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  #1  
Old April 3rd, 2014, 11:44 AM
cleophus12 cleophus12 is offline
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Default Viking Rhine Getaway first time river cruiser

Just returned from the Viking Rhine Getaway Basel to Amsterdam on the Helvetia and wanted to post a few thoughts. These boards were a huge help (as always) because I found the resources for river cruising to be fairly limited on the internet. Most of the information just comes from the cruise lines’ websites, and I prefer the expert opinions of travelers themselves. That’s why I love Cruise Critic.
First of all, we are loyal ocean cruisers and have cruised several lines. When we first started cruising thirty years ago, the staff was always so friendly, and it seemed like it was because they enjoyed their jobs and not because they were looking for a good tip. I have seen that attitude change some over the years, but the Helvetia staff was genuinely friendly. They could not do enough to make our stay enjoyable. Perhaps the staff’s attitude has something to do with Viking’s tipping policy which was different from any I have ever seen. There are two recommended tips: $168 for the crew and $28 for the Program Director. Since the tip is shared among the crew, I guess they all want to earn their share.
I confess to being a little worried about the condition of the Helvetia. With their focus on the new long ships, I was afraid Viking might be letting other ships suffer. My fears were completely unfounded. The ship is lovely and in excellent condition. The biggest problem is with the ship’s PA system, but that should be an easy fix which I hope Viking will do something about promptly. Our stateroom was perfect (room 205) and was so convenient to everything. The restaurant, lounge, coffee service, and entrance were all within a few steps of our room. We could hear lots of plumbing (flushing, showers) during busy times of day (morning and at bedtime), but otherwise the room was very quiet. I think I have to have a balcony when I cruise the ocean, so I was afraid I would miss my balcony, but I didn’t. The large windows open wide at waist level, so when we had our window opened (which was often) we felt like we had a balcony.
One of my first thoughts about being a new river cruiser is that you can forget pretty much everything you think you know about cruising when you are on the river because this is a completely different animal—and I mean that in a good way. Ocean ships have a lot of rules, and I understand why. When you have so many people of so many ages on a ship, you have to establish guidelines to keep chaos from erupting at every turn. It was fairly easy to spot the seasoned ocean cruiser because they would ask questions like, “May I take this drink, food, etc., to a particular location to drink/eat it?” The answer was always, “Well, of course!” There were no restrictions on where alcohol or food could be taken onboard. And the allowance of outside alcohol was very different from the ocean cruises. A trip so free of rules and schedules was very relaxing.
The Program Director, George, was amazing. I personally think he is a triplet because he was everywhere! He was on every offered shore excursion and on most of the optional ones. Who knows when/if he actually sleeps! He was very personable and knew the names of several of our group members within a day or two (not sure if that was a good or bad thing!) The Concierge staff was also extremely helpful. They could not do enough for us. They even arranged departure taxi s for 14 of us in Amsterdam even though we had not purchased transfers from Viking. They were truly awesome.
Ours was the first Rhine Getaway of the season so we had a crew that appeared to be fairly new to each other. They were not new to Viking or to cruise service, but were not entirely comfortable with each other. For instance in the dining room when we asked for an additional entrée, we were usually told, “I will see if we can do this.” And when we ordered a cheese plate and dessert, we were told we could have one or the other, but not both in more than one instance. That’s no big deal, but I think it speaks to the crew’s comfort level with what they felt they may and may not do. Perhaps they didn’t know how much leeway they had with their superiors yet. Meal service in the dining room was also somewhat slow. Now this isn’t really a problem because there is nowhere you have to be after dinner anyway, but at our table for eight or ten, the food came out at wildly varying times. Some of us would order the same thing, and a few would get theirs quickly while others would not get theirs for another fifteen minutes or so. Now the tour of the galley may explain this because in such small quarters, they clearly do not have room to keep 200 meals ready at all times. Or it could just be that our group was confusing the staff with some of the requests that were being made on occasion. The food was very good, but there wasn’t a meal that was just a total Wow--although I will say the German night buffet throughout the ship offered a number of excellent choices. Another issue that may be because we were the first cruise of the season had to do with our tour guides. Most of them (not all) seemed a little green--like they didn't all have their spiel down quite yet. They lacked a certain energy and enthusiasm in some cases.
Overall, our trip was terrific and I hope to post a trip report on ports of call later. I would cruise with Viking again in a heartbeat. Their itineraries are great and they offer a product that is accessible to all age groups. We did have a few younger couples with us (Under 50), and they were not bored. The pace was a little slow for them—morning shore excursions provide a taste of a port, but if one was exploring on his or her own, you could cover a lot more ground. And except for the late evening/early morning departures from Rudesheim and Cologne, there wasn’t much to offer in the way of night life. However, I was happy enough not to have to go anywhere at night except to bed. Again, I think that contributed to the relaxation level of the trip.
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Old April 3rd, 2014, 12:17 PM
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Sounds wonderful. I'm looking forward to your post on the various ports. We're also going on one of Viking's older ships, the Sky, which was supposed to be retired this year. So it's nice to hear good things about the older ones. We also get balconies on ocean cruises so glad to hear you thought the large window worked well.
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Old April 3rd, 2014, 12:56 PM
cleophus12 cleophus12 is offline
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Default One more thing

