down the Mexican Riviera around 1995. The boat was the Fair Princess (decommissioned shortly after we took our trip – too small). It was actually an old Italian transatlantic liner that the Princess line had bought at discount and had maybe 700 passengers. It was still in the days of assigned dinner seating and the first night, the two of us found ourselves at a table for eight. We were the first to arrive, having some trepidation at who would find themselves with the gay boys. We were joined by three couples, all friends and all LA County Sherrif’s deputies. There were a few looks of suspicion, and then Steve told a dirty joke, teased the waiter, and the ice was broken. We ended up having a ball the whole time and our table quickly became known as the most raucous in the dining room. (The cops asked us to come with them on their next cruise, alas the dates didn’t work out). This was also the cruise where we figured out that the best time was to be had befriending the staff. We quickly became friends with the bar lounge and entertainment staff, mainly British. This culminated by being invited to their favorite hangout in Acapulco where we fell in with the staff from three separate cruise ships that were all in port together. This led to the wildest pool party I’ve ever attended. I don’t recall the end of it after more tequila than was good for me but we made it back to the ship fine. It’s probably just as well that Steve didn’t drink. He didn’t mind that I did. In fact, he often found it quite amusing.

I’m going to sign off, do some reading, and nurse my post herpetic neuralgia which remains in full swing. I’m perfectly functional, but it does occasionally feel like my right side is being attacked by one of Ramsay Bolton’s hounds.

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