Peter Knego begins his latest trek, a four night stay aboard one of Viking Cruises elegant new Longships, the VIKING SKIRNIR, at Amsterdam.
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THE SANDS OF ALANG: The latest DVD about shipbreaking in Alang, India
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2015 unless otherwise noted.
Sunday, March 22, 2015
With human-scale vessels being squeezed out of all but the luxury sector of the mainstream cruise market, my appreciation of niche market and river cruising is growing by leaps and bounds. In recent years, I’ve become particularly smitten with Viking Cruises, which has thus far set an enviable inland waterway standard.
By keeping its focus on the essentials (friendly, efficient service; great food; comfortable, stylish hardware; included tours; free internet and beverages; emphasis on local culture and history), Viking’s the river (and soon to be ocean-going) line to beat with a continually growing fleet of 60 vessels.
Face to Longship Face.
When I arrived at the Amsterdam cruise terminal, there were five Longships gathered in rafts of two and three with another three due from the Neptun Werft Shipyard in Rostock, Germany. All eight were scheduled to be named on March 24 with two more Longships and two smaller vessels to join the mass christening via remote broadcast from Rostock. All in all, it would be a momentous event, if a slight tapering down from last year’s induction of no less than eighteen Viking River ships in a 24-hour period.
Painting of Skirnir by Lauritsen.
Home for the next four nights would be the VIKING SKIRNIR, which is named for the Norse “servant of the gods”.
VIKING SKIRNIR Veranda Stateroom 303, facing starboard.
As soon as we stepped out of the car, our luggage was hauled off to Veranda Stateroom 303, a beautifully conceived, 205-square-foot space on starboard Upper Deck. Intelligent design has rendered a relatively compact nook into a den of comfort and functionality, with plenty of storage and a long counter with space for laptops, cameras and other gear.
VIKING SKIRNIR Veranda Stateroom 303 console area.
All staterooms feature two-pin 220-volt German Schuko safety plugs; a 115V razor plug; hairdryers; mini-fridges; bottled water; an in-room infotainment system featuring movies on demand, plus CNBC, CNN, National Geographic and more and a telephone that can be used to call other staterooms and reception.
VIKING SKIRNIR Veranda Stateroom 303 balcony.
Since the ship would remain in port for the next four days, we would have little use for our balcony but it would certainly be a nice vantage during a proper river passage.
VIKING SKIRNIR Veranda Stateroom 303 loo.
VIKING SKIRNIR L’Occitane amenities.
Even the loo was inviting with its textured walls, ample toiletry storage, massage shower head and thoughtful touches like heated flooring and a dimmed night setting. And the amenities? L’Occitane, of course.
The Longships have four passenger decks, the uppermost Sun Deck boasting shaded and open seating space, a walking track, shuffleboard, a putting green and even a spice garden.
VIKING SKIRNIR Reception, facing forward from Middle Deck.
The focal points of each ship are double deck, multi-purpose Reception lobbies which are fitted out in brushed steel, marble and terrazzo. A solar panel-topped skylight gives the space an open and airy feel, even when the ship is berthed between other vessels.
VIKING SKIRNIR Upper Deck Reception area, facing aft from port.
VIKING SKIRNIR Library and Internet Center, facing port.
VIKING SKIRNIR Library and Internet Center, facing starboard.
The balcony level has a combination Library and Internet Center and there are intimate seating banks along either side of the stairs.
VIKING SKIRNIR Totally random marble shot.
VIKING SKIRNIR totally random carpet shot.
The fittings and joinery are tasteful and seamless, thanks to the exacting standards of Neptun Werft, the Rostock-based division of Meyer Werft, which builds the finest passenger ships of the modern age.
The forward-situated Aqavit Terrace can be opened to the elements via glass screens.
The indoor portion of the Aquavit Terrace, in a port-facing view.
Lunch buffet on the Aquavit Terrace.
Although the temptation to nap after that grueling red-eye commute from California was formidable, I joined my traveling companion Rob DiStefano for a quick lunch in the indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace in the forward portion of the ship.
Vegetable soup with gyozas.
Delicious steamed gyozas in a veggie broth and a plate of penne arrabiata would sate before it was time to race off with our press group on a private canal tour.
DE WOLK approacheth.
Our sunny afternoon ride would be on the lovely steamboat DE WOLK (Dutch for “cloud”).
Stately in miniature.
Gingerbread towers and basking barges.
I was as transfixed by DE WOLK’s vintage wooden elements as I was the gorgeous scenery outside her domed brass windows.
Escort with an appetite.
Our hosts served a selection of wines, Dutch brews, cold cuts and, of course, Gouda cheese. We were joined by a flotilla of ducks, quietly clamoring for an errant morsel.
VIKING SKIRNIR Middle Deck passage, facing aft.
When we returned, I took advantage of the mostly empty ship to document the other four categories of accommodation. A patented Viking Longship feature is the off-center passage through Upper and Middle Decks, which allows enough space for Veranda Staterooms on the starboard side and fore-to-aft situated Suites as well as narrower French Veranda Staterooms on the port side.
VIKING SKIRNIR Leif Erikson Suite living room, facing aft.
Leif Erikson Suite living room, facing forward.
At the stern of the ship on Upper Deck, there are two 445-square-foot Explorer Suites with separate living and bedrooms, commodious bathrooms and wrap-around balconies that rank among the largest on any river. Normally, this part of a river ship would be prone to vibration and not suitable for guest accommodation but Viking has addressed that with quiet diesel-electric engines that are quiet as they are fuel-efficient.
VIKING SKIRNIR Veranda Suite, from bedroom to living room.
The next most sumptuous accommodations are the 275-square-foot Veranda Suites with their separate living and bedrooms.
A delicious dinner (more on dining in the next post) and a chance to unpack and unwind would wrap up an ideal first day aboard the VIKING SKIRNIR
End Of Viking’s Dutch Feat, Part One
Much More To Come….
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
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