Saturday, July 16, 2016

7.15.16 Bergen

Today was Bergen. It's the largest city we've visited. We took the hop on/ hop off bus around town. Again, it's a city that had a lot of fires though they've been rebuilding in the original style. They had a good fish market in the harbor. We found a cool old tavern down one of the alleys so tried some more Norwegian beers. We headed back to the ship early because we signed up for the Behind the Scenes tour. We had a good lunch at the Dutch Cafe. The Behind the Scenes tour was great. It's a two day tour so today was the Engine Control Room, the Engine rooms and the Bridge.  Meeting the Chief Engineer was a real highlight. He has a real passion for his work and was excited to show off all the machines. It's the first time we have been able to go into the power plant, engine rooms, reverse osmosis plant, and even see the ship stablizers. It was so interesting. The level of complexity is mind boggling. For instance, everything that goes into making sure the shower pressure amd water quaility in a Deck 10 forward cabin is the same as a Deck 1 Aft cabin is incredible. The bridge was also interesting. It was set up more like a cockpit than a traditonal bridge. They even added a situation room and a chair for the pilot that comes on in each port.

We signed up for a vow renewal ceremony to see what it was like. It was so lovely. Holland America does it in a group setting once a sailing. We were with another couple who'd been married 40 years. We had a nice private reception with canapés and champagne. Then the Captain arrived and we were able to chat with him. Each couple had their own ceremony and then a toast after. Plus a cake. We were impressed.

We had dinner at Tamarind - the Asian restaurant. We opted for sushi. It was okay. The rolls had a lot of asparagus in them. If Carnival got a deal on broccoli - then Holland America got a deal on asparagus. After dinner, we had a night cap at our favorite bar - Ocean Blue with our favorite bartender Ryan.

Friday, July 15, 2016

7.14.16 Geiranger

7.14.16 Geiranger

This adorable little town is fun to explore. It has lots of hiking trails. We took a long staircase up to the top of a large hill for a better look at the waterfall. It was terrifying coming down since looking through the grates went straight down. After a mini panic attack, I pulled it together and made it down. We walked around and saw some of the sod roof houses. Then we headed back to the ship to try the Dive-in burger. (Pretty good) and enjoy some time in the spa.

For sail away, they opened the bow again and set up a small bar out there so we could enjoy the narration and have a cocktail. We past the Seven Sisters waterfall, the whoo-er and the Bridal Veil. It was a little funny because we past about 15 waterfalls. People would be gathered around taking photos and then the location guide would say one was more famous so everyone would switch. The scenery was incredible. This has been Glenn's favorite port so far.

We finished watching sail away from the balcony then headed to Canneletto's for dinner. We had a great table right by the window. The Italian food was good, homestyle cooking. After dinner, Glenn tried his hand at slots in the casino. This was the one night the casino would be non-smoking. I watched the BBC game show. It was really well done.

7.12.16 Eidefjord

We woke up at 4:30 am because the Captain said we'd be passing under a suspension bridge at 5:00 am. While we enjoyed our first views of the fjord - there was no bridge. Later we saw it leaving port so no need to get up at 430 am. We went back to sleep and had a slow start to the day.

We walked into Eidefjord. It was raining so we cut our visit short. The town is very small. We walked out to a farm and then made our way back to the Quality Inn where we sampled some Norwegian beers.

Back on board, we enjoyed tea on our balcony as we cruised out of the fjords. I loved cozying up on the balcony reading a book. For dinner, we went to Sel de Mar - the seafood restaurant. We had salt crusted fish and escargot in the shell. A total Pretty Woman moment. The meal was very good. We listened to the piano players in Billboard for a little while to cap off the night.

7.13.16 Aalesund

7.13.16 Aalesund

We had been looking forward to this port since the annual boat festival coincided with our visit. We started our day with a walk around the town center and a trip to the Aalesund museum. The most impressive piece in the museum was the original enclosed lifeboat that the Norwegian inventor sailed to Massachusetts in to prove it was safe. They had restored it and you could crawl inside.

We went to the tourist information center for a walking tour for 100 Krone per person - about $12.50 per person. It was a fantastic tour. We learned about the building style, the fishing industry, and the impact of the WW2 occupation.  One of the interesting parts of the building style is that the 1st floor and 2nd floor have different styles of windows.

One part of the boat festival we had been looking forward to was the jet pack show. We found an outdoor cafe with front row seats. Glenn had the fish stew. I had a salt cod pizza. Both were very good. The tomato helped balance the salt cod. After the show, we had a cocktail at Milk and then headed back to the ship.

We lost again at Name That Tune trivia. We attended the port talk for the next day and then got in on the end of a game of Pictionary before singing along with the hits of the 60s with the 2 piano players.

Dinner was a pop up based on a 3 Michelin star restaurant in The Netherlands. It was a fantastic five course meal.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

7.11.16 Sea Day

We love a Sea Day on the 1st day. We had a good breakfast on our balcony. I headed to the spa for a bamboo massage while Glenn worked out and enjoyed the Greenhouse Retreat in the Spa. After that, we explored the ship. We had a good lunch in the dining room. We attended a question and answer with the Captain and an introduction to Norway lecture. We also tried our hand at trivia and attended the show. The wraparound screens were really cool, but the shown overall was a little lackluster.

For dinner, we tried to get a table at the main dining room, but it was way too chaotic and the wait was too long. Luckily, the Pinnacle Grill was able to fit us in and we feasted on king crab legs.

