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  #1  
Old April 26th, 2013, 08:32 AM
CelticMutt CelticMutt is offline
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Default Viking Idun "Grand European" Day-by-Day Review

I'll be attempting to provide a day-by-day review of our Grand European cruise on the Viking Idun, April 27 - May 11, 2013 on the related Roll Call:
" Viking "Idun" April 26, 2013 - Amsterdam to Budapest"
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1797590
(On-board wifi connectivity and geriatric energy levels being sufficient! )
See you there.
Bill
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  #2  
Old April 26th, 2013, 01:53 PM
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At what age does "geriatric" officially kick in?
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Old April 26th, 2013, 02:04 PM
CelticMutt CelticMutt is offline
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Default Live from The Viking Idun - April 27 - Amsterdam to Budapest

This will be the beginning of my attempt to provide a day-by-day review of this Grand European cruise on the Viking Idun, April 27 - May 11, 2013 - Amsterdam to Budapest (On-board wifi connectivity and geriatric energy levels being sufficient! )
We're on a United flight this evening; Newark to Amsterdam and hoping that the air traffic controller bosses got the message that Congress just restored their budget thereby (hopefully) getting us in to Amsterdam at about 8 AM Saturday.
We have a 2:30 PM Viator Amsterdam Sightseeing Tour and Skip-the-Line Ticket to the Anne Frank House
http://www.viator.com/tours/Amsterda.../d525-2550ANNE
I'll continue tomorrow evening once we've been settled aboard.
Bill
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Old April 26th, 2013, 03:06 PM
SeaTheWorldBySea SeaTheWorldBySea is offline
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Hello Bill,

We will be doing Budapest to Amsterdam next year on the Viking Alsvin and look forward to following you along the reverse of our itinerary! We hope your cruise is fantastic!
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Old April 27th, 2013, 09:45 AM
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Hello Bill - Hope you are having a great time. We will be on the Idun later this year. Is the boat in good shape? I had read posts regarding some water problems on a few of the 2012 cruises. Hopefully Viking cleared these up over the winter.

Keep posting and let us know how things are going.
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Old April 28th, 2013, 06:00 AM
CelticMutt CelticMutt is offline
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Default Day 1: Amsterdam

Well, two corrections right up front. The first of which is that I'll be continuing this day-to-day review on this specific posting. It's been suggested and I agree that a "live from the ship" would be better served specifically in the general river cruising category.
The second of which is that were not on the Idun! As another poster in this category has mentioned previously, we too were switched from the Idun to the Embla. The official explanation was a bit garbled but basically the rationale was that the Idun was switched to take over a different itinerary when one of the ships wasn't christened on time.
We arrived in Amsterdam basically on time after about an hour and a half delay in work due to the air traffic situation. We were met in the Arrivals Hall area by a Viking representative and shepherded to a waiting bus for the 30 minute drive to the ship. We left immediately but the bus was about three quarters full and we were the last to arrive. I therefore don't know how long the initial passengers were waiting on the bus. There was no check in procedure at the ship – they simply accepted the fact that since you were there you were on the cruise! We waited in the lounge area with the rest of the passengers but were informed early on – about 10:30 AM - that our room was available. This obviously wasn't the standard time as a number of the other passengers were still waiting sometime later but we were lucky enough to have a room vacated early by the previous guest.
We have a Balcony cabin – number 329 and found that the room is small but comfortable and offered a fair amount of storage considering the size. The balcony is compact but offers two chairs and a small table and is nice for sitting and viewing the scenery. The staff here appear to be very accommodating and we have been treated to this point in time very well by the crew.
They offered a buffet lunch in the Aquavit lounge that consisted of pasta soup and a salad along with a couple of sandwich choices.
We tagged along with the included 1:30 walking on the way to our Viator city tour that was scheduled at 2:30 listed in the initial post above. A quick word about that: it was individually the worst tour I've ever been on. Of the 2 1/2 hours, almost a full hour is spent in the Diamond Museum which is basically a sales pitch for jewelry and diamonds. The tour itself was terribly unorganized and left almost a half an hour late which made the getting back to the ship on time problematic. It also leaves you off at the final stop which is the Anne Frank House and not at the point of origin. Frankly the sole saving grace of the tour was its "cut the line" entrance to this not to be missed attraction. The tour dumps you off at this location which is an additional half hour walk from the original jumping off point of the tour which in itself is an additional 30 minute walk from the ship. But even in a non-rushed tour the 5 PM drop off gives you an hour at the Anne Frank House before having to hustle back to the ship for 7 PM dinner. Cabs are scarce in the city so you may (probably will!) have to hoof it. (The available cabs seem to congregate at the hotels, so in a pinch you may want to try to pick one up at these locations.)
Our first dinner was quite good. I had the bass - nice. I found the portions to be fine contrary to some reports and I'm a big eater. This at least so far. We were a bit late for dinner but still found available spots with some very nice and entertaining dinner companions.
We hit the bar after dinner. A very nice piano player was performing for a very few passengers. It may be that it was a travel day or it may be the average age of the passengers, but there were six of us who had the place pretty much all to ourselves for a while. Although there were another group of three couples that were dancing as we were leaving. An early night after having been up for well over 36 hours.
Our impressions of Viking so far are very good. The ship is well-maintained and nicely laid out. The crew is polite and helpful. Our fellow passengers, the majority of which seem to be American and Canadian, are friendly and good-natured. But at 64 and 62 respectively we sometimes feel like we're the youngsters aboard athough I have to expect it didn't affect anybody's energy!
I'll hold off on posting any photos today as you can get as many as you want on Amsterdam pretty much anyplace. But I'll post a couple of thumbnails day on the more cruise-specific locations that we find.
That's it for today. I'll apologize in advance for any typos. I'm dictating this on the iPhone and it's a bit difficult to edit in that platform.
Bill
ps: In answer to Cary's question, "you're only as young as you feel", but sometimes you feel older than others!
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Old April 28th, 2013, 10:18 AM
CelticMutt CelticMutt is offline
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Default Day 2: Kinderdyjk

