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Everything posted by FuelScience

  1. Thanks Dave. We just sailed through Heilbronn with a little commentary as I remember. Future cruises this year will offer an excursion to the Federal Garden Show being held there. We were there a week before it opened. We took trains from Amsterdam to Saarbrucken on the day of departure. For those who opted for the optional Saarbrucken city tour, they were picked up at the train station and dropped off at the ship. We got there too late for the tour, so we took a taxi from the train station to the ship.
  2. I'll just add a couple of words. I'm hesitant to post since I've never sailed in Viking's Explorer Suite, but it may be worthwhile for me to mention our recent experience on the Royal Emerald, the former Scenic Emerald. The ship was leased by Teeming for our cruise. We splurged and got one of the two Panorama Suites. These rooms are on the top level on the back of the ship like Viking's Explorer Suites. Due to previous complaints, the ship owner completely refurbished the suites to deal with the vibration and noise issues. We didn't think the refurb was successful, and we were moved to a suite mid-ship so that we didn't have to deal with the noise. We used the dB Meter app on my wife's iPhone to measure the noise level. In our Panorama Suite the noise level averaged about 67dB while underway, ranging from 65 dB to 72 dB. In the Royal Suite mid-ship, the noise level measured about 40dB. We also measured the noise level with the engines off, and it was 35 dB. The noise level was worse on some nights than others. The captain said that water depth was a significant factor in noise level due to sound and vibrations bouncing off the river bottom. If that's true, it might explain why some people noticed the vibrations more than others.
  3. Krov looks interesting. Do you know if there are docking facilities anywhere near Moselkern that would be convenient for tours of Burg Eltz?
  4. Thanks JP. It was a good trip, and we're beginning to get over our jet lag.
  5. Sunday We boarded the MS Casanova on Saturday afternoon. We were shown to our room and got settled with no problem. After sitting through several announcements we approached the cruise director and asked about English announcements. He wasn’t aware that there were English speakers on board. We’ve figured out now that there are 6 of us, 4 from Finland and the two of us. So we’ve had individual briefings, and some announcements are given in English, but it’s pretty much a German cruise. This morning (Sunday) cruising on the Saar, there was a lot of commentary, but it was all in German. We didn’t reserve any tours before the cruise. The two Finnish couples who did apparently didn’t reserve them in English, so there will be no English speaking tours. The CD is trying hard to make us feel comfortable. After his announcements, he will hold a small session with the English speakers to explain what’s going on. Nicko has assigned seating at meals. The 4 Finns are at a table with two German ladies who apparently want to practice their English and didn’t want to move. So we agreed to sit at a table for 2 for the trip. We’re O.K. with that decision. The ship sails to Merzig tonight and leaves tomorrow morning for Trier. Monday We’re due in Trier around 12:30 p.m. Apparently we’ll be docked close enough to town to walk in, so we’ll do the city on our own, which is what we wanted to do anyhow. We’ll go straight to the Landesmuseum which DW hasn’t seen. The Landesmuseum was great. After touring the museum, we walked back to the ship going by the tourist office next to the Porta Negra and picking up some Karl Marx € 0 notes for some friends back home. Nicko is very efficient with dinner service. Everyone gets the same starter, soup, and desert. The only choice one has is the entrée. You have to decide on your dinner (and lunch) entrée at breakfast. So the kitchen can get the jump on things and get the meals out quickly. With dinner starting at 7:00 p.m., we’re easily finished by 8:15 to 8:30 p.m. After setting sail around 5:00 p.m., the ship docked in Bernkastel sometime before midnight. We skipped the guided excursion and wandered around Bernkastel-Kues on our own, doing a little shopping. We set sail around noon for Winningen, again arriving before midnight. Winningen is near the mouth of the Mosel. We set sail for tomorrow morning around 6:00 a.m. for Mainz. So we should pass the Deutsches Eck around breakfast time and sail the Rhine gorge during the say, arriving at Mainz at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday We got off to an early start, and then slowed down so that we would pass the Deutsches Eck at 8:00 as announced. It was a cool, foggy morning sailing down the Rhine gorge this morning. We sat on the top deck all wrapped up from Koblenz to the Lorely before retreating inside. I was a little disappointed at the Lorely. I’d heard that Germans always sing the song as they pass by, but no one joined in when they played it. The lounge is nice, but the windows aren’t that big, so one doesn’t get a great view from there like one does on newer ships. Unlike newer ships, there’s about as much outer wall as there is window in the lounge. When you’re in the lounge, there’s no coffee machine where you can go and push a button and get a nice coffee, espresso, etc. If you don’t have the drinks package (€169 per person for a 7-night cruise), then you have to order your coffee from the