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Southern Hospitality

Adventures in Decorating, Thrifting, Cooking, Fashion & Gardening

Our Viking River Cruise: Rhine Getaway Part 1

May 20, 2019 By Rhoda 33 Comments

Read along on this travelogue of our Viking River cruise, the Rhine Getaway which explores one of Europe’s best loved rivers, we cruised on the Viking Kara longship from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, The Netherlands on a scenic cruise of castles and cathedrals on the Middle Rhine of Europe, an area rich in history and beauty.

This post is sponsored by Viking Cruises. All opinions below are all my own and a true recap of our experience.

rhine river cruise blogs

Hi, friends! I’m so excited to get to share with you our Viking River Cruise on the Rhine Getaway, a 7 night cruise on the Viking Kara. We saw so much beauty, walked countless cobblestone streets, viewed castles from afar and up close, as well as explored medieval cathedrals that we could only dream about seeing in person. What a rich and wonderful trip to take! I can’t wait to share it all with you. I’m breaking this cruise down by day so you can get an idea of how a Viking River cruise flows. This was our first and I’m hoping it won’t be our last! We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise and had an exceptional journey with them, truly a dream of a trip!

In this post, I’m going to share like none of you have ever been on a Viking Cruise, so that when I’m finished sharing, you’ll have a grand overview of what it’s like. From our Veranda stateroom accommodations as well as lots of food we partook of onboard the Kara, we were not disappointed at all. In fact, we were fed so well it was impossible to even get hungry!

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Here’s a peek at a Veranda Stateroom. It’s not huge, but plenty big enough for a couple.

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Once we finally got over jet lag, we slept pretty well in here.

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The bathroom is very compact and the floors are heated. Makes for a comfy shower and even though it’s small, it’s stocked with everything we needed. Our gal who took care of our room really did a great job and she made up our bed every day and tidyed up the room and bathroom.

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It’s small, but works just great.

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Mark and I enjoyed a few sunny afternoons on our balcony watching the world go by. What a way to travel!

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I wanted to share a few shots of the common areas on the ship, they were nice to have as well. Seating and lounging areas.

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Up on the sun deck there were plenty of chairs to sit and take in the scenery. We had a mix of weather but were able to get on the sun deck a couple of afternoons.

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Herb garden for the kitchen is up top too. I love that!

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There’s even a library for checking out books to read.

rhine river cruise blogs

The Aquavit Terrace is open for lunch every day if we didn’t want the full lunch meal in the restaurant. We dined here at least one day and what a beautiful view on good weather days.

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You can dine inside or outside and this spot was a cozy place to lounge too.

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One of my favorite things was the coffee service. This machine made coffee any time of the day, from cappuccino to cafe latte’s along with all the condiments to go with it. Great for grabbing a coffee to go. They kept those bins to the left stocked up with pastries in the morning to afternoon and evening cookies. So nice to grab one of those on the go!

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Wonderful views while we were cruising from the ship’s balconies.

Are you ready to travel with us? 

rhine river cruise blogs

Day One: Basel Switzerland

Mark and I flew out of Atlanta late Saturday afternoon, flying over 8 hours and landing in Paris, France. From there we had a pretty short layover and then flew into Basel, Switzerland, arriving there late morning on Sunday. From there, we were picked up by a Viking bus and taken to our cruise ship, the Kara. After everyone was on board in Basel, we sailed around 7:30 that evening.

In the meantime, we had time for a walking tour of Basel, which I did alone. Mark was really tired from jetlag so stayed behind on this one and I went on the bus and took the walking tour. It was very interesting and informative.

Basel, Switzerland is located where Switzerland, Germany and France meet, which means Basel reflects a blend of traditions from all 3 countries. It straddles the Rhine at the river’s furthest navigable point. On the Market Square you’ll see Gothic, Renaissance and baroque splendor, along with the red sandstone Rathaus or Town Hall. It’s a modern city with more than 40 museums of art and culture.

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We didn’t have a lot of time in Basel, but I loved walking the cobblestone streets and taking in the architecture. That’s one of my favorite things about Europe, the history and rich culture of the cities there are so much older than US history.

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The cathedral in Basel was beautiful.

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Seeing inside these majestic cathedrals in Europe never gets old.

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Taking in the sights and sounds of Basel.

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The red sandstone Rathouse or Town Hall in Basel.

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Viking has a large fleet of buses available at each stop for transporting passengers on excursions each day. We really enjoyed driving to locations and then getting out and walking to take it all in. A note about the excursions. All the walking tours and bus tours came with a local tour guide and we had headsets and transmitters in our rooms so that at each outing, we could get connected to our tour guide, with ear pieces to listen by. We recharged them every evening in our room and brought them with us the next day.

After our walking tour, we headed back to the ship where a wine and cheese tasting was offered on board, with dinner at 7. We were welcomed to the ship at a Welcome Briefing before dinner, where we met the Captain as well as the Management staff giving us a snapshot of the week onboard the Kara and what we had to look forward to. The Lounge was open every evening before dinner for drinks and live music.

The musician onboard for the week was a guy named Blondie, who really had a great voice and made the most of his piano as well as additional digital accompaniment in music every evening. We really enjoyed the variety of music and even danced a couple of evenings. Who knew we could East Coast Swing dance to piano music? We did it!

That first night was so exciting as we embarked on a whole week of cruising on the Rhine. Our first evening in the Lounge, we down with the first couple we met on board, a very nice retired couple from outside Nashville, TN. We had a lot to talk about and they were delightful to visit with. We went on to sit at a dinner table later that evening with 6 others. That table ended up being such a wonderful and diverse group of folks and we mostly stayed together at that table all during the week for lunches and dinner. We enjoyed being together.

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We made a point of all coming together the last night on the ship. It was such a pleasure meeting them all and hearing a little about their lives. At our table was the retired couple from outside Nashville, only in retirement the wife had bought her dad’s farm property so they run a farm and live in a 125 year old farmhouse, complete with cows and other animals. We were all sitting across from our spouses this last night on the ship.That’s our fave waiter, Kamil standing with one of the ladies from Canada.

Another couple was from NY, he was a lawyer, she a cardiologist. A couple of women were at our table, a delightful duo from Montreal, Canada, one was a widow, both retired and traveling together. And the last couple at our table were newly married in their late 50’s, he was retired military, she was in the aerospace industry and they had been married a year, celebrating their first anniversary on the ship.

These were the guys who loaned Mark a shirt and brand new underwear after hearing of his plight of no luggage that first night. It was fun to laugh about it later!

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We met Executive Chef Klaus that first night and he was available during the whole cruise, making sure we were all happy and satisfied. We certainly were! The food was outstanding and we ate full meals breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with plenty of snacks in between.

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Here’s a sampling of dinner, steak, potatoes and veggies. We could check our TV every afternoon to see what was on the dinner menu each evening.

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This was my first meal, a delicious fish dish. The food was great and plentiful. There was a menu every night and we could mix things up too ordering appetizers off the standard menu and main dish or dessert off the specials of the evening. It was a fun way to taste a lot of food.

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Mark and I both loved the Creme Brulee and had it several times during the week. It was hard to pass up since it one of my all time fave desserts!

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Darkness descends on our first evening on board. What a way to start the cruise! Many evenings the ship left just as we all sat down to dinner. It was a delightful way to have dinner with the sun going down and the ship moving along the river.

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Every afternoon, a Viking Daily was left in our room with everything we needed to know about the next day, including weather, where we were heading, a little about the city, things to do and where to eat if we chose to eat off the ship. It was a great way to stay informed and know what was coming the following day.

Day 2: Breisach, Germany

Most of our excursions started around 8:30 each morning, so we didn’t get to sleep in all the time, but a couple mornings were later which was nice. We were up and out of our room by 8 most mornings, had breakfast and were ready to leave the ship by 8:30. Most excursions lasted 2 to 4 hours and we were back in time for lunch each day. We chose not to eat off the ship, but ate every meal on the ship.

There were optional excursions each day (for an extra fee), many of them in the morning or afternoon so some folks could do an included morning tour and optional afternoon excursion if they chose, but some of them did overlap. We only did one optional excursion one afternoon. Each stop on the ship had an excursion included, which was usually a walking tour or a bus tour destination, so we did all of those and enjoyed them.

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Our first full day on the river brought us to Breisach and the Black Forest excursion, which was 4 hours long.

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We loaded in the Viking buses and headed up the mountains into the Black Forest, an area of Germany associated with fairytales like Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood.

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The Grimm brothers preserved the folklore of this region. You can almost see the Gingerbread houses in the mist-filled woods of the Black Forest.

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We arrived a little village known for glass blowing and cuckoo clock making and we had plenty of time to look around.

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This building looked like a fairytale book cover.

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The restaurant had a Black Forest cake demonstration, showing us how that delicacy is made from scratch. We had a piece of cake and coffee while there and it was very good. It was a picturesque ride into the mountains and interesting to see this region.

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The town of Breisach is steeped in history too rising above sloping vineyards in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley.

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We strolled through town after lunch that day and saw St. Stephen’s Cathedral up on the hill overlooking town. We didn’t make it inside this cathedral, but we saw plenty of others along the way. Construction on this cathedral was started in the 12th century, with expansions and renovations lasting into the 15th century. Can you imagine? We just don’t have these kinds of historic buildings in the States that date back so far. It’s fascinating to see!

We were half way looking for clothing shops for Mark since he was still worried about his luggage, but thankfully it arrived after we got back to the ship that afternoon and he was smiling from ear to ear after that!

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My lunch after our Black Forest excursion. It was a treat each day to see what was for lunch and dinner.

Just before dinner that night, we were treated to a special performance of a local group, The Black Forest Voices, for a taste of local flavor.

Day 3: Strasbourg, France

Our third day, we arrived in Strasbourg, France in the morning and our excursions began at 8:30. This is the Alsatian region of France, known for their wine making and cuisine. There were optional excursions to partake in both of these, with wine tastings and dinners out, but we opted for the Strasbourg Highlights tour in the morning and came back to the ship for the afternoon.

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We took a bus trip with our tour guide and she gave us highlights of the area along the way. She pointed out these stork nests on top of prominent trees driving to the main part of Strasbourg. That was totally fascinating! You can see one there on the top. They prune these trees to make sure they are flat on top so the storks can build their nests.

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The buildings and scenery in Strasbourg were beautiful. We were dropped off in a location and we all walked and strolled with our tour guide as she led us through these charming streets to the cathedral.

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We saw this cathedral, the Eglise St. Paul from the bus, a nice example or Romanesque and Gothic architecture.

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Our walking tour took us through beautiful scenery like this canal walkway with beautiful draping wisteria in bloom.

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The half timbered buildings are not only historical, but very charming to look at.

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I couldn’t get enough of the cobblestone streets.

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There were plenty of local shops and restaurants along the way.

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Strolling through the Old Town of Strasbourg was one of the highlights of the trip.

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You can see how picturesque it was around every turn in the bend.

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Local patisseries offer plenty of temptations along the way.

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We finally arrived at the Strasbourg Cathedral for an inside tour of this magnificent beautifully restored Gothic cathedral. Soaring an impressive 426 feet, it’s the highest medieval building in Europe. My photos do not do it justice, but I tried to capture the magnificent architecture as best as I could.

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As you can see, it is very impressive on the inside too.

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The stain glassed windows were magnificent with so much color and beauty.

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The highlight of Strasbourg Cathedral is the astronomical clock, which dates from 1842 and depicts the beginning of life through man’s death. We watched the skeleton man come out and parade by at a certain time (you can see his face above). There were a lot of people inside the cathedral when we were there, so it was nice to get back outside.

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Mark and I took an obligatory selfie in front of the cathedral. You just have to do that!

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And we did a little more strolling through Strasbourg, taking in the quaint and charming streets.

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There were plenty of shops to browse, such as this Villeroy and Boch shop of beautiful porcelain and dinnerware.

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It was exactly like you would expect a city in France to look like.

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With flower stands and charming shops.

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Back at the ship before dinner that night, we were treated to a regional dress up from some of the crew alerting us of what we could expect for dinner that night. This is the ship’s hotel manager, Dejan.

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And Lee, the Program Director, a British chap who was wonderful at his job. He made us all feel welcome and at ease with plenty of laughs along the way.

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That night for dinner, the Chef and his staff had prepared a typical German dinner for us, including tabletop displays of cheese, fruit and pretzels.

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It was a beautiful display of regional specialties.

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Local meats and cheeses.

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Most of us opted for the German plate that night to sample a traditional German meal of pork and potatoes. That’s white asparagus atop the plate, a regional delectable that this area is known for. The meal was good, but it was probably my least favorite of all the nights, just because German food isn’t at the top of my list.

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I can’t remember what this dessert was called, but it was delicious as were all of them. Of course, we didn’t pass up dessert and had it for lunch and dinner. That’s what cruises are all about, right? Eat the food. Enjoy the desserts. Walk it off!

One more thing to note about beverage service. House wines, beers and soft drinks are included with lunch and dinner. There is tea service and a coffee bar accessible all the time as well. There is a Silver Spirits package with unlimited beverages including a selection of premium local wines, beers, cocktails, specialty coffee drinks, soft drinks and juices throughout the day; plus an open bar (during operating hours). You may purchase the package prior to sailing or once on board.

We were given the Silver Spirits package as an upgrade for our cruise so that was a nice bonus as well. I’m not sure you’d really need the upgrade unless you have certain expectations for premium drinks. The regular service for lunch and dinner would be very sufficient as it was, but you’re on vacation so keep that in mind as well.

You can find a list of FAQ’s online at Viking, so this might be helpful if you are looking to book a cruise of your own.

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A beautiful sunset awaited us after dinner. I tried to capture as much of the beauty and splendor of the region as possible.

I’ll be back in the next post covering at least two more days of our Viking River cruise on the Rhine Getaway. i hope you enjoyed this first part, stay tuned for more. Next stops, Mannheim, Rudesheim and Heidelberg.

Don’t miss Part 2 and Part 3 of our Viking River Cruise! 

Here’s a cute video Mark put together so please enjoy the scenery! It really captures the essence of a Viking Cruise!

Reader Interactions

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January 10, 2020 at 4:07 pm

Thanks, Rhonda, for the info and pictures! My husband and I are going on the same cruise the first of September, 2020. We will be on Viking Alruna and it will be our first river cruise. Did you take all casual clothes or some dressy clothes for dinner? Thanks in advance!

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January 10, 2020 at 7:50 pm

HI, Debbie, so glad you stopped by to read about our Viking Cruise. I took a little more dressy clothes for dinner, since we were very casual most of the day. But nothing really dressy at all. A long dress and sandals would be great, or causal pants and a nice top. It’s not like the more dressy cruises at all. We’re so excited we will be going back in September to another Viking river cruise to France. Can’t wait!

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January 2, 2021 at 1:08 pm

Rhonda, my husband and I are scheduled for the Grand European river cruise in November 2021. While we have been on several cruises, this will be our first river cruise. I have a couple of questions I’m hoping you can answer. First, you stated that you opted to eat lunch on the boat daily. Was there a particular reason for this or more a comfortable feeling? And second, knowing that “formal” attire is not requirement as dress is more casual on a river cruise, would a pair of dark wash jeans (non-destressed) be appropriate to wear for dinner as long as they are paired with blouses or sweaters? Thank you! Looks like a very enjoyable venture!

January 2, 2021 at 6:11 pm

Hi, Sue, I’m glad you stopped by. Most of our excursions made it possible for us to be back on board for lunch, so that’s what we did. It made sense to do that unless you opt for an extra meal off the ship that is part of an excursion or if you just want to try out local food. But the food on the ship was really good and we looked forward to all of the meals. I think dark jeans with a blouse will be just fine.The attire is more business casual for dinner.

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September 29, 2023 at 10:13 am

My first Viking river cruise is coming up May 1,2024. Last year I did a double Scandinavian cruise. AWESOME! It looks like you presented the very cruise we are taking. Thanks for the photos etc. Now to get the packing of clothes just right.

September 30, 2023 at 1:58 am

Enjoy your cruise, we loved it!

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January 27, 2024 at 8:43 pm

My husband and I are going Christmas 2024! You story and pictures have been awesome!! Thank for sharing and we know what to expect!

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rhine river cruise blogs

Review: What It’s REALLY Like Aboard Viking River Cruises

rhine river cruise blogs

Viking River Cruises Review

Recently, I sailed on my first Viking River Cruise up the Rhine River to explore Switzerland , Germany , France and The Netherlands on their classic ‘Rhine Getaway’ river cruise.

The entire trip was calm and relaxing and I felt like it struck the perfect balance of sightseeing and leisure!

I’ve taken several European river cruises cruises with family before and immediately knew my mom would love the smaller atmosphere, quaint towns and relaxing vibe, so I brought her along for the trip!

I know river cruising is not for everyone so if you’re curious about Viking specifically or more generally wondering what there is to see and do along the Rhine River, I thought I’d recap our trip to show you the highlights.

I would recommend this trip if you enjoy small colorful towns, World War II history and good food.

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Keep reading below for a complete review of what cruising with Viking is like!

Or quickly jump to:

  • Rhine River Itinerary
  • River Cruises vs Ocean Cruises
  • Best European River Cruises
  • Pre-Trip Experience
  • Should You Book Flights Through Viking
  • On Board Experience
  • Viking Ship
  • Included Tours

Rhine Getaway Itinerary

We started in Basel, Switzerland (up north on the Rhine River) and ended at Amsterdam in The Netherlands.

Viking also offers the same route in reverse , from Amsterdam to Basel so you can pick either option. For a couple stops on the journey, boats running in opposite cities are docked together.

We had a wonderful time and especially loved how organized the entire Viking journey was, from pre-departure to on-board, everything was seamless.

Also unlike many other cruises or guided tours, almost everything was included , which made it feel like a truly relaxing vacation.

Here’s a snapshot of our 7-day itinerary and what we got up to each day!

Day 1: Arrive in Basel, Switzerland

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We arrived in the small, quaint town of Basel after our international flight.

This was the general arrival / travel date so we expected to just check in and relax but discovered that Viking organized a guided walking tour of the town. That was a nice surprise!

There’s also the option to arrive a couple days early and/or stay a couple days late. If you are thinking of this, here’s a quick guide to the best hotels in Basel  to help with accommodation.

Basel is an underrated tourist attraction and the third largest city in Switzerland. The town has a gorgeous Medieval center and plenty of world-class art museums.

There’s a reason Art Basel is held here!

We checked out the Romanesque cathedral, took endless pictures of the colorful medieval buildings and headed back to our ship to relax and meet everyone for cocktails and dinner. A great first day!

Day 2: Germany’s Black Forest & Colmar, France

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On our second day, we sailed northward to dock at Breisach, Germany .

In the morning, we learned how to make cuckoo-clocks, put together Black Forest cake and walked a bit throughout the Black Forest.

The wooded mountain range is the site of many local legends and populated all over with black fir trees. If you like hiking, the mountains are wonderful!

In the afternoon, we signed up for an optional tour to Colmar .

Located in the Alsace Lorraine region, the town is part of France but throughout much of history, changed hands between Germany and France.

You’ll find lots of German and French spoken as a result!

I highly recommend visiting this quaint medieval town. Every street looks perfectly preserved and it’s quite colorful. We wandered mostly on our own, ducking into gelato shops and chocolate stores while enjoying the colorful, medieval feel.

Day 3: Strasbourg, France

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If you skip the optional to Colmar, no worries!

Strasbourg is its larger cousin and also located in Alsace, France .

We had a wonderful guide for this day who guided us throughout the small canals, pointing out colorful streets and letting us know about Strasbourg’s tangled history in the hands of Germany and France.

Strasbourg occupies a strategic position on the Rhine River and is the ninth largest city in France.

It’s home to many European councils and organizations, like the European Court of Human Rights (a building built like a ship) and the Council of Europe.

For the most part, we stuck to the Old Medieval Town but drove through the modern section. Highly recommend a visit to the Cathedral!

Day 4: Heidelberg, Germany

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Heidelberg is a university town with a energetic, small town feel.

In the morning, we visited Heidelberg Castle, which perhaps should be called a ruined fortress, as much of it was destroyed by lightening, fires and war.

The ruins and castle are built high above the city and the observation terrace is well worth a look!

Meanwhile, the city was almost entirely spared from bomb attacks during World War II and it’s narrow streets and baroque charm remain largely intact.

We explored Heidelberg’s Old Town (Altstadt) by walking along the main shopping street Hauptstrasse. This is actually the longest shopping street in Europe!

For the most part, I spotted large chain stores & restaurants.

I actually recommend skipping this street to explore the quaint alleyways and backstreets instead. Much more picturesque!

Day 5: Rhine River Castles & Koblenz, Germany

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By day 5, we had reached the middle Rhine!

We spent our morning above deck watching the gorgeous small German towns and castles along both sides of the Rhine River. Our Viking program director gave a guided audio tour along the way, pointing out castles left and right.

Many of them are situated high above local towns and we saw lots of German camper vans parked at the base.

I recommend bringing a pair of binoculars for this part, as some of the castles can be set a bit farther away and the detail through a zoom is incredible.

By afternoon, we reached Koblenz, a city set at the mouth of two rivers.

We explored Marksburg Castle and wandered a bit on our own after. This was another ruined fortress high above the river.

Interesting history, but definitely wear good shoes ! The entire castle is unpaved, rocky and entirely uneven.

Note – a couple others from the cruise did the optional dinner excursion on this day and raved about it.

Day 6: Cologne, Germany

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During the Holy Roman Empire, Cologne was the largest medieval town in Europe. Naturally, it’s Gothic cathedral is the hallmark draw!

The nice thing about this stop is the ship can dock right into town, so you can join the tour or explore on your own.

We explored the Kölner Dom’s interior and were suitably awed.

If you want a great view, Viking offers an optional tour that takes you all the way to the very top! I had already been to Cologne on a previous trip so instead, we opted for a palace excursion.

I *love* an over the top, beautifully decorated mansion and have a whole series dedicated to them here .

We visited Augustusburg Castle, one of two gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage site classified as Bruhl Palaces.

