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ms Rotterdam Cruise Review

Page 6
Continued from page 5

Oso Frogner Park with Gustav Vigeland sculptures

ABOVE: Frogner Park, with its world-famous collection of sculptures by Gustav Vigeland, is included in ms Rotterdam's Oslo shore excursions.

Ports of call

Our six-night cruise departed from Rotterdam, Netherlands and visited three Scandinavian ports:

Helsingborg city hallHelsingborg, Sweden is on the Kattegat, a narrow area of water between the North Sea and the Baltic that separates Sweden from Denmark. Ferries run constantly across the strait to the small Danish city of Helsingør, the "Elsinore" of Shakespeare's Hamlet.

tender in Helsingborg marinaHelsingborg is a tender port, meaning that ms Rotterdam anchored offshore and used tenders (a.k.a. enclosed lifeboats) to ferry passengers into the city center. The port visit was relatively short--about eight hours, minus time for anchoring and taking tenders in each direction--but it was long enough for sightseeing and shopping in the attractive Swedish town.

Langelinie Quay CopenhagenAfter sailing from Helsingborg around 3 p.m., Rotterdam needed only about two hours to reach Copenhagen, Denmark (see our Copenhagen City Guide), where the ship moored overnight at the Langelinie quay just north of the "Little Mermaid" statue.

Tivoli GardensWe had plenty of time to visit Tivoli Gardens, have a drink at Icebar CPH and dinner at a restaurant in Tivoli, then shop and sightsee the next morning before walking back to the ship from the city center in time for Rotterdam's 4 p.m. departure.

Oslo Akershus fortress and ROTTERDAMOur final port of call was Oslo, Norway, where the ship tied up next to the Oslo Cruise Terminal and the Akershus fortress on the edge of downtown.

Frogner Park statueWe had nearly 12 hours of shore time in Oslo, which meant we could trek past the Royal Palace to Frogner Park (site of the Oslo's signature Gustav Vigeland outdoor sculpture collection), walk back into town, take a break on the ship, and return to downtown Oslo for more exploring and shopping.

  • Note: The night before arriving in each port, our steward left a small map of the port with basic tourist information in our cabin. In all three ports, the local tourist offices handed out more elaborate local maps as passengers got off the ship, and two of the three ports (Copenhagen and Oslo) had tourist information desks inside their cruise terminals.

Shore excursions

Rotterdam gangway at LangelinieRotterdam offered a variety of shore excursions during our cruise, ranging from basic transportation (an expensive roundtrip Tivoli Gardens transfer) to an all-day tour that started in Helsingborg, went to the Swedish city of Malmö, and finally crossed the øresund bridge and tunnel between Sweden and the Danish capital of Copenhagen.

Not too many passengers took advantage of shore excursions on our cruise, probably for two reasons:

  • Most of the passengers were Dutch couples and families who presumably were comfortable with independent travel in Europe;

  • All three cities were interesting in themselves and easy to reach from the ship, with good public transportation and plenty of sightseeing opportunities on foot.

Oslo shore excursion busesIf we'd been on a different itinerary, shore excursions might have been more popular. For example, cruise ships often call at the tiny port of Katakalon, Greece, which is mostly a gateway to the ancient ruins of Olympia; or at Zeebrugge, Belgium, where most passengers book shore excursions or find other ways (often expensive) to reach the historic city of Bruges.

  • Note: Although it's often possible to make independent arrangements for tours by taxi or chauffeured cars, booking a tour on the ship has one major advantage: If the tour bus is late in getting back, the ship will wait--but if you miss the scheduled sailing time while you're off on your own, you'll be responsible for catching up with the ship at the next port.

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