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WarEagle76

Review – Rhine Getaway – Viking Tialfi

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Link to pictures for this review (once accessed, click "slideshow").

 

https://smengelt.shutterfly.com/4464

 

We recently returned from Viking’s Rhine Getaway with Lucerne extension. This was our sixth Viking River cruise. As returning Viking customers, we were curious as to whether or not there would be any deterioration in the Viking product due to their rapid expansion over the past several years. Our worries were unfounded as this was one of the best cruises we’ve taken with Viking yet. In fact, in addition to the Viking program that we’ve enjoyed in the past, we noticed several subtle but nice improvements in the Viking product during our trip which tells me as a company they are listening to customers and always looking to do better.

 

We booked through an agent nine months prior to the cruise during a promotion including a very low air fare. We included Viking’s two day extension in Lucerne hoping to experience the culture of Switzerland (which we did and then some).

 

Our flights were non-stop to Amsterdam and returning from Zurich. We were met by Viking representatives (there were multiple cruises leaving that day) immediately upon exiting baggage and waited with our group about 45 minutes for several other flights to arrive before heading off to the ship. The Viking representatives helped some find ATMs, restrooms, etc. during our wait. We arrived at the ship, Viking Tialfi, which was docked directly across from Amsterdam’s central train station, a prime location for getting on/off and walking the streets of Amsterdam.

 

Many rooms were available upon arrival at around 11:15AM, a few had to wait up to an hour but this was a nice improvement over past cruises where we had to wait until 3PM for rooms to be available (and they used to make everyone wait until all rooms were available). We had time to unpack prior to a wonderful two hour welcome walk around Amsterdam.

 

We set sail at 11:30PM, so anyone wishing to experience Amsterdam had plenty of time during the rest of the day to explore the city. Several people wanted to visit the Anne Frank house and were advised that on a Saturday in the summer, advanced tickets were almost a requirement but you could walk (30 minutes) and see if possibly you could get in. Others ventured off to museums. Since we’d been to Amsterdam previously, we stayed onboard and relaxed after our long day/flight.

 

The crew on Viking Tialfi was outstanding! From the captain to the housekeeping staff, all were helpful, friendly and seemed to be a happy crew that got along well with each other. On a smaller ship, it becomes very apparent when this is not the case. Interestingly, several we spoke with came from large ocean cruise lines and stated were very happy working for Viking. Boyan, the Program Director, was outstanding and seemed to be all places all of the time, had a great sense of humor and was very good about setting expectations. Igor, the Maitre d’ was very personable and readily assisted us in several situations in the dining room. Joanna, our housekeeping attendant was excellent and kept our cabin spotless.

 

Our one previous experience on a “long ship” was in the winter during a Christmas Market cruise. We were looking forward to enjoying the Sun deck and during our journey it did not disappoint. Seating (much of it under shade) was plentiful and the weather cooperated all week to be able to spend a lot of time there when sailing. We had a balcony cabin and one change from our previous long ship experience was the translucent wall in the bathroom was history. I know many did not like it and wonder if due to responses Viking removed it from all of their new ships, not a big deal for us. The rest of the ship seemed pretty much the same, just with different finishes.

 

The crowd on board was mostly American with a few other nationalities represented. I would say based upon our conversations and number attending the Viking Explorer Society (repeat cruisers) cocktail reception that 90% were first time river cruisers. The ship was fully booked.

 

Instead of eating in the formal dining room every night, we changed it up a bit this cruise. We ate in the dining room three times, off ship twice, and the remainder dined in the Aquavit Terrace. The Aquavit Terrace menu has been updated since our last trip to offer more options, another nice improvement. You can now get always available entrée items which weren’t available several years ago. We thought the food during the entire trip was great and really do love Viking’s soups. This trip, the duck cheese soup was our favorite. When eating in the dining room, we noticed the wait staff using hand held devices to place our orders, this was new to us and it seemed to move dinner along nicely, another positive improvement. Wine and beer flowed freely (sometimes too freely :D ) at lunch and dinner.

