Marv and Carole embark on their trans-Atlantic cruise. Photo courtesy of the Feldmans.
This Great Adventure (GA) was a “sea change” from our previous 35 GAs! We did something different—instead of traveling to Europe via Space-A by military air, as we have many times before, we took a trans-Atlantic repositioning voyage by sea on the huge, new Royal Princess from Ft. Lauderdale (Florida) to Copenhagen (Denmark). This was our first ocean “cruise” together.
In 1966, when Carole was last on an ocean liner, her journey by sea from Australia to Europe took 6+ weeks. This time, the ocean crossing was a 16-day journey, with stops in the Azores, England, France and Holland. On the other hand, there was the usual Feldman-full-of-surprises aspect of this adventure! While Princess Cruises gave us the ship’s itinerary, once we disembarked in Copenhagen we expected the unexpected (i.e., we hoped to explore Eastern Europe (the Land of Strudel?), but had no idea where we would go or how/when we would return home—thus, the Great Adventure. Ship ahoy and full steam ahead!
Amazingly, and in just a few short hours, Princess Cruises processed 3,600 passengers through security and onto the ship, and (what seemed like) moments later, the porter knocked on our cabin door and handed us our luggage. Our first on-board meal was no “light lunch” but an endless, top-notch variety of every kind of food known to man! Right away, we realized that if we did not want to double our weight, we best put the brakes on over-indulgence and hit the ship’s gym EVERY DAY!
Some asked, “What does one do while at sea—isn’t that boring?” Not at all! Every day (and we had six “at sea” days before we saw land) the ship published a newspaper with a huge list of activities. In just one day, we enjoyed a Russian string quartet (two violins, a viola and a cello) playing at afternoon tea. That evening, we saw a “Movie under the Stars” while tucked under blankets and served popcorn, then followed that with a night of dancing under strobe lights to a 50’s Rock ‘n’ Roll band and British vocalist! We attended lectures on health, high tech innovations and travel—all in a single day. Of course, we could have simply sat on our stateroom’s balcony (we did that while sipping wine at sunset), watching the sea and other occasional ships and sea life in passing. Indeed, in the mornings, we captured the breathtaking sunrise reflecting on calm seas.
Life at sea continued to be as busy as we wanted it. The state-of-the-art fitness center saw our presence there daily—with the many taste temptations in several dining locations, our willpower was very challenged. Relaxing time on our balcony, conversations with fellow passengers, fantastic Las Vegas style shows, lectures, and intimate performances by a classical guitarist added to our enjoyment. For Carole, this was a totally different voyage to her 1966 one—our ship was about five times as large and vastly more upscale than her ship on which she sailed nearly 50 years ago!
The Azores—Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel
Marv enjoying a Portugese brandy in Ponte Delgada. Photo courtesy of the Feldmans.
When Marvin was serving in the U.S. Air Force, he was assigned to Lajes Field on the Azorean island of Terceira (Portugal) from 1970 to 1972. On this current trip, friends in Ponta Delgada, on the island of Sao Miguel, invited us to visit the Azores Regional Archives, normally closed on a Sunday (the day of our visit). What a fascinating storehouse of Azorean history!
We spent the rest of our eight-hour port call strolling down Ponta Delgada’s cobblestone streets (inlaid with mosaic sidewalks), looking just around the corner. As we enjoyed strong European coffee and savored a traditional Portuguese lunch with Marvin downing a “1920” brand Portuguese brandy (with gusto!), we used our limited Portuguese to joke and laugh with kind locals. After warm hugs from our Azorean friends, and a dock-side band farewelling us with American music, the Royal Princess lifted her anchor and sailed into the deep Atlantic, heading towards our next port of call in England.
With long days at sea over, our multi-stop “cruise” portion began at the Port of Southampton, England. Not surprisingly, we were greeted in England by miserable cold, rainy and windy weather. This was no Florida! Expecting such weather, we were appropriately rugged up.
