Sailing into Amsterdam
We awoke early this morning, the ship has slowed down to around 15kts and we are about to pick up the pilot from IJmuiden, The Netherlands. After receiving our pilot, he’ll guide us to the North Sea Canal locks and then we’ll sail up the North Sea Canal right into the city of Amsterdam – you could not get any closer than via cruise ship!
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First, though, we slow down to a near stop and gracefully glide into the locks at IJmuiden, here we will lock-in and the water will empty from the lock into the North Sea Canal, where we’ll continue our path to Amsterdam. The locks are just like any others you’d find on a canal in the UK. Apart from they can fit an entire cruise ship in them! They are built to panamax width, which is the same width as the original Panama Canal locks. There is little room either side of the ship as we squeeze in and tie up briefly.
After the lock has discharged its water, the front gate draws across and we start the slow journey into Amsterdam. It is around 20km winding its way into Amsterdam, slowly but surely we move from fields and the odd house to more industrial buildings and then to city buildings and infrastructures like railways and passenger ferries. Just before we reach the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam, we pass around five river cruise boats – they are all tied up alongside each other and although considerably smaller and only two-three decks high, look inviting to an ocean-cruiser like myself.
Next, we pass the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam and come to a complete stop. We then turn 180-degrees on the spot, in a matter of minutes, and then go astern (backwards) to our berth at the terminal. The terminal is a modern building capable of transit guests and also turnaround facilities too – there are quite a few cruises that leave from here each week.
Once alongside, the passenger gangways are extended just like at an airport and a convoy of coaches arrives ready for the MSC Cruises excursions. Today we’ll be making our own way into Amsterdam, I have visited many times via ship and with friends and I am looking forward to seeing some familiar sights.
We have lunch in the Sahara buffet before we leave, we are one of the few in there as most are going on excursions or want to go explore Amsterdam themselves straight away. We are here until 7am tomorrow morning though!
After leaving the ship, there is a large assortment of souvenir shops in the terminal and then there is a helpful information point that hands out maps and other information if you need it. You can then either get the tram from the front of the building into the city or you can walk. We chose to walk, it is only 15 minutes maximum before you hit the first busy streets. We explored various streets in the city and walked by the Anne Frank museum – it doesn’t matter when you visit Amsterdam, there are always queues for this museum. It is worth booking via the cruise line if you wish to skip the queue and make the most of your day in the city.
Just down the street from the museum are a number of bars that offer seating outside, right next to the canal – they are ideal for people-watching and enjoying the weather (if it is being kind!) however today, it is overcast and threatening rain right now! (Where is that lovely sun we had in Cadiz?). We enjoy a cool blonde beer in cool temperatures and then decide to move on. Visiting Amsterdam wouldn’t be right without purchasing some fries with mayonnaise, we stopped off for a quick visit to Chipsy King and then sat in Dam Square for a while, admiring everyone trying to get the perfect photo amongst cars, buses, trams, cyclists and pedestrians. It is harder than you think!
We toured round numerous other streets in the city, admiring all the different architecture and finally the sun decided to come out! It was a lovely afternoon and before we knew it, it was 7pm. We had work to do and had already walked over 10km around the city according to my watch so we headed back to the ship to get changed ready for the evening.
Arriving back on MSC Magnifica was a breeze. We ate at the Sahara buffet outside as we missed our fixed dining sitting, did some work for a little while as the sun finally set and then headed back off the ship again into the city.
Firstly, it was nice to see MSC Magnifica lit up by her berth at the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam. It is not often you get to see your cruise ship with all the lights on from a distance – unless you do a winter cruise when it goes dark early of course. We stopped to take photos and take a look at some of the river cruise boats moored next to the Amsterdam train station. We then wandered into the city again. This time, the crowds were just as big, but the traffic was thankfully a little lighter – not that it makes crossing roads much easier – you have to check for bicycles, small cars, mopeds, then cars, then trams, then the same again as you cross the other side of the road – it is a feat in itself getting just navigating around safely!
Amsterdam comes to life at night, aside from the obvious Red Light District there are many bars and restaurants that offer outdoor seating all-year around. Especially nice during cold weather is the fact that they all provide blankets to put over your laps whilst you sip your local brewed beer of choice.
After an hour of roaming the streets with the throngs of people, we took a break and had a beer by one of the many canals. The buzz of mopeds subsided to the rings of cyclists frustrated with tourists on their paths and taxis picking up late-night revellers.
We slowly headed back to the ship, as we turned the last corner to the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam it was a welcoming sight to see our ship all lit up against the jet black sky. There is something quite moving about cruising and coming back to your home away from home each day or evening. It is comforting to be back in the cabin, able to visit your favourite bar and wander the decks of the vessel that has carried you possibly several thousand miles by now.
We went to bed around 1am and set our alarms for an early start. Tomorrow is a sea day all day as we make our way to Hamburg, Germany. But first, we set sail at 7am and we sail back along the North Sea Canal and out of the locks at IJmuiden. We will then take a North-Easterly route along the coast of The Netherlands and Germany before heading into the mouth of the River Elbe around 1am. From there we will sail 100 miles inland to the historic Port of Hamburg!
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