Le Havre, France April 27,2017

Captain Carsjens announced last evening that we would be required to shorten our stay in Le Havre as the French dock workers have another beef and will be going on strike at 10P tonight. We will be required to leave the port by 9:30P, which will shave 2 1/2 hours from our planned departure time of midnight. Our previous visit to Le Harve on the Grand Princess a few years ago had a similar problem. The dock workers went on strike shortly after our arrival, and the fires set in the port and gunfire, along with a commercial vessel blocking the entrance and exit, proved to be enough of a disruption that we never left the ship. This time we are determined to complete our planned excursion, despite again being used as pawns in their local dispute. The tours to Paris, however, a three hour bus ride each way, may be affected and will need to be shortened.

Our 2 vans arrived just as we left the ship and our group of 15 left for our first stop, which was to be Rouen, a bit over an hour away. Rouen is a medieval gem, the area around the cathedral still surrounded by wood-timbered houses dating to the 1400’s.

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Rouen is, of course, the site of the trial and burning of Joan of Arc in 1431. The exact site is memorialized with a church and plaque, and the commercialization abounds.

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The cathedral, inside and out, is magnificent, the exterior being especially ornate with statuary, stained-glass windows and relief carved scenes.

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One exterior relief shows the beheading of John the Baptist (lower, far right).

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Monet painted this cathedral many times, using his impressionist style to show the facade at various times of day, illustrating shadows and light. The window from which he painted can be viewed just across the street.

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The interior of the cathedral contains many statues found under the cathedral during excavation. Some are in surprisingly good condition,

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The rattan chairs and kneelers are unique.100 5070

The interior is large, but relatively sterile.

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There is a memorial to Roland, a military leader during the reign of Charlemagne, who was killed in battle in 778, and later immortalized in medieval and Renaissance literature.

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A 45 minute drive brought us to Honfleur, with a picturesque harbor and interesting architecture. The day was sunny, cool and dry, somewhat better than we had anticipated.

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Lunch at a cafe overlooking the harbor was a ham and cheese omelet with french fries. Odd combination, but very tasty.

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Flowers were everywhere and the colors were superb. Spring anywhere is usually quite colorful. Honfleur is no exception.

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Returning to the Rotterdam, we dined in the Lido, rather than the La Fontaine dining room. Casual was a good choice after another full and tiring day.

At Sea, April 28, 2017

Today we sail the English Channel, south to north, to our disembarkation port, Rotterdam, Netherlands. The seas are calm again, but the temperature remains in the high 40’s, a bit chilly if your home is in South Carolina. Today will be a packing day, and it will take some effort to replace all our “stuff” into the cases and carry-ons that were so neatly organized when we left home in March. Before we tackle that arduous task there is Mah Jongg to be played and a last walk around the Rotterdam to embed this beautiful ship in our memories.

A co-flagship of the Holland America Line, along with the Amsterdam, Rotterdam has aged gracefully, probably due to the efforts of the crew who take pride in maintaining a representative of a vanishing breed – a smaller, yet very complete cruise ship offering comfort and serenity for longer itineraries at a reasonable fare.

These interior photos are just a small representation of the facilities on board and the art collection that has found a permanent home on the Rotterdam.

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The Explorer’s Lounge is a library/reading room/computer center with picture windows and meant for indoor relaxation anytime. It also serves latte coffees and pastries anytime!

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Mix is the piano bar with separate areas specializing in beer, wine, or champagne. Lively spot at night, especially with Stryker at the keyboard. Great entertainer and super sing-a-longs,

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The dining area extended over two decks aft, again with great views of our wake and architectural beauty of its own.

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In the bow area, the theater, again including 2 decks (a balcony with great sight lines to the stage) provided live evening entertainment. During the day it was the site of lectures about our upcoming ports and guest lecturers with experience on a myriad of topics.

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Forward in the bow and on the top deck is the Crow’s Nest, which provides the best views at sea or in port. The bar with great wine selections is obviously a big PLUS!

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This view of Monte Carlo from the Crow’s Nest is a fine example!

On board art provides a nice background and breaks the monotony of hallways and passages.

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The above atrium area features a three-deck clock with atlas at the top.

The warm weather made the pool area a lively spot. Even though the retractable roof was usually open, it could be closed in case of rain or cold. NICE!!

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Rotterdam was, indeed, a fine replacement home for the 30 days we were on board. We will miss her and miss her crew, like Ari, our dining waiter, who never ceased to smile.

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The birthday song, sung by the crew in Phillipino tagalog (with hand-clapping), was a unique memory which will always be associated with the 38th anniversary of my 39th birthday.

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Rotterdam, Netherlands April 29, 2017

Before retiring last night all our luggage, excepting carry-ons, was placed in the hall outside our cabin. It will be in the cruise terminal when we arrive in Rotterdam and avoids our having to deal with carrying all our “stuff” off the ship in the morning.

Our arrival was scheduled at 7A, but we were close to docking when we made it outside. Rotterdam is the original home of Holland America Line and, obviously, our ship is it’s namesake. It is also the home of Captain Carsjens, who must feel somewhat like those adventurous Portugese explorers finally returning home. Our average speed neccessary to cover the 236 miles from Le Havre to Rotterdam overnight was 8.9. When normal speed is somewhere between 16 and 19, it must have seemed like slow motion for Captain Carsjens to cover those last few miles.

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The trepidation we had reserved for arrival and debarkation in Rotterdam turned out to be unfounded. There was ample time for breakfast, no wait once our color group was called, minimal effort retrieving our luggage on shore, and no wait boarding our HAL transportation to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

Meanwhile, the cruise log was delivered last night, and it allowed us to calculate our total distance traveled since leaving Fort Lauderdale a month ago. We have completed a cruise of 7,787 nautical miles, 3,341 of which were needed to cross the Atlantic to our first port of Funchal, Madeira. One nautical mile is equivalent to 1.15 land miles, so our land mile total is 8,955 miles. We visited 15 very different ports in 6 very different countries. Once on board there had been no driving, no searching for hotels or restaurants, no luggage hauling, and plenty of world-class experiences. I think it was Mark Twain who said “Cruising is a most civilized way to travel”. We can only add ……….. AMEN!