The last full day of the the cruise is usually sad but we were really looking forward to our first visit to Belgium. Plus, I think we are all ready to be heading home tomorrow. We had room service deliver coffee and pastries as our arrival was at 7:00am. I opened up the curtain and saw gray skies and steady rain. This did not make us to excited to run off the ship. Veronica and I were still not feeling well and Chris was not too keen on a rainy day either. Moments later, we heard a loud crack of thunder. We decided to dress and wait hoping for it to clear up.
Around 10:00, we were seeing blue skies so we decided now was the time to leave. We found a taxi right at the port. The driver was very friendly and gave us tips for things to see in Bruges. He was very impressed with our knowledge of Belgian beers. He dropped us close to the center of town, gave us his number and told us to call for pick up back to the ship.
Bruges is a beautiful medieval town with canals. It is amazingly picturesque and I fell in love with it as soon as I stepped into the centre of Bruge and saw the Belfry of Bruges. Before the trip, we watched the movie “In Bruges” and this spot is featured prominently in the film. You could hear the tower chiming out its melody as soon as we came in view. You can climb the tower but instead we were all hungry and eager to try a waffle. We found a place and Veronica ordered a waffle with strawberries while Chris and I shared a plain. It was nothing like a “Belgium waffle” that I’ve had in the States. It was magical. The texture was unlike any waffle I’ve ever tasted. Now with some food in our bellies, the search was on for the Beer Wall our cab driver told us about.
On our way to the beer, we we passed the Basilica of the Holy Blood. We went inside to visit the Church. This Church houses a relic of the blood of Jesus Christ collected by Joseph of Arimathea. It was brought to Bruges during the Second Crusade. The phial dates back to the 11th or 12th century and was never opened since its arrival in Bruges. The chapel is beautiful and we saw where the relic is stored. We lit two candles and then an announcement was made that veneration of the relic would be at 11am which was only five minutes away. We took seats in the front and waited. A priest appeared with the relic around his neck accompanied by an altar server. They went up a few stairs to a small altar. The priest said a short prayer and placed the relic in a glass case. We were all permitted to go up to the altar to view the relic. You could donate money and then place your hands on the case to say a short prayer. The altar server then gave each person a prayer card. It was a very spiritual experience for me and something I will always remember.
We continued our travels to the Beer Wall. It is located inside 2be bar and shop which is inside a 15th century mayor’s house. Here on display is all the Belgium beers next to the appropriate drinking vessel. We marveled at the majestic site of 1915 Belgium beers on display. We decided you can’t just look at them so we shared a local tasting. Four 4oz beers with 3 snacks sounded like a great place to start. Veronica and I went out on the terrace with views of the canal and Chris appeared a few moments later with our tasting. The snacks were a small piece of cheese, a little cup of sausages and a little cup of peanuts. The beers were amazing as was the snacks. Chris wanted to look for lunch and maybe some frites. We wandered the quaint streets of Bruges but nothing seemed like what we wanted. What I wanted was more beer so I suggested to go back to 2be and each get our own tasting. Veronica liked this plan and how could Chris argue. Back to the wall we went. This time we each got our our tasting. Since this was Veronica’s first legal drinking, she did the Light tasting while Chris and I both chose the Strong. The beers were once again fabulous. I thought it was a great “lunch”.
After our beers, we all wanted frites. We also wanted to buy some chocolates to bring home as thank you gifts, We stopped in one of the many chocolate shops and bought a few assortments. I asked one of the workers where he likes to get frites and he gave me a recommendation. We passed by a beer shop so we popped in to look. Of course we bought a few beers we have not seen at home to try.
The frites or fries were at a shop right in the center of town across from the tower. The outside seating was crowded and there was a line so that’s a good sign. We decided to share a large. They have 18 different sauces to choose from. We got a sample of three, warm brown beer sauce, andaluse and frikadelsaus. The last two were recommendations of the server after we wanted one that was spicy and one sweet. The fries were awesome and we enjoyed all the sauces. The beer sauce was like a beef gravy while the other two were mayonnaise based. After the fries, we called for our taxi. We found him at the pick up spot very easy and it was a short ride back to the ship.
Back on board, we all went to evening trivia. Veronica was having dinner with her friends so Chris and I went to the buffet. We wanted to go to pub trivia for one last visit with our Faukland friends. They were such a fun bunch to play trivia and talk with. We hope to one day visit their hometown on a trip to Antarctica.
After all this trivia, tonight was the prize redemption night. We had lots of signatures, close to 140 or so. There was a line out the door of the card room but we didn’t wait too long. We asked for a t-shirt and was told they only had one left. So, we took that. There weren’t many gifts left. No coffee mugs. Just really cheap water bottles and pens. We took 5 pens and I think a deck of cards. The line was even longer when we left so I don’t think people will be too happy. They probably shouldn’t offer trivia so many times a day on a two week cruise!
