Cruising the Rhine with Viking River Cruises
While traveling north on the Rhine River from Basel, Switzerland, to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, I asked guests on the Viking Ingvi, “Why did you choose a Viking River cruise?” The resounding answer was, “I don’t have to worry about anything, they take care of it all!”
Customer Service | Travelers today have numerous options on how and when they would like to see the world. Viking holds to extremely high standards. Not only do they provide comfortable accommodations, tasty food, delightful entertainment, interesting tours, fabulous ports of call and comprehensive packages, but they are also masters at organization. Everything is prearranged and passengers want for nothing. These are reasons why many are repeat customers.
Viking transports people to interesting destinations and immerses them in the history and culture of each place by serving cuisine from ports of call, bringing aboard locals to give demonstrations and lectures, and hiring entertainment showcasing regional music and dance. Ports are carefully selected, and the general ticket price includes many excursions.
Viking is a full-service company that is helpful and efficient from registration to debarkation. They maintain consistency throughout their cruises so that what you get from one is the same as you get from another.
The Cruise | My husband Steve and I relaxed after the long trip from Portland, Oregon, to Basel, Switzerland. We stretched out on our veranda with a glass of champagne in hand and watched the mix of ancient and modern landscape pass. Citadels with tall spires pepper the hillsides. For hundreds of years guards kept a wary watch as ships passed by on the Rhine River, but today river traffic is barely noticed by people in modern cars zipping along the roads near the shore.
Numerous ships travel up and down the Rhine, and Viking books cruises that travel both north and south. Our first stop was Breisach, Germany, where we ventured into the Black Forest. Our tour included a scenic bus ride through the countryside and then into the forest. Our guide explained that it were as if time stood still for many villages along the way, residents still dine on the same foods, water still powers the electricity, and the traditions for choosing a spouse are still in effect. We stopped at Hofgut Sternen, the Black Forest Village, to learn about the long-established handicrafts of glass-blowing and cuckoo clock manufacturing. We hiked in the nearby forest and tasted the gastronomic specialty Black Forest Cake.
Later in the afternoon, we ventured on a short trip to Colmar, France, located only 30 minutes away from Breisach. It was my second time to Colmar, and this lovely medieval village still boasts a storybook feel. The Alsatian homes are a colorful mix of Renaissance architecture, and most of the half-timbered houses are in good repair. The Lauch River runs through the village creating a charming atmosphere. The area is referred to as Little Venice because visitors and locals can traverse the river on local gondolas.
A common joke amongst the people of Strasbourg, France, is about waking up one morning as a French citizen and the next as a German. The country has changed hands four times since 1870. My favorite part of Strasbourg was the Old Town, which is enclosed on all sides by the Ill River. Cobblestone streets and half-timbered homes parallel the canals, and restaurants and shops spill out onto those same streets.
Nestled along the Neckar River, Heidelburg, Germany, is the oldest university town in the country. This stunning town was fortunate to have escaped being bombed during the wars leaving its baroque architecture intact. The hillside overlooking the town boasts the resplendent Heidelburg Castle, home of the Palatinate monarchy during the 18th century.
In order to grasp a good sense of culture and place, it is imperative to partake in the food, drink and traditions of the area. Not far from Heidelburg is the quaint riverside town of Rüdesheim am Rhein. Visitors can ride a mini-train from the river up to the pedestrian street Drosselgasse where wine flows freely and music fills the air. Breuer’s Rüdesheimer Schloss, a beloved local eatery, is a fun place to enjoy dinner and participate in the tradition of drinking local schnapps.
When traveling along on a cruise, it is nice to know who is in charge and how they transport guests from here to there. Steve and I visited Captain Theo Kroll while he was on duty during our cruise. Captain Theo informed us that the wheelhouse had changed a great deal during the last 48 years he has been maneuvering up and down the river.
Gone are the days of the huge wheel that could only be turned by the strength of three men pulling on a chain in one direction or another. Today the captain controls the ship with a joystick. He monitors several screens that assist in his navigation. He said, “The screen in front of me is like the old video game Tetras. The white line of bubbles on the sides of the screen are the shorelines, and the bubbles coming down from the top of the screen are the oncoming boats. We are the circled bubble, and the idea is to move out-of-the-way as the other bubbles from the top drop down toward us.”
The screen the captain referred to allows him to see everything going on along the river whether it is pitch black outside or unfavorable weather. Although Captain Theo has a great sense of humor, he takes his job very seriously due to his passionate concern for the safety of his passengers.
The Middle Rhine or “Romantic Rhine”
The Rhine passes through a section in Germany known as the “Romantic Rhine.” Steve and I spent the morning up on deck enjoying coffee laced with Baileys while admiring the dramatic scenery and numerous castles along this section of the river.
The largest cathedral in Northern Europe is in Cologne, Germany. The construction of this cathedral began in 1248 and finished in 1880. The project was started and stopped over seven centuries because throughout its history builders continually argued over funding and design which held up the process. Today ongoing work continues to re-make and repair damaged and deteriorating fragments. This piece of Gothic architecture is particularly magnificent when viewed from the river at night.
Kinderdijk, The Netherlands
Nineteen mid-18th century windmills keep the land dry in Kinderdijk, The Netherlands. Walking along the canals was like taking a step back in time. These engineering marvels are almost 200 years old, yet their technology is still relevant today.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam, the capital city of The Netherlands, is a blend of rich history and modern technology. The canals, buses, trams and trains make for easy transportation, and visitors can enjoy a variety of accommodations, snacks and fine dining, and colorful nightlife options.
Luxury means different things to different people, but the dictionary definition is the state of great comfort, and often that implies being the best. According to Cruise Critics 2017 Editors’ Picks, Viking River Cruises takes first place in three categories — best enrichment, best for first-timers and best shore excursions. Viking also took first place in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2017 Readers’ Choice Award for the number one river cruise company. If you are looking for a river cruise, investigate Viking for some fabulous options.