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21st May, 2015


Yesterday we transited the Kiel Canal. We arrived at the pilot station at 4 am. The reason for this early hour was that one of the two big locks on the North Sea side of the canal has been taken out of service for repairs and this could cause a delay in our transit of several hours. We entered the Holtenau Lock, at the entrance of the canal, at 5.45 am and started our transit at 6.30 am. As this is seen as a day at sea our Guest Speakers, Instructors, Beauty Staff and Cruise Staff were busy presenting, organising, hosting and treating. Of course our passengers also took some time to enjoy the scenery as we passed. The transit took 9.5 hours, and we entered the Brunsbuttel lock at 5.30pm, after which we were on our way down the Elbe River to the pilot station, where we arrived at 9 pm. Here we disembarked the pilot and went on our way to the next port of call Ijmuiden.

The evening started with the Farewell Cocktail Party followed by a formal dinner. After dinner the Britannia Lounge featured John’s Credit Crunch Pantomime “Cinderella” followed by the Variety Show starring Master Magician Brett Sherwood and Multi-Instrumentalist Anne Rayner. This was followed in the Drawing Room by a performance by Mr. Fernando Perez, who sang a selection of his favourite songs , and then those passengers who wished to could dance the night away with the Perfect Mood Duo or join Martin Orbidans in Cooper’s Bar for his Late Show.

This morning we arrived at the pilot station at the very civilized hour of 9.30 am. The pilot boarded, guided us to our berth, of IJmuiden the newest city in North Holland. As soon as the ship was cleared by the local officials our passengers could proceed ashore and our tours could be dispatched.

Today’s tours were:

“Amsterdam Transfer” which was an opportunity for passengers to have organised transport to Amsterdam but then the opportunity to set their own programme in one of Europe's great cities.

“Van Gogh Museum & Canal Cruise” offered a view of Amsterdam from the coach passing highlights such as the baroque Royal Palace at Dam Square, the Nieuwe Kerk (New church), Mint Tower and the 15th-century Weeper’s tower. Next was a stop at the Van Gogh Museum for an independent visit to view the beautiful paintings of one of Holland’s most well-known painters. The tour concluded with a tour along the Amsterdam canals aboard a glass-topped canal boat passing historic bridges and narrow houses with hoists and cranes, a reminder of the city’s canal-based commercial heritage.

“Highlights of Amsterdam and Canal Cruise”: With 1,000 bridges and 60 miles of canals lined with picturesque gabled houses, Amsterdam is a unique and fascinating place to explore. This tour started with a short drive to the 17th-century Westerkerk (Western Church) where Rembrandt is reputed to be buried. From here our passengers visited the Anne Frank House where she and her family hid for many months during World War II. She recorded their experience in a diary, which is among the original objects on display. This was followed by a sail along the Amsterdam canals aboard a glass-topped canal boat. On the way back to the ship the coach passed the Baroque Royal Palace on Dam Square, the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), Mint Tower and the 15th-century Weeper’s Tower.

“Taste of Holland” started with a drive through typical Dutch countryside to the small town of Zaandam, north of Amsterdam, where our guests visited Zaanse Schans, a quaint Dutch ‘windmill village’ that has been faithfully restored to recreate an 18th-century Zaan community. Only eight remain from the 500 that once lined the Zaanse Schans. They saw the unique Carillon tower with its bells that play a melody every 15 minutes, the numerous beautiful canals that crisscross the village and the drawbridges that cross over them. The tour ended with a visit to a cheese factory.

“Panoramic Amsterdam and Canal Cruise” was an opportunity to see the famous highlights from the comfort of the coach and enjoy the views from the water in a glass-topped canal boat.

All on board was at 7.30 pm. Soon after we let go of the lines, left the berth, swung the ship 180 degrees and took the ship down river to the pilot station, where we disembarked the pilot and set course for Dover. This is the last departure for me this contract as in Dover Captain Philip Rentell takes command of the ship there tomorrow afternoon.

However, this evening started with cocktails and Close-Up Table Top Magic from Master Magician Brett Sherwood and cocktail hour in Cooper’s Bar with Martin Orbidans at the piano. After dinner the Britannia Lounge featured the comedy and artistry of master marionette artists John Chisholm and Josef Probst with Stars on Strings.

From here I am signing off and I wish you all happy cruising and reading until I write to you again from Saga Pearl II when I join her on 15 July in Dover.

Captain Kees Spekman

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.