One more thing I should mention while this is all fresh: We let Viking book our air and while some have had trouble with it, we did not. Some of our group did not have the best flight schedule, but ours going to Basel only involved one stop in Munich. However, while we were there, Lufthansa announced a strike that went into effect the day we were leaving (April 2). Although we did not book our 3 day extension in Amsterdam through Viking, we had paid the air deviation fee so they had booked our air home also. When the strike was announced we called our travel agent at home who promptly called Viking and they went to work on getting us home another way. The Viking agent called me personally a couple of times as well as our travel agent to keep us up to date on the situation. They could not have been more helpful. Lufthansa, on the other hand, was no help whatsoever. Upon going to their website to check my itinerary, it showed our flight was canceled and gave a service number to call. When I called I got a recording that their lines were busy and to call back later; no options to choose from for help, just call back which I did for two days to no avail. We were very grateful to have Viking air and our travel agent working for us.
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Old April 3rd, 2014, 02:51 PM
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Thanks so much for this. Our friends are leaving in just over a week to take a Viking cruise from Basel to Amsterdam.
Looks like they'll be in for a wonderful time!
LuLu
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  #5  
Old April 3rd, 2014, 02:58 PM
cleophus12 cleophus12 is offline
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Smile Long trip report (sorry) Viking Rhine Getaway