The castle was once home to the prince-archbishops of Cologne and is decked out in gold, marble and all-around extravagance. I particularly liked the massive entryway staircase which was gilded and made my mouth drop open when we turned the corner.

Highly recommend this day trip if you love castles half as much as I do!

The interiors were really unique and the guided tour was excellent.

After the main palace, we did a quick tour of the hunting lodge as well, which was just as stunning. This is one stop I definitely wished we had more time in!

Day 7: Kinderdijk, The Netherlands

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Kinderdijk is home to the Netherlands’ famous windmills .

I’ll admit I didn’t know too much about the country outside of Amsterdam and our guide was quite helpful to explain the history of the nation and the purpose of its many windmills. 

Much of the Netherlands would sink, were it not for windmills to pump away water.

We even got to tour inside the home of a windmill keeper (see photos of a windmill  interior here!). What I didn’t realize was that windmill caretakers actually lived inside them with their families!

I thought the interiors were particularly interesting and our guide mentioned that some Dutch families managed to fit 13 children inside.

They’re quite small so I noticed lots of hooks for hanging, curved bunk-bed type rooms and lots of stair ladders. The Dutch windmill keepers also had a number of really unique boats which I took too many pictures of!

Fun fact: Kinderdijk is in the region of Holland in the nation of The Netherlands where the people speak Dutch .

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The Rhine Getaway Cruise

One thing I liked about sailing with Viking is how leisurely the day to day pace is.

There’s generally an opportunity to sight see in the morning and afternoon, with one included tour and one optional tour.

We chose to do 2 optionals and on the other days, relaxed on board or went into town to explore on our own! It was a well-balanced pace and I truly felt “on vacation”.

Here’s a recap of our daily itinerary with Viking:

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How River Cruises Differ vs. Ocean Cruises

Many of our stops were small European villages and medium sized cities, so we felt like we were able to see all the top sights without missing anything.

The best part? enjoying the comfort of a luxurious ship without worrying about transportation from town to town and only unpacking once .

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Small Ships

I think most of us are familiar with large ocean liners that sail to the Caribbean.

River cruises offer a very different experience – they’re much smaller ships, typically seating only 150-200 passengers.

The Viking Hlin ship that I was on had about 150 passengers and approximately 60 crew members, for reference.

No Seasickness

In general rivers are much calmer than the open seas and you won’t have to worry about rough seasickness.

We did a fun tour of the wheelhouse and learned from the Captain that Viking ships utilize four propellers instead of a traditional rudder.

Because of this, they have the flexibility to turn each propeller a full 360 degrees for precision and smooth sailing so you shouldn’t experience any seasickness on board.

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More About the Sights, Not On Board Entertainment

River cruising is a much more intimate experience, with unreserved seating at meal times so you get to mix and mingle with almost everyone on board by the end (if you want!).

There’s less on-board entertainment (no nightclubs or casinos on board) but each evening people congregated in the lounge by the bar and Viking had an on-board pianist. 

A couple nights during the week, Viking hosted either singers, dancers or local activities.

My favorite was the glass blowing demonstration by a glass master from Germany! He was quite an artist and had different glassblowing techniques than what I saw when I went to Venice .

Easier Disembarkation

T he number one reason why I like river cruises so much is because you get to see many small towns and sights in a leisurely fashion.

Depending on your journey, you stop in a new town every day or so and can get on and off the ship easily and on your own pace, without queuing for hours!

When I went on my cruise to Cuba , we received a group number each evening for the next day’s stop. That was a medium sized ship (roughly 500-1,000 passengers) and disembarking into town took about 2 hours, so depending on which group you were in.

I’m pretty impatient and hated the long lines. Everyone still has to be back on board at the same time, so for certain port stops, you would get much less time in town if you were part of the last disembarkation group.

rhine river cruise blogs

Which is the Best European River Cruise?

I wouldn’t say there’s a “best” European cruise per se, but there are a couple main rivers in Europe that offer river cruise experiences. The most popular are the Rhine River, the Elba and the Danube.

  • The Rhine River runs from the Swiss Alps through the Franco-German border and empties into the North Sea up in the Netherlands. This is the route we took.
  • The Elba River   is a major Central European river and predominantly flows through Germany and the Czech Republic. A small bit flows through Austria and Poland.
  • The Danube River is quite long, flowing through 10 countries through Central and Eastern Europe. It starts in Germany and flows along the borders of Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine before emptying into the Black Sea. I did this route years ago with family and loved it because I felt like I saw so much of Eastern Europe in one go. Lots of quaint, small towns perfect for a quick afternoon visit!

Viking Cruises Review

Our Rhine Getaway hit a couple towns throughout Switzerland, France, Germany and the Netherlands in one convenient week.

Plus it had the added bonus of only unpacking once!

You can see the route we took in the Rhine River cruise map below.

rhine river cruise blogs

Flights & Our Pre-Trip Experience

Once you book your Viking river cruise, the fun part is checking out the daily itinerary and browsing the optional excursions!

I was really impressed with Viking’s interactive website called My Viking Journey .

They have a handy map to show the journey along the Rhine River and make it easy to see what your options are each day. If you happen to pick an optional that conflicts with an included tour or a different optional tour, the website lets you know immediately.

Should You Book Airfare Through Viking?

Viking also offers airfare. 

We set a  fare alert and browsed for flights on our own, and after comparing it to the Viking customer service rep, found that they were able to get us a better deal. I was pretty amazed actually!

So I recommend booking airfare through Viking (after doing a price comparison on your own, of course).  It seems the company has relationships with partner airlines and is able to typically find flights cheaper than you can do on your own.

Another advantage to booking airfare through Viking is they also include round trip transfers.

We found this really handy after long travel days. For the arrival, our bus picked us up at the airport in Basel and left straightaway, which we really appreciated!

(Sometimes group tours will wait for the entire 50 passenger bus to fill up, which means you can get off a long trans-Atlantic flight and sit around for 90 minutes waiting for additional flights to land.)

On our departure, we had a very early flight so they arranged a cab direct to the airport – everything is totally taken care of!

Our On-board Experience on Viking’s Hlin Ship

rhine river cruise blogs

We sailed aboard the Viking Hlin.

All of Viking’s fleet are individually named after different Nordic Gods and Goddesses and while many of the river cruise ships are similar or even identical, the small touches and art are unique.

Each ship has a giant painting of the Nordic god at the top of the main staircase, dedicated to the deity it’s named after.

Having sailed on a couple other river cruises, I loved how distinctively luxurious the Viking ship and rooms were.

Veranda Room Tour

rhine river cruise blogs

Our Veranda stateroom was spacious, bright and airy with minimalist Nordic furniture and a cozy balcony. 

The ships are well designed to really maximize space and cabins feature a giant closet and tons of drawers to put away your clothes, should you wish to fully unpack.

Most river cruises are quite cozy and I typically keep my clothes in packing cubes … this was the first time I’ve fully unpacked!

There’s also a flat screen TV to listen to the daily on-boarding speech (if you don’t want to leave the comfort of your room) or to check the weather, watch TV, etc.

Our cabin had plenty of outlets, both European and American, so I could easily keep all my electronics charged.

On Board Amenities

My favorite part of our floor was the coffee & espresso bar to grab pastries and java any time of day. I helped myself to endless madeleines and double dark chocolate muffins.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention – Viking includes wifi on-board  free of charge. 

I thought that was such a nice touch given that I’m addicted to my phone. Internet service is a slower than usual, as it’s satellite service on the river and therefore inherently slower.

If you’ve cruised before you’ll appreciate this luxury! All other cruise lines charge exorbitant internet fees and still have slow service.

The Viking Ship

Our room was kept immaculately clean and always stocked with fresh fruit and water, thanks to a diligent cleaning staff. I’m a bit of a germaphobe and really felt at home on board.

The entire ship is airy and light-filled and despite it being a small river ship, it feels more spacious and open than some large cruise ships.

Above on the sun deck, they even have a small herb garden to season meals freshly.

In contrast, I once stayed on a ship where you had to step up into the bathroom and when the door was open, half the cabin space was used up – naturally, half the time I forgot the step existed and face planted.

Viking cabins have a pocket door so that the cabins feel spacious with glass door showers and fully openable doors that tightly seal, so water doesn’t get everywhere.

I did a cabin tour on my Instagram stories during the trip ( @shershegoes ) and got tons of messages that people were surprised how spacious and luxurious the cabins were!

Viking also clearly pays attention to the small details .

They design everything with care:

  • heated bathroom floors
  • angling the hallways to maximize cabin space
  • large-flip cap toiletries that don’t leave you struggling to open them (vs screw offs)
  • high quality European fixtures
  • leather staircase railings

…just some small details I noticed, but I could go on endlessly!

It’s really clear on-board that Viking don’t skimp out on customer service and they all added up to make a seamless vacation.

rhine river cruise blogs

Meals & Dining

All three meals are included on-board.

You have the choice to take meals either in the formal dining room or upstairs in the more casual Aquavit restaurant. We have nothing but great things to say about the meals!

Outdoor or Indoor Options

If you like to socialize and want a formal 3-course menu dinner, try the formal dining room on the main floor. 

If you want more relaxed, casual food with perhaps a table for just 2, the Aquavit upstairs is a great alternative. We had lunch a couple times there and it’s quite nice to see the river views and sit outside.

Local Cuisine

Viking also makes a effort to include local cuisine.

One night we had an Austrian / German night, with local specialties like sauerkraut, sausages, pretzels, schnitzel and plenty of German beer. 

It was a themed night, where the dining room transformed into checkered tablecloths, the staff put on their lederhosen and mini kegs were emptied!

Wine Included

Wines are included during dinner times, which I personally haven’t seen on any other cruise!

There’s also the option to purchase a Silver Spirits drink package if you wish to indulge in wine, beer and/or soft drinks before or after dinner.

rhine river cruise blogs

Viking’s Included Walking Tours

Each day, there’s an included guided walking tour.

All the local guides were quite knowledgeable and Viking provides headsets so you can clearly hear. There’s even a designated group for those who wish to tour at a slower pace.

What I really liked was that there’s no pressure to stay with the tour. You’re free to start with the tour and slip away if you find a restaurant you like or somewhere you want to linger (although it’s nice to let the guide know so they don’t wait for you).

They really encourage you to make the most of your trip.

And that’s it! Are you headed on a river cruise?

Let me know if you have any questions about our Rhine Getaway with Viking River Cruises in the comments below.

European River Cruise – Trip Planning Checklist

We opted to extend our stay in Europe after the cruise. Viking offers both pre and post extensions, which are a fun way to see more of Europe and combine the best of both worlds (guided group tours with individual trips).

For our flights, we took advantage of Viking’s flight booking service. We set fare alerts and browsed for flights on our own, and after comparing it to the Viking customer service rep, found that they were able to get us a better deal.

Be sure to get travel insurance   for your river cruise. River cruises are highly dependent on local water levels, and abnormally low water can negatively impact your trip by forcing the boat to re-route.

In recent years, the Elba river has occasionally suffered from extreme low water levels – perhaps due to global warming? In any case, don’t end up disappointed – travel insurance will help when you need it most. Get a  quote for your trip here .

Cruising Articles

Cruising on the Seine River from Paris to Normandy

Lobsters & Lighthouses: Sailing on a Maine Windjammer

Europe Travel Articles

1 Day in Basel:  Switzerland’s Most Underrated City!

Colmar, France: Is this Beauty in the Beast Town Real?

Everything to See & Do in Heidelberg, Germany

German Castles: A Photo Diary of Castles on the Rhine River

Fun Day Trips from Amsterdam: Visiting A Dutch Windmill Home

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Those photos are just perfect! They made me want to travel Europe more. Thanks for sharing such an informative post! :)

This looks so amazing. Your pictures are absolutely stunning. Such a great informative post.

Thanks Lynzy!

I have never been on a river cruise abroad. I am not sure that the tour that we did on the Ohio river would count as a cruise lol! I would like to visit here. All of your photos make me really want to plan a trip.

Wow, amazing indeed! I have to add this to my bucket list of places to visit! Your pictures are Stunning!!

The itinerary for this trip is near perfect. I think I’d enjoy every single thing planned. I especially like what’s scheduled on the third day.

Strasbourg is definitely a highlight! Supposedly the university is fantastic and has affordable tuition, i might just apply!

These photos make me want to head out on a cruise right now. I love the exotic feel of the settings in these photos and the breathtaking views. Someday I will get it together enough to visit.

Hey Melissa, glad you like the itinerary/photos! Hope you get to experience it soon :)

I was sooooooo excited to read your article! I have wanted to go on a Viking River Cruise for awhile now. Thanks so much for the helpful information.

It was my first Viking River Cruise and I totally loved it (as you can tell from the post) Let me know if you have any questions and I hope you sail with them soon!

Oh that looks amazing and your photography is beautiful. I would really love to do one of these holidays but with 6 children i worry about all the water! lol

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This sounds much better than I expected! Some family members have been trying to get me to do one of these. Thanks for sharing!

This was an excellent review! I’ve always wondered about Viking River Cruises and have strayed away from them because I just had never heard much about them. I love cruising on the big ships though, so I’m sure I would love a river cruise as well!

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Hey! Thank you so much for the detailed information about your cruise. I am actually headed on this cruise in a week and I’m very excited.

Ah you’ll love it!! Have fun :)

Im obsessed with this blog! My fiancé and I are taking our honeymoon early and heading on the Rhine Getaway in 2 weeks. Is there and particular must dos in the other places where you don’t have the more thorough blog posts? Also do you have any more pictures of the verandah room, as that is the room type we will be in, and of the ship itself? What was the weather like? Are there specific things we should be packing as far as clothes or anything else?

Hi Alyssa, ooh have fun! Hm I think Viking’s included tours do a great job of showing you the main highlights in each town, while giving you some free time to explore or have lunch in town if you wish.

I did the optional tour to Augustusberg palace which I really enjoyed, its on the Cologne day. Just a gorgeous, unique palace and hunting lodge. There’s also an optional to see the top of Cologne’s cathedral which other people on the ship liked. And then one night there’s a fancy dinner in a palace – I didn’t sign up for it but almost regretted it bc it got rave reviews from those who did! I think its the same night as the German dinner night on board so whatever you pick you’ll have a fabulous dinner. Definitely recommend the Colmar optional, which I have the post about. If you havent been to Amsterdam before you might want to stay longer after.

We went in early May and it rained a bit and was pretty cold. Viking has huge umbrellas, which was a nice touch bc I forgot to bring mine. Other than that nothing specific to pack – its pretty casual. It’s summer now so I’m sure the weather will be much better for you!

You’ll love the rooms! I was so impressed with how comfortable they were given that its a river cruise and the ship is small. My pictures of our room didn’t come out so nice because my stuff was sprawled everywhere ha.. but we had a veranda room as well! Loved the balcony. All the bathrooms have heated floors which I loved and now want to install in my bathroom. I snuck a peek at the suites which have a separate living room area and look really really nice. I’ve also never seen a more diligent cleaning staff!!

We sailed on the Hlin ship, which I think they said was 8 years old, but looked almost brand new to me. Viking takes amazing care of their river ships! I chatted to the staff one day and they spend the winter season breaking everything down, cleaning and doing engineering things to keep it in great shape.

Oh! Do the roundhouse mini tour where you get to see the caption’s… office thing on the roof. He tells you how the ship steers and has some fun facts about the mechanics. I always find that kind of stuff interesting (how things work, how they became ships captain etc). If I remember correctly its something you can sign up for on one of the slow days when we’re cruising. Only if you’re interested, its not an official tour or anything!

Oh and bring binoculars if you have them! It’ll come in handy the morning where we saw the german forts on the Rhine. I brought a gigantic zoom lens to take those photos, the castles are high up on hills while the ship sails in the middle of the Rhine. Feel tree to shoot me any more questions and I’ll do my best to answer :)

Can’t say enough great things about Viking and I’m already dreaming about doing another with them!

Thanks! Any chance you have a list or something of the times you were in and out of each port? I’d love to know how long we get to stay each place

No. You can try checking the viking journey site for more info. It was generally around a 1 hr tour and maybe an 30min – hour of free time

But like the whole day how early could you get off the ship and how late could you start in port before you had to be back on? I can’t find that information anywhere.

It depends on when the ship gets into town and if it’s departing for a different town that evening or docking overnight.

Do you remember which ports you were docked at overnight?

Don’t remember off the top of my head but check your My Viking Journey portal! Lots of helpful info there :)

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We did the Viking Paris to Normandy cruise in September of 2016. It was wonderful. We’re booking the Rhine Getaway today for September of next year. Thanks so much for all the helpful information!!

Did you fly nonstop to Basel or make a connection? I’ve bookmarked this page as I will be doing the same cruise next summer. :)

Hey Tiffany – I had a connection in Europe. I do recommend checking out flight pricing with Viking – they surprised me with cheaper airfare than I could find on my own and they also took care of the transfers. You can just ask them what the flight price will be before committing and do a little comparison check with google flights. Enjoy your trip, its a fab river cruise experience :)

Loved your post. I’m thinking of going next April. I have two questions: what are the temperatures like and is there a fitness or exercise room on board? It sound silly, but with all that eating I’ll want to do something to keep the weight off.

Hi Bonnie – I went in mid May and it was still chilly..anywhere from 40-60 degrees. This year I remember being surprised, because we had a very late spring season so it’s hard to say what 2018 will be like! It rained a couple times in the first 2 days of the trip, and I forgot to pack my umbrella, but luckily Viking has some HUGE umbrellas on board for guests to borrow. I know for me personally, even though it can be colder I prefer traveling to Europe in April/May before the crowds hit.

River cruise ships are small so there’s usually no room on board for a dedicated fitness room. That said on the roof of the ship, they have a track loop so some runners used that to their advantage. I think it was 13 laps on the roof deck equaled 1 mile and I only remember that because my mom kept up with her daily mile runs ha. On Viking’s ocean cruises, those ships are bigger and I believe Viking has both a fitness room and a pool on ocean routes.

All of the included daily tours are walking tours, so you do walk some of it off although I agree with you – it’s hard to restrict yourself on vacation and there can be some longer bus rides where you just sit and sit! Have a fabulous trip and let me know if you have any other questions

Hi, My name is Sunny Fletcher, I really enjoyed your write up and it was super inspiring! My boyfriend and I loved this particular itinerary but did not see it on the viking site when we searched for this particular 7 day cruise. Do you have any other cruise lines you could suggest? Also what is the predominate age group on these cruises. We are in our 40’s would we feel out of place? Thanks for your help.

Sunny Fletcher

Hi Sunny! So glad you liked it. I would say you would be more in place than I was on the trip ha! Im in my 20s and went with my mom. The crowd has a good mix of age groups, predominantly 40+ to retirees and I would say Viking is a more active program than other river cruises. I do a lot of tours with my family so I guess I’m maybe more used to being the odd one out, but I don’t mind as long as the itinerary is good!

Here is the cruise we took, it’s called their Rhine Getaway route. I heard that they also offer the same route during the holiday season, when Christmas markets are open so you might like that idea too.

https://www.vikingrivercruises.com/cruise-destinations/europe/rhine-getaway/2017-amsterdam-basel/index.html

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Enjoyed your piece on the Viking Rhine Getaway. We’re likely going to book it for May 2018. With both artificial hips, spine issues, etc., I don’t walk so well, or far, anymore. My wife is fine, can walk forever. With my cane I can do probably a mile before a rest. I’m wondering about the shore excursions, many of which are “walking tours”. Will I be able to do them? If not, what are the options? Many thanks, Jerry

Hi Jerry! I think you would love the cruise and will try to provide my perspective.

All the included excursions are walking tours but some cities involve a bus to get to the town first while other cities viking can dock right in town so the actual walking part is not necessarily that strenuous. Cities like Colmar and Basel have compact Old Towns so the walking is quite short, but Marksburg Castle was very uneven inside (lots of cobblestone old steps) that I even found that shaky.

Regardless i would say that Viking is very accommodating.

There was a man on our tour who was blind and used a cane and he did all of the walking tours. Sometimes the guide gave him a hand. For some towns, Viking offered bicycle tuk tuks or cabs to drive passengers right to the town center. I felt the tours were quite leisurely paced and if at any time you don’t want to continue, you can leave the group to explore at your own pace or do your own thing altogether.

Many thanks for your reassuring reply. Most likely I’ll be fine. I wonder if Uber is available along the Rhine River route?

A couple more questions. I’m trying to do a little research on flights in and out. We’ll probably book through Viking, but I’d like to see what the options are regarding connections, etc. Do you remember what the required times were to get aboard the ship, and to leave at the end? Should we plan to arrive a day before departure?

Hm not sure about Uber. Lots of European countries ban it so I wouldn’t count on it, but there are regular cabs and the bike tuk tuks. Plus viking’s bus coaches.

You can arrive early or stay later but I flew in the day of departure. If I remember right, the boat sets sail in early evening so arriving the day of in the morning is fine. If you want to explore more of town, then I would stay extra.

We did the Basel > Amsterdam route. Basel is very small and I felt like we saw enough on the day of. If you arrive in the AM, Viking is nice and provides a complimentary informal walking tour of the old town! Lots of people extended their stay in Amsterdam since you don’f actually see that city during the itinerary.

I don’t remember the exact time you should leave, because we flew to Copenhagen on a very early flight. I think maybe they ask you to leave by early afternoon? So they have time to clean the boat before the next sailing route. Hope that helps!

Sadly Viking no longer provides this walking tour of Basel on the day of arrival. I checked with them A few days ago prior to our departure today and Viking said that the walking tour was no longer available. Very disappointed!

aw that sucks. i guess a lot has changed with covid. you’ll still have a great time i hope!

Hi,I have taken two Viking trips, the Danube Waltz two years ago and the Balzel to Amsterdam last year, I can’t say enough about how wonderful the trips themselves were, however, the air fair provided was another story. I understand it is offered free, BUT, when you are stuck in the last row in the plane, get told this is the only food option that is left and sorry there is NO WATER AVAILABLE, it made for a very long ride home from France with a man in front of us who had definitely not showered in a while.

