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My wife and I have just finished our first day of cruising on the Viking Sky headed from Trier to Nuremberg, and I thought I'd post our impressions on line. I won't promise, but I'll try to post daily if I can.
First a few items that may be of interest to cruisers aboard the Sky. These may have been covered already by someone else, but I haven't seen them mentioned:
1. We wish that we'd thrown in some wire coat hangers. Our cabin has 10 wooden hangers, and that's okay, but if we'd thrown several wire hangers in, we wouldn't be hanging two and three items on a single hanger, and we could toss them at the end of the trip.
2. The doors don't automatically lock when you shut them. This isn't a big deal, but I'm used to hotels where the door locks whenever it shuts. You need to lock your door with the key every time you leave. We didn't lose anything, but I felt pretty stupid when I realized that I'd left the door unlocked every time I left it.
3. You have a maximum of three plugs to use in the cabin for chargers, etc. One is occupied by the TV while another is taken by the charging station for the headphones you use on the tours, leaving one free all the time. Again, not a big deal, but something to keep in mind if you plan to charge cameras, computers, ipods, etc.
4. Internet service is surprisingly good. You get one id and password for each passenger. The service is good everywhere on the ship except on the top deck where there seems to be no service at all.
Now on to the cruise:
The day began with breakfast, and we left the ship at 8:30 for a tour of the old Roman city of Trier. We had a great tour with a very knowledgeable guide. He was well versed in everything from Roman architecture to viticulture to the detailed history of the region. The Viking headsets worked really well and were comfortable. There were three “regular” tour groups and one “leisurely” group. We started on the mountain overlooking Trier and then went down into the city to see the sites close up that we’d seen from the hill.
We returned from the tour shortly before lunch and the boat pulled away from the dock and headed down the Moselle. Lunch was served almost immediately with the option of enjoying a sit down dinner in the restaurant or going to the lounge where a carving station (flank steak) was set up. The trip to Bernkastel took around four hours, and I spent most of the time on the top deck enjoying the great weather and scenery. The scenery was beautiful, and we went through the first two of fifty locks that we will pass through. Viking conducted a German lesson and a cooking demonstration in the lounge as well as holding a galley tour during the cruise.
We arrived at Bernkastel around 4:30 and had time to walk around the city for a couple of hours before dinner at 6:30. Dinner was excellent (I had the halibut) as it was the night before. There was a briefing at 6:15 about tomorrow’s activities in Cochem.
Bernkastel is a charming little wine tourist town with a population just over 1,000. The narrow streets are lined with shops, small hotels, and wine bars and restaurants. We enjoyed the walk and and window shopping. Viking had an optional wine-tasting excursion with a local vintner after dinner (23 €), but after having wine with dinner, we decided that we’d had enough alcohol for the night. We took another leisurely walk through the city before turning in. The ship leaves at midnight tonight for Cochem.
Please keep posting!!! This is an itinerary I have looked at for several years and wish I had booked this year!! You will enjoy it -- we couldn't find 1 thing to complain about when we took Viking Sun from Antwerp to Basel a few years ago!!
UPCOMING: Eastern Carib 11/15/14 on Celebrity Refection, Western Carib 2/1/15 on Nieuw Amsterdam and Western+Eastern Carib B2B 10/18/15+10/25/15 on Independence OS
COMPLETED 2014: (1) Eastern Caribbean 2/23/14 Celebrity Century 8 nts with special friends. (2) Bahamas/Eastern Carib 3/10/14 Ruby Princess 5 nts with family/spring break.
COMPLETED 2013: (1) "Romantic Danube" river cruise 11/17-24 on Viking Bragi from Budapest to Nuremberg. (2) 7/20-27 Diamond Princess Vancouver to Alaska. (3) Canada/NewEngland 6/15-22 HAL Veendam Boston-Quebec. (4) Celebrated 51st Anniversary on Celebrity Silhouette 3/31-4/7 Eastern Caribbean.
