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Adventures With Robin

Your Go-To Travel Source

Welcome! This space serves as a platform for travel agent Robin Norell to share her trips, experiences and expertise with you. Exceeding your customer service expectations is Robin’s primary goal. Having worked for Disney for 2.5 years, she knows how to make your vacation magic. 

Robin has visited 25 countries (Caribbean, Europe, Asia) and 31 states, and has been on 26 river and ocean cruises (so far), visited Disney World, Disneyland and Disneyland Paris multiple times, and she is happy to share her travel experiences and knowledge with you to make your vacation the best it can be.

Robin has been awarded the distinguished certifications of CLIA’s (Cruise Lines International Association) ACC (Accredited Cruise Counselor) Certification, as well as earning her CTA (Certified Travel Associate) certification, has completed the College of Disney Knowledge, and continues to learn more about the travel industry every day.

Excelling in administration and customer service, she takes care of all the details, leaving you free to relax and enjoy!

Independent Vacation Planner

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Tulips, Injury, and Setting Sail. March 16-17

Saturday March 16 


Today’s agenda: Tour with the ship on which you stayed for the expo, Lunch on ship, then afternoon on our own, 7pm dinner, 9:30pm After Parties.


Each attendee at this conference selected to either stay on one of the ships, or in the nearby hotel. The ship on which everyone is staying is hosting them for an excursion today. Our ship, the AmaMora, took us to The Tulip Experience – a tulip farm that added a “museum” for tourists. It’s all family owned, and they took their warehouse and set up displays to show the history of the tulip industry. The first half showed the process of farming, and how it has changed since the farm was started in the mid 1950s, and the other half showed the history of tulips. 

When we were done, they gave us free coffee and apple rondos (an absolutely delicious apple pastry treat). We could walk out into the field where we would see the tulips in the field from the raised platform. And they had a little shop with all things tulips. They also let us select tulips to take with us. Cindy gathered 5 of them to decorate our room on our 7-night cruise. 

Here are my notes:  

  • With machinery, planting went from 1-2 thousand bulbs planted per day to 3 million. 

  • A few percent of tulips get sick (white streaks), and they have to watch for them because they need to be taken out of the crop. It used to require manual inspection, now there are robot machines that work 24 hours a day, going over the fields and sensing the sick tulips. It then takes a GPS reading, and the report shows where they are so they can go and be pulled out. 

  • Their crop is actually the bulbs, not the flowers. They have to cut the flowers off so that the flower directs its energy and seeds to the bulb instead of the flower. If the flower stays too long on the plant, it can also develop a fungus. 

  • Harvesting is all done with equipment – dig up, dry, sift out the sand, peel, and export. They used to manually sift out the sand, then lay them out to dry on shelves up in the attic of the barn. Machines now automatically sift out the sand, put them into boxes through which air is blown, do about 80% of the peeling (they are working on a machine that will do the other 20%) and they are dried in a fraction of the time. The machines also sort the bulbs by size – the larger ones are sold to the US (the bigger buyer), and the baby bulbs are used the following year. 

  • 95% of the bulbs in the world come from the Netherlands The other 5% come from New Zealand and Chile during the opposite seasons, and these are grown by Dutch immigrants and their descendants. 

  • They mix varieties to get new colors but it took 25 years of cross “breeding” to get a new color. Now they are using DNA and it only takes 7 years. 

  • Tulips originally came from Kazakhstan and they still grow in the mountains there. The first time they are mentioned in writings is 1000AD. They were taken on the Silk Road, and brought to Turkey around 1300 where they were highly prized by the Sultans. The Sultans even put them in their turbans, and the Turkish work for turban is tulbend, which is where the name tulips came from. 

  • By the mid 1500s they came to Antwerp (which was part of Netherlands at that time), and a botanist wrote about them so much they became a high luxury item. A bulb could sell for the equivalent of multiple millions in today’s dollars. 

  • During World War 2, out of necessity, many ate the tulip bulbs – they didn’t taste that great, but they provided necessary nutrition. 

  • Sand is perfect for growing tulips, but they still need a winter to grow. They only bloom 3-4 seasons and then they die. 

We left the Tulip Experience and rode back to the ship. We arrived around 12pm and had lunch. Then Kyle had made arrangements for a private tour and invited Cindy and me along. We met the guide, Alex, outside of the Passenger Terminal, and walked through the city. Great tour guide – I would (and will) highly recommend him – his English was great, very knowledgeable about all things.

My learnings: 

  • Catholics were the reigning religion for many years. But they had strict requirements on donations, so the church (and those who fully supported them) became very wealthy, and the  common people were getting poorer. So they protested…. And created Protestantism – I had never put that together before! 

  • The Catholic persecuted the Protestants, and in 1688 the 80 year war started. In the end, the country was divided and what is now Belgium and Luxembourg were run by the Catholics and Spain. To escape the Catholics, many left the south and moved to the north, including Amsterdam, where the population went from 150K to nearly 2 million.  

  • The official religion in Amsterdam was Calvinism, but they tolerated clandestine churches and temples as long as no religious symbols were on the outside of the building (and they contributed $). 

  • Dutch men are the tallest in the world – average 6’ tall. 

  • Gin was born here – started as a grain beverage (called genever) and they added juniper berries to mask the smell.

