Sailing Through Europe on the Viking Legend

There’s a new Viking Legend prowling the rivers of Europe, but this one’s carrying 189 guests in 97 staterooms, including two suites (the largest on Europe’s rivers), 90 deluxe doubles and five singles, most featuring a French balcony.

The ship’s propulsion system is a “green” diesel-electric hybrid engine, and has innovative noise- and vibration-reduction features, which provides a smooth and quiet ride. For the 2010 season, Viking Legend will play host to Viking’s guests on four different itineraries. Beginning the season sailing the 10-day Tulips & Windmills program through Holland and Belgium, she will then spend the majority of the season cruising Viking’s popular Grand European itinerary, traveling from Amsterdam to Budapest—a 2-week river voyage Recommend was invited on in November.

The Viking Legend was actually built for this specific itinerary along the Rhine, Maine and Danube rivers from Amsterdam to Budapest and return. Because of the length of the cruise, it does tend to attract an older demographic, negating the need for the workout room, spa and hot tub most of the other Viking ships enjoy. Despite the demographic, it’s kind of surprising, however, that the ship does not have an elevator for easier access on the 3-level ship.

The aft of the ship is the library and a secondary lounge that on this trip, at least, seemed to be pretty much empty most of the time. The main activity center is at the very front of the ship and is pretty much occupied most of the time—even when the bulk of the passengers are out on tour, there’s always a number of people hanging around, playing cards, reading books or just socializing. On part of the cruise, the sun deck and the bridge itself is lowered in order to navigate the low bridges and locks, so access to the sun deck is denied until the ship reaches the Danube. All in all, in fact, the ship traverses a total of 64 locks during its 14-day voyage along the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers.

Every morning, an “Early Bird” breakfast is served with coffee, juice and a large selection of pastries from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. in the Viking Lounge, accompanied by a Qi Gong/Morning Gym light exercise program held each morning at 7 a.m. by one of the program managers. Regular breakfast is served in the Viking Restaurant—the ship’s dining room—from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., with a light lunch served in the Viking Lounge starting at about 12:15 p.m.—depending on the sailing schedule—offering soup, sandwiches, salads, a light entree and dessert. A full-service lunch is served at the same time with several entree choices and a large buffet—wine and beer are offered for sale, both at lunch and dinner. This year, however, wine will be included on the dinner menu.

To be honest, the morning flight arrival won’t sit well with your more picky travelers, so warn clients they’re going to have about a 30- to 60-minute wait in the airport as the transfer people round up folks from a number of different incoming flights before they have a chance to board the bus and head for the ship.

And, whatever you do, forewarn clients that once they arrive at the ship, they’re still going to have a significant wait in the ship’s lounge—we’re talking as long as four or five hours, depending upon your arrival time—because the crew can’t get your clients into their cabins until 3 p.m. They need the time to prepare the ship after the previous passengers disembark.

So urge them to make that time productive. In this case, Amsterdam’s city center is an easy walk from the ship and for those who might feel physically challenged, there are plenty of relatively inexpensive and reliable cabs available outside the ship, or the front desk will be happy to call one for your client if they don’t want or can’t make the walk.

What better way to spend a couple of hours than strolling through Amsterdam—truly one of the world’s most beautiful cities, and the city center itself is a cornucopia of tourism attractions. Beautiful canals lined by exotic houseboats and gorgeous 17th and 18th century apartments and townhouses—many of which were one-time warehouses that stored the riches of the West India Company that came into Amsterdam from the old colonial world. There are delicious, out-of-the-way restaurants, exotic gift shops, the infamous Red Light district the city’s famous “Brown Cafes”—all worth at least a walk by for even the most straight-laced traveler.