 

We loved this itinerary for a number of reasons. First, scenic cruising was excellent especially if you like castles, churches and beautiful rural countryside. Second, it is varied in options available for touring. Castles, churches, medieval towns, the Black Forest, wine tasting and general history, something for everyone. Another great improvement we appreciated was the quality of maps now provided by Viking of our destinations, much improved over those we’ve received in the past as in color and very detailed. Tour groups are divided up into A, B, C, D, etc., and each day you could end up in a different group. That said, if you were travelling with a group, Viking ensured that you were all together on a given tour. Our guides varied from great to OK. We were always told at the beginning of the tour where/when to meet for return for the ship. This is great for those who want to go off on their own, which we did in Kinderdijk and Colmar. We did our own thing in Cologne (as had been there before), skipped Heidelberg as had been there before, and instead stayed onboard and enjoyed five relaxing hours of scenic cruising the Rhine. At every location we had a prime docking location which made it easy to get on/off and do your own thing if desired.

 

Highlights for us were Kinderdijk, Strasbourg, Cologne (one of our favorite cities and returning in December on our own for the Christmas markets) where we went to the Lindt Chocolate Museum on our own and visited "the Dom", Speyer where after our day of scenic cruising while others were in Heidelberg, we went to the Speyer Technik Museum which was awesome if you like planes, old cars, the space shuttle and anything technically oriented. We had two optional tours, the dine-out in Rudesheim which was a wonderful evening in a quaint, outdoor restaurant with music and fun times, and also took the optional visit to the village of Colmar.

 

Post cruise we opted for the Lucerne extension provided by Viking. On Wednesday evening of the cruise, those with optional extensions were given a thorough briefing on the logistics and expectations. Our bus left the ship around 9AM for the drive to Lucerne. Prior to arriving at Hotel Astoria, our hotel, we stopped at the Lion Monument in Lucerne. Upon arriving at hotel our bags were taken and personal items were locked in a meeting room and we met our Viking host for our stay Maria, who was wonderful during our two day stay. While waiting for rooms to be ready Maria took us on a walking tour of Lucerne, a beautiful city. Positives re: Hotel Astoria were its location and it was clean. Otherwise rooms were average size and stark (think modern). The layout of the hotel was funky in that there were numerous levels from the ground floor. Finding breakfast the first morning was like playing “Where’s Waldo” but once we found it, the breakfast buffet itself was excellent. There was also occasionally loud music in the evening (never did exactly figure out where it was coming from). We had heard before that there are only five hotels in Lucerne with air-conditioning so it’s not like there are a lot of options. During our stay we really weren’t in the hotel that much as after walking tour we went out on our own, ate dinner in town on the water, and took the 12.5 hour optional tour “Pearls of Switzerland” tour the second day so the hotel itself wasn’t a big deal for us, it sufficed.

 

The last day of our journey was spent on Viking’s Pearls of Switzerland optional tour, and while a long day, was a really great way to discover Switzerland and the Swiss way of life. We started out leaving the hotel and taking a short walk to the cruise terminal to board our boat for a tour of Lake Lucerne (four stops about an hour) to Alpnachstad where we disembarked and boarded the cogwheel train and climbed Mount Pilatus. We had about two hours on top of Mount Pilatus with lunch on our own (started out cloudy but eventually sun broke through – stunning views) before descending the mountain via two sets of gondolas to an awaiting bus. We then bussed through beautiful countryside to Einsiedeln where we visited the Abbey and viewed the Black Madonna. Free time allowed for touring the Abbey grounds or walking to the adjacent town for shopping or bite to eat. We then traveled to a Swiss alpine farm and learned about the Swiss milk industry (grass fed cows) which was very interesting and informative. The final stop of the day was back in Einsiedeln at the local cheese factory (a year old co-op with 128 local owners), toured the factory, actually made cheese, and had a nice fondue dinner. We arrived back at the hotel at around 9:30PM. A long but very rewarding day. The following morning about 25 of us left for by bus at 6:45 AM for the Zurich airport (the hotel opened the buffet breakfast for us early). A Viking representative met us at the Zurich airport and guided each group to the ticket counter of their departure carrier.

 

The trip was over and we were already talking about where to go on our next Viking cruise. Viking provides an excellent product and continues to tweak it to make it even better. We purchased a future cruise credit ($100 for $200 credit) which can be applied to a future Viking river or ocean cruise (can only use one per person per cruise) and has no expiration date.

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WarEagle76,

 

Thank you for your long review. It is great to hear that you were so pleased with your cruise. It shows again that while some folks are not exactly happy with some organisational things of the company, the crew and the actual ship experience are very good indeed.

