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Sailing (Silently) to Hoorn
The sun broke through the clouds this morning, bathing Viking River Cruises Viking Aegir in sunlight for the first time since my arrival here in Amsterdam on Tuesday. It seems decidedly appropriate, given yesterday’s momentous christening ceremonies. I found myself unable to sleep last night, the excitement of the day still coursing through me. Admittedly, watching the Liam Neeson survival flick The Gray on the video-on-demand system in my stateroom may not have helped…
Though it may be our last full day here onboard the beautiful Viking Aegir, there are no shortage of ways with which to spend it. Viking has drawn up two unique plans for guests to enjoy, both of which perfectly demonstrate river cruising’s trademark flexibility.
As a first option, guests could chose to take part in a spectacular, full-day excursion to Amsterdam and nearby Hoorn. Beginning at 9am, participants would be whisked to Amsterdam’s spectacular Concertgebouw music hall for a private tour. After that, they would travel by motorcoach to de Kas, a restaurant housed within a greenhouse that prides itself on its innovative, locally-grown menus. Travelling to the countryside, an excursion to a working Tulip Farm would be the prelude to a herring and jenever tasting. Impressively, guests would then travel to Hoorn for an hour-long walking tour.
Option two, which I elected to take, involved a morning at leisure either in Amsterdam or aboard Viking Aegir, which would set sail at noon sharp for Hoorn. Personally, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to experience a proper bit of cruising Amsterdam’s waterways and to enjoy the service and amenities aboard this Viking Longship at the same time. Plus, our 4pm arrival in Hoorn meant I would have two full hours to explore before Viking Aegir once again set sail and returned to Amsterdam for the night.
Since we’re talking scenic cruising, it’s only appropriate to mention the Aquavit Lounge. Open for light breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Aquavit Lounge is situated forward of the Viking Lounge on Deck 3 and features spectacular walls of glass that can be opened to create a unique indoor/outdoor dining space. It’s not a specialty restaurant; rather, it’s designed to complement the main dining room by offering light, casual meals in a spectacular setting.
To say this was a popular place at lunch during our scenic cruising from Amsterdam to Hoorn this afternoon is putting it mildly; nearly all the passengers choosing to remain onboard found their way to the Viking Lounge and the Aquavit Lounge to take in the sights and tastes as we sailed through Amsterdam’s famously-changeable weather.
What began as a sunny day turned into a veritable winter wonderland in a matter of minutes, with big, fluffy flakes of swirling snow greeting the departure of Viking Aegir and Viking Embla.
I’d also forgotten just how quiet these Longships are: their state-of-the-art propulsion system allows the ship to move without hardly any noise or vibration felt, even when the ship’s podded propulsion motors are undergoing speed and directional changes. Viking Aegir is so whisper-quiet that I didn’t even realize we were underway until I looked out the window.
Personally, I took the chance to watch this dramatic change in weather conditions from the comfort of my very own private, step-out balcony. Viking Aegir and her Longship sisters feature a mix of both French and full, step-out balcony staterooms, in addition to two of the largest, aft-facing suites afloat on the waterways of Europe. For the budget-conscious, “river view” staterooms with fixed windows grace Deck 1, offering all the amenities and comforts of their balcony counterparts.
I love French Balcony staterooms onboard river cruise ships, but there is something very nice about having your own piece of on-deck real estate available at your beck and call. Each balcony has two comfortable chairs and a small table that would be suitable for two glasses of wine. Faux teak decking gives these a decidedly nautical feel, as do the addition of proper teak railings (many river cruise ships simply feature metal railings with little decoration.) And – as you may have guessed – it’s all about the little details aboard the Viking Longships.
At 4pm on schedule, we arrived in the Dutch town of Hoorn. The storybook embodiment of Holland, Hoorn will immediately captivate you with its nautical heritage, quaint buildings and crooked streets. Historically, Hoorn was home to the headquarters of the Dutch East India Company, and it is easy to imagine yourself back in the 17th Century, wandering the same streets – though doubtless the maritime accommodations weren’t nearly as nice as our Viking Longships.
Even though our call here was short (just two hours in duration), Viking still offered a fully-guided walking tour of Hoorn for those interested. That, too, is one of river cruising’s key strengths: guided tours in each port of call are typically included in the cruise fare, and are yours for the taking. My advice: take part in all the tours you can; they’re a critical aspect of the entire river cruise experience.
This evening, Viking Aegir sails for Amsterdam, where we will stay docked overnight before disembarking tomorrow morning. Sunset on departure was yet another reminder of why these Longships are so special, with the whisky-coloured sun tinting the interior of Viking Aegir as it shone through the windows and skylights.
In the coming days and weeks, no doubt you’ll hear a lot about the Viking Longships – that is, if you haven’t already. After all, Viking River Cruises did break a Guinness World Record with their launch yesterday; a fact that’s bound to make it into their next round of targeted advertising.
But with three trips on three separate Viking Longships under my belt now (past ones being Viking Odin; Viking Freya), I can truthfully say that these ships are more than just their herb gardens and onboard solar panels, cool as they are. They are more than just ten new ships that happened to be christened on the same day, and they don’t begin and end with their unique offset corridor design, the indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace, or even their massive Explorer Suites located at the stern on Deck 3.
The bottom line is this: these vessels don’t begin and end with their technological innovations. Instead, Viking has found that elusive formula that allows them to seamlessly combine technology and service to create a product capable of catering to numerous tastes, styles and personalities.
River cruise lines that can best the competition are rare. Those that can repeatedly best their own innovations are even rarer. Viking’s tag line reads, “The World’s Best River Cruise Line…By Far.”
It’s an appropriate credo for the line’s accomplishments of the past year – and those that are still to come. Like the 12 new Longships scheduled to enter service next March…
Our Live Voyage Report continues tomorrow as we disembark and recap our journey aboard Viking River Cruises’ beautiful Viking Aegir -but not before continuing on with our Post Cruise Stay, happening Live tomorrow and Saturday! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.
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