The Transatlantic Journey: Holland America Line’s MS Rotterdam
The Voyage: Crossing the Atlantic for the First Time
Recently, I undertook an epic transatlantic journey aboard Holland America Line’s flagship, the MS Rotterdam. This voyage—which I enthusiastically embarked on for my very first cruise to Europe—unveiled to me a myriad of fascinating places and events, of which, these are my top 30 pick.
Welcome Aboard: Setting the Stage
This journey wouldn’t have been as monumental as it had been if not for the heritage-steeped vessel that served as my mobile home away from home. The MS Rotterdam carried me safely across the vast Atlantic Ocean, uncovering the rich maritime history of the places we visited, all while pampered by its exceptional service and amenities.
A Transatlantic Intersection with History
The Titanic Commemoration
My voyage began on a rather poignant note as it coincided with a significant date in maritime history—the anniversary of the Titanic’s fateful maiden voyage. Over a century ago, on April 15, 1912, the Titanic embarked on its tragic journey, carrying over 2,200 passengers and crew. After hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean, the ship sank, resulting in one of history’s deadliest peacetime maritime disasters with a loss of around 1,500 lives.
One of the most intriguing parts of the cruise was when we followed the same path as the Titanic, sailing directly over its wreckage. The ship lies on the ocean floor at a depth of roughly 12,500 feet, about 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland. This moment of remembrance was a surreal experience for me, making me feel a deep connection with this historic event.
Embarking on a Tour with the Pilgrims: Plymouth, UK
First Port Stop: Plymouth, UK
After our transatlantic crossing, we arrived at our first port stop in Plymouth, UK. This historic harbor is the exact spot where the Pilgrims embarked on the Mayflower to journey to the New World. There, I had the chance to stay at the Island House, the same hotel where the Pilgrims stayed the night before their voyage. The town also commemorates the Pilgrims’ journey with the symbolic Mayflower Steps and a dedicated Mayflower Museum.
Step Back in Time: Cotillo House, Cornwall, England
Living in the Past: Cotillo House
In Cornwall, I was transported back to the late 15th century when I visited Cotillo House, a Tudor manor house. Walking around the house and through its gardens and orchards, I had a unique opportunity to experience life during medieval times. The house, adorned with tapestry, offered a time-still moment that made me feel like I had lived during those times.
Dover: Wake up to History and Natural Beauty
Picturesque Dover: The White Cliffs
The second port of call on this tour was in Dover, a town rich in history. What took my breath away, however, was the stunning natural beauty of Dover. Waking up and opening the curtains of the cruise ship revealed the stunning White Cliffs of Dover, which have captured the imagination of travelers for centuries and inspired countless songs and books. The sight of the towering white cliffs set against the crisp morning sky was a memorable moment that I will always cherish.
Historical Marvels in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
The Swan Bridge: An Amazing Sight in Rotterdam
The third stop of this cruise was in Rotterdam, where we docked right next to the iconic Erasmus Bridge. This suspension bridge, also known as the Swan Bridge, is a true architectural marvel. With its asymmetrical design resembling a graceful swan, it lends beauty and charm to the city’s skyline.
For the Love of History: Windmills of Kinderdijk
While in Rotterdam, I also had the chance to visit Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting 19 well-preserved windmills dating back to the 18th century. Apart from being a spectacle of beauty, these windmills are a timeless symbol of Dutch ingenuity demonstrating the country’s innovative and efficient water management system.
The Nordic Grandeur in Oslo, Norway
Witnessing Masterpieces: The Vigeland Statue Park
In Oslo, Norway, I happened upon the Vigeland Statue Park, one of the few parks worldwide dedicated solely to the works of a single artist, Gustav Vigeland. Spread over 80 acres, the park houses more than 200 bronze and granite sculptures that encapsulate a wide range of human emotions and relationships.
A Glimpse of Scotland;
A Slice of History in Queensferry, Scotland
The final highlight of the cruise was Queensferry, Scotland, a historic town that is essentially a gateway to Edinburgh. It was here that I saw the Forth Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of Scotland’s oldest metal railway bridges. The red hued bridge exhibit engineering brilliance and has stood the test of time.
Historical Deep-Dive: Edinburgh Castle
A visit to Edinburgh Castle, arguably one of Scotland’s most fortified castles, was an affirmative nod to the nation’s rich heritage. Exploring this centuries-old edifice offered me a deeper understanding of Scotland’s formidable past.
Concluding the journey
After experiencing these 30 thrilling sights and more across five countries, I disembarked from the MS Rotterdam, feeling a deep sense of fulfillment. I had not only seen the most remarkable sights in Europe but had also developed a nuanced understanding of the region’s rich history and culture. My first cruise to Europe left an indelible mark, feeding my passion for travel and adventure while fueling my imagination to explore more of what the world has to offer.