We went straight to the departure area (Gate 41 out in the sticks) because we had so long to wait for our plane. Slowly, we were joined by our fellow travellers and at 10:20pm, the gate opened and the staff began to set up for our walk through the metal scanners. You have to have your passport with your boarding pass when you get on planes overseas.
There were so many of us that they ended up opening the second gate and then we began to move quickly to the debarkation area in the Gate area. Whilst we were waiting in line we started up a conversation with some fellow travellers. We noticed a Geelong badge on the backpack in front of us, and conversation followed. We found out in passing that Geelong lost by one point to the Western Bulldogs. Mum did not descend into a deep depression when she heard this news.
We sat down for another twenty minutes once we had made it through the scanners. Then they announced the boarding of families, business class, and those who have difficulties in boarding. Finally our section was called and we went into the tube.
The plane – a 777-300 – has three seats in three sections across the plane. Dad, Russ and I were in the middle section and Mum had the seat across the aisle from Dad in the next set of three. I found myself the rose amongst the thorns.
By this time I was very tired and decided to take my tablets as soon as I sat down in my seat and had composed myself. I don’t remember much after that except that I couldn’t open my eyes when I smelt the delicious supper being served shortly after take-off.
When I awoke the cabin was very dim and most everyone appeared to be asleep. I checked my watch to find that it read 6:30am, however, when you change that to Amsterdam time, it was 12:30 am and we still had 7 hours to travel.
God, this is going to be a very long day……………………..
I managed to doze back to sleep after Dad got up for a midnight walk, as I got up and followed. I ended up watching “The Producers” and trying not to laugh too loudly and wake the other people up. After this was over, I dozed a bit more.
Dad woke up again – thank goodness – because my legs had decided that they wanted to move about again. We met up with several other wakened people and we all did our exercises down by the back section of the plane.
When we got back to our seats, Dad went back to sleep. I thought I might be able to doze again, but I had to listen to both Dad and Russ snoring on either side of me. I listened to some music instead, and then the cabin lights came on. The staff moved around and offered hot towels to wake up with – a very civilised idea.
Breakfast was up to the usual Singapore airline standard and was enjoyed by all of us. It had been a long time since I ate tea the night (and more) before.
We then started to get ready for our arrival in Amsterdam. The information available on the Kris World site told us that Amsterdam was 5 degrees – brhhhh!!!! – But was going to be a lovely spring day.
We finally landed and taxied, and taxied, and taxied to the terminal. We had one little girl who very vocally told the world aboard the plane that her ears were hurting, and she was a very unhappy little camper. However, by the time we had taxied into the terminal she was sound asleep on her Dad’s shoulder and nothing was going to disturb her.
In comparison we also had another little girl who slept through the entire descent and did not wake up until she hit the cold air in the entrance tube. And, boy, is that cold…. Russ, of course, did not take out his warm jacket from the suitcase before we put it in for transfer. Therefore, he was dressed in light cargo pants and a t-shirt. Mum and Dad had their jackets, and I had dressed in layers, and could still have worn more clothes.
We were met by a lady driver (Linda) of the limousine company we had booked our transfer with, and she led us and our luggage to the Mercedes. We had passed through Custom with a smile and then the contingent of security people had nodded to each of us as we proceeded past them at immigration.
It was somewhat of a struggle to get all the luggage into the vehicle. It did not have a big boot area. Needless to say, Russ sat in the front seat (Left hand drive, and driving on the RHS of the road) with Mum’s suitcase on his lap. Mum, Dad and I were closely packed into the back seat with the hand luggage divided between us all.
However, it was a very smooth drive, and it was surprising how little traffic there was on the road – less even than in Townsville on a Sunday, and that is really saying something.
We were finally dropped off at the meeting place hotel – the Crowne Plaza – and were warmly welcomed by the staff who were in place to make the members of our cruise comfortable whilst waiting for the Tour Director to arrive.
She explained that there were several optional extra tours available for those who were waiting, as it was not possible to board the boat until after 4:00 pm.