CRUISE HISTORY = 38 cruises (1 Transatlantic, 1 Rhine River, 1 Danube River, 4 Alaska, 3 Panama Canal, 2 NewEngl/Canada & 26 Eastern/Western/Southern Caribbean) 307 days
21 on PRINCESS: Grand 4x; old Crown 3x, Caribbean 3x, Ruby 2x, Sun 2x, Dawn, Diamond, Ocean, Sea, Island, Coral, new Crown -- we love the Elite perks! (175 days)
6 on HOLLAND: Westerdam 3x, Volendam, Veendam 2x (45 days)
4 on ROYAL CARIB: Radiance 2x, Brilliance, Voyager of Seas (39 days)
4 on CELEBRITY Millennium, Solstice, Silhouette, Century (27 days)
2 on VIKING: Sun (Rhine River Antwerp-Basel 14 days), Bragi (Danube River Budapest-Nurmberg 7 days)
1 on CARNIVAL Triumph (7 days) Never Again!!
The ship docked in Cochem a little after six a.m. After breakfast, everyone departed the ship for tours (3 groups) at 8:45, met up with our local guides and walked down the Moselle and across the bridge into the little town of Cochem. Cochem is a lot like Bernkastel—a small wine town whose economy is based on tourism. Cochem has one thing that Bernkastel lacks—a restored castle sitting 100 meters above the Moselle. The tours had different plans for the tour, with one group going immediately up to the castle on minivans while the other two toured the old city. Our group(3) was the second to go up, after completing our tour of the city. Our Belgian guide did a good job of showing us around the city. We were amazed to see that in 1993 the Moselle flooded the town with water up to the ceilings of the shops close to the river.
When we got to the castle, our guide changed into her medieval dress and conducted our castle tour. The Reichsburg castle was rebuilt in the 19th century, and is completely furnished. The tour was very nice (about 50 minutes). Flash photography was allowed on the tour. After the tour we were driven back into the old city where we were free to wander around for an hour or so before returning to the ship. Since it was rain-ing, most returned early. We chose to have lunch in the lounge today rather than the sit down lunch in the restaurant.
After lunch most people relaxed in the lounge or napped in their cabins since it was raining most of the afternoon. Several did the wheelhouse tour. There was also a talk on German desserts with delicious samples. We made it through final Moselle lock and into Koblenz around 6:00 p.m. The ship made the turn and docked on the Rhine. After a nice dinner people either took a walk through Koblenz or went to the lounge for a brass band concert at 9:00. We opted for a walk and were a little surprised that not a lot was happening in downtown Koblenz.
It’s worthwhile mentioning a couple of items. The first morning we ate breakfast on the ship we sat down with a couple who were getting ready to return home before the cruise began. They had suffered a death in the family and had to get back to the United States. They were very complimentary of Viking’s handling of the situation. A cab was picking them up at 8:30 a.m. and driving them all the way to the Frankfurt airport where they would catch a plane for Florida. They really felt that Viking had gone above and beyond in helping them in a difficult situation.
You should also be aware that in addition to the buffet breakfast, there is a breakfast menu. So if the buffet doesn’t look that appealing, you can choose made-to-order omelets, pancakes, eggs benedict, etc. from the menu. We didn’t see this option on the first morning, and the menu showed up on our table this morning after we’d already filled our plates at the buffet, but we intend to try it tomorrow morning.
That’s it for the Cochem to Koblenz portion of the cruise. Hopefully I'll post more tomorrow.
Just curious - what is the name of your Viking guide? The name of the one we had on Cities of Light cruise is escaping me, but she was Belgian, too. I can see her face, just forget her name. She was great.
I love the Moselle and Rhine - we were in Cochem, Bernkasel (spelling?), Trier, Nuremberg, Koblenz, Wurzburg, etc. in Sept. and it was a great trip. Prague and Paris at the end and start were wonderful, too.
Well, next time you see Monique, please tell her that Howard and Ruth say hello. She probably won't remember us, given how many people she shepherds through Europe every year, but I'm the one who always kept doing her own thing in each city, walking all over the place, SLR camera always at my side, and Howard was (is) a very outgoing, chatty person who did some of the tours (Reichsburg castle was one). It's possible Monique may remember him because he was a bit of a character. I am exact opposite - very quiet. We were on Paris to Prague cruise a while back; Andrea was assistant program director. They both did a great job!
