Sail Date: November 13 - 21 2015
By Raye & Marty Trencher
Cruise Traveler Magazine
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We went exploring castles, cities and cathedrals
Our Cruise Review of the Viking IDI river cruise ship and Rhine River Cruise.
Viking River Cruises, Rhine Getaway experience highlights the legendary Rhine in just 8 days. In Germany, we sailed past castles commanding the riverbanks, and toured both Marksburg Castle and the ruins of Heidelberg Castle. We toured Cologne, the jewel of the Rhine, with its awe-inspiring Dom, and witnessed the lush landscape of the Black Forest region. We had time to explore Amsterdam and Holland’s famous windmills and waterworks, and encountered multicultural Strasbourg in France. Read our review below.
"On a River Cruise you will see Iconic landmarks, awe-inspiring scenery, & compelling local cultures - at each river cruise port of call. Imagine the possibilities. then, store away the memories of a trip of a lifetime!"
Day 1 Amsterdam: We arrived around 8:30am, fresh off our overnight flight from the US. Viking representatives were at the reception hall, after we had cleared customs and immigration. They had our names on a manifest and quickly loaded our luggage on carts. Off we went to the waiting motorcoach for transfer to our ship, the Viking Idi. When we arrived, the ship was serving breakfast to the disembarking passengers who sailed up from Basil. The Restaurant Manager invited all arriving guests to join the others for breakfast. After breakfast, you have several choices. You can tour downtown Amsterdam on your own, as the ship is within walking distance of many sites. You can relax in the public rooms until your stateroom is ready, or take a complimentary guided walking tour later in the day. Staterooms normally are not ready for occupancy until 3pm., but we were able to use our stateroom by late morning. Later we chose to join the others on the guided walking tour of Amsterdam. With its tranquil waterways and gabled homes, Amsterdam is a delight to explore on foot.
Our guided walking tour of Amsterdam was our first-time use of Viking's Quiet Vox audio system. Two Quiet Vox audio receivers with lanyards and their charges are in each stateroom aboard Viking River Cruises' Viking Idi. Ear bud's are in the plastic bag.
The Quiet Vox audio system is used on nearly all shore excursions offered by the cruise line. They're easy to use. A single ear bud to use on your left or right ear, is plugged into the receiver, and you just hang the whole thing over your neck and you're good to go. The devices are small, so you can slip them into a pocket, and just have the single ear bud visible. You can hear your guide loud and clear via the Quiet Vox headsets, and you have the freedom to move around while on tour. No need to be right on top of the guide to hear the commentary.
Built on a confluence of concentric canals, Amsterdam remains the City of Canals, on nearly every street you'll find old and new - side by side. With just around 831,000 inhabitants, 179 nationalities, and with almost everything a short 10-minute bike ride away.
Its Museum District houses works by Rembrandt and Vermeer. World-renowned paintings from the Dutch Golden Age are displayed at the national museum the Rijksmuseum. You can also tour the Van Gogh Museum and modern art at the Stedelijk. Cycling is key to the city’s character, and there are 400km of cycle paths. Famous Amsterdam residents included Anne Frank the diarist, the artists Rembrandt van Rijn and Vincent van Gogh and the philosopher Baruch Spinoza. You can tour the Anne Frank House, a historic house and biographical museum dedicated to Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank. The building is located on a canal called the Prinsengracht, close to the Westerkerk, in central Amsterdam. You can walk there from your ship. However, you should plan on purchasing tickets at ( Adults € 9.50 ) well in advance of your trip, as it is one of the most visited places in Amsterdam and getting tickets on the day your arrive, in height of the season, are almost impossible.
Amsterdam, when compared with other major European cities, is uniquely defined by its houses. With 7,000 registered monuments, most of which began as the residences and warehouses of humble merchants, set on 160 man-made canals and traversed by 1,500 or so bridges, Amsterdam has the largest historical inner city in Europe. Its famous circle of waterways, the Grachtengordel, is a 17th-century urban expansion plan for the rich and a lasting testament to the city's Golden Age, the 17th century.
