The final day of our cruise saw us wake to a grey, crisp day in Amsterdam, having arrived and docked in the early hours of the morning. The ship was moored in the main cruise boat port, however as was all too common with this trip, we were a bit further away from town than usual. Still, this is Amsterdam, and the walking is always pretty easy, it’s all flat and at worst we were 10 minutes walk from Centraal Station and the old town.

Thankfully we had a late start this morning as our canal cruise booking wasn’t until 10:00 am. Even better news was that the canal boat was wheelchair accessible, so our Canadian friend Betty-Lou, who had broken her leg on day 3 of the cruise, was finally able to join us off the ship as we cruised around the canals of Amsterdam.

The cruise turned out to be a popular option, and it was a tight fit for us all – I ended up sitting on a bench down the back. As was proving to be the case in the later stages of this trip, a number of couples had decided to break away on their own, and they would rush in to take up the window seats whenever we boarded any form of transport, making it difficult for those of us who were polite enough not to push our way in wherever we went.

Unfortunately, the cool conditions weren’t helping either, as the glass top of the boat was already covered in condensation, making it almost impossible to see out of, while the side windows reflected back the interior lighting, causing lots of focusing issues for those of us trying to take photographs.

Still, the guide on board was very knowledgeable and quite entertaining, with just the right mix of historical facts and quirky Dutch humour to make the hour long cruise very enjoyable. It’s a lovely way to see Amsterdam, but it’s probably worth checking out which operators regularly squeegee their windows before you purchase your tickets, as you’re so low to the water that you really need to be able to see out of all that glass.

As the cruise came to an end back in the main port, we waited back while all those who had rushed to get on first suddenly made their moves to get off first as well – it’s almost like they’re terrified of being left behind. After two years of lockdowns and little socialisation, I’m increasingly baffled at the way we seem, as a society, to have lost any sense of respect for others.

A classic example of this had been the night before, after the Captain’s farewell cocktail drinks, where we were delayed slightly (by a minute or so) in heading down to the restaurant for dinner as we had to speak to the cruise director about taxi arrangements for the Sunday disembarkation. Now, let me say that nothing p***es me off worse than people on a river cruise who think a certain table belongs to them, and angrily defend it at meal times, however there are also practicalities to consider – the Crystal Dining lounge has many tables, but only two that are set up for 12 people.

Since Prague, we have had a group of 11 of us who dine together at lunch and dinner – one of whom is wheelchair bound, so the table for 12 just inside the door has suited us perfectly. However this night, as we made our way into the dining room only 3 or 4 minutes after it had opened, we discovered a group of 6 people (Aussies too) had sat themselves on either side of the middle 3 seats, in a bizarre move that had us and the wait staff baffled, as they were surrounded by tables with settings for 6. Perhaps they expected others to join them, but it never happened. Thankfully the waitstaff were awesome people, and as the specialty dining table La Rive wasn’t in use that night, they set it up for us and made sure we were well looked after. Honestly, the more time I spend around humans, the more I appreciate the company of my dogs.

Anyway, after the cruise and once we were back on dry land, Vanessa and I headed into town for our lunch date at our favourite Amsterdam eatery – CafĂ© de Belhamel. We arrived about 20 minutes early, so we spent a bit of time wandering around the local streets, which proved to be a costly exercise as Vanessa spotted a lovely woolen dress in one of the shops that was a must-buy.

Lunch was absolutely delicious, and served by the most cheerful waitress – this was our third visit to this marvelous restaurant, and we loved it so much that we ended up booking dinner for our return to Amsterdam the following Sunday – our wedding anniversary.

After lunch we slowly made our way back along the canals to the Scenic Jasper, only managing to get slightly lost. Actually, lost is not quite right, I knew where we were the whole time, it’s just that we’d managed to walk down the wrong side of one of the canals and had to do a bit of a round trip to find a bridge that would get us back to the other side.

It was interesting swapping notes with the rest of the group, most of who were seeing Amsterdam for the first time. I absolutely love the place, but I have to admit that it hasn’t come out of the pandemic all that well. The streets are filthy, there are roadworks and closures everywhere, rubbish dumped in the canals, and a pervasive smell of dogshit, rotting garbage and urine wherever you go. Plus there seems to have been a proliferation of drug shops open up in the last couple of years – not just the regular “coffee houses” where you can go to smoke dope, but sleazy shops openly selling all sorts of questionable sex and drug paraphernalia. There are also tons of people openly smoking dope on the streets, and not just getting pleasantly “high”, but absolutely shit-faced, and often rude and aggressive as well. For many of the group, they found it to be their least favourite place on the whole trip, with many saying it was the only city they felt unsafe in, and I think that’s sad. There’s so much more to Amsterdam than dope smoking and prostitution, but from what we saw, those are the only growth industries at the moment.

I wouldn’t say I’ve fallen out of love with Amsterdam myself just yet, but at this rate, we’re going to need some counselling if we’re going to make it through.