#VikingRiverCruise #RhineRiverCruise #RhineGetaway
Our owner recently returned from a Viking River Cruise traversing between Basel, Switzerland and Amsterdam, Netherlands in mid-August. Europe had experienced a very hot and dry summer, and the river levels were very low, but the cruise was successful in sailing the entire itinerary with only one modification as a result, to docking outside of Cologne instead of in the city center. In this instance, Viking arranged for coach transfers for the tours and additional coach options in the afternoon for passengers to move about the city at their leisure. Viking does have the most longships on the Rhine and Danube rivers and has a unique, oft-implemented plan in the cases of high or low river levels to move passengers through their original itinerary, and therefore they do not need to cancel sailings.
Most people appreciate these features of the Rhine:
- Castles. You’ll see lots of them along the middle Rhine valley, especially between Rudesheim and Koblenz, Germany.
- Culture. With cities that include Heidelberg, Strasbourg, Cologne, Amsterdam and more, you’ll get a good idea of city life and culture on your Rhine River cruises.
- Bicycling. In many places along the Rhine river, there are good bicycling paths and dedicated bike roads.
- Local beer and wine. Have a Cologne Kolsch at a cafe near the impressive Cologne Cathedral (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), or visit the Drosselgasse, to find a Weingarten in Rudesheim am Rhein, Germany.
Rhine River Ports
Located where Switzerland, Germany and France meet, this town features a modern section, along with a culture-enriched history of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, straddling the Rhine River. An included walking tour above the hilly riverbank revealed the Market Square and Town Hall or Rathaus. There are 40 museums of art and culture and the city features a week-long arts festival every year.
View of Basel Germany from Basel, Switzerland & Quaint Buildings
Breisach, Germany (sister city Neuf-Breisach, France across the river)
French Alsace (as per the sister city) is known for its wine growing, and our German complimentary coach tour included a scenic drive passing through small wine-producing villages with hillside vineyards in the countryside to the fabled Black Forest. Our stop gave us a summary of how centuries have made their mark on cuckoo-clock making, glassblowing, and culinary treats such as tortes and Black Forest Cake.
Germany’s Black Forest – Cuckoo Clock & Beer Steins
Our owner also took an afternoon optional walking tour to Colmar’s canal-lined Medieval village, with its 9th-century streets, 13th-century Gothic churches and original Old Town.
Also with a Medieval Old Town, Strasbourg on the border of France and Germany, is the cultural center of France’s Alsace region. Our complimentary tour included a coach drive through the German Imperial District and the European Quarter, home of the many institutions of the European Union and Council of Europe and other Renaissance architecture. The walking portion of the tour took us through the Petite France area, surrounded by the Ill River featuring cobblestone streets lined with wooden houses, intersected by picturesque canals, the Old Customs House, the magnificently restored Gothic Cathedral and its remarkable astronomical clock, and charming covered bridges with their defensive towers.
Cathedral in modern Strasbourg, and Old Town
Heidelberg, Germany (45-minute ride from the Rhine)
Germany’s most romantic castle, which has inspired writers such as Mark Twain was originally built during the early 13th century. It is situated at the top of a steep hill along the Neckar River and provides wonderful views overlooking not only the river, but the Old Town encompassing the oldest Germany University founded in 1386 and the graceful Old Bridge at one end. The old City Hall was host to a wedding this Saturday morning.
View of Heidelberg from Heidelberg Castle (on right)
Rudesheim am Rhein, Germany
This city in the heart of the Rheingau region is the area’s center of winemaking, with a famed Drosselgasse, a cobblestone street lined with taverns, and was hosting its annual wine festival during our visit. The oldest castle on the Rhine is the 9th-century Bromserburg Castle, one of quite a few securing the region. We noticed by the frequency of trains that this small town is of major importance to the local economy.
We sailed from there early the next morning for several hours along the Middle Rhine often called the Romantic Rhine (with continued very frequent train traffic), with its most picturesque views of numerous castles, vineyard-blanketed hills with steep slopes and dramatic banks and bends along the way. The most famous curve occurs at the Lorelei Rock which spurned the tale of the river maiden mesmerizing sailors with her song and luring them to their demise at her feet.
At the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers sits a traditional German town founded more than 2,000 years ago. It also contains wood-beamed houses, cobblestone streets, and medieval churches, reminiscent of the fairy-tale Germany of old. Our complimentary tour was to the only German castle never to have been captured or destroyed, Marksburg Castle, built 700 years ago, a short drive away in Braubach. Fabulous views from its 550-foot perch and strong fortifications are a testament to why it had not been besieged by enemies. The castle is kept very well restored by the German Castles Association, which makes its home at Marksburg to preserve fortifications like it all over Germany.