After our walking tour, We took a short nap to recover from jet lag, then met in the lounge for a glass of wine and the ship's Program Director Chris Schmitz ( like the cruise director on ocean going ships ) gave us a review of the next day’s events before dinner.
( Chris with Raye in Strasburg )
There are about 180 people on board the Viking Idi, so that all passengers can be served in one dining room at the same time. The smallest tables accommodate 6. Other 8 or 10. Romantic tables for 2 are not available. So, dining is a real social event. You can sit wherever you want, as there are no reserved seats. After a couple of days, we formed a little group of 8 new friends and dined together throughout the remainder of the cruise.
Viking Cruises includes beer, wine and soft drinks with meals at no charge. If you are a heavy drinker, you can purchase for € 150.00 a week, ( $210.00 US ) all on-board drinks, including specialty wines ordered with dinner and drinks ordered in the lounge before and after dinner. You can review the Europe Bar Menu. Water, tea and coffee are included with meals, and many ships have a 24-hour coffee station. Complimentary bottled water is supplied daily in your stateroom.
Dress is casual and comfortable, both on board and ashore. Because the weather can be unpredictable, it is best to bring layers. It is recommended that you have a sweater or light jacket for spring and summer, and a heavier jacket for chillier months. Rain can happen at any time, so a collapsible umbrella is a “must.” There are no “formal nights” on board, but there was the Captain’s Welcome Dinner and on the last night, the Farewell Dinner. On some itineraries, you may attend a concert, ballet performance or other dressier event. For these evenings, you might like to bring “dressy casual” wear.
River cruising involves a fair amount of " walking" shore excursions and in the old towns of Europe, most of these walks are along cobbled streets and cobbled steps. If you are unable to traverse these streets, you will not be able to take the shore excursions. You will definitely want sturdy, comfortable walking shoes that grip the ground. If you use a walker, scooter, cane, or wheelchair, read about Mobility Issues and River Cruising.
Day 2 Kinderdijk: We had left Amsterdam during the night and we arrived in Kinderdijk in the morning, and docked right next to 19 windmills built in 1740's. We choose to catch the complementary walking tour and were able to hear the history and workings of the windmills.
The windmills at Kinderdijk were built to move water out of flooded areas to keep farm and home sites high and dry, as the land is below sea level. Today, modern massive turbines, get the job done. The site illustrates all the typical features associated with this technology – dykes, reservoirs, pumping stations, administrative buildings and a series of beautifully preserved windmills. Some of the windmills are still in service, and are home to the caretakers and their families. You can visit a windmill, tour the outside and inside to see how the mechanism's work and the living arrangements inside the windmill. Not a lot of living space. There's a small gift shop, museum and workshop as well.
If you want to experience Kinderdijk in a more active way? Rent a bicycle, as the city is criss-crossed by multiple bike paths. Bikes can be rented at the souvenir store on top of the dike. Cost about € 3.5.
To learn more about Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site visit: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/818
Day 3 Cologne: Continuing along the Rhine this morning; we arrived in Cologne.
Köln (Cologne in English) is the largest city on the Rhine (the fourth largest in Germany) and one of the most interesting. The city is vibrant and bustling, with a lightness and cheerfulness that's typical of the Rhineland. At its heart is tradition, manifested in the abundance of bars and brew houses serving the local Kölsch beer and old Rhine cuisine. These are a host of elegant shops, sophisticated restaurants, and a contemporary-art scene.
Köln has been a dominant power in the Rhineland since Roman times, and it remains a major commercial, intellectual, and ecclesiastical center. The city's ecclesiastical heritage is one of its most striking features; it has a full dozen Romanesque churches and one of the world's largest and finest Gothic cathedrals. In the Middle Ages it was a member of the powerful Hanseatic League, occupying a position of greater importance in European commerce than either London or Paris.
Köln was a thriving modern city until World War II, when bombings destroyed 90% of it. Only the cathedral remained relatively unscathed. But like many other German cities it was rebuilt during the "Economic Miracle" of the 1950s, thus Köln is a mixture of old and new.
On our guided walking tour, we strolled through Old Town past St. Martin’s Church, and spend some time inside Cologne’s Dom, a remarkable Gothic cathedral with its stunning Gothic architecture and exquisite stained glass windows. Construction on the cathedral started in 1248 and was completed in 1880.