7.9.16 -7.10.16 Amsterdam and Boarding the Holland Koningsdam

Debarkation was quick and easy.  We had a 7am departure and baggage tags number 10.  The Lido bufftlet was open at 5:30 and Taste Bar at 6:30.. Blue Iguana was opening at 7am so no chance for one last Heuvos Rancheros. :-(.  So after packing up our carryons we headed to Lido about 6:15.  Wasn't crowded at all.  It was the first time we were having breakfast in Lido this cruise. They had the usual - even the omelet station was in operation. I elected for eggs Benedict, some hash browns and sausage. And of course black coffee. My wife had a waffle. 

About 6:55 they were. Calling for baggage tags up to number 12 so off we went to deck 3. It was easy to find the Carnival transfers and we were loaded into a bus by 7:30.  Arrived at the airport by 8:00. We flew Vueling and had purchased upgrades to their equivalent of Business Class.  That also gave us access to the Fast Lane which is the equivalent of TSA Pre-Check.   One change on our next cruise.  So worth it as it also gave us access to the VIP lounge.

Flight to Amsterdam was uneventful. Amsterdam airport was easy to navigate. We took a taxi to our hotel: The Hoxton. The taxi ride was a little intense with all the bikes everywhere. We checked in our tiny room. Definitely chose the worst room in a fantastic hotel. We headed out to a cheese tasting at Reypeneur. It was great. We tried the same cheese aged for different lengths of time.

We headed toward the museum district. We found a little cafe on the canal offering pancakes and Dutch beer. Then we visited House of Bols. That could be skipped if you are planning your trip. We were struck by how helpful everyone was.

We went to Central Station to find our canal boat. The ride down the canal was a great. It was a two hour ride that explores the city.

Sunday morning we went our walking tour guide. She led us on a 2.5 hour walking tour through the city. We liked how she focused on how the culture in Amsterdam developed. It was a great overview.

We received notice that our cruise ship would be departing from Rotterdam instead of Amsterdam. We headed to the train station to try to figure out a way there. After a little trouble buying tickets and missing one train, we figured it out and were on our way.

Boarding was easy. We were relieved to be on board. We confirmed our schedule for the week, bought spa passes and I scheduled some massages and a manicure/pedicure.

We had lunch in the buffet. We were impressed with the amount of food that was made to order. I had an Asian salad and Glenn had an Asian noodle bowl. We headed back to the cabin to relax and unpack. The muster drill was different. We started in our cabin watching a video and then headed to our muster station.

After the drill, the Captain opened the bow of the ship. Our location guide Ian narrated our passage out of Rotterdam. We passed Holland America's old headquarters and the original S.S. Rotterdam. I headed to my manicure/pedicure and Glenn wandered the ship.

For dinner, we had reservations at the Culinary Arts Center. The chefs prepare the dishes right in front of you. Instead of a regular presentation, they invite you up to ask questions. The food was terrific. We really enjoyed having such close access to the chefs. One chef even helped us figure out the problems we've been having with a molecular gastronomy dish. After dinner, we headed straight to bed.

Friday, July 8, 2016

7.8.16 Palma de Mallorca

Back from Palma de Mallorca. We decided to not take the City Express buses offered by Carnival. It was  $16 round trip and took you to the downtown area with return service about every 20 minutes. Instead we walked outside the pier area and spotted a Hop On/Hop Off bus.  We have often used these in cities we are visiting for a short time to get a lay of the land (or city in this case).  It was $17 EU per person and a great choice. They had an open top deck and inside seating as well. It had 18 stops including many in the bustling downtown area. There are many cafes and tapas places that looked very good. Many of the stops had long lines to get back on the bus and you would have had to wait for a bus or two. We weren't really interested in getting off at any stops so took a full loop back to the port which was about 90 minutes.

We are now having lunch at Cucina de Capitano . Really delicous pasta cooked al dente.   Vegetables cooked nicely and not overdone.  I can confirm he reports of the noise from the basketball court above.  It is ridiculous. I guess for lunch it isn't that bad but if you are paying $15 to eat dinner it is not acceptable to have the walls shaking around you. Poor planning.

One tidbit:  The elevator situation is a bit nuts. Each elevator is controlled by its own button so that you need to press multiple buttons to get an elevator. And that causes a problem once you are in an elevator since you then tend to stop at every floor.  Not sure what they were thinking when designing it this way.

The last night. At least for this cruise.we went to America Rocks. What a fun interactive show.  Another example that shows the potential that the Liquid Lounge can offer.

Dinner tonight was very good. Sweet potato soup which had a strange hint of tomato but still tasty. Delicious Flatbread with BBQ chicken. Main was the pork chop with mashed potato. Moist and very flavorful.

Said our goodbyes to our waitstaff and our group since we all have different departure times tomorrow. Saw the last set of Ed in the Red Frog and shared a 101 ounce beer tower (Caribbean Wheat of course)  with two others from our group.  Good way to finish off the sailing. Wonderful cruise. I'll need a few more days to digest everything. We saw and did everything we wanted to. Will be interested to see what changes happen when Vista makes her way West on the transatlantic   I could see myself easily booking a cruise on her from Miami.

We're off to Amsterdam tomorrow and will board the HAL Koningsdam on Sunday for a Norway cruise. So the adventures aren't quite done yet. I've enjoyed sharing our Vista adventures with you and I hope I have been helpful. Happy cruising everyone - on Vista and otherwise.  Cheers!!