P.S. In Koblenz, you should have walked up inside that monument nearby. The view from the horse is nice! But yes, I agree - not too much happening in Koblenz at night! We simply found a cafe and ate casual dinner. After so many nights on the ship, we wanted a dinner out!
Last edited by roothy123; June 12th, 2012 at 09:02 AM.
First item of business. I found another outlet in the room. There’s a single outlet under the nightstand next to the bed. Not a big deal, but I’d missed it earlier when I started these notes.
The ship stayed docked in Koblenz all night. We left the ship around 8:30 a.m. to board buses for the short (~30 minute) ride to Braubach and Marksburg castle. As we were pulling away from the pier in Koblenz, a Viking longship pulled into our spot. After our buses had dropped us off at the Marksburg, they returned and picked up the passengers from the longship and brought them to the same castle tour.
This castle has not been restored and modernized like the Reichsburg in Cochem. However, it was never destroyed by invading armies, so it was very interesting. We were dropped off a little below the castle so we had to walk the last slope to the castle. Walkways inside the castle were very rough, and the castle was more like it was in the days of old. Once inside we saw kitchen, bedroom, knight’s hall and an armor room. They also showed a torture chamber, although the guide admitted that to their knowledge, no one had ever been tortured there. Although quite different from the Reichsburg, this tour was every bit as enjoyable.
When the tour was over, the buses drove us down to Braubach where the Sky had cruised down to meet us. We boarded the boat and had lunch shortly as we pulled away. Today we had the option of eating in the restaurant or enjoying the “German Party” in the lounge. The German Party featured white and curry wurst, meatballs, soft pretzels, cold cheeses and wursts.
The trip down the middle Rhine was rainy, but spectacular. This is a stretch of the Rhine where you’re never out of sight of a castle for more than five minutes. Most people watched from the lounge, but I stayed up on deck under cover with about a dozen hearty souls. This is a great part of the cruise. Our cruise director, Monique, described all the castles over the intercom and gave the histories and legends associated with all of them. We also passed by the famous Lorelei rock and statue.
We got to Rudesheim around 4:00 and had a Rudesheimer coffee demonstration with samples for everyone. We got off the boat in Rudesheim and strolled around the town long. If you want to visit a Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Shop, but you don’t want to do the Rothenberg excursion, there’s one in Rudesheim on the Oberstrasse. We returned to the ship in time for the 6:15 briefing describing the next day’s outing to Heidelberg.
We did not do the wine tasting excursion, but friends who did said that it was very nice. A young woman who runs the vineyard conducted the tasting was a 4th generation vintner who manages the vineyard.
As an aside, we had some laundry done on the boat yesterday. We left it on our bed in the morning, and it was back in the room late yesterday afternoon. It's also worthwhile to mention that the Silver Spirits drink package was available for purchase on the first day we boarded the ship for € 150.
Today people had the option of taking an excursion to Heidelberg or simply cruising on the Main. Most people elected to take the trip to Heidelberg. This was a trip I wanted to make since I had studied chemistry at the Universität Heidelberg for a year in 1971-72 as a German Academic Exchange (DAAD) fellow.
At 9:00 a.m., we got off the ship in Aschaffenburg and boarded buses for Heidelberg. Since the ship was just stopping to let people off, we didn’t pull up to a dock, but the crew used the thrusters to push the ship over against the shore and hold it there while the crew deployed the gangplank and passengers walked off onto the paved walkway along the river and made the short walk down to the buses. Aschaffenburg is an old city, and it took a little time for the buses to work their way through the narrow streets.
The trip to Heidelburg took around 2 hours. Our guide, Klaus, told us about the history and geography of the region including the Odenwald and even told the story of the Nibelungen on the trip. As we drove into Heidelberg Klaus told us about the city (where he lives) and the electors who reigned there. We made the twisty drive up to the castle with no problems. Following visits to the toilets at the entrance we entered the castle courtyard while Klaus told us about the history of the castle and described the architecture. We made the trip down to see the big wine barrel—the largest in Germany and then slowly headed back for the bus. One member of the group was a pharmacist and split off from the group to tour the Pharmacy Museum housed in the castle.
