Trip Review, Viking Spirit Amsterdam Roundtrip April 8 through April 15, 2005
Who we are: Bill and Sharon (64 and 62 respectively). Previous cruises include one Mississippi River cruise on the Mississippi Queen, and two ocean cruises, one on the MS Volendam to Alaska, and one on the MS Maasdam to the Southern Caribbean. We are a laid back couple that enjoy the outdoors, and are both avid amateur nature photographers.
The Trip: A seven day Tulip Festival river cruise starting in Amsterdam, and visiting the cities of Enkhuizen, Hoorn, Edam, Marken, Volendam, Arnhem, Dordrecht, and Rotterdam.
The Boat: The Viking Spirit is a relatively new boat, built in 2001. There are a total of 75 cabins onboard, with a maximum passenger capacity of 150 people. Twelve of the cabins are "standard" cabins, of 120 square feet, and the rest are 'deluxe cabins" of 154 square feet. We had cabin # 238, on the middle deck. The forward end contains the lounge where you could sit and watch the river go by, the daily briefings were held, and nightly "entertainment". The aft end was the restaurant, where the meals were served in one seating, usually around 7pm. Amidships was a lounging area just up from the reception desk, and on the starboard side was a "library" area.
The Cabin: Our cabin was well appointed with the beds pushed together forming a bed about queen size. As you enter the cabin immediately on the right was the "cozy" bathroom, on the left was a closet with enough room for about 15-20 hanging items (depending on how close you want them) with two upper shelves one of which contained your life vests, down the right side were about five additional shelves approximately 24 inches square. Next to the closet was a built in vanity with five drawers on each end that ended at the window. A large mirror was centered over the vanity, with one chair. In addition there was a night stand on each side of the bed. We found the storage to be more than adequate for our needs.
The cabin is quite cozy for two people. If someone is sitting in the chair, the other person must go across the bed to get to the other side, or the person sitting must get up and move the chair under the vanity and then move themselves. The window is quite large, about five feet high and almost the width of the cabin, and one side does open if you wish.
The bathroom is just large enough for one person. Don't even think about trying to get two people in it at the same time unless one is taking a shower. The shower is quite small as well, but sufficient. I recommend that you bring along your own shampoo as they only provide a combined shower soap and shampoo in liquid form. While it didn't work badly for showering, I was not happy with it as a shampoo.
The Food and Service: We found the food excellent. The only disappointment was that there were no snacks available between meals or into the evening like on ocean cruiseships. But the meals were sufficient, and seconds could be had if you wanted them.
The staff of the Spirit was top notch. Always smiling and very accommodating. If you needed something just ask and they will bend over backwards to provide it.
Excursions: Amsterdam: We arrived in Amsterdam early on Sunday morning, and got to the boat around 9am. As the cabins would not be ready for occupancy until 3pm, we had decided that we would drop off our baggage and take public transportation to the Keukenhof Gardens even though the boat was providing a tour there on the last day. The boat was docked at the PTA terminal, which was about a 20 minute walk from Central Station. We walked up and caught a train to Lieden and from there a bus to the Gardens. The train cost was 9 Euros round trip for both of us, and the bus and entrance to the Gardens was 36 Euros for both. In hindsight I am very glad that we did this. The boat tour gave us only about two hours at the Gardens, which is not enough time to really see them. If you are in Amsterdam from late March to the end of May, I highly recommend spending one day of your time at the Gardens. Everything that we read about them is true. It is absolutely gorgeous and a trip not to be missed.
The next day included a bus tour around Amsterdam, and trip to the Rijksmuseum followed by a canal cruise. The bus tour was very nice, and gave us a good perspective of areas that we wanted to visit later that day. The museum was interesting, but unfortunately most of it was closed off due to renovations so the tour was not as extensive as it could have been. The canal cruise however was very disappointing. The boat was extremely crowded and the chairs and tables so close together that you could barely move. Some people simply didn't bother and stood at the back. While it was interesting seeing the canals and the buildings along them, on a sunny day as we had, it was very difficult to see anything through the glass roof and almost impossible to take pictures because of the reflections. Personally, I would not recommend a canal cruise. You can see as much or more by walking the canals on your own.
Enkhuizen and Hoorn: Enkhuizen is a delightful little town, where the Zuiderzee Museum is. This is not to be missed. The Zuiderzee is a replication of the original fishing town, with about 130 buildings. Well worth the trip there if you can make it. Hoorn is also very nice, with a quaint feel and lovely buildings. We were on our own in Hoorn but it's a small village that is easily gotten around.
Edam, Marken, Volendam: At Edam we had a walking tour that ended near the center square, were you can purchase fresh Edam cheeses to take back with you. The taste of the cheese there was quite different from the Edam cheese bought in the states, and is well worth the money to purchase a couple of rounds to bring back with you. Marken included a walking tour and some free time. It is primarily known now for the manufacturing of wooden clogs. Volendam had no tours scheduled so we spent our time simply walking around.
Arnhem: A bus ride away is the Paleis Het Loo, what used to be the home of the royal family. A beautiful palace with lovely garden views, and a very interesting place to visit.
Dordrecht, Rotterdam: The highlight of Dordrecht is the Kinderdijk windmills tour. An area with 19 working windmills, one of which is open to the public for tours inside. You will get your fill of windmills here!!
To be honest, our time in Rotterdam was only OK. We didn't have but a couple of hours there and by this time we were pretty well burned out on Dutch architecture.
The last day was back in Amsterdam and the sponsored tour of the Gardens. The best part of the tour is when you get to the gardens, the bus will take a small back road right through the middle of the tulip fields. Have your cameras ready as it is a beautiful sight seeing rows and rows of tulips in every color imaginable.
That about sums it up. If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask, we will do our best to answer them.