Our Rhine Getaway left from Basel and finished in Amsterdam. Our arrival in Basel was super simple. The Viking folks were there to meet us and take us to their new Mercedes buses which would take us directly to the boat. Once we claimed our luggage, we were on our way. We had flown all night and arrived at the boat around 12:30-1:00 PM. Lunch was being served in the lounge, so we had a light lunch of sandwiches and salads. A walking tour of Basel was being offered at 1 and 3 and since we had missed the 1:00 tour, we went at 3. I had done some research on things to see and do in Basel, and I had not found much to spark my interest other than just seeing a few sights, so the walking tour seemed like the thing to do. Otherwise, we would have been taking a nap, and that is not the way to start a European vacation if you want to get on a proper sleep schedule. Our tour guide was a young man who seemed like he might be rather new at the touring business. He spoke English but had difficulty with much of his translation. The reason we suspected he is new at this was because he had no commentary to speak of outside of the places and landmarks he was showing us. I always like to know about the place and its people, and he had little to offer on those subjects. While I had heard that Viking guides did not mind you striking out on your own, this guide seemed to become very flustered when several of us wanted to break away from the group to visit a church that was not on his itinerary. He did, however, let us go and we all met him back for the return trip to the ship. Perhaps he was afraid of losing us before we even left the port. He was a nice young man, but not the most informative of guides. Basel is a large city and while there may be far more to see than we did, it is not a place I long to return to.
From Basel we sailed about 7 pm for Breisach, Germany and the Black Forest area. The weather was fairly cool in Basel, and by the time we woke up in Germany, we were receiving some snow. We had docked some time during the night and I never heard a thing. If you are going to get snow on a river cruise, this is where you want to have it. The trees weighted down with snow made for a magical sight. We left Breisach at 8:30 for our excursion. (When they say 8:30, you better believe they mean it. We were always on the road by 8:31!) The stop at St. Peter’s church was perfectly lovely, and then we made our way to the cuckoo clock shop. While the shopping area was cute, it was all a bit too touristy for my taste—one of those places you sort of feel was built for and kept in business by the cruise lines. But the grounds were lovely and the Black Forest cake was quite good. Frankly, without the snow I think I could have taken or left this trip. We were back at the ship by 12:30 and had our mandatory muster drill—took about 10-15 minutes and then had lunch. After lunch we walked up the hill to St Stephen’s Munster which dominates the Breisach skyline. By this time it had begun to sprinkle rain, and while we were in the church it poured. We took “sanctuary” inside a bar right outside the church! This was one of the things we found so amusing throughout our tours—bars tend to be right outside of churches. In fact we saw one bar that was attached to a church and parishioners must go through the bar to get in or out of the church. By the time we finished our Black Forest beer, the rain had stopped and we walked through the town and back to the ship. One couple in our group did the optional WWII excursion to Colmar and absolutely loved it. They had an amazing guide and a truly memorable afternoon. They did say they were driven through the town of Colmar which is another excursion, and they didn’t think that excursion would be as worthwhile as the WWII trip. The captain hosted a cocktail party at 6:45 and dinner was at 7. Evening’s entertainment was a quartet called the Black Forest Voices. They were cute, but not enough to keep me awake.
Each evening before dinner George, our Program Director, would host an informative talk about the next day’s events. Each talk was very thorough and we got a good feel for what we would be doing the next day so there would be no surprises.
Our next stop was Strasbourg, France. We actually docked at Kehl, but Viking runs shuttles each hour back and forth from Strasbourg. We began the day with a walking tour of the old town which was really pretty. Our tour ended at the Cathedral with its astrological clock. Beautiful and amazing in every way. We braved the 330 steps up to the spire and it was well worth it for the view. Even those of us with fears of heights and closed in places were able to make the climb successfully. We ate lunch in an Italian Bistro (in France!—what was wrong with us?) and then went back to revisit some shops we had seen earlier in the old city. (I enjoyed the Christmas shop. I work in a Christmas shop at home and was able to purchase a pyramid cheaper than I can get it wholesale at work. Very pleased with my find!) We also bought some candy and gingerbread and took the 3:30 shuttle back to the boat. The ship was parked directly in front of a bridge that connects France and Germany, so we walked the bridge and then a block or two of Kehl. The chef was demonstrating how to make an onion tart--Flammkuchen, maybe? (a regional specialty) and I went to that. They served champagne at the demonstration and we got to sample the tart when he was done. I must say, there is no shortage of alcohol on these ships. Whether that’s good or bad, I’m not entirely sure I ordered the Sea Bass for dinner and it was not fileted. It was full of bones so I did send it back and got Weinerschnitzel in its place. Now that was good! Most of the folks at our table had it, and no one was disappointed. George hosted a trivia game in the lounge at 9:15. Lots of fun.
