My wife and I just booked an 8 day Viking Rhine River Cruise from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam at the beginning of August. I was wondering if any readers have been on this tour and would have any recommendations? I have traveled thru much of Germany on previous trips, but just wanted a relaxing trip. I know this is probably the furthest thing from a RS Tour, which I have done and loved, but this will be a totally different experience.
cruisecritic.com will connect you to your other shipmates. Haven't been on that cruise but have been with Viking elsewhere. There are very different from ocean cruises but fairly relaxing. We will be doing the Amsterdam to Budapest in late Sept next year for 16 days. You do have to be flexible since the water level of the river can have great impact on the cruise.
Spend a day (and a night) in Basel before joining your cruise. Too many cruisers go direct from the airport to the boat and miss the city.
Viking does do walking tours of Basel, I often see them in summer.
I have done that cruise at the end of August. We started in Basel as well. We added an extra day at the beginning and two at the end. It does a few things. If your plane is delayed you do not miss the start of the cruise. It allows you to recover a bit from jet lag before your expensive cruise. It also gives you some time in Basel which really is an enjoyable city to visit (I recommend the rathuis and the muenster (especially the view behind it) We did do the tour with Viking in Basel, but it is not on the "official" itinerary so I'm not sure if they always do it. We were happy that we wandered a bit on their own because they didn't spend as much time at places and there were charming places that weren't included on their tour. It certainly depends on when you arrive to the ship. Now, we booked our air separately on our own. Viking doesn't typically offer great flexibility with their flights. I'm pretty sure they pick the cheapest ones. We took a trolley from Basel city center to the ship. Super easy, super cheap, no need for a taxi and if you've stayed in a hotel in Basel, the trolley is free! It is also free from the airport if you are staying in a hotel (and easy).
In terms of the cruise itself, I still did my own research of the cities on the itinerary. That way when we had independent time, I was already set and knew what I wanted to do. Often it was a RS walking tour of the city. We did not do any of the pricey optional excursions. First, you are already paying for a meal on the ship! Secondly, we did some of the activities on our own much less expensively. For example, in Cologne, we tasted kolsch on our own at a few bars. We also did some wine tasting on our own in Breisach and Rudesheim. In Breisach the walk up to the cathedral is pretty and also, I can't give you details how we got there, but across town from the cathedral, you can walk up through vineyards to a great view of the city and the cathedral. The cathedral is on one "hill", this view point is up river just a bit and on top of another hill. It was somewhat close to a McDonalds, believe it or not, if that helps.
If you have any specific questions, ask away
Thank for all your advise. We did book two nights in Basel, Switzerland. The last thing I wanted to happen was to miss a cruise because of a flight delay. I am hoping the Rhine will not be as low as it was this year. We decided to go on August 1 as the water levels are more predictable then. If we went in May, there is always the possibility the river may be too high for the ship to fit under the bridges and later in the summer, the water levels could be too low. The only paid tours I have booked so far was one to Medival Colmar and a bicycle tour of the windmills in the Netherlands.
yosemite1, we just did this in October - Amsterdam to Basel. Yes, the river was too low to pass through the middle Rhine area, so they put us on a ferry through the scenic part, and bused us upstream where we boarded an identical ship for the rest of the trip. Here's what I learned: Its a small ship with not much to do. You are mostly cruising at night, when there's not much to see. The demographics skew old. Its mostly about food and drinking on the ship. The inclusive tours are timed so that you're back at the ship for meals. Its "Europe light" so you just get small, insulated tastes of Europe, not an adventurous experience. You are right - its the opposite of an RS Tour, but sometimes you just want to relax.
Recommendations: find a good server you like, and stick with their tables. Take the optional excursions if you want to see more - the wine tour in Alsace was the best. Just go with the flow. Send a PM if I can add any info.