 

Interesting to hear about the Speyer Technical Museum. There was a question about this museum on another thread a couple of days ago.

 

I hope you will enjoy your next cruise as much as you did this one.

 

And I wish you lots of magical moments on your Christmas market trip. Cologne is very crowded around Christmas but the markets are great. If you can check out some smaller ones in the area. http://www.cologne.de/events/christmas-markets

 

notamermaid

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notamermaid. thanks, we love Germany and have visited numerous times. We were in Cologne for several days the week prior to Christmas in 2013. Love the fact there are 7 Christmas markets and used the hop-on-hop-off bus to visit them and plan to do so again. Also heading off to Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Berlin as have not had the opportunity to visit Christmas markets in those cities yet. We got our DB flexi-pass while were in Cologne so all set and looking forward to the trip!

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Thanks for your review. I enjoyed reading about your trip and comparing it to the Viking Rhine Getaway I took two years ago. Sounds as if you had as much fun as I did.

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WarEagle76-- I enjoyed your review and photos - thanks so much for posting them. We'll be doing this itinerary (reversed) this summer and I'm trying to decide on the Lucerne optional. It sounds like you were completely satisfied with "Pearls of Switzerland" so this question is probably foolish to ask - but did you feel it was worth $299/pp ?

 

Your description was a very full day and you get more than just the trip up the mountain which we could do on our own for far less. So I'm trying to decide if the extras you experienced - the visit to the Abbey, the farm, the cheese factory, and the fondue dinner - made it worth that price. If you see this post would you give me your opinion?

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WarEagle76-- I enjoyed your review and photos - thanks so much for posting them. We'll be doing this itinerary (reversed) this summer and I'm trying to decide on the Lucerne optional. It sounds like you were completely satisfied with "Pearls of Switzerland" so this question is probably foolish to ask - but did you feel it was worth $299/pp ?

 

Your description was a very full day and you get more than just the trip up the mountain which we could do on our own for far less. So I'm trying to decide if the extras you experienced - the visit to the Abbey, the farm, the cheese factory, and the fondue dinner - made it worth that price. If you see this post would you give me your opinion?

 

 

DEFINITELY extend in Lucerne. We did not extend and we had to go right to the airport and missed the whole city.

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WarEagle76-- I enjoyed your review and photos - thanks so much for posting them. We'll be doing this itinerary (reversed) this summer and I'm trying to decide on the Lucerne optional. It sounds like you were completely satisfied with "Pearls of Switzerland" so this question is probably foolish to ask - but did you feel it was worth $299/pp ?

 

Your description was a very full day and you get more than just the trip up the mountain which we could do on our own for far less. So I'm trying to decide if the extras you experienced - the visit to the Abbey, the farm, the cheese factory, and the fondue dinner - made it worth that price. If you see this post would you give me your opinion?

 

For us, yes. We've done several more expensive excursions on trips in the past and the decision making process usually comes down to "will we ever get back here in the future?" and/or "will this opportunity ever present itself again?" So for us, we opted for the Lucerne extension and to book Viking's "The Pearls of Switzerland" on our second day to get the most out of our visit to Lucerne as possible, knowing that odds are we won't get back there (too many other items on bucket list). It is a long day but you have free time on the mountain and at the Abbey so not like you have to stay with the group the entire day. I'm not sure we could have done all we did on our own and get such a varied experience of the area in one day. The one thing that is a gamble is the weather, but that's something you can't control and in our case worked out OK.

 

Taking this extension at the end of the cruise, on day of arrival in Lucerne you stop at the Lion Monument on the way to the hotel, then get a nice walking tour of Lucerne and learn about the history. You then have the afternoon and evening on your own. There are lots of restaurant choices within an easy walk from the hotel (we spotted a number of them on our walking tour). Hope this helps. If you have any other options feel free to ask.

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Thanks for the replies.

 

WarEagle76- I agree with your thought-process. I'm not sure we'll revisit that area and also we couldn't do all that is included on that excursion on our own. So I'll go ahead and sign up today and cross my fingers the weather cooperates. I'll make sure to have info on how to do the mountain portion on our own if need be --- in case not enough sign up for the excursion and it gets cancelled.

