Viking’s Dutch Treat

Join Peter Knego on a mini-cruise from Amsterdam to Rotterdam to celebrate Viking’s 2016 Longship Christening event.

Viking Cruises

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THE SANDS OF ALANG: The latest DVD about shipbreaking in Alang, India

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2016.

Monday, February 29, 2016

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Good Morning, Amsterdam!

After the snow and ice of Norway, it was so nice to step into the brilliant albeit chilly sunshine as I rolled my suitcase from the Westcord Hotel near Amsterdam Centraal to the Amsterdam Cruise Terminal.

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Welcome to the VIKING VILI.

By the time I reached my home for the next three nights, the 2015-built Longship VIKING VILI, I was warmed up and ready for the refreshing towel that greeted me at the gangway.

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A pair of Viking Longships.

The VILI was berthed with four other Longships that had just been delivered from Rostock’s Neptun Werft shipyard in anticipation of the following day’s naming ceremony with godmothers selected from some of Viking’s more prominent travel partners. The quintet would soon be joined by the VIKING ROLF (named for the Warrior King Symbol Of Courage — to be named by Lisa Anciaux, Director of Travel Products, AAA Washington), which was at another pier.

Viking trio.

The other vessels in our company, in varying stages of fitting out, included the VIKING KADLIN (named for the Queen of Scotland and daughter of Norse nobleman Rolf — to be named by Beth Butzlaff, Managing Director of Virtuoso Cruise Sales); VIKING EGIL (named for the 10th Century Norse Warrior Poet — to be named by Jennifer Gasser, VP of Supplier Relations, World Travel Holdings); VIKING VILJALM (named for the 10th Century Norman Ruler — to be named by Beryl Gibson of Northumbria Travel, Ltd.); VIKING ALRUNA (named for a Valkyrie — to be named by Michelle Chimko, CEO Alberta Motor Association); and VIKING TIALFI (named for the Champion Runner Son Of Egil — to be named by Sinead O’Connell, Director Industry Relations,

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VIKING VILI Veranda Stateroom 223.

I dropped my luggage off at 205-square-foot Veranda Stateroom 223, located on Middle Deck and designed with every conceivable need, from a small balcony with two seats accessed by a full length glass door to a handy writing desk, a large flatscreen television with a wide selection of programming (subject to satellite connections), well-placed light switches, a comfy and firm mattress, fine linens, a pillow menu, plenty of storage (including space for suitcases under the bed), dual 110/220 outlets, minibar, fresh fruit, included bottled water, headsets for guided tours and even a “welcome can” of Dutch stroopwafel cookies.

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223m WC.

The bathroom is also a compact haven of sensible and intuitive design, with plenty of storage space, a shower compartment that functions nicely (and keeps the water in) and, of course, Viking’s signature heated floors.

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VIKING VILI stairs, facing forward.

All Longships have a fabulous two deck lobby with a grand staircase set between marble posts topped with a skylight and infused with light via full length windows on either side of both levels. Other than the artwork depicting the Viking entity the vessel is named for, they are basically identical in design and appearance (aside from a few of the earlier Longships that have a large chandelier in their midst).

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VIKING VILI Library, facing starboard.

At the aft end of the balcony overlooking the lobby on Upper Deck, there is a combination library and internet center with three computer stations. Wifi is complimentary.

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VIKING VILI Lounge, facing aft.

A large forward lounge with full length windows offering panoramic views, a beautiful bar constructed in the manner of a genuine Viking craft, earthy color schemes and gorgeous-yet-comfortable Scandinavian furnishings make it ideal for enrichment lectures, evening entertainment (usually featuring local musicians) or just watching the scenery pass.

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VIKING VILI Aquavit Terrace, facing starboard.

Fronting the Lounge is the indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace, the setting for buffet style continental breakfast and lunch.

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VIKING VILI, port side Explorer Suite, facing forward.

As the ship filled with agents and media, I sought out one of each category of unoccupied cabins to document. There are five in all, ranging from a pair of 445-square-foot Explorer Suites at the stern to economically thrifty 150-square-foot Standard Staterooms with a small window near the waterline on the lowest level, Main Deck.

