We are a retired couple ages 61 and 60 that travel and cruise a great deal. We live in Florida and part time in NYC. We are used to eating out at fine dining restaurants, and seeing theater, concerts, etc in NYC. We have cruised many times to the Caribbean, eastern western and southern, to Turkey and Greece, the Baltic, Panama Canal, Alaska, Barcelona and Lisbon. We usually like to take independent tours and not be with large groups.
We totally fell in love with Captain Tasos Kafetzis. We have never, in over 20 years of sailing had a more entertaining, enthusiastic, engaging and young Captain. We attended his lectures and saw the game show he participated in, all informative and fun. We also think he set a standard and tone for all his officers and crew which was certainly discernable. Smiles, interactions, and professionalism, even chance encounters in an elevator. And last but not least, his amazing DONUTS! What a treat to turn in a circle around the Seven Sisters and the Suitor waterfalls with music no less.
We stayed a night at the Amsterdam Marriott Rennaissance on Kattengat very close to Dam Square, the Central train station and the port. We like to arrive the day before so we can rest a little, start to timeshift and not be stressed. Very convenient for embarkation the next day. We chose this hotel because we had points. We ate at Lucius seafood restaurant on Spuistraat, which we could walk to. Wow, fresh
Cabin 8087Enough closet space, near front door so no problem opening and closingNice balcony Cabins above and below, not noisyClean floor grout in bathroomMidship great location
First stop Bergen. We had been advised to go up the Floibanen funicular, which we did and had a great view and it was fun. 80 NOK per ticket. We had a few rain sprinkles, but brought our umbrellas, so no bother at all. Visited Bryggen the Hanseatic Wharf, oldest medieval settlements in Norway, and walked in and out of a few art galleries. We wandered over to the fish market and had some very tasty treats, like whale, eel, and salmon. This port had a bus ride back and forth to the ship which dropped us off at the main park square, Lille Lungegards-vann, with a small lake and fountain. Cute park with young kids playing music and breakdancing.
Capital of Norway and a big city, we headed into town to catch the tram to the Vigeland Sculpture Park. Beautiful day with lots of families picnicking in the park. We were amazed and loved seeing these 212 bronze and granite sculptures. I think we could have easily taken 212 photos as one was more wonderful than the next. This park is a great place to relax with many paths, ponds and a snackbar/souvenir shop and clean bathrooms. Great ice cream too. We got back on the tram heading for the center of town and the museums. We went to the National Gallery with a surprisingly beautiful impressionist room with gorgeous works. We saw a special exhibit for the 150th birthday of Edvard Munch including The Scream and I got my cultural fix. Afterwards we mosied down to the Spikersuppa for a bit of lunch and people watching at an outdoor cafe. Luckily it was under a tent as the skies opened up for a brief rain shower. We then walked past the Palace on to the Akershus Fortress and took a tour of Akershus Castle. We saw a bride and her military officer groom taking photos in the garden. The castle was originally built as a medieval fortified castle around 1300. It's primary function was to defend Oslo. It was rebuilt in the renaissance style in the 17th century. It's primary function today is to house the representation rooms of the Norwegian government. I always enjoy seeing the furnishings and artwork in situ. The tapestries were magnificent.
We continued our trip for another 10 days staying at a fabulous bed and breakfast, the huis t Schaep ( house of the sheep) in Bruges Belgium and back to Amsterdam staying at the boutique hotel The Canal House. This hotel had only 28 rooms and the largest backyard enclosed garden in Amsterdam. If you have a chance, we would definitely recommend Bruges, a city older than Amsterdam by almost two centuries, with romantic cobblestone streets and canals. Take a bike ride to Damme along the waterway and enjoy lunch or coffee at Tante Marie's garden out back before returning to town. It is also an easy train ride to visit Brussels for the day. There is a great cafe at the top of the Musical Instruments Museum (MIM) with especially good gazpacho and tuna nicoise and nice views. We were lucky to fall into a group of traveling college choir students singing on the streets of Brussels, and walked with them to the cathedral where they were having a concert. Sometimes the best things happen serendipitously. Have dinner at the Michelin one star restaurant Den Gouden Harynck, in Bruges, our best meal during our entire trip. We also enjoyed a great meal at Reliva on Goezepustraat, and a great new tapas and wine bar, El Rincon on Katelijnestraat. We also recommend staying in Bruges, as it is so much nicer after the crowds of day trippers leave at 5pm or so, and don't forget to eat chocolate, try the Chocolate Line on Simon Stevinplein. The Church of our Lady has the only Michaelangelo statue taken outside of Italy during his lifetime. Don't forget to watch the film In Bruges although it is bloody and violent, it does make you want to visit the city. Amsterdam is a city we have visited before and a wonderful mix of the old and the new. This is also a great city to rent a bike for the day, a little more challenging to dodge traffic, although there are many bike lanes and lots and lots of other riders. We biked to the Vondelpark, with many beautiful paths and lakes, lots of places to stop and sit and enjoy the day, with a few outdoor restaurants for lunch or coffee, with not so clean bathrooms. We went to the newly reopened Rijksmuseum after not seeing it for 10 years, and it was wonderful. We recommend trying to get tickets beforehand to avoid some of the long lines. We also went to one of my favorite museums, the Van Gogh. Just so happened that an outdoor sculpture exhibit was going on around town, and we took our bikes to see it, lots of fun. This is also a great place to just wander up and down the beautiful canals, and take a boat trip if you have not done it before, and sit and have a beer or coffee and watch the world go by. We took a day trip by train to Delft to see the home and workplace of Vermeer. Be warned his paintings are not here. Great place to stop at the fish market and eat herring like the natives. We went to the Museum Het Prinsenhof and also a very small 19th century home owned by Paul Tetar VanElven. Ran out of time but there are a few delft ceramic factories to see delftware being made today. Other great restaurants in Amsterdam, Der Kas for farm to table in a beautiful greenhouse, Blauw for authentic Indonesian rice table, and Izakaya, for a hip Asian fusion kitchen and bar. Don't bother with Vinkeles, a Michelin star at the Dylan hotel, overrated, and we were also not impressed with dVijff Vlieghen 5 Flies although it has gotten great reviews elsewhere. We were lucky enough to be in Amsterdam for just the right time to have the specialty Hollandse Nieuwe herring, which is available from mid May to mid July. Don't be scared, just try it! Like sushi. Hold the fish by its tail with your thumb and forefinger and let it slide right down. Make sure the fishman does the final cleaning in front of you so it is definitely fresh. For a nostalgic trip back to the sixties walk into the Bulldog and check out the menu. Hope you can spend more than a day here before or after your cruise.