We had time to explore the taverns, cafés and shops on our own. Our Program Director Chris and Viking Concierge, Michael were very helpful in planning our free time.
To learn more about Cologne visit http://www.planetware.com/tourist-attractions-/cologne-d-nw-col.htm
Day 4 Koblenz & Rüdesheim
We sailed along the most beautiful part of the Rhine River, where century’s old hilltop castles are just about around every turn of the river, and our Program Director Chris provided commentary about the history and current status of each one. Along the way we marveled at the steep hills along the river banks dotted with vineyards. We docked in Koblenz and then headed out by tour bus to Marksburg Castle in the village of Braubach, one of the many castles we had seen on our morning sail.
On the Rhine's right bank, set up high on a hill above the town of Braubach is Marksburg Castle. Built in 1117, is the only Rhine fortress that has never been destroyed, allowing you to witness its original labyrinth of rooms. The castle has been lived in for over 700 years.
( Marksburg Castle, along the Rhine River )
Beginning with the construction in the 12th century, the castle grew into its present shape throughout succeeding centuries. In the Middle Ages, the strengthening of the castle's defenses became essential and urgent by improvements made to firearms. Huge outworks date from this time, as does the conversion of a gateway in the outer wall to a strong bastion. It is mainly due to these extra defense works that the castle was never seriously attacked. In more peaceful times, it was used mainly as a state prison. This impressive castle, home of the German Castles Association set up to preserve such ancient monuments, presents a host of fascinating artifacts that brings the Middle Ages to life. You will have to ascend a long winding walkway up to the castle and almost all of the interior grounds are covered in uneven cobblestones and steep walkways. The castles entry is well fortified with multiple archways, high stone walls and cannons pointing towards the river. This “castle” was not a home for royalty. More like a "fortress" it was built to protect the residents of Braubach. As other castles along the Rhine, it was a source of revenue by collecting tolls from traffic on the river.
Along the hour long guided tour of the castle, you'll view a huge kitchen, with a hearth displaying antique cooking tools, bedrooms with the shortest canopy bed we've ever seen. The guide told us that the inhabitants were superstitious. They would not lie on their back in the Middle Ages, so they slept sitting up. How uncomfortable that would be. We toured the great room where they gathered for lavish feasts. The armory with a great display of the changes in armor over centuries, a wine cellar, a blacksmith shop and a room filled with torture devices. Either actual artifacts and reproductions take you back in time. The castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 5 - Heidelberg & Speyer
We cruised through the morning , enjoyed breakfast with six new found friends and the viewed the passing scenery. We arrived in Mannheim and disembarked for a tour of Heidelberg to see Germany’s oldest university, founded in 1386.
( Heidelberg, Germany )
Then, visited the beautiful sandstone ruins of imposing Heidelberg Castle and took in the scenery of the Neckar River Valley and the city’s many red rooftops from this hilltop post. We continued with a walking tour through Old Town to Heidelberg’s renowned gates.
( Viking River Cruises Local Guides and Professional Drivers )
Nestled up in the hills, some 300 feet above the city of Heidelberg stands the breath-taking Heidelberg Castle. The castle is a combination of several buildings surrounding an inner courtyard, put together over time with no concern for continuity. Each building highlights a different period of German architecture.
The castle has a history almost as old as the city itself. The first parts of the castle were constructed around 1300, but it wasn’t before Prince Elector Ruprecht III (1398 – 1410) that the castle was used as a regal residence. Until it was destroyed by lightning in 1764 leaving it permanently uninhabitable, the castle was the residence for most of the Prince Electors. In 1800, Count Charles de Graimberg began the difficult task of conserving the castle ruins. Up until this time, the citizens of Heidelberg had used the castle stones to build new houses.
We saw the Heidelberg Tun, or the “World’s Largest Wine Barrel”. It was built in 1751 by Prince Elector Karl Theodor to house the wine paid as taxes by the wine growers of the Palatine. It stands seven meters high, is eight and a half meters wide, holds 220,000 liters (58,124 gallons) of wine, and has a dance floor built on top of it. The court jester who guarded the cask during the reign of Prince Elector Carl Philip, a Tyrolean dwarf nick-named Perkeo, was supposedly known for his ability to drink large quantities of wine. Legend has it that he died when he mistakenly drank a glass of water.