I'm mid 50s, so we were certainly among the youngest on the ship. We were delighted with the people we got to know. The people we enjoyed most were actually the ones a fair amount older. The ones our age leaned a little pretentious. We have traveled a lot in Europe and independently. We have only been on one cruise. We thought the food was excellent and we found plenty to do. We typically used our free time to visit the cities some more. Some days we came back and enjoyed a cocktail on the ship deck. There were some excellent demonstrations in the afternoon that we tried to make time for. One was a coffee cocktail that was said to originate in Rudesheim and another was a flammekuchen which is a specialty of Alsace. The cruise down the middle Rhine was a real treat. It was sunny, but a bit chilly. They brought up lovely blankets as well as spiked coffee/hot cocoa drinks. My husband enjoyed the social aspect of it. I took some pictures with my husband chatting with other passengers and the captain of the ship. My daughter commented, "that dad looks so relaxed and happy". We have done trips on our own that focused on wine tasting in France--Alsace, Burgundy, Loire. People that we know that did optional wine tasting in the Koblenz area were disappointed. We thought the trip was a good overview of that area and we have plans to go back on our own and visit the middle Rhine cities a bit more as well as the wine areas of the Mosel. It was very relaxing. At our age, it is not something we "have" to do, so we wouldn't do them often especially since we can get around Europe on our own. I'm glad you are doing the trip "down" river. Basel to Amsterdam. The captain told my husband that down river works best, it's easier to time arrival times, and the ships arrive to ports ontime or early. Keep an open mind and know that you will not find a lot of "cruise" people on this forum. They tend to be folks that either travel with RS tours, experienced, independent travelers, or both.
I did that cruise in 2016. I echo many of the previous comments. If you have any interest in history, I suggest you go on the optional tour concerning the Colmar Pocket in World War II. The tour guide was amazingly enthusiastic. He practically acted out Audie Murphy's single-handed stand, on the spot where it took place. Another fun one was the trip to the cheese farm in the Netherlands.
If you are on a Viking Longship, try taking your meals in the lounge rather than the dining room. It is more intimate, less crowded, and you get a much better view.
Don't be afraid to opt out of excursions if you think there is something more interesting to do. For example, Cologne and Amsterdam both have great zoos.
Water levels are a constant concern. We hit high water that kept us from getting under a bridge by an inch in southern France in October.
Hi yosemite1, we did this Viking river cruise in Oct 2017 and had a nice time. We flew to Zurich and spent a week in Murren before heading to Basel. We arrived in Basel the night before the ship left. We enjoyed the cruise, great food and wine, beautiful scenery. We did all the included excursions and a couple of optional ones - Colmar Pocket and Top of Cologne Cathedral were both excellent. We also had an on board credit and used it for the wine dinner at Eberbach Monastery (it was nice but I didn’t think it was worth $$$). We spent 3 nights in Amsterdam after the cruise ended. You can make the trip as relaxing or active as you choose. We jumped off the boat as soon as it docked and went exploring. We did lunch on our own in Strasbourg (picnic) and Cologne (Hard Rock). At the time, I wasn’t aware that there could be problems with the water levels but we didn’t have any issues.
We really enjoyed our trip with Viking river and followed it up with a Viking ocean cruise to Norway in July 2018 (Midnight Sun). We’ve also done 9 RS tours. Hope you have fun!
My mother, an avid ocean cruiser, just did her first river cruise with Viking. She is 74. Hated it. Boring she said.
@diveloonie, I could see that some ocean cruisers wouldn't like the river cruises. The type of person that does an ocean vs. river might tend to be different. If one is used to all the on ship activities of an ocean cruise, they would probably find an river cruise too sedate. I think for me, I would really dislike the number of people on a big ship. For my trip, the perfect scenario was independent time on each end of the cruise, and even then, I wouldn't have a river cruise be my only trip of the year. For the op that has already booked, I would say to keep an open mind and be flexible. Most people are very happy with the river cruises, just keep in mind that this forum is populated by many travelers that really prefer to plan their own trips and to travel independently.
yosemite1, I'll add one thing. If you want to meet and interact with Europeans and learn some things about life there, talk to the staff on the ship. They'll be from all over the place, and have some interesting stories and experiences. You won't get to meet many on the excursions.
@diveloonie - Interesting, we feel just the opposite! Ocean Cruises to us: too much food, gambling, diversions, too much time spent on the ships! The 6 Viking trips we have been on have been much more cultural. Only on the ship at night. We, usually, arrive a couple days to a few weeks early before our trip and stay the same at the end. One year: 3 days Warsaw, 5 days Krakow, 3 Days Dresden, 2 days Seiffen, Christmas Market Viking Cruise Nuremberg to Frankfurt, 4 days in Frankfurt with day side train trips to Stuttgart & other nearby Markets on the Main. We enjoy combining Viking and Rick Steve type experiences together!
If you stop in Rudesheim don't go wine tasting. Go to the Asbach Uralt center for their liquor, a local cognac.
