Rotterdam - from Charlie Brown to moon trails

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August 29th 2018
Published: August 30th 2018
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Fast forward to after we had queued up, checked in, dodged the customary welcome photo in front of a tacky back drop (these pictures never show the good side of the subjects features and are far from the perfect holiday photo souvenir as most people usually have their coats on, carrying bags, hair dishevelled and looking harangued after their often long and frustrating journey!!)

Normally, once you arrive at the departure lounge your luggage is collected by a porter and then not seen again until it is delivered to your stateroom (it was not so long ago that these used to be referred to as cabins!!). However, as this was only a three-day cruise, Roisin and I were traveling lighter than usual so we walked our baggage on and straight to cabin 7555.

Our cabin was an interior meaning it was on the inside of the ship and did not have a window looking out. However, it did have a window…looking in!! The independence of the Seas has a Central promenade which is a thoroughfare that stretches practically the whole length of the ship where you can find a mix of shops, eateries and bars. Our cabin had a window that looked down on to this part of the ship, two decks below. In keeping with the Royal Caribbean standards in comparison to the only other RCL ship we’ve been on, the interior cabins are amply sized containing a double bed, desk, tea making facilities, a settee and coffee table.

Shortly before departure a knock came at our door. It was our cabin steward who introduced himself as Lennox Baxter from St Vincent and the Grenadines. I stood at the door while Lennox explained a few things to me. Roisin remained on the cabin settee listening intently. After I closed the door I turned and faced Roisin.

‘What did he just call you?’ she asked. ‘Charlie Brown??’

‘Charlie Brown? No, where did that come from?’

I thought he said, ‘I’ll see you around, Charlie Brown!’

‘No, he said: If you want me, I’ll be around. Just look up or down!!’

From then on, our cabin steward was referred to as Charlie Brown!!

Our first impressions of this ship is that it is big!! There are fifteen passenger decks on the Indie. That’s a lot of deck space to explore in three days!! Many passengers had already taken root in the bars and there are several hen parties aboard. This is a three-day cruise and we are aware that it probably attracts a different kind of clientele. The public spaces don’t seem to be relative to the size of the ship. A point in case is when we turned up for the 8pm trivia. This particular event was held in Schooners bar, three times smaller than Schooners bar on the Jewel of the Seas yet the Indie carries twice the number of passengers. Needless to say, it was standing room only. We managed to squat opposite a young couple who soon left. Several minutes before the start, a few more seats became available as the drinkers moved on to try out another bar! We were soon joined by two middle aged ladies who immediately started chatting away. She ordered an ice water from the bar but made a point of telling us that she had been drinking all day and it was time to give her liver a rest!! She also hit the nail on the head by announcing that she likes the 3-day cruises as they’re just booze cruises!!

This evening was our first experience of the ice theatre. This is known on board as studio B and has a central floor area that can be flooded and frozen over to form a skating risk. The production this evening was called Strings. A narrator took us through time from the lavish balls of Mozart to the gypsy polkas and arm folding Cossacks. Each passage in time was linked by a string of violins. This proved very popular, so much so that a few families had actually been down a few hours earlier and thrown their towels over prime position seats. Perhaps they came down, saw the unfrozen water and thought it was a pool…then instinct took over!!!

The shower in a cabin can make or break the whole cabin experience. There are several factors such as pressure of water, heat, simplicity of the regulator and ability to hold the water within the confines of the shower cubicle. This particular shower scored 10/10 on the first three factors but I have to deduct thirty points on the final issue. Despite having a sliding door across the shower cubicle, the water just gushed out flooding the bathroom floor. Even when the shower head pointed away from the door, the water still gushed out, like a dam had burst its banks. We reported this fault to Charlie Brown (aka Lennox) who said he’d get maintenance on to it straight away.

We arrived in Rotterdam at 10:30am. A notice on the gangway advised all crew and passengers to be back on board by 15:30. By cruising standards this was quite a short day but then for most people on this voyage, time ashore is less valuable drinking time!!

Rotterdam is Holland’s second city and lies on the Rhine-Maas-Schledt delta. When the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940, Adolf Hitler had hoped to conquer the country in just one day, but his forces met unexpectedly fierce resistance. He gave assurance that he would spare the city if they complied. Rotterdam were forced to capitulate but the Nazis bombed the hell out of the city anyway. Rotterdam was gradually rebuilt from the 1950s which has resulted in a varied architectural landscape, including sky-scrapers. This is an uncommon sight in other Dutch cities. The city is also home to Europoort, Europe’s largest commercial port.

The ship docked at the relatively new Holland-America cruise terminal on the edge of the Wilhelmina Pier.

On exiting from the ship we crossed over an arrivals lounge with a number of bucket seats and several well stocked souvenir and food stalls. This isn’t what caught our eye, though. As we entered the hall, at the far end nearer the escalator that takes you down to the street level exit, a local sea shanty choir were in full voice. This was very pleasant. Roisin and I stood and listened to them for ten minutes as the accordions and vocalists gave a with gusto performance of Wild Rover. The twist being we had never heard it sung with Dutch accents!!

