Day 1: Amsterdam
Even though this is our third day of this adventure, I title this post “Day 1” because it’s our first day aboard the Viking Skirnir, home floating home for the next two weeks. And what a floating home. So far the service has been amazing, the accommodations luxurious and the food and drink first rate. In addition, we’ve struck up an acquaintance with a group of Miata owners from Massachusetts who will no doubt help to the make the trip memorable.
After a short bus ride from the hotel to the ship, we were checked in quickly (along with 94 other cabins), our luggage was delivered to our room, the concierge explained the special features of our room and we were free to explore the ship and, later, more of Amsterdam.
After walking around the ship, we boarded another shuttle bus that delivered us and a tour guide to the center of Amsterdam’s old town. With the help of small radio receivers and an ear piece, the guide took us on a one-hour tour of the older part of the city. Buildings built nearly 800 years ago sat along canals that have been in use for nearly that long. A tower where women said goodbye to their sea-faring sweethearts or husbands was pointed out as the “Tower of Tears.” Meanwhile, the sweet smell of smoldering cannabis frequently wafted out of “coffee houses” that clearly sold more than coffee, and this multi-cultural city came alive as we walked through “China Town,” passed Indian restaurants, and bars and shops of all description. There didn’t seem to be much that you couldn’t buy in old town Amsterdam, including the professional services of licensed prostitutes in the Red Light district.
After an hour of walking with our tour group, Marilyn and I opted to continue our own exploration of the city, finding a quaint corner bar where we enjoyed a round of Heineken beer, drawn from an elaborately carved tap in use since the early 1800s by a young woman who encouraged us to continue our adventures around the world as a way of staying young.
Back at the ship, we sat through an informative information session with the head of the ship’s hotel and the ship’s Program Director. This river cruising thing is new to us, but I think in a day or two we will be as comfortable as old touring hands. One of the things I’ve learned so far is that the WiFi is weak in our room and I’ve moved to the library area in the center of the ship where reception seems to be stronger. We’ve been warned that reception in the more remote sections of the river may challenge my ability to post the blog each night. But I’ll do my best.
Our first dinner aboard ship was wonderful. Crab and tuna as an appetizer for me, followed by veal loin, and polished off with lucious New York style cheesecake with fresh strawberries. But equally as important, our dinner companions made the meal a special treat as we got to know Nick and Mary from St. George, Utah. A delightful couple with a strong history of international travel, they told us a little about themselves as we filled them in on our past and family. We discovered what a small world this is when we learned that their friends in St. George used to work with our friend in South Carolina. (I confirmed by text that the connection, in fact, existed.) The hour and a half dinner passed too quickly and we’re looking forward to spending more time with our new traveling compatriots . Tonight they celebrated their 47th anniversary, and we toasted their marital longevity as they in turn toasted ours.
We pull out tonight at 11:30 (45 minutes from now), for a short cruise to Kinderdijk, a small town famous for it’s historic windmills which continue to operate, draining the water from land reclaimed from the sea. Tomorrow, we will tour the windmills before continuing our voyage up the Rhine.
More Pictures from Today: