My first cruise ever, so exciting! Living on a ship for 6 days with 4 floors, 2 elevators and 69 + 63 people in total. Cruising through 3 countries and 5 cities. The cruise ship is adjusted for people with special needs, the designers have taken everything into account. MPS de Zonnebloem is equipped with the necessary medical facilities such as hoists and high-low beds. The ship sails about 40 weeks a year across the Rhine to Germany and across Belgian and Dutch waters. With 2,850 people with a physical disability, young and old, onboard every year. The ship has 11 one-person cabins and 29 two-person cabins on the main deck. Each cabin is equipped with high-low beds, ceiling-lift systems, connection for oxygen, radio, TV, call system and one bathroom per two cabins.
“Map out your future – but do it in pencil. The road ahead is as long as you make it. Make it worth the trip.” – Jon Bon Jovi
What to do?
On Monday afternoon we gathered in Arnhem to sail from there. When everyone and all things were on board we could start sailing. First, we went to Duisburg (Germany) but we weren’t able to go off the ship in Duisburg. We spent the night on board in Duisburg. We got the chance to get to know each other better because almost all of us were unknown to each other.
I have to say that I did not quite know what to expect from a week on a cruise. But I also have to admit that it went very well. There was also plenty to do while sailing, such as sitting on the sun deck and enjoying the view.
On Tuesday morning we left Duisburg around 08:00 and arrived in Düsseldorf around 13:00, during lunch. We were given different options to spend our day in Düsseldorf, like a bus tour or walking tour. I chose to discover Düsseldorf independently. We walked (rolled) through the Altstadt, and we visited the Königsallee. The Altstadt is the historic center of Düsseldorf. It is only half a square kilometer in size, but it is a huge draw: historic buildings, narrow streets, nice shops and a huge number of cafés, bars, and restaurants. The Königsallee is one of the top tourist attractions in Düsseldorf. It is the best known and also the most popular street in the city. A boulevard of over 1 km long, “dotted” with exclusive shops, lined with plane trees and chestnut trees, and in the middle the city moat Kö-Graben into which the Düssel flows. The cobblestones were the only downside of the city. Did you know Dusseldorf counted approximately 612.000 citizens in 2016?
One of my habits is visiting Starbucks in every city I am in. We went to the Starbucks in the Königsallee, but it was not accessible! I’ve been to Starbucks in Greece, Spain, and the US and I’ve never been to a Starbucks that is not accessible. Such a bummer, but we went to another coffee company that was accessible in the Altstadt. We went back to the ship around 17:00 to get ready for dinner. After dinner, we had a volunteer singer on board, Johan. He sang and danced for us the whole night. After Johan’s performance, we had some drinks and went to bed. While Johan was singing, we were sailing to Antwerp. We continued sailing the whole night because Antwerp is on quite a distance from Dusseldorf. I loved the sound and feeling of sailing while being asleep, so calming.
On the third morning, Wednesday, we woke up around 09:00. Breakfast in the restaurant is between 08:30 – 10:30, so no need to hurry for breakfast in the morning. Every morning you’ll get to hear who will be your ‘mate’ for the day, so you can go into the city with them. Antwerp has approximately 521,600 inhabitants (2018), making it the largest municipality in Belgium. When we arrived at the port of Antwerp, we got off the ship and walked to the city of Antwerp. The city was further away from the port than expected. The roads to the city were also very bad for wheelchair users, among others. After like half an hour we arrived in the city of Antwerp. This modern city is called ‘De Meir’. I’ve been to De Meir before, so it was not a new thing to me. And again, we went to Starbucks and this time it was accessible. We didn’t spend a lot of time in Antwerp, because walking to and from the ship takes one hour in total.
Around 17:00 we walked back to the ship, where we sat on the sun deck for a while. After dinner, I had reserved some time in the bathroom, like a room with a real bath. It was a special adjustable bath and accessible for the hoist. It was my first time in the bath since I’m in a wheelchair, and I loved it! After this wonderful bath, we all went to watch the women’s football World Cup. It was a pleasant evening with a nice atmosphere. And the women had won from Sweden!
On Thursday morning we were already sailing towards Gorinchem when we woke up. I had never been to Gorinchem before in my life, so I was very curious about this village. Most people get upset if you call Gornichem a village because they see it as a city. After a delicious little breakfast, we were able to enjoy the morning sun on the sun deck. Lunch is from 11:30 am, so no extensive breakfast is required. After a nice lunch, we were able to get off the ship to discover Gorinchem. The first thing I noticed was that everything looks very clean and tidy. A beautifully maintained village! There were nice shops and cafes to spend the day with.
We also went to the historical side of Gorinchem. It is assumed that Gorinchem was founded around the year 1000 by fishermen and farmers setting up a settlement on somewhat higher ground near a mouth of the Linge in the Merwede. 36,679 people live on an area of 22.01 km² (of which 3.23 km² water) (1 January 2019, source: CBS). After dinner, we had an option to watch some old firefighters singing in their Choir. I knew that this was not my kind of thing, And some other people thought the same thing. So instead of watching these men, We went back into the village and had some drinks at a cafe. We had a lovely night, and so did the other people who stayed with the firefighters. This time we did not have to sail at night, because our next destination was not far away from Gorinchem.
The next morning, on Friday, we took it easy in the morning. From about 13:30 we were able to leave the ship again. This time we moored in Nijmegen, also our last destination of this trip. I regularly come to Nijmegen so this city was not new to me. Although I’ve been here before, it will never be boring. Nijmegen is a beautiful city with plenty to do. Part of the group went to the casino while another part did a city tour. I decided not to do any excursion and to explore the city myself.
According to some scholars, Nijmegen is the oldest city in the Netherlands. History goes back more than 2000 years, and yet the city is still fairly modern. There are a huge number of sights and museums in and around Nijmegen. Public transport is also well arranged, making it easy to get anywhere in the area. There is also a lot of nature in the area. I spent my day in Nijmegen mainly on shopping and sitting on a terrace. It was primarily a quiet and sunny day. In the evening we had our last and also gala dinner. The chefs and restaurant staff have made this a nice evening that we will never forget. During dinner, we sailed on to our final destination in Arnhem, so we had a beautiful sailing dinner.
In the evening we had to pack our suitcases again, because we went home early on Saturday morning. It was a very nice and fun experience with wonderful people. I never expected that I would like a cruise so much, so I definitely intend to do another cruise again.
General things to know
Besides where to stay and what to do, there are some general things you should know.
The main official language spoken in Germany is German, but most people do speak a little English;
In Belgium, it is Dutch, Vlaams and French;
For the Netherlands, it is mostly Dutch and a bit of English.
Germany > Berlin
Belgium > Brussels
The Netherlands > Amsterdam
The Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium are all part of the European Union. So in all these countries, you can pay with euros.
Germany has a temperate maritime climate with relatively mild winters, no extremely hot summers and rainfall throughout the year;
Belgium has a temperate maritime climate with relatively mild winters, mild summers, and rainfall throughout the year;
The Netherlands has the same climate as Belgium.