bar and pay. Speaking of ships, the MS Casanova is a nice old ship, but it’s beginning to show its age. For instance, the television sets in the rooms are old picture tube type sets with a screen about a 15” diagonal. There’s one channel in English so we can keep up with the news back in the U.S. Rooms have traditional metal keys rather than newer magnetic key cards. We made use of The River Cruise App this morning on the Rhine and it was nice. The app runs on iPhone and Android. The info for this section of the Rhine (Mainz-Koblenz) was $4.00. As one cruises the river, the app uses GPS and starts the appropriate commentary at the right places. This was especially nice with the ships commentary being mostly in German. The CD did print out a copy of his “script” in English so that we could follow along if we wanted, but we tended to rely on the app. Note that the app won’t work in “background,” i.e., you can’t start up another app and the River Cruise App will keep playing its commentary. Activating any other app stops playback and GPS tracking. Other than that, it’s a nice app. Wednesday: We enjoyed our day in Heidelberg. We arrived around noon, and we set out after lunch to walk around the town. I spent a year studying in Heidelberg in 1971-72, so walking around the town was something of a “sentimental journey.” I forced DW to walk by the Bunsen House (yes, he invented the Bunsen burner) where I’d polished my German at the Interpreter’s Institute. We walked the Hauptstrasse, much more relaxing now that it’s a pedestrian street. Back in the day there were streetcars and autos going up and down the narrow street. We also walked by the Mensa (student cafeteria, but anyone can eat there). When I would go in during my student days, I would walk a gauntlet of students forcing pamphlets into everyone’s hands urging us to “Support the People’s War in Indochina,” or “Stand with the People’s War in Northern Ireland.” I didn’t see anything like this at today’s Mensa. The chemistry building where I spent most of my time was across the river in Neuenheimer Feld, and we didn’t have the time for a visit. Frankly a visit wouldn’t have meant a lot with all the folks I knew there now gone. We did manage a visit to Käthe Wohlfahrt, but didn’t buy anything. We mostly wandered around the old time and stopped for a coffee and cake before returning to the ship for dinner. Thursday: We pulled into Bad Wimpfen around 8:00 a.m. It was a cool sunny morning, and we decided to wait until 9:30 or so before setting out on the town. There was a ship’s walking tour, but we decided that we didn’t want to pay for a tour in German that I would barely understand, and DW wouldn’t understand at all. We had a nice walk around the picturesque town (and a significant walk UP the hill from the river bank to get there). There was excitement on the ship this morning. A Polizei (Police) boat pulled up alongside as we docked, and then customs agents came on board from the shore. Shortly after the tour left the boat, all the crew were called to the lounge, and from what we could tell, the police and customs agents checked everyone’s passports and work permits. They were on the boat for 2-3 hours, but it looks like everyone’s still here. In the afternoon we took a walk along the Neckar, visiting the Ritterstifts St. Peter church. It was a nice walk before returning to the ship for coffee. Many of the cruisers took a new excursion to Buchen and a cave there. The excursion is scheduled for 6 hours. Friday After leaving Bad Wimpfen the boat sailed to Lauffen, the last port for this cruise. Due to work on the docks at Ludwigsburg and an event in Stuttgart, we couldn’t proceed any further in the ship. So we were here for the last two nights. Friday morning we set out for our tour of Ludwigsburg castle (€38 each). After about an hour on the boat we arrived, divided into two groups and set out on our tour of the 452 room castle (the Swabian Versailles). The tour was entirely in German, but enjoyable nevertheless. I tried to listen and translate for DW, condensing a couple of minutes description of a room into a single sentence summarizing what I had understood. After the tour, we had over an hour to walk around the huge gardens where things were beginning to bloom. This castle is definitely worth seeing. I was surprised that I’d never heard about it until the cruise. We returned to the ship for a one o’clock lunch and walked into town to get a little exercise and see the old town. Friday night was our gala dinner, and we prepared for disembarkation Saturday morning. Saturday Two buses left for the Stuttgart train station at 7:30 and 7:45. Those who’d opted for the city tour were on the late bus. We took the early one and set out for our train to Frankfurt. As always, I'd be glad to answer any questions. Also, I have the dailies from the trip, and if anyone's interested, I can post the pdfs on line and give a link to them.
  6. Notamermaid, I'm glad we did it. As I said, we enjoyed the cruise, and don't regret taking it. There were indeed hiccups, but that's part of the adventure.
  7. I found the food and accommodations to be comparable to what I've experienced on other river cruise lines. Not that Teeming leases its ships, so you may need to look around to find reviews of the ship that's being used on your cruise. For example, Teeming is leasing a Croisieurope ship for a Rhone cruise this fall, so any ship-specific observations I had about the Royal Emerald wouldn't apply to that ship.
