If you’re in the market for some good week-end entertainment, pop some popcorn and head on over to CruiseCritic, where several posters are whipping themselves into a veritable frenzy…over docking locations.
Just when you thought every conceivable dead horse had been sufficiently beaten, along comes a series of accusations about docking locations – or, more accurately, which ships are getting the short end of the stick in Amsterdam.
The problem, it seems, centers on the enormous number of ships that are flocking to the famous Dutch city for the popular Tulip Time cruises that run between late-March and mid-May. It’s the only time the country’s ubiquitous tulips are in bloom, and major attractions – like Keukenhof – are open.
Yet, several posters are unhappy that some Viking River Cruises ships have had to dock in further, more out-of-the way docking locations rather than the berths adjacent to the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam that are within walking distance of Amsterdam Centraal Station and the Red Light District.
It only takes a few posts before readers begin dog-piling on Viking. One reader advises to ‘exercise caution before cruising with this line’ while another indicates this undesirable docking space is ‘one more strike against them.’
Interestingly, only one reader attempts to point out that Viking’s pre-cruise documentation (just like – let’s face it – every other river cruise line out there) indicates that docking locations are approximate and that local authorities can request the ship move to any dock at any time. “Do not dismiss your taxi”, the statement says, “until you have positively located your ship.” Sadly, this voice of reason is drowned out in a sea of vitriolic comments about how hard-done-by readers (who may or may not have even sailed with Viking) are.
Equally fascinating: only a couple readers point out that Viking guests can get into town by way of shore excursions or shuttle service – much like they would have in Vienna, where ships dock miles outside of the center of town.
Normally, this isn’t the kind of unhelpful sideshow we’d even bother to write about, but it does beg the question: do you care where your ship berths? Is that a make-or-break detail? Would it “ruin” your trip if your ship berthed outside of town, or across the river? This frequently happens in Budapest, where docking on the opposite side of the Danube can mean a shuttle ride (or a hearty walk) across one of the many bridges to access the main town center.
If we had a nickel for every time we weren’t docked in a prime location on any cruise line – river or otherwise – we’d be very rich men. Let’s face it, we’ve also seen the inverse: prime docking locations where guests steadfastly refuse to even walk into town, preferring to take a shuttle or a cab. So, with that in mind, it’s time to offer our own patented brand of advice to use in these situations:
Relax. Take a breath. Go with the flow.
So you’re not docked in the city center, within walking distance of The Rijksmuseum, the Louvre, St. Mark’s Square, and whatever else you were hoping to see. Can you still get there? Yes. Will it cost you a dime? Likely not. Take an excursion or the organized shuttle service and head on into town. Use public transit – it’s cheap and readily available, particularly in major European cities.
There’s a reason we always counsel flexibility on any trip, and it’s this: it’s not worth destroying your own vacation because of something that is completely, wholly, and entirely out of your control.
What do you think? Is your physical docking location important to you? Would you avoid river cruises were you’re docked outside of “prime” areas? Let us know by using the comment form below!
Walt Ridley says
Great thoughts. We will be arrving Ict 6 vua Tialfi and plan to walk/taci to Rijksmuseum for a long visit. wherever we dock!
I’m surprised at the tone of this post. I am the OP of the linked post and I stand by my original commentary. Consider that we were first time river cruisers. We had expectations based on photos and video from the company. When our expectations weren’t met, did we let it ruin our trip? No. Not at all. We had a great trip. But I firmly believe we would have had a much better experience in Amsterdam had we been docked in the city. Many of you have done multiple river cruises and are more prepared to expect the ups and downs. We will know better for next time though we honestly wouldn’t want to go to Amsterdam again if it meant docking in the same location. So yes, we care about the docking location. It’s also why we don’t choose hotels on the outskirts of towns that require us to drive in to see what we want to see. We like to be in the thick of things. I’m glad that Nancy K had no problem with the dock or getting stuck in the traffic jam (we were freezing in the city center waiting on a shuttle for an hour during that time). I do know that there were a lot of upset people on board and also among arriving passengers when we disembarked back at that location at the end of the sailing. So it obviously does matter to a lot of people. (Sorry if this comment sounds a bit defensive. I am caught off guard by the attitude of your article. Veritable frenzy? Week-end entertainment?)