First off, it's pronounced "kinder-dike". If you knew, good on ya; personally, I massacred it before being corrected!
We cruised overnight and arrived at Kinderdijk at about 8 AM. From the 300 cabin deck there was not a hint of movement. Someone we met at lunch said there was a bit of vibration in the aft 100's, but so far I've found the sailing to be like glass and difficult to even know you're on what's actually a pretty large vessel!
Breakfast was excellent as was lunch. The freshness and variety of the full breakfast buffet was great. I think the smaller number of passengers make for smaller quantities being presented at one time and that results in added freshness. But the quality of food itself was superb. The baked goods are especially good and my wife's omelet was wonderful. Great service once again.
Some fair balance info that someone reading from Viking really should absorb and address regarding our being on the Embla rather than the Idun. No one on board that we have talked to at least, was informed about the change of ship beforehand. We were told upon boarding that this was a somewhat newer ship and virtually identical to the Idun. And as stated, the reason for the change itself was a bit hazy. While we're perfectly happy with the ship, the change did inconvenience a couple we lunched with today because they spent an inordinate amount of wasted time searching the docks for a ship that wasn't there. This is a problem that could have easily been avoided by any type of forewarning. Additionally, this couple even tried calling the Idun and got no answer which may lead one to believe that the Idun has been taken out of service - perhaps to correct some of the early-reported water problems. Personally, I don't know, but it sure begs the question!
The stop at Kinderdijk itself was great. (I'll tack on a thumbnail or two at the end.) the guide we had, Jack P., a retired schoolteacher, was knowledgeable and personable. The site itself is lovely with 8 or 9 windmills all in view from the same vantage point. And the opportunity to actually explore inside one of the better-restored ones was both educational as well as a little bit magic. We've all seen photos of windmills from before we can remember, but the phenomenal engineering of these beautiful machines is really pretty astounding.
The tour itself was a little bit rushed though. We were off the ship to begin the tour at about 9:45 (the site is directly across the road) but had to get back by 11 for an 11:30 sailing. That made exploring the working windmill a bit more rushed for the third tour group exploring it. I would have liked another 10 minutes or so, but we had to run for the ship. I don't think it would hurt for Viking to build in another 15 minutes or so to let everyone explore on a bit more of a leisurely pace. And when Viking says 11:30 you better believe it - we pushed off at 11:26! But the Line's practice of collecting cabin keys upon leaving the ship (replaced with a name card) let's them know who's where at all times.
Lunch today in the main dining room was a combination buffet and menus order and it was mix and match so you could do either or both. Again the food, selection and service were all excellent. It's nice to have a beer or two with lunch as well. And while the hose wines are really not bad at all, the beer is local, cold and top notch. At the two meals we've had so far where her and wine has been served, we've found the wait staff to be very wiling to refresh your glass as often as needed.
I'm writing this on our balcony in the sun. It's a light jacket comfortable 52 degrees as we proceed up the Rhine and I'll close up for the day since the rest of it is pretty much what we're doing now. Darn!
Bill
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Old April 28th, 2013, 04:14 PM
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We just got on the Viking Vienna in Budapest, and the Idun was berthed down the river next to the Viking Prestige.
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Old April 28th, 2013, 10:18 PM
jiminyC_fan jiminyC_fan is offline
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LOVING this. Thanks so much! We sail in Nov for the Grand European but on the Magni.
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Old April 29th, 2013, 01:50 PM
CelticMutt CelticMutt is offline
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Default Day 3: Cologne

