Amsterdam The trip to Amsterdam went very smoothly. The Atlanta Amsterday flight arrived about 30 minutes early (12:30 instead of 1:10 p.m.), and we breezed through passport control. With only carry-on luggage things went very quickly. We ended up waiting until almost 2:00 for our bus to depart Schipol. The bus had a lot of people on it. A few had flown through Iceland!
The trip to the ship took about 30 minutes. The Viking Atla was docked alongside a Scenic ship while there were two Viking Shops (Magni and Delling) across the way from us.
We were greeted with sparkling wine and offered a light lunch (which was still being served on the Aquavit Terrace). We got into the cabin, but didn’t unpack much since we wanted to take part in the Amsterdam walking tour that began at 3:00. A bus ferried everyone downtown for an hour-long leisurely walking tour. Audio headsets worked as expected. We got back to the ship a little before 5:00 and took showers which made us feel a lot better!
At 6:00 p.m. We had our initial briefing, conducted by the tour director and hotel manager. Optional tours were described along with the basics of life on the ship. Viking asked for optional tour reservations to be in by 8:00 tonight, about half-way through dinner.
Dinner was great. As always, portions weren’t huge, but the dinner was more than filling. Several at our table ordered multiple appetizers. Servers record orders on tablet computers. There were a couple of minor mix-ups with our order, but they were promptly corrected, and the servers did a very good job.
Cabin: Our 135 sq. ft. French balcony cabin (202) is a little tight, but very comfortable. The longships have plenty of outlets. 110 on one side of the bed and 220 on the other as well as outlets on both sides of the desk. Viking furnishes a 220V hair dryer for the cabin.
Tuesday began with a canal boat tour of Amsterdam in the morning. The canal boat tour was fun and gave a good view of the city. Following boat tour, we were bussed to the flower market where we had about an hour’s free time before the bus returned to the Atla. We chose to leave the tour and walked to the Rijksmuseum. There were long lines, first to get into the building, then a long line to buy tickets, with a final line to check our backpack and coats. The museum is spectacular, but crowded. We started with the impressionists and then went up a floor to see the Dutch artists. People were standing 5-6 deep in front of the Night Watch and some of the Vermeers. After leaving the museum, we took the streetcar back to the boat. Tickets were € 2.80 each. We should have gotten 24 hour passes which only cost € 7.50.
Tuesday night’s dinner went well, and the problems with orders we experienced the first night seem to have been sorted out.
Wednesday morning we sailed into the old city of Hoorn. The walking tour of the city was very nice, ending with an hour in a local home. We had a nice visit with a young housewife (35). Her five-year-old daughter was there as well. She told us a lot about life in the Netherlands over coffee and apple pie. Our guide came by after an hour and walked us back to the ship. After lunch we had free time in Hoorn. There were two optional tours, but only one had the required 20 participants. The North Holland tour only had 6 sign-ups, and the Tulips and Windmills tour was maxed out. We enjoyed a leisurely walk around Hoorn and some shopping. The ship set sail when the tour returned, and we had our required safety drill as we left Hoorn and cruised toward Amsterdam across the Ijsselmeer (formerly the Zuiderzee).
We arrived Thursday morning in Arnheim and docked under the “Bridge too Far” from Operation Market Garden. Around 9:00 we boarded buses for the included tour to Palais Het Loo. The tour guide gave lots of interesting information on the hour-long drive to the palace. She walked us around the grounds and got us inside the palace where we were on our own (the palace doesn’t lend itself to guided tours, so they aren’t allowed). We did not get the audio headsets (€3), but I wish that we had. We enjoyed the beautiful rooms and furnishings, but I think that the audio would have given us a better experience. After walking through the palace we had time for coffee in the palace café before boarding the buses for our return.
Optional tours in the afternoon were the Kroller Muller Museum and the Airborne Museum. The tours were generally well-received, but we chose a different option. We took a cab to the Netherlands Open Air Museum in Arnhem.
The €20 cab ride got us to the museum (about 4 km drive), which is the 6th most visited attraction in the Netherlands. The museum has almost 100 buildings which have been relocated from sites all over Holland. There are several windmills. Several of the buildings have craftspeople working. We visited an old papermill where some children were having a great time helping to make sheets of paper from rags. We also enjoyed seeing a lady making nets in the fisherman’s shack and a blacksmith at work. I can’t understand why Viking doesn’t offer this as an optional excursion or at least tell people about it. If I hadn’t visited the museum 40 years ago, we wouldn’t have known about it.
We got smart coming back and asked the person at the museum about taking the bus. It was short walk to the bus stop, and it only cost € 1.50 each. Buses run every 15 minutes to the city center where we had a short walk back to the ship.
We had another great Viking dinner before leaving for Kijnderlink.
I'll try to post more tomorrow.
2017: Burgundy & Provence, Avalon Poetry II
2016: Canals, Vineyards, and Paris, Avalon Affinity II
2015: Switzerland & the Heart of the Rhine & Moselle, Vantage River Navigator
2014: Tulips & Windmills, Viking Atla
2013: Romantic Danube, Viking MS Vienna (leased)
2012: Cities of Light, Viking Sky