Hey Dolores – sorry to hear you had a bad flight! To be honest I hate the entire flying experience and never have a great flight! I don’t think Viking has anything to do with the airline (ours wasn’t free) and we had a couple options for flight options/ seats etc

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Nice read. Quick question what is Vikings policy to bringing your own alcohol drinks on board. It sounds like it would be nice to sit on the room balcony with a bottle of wine.

Hi Ron – sorry for the delayed response, I think I missed seeing this! Yes, you can definitely sit on your room balcony and enjoy your own bottle of wine. Just so you know, all wine is included during meal times as well. I’m not a huge drinker but spent lots of mornings enjoying my coffee on the balcony.. it was so relaxing! :)

HELLO, we are taking the Rhine River cruise in late Oct. I know no one can accurately forecast the weather,wondering what kind of jacket/coat should I pack. Also, will the christmas markets be open?

Hi Lynda, I would think it’d be pretty cold. Usually October in central Europe is ~50s during the day and as low as ~40s around night time. I would probably pack jeans/long pants, light sweaters and either a wool coat like this http://bit.ly/2vz4X6w or if you’re wearing layers, a windbreaker like this one: http://bit.ly/2wz0plj .

Unfortunately the Christmas markets don’t open until late November but I would think October would be a beautiful time to see fall folliage along the river? Autumn is my favorite season so I’m sure it will be even more magical in Europe. Have a great trip!

Thanks for the great review. I’m taking this trip in April 2018 but in reverse. This answered many of my questions. Thanks for all the great details. I can’t wait.

Lots of helpful info there! Someone just told me that she had been on 3 river cruises — I think all Viking — and that you had to leave the ship around 7:30 a.m. if you wanted to join the walking tour. I’ve never heard anyone else mention such an early start. Did you experience this on your trip?

Hm.. I think I got up by 7:30am but I don’t think we left the ship quite that early. I want to stay it was about ~7:30am breakfast, leave by 8:30-9am. There are generally 2 time slots for tours per day, one in the morning and one after lunch – you can do both or just do one. Usually everyone does the morning one and if you book an optional tour, that would be your afternoon option.

FTo be honest, every land group tour that I’ve been on and when I travel personally, I get up very early to see as much as possible so I felt like Viking was nice and a “slower pace”. One lady at dinner mentioned she thought the times were early for her, so I guess it depends on your personal travel style!

Once you book a tour, Viking has a section of their website called “my viking journey” where you can see the optional tours offered and it makes it very easy to see the tour times so that you don’t double book yourself. Hope that helps!

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If the intinerary shows a tour for morning or morning and afternoon does that mean they leave after the tour or do they stay till evening so you can mull around?

Hi Margie – it depends! If the ship is staying in town and not sailing onward, you can stay out on your own after the tour, have lunch in town instead of on the ship, wander etc. For example, I think in Strasbourg some of us did this. Also in Cologne we docked overnight so you could hang out all night until the early AM if you wanted!

If you decide you’ve seen enough when the tour ends, then you can take advantage of the included shuttle bus to take you back to the ship.

Sometimes, the ship sails onward or if it’s an optional tour it might be a town far away from the dock, so it’s expected that you’ll go with the group. For example, the Colmar optional tour which I took takes you to Colmar (which is not close to the dock) so you wouldn’t want to linger. Hope that helps!

I love the idea of a river tour, especially the unpacking bit. ;) How was the social situation on board? Were the other guests mostly much older? I think that’s what’s holding me back on trying it myself. I don’t want to be the only 30-something on a ship full of seniors. :\

Hi Melissa! Ha yes the unpacking part and luxurious room were too good to pass up. Hm.. it’s definitely an older crowd, most people in their late 40s – 50s if I had to guess their ages. Some retirees as well. But, I do lots of group tours with my family and I would say its more of the “active” older / retired crowd vs those who just like to be shuttled from place to place.

There were some 30 something couples on board and at dinner you can either eat solo or mingle, so it just depends on what you prefer. If you prefer a really social atmosphere, European hostels are the best bet or I’ve had friends who went solo and joined something like a G Adventures tour for the social atmosphere.

Would you be going solo?

Because cabins are usually meant for 2 people, river cruises in general tend to charge a single supplement fee (I think Viking does, but I’m not certain).

Sher, My husband and I are traveling next June on Viking River Cruise Paris to Swiss Alps. I was wondering if you would suggest we bring binoculars and a camera with a zoom lens to see and get good pics from the river itself. Also wondering if you know how flexible they are regarding problems clients have with food issues? I was glad to hear that if the pace of the tour was too fast or slow that you could break away from the group, however are cabs fairly easy to find if you find yourself needing to return to the boat? Do you suggest a particular app for your phone to translate? Also wondering about carrying cash or credit cards for excursions, should we have both or did you find one better than the other? Thanks I know that’s a lot of questions!

Hi Colleen,

Ooh Paris! Sounds like a good itinerary.

1) I’m a bit of a photo fanatic so I was very glad I brought my zoom lens. I think my mom would have appreciated binoculars, especially since she has poor vision. You can definitely see the castles from the naked eye on the boat, but if you want to see detail binoculars are helpful. Did you check out my German castles post? All those photos were shot with a 70-200mm lens (mostly at the 200mm mark) so as an example, you won’t see the individual castle windows or small town churches like in those photos without a zoom or binoculars. I mentioned it in the post because I didn’t bring binoculars on a safari trip to Africa and while I could see the animals just fine, a kind man lent me his for a day and it was such a better view! ha. So just personal preference.

2. Hm, I don’t personally have any dietary restrictions so I’m not sure. For dinner, there are always several options to choose from, including a vegetarian one. I *think* they have options for gluten free but I’m not 100% sure – you can try using the chat bot on the viking website or calling a customer service rep to make sure.

The waiters and all the staff are exceptionally friendly / helpful and can make menu substitutions if you don’t like anything or are allergic. I remember they had ipads during dinner service to jot notes & things. They also have excellent memories! If you wanted two appetizers or ahem, two desserts (like I sometimes did), they’re very generous with that, it’s not an issue. Or if you wanted appetizers instead of mains, that sort of thing is easy for them to accommodate.

3. I think cabs would be easy to find. I didn’t do the exact route you’re mentioning so some cities would be different, but in general I find that the stops were small European towns so it’s easy to wander and find your way back to the main square. Even Paris is not so big a city :)

Usually at the front desk, they will have maps of the city so ask for one of those before you disembark and if you want to explore on your own, then you can use the map. Also a tip is to download the offline Google Maps for each city you’ll be visiting. I always do that before I travel! I’m a big walker so with the offline map downloaded, you can navigate yourself back to the main square or the dock. And of course if you get cell service using something like Know Roaming (which I’ve reviewed on my blog briefly here ) then you can get cell service too for emergencies.

Viking uses these headphone systems which are pretty good and they split the passengers into smaller groups, so if you see yourself wanting to explore more of the city just let the guide know you’re leaving the group and you can find out about local cabs or meeting points, etc. Every evening, they leave a pamphlet in your cabin so you can get a sense of what you’ll be visiting the next day.

4. I use google translate on my phone for translation but I think you do need cell service for it to work. In general everyone in Europe speaks excellent English :)

5. I rarely bring cash to be honest, I bring a couple credit cards which carry no foreign fees and I bring my debit card for the atm / emergencies. I’m also not a shopper / I don’t buy souvenirs anymore but if you like to shop, cash is helpful for small things like street fairs, flea markets, christmas market stalls, food stalls. Do you have Chase bank? You can call ahead and ask your local branch, mine in NYC can exchange euros same day, so if you want to bring like 100 – 200 euro just to be safe, you can try that. I’m sure other banks do it too.

For the optional tours, I would recommend booking those in advance. Some of the popular ones fill up. If you login to the “My Viking Journey” website it will show you, day by day, which tours are available and also will warn you if you’re booking overlapping tours or things that conflict. I found it quite handy! So since you book those ahead, you book them all on credit card.

In general I prefer credit cards because I get points and I find carrying cash /dealing with change a pain. But that’s just me!

Hope that helps – feel free to reach out if you have more questions.

I enjoyed your account of the river cruise and I’m curious as to how dressy or casual folks were. Do you have a packing list for this trip?

Thanks, Penny

Hi Penny! Glad you liked the article.

People were pretty casual (pants, jeans, cold weather jackets etc) but I also went in May when the weather was still pretty chilly. For dinner time, I believe they ask for closed toe shoes and no shorts, but there isn’t a requirement for jackets so it’s no where near formal.

I haven’t written a packing guide yet but have gotten a couple requests so I’ll add that to my list of posts to write!

What did you do at night?

We either went back into town, had drinks in the lounge or stayed in to watch Downton Abbey (LOL).

It’s generally pretty quiet at night since it’s a small ship vs. huge ocean liners.

We also loved our river cruise! We left from Amsterdam in August and finished in Budapest with the optional trip to Prague. One word of caution, while the glassblower’s demonstration was awesome, he has yet to send us any of the items we ordered and paid for. He said it would be 3 weeks…it is now about 5 months. After multiple emails to him (unanswered) and emails and phone calls to Viking we are giving up and disputing the charges on our card. I’ve seen other complaints on trip forums about him. I’m disappointed Viking still brings him on board!

Hi Nancy – glad to hear you liked the cruise as well! Wow, I had no idea about the glassblower. I’m wondering if it’s the same glassblower since the one on our trip didn’t have large items to ship, he brought lots of little items (candle holders, ornaments, figurines, vases, etc) that you purchased right there, they packaged up for you and then you took it with you right away.

I got one of the glass ornaments and hung it on my tree this past Christmas!

I’m so shocked to hear the glassblower you had didn’t ship promptly. Have you reached out to Viking customer service to file a claim and let them know? That’s very disappointing and you should dispute the charge if it’s been 5+ months and no package. Credit card companies are usually great about resolving that in your favor.

The glassblower was Karl Ittig. His business is Glas Haus Wertheim. We bought some shot glases from him on the ship and brought them home with us. The problem is with what we ordered. We ordered 2 ornaments that were to have names etched in them along with the year. We also ordered a set of his Jagermeister shot glasses for our son with his monogram etched on them. Our friends also ordered his salad dressing bottles. They also have received nothing. We have contacted Viking several times. They said they’d look into it but nothing happened. The last time they were the ones to say to dispute the claim. It’s disappointing that Viking does not seem to care that much. It makes us wonder if they get some kind of a kickback from the glassblower.

I just google searched his name and photos of him came up. He’s not the same glassblower who was on my river cruise (Viking has so many ships I’m sure they have many, many glassblowers that they partner with).

Viking probably does get a kickback. Pretty much every travel company or tour builds in visits to local businesses and in return they get a % of commissions, just like a shoe salesman at any dept store. If you ever go on a Chinese tour – man, those take the cake for how many shopping visits they can pack in, all because they get a commission! Same with hotel concierges – they usually recommend restaurants they get a kickback from. such is life!

It’s really unfortunate that you haven’t received the items and that he essentially stole your money. If you paid via credit card, you should definitely get your money back. In my experience, American credit card companies (is yours american?) have fantastic customer service and you can file a dispute online very easily.

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My husband and I are taking this river cruise next year for our 20th anniversary and I can’t wait. I really enjoyed reading your take on it and seeing all the pictures. Can you tell me where the above picture was taken with the yellow/cream colored building with all of the decorations and red hearts? It looks like a fun place to visit. Thank you, Michelle

Hi Michelle – have fun! It’s a great cruise. The yellow building with the hearts is in Colmar, France – possibly one of the cutest towns I’ve ever been to :)

We’re considering this same cruise (from Basel to Amsterdam). Curious to know, are there better views on one side of the ship than the other? We were thinking of getting a french balcony versus the veranda. Which did you have?

Hi Dawn! We didn’t feel like there were better views on one side or the other. Hm, I can’t remember the name of our room but we had a small narrow balcony with 2 chairs and a side table where we could drink coffee outside. It was nice to get fresh air and we sat on it once or twice during sailings. We also peeked into some suites and those looked HUGE!

I think the standard rooms are fine, since you don’t spend all that much inside.

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Hi! My mom and I are thinking going on the same Vikings tour as you and your mom, but we are doing the reverse route. :) It’s nice to see that some other young people go as well! My question for you is that my mom will be 74 by the time we take this cruise. She can’t walk very long distances without needing to sit and rest for a couple of minutes. Bad knees and back. It seems like your excursions had a lot of walking involved. Do you think, in your experience, she will have issues with the walking tours that are provided by Viking?

Thank you! Sarah

Hi Sarah – sounds fun! I think she could do it. There’s 1 walking tour per day in each city / stop. The walking tours are about 1 hour, give or take, but if you get tired or want to leave, there’s no problem with ditching the tour to go stop at a cafe or go shopping. The tours are optional too, so if you and your mom would prefer you can always just leave the ship on your own and come back when you wish, instead of doing the tour. It depends on the stop (sometimes the boat isn’t docked in the center of town so it’d be difficult in those instances, it just depends on the river / boat area).

From the top of my head – the Black Forest is very doable, Colmar is a very small town so we booked the optional tour but explored on our own, the windmills are within walking distance from the boat and you can go at your own pace. Cologne we docked right in town. I wouldn’t recommend Marksburg castle because it’s very old and entirely uneven cobblestones.

The Viking staff can help you arrange a taxi or bike peddler if you want to go into town in more comfort or come back early. Overall I felt like the cruise was very relaxing. Hope that helps!

Hi Sarah – One thing I forgot to mention in my comment. Each day for the included walking tours, there is a designated group for those who want to explore at a slower pace. I didn’t join those groups so I’m not sure exactly how they work but thought that group could be great for your mom!

Considering this same cruise in 2019. Is there a bar on the ship to have a drink after dinner? Does Viking allow you to bring your own liquor on board?

Hi Diana – yes there is a nice bar and big lounge area. If you buy your own bottle of wine or spirits in the town, you can definitely bring it on board. I saw people drinking on their balcony. I’m not sure if you can bring your own liquor to the bar area though.

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Loved the article. We just booked a Danube cruise so I’m excited and this is really helpful information. I can’t wait. It all sounds wonderful.

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Sher, Great Blog, thanks. You photos are sensational. How did you compensate for the movement of the boat? Were you using a tripod? What’s your preferred camera? (We leave in 2 weeks! so excited.)

Hi Kathy – thanks so much for the kind words! Do you mean the photos of the German castles? For the most part, I shot these photos on the day excursions into each town, so we were on foot and exploring. I do have a tripod ( this one ) but the boat moves slowly enough when it sails that you can still get handheld shots. All my gear is listed on my FAQ page here :)

Thank you! Very helpful??

Thank you so much for your detailed comments from your Viking Riverboat Cruise on the Rhine. My husband and I are taking the same trip in June 2018 and were extremely impressed by your suggestions. It was wonderful reading about someone else’s experiences and recommendations. Your photography is oustanding. We are looking forward to our trip even more thanks to you!

Thanks so much for the kind words Patricia! Have a great time on your trip :)

Hi thanks for all the info in your blog….sounds like we have signed up for the right cruise.

We are taking the Rhine Getaway in July as a 70th birthday celebration for my husband. We are landing in Basel a couple days early and planned to take a train for a day trip to Lucerne (about an hour ride). Wondering if you have any thoughts about things to see/do in Lucerne?

We also extended a couple days in Amsterdam…any specific must sees (we were thinking of the hop on and off bus or canal boat give us flavor of city and an easy way to get around), and know we want to see the Ice Bar.

Thanks again for all you info!!!

Wow sounds like a great birthday celebration! Lucerne is very pretty, we just took it easy and walked around.

I have a post on day trips from Amsterdam here . The city itself is very popular, a bit crowded, so try to go early for things like the Anne Frank Museum. Try a canal cruise too! Since you have more time, I really liked visiting the Hague and Bruges. The Hague has some stunning buildings like the International Court of Justice while Bruges is more small town / medieval, very picturesque. Have a great trip!

Quite a thorough review. Many of our questions were answered. We’ve not been to Germany before so we are curious and deciding between this river cruise or a land tour. It does sound like this would be a great first-time visit to upper Europe (We have been to Rome, Athens & Crete). I really would like to see the Alps too. We’d like to also see Lucerne(Cogwheel Train, Gondola) and Munich.

Hello, Thank-You for ALL the tips on River Cruising. My 89-year-old mother and myself are planning a 2019 Paris and the heart of Normandy in Early April. any recommendations or comments on that trip?

Great summary of the trip. We’re going on the Rhine cruise in November and can’t wait. Leaving from Miami to Basel. We’ve been in many cruises in large ships but this one will be a treat. Decided to go business class with Lufthansa and that will also be a treat. Thanks!

Hi John – glad you liked my recap! Ooh, business class on Lufthansa will be such a treat. Have a great time – I think you will like the more intimate atmosphere on a river cruise!

Planning a 25th Anniversary trip for my wife in 2020.

Really enjoyed reading about your experiences. Not sure yet what trip we want to take, but you make a great argument for the trip you described in this Rhine Getaway river cruise.

Thanks for the detail.

Sounds like an amazing anniversary trip! Have a great time Marty

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Hello Sher,

Most important we do everything right on this trip in Sept Getaway Rhine. Long story, but neither myself or my companion has had a vacation in over 13 years — and I feel as if I’m planning in a vacuum. My companion is in his late eighties but wants to see the Rhine — I’m in my late seventies and just want to see something again. Would it be wise for us to just walk around the small villages rather than do the excursions? Some of them seem to take so long. My companion wants to see the war memorial in Colmar which we’ve signed up for and we have also reserved tickets to Van gogh exhibit. Am tempted to skip Heidelberg and Marksburg castle because of demanding climbs. All so confusing. Also, very important. we’ve been told many people wear jeans to dinner. True? Will appreciate your feedback — we must enjoy this trip. Thank you, Sandra

Hi Sandra – it’s up to you! Most of the guided tours take place in the morning (you’ll get a schedule the night before in your room), so you can decide what you’d like to do each day. I would suggest trying out 1 or 2 of the included free walking tours since you can always leave the group to go back to the ship or explore on your own if you no longer want to participate. Viking is very flexible and their tour guides are OK if you decide to leave mid-tour. Just let them know so they don’t include you in the headcount.

Yes, I would definitely suggest you skip Marksburg. The castle is in ruins and the footpaths are cobblestone – very uneven, very challenging for unsteady walkers. Heidelberg Castle is on a hill, but it’s much flatter and easier to walk, so it’s up to you.

You can wear whatever you want to dinner, Viking is pretty casual! Jeans are fine. Hope that helps!

Hi – great article, comprehensive & thoughtful! Wondering what time of year you went on the Viking river cruise?

Hi Kathy – I went in spring, at the beginning of the season!

Thank you for all the great information. We will be doing the same trip the first week of November and it’s so nice to hear we made a great decision!

Hi there! We’re on our final day of the Romantic Danube Viking River cruise. I agree with everything you’ve stated. Great ship, staff, food, and itinerary. Water levels are a huge deal, though. We’re presently completing a 3 hour bus transfer from Vienna to Budapest – missing one of the most scenic parts of the cruise. We are making our 2nd ship swap for the final night / our 3rd ship.

We received an email from Viking one week prior to departure telling us about the issue between Passau & Krems. Tuesday night our program director informed us of the additional issues past Vienna. We cruised the scenic Wachau valley after dark.

So we missed 2 of the 3 primary cruising segments. Spent 6-7 hours on buses – very nice buses- but buses.

We realize Viking can not control water levels, but their communication was late & misleading. They’ve been doing this for months – maybe years, yet acted like it was out of the ordinary. Passenger morale was affected. I’m not sure if they’ll offer vouchers. Some passengers were very upset.

Nothing about this on their website – apart from the fine print – but cruisers are blogging actively about this issue.

Great review, though.

-Scott S. from Boise

Hi Scott – Wow, yikes! So sorry to hear that your cruise had an issue. I hadn’t known about the water levels issue as our cruise was on the Rhine River, and to my knowledge, the Rhine River hasn’t had any critically low water levels. I’m not an expert by any means though.

I sympathize with you since it’s a terrible situation all around. Viking cant control the water, but naturally you didn’t have the full experience. It’s good that Viking had a back up plan so you could still at least experience the cities on the itinerary.

Has customer service gotten back to you about vouchers or anything else they can offer?

Also, just curious – when they emailed you a week before departure, were you able to cancel the cruise and opt for a later date?

We river cruised on emerald last year,sounds very comparable to Viking. They did include wine or beer with lunch and the 5 course dinner. You mentioned wine with dinner. Does Viking also include included wine and beer with lunch? . Viking is maybe more catered to Americans (ie: flight prices transatlantic). We are trying to find the best river cruise from Amsterdam to Basel,Switzerland, and this trip you took sounds wonderful. I do recommend you try out Emerald,they are fantastic. What would be comparable to a cabin with a “balcony” ? Ie: a window that rolls all the way down? These answers will possibly help us to decide. Thanks so much. Maria

Hi Maria – I hadn’t heard of Emerald before, thanks for bringing them to my attention! I just looked them up and they seem to have very similar luxury river cruises. It seems like they are an Australian company?

You’re right that Viking has a big American market. I believe the owner / company ethos is Scandinavian but they seem to focus on the American market as there were lots of American travelers on our journey.

I’m not sure what you mean by “what would be comparable to a cabin with a balcony”. Are you asking about accommodation on Viking? All the rooms are quite nice, the more expensive rooms get you more a bigger floorplan, higher floor and potentially a small outdoor balcony. For us, we had a small outdoor area – not too big, just enough to fit a small table and chairs and have a glass of wine or morning coffee. Hope that helps!

Or do you mean what are the rooms like without a balcony? If you go to Viking’s website here and scroll down, they have a floorplan of the Europe river ships and each room. There’s also pictures of the standard / french balcony and veranda rooms. Hope that helps!

Hi Sher – My wife and I will be going on our first cruise ever in September 2019 on the Amsterdam to Basel run, with an extra few days in Basel. I had booked a couple months ago and splurged on the two room Veranda suite. We’re very much looking forward to the trip but was curious if our suite is worth the cost. Will we find that we spend very little time there anyway? Thanks for your great website.