Fran Moreno-Randle says
I agree with Karyn even though I’m looking at this 4 years later. I’m considering a Viking river cruise that starts in Amsterdam. We plan to arrive a few days before. Yes, it is very important to me that the ship is close to town. I have limited time and use a crutch to walk. I do not want to take the timed to learn the public transit system. I want to use my walking efforts sightseeing, not getting from place to place. Willing to take a taxi but also I don’t expect to pay lots money or take a lot of time because the dock is not conveniently close to things. If the brochure shows it, that’s what I expect
Nancy K. says
I was on the Viking cruise that spurred all of the complaints and I was also the one on Cruise Critic who said I did not think it was such a big deal. With the shuttle service, we were dropped right in the city center so actually it saved the walk from the ship to the city center that we would have had if we were docked by the passenger terminal. Not that I cared either way. I was able to see and do all I wanted in Amsterdam and did not feel the location was a major issue. I was also on the bus that got stuck in a traffic jam due to an accident and was delayed an hour because of it. Things like that happen and you just have to go with the flow.
Frances Gabriel says
Couple of years ago I did the Waterways of the Tsars cruise with Viking. In both Moscow & Petersberg we were moored so far out of town that, given the awful traffic in both cities, each day’s excursion began with an hour on the bus just getting into the city. And same again at the end of the day.
We have an international phone we got through Rail Europe. Is good anywhere in Europe with a UK number. Purchase minutes before leaving. They do expire after a year so you should buy some more so you don’t lose what you have already paid for. Never had a problem with docking except last year in Venice when Star Clippers docked way out of the way and we had a long walk to the moving stairs. Because there weren’t any cabs at the cab stop, we had to pull our suitcases further than we wanted too. Yes, in Vienna, you are a ways from the downtown or Allstadt area, but we have hired a great driver for the evening and split the cost of 60 euros with another couple on the boat. For four hours we saw all of Vienna at night and up into the wine country to see all of the Donau (Danube) and Vienna lit up in all its splendor. Otherwise, I suggest to take the boat’s tours during the day hours to see Vienna. In Budapest we always parked on the Pest side and close to everything within walking distance… great stop there. On the Elbe, Rhine, Moselle (Mosel), Neckar, Rhone, Soane and Danube we have always had decent docking stations. Maybe some you had to walk a ways but nothing overly taxing. If you don’t want to walk or ride a bike than the ships tours are your best bet.
How did you find the driver? This is a great idea.
Laurie Bahr says
The only time I had a problem with a docking location is when my taxi driver refused to follow the directions/map provided by AMA. He took me far away, actually passing the ship which I could see from the bridge. There was, indeed a ship docked where he took me, but it was Viking. He insisted AMA always docked there. In truth, he was just another greedy cab driver looking to cheat a tourist. My fare was triple what it should have been and I started out the day in a bad mood. Thankfully, the crew aboard was spectacular as always and they had me smiling in no time.
The moral of the story: Watch out for dishonest cab drivers. Insist they follow YOUR directions and enlist the crew at the dock if they try to overcharge you. (This happened in Basel)
Ralph Grizzle says
Thanks for sharing Laurie. Another tip is to get the ship’s phone number. I did and called a couple of times when trying to locate Uniworld’s Maria Theresa in Bamberg. Of course, the trick is to have a phone with cheap international calling, such at T-Mobile, which offers text, 20 cent phone calls (when traveling out of the US) and internet for about $50 per month.
Laurie Bahr says
Yes, I have T-mobile and all texting in Europe has been FREE for awhile now. It was a great way to stay in touch with my family at home without relying on spotty internet or public phones!