Heidleberg was our next stop. Buses took us to the Castle. Amazing ruins and beautiful views. Our guide here was Dana from Transylvania who called herself Draculina. She was really good. We did not go into the castle except to view the large wine barrels. After the tour we were dropped off in town to see the sights on our own. Some lovely little shops in town and my first Kathe Wolfhart Christmas store! Returned to ship for lunch and we left Heidleberg early to sail for Rudesheim where we docked about 4:30. We did not do the optional dinner excursion but walked into town on our own. Beautiful walk, but other than a few restaurants and bars nothing was open, so no shopping for us. I assume once the season cranks up, more stores will stay open later for guests, but on this night nothing. We walked along the Drosselgasse and looked for a restaurant for dinner and wound up in the same restaurant the shore excursion was in. I believe the name was Rudesheim Schloss. We were of course in another room, but enjoyed the band and all the festivities going on in the restaurant. Great night. While the ship was here the Sun Viking pulled up right next to us and used us as a dock. We could literally touch the ship from our window. Their passengers had to walk through our lobby to disembark. Interesting way of doing things.
Our sailing day was next. We stayed in Rudesheim until 9 am and left to cruise the middle Rhine. This had been billed as a highlight of our cruise, and it did not disappoint. The weather was lovely (cool on the sun deck, but gorgeous). The biggest disappointment of the day was the ship’s PA system. It continually cut in and out making the narration hard to understand in places. Viking needs to fix this ship’s PA system as this was not the only time it caused problems. We docked in Koblenz around 1-2 and were driven to Marksburg Castle for the afternoon tour. The castle is remarkable and the tour is quite thorough. Buses get you as close as possible, but there is still a good climb to the entrance gate and the uneven stone floor of the castle makes getting around somewhat difficult for some patrons. The plaza and statue at the “corner of Germany” is also quite something. Climb up to the statue for great views. We had hoped to ride the chairlift over the river, but it was closed for maintenance while we were there. We left around 4 am to sail for Cologne. Music trivia was the evening’s entertainment.
We arrived in Cologne around 9 and took the walking tour to the Dom. Today’s guide was my least favorite as he mostly talked about trivial stuff (the pictures on the Euro and just stuff), but the Dom was completely amazing. Best cathedral so far. We walked back to the boat for lunch, then the guys in our group went back to the Cathedral to climb the 509 steps to the top. Girls went shopping for chocolate mostly. We visited the Lindt chocolate factory but only went to the gift shop and did not do the tour. Several of the folks in our group did the optional evening beer crawl to bars in town. It was fun and our guide was great. I will say that this tour could probably be done on your own because you just go in the bar, have a drink, and leave. However, we were there on a Friday night, and the bars were packed so it was nice not to have to wait for a table. We always had a place waiting for us. He also chose places that would offer us a variety of tastes of the local Kolsch beers. We sailed at 11:15 for Kinderdijk where we arrived about 2pm on Saturday.
While Kinderdijk is charming, it exists solely for the purposes of tourism these days. The windmills do not serve any workable function anymore. It was interesting to go inside and observe that way of life, but there is nothing else there. We enjoyed the walk and returned to the boat. It was a nice day for sitting on the sun deck, so we made use of it while we waited on the rest of the passengers to return to the boat. Nice view of the windmills, and really, where else are you going to see this kind of scenery? We left Kinderdijk about 5-6 and arrived in Amsterdam before I went to sleep (around midnight).
Disembarkation was super simple. There is no rush to get off the boat (so unlike an ocean cruise). You can have a leisurely breakfast in the dining room which is served until 9. We were taking a taxi to our hotel and our ship’s concierge arranged the taxis for us even though we did not purchase Viking transfers. We put our luggage out at 9, it was picked up and taken off the ship, and we collected it when we walked off at 10. No problem. When all our luggage wouldn’t fit into the two taxis, Svetlana called another to carry the extra bags and we were on our way.
Viking makes every element of their vacation package simple. From airport transfers to excursion transportation to bringing wine to the dinner table to purchasing shore excursions to disembarkation—they have mastered the art of simplifying everything for their passengers. It is a great way to vacation.
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  #6  
Old April 3rd, 2014, 05:00 PM
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FuelScience FuelScience is offline
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Thanks for a great trip report. If you haven't already, I'd encourage you to post it as a separate review since some people just look there for information without going to the forums.

