Mona Lisa Part 5, the final one
Monday 31st August 2009
We are sailing in the North Sea still, en route to Bremerhaven and the end of the cruise;
the pilot arrived by helicopter and saw us safely into the port by 11 a.m. After an early Lido Deck breakfast under a grey sky, it was time for last minute photos and goodbyes, and on my way out I managed to go and see an empty cabin A42 which I had occupied before.
Buses left from outside the Columbus terminal to go to the rail station in Bremerhaven, so in a short time we were on our way to Rotterdam.
We had booked to stay overnight at the Grand Central Hotel, and my goodness that was something of a revelation. Built in 1917, it had many of its original fittings and charms and our cameras were in use again. It was a very basic but clean and adequate establishment, despite some initial misgivings, and excellent value for a city hotel.
When in Rotterdam where does one go for a meal? The old Holland-America Line building of course, known as The New York Hotel, down by the water and fairly near the Erasmus Bridge. I do enjoy going there whether for a cup of coffee or a meal, and that night was no exception.
Ships seen: Maersk Singapore, Chiquita Nederland, car carriers at anchor, and something being towed that looked like two woks on a platform.
Tuesday 1st September 2009
We have to leave Rotterdam today and head for our homes in the UK, but first there was time for a very special treat: we were going to see the good ship ROTTERDAM, now back in Rotterdam! I had seen her arrive in August 2008 and enjoyed my very first sight of the ship then, so it would be interesting to see how the work on her was progressing to make her into a static hotel ship.
Passing some shops on the way down to the water I just had to photograph this shop window, which was not what it appeared at first sight. There was time for coffee at the Maritime Hotel amongst its many ship models and memorabilia; then as we made our way to the nearby Spido ferries landing stage we could watch the famous trams go past, before getting tickets for a 75 minutes sail on the MARCO POLO – no, not that one, but the 1995-built diesel engined little passenger craft, licensed to carry 500 passengers around the river and port. It was not full, so it was easy to move around the ship and enjoy the sights, and shelter from the cool wind on the water.
One of my companions spoke to the Captain of the MARCO POLO and explained that we were thrilled to be able to see the ROTTERDAM, and if it was possible to go close to her on our return route then we would all be very happy and grateful to him. So this is what happened! Before that we could see where the ship had been built, various ships in port and dry dock,
Cats Flexible Packaging (miaow?), a lorry from Carpe Diem (I liked that name) delivering food to a waterside company, Radio Holland offices, and various shipping around us.
Our trip took us really close to the ROTTERDAM and we were able to take lots of photographs, and hope that one day it would be possible to come and stay on board. She was built in 1959 and that was 50 years ago, so it would be amazing to see her life extended in this way.
Lunch at the Maritime Museum followed, and then it was time to get the P&O bus to the ferry at Europoort for the overnight sailing back to Hull. Sitting in the bus waiting to leave Rotterdam I was able to overhear some remarks from nearby passengers. Overweight wife climbing up into the bus said to overweight husband: “I’m knackered, puff, puff, can’t wait to get home”; this was followed by “Nothing to do here, no bingo, no cinemas, no pubs”; then “They don’t seem to have leisure centres here.”; then seeing people cycling past the coach “Can’t see you riding a bike round Brighouse – the kids’d pelt you with stones”. These were silly but sad remarks I thought, as they'd obviously not noticed all the interesting sights of the city around them. When one travels, I think it is a golden opportunity to see and experience new things, and to enjoy them.
So those were some of our last memories of Rotterdam, and ROTTERDAM the ship, before we headed off to the port and sailing to Hull on the PRIDE OF ROTTERDAM. It had been an exceptional trip on MONA LISA, invoking so many memories for me, and happy times for all of us on this lovely ship.
Ships seen: Flintercrown, Flintercarrier, Bebedouro, Stentor, Rotterdam, Marco Polo (Spido), Stena Partner, Pride of Rotterdam, Blizzard, Endeavour, Chiltern