We felt very well taken care of by Viking from the moment we cleared Customs at Schipol airport (We had booked our air thru Viking and had paid a bit more for custom air in order to select our flights; well worth it to have non-stop and a late flight back on the day of disembarkation). A Viking rep greeted us and directed us to the general gathering area to await our transport to the ship. We were told we had about 45 min. before the next bus, so we were able to get something to drink and some funds from the ATM before returning to the group. When we arrived at the ship,at about 10:30AM, we were informed that although cabins would not be available until 3PM, restrooms were available for oncoming passengers to freshen up and the lounge was open for passengers to relax until a light buffet lunch was served at 11AM.
The lunch was quite nice; a choice of sandwiches on freshly made breads, a hot soup and choice of several salads, as well as a pudding dessert. There were also More
two beverage stations on each side of the entrance to the lounge which dispensed coffee,decaf, cappuccino, espresso, hot chocolate and hot water for tea. There was also a water dispenser which provided a choice of still or bubbly water. Shelves were stocked with a nice variety of tea bags, sweeteners, cream, glasses or cups. These beverage stations were open 24/7, and in the early AM were also stocked with a nice selection of pastries; in the afternoon, cookies were provided.
At 1PM on the day of arrival, a walking tour of Amsterdam was provided to help shake off that pesky jet lag. We were provided with our audio boxes and headsets and off we went. The ship was docked not a 10 min. walk from Central Station, so very quickly we were in the heart of things. Our guide, as were all the Viking guides, was terrific. She narrated all along the walk, highlighting points of interest both historically significant and photo ops like the floating flower market. At the end of the tour we had the option of returning with her to the ship or spending more time on our own (which is what we opted to do).
When we returned to the ship, our cabin was ready. We had opted for a French balcony cabin on deck 3. The cabin was very compact, but was nicely appointed. There was plenty of space under the bed to store our luggage. There was a small nightstand at each side of the bed, with a 110 outlet above the one. Across from the bed was a counter that ran the width of the bed with outlets at each end, both 220 and 110, so there were plenty of outlets for plugging in appliances or chargers. On part of the wall above the counter was a mirror; the remaining wall space was covered with a large flat-screen TV. The TV received several television stations, but the highlight was the variety of in-demand movies available, some of which were geared to the ship's itinerary, such as "The Diary of Anne Frank" and "The Girl with the Pearl Earring". There were drawers under the counter for storage and a mini-fridge. In the closet were nice, deep shelves for storage and a safe on the one side and hanging space on the other. My only complaint about the cabin was the hanging space in the closet. There was a "bump-out" in half of the hanging space, which prevented the clothes from hanging properly and skewed the hangers sideways, pushing into the other clothes when the door was slid shut. It would have made more sense to have made that bumped out space shelves.
The bathroom was also compact, but also very nice. Always felt very clean and lots of towels and nice toiletries. Heated floors in the bathroom, which could be adjusted to one's liking.
There was a cocktail hour each evening from 5:30-6:30 in the lounge. At 6:45 there would be a briefing by the Program Director on the next day's activities. Although we were provided with a daily newsletter in our cabin, the briefing was more detailed about the activities. Dinner followed at 7PM.
Tables in the dining room were for 6 (round) or 8 (long). Wine, beer and soda were included with lunch and dinner and the servers were very good at quickly refilling the wine glasses. I found the food to be quite good overall. Some people were complaining that the portions were small. I had fish most every night and I thought it was quite good and I was satisfied with the portion, although I'm sure it was smaller than what you might get in a restaurant here in the U.S. or on a ocean cruise. The meat portions (veal, steak, pork) did seem to be more generous. Dinner started every night with an amuse bouche which was a nice touch and there were interesting choices of soups and salads to choose from in addition to the main courses. Desserts were small, but tasty, and a nice finish to the meal.
Breakfast in the morning was excellent with an extensive buffet and a chef to prepare eggs to order. Lunch was either a light buffet in the Aquavit Terrace off the lounge or sit-down in the dining room. In the dining room there was a salad buffet with a chef making fresh pasta, and also a menu to choose from.
Entertainment in the evening was low-key. One night we had a wooden shoemaker, who made a shoe from a block of wood right before our eyes in about 20min. That was fun, as he was very entertaining as he worked. Another evening we had Dutch folkloric dancers and musicians. Other nights there were presentations on the European Union and one on the windmills and polders. One problem with the presentations in the lounge was that there was not enough seating. If you lingered at all over dinner, there would not be a seat in the lounge to view a dance or musical presentation. But, as our day started early, and we were on the go all day, we usually made an early night of it. A couple of times we went up on the Sun Deck to watch as the ship went thru locks, as that was interesting, and we also watched a couple of in-demand movies for our evening entertainment.
We really liked being able to walk off the ship and begin our tours, which we did in several ports. That was especially true at Kinderdijk, where the many windmills are. We could see the windmills from the Sun Deck, as they were just a few minutes' walk and it was a wonderful sight in the early morning sun. We also liked being given "free time" in town after the walking tours, and we took advantage of that to further explore the charming towns and villages. When we went to Keukenhof, the tulip gardens, passengers were given 2 options of length of stay and then we were on our own. That was perfect.
On the day of disembarkation, we had a late flight home. We were very pleased to find that Viking had arranged for our transport to the airport in the afternoon, so that we could leave our luggage aboard, do our last-minute sightseeing in Amsterdam, and return to the ship for our transport to Schipol. A very nice ending to our cruise. Less
Compact but nicely appointed. Hanging portion of closet space not adequate due to "bump-out" in half of this section, causing hangers to skew sideways and push into clothing hung in normal hanging section. This bump-out section would have been better served as shelving.
We were in Antwerp on a Sunday, and so many of the stores were not open. Also, we were only able to tour the cathedral at 2PM. We had our walking tour in the morning and it was very interesting. Antwerp has some very interesting architecture and the town square is just amazing with the old, immense buildings. It was very cold during our walking tour and so we found a cafe to have some hot chocolate and a Belgian waffle. Yum! There was one area of town that had some shops open, so after a bit of browsing, we returned to the ship for lunch and then to Antwerp for the tour of the cathedral. This cathedral is important as it houses two Rembrandt paintings, among other beautiful works.
On our walking tour, my husband had heard the guide say there was a tunnel that ran under the river to the other side, so he wanted to take this tunnel over to take some photos from across the river. I was a bit nervous about doing this, but it turned out it was a commuter tunnel. There was a big elevator for bicycles and strollers to get down to the tunnel(there was also an escalator),and then it was about a 10 min. walk along the tunnel to the other side. It was interesting getting some photos of Antwerp from that perspective.
We had a walking tour here and a tour of a cathedral that houses a marble statue of the Madonna and Child done by Michelangelo. That was very moving to me to view that. Although a larger city than many of the others we visited on this cruise, it is still very charming. There is lots of good shopping here and many cafes and bistros. The chocolate shoppes are amazing!