Just as breath-taking as the castle is from the city, so too is the city from the castle. From either the Great Terrace or the gardens, one has an amazing view of Heidelberg, the Neckar River, and the Neckar valley far into the Rhine plain. On a clear day, Mannheim is even visible on the horizon.
Day 6 Strasbourg: We docked this morning in Kehl, Germany boarded buses and disembarked early for a guided walking tour of Strasbourg.
Just across the bridge from where we were docked. Along the way, we say the home of the European Parliament and toured the interior of the city’s famed Notre-Dame Cathedral. This Gothic cathedral is famous for its enormous astronomical clock, built in the Renaissance period and mechanism dating back to 1842 is a masterpiece in itself, a monumental organ has a remarkable cabinet decorated with automated figures and incredibly tall spires reaching high in to the sky. Learn more about Notre-Dame Cathedral
"A prodigy of the gigantesque and the delicate," as Victor Hugo claimed. Strasbourg Cathedral (1015-1439) is an absolute masterpiece of Gothic art. The 142 m high spire looks incredibly lightweight and made the Cathedral the highest edifice in all Christianity until the 19th century. Three high-spots make the visit unforgettable. Outside, the facade is the greatest "book" of images the Middle Ages has to offer. Hundreds of sculptures stand out from the wall accentuating the effects of shadow and light. The 12th- to 14th-century stained-glass windows and the rose window are impressive.
Our local tour guide took us through "The Petite France Quarter". This is the most picturesque district of old Strasbourg. Fishermen, millers and tanners once lived and worked in this part of town where the streets have been built level with the waterways. The magnificent half-timbered houses date from the 16th and 17th centuries. Walking the narrow lanes, canals and locks, The Petite France Quarter is where artisans plied their trades in the Middle Ages. The half-timbered houses, sprouting veritable thickets of scarlet geraniums in summer, and the riverside parks attract the masses, but the area has Alsatian charm.
( Marty & Raye Trencher, Petite France Quarter, Strasburg, France )
Our local Strasburg born guide provided a personal recount of his family’s life under Prussian, French, German, and then back to French rule.
Upon return to the boat we had lunch and returned via a shuttle service provided free of charge by Viking, to Strasburg for some Christmas shopping. The town was already decked out for the holidays, and the "Christmas Markets" were being built in the town square to open a few days past Thanksgiving. Downtown stores were already decorated and the spirit of the holidays was abound.
Dinner this evening was a real unexpected treat. As most passengers were from America, the Chef prepared a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey and all the trimmings! Alternate entrees were also available.
Day 7 Breisach: Today’s tour was to the Black Forest. The Black Forest, a mountainous region in southwest Germany, bordering France, is known for its dense evergreen forests and picturesque villages, which inspired some of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. It's also renowned for the cuckoo clocks produced in the region since the 1700s. Black Forest ham originated from this region, and so, by name and reputation at least, did the Black Forest gâteau. It is also known as "Black Forest Cherry Cake" or "Black Forest Cake" and is made with chocolate cake, cream, sour cherries and Kirsch. Learn more about the Black Forest
Our motorcoach took to the back roads through several picturesque small villages while our local guide described the life and history of people living in the area. Many parts of the Black Forest are isolated and thinly populated. People took to making cuckoo clocks during harsh winters. Deep into the forest, we took a break and stopped at a shopping complex that had a cuckoo clock building demonstration, a glass blowing demonstration, and a Black Forest Cake making demonstration. We had some coffee and a slice of the traditional Black Forest Cake.
Taste so good!
( Black Forest Cake Demonstration )
We returned to the ship for lunch, and then took the optional tour to visit the World War II Colmar Pocket Memorial, and tribute to Audie Murphy, the most decorated American combat soldier of WW II, he received the Medal of Honor after single-handedly holding off an entire company of German soldiers on the outskirts of Holtzwihr, France at the Colmar Pocket in January 1945, then leading a successful counterattack while wounded.
