Shanghai: Paris of the East, Queen of the Orient

Day 27, Grand Asia 2017

Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017 – Shanghai, China

Shanghai is one of those cities that must be experienced rather than toured. I didn’t know much about it before arriving, and it didn’t have a must-see historic icon on my list like the Great Wall, Petra or the Great Pyramids. What Shanghai does have in spades is a spectacular waterfront, and the MS Amsterdam docked front and center.

I don’t know what time in the wee hours we started up the Huangpu River, but by the time I was up we were running at a pretty good clip on what seemed like a narrow river for the amount of fast traffic it carried. Barges and ships tooled along in unmarked lanes. As the sun was rising behind us, we encountered the modern skyscrapers of the Pudong financial district on our portside. The Oriental Pearl TV and radio tower looked like a spaceship and is the fifth-tallest structure in the world. It’s hard to believe that before 1990, this entire area was farmland and rice paddies.

DSC07662Our berth was to starboard, right behind Holland America’s Volendam, a sister ship to the Amsterdam. I sailed to Hawaii on the Volendam 13 years ago, and as I recall the only real difference is that the Volendam lacks a midship elevator and staircase. From shore they look like twin sisters.

DSC07710Again we had beautiful weather. The day dawned with few clouds and stayed that way, with high temperatures in the 70s. Perfect weather for a city filled with flowers.

Holland America offered a full menu of tours, from traveling an hour to a historic fishing village to taking the magnetic levitation (maglev) train at up to 267 miles per hour. I opted to take the complimentary shuttle to the near end of the Bund, a wide boulevard with a wider raised pedestrian walkway along the river on one side and iconic hotels (Peninsula, Fairmount) and buildings on the other. As the river turned, the views of the skyline and our ship improved with every block. The beautiful Saturday drew out the crowds.

DSC07705For my return, I moved a couple of blocks away from the river to window shop for designer clothes, stunning silk scarves and cheap souvenirs (buying nothing). Many pedestrians hurried by while eating dumplings with chopsticks.

DSC07646I was the rare Caucasian, and many of them spoke German and Dutch. I saw more than a dozen brides posing for scenic portraits, accompanied by photographers, lighting technicians and makeup attendants. My Fitbit recorded more than six miles by the time I returned to the ship.

img_0604-1We had pre-dinner drinks in the Crow’s Nest (lounge on the top deck), where the amazing skyline took our breath away. Earlier in the afternoon sailboats from the nearby yacht club raced beneath those same skyscrapers. Commercial traffic on the river – heavy all day – stopped during the race.

DSC07725By early evening, the river had become a six-lane highway of barges and ships. After dark, the brightly lit dinner cruise boats took over.

img_0622The dining room was as sparse tonight as it was packed for the Red Lantern Gala last night. Many of the ship excursions didn’t return until after 7:30 p.m., and I think the tired passengers decided to eat quickly at the Lido buffet. Everyone wanted to get to the Queen’s Lounge showroom early for the Chinese Acrobat performance. The entertainers put on quite a show of strength, flexibility and daring.


Tomorrow morning I leave the Amsterdam for a four-day overland tour. A dozen of us and our travel agency host will fly three hours (it’s a big country) to Guilin, where we will cruise on the Li River, visit caves and absorb the scenery. We then fly to Xi’an to see the Big Wild Good Pagoda and – as the side trip highlight – the Terracotta Warriors. We will fly to Hong Kong to rejoin the ship on Nov. 1. I hope I will be able to post blog updates along the way, but it will depend on Internet site availability. China blocks Facebook and Google, among other sites. At some point I promise to catch up.