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Old April 3rd, 2014, 05:23 PM
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Would love to read your review but as has been said on CC many many times PLEASE make paragraphs so it can be more easily read.
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Old April 3rd, 2014, 06:19 PM
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robinlynn robinlynn is offline
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Default Thanks for the great report!

Your report was very informative and interesting.
We are doing this same itinerary in reverse on one of the new Viking longships next month. I have just a few questions.

How many of the evenings were you docked right next to another ship....I am not very happy about this, since we paid so much extra for a balcony. We used to really enjoy sitting outside before dinner and in the early morning. That won't be the case with another ship a few feet away.

What month were you there? I can't get a fix on the weather for next month.
The actual temps I keep getting on my phone app for April are considerably warmer than the long term climate temps shown in all of the internet

Did you speak to anyone who went to Lake Geneva before the cruise?(one of the ship extensions)

Did you speak to anyone who did the Alsace wine tasting? We think we are going to do that optional tour.

Thanks again for the great reporting!

Best regards,
Robin
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Old April 3rd, 2014, 06:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cleophus12 View Post
Just returned from the Viking Rhine Getaway Basel to Amsterdam on the Helvetia and wanted to post a few thoughts. These boards were a huge help (as always) because I found the resources for river cruising to be fairly limited on the internet. Most of the information just comes from the cruise lines’ websites, and I prefer the expert opinions of travelers themselves. That’s why I love Cruise Critic.
First of all, we are loyal ocean cruisers and have cruised several lines. When we first started cruising thirty years ago, the staff was always so friendly, and it seemed like it was because they enjoyed their jobs and not because they were looking for a good tip. I have seen that attitude change some over the years, but the Helvetia staff was genuinely friendly. They could not do enough to make our stay enjoyable. Perhaps the staff’s attitude has something to do with Viking’s tipping policy which was different from any I have ever seen. There are two recommended tips: $168 for the crew and $28 for the Program Director. Since the tip is shared among the crew, I guess they all want to earn their share.
I confess to being a little worried about the condition of the Helvetia. With their focus on the new long ships, I was afraid Viking might be letting other ships suffer. My fears were completely unfounded. The ship is lovely and in excellent condition. The biggest problem is with the ship’s PA system, but that should be an easy fix which I hope Viking will do something about promptly. Our stateroom was perfect (room 205) and was so convenient to everything. The restaurant, lounge, coffee service, and entrance were all within a few steps of our room. We could hear lots of plumbing (flushing, showers) during busy times of day (morning and at bedtime), but otherwise the room was very quiet. I think I have to have a balcony when I cruise the ocean, so I was afraid I would miss my balcony, but I didn’t. The large windows open wide at waist level, so when we had our window opened (which was often) we felt like we had a balcony.
One of my first thoughts about being a new river cruiser is that you can forget pretty much everything you think you know about cruising when you are on the river because this is a completely different animal—and I mean that in a good way. Ocean ships have a lot of rules, and I understand why. When you have so many people of so many ages on a ship, you have to establish guidelines to keep chaos from erupting at every turn. It was fairly easy to spot the seasoned ocean cruiser because they would ask questions like, “May I take this drink, food, etc., to a particular location to drink/eat it?” The answer was always, “Well, of course!” There were no restrictions on where alcohol or food could be taken onboard. And the allowance of outside alcohol was very different from the ocean cruises. A trip so free of rules and schedules was very relaxing.
The Program Director, George, was amazing. I personally think he is a triplet because he was everywhere! He was on every offered shore excursion and on most of the optional ones. Who knows when/if he actually sleeps! He was very personable and knew the names of several of our group members within a day or two (not sure if that was a good or bad thing!) The Concierge staff was also extremely helpful. They could not do enough for us. They even arranged departure taxi s for 14 of us in Amsterdam even though we had not purchased transfers from Viking. They were truly awesome.
Ours was the first Rhine Getaway of the season so we had a crew that appeared to be fairly new to each other. They were not new to Viking or to cruise service, but were not entirely comfortable with each other. For instance in the dining room when we asked for an additional entrée, we were usually told, “I will see if we can do this.” And when we ordered a cheese plate and dessert, we were told we could have one or the other, but not both in more than one instance. That’s no big deal, but I think it speaks to the crew’s comfort level with what they felt they may and may not do. Perhaps they didn’t know how much leeway they had with their superiors yet. Meal service in the dining room was also somewhat slow. Now this isn’t really a problem because there is nowhere you have to be after dinner anyway, but at our table for eight or ten, the food came out at wildly varying times. Some of us would order the same thing, and a few would get theirs quickly while others would not get theirs for another fifteen minutes or so. Now the tour of the galley may explain this because in such small quarters, they clearly do not have room to keep 200 meals ready at all times. Or it could just be that our group was confusing the staff with some of the requests that were being made on occasion. The food was very good, but there wasn’t a meal that was just a total Wow--although I will say the German night buffet throughout the ship offered a number of excellent choices. Another issue that may be because we were the first cruise of the season had to do with our tour guides. Most of them (not all) seemed a little green--like they didn't all have their spiel down quite yet. They lacked a certain energy and enthusiasm in some cases.
Overall, our trip was terrific and I hope to post a trip report on ports of call later. I would cruise with Viking again in a heartbeat. Their itineraries are great and they offer a product that is accessible to all age groups. We did have a few younger couples with us (Under 50), and they were not bored. The pace was a little slow for them—morning shore excursions provide a taste of a port, but if one was exploring on his or her own, you could cover a lot more ground. And except for the late evening/early morning departures from Rudesheim and Cologne, there wasn’t much to offer in the way of night life. However, I was happy enough not to have to go anywhere at night except to bed. Again, I think that contributed to the relaxation level of the trip.
Quote:
Originally Posted by cleophus12 View Post
One more thing I should mention while this is all fresh: We let Viking book our air and while some have had trouble with it, we did not. Some of our group did not have the best flight schedule, but ours going to Basel only involved one stop in Munich. However, while we were there, Lufthansa announced a strike that went into effect the day we were leaving (April 2). Although we did not book our 3 day extension in Amsterdam through Viking, we had paid the air deviation fee so they had booked our air home also. When the strike was announced we called our travel agent at home who promptly called Viking and they went to work on getting us home another way. The Viking agent called me personally a couple of times as well as our travel agent to keep us up to date on the situation. They could not have been more helpful. Lufthansa, on the other hand, was no help whatsoever. Upon going to their website to check my itinerary, it showed our flight was canceled and gave a service number to call. When I called I got a recording that their lines were busy and to call back later; no options to choose from for help, just call back which I did for two days to no avail. We were very grateful to have Viking air and our travel agent working for us.
Dear cleophus12,

Welcome home from your cruise! All of us at Viking are delighted to learn that overall you enjoyed your trip. We appreciate your feedback and hope to welcome you aboard again soon. If there are any additional comments or suggestions that you’d like to bring to our attention directly, we’d be happy to hear more about your trip; we can be reached at TellUs@vikingcruises.com.

Best,
Viking Cruises
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Old April 4th, 2014, 03:16 AM
notamermaid notamermaid is offline
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Hello cleophus12,

good to hear you had a great time on the Viking Rhine getaway. Thank you for this long and detailed review.

