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MARCO POLO Cruise 29th April 2010 Part 2, the final one

MARCO POLO cruise 29th April 2010
Part 2 - the final one

Saturday 1st May 2010
May Day in the UK and Europe, and today we arrived in Antwerp and were alongside just before 10 a.m. ready to enjoy another public holiday in another country. How lovely – this is my first visit to the beautiful Belgian city of Antwerp.

We’d sailed up the River Scheldt with its twists and turns, watching lots of other river craft. After disembarkation we met a friend of Bruce’s who walked us around a lot of his city, starting with the ex-warehouse area leading to the Castle.

Our walk then led us to the 1952-built HAKON JARL ship, of the famous Norwegian Hurtigruten service, but now an hotel and restaurant ship under the name of DIAMOND PRINCESS. From the bow she looked good, with a royal blue hull, but the rest of her was not a pretty sight, but she is still afloat. We went on board and were allowed in Reception but that was all, as the other facilities were closed, including the Lipstick Café.

Continuing on from the Bonaparte Dock we walked around the MAS Museum (Museum Aan De Stroom) building of red brick, with its white ‘hand’ symbol over the walls, which celebrates one of the stories of the founding of the city of Antwerp. It’s to be a combined ethnographical, folklore and maritime museum when it opens.

We enjoyed the architecture and crowds, including the May Day Parade taking place in the main square.

The flags on display outside City Hall fluttered in the breeze, as did the red flags being carried by the marchers.

It was all cheerful and noisy, with the inevitable dog fast asleep on the cobblestones outside a bar.

We had lunch of beef or rabbit casserole at an old hostelry and enjoyed these local dishes tremendously in a very convivial atmosphere.

Philippe showed us the entrance to the Castle, the Zoo, and we visited the Central Station, the Cathedral with its bell tower and three huge Rubens paintings, saw an old cinema, part of the old city wall, the old Mission to Seamen building being renovated and of special interest to me as I am a supporter and local committee member of the re-named Mission to Seafarers; we also saw the Guild Houses, the Butcher’s Hall, the narrow entrance at number 16 of the Old Corn Market to the Vlaeykensgang, the Farmer’s Tower, the Bourla Theatre, and all the while the sun or rain came down on us. It was a fascinating time and place to visit.

Back near the Cruise Terminal we admired the Art Deco exterior of the Pedestrian Tunnel under the canal and went down the 1930s original wooden escalator, looked through the tunnel and came up on the other wooden escalator.

The tunnel and escalator are all Listed. This brought us back to the walkway leading to the ship, so reluctant farewells and grateful thanks were made to Philippe and his family for a wonderful introduction to this fascinating city.

We enjoyed another pleasant evening and dinner on board MARCO POLO, as we sailed overnight back to Tilbury.

Ships seen: Jervis Bay, Baccarat (our bunkers), a Cosco ship, Terntank, Pinta, Steam Ship Wolk, Viking, Primera, Multratug II, Rhine Princess, Sir Winston, Fairplay 22 (tug), Ternland, Kapitan Kudlat

Sunday 2nd May 2010
Heavy rain was falling as we tied up at Tilbury, so breakfast was a rather sombre occasion. Bruce and I were due to go south to Portsmouth for more travel adventures with other friends, so after general goodbyes we left the ship and headed for the train station.

On reflection I thought the ship design and layout was interesting and everything appeared well cared for, although the Restaurant organisation was not quite as our group would have wished. For such a short trip we really did expect to have a good amount of sea-time together (especially for meals) so it was a shame that all our dining requests were in vain. Still, I really enjoyed sailing on the famous MARCO POLO and thought it was good value for money. I would certainly love to sail on her again and for a longer trip, and would certainly recommend MARCO POLO for an interesting ship trip.