HAL & Viking River Cruises

This item appears on page 31 of the February 2011 issue.
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I enjoyed Lew Toulmin’s October 2010 “The Cruising World” column, reviewing various cruise lines, but since he has not sailed with Holland America Line (HAL) and I have done at least five of their cruises (from 1997 to 2009, Alaska twice; Australia to New Zealand; the Baltics, and the Mediterranean), I want to share some of my observations.

Lew said that HAL “attracts an older, quiet… crowd.” During the school year, this is probably the case; however, during Christmas and the summer holidays there are many families and children on board. My sons loved the various HAL kids’ and teens’ clubs; they still e-mail many kids whom they met on board.

HAL also attracts honeymooners because of their five-star service, food and amenities. It’s lovely having gourmet food in the main dining room while being serenaded by the ship’s chamber music orchestra.

Lew characterized HAL ships as “almost-deluxe,” but, with their amazing, museum-quality antiques on board each vessel, I think they beat that description. The museum pieces are the pride and joy of HAL, and beside each is a plaque with details on the country and century of origin and, if known, the artist. It is interesting reading about the diligent pursuit and acquisition of each.

On display are still-life paintings from several centuries ago, Asian sculptures dating from the 12th century and paintings and sculptures from the 17th to 19th centuries. The ships, themselves, have exquisite modern mosaics, Delft china inlaid on the walls and huge nautical paintings. On each ship, we go on a treasure hunt seeking these one-of-a-kind, beautiful artworks.

Regarding his assessment of Viking River Cruises, from 2007 to 2009 I traveled three times with them (Nuremberg-Budapest; in Provence, and Amsterdam-Basel) and never encountered what I would call “average” food. In fact, Viking’s five-star, gourmet-restaurant-quality food even impressed my culinary-arts-major traveling companion.

The breakfast and lunch buffets had delicious choices, but one could order off the menu as well. They were careful to include specialties of the region. The afternoon tea was not as grand as on the Queen Mary 2 (not that Lew mentioned this), but it will suffice.

The lectures during the three Viking River cruises I took were given by local experts, for example, a Dutch engineering teacher explaining about canals and dikes and a German glassblower showing his craft. Yes, the crew does supplement the experts with language or cooking lessons. And there weren’t as many lectures as would be given on a large, oceangoing vessel or on tours such as those from Smithsonian Journeys.

I did enjoy finding out about the other cruise lines in Mr. Toulmin’s column, especially Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.

NANCI SCHEITHAUER
Santa Fe, NM

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

I enjoyed Lew Toulmin’s October 2010 “The Cruising World” column, reviewing various cruise lines, but since he has not sailed with Holland America Line (HAL) and I have done at least five of their cruises (from 1997 to 2009, Alaska twice; Australia to New Zealand; the Baltics, and the Mediterranean), I want to share some of my observations.

Lew said that HAL “attracts an older, quiet… crowd.” During the school year, this is probably the case; however, during Christmas and the summer holidays there are many families and children on board. My sons loved the various HAL kids’ and teens’ clubs; they still e-mail many kids whom they met on board.

HAL also attracts honeymooners because of their five-star service, food and amenities. It’s lovely having gourmet food in the main dining room while being serenaded by the ship’s chamber music orchestra.

Lew characterized HAL ships as “almost-deluxe,” but, with their amazing, museum-quality antiques on board each vessel, I think they beat that description. The museum pieces are the pride and joy of HAL, and beside each is a plaque with details on the country and century of origin and, if known, the artist. It is interesting reading about the diligent pursuit and acquisition of each.

On display are still-life paintings from several centuries ago, Asian sculptures dating from the 12th century and paintings and sculptures from the 17th to 19th centuries. The ships, themselves, have exquisite modern mosaics, Delft china inlaid on the walls and huge nautical paintings. On each ship, we go on a treasure hunt seeking these one-of-a-kind, beautiful artworks.

Regarding his assessment of Viking River Cruises, from 2007 to 2009 I traveled three times with them (Nuremberg-Budapest; in Provence, and Amsterdam-Basel) and never encountered what I would call “average” food. In fact, Viking’s five-star, gourmet-restaurant-quality food even impressed my culinary-arts-major traveling companion.

The breakfast and lunch buffets had delicious choices, but one could order off the menu as well. They were careful to include specialties of the region. The afternoon tea was not as grand as on the Queen Mary 2 (not that Lew mentioned this), but it will suffice.

The lectures during the three Viking River cruises I took were given by local experts, for example, a Dutch engineering teacher explaining about canals and dikes and a German glassblower showing his craft. Yes, the crew does supplement the experts with language or cooking lessons. And there weren’t as many lectures as would be given on a large, oceangoing vessel or on tours such as those from Smithsonian Journeys.

I did enjoy finding out about the other cruise lines in Mr. Toulmin’s column, especially Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.

NANCI SCHEITHAUER
Santa Fe, NM