Carole with Lord Nelson in rainy Portsmouth, England. Photo courtesy of the Feldmans.
We opted for our own “excursion” to Portsmouth—one hour from Southampton by train. Our focus in this city (birthplace of Charles Dickens and centuries-old home of the Royal Navy) was the Historic Dockyard. Battling the cold wind and rain, we spent a fascinating day, exploring Nelson’s flagship (HMS Victory), the new multi-million pound Mary Rose Museum (with the preserved hull of Henry VIII’s flagship), the world’s first ironclad warship (HMS Warrior), the excellent National Museum of the Royal Navy, and a harbor cruise on the Solent. We wrapped up our day in Portsmouth with a taste of English cuisine—a freshly baked Cornish Pasty—before returning by train to Southampton and our ship. Despite the unfavorable weather, we reflected on a grand day as Royal Princess set sail for the overnight trip across the English Channel to France.
France—the D-Day Beaches
Of all the “official” excursions offered on our ship, we chose to take only one—to the D-Day Landing beaches of Normandy. With the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landing only three weeks away, we felt it appropriate to mark this occasion by our own visit. After docking at the port of Le Havre (Royal Princess was the largest to have done so there), we joined hundreds of others (usually not our style) on dozens of buses for the drive through the lovely Normandy countryside. Tiny villages, green fields filled with sunflowers, daisies and wheat, grazing cows, and apple orchards (for the region’s Calvados apple brandy) delighted us. The focus, however, was not this stunning scenery but our visit to the World War II beaches.
A stop at Arromanches gave us both the opportunity to tour the D‑Day Museum and the remains of the artificial Mulberry harbor on the sands and in the sea. A cold and extremely windy day made us reflect on what it must have been like for Allied troops (under German fire) who came ashore at Juno and Gold landing sites there on that June 6, 1944, day.
Carole at American cemetery near Omaha Beach, Normandy. Photo courtesy of the Feldmans.
Lunch at a former 18th Century country farmhouse (and one-time Nazi officer residence) preceded a visit to the American Cemetery, just above Omaha Beach, where over 10,000 servicemen are buried. This was a very sobering and quite emotional experience. At Pointe du Hoc (our final stop), high on a sheer cliff overlooking the rocks and wild sea below, we were amazed at how brave U.S. Rangers captured this strategic position (with numerous German bunkers and huge guns) in just 30 minutes.
After returning to Le Havre from a meaningful and reflective day, we boarded Royal Princess to sail for Holland.
The Netherlands (Holland)—Rotterdam
As we entered the New Waterway channel for the 30 mile trip from the North Sea to the Port of Rotterdam, we saw our first Dutch windmill! Rotterdam had never seen a ship as large as Royal Princess so it took quite a bit of jostling (a challenging situation as our Captain said) to bring into and berth her in Europe’s busiest port.
Unfortunately again, the weather began “rotten in Rotterdam”—we were greeted by driving rain, cold, and extremely gusty winds; nonetheless, we soldiered on to make our eight hour port call fulfilling. We had visions of a dirty, old and rundown seaport but we were wrong! World War II German bombings mostly destroyed the city, giving the Dutch the opportunity to completely rebuild it. Now, she is a gleaming, beautiful financial center with canals, parks and sculptures, ultra-modern “edgy” architecture, an excellent transportation system, and flowers everywhere. Everyone we met was, without exception, helpful, kind, and welcoming. Now Rotterdam is high on our “must return to” list.
After a few hours, the rain subsided and the sun came out, making our visit to the City Market a joy! We nibbled our way through food stalls, sampling Dutch herring, cheeses and waffle-pastries. Indonesia (formerly the Dutch East Indies) had been a colony of The Netherlands so it was easy for us to find lunch at one of Rotterdam’s Indonesian restaurants as Carole enjoyed a nostalgic, tasty reminiscence of her three years in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Now—anchors aweigh for our last two days aboard Royal Princess as we headed to Copenhagen!