We have decided to take the tour of the Tulips in the afternoon. They are expecting a lot of people to arrive at 12:30pm and another lot to be taken directly to the boat from the airport when they arrive at 3:55pm.
We have taken a long stroll, very slowly as there is not that much energy left to spare, around the big block here in Amsterdam. Russ has taken a lot of photos already, and I have my camera ready for the jaunt this afternoon. We bought lunch at a little place just along the road where they displayed the most enticing array of food.
We then made it back to the hotel and grabbed another cup of tea/coffee, and spent some time introducing ourselves and chatting to a lot of other people who have arrived for the cruise.
There are quite a few Australians amongst us, and a few Americans, so far.
We have just been told there are enough people interested to make the trip to the Keukenhof (pronounced co-con-hof,) Gardens where all the tulips are grown so that the bulbs can be exported all around the world.
Once on the bus we were informed it was a journey of about one hour to the farm. The bus meandered through the city and we found a bicycle car park – yes, I kid you not – and we took photos of them. Amsterdam has a bicycle number twice the size of its population and they are littered all around the place.
The other interesting titbit was that it is a fairly unknown fact that Amsterdam has more canals than Venice – go figure.
It started to rain while we were on the road to the tulip farm and our guide advised us that she was not prepared for the rain and there were no umbrellas or ponchos for all of us to walk to the entrance.
The traffic slowed to a crawl as we approached the parking area and it was an amazing sight to see a paddock, sorry, field full of large tour buses, and several full carparks, and more cars parked in more fields everywhere. This place is a MAJOR tourist attraction, come hail, rain or shine.
Unfortunately it was also very cold and all of us had not had a chance to get our wet weather gear out of our suitcases, which were on the journey to the boat without us. Eight of the people decided that were not venturing outside the bus and would wait the required two hours in some degree of warmth and comfort.
Russ, Dad, Mum and I were all going to take a look. However, as we were rained on through the car park, through the crowds and as we made it some way to the tunnel under the road to the entrance gate, Russ left us to go ahead and tell the guide we were going back to the bus.
Unfortunately there was a mix-up in communication and Mum and I thought Russ was coming back with us. We therefore sent Dad back to the bus (with his emphysema we were not prepared to take any chances on him getting a cold) and waited in the chill breeze of the tunnel for at least forty minutes.
I should mention here that the guide had an umbrella that she did not share, and Russ had packed his bowls wet weather gear in my backpack – the cheek of the man – so was not wet.
Mum and I decided enough was enough, and we went back to the bus. Finally, the people who had gone inside the exhibition returned to the bus and we could continue the journey to the boat where we could take a hot shower and get dry.
Russ got some fabulous photos, and the ones I took on the way there turned out fairly well, also.
The boat is very glamorous. We had enough time to get our keys for the cabins we had been allocated, change into dry clothes after a quick shower, and then had to make our way to the lounge for the mandatory safety talk. Unfortunately, we were some of the later arrivals and all the seats had been taken so we were left to stand whilst the Captain and crew were introduced, while Andrzej spoke about the few safety rules of the boat and then about the newsletter which was to provide each of us with information for the forthcoming day’s activities.
We finally made it to the restaurant for a four course meal – mainly aimed at American palates – and we tried to stay awake until the conclusion of the courses.
Man, food – glorious food – should be the motto of the boat. It appears that we will be well fed throughout our stay and only the use of will power and dogged determination will enable us to leave the boat the same size as when we boarded her.
The boat is air-conditioned and therefore, we only need the really cold weather gear when we go outside on deck.
We have found out that there are a few Canadians, and some English people aboard, but the majority are American and Australian.
Russ left before desert as he could not keep his eyes open any longer. By the time I made it to the cabin – about ten minutes after he had left – he was already asleep. I did not even finish unpacking, but also went straight to bed. It was 9:00pm and we had not had a chance to lie down for 41 hours.
I woke up once during the night and got a drink of water, and went straight back to sleep. I had already decided not to join the canal tour as I had begun to feel the start of my vertigo, and decided that it was in my own best interest to catch up with some sleep.