Viking’s Dutch Feat, Part Three

Peter Knego continues his latest trek with a morning visit to Haarlem and a gala christening event of Viking Cruises twelve newest river cruise ships.

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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.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

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Trotting the streets of Haarlem.

The morning’s cultural infusion was a trip to Haarlem, a charming town situated on the River Spaarne some 18 kilometers directly west of Amsterdam. Like a smaller version of the Dutch capital, Haarlem is criss-crossed with canals and stone facades, some dating from the 1200s.

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Approaching the Frans Hals Museum.

We barely scratched the surface of its myriad attractions with a visit to the Frans Hals Museum.

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Frans Hals courtyard.

The museum itself was built in 1609 as an “old men’s home” but has been renovated many times since its conception. It became a museum in 1862.

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Florotica in the Frans Hals museum.

Frans Hals The Elder may not be as renowned as that other Dutch master Rembrandt but his work has become highly esteemed in recent years. Hals signature was the infusion of daylight into his portraiture and his overt brush strokes, which were against protocol at the time but eventually became the norm centuries later with the Impressionist movement.

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Tulip tweets.
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The museum boasts a wide selection of Hals’ masterpieces but also tulips and other Spring flora in interesting, at times, suggestive, settings.

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De Jopen brewery, Haarlem.

Our second stop in Haarlem was the De Jopen Brewery, which was carved out of an old church. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch in its lofty surrounds.

Back at the Cruise Terminal, eight Longships were aligned in two rafts four vessels deep. Red and white balloons lined the Sun Deck rails, straining against wind gusts and a steady, if chilly, drizzle that now permeated the day.

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Torstein Hagen, Viking Cruises Chairman and CEO.

There was time to work in a press conference with Viking’s candid chairman and visionary, Torstein Hagen. Hagen was formerly CEO of Royal Viking Line and on the board of directors of Holland America. He has a disarming, no-nonsense demeanor and a singularly unique way of doing things, such as providing shots of gin for the attending media. On the day of launching twelve river ships and on the eve of the delivery of its first of thus far three ocean ships, he shrugged 2015 off as “just another year”. However nonchalant his public face, the man must be bursting with pride over Viking’s unprecedented success and staggering growth over the past few years.

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Tinkerbelles, Godmothers and Captains.

Despite the weather, the ceremony would go on full force. Each of the twelve godmothers, all loyal Viking employees culled from shoreside ops and the ships, themselves, were led by their progenies’respective captains and adorable school girls in Tinkerbell garb to the naming platform.

The ships and their godmothers:

VIKING SKIRNIR — Donora Anderson, Senior Director of Operations
VIKING EIR — Clare Armitage, UK Senior Operations Executive
VIKING ASTRILD — Sinemie Bakker, Program Director Onboard Operations
VIKING VILI — Henrieta Balisova, Program Director Onboard Operations
VIKING BEYLA — Adriana Filkasova, Chief Receptionist Onboard Operations
VIKING MIMIR — Jana Hudakova, Chief Receptionist Onboard Operations
VIKING VE — Miriam Kajuchova, Housekeeper Onboard Operations
VIKING LOFN — Karoline Landa, Controller/Hotel Mgr. Onboard Operations
VIKING VIDAR — Kornelia Pfeiffenberger, Hotel Mgr. Onboard Operations
VIKING MODI — Faye Pirie, Specialist Cruise Consultant UK Office
VIKING MANI — Julie Rosoff, Senior Director of Marketing Services, Los Angeles
VIKING GEFJON — Verona Thiele, Concierge Onboard Operations

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Rain and champagne.
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Another Longship is named.

Starting with the four in Rostock via remote, each vessel was invoked with a bottle of champagne. All went without a hitch, save for our ship, the VIKING SKIRNIR, whose bottle had to be dispatched by a crew member.

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Fireworks reign.
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Celebratory plume over Amsterdam.

A fireboat sprayed a gray plume of water into the equally gray skies and fireworks burst overhead as the ships’ collective whistles were sounded. Over the next few hours, the vessels would quietly slip away, leaving just three the following morning.

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Dinner procession.
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Terminal transformed.

As attendees filed into the Cruise Terminal for the gala dinner, I dashed back to the SKIRNIR to file a quick story, then joined the banquet as the first course, Quinoa Salad with goji berries, smoked salmon and wasabi dressing was being served. It would be followed by Sea Bass on Red Beet Risotto with beurre blanc sauce and Vanille Anglaise with pistachio sponge cake and black currant meringue.

After dinner, we took a short walk into Amsterdam and then headed back to the ship.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

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Another Longship departs.

We had a day of far niente to just linger on the ship, work out at a local gym and wander the quayside. I managed to visit and fully document two of the neighboring Longships before they sailed off but somehow the disc with those images has gone AWOL.

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VIKING SKIRNIR at Amsterdam.

It was wonderful to have some down time before the travels resumed. Fortunately, the following morning, our next destination, Rotterdam and the glorious SS ROTTERDAM, was just a forty minute train ride away.

The End

Very special thanks:  Chad Grossman, Ian Jeffries

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

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 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."
Peter Knego

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