 

Doing Lucerne as a pre-extension it shows the walking tour and the optional Pearls excursion on the same day, the day after disembarking. I wonder if after leaving the ship they take you on a short walking tour or that day you're totally on your own. I'll check on the 2016 Rhine roll call and see if people mention that. We'll make sure to see the Lion Monument, Chapel Bridge, etc. on our own if the only walking tour is on the same day as the excursion.

 

Thanks again for your help!

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If you change your mind, the Viking host stationed at the hotel was very helpful in assisting those who were trying to plan their "do it yourself" itineraries.

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I think you may have seen the other thread where a cruiser was expressing his displeasure in the food on his Viking ship. It seemed they mostly had American food onboard. I was wondering if this was true or not for your cruise?

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We're about to take our first Viking River Cruise, also our first trip to Europe! We wondered how many people were together on the Pearls of Switzerland tour? I've found on ocean cruises that too large a group can make a tour worthless, but the right number can make it perfect. Can you tell me roughly how many were on your tour? We're thinking about booking it. Thanks!

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I think you may have seen the other thread where a cruiser was expressing his displeasure in the food on his Viking ship. It seemed they mostly had American food onboard. I was wondering if this was true or not for your cruise?

 

Food was varied and had German buffet one day. I'm not sure what to make of the term "American food" :o

 

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We're about to take our first Viking River Cruise, also our first trip to Europe! We wondered how many people were together on the Pearls of Switzerland tour? I've found on ocean cruises that too large a group can make a tour worthless, but the right number can make it perfect. Can you tell me roughly how many were on your tour? We're thinking about booking it. Thanks!

 

As I recall we had about 16 on our tour. It was a very manageable group. Also, we had a good bit of time to explore on our own on the mountain and at the Abbey which was nice.

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Thanks for the review. My wife and I will be taking this cruise early next year. Are there any of the Viking paid excursions that you would recommend or are we better off on our own?

 

Bob O.

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Thanks for the review. My wife and I will be taking this cruise early next year. Are there any of the Viking paid excursions that you would recommend or are we better off on our own?

 

Bob O.

 

Bob, we really enjoyed the Dine in Rudesheim. It was a fun evening (you can tell by the pictures a good time was had by all) and while you could have walked into town and dined on your own, not sure the experience would be the same. Not sure when your cruise is scheduled but we were back in Rudesheim in December and the restaurant was closed for the season and don’t remember exactly what date it said they reopened. Maybe off season Viking uses a different restaurant as we were there in the summer.

 

I would also recommend the tour to Colmar which I’m not sure how easy that would be to do on your own.

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I enjoyed reading your review. We just booked the Rhine Getaway, our 4th Viking cruise, along with the Lucerne extension for March 2019. Nice to get the dreaming started a little early.

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I enjoyed reading your review. We just booked the Rhine Getaway, our 4th Viking cruise, along with the Lucerne extension for March 2019. Nice to get the dreaming started a little early.

Thinking about it for Sept 2019.

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Thank you so much for this invaluable information! After reading this, and viewing your Absolutely Beautiful pictures, I have to decided to book the Pearls of Switzerland Excursion!

I was wondering what kind of camera you have? (I know this post is from a year and a half ago)

Thanks again, this was so helpful!

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Thank you so much for this invaluable information! After reading this, and viewing your Absolutely Beautiful pictures, I have to decided to book the Pearls of Switzerland Excursion!

I was wondering what kind of camera you have? (I know this post is from a year and a half ago)

Thanks again, this was so helpful!

 

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the pictures. I use a Nikon DSLR 5200 with a range of interchangeable lenses.

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Thank you so much for this awesome review and your photos - we are doing our first river cruise Nov. 27-Dec. 4, 2020 on the Rhine - Amsterdam to Basel and considering the post extension in Lucerne with the Pearls of Switzerland - you have been an amazing help! Wow! Thank you.

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Just booked this cruise on the Tialfi for October 24, 2020. This will be our first river cruise. We were very pleased with our last Viking ocean cruise, looking forward to trying a river cruise aliittle nervous , if they run it anything like the ocean cruises I am sure we will very much enjoy it.

 

 

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Great review, we did this cruise with Avalon, slightly different tours, but close.

You said "we were curious as to whether or not there would be any deterioration in the Viking product".  I wondered exactly the same thing.  I've seen such an increase in Viking advertising, I was wondering if they were diluting an excellent product.  Question answered 🙂

 

 

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