  • Red Light district – there are 3. Originally when sailors arrived after long trips, prostitutes met them at the pier carrying lanterns with red lights (thus the name). 

  • Our guide pointed out the public conveniences for men – metal enclosures that men can step into and use the urinals. The center area is solid, but you can see the top (heads) and the bottom (legs) so that police can see heads and legs. They count, and if the numbers don’t “match,” then they know it’s not being used for the right reasons – LOL! 

  • The name Roosevelt (2 of our presidents in the 20th century) comes from the Netherlands. It was originally Van Der Roosevelt, which means from the rose field. 

  • Hotel De L’Europe is the only hotel with balconies over the canal in Amsterdam.  

And no, sadly, none of us won.

After cocktails on Uniworld, Kyle, Trish, Melinda and I walked to AmaMora (even though Trish and I were scheduled to eat on AmaSerena) and of course we got in. Kyle asked for a table for 5 so that the ASTA employee (Mike) at the entrance could sit with us. But a woman came up and sat down (without asking), so we had to apologize to Mike (and we weren’t too thrilled with the woman and her attitude and conversation). 

Many went to the after parties, but I wanted to get some sleep. At around 10pm, I had just climbed in bed and I got a text from Cindy – on her way back to the ship after dinner, she had to go “up and over” another ship. The Uniworld ship was now between the two Ama ships, so we had to go up to the Sun Deck on AmaSerena, cross over the Sun Deck of the Uniworld ship, and then down into the AmaMora. When Cindy went to take the ramp from Ama to Uniworld, she missed a step and fell. She landed on her shoulder and knee. The person from Uniworld said she would be fine and to just go to bed. Ama said no way, she needed to go to the hospital, and they were arguing over who would go with her. So Cindy’s text to me was that she was on her way to the ER. 

I wasn’t sure what to do – I tried to stay up but I had already taken my sleep aids, and was so sleep deprived (too many nights in a row without enough sleep) I couldn’t stay awake. I fell asleep without my ear plugs so that I’d hear Cindy when she came in, which was around 3am. That’s when she told me that her shoulder was fractured in two places, and she had a makeshift sling. She had decided to go home, where she could get medical attention and Garry could help her. She was making arrangements to depart that day.  I told Cindy I’d help her pack in the morning and went back to sleep.  

Sunday March 17

I had set my alarm for 7am, as we had to be out of our rooms by 8:30am (so they could get ready for those who would embark today on their post-expo cruise). Cindy was already awake, and had packed all her things (one handed). We put our suitcases out in the hall and met Kyle for breakfast at 8.  He had a transfer to the airport booked for 9am for himself, so I helped Cindy with her bags and she and Kyle went to the airport. She was lucky to get on his flight, and he was kind enough to push her wheelchair through the airport. She upgraded to Delta One, and Kyle checked on her a few times during the flight. 

After they left, I went over to the Emerald Dawn, my home for the next 7 nights, and met up with Trish and Quent (who are also on this cruise).

Around 10am, we went over to see the Boat and Bike barge, and I was impressed. I mean, it’s not a fancy river cruise ship, but two people can sail for a week for about $5K US (total). They have bikes you can rent for the week ($100 for manual, $200 for electric). They include breakfast, a box lunch, and dinner, and wifi. Everything else (alcohol and gratuities) are extra. They don’t offer any tours besides the bikes. They have two groups – the shorter distance and the longer. If someone doesn’t bike, they can take a cab from the ship to whichever town the group is biking to that day and meet up with them. Overall, I think it’s a great option! 

Then I came back to the ship (Trish and Quent went to do more exploring) and I worked in the lounge until they announced the cabins were ready, and then worked in my cabin.  The President of ASTA (American Society of Travel Advisors), Zane Kirby, is on this sailing. He did some announcements from 5-5:30, then the cruise lines’ rep, the cruise director, and Captain all made announcements. We also met up with Shelly, from our consortium Ensemble – she is sailing on this cruise too, and we are the only Ensemble agency members on this sailing. 

Dinner was at 6:30pm – they had the same sesame crusted fish that I had on Monday night that was so good, so I ordered it again. It was very dry and not very tasty. Quent and Shelly had the turkey, which they said was undercooked. Overall a disappointing meal. 

I told them that I may or may not make it to the excursion in the morning – at 9:15am, the excursion was to see the windmills at Zaanse Schans. I’ve already seen windmills, and I needed sleep more. My book closed at 9:20pm. 


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Robin is an Independent Travel Planner who has been awarded CLIA's (Cruise Line Industry Association's) Accredited Cruise Counselor Certification and The Travel Institute's Certified Travel Associate designation. Her excellent service is yours at no cost - she's paid by the suppliers (hotel, cruise line, etc.), nor does she charge a fee for services. She may even save you money over booking it yourself, as she follows all the specials and will get you a better price after you book with her. When you are planning a family vacation or celebrating a special occasion through travel, you want the best experience possible, and Robin is ready to help you! She provides excellent customer service, and your happiness and satisfaction is her top priority. With the knowledge gained by her extensive travel experience (25 countries, 31 states, and 26 cruises so far) and customer service experience (2.5 years employed at Walt Disney World Resort), she's excited and ready to help you plan new adventures!

Location: Alexandria - VA
Phone: (567) 307-3476
Toll-Free: (866) 779-4830



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