Author: Caroline H
Date of Trip: April 2015
Amsterdam and Viking Rhine Cruise, April, 2015
Before beginning my review, I want to say that I am 73 and somewhat limited in mobility. I use a cane or a rollator to help.
I loved Amsterdam. The sidewalks and streets were flat bricks, and I could get around easily with my cane. Viking had arranged for us to stay 2 nights in the Renaissance Hotel. The Hotel was well located for sightseeing; our room was comfortable, and the staff was helpful. When we arrived, we took a day canal cruise while waiting for our room to be ready. It was not so good. The recorded narrative in 3 or 4 languages was more annoying than fun, and the boat was hot!
We took an evening dinner cruise on a very small boat, the Amsterdam Jewel. That was a wonderful experience. Superb food. We cruised the canals a bit, pulled in to a restaurant each time for various courses, so the food was fresh and hot. The lighted bridges at night were magical. If you snag the table for 2 by the Captain, he will make a few comments, not intrusive.
The shops around our hotel were mostly head shops, selling cannabis, and sex toys.
On Friday, we had hired a guide from Tours by Locals. Rene Smit was an excellent guide. He drove us around in his comfortable Mercedes. He had arranged an electric scooter for me in the Kukenhoff Gardens. The flowers were magnificent. April was probably a perfect time to visit. After the gardens, he drove us through the country side, explaining that we saw. I enjoyed seeing how locals live. We went to a small whaling village, De Rijp, with streets too narrow for busses! We had a nice lunch in De Rijp. Then, we went on to Schermer Windmill Museum. My husband, the engineer, really enjoyed the working windmill. It had glass to view what was happening inside and below. The miller, in his wooden shoes, was super at explaining in English! The shoes were not for show; it was obvious that he worked in them. Rene never rushed us, if we were having a good time. His tour was tailored totally to what we wanted. I do not believe that Tours By Locals can be beat.
We had a delicious gourmet dinner in Van Spyek Brassiere near our hotel. I wish we had found this gem sooner. It was great.
On Saturday, before we boarded the ship for our cruise, I went to the Van Gogh Museum. It was a very moving experience. I took my rollator, so I could rest on the seat when needed. I selected the Highlights Multimedia tour. I got an excellent feel for his tortured life. Dave, meanwhile, went to the Heineken Brewery. We both enjoyed our morning tours.
For lunch we ate at Joselito’s Tapas, near the hotel. It was quite satisfying.
We boarded our Viking Longship, the Kvasir, on Saturday afternoon. The ship was everything I had expected. It was pristine. The staff was great, so personable, entertaining, and helpful. We had a pleasant stateroom with a veranda. Food was fabulous. I have not wanted to weigh since I got home! I highly recommend the Viking Cruise Line.
One of my disappointments was that I was not mobile enough to take the shore excursions. My husband went on most and took pictures. He was pleased with the trips. There were too many uneven surfaces and cobblestones and stairs for me. While he was ashore, I read, visited with the staff, viewed the scenery, and generally had a very relaxing time. At places on the river, there were many beautiful swans. I have never seen so many in one place. A few even came close to the boat, hoping for a handout. Swans are so regal and graceful.
I did go on the coach ride to the Black Forest on the last day. It also had stairs at the stop, which I managed with help. I saw the Coo Coo Clock Demo and the glass blower. The clocks were amazing. I am glad I went.
For the most part, the river was not scenic! One afternoon we cruised in a scenic area with hills and castles. The rest of the time, we saw levees, a few cities, and factories. Ugh! It was still peasant and relaxing.
The trip over and back, although we went business class, was quite difficult for me. United and Lufthansa were nice airlines, with flat beds to rest. Jet lag really got me coming home.
I am happy we did this trip. I had fun.