2 Amsterdam Holiday Cruise Reviews

My husband & I just got home from our Viking Christmas Rhine Cruise. We're experienced travelers in our 60s who used to do most of our European travel by train, limit our itinerary to 3 cities at most & stay at least 2 nights ... Read More
My husband & I just got home from our Viking Christmas Rhine Cruise. We're experienced travelers in our 60s who used to do most of our European travel by train, limit our itinerary to 3 cities at most & stay at least 2 nights in each city to minimize packing & unpacking. However now that we're older my husband wants to take more cruises because the tour companies handle luggage & airport transfers for us. This was our 1st Viking cruise. (A yr & a half ago we took a Tauck French Art cruise. The price for our Viking cruise was much less than the Tauck cruise.) Overall our Viking cruise was enjoyable & went smoothly, but there were a few things that could have been improved. We took a 3 day Brugges, Belgium extention, which began when we landed in Brussels. Unfortunately no one was at the airport when we arrived to take us to Brugges. We waited 45 mins. & the driver eventually showed up, said he was in a traffic jam due to rain & apologized. When we arrived at our hotel, the Duke's Palace (a real Medieval palace in the center of Brugges) at 11 am. they said our room wouldn't be ready until 3 pm. They had a rigid policy & refused to let us go on a waiting list if a room became available. We were exhausted from our flight, but we knew of a nearby reastaurant, Lizzies that serves excellent waffles, so we had lunch. Then we returned to the hotel lobby around 12 noon & met up with 3 other couples from our tour. We got acquainted & then commiserated about having to wait so long for our rooms. Eventually all 4 couples fell asleep in the hotel lobby on the sofas & armchairs. In all other respects the hotel was very nice including their bar & restaurant. Finally at around 2:45 pm 4 rms became available all at once. The hotel clerk tried to give us a room opposite an elevator, but the desk manager eventually found us a new room. It was nice with copies of old Flemish portraits & had a hi-tech bathroom with a huge shower. So we fell asleep, caught up with our jet lag then had dinner nearby later. The 2nd day an excellent guide took us on a walking tour of Brugges & the following was a free day. The last day we were loaded on a bus with an amusing guide who told us all about Belguim & Holland. We arrived in Amsterdam at the Bragi around 5 pm, so we didn't get to do any Amsterdam sightseeing, but we were tired, so it didn't matter. The weather was unseasonably warm, in the 40s & down around the 30s for the rest of the cruise, except when we were in the Black Forest on Christmas Day when there was a pretty snowfall. The passengers were a mixture of people on their 1st European trip & travel veterans. The majority were in their 60s, but there were a few college-aged, some as old as their 80s & a few disabled people traveling with family members. (Viking does a excellent job of accomodating for the elderly & disabled.) I would guess that most passengers were middle & upper-middle class with a good number of teachers, college professors, ex-military & civil servants. Since the theme of the cruise was Christmas Markets we visted cities with markets & took walking tours of Cologne, Heidelburg, Strasbourg & an optional tour to Colmar. Along the way we saw castles on the Rhine. Viking offered optional tour groups for slower walkers & photograhers. There were other tours & attractions as well, but jet lag & short, dark days made me feel lazy & require an afternoon nap, so I took a pass on some of the scheduled afternoon events. At night there was a fantastic pianist, Emil who could play just about any request. On Christmas Eve there was a sing-a-long of Christmas music & some people got up & danced. All our meals were provided on the boat, which was convenient, helped save money & the time required to figure out where to eat while ashore. At breakfast they served a buffet with all sorts of sausage, cheese, fruit, potatos, breads, veggies etc. plus omlettes & French Toast. At lunch there was a choice of soup, cooked dishes & a fantastic salad bar. There was also a casual dining restaurant in the bar with soup, sandwiches & a less extensive salad bar. At lunch & dinner there was always nice dessert choices. There was a free coffee bar with cocoa, espresso & afternoon cookies. Dinner was a multi-course, more formal event. Many fellow passengers raved about the refreshments at the Christmas Markets, such as Gluwein but I was more focused on chocolate & marzipan. Most passengers we spoke with agreed that the food was somewhat bland, became repetitive by the end of the cruise & was often not hot enough. The wine was good, but they kept serving the same red & white with each dinner. Some variety would have been nice. I think the Christmas tour is more of what I would describe as a "beginners" tour--more low-stress for people who are timid about mixing in with real Europeans, but it was great for people who like to sit on the boat & watch the scenery. Life on the boat is like living in a North American bubble & I felt cut off from real Europeans, except for the Viking staff. I love art & had to break away from the tour & go on my own at one point, so perhaps this wasn't the best cruise for me. I think I'd do better on a specialist art tour, but If you just want some jolly Christmas fun & a chance to make some new friends it was great. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