Hi Doug – ooh fancy! We haven’t personally stayed in the suites before, but we’ve gotten a peak into the rooms and they look super spacious and very nice.

We definitely spend a lot more time in our rooms on river cruises vs. ocean cruises, as there’s not as much on board entertainment. Also if the weather is great, it’s very nice to sit on the balcony with a glass of wine during sailings and typically September is beautiful in Europe!

I was thinking of cruising the rhine w/viking, is November OK to do this??? Thx

Hi Karen – Hm.. November might be a bit cold. I think May to October might be more comfortable weather wise!

I enjoyed this blog so much, we were thinking of doing a cruise, but now you have convinced me. Excellent writing, informative , and your photos are wonderful. One question, my husband enjoys a good cigar and drink, is there a designated smoking section with a view or just an area for smoking? Thank you again for such a great blog. PS just started following you on Instagram!!

Is their drinks package worth the price?

Hi Peter – it depends on how much you like to drink ;) Viking includes house wine with lunch and dinner. If you want other drinks, or perhaps cocktails after dinner, then I would say it’s worth getting. If you are fine with wine during meals, then don’t bother!

One of the best written river cruise reviews I’ve ever read. Sher, you have a great style in presenting activities as well as the cruise experience.

Wondering how well the cruise would be for me as I am oxygen 24 hrs….Also is there much climbing involved?

Hi Cliff – The ship has an elevator on board that you can use. For the excursions, there wasn’t any climbing but the tour of Marksburg Castle had VERY uneven paths (broken stones) so I’d probably recommend skipping that.

Hi great information, was wondering when do you think is the best time of month to do this cruise? I was thinking March or October, any thoughts?

Hi Suzanne – the European river cruise season starts in May. Usually the clean the ships in the winter and do maintenance, upkeep etc, so I don’t think March sailings for the Rhine river are available. I could be wrong! I also think it would be too cold in March to enjoy.

October would be nice! I haven’t done any fall sailings but I think it would be much less crowded and perhaps the leaves would change. Plus there’s Oktoberfest in Germany in October!

Hi, Sher We are doing our first Viking cruise in October 2019. Amsterdam to Basel. We are arriving from Philadelphia. We do not have the pre or post add on days, but do want to see the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. Do you think we will have time? Also, I was interested in the added excursion to the top of one of the cathedrals and was under the impression there was an elevator, however, also saw where you had to climb over 300 steps! I have found your website to be very informative.

Hi Donna, thanks! Hm.. I’m not sure if you have time for the Anne Frank house. On the last day of the cruise, you’re expected to leave the ship quite early (I believe before noon), but if your flight is that evening, you may have time.

Make sure to book your tickets online before your trip, you can do that on their official website. It’s one of the THE most popular attractions in Amsterdam so expect really long lines. Or, you can take a walking tour that covers the history of Ann Frank, these are pretty popular.

Regarding the cathedral.. I assume you mean the Cologne one? It’s been a long time since I went to the top (I went before the Viking trip) so I don’t quite remember. I believe there is no lift, as it’s a very historic, old church. But you can double check with Viking before booking their excursion!

Have a great trip :)

Great info thanks

We are planning our trip on Viking River Cruises from Amsterdam to Basil in mid May, and I”m trying to figure out what and how much to pack. I see that the weather is quite changeable, rainy, cool to moderate. Are there laundry services on board the ship (Viking Einar) or facilities for guest to go their own laundry?

Hi Deborah, Yes if I remember correctly there’s laundry service on board.

Sher – my sister’s and some girlfriends of ours are planning our 1st ever international trip for our 50th bdays (gulp, can’t believe we will be 50!). As most of us have never been overseas and an international trip is a “once in a lifetime” opportunity for us, we need a trip that is easy to navigate for newbies and gets us the most bang for our buck (see all we can). I have several questions for you: Did Viking pay for you to take this trip? Do you think the Rhine Getaway would be a good choice for this group based on my description above? Is there any “night life” for the evenings (we don’t want to be in large touristy areas but do want to experience as much as possible)? We don’t want to go during peak season or the worst weather time. Would April be a good time to go? Many of us either have German and/or Irish heritage so we were wanting to fly to Ireland at the end of the cruise. Is that possible? I’m sure I will have a ton more questions so please let me know how best to communicate with you. Thank you so much for your post. It was very helpful.

Hi Tracie – ooh sounds like a fun birthday milestone! To answer your questions:

No – Viking did not pay me to take the trip (but that would be the dream). I did receive the Rhine cruise complimentary, along with several other journalists, in exchange for taking photos and showcasing the cruise on my Instagram account. I ended up loving the trip so much that I decided to write a more in-depth review on my website. They had no control or input in what I wrote – the article is entirely my own opinions.

Should you take the Rhine Getaway for your group trip? I think it depends. If you are looking to celebrate with a bang, then no Viking probably isn’t the trip. At least, not their river cruises. The river cruise ships are intimate (maybe 100+ passengers) and there isn’t much in the way of entertainment at night. No casino, no pool, no shows, dancing etc. There is a pianist on board, a roomy lounge and a great bar, but that’s about it.

The ocean cruises (which I have not been on) are much larger ships with entertainment on board.

You can go out at night off the ship if the boat is docked. It depends on the city though. Some cities have their docks right in the town center, like Cologne, so you could stay out all night until the ship leaves the next morning. Other cities, like Paris, the docks are about 30-45 min driving outside Paris proper, so it’s less convenient. Viking will organize shuttles for you to go into a nearby town, but if you wanted to go out at night into Paris, you would have to take your own taxi. For places like Rome, forget it – its like a 2 hour drive. It just depends on the city’s port logistics.

If you are ok with a more cultural, relaxing trip then Viking would be good. And then you can fly to Ireland after and party :) Dublin is a great city for that, and all over Ireland, the pubs are fantastic, the people are so friendly, it’s a great country to have a good time in!

The river cruise season kicks off in mid May, so April is a bit too early. Try late May or early June, or maybe mid September – mid October, to avoid crowds + have great weather.

Hope that helps

My husband and I are going on the Rhine Getaway this summer. I have 2 questions: 1) Strasbourg – should we take the optional Strasbourg from the Top? Or stick to the included Strasbourg Highlights? 2) Heidelberg – we are doing the 6 hr included tour in the morning. We thought it would be fun to do the Dine in City Rudesheim that evening for $158 total. Is that worth it???

Many thanks! Have enjoyed and learned so much reading your review and insights.

Hi Elizabeth,

Hm, I stuck to the included Strasbourg tour and thought it was a good half day tour. We had free time after to explore the city. If you like a good view, maybe the optional is good? I don’t think there is an elevator for the cathedral though – its stairs. Up to you!

For your second question, I just double checked the Viking website because I can’t remember the specifics. They list the Rudesheim am Rhein optional on the Koblenz Day, not the Heidelberg day. That’s the add-on dinner you’re referring to right?

But under the Heidelberg day, I wrote we went to Rudesheim that night on our own so I think you are right about it being the Heidelberg day. If I remember correctly, the boat docks in Rudesheim, so you can go into town on your own and choose a restaurant if you want. I don’t think the optional is necessary.

If you are interested because you want a good local dinner, we heard rave reviews from the people on board who did the Schloss Johannisberg castle dinner + wine tasting, the next night in Koblenz.

If you do choose that, just to let you know, the fun ‘local dinner’ night that Viking does is on the same evening. So whatever you chose, it will be a memorable dinner!

On board they decorate it like a mini Oktoberfest, with music and local cuisine, beer, pretzels, schnitzel etc. It was loads of fun, but only half the people were on board (other half chose between the optional dinners and they came back very happy too).

Hope that helps – have a great trip!

We just booked this cruise for April 2020. What a wonderful blog. Thank you so much. I will be checking back and taking notes!!

We have booked the cruise from Basel to Amsterdam for late September, our 50th anniversary. We did Avignon to Lyons last year on Viking and loved it! Your descriptions of life on ship are spot on. We are seniors and I have a knee problem (May have surgery soon, took the insurance) and found the “leisure” walking groups doable. Did not ascend the Popes’ Palace but admired from below. Question: Recommendations for hotels in Amsterdam? Fantastic blog. Thank you.

We are going on the Rhine Getaway (our first river cruise) very shortly–love your review! My question: should we get “the local money” euro or do most of the shops take American credit cards? Thanks.

Hi Linda, ooh fun! Have a great trip! Hm, for the most part the cruise is “all inclusive” so you would only need cash for souvenirs and any meals you wanted to take on your own. Most restaurants and stores will take American credit cards with chips but to be safe, you can take some euro out. Ask your bank if they will change for you? Ours offers it without fees.

We have been on Viking a few times. You really did them well with your descriptions. They are a great company and we feel they really treat you well.I would love to do a cruise like you did and write about everything. I have suggested it to them and haven’t heard back. I would love to rate their ocean ships, especially northern Norway.

We are going on Paris to the Swiss Alps in September for 12 days then followed by 4 days of post trips to Zermatt and Geneva. Since this is going to be my first trip, would you suggest to bring a medium size luggage – around 26” and personal bag, or carry-on luggage and personal bag are enough?

Hi Dina – ah, hard to say. If I can, I usually bring personal bag + carry on. But for 2 week trips sometimes I need a checked suitcase. I will say the nice thing about cruises is you can unpack once, so there’s less worry about hauling a case to and from!

Such a great blog!! Thank you so much for all the information! My husband is looking at the same itinerary for Nov 2020 as a 15th wedding anniversary trip; even the extra days in Amsterdam. I was unsure, never taken a river cruise, but I am very excited now! I am just unsure about mid-November weather. I don’t mind cool temps; how much of a difference weather wise do you think going in October would be? Thanks again!

Hi Amy! I would typically recommend October over mid November. The weather is a little better and sometimes in Europe things will close for the season by mid October. Double check opening times for any attractions you want to visit, and also see if fall foliage will take place in October or November! I think fall colors would be amazing for a river cruise!

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We are going on the same cruise on this same ship in early August. I can’t wait! Love the blog and your information! Your blog was more of an “any person’s view.” Some other blogs don’t give as much information or are clearly biased as a travel expert, and difficult to relate to.

Are soft drinks available all day? Are they included in the price? I understand beer and wine is included with dinner. If not, are there stores in town where you can soft drinks to keep in your room?

Are you able to go on and off the ship as often as you like? What do you need to carry with you in town, ie passport? I was really hoping to go for a couple of early morning jogs along the river.

Ah, thanks so much for the kind words :)

Soft drinks are available during lunch and dinner times and included. There’s a coffee machine that makes espresso, latte, etc drinks that’s available any time of day.

You can go on and off the ship anytime it’s docked (but some parts of the day, you may be sailing). Typically when the ship pulls into a town, there will be a morning or afternoon excursion – usually 1 is a free guided walking tour and 1 is an paid optional tour. You can do one, both, or none and explore on your own!

I usually leave my passport in the safe – I don’t carry it into town. I usually would just bring a wallet and day bag. Hm, I’m not sure if early morning jogs are possible, since it depends when the ship arrives but usually there is an overnight in a location and you could definitely do a morning jog then!

We are taking this cruise in September of 2020 but from Amsterdam to Basel. Although too early to get our flight information, we are NOT going two days early. If our flight gets in early enough we would like to try to see one of the museums. Does the transport from the airport take you directly to the ship even if hours before the 3 pm check in time? And, would we be able to leave our suitcase on the ship and go to the museum? And finally, would the Viking staff be able to help us get the admission ticket to the Rijksmuseum? Seeing “The Night Watch” by Rembrandt is on his bucket list. Thanks in advance!

We’re doing the Rhine as well, but Amsterdam to Basel. If our flight gets in early enough we’d love to see the Rijksmuseum, my hubby wants to see Rembrandt’s “Night Watch”. Would the Viking staff be able to help us with getting admission tickets when we arrive at the ship? Will we be able to leave our suitcase on the ship even if our room us not ready? Thanks in advance.

Hi Marylee,

Yes, if you choose to take Viking’s transport they will take you directly to the ship. Both times we’ve sailed with Viking our flights have been redeyes, so we arrived in the morning on the first day. We checked in (Viking stores your luggage) and rooms aren’t ready (until 12pm I think) but you can relax in the common areas and Viking will set up lunch.

We did started in Basel, and Viking also organized a nice extra walking tour for any passengers who arrived early the first day. I’m not sure if the same applies if you start in Amsterdam. Basel is a very small city, and the ship docks pretty much in the center of the old town, so if the docking situation is similar in Amsterdam, I would think they would offer the same (but again, I’m not sure)

Amsterdam is extremely popular with tourists, so you should see what the museum ticket policy is. Is the Night Watch a big attraction? Sometimes you can buy tickets online in advance, especially for really popular sights that hoards of people want to see.

I’m not sure if Viking can get you tickets when you arrive.. I would imagine it would be a little difficult the day of since the staff is typically busy with cleaning the ship, check outs and new arrivals, but you can ask their customer support to see? On Viking’s website they have a chat function where you can speak to customer service. Or it might be straight forward to just take a cab from the ship to the museum and buy tickets directly.

Hope that helps! Enjoy the trip :)

Hello! I really enjoyed reading this and such lovely photos … can’t wait for our river cruise to begin next weekend. We are booked on the the Eir Longboat cruising from Amsterdam to Basel and then two days in Lucerne. We have prebooked every included excursion (don’t want to miss anything!!) My question is: can you remember the time in the morning that the excursions start? Being retired, we are quite used to our lazy mornings and worried that the excursion departure times will be a bit early for us. Thank you!

Hi Patsy! Hm.. each excursion is different, but generally the programmed activities would start each day around 8am (if I remember right). So we’d get up around 7 to get ready and have breakfast. Every day was different, depending on if the ship docks right in town or if there’s driving.. but in general I’d say 7:30am-9am start times.

I usually am a night owl, but on trips I think it’s a little easier to get up early since I’m excited and with the time difference. I’m sure you guys will have a great time!

what about at night? when does the ship shut down for the night?

Not sure what you mean by shut down. You can hang out in the lounge until past midnight I think.

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Thanks for your very helpful, “real person” information & the responses you provide to all the questions ! I will be sailing the same route later this year, and have a delicate question. What is the restroom situation on the tour buses or in the various towns ? I have a sensitive stomach and never know when something may disagree with me. I will likely skip breakfasts before the included (typically morning) free tours… but can’t skip all meals ! Do ALL the tour buses have an emergency restroom on them ? Are some of the castle tours soooo long that it is impossible to use a restroom before the end of the tour ? Is it easy to find a public restroom (even in a small coffee shop and then buy something from them in return) along the walking tours or during afternoon free time ? I am very glad to see you can slip away from a tour if needed. That piece of information is priceless ! (Did anyone do that & then were they able to find their group again in a little while ?)

Hi Liz – yes the coaches all have bathrooms on board. Depending on the itinerary you pick, the driving times differ. For the Rhine cruise, most of the drives were pretty short.

We’ve also done the Paris to Normandy cruise and the day you visit Normandy is a very long day with long (2 hr) drives. Italy is similar – very long drives. It basically boils down to the distance between the port and the town.

Yes, plenty of coffee shops to pop into!

If you leave the group tour (we did a couple times), it’s pretty difficult to find them again, since the group is constantly on the move. We tried once and couldn’t rejoin the group.

Your review of the Rhine River Cruise is most helpful! We have our first cruise booked November 8th, 2019 Basel to Amsterdam…it looks like it might be cold…I hope it’s early enough in November that it wont be…:( Question…is it worth the extended 2 day in Amsterdam? Thank you!

Hi Linda, so glad it’s helpful! We didn’t book the 2 day extension, as we had visited Amsterdam before. I think if you haven’t been, it might be nice for convenience but Amsterdam is also a very easy city to see on your own.

We are going on this cruise in September 2019. We want to meet a friend in either Heidelberg or Koblenz. What time is the afternoon “on-board” for passengers, and what time in the morning can passengers generally leave the ship? Viking can’t give us even a range of times for either. Any insight is appreciated.

I don’t know offhand and I think it probably varies on each trip – depending on which route you are doing (starting in Basel vs starting in Amsterdam), the water levels, how fast you go through the locks, traffic with other ships, etc.

You can try asking the crew when you go on board. Typically they lay out a program the night before for the following day, with more specific schedule times.

Great article and pictures! We are going on the Zurich to Paris 12 day Viking Cruise on March 28th, 2020. We were assured by the Viking agent that April weather will be in the 60’s. Sounds like it will be colder than that. I spoke to two friends that went on a similar Viking cruise on the Rhine. One did not like it, the other loved it. The person that didn’t like it said the food was so so, and you were only treated well at meals if you tip. We were thinking of paying gratuities in advance. What do you think?

Hi Patrice – ooh Zurich to Paris sounds like a nice itinerary! Hm, I do think April will be quite chilly. Weather is hard to predict but I definitely find that winter seems to get longer every year. I think it’s hard to get truly nice, all day sunny weather in Europe until early June. It will most likely be jacket, sweater + scarf weather in April and even May. The upside is much less crowds :)

I’ve been on several Viking cruises now. The first I thought the food was fantastic, the second time it was only good. Maybe I have gotten more picky (ha) but I think the food quality is definitely solid (maybe it wont blow you away, but hopefully you wont feel disappointed!).

I find it a little odd that your friend mentioned that about tipping to get good service. The one thing I think Viking does an excellent job of compared to other companies, is having extremely friendly service. the dining staff especially are very very nice. If you sit in the same area frequently, some of the really attentive staff even start remembering your drink / meal preferences. I never felt any pressure to tip individually, ahead of or during the trip.

It’s up to you, but I would suggest paying gratuity at the end. I know some companies now offer that you can pay in advance of a trip, but I don’t really know that the money gets to the staff on your itinerary that way. How do they keep track of it all? And do they really divvy it out to everyone on board? Also I think it’s nice to tip at the end, so you can have discretion if you want to tip an individual staff member separately, or what have you. Sometimes certain people on board go out of their way to make your trip memorable.

If you get to the airport early and take a tour with viking do they take care of your luggage before you can board the ship?

hm in our experience you can generally board the day your cruise starts. the bus will take you from the airport to the ship and then they’ll store your luggage for you until the rooms are ready. usually they put out lunch too, and sometimes a bonus walking tour if the ship is docked near the city (depends on which itinerary you’re taking). and sometimes, if you’re lucky, rooms are ready early!

My daughter and I are getting ready to do this same itinerary. My second VRC, her first. We are both so excited to be traveling together. Thanks for the great pictures and information.

Is it really a bummer to be in the economy rooms? The river cruise we are looking at is the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel and looking at going with friends who booked way before us. Most of the rooms are booked and only economy ones left. Just wondering if this will really be a downer?

Hi Gail! What time of year are you looking to visit?

I think it depends how much you value hotel rooms / rooms in general. Obviously the more expensive cabins are nicer, but if you like to socialize and plan to hang out in the bar and common areas, then the room is really just a place to sleep. The beds, showers, closets etc are the same across all the rooms.

The more expensive rooms are on a higher floor, have a larger square footage and have better views (larger windows, some with balconies, etc). I think honestly it is a nice to have, but the thing you remember most about a vacation is the destination and the memories, not the rooms :)

Oh and I asked what time of year, because we took a winter cruise and did not use the balcony at all, whereas in the summer the extra outdoor space was very nice and a great way to enjoy the sailing portions. So in colder or rainy months, having a balcony or extra large window is probably not very important, vs in late spring/summer.

I would like to do a river cruise. What is a cruise that has tours inside for castles and palaces? I would like to see beautiful interiors. If I do the Rhine getaway should I take post cruise to Amsterdam for any inside tours of castles or palaces and cathedrals also? Cathedrals on the Rhine getaway inside tours? Are tours expensive foe what I want to see?

The Rhine Getaway itinerary I reviewed in this article does include some cathedrals and castle ruins.

But, most of the castles on the Rhine river are ruins or old medieval castles, they’re not so much “Disney” like castles. For that, I believe you would need to rent a car and do a road trip as they’re not on the water.

You could do the Viking Rhine cruise above, and then do a post cruise trip to Copenhagen. Some of the most beautiful castles I’ve ever seen are in Copenhagen – I wrote about them in this post .

We booked our flights through Viking and then explored Copenhagen on our own, which was pretty easy as it’s a very modern city.

Just curious what your trip cost. We’re looking at $5,000-$6,000 per person in late October, including airfare from MN (about $600 per person), for this itinerary. Does that sound right?

Hi Shelley, Cost depends on so many factors (time of year, cabin, add on tours, flight pricing, etc), but Viking has a dates + pricing chart on their website that you can use to compare.

Thank you very much for sharing your experiences. I enjoyed reading your reviews and it is very helpful. I’m planning the trip in early November 2020 for my 30th anniversary. I have a few questions. Will it be a place inside the ship to sit and enjoy the view when sailing through the UNESC part of the Rhine when it is too cold outside? How much the optional excursion will be raftly around? 2020 will be marked Beethoven’s 250th birthday. I really like to go to Bonn. Is it possible that I can go our own when ship dock in Cologne?

Hi Tracy, sounds like a great birthday trip!

The best viewing point is on the roof deck, but there is also a smaller room with floor to ceiling windows, the Aquavit casual dining room, where you can enjoy the view indoors.

Each of the optionals has their own price, but they should be listed on Viking’s website. Hm, I’m not sure if you will have time to see Bonn when in Cologne. You can ask the Tour Director when you are onboard to see if there is enough time.

How comfortable are the beds .

What did you do on your amsterdam 2 day extension tour and do you know where I can find more specific info on the Viking extended tour

Hi JoAnne, we’ve been to Amsterdam on a previous trip so we didn’t opt for the 2 day extension tour with our Viking cruise. But, you can find more information about the optional extensions on Viking’s website!

We booked the Rhine Getaway for May 2020. I really appreciate your comments & suggestions. We are excited to go especially after reading this article.

