We Test Viking River Cruises Latest Excursion Options in Amsterdam

Exploring the real Amsterdam through the eyes of its citizens with Viking River Cruises. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Exploring the real Amsterdam through the eyes of its citizens with Viking River Cruises. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

At the Viking River Cruises christening event in Amsterdam, Netherlands last week, my fellow journalists and I were turned into control subjects for the day, testing out a new program that Viking already offers in Hoorn and in the Slovakian city of Bratislava: Home Visits.

A Home Visit is a special type of shore excursion that actually invites you into the home of a local citizen to learn about their life, their dwelling, and maybe even partake in a drink. Viking doesn’t offer Home Visit excursions in Amsterdam just yet, but they’re cautiously analyzing their itineraries to see where home visits might be popular. So, we set out for the day to road-test Viking’s latest pilot project in Amsterdam.

In typical Viking fashion, we boarded a new, logo-branded coach for our day of touring in Amsterdam. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

In typical Viking fashion, we boarded a new, logo-branded coach for our day of touring in Amsterdam. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Our first home visit was a real adventure. At a narrow building located adjacent to one of Amsterdam’s ubiquitous canals, we stood out in the cold for what seemed like minutes on end as we waited for a response to our knock on the door. When Niko, an exciteable chap of about 70 finally did emerge, we immediately saw why it took so long for the door to open: there are no living quarters behind this door; only a murderously steep staircase leading up to the main living area one floor above.

Going up was every bit as challenging as it looked. In North America, where everyone is babied to no end with a safety blanket knit of guardrails and signs and protective barriers, this kind of staircase would represent some sort of Franz Kafka novel come to life. Here in Amsterdam, it’s just a part of daily life, like trams, bikes, and cheese.

Our first visit: local Amsterdammer Niko makes us tea in his kitchen. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Our first visit: local Amsterdammer Niko makes us tea in his kitchen. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Niko used to work for a record shop, and music is clearly in his blood. He hand-crafted (and hand-painted) the small piano that occupies a massive amount of real estate between his kitchen and the living room. By North American standards, it’s a broom closet. By European standards, it’s cozy and inviting.

The real selling feature is Niko’s view: it’s the postcard-perfect view of Amsterdam, with canals and streets below. It’s almost worth the death-defying acrobatics work it takes to climb up here in the first place.

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More coverage from Amsterdam is coming later this week here on From the Deck Chair, in advance of our next Live Voyage Report beginning from Muscat, Oman on April 5!

 

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