Just sitting on the sun deck yesterday afternoon in the sun watching the two river banks go by was very relaxing. It's amazing how swiftly the Rhine flows and how fast the ship proceeds against it.
Dinner last night was superb. I had the chateubriand and it was personally the best example of that dish that I've ever had. And Richie makes a mean Sapphire martini. Drink prices on the ship are a bit steep, but the size of the martini at least made up for it!
We arrived in Cologne at about 10 this morning after an uneventful sale through the night. The view of the cathedral as we approached the dock (thumb attached) was nothing short of spectacular. That's one monster of a beautiful church. Watching the captain dock the ship into such a small space in a rapidly moving river was pretty neat We all met on the dock for the walking tour of the city. Our guide was articulate and knowledgeable about the city. The area around the ship on the way to the Cathedral is very picturesque and packed with history. Koln is a beautiful city with more outside restaurant seating than it seems they could ever fill. The Cathedral is as I said, spectacular. Both outside and in. You can't believe they could have conceived of such a monument in 1248 much less beginning the building process - one that took over 600 years in fits and starts. We left the tour at noon and stayed for the 15 minute prayer service conducted naturally in German. (Do you know that "pray" and "please" are the same word in German!)
We stopped at the Haxenhause (Knucklehouse) - recommended by the ship and other posters on this site - on the way back to the ship for lunch. We had the recommended house special of pig knuckles, bratwurst, blood sausage, sauerkraut, sautéed onions and potatoes. We found the dish to be tasty enough but way too much food and a bit pricey (at 39 Euros for 2) for lunch.
We were going to take an afternoon bus tour around the city, but just decided to take our overstuffed bellies back to the ship which is actually within sight of the restaurant. Caught a room movie while also watching the folks walk along the Rhine walkway right outside our window. (Did I say that we have a starboard balcony?

A note about wifi connectivity on board. The router seems to be in the vicinity of the Internet desk (2 laptops) on the 300 deck. The further one gets away from that location, the weaker the signal and the less likelihood of a decent connection. As I've said, we're in 329 - about three quarters of the way aft and our in-room connection is spotty at best. It's hard to initiate service from the room but if I open the connection near the desk then it'll often "follow me home" to the room. So if you are interested in in-room connectivity you should opt for a room closer to mid-ship (Or Viking could spring for a stronger router!)
I haven't had the need to use the ship's computers, but at least at this point they don't seem crowded enough to limit access for anyone interested in using them.
Just a quick observation on the cabin's bathroom. The door is a sliding "pocket" type - I guess to conserve space. In itself, not a bad idea, but the design is flawed in that there is a great deal of noise associated with opening and closing the door. There is also not a tight seal on the framework so that "privacy" is somewhat sacrificed. Not a big deal – just sayin'.
More tomorrow!
Bill
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  #11  
Old April 29th, 2013, 08:03 PM
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Hi Bill,

I am looking forward to reading your posts at least until Sunday when we leave for Amsterdam and then the May 8 sailing of the Viking Odin - Amsterdam to Budapest. We are going to be behind you so any information you can provide will be appreciated.
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Old April 29th, 2013, 10:49 PM
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I am enjoying your review a lot. We did this river cruise many years ago and really enjoyed it. I did find that sometimes we were rushed but there is not much you can do about that and you are right....the ship sails on time. Looking forward to following you along the Rhine....it sure brings back great memories!
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Old April 30th, 2013, 12:13 AM
SeaTheWorldBySea SeaTheWorldBySea is offline
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Thank you for posting along the way! We're doing this itinerary next year.
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Old April 30th, 2013, 05:57 AM
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Thanks for taking us along. I'm enjoying your posts.
Terri
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Old April 30th, 2013, 07:10 AM
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I believe that the timetable is in part dictated by the usual German efficiency, but also by the need to keep to the pre-booked slot through the locks.

