Gail, Tracy. Paul and I flew to Amsterdam to board the cruise ship SS Rotterdam for a 19-day cruise across the North Atlantic. We actually boarded the ship in Rotterdam, the world’s busiest port.

The cruise was called the “Voyage of the Vikings” with the objective of visiting many of the countries that the Vikings had either raided or ruled during the Viking period from about 800 AD until 1250 AD.

The countries we visited with a Viking connection were Holland, Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland. The Smith family connection to Vikings comes through our Manx Grandparents, James B. Smith and Ruth Anne Stephen. The Isle of Man was ruled by Vikings from about 900 AD until 1250 AD and our Manx family heritage is about 30% Viking according to DNA.

The Vikings of that era set out from their Norwegian, Swedish and Danish ports to both raid and colonize parts of the North Atlantic. One Viking King, Rollo, conquered Normandy in about 900 AD. His great Grandson William the Conqueror became King of England following the Battle of Hastings and his blood runs in the current Royal family.

The Viking ships were the means by which these men could travel great distances and at relatively high speeds. Some of their voyages were over 1500 miles in length in basically open boat conditions. They could travel at a top speed of 20 mph, could navigate the open ocean or shallow rivers. They were built of overlapping planks, joined together with iron rivets at the joints and carried a sail along with oars for propulsion.

I had never dreamed of cruising the North Atlantic, much preferring the warmer climes of the Mediterranean, Australia or New Zealand and even the Alaskan trips are relatively warm. I was expecting the worst with rough seas and foggy, rainy weather.

However, the seas were calm, we encountered little fog or rain and the temperatures, except for Greenland, were quite pleasant. The scenery was exceptional. In short it was a memorable cruise.

Port of Rotterdam

We boarded the SS Rotterdam in the Port of Rotterdam. I was quite surprised at the modern look to an old city, and particularly the surrounding port itself.

The Port is the busiest seaport in the world. For example they handle 82 ships EVERY day in and out of the Port., including all kinds of oil from crude to gasoline. The harbour is almost 40 km in length and about 1 km in width. Compare this to Vancouver that currently handles about 9 ships per day and yet we are concerned about adding one more for crude oil. Speech over.

The Cruise ship Terminal is just to the right of the bright white stanchion for the Erasmus Bridge. The bridge is nicknamed ‘The Swan’ and is one of the longest cantilever bridges in the world with a length of just under 1,000 feet.

There is some fascinating architecture surrounding the port. In addition to the eye catching bridge, look at these two towers appearing to lean away from each other.  I wondered if the floors were level!

Rotterdam - we begin our voyage in the World’s busiest port                              

Dublin - we get to see some parts of the busy city

Greenock and Stirling Castle - We visit an ancient castle full of Scottish history

Isle of Skye - We tour a part of the scenic Island

Iceland - We visit three Towns, Djupivogur, Akureyri, Isafjorour and cruise several fjords

Greenland - Prince Christian Sound - A strikingly beautiful day of dramatic scenery

Greenland - Nanatorlik an isolated village on the south tip of Greenland

L’anse Aux Meadows - The scene of a Viking village established about 1,000 years ago

St. John’s Newfoundland - Just a special day touring this great city with friends

Halifax Nova Scotia - Back in summer heat, we use hop-on hop-off bus to tour Halifax

On board Ship - Mostly about our meals and life on board a cruise ship

Montreal and Quebec City - We revisit Old Montreal and Old Quebec

This is the exit from the Port of Rotterdam into the North Sea. A beautiful beach, one can sea the row of beach rental homes and, probably not as clear, hundreds of bathers as far as the eye can see. The 40 km back to the end of the harbour is every bit as clean looking with beaches and parks strung out along the north side of the port. This was the neatest and cleanest harbour to be seen on our trip, shaming the much smaller ones that we visited.

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On to Dublin

Viking Influences - The Netherlands

This country was subjected to Viking raids as was all of Europe, although there is no history that it was ever controlled by a Viking King. Traces of their presence have been found which suggest they did at times control and populate some sections of the country. There have been discoveries of Viking buried treasure in the country, consisting of gold and silver brought there from other parts of the world.