  8. While waiting for a horse race to start in 1965, German president Heinrich Lübke is reputed to have turned to Queen Elizabeth and uttered, “Equal goes it loose,” a word-for-word literal translation of the German phrase “Gleich geht es los.” A better translation would have been “It’s about to start.” Anyhow, Gleich geht es los with this review of our Nicko cruising experience. German/English Cruise? We left Amsterdam at 8:08 Saturday morning headed for Saarbrücken. After a quick taxi from the train station we were checked into our room and settling in. Soon we heard the cruise director making an announcement over the intercom. No surprise that it was in German, but we waited to hear it repeated in English. After all, this was advertised on Nicko’s web site as a German/English cruise, and we’d confirmed that through calls and emails with Nicko’s home office in Germany. When no English announcement followed, I walked down to the CD and asked him about English announcements. He answered that this was a German cruise. He had not received any notice that English speakers would be on board. After some checking, he found that there were 4 Finns along with us who were primarily English speakers. For the rest of the cruise, he did a great job of repeating important announcements. For critical items he met with us privately to make sure that we understood things. His commentary while cruising scenic portions of the Saar, Moselle, and Rhine was all in German, but he printed out an English version of his script so we could follow along. I studied for a year at the University of Heidelberg almost 50 years ago, so I retain some of my German, but I probably understood 20-25% of what went on. Nicko assigns seating at all meals, and we were originally slated to sit with 2 German couples. We asked about moving to sit with the 2 Finnish couples, but apparently the 2 German ladies who were sitting at their table wanted to practice their English, so we ended up by ourselves at a table for 2 for the rest of the cruise. We were expecting the tours to be offered in both English and German, but due to Nicko’s failure to let the CD know that we were coming there were NO tours in English. We ended up only taking one tour (Ludwigsburg Castle). We walked along, and I translated what little I understood for my wife. I should mention here that there were no included tours. Nicko offered tours in every port, but they all required extra payment. Let me close this section by saying that the CD did a great job of accommodating us. He wasn’t the problem. I blame Nicko for advertising this as a German/English tour and then not notifying the CD or delivering on English tours. MS Casanova The Casanova is classified as a “Boutique” ship by Nicko. It lives up to its classification in that it has a certain elegance and classy feel. It’s an older ship, but in pretty good shape. It’s showing its age in some areas. For example, the television sets in the cabins are old ~15” picture tube sets. You can’t even buy these sets anymore. Move ahead Nicko! Our room was about 12 m2 (130 sq. ft.) and pretty crowded. There was a stool, but we never used it; if we wanted to sit, we sat on the bed. The shower also needed some work. Don’t know if this is the norm for Nicko, but cabins numbering in the 100s (ours was 114) are on the top level and 200 numbered cabins are down below. One shortcoming of the ship was the limited visibility from the lounge. Some sailing days were cold and windy, and the lounge was the place to sit if you wanted to be comfortable, but there was as much wall as glass in the lounge, and the front view was very limited with the musician setup on one side and a big wall dead center, leaving only about 1-2 meters of glass on the right side of the front. It’s also worth noting that in their documents Nicko warns you not to drink water from your sink. They say that it’s OK for brushing you teeth, but you should get bottled water for drinking. Demographics I think that this cruise had the oldest set of cruisers I’ve experienced. One solo cruiser was 100 years old! There were several people walking with crutches (no elevator). I don’t know if what we experienced was typical, but we met several people who do this same cruise EVERY YEAR. In fact, one couple had started this year in Stuttgart, cruised to Saarbrücken, stayed on the ship and were cruising back home to Stuttgart for a two-week total cruise. I should note that we really didn’t get to know too many people. Sitting alone at every meal limited our interactions. We exchanged greetings and small talk with the two ladies at the table next to us. They take the cruise every year and sit at the same table every year. Overall Impressions: The first thing to say is that we enjoyed our cruise. Our CD Ferdinand did everything he could to accommodate us and make sure that we had a good trip. We sailed the Saar and Neckar where we’d never sailed before, and we got to see beautiful sections of the Moselle and Rhine again. The food was comparable to what we’ve experienced on other lines—maybe tuned a little more to the German palate, but good. By the way, like everybody else, Nicko likes baked Alaska (Eisparade) for their gala dessert. Bottom line. I would not recommend Nicko if you don’t speak German. Maybe if I’d been more persistent before the cruise in assuring myself that English tours would be available things might have been different. Looking back at the web site and the documents I received via email, there’s absolutely nothing committing Nicko to do anything at all to accommodate English speakers on the tours that are presented as being bilingual. All that I can say for sure is that they’ve got an English web site, and they’ve translated their travel documents into English. If you do want to try some of Nicko’s unique itineraries, I would be on the phone making sure that I had a guarantee in writing of what would and wouldn’t be included. This isn’t simple. Nicko has no office in the U.S. (or U.K. I think), so you have to call them in Germany, and some of the times I called, the person who answered the phone didn’t speak English. All in all, they don’t give the impression of being serious about wanting English speaking cruisers. I’ll follow this up with a day-by-day overview of the cruise.