We went to Galaxy afterwards and did some dancing. We sat at our usual seats at the bar to enjoy Reinzi, RJay and the other bartenders one last evening. It was another great team who worked here this cruise. We left a little early and wanted to visit Champagne Charlies to say our goodbyes to the bar staff there. We saw friends we had made enjoying a drink and we sat with them for one last round. Mike decided a shot of Limoncello was in order for everyone so how could we say no. We closed out the bar at midnight. The best part about this last evening was we set the clock back one hour to London time! We said farewell to our friends and went back to the cabin. We had to put out the suitcases and waited for Veronica to return from her last night with her friends. Tomorrow, we leave for home!
Day 15, Amsterdam
Since our tour did not leave until 12:30, we had a leisurely morning. I was very thankful since I still felt pretty lousy. My sore throat was gone but I still had congestion and a cough. I was noticing lots of other sneezing and coughing on board as well. The sickness was spreading!
We grabbed a quick snack at the buffet and went on the pier to find our bus. Outside was pretty chaotic. Lots of people standing staring at four busses for the same tour. They didn’t assign bus numbers but said they would call us to a bus. I really didn’t understand how that would work. There was one man who would wave groups over to busses and would yell the number of people in a party he wanted. People just started walking to a bus. This made him pretty mad and he screamed at the crowd a few times to remain there until called. Eventually, we got on a bus. Not a great start.
We docked in Ijmuiden which is about a one hour ride into Amsterdam. This was one of the reasons we decided on a NCL tour. The bus was not the most comfortable but we made it to Amsterdam. Our first stop was the canal tour. We had a short walk to the canal boats. We lined up next to a boat and then another group lined up next to us. I saw our guide on his phone and didn’t think that to be a good sign. The other group boarded the boat and our guide announced they did not have enough boats. He was going to break us up among the other boats. Great. They’ve already boarded those boats so I thought we might not get to sit together. We did manage to find seats together and we were shortly on our way. It had started raining so we were thankful it was a covered boat. I was also glad it was not hot as the boat seemed like it would get very stuffy on a warm day. We went past the Anne Frank house which was a highlight. The rest of the boat ride was pretty dull. The guide on board talked non-stop and you couldn’t really get good pictures through the glass. People seated across from us decided to stand on the back outside to get photos. Chris wanted to move to their side as it would be better viewing facing forward. I stood up to switch sides and CRASH! It was a loud noise and the boat went backwards. I fell into the seat. The captain hit the bridge we were to pass under. He backed up and hit it again. People clapped but I was more scared and wanted off! We passed other boats that offered beer and wine. That might have made it more enjoyable. We finally reached the destination and met up with our original guide.
We began the walking tour. The audio systems did not work great. Mine was mostly static so I decided not to wear it. I figured Chris would share anything interesting. The walking tour was pretty dry. We seemed to just walk past nothing of interest. The guide stopped at the floating flower market. Here he said he would give us 20 minutes. There were no restroom breaks but he did say if it was an “emergency” to use McDonald’s. That didn’t sound good. I decided to find a Stroopwafel to salvage my day. We didn’t have to walk far to find a souvenir shop which sold fresh Stroopwafel right in the front of the store. A Stroopwafel is a made from two thin layers of baked dough with a caramel syrup filling in the middle. We watched each one made fresh on the waffle iron. Wow! They were piping hot and so delicious. He made one at a time but we had plenty to look at to distract us, space cakes, weed candy bars, giant dildos and penis salt and pepper shakers. We took our goodies back to the meeting place and enjoyed them. It was then time to walk to the bus. We walked past a coffee house but the aroma sure wasn’t coffee beans! We stopped for a minute at a Rembrandt statue and continued to the bus. We had to wait a few minutes for the bus to arrive but we quickly boarded for our ride back to port. Amsterdam was not my personal favorite. I think if we docked at the port close to town I might have a different opinion. I did realize that we made the right choices by planning our own tours in the other ports.
I ran back to the boat to use the restroom. Four hours is a long time! We went up to get a drink before changing our clothes. Veronica and I both wanted a soda with crushed ice. We listened to the end of trivia and then changed for the evening. Tonight was not the best night at the buffet. I really did not want anything. They had an arrangement of sushi but I’m not to keen on room temp sushi on NCL. My respiratory virus was also messing with my appetite. We went to Shogun to get some noodles. I mostly ate the broth to which I added a heap of sriracha.
