Arriving at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport before 7 a.m. on a dreary winter’s day, one should not expect to be greeted with enthusiasm or humor. And thus that is the reason I was caught by surprise when after asking the purpose of my visit, the young Dutch border official checking my passport replied, “That’s a lot of bottles.”
I had told him that I had crossed the Atlantic (from New Amsterdam, a.k.a. New York) to witness 10 Viking River Cruises’ vessels get christened in Amsterdam this coming Wednesday.
Indeed, 10 new ships awes even the most avid of cruisers. Not since the Spanish Armada has Europe — or the world for that matter — seen so many ships take to the water in one go. Yes, in a nod to the young border official, it will take a lot of bottles to christen all of those Viking Longships, and indeed, the breaking of those bottles heralds a new era for river cruises in Europe.
The christening doesn’t stop with 10 ships either. In fact, this week ends with the number of new river cruise vessels entering service at an even dozen. In addition to the Longships, two vessels are being inaugurated along the Iberian coast — and in a new development for river cruising, both vessels are being blessed by some big-name celebrities.
Celebrity Sightings Ahead
Sharon Stone will crack a bottle of bubbly across the hull of AmaWaterway’s new AmaVida in Porto, Portugal on March 22. Just a few steps away, actress Andie MacDowell will christen Uniworld’s Queen Isabel. An aside, Andie hails from Asheville, North Carolina, my hometown.
The Longships christening event is set for Wednesday, March 20, which my Apple iPhone weather app tells me will be sunny and 39°F (4°C). Thus informed, I am wishing Torstein Hagen, chairman and CEO of Viking River Cruises, good luck with the weather gods. Being Norwegian should help Tor keep Thor (the Norwegian weather god) from acting up on that day.
Truth is, it’s a big week for Tor, and he’s intent on making the most of it. He’s even scheduled a “mini event” within the larger event, and it certainly has the makings of an exciting day. I was delighted to receive an invitation to travel by private jet for a sneak preview of the Viking Longships under construction at the Neptun Werft shipyard in Rostock, Germany. On Tuesday, along with Tor, his daughter Karine, other Viking execs, godmothers and VIPs, I’ll jet off for the beginning of what surely will go down as one of my most memorable weeks.
The next day we watch bottles break against the hulls of Tor’s new ships, a “lot of bottles,” as any Dutchman clearly knows. Stay tuned.