  9. The food was comparable to what we've had on our other cruises (Viking, Avalon, & Vantage). On difference is the fact that Teeming doesn't offer alternatives to the menu items. On other lines, we've always had the option of a standard steak, fish (usually salmon), chicken breast, or vegetarian item if nothing on the menu appealed to us. Teeming didn't have that option. We did a 9-night Netherlands trip. Teeming will have another Netherlands trip in July, but I think that it's 7 or 8 nights.
  10. Due to some computer issues, I won't be posting live from Nicko's MS Casanova, but I'll post a review after returning next week. I'll go ahead and say that there are only 6 "English speakers" on the trip, DW and I and 2 Finnish couples. We're doing OK!
  11. For something on the river itself, I would suggest a couple of apps. First, Rick Steves's Audio app. It has free downloads from his web site. There's one, "The Best of the Rhine" that would be useful. It is indexed by km marker for the Rhine gorge. The other is the River Cruise App. It costs (~$4 per river section, for instance, we just used the Mainz to Koblenz section). It has commentary and uses GPS to automatically start the commentary. We just passed through the gorge (sailing for Mainz right now), and we found the app to be very good. You can also tap an icon and get the text for the commentary or call up a map. Search River Cruise App in Apple's app store or Google Play.
  12. Teeming posts projected arrival and departure times for their cruises on their web sites. This cruise was through the Netherlands, so no real scenic stretches and sailing was almost all at night. They held pretty close to the times listed on their website. It was nice having those to plan our days. We're on the Nicko cruise now, but due to computer issues, we probably won't post a review until we're home next week.
  13. No. Teeming doesn't use agents, you book directly with them, either by phone or through the website.
  14. All in US$. You can get prices on Teeming's web site.
  15. Sorry. Thought that site was just reviews. Please edit and repost. Sorry! Now on Nicko. 6 English speakers on cruise. Should be interesting.
  16. Teeming is something of an unknown for most of us, so I thought I'd do a separate thread to give my overall views on the line after one cruise. In this review, I’ll focus on Teeming-specific items rather than ship-specific. Since Teeming leases several ships, each is different, so my comments on the Royal Emerald would only be of immediate interest to those who are on its one other Teeming sailing later this summer. Teeming is obviously a different company, and it’s not for everybody. If you’re not a planner, but want to get on the ship, relax, walk off the ship at the set time and be taken on a tour and returned with no hassles, this is probably not your line. If, however, you don’t mind doing a little planning before hand and venturing out on your own, Teeming has a good product at a great price. Teeming’s Model Ships: Teeming doesn’t own any ships. They lease ships from people like Neerlandic, Croisieurop, and others. Each of these ships is described on Teeming’s web page, and one can get more info on the ships with a little work on Google. I don’t know about all the ships, but the Neerlandic ships (Royal Emerald and Royal Crown) are crewed by River Advice. River Advice also provides crews around 100 river ships, including those of Avalon, Vantage, Nicko, Gate 1, and Thurgau. (I think that those all use River Advice, feel free to correct if I’m wrong). The service is comparable to what we’ve received on our other cruises. On our cruise things were a little slow in the dining room at first, but I attribute that more to this being the first cruise of the year rather than lack of training or resources. Transfers First off, you don’t get airport transfers. This wasn’t a big deal for us, and indeed, when we’ve booked air with cruise lines before, we’ve found that if we decided to come in early to get over jet lag, the “included transfers” disappeared and we were on our own. Teeming will arrange cabs for departing guests. Drinks at Lunch & Dinner This is significant for some folks. The standard drink at lunch and dinner with Teeming is water. They may offer coffee or tea, but I don’t remember seeing anyone drinking them. Teeming offers a drinks package that includes wine, beer, and soft drinks for lunch and dinner. If I did the math right, $131 for our 9-night cruise worked out to less than $8.00 per meal (assuming that you have all your lunches and dinners on board). So if you consume more than one glass of wine or one soda per meal, you’re ahead with the drink package. I don’t think that they offer a “free drinks all day” package like Viking’s Silver Spirits package. Tours No included tours. This is where Teeming saves a lot of money. You’re on your own. Here’s what Teeming does do for you. First you get a port talk the night before you land somewhere giving you ideas of things to do and see. Second you get their POP app for your iPhone and Android device. You need to install the app and download relevant city maps before you leave home, and once you’re there, things work pretty well. You fire up the app, touch the city name, and you have a city map with icons showing the various points of interest around the town. touch the icon, and you get description of the attraction, and then you can touch “GO,” and the app shows you how to walk to the attraction. The app doesn’t need a data connection, so you don’t have to worry about using data, which can be very expensive abroad, depending on your carrier. There’s also a “home” icon on the map to show your docking location. Tap and your route back to the ship appears. This worked well for us. You can also add points of interest to a map. Jeff Paglialonga told passengers that later this year they will roll out a new approach, placing a pre-loaded device in every cabin, so passengers won’t have to hassle with loading the app and maps before the cruise. This should work even better. So how does it work in practice? For us