iAmsterdam, iHolland!

Viking River Cruises' Viking Njord in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Viking River Cruises’ Viking Njord in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Sadly, it was disembarkation morning for those of us aboard Viking River Cruises Viking Aegir. As I stepped off the ship shortly before 11am and prepared to spend two days in a hotel here in Amsterdam, I certainly wouldn’t have minded trading places with some of the guests that would be embarking tomorrow. River cruising has a way of pulling you in time and time again, and these Viking Longships excel in that area.

The Viking Longships do a lot of things right, from their design, to interior decor, to the dedicated and friendly crew. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The Viking Longships do a lot of things right, from their design, to interior decor, to the dedicated and friendly crew. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

A reader wrote last night to ask me, in not so many words, what the heck it was that made these new vessels worth writing about. For those who have sailed aboard them – or river cruised, for that matter – I can understand how it could be confusing. After all, they’re not Oasis of the Seas with flow-riders, poolside acrobatics shows and recreations of Central Park.

Continual refinements, like the wooden slat atrium accents aboard Viking Bragi, help keep the Longships cutting-edge after only a year in service. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Continual refinements, like the wooden slat atrium accents aboard Viking Bragi, help keep the Longships cutting-edge after only a year in service. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

As I left the Viking Aegir behind me, I thought about what it is that makes the Longships special:

The Views: there’s no beating those magnificent floor-to-ceiling windows in every public room. Dining room windows on other river cruise vessels can be downright small, sometimes just three quarters of the size of those aboard the Longships.

Pleasing, Modern Décor: With the Longships, Viking has defined a clear style that is largely set by their interior design work. This helps to differentiate them from other cruise lines, and gives them a unique voice.

Universal Appeal: to a large degree, I think this is the strongest attribute of these ships. There are so many little additions and innovations present onboard, like L’Occitane toiletries and heated bathroom floors, that there’s bound to be a feature that appeals to you. Plus, the presence of both French and Full balcony staterooms doesn’t hurt, either.

The Crew: Viking has a clear knack for attracting top-notch talent, from river cruise veterans to former oceangoing crew who are trading the seas of the world for the rivers of Europe. These people know their stuff inside and out, and are my number one favorite thing about the line.

Classy Touch: L'Occitane toiletries. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Classy Touch: L’Occitane toiletries. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Are the Longships the be-all-end-all of river cruising? Of course not; there is always room for innovation. In fact, I think they’re good for the entire industry: Viking’s heavy advertising on television and in print and their direct marketing campaigns aren’t just promoting the brand, they’re increasing awareness of one of the most spectacular kinds of cruise travel available.

That’s always a good thing.

Strolling through Amsterdam is an adventure in exploration. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Strolling through Amsterdam is an adventure in exploration. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

This afternoon was spent wandering through Amsterdam. Like Venice, don’t bother with a map here; you can’t really get lost, and half the fun is turning corners and changing streets at whim, pulled in different directions by what catches your eye.  Today, I found a spectacular book market that was being held in a square I’ve never visited before, and a fantastic shop that sold some of the best stroopwafels I’ve ever tasted.

A few photos of my time this afternoon, every one of which is accessible on-foot from the river cruise piers.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Flowers are everywhere, edspite the cold temperatures here this week. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Flowers are everywhere, edspite the cold temperatures here this week. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Amsterdam is also full of pleasant surprises, like this book market that was only put on for today! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Amsterdam is also full of pleasant surprises, like this book market that was only put on for today! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Travelling around the Netherlands is amazingly simple thanks to connections at Amsterdam Centraal station. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Travelling around the Netherlands is amazingly simple thanks to connections at Amsterdam Centraal station. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

My digs while in Amsterdam: the very cool Citizen M Schiphol Airport. It’s modular, with small rooms and an open-concept floorplan that puts the shower and toilet smack in the middle of the room. It’s also amazing, offering up free Wi-Fi, movies and international calling, all for a price that is remarkably affordable – less than half of what I would have paid in Amsterdam itself. Since I like trains and don’t mind the 12-minute journey into Amsterdam Centraal Station, spending time here was a no-brainer. Did I mention there’s mood lighting? More on this great property coming up tomorrow.

Citizen M Amsterdam Schiphol: small, but remarkably efficient. Oh, and having some pretty cool features doesn't hurt, either! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Citizen M Amsterdam Schiphol: small, but remarkably efficient. Oh, and having some pretty cool features doesn’t hurt, either! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Mood lighting, anyone? Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Mood lighting, anyone? Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Finally, I was privileged tonight to meet a good friend of mine for the first time. I know that may sound odd, but I’ve known Bart de Boer for years now, albeit virtually. For those who aren’t familiar, he’s the driving force behind the highly-popular cruising site Ship Parade. When I first found his site in late 2004, it was like I’d hit cruising nirvana: a site dedicated solely to cruise ships that has been going strong for over a decade now, and still features some of the best ship Photo Tours around. In fact, stop what you’re doing right now and pop on over; don’t worry – I can wait.

Naturally, we got along quite well in person, too!

Beautiful Haarlem, Netherlands. It pays to go further afar! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Beautiful Haarlem, Netherlands. It pays to go further afar! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Bart took me to one of the most gorgeous cities I’ve ever seen: Haarlem. Eager to show me that the Netherlands was more than just windmills and Amsterdam, Bart assured me I would love this historic capital of North Holland, and he was right: together with Hoorn, Haarlem is the real deal: a city steeped in history, culture, and magnificent architecture.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Holland is unique in that it receives numerous cruise ship calls every year, from deep-ocean vessels to river cruise ships. Many cruise ships will dock at nearby Ijmuiden, while others will transit the North Sea Canal to berth at the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam, where most river cruise ships dock.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

But as I have learned in the past two days, to really know the Netherlands requires leaving its most well-known city for the pristine gems of the countryside.

This beautiful building is a former department store-turned-trendy restaurant. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

This beautiful building is a former department store-turned-trendy restaurant. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

I often have people tell me I’m “living the dream.” Sometimes, yes. But there is a lot of hard work, sweat and tears, and late nights put into doing this (it is, in fact, it’s past 1:30am as I write this.) It’s a life of long flights, ever-changing time zones, and plenty of Advil.

But it’s the people I’ve met around the world that always – always – make the journey worthwhile.

Haarlem Night. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Haarlem Night. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report aboard Viking River Cruises’ beautiful Viking Aegir shifts gears tomorrow as we continue to explore the beauty of the Netherlands! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

One Response to Viking Longships 2013 Live Voyage Report – Day 4

  1. Kim says:

    Wonderful Post!

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