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The Christening of the Viking Longships
Today is “the big day” for Viking River Cruises and their stunning new Longships, Viking Odin and Viking Idun, which were christened this afternoon in a lavish and emotional ceremony here in Amsterdam. Part of a massive newbuid order that will see twelve of these magnificent “Longships” added to the feet by 2014, the launch of Viking Odin and her sister represent a new era in the history of Viking River Cruises.
I find it’s often the little things that impress me the most on a cruise, and Viking Odin boasts no shortage of thoughtful touches. The first one I noticed this morning was also the most welcomed: heated floors in the bathroom of my stateroom. Now that’s nice – and that doesn’t even include the pleasure of using the included L’Occitane toiletries. If you’ve never used them before, you’re missing out!
Other little touches: your television is a complete entertainment centre, with complimentary movies, audio, television, and a bevy of information about your voyage, all accessible in one convenient place.
A reader asked how the space was in my stateroom. With my French Balcony stateroom, which measures 135 square feet, space might be an issue for two people travelling together, as there’s likely to be some bumping into each other around the vanity and bed area. But this is truly a small quibble since so much of the ship offers stunning views from every angle. In fact, I’ve written each report in the Viking Lounge here onboard simply because I love the space so much. But I also love my stateroom; you might need to work around each other, but all the important bits – a spacious bathroom, lots of storage, and a comfortable bed graced with modern design – are all there. Of course, if you need more space, there’s always the full balcony suites that measure 205 square feet!
After an early start to the morning, I enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast buffet in the Restaurant aboard Viking Odin. If you’ve been on a cruise before, breakfast holds no great surprises, though I’m told by those who had one that the made-to-order omelettes are fantastic. I myself was quite happy with my orange juice, coffee, fruit, potatoes and sausages.
Of course, a meal like that requires some physical activity to wear off, but since I didn’t feel like joining the Qi Gong exercises at 7am, I opted instead for a more productive pursuit: finding souvenirs for my very understanding and supportive fiancée Kim, who wasn’t able to join me on this short trip.
Leaving the ship promptly at 8:45am, I ended up walking for four hours, winding my way along the pedestrian path to Amsterdam Central Station, then up Nieuwezjds Voorburgwal and from there on criss-crossing from one breathtaking canal to the next until I ended up at Max Euwe Plein.
Along the way, I saw numerous spectacular buildings, canals, and even a gentleman with a hacksaw working furiously in his attempt to steal a bicycle along Herengracht. Perhaps a trip to one of the city’s famous coffeeshops would have mellowed him out…
All in all it was an easy, enjoyable walk, and for those who want to truly discover this historic city I’d suggest arming yourself with a map and setting out on foot, or rent a bicycle – both are very traditionally Dutch ways to soak in the sights or perform a little retail therapy like I did. Plus, it burned off breakfast – and then some.
Most of the passengers took in an included Canal and Jewish Heritage Tour of Amsterdam today; busses arrived and departed promptly, just as they had last night, and the whole organizational feat seemed effortless. Kudos to Viking for having things down-pat so quickly on these new ships, and for allowing their guests the freedom to choose how they plan their day.
After hobbling back to the ship (sore feet), I gingerly made my way to the Aquavit Terrace for a light lunch. Located all the way forward and adjacent to the Viking Lounge, the Aquavit Terrace is a casual outdoor venue that’s perfect on the gorgeous sunny day we have been graced with today. But should the weather have turned sour, the entire area becomes enclosed and protected with a series of glass walls and windows.
In fact, the effect is so transparent that it took me a minute last night to realize that the crew had, in fact, closed the partitions. It’s a beautiful space and it works perfectly; I can only imagine how spectacular taking lunch here would be when the ship is underway.
By 3pm, everyone had changed into their formal garb in anticipation of the big event: the dual christening of Viking Odin and her new sister, Viking Idun. My feet, already sore in sneakers, were screaming in my highly-polished black leather shoes. But it didn’t matter: I’ve always wanted to attend a christening ceremony, and being able to attend this special day means a lot to me personally.