it worked well. We’d preplanned, or over-planned. So we did most of the things we’d planned, but some days we decided we’d had enough and called it a day early. The only place where I thought not having included tours was a real issue was in Ghent, where we were docked far (~2 miles) from the city center, and we had to choose between a long walk or taking a taxi/Uber. In both Ghent and Rotterdam, popular choices included train trips (Ghent-Bruges, Rotterdam-Deft, or Rotterdam-Gouda). Many people took these options, while others contented themselves to wander around the towns and see the local sites with the POP app to guide them. Of course, being on your own can lead to adventures. When getting on the train back to Rotterdam from Gouda, one of us (it was me) somehow jumped on the train to The Hague instead of Rotterdam! No big problem—jumped off in The Hague and quickly found a train back to Rotterdam. Travel time was almost an hour instead of 23 minutes, but we saw some new countryside and still paid only the fare from Gouda to Rotterdam! That’s about it. There are other small things. With no set tours, there are no staff waiting inside the door to give you a wet washcloth and a drink as you walk off the bus and onto the ship. Of course that doesn’t make a lot sense on Teeming with people coming and going all day long. Is Anything Better with Teeming? At first I couldn’t think of a lot. If you’re the independent, do your own thing kind of person, no tours is a good thing. One real positive with Teeming is the fact that the owners, Jeff and Gina Pagliolonga are present on almost every cruise. Teeming is a young company trying to grow, and that means that they’re trying hard to please their customers and get the word out on what they’re doing. As I mentioned in my postings from the cruise, we were in one of the two Panorama Suites at the back of the ship. The first night wasn’t bad, but the second night we had real issues sleeping. Jeff and Gina immediately swapped rooms with the occupants of the other Panorama Suite so that they were now in a Royal suite. They offered to relocate us immediately, but we really liked the layout of our room and decided to try it for another couple of nights. When it wasn’t better, we too got relocated to one of the Royal Suites and slept much better. To Teeming’s credit, the Panorama Suites had been stripped bare and redone to minimize noise and vibration during the winter, and they believed that they would be OK. Also, one can easily do back to back cruises with Teeming that offer very attractive pricing. For instance, Teeming has leased the Royal Crown from July 28 to August 27. They’re glad to let you do cruises back to back. Pricing Of course, what sets Teeming apart from everyone else is their pricing. Looking at their web site, they quote prices as low as $131 per person per night for several trips. The top cabins on the Royal Crown go for $300 per person. That’s very aggressive pricing. In addition, we were offered 10% off these prices as prior guests, making it even better. For our cruise, the 325 sq. ft. Panorama Suite was around $300 per night. The 310 sq. ft. cabin we transferred to was a little cheaper. Those prices are pretty much unheard of in the river cruising world I know. Conclusion (finally) Finally let me say that I’ll be considering Teeming for another river cruise. Yes, I’d do it again. Also, I’m not getting any compensation from Teeming, and they didn’t ask me to write this review. I’ve benefitted so much from the reviews of others, I view this as way to thank them and help future cruisers. If you have questions about Teeming I’d be glad to try and answer them.
  17. Nijmegen The day started slowly with a disembarkation/port talk at 9:30 a.m. instead of last evening. We’ll be delayed leaving tonight due to folks participating in a nightly memorial walk on the bridge here. We did a walk around town in the morning and enjoyed it, but we weren’t overwhelmed. It’s a nice Dutch town that appears to have been largely rebuilt following WWII. It’s nice, but not exciting. We did the lunch buffet on the ship. This evening’s final dinner is a buffet starting at 4:30 p.m. so people can eat and walk down to the bridge and do the memorial walk[GP1] . It starts at sunset (8:15 p.m. tonight), and there is some concern about getting people back to the ship so that we can depart in time to hit Amsterdam early tomorrow morning. The ship is arranging taxis to take people back to the ship (at their own expense) if they want. Just a quick note to finish this out. We made Amsterdam around 5:30. We got up, got a little breakfast (including taking a sandwich for the train), and headed to Centraal Station. There we redeemed the unspent balances on our OV Chipkaarts and waited to the train to Saarbrucken. We're on the train now. I'll close this out and add an additional thread with my overall impressions of Teeming. [GP1]
  18. We disembark tomorrow morning in Amsterdam and board a train for Saarbrucken where we'll board the Nicko Casanova for another cruise. I'll try to post an overall "review" of my Teeming experience from the train. Hoping that the internet on the Bahn is better than the Royal Emerald. P.S. The ship pictured in the post above this one is NOT the Royal Emerald!!😁
  19. Rmac, What are their names? Tell them to look for George and Vicki. FuelScience (George)