By the end of the war, Murphy had received two Bronze Stars, the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts and the Legion of Merit–making him the most decorated American soldier during World War II.
(Audie Murphy Memorial )
Others on the ship chose to visit the Alsatian town of Colmar, France. Just across the Rhine River from Breisach, Germany. Rising above vineyards and the Rhine, Breisach is where the Black Forest spills into Alsace. Wandering about Colmar's old streets in the medieval section of the city is the best way to explore it. There is a variety of shops of different sorts. The Alsatian cuisine is also omnipresent (in restaurants as well as specialist stores). Take a boat trip on the canal from Little Venice.
On our last night onboard, the chef prepared a multi-course menu for our Farewell Dinner, that was absolutely superb (as were all the meals!). We said our goodbyes to our 6 newfound friends from California, Washington State and Utah, because we would be leaving the ship at 4:00 am in order to catch a very early flight home. Viking was well prepared for early departures. Buses were along the quay and the crew's luggage handling was spot on. When we arrived at Euro Airport Basel-Mulhouse=Freiburg, the international airport in France that is 3.5 km northwest of Basel in Switzerland, Viking had a guide to help us navigate the airport for a flawless check-in.
We arrived home with a lifetime of great memories, stories and photos to share with you and our family.
About the Ship : Viking IDI
Viking’s Longships® ( over 45 identical ships, including the Viking IDi ) were designed by Scandinavian naval architects Yran & Storbraaten who have also designed for Silversea, the Yachts of Seabourn, Disney and Regent Seven Seas. The ships are sophisticated and elegant, with furnishings crafted from fine wood and wools, cottons, cashmeres and linens in a neutral palette. Because of an exclusive patented design, the Viking Longships offer river cruising’s first-ever true Suite: two full-size rooms, complete with a full-size veranda and French balcony. Viking offers elegantly appointed all-outside staterooms featuring European linens and duvets. Viking Longships have a selection of staterooms from Explorer Suites to staterooms with a veranda or French balcony complete with a floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door.
Viking Longships integrate a patented corridor design and cutting-edge technology with comfortable amenities that reflect guest preferences and current travel trends. These features include a revolutionary all-weather indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace that reinvents the onboard lounge experience by bringing the panoramic outdoor river scenery indoors with retractable floor-to-ceiling glass doors and allows guests to enjoy the views and dine al fresco. Accommodating 190 passengers in 95 staterooms, Viking Longships have a patented layout that allows for two Explorer Suites – the largest river cruise suites in Europe – as well as seven two-room Veranda Suites with a full-size veranda in the living room and a French balcony in the bedroom; 39 Veranda Staterooms with full-size verandas; and 22 French Balcony Staterooms. Additionally, all Longships have sustainability upgrades, such as onboard solar panels and organic herb gardens, and energy-efficient hybrid engines that also reduce vibrations for a remarkably smooth ride.
Onboard amenities include a restaurant, bar, lounge, library, sun deck, onboard boutique and laundry service. Viking features non-smoking interiors on all ships.
When you travel with Viking, there are no surprises or hidden fees. The price you pay covers just about everything—port charges, Wi-Fi, meals, lectures, activities and shore excursions—as well as hotel accommodations on their cruise tour itineraries. So all you have to do is relax and enjoy a great journey that is also a great value:
•At least one included excursion per port
•All onboard meals created by our Swiss-trained chefs featuring fresh ingredients and regional specialties, served in a variety of settings including al fresco dining
•Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with our onboard dinner and lunch service; bottled water and complimentary cappuccino, coffee and tea at a 24-hour hot beverage bar
A Revolutionary in concept and design, this spacious indoor/outdoor seating area, with a lovely open-air cafe at the bow of the ship is perfect for having a casual meal al fresco, meeting friends for drinks or reading a book, all while enjoying breathtaking views and basking in the fresh air.
Light and airy, the ship's soaring atrium-style lobby rivals those of the finest hotels.
Gaze at breathtaking scenery through the Restaurant’s panoramic windows as you dine on regional specialties and contemporary cuisine. The atmosphere is casual yet elegant, with high-quality table linens, china, cutlery and glassware at every meal.
