A first for us, arriving in country on the same day as cast-off for a cruise. It worked out well because we had a direct flight from Dulles to Amsterdam, can rest well while in flight and cast-off wasn’t until 11PM. We arrived at 735AM so there was a pretty large buffer.
Our flight over was on a UA 767, with 2-3-2 seating. We had economy plus seats and sat side be side on the 2 side. Flight was uneventful, meal was unmemorable, the movie Yesterday was surprisingly good.
Arrival at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport was thirty minutes early, but any time gained and then some was lost going through immigration. There we had six agents for non-European passports and they were very inquisitive. “Why are you here? How long will you stay? Where are you staying?” After that we were met by the Viking representative, who had just dispatched a bus t the ship, so we had another 45-minute delay before we loaded bags on a coach and headed for the Viking Longship Sigrun
The crew at the ship took charge from there and invited us to go to the Aquavit Lounge for a buffet spread. After eating we were given our room key cards and could drop off any carry-on luggage. Our bags were in the room already.
The ship was docked near the central train station. The ship did offer a mini-tour to the train station, ATMs etc, but we declined since we have been to Amsterdam before. Instead we set off for the Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic Museum) and The Oude Church. The first is a Catholic Church built across the top floors of three row houses. If you go be sure to watch the video that shows haw the pulpit is folded away into the altar. The Oude Church is the oldest building in the city and host various art displays throughout the year. Unfortunately, nothing special on display when we visited, but the side rooms provide insights into the history of the building. Both locations proved an includes audio tour with admission. A note of caution or enticement, The Oude Church, is on the border of the Red-Light District. There were several ladies on display.
By now were beginning to feel a little tired so we headed back to the ship for a catch-up nap ahead of the evening’s meal and program.
Angela, our enthusiastic cruise director, did the usual introductions of the staff. She provided a run-down of the next days tours and encouraged us to return to the lounge for the evening’s entertainment after dinner.
All the meals were outstanding. At times some members of the wait staff seemed curt. Twice when ordering dessert, we were told we should have done that we placed our main order. Advice we opted not to follow, and we never went without dessert when we wanted it.
Like all the Longships and even on the Restaurant Dining Room on the Ocean ships the dining room gets very noisy, very fast. The room has low ceilings, hard surfaces and is serving nearly all the passengers at one seating.
We did all the included tours. The only one that disappointed was the Black Forest Tour. Guide was good with lots of info about legends and wildlife, but you didn’t need to be seated in a bus for a couple of hours to hear it all. The destination was a set of shops selling blown glass works and another selling cuckoo clocks. Not sure what there was to do or se in Breisach, Germany, but it had to be better than this tour.
We also did optional tours Dine in Rüdesheim am Rhein, Mercedes-Benz Factory, and Colmar in World War II tours. The dinner was a lot of fun with unlimited food and drink, although we cannot recommend the red wine. We should have known better since this is white wine country and that’s what we stuck with. We found the Mercedes-Benz tour fascinating, robots and humans turning out 1200 cars a day. The Colmar tour was moving. On a cold damp day, we had just a hint of the challenges soldiers on both sides faced. We would highly recommend these three.
Unfortunately for those who did the Taste of Alsace Tour in Strasbourg, it was on the same night as the German dinner on board. The German meal was outstanding and served in a buffet though the kitchen. How they fix all those meals in such a small space is hard to fathom.
We extended on our own with two nights in Basel. We stayed at The Passage Hotel just on the edge of the town center. Our room was large by US standards, for Europe it was gigantic. We signed up for the included continental breakfast. Light fare for sure, but enough to start the day. The Basel Historical Museum is spread across three buildings and admission to one gets you admission to all. In one all the signage is in German, so they provided an iPad that gives English descriptions at no additional charge. We dined at Walliser Kanne, Hotel Stadthof, and Brasserie Café Spitz. I confess we also had lunch ad a chain Ramen shop. Do try the Swiss wines, you can’t easily get them anywhere else. Do be prepared for high prices, but also for excellent food and great service.
Our flight home was on a 777 with 3-4-3 seating after short flight Basel to Frankfort. Not nearly as comfortable as the flight over. Arrival a Dulles saw only three Customs and Border Protection Agents for the whole flight. Even the Global Entry folks had a considerable wait. Ours was 1 hour and 45 minutes. Looking their Facebook page this is not an unusual occurrence.