  20. Rotterdam At 3:00, there was a presentation on wines which we chose to skip. In my experience, most amateur wine presenters tend to be a little pretentious. As we were leaving Vlissingen, Jeff gave a presentation telling people how to make effective use of their iPhone cameras. He also mentioned that as prior guests, we can receive 10% off on any future cruise, and 25% off on their July and August, 2019 sailings! The port talk for Rotterdam suggested visiting Delft in the morning and doing Rotterdam in the afternoon, but we went a different route. Gouda is just a 20 minute train ride, and Thursday was the first cheese market of the year there. So we left the ship early (around 8:00 a.m.) and walked to the train station (25-30 minutes rather than the 15 minutes the CD suggested. After topping up our OV chipkaarts, we boarded the train and arrived in Gouda shortly after 9:00 a.m. One thing to remember—if you catch a train out of Rotterdam at rush hour, expect it to be crowded. We stood the entire time. Downtown Gouda was a short walk (5-10 minutes). The cheese market opened at 10, so we sat down and had a coffee in the square where the market was held. The market was officially opened by the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands. The market is an experience for tourists, but it was a lot of fun. There were kindergarten-aged kids in costume, and farmers in old dress as well and the cheese buyers as well. The market was overseen by two men in yellow suites and red shoes. Not sure what they were all about, but it was an enjoyable experience. We had lunch there in Gouda before taking a train back to Rotterdam. I should say trains since I mistakenly put us on a train to The Hague, so we went there before jumping onto another train back to Gouda. The trip still took less than an hour, and we were just charged the Gouda-Rotterdam fare. When we got off the train we jumped the metro to the waterfront where we took the Spido harbor cruise. It lasted about an hour, and I really enjoyed it. We got a good view of the city and went through the parts of the harbor where container ships were being unloaded as well as bulk carriers where grain was being transferred from ocean ships to river ships for further distribution. Back on the ship we had the farewell reception and dinner. Both were nicely done and comparable to those we’ve had on other lines. It seems that baked Alaska is the go-to desert for final river cruise dinners. I’ll add a few words about the ship. Note that these comments apply to the Royal Emerald, which Teeming is leasing for two trips this year. So they’re ship specific, not comments about Teeming. First our new cabin, 317 midship, it so much better than our old panorama suite. DW measured the sound level while underway in both cabins In the suite at the back of the ship it was 67dB. In 317 it was 40 dB, a huge difference. Again, the Pagialongas were eager to make sure that we were happy. The internet access is awful. I connected to the ship’s internet when I started this, and I’ve been kicked off already. It’s bad enough to be unusable. So we’re using the hot spot features on our phones to connect. Thank you T-Mobile. We’re on their old people’s plan, 2 phones for $60 a month, and we get free international data and texting and can call home for $0.25 a minute. We upgraded to a faster connection for this trip ($15 per line), and we’ll cancel that when we get home. The staff, provided by River Advice, had been comparable to what we’ve experienced with other lines. With the exception of the noisy cabin (which had supposedly been fixed over the winter) and the internet, we’ve had no complaints. We’ve just docked in Nijmegen, our last stop before returning to Amsterdam. I’ll try to finish this up tomorrow and post an additional thread with my overall impressions of Teeming.
  21. We've done both and felt that the excursions were comparable.
  22. Antwerp, Ghent, & Vlissingen Monday morning we woke up in Antwerp in a harbor north of downtown near the ??? Museum. Of course, museums tend to be closed on Mondays, but we did find a new museum that was open—Chocolate Nation. Dedicated to Belgian chocolate, the museum initially takes you through several rooms where your audio guide describes each step of the chocolate process. The museum controls crowd flow by automatically opening and closing entrance and exit doors through the rooms. After going through these rooms the museum takes you to a demonstration where the chocolatier makes enough confections for each group before the museum opens up and lets you finish at your own pace. The final room has 10 vats of liquid chocolate of varying compositions. You’re given a plastic spoon and you’re free to pump chocolate into your spoon and taste to your heart’s content. After the museum we wandered around the city center before getting lunch croquettes and kriek before walking back to the ship along the river. Ghent In Ghent we were docked in an industrial area (along with other river ships). Many folks took cabs into the city and then took the train to Brugges. It was rainy, and we’d been to Brugges before, so we took a break on the ship. After lunch the sun came out, and we took a cab into the central city. We did a canal cruise, and decided that we needed exercise, so we started walking the 2 miles back to the ship. Shortly after we set out, the rain began, and before we made it back to the ship it turned into a hail storm! We made it back somewhat wet, but not soaked too bad. The ship set sail around 9:00 p.m. for Vlissingen. Vlissingen It’s a cold, windy, but sunny day in Vlissingen. We weren’t too impressed with what we read about the town, so we walked to the train station and set out for Middelburg (an 8 minute train ride). We went by the tourist office in the central square and got info for walking tour of the city. We saw some tour groups from an Avalon ship that was docked in the city. Middelburg is a charming city, and we enjoyed our walk before returning to Vlissingen for a 1:00 lunch on the Royal Emerald. The folks who walked around Vlissingen weren’t overly impressed. It’s a seaside resort town and nothing was open this morning. Room Change When we returned from Middelburg, the CD asked if we wanted to change rooms. Several people left the cruise in Ghent, and one of the rooms that opened up was a Royal Suite, the rooms just below the Panorama Suite that we were in. We took a look and decided to change rooms. It’s only slightly smaller, and being in the middle of the ship, it should be much quieter. Jeff and Gina had moved to the other Panorama Suite earlier to allow the other couple to move to quieter quarters. They’re very eager to make sure we’re happy. We’re sailing for Rotterdam early today (4:00 p.m.), so we should get a little daylight sailing in.
