Sad to Say, It’s Over

As we departed Kinderdijk shortly before 5 PM on Tuesday July 16th, we were struck with the fact that our river cruise was coming to an end.

Our Viking Daily newsletter indicated there’d be a Captain’s Cocktail Party at 6:30 for farewell toasts; one final Port Talk from Program Director Leonard; and one last review of disembarking procedures for the next morning. But, before all those events, we had one final bit of sight-seeing to engage in, and just before 5:30, Leonard announced that we would soon be approaching the large Dutch city of Rotterdam.

Much to our surprise, before we got to check out Rotterdam’s skyline, someone shouted “there’s a boat that looks like Noah’s Ark!”, and sure enough, they were right.

Of course it wasn’t Noah’s Ark, but it turns out that we were looking at Johann’s Ark, a biblical-themed barge built by a Dutch carpenter as a tourist attraction in 2012.

It is a full-scale interpretation of the biblical Ark featuring animal models, including cows, penguins, a crocodile, and a giraffe, seen perched at the front of the ship.

Johann Huibers built it with the help of eight other carpenters over a period of four years, and it is 390 feet long, 98 feet wide, and 75 feet high – divided into seven stories. The cost of building it was 4 million euros! Huiber’s Ark, made of American Cedar and Pine is not seaworthy and can’t handle waves higher than six feet, although it can be and has been towed along the river and through the canals on multiple occasions since its’ completion.

Not long after that burst of excitement, Leonard announced that “coming up on our right is the major industrial port of Rotterdam”, and as you can see from some of the images below, he wasn’t exaggerating.

While I was certainly familiar with the name of the city, I did not know much about it, and as such, was surprised to learn that Rotterdam is Europe’s largest port. In fact for many, many years, it was the largest port in the world!

The near-complete destruction of the city centre in the World War II Rotterdam Blitz (seen below in 1940) has resulted in a varied architectural landscape, including sky-scrapers (an uncommon sight in other Dutch cities)

Mary and I made sure to arrive in the lounge early for the evening’s festivities, as we knew it would be “standing room only” for the final assemblage of passengers for this trip.

First, Captain Anne Sijbranda and the ship’s “Hotel Manager”, Ionut Duminica said a few words to the passengers – thanking us for joining Viking on this particular cruise, and expressing hopes that we had made new friends (we certainly did), and that perhaps one day in the future, we would undertake another Viking adventure (we’ve already booked our next one!).

Then it was time to hear from Program Director Leonard who everyone had come to respect, enjoy, and rely on throughout the entire trip. He was the star of the trip, and the standing ovation, rousing cheers and applause that greeted him was ample proof of how much he meant to all of us on board.

After briefing us on our Wednesday morning arrival in Amsterdam, Leonard shared an 18+ minute video that he had assembled for all of us to enjoy on this final night. I think he managed to include everyone in the video at least once, and it was a wonderful way to finish off the trip.

From there it was to off the restaurant for one final dinner with the friends we had made on the trip and then it was time to pack our bags.

Some people had to be up and ready to depart the ship at 4:45 AM in the morning, while others didn’t have to disembark until 11:15. Departure time was dependent on the flight destinations and/or on-going plans of each of the passengers. As for Mary and I, we were among a small group of passengers who had opted to stay on in Amsterdam for an extra two days, so we had a fairly reasonable departure time of 8:30. That gave us time to enjoy breakfast on board before catching a bus to the Hotel Okura, our Amsterdam home for the next two days and nights.

Given the earliest departure times, it was no surprise to see that the ship would be docking in Amsterdam between 3:30 and 4 AM in the morning and when we arose, we were greeted with a beautiful sunny morning with temperatures already approaching 80.

As we left the ship, we said our good-byes and thank-yous to the crew that had taken such good care of us over the previous fourteen days, and then made our way to shore to check that our luggage was ready to be loaded on the bus. It was a madhouse as there were multiple ships from multiple cruise-lines all in various stages of loading and unloading.

Despite the frenetic mood around us, everything was incredibly well organized and we had nothing to worry about.

While standing there, we also had our first exposure to the “killer bikes”. Amsterdam is a city where the primary modes of transportation are bicycles, trams, canal boats, and feet (in that order) and we had been forewarned that the cyclists showed no mercy for pedestrians who got in their way.

We were looking forward to our extended stay in Amsterdam. and except for a short guided tour we took once we arrived at the hotel, we spent the next two days wandering on our own – just the way we like it.

I’ll cover our time in Amsterdam in a couple of stand-alone posts, but as this is the final entry relating to the cruise, I will end it by saying that this was an incredible adventure for us and worth every penny! We got to see some of the great cities of Europe, and some lesser known ones too, and we had a chance to walk and cruise through centuries of history – one of our absolute favorite things to do.

The Viking experience was fantastic with everything well organized and we highly recommend it to any and all.

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good bye, and of course tot ziens.

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