Amsterdam

Day 5: Amsterdam, Netherlands – Embark Viking Baldur

Yesterday primarily was focused on boarding the Viking Baldur, so we did not do much in Amsterdam. In the morning we finished repacking and fortunately had until 2 pm to check-out of the Crowne Plaza.

We decided to not have breakfast at the hotel and instead had an early lunch at the Crepe Bar, which was right around the corner from the hotel. The Crepe Bar had a small amount of seating but was empty since it was a Sunday morning. We both ordered a savory crepe and later split a dessert crepe. The savory crepe I had was called Viva Le Crepe, and included smoked turkey, bacon, pesto, cucumbers, lettuce, and tomatoes. The combination of the ingredients with the crepe was really good and the pesto went well with the turkey and bacon. My Mom had a Caesar Crepe that included the typical Caesar ingredients and mushrooms. For dessert we split a candy apple crepe where you could add powdered sugar to it. The crepe was delicious and the nuts went well with the sauce and apples. This was an easy and light meal right by the hotel, which we wished we had gone to sooner.

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After lunch we headed back to the hotel and checked-out. One thing we really liked with the Crowne Plaza was the location and helpfulness of the staff. We found the hotel to be super convenient and were very happy we did not go with the Movenpick. We didn’t realize how far the Movenpick was from Central Station until we got to the Viking Baldur.

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The hotel called us a taxi that arrived within a couple minutes to take us to the riverboat. You could walk from the Crowne Plaza but it is a distance over cobblestones and tram tracks. The hotel did not recommend trying to roll suitcases over to the docks. Taking a taxi to the port was very easy and much easier than a cruise line transfer. The taxi driver made sure she checked with the Viking staff before dropping us off to make sure our boat was here. The main riverboat dock is right by downtown, but sometimes Viking will dock in two additional locations when there is an abundance of boat in town. The taxi did cost us a flat rate of €15, but was a very easy way to get to the port.

Once dropped off by the taxi two Viking employees rolled our suitcases to the boat. The front desk staff checked our passports and we had to wait a couple minutes before our check-in could be completed since our room was not ready. All together it took about 10 minutes to wait for our room to be completed. Once our room was ready one of the staff members took our suitcases to the room, while another member walked us to our room to show us some of the features.

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We decided to unpack before checking out the riverboat. There is not a ton of storage and the room is on the smaller side, but the room is very comfortable and nicely decorated. We had no issue finding enough space for all our stuff, even with a smaller amount of storage. While unpacking we also watched the required safety video in the background.

Afterwards we headed around the riverboat to take some photos, which I will post in another post. There was a light lunch being served on the aquavit terrace with the back patio open. This area I really like on the back of the boat since light breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be served here throughout the cruise. Since it was lunch I had a beer, which is complimentary during lunch and dinner (also wine is complimentary as well). The Benediktiner Weissbier is one of the included beers and I found it to be very drinkable and light on bitterness.

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Before dinner we went to the lounge for the nightly meeting. Every night there is a meeting in the lounge that goes over the next day’s itinerary and tours. We then had dinner in the main restaurant where a very nice British couple sat with us. The appetizer we both chose was the Amsterdam cheese soufflé, which was actually similar to the one on Princess Cruises. Next I had the pea soup while my Mom had the salad with prosciutto. We both had the seabass for the entrée that included white asparagus, a butter based sauce, and risotto. For dessert we both had the raspberry sorbet, which actually was some of the best sorbet I’ve had while on a ship since it tasted like fresh raspberries. After dinner we just headed back to the room and went to bed.

Day 4: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Yesterday we were able to see a lot of different sites in Amsterdam, even though it rained throughout the morning. Since we weren’t able to see much the first day, we were able to see most places I wanted to go to today.

The first place we went to was Our Lord in the Attic. Since we got there before 10 am, we had to wait in a brief line for the house to open. The house is a bourgeois canal house and is a popular site to visit because of the concealed Catholic Church in the attic that was originally built in 1663. Included in the price of admission was an audio box, which you would then tap on the audio tour boxes throughout the house to hear the history and background of the rooms. The main site to see in the house is the Catholic Church in the attic, which is a huge three-story room. At various points in time there would be about 150 people who would enter the house to go to Church. A priest even lived in the house as well to conduct mass. One thing to note is there are a lot of stairs and steep stairwells, which may be difficult for anyone with mobility issues to walk. There is actually 2 originally staircases still in the house as well. The house took around 45-minutes to tour since some rooms were currently undergoing restoration.

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Next we headed to the Red Light District to walk around a bit. Since it was before 11 am there weren’t many people around, but there were some girls already in the windows waiting for clients. This was an interesting area to walk around in the morning since it wasn’t packed. The next street over to the Red Light District is Amsterdam’s Chinatown, which we didn’t spend much time at.