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VIKING VILI Veranda Suite, facing forward.

My favorites are the seven 275-square-foot Veranda Suites on Upper Deck, boasting separate bedrooms (with French balcony), large bathrooms and a handsome living room with a full balcony.

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Viking versus Tricolor.

Once finished with the VILI, I wandered aboard the other vessels, although all but the VIKING EGIL were more or less in varying stages of fitting out and not ready for prime time documenting.

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Chicken won ton soup, Viking style.

Back aboard the VILI, I wasted no time in heading to the Aquavit for lunch. Although Viking doesn’t claim to have the fanciest cuisine afloat, to me, I would easily rank it among the very best. For instance, the chicken won ton soup was prepared on the spot with fresh chives and seasonings and nothing short of perfection.

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Viking salad.

After the invigorating soup, a crisp, fresh salad topped with pungent olive oil, balsamic vinegar and spices grown aboard the ship helped sate this weary traveler.

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VIKING VILI Restaurant, facing aft.

The main dining option, the Viking Restaurant on forward Middle Deck, offers open seating breakfast and lunch buffets (with evolving daily menu selections) and full service, four course dinners. Complimentary wines and beers are included with lunch and dinner service.

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Viking table setting.

Table settings at dinner feature Viking’s beautiful blue glass chargers and service plates, ergonomic cutlery, cloth napkins and faux candle lighting.

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Viking quiche.

The service and presentation are surpassed only by the flavor of each course, be it a freshly baked quiche…

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Anytime chicken breast.

…the “anytime” chicken breast with a trio of dips…

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Viking fish of the day.

….or the fresh catch of the day.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A morning tour to the Rijksmuseum kept us occupied and freed up our tireless crew to prepare the VILI and her sisters for the gala christening. Unfortunately, the day’s weather would be more typical of the Dutch winter, bringing in cold rain and intermittent winds from the North Sea.

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The Rijksmuseum.

The largest art museum in Holland, the Rijksmuseum was designed by Pierre Cuypers and first opened its doors in 1885. 8,000 works of art from a collection of 1,000,000 are on display After a ten year, 375 million Euro restoration, it reopened in 2013.

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Watching the “Nightwatch”.

Our short tour took in works by Frans Hals and Johannes Vermeer and, of course, Rembrandt, whose.1642 “The Night Watch” is one of the most famous Dutch Golden Age paintings. Approximately 12-by-15 feet, it is revered for its innovative blend of light and shadow and depicts the infantry company led by Captain Frans Banning Cocq. Interestingly, at the outset of World War Two, it was detached from its frame and rolled around a cylinder and stored in Radboud Castle in Medemblik, north of Amsterdam. After the war, it was returned to its rightful place in the Rijksmuseum.

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Madretsma I.

Following our visit to the Rijksmuseum, it was a short walk past the IAMSTERDAM sign to the coach, which whisked us off to our next stop.

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d’Vijff Vlieghen.

Founded in 1939 by theatrical impresario Nicolaas Kroese, the Restaurant d’Vijff Vlieghen (The Five Flies) is composed of five 17th Century houses.

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Dutch caramel swirl.

After the war, the place became a favorite haunt of the glitterati, from Walt Disney and Orson Welles to Bruce Springsteen and Michail Gorbachev. Viking had arranged a fantastic multi course lunch that was capped off with a caramelized apple dessert and strong coffee.

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Viking fireworks

We had enough time to change and share a glass of champagne with fellow revelers before filing out in the deluge for the pierside christening. Viking CEO Torstein Hagen introduced the six godmothers, each of whom made a short speech and pushed a lever that released a bottle of Veuve Clicquot into their respective vessel’s bow, culminating in a fireworks display and celebratory spray from a local tugboat.

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Wet procession in red.

After the ceremony, we were off again in the rain to the Koppelkerk, a round church in Central Amsterdam designed by Adriaan Dortsman and completed in 1671.
In its main hall, under a vast dome and facing a giant organ and pulpit, there were tables set up for Viking’s commemorative gala dinner.