Thanks, Janet

ooh have fun! May is a great time to visit :)

Love this blog. Found it today. Never been on a river cruise. I’m about to book the Basel to Amsterdam for my 60th b’day with my wife in Sept. So is the best way to book the cruise on line directly with Viking ? Any advantages going through a travel agent ? Tks Pierre

We are doing the Rhine Getaway in August 2020. Have enjoyed reading many of your reviews/suggestions. I know the currency is euros, do local vendors accept credit cards? What amount of currency do you recommend for an 8 day cruise? Most likely will do meals on the ship when possible. Thank you.

Yes most places in Europe take credit card. Just make sure you have a credit card with a chip on it, and that you let your bank company know you’ll be traveling abroad.

If you plan to eat most meals on the ship, I don’t really think you need much else, except for how much you want to spend on souvenirs.

Just found your blog and am loving reading all about this cruise! We’re taking this exact one for our honeymoon in April and it’s getting me even more excited!

I stumbled onto this blog while doing research for our up and coming River cruise. It sounds like almost the same cruise with one small stop difference (you stopped in Heidelberg and we’re stopping in Steyer. This article really helped solidify what I had already heard about Viking. I’ve been on several cruises on those big ships and cannot wait to do this river cruise. Thanks for the info.

How did you obtain your tour guide for Strausburg, was it through Viking or an independent source?

Hi Virginia, Viking provides all the tour guides. Strasbourg is part of the itinerary so the tour + guide were included with the cruise.

There are also extra tours available at an additional charge for some of the stops. For example, we paid for the Colmar day tour and on that optional tour, Viking also provided the tour guide (and transportation). Hope that helps

I also want to know about the comfort of the beds!

Hi Vicki, I thought the beds were comfy for a ship! To be honest I can fall asleep anywhere so I’m probably not the best person to ask..

Thanks so much for this post! My fiancé and I are scheduled to go on the first Viking Rhine Getaway on Aug 1 after COVID! I’m in my 20s and he’s in his 30/, so I’m assuming we will be some of the younger ones on board.. my biggest question is about attire. I pretty much live in athleisure so I’m worried we are going to be too informal compared to the rest of the crowd. What kinds of things do people wear during the day tours and dinners on board?

Ooh I’m jealous of your trip!

I would say you can wear whatever you want. There’s no dress code and Viking is pretty casual. Some people do dress up for dinner (just a nice top and jeans/pants) but it’s not required by any means. For the excursions, they’re usually walking tours so most people wear comfy clothes (good walking shoes, comfy pants, t-shirt and jacket if it’s colder).

We’ve all had about 18 months of lounging at home in sweats, so I don’t think anyone will look twice at wearing athleisure :)

Have a great time!

We depart on 9/15/21 and are so excited our rescheduled 2020 trip is happening this year! We’re doing the Lake Como extension before our cruise and staying in Amsterdam for two days on our own after the cruise. Any suggestions of things we must see or do?

Oooh that’s amazing! Yes I have a lot of posts on Lake Como and Northern Italy (under the Destinations menu tab, or you can type in the search box)

Hello. I noticed that the cruise includes 3 meals/day. My concern would be what if you’re out sightseeing and you want to experience the local cuisine by eating lunch or dinner in the town? Do you get a choice of not eating every meal on board the ship? I would want to eat at the different restaurants. Do you just pay for all the meals and if you want to skip some on the ship, you just eat the cost?

Yup, you an definitely skip the ship meals and eat at local spots if you’d like!

Sher, Thank you for sharing this very detailed and encouraging insight into the Viking Rhine River tour. Our 4 children gave us a Viking Rhine River tour for our 50th wedding anniversary (Oct. 16th) because during our 2nd year of marriage we lived in Erlangen, Germany for the year. We are in the planning phase of our trip. We hope to go in the May timeframe. Your post has given us great encouragement.

We have several questions and would appreciate your unbiased input: 1. My wife is diabetic (Type 2) and takes medicine that makes her have to use the bathroom about every 2 hours. Is that going to be a problem while touring, hanging around town, or riding on the bus? 2. We are 74 and 75 respectively, and while we are in fairly good health, long, rushed , arduous walking would not be fun or even physically welcome. Is that a problem? 3. We have heard from friends who have taken ocean cruises that sometime the evening entertainment is very risque. This would not be appealing to us, so we were wondering if that is what we might experience? 4. Since the world is not fully over COVID, what are the chances that that is going to have us in masks the whole time, or worse yet end up quarantined somewhere?

Thank you for any insights you can provide especially since you traveled with you Mom.

Hud and Susan

Hi Hud and Susan, that’s so sweet of your kids! I think you’ll really enjoy the river cruise. It’s very relaxing and you can do as much or as little as you want :) I also really loved the Rhine itinerary and the whole river cruising experience.

For the Rhine River itinerary, I don’t recall that we had any significantly long (2+ hour) bus rides. Most of the bus rides were 30 minutes to an hour and there is a bathroom on the bus for emergencies. You can check with Viking’s customer service about the bus times (just to be sure), as I’m sure it can vary slightly from year to year and on weather conditions. Basically if the ship can dock in a port that’s near town, the transportation time is very short. In some countries though, like Italy, the cruise terminals are located quite far from the city, so if you picked one of the Italy itineraries you might be subjected to long bus rides. But for the Rhine itinerary it’s not like that at all, and sometimes the ship can dock right in town and you walk off the boat and are in the city center! overall I *think* it would be ok in terms of your wife’s medicine. There are multiple bathrooms on board Viking, and in town there is always a cafe where you can get a cup of coffee and use the facilities.

There is typically a guided tour every day (usually in the morning) and Viking always has a slower paced group option. So you can join that group for the walking tour and it will be a more leisurely pace and route. Even for the regular groups, my mom didn’t find the pace to be rushed or strenuous, but pretty relaxing.

No, if anything there isn’t that much entertainment on the river cruise at night. Most people go to the lounge to socialize or get a drink, or relax in their room on the balcony.

Hm, I don’t know about the mask situation. You can probably ask Viking’s customer service for their policy on board. And you can check the country government health websites for each city on the itinerary. I would hope things would be even better in spring of next year, but you really never know!

Hope this helps x Sher

Were you aware that if you book two cruises back to back on Viking, butterfly cruises, that they won’t honor the promotions on either cruise? I booked two cruises that had free air promotions. Even though Viking was saving money by paying for one airfare instead of two, they would not agree to honor the promotions. Their solution was for me to cancel the second cruise. Strange that they would penalize me for giving them more business.

hm that is really strange! i’ve never tried back to back cruises, but good to know

Thank you for this wonderful article. I am wondering if it makes sense to save $$ and get a lower priced cabin without a balcony of any sort.

Sher, Thanks so much for this valuable information. It is much appreciated! We’ll be on the Rhine Getaway cruise this coming August. Do you know which stops where the ship docks you are able to walk off the ship right into a town or very close to it? Also, is there a way to find out how long the drive by bus is for each excursion? I read reviews on another site that particularly complained about the drive to the Black Forest and that there really wasn’t a lot of time to look around once there. It sounds like out of a 4 hour excursion, almost 3 hours are traveling by bus. Thanks for your help.

Hi Shelley, glad it was helpful! I remember Koblenz we docked right in town so you could walk off the ship and be in the middle of the historic area. That stop was overnight so you could explore all night if you wanted to!

Most of the other stops, the ship will be close to town but docked for only a couple hours. So it’s about enough time to do the tour + have some free time then time to leave.

I don’t remember any long bus rides other than Colmar, but it wasn’t bad.. maybe an hour. It could change by year though! I think Viking and all the cruise ships may change docks from season to season, as routes depend on water levels, weather conditions + town permits.

Hi, very interesting blog. We are from Canada and meeting up with friends from UK and have booked a Rhine cruise in September. I’ve been trying to find where Viking docks in Basel, can you help? Thanks in advance.

Hi Sue, I don’t know the exact name of the dock (and it may change from year to year) so best to ask Viking’s customer service!

Love your blog, Sher! Did you do the full-day Taste of Alsace tour in Strasbourg? I have signed up for it on my upcoming Rhine River tour despite its “Difficult” rating. While i can walk pretty well for longish distances (up to 2 miles at a time), I have trouble with steep inclines and with steps unless there is a rail to hold onto and I am hoping the rating is simply because it involves a full day of walking from place to place, rather than because of a lot of stairs and steep terrain, etc. Any insights you can give??? — Jackie, age 71

Ah, I didn’t do that tour sorry! Maybe viking’s customer service team can give you a more detailed breakdown of the tour.. I remember also that the staff on board are very accommodating! In general, Strasbourg is a nice big flat city – it’s not one of those tiny historic towns with uneven cobblestones. i don’t remember much stairs or steep terrain.

I want to thank you so much for this information. We are going on the Rhine cruise next week (concerned about water levels) and since we booked I’ve come across some Viking haters. This is a bucket list trip for us, so your information is much appreciated. I was wondering how much flexibility there is to get on and of the ships while at port. Can you just come and go? Thank you! And please pray for rain or do a rain dance.

yes, while the ship is docked you can come and go easily! it’s one of the things i like most about small ship cruises vs the massive cruise liners

Great article! We leave today for our 1st river cruise with Viking! A bit worried about water levels on the Rhine river. Disappointed to learn that Viking no longer offers the walking tour on the day of arrival in Basel. Was really looking forward to that!

I have been trying to get a Rhine itinerary with a more accurate detail of the time arrive and depart in each port…. even approximately would help.

I think their sailing schedules may shift so that’s likely why they don’t have detailed times published. You can try asking customer service

The best traveling experience we have ever had. Our Rhine River cruise was something we will never forget. From arrival in Amsterdam to our return after two additional nights in Lucerne, we enjoyed every minute. We are already booked on one of their ocean cruises (Mediterranean) next year.

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Wherever I May Roam - Travel Blog

Remembering My Incredible Viking Rhine River Cruise

By: Author Melody Pittman

Posted on April 5, 2023

Remembering My Incredible Viking Rhine River Cruise

If you’re new to European river cruising, you might be drawn to the Rhine and Danube Rivers – and for good reason. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of exploring a Rhine River Cruise with Viking alongside a group of travel buddies. We were among 192 guests aboard the Viking Helvetia. Remembering my Rhine River Viking cruise just might encourage you to take the step to booking one.

viking-rhine-river-cruise

Our journey took us through some of the most historically significant cities in Germany and France. From the comfort of our ship, we enjoyed breathtaking views of the countryside and snapped plenty of envy-inducing photos. If you’re eager to explore Europe by water, you won’t want to miss out on the adventure that awaits on the Rhine.

canal-and-thatched-roof-homes-remembering-my-rhine-river-cruise

Embarking on the Rhine from Amsterdam

Amsterdam, a city of endless charm and vibrant culture , is an unmatched destination for anyone seeking a one-of-a-kind vacation experience. From strolling through beautiful flower markets to admiring the stunning architecture on walking and canal tours, there is no shortage of things to do and see.

And what’s a visit to Amsterdam without indulging in the quintessential outdoor cafe experience and savoring a delectable sweet treat or coffee?

cologne-cathedral-photo-op

Amsterdam is also famous for its coffee shops- with a “k”. While visiting these famous spots may have lost a bit of its luster now that marijuana is legal in the US, it is still an intriguing opportunity to experience a different culture.

Imagine school-aged kids ordering up rounds of ganja – it’s not a taboo either, just a part of life in the Netherlands.

Enjoying the laid-back atmosphere while sipping on a refreshing beverage and soaking in the local scene is a must. Amsterdam is definitely a destination for the adventurous at heart.

canal-cruise-amsterdam

First Stop: Kinderdijk, Netherlands 

Welcome to the Netherlands, home of the stunning Kinderdijk in the South Holland province. This picturesque area boasts 18th-century windmills and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site . Join a guided tour through the serene wetlands (umbrellas provided by Viking) and witness the power of these historic structures.

Plus, don’t forget to stop by the charming village of Kinderdijk for some delicious Dutch cheeses and Juniper liquor to take home with you.

kinderdijk-windmills-netherlands

On to Koblenz and Rudesheim, Germany

Travel to Koblenz and step back in time with a visit to Marksburg Castle , a major site of the Rhine Gorge UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you walk through the castle, which was once used for protection, you’ll be transported to a world of history and beauty.

If you’re up for the challenge, climb the stairs and explore the tight spaces inside this 700-year-old fortress. Take in the stunning views of the river and hilltop homes from the castle’s commanding perch. Don’t miss out on this unforgettable experience!

marksburg-castle-germany

After Koblenz, picture yourself gliding down the Middle Rhine , savoring the breathtaking views of ancient castles, quaint villages, and lush vineyards. Make sure to pack your binoculars, camera, and a cozy blanket (depending on the season) to snag a spot on the deck. It’s a perfect place to soak in the picturesque scenery.

Perhaps a glass of champagne will make it even more desirable.

loreley-sculpture-upper-rhine-river

Docking in Rudesheim that evening, my friends and I indulged in the local delicacy of apple strudel and a coffee from an inviting café in the pedestrian-only Drosgelgasse. Don’t miss out on the delectable wines produced from this region.

As the sun sets, embrace the nightlife and groove to the beat of energetic music with a chilled brew in hand at a buzzing discothèque. We found that was the only thing to get into after the sun went down in this small town.

scenic-cruising-on-the-middle-rhine-river

Lovely Heidelburg, Germany

Travel back in time to Heidelburg, the historic capital of Rhineland-Palatinate, where the oldest university in Germany (1386) and the scenic Neckar River Valley await. The must-see Heidelburg Castle , a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stands tall as a Romanesque cathedral dating back to the 11th century.

We also had some free time after the Heidelburg tour, where my friends and I found a charming outdoor cafe and enjoyed tasty Italian food and drink.

close-up-heidelburg-castle

Strasbourg and Colmar, France, Will Wow You

On the Viking Rhine River cruise, Colmar and Strasbourg were personal favorites, with the latter being the largest port on the Upper Rhine. Come see for yourself why these stops have pleasantly surprised and continued to capture my heart.

architecture-in-strasbourg-france

Our day started with a guided tour of Kehl, followed by one of Strasbourg, where we went to the famous European Parliament and the famed cathedral. An optional excursion was to do an Alsatian Wine Tasting excursion, which we passed on.

Once you’re done with the touring, explore Strasbourg on foot with your friends, as I did. Yet again, we found a cafe for a meal (quiche, salads, and onion pie), and another for sweets (macarons, chocolates, and fruit desserts).

sidewalk-cafe-in-france

Having Our Best Day

Embark on a journey to the charming town of Strasbourg, an enchanting city that echoes the perfect blend of French and German cultures. Walk along the winding streets while admiring the vibrant flowers and medieval architecture. If you can’t decide which culture is more apparent, don’t worry – that’s the charm of Strasbourg!

french-pastries-with-fruit

You’ll find a patchwork of quaint shops filled with antiques, textiles, knickknacks, and souvenirs. Don’t miss visiting the Strasbourg “Notre Dame” ( Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg ), where you’ll witness its soaring and intricate Gothic architecture.

Another do-not-miss is the 16th-century astronomical clock, a breathtaking representation of life from birth through death. Take a stroll along the picturesque canals of the little Ill River, and prepare to be amazed by the picturesque cobblestone streets and charming half-timbered wooden houses in Old Town.

With everything so lovely to look at, Strasbourg is a place you’ll never forget.

I was particularly drawn to the half-timbered houses and the Schwendi Fountain, sculpted by Bartholdi (State of Liberty fame). Again, we stopped for more sweets.

friends-having-fun-in-germany

Breisach and the Black Forest

Breisach is the ideal starting point for a magical journey through the Black Forest of Germany. A scenic bus ride took us through the charming city and onto the mystical, lofty forest, where a light drizzle added to the enchanting atmosphere.

black-forest-scenery-and-glassware

Our destination offered a variety of local shops, talented glassblowers, cuckoo clockmakers, a Black Forest cake tasting, and some free time to explore. The mountain air, rolling meadows, and dense forest scenery left us feeling as if we had entered a magical fairytale. I seriously felt like I stepped into a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale book!

Viking thoughtfully provided umbrellas for the rainy weather. As the day concluded, the option to visit Colmar, France, was offered.

black-forest-cuckoo-clock-shop

Cologne, Germany — Unforgettable!

Experience the breathtaking architecture and beauty of Cologne, a city that promises to enchant any traveler. Get lost in the winding streets of Old Town and marvel at the stunning gothic splendor of St. Martin’s Church and Germany’s largest cathedral, the Cologne Dom.

Its soaring spires and stained glass windows are a sight to behold and will leave you speechless. Dating back to 1248, this UNESCO World Heritage Site took 632 years to complete.

burial-site-in-cologne-cathedral-for-archbishop

After our two-hour guided tour, my friends and I had a fantastic lunch in a riverside restaurant. The colorful skinny buildings that were our backdrop were so lovely.

colorful-buildings-rhine-river-cruise-germany

Cologne offers an exquisite blend of art, culture. One of the most enjoyable experiences was visiting the Museum Ludwig , which we did on our own. It features a rare collection of modern art from Pop Art to Surrealism, with special emphasis on Picasso’s masterpieces.

The diverse collection was nothing short of astounding, leaving me speechless as I wandered through its halls.

artwork-by-picasso-at-museum-ludwig

Another highlight of my trip was visiting the Cologne Chocolate Museum , where I indulged in the finest chocolate delicacies ever served. I savored the smooth, velvety taste of Lindt chocolate in the picturesque glass wing before browsing through its virtual shop for sweet mementos.

The visit was capped off with a decadent feast at the Chocolat Grand Cafe, where every bite was sheer heaven.

FYI : There was a lot of walking on this day, plus very busy skinny streets to get through.

cologne-lindt-chocolate-museum

Extended Stay in Basel, Switzerland

Welcome to Basel, the perfect destination for modern-day explorers! Here, where the borders of three European countries meet, you can wander along the banks of the mighty Rhine River, surrounded by stunning historical buildings and charming old-town vibes.

melody-pittman-in-basel

Speaking of charm, the red sandstone Rathaus – Basel’s Town Hall – is a crown jewel in the city center, flanked by architectural marvels in Baroque, Renaissance, and Gothic styles. Trust us, you’ll want to stop and take a photo (or six!).

But that’s not all! As a seasoned traveler, I loved Basel for its abundance of world-class museums, easy-to-use accordion-style buses (that are either free or very affordable), and fantastic pastry and chocolate shops offering unique Swiss treats you won’t find anywhere else.

From chocolate barks adorned with dried fruits and nuts to mouth-watering pastries, Basel has a little something for everyone.

trip-to-the-swiss-alps-top-of-europe

Jungfraujoch: The Top of Europe

If you’re traveling to Switzerland , put the Swiss Alps on your to-do list! On my trip, my friends and I took a Cogwheel train to reach the “ Top of Europe ” and boy was it worth it. It does cover 70% of Switzerland; it would be a shame to miss it.

We added a little luxury to our adventure by hiring a private driver who picked us up from our Viking River Cruise ship and took us to where our journey began. As we traveled for hours through the Swiss Alps to the top of Jungfraujoch, we made stops at a few charming towns and had to switch trains a few times.

My favorite stop had to be Interlaken, it was breathtaking! However, the highlight of our journey was witnessing the Aletsch glacier between Konkordiaplatz and Riederalp. This place is a UNESCO World Heritage in 2001 site for a reason, and it was quite the spectacular sight to see. You won’t be disappointed!

top-of-europe-trip-via-cogwheel-train

What’s Included With Your Rhine River Cruise

On Viking River Cruises, your journey isn’t just about the destination, it’s about the experience. Take in the guided tours with state-of-the-art audio headsets, indulge in regional specialties and drinks (including beer and wine!) with every meal, enjoy live lectures and performances onboard, all included in the price of your trip.

rhine-river-cruising-architecture-and-people

And let’s not forget about the friendly, professional representatives who will make you feel like family by the end of the week. Your Rhine River Cruise will be nothing short of enchanting.

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And this was my favorite photo of the whole trip! We crossed a bridge to tour a castle where the scenery and setting was absolutely marvelous.

Enjoy your Rhine River cruise!

bridge-over-rhine-river

Read more of our cruise and port posts:

A Whirlwind Visit to Paris

What to See and Do in Aruba

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Kelly Elko blog

What It’s Really Like on a Viking River Cruise

Want to know if a Viking River Cruise is right for you? I’m spilling all the details, including what they don’t tell you in the brochure, so you can make an informed decision. I’ll take you from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland along the Rhine River with lots of stops at charming old towns and villages in between. This Viking River cruise Rhine review is chock full of information that is helpful in planning your own Rhine getaway cruise.

I took 8 million photos so it’s impossible to share them all in one post. I’ll break up this trip into two posts so stay tuned for part two next weekend.

Viking River Cruise Best Things to Do on the Rhine River from Amsterdam to Basel Switzerland kellyelko.com #vikingrivercruise #vikingcruise #cruise #rivercruise #travel #luxurytravel #travelblog #travelblogger #amsterdam #basel #netherlands #switzerland #rhine #cruise #cruises #vacation #europevacation

When Viking invited me to set sail with them, I immediately packed my bags! Who wouldn’t want to sail to all the charming little European towns that dot the riverside? We traveled in October and I highly recommend Europe during this time of the year because not only do you get to experience the beautiful foliage and cooler temps, but it’s much less crowded and it’s cheaper too!

Viking River Cruise Rhine Review - everything you need to know to decide if a river cruise is right for you kellyelko.com #myvikingstory #vikingrivercruise #vikingcruise #rhinecruise #rhineriver #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #vikinglongship #kellyelko

What I love about the Viking Longships is that they are just the right size to float down the river and get up close and personal to all of the little towns. Plus there are only 90 staterooms which means it’s easy to get to know the crew and passengers. I love that you only have to unpack once instead of changing hotels every couple of days.

We sailed on the Hlin (pronounced “Lynn) on the 8 day Rhine River Cruise from Amsterdam to Basel , Switzerland (they do the same tour in the opposite direction too).

