Yesterday was a busy day. We arrived late into Amsterdam due to having to allow two larger tankers to proceed through the locks ahead of us. For me this was a blessing in disguise as all the ships tours were put back by an hour and a half which allowed me time to interview Larry Pimentel the CEO and President of Azamara Club Cruises and then go on a tour. What an interesting man Larry is, hearing from him how he became involved with Azamara Club Cruises, how he took his first cruise with Azamara without telling anyone who he was so that he could get a real feel for what it was like from a passengers view point. This enabled him to change what he did not like and plan for the future. He said how his vision was put into being, thus making the cruise line the model of excellence it is today. He told me how he planned this cruise for his father-in-law, a D-Day veteran who sadly died before he could come on it. Larry did bring with him, his mother-in-law so that she was able to experience the area and beaches that her husband came to in 1944. I hope we can put the recorded interview on the main site when I return.
Late morning sees us boarding the coach and heading in the direction of Arnhem and the National Bevrijdingsmuseum 1944 – 1945. The museum is set amongst the green countryside and is on the spot where so many para troopers landed and lost their lives 70 years ago. This is where Operation Market Garden was centred. There are mock-ups of situation rooms, restored cars and replica uniforms. One of the restored vehicles is an American Jeep which has its headlights on. Walk across in front of it, and it sounds its hooter, which really makes you jump. Under a huge replica parachute is the memorial to those who lost their lives in this conflict whilst trying to take that ‘Bridge Too Far’. When you see the insignias, not just American, Canadian and British but Polish and others you realise the enormity of it all. I heard one man say to another who was about to enter, take your tissues with you, you’ll need them. Due to our late start, it’s time for lunch at a restaurant set on the edge of a forest. Soup followed by Pork in breadcrumbs and vegetables with ice cream cake to finish. Washed down of course by the usual white wine.
Next stop is the Airborne Museum at Hartenstein. Spread over 6 floors, 3 of which are underground and have been arranged to give some wonderful effects. It starts with a film showing footage taken at the time of planes dropping the para troopers and the gliders making their landing, some of which are spectacular to say the least. The grounds in which this museum is set are beautifully manicured and looked as if they had been especially done just for us. Time to board the coach again and head back to the ship. We encounter very heavy traffic on the way, which on top of our late start makes us later still. On arrival back, the ‘White Night’ has already begun. Tables and chairs have been moved out onto the decks and the music is in full swing. As the party progresses Eric the Cruise Director whom I praised in an earlier article once again gave a great performance with songs from The Lion King and led one of the longest Conga Lines I have ever seen on a ship. Needless to say a late night or should I say early morning enjoyed by all.
Today we are still in Amsterdam and many people are just relaxing on sun loungers and drinking iced water. Looks like a few hangovers are in evidence. The barges and river boats are continually plying their trade, and you realise how much The Netherlands make use of their canals. I find a spare sun lounger and order a glass of, yes, iced water as I copy the others and take advantage of the glorious sunshine and take this opportunity to top up the tan. The day drifts by and just after 4pm we set sail for Hamburg, our last port of call. Our journey takes us slowly back along the canal, passing farms and houses on one side and factories on the other. We creep slowly into the lock and wait for the water to rise up to sea level. Once done, the lock gate slides open, and we head to the open sea. The sky is a beautiful blue as we head north and is totally different from the forecast given when I left the UK 10 days ago.
This article was written for the 70th anniversary of WW2 in 2014. The ‘Past to Present’ cruise has sailed, but do visit the Azamara website for similar upcoming voyages.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Azamara.
Memories of World War II – An Introduction
Memories of World War II – Days 1 and 2
Memories of World War II – Days 3 and 4
Memories of World War II – Days 5
Memories of World War II – Days 6
Memories of World War II – Days 7 and 8
Memories of World War II – Final Day