Just briefly, for those who are worried: the strike has officially ended, air traffic supposed to be getting back to normal by Saturday.

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Old April 4th, 2014, 07:19 AM
cleophus12 cleophus12 is offline
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robinlynn, Hope you enjoy your upcoming cruise.

We were only docked next to another ship one evening, and they left earlier than we did.

Our trip was 3/23-30. I had checked the weather report for several weeks ahead of time. Our original forecast was fairly dismal. However, as we got closer, the weather improved greatly and our actual weather was wonderful. We only needed our coats on the snowy day in the Black Forest and on the morning in Strasbourg. Otherwise, a scarf and sweater were all we needed. We had beautiful sunny days in the mid to upper 50's. Hope yours is as wonderful.

We did not speak with anyone who had been to Lake Geneva.

Our Alsace wine tasting was canceled because not enough people signed up for it.
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Old April 4th, 2014, 04:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cleophus12 View Post
robinlynn, Hope you enjoy your upcoming cruise.

We were only docked next to another ship one evening, and they left earlier than we did.

Our trip was 3/23-30. I had checked the weather report for several weeks ahead of time. Our original forecast was fairly dismal. However, as we got closer, the weather improved greatly and our actual weather was wonderful. We only needed our coats on the snowy day in the Black Forest and on the morning in Strasbourg. Otherwise, a scarf and sweater were all we needed. We had beautiful sunny days in the mid to upper 50's. Hope yours is as wonderful.

We did not speak with anyone who had been to Lake Geneva.

Our Alsace wine tasting was canceled because not enough people signed up for it.
Thanks for the info. Hopefully we will be as lucky and only get one night docked next to another boat.

The weather is always a gamble. The long term forecasts show much cooler
weather than the real time daily temps, and we still have a month to go, which, of course makes it difficult to figure out what to bring. We are taking a train to Lake Geneva after the cruise, which means we have to REALLY pack light, a 20 inch rolling tote and large rolling carry-on for each of us.
But hopefully, we'll be up to the challanege.

I sure hope our Alsace wine tour does not get cancelled as well.

Thanks for your most helpful response.

Robin
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Next Cruise
Viking Gullveig May 9, 2014
Rhine Getaway Amsterdam to Basel
Our First River Cruise!

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1999 Seabourn Legend Mediterranean Cruise
Too many RCL Caribbean cruises to remember--we live in South Florida!
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Old April 4th, 2014, 05:04 PM
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Hi Robin, I did this cruise last year and loved the Alsace wine tour. We went to a little family Vineyard where he showed us the giant barrels where they age the wine and then we learned about the different wines and did a tasting. The gentleman who owned the vineyard gave us the lecture. I bought several bottles of wine there and wrapped them up and put them in my suitcase and they made it home in one piece. They were not expensive and were so good.
We took the trip in September and were docked several times next to other ships, but after people complained their side was always blocked, the cruise director had them move the ship and made sure to alternate the sides. You really don't spend much time awake in port so not much opportunity to sit on a balcony when docked anyway. You will have an amazing time
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  #14  
Old April 5th, 2014, 02:10 AM
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CEV426 CEV426 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robinlynn View Post

The weather is always a gamble. The long term forecasts show much cooler
weather than the real time daily temps, and we still have a month to go, which, of course makes it difficult to figure out what to bring.......we have to REALLY pack light, a 20 inch rolling tote and large rolling carry-on for each of us.
But hopefully, we'll be up to the challanege

Robin
Robin...we are also doing the reverse trip a week or two before you (April 25).
I was in Amsterdam and Germany many years ago during this week (my birthday week) so I remember the weather very well. Cruising the Rhine area was quite chilly and blustery (but not freezing). Amsterdam and Cologne were similar to what normal late April temps would be at home (Philadelphia area for me). You're going a little later so you should be even warmer. I like a light-mid-weight vest and a scarf that can double as a wrap.
I'm so glad to hear that I am not the only one traveling light ....with a 22"carryon each. (Plus shoulder tote for me and backpack for DH.) My mantra is Simplify. I know I will be miserable if I have to lug anything larger, not to mention lost luggage! I'll be sure to report on my trip before you leave.
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  #15  
Old April 12th, 2014, 02:12 PM
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thank you for your review we are looking into a Xmas market cruise.
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  #16  
Old April 13th, 2014, 12:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CEV426 View Post
Robin...we are also doing the reverse trip a week or two before you (April 25).
I was in Amsterdam and Germany many years ago during this week (my birthday week) so I remember the weather very well. Cruising the Rhine area was quite chilly and blustery (but not freezing). Amsterdam and Cologne were similar to what normal late April temps would be at home (Philadelphia area for me). You're going a little later so you should be even warmer. I like a light-mid-weight vest and a scarf that can double as a wrap.
I'm so glad to hear that I am not the only one traveling light ....with a 22"carryon each. (Plus shoulder tote for me and backpack for DH.) My mantra is Simplify. I know I will be miserable if I have to lug anything larger, not to mention lost luggage! I'll be sure to report on my trip before you leave.
Thanks for the weather info. I am from Florida, so any temps in the sixties is long sleeves or a sweater!! Have a wonderful voyage!!!