Viking Rhine River Valley Amsterdam to Basel Cruise kellyelko.com #myvikingstory #rivercruise #vikingcruise #rhinerivercruise #travelblog #travelblogger #travel #vacation #europe #europeanvacation

Booking was a breeze and a few weeks before we set sail, a package arrived in the mail with our personalized itineraries, red leather Viking luggage tags and more.

Airfare Tip: Viking can book your airfare and while I thought I could get a better deal by handling my own flights, I was wrong! I saved so much money by booking through Viking and I was able to have complete control over which flights I chose. So be sure to do your research. We flew into the Amsterdam airport.

We decided to add three nights in Amsterdam before the cruise and we’re so glad we did! With 165 canals, I can see why this is called “The Venice of the North.” Don’t let the stories of sex shops and pot scare you away because Amsterdam is so much more than that! I’ll share more about our time here in a separate post. Fun Fact: Amsterdam has more bikes than people!

Hotel Tip: If you are adding on time before and/or after your cruise, Viking offers lots of hotel packages you can choose as add ons to your trip. We saved money by booking our own hotels in Amsterdam and Basel because we didn’t feel we needed the extras that Viking offered including city tours and shuttle service to and from the ship.

Amsterdam has 165 canals and more bikes than people! kellyelko.com #amsterdam #netherlands #canals #amsterdambike #amsterdamcanal #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #kellyelko

Day 1 – Board Ship in Amsterdam

We celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary this day (October 13) and what a way to celebrate! We were greeted with a bottle of champagne and that night, after dinner, we were surprised to find a special “Happy Anniversary” dessert waiting for us in our room!

A buffet lunch was perfect for people who were arriving at different times of the day not to mention a late afternoon cheese and wine tasting, then dinner before we set sail that night. Can you say food coma?

Veranda Stateroom on a Viking River Cruise kellyelko.com #rivercruise #rhineriver #vikingrivercruise #vikingcruise #vikingstateroom #travel #travelbloggers #travelreviews

Our veranda stateroom was small but well laid out and I used the desk as my vanity (I loved the huge, well lit mirror) which made getting ready a breeze. The veranda made the room seem larger and I loved being able to pop outside to check the weather or just relax with a glass of wine. The bathroom was tiny but adequate (I loved the heated floors) but don’t expect to be able to bend over to shave your legs in the shower!

I’ll let you in on a little insider secret … when the boats dock, they often tie up to each other which means sometimes, you’ll have another boat parked smack dab against your window as you can see form the photo above. This is common on river cruises no matter which company you choose but it’s definitely something I want you to know before you go.

Viking River Cruise bathroom - small but love the heated floors kellyelko.com #vikingrivercruise #rivercruise #vikingcruise

It’s all about the common spaces and the lobby, with its glass roof, was such a welcoming place to come back to after a day spent exploring.

Viking River Cruise lobby - love the glass ceiling kellyelko.com #vikingrivercruise #vikingcruise #rivercruise

The top sun deck was the perfect place to walk off all of the food we seemed to be eating at every waking moment but hey, isn’t that what vacations are all about! I loved the fresh herb garden too.

Love the top deck of this Viking River ship with herb garden, walking track and golf kellyelko.com #vikingrivercruise #vikingcruise #viking #rivercruise #rhineriver #travel #travelblogger

Day 2 – Kinderjidk

We woke up to this peaceful view from our veranda. After breakfast, we only had to take a short walk to our destination (led by our guide of course).

Tip: There is an intercom in every stateroom so you can hear early morning wake up calls and announcements of when and where to meet for excursions. If you plan on sleeping in, be sure to turn off the intercom!

Love our veranda on our Viking River Cruise kellyelko.com #myvikingjourney #vikingrivercruise #vikingcruise #rhineriver #netherlands

You may be wondering is it worth getting a balcony on a river cruise and I can definitely say it was amazing! However, if it’s not in your budget, the French balcony cabins with their floor to ceiling doors that can be opened to catch the breeze are wonderful too.

Today’s shore excursion takes us to Kinderdijk which is a UNESCO World Heritage site with 19 enormous windmills. This is an included tour so it costs no extra money! It is such a spectacular sight to behold and straight out of a fairytale. Our local guide took us into a working windmill where families still live today.

Kinderdijk Netherlands is a UNESCO World Heritage site of 19 windmills kellyelko.com #windmills #kinderdijk #netherlands #trravel #travelblogger #europetravel #rivercruise #rhineriver

This post contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something, I will make a small commission.

My rain coat was the perfect layering piece for the unpredictable weather and I recommend a cross body bag (I love this water resistant bag ).

A fun pair of giant wooden shoes at Kinderdijk windmills kellyelko.com #kinderdijk #unescosite #windmills #woodenshoes #travelblog #travelblogger #kellyelko

The best part about returning to the ship was being surprised with a different daily treat in our stateroom.

Fresh strawberries on a river cruise kellyelko.com

The afternoon was spent on board taking in the scenery as we cruised along the Rhine.

Day 3 – Cologne Germany

It’s all about the food and the breakfasts on the ship were fabulous! We loved the made to order omelettes. Breakfasts were casual buffets while lunches and dinners were more formal sit down meals. I loved the casual dress code because after a long day of exploring, it was nice not to have to worry about getting all dolled up for meals.

Viking River Cruise - love the omelette station kellyelko.com #rivercruise #vikingrivercruise #travel #travelblogger #travelblog

We boarded a bus for a short ride to Cologne where our tour guide gave us a quick lay of the land then left us on our own to explore. The Cologne Cathedral (another UNESCO World Heritage sight) is HUGE and it was pretty impossible to get a decent photo!

the massive Cologne Cathedral in Cologne Germany is a UNESCO World Heritage site kellyelko.com #colognegermany #colognecathedral #travel #rhineriver #travelblogger #europevacation

Did you know Cologne is where the original Eau de Cologne was invented! I had to find the Farina Fragrance Museum and pick up some of the iconic red packages for friends and family (and of course one for me).

Farina Fragrance Museum makes the original Eau de Cologne Farina 1709 kellyelko.com #eaudecologne #farina1709 #colognegermany #perfume #farina #rhineriver #germany #travelblogger #rhinerivercruise

When in Cologne, you must drink Kölsch beer in an original “Brauhaus” (a traditional German pub where the beer is brewed). The waiters will continue to refill your glass unless you put your coaster on top to signal that you’re done!  By law, this refreshingly light brew can only be produced in Cologne so don’t miss it!

Drink Kolsch beer at a real Brauhaus while in Cologne Germany kellyelko.com #kolsch #colognegermany #brauhaus #germany #travel #beer #travelblogger #rhineriver #rivercruise

When we had our fill of Cologne, we enjoyed strolling across the Love Locks Bridge to get back to the ship.

Love Locks bridge in Cologne Germany kellyelko.com #lovelocksbridge #colognegermany #travel #rivercruise #rhineriver

Our ship had a prime location with a spectacular view of the bridge and the cathedral! The ship has two dining areas and this is the more casual Aquavit lounge with seating inside and out on the front (or the bow) of the ship.

Viking River Cruise - love the views from the glass enclosed restaurant kellyelko.com #vikingrivercruise #vikingcruise #rivercruise #vikinglongship #travel #travelblog #cruisereviews

We loved getting to know the friendly crew including Captain Wim, Sara our Program Director, and Mohamed (or Mo as everyone called him) the Hotel Manager. They mixed and mingled with the guests and one morning when we found the Captain sitting alone at breakfast in the main dining room, we joined him and had a great time chatting.

There are lots of optional night tours too like the popular Cologne’s Beer Culture Dinner but we enjoyed touring the beer halls on our own so we were happy to eat dinner on the ship.

Tip: House wine is served at lunch and dinner but if you prefer a nicer bottle of wine and cocktails, I recommend buying the Silver Spirits package so you can get unlimited drinks any time of the day or night!

Viking River Cruise crew! See what it's really like to take a River Cruise kellyelko.com #rivercruise #vikingrivercruise #rhineriver #colognegermany #travel #travelblog #travelblogger

Day 4 – Koblenz Germany

We chose to tour Marksburg Castle (there are many tour options to choose from every day) which is one of the few remaining castles on the Rhine that has remained intact. We took a short bus drive up a winding road to the top of a hill and were met with this spectacular view! There are optional tours this day including a walking tour of Koblenz so you’ll have to decide which one works best for you.

View of the Rhine River from Marksburg Castle in Germany kellyelko.com #marksburgcastle #rhineriver #rhine #rhinecruise #rivercruise #vikingcruise #germany #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #rivercruisereviews

Middle Rhine Castle Corridor

When we were done exploring the castle, we went back to the ship to enjoy the most scenic sailing day of the trip!

Viking River Cruise along the Rhine River kellyelko.com #rivercruise #vikingrivercruise #myvikingjourney #vikinghlin #rhineriver #vacation #europevacation #travel #travelblog #travelblogger

This stretch of the Rhine is filled with castles perched high in the hills. Most have been turned into luxury hotels! There are tons of castles on both sides of the river.

Middle Rhine River Castle Corridor - this stunning stretch of river has tons of castles kellyelko.com #rhineriver #rivercruise #middlerhine #castle #rhinerivercastles #travel #travelblog #travelblogger

We sailed past this spectacular 430 foot Lorelei Rock where legend has it that the beautiful maiden Lorelei sunk the ships of distracted sailors.

Lorelei Rock on a Rhine River cruise kellyelko.com #rhineriver #rivercruise #vikingcruise #myvikingjourney #loreleirock #germany #travel #travelblog #travelblogger

A little wind and rain didn’t dampen our spirits! The upper deck of the ship has a clear overhang making it perfect for being able to take in the sights while staying dry. Viking handed out a map of the castles and Sara, our Program Director, gave commentary over the loud speaker. If you want to see the castles up close and personal, pack a pair of binoculars.

Tip: Pack layers! We traveled in October and some days called for heavy coats while other days, a long sleeve shirt was all that was needed. Also, pack a small travel umbrella (Viking provides bright red umbrellas but you’ll stand out like a tourist if you use one)!

Packing tips for a river cruise kellyelko.com #rivercruise #packingtips #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #rhineriver #packingtips

Rudesheim Germany

What a day! After being wowed by the castles, we docked in Rudesheim around 5 pm just in time for dinner. The only problem was, not many restaurants were open so we spent our time wandering around this charming little town of vine covered, story book buildings.

The charming Rhine river village of Rudesheim Germany has beautiful vine covered buildings kellyelko.com #Rudesheim #germany #rivercruise #rhineriver #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #vacation #europe #europevacation

I was a little bit disappointed and didn’t think there was much to do here (lots of touristy t-shirt shops) so we eventually took the scenic walk along the river back to our ship where it was time to dine!

Rudesheim Germany is a charming little town with beautiful architecture kellyelko.com #Rudesheim #germany #rhine #rivercruise #myvikingstory #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #kellyelko

Wein is a universal language!

Charming little wein shop in Rudesheim Germany kellyelko.com #germany #rudesheim #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #cruise #myvikingstory #wineshop #vacation

I’ll be back soon with part two of our Viking River Cruise where I’ll share more amazing sites including my favorite city that we visited! I’ll share who we hung out with and an unbelievable blast from the past that we ran into on the ship!

P.S. I posted more in my Instagram Stories here including some great videos!

Read Part 2 of My Rhine River Cruise Here

Have you ever been on a Viking River Cruise ? Are you thinking of going on one? Feel free to ask questions or leave your reviews and tips in the comments.

My friend Diane wrote a great post about her Viking Cruise along the Seine from Paris to Normandy and you can read it here !

See More of Kelly’s Travels Here

Find out if a Viking River Cruise is a good fit for you! kellyelko.com #vikingrivercruise #vikingcruise #rivercruise #rhineriver #viking #travel #travelblogger #travelreviews #travelblog #vacation #europeanvacation #travelabroad #kellyelko

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36 Comments

Wow, sounds amazing. I can’t wait to read part 2. Happy Anniversary!

I can’t wait to share Melissa! Rooting through 8 million photos right now!

We took this fabulous Viking cruise a couple of years ago, so reading this post brought back so many memories! The canals and charm of Amsterdam (even the red light zone : ), the castles along the Rhine and the spectacular windmills were just a few of the many enchanting sights we viewed from the balcony of the ship. Having sailed on both ocean liners and river cruise ships, I have to say that river cruises have so much more to offer in terms of comfort, size and individual services. Highly recommend! Happy Anniversary and can’t wait to hear how you enjoyed Strasbourg!

Amsterdam is incredible and I definitely want to go back! The best part about a river cruise is no sea sickness!

Oh, wow! I loved this! I get mail from Viking and wondered what one of their cruises would be like. I feel like all cruise ships have small rooms and bathrooms so that won’t deter me. The sites look amazing! Thank you for sharing! I am looking forward to Part 2!

Small bathrooms aren’t the end of the world I was just happy to have such a great counter space in the bedroom. Very well thought out!

We were on the Viking Villi during that same time! Our trip was Amsterdam to Budapest and then we racked on days in Amsterdam and Prague. Beautiful sights on the river and cities. Loved Cologne, Kolsch beer, Cathedral and the Lock bridge, and also bought cologne!

How funny! Maybe we sailed by each other Linda!

First, Congratulations on 24 yrs of marriage! Second, can’t wait to hear more about your trip, it looks amazing. The trip has lots of beautiful sites to see. Looks like I’ll have to add this journey to my list.

So many places to see, so little time Tammara!

What a beautiful trip! We haven’t gone a cruise before, and have even been reluctant. Thank you for sharing the beauty saw and tips on how to set up everything.

I’ve only been on a big ocean cruise over 25 years ago and didn’t love it but this is so different! Smaller ships that go right to the little towns!

Happy Anniversary!! This was very informative Kelly. Awesome job! I love the windmills and the pics of you and your husband. May I ask about all the purses hanging up??

Ok I’m so dumb and embarrased. I just googled it and saw that they are locks, not purses. On my phone it looks like purses. 😢😔

Don’t be embarrassed Lisa! Now that I look, they do look like a bunch of purses!

Viking is wonderful! We did the Amsterdam, Windmills and Tulips one in March-April. It was fabulous! So beautiful. We have been on the Seine Paris to Normandy. Highly, highly recommend that trip. We have booked and scheduled our next one, the Mediterranean Odyssey. Barcelona, Venice, all and everything in between! We always book the bigger Veranda’s. Sitting area separate from the bedroom/bathroom. Highly recommend! Did I say I love Viking cruises?!?! Glad you had that wonderful time. You need to treat yourselves to another! Thanks for sharing your trip!

Wow Melanie sounds like you are a river cruise fanatic! We met so many people on the cruise who had taken others in the past and I think that shows how great they really are to have people keep coming back for more! Enjoy the Med! I’ve been to Venice and it’s fabulous but very crowded!

Thanks for all this information, yes i have thought about it and wondered what they were like so i am writing down all these tips. You guys are such a cute couple no wonder your girls are so pretty.

Thanks so much Marlene! Our girls definitely hit the looks jackpot and they’re funny and smart to boot!

We took the same cruise in May of 2013. Love revisiting & reminiscing. Thank you.

How nice! I enjoyed writing the post and remembering all the fun we had (and it’s only been 3 months)!

Thank you for your comment. We are taking this cruise this May for our 50th anniversary. First time on a cruise. Are there any hints that would help. It does not sound like there were any negatives that we need to be concerned about. Ellie

We did this journey on our own years ago, visiting Marksburg Castle which was amazing. The stories told by our German speaking tour guide was incredible (we don’t speak German so we eavesdropped on a girl who was translating for her friend). I timed our trip to do the Rhine in Flames. To this day, my family still says it was the most incredible fireworks display we’ve ever seen. Hundreds of boats, decorated with Christmas lights, even though it was July, line up and we all set sail up the Rhine. From each of those castles fireworks began going off and it was a sight to see! We stayed in Rudesheim and when I woke up early in the morning and opened the shutters, I did feel like I was in a fairy tale. I have blonde hair & as I was gazing over the rooftops I heard clicking & chattering in maybe Japanese(?) below. Apparently my blonde hair made me look like a typical German Frau and they were pushing each other out of the way to take my picture!! I’ve always wanted to do a cruise, avoid the terror I always feel driving on the autobahn so I’m looking forward to the rest of your post.

I love that you will appear in all of those tourists photo albums Darlene! The fireworks sound spectacular!

Hi, Kelly. We did this same cruise 2 years ago at Christmas (seeing those famous Christmas markets has been on my bucket list for a while and I wasn’t disappointed). So glad to hear you had a favorable experience. Coming from Miami, I thought I knew cruising. But Viking takes it up a notch. Also, while I’m not an ocean cruise fan, river cruising is a whole ‘nother thing. Travel is about your destination – the terrain, people, customs, etc. These Viking cruises allow you to appreciate and enjoy that. Can’t wait to read the second post. Bet I know your favorite city already! Oh, and happy anniversary!

I went on one ocean cruise 25 years ago and wasn’t a fan! I know Viking does some though – maybe I’ll have to try one of theirs! The Christmas markets sound amazing and I’d love to go back for them.

I enjoyed reading this Kelly – I did an AmaWaterways cruise in Dec ’18 – basically the same route you took, but started in Basel – I THOROUGHLY enjoyed it! I’m doing another cruise in May of this year – this time up the Danube (with Ama) – looking at your pic’s of the ship, ours was pretty comparable – that was really ‘different’ the way the boats dock next to each other!

How fun Leanne! At one stop, we were tied to an Ama ship and had to walk across it to get to land! The Danube sounds fabulous and I hope you enjoy your trip!

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What a wonderful experience! Your photos are so beautiful and it’s nice to see what the ship looked like…It really is a good size and your stateroom looked comfortable too! Those huge Caribbean type cruise ships never appealed to me but this is definitely something I would like. Much more intimate with constantly changing scenery! Great tips, Kelly! Shelley

I went on one ocean cruise over 25 years ago and I wasn’t a huge fan! The small ship really appealed to me Shelley!

Fun Kelly! That’s the same cruise Mark and I took last May & we loved it. We are going on another Viking River Cruise in September to France & we are excited. It was fun to see your pics of all the places we went.

How exciting Rhoda! Are you taking the Paris to Normandy trip along the Seine? If so, don’t miss Diane’s post!

Kelly, you did a wonderful job with descriptions and photos of your excursions. My sister and I are taking the Rhine Getaway trip in July of 2023. Since the descriptions of the excursions on the Viking site are not very detailed it difficult to decide which ones to take. We are trying to decide between the Medieval Colmar and the WWII Colmar excursions. I have heard positive and negative reviews of the Medieval trip. Also it looks like the food tour in Alsace is a lot more extensive than the description of it. It looks like you see more places along the way than I had imagined. Thank you for any input you might have.

You can always call Viking for a more detailed description of the tours Elaine! The Alsace was a highlight of our trip for sure. So many great little shops and food we would never have tried on our own. Enjoy your trip with your sister!

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  • Cruising Down the Rhine River: Our Great Viking Longboat Experience

rhine river cruise blogs

By Mike and Debra DuBose with Blake DuBose

In 2015, we traveled 820 miles down the Rhine River on an eight-day Viking River Cruise from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Basel, Switzerland. It was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken—and we don’t say that lightly, having logged more than 2 million flight miles across the world! The experience was simply outstanding, from start to finish. We enjoyed delicious, exceedingly fresh food; fine wines; tailored itineraries; breathtaking scenery; excellent customer service; and modern, clean rooms. Dr. Gary Raymond, a friend who took the identical Viking riverboat cruise weeks before, echoed his satisfaction with the trip, commenting that out of 18 cruises he has been on, this was one of the best! He noted, “Everyone from the captain down was open to taking care of any problem you could come up with.”

Viking is one of several major cruise lines, including AmaWaterways, Uniworld, Avalon Waterways, and Tauck, to run river cruises in a variety of countries. Taking a Viking cruise is a very different experience than being on one of the large cruise ships, however. Having only 190 passengers on board promoted a unique and relaxing atmosphere. There were a few teenagers, but most of the passengers were 50 or older. We did not see (or hear) any children or loud, wild groups, as one would experience on the larger cruise ships, which carry thousands of passengers!

Viking operates 40 longships, mostly catering to experienced, English-speaking experienced travelers. We rode aboard a Viking longboat named “Mani” on our trip. The riverboat is very quiet, and the river is so calm you can hardly tell you are moving! The ship is handicapped accessible and has an elevator. (More details about Viking cruises can be found at www.vikingcruises.com .)

When to go:  When scheduling your trip, remember that riverboat cruises are dependent on rains—water levels in the rivers must be high enough to accommodate the boat, but not too high. Surprisingly (but very importantly), the Rhine is not very deep, so if the water level is too low, your cruise could be cancelled. Water levels that are too high are also a problem—in fact, as our friend Johnny Moore experienced, high, fast-moving waters make the ship unable to dock, and you will have to be transported by bus to your next location. (Moore noted, however, that “Viking took great pains to try to make up for the inconvenience” by booking the passengers into a nice hotel and providing them with a great meal.) We recommend that you check the river’s water levels using Google before going to avoid any surprises!

We sailed in July, and the weather was great. However, although temperatures are cooler, May and September are generally our preferred months to travel because the summer tourists have not yet descended on Europe, children are in school, and snows are melting, resulting in higher water depths.

How to book:  You can choose to arrange your cruise, flight, and hotel for yourself; work with your local travel agency; or buy the cruise (or a cruise-air combination package) directly from Viking (Reid Panlilio is a good Viking agent and can be reached at 877-668-4546 Ext. 8815). Moore recommended, “Use a travel agent and interview them before booking to see what additional amenities you might get by using their agency. We booked with AAA and received $125 each in on-board credit. We talked to others who did even better.” 

If you know someone who has traveled on Viking and you mention their name and address, both you and that person may receive a $100 per person credit ($200 per couple) for the referral. As the travel agent for his family of companies, Mike is not eligible for the referral, but ask around to see if you know anyone has travelled with Viking before booking! If you book more Viking cruises, you may also receive additional incentives.