After cocktails were served in the marvelous Amsterdam cruise terminal, a throng of invited guests made their way outside to where the Viking Idun and Viking Odin were berthed. Large LCD screens had been added to the top decks of each, and guests and Viking executives were poised for the big moment.
When it came, it was glorious: all four godmothers said their customary speeches, christening both the ships that are present here, and the two that were unfortunately delayed and are still under construction at the Neptun Werft shipyards in Rostock, Germany. The red ribbon lashed to the bow of Viking Odin was cut with an audible snap, and the traditional bottle of champagne smashed proudly against the hull. Fireworks went off, a fireboat lit streams of water, and both Viking Odin and Viking Freya sounded their horns. The air was filled suddenly with the strains of beautiful operatic music, and it took me a moment to realize there was an actual tenor performing for us onstage.
The crews of both ships stood proudly on the bows of their respective ships. Some took cameras out, while others wiped away tears. Not too dissimilar from the reactions of those of us who had gathered pierside; it was a surprisingly emotional event, and when the deep, powerful voice of the tenor shook the pier and the fireworks rose proudly into the skies, it carried forward a maritime tradition that has been in existence for hundreds of years. And that, quite truthfully, choked me up.
It’s not every day you get to witness something like this, because today isn’t just about the launch of two new ships; it’s about the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Viking River Cruises.
We then returned to the Amsterdam Cruise Terminal, greeted by the euphoric melody of Moby’s hit song, Porcelain. A more appropriate song would be difficult to find, and it set the tone for arriving guests, already glowing from the christening itself. The customary speeches were made, but what was far from average was the passion each of these people had in describing the Longships.
Viking River Cruises CEO Torstein Hagen was the most succinct, stating emphatically, “When we started 15 years ago, we had nothing. Then, we purchased four Russian river cruise ships.”
To see how far this line has come since its inception in 1997 has been a real treat, and they clearly have something good on their hands with these new vessels. What’s more, Viking has patented the corridor design that allows them to offer suites and balcony staterooms side-by-side, which could be a major stumbling block for other lines wishing to follow their Viking explorers.
I had some readers ask about entertainment onboard, and with the exception of a pianist, there really hasn’t been much – but that’s because our evenings onboard have been filled with welcome dinners and get-together cocktails and shore excursions; there simply hasn’t been the time or need to offer any form of shipboard entertainment – yet!
Tonight, Viking Odin sets sail for the first time with passengers onboard her for a short two-hour dinner cruise around Amsterdam. Although she’ll return to her berth here at the Port of Amsterdam tonight, she sets sail tomorrow for a glorious two-night preview cruise to some of the most pristine ports in the Netherlands, and while scheduling issues prevented me from taking in these next two days, I can leave the Viking Odin confident in the knowledge that this ship has something unique and new to offer both new and seasoned river cruisers.
There was also some important news announced at today’s ceremonies: Viking has options for an additional six Longships that could be delivered by 2015, should the line choose to exercise them with Neptun Werft. If they did go with this option, the line would have built an astonishing 18 new ships in the short span of three years.
In business, as in life, there are those who sit on the sidelines and play it safe, and there are those who seek to shake things up. With these new Longships, Viking has clearly demonstrated that the future of river cruising is in its grasp.
I can’t wait to return and experience it firsthand.
Our Live Trip Report from aboard the new Viking Odin has sadly come to a close, but Avid Cruiser Ralph Grizzle is still onboard – read all the details of his short preview cruise here! Want to get in on the river cruise action? Be sure to pay a visit to the Viking River Cruises website for all the details on the new Longships, and our very own sister-site, River Cruise Advisor! We’ll have a full deck-by-deck tour of the Viking Odin coming soon right here on From the Deck Chair, as well as more of the over 600 photos we took in just a day and a half!
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