A little background – we're mid-40s, first European River cruise (tried twice previously, we backed out once, and got flooded out another time) with our only other river cruise being on the Nile with A&K on a 30 passenger boat. We have cruised a lot on ocean ships and have worked our way up to smaller ships on more luxurious lines (our current favorite is Silversea though we like Oceania too).
We booked this River Cruise kind of last minute (which is odd for us) in January of this year, because we had expiring time share points to use, and we were able to convert them into a discounted cruise fare through Interval International; this was the best fit with our schedules. Whatever we gained on the cruise fare, though, we gave back elsewhere because for some reason, we got clobbered with expensive airfare... But – we were going to Europe for a week so we couldn't complain!
We left on a Friday night and arrived in Zurich Saturday morning, giving ourselves an extra day before embarkation on Sunday. The expensive airfare worked like a charm and we even arrived early, somewhat rested, and ready to go! We managed to stay awake the whole day and enjoyed the beautiful weather, which made the natural setting of Zurich look even prettier.
But wow, Zurich is expensive! Luckily, we were able to use points for the Park Hyatt Zurich because standard rooms were running about $1000 per night! Prices may have been artificially inflated because there was a huge watch and jewelry expo (Basel World) going on in Basel, and the entire city was booked full. But Zurich was a fine place to spend the day/night, and we had rented a car for the trip to Basel the next day. After an early dinner, with a surprisingly good bottle of Swiss Malbec, we slept very well.
We slept well and were up by 8, ready to leave by 9. No breakfast today; still full from last night's dinner! We decided to head for Basel and stop at Augusta Raurica, a Roman settlement on the Rhine with a museum and several open-air exhibits. This was quite nicely done and we spent the whole morning here. The weather was stunning – again – with clear skies and bright sunshine; the trees are budding / blooming and the grass is green! So nice to see signs of Spring!
Here is the Roman Theater, reconstructed somewhat:
And here's our first glance of the Rhine, from the edge of the settlement:
After that, it was off to the Basel airport to drop off our car and get a transfer to the ship – we had to give them a phantom flight number and time in order to get a transfer. Disclosure: transfers with Uniworld are included to/from the airport on embarkation/disembarkation day – even if you buy your own airfare – which is really nice! But they are a bit persnickety about it! When I first called, I told them I would be returning a rental car to the airport at 1:00, could we join their transfer? And they said, No, only if you're flying in... So, I called again a few days later, and gave them the info for a flight that happened to land at 1:30 – problem solved!
We got there and of course, had a tough time finding the rental car return - “Mietwagen” in German. After a few wrong turns and backtracking, we parked the car and wandered into the arrivals hall. We had to wait a few minutes but did find the Uniworld rep, and were transferred to the ship without a problem.
Check-in was reasonably fast, and we were shown to our room shortly. We dumped our carry-on luggange, had some lunch on the outside deck, and were ready to head over to Basel after that – to see what we could squeeze into a few short hours. The nearest tram stop is less than 10 minutes from the ship, and I was able to use my chip-enabled Visa (and I did have to use my PIN as well) to buy tram tickets from the ticket kiosk.
We climbed the tower of the Munster (of course) - though we say we do it for the views, we really do it for the exercise, and to prove to ourselves that we still can:
Saw picturesque architecture, beautiful bridges spanning the Rhine:
And a nice renaissance-era public fountain:
We enjoyed the visit – one interesting thing that was going on today was a lot of parades in the streets – it seemed every few minutes there would be another group marching by playing loud music – very festive! With the great weather, it's hard to believe that there was snow on the front lawn back home when we left on Friday.
There was no time to stop at any of the museums, though, which was disappointing. Back to the ship for the safety drill, welcome talk, and then dinner. So far the food has been quite nice – it reminds us of Silversea in quality, though the variety isn't quite as extensive. The included wines are local and so far, quite tasty.
After dinner, some dancing in the lounge with a duo that plays good dance music, and then off to bed. The dance floor is actually very spacious for a river boat – so far, this cruise has been really nice!
Last: Silver Explorer - Along the Humboldt Current, Guayaquil to Valparaíso - Oct 2017 (review)
Future bookings - come join us!
Silver Wind - #2828, Copenhagen to Tower Bridge - Sept 2018
Silver Cloud Expedition - #1918, Reykjavik to Reykjavik - August 2019
Ganges Voyager II (Uniworld) - India's Golden Triangle & the Sacred Ganges - Feb 2017 (review)
River Beatrice (Uniworld) - Danube - April 2016 (photo review)
SS Catherine (Uniworld) - Burgundy and Provence - March 2015 (review)
Silver Cloud - Eastern Med - Istanbul to Athens - October 2014 (photo review)
Silver Cloud - North Atlantic - Tower Bridge to Reykjavik - August 2014 - (photo review)
SS Antoinette (Uniworld) - Castles on the Rhine - Basel to Amsterdam - April 2014 (photo review)
Silver Explorer - Central America - Colon to Puerto Caldera - October 2013 (photo review)
MS Sun Boat III - Nile River - November 2012 (pics1) (pics2)
Silver Wind - Athens to Rome - June 2012 (report) (Greece pics) (Italy pics)
Celebrity Xpedition - Galapagos - November 2011 (Peru pics) (Galapagos pics)
Silver Explorer - Longyearbyen to Tromso - August 2011 (report) (Svalbard pics) (Tromso pics)
Silver Wind - Cape Town to Cape Town - Feb 2011 (pics)
Silver Cloud - London to Nice - September 2010 (France pics) (Spain and Portugal pics)
Silver Wind - Black Sea - June 2010 (pics)
Silversea PAII - Antarctica - Dec 09 (pics)