Happy Birthday in Holland


We were up at 7.00am and looked out of a rain-spattered window at a dull and dreary sky.  We hoped the weather would improve, but taking our umbrellas and cagoules with us today was a must.

I gave Trevor his birthday card and he opened his other cards and presents he’d brought with him.  What a nice treat to be spending it in Amsterdam, instead of just going to work as usual.  😊

We then got washed and dressed and made our way to the Avon restaurant which was open early.  We knew from past experience, because tonight is Formal Night, that there would be bottles of Cava on ice to mix with your orange juice and enjoy a complimentary Buck’s Fizz for breakfast.  When we got there, however, there was no sign of any cava and I thought it was a way of cutting back (which we’ve noticed on many cruise lines over the years) but soon a waiter appeared with an ice bucket and, sure enough, the chilled bottles of cava were soon in place.  😊

I enjoyed some smoked salmon and cold meats and fresh fruits, washed down with coffee and a couple of glasses of the free fizz.  Then we returned to our cabin and got our passport, cruise cards and Euros, donned our cagoules and proceeded ashore to meet Gill and Carl at 8.15am.

The four of us set off, and the skies opened in a sudden heavy shower.  Part of the route we were walking was under a bridge, and several people had sought refuge there from the deluge.  Luckily it didn’t last too long, and subsided to a trickle.

We arrived at the Anne Frank museum and went inside.  This was the actual building in which Anne Frank and her sister and parents, along with four other people, stayed in hiding from the Nazis for two years, and where Anne kept her famous diary.  There had been a secret annexe built at the back of the building, the access to which was hidden behind a bookcase, and the eight people had had to live together, not even daring to leave the water running or flush the toilet in case in betrayed their whereabouts.  Walking through the building we had audio-commentary units where we could listen to the tragic story while looking at the actual artefacts and books and furniture belonging to the Frank family and their compatriots.  It was all extremely interesting, but very sad, especially as they were all eventually captured in 1944 and Anne and her sister Margot were sent to the notorious Bergen-Belsen where Anne was put to death at only age 15. Her father, Otto Frank, was the only survivor from Belsen, and he died in 1980.

At the end of the tour of the house we were able to see the actual red and white checked diary, and look at Anne’s writing and pictures of herself and her father that she’d pasted in.  Amazing.  The diary has been published in 70 languages and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t ever read it – I will certainly have to do so now.

It was about 10.30am when we came out of the museum, and the weather had faired up slightly.  We decided we’d go and partake of a coffee in a pavement café, and we enjoyed a good Americano under the canopy of a pleasant little bar-café.

Afterwards we just strolled around, looking in the shops and meandering along the streets.  We could still occasionally catch the odd whiff of marijuana wafting out of some of the buildings.  We started to make our way back towards the ship, and C & G went into C & A to have a look about; Trevor and I decided we’d return to the ship and we‘d see them later.

We arrived back at the Balmoral around 12.30pm and, dumping our bags and cagoules in our cabin, went up to the Palms Café for some lunch, which we washed down with a freezing cold beer each.  We’d arrived back just in time, because there was another torrential shower of rain, sending everyone sitting by the poolside running for cover.

We then returned to our cabin for a half-hour post-luncheon power nap, then I did some of this blog and pottered around for a while, just pleasantly passing the time doing not much in particular.

At four o’clock the Balmoral gave a blast of her foghorn and slowly started to move away from the dockside and back along the North Sea Canal towards our next exciting destination.

Tonight it was the first formal night, and we had the Captain’s Cocktail Party to look forward to at half-five.  So I got showered and primped and preened ready for the evening.  I always love the formal nights and the chance to wear an elegant long dress, so I wore a black velvet off-the-shoulder evening gown with long black gloves and sky-high heels.  The only thing I couldn’t do anything with was my hair;  luckily I brought a couple of wigs with me, so I donned one of them which is how my hair should look when it’s styled properly.  No-one would ever guess it was a wig, and it saves a lot of time when getting ready.  😊

Off we went to the Neptune Lounge and joined the queue of people filing in.  There was no sign of the Captain at the captain’s cocktail party, although some of his officers were there.  Apparently, as the Balmoral had to negotiate the intricacies of the various locks in the canal, the captain was needed on the bridge at this particular time, so they changed it to the Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party.  😊

We enjoyed some tasty hot and cold canapés washed down with some free glasses of prosecco, although when you’re on the all-inclusive drinks package it’s all ‘free’ anyway.  One of the dance hosts came over and told me he liked my dress.  In fact, this particular dress always gets a lot of compliments, especially since some of the passengers had made little effort to dress up at all.  Here we are: left to right Trevor, Debbie, Gill and Carl.

We listened to the ship’s orchestra playing tasteful music, then Alan Tait, the cruise director, appeared and welcomed everyone.  Then we just passed the time pleasantly with our fellow passengers before making our way along to the Ballindalloch Restaurant for 6.15pm.

Dinner was a grand affair as usual, with excellent food and good conversation from Gill and Carl, Barry and Bev.  After the main meal they didn’t bring a dessert menu, but this was because the waiters appeared with their guitar and tambourine and a cake with a candle on for Trevor.  They all sang “Happy Birthday” and encouraged Trevor to blow out his candle and make a wish.  Carl videoed it all on his phone and here it is:  😊

Then we all tucked into our cake and washed it down with a glass of amaretto and some coffee.

The show in the Neptune Lounge this evening was called “Musical Maestros” and featured the work of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin.  As ever, it was an excellent performance by the talented singers and dancers.

We then went up to the Observatory to do the quiz; there was no sign of John and Linda but, as they are on the 8.30pm dinner sitting, they are sometimes not out of the restaurant on time, so we just joined in with another couple.  Not that it did any good, as we didn’t win.

Tonight they were holding a karaoke in the Lido Lounge, so we went down there and bagged a table near the front, where we were joined by Gill and Carl and, later on, by Ron and Kath.  Quite a lot of people got up and put their names down to sing, including me and Carl.  I did a rendition of Any Whitehouse’s Back to Black, and Carl sang Elvis Presley’s Love Letters.  The standard of singing from all the participants was very high.  Quite a few of the children got up to sing as well; one little boy in particular certainly didn’t lack confidence and stood singing and dancing in his little dinner suit and bow-tie.  All the singers only had one turn each apart from this kid, whose name was Alex, and he finished the evening off with a fast-paced rap which he recited word-perfectly.  I think we have a star in the making here!  😊

The karaoke finished at midnight but we stayed chatting and drinking until around 1.00am when we returned to our cabin and settled down, after a very full, very interesting day.

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