The air-cruise package can save you money, but you usually can’t choose your airline, won’t receive airline reward points, and may have to make multiple stops or have a complex flight schedule. We met some Viking passengers whose luggage had been lost due to the combination of airlines they were assigned. You can request to fly on a single carrier for an additional cost, but there are no guarantees. If you select the Viking combination package, you generally will know the details of your flight about 75 days out. Whatever your choice, book at least six months (or, preferably, a year) in advance, since Viking cruises often sell out and the price escalates as you approach the sail date of your desired cruise. You can also opt into airport pickup and drop-off service with luggage transfers at an additional cost. We never check luggage ourselves, preferring to carry everything we need aboard the plane so it doesn’t get lost. See our article on  the art of packing  to learn how we fit everything necessary for a ten-day trip in two carry-ons per passenger!

Since river cruises may be cancelled, we recommend that you charge the trip to a credit card that provides travel insurance, such as Chase Sapphire or Marriott Visa; study and consider the travel insurance offered by Viking; or purchase your own travel insurance from businesses such as Allianz or American Express (Frommers.com has a good review of several options). You can obtain a two percent discount on your cruise if you pay by e-check. We preferred to pay the extra fee and use our credit card to not only generate points, but also provide some rights and travel insurance.

If you keep the same itinerary, it may be possible for you to change the dates of your cruise for a small fee, as we did. You can also cancel your cruise, but there may be penalties, so read the details. At the time this article was written, Viking was offering all kinds of incentives, including free air travel and cancellations without penalties. Check their website before booking for updated specials.

Prior to leaving, you will receive two detailed booklets, but no paper tickets. The first booklet provides background on the history of the Rhine River, and the other deals with your cruise. Be sure to read the second one carefully! Also, we were advised in March 2016 that Viking plans to implement a special online access point for booked passengers called MyVikingJourney.com where you can manage many aspects of your Viking trip.

Room selections: Each riverboat has three stateroom floors: water level, middle deck, and upper deck. There are five different types of rooms (Explorer Suites, Veranda Suites, Veranda Staterooms, French Balcony Staterooms, and Standard Staterooms) at varying price points, with the larger rooms on the higher floors being most expensive. Rooms on the upper deck exit into the bar, entertainment, and buffet food area, and middle deck staterooms are close to the dining hall. The upper deck is also home to the Aquavit Terrace. According to Departures Magazine, some individuals book the Viking river cruise for the terrace alone!

The most economically priced rooms, the Standard Staterooms, are located on the lowest level. This stateroom level is partially underwater and has only two small windows, so the view is not good (although two passengers we spoke to said they enjoyed seeing ducks floating by). Moore recommended, “Pay the extra cost and get a cabin with a view!” Some travelers who had been on multiple Viking cruises did not complain about staying in Standard Staterooms, though.

Rooms on the middle or upper decks either have a French door (without a balcony) or a balcony or terrace, which we recommend! We chose a Veranda Stateroom and enjoyed sitting out on our balcony throughout the cruise. We stayed on the upper deck this time, but will try the middle deck on our next Viking trip since the rooms are similar and the middle deck is less expensive.

Each room is assigned an English-speaking steward who keeps your room neat and clean, plus places bottled water in your room each day. He or she will greet you upon arrival and attend to any room-related needs you have. To increase the level of pampering even further, the ship also has a concierge who will assist you with any other matters. Moore noted, “If you take a cruise on Viking, don’t overlook the value of a great concierge. They can answer almost all of your questions and help you with many different facets of the cruise.”

Viking’s modern rooms are fairly spacious and are decorated with soothing colors and art. Most have a comfortable queen sized-bed, but the pillows are small (you may ask your steward for larger pillows—or make other requests, such as firmer or softer pillows, or heavier or lighter blankets, as Moore did). The rooms have thermostat-controlled heating and air and plenty of American-type, 110-volt electrical outlets that can power most electronics. There are two thermostats in the room: one for the cabin and a second one hidden in the bathroom for the heated floor. Be sure to ask your steward how to properly operate these since the main cabin thermostat needs to be set on a certain temperature.

While it may not appear possible, most of your carry-on luggage can be stored under the bed! The large, flat, wall-mounted television has English-speaking channels, including ones like CNN, CNBC, etc., and free, recently-released American movies, which we watched late at night when it was too dark to see the river. The shower/bathroom was fairly spacious, with large towels, good water pressure, and a hair dryer. In addition, each room had a decent-sized closet with a safe.

We recommend selecting rooms in the middle of the ship for several reasons: there is no rocking motion; some of the passengers in the rear complained of fumes and loud engine noise or vibrations; and the middle rooms have quick access to the stairs or elevator to different levels. Our room was so quiet that we never even knew we were moving!  

What to bring:  Because temperatures vary radically depending on your route and the dates you go, we recommend checking the weather forecast for each port a week before leaving and packing accordingly. Mike added the Weather Channel app to his smartphone and checked each port’s weather the day before disembarkation to ensure he and Debra wore appropriate clothing. Everyone dressed casually on our Viking trip, unlike some of the larger cruises. There was no formal captain’s dinner, and we only saw two people wearing sports jackets, suits, or dressy female attire. Whatever you bring with you, be sure to pack comfortable shoes and thick socks, as you will be walking a lot on the shore excursions! Conveniently, Viking provides umbrellas and ponchos in the event of rain, so you don’t need to pack those.

Before you board:  We flew into the Amsterdam airport on Delta aboard a Boeing 747. (You can also fly into Basel, Switzerland and travel upriver to Amsterdam). The cruise goes through four countries: the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland. All of these countries use the euro, except for Switzerland (although some vendors there will accept euros). Viking does not cash checks aboard the ship, but they will make change from larger euro bills, which is very helpful because many shopkeepers in Europe prefer exact change.

Although Amsterdam has something of an unsavory reputation due to legal drugs and prostitution in its “Red Light District,” we found it to be one of the most enjoyable and clean cities we have ever visited, and we never saw anyone using drugs while there! Prior to the cruise, we employed private guide Tom van der Leij and his wife Ana to take us on a tour of Amsterdam and the surrounding areas, and they did a great job! You can visit them at www.tomstraveltours.com . We recently published an article about our trip to Amsterdam, which can be found at  www.mikedubose.com . Regardless of whether you fly in through Amsterdam or Basel, we recommend arriving two or more days ahead of your cruise departure date. This will give you some time to unwind, overcome any jet lag, and enjoy the city, as well as build in a cushion in case of flight delays. We stayed at Hilton hotels in both Amsterdam and Basel on our extra days before and after the cruise. They were great since they were modern and strategically located near train, bus, or tram stations, which allowed us to get around the cities easily. You may also go through Viking to extend your vacation with a few extra days in nearby cities prior to and following your cruise; we received mixed reviews on these add-on trips.

Getting started:  You normally board the boat in the afternoon on the first day, but you are welcome to enter earlier for lunch. You will have to go through a safety drill. The life jackets are small, and if you have a big head (like Mike!), they may scratch your face and neck when you put them on. Before the ship heads down the river, Moore recommends purchasing a river map from the reception desk. “Ours cost only 7 euros, and it was money well spent,” he said. The map contains information about the river, with kilometer markers (similar to mile markers on the highway) to help identify landmarks.

Food and drink:  Unlike some cruise lines that provide food all the time, meals are only offered three times per day. There is no assigned seating, in contrast to larger cruise lines, so we rotated tables most days in order to meet new folks. Some of the passengers we talked to had taken five or more Viking cruises! By the time we departed the ship on the last day, we knew about half of the travelers aboard. At mealtimes, you have a choice of being served at a table or going through a buffet line on another level. Service was outstanding, and the food was some of the best, freshest cuisine we have ever eaten. Periodically, the longship would stop in ports to stock up on fresh foods that seemed to have been picked that very day. On one day during the cruise, the chef will also invite those who want to tour the kitchen to walk through and inspect the facility as the food is being cooked.

At lunch, there is a salad bar with an abundant selection of produce, and you can choose your plated meal from menus and be served by a waiter. The food was so good and country-specific (not to mention, free) that we rarely ate while out visiting ports or on tours off of the ship. Great selections were offered every day, and there were always fish and ribeye options (one day, Mike got both!). Moore noted that “if you are not at least somewhat adventurous in the culinary area, you might find yourself ordering ribeye steak (an everyday option) more than once during your cruise, and on German night, if you don’t care for sausages and other German fare, your options are very limited, as the everyday menu is not available that evening.” Fortunately, the chefs can accommodate special diets as well. Dr. Raymond once mentioned that he loved liver and onions, and the chef made a special trip at one of the ports to cook that meal as a delicious surprise for him! The desserts were also excellent.

Wine and beer (served during meals) were included in the price of the ticket. Like the food, beverages were tailored to the region we were visiting at the time. However, if you have a favorite brand of drink, Viking—unlike other cruise lines—will allow you to bring your own alcohol when checking in with no corkage fees. Coffee (including special drinks like mochas and espresso), tea, and cookies are available 24 hours a day, and in the morning, you can enjoy a delicious selection of pastries.

Cell phones, wireless internet, and computer access: Each room has acceptable complimentary wireless, and there are two large-screen computers on the water level that you can use free of charge. However, some of the longboats do not have self-service printers, so if you need something printed (such as your boarding passes), you will need to send your documents to the concierge or front desk staff using their e-mail addresses.

If you plan to use your smartphone while abroad, call your cell phone provider beforehand to unlock it for international use and learn how to avoid astronomical data charges. As long as you are connected to the ship’s Wi-Fi or at a restaurant (servers usually will help you log on), we have found that data charges are minimal.

When leaving the ship, be sure to enter its telephone number into your phone’s address book in case of emergency, and take a small compass if you don’t have one built into your smartphone that operates without Wi-Fi. When he decided to venture off alone, Mike got lost in a small German town where no one spoke English! If you do get lost, however, you can find the ship by heading back to the Rhine River, as he did.

Tours and places you will visit:  In your room, you will find two sets of earbuds to use and receivers to hang around your neck when taking tours. Viking contracts with local tour guides who speak English and are knowledgeable about the area to guide you—although they sometimes went into so much detail we only remembered a small percentage of what they said!

At most ports, you will disembark and travel to the tours via large, modern Mercedes buses or on foot. You will be assigned to a rotating group of 20 passengers. Each group has its own guide, so there will be plenty of individualized attention and time for questions. Then, you will tour certain parts of each port, after which you are usually released for free time on your own. You can also stay on board the boat and relax or take the bus with the group and break off on your own rather than taking the guided tour. However, if you do, be sure to note the time and the place where the bus will depart to return to the ship.

Viking’s Rhine Getaway stopped in these cities and ports: Amsterdam, Kinderdijk, Cologne, Koblenz, Rüdeshiem, Heidelberg, Speyer, Strasbourg, Breisach, and Basel. You don’t need your passport at each stop, but Viking staff will need to see them in advance when you initially board. Then, you will be given a special Viking passport card that allows you to enter and leave the ship at its many stops. Lock your passport in your room safe on Day 1 to keep it secure. (Make sure to empty the safe on the last day of your cruise!)

Many tours and excursions built into your trip target UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Sites. There are 936 of these sites—including famous landmarks like the Great Wall of China, Versailles, and Machu Picchu—in 153 countries all over the world. They have been declared to be of “outstanding universal value” to humankind for cultural, historical, and natural (i.e. Yellowstone National Park or the Great Barrier Reef) reasons.

Prior to arriving at each port, a Viking staff member will place an itinerary for the day in your room (you will also receive a faxed, abbreviated USA Today newspaper on a daily basis). These excellent 3-4 page documents include extensive information about what to expect so you can prepare. Each provides a detailed overview of the country you will be visiting, its characteristics, famous people who have lived there, and things to see, do, and eat. They also include updated temperatures, port arrival/departure times, dock numbers, staff telephone numbers, ATM locations, important landmarks to visit, and other tips. You will be briefed in a large group meeting about the next day’s activities as well. Before you leave on tours or excursions, friendly staff members will hand out cold bottled water (or umbrellas and ponchos, if rain is a possibility). Upon your return, they will give you another bottled water and a cool washcloth to freshen up.

Tours of most cities are included in the cost of your trip, and Viking offers additional excursions, which may be booked prior to your arrival or on board, for an added cost. The following are our impressions of each stop we made, including comments from us or other passengers:

Kinderdijk, Holland:  Very good. It was fascinating to see 19 of the 1,000 windmills located in the country, and we actually went inside one and could see the blades turning! Some Dutch windmills date back to the 1700s and are still used to pump water out of canals and grind grains. Families even live in them! There was a shop as we exited the tour that sold reasonably priced gifts. If you are interested in the Bible story of Noah’s Ark, there is a replica of the ark in Dordrecht, Holland that you can see from the Viking longship as you pass. The enormous wooden boat measures 450 feet long and three stories high and is complete with full-size plastic animals. Carpenter Johan Huibers spent three years and more than $1 million to build it! It was an awesome sight to behold, but was unfortunately not on any of the ports of call.

Cologne, Germany:  Some people found the trip between Kinderdijk and Cologne boring. Upon arrival at Cologne, we were disappointed in the tour. Instead, we recommend exploring the city on your own while the ship is docked in the port. Cologne was one of the first settlements in Germany, and it has a great domed cathedral that was the only structure in the city to survive the bombs of World War II. The cathedral is beautifully lit at night, but note that it is closed to visitors on Sunday (as are most shops). There was a tour of the Rococo-style Brühl palaces and their gardens offered for 44 euros, which we did not take. We heard good comments about the 29-euro Brauhaus (brewhouse) pub crawl and culture tour, however! Unfortunately, Cologne has experienced some unrest recently due to tensions over refugees from the Middle East, so that may affect future visitors and some caution is needed in this city.

Koblenz, Germany:  We skipped the castle excursion and heard unfavorable comments about the tour there.

Rüdeshiem, Germany:  We arrived late, but this was a nice village with many shops. We walked a good bit here. For 15 euros, you can visit Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Museum, which features all types of self-playing pianos and music boxes. However, it was not air-conditioned, and when we toured, it was hot! There was an optional dinner here for 59 euros that other passengers rated as fair, saying that all the food was preselected for them, while others from the cruise boat just showed up and ordered what they wanted. The dinner is located in a pedestrian area called the Drosselgasse where you can hear “oom-pah-pah” music. We chose to eat dinner on the ship and thoroughly enjoyed a delicious German meal.

Heidelburg, Germany:  We were disappointed in the castle tour. You only got to see the exterior of the building, and while there were interesting and beautiful parts overlooking the town, the crowds hindered the potential good times. We suggest ordering a taxi or asking the tour director to take you to the old town market square instead. The second part of the day, when we disengaged from the tour and shopped in the old town, was excellent, and we enjoyed perusing some of its hundreds of shops.

Speyer, Germany:  We did not visit the Speyer Museum of Technology, but wish we had! This museum boasts an impressive collection of locomotives, classic cars, and a German U-boat submarine. A Boeing 747 sits on a pedestal outside of the museum.

Kehl, Germany:  Instead of taking the Strasbourg, France tour, we walked through this small German town where we were docked. Go after 10 AM, which is when businesses open up for the day. If you need to buy anything, Müller Drogerie is a good store. There was an optional Alsatian wine-tasting excursion for 49 euros each that we heard was disappointing. However, if you are a Mercedes lover, the 19-euro visit to the Mercedes factory there—which has produced more than 3 million of the luxury cars since 1992—may be of interest to you!

Breisach, Germany:  At the Breisach stop, we split up, with Debra going to nearby Freiburg and Mike taking the Colmar World War II excursion in the afternoon. Debra rated her Freiburg visit, which was free, as one of the best after breaking away from the tour group. She noted that they had some excellent small shops with handmade jewelry and crafts, as well as good eateries. Mike enjoyed the World War II tour and recommends it to any fellow World War II buffs. The 39-euro tour offered details on the offensive where heroic French and American troops forced Germans to retreat from the Colmar region. It also included information about Audie Murphy, America’s most decorated war hero (be sure to watch the movie To Hell and Back , which provides many details about Murphy, beforehand if you choose to go). However, unless you know a good bit about World War II, we would not recommend it. There is also a tour of the medieval quarter of Colmar and its squares and canals for 39 euros.

Basel, Switzerland:  This is a very clean city that limits automobile traffic and has an excellent tram system. The Hilton we stayed in at the end of our trip was near the tram station, and the hotel provided free tram tickets. We took trams #8 and #11 to the “old town” section, which is worth a visit! Basel is very close to Germany and France, and fewer residents speak English than in other places we encountered. They use Swiss francs rather than euros there. The Swiss chocolate was wonderful!

On the river:  While cruising down the river, be sure to go to the top deck and look for the 30 castles you will pass along the way. Take some small, lightweight, but powerful binoculars to enjoy the best views (Bushnell makes an excellent pair that can be bought on Amazon.com or at Wal-Mart). Viking staff will give you maps showing the castles’ locations. There are more than 20,000 castles or castle ruins in Germany! In fact, Moore’s favorite part of the trip was the Scenic Middle Rhine Cruising morning, “where we were able to see castle after castle set along the river banks among rolling vineyards with picturesque villages and towns dotting the shores…narrated by our Program Director, who did an outstanding job of relating the history of most of the castles and telling tales of valor and heartbreak woven into their pasts.”

The ship passes through 12 river locks along the Rhine between Amsterdam and Basel. These locks, or boat lifts, are water devices that raise and lower a ship between stretches of water that are at different elevations. This was a fascinating process to watch from the upper deck (some raised the ship by 50+ feet!). If water levels are high, the navigation center on top of the ship can be lowered when passing under bridges to avoid collisions. Staff will demonstrate it if you ask! Touring the navigational deck at night was very intriguing.

Onboard entertainment:  Unlike on larger cruise ships, entertainment on the Viking ship was limited. They typically had a piano player present each night, and on one occasion, graduate students from a local music college played violin and piano. They were excellent! Another time, there was a glass-blowing demonstration. Most passengers congregated on the upper deck at night for the views, drinks, and conversation. There is a covered area up there for shade during the day, as well as a walking track if you want to get some exercise on your trip (there is no gym).

Health and safety:  While terrorism is a threat worldwide, we felt safe on this trip and aboard the ship. Although there is no physician present, staff members are trained in first aid and CPR. Let them know in advance if you have any serious medical conditions.

Wrapping up the trip:  Unfortunately, all good things come to an end! On the night before you leave the ship, you will be asked to place your luggage outside your stateroom door with a time you plan to depart. (Keep any valuables or important items like jewelry, medicines, and passports on your person in case your luggage is stolen or accidentally taken by the wrong person.) When you arrive at your final destination of either Basel or Amsterdam, you walk off the longboat, which will only take about 10 minutes. Once you have disembarked, your cruise director will greet you and you will select your luggage. Then, you will meet your taxi driver, who can be reserved through your tour director the day before. It gets a little crazy at the taxi stand, so mark your luggage with your name, contact information, and some unusual items like colored ribbon to differentiate it from the others. 

If you booked a combination package with Viking, staff will give you instructions on leaving the country. If you are arranging your own flight, be sure to print your tickets the night before (not to mention, enroll as a frequent flier beforehand so you get points for the long plane ride!). On the day before the end of your cruise, you can buy multiple Viking coupons worth $200 toward a future cruise with Viking for only $100.

Getting home:  Be sure to include at least two hours between connecting flights and allow yourself up to two hours to get through Customs in the US. You won’t have to go back through European Customs when returning home. We were very impressed with Amsterdam airport security!

For frequent travelers, we recommend the Global Entry program, which makes US Customs a breeze for low-risk passengers enrolled in it. See www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry  for details on the program, which is a great buy at a one-time fee of $100 for a five-year period. You can add your Global Entry information onto your frequent flier profile and be automatically enrolled in the US TSA “PreCheck” (fast lane) program as well!

For more unique tips on international travel, we recommend our article “ International Travel for Beginners, Pros, and Everyone in Between .”

The bottom line:  Viking is a well-organized, customer-driven company that caters attentively to its passengers’ comfort and offers the best food and great fun. Nearly all of your expenses are included in the package you select, and it’s a great deal for the first class treatment you receive. They simply have their act together! As many other Viking passengers, we would rate our trip aboard the Viking longboat Mani a 9 out of 10—and with a little tweaking of the tours and excursions (especially incorporating more shopping time at the ports), it could reach a 10! We just completed our second Viking riverboat cruise from Budapest on the Danube, and it was another great voyage. See you on the river!

We thank fellow passengers Marilyn Miles, Johnny and Susan Moore, and Dr. Gary Raymond for their input into this article.

About the Authors:  Together, we have logged more than 2 million flight miles over the world in the last 40 years. Our corporate and personal purpose is to “create opportunities to improve lives” by sharing our knowledge, research, experiences, successes, and mistakes. You can e-mail us at [email protected] .

Mike DuBose  received his graduate degree from the University of South Carolina and is the author of The Art of Building a Great Business. He has been in business since 1981 and is the owner of Research Associates, The Evaluation Group, Columbia Conference Center, and DuBose Fitness Center. Visit his nonprofit website  www.mikedubose.com   for a free copy of his book and additional business, travel, health, and personal published articles.

Debra DuBose  has been married to Mike for 44 years and co-writes articles with him. She holds bachelors and graduate degrees from Winthrop University and Francis Marion University.

Blake DuBose  graduated from Newberry College’s Schools of Business and Psychology and is president of DuBose Web Group ( www.duboseweb.com ).

Katie Beck  serves as Director of Communications for the DuBose family of companies. She graduated from the USC School of Journalism and Honors College.

© Copyright 2016 by Mike DuBose—All Rights Reserved. You have permission and we encourage you to forward the full article to friends or colleagues and/or distribute it as part of personal or professional use, providing that the authors are credited. However, no part of this article may be altered or published in any other manner without the written consent of the authors. If you would like written approval to post this information on an appropriate website or to publish this information, please contact Katie Beck at [email protected] .

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Viking Rhine River Cruise: Visit 3 Countries On A Floating Hotel

Viking Hild

When we sailed on a Viking Rhine River cruise on the Rhine and Moselle Rivers, we were unsure of what to expect. Although the itinerary included some fabulous cities, many of the port stops on the itinerary were in smaller cities, towns, and villages with new-to-us names.

