Our 8 Day Viking river cruise started in Amsterdam, Netherlands. We had taken a transatlantic cruise on the Celebrity Silhouette to get to Amsterdam, and as luck would have it, the Silhouette berthed in the place that our river cruise ... Read More
Our 8 Day Viking river cruise started in Amsterdam, Netherlands. We had taken a transatlantic cruise on the Celebrity Silhouette to get to Amsterdam, and as luck would have it, the Silhouette berthed in the place that our river cruise ship, the Viking Baldur, normally docked. This necessitated that the Baldur temporarily dock at a remote pier in Amsterdam until the Silhouette departed. We had been told we could walk to our Viking ship, but due to this situation had to take a taxi to find where the Baldur had berthed. Our taxi driver was excellent, and after asking a few river cruise ship crews, quickly got us to the Baldur.
Due to the early hour, around 9 AM, the Baldur was still in the process of off-loading previous passengers, but nonetheless we were greeted at the pier by Caitlyn, our Cruise Director. She gave us a warm welcome and directed to leave our luggage and have a seat/coffee in the lounge and relax until our cabin was ready. Since the Baldur was parked in a rather remote location, Viking had arranged a free shuttle bus to transport passengers hourly between the ship and the center of Amsterdam. Two of these shuttle trips included a short city tour, and after getting in our cabin and having a bite to eat, we decided to take the 1:30 city tour. We had a wonderful guide who gave us a short, but interesting tour of the central part of Amsterdam. It started to rain during the tour and we were eager to get back to the comfort of the Baldur.
The Baldur is one of Viking’s newer “Longships”. It has 95 outside staterooms including: river view, French balcony, veranda, veranda suite, and Explorer Suite cabins. The Baldur has three decks and our cabin was on the middle deck. We had booked a French balcony cabin that had a sliding glass door that opened to the river, but no veranda. We feel this is the best value, as you really have little time to spend in your cabin. This is good because the cabin only measured 135 sq/ft compared to our 194 sq/ft Silhouette cabin. We had to quickly get our luggage under the bed in able to move around the cabin. The bathroom was small, but efficient, and I was even able to get my 6’ 3” body into the small shower that had excellent water pressure. All in all, we made due.
After stowing our luggage, we made our way to the Lounge for our 6:15 Welcome Briefing from Caitlyn and the Hotel Manager Jens Wehrenberg. The talk was brief and we were quickly invited to move downstairs to the Restaurant for dinner. The restaurant was very modern, but comfortable and we were welcomed by the Chef and wait staff. We quickly befriended two Filipino waiters (Ryan & Darwin) who took care of our every need throughout the cruise. We had been told during the Welcome briefing that there was a large group from Canada on board, and they had special seating at the front of the restaurant. While we always knew they were there, they rarely got too noisy. The meals were excellent with a different menu every day. Breakfasts and lunches were a combination of menu/buffet items and dinners included local/regional specialties such as white asparagus which was in season for our cruise. For breakfast and lunch you could also eat off a buffet set up in the Aquavit Terrace/Lounge area. White and red wines as well as beer was complimentary and plentiful. I prefer a rose wine, and found that was also available. You can also bring your own wine on board and drink it at meals with no corkage fee.
The ship provides a piano player/singer who entertained us in the lounge during lunch, happy hour, and after dinner unless there was a special event scheduled. He played a wide variety of enjoyable music and really added to the ambiance of the cruise. We were exhausted after a busy day and after a quick visit to the lounge retired to our stateroom for a comfortable night’s rest.
Morning came too quickly, and after a great breakfast (7:00 – 9:30), we had an 8:30 Safety briefing including our life vests on the upper outer deck. After the safety briefing we joined the complimentary Amsterdam bus and canal boat tour. This was an excellent and thorough tour of Amsterdam. We returned to the ship for lunch and later took a local tram into town to tour the Anne Frank House. We had purchased tickets online 6 weeks earlier and were able to get right in, or we would have had to wait in line for up to two-three hours. After the tour we had a beer at a local place and headed back to the ship for dinner. At 7:00 PM our Captain, Rainer Lembck, had a welcome toast followed by a Port Talk about the following day’s events and schedules. After dinner, Viking provided a Dutch Folklore show in the Lounge. The Baldur left Amsterdam at 10:45 PM.
The following days were filled with visits to places such as Nijmegen and the National War and Resistance Museum, Cologne and its magnificent Cathedral, Cochem and the imposing Reichsburg Castle, Marksburg and it’s 700 year old fortress, picturesque Rudesheim where we ate dinner in a local restaurant with live music and dancing, and historic Heidelberg with it’s university atmosphere and imposing hilltop castle. Each day also included daily port briefings by Caitlyn, as well as special evening events in the Lounge. I think our favorite day was Friday when we spent the afternoon cruising the Upper Middle Rhine Valley viewing magnificent castles and vineyards and a continuing narrative by Caitlyn of what we were seeing. The weather was perfect for sitting on the Sun Deck and enjoying the 360 degree views. We also enjoyed several lunches in the Aquavit Terrace which is a semi-enclosed terrace at the front of the ship. On nice days they open up the terrace doors and even use the ship barbeque.
The ship and its facilities were very comfortable. The small size compared to ocean cruise ships made it very easy to meet a great number of the other passengers. Other features we liked included the free internet, complimentary wine and beer, and the very well done included tours. We had heard that river cruises were for older cruisers, but we would dispute this because of the early schedules and the fact that quite a few of the tours required quite strenuous walks and stair climbs in castles. We wished there had been more nice flat churches to tour.
A review would not be complete without mentioning the service. We felt the service and crew were excellent. It seemed as if after the first day, the crew knew everyone and our favorite food and drinks. Every member of the crew has multiple duties, and everyone helps including the Hotel Director and Food Director. One day the entire crew was waiting for our return from a tour with cheers and welcome signs. This made us feel very special. Most of the crew works months without a day off, and still greet you every morning with a smile. The Cruise Director was also excellent. Every event was on time and well executed. As I mentioned a bit earlier, the small size of the ship makes it easy to meet most members of the crew.
Overall our river cruise was excellent. Our 7 night 8 day cruise cost us $3110 p/p. This is about six times more expensive than our Transatlantic cruises which include a larger veranda cabin, but does not include free beverages and tours. If you can afford a river cruise, or want to see some of the beautiful cities and scenery included in a specific river cruise, you should do it; but if you are looking for value cruising with above average food and service, you probably want to stick with ocean cruising. Read Less