  23. Time to post again. Internet has been awful slow on the ship for the past few days. It's Monday, April 1, and I'm sitting on the top deck of the Royal Emerald. It's a glorious day here. The temperature is around 60 F and the sun's shining. Although the boat's internet won't connect here, the Antwerp city free internet works just fine. Interestingly, I can also pick up a hotspot from the Tauck Inspire sitting across the harbor, but I don't have the password. So I'll paste my thoughts from the last couple of days. Day 3 Einkhuizen: We visited the Zuidersee Museum in Einkhuizen a few years ago, so we decided to do something different—the 20 km ride from Hoorn to Medemblik on an old steam train. The trip from Hoorn to Medemblik takes about an hour and 20 minutes (there’s a pretty long stop in Wognum). About an hour and 20 minutes after arriving in Medemblik, a ship carries you back to Einkhuizen (you can also do the trip in reverse). So we skipped the 9:00 a.m. port talk and caught a 9:09 train to Hoorn—a 25 minute trip. Normally we would have done the trip from Hoorn, but today was the first trip of the season for the steam train, so we couldn’t do it yesterday. Our ship was docked very close to the train station, so it was a quick walk there, and we used our Anonymous OV Chipkaarts. If you’re going to spend any time in the Netherlands, consider these cards. They cost € 7.50 per person, and they can be used on trains, buses, and trams all through the Netherlands. We loaded our cards with € 50 each. If we run low, we’ll reload them. As I understand it, we can get the balance of the card refunded if it’s less than € 30. We’ll se how that works at Centraal Station in a week. Meanwhile back to the train. It was a fun experience we sat in the car immediately behind the engine (which was facing backwards). Watching the kids on the train was as much fun as the train ride itself. At several intersections, the train slowed so that a flagman could get off and stop traffic before the train entered the intersection, and he would then hop back on as the train sped up. Despite what my wife may say, I didn't fight with little kids to stand on the platform behind the engine! We had time for a look around Medemblik and had a light lunch before boarding the ship for the trip back to Enkhuizen. We sat on the top deck and enjoyed the nice weather—around 61°F. It’s supposed to turn cold tomorrow! Most people did the Zuiderzee Museum or just walked around the city today in Enkhuizen. The ship sails for Schoonhooven/Kijnderdijk tonight at 9:00 (moved up to 8:00 p.m. due to traffic). Dinner went a little better tonight. the River Advice dining room crew are still getting things together—getting a little better every night. We got through dinner in a little over two hours. It seems that getting the starters out was the slow step. Things seemed to move better after that. S unday Morning: We did have a lot of noise in our cabin last night. It’s one of two panorama suites on the back corners of the boat. The engineers apparently took steps to deal with vibration issues, but the noise was really bad. I barely slept all night. I’ll try an over-the-counter sleeping pill tonight and see if that helps. Our neighbors in the other panorama suite had the same problem. They’ve talked to Jeff about the issue, and I will later today. Incidentally, there was an interdenominational worship service this morning in the lounge. I don't think that I've seen that on a river cruise before. Again, so far the Teeming model with no included tours has worked well for us. I suspect that a tour today would have focused on the Museum. Day 4: Schoonhoven & Kinderdijk The morning started with a half day in small town of Schoonhoven. This tiny town (the smallest in the Netherlands by land area) sits behind a dike and is known for silversmithing. It was quiet on a Sunday with almost all the shops closed. The town does have a silver museum, but we opted not to go and just enjoy a walk around the town. Around lunchtime the ship set out for Kinderdijk. Here Teeming broke a little with their model and offered tours. Most people signed up, and there were 2 groups of about 50 people each. We chose to do it on our own. We’d downloaded the Kinderdijk app on our phones before we left and prepurchased our tickets for both admission and a boat ride around the site. I assumed that the app was all we needed, but once we got into it, we realized that we should have downloaded the audio tour as well. Kinderdijk does have a “hotspot” where you can download the tour, but it was VERY slow. So if you plan to use the app, be sure to download the audio tours as well. As I mentioned earlier, we’d had a problem with engine noise in our room. We talked to Jeff Pagiolonga, and he was very concerned. He offered to move us to another room and to compensate us for the difference in the cabin prices. We decided to try one more night with using medication to help us sleep. It worked well, and we’ve decided to stay in the room. The couple in the other room has moved to another room. Teeming was very accommodating, and we felt that they were willing to do anything they could to make sure that we were happy. We love the room and think that we can deal with the noise now. Even with the sleep aids, it seemed significantly quieter last night. I've added a couple of images below, our cabin and the steam train, and yes, the engine is attach that way. I think that on the return trip from Medemblik, it was pointed the "right" direction.