Robin
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Viking Gullveig May 9, 2014
Rhine Getaway Amsterdam to Basel
Our First River Cruise!

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  #17  
Old April 13th, 2014, 09:08 PM
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Robin my mother and I will be heading from Basel to Amsterdam departing May 9th on the Viking Tor. Also wondering about the weather and excursions. This will be our first river cruise.
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  #18  
Old April 22nd, 2014, 11:27 PM
In Retirement In Retirement is offline
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Default Viking Gullveig: Basel to Amsterdam 13-20 June

Hello Folks!
Hope that anyone who stops by this forum takes the effort on their return to post their experiences, whether it is experiences on one of the long boars, standard tours, or the good, the bad, and the ugly experienced during your free time! Considering the lack of cruise reviews and inadequate structure, all efforts make a significant contribution to others, believe me!

(We start our month vacation with this week on the Rhine following a night's sleep at Hotel D -- not being picked up at the plane, decided an afternoon and a full night's sleep and buffet breakfast before finding the ship (hope for some contact upon arrival?). Good to hear of 1pm and 3pm walking tours -- certainly we will be together by then?

Our continuing vacation includes a 11am train via Antwerp to 2 nights in Ghent Belgium (Marriott) then 2 days in Bruges (Hotel De Goezeput) returning to Marriott Amsterdam (laundry & museum) before a 12-night Norway Cruise. Cruise Critic provided the opportunity to plan with similarly minded folks activities for 6 ports and then the two large city ports!)
Hope people will at least post here to tell us where to find their experiences.
Much thanks, DJ
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  #19  
Old July 28th, 2014, 11:16 PM
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Thank you cleophus12 for great review..I cut and pasted it to my documents ..we are going Basel to Amsterdam October 4,2014...your review will help! Cruisy Susy
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  #20  
Old July 29th, 2014, 01:43 PM
In Retirement In Retirement is offline
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Default A Brief Alternative View: Issues Not Anticipated?

Greetings!
Just picking my head up from a returning jet lag, bronchitis (not completely resolved), inner ear disease, and unfortunately a minor neurological condition requiring a 3-day diagnostic hospitalization (pretty much resolved). In contrast, our active (for us) June 11/July 9 vacation experienced significant rain on only the last day!

By way of background, we are both teachers, enjoy planning and reading about where we are to visit, and have now a habit of summer and winter vacations. We often have included a ocean cruise with one or two city holidays, often renting an apartment. In this way, our time in London, Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, etc. allows some in-depth experience of a city -- not only visits to museums and Citysightseeing tourist bus rides, but visits to the local grocery store to pickup breakfast and dinner options and the occasional lunch among regular citizens, etc.

My global comparison of our three basic parts of our vacation follow (I'll try to post only what I feel are the most important.)

I. River Cruise (Basel/Amsterdam): We scheduled our own air travel (what is this that the majority had the company arrange this and allowed for not even an evening's sleep to allow for appreciation of all river cruise details: we located the lodging (Hotel D) on TripAdvisor with a reduced price for the evening that included breakfast the next morning). The night before we walked out to a touristy restaurant and ate street side (a quite plain meal, but more expensive than a wonderful one canal side in Ghent Belgium: Switzerland is expensive). I finally concluded after talking to many of my fellow river cruisers, that they bragged on how they didn't need to do any planning whatsoever! We even sat several dinners with a delightful couple where the man was a retired senior pilot. He described their flight over to Switzerland, and I was impressed in how his experience represented a most indirect effort -- most likely taking advantage of discounts to the river cruise company. I was also impressed at how many couples told us that this week was their first experience in Europe and that they planned to return home directly after the cruise! Our position, in contrast, is that the inconvenience and expense of transAtlantic air travel merits at least a 2-4 week experience.