Keep up the good work
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Old April 30th, 2013, 09:55 AM
CelticMutt CelticMutt is offline
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Default Day 4 Koblenz and Marksburg Castle

To finish up on Cologne, we took the optional (29 Euro) beer tour of the city last night after dinner from 9-11. It was supposed to be a minimum of 20, but the ship let it go with only 18 interested parties. A thanks to Viking for their flexibility. Udol (sounds like?) was an excellent guide who knew a thing or two about beer!- We hit 3 beer halls over the course of the evening. 3 of 4 planned stops, so I guess we were a slower group than normal. We sampled the local Kolsch beers in the traditional 0.2 liter glasses and learned a lot about the local beer and the local beer culture, an important consideration in this neck of the woods! One of the highlights of the tour was the view of the Cathedral at night. Very impressive from the beer hall across the plaza. Even if you pass on the beer tour it's well worth the short walk from the ship after dinner to gain
a different perspective on this beautiful church.
We arrived in Koblenz directly at the Emporer Wilhelm I mausoleum right at the juncture of the Mosell and Rhine Rivers. The biggest portion of the passengers poured off the ship onto the dock right after breakfast for the 20 minute bus trip to the Marksburg Castle. There has been an admonition from the crew To avoid this portion of the tours if you we're not pretty physically fit. Well placed advise because the trip involved a lot of steep uphill and stair climbing over uneven surfaces. The castle is pretty impressive and well worth the exertion. The castle itself is the only such structure to survive without significant damage so it represents a great opportunity to see a real medieval castle without an awful lot of restoration. The tour in itself was very instructive as the castle contains an awful lot of furnishings and trappings from the medieval period. And the views of the Rhine from it are very impressive as well. The tour took about half an hour and afterwords we were loaded back onto the bus for the short trip back to the boat which had moved from Koblenz to directly below the castle. The fuse of the castle from the ship were really great and I've attached one to the end of this posting. Back on board there was a lunch special in the Aquavit lounge serving German specialties but we decided to pass on that since we had had a fair amount of German food the day before.
Lunch in the regular dining room was excellent and indeed a number of passengers have commented that they have not had a bad meal on the ship.
We are sitting on the sundeck as I write – dictate this posting. It's in the mid 50s and somewhat overcast with a kind of hazy sun. Castle after castle have lined the banks as we leisurely sail up the river. Beautiful and very relaxing! About 10 miles back we passed the Lorlei statue and cliffs. THIS is the real reason we chose to come on this specific cruise!
I'll add a little "fair balance" here just to make sure this whole thing doesn't sound like a Viking commercial. There have been a couple of joggers that have decided to use the sundeck at approximately 7 AM In the morning and 11 PM at night. The aft cabins on the 300 deck level are immediately underneath this jogging track And the pounding is loud enough to be rather irritating. Several people complained and it seems to have stopped. We'll see. But this might be a consideration for light sleepers who may have wanted to choose a cabin in this area.
That's it for the day; Going to close up shop on this post and get a coffee and cookie!
Prost!
Bill
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Old April 30th, 2013, 10:39 AM
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Bill ~ thank you SO much for your detailed daily review!!! We'll be on Viking on the Rhine in December and all you're writing is SO helpful!!!

Questions about Marksburg Castle - we were there on a road trip in 2010 and wondering about returning. Did the bus go all the way to the top - I remember a parking lot for cars up there. It was still tricky walking but at least we were at the top. DH has developed a foot problem and wondering about taking the excursion. Do you know any one who didn't go on the excursion? Did they just stay on the ship for the whole time?

Any information will be very helpful!!!

(In 2010, the castle tour we took was mostly in German but the guide said he'll also explain in English. He'd talk like 5 minutes in German and then say in English "this is the bedroom" - I know we missed a lot!!!!!)
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Old April 30th, 2013, 01:59 PM
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Bill, this is a great review and I'm enjoying reading it. Hope you continue to have a wonderful trip!

Peg, you have and I have alot in common. We also did the Marksburg Castle last year and it was a rigorous "walk/hike" to get around it. We're doing the same Rhine as you, only late Oct, and my DH also has some foot problems now, so we're thinking of just staying on board when we are there. A handful of folks did that last year when we visited.

I also see you have Bordeaux planned for 2014, and we're looking into that as well, although it will be early Nov for us. Seems like we are travelling in the same circles!
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Old April 30th, 2013, 04:42 PM
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Default You made me chuckle

Celticmutt, your mention of the "Joggers" above your head made me smile because we had the same issue on our trip last year but after our joggers were admonished they were very good about taking their jogging to the paths along the canal (plus once you get on the Main the upper deck will be "off limits" because of the low bridges!)
Enjoy your trip!
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Old May 1st, 2013, 11:31 AM
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2onboardagain 2onboardagain is offline
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Default Could you use some hints?

Bill,
We are reliving our experiences though your current trip. Hope you enjoy each and every day!

I did some posting from our trip last year and included some pass forward tips that might be helpful. The link is below if you wish to take a peek.

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1676784
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