Touring Amsterdam, the Uniworld Way

Good Morning! Waking up aboard Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection's S.S. Maria Theresa. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Good Morning! Waking up aboard Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s S.S. Maria Theresa. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Friday, March 27, 2015

One thing I learned when I woke up this morning is that getting out of bed can be a task in itself aboard Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s S.S. Maria Theresa. In pictures, the Savoir of England bed in my Category 2 Stateroom looks voluptuous and inviting – and in reality it is exactly that, wrapping you in its Egyptian Cotton-embrace.

The longer I stay in my stateroom on Schonbrunn Deck, the more convinced I am of its ingenuity. Lights (once you figure them out) are surprisingly customizable, with convenient bedside controls that operate with the push of a button. Even the Do Not Disturb sign is electronically controlled, and your keycard acts as a further barrier, alerting the room stewards (who are nothing but kind) that the room is occupied.

Stateroom Bliss: my Category 2 Stateroom features a French-style balcony that opens with the push of a button. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Stateroom Bliss: my Category 2 Stateroom features a French-style balcony that opens with the push of a button. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

This information panel outside each stateroom functions as your keycard reader and provides valuable instructions for cabin stewards. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

This information panel outside each stateroom functions as your keycard reader and provides valuable instructions for cabin stewards. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

I’ve also spent an inordinate amount of time looking at the fit-and-finish in the room, which is quite spectacular. Even if the whole Baroque, Louis XIV-thing isn’t your bag, there’s no denying this is one meticulously crafted ship. Hand carved woodwork is everywhere, as are elements hand-painted in gold.

Elsewhere, even the elevator shaft – a utilitarian space on any ship – is painted in striking patterned gold leaf. Every door onboard, even crew access doors, are done up like an Austrian palace. Scant traces of modern doors and handles can be found, and I literally found myself crawling along the floor (well, not for long) to figure out where Uniworld had hidden the fire doors in the passenger corridors. Hint: they’re cleverly disguised as wall panels.

Corridor, Bavarian Deck, facing aft. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Corridor, Bavarian Deck, facing aft. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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Our Live Voyage Report from the christening of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s S.S. Maria Theresa will continue with a full photo-tour of this striking ship! Be sure to follow along on twitter @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

Viking River Cruises Christens 12 New Ships in Amsterdam

Viking River Cruises founder Torstein Hagen, center, flanked by some of the Godmothers for the 12 new river cruise ships christened on Tuesday, March 24, 2015. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Viking River Cruises founder Torstein Hagen, center, flanked by some of the Godmothers for the 12 new river cruise ships christened on Tuesday, March 24, 2015. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

After a morning of touring the beautiful Dutch city of Haarlem, guests returned to Viking River Cruises Viking Skirnir, where the red carpet had been rolled out at the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam for the big event: the christening of 12 brand-new vessels for Viking.

Of those 12, 10 are Viking Longships. The last two – Viking Astrild and Viking Beyla – are “Longship-esque” ships that have been designed specifically for the ultra-shallow Elbe River. To that end, the engineers at the Neptun-Werft yards in Rostock, Germany have performed a maritime hat-trick, creating vessels with just 0.8 metres of draft (hull below the waterline), powered by state-of-the-art pump jets in place of the more traditional propeller-drive propulsion systems.

It was a beautiful day in Amsterdam initially, but even the afternoon chill and rain couldn't keep guests away from the 2015 Viking Longships christening ceremonies! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

It was a beautiful day in Amsterdam initially, but even the afternoon chill and rain couldn’t keep guests away from the 2015 Viking Longships christening ceremonies! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

I’ve thought long and hard what the takeaway from these christening ceremonies is. Despite the fact that this is my fourth go-round with Viking –and third here in Amsterdam – I still tear up when those bottles of champagne contact the hull of the Longships. It’s a very moving experience, and I feel as though I am part of the Viking family – as everyone here does, from the company’s travel agent partners to journalists, media, suppliers, and frequent guests.

Guests gather at the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam to witness the christening of 12 new Viking River Cruises ships. No Guinness World Record this year, but an amazing continued achievement nonetheless. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Guests gather at the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam to witness the christening of 12 new Viking River Cruises ships. No Guinness World Record this year, but an amazing continued achievement nonetheless. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

This year, however, seemed even more special thanks to the line’s beautiful choice of Godmothers: longtime Viking employees, both shoreside and shipboard. Many of these women I have met and or sailed with several times now, including Sinemie Bakker (program director on my Viking Forseti voyage through Bordeaux) and Kornelia Pfeiffenberger, who was Hotel Manager onboard my Viking Freya Christmas Markets Cruise along the Danube back in the winter of 2012. Then, there’s Julie Rosoff – Viking’s fabulous and friendly Sr. Director of Marketing Services.

A sea of red Viking umbrellas actually added a nice touch to the ceremony - as did the spectacular choice of Godmothers. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

A sea of red Viking umbrellas actually added a nice touch to the ceremony – as did the spectacular choice of Godmothers. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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Our Live Voyage Report from the 2015 Viking River Cruises Viking Longships Christening Ceremonies continues tomorrow from the beautiful city of Amsterdam! Be sure to follow along on twitter @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

A Firsthand Look at Uniworld’s New S.S. Maria Theresa

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection officially welcomes the S.S. Maria Theresa into the fleet! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection officially welcomes the S.S. Maria Theresa into the fleet! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Thursday, March 26, 2015

It’s been a busy week of river cruising here in Amsterdam, and we’re still very much playing catch-up. But even as I write this at 2:44 a.m. in the morning, I have to skip ahead a bit to show you one of the most striking ships on the waterways of Europe: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collections S.S. Maria Theresa.

The ornate lobby welcomes guests aboard Uniworld's S.S. Maria Theresa. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The ornate lobby welcomes guests aboard Uniworld’s S.S. Maria Theresa. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The brand-new 443-foot long ship was christened this morning in an understated ceremony at the Port of Amsterdam, and we were on-hand to experience both the festivities and the S.S. Maria Theresa herself. Capable of carrying 150 guests and a staff of 37, Uniworld’s latest-and greatest is as much a floating work of art as it is a river cruise ship.

Believe it or not, after years of writing about the line this is the very first Uniworld ship I’ve physically stepped on board. With an all-inclusive product, I have certain elevated expectations, and Uniworld has not only met but exceeded them: luggage was brought to my Category 2 Stateroom on Deck 3 promptly, and my cabin stewardess explained the myriad of electronic doodads in the stateroom to me. If you think you don’t need the explanation, you do: this ship does things very differently when it comes to accommodations, from the way you open your stateroom door (pull towards you, then push inward), to the way you control you cabin lighting via a digital dimmer.

Home Suite Home: My Category 2 Stateroom on Deck 3 is surprisingly opulent. Check out the sumptuous bed! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Home Suite Home: My Category 2 Stateroom on Deck 3 is surprisingly opulent. Check out the sumptuous bed! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Few details have been overlooked, including this unexpectedly luxe touch: a keycard holder. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Few details have been overlooked, including this unexpectedly luxe touch: a keycard holder. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The bathroom is unusually large, and fitted with some custom amenities...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The bathroom is unusually large, and fitted with some custom amenities…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Click here to continue reading!

Our Live Voyage Report from the christening of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s S.S. Maria Theresa will continue with a full photo-tour of this striking ship! Be sure to follow along on twitter @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

 

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