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Bernard Meyer, Viking Longship Godmothers and Viking CEO Torstein Hagen.

The six godmothers were gathered on stage and presented with gifts by both Torstein Hagen, Viking Cruises CEO and Bernard Meyer, CEO of the famed Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenberg, Germany, owners of the Neptun Werft shipyard in Rostock that built the Longships.

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Let the show begin.

What followed was eclectic and grandiose, a priduction offering up everything from elegant ballet to the Can Can, Andrew Lloyd Weber (“Phantom”, “Cats” and “Evita”), Abba and so much more.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

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Breakfast on the VIKING VILI.

After breakfast, I headed out for a jog around Amsterdam’s harbor district, doing my best to navigate uneven stones and slippery, wet grass. It was another gorgeous day and a perfect chance to undo some of those inaugural celebration calories.

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Cruise like an EGIL

All of the Viking craft except the VIKING VILI and VIKING EGIL had slipped off in the wee hours and by the time I returned, the VIKING EGIL was casting her lines. I watched from my stateroom as she thrust off on her voyage to Cologne where she will be used for new staff training until the official season of Rhine cruising begins.

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En route to Rotterdam.

We followed in the EGIL’s wake, navigating the gorgeous canals and locks on our way to Rotterdam.

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Viking cookies.

I decided to finally rest and get caught up with writing assignments in the Scandinavian splendor of the our Longship with fresh-baked stroopwafels and a frothy cappuccino never more than a few steps away.

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Van Gogh class in the Aquavit.

Viking offered up an optional painting class in the Aquavit where participants could channel their inner Van Gogh.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

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MV VIKING VILI at Rotterdam.

Sunshine with intermittent rain greeted us in Rotterdam when we disembarked the VILI.

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With the SS ROTTERDAM. Photo by Jeannine Williamson.

Although Viking was offering one of their typically excellent Rotterdam city tours with a visit to the central marketplace, U.K.-based correspondent Jeannine WIlliamson and I embarked on a vigorous walk along the banks of the River Maas. Our mission was to visit the beloved SS ROTTERDAM, the former Holland America liner that has been reborn as a floating hotel and museum in her namesake city.

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SS ROTTERDAM Smoking Room, facing aft.

After six cruises, countless visits and even a two night stay on the ship last year (see “Reacquainted With Rotterdam” treks), I will never tire of walking the decks of the 1959-built “Grande Dame”. Although the ship had to be altered for her new role, her former first class public spaces have, for the most part, been lovingly preserved and still boast glowing woodwork, original art panels and MidCentury furnishings.

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Goalposts to the sky.

Our time was limited, but we managed to see most of the ship before we began our brisk walk back to our floating Viking home.

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Hotel New York, Rotterdam.

We returned to the VILI with only moments to spare before she set sail for Amsterdam. Instead of heading upstream, she took a scenic detour, cruising downriver, past some of Rotterdam’s most interesting landmarks, including the Hotel New York,. Also known as the Wilhelminakade, it was the former Holland America Line headquarters and terminal where ROTTERDAM and her illustrious fleetmates (including the NIEUW AMSTERDAM of 1936 and the STATENDAM of 1957) used to sail from.

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SS ROTTERDAM at Rotterdam.

We even made a pass by the SS ROTTERDAM, which delayed lunch a bit as I stood on deck to capture her from yet another angle.

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The Euromast.

Just after we passed the Euromast on the opposite bank, the VIKING VILI spun around and made her way back up the Maas, to begin her return journey to Amsterdam.

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Pastoral passage.

The scenery was utterly cinematic as we sailed through the inland waterways of Holland.

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I alternated between the warm and cozy surrounds of the VILI…

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Sunlight on the Lowlands.

…and what lay beyond. Alas, it was time to pack, enjoy one last Viking dinner and prepare for the long slag back to California.

Friday, March 4, 2016

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Flowers in the Lounge.

Even Amsterdam seemed bereft that our Viking River sampler was over. Torrents of rain hammered down as I bade the VIKING VILI farewell and headed off to Schiphol.

End Of Viking’s Dutch Treat

Special thanks: Sara Conley, 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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