Date of Trip: August 2012
It’s not often that people in the North of England or Scotland have the opportunity to visit a cruise ship for lunch- a frequent occurance along the South coast- so, along with another 4 members and OHs of a UK cruise forum, we leapt at the chance to visit Holland America’s ship Rotterdam when she visited South Queensferry, just west of Edinburgh. Some of us decided to spend time before and after at the Hawes Inn, mentioned by Robert Louis Stevenson in one of his famous novels, “Kidnapped”. This Inn, dating from at least the 1600s, is opposite the Hawes Quay, where we were to be met on the Monday morning, to take a tender boat under the famous Forth railway bridge, to the ship.
It’s an unusual building, added to over the centuries, but the rooms were well decorated, and had full en-suite (powerful shower) and all sundries expected these days- including the tea tray and kettle!
A mass of small rooms, some extended into larger ones, but others still in their original sizes, provided plenty of areas in which to meet in small groups. The Inn kept a “pub” feeling, although there were plenty of signs to show the amount of Scottish whiskies, or wines for sale. We started with a good shiraz from a cask, and continued with this through the first evening.
The staff were affable, but very busy, as it’s obviously a place used by many people, either for a quick dram, or a full-blown meal.We all decided on the latter, but if we’d preferred we could have just had a slice of pie, a pudding or even a bowl of chips.
The next morning- after worrying that the trains over the high bridge almost over us, might keep us awake, which didn’t happen to any of us, we met for the included Continental breakfast, which was perfectly adequate, and could have had any additions, including full Scottish with black and white pudding, for a small extra charge.
The highlight of the day was being tendered out to the ship, making her first port call from her start in Rotterdam. Once again- the story of our summer- the weather decided to pour on us, so there was little viewing of the outside areas of this elegant ship.
The Rotterdam is small- only 9 decks were open to us-and the decor is muted, even dark in places. Plenty of small areas to escape into, and a beautiful Crow’s Nest with panoramic views. Here, the big surprise was the smell of stale smoke, as there’s no indoor smoking on most ships based in the UK…..so that’s either a plus or minus depending on your habits….It’s been a few years since folk smoked in pubs, and the smell was a throw back to those years.
The majority of the passengers were from the Netherlands, or North America, and most had left for guided tours of Edinburgh, the Royal Yacht, or the founding golf club across the bridge at St Andrews. The narrow cobbled streets of S. Queensferry were almost blocked by cruise traffic that day, and parking was limited to coaches and taxis.
A superb lunch was provided, with wine,and a presentation to the guests happened after the meal.
I quite liked the ship, but could not see much to differentiate it from the other Carnival owned ships of Princess and P&O which we’ve sailed on….I could spot Dewsbury designs in the soft furnishings (we used to live next to the mill which did the screen printing for cruise ships- I still have “seconds” of curtains from the QE2…); the staff were as competent; the food as good; the entertainment sounded similar and the bars pleasant. The pool had a sliding roof, which is a must if sailing in N. Europe.
Where the line did show a slight difference to others in our region was in the itineraries, which were world wide, and included such things as Transatlantics going north via the Faroes, Iceland and on to Canada- not the sort of cruise for those who prefer a lazy Caribbean break (but I don’t consider that as really cruising….:) )
A choppy tender crossing back across the Firth of Forth, and goodbyes to some forum members, and another lazy pub night in the Hawes Inn for us- now in bright western sun, shining through the Forth road bridge.
It was a snack night, and we made up for it the next morning by adding scrambled eggs and flat mushrooms to our breakfast.
As we’d driven through the Lowlands on our journey north, we decided to return via the motorways, and had good weather for a change!