Photo on right courtesy of Viking River Cruises
The city was virtually destroyed in World War II, but its spectacular Cathedral towering over the Old City in Gothic splendor was spared as the enemy used its twin towering spires as a GDS system. There are some remains of the old Roman city via the street pattern and ruins uncovered beneath the destroyed city during reconstruction. The Cathedral was begun in 1248 and continued in several stages over seven centuries affording it numerous types of architecture added until completion in 1880; it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sailing on the last day afforded us canal views of the Waal and Merwede regions of the Netherlands where the Lik and Noord Rivers meet, shaped by the Rhine Delta waters. Our stop at Kinderdijk was to view a charming hamlet, where there are 19 remarkably preserved and currently owned & operated 18th-century windmills occupied by families and functioning as their homes. We learned how reclaimed land from the sea is protected by the dikes (embankments) by the power of the windmills.
Although disembarkation took place at the port in the morning, our owner spent a day getting acquainted with the many Dutch museums, canals, bridges, bicycles, and the famed Jordaan section of gabled houses via trams and on foot.
Several Views in the Jordaan section of Amsterdam
Photo of Mimi Auchter (center) by Flytographer
Situated forward on deck three (upper Deck) of all of Viking’s identical longships is an enjoyable spot among Viking public areas, the indoor/outdoor lounge called the Aquavit Terrace. Featuring floor-to-ceiling glass doors, the lounge can be used in any weather conditions and makes the perfect place to enjoy a drink and the company of new friends while admiring the gorgeous scenery. Adjacent to the Aquavit Terrace are al fresco dining areas. The alternate venue offers guests more dining choices, and passengers are not limited to dining only in the ship’s main restaurant. The Aquavit Terrace serves continental breakfast, light lunch and even items for dinner. The menu is limited to burgers, club sandwich, pasta and baked potato, but it’s nice for a light bite or to avoid a long dinner.
Viking also has a main dining room forward of the atrium where breakfast features a variety of selections from cooked-to-order omelets to cereals, numerous fresh fruit and bread and pastries, cheeses and meats, smoked salmon, yogurt, and more in a buffet setting. Lunch and dinner offer at least two hot made-to-order daily entrees (one is a sandwich option) along with buffet options, usually reflecting culinary specialties from the current destination. There are also several regular alternative options (fish, meat and vegan) available every day.
There is an elevator located between the middle deck where the restaurant, guest services and gangway entrance to the ship, and the Viking shop are located, up to the Upper Deck (third), encompassing the excursion desk, an attractive library, Internet Center, and Specialty coffee/tea and snack bar, along with the Lounge. In addition to this location offering very comfortable seating any time of the day, it is the location for the Piano bar and evening entertainment, occasionally featuring local small acts brought on board while in port. The Cruise Director also conducts informative short sessions on the upcoming port-of-call and excursion options in the venue.
On the uppermost level is the expansive Sun Deck, which boasts ample seating, including plenty of direct-sunlight and shaded options, with comfortable reclining chairs and loungers, an herb garden for the chef, several putting holes, a walking/jogging track, the ship’s bridge, an outdoor deck chess board, shuffleboard, and an area of tables and chairs located forward for enjoyable relaxation with camera-ready views.
- Explorer Suites are the largest river cruise suites in Europe at 445 square feet. These aft-located two suites each featuring a separate living room, bedroom, bathroom and private wraparound veranda, offering 270-degree views.
- Veranda Suites measure 270-square feet with full-size verandas in the living room and French balconies in the bedroom, offering guests the best of both worlds. Seven of these Suites are aboard Viking longships.
- Veranda Staterooms with full-size verandas measure 205-square feet, and closely resemble their deep-ocean cruising cousin. Thirty-nine of these well-appointed staterooms are onboard.
- French Balcony Staterooms measure 135-square feet and feature a French balcony. Twenty-two of these staterooms are available on two decks of Viking longships. and Although extremely well designed, if you crave plenty of open space these French Balcony staterooms may not be for you.
- All staterooms include all the comfortable amenities you might expect from a boutique European hotel, including a safe, free wi-fi, 110/120 and USB ports, hair dryer, anti-fog mirror, Freyja toiletries, heated bathroom floors and glass-enclosed shower doors, and a 40″ Sony flat-panel TV with infotainment system. Water-level standard staterooms are located on the Main deck with the same layout as the French Balcony substituting a high double window for the floor-to-ceiling french balcony and measure 150 sq. feet.
Photo of Viking Longship Vidar exterior courtesy of Viking River Cruises
Photos by Mimi Auchter unless otherwise noted
We at Getaway Dreams Come True Travel Agency are happy to assist you in determining if a Rhine River Cruise is perfect for you and which river cruise line is ideal for your lifetime memories.
You may wish to view other blog posts regarding river cruises and related topics:
Luxury River Cruises by AmaWaterways
Danube or Rhine for Your First River Cruise?
Is Travel Insurance Necessary?
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