After dinner, we went to Galaxy. Tonight it was the Latin Fiesta Duo’s turn to have the stage. We stayed until half way through their last set. Not many people were dancing but had a few dances. They were pretty merengue heavy in their selections. We called it early into the Fiesta Latina to go to bed. Lorena, the cruise director was there dancing. She stopped Chris and told him that we did cross the Arctic Circle. That was pretty decent of her to remember and to admit. Kudos to her. I do wish they would have acknowledged the crossing but maybe most people are not that interested. Off to bed to prepare for the final port, Belgium!!
Day 14, The Last Sea Day
Still feeling pretty lousy, I wanted to rest this sea day so try to recuperate before the last two port days and travel home. We didn’t set any alarms but were still up early. Of course, Veronica was sleeping because she was out until curfew with her friends.
The promenade deck was closed due to wind so a morning stroll was out. We decided to grab some coffee in the casino and play for a bit. It is always enjoyable being one of the only people in the casino. We basically took it easy the rest of the day. Chris and I spent the morning picking a tour for tomorrow as we had no plans for Amsterdam yet. Initially, we thought to do the “Amsterdam on Your Own” tour but it was 8 hours and I wasn’t sure I’d be up for that with this virus. Instead, we chose a canal boat/walking tour that was 4 hours. We ate our normal salad lunch at the buffet. The rest of the afternoon was pretty lazy as well until evening trivia. We did a buffet dinner and went to pub trivia. It was packed so we headed up to Galaxy. We listened and danced to C-Notes, a duo that plays mostly Motown and reggae. We stayed to watch the Music Mania game show. This was a new activity for us so we were interested to see how it was played. It was a variety of different music challenges and it was fun to watch. We stayed in Galaxy for Sonata”s first set and part way through their Beatles tribute. It was an earlier night for us since we had a tour tomorrow in Amsterdam.
Day 13, Nordfjordeid Norway
Today, we arrived early to Nordfjordeid, Norway. We did research on the ports and could not find much options for this port. We did learn that there was a museum containing a full size replica of Norway’s largest know Viking ship within walking distance. We decided that sounded like a plan just to wander and explore the area near port.
I woke up feeling like a cold was starting so I was glad to have an easy day. We enjoyed breakfast at the buffet and set out to explore. The area was very different looking than the fjord at Geiranger. It was not as rocky and more green.
The Viking ship was a short walk from the pier. Tickets were 24 dollars which was pricey but there wasn’t much else to do. The exhibit has some information about the Vikings but the obvious highlight is getting to walk on the Viking ship replica. It was interesting but I cannot say I’d recommend this unless you have interest in Vikings. The exhibit is pretty small so we only spent 30 minutes there.
I noticed some horseshoe prints on the ground so after reading a sign we learned this is a walking tour of the area. We decided to take part of this trail back to the port. The path took us to a quaint street with shops and restaurants. We spotted a tiny bakery and popped in looking for Skolebolle or school bread. The bakery smelled fantastic and they had the delicious treat. We bought some and sat outside to enjoy. I am not sure which bakery was better. I guess another trip to Norway is required.
We went back to the ship to enjoy a leisurely afternoon. I wanted to get some rest to try to kick this cold. I tried the sauna as I’ve read it can help decrease cold symptoms. It seemed to help which was good because we had reservations for Le Bistro to use our Platinum coupon tonight. After resting, we got ready for dinner but stopped in Galaxy first for a cocktail and trivia.
Le Bistro was fairly crowded for 6:15 and we were seated in a table near the kitchen. It is an interesting table because this Le Bistro has an open kitchen. It was fun to watch all the dinner being prepared and plated. After mostly eating vegetables at the buffet, we were looking forward to this dinner. We started with wine from the complimentary list for Platinum dinners. We all chose the same appetizer, escargot. The preparation seemed a little different but they were still good and prepared perfectly. For our main, we all chose the filet. It was a very nice steak and a great splurge. For dessert, we all shared the fondue for two. Chris and I also ordered coffee because it is French press. The fondue came but no coffee. We did eventually ask the server and she admitted she forgot. She did bring us coffee after dessert was finished. Not a huge complaint but for the prices, service should be spot on. The charge for escargot and filet for Veronica was 50 with the service charge. Pretty pricey for a cruise dinner in our opinion. If we didn’t get the two dinners free, I doubt we would go. We miss the days of the $25 cover. We are not fans of paying ala carte.
After dinner, Veronica met up with her friends. Chris and I went for a cocktail and decided to attend the evening show. It was a comedy juggler, Jon Udry. He had a pretty full house for the late showing. The show was entertaining and we both enjoyed it. Tonight was the White Hot Party but we decided to call it an earlier night and went back to the cabin. I wanted to rest and try to kick this cold before the last port days.
We love to travel and experience new places and cultures.