Norfolk Delights with Picture Perfect Day Along the Waterfront

Day 10, 2023 East Coast Voyage

Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, Norfolk, Virginia, USA

What a great cruise port! Norfolk is just the kind of stop I enjoy making. The pier is convenient to town. The area is designed for walking. And our weather was just about perfect – sunny, low humidity, temps in the 70s with a gentle breeze.

My only previous experience with Norfolk was boarding a ship here for a cruise to Bermuda. We just parked the car, spent a night in a hotel and boarded the ship. The city sits on the Elizabeth River, which flows into the James River before flowing out the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay into the Atlantic Ocean.

I had planned to spend this morning with friends from the 2020 world cruise who live just blocks from the cruise pier. Unfortunately, one of them discovered last night that he had covid, but he sent me a detailed talking tour. It was a great guide for my day ashore.

Sitting just across the pier from the Zaandam is the battleship USS Wisconsin, one of the largest and last battleships built by the U.S. Navy. It is permanently berthed on the same pier with the Nauticus maritime-themed science and technology complex sitting in the middle.

For a reasonable $15 you can wander throughout the Wisconsin as well as explore exhibitions examining aquatic life and environmental protection and the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.

It reminded me of playing as a kid on the battleship USS Texas, berthed at San Jacinto near Houston. Who needs the Battleship video game when you can use your imagination roaming throughout a huge ship IRL (in real life)?

I was immediately drawn to sketching the giant Wisconsin. I sometimes complain that all I seem to be sketching are buildings and gardens, so this provided a challenge. A modern yacht was moored in the way – I sketched what I could and have yet to decide if I will include the yacht or try to fill in the ship.

From there I wandered through the Pagoda and Oriental Garden, a small peaceful area with a koi pond where the quiet is only broken by the sound of fountains.

An archway leads into the Freemason Harbor neighborhood of mostly condos and townhouses, transitioning into residential streets with stately houses and brick streets. Benches line the path along the waterfront and small marina, encouraging a relaxing stop to just enjoy the day.

I walked on to the Chrysler Museum of Art, a few blocks away across a walkway spanning “the Hague,” an old creek area.

 The museum is named for automotive heir Walter P. Chrysler Jr., whose Norfolk-native wife encouraged him to donate their extensive art collection. I was particularly drawn to its collections of glass and Worcester porcelain.

Back on the ship, I joined other passengers outside on Deck 9 to watch our sail-away down the Elizabeth River and past the Navy shipyards. I counted at least four aircraft carriers and number of other ships. Not surprisingly, my Marine Tracker app didn’t identify the individual ships, and most had their sterns tucked into shore.

Later, I was the only person on Deck 6 forward to watch our crossing of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. The low-level bridge with a mile-long tunnel near each end spans the 17 miles between Hampton Roads to the south and the Delmarva (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia) peninsula to the north.

At my second complementary Pinnacle meal tonight, I splurged (calorie-wise) on the clothesline bacon (just two slices please). It was much better than earlier in the summer on the Zuiderdam, where I think the provisioned bacon wasn’t up to par. The halibut was perfect, and the key lime pie is always my dessert choice.