Thursday, March 21, 2013

River Splendor Sets Sail for Bruges & Amsterdam

River Splendor docked in Terneuzen
With the fireworks and festivities surrounding River Splendor’s christening behind us, our vessel cast off and departed Antwerp sometime after 1am. Unless you were looking out a window, you wouldn’t have known it—cruising on a river is certainly smooth sailing.

All passengers were assigned to one of four shore excursion groups at the beginning of the voyage and at the port talk for Bruges, Mel and I were pleased to learn that the Program Manager assigned to our group was a native of the medieval city. He outlined that our excursion was not only to be a walking tour, but would also include a segment on a canal boat. As we chatted with him we realized that the itinerary was nearly identical to one we’d taken on a previous visit to the city. We reluctantly decided to stay aboard River Splendor when she docked in Terneuzen, a 45-minute ride by coach to Bruges. It turned out to be a good decision as the day was cold and it snowed. Mel explored the village of Terneuzen and I used the time to become better acquainted with River Splendor. We met up for lunch in the aft-facing Captain’s Club lounge where light lunches are served and brats, hot dogs, and burgers were being prepared on a grill on the aft veranda.

River Splendor in a lock
Later we logged on to the Internet with our laptop utilizing the ship’s complimentary WiFi to check email and Mel had a nice chat with Captain Roger about River Splendor’s mechanical and energy-efficient “green” features. The Captain also explained how the ship’s size is determined by European Union regulations, including the length of 442 feet—naturally she has to fit into the locks she transits—the Captain said those locks are the river ships’ biggest obstacles. However, there are also bridges to go under with only 20 feet of clearance and when River Splendor approaches one everything on the top deck, including the railings, furnishings, awnings, and even the wheelhouse, are “folded down” to pass beneath them. Captain Roger explained that the wheelhouse is actually lowered into an open space on the deck below.

Amsterdam—home of canals, bicycles & houseboats
As we arrived in Amsterdam the next morning it was obvious we’d gone under a low bridge because the top deck awnings and chairs were still folded flat. Approaching the pier, there were already two river vessels docked there on either side of it and River Splendor tied up alongside Viking Idun—rafted together the two ships’ lobbies lined up and we went ashore by walking through the Viking ship. From what little we observed, it was interesting to compare the two—Vantage’s River Splendor has an elegant traditional look and a more modernist décor appeared to be the theme of the Viking ship.

It was a short walk on the pier to where covered (and heated!) boats awaited for our tour through the canals of Amsterdam. We sipped wine and munched on cheese and crackers as our guide pointed out the sights. No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a visit to a diamond factory and we probably learned more about them than our husbands cared for us to know. At the conclusion of the demonstration every guest was served a flute of champagne containing a “diamond”—two of which were real. Mel’s and mine weren’t real, but we shared the excitement of the winners’ good fortune. At the conclusion of the tour we had all afternoon to visit the city’s museums and attractions on our own.

All good trips must come to an end and Vantage’s care of their passengers was quite apparent in the debarkation process. They had everyone’s flight departure times and scheduled the transfers accordingly. After an early breakfast of Belgian waffles we set our luggage out in the passageway for pick-up at 7am and by 7:30 our transfer van was on the way to the airport.

We hope you’ve enjoyed a taste of our journey. Watch next week for a complete ship preview of Vantage Deluxe World Travel’s brand-new River Splendor online at

Photos ©

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