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One thing I was interested in going to was the Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution. Some reviews I found online beforehand were very positive about the museum, while others had mixed thoughts. I actually found the museum to be very informative about the history of the Red Light District and prostitution. The museum did not just put a positive or fun spin on prostitution, but also focused on the seedy and negative side to it as well. There was a dedicated memorial inside to the girls who have been murdered in Amsterdam since 1956 while working as prostitutes. Additionally, there was information about the sex trafficking aspect to the industry as well in Amsterdam. The museum does not take long to go through, but I really enjoyed it and the information provided.

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After spending time in the Red Light District we headed to Central Station to take the tram to Rembrandtplein. Since it was early afternoon we grabbed a drink at a huge Starbucks at Rembrandtplein. One thing to note is Starbucks in the Netherlands does not take United States Starbucks cards, unlike other European countries. I did try a new drink I’d never seen before at Starbucks, the Mango Passion Fruit Frappuccino. This was a delicious and tasted more like a smoothie, I wish we had it back in the United State since it was refreshing. After finishing up at Starbucks we briefly looked around Rembrandtplein. It looked like there was a lot of cool restaurants and cafes in the area.

From Rembrandtplein we headed to Wilet-Holthuysen Museum, which is just a street over. Wilet-Holthuysen Museum is located on the Herengracht canal. This is considered a former grand canal house and one of the few remaining ones in Amsterdam that is opened as a museum. The house is also one of the only fully furnished canal side patrician houses as well and has a large collection of items from the Dutch Golden Age. A couple rooms on the top floor of the house are dedicated to exhibits while the rest of the house is furnished rooms. Some of the furnished rooms include the dining room, kitchen, pantry, bedroom, antique room, and ladies sitting room. One of the really striking features to the museum is the manicured garden behind the house. This was an interesting afternoon to spend and look at what life was like in a grand canal house in Amsterdam.

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We ended the day by having dinner at an Indonesian restaurant. This was probably my favorite meal in Amsterdam. We ate at Aneka Rasa, which was probably about a 10-minute walk from the hotel and near the Red Light District. When we first sat down we were brought shrimp crackers to dip in a peanut sauce, which was slightly different from the Thai version I am used to. The peanut sauce was delicious and had a slight ginger flavor to it. We ordered a family style meal that came with a sampling of about 12 different items. The flavors varied on the dishes and were heavily influenced by coconut and peanut sauce. The meal included veal, chicken, and a meat dish. Two of my favorite items were the chicken skewers with peanut sauce and the green beans in a coconut sauce. The meal was delicious and I would definitely eat here again the next time I’m in Amsterdam.22119_10155512412560324_2247529288871799973_n

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Day 3: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Yesterday we actually got an early start and were up by 5 am. We decided to try the breakfast at the hotel a couple hours later since it was early and had no clue what was around. The breakfast was average, overpriced, and lacking in selection. This is probably the only let down at the hotel I can think of so far.

After breakfast we headed out towards the Anne Frank Huis. Back in February I purchased the Anne Frank tickets online, which is one of the best ways to go. By purchasing the tickets online you avoid the queues and can get right into the museum at your time. Since the tickets were for 11 am, we still had a couple hours to go so we first bought the GVB multi-day travel card. The GVB pass we purchased is good for 48 hours and only cost €12 each. The GVB pass covers all GVB trams, buses, and metros. We were able to buy the tickets from the concierge at the Crowne Plaza and we later activated them once we entered the tram. Every time you enter or leave the tram you have to scan the card, which is very simple and easy to do. Originally I looked at the Hop-on, Hop-off bus, but found the limited number of stops to not be the best way to go nor the limited timings. The local GVB transportation is a great way to get around Amsterdam since there are constant trams running.

One of the many canals in Amsterdam

Since we still had a while to go before the ticket time for Anne Frank Huis, we walked around the surrounding neighborhood. We first walked past De Poezenboot, which is the only animal sanctuary that floats on water and houses cats. Since it was so early there was not much to see unfortunately. We then headed to the Amsterdam Cheese Museum. This is both a shop and museum, where there are tons of samples to try. I actually ended up purchasing two types of smoked goat cheeses for myself, while my Mom bought a couple type of pesto cheeses. All the cheeses can be brought back into the United States from this store. The shop had some fantastic cheeses and really neat cheese related souvenirs from Holland.