After reboarding the buses we drove down to the old city and got off the buses at the loading/unloading area next to the river near the Neckar lock. Klaus walked us through the city to the Ritter Hotel, where we had lunch at the zum Ritter restaurant. This restaurant was well known back when I was in Heidelberg, but I never had enough money to eat there. We had a nice lunch—salad, roulade, mashed potatoes, and a dessert. If you wanted anything other than water to drink, you had to pay (€ 3-5 for wine or beer). It was a very good lunch. I believe that the restaurant was closed to the public due to the multiple tour groups there.
When we got through with lunch, the skies had opened and rain was pouring down. We walked around the old town, but even with jackets and umbrellas, it was pretty miserable. Since I’m a chemist, we chose to walk down by the Bunsen Haus, which is now the Interpreter’s Institute. I’d studied German there in 1971. I got photos of the house and also of Bunsen’s statue on the Hauptstrasse. Lunch ended around 2:00 p.m., and we had until 4:00 to walk around the city. With the rain, most everyone was waiting for the buses by 3:30. Since the buses weren’t allowed to park for more than 10 minutes, we had to wait in shelters or the nearby tourist office until 3:50. The drive to Freundberg took less than two hours, and we boarded the boat and had soon set sail for Wurtzburg.
At 6:15 we had the regular briefing on tomorrow’s activities (Wurzburg tour and optional Rothenburg excursion). Cruise director Monique also began briefings on the procedures for disembarking on Saturday. She was very thorough and answered everyone’s questions. We had another delicious dinner. We’ve eaten with different people at every meal. It’s been fun meeting all the travelers.
We skipped the glass blowing demonstration that was held at 9:00. We were a little tired from the Heidelberg excursion and as a chemist, I’ve seen a lot of glass blowing!
As usual, the Viking staff continues to provide good service. Our steward calls us by name when she sees us, and everyone is eager to please. We were surprised this morning when one of the staff knocked on our door and told us that she’d heard that we needed more coat hangers. She had a handful of hangers that she gave us. I had told Monique that I’d been posting on CruiseCritic, and I can only imagine that she saw my post from day one where I mention that we should have brought coat hangers, and she took care of the problem!! Viking is eager to serve and make you happy.
I just did the same cruise a couple weeks ago and am really enjoying your posts as it is nice to remember all the things we did and saw. I was so wrapped up in my cruise and so busy that I didn't write it all down as you are doing so it is great to read about your experiences.
Rothenburg and Bamberg are coming up and are great, and Prague is simply wonderful. Enjoy, and keep posting.
We docked early this morning in Karlstadt. It was a leisurely morning since the buses didn’t leave until 9:00 a.m. We had four buses this morning—two for Wurzburg and two for Rothenburg. Actually all four came to Wurzburg, but two of them left for Rothenburg after a quick tour of the Wurzburg Residenz. Rothenburg is a wonderful old city, but we had spent the night in Rothenburg a few years ago, so we chose to spend the day in Wurzburg.
The rest of us toured the Residenz and the old town and then had about 1 ½ hours of free time before lunch was served on the ship. There were multiple options. Some stayed the entire afternoon in the city, others met the bus at 1:15 to get back to the ship for lunch at 1:30. We walked around the town and walked back to the boat for lunch. When we got back around 1;00, the Sky had just arrived and was in the process of docking next to the Viking Njord (the Tauck Treasures is also docked here). The Njord is a long ship going form Budapest to Amsterdam (or vice versa). Once the Sky docked we were able to board the Njord, climb to its top deck, walk across a gangplank to the Sky’s deck and then descend to our cabins.
A few people stayed on the boat today and enjoyed leisurely cruising. They said that the ship passed through several locks and went under low bridges, including one where the pilot house retracted and the ship went under with the captain’s head sticking out of the pilot house’s roof.