We joined the cruise at Amsterdam, having made our own way there and spending a couple of days sight seeing before we embarked. Embarkation was slow and a bit haphazard, but we eventually boarded around 2.30, having arrived at 1.30. Lunch ... Read More
We joined the cruise at Amsterdam, having made our own way there and spending a couple of days sight seeing before we embarked. Embarkation was slow and a bit haphazard, but we eventually boarded around 2.30, having arrived at 1.30. Lunch was provided on arrival and our cabin was ready immediately, our bags arrived quickly too. All good news to start with. The first impression of the ship is that is gaudy and glizzy - one might say full of bling. The colours used throughout are really bright, with loads of lights, which almost hurt the eyes to look at. Cabins, however, were light, bright and much less colourful! The standard of accommodation in the cabin was very good, it was always kept beautifully clean and everything worked, as you might expect on an almost new ship. We picked this holiday for the itinery - Tallin, St. Petersberg, Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen and back to Amsterdam so the programme was quite hectic with lots of time in port. We only did excursions in St. Petersberg and did our own thing in the other ports which worked out well. Most times the ship was 'parked up' quite a way outside the town and Costa put on shuttle buses for passengers, which worked well but were quite expensive. There were times when staff at the tour desk were rather misleading of their description of how long it might take to walk into town, which meant that one bought a shuttle bus ticket when it was not necessary. The standard of the excursions we did was very good but because of the lateness of one arriving back to the ship we were unable to take another trip which we had booked, which was very annoying. Days at sea were full of opportunities to do something but most of it was not to our taste. There were approximately 300 English speaking passengers out of 2200 (ship not full), the majority of the rest were Italian. This resulted in multi-language announcements which could get intrusive. For example, the 'card room' is actually an open space on the side of the biggest lounge area. Whenever cards were being played (e.g. Bridge), there would be a fashion show, quiz or someting else noisy going on right nearby which was irritating. Because of the open plan nature of the lounges as well, smokers were placed quite close to non smokers, so there was often a smell of cigarette smoke wherever you sat. The evening meals were extremely good, although some of our table-mates were critical of the level of choice. Each dinner was at least five courses and some of them were 'themed'. We were on second sitting, which was not until 9 p.m. This meant that often we did not finish eating until 11, after which one could go to the disco or a show if one wanted. The self-service cafeteria was always a bit of a scrum and we ended up trying to avoid it for breakfast, going to the restaurant instead. Lunch was available at both locations too. My biggest grip with Costa is that they try to get more money out of you whenever they can. From the minute you board the ship, they take photographs of you at every opportunity, for which they charge 9.99 euros each. Of course, you don't have to buy them, but it does become irritating. We also had a bottle of water in our cabin with a note saying that if we opened it, the price would be charged to our bill - about 1.30 euros, I think. This is petty when, had we paid full price, the cabin would have been 4000 euros between the two of us. There is also a fee-paying restaurant that one can use as an alternative (20 euros)and cappucino and espresso coffees are also charged as extras. One lovely event is the 'elegant tea' which happened twice within our cruise, beautiful variety of teas, exquisite sandwiches and cakes with strawberries dipped in chocolate. Everyday afternoon tea was supplied in the self-service restaurant, but the elegant one was far superior. Disembarkation was well organised and our luggage easy to find when we got off. I wouldn't go with Costa again because I didn't really enjoy the daytime activities and wouldn't want to pay full price but I suspect that it would suit some people very well. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011

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