  24. I'm impressed! You really know your Albany history. The guide mentioned the Albany connection a few times talked about Dr. Hendricks. It's hard to imagine this ship crossing the Atlantic with a crew of only 17! What do they say? Iron men and wooden ships. They only mentioned in passing that the ship "might" leave Hoorn next year. Yesterday was a big day for the Half Moon. They had her rigged up and took her out for the first time this year. When things get going in the summer they take people on day trips for € 99 per head. I hope I've attached a photo of the ship getting ready to drop some sail at Hoorn (my first attempt with the new cruisecritic setup.
  25. Onboard the Royal Emerald: We boarded the ship on Thursday afternoon around 2 o’clock (3 o’clock was the suggested check-in time). The front desk began getting people into their rooms around 3:20. We didn’t get into our rooms until almost 5:00. Everybody but the two panorama suites got through fairly quickly. With this being the first cruise of the year, and the fact that the two panorama suites had been completely revamped to deal with vibration issues, they were apparently not ready. The hotel manager apologized profusely and bought us a drink. The ship appears to be in great shape, and our stateroom is great. There’s not a lot of vibration, but there is significant engine noise when underway. It’s a constant roar, and we’ll see how we do as the cruise goes on. I did a check with a dB meter program on my phone, and in port with the engines stopped and no perceivable noise, I got a reading of around 55 dB. Underway with the engines running the sound levels ran between 75 and 80 dB. We pulled out of Amsterdam at 7:00 p.m. and dinner was served at 7:30 p.m. Things were a little slow getting started, but once serving started, the courses came out quickly. This is the first cruise for the Royal Emerald, so it’s normal to expect some confusion early on. We were finished with desert a little before 10:00 p.m. The ship pulled into Hoorn around 10:30 p.m. The day in Hoorn began with a port talk at 9:15. The cruise director said a few things about the area and pointed out the main attractions in Hoorn, the sailing ship Halve Maen (Half Moon), a replica of the ship Henry Hudson sailed to America back in 1609, and the Westfries Museum. The Half Moon isn’t open this early in the year normally, but they had tours at 10:00 and 11:00 for Teeming passengers. We did the ship tour at 10:00, and took a walk around town before lunch and then visited the museum in the afternoon. We were fortunate to see the Halve Maen actually sailing. Today was the first sailing of this year. A crew took the ship out (under diesel power) and sailed toward downtown Hoorn before turning around and heading back south under sail. This is the first sailing of the season for the Royal Emerald, and there are a few small issues associated with starting the new year. Some of the televisions are new, and we had an issue with our remote control that was quickly remedied. We also had problems with cooling with the temperature in our room getting up to 78°F this afternoon. We talked to the desk, and they sent an engineer down to check it out. He found the problem and fixed it, so now everything seems fine. It’s probably worth mentioning the makeup of the passengers. I think that there’s a wider span of ages than one typically sees on a river cruise. There’s a family with a child who looks to be around 7-8 years old, and another with teenage daughters. There are also more middle-aged couples than we normally see on river cruises. We have a group of 32 cruisers from Denmark. Most of the rest are Americans, along with Canadian’s, Brits, and Aussies. So far Teeming’s approach has worked for us. We didn’t have to eave on an early morning tour, which gave us time to sleep in a little. When we visited the Half Moon, they were able to give us a ticket which got us into the Westfries Museum as well, saving us some money, so the total cost of our “excursions” was € 27. We did quite a bit of walking around Hoorn, so we managed to get in about 14,000 steps today. The POP app that Teeming uses on both iPhones and Android worked well today. When you fire up the app, you select the town you’re visiting, and it brings up a map with points of interest marked. You touch the symbol for the attraction you’re interested in, and you see a brief description of the site of interest. Then you just touch a symbol to go to that site, and the app plots out a route to get there. This all works on pre-downloaded maps, so you don’t have to use data roaming. The map also shows the docking location, so you can quickly map out the best route to the ships. Food service has been comparable to what we’ve experienced with Viking, Avalon, and Vantage. We had a nice breakfast buffet, a typical buffet lunch with a pasta station, and a sit down dinner tonight. The service was a little slow, but I think that’s due to this being the first cruise of the year for the crew and staff. Tonight’s 7-course dinner was delicious. We set sail for Enkhuizen during dinner. Teeming’s owners, Jeff and Jena Pagliolonga are both on the cruise and eager to help and are regularly asking for feedback on any problems or issues that might arise, and suggestions on how they could provide a better experience. Today we hit Einkhuizen with the open air museum and other attractions. More on that tomorrow.
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