AZPam Posted December 14, 2005 #1 Share Posted December 14, 2005 Part 1 I just returned from the Dec 1 Grand Circle River Ravel Christmas Markets Cruise. It was my mother, 65, and myself, 40, on this cruise as we left the husbands at home. We totally considered this a "shopping cruise" since it was called the Christmas Markets. We did the pre trip in Basel, Switzerland, and were very glad that we did. Those extra days were lots of fun and just the right amount of time to adjust to the time difference before getting on the boat. I would highly recommend it. We arrived in Basel on a Tuesday morning after leaving Phoenix the previous day. As this was my very first trip to Europe, you can imagine my excitement! I didn't sleep a wink on the plane, so we were very ready for a nap upon arrival. GC had a rep at the airport to meet us once we cleared customs and quickly had us in a cab and on our way to our hotel. Karla, our program director, was waiting for us at the hotel and we were the very first to arrive. She had arranged with the hotel to have rooms available right away, which ended up being a true blessing. Unfortunately, my mother had started feeling ill upon arrival and soon had a bad case of the flu. We ended up having the hotel call for a doctor who arrived quickly and gave her a few miracle drugs which had her back on her feet the next morning. Since I was dealing with the doctor and such, I had missed the first walking tour and group get together that evening. Karla felt bad for me, so she took me on my own private tour and we had dinner together that night. I can't say enough good things about her! Basel was very easy to get around and the hotel provided us with trolly passes for the entire time we were there, which were great. Basel was just wonderful and the Christmas Market was tons of fun! Our shopping tour had just begun and already we had some wonderful treasures to take home. We took the optional tour to Bern on Thursday. It was a beautiful ride and the city was fantastic. Mom and I were there for one thing, SHOPPING! We quickly ditched the group and off we went in search of the Christmas markets. Unfortunately, they weren't open yet, so that was kind of disappointing. Oh well, we found plenty of other nice things. 1pm we loaded back into the buses for a ride into the countryside to tour a cheese factory. It was a beautiful ride thru the small villages and the snow covered hills. Just like you picture it in your mind. Learned a lot more about cheese than I ever really needed to hear, but enjoyed seeing the dairy and petting the cows. They were the best tended and cleanest cows I have ever seen in my life and it was fun to see how proud the farmer was of his herd. Friday was our day to get on the boat. I kind of felt like it was a wasted day in a lot of ways. They wanted us at the hotel by 10:45 to load luggage and get on buses at 11:30. We arrived at the boat about noon and were quickly escourted to our room. We had a balcony room, totally spotless, with plenty of room. I've been on 6 big cruise ships and this room was very comparable. Little short on the closet space, but workable. We were really glad we had a balcony as the rooms were very warm. We turned off our heat and it hardly ever went back on. We even kept the door cracked most of the time. We called the balcony our refrigerator as we kept some snacks and a few bottles of diet coke out there. It was very handy! Luggage showed up very fast and we unpacked in no time. After lunch on board, we decided to take the tram back to the Christmas market for one last quick look to make sure there wasn't anything else we really couldn't live without. I really wish that we would of had the option for another tour. A group doing the post trip went to Lucern that day and since the boat didn't sail until later that night, I don't see why we weren't offered that too. Some did it on their own and I wish we would have. I kind of think that Switzerland was my favorite stops in a lot of ways. It was very expensive. I was disappointed that we didn't get to do a tour to the Alps though. That's kind of what I think of when I think Switzerland, if you know what I mean. We were told that there was snow up to your waist, temps were below 0, it was a 4 hour train ride one direction and would be about $200. 4 people in our pre tour group did it on their own. They said temps were about the same, low 30's and there was very little snow, but it was expensive and a long day. They only had about an hour and a half before getting back on the last trian out for the day, so not sure it would have been worth it. Guess that will be for another trip. Part 2 coming Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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