A shuttle bus was provided by the Port Authorities to take you in to the centre of town, fifteen minutes’ drive away. We decided to walk to a structure known as the Euromast. Built in 1960, this observation tower was the largest structure in Rotterdam until the Erasmus Medical Centre was built in 1968. Not to be outdone it regained its number one spot when an extension, called the Space Tower was added in 1970. The Euromast stands at a total height of 606ft.

Walking over the nearby Erasmus Bridge, a seemingly angry voice came over a hidden speaker system. We couldn’t tell if he was irate or just a little excited as he was ranting in Dutch. We continued to walk nonchalantly. We were in no hurry. Although it was slightly overcast and it had threatened to rain, the weather remained mild.

‘Wow! He sounds pissed’, I said to Roisin.

‘Do you think it has anything to do with the bell and buzzer sounding?

‘Or the barriers closing’, I added

We approached the barrier as a few pedestrians were beckoning us to duck under the barrier that had now completely blocked the footpath, as well as the cycle lane and roadway on either side of the bridge. Seconds after we ducked under this most inconvenient of obstacles, the bridge started to raise. We just looked at each other, ‘Ohhh!!’, we said in unison!!!

We followed the quay around to a small marina where we stopped to admire the view. Roisin spotted several people folding a ships sail. The sail was laid flat on the ground. The task wasn’t made any easier by an overweight cat who was taking this opportunity to explore the folds by crawling in between!!

Cutting through Parkqiet, a shoreside park we soon arrived at the Euromast. It was originally built for the world’s biggest international flower and garden exhibition. Not sure if it was supposed to be a flower stalk and they stuck a giant tulip head on the top or if it was just built to mark the occasion!! There are two internal elevators in the tower and on the observation deck at the top it is possible to see up to 30km away. Unfortunately, today is was rather murky but I managed to see a little further than the bottom of the street!!Another short couple of external flights of stairs and the space tower awaits. This is an external elevator that rides the extended sixty metre mast provided with an audio-visual simulation of a space journey. I was quite high enough thank you very much without being catapulted in to space (or at least letting me think I had!!). Fortunately, the abseiling feature of the tower was closed for the day. That’s a pity as I’m not a great fan of elevators and it would have been fun to see Roisin’s face who had seen me enter the elevator as I walked through the tower entrance once more!!! She would probably say the same about wanting to see my face after having just been made to abseil 606feet!!

The headliner show this evening was Grease. In this case, it very much WAS the Word!! Usually, theatre shows on board cruise ships last approximately 40 minutes. This show, however, was 1 ½ hours long. It was practically the same version as the West End or Broadway production. Any differences or cuts to the original were seamless. Every song from the musical was performed along with lots of acting in passable American accents. Grease is by no means my favourite musical but personal taste aside, this was by far one of the most polished and professional productions I have ever seen on the high seas (although we were only in the English Channel!) The costumes, the scene changes, the props and especially the performers were all of the highest standard.

On our way back to our cabin, we decided to take a stroll on the deck and met with a nice surprise au naturelle. The sky was partially cloudy and there was a rising full moon. It was emitting enough light to create a magnificent moon trail. This is when the reflection of the moon bounces off the sea forging a shimmering silvery path that narrows as it stretches toward the horizon. Although it was fairly late (by two 57 year old’s standards anyway!!) the surprises weren’t over. As we entered our cabin and switched the light on, we were greeted by a series of hand towels folded in to the shape of a monkey. Not only did it look like a monkey (an objective our previous cabin steward on the Jewel of the Seas failed to meet!!) but Charlie Brown, by using his initiative, made good use of existing fittings by suspending the monkey from a coat hanger hooked over the air con unit in the middle of the cabin. He could have at least picked my shirt up from the floor that used to be on a coat hanger until it became a prop in a monkey towel sculpture!! The shower was still leaking. I don’t want to sound ungrateful but if he spent less time folding towels in to amusing animals and more time contacting maintenance perhaps I’d be able to have a revitalising shower tomorrow morning without having to wade through a few inches of water. If I wanted to do that I’d take a detour through the kids paddling pool on the way to breakfast!!

'I can't have that thing dangling above the bed all night', said Roisin referring to Monkey. 'If I wake up in the middle of the night it will scare the beejeebus out of me!!' Her next actions were very reminiscent of the final scene in poltergeist where the family are in a motel room, the door opened and the TV is pushed out into the landing. 'Now its someone else's monkey', she concluded!!

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30th August 2018

Please tell me the monkey hanging from the ceiling didn't really happen? OMG, that's horrific, it would frighten the bejesus out of me and it would be more than water leaking on the floor! On a happier note, I absolutely love the pic of Roisin in the clogs. I know want a pair of clogs, something I must speak to the Hotter design team about!!!

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