Longship staterooms offer hotel-style beds in either single or double configuration and all have a private bathroom. 40" flat-screen stateroom TVs offer CNN and other English-language programming, as well as region-specific movies and documentaries. In Europe, programming includes CNBC, ESPN, FOX, National Geographic and more. Every stateroom comes with a view on Viking's Longships, as there are no interior cabins. You have a choice of Oceanview, French Balcony, Verandah and Suite accommodations. Cabin lighting, includes built-in dimmers, bedside controls and mirrored vanities There are four American (110 volt) outlets, two bedside and two at the desk, and two European (220 volt) outlets in addition to one European outlet for charging the QuietVox headsets.
Every cabin is equipped with a safe, a small refrigerator and a handheld hair dryer. Bath products are L'Occitane. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available in your stateroom, as well as throughout the ship. On our Rhine river cruise, it was working most of the time, at reasonable speed.
Boasting sweeping river views, the Veranda Staterooms are comfortable and airy, with hotel-style beds, a private bathroom, roomy closets and storage space, and amenities like flat-panel TVs and premium bath products.
Exceptional accommodations aboard the newest, most deluxe river cruise fleet include our spacious Explorer Suites - featuring separate sleeping and sitting quarters, a wraparound veranda with 270° views, a French balcony and modern amenities.
- 95 comfortable outside staterooms (2 Explorer Suites, 7 Veranda Suites, 39 Veranda Staterooms, 22 French Balcony Staterooms, 25 Standard Staterooms)
- All suites feature two rooms with a veranda off the living room and a French balcony in the bedroom
- Sun deck with 360-degree views and shaded sitting area; organic herb garden and solar panels; putting green, and walking track
- Aquavit Terrace with a revolutionary indoor/outdoor viewing area at the bow of the ship and grills for al fresco dining
- The Lounge and bar with floor-to-ceiling glass doors
- Restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows for panoramic views
- Library corner and onboard boutique
- Elevator from Middle to Upper Deck only; no elevator access for categories F and E
- Free shipwide wireless Internet service
- Laundry service
- Ecologically friendly hybrid engines producing less vibrations for a smoother ride
River cruises attract passengers 60 and older, but on our cruise there were a number guests in their mid-forties. Even a 70+ honeymoon couple from Utah, that booked the Explorer Suite and joined our dinner table each night.
You'll find most staterooms slightly smaller than ocean-going vessels, ranging from 135 square feet to 205 square feet.
The chefs created a variety of tasty offerings for us, with freshly prepared seasonal local vegetables, European specialties adapted to satisfy the tastes of guests and homemade soups are prepared daily. For breakfast, you can choose from a selection of pastries, cereals, breakfast meats, egg dishes, fresh fruit and selected cheeses. At lunch, we could select from the soup and sandwich bar, or a choice of entrées and dessert. And for dinner, we were treated to a five-course menu with regional specialties. You may also select from a red or white regional wine, or beer ( complimentary ) to perfectly complement your meal.
Meals are served in a single, open-seating at set times. Breakfast is choice of a buffet, or ordering from a menu. The buffet area in the center of the room includes a choice of cereal, oatmeal with toppings, lox, yogurt, cheeses and meats. You toast your own bread, including bagels. There's also an omelet station, or you can order from the menu; pancakes, French toast or eggs cooked to your taste. Lunch includes a soup pasta station and salad bar. Again, you also have a choice of ordering from a menu with a featured sandwich, or entree.
Dinner features a full multi-course menu with hot or cold appetizers and three entrees, featuring a fish, meat or vegetarian choice that changes daily. The sweet desserts, are incredible. Available every day choices include grilled salmon, charbroiled New York-cut steak and Caesar salad.
Always available, are two coffee and tea stations that have self-service machines, where you can have a regular coffee, as well as lattes and cappuccinos, with mini-pastries offered in the morning and cookies in the afternoon.
Tips to the crew are not included in your cruise fare. At the end of the cruise, you'll get two envelopes in your stateroom. One for the Program Director, and the other to be shared with the general crew. You can tip in cash or by credit card. (Euros are the onboard currency, but dollars are also accepted for gratuities.)