Do not expect that a comparison of 1,000 couples (ocean cruise) to 100 couples (river cruise) means that the experience can be more customized in that staff will focus on your interests/needs. Of course, this is in comparison to our ocean cruises where we select and more often actually develop our 6 to 8-hour port days. When it comes to food, for example, many simple diets can be accommodated on a cruise ship simply from choices (including low-salt and low-fat) and to a diet that controls carbohydrates (visit the salad bar, mix your own dressing; select a simple protein and stick to green vegetables, not rice and potatoes) indeed, sugar-free deserts are routinely offered. My experience with food was that breakfast was my favorite as I could focus on options good for me as well as an attraction to fresh fruit and the occasional pastry! Although it seemed that the average age of our group easily exceeded 60, there was no emphasis on healthy options. On the first night I was singled out with a wonderful fresh fruit mousse, but this did not predict future evenings. Perhaps meals on a river cruise in France would be different than one in Germany, I don't know. Obviously, personalized service is difficult when server changes nightly (you can have someone different every night).

A river cruise is characterized by included trips off of the boat: if you are the kind that reads about a location and then has interests, these trips will not be easy to just "go along" with. I found, even the alteration of a cathedral visit to include a stop in front of a famous artwork was an irritation to the guide (90% were very young and not trained). Alterations to limit difficult walking often avoided important experiences, and no effort was made to use local tourist "trains" for transport. Indeed, I found the majority of our "trips" were designed to be the most cost-efficient. With some effort, we visited art museums (excellent experience) in Colmar, Strasbourg, and Cologne and in Koblenz (opting out of possible negative consequences of a visit to Marksburg Castle) we found a wonderful inexpensive ride with a view over the Rhine just steps away from where the boat was docked (consider it). My impression was that there were not sufficient manpower to allow anything that deviated with "the plan" and that everyone fell into "the plan." My thought is that the Basel/Amsterdam route allows for much greater resources in culture, entertainment, and tourism, but if the majority of those you serve are not experienced travelers, you have met your objective. It seems that I had experienced a new ship (we in the US like "new") and had been influenced by a wonderful advertising campaign! The specifics will be communicated to Viking should they be curious.

II. Land travel: Amsterdam/Ghent/Brugge/Amsterdam (6 nights): In general, the quality of these days were my responsibility. The walk from the long boat to the train station (with our new suitcases) was not a challenge. We found orientation/location of correct track etc. to have been learned from past travel. However, we had a minor pickpocket experience while entering Thalys to Antwerp (should have been more alert when entry to car was suddenly blocked and a dozen of us just stood close together outside the car). Fortunately, we both were wearing our cards and 95% of cash around our necks and under our clothes! I found that even though our cases were smaller, they still were too heavy (everywhere young men were helpful), but that the spaces provided for luggage (above seat) only accommodated much smaller cases (not allowing for our upcoming cruise) and that the best combination for train travel was a small rolling case and a backpack. General conclusions: Antwerp Central is a wonderful train station; the Ghent Marriott is wonderful and dinner along the canal an experience (just across from the Marriott); art in Ghent and especially the museum in Brugge were wonderful; I was not prepared for the contrast between Ghent and Brugge train stations: in Ghent only an escalator up -- only cement stairs to get luggage to ground transportation, while Brugge has escalator/elevator to each set of tracks. Brugge is a day tourist machine!

Amsterdam: we stayed (with points) at the Marriott just steps from the Reijksmuseum (following renovation, the experience is wonderful), providing for those staying washers and dryers, and local dinning options (including canalside visited by locals) within 1-2 blocks. Our vacation ended with a days trip from Schiphol (evening at the Sheraton, allowing train travel in the rain to Leiden and inexpensive meals in the airport). We have found memories of the National Archeological Museum, once we found it in Leiden and our time spent in Schiphol (the current horrible Air Malaysia airline shoot down is so sad) rounded out our month abroad.

III. Norwegian Fjord Cruise RT Amsterdam: Our 12-night cruise was marred by a first-day interaction in which the CD criticized Cruise Critic at the well-attended meeting held for CC members! (We consider that insufficient effort is made by ocean cruise lines and river cruise lines to select these people!) However, as we knew our days (8 of them) on land would be only as good as our planning and we lucked out in having no rain days! In addition, unlike the Rhine Cruise, we made systematic effort to understand each location/region in Norway, and made use of independent tour resources, tourism websites, and commercial transport companies. I would say that our cruise line (Celebrity) has made the decision to to offer these cruises from Amsterdam next year -- so I am very happy we decided to obtain our mountain/water/snow experience in Norway rather than Switzerland. Very impressed with the country, the people, and the society/culture.

Certainly open to answering specific questions, and am sufficient time after them to have some degree of objectivity (perhaps) and enjoy contributing to the quality of the travel experiences of others.
DJ
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