Amsterdam Cheese Museum

We then headed to the Anne Frank Huis and waited until our ticket time. The line for those without tickets was around 3 ½ hours to 4 hours according to the employee at the ticket door. Sometimes during the year the line can be up to 7 hours. Once it was 11 am we were able to enter the museum immediately and go through the security check. Overall I found the museum to be underwhelming and difficult to navigate through because of the amount of people already inside. This was a huge disappointment for me because I have always wanted to go to Anne Frank Huis. It was hard to read the captions for photos or room descriptions because so many people were crowded around trying to read or would block the view for a good 5 minutes. This made it difficult to know what each room actually was. Crowd control is definitely an issue at the museum. By 11:30 am we already had finished touring the house and then exited into the newer addition to the museum. The newer side of the museum includes the typical tourist trap café and gift shop, which really seem out of place here and do not fit the purpose of the site.

The right side is the newer section of the museum, which I thought detracted from the overall look of the canal house.

The right side is the newer section of the museum, which I thought detracted from the overall look of the canal house.

After leaving Anne Frank Huis we headed to House of Bols. House of Bol is the world’s oldest distilled spirit brand and has been making liqueurs in Amsterdam since 1575. This was a really fun way to spend a couple hours in the afternoon. Before going I purchased the tickets online since advanced purchase does save a few Euros, plus I found a 25% off coupon code that saved more. The exhibit provides information and history about House of Bols and the experience of smelling, sight, and tasting liqueurs. One room is dedicated to taste where you try two different tasting strips and have to guess the flavor. Another room has around 36 bottles where you can smell the liquid to guess the aroma. After going through the House of Bols your ticket provides you with a drink and two tastes.

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For my drink I ordered the Blood Red Orange, which is a mixture of Bols Genever 21, Bols Red Orange, lemon wedge, orange wedge, and cane sugar. The drink was really refreshing and was not light on the alcohol. For my two tastes I tried the Bols Passion Fruit and Genever Barrel Aged. The Bols Passion Fruit tasted exactly like a fresh passion fruit and would definitely go a long ways for a drink. The Genever Barrel Aged is slightly like a gin but different. By barrel aging the Genever this helped to smooth out the sharpness of the alcohol. Of course anything barrel aged is great in my opinion. There is a really cool shop connected to House of Bols where they sell vintage metal prints, liqueurs, and some great gift sets.

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After leaving House of Bols we headed to the square area in front of the Rijksmuseum. Right now there are these bunny statues in the square, which are actually put there by UNICEF. There is a temporary store as well to raise profits for UNICEF were you could by a replica of the statues.

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Leaving the area near Rijksmusuem we took the tram and headed to the Bloemenmarkt. Since it was a Friday this area was packed with tourists and locals! The market is one of the only floating flower markets where the flower stalls stand on houseboats. I found a couple touristy tulip items to purchase. Across from one of the stalls we came across a print shop that had some local art by Amsterdam artists and vintage prints. I purchased two prints that came to €26. One is of Amsterdam and is a print of canal houses. The other print I purchased is a reproduction of an old Holland tourism advertisement.

We then headed back to the hotel and stopped at a nearby Indian restaurant for dinner. There are a lot of international restaurants in Amsterdam, which really provides a lot of variety.

Nearby Indian restaurant to the Crowne Plaza

Day 2: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Today my flight arrived in Amsterdam around 7:40 am, which actually was a good 25 minutes early. Arriving this early in the morning made for a very quick go through passport control, which took about 5 minutes total. After collecting my luggage I waited at Arrivals 4 for my Mom’s flight to arrive.

We decided to take the Schiphol Hotel Shuttle into Amsterdam since you could purchase tickets once at the airport or ahead of time. Each ticket cost €17 a person for the shuttle service. The only part that took awhile was waiting for the shuttle, which took about 20 minutes since there was a long line of people waiting. The shuttle dropped us off last after two other stops, but only took around 40 minutes at most. I would definitely recommend this shuttle service since it was easy to find at Arrivals 4 and was pretty quick for the most part. It is also one of only a few options for transportation to hotels, besides taxis.

The hotel we are staying in is the Crowne Plaza Amsterdam City Centre. The location is very convenient near Central Station and near a couple major tram stops for the GVB. Wi-fi is free at this Crowne Plaza and throughout the property. We were upgraded to a better room level because of my Mom’s platinum standing with IHG . The room includes 2-Queen Beds and a complimentary Nespresso machine. There also is a small seating section by the window as well. Overall I like the location and would not hesitate to stay here again.

      

Under the 110v flap, there is 1 North American plug.

Today originally we had planned on seeing a few things, but since we were able to get a room right away we took a quick nap and I started to get a migraine. Unfortunately any sightseeing for the day didn’t happen. Later in the evening we did walk around the area and ate at an Argentinian Steakhouse. There are tons of Argentinian Steakhouses nearby the hotel. After a late dinner we just went back to the hotel for the evening.