@KGC, do you mean don't go on the pricey optional tour or don't do wine tasting at all? In general, I didn't think any of the optional tours sounded that appealing when many of the activities can be done independently. And yes, the liquor tasting would be more unique, and if you do a little research, you can also find some wine tasting that can be done independently as well. If you do the cognac tasting, pick up the recipe for Rudesheim coffee made with the cognac. (actually there will probably be a recipe and demo on the ship)
We took this cruise in late fall 2015 and loved it. Flew in to Zurich a week early and used the RS guide book to stay in and explore Lucerne, then Lauterbrunnen, ending with an overnight in Basel. Such a fabulous week! In Basel, after much online searching, I found a laundry (self-service laundries are -- or were -- almost non-existent) and had our clothes washed while we explored the city. One caution -- check to see where the ship will be docked. We passed a Viking ship at the city center, only to learn it wasn't ours, which was docked far from the city center, and which we eventually found after several tram rides and much walking. After checking in and grabbing a quick lunch, we took Viking's shuttle and pre-cruise walking tour of the city, picking up our clean clothes and storing them on the bus. By then we were ready to let Viking take care of us for the week!
The golden vineyards along the Rhine were so gorgeous. Because we'd already been on the Tulips & Windmills trip, we were able to substitute a fun trip to a family cheese-making farm in lieu of the included Kinderdijk excursion. The trip ended in Amsterdam early in the morning, so if we hadn't been there before, we would have certainly stayed a few extra days to explore that fabulous city. Instead, we hopped on the train to Paris as soon as we disembarked and enjoyed a few days in our favorite city before flying home. Enjoy the trip!
Agree with the WW2 tour and my favorite moment was the “Top of Cologne Cathedral “.
We had travelled independently in Europe for years. No longer ‘we’ though, as I am recently widowed. I have to get used to ‘I’. I booked a Viking river cruise on an impulse ( it was a very good deal) and soon regretted doing this. Too late now. I do appreciate that all of the travel details will be taken care of, and that it will be easy to wander on one’s own when the ship is docked. I am a bit apprehensive about the dining. Will I be seated on my own in the dining room? An earlier post mentions eating the lounge, could I be served in the lounge or on deck (if warm enough)?
I understand your concerns. When I traveled in Europe on my own many years ago, eating dinner by myself was one the things I dread. After I got married, that obviously went away. We always traveled independently until we went on a Rick Steves tour. We had a number of solo travelers on that tour and I have since been on a Holiday Vacation tour of Australia and New Zealand. It also had a number of solo travelers. I paid close attention to how the tour members interacted with the solo travelers and I was very happy to see that they were included and welcomed by all the tour members for meals and for sightseeing.
I have watched just about every YouTube video of Viking River Cruises and have noticed that all meals are open seating. You decide where you sit. For dinners, everyone eats at the same time. You just take a seat and there WILL be someone sharing a table with you. Breakfast and lunch will be a little different as the time you eat is more flexible. You also can eat outside or inside. Dinner is only in the dining room and it is at 7:00 pm. There are less than 200 people on the ship and you will get to know most of them by taking the daily tours. If I were to choose a way to get back into solo traveling, this would be the way. I think you will experience less “cliques” with 200 people on your tour. Everyone I have talked to has really enjoyed it.
LZ, my husband and I did a Viking river cruise. We enjoyed it very much, though we still most often travel on our own. I think you will find it easy to meet people. For every meal, you choose where you'd like to sit. Dinner is at a more set time. Typically, most seats were filled. So it is not like you will end up alone at a table. Most people enjoyed meeting others. Once people found a group they enjoyed, they often would sit at the same table, but not necessarily, so you could continue to vary who you sit with. We had a large group of people on our cruise, they called themselves the "Rhine winers", or something. They did seem to want to just be together, but there were plenty of other folks to meet, so we just knew to not sit at their table as they clearly wanted to mingle among themselves. Most often people were interested in meeting other people. I didn't notice anyone/couple that just wanted to be alone.
You will have a fair amount of free time. Perhaps, 3-4 hours a day unless you choose optional tours. You could probably join others on their independent excursions or you could do some planning ahead of time for each cruise stop and venture out on your own. This might be a way to ease into some solo travel. The concierge will typically have city maps, and suggestions. Most often when my husband and I travel to Europe, I stay longer. I don't mind being alone, though you kind of develop strategies for your own enjoyment and safety where applicable.
I think you will have a great time!
Thank you yosemite1 and jules M for the advice and reassurance. This sounds like my ( our) experience with open seating on ocean cruises, people were friendly. And as you say, with the smaller number of passengers, it should be easy to become acquainted fairly quickly. Being able to move around to different tables will be nice too. I am feeling more comfortable with this trip now and motivated to plan some sightseeing in ports.