Home' The Australian Senior Traveller : October 2009 Contents 14 THE SENIOR TRAVELLER October, 2009
by TONY WALSH
THERE'S no doubt European river cruis-
ing has captured the imagination of
Australians in recent years, but for some
Europeans it has been a lifestyle for gener-
Captain Arne Sijbranda of Viking River
Cruises is a good example. I caught up with
him recently while cruising on his vessel,
the Viking Neptune, from Budapest to
He is a giant of a man with a matching
personality and knowledge of the river
that he's always eager to share with pas-
Shortly after we embarked at Budapest,
we were notified that Captain Arne would
hold a briefing for those interested in find-
ing out about the river, the ship and navi-
We packed into his wheelhouse in small
groups, and the first thing we found out
was that there was no steering wheel! He
steers the 125-metre sleek vessel by moving
two levers, one either side of his seat.
Captain Arne, as all guests soon learned
to call him, was born in Amsterdam -- not
in a hospital, but on a cargo river vessel.
"Where I come from, it is quite normal,"
"My father was born on a ship. My moth-
er was born on a ship.
"Actually, it works like this. You are born
to school and you come back to the ship,
you work with your mother and father on
the ship because it is their company.
"You meet a girl who works on another
ship, you marry her, you get some money
from the bank, from her parents, from your
parents. You eventually buy a ship and so
carry on (the tradition)."
Captain Arne's mother also had her cap-
tain's licence, as did her mother and
father's mother before her.
"From the early age of 10, I learned to
steer the ship and work on the deck," he
"When I finished school at 16, I went to
work for my father. Then an uncle, who
worked on the sea, asked me if I would like
to go with him during my holidays.
"I liked it so much my uncle asked me to
stay and so I did three-and-a-half years on
the sea around Europe.
"When I was 22 I had to make a decision:
I could either go back to school for two
years to get my captain's licence or make
my captain's licence by working on the
Captain Arne chose the latter.
His vast knowledge and experience of
working the European waterways opened
up opportunities for him. In 1966, he was
offered the position of captain on a passen-
ger ship and in 2000 joined Viking River
"The nicest part of the job is sailing the
ship," he explained. "You have one or two
crew members, but most of the time you
are alone. So on passenger ships, I like the
interaction with the passengers during the
The passengers obviously like it as well.
All inspections attracted good numbers of
guests eager to share Captain Arne's anec-
dotes about life on the river that no amount
of books or brochures could ever match.
In Australia, Eastern Europe Travel acts
as an agent for Viking River Cruises.
Phone 1300-668-844, www.eetbtravel.com
HE GOES --
Captain Arne at
the controls of the
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valid till 31/3/2010.
Tel: (07) 4031 5664
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