The Residenz was very impressive. I was not aware of the fact that it’s the second most-visited castle in Germany. Only Neuschwanstein has more visitors. The old city is nice as well. The morning was cloudy, but dry. After lunch the skies opened up and we had a brief storm, but it only lasted about 20 minutes. Since then it’s cleared off and the sun is shining!
Service continues to be excellent. Whenever we return from an excursion, the staff greets everyone with a drink as they reenter the ship. When returning from yesterday’s all-day Heidelberg trip we were served hot tea and given a moist wash cloth to freshen up with.
Even though we have one more night on the ship before disembarking Saturday morning, the Captain’s farewell dinner was held tonight. As usual the food was great. The entrees included “Tournedo Rossini” Grilled Filet Mignon & Pan Sauteed Foie Gras, Baked Lobster Thermidore, and Red Beet and Goat Cheese Ravioli. The entire ship’s staff was introduced at the dinner.
We also received comment sheets tonight to rate the cruise experience. When I saw the sheet, I realized that we hadn’t done many of the “Enrichment” experiences. They included Music along the Rhine, Moselle Folklore, Glassblowing demo, Great Canals and Locks lecture, European Union lecture. What we have done has been very good.
The ship left as soon as the group got back from Rothenburg (~6:00 p.m.), and we will sail until around 2:00 tomorrow when we arrive in Bamberg. Of the 50 locks we have to go through on the entire trip, we have 20 more to go.
Today was our last full day on the ship. Luggage will be outside the door at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow and we leave the ship at 8:30 for the tour on Nuremberg and the trip to Prague. Bills need to be paid tonight or early tomorrow morning.
We disembarked at Bamberg and were bused to the central city. Once we left the ship, it proceeded down the Main. The Bamberg tour was good, but not great. Our guide did not have a lot of energy, and seemed bored with the task. I talked to people from one other group, and they were less than impressed with their guide as well. I think that the city has a lot to offer, but our guide just didn’t seem to be that into her job. We had 1 ½ to 2 hours for shopping and walking around after the tour. We were greeted with ice cream when we returned to the ship.
After the tours and shopping, we were bused down the river to the village where the ship had docked to wait for us. Tonight we’ll be sailing down the Main-Danube Canal to Nuremberg. There have been lots of locks and low bridges on this portion of the trip (I reached up and touched one tonight as we passed under it). The sun deck has been closed for the entire journey down the Main. The area immediately behind the wheel house is available for use.
Tonight we had another excellent dinner. Lunch on the ship was good as well—roast turkey, pulled pork sandwiches, of pasta. There’s always a big salad bar at lunch as well.
It’s probably a good time to mention a few things that have been really useful. For me a lightweight rainproof jacket has been great along with a rainproof hat. Hopefully you won’t need them on your cruise, but if you do you’ll be glad to have them. Another option would be lightweight ponchos. I also liked having a daypack to take on tours so that when that jacket got hot, I could pull it off quickly and toss it in the knapsack and then put it on again in 5 minutes when the rain started again. We also had folding umbrellas, but Viking provides umbrella’s for excursions.
I had a travel zoom camera (Canon 260 SX with 20x zoom and GPS). There were times when I thought about my digital SLR, but frankly, I’m glad that I didn’t have to lug it around. My camera fit into my pocket. I also brought a battery charger and 3 extra batteries. I’m glad I had them. I found that the camera would shoot about 125 photos on a battery when the GPS was on, and I think that I changed the battery on every excursion. Three extra batteries was probably overkill, but for my camera, one would not have been enough. Don’t forget camera memory. I just checked, and right now I have over 1,500 photos occupying almost 5GB with Nuremberg and Prague still to go. I’ve been moving them from camera to computer, but if you don’t plan to do that, be sure that you have plenty of camera memory.
As I said earlier, we made the trip with carry-on luggage only. The only downside of that (or upside, depending on your point of view), is that you really can’t buy a lot of souvenirs unless you have them shipped home. We actually did have a couple of things shipped.
As I said, this is the last post from the ship. Final notes and a review will probably come next week after we’re home.