We found the service onboard to be beyond the ordinary. Many of the crew that we often encountered, remembered our names and greeted us accordingly every day. A great "personal touch " not found on large ocean-going cruise ships. The recommended amount on Viking's Europe cruises is € 12 per passenger, per day, for the the crew and € 2 per passenger per day for the Program Director. Our Program Director, Chris did a great job and deserved extra recognition.
Hands-on demonstrations, cooking classes, traditional dance performances, and local tastings. These in-depth experiences are included as an essential part of discovering more about the places through which we cruised, and each activity is planned specifically to illuminate each itinerary. The ship offered a series of onboard multimedia talks to shed light on the history and culture of the places we visited. Topics included the Dutch Masters or French impressionists, castles along the Rhine Valley, the formation of the European Union, the life and works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the wine and cuisine of southern France, and key words and phrases in the local language wherever we were traveling. These presentations provide a context for our own observations, enhancing our travel experience.
An onboard daily newsletter, Viking Daily, featuring information about daily activities, shore excursions and tour departure times is delivered to your stateroom every evening.
River Cruises don't offer elaborate production shows, don't have a casino. There's no big promenade shopping mall, no midnight buffet, nor any waterslides, ice skating rinks or rock climbing walls. River Cruises do transport you " back in time" to visit the people, places and events, where Europe's rich history comes alive in hundred's of historic sites, classical cities and towns.
Located on the upper atrium level is a spacious, large windowed lounge. This room is the social hub of the ship. Everyone gathers there each evening, for cocktails prior to dinner. There's a modern bar and a small dance floor. The ship's Program Director reviews next day's program prior to dinner.
Entertainment onboard is limited. The lounge features a baby grand piano, where a pianist plays both classical and modern tunes during cocktail hour. Regional performers occasionally come onboard to provide additional entertainment.
As as an example, in Cologne, musicians from Cologne's Academy of Music and Dance and WDR Symphony Orchestra presented an ensemble of German, European and international classics.
Want to reserve a table at local restaurant? Arrange for a private guide? Just like a hotel concierge, the Viking Concierge holds regular desk hours and can handle these and other requests.
The company has grown to a fleet of 60 river vessels (in 2015) offering scenic cruising along the rivers of Europe, Russia, Egypt, China, and Southeast Asia. Viking has been honored multiple times in Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best” Awards and Condé Nast Traveler’s “Gold List” as well as recognized by the editors of Cruise Critic as “Best River Cruise Line,” with the entire Viking Longships® fleet being named “Best New River Ships” in the website’s Editors’ Picks Awards. The travel trade has ranked Viking as the “Best River Cruise Line” by Travel Weekly, Recommend and Travel Agent magazines, “Best Cruise Line for Luxury River Cruises” at the Luxury Travel Advisor Awards of Excellence and as “Best Overall Cruise Line for River Cruising,” “Best New River Cruise Ship” for the sixth consecutive year.
River water levels dictate what happens for your cruise. If the river water level is too low or too high, your river cruise may be delayed, ships changed, or overland adjustments made. Europe experienced much less rain this summer, than in past years and as result all the river cruise companies have had to make alternate arrangements, like changing ships half way during your itinerary. The real measure of how well a cruise line performs is when something out of the ordinary happens. On our trip we did need the change ships, from the Viking IDi to the Viking Kvasir. The transition was carried out in an efficient manner with only minor interruption to our itinerary.
We've traveled all around the world on over 40 ocean cruises, but this was our first river cruise and we were pleasantly surprised. The crew and staff really worked hard and were a step or two above most ocean-going ship crews. The food was excellent, on par with luxury cruise ships. The sightseeing tours were well managed, and the local guides were well versed on local history and culture.
We had an excellent experience and are looking forward to another cruise with Viking in the near future.
P.S. We flew to Amsterdam on the day of the Paris terrorist attacks. Needless to say, it was part of the conversation, almost daily on the ship. On our tours at the ports-of-call we felt very safe and on our cruise we only experienced traffic delays at the boarder check points between Germany and France.