We soon came to realize why Rhine River cruises are so wildly popular:

Reasons to take a Viking Rhine River Cruise

1) scenic beauty.

Morning mist over the Moselle River in Germany

Our Viking Rhine River Cruise passed through three counties— Switzerland, France and Germany—where the banks of the rivers are lush and green in springtime.

With beautiful scenery and fresh mountain air, it’s not surprising that the region is so popular with hikers, bicyclists and campers.

As the ship meandered the rivers, the spacious, glass-doored balcony of our stateroom on Viking Hild (as well as public areas on the ship) offered “box seats” to view the ever-changing spectacle of verdant hillsides dotted with medieval castles, and ornate church spires and steeples. The right-sized longship held a maximum of 190 guests.

Sitting on the balcony, we could often hear church bells ringing.

Cathedral in Mainz

One of the prettiest and most spellbinding portions of the cruise is along the Middle Rhine, also called the Rhine Gorge. With more than 23 picturesque castles, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We found spectacular vantage points on the shores, too, whether from the top of a church or castle window.

Cathedral in Mainz, Germany

One of the most thrilling views was from a cable car in Koblenz suspended over the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. (The view of our ship above was taken from the cable car.)

2) Engaging Ports

Although many cities on the Rhine suffered bombing during World War II, many have well-preserved or reconstructed “old towns” brimming with history.

Their small streets and cobblestone alleys lined with half-timbered houses and different architectural styles reflect the long and diverse multicultural history of Western Europe.

Half-timbered house in Strasbourg, France on a Viking Rhine River Cruise

We fell in love with the winding streets of Koblenz , one of Germany’s oldest and most beautiful cities with one of Europe’s biggest aerial tramways.

Unusual roofline of the old synagogue in Koblenz

3) Wine Country

Our route on the Rhine and Moselle rivers passed through some of Germany’s most spectacular wine-growing regions (much like the river cruise itineraries do on the Douro River in Portugal).

Vineyard views along the route

Onboard, the wine steward pairs complimentary local wines with both lunch and dinner. Other premium wines and spirits can be ordered, at cost, at the ship’s bar.

Chilled glass of local Riesling

Shore excursions include visits to vineyards, wine tastings, and ample opportunities to savor a glass of local Riesling at a bar.

Of course, Germany is also known for its beers, often best enjoyed in one of the ubiquitous beer gardens.

4) Wonders of Navigation

If you’ve never traveled through canal or river locks, this is an opportunity to witness this fascinating technology.

Viking Hild traveled through 18 locks over the course of our cruise, some of them at nigh). They remind travelers of the importance of the European waterways, once used primarily for trade and transport of goods from city to city and country to country.

Johannes Bons, Captain of the Hild, at the bridge explaining the system of locks

Locks enable vessels to move smoothly on a river or canal even while water levels on both sides of the lock vary. Ships enter a closed compartment, where it is locked between two doors, as the water level is adjusted up or down.

Warning: Don’t stick your hands out the balcony. From your Viking stateroom, you can see that there isn’t much clearance between your ship and the high encasement, requiring expert navigation skills on the part of the captain.

Entering one of the locks on the river

To this day, the Rhine continues to be one of the most essential waterways in Europe. In addition to other riverboats, you’ll still find many interesting container ships and working barges along the way.

5) A Feast for Foodies

A Viking Rhine River Cruise is a feast for foodies. Food lovers will revel in all the opportunities to taste local specialties both on the ship and off.

Viking has been making great strides to incorporate local food products and recipes into its menus.

During our Viking Rhine River Cruise, the crew organized a delightful  “German Night” with an all-German buffet dinner, local beers and wines and festive music.

Some of the delectable local specialties served on German night on the Viking Hild

On land, kiosks, food trucks and quaint restaurants lure you to savor new tastes.

For example, you can sample hearty dishes like raclette and fondue in Switzerland or taste Alsatian specialties like kougelhopf (a delicious, yeasty cake made in a Bundt mold) or a tarte flamb é e (a flatbread-like dough topped with crème-fraîche, cheese and thinly-sliced onions).

Kougelhopf cake in Strasbourg, France

Or you may stop for a warm pretzel or grilled wurst (sausage) at a kiosk on one of many town squares, or simply rest your feet and people-watch over coffee at an outdoor café.

We happed upon a food truck festival in Koblenz

Opportunities for tasting local cheeses are endless—and who can resist Swiss chocolates?

Worried about calories? Most river cruise guests walk an average of 3-5 miles per day during shore excursions.

6) Welcoming tourism Infrastructure

Small group tour on Viking Rhine River Cruise with English-speaking guide

Of course, river cruises offer the convenience of only packing and unpacking once!

But there are other reasons why our Viking Rhine River cruise was hassle-free. Because Western Europe has a well-developed tourism infrastructure, local guides are English-speaking and tend to be quite knowledgeable about history, customs and culture. (Viking provides free, guided excursions at every port.)

Cities and towns are conveniently close to the rivers. And many tours include free time to wander at your own pace, stop for a snack, peek into small boutiques, and/or talk to townsfolk who are generally eager to engage with Americans.

…and one more reason

There’s something very peaceful and hassle-free about the slow pace of cruising the Rhine on a floating hotel.

Both on land and on water, you pass relaxed locals sitting on park benches, tending their flower and vegetable gardens, or riding bicycles by the river banks.

You’ll soon feel at one with the tranquility and authenticity of the river.

Flowers along the river bank in Koblenz, Germany

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?

  • You’ll get to visit France, Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg (briefly) and get a feel for the diversity of Western Europe. This “sampler” will help you find destinations to which you’ll want to return.
  • The best time to take a Rhine River Cruise is during the spring and fall shoulder seasons, which are less touristed.
  • The Viking crew is extremely nurturing and professional; they make sure you feel well taken care of from the time you land at the airport abroad until your departure for home.
  • With a no-kids onboard policy, you’ll be among other mature, mostly over-50, intellectually curious people who love to travel.
  • Except for such things as optional excursions, specialty drinks, and gifts and souvenirs, the trip is mostly inclusive so you’ll know your costs before you leave home.

All photo credits: Jerome Levine

Disclosure: We were guests of Viking River Cruises but any opinions expressed in this post are our own.

An earlier version of this post previously appeared on GettingOnTravel. 

  • Viking River Cruises on the Rhine
  • On More Time To Travel: Other articles on Viking River Cruises in Europe
  • Cruise Hacks: 8 Tips To Help You Pack for a River Cruise

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Paulina on the road

8 Highlights of a Rhine River Day Cruise, Germany

By Author Paulina

Posted on Published: November 15, 2018  - Last updated: September 13, 2022

I discovered a gem, that’s so close to my home country Luxembourg , that I cannot believe why it took me so long to explore it. I am talking about the Middle Rhine River Valley in Germany !

Steep vineyards, legendary castles on hilltops, great food and quaint wine villages are creating a truely enchanting setting. My favorite way to explore the German Middle Rhine River is by river cruise.

Let’s sail off to the best destinations for a Rhine river day cruise in Germany!

Read more about the best castles on the Rhine

There are 2 options on how to explore the Rhine River Valley, a declared UNESCO Heritage Site since 2002, by boat:

  • You can either opt for a cruise that takes you from Basel or Strasbourg to the German Rhine
  • or you can explore the Middle Rhine River Valley by day cruises from main Rhine towns

rhine river day cruise, day trip, rhine river valley, attractions, reviews, prices, europe, castle, village, wine, germany, cologne, frankfurt, mainz, koblenz, rudesheim, boppard, bacharach, one day, full day, avalon, viking cruises, loreley rock, unesco,

A European  river cruise on the Rhine can take everything in between to 2- 8 days. You sleep on the boat and enjoy entertainment and dinner on the boat. You mostly discover the highlights of the Rhine River Valley during the day trips. Some of the most popular Rhine River Cruises are

  • the classical Rhine River cruise from Basel to Amsterdam
  • the Romantic Rhine by Avalon Waterways

The main difference to a Rhine Day River Cruise or tour is that you don’t have your base on the boat but in one of the quaint wine villages along the river or in a larger town like Koblenz or Rüdesheim.

My favorite route to explore the gems of the Rhine River is with the Rhine Pass from Koblenz . It gives you the freedom to visit all the villages and castles at your pace. I recommend taking the route from Koblenz to Bacharach which covers all of the highlights mentioned in this post. Your base can thus be in Koblenz or in one of the quaint wine villages like Boppard, St.Goar or Bacharach.

Buy here your Rhine Boat Pass from Koblenz to Mainz

If you want to spend more time in Koblenz I recommend the River Cruise including a Cable Car ride in Koblenz and a visit to Ehrenbreitstein Fortress.

Now that you are ready to sail off, let me share with you my favorite highlights of Rhine River Day Cruise. The order is based upon my personal preference, however, you’ll find a map at the end of the post with the best of a Rhine River Day Cruise.

Read more: Things To Do in Koblenz

8 Highlights of a Rhine River Cruise: incl. German castles, towns, wine tasting| Discover the most scenic attractions and hikes in Upper Middle Rhine with this Travel Guide + Map. #rhineriver #rivercruise #rhinecastle #germany #rivercruise

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General Information about Rhine Travel Geographic situation : The Rhine river flows from Switzerland along Liechtenstein , France, Germany and the Netherlands . Language : German. English is widely spoken. Currency : EUR How to get there : By airplane to Luxembourg Airport or Köln Airport Rent a car to drive from airports of Luxembourg , Köln or Düsseldorf or explore the region without restrictions. Check cheap rental car prices here Public Transport: By train. Wine villages are well connected to public transport on the train line: Mainz -Bingen – Koblenz.  Check cheap connections and prices here  Economy & Activities : Wine growing, main fluvial trade route in Europe and Tourism including cycling , hiking,  river cruises and castle hopping.

Where to stay in Middle Rhine Valley, Germany

1. bacharach, altes hause – “old house” in bacharach.

Bacharach reflects the quintessence of the Romantic Rhine : green, steep vineyards, an impressive castle, medieval ruins, timber frame houses, cobblestone streets, a perfectly maintained fortification wall and friendly people.

The dock is located only a few meters away from the historic town center. 

Like so many towns on the Rhine, Bacharach made its money from collecting taxes from the ships passing down the river. In order to absorb the romantic, absolutely relaxing atmosphere, I recommend to start your tour at one of the medieval entrance gates , make it to “ Altes Haus ”, the prettiest and oldest house (1368) in town, stroll on the main street “ Koblenzerstrasse ” packed with wine terraces.

Take “ Rosenstrasse ” to your left and walk up to the Northern entrance gate, from here it’s only 5 minutes to reach the “ Postenturm ”, the best place for panoramic views over the Rhine river and charming Bacharach village.

I was particularly intrigued by the Gothic ruins of a massive chapel, the Wernerkapelle , which lays on the way to the castle Burg Stahleck . For me, Bacharach village is the best place to enjoy the (wine) Romantic of the Rhine river.

Buy here your R hine River Day Cruise Pass to Bacharach

I highly recommend spending at 1 night in Bacharach, as the atmosphere is sublime in early mornings and at nightfall.

Where to stay in Bacharach

The best place to stay in Bacharach is Rhein-Hotel Bacharach. The hotel is family-run since 3 generations and lays on the fortification wall. Mr. Stüber, manager and cook at Rhein-Hotel Bacharach will serve you German cuisine with a modern touch. Their entire menu is based on the concept of “ Slow food” including regional and seasonal products. You can also buy local wines and liquors at Rhine-Hotel Bacharach. It’s definitely the place to stay in Bacharach.

rhine river day cruise, day trip, rhine river valley, attractions, reviews, prices, europe, castle, village, wine, germany, cologne, frankfurt, mainz, koblenz, rudesheim, boppard, bacharach, one day, full day, avalon, viking cruises, loreley rock, unesco,

My second favorite village for a sightseeing cruise is Boppard. Winegrowing center, it is home to several prestigious Riesling wines. Viticulture in Boppard goes back to Roman times and with its 75 hectares, one of the largest wine-growing towns in the Middle Rhine.

Boppard is the perfect place to enjoy the romantic vibe of a typical Rhine village . I recommend to wander through its narrow streets and enjoy the terraces on the Rhine promenade. I also loved to explore the particularly well-maintained fortification walls.

Buy here your Rhine River Day Cruise Pass to Boppard

The main sights of Boppard are the ancient Roman fortress and the Electorial Castle, one of the few castles along the Rhine River that hasn’t been destroyed. Usually, castles were built on hilltops, away from the villages.  

I highly recommend to include a wine tasting in Boppard in order to enjoy the locally produced white wine. Almost every restaurant will be pleased to give you an introduction to viticulture in the Rhine River Valley.

rhine river day cruise, day trip, rhine river valley, attractions, reviews, prices, europe, castle, village, wine, germany, cologne, frankfurt, mainz, koblenz, rudesheim, boppard, bacharach, one day, full day, avalon, viking cruises, loreley rock, unesco,

3. Sankt Goar

Goarshausen.

Sankt Goar is the last village before you reach the Lorelei Rock, it’s thus an extremely popular destination due to its central location in the Rhine Gorge. You can easily explore it in one day cruise from Koblenz.

The dock is only a few metres away from the historic town center.

Like other towns on the Rhine River, Sankt Goar has an impressive castle , Burg Rheinfels towering on a hilltop. The castle can be visited and you’ll enjoy a great view on the Rhine and on the sister town Sankt Goarshausen on the opposite river bank.

Buy here your Rhine River Day Cruise to St.Goar

Sankt Goarshausen with its own castles, Maus and Burg Katz, is connected by ferry to Sankt Goar. 

You’re looking for something quirky ? Then the Doll and Teddy bear Museum might be for you! The museum hosts a large collection of puppets, soft toys, and puppets on over 3 floors. The items come from all over the world. (Sonnengasse 8, 56239 St. Goar, +49 6741 7270)

Did you know that Sankt Goar is home to the largest free-hanging cuckoo clock in the world? It is hanging outside a souvenir store and is about 3.5 meters high and 2 meters wide. Every hour, the little figures in the clock spin and of course, the cuckoo makes its appearance. The souvenir shop, family-run business is located on the road along the Rhine River. ( Heerstr. 131, Sankt Goar 56329, +49 6741 934120)

4. Loreley Rock

View on the loreley.

The river bend and its legendary Lorelei (or Loreley ) rock are an absolute must when visiting the Middle Rhine River.

rhine river day cruise, day trip, rhine river valley, attractions, reviews, prices, europe, castle, village, wine, germany, cologne, frankfurt, mainz, koblenz, rudesheim, boppard, bacharach, one day, full day, avalon, viking cruises, loreley rock, unesco,

Located between the winegrowing villages of St.Goar and Oberwesel , the steep, the 194m high slate cliff is the narrowest point of the Rhine river . Shrouded in legends, this place has been depicted in countless paintings, poems, and songs. However, the most famous one is by Heinrich Heine.

The legend says that Loreley, a melancholic mermaid sits on a rock, combing her golden hair. Sailors get easily distracted by her beauty and her mesmerizing song and smash their vessels against the rocks.

Indeed the place is particularly difficult to be navigated, but there was no ship wreckage during the last decades.

Buy here your Rhine River Day Cruise along the Loreley cliff

rhine river day cruise, day trip, rhine river valley, attractions, reviews, prices, europe, castle, village, wine, germany, cologne, frankfurt, mainz, koblenz, rudesheim, boppard, bacharach, one day, full day, avalon, viking cruises, loreley rock, unesco,

5. Oberwesel

Oberwesel is the first stop on your Rhine River Day Cruise after the Lorelei Rock. Also known as the ‘City of Towers and Wine’ , Oberwesel is an absolutely charming place to visit due to its old city wall, the picturesque old half-timbered houses and the ancient ruin Schönburg .

Buy here your Rhine River Day Cruise to Oberwesel

Oberwesel has the oldest, largest and best-preserved city fortifications on the Middle Rhine. Of the original 22 towers of the city fortifications, 16 are still preserved today. The “ox tower” is the most famous one. The town also used to count up to nine monasteries.

Oberwesel is also the perfect departure point to hike up to Maria Ruh will from which you’ll enjoy panoramic views on the Lorelei cliff. Just follow the RheinburgenWeg signage and you’ll reach the hill in 1h30. The hike is medium-difficult and includes climbing parts.

rhine river day cruise, day trip, rhine river valley, attractions, reviews, prices, europe, castle, village, wine, germany, cologne, frankfurt, mainz, koblenz, rudesheim, boppard, bacharach, one day, full day, avalon, viking cruises, loreley rock, unesco,

6. Stolzenfels Castle

Princess moments in stolzenfels castle.

You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to castle hooping on the Middle Rhine River, but I highly recommend to visit Stolzenberg Castle, probably the epitome of Rhine romantic.

Located at only 10 minutes by car from the city center of Koblenz, Schloss Stolzenfels towers on the left river bank and offers dramatic views on the Rhine and backcountry.

Buy here your Rhine River Day Cruise to Stolzenfels

Built in the 19th century on top of medieval ruins, Stolzenfels castle is one of the prettiest castles on the Rhine river thanks to its park, artwork and fanciful, majestic exterior. Prussian Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm rebuilt the castle in a Gothic Revival style and it opened again in 1842. The prince even opened up the castle to foreign visitors, something very unusual at that time.

rhine river day cruise, day trip, rhine river valley, attractions, reviews, prices, europe, castle, village, wine, germany, cologne, frankfurt, mainz, koblenz, rudesheim, boppard, bacharach, one day, full day, avalon, viking cruises, loreley rock, unesco,

Opening hours vary with the seasons and tickets cost ~5€. You can reach the castle by foot from Stolzenfels village.

rhine river day cruise, day trip, rhine river valley, attractions, reviews, prices, europe, castle, village, wine, germany, cologne, frankfurt, mainz, koblenz, rudesheim, boppard, bacharach, one day, full day, avalon, viking cruises, loreley rock, unesco,

7.  Marksburg Castle

Marksburg setting.

Although I didn’t visit Marksburg castle, I particularly liked the dramatic atmosphere around the castle. Whilst I was on the opposite river bank, I had the best view on one of the most well-preserved castles in the Rhine River Valley.

Towering above the of Braubach , the Marksburg is one of the principal sites of the Rhine Gorge UNESCO World Heritage Site. In opposite to other Rhine river castles, the fortress was used for protection rather than as a residence for royal families.

Of the 40 hill castles between Bingen am Rhein and Koblenz the Marksburg was the only one which was never destroyed. That means that the Marksburg was left basically unchanged since Medieval Ages.

Guided visits cost 7€ and can be arranged here .

From B 42, in the direction of Rüdesheim or Koblenz, use the exit to Braubach and follow the signs to “Marksburg”. You will find a spacious parking site close to the castle.

8. Visit Bingen

Mäuseturm in bingen.

Bingen was not only home to one of the most remarkable women in the Middle Ages, Hildegard von Bingen , but also a perfect stop during your Rhine River Day cruise.

Surrounded by vineyards, Bingen is one of the larger towns on the Rhine river. Some of the must-sees in Bingen include the wooden crane and the Klopp castle who has been destroyed several times during the last centuries. From here you’ll enjoy beautiful views on the town and on the river. The castle site also hosts a restaurant . 

Buy here your Rhine River Day Cruise to Bingen

The icon of Bingen is the Mouse Tower ( Mäuseturm ) shrouded in historic traditions and legends. Located on a small island in the Rhine River just outside Bingen, it makes for a nice photo opportunity from the river bank or a boat.

The legend says that the cruel archbishop of Mainz, locked up the peasants of the town in a barn and set it on fire. He got chased out of his castle and halfway across the river to the tower by an army of mice who ate him alive.

rhine river day cruise, day trip, rhine river valley, attractions, reviews, prices, europe, castle, village, wine, germany, cologne, frankfurt, mainz, koblenz, rudesheim, boppard, bacharach, one day, full day, avalon, viking cruises, loreley rock, unesco,

I hope some of these, admittedly very personal, highlights of my visit to the Middle Rhine River Valley in Germany  could convince you to include the region in your travel plans.

Have you been in the Rhine River Valley, Germany? Did you enjoy it? I would love to hear about the things you loved (or loved less) in the comment form. 

Map: Highlights of a Rhine River Day Cruise, Germany

Before You Go: Top Tips for your Trip 

  • You’ll snap tons of photos and I love to take my  GoPro  in order to shoot even in extreme situations. 
  • Make sure to wear comfortable  walking shoes  and  hiking sandals  when traveling to warm countries. 
  • Sunscreen is key! I always take with me my  eco-friendly sunscreen  by Thinksport.  Buy here your eco-friendly sunscreen + free shipping.
  • I always carry a  light rain jacket,  just in case.
  • Travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected against all odds with  World Nomads.

In order to get  more information  on tourism in Rhine River Valley, Germany, I recommend the site of the Romantic Rhine Tourism.

Disclaimer: I have been a guest of Romantischer Rhein Touristik. All my opinions, as always, are my own. This post contains affiliate links. In case you purchase one of the items, I’ll receive a small commission. The price remains the same for you.

8 Highlights of a Rhine River Cruise: incl. German castles, towns, wine tasting| Discover the most scenic attractions and hikes in Upper Middle Rhine with this Travel Guide + Map. #rhineriver #rivercruise #rhinecastle #germany #rivercruise

Hola! I’m Paulina, a seasoned travelette who crossed the Atlantic Ocean by Boat HitchHiking. On my blog, find expert insights for an extraordinary holiday through outdoor and sustainable travel like hiking, cycling, and sailing. Let’s embark on unforgettable journeys together! 🌍🚀

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6 Fabulous Shore Excursions On A Viking Rhine River Cruise

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  • Cruises and Sailing
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A Rhine River Cruise is on the bucket list for many. Who has seen a commercial showcasing the castles along the Rhine as guests sail by on-board a river cruise?

TravelAwaits writer Peggy Cleveland and Senior Vice President Missy Glassmaker were hosted on Viking’s new Longship, the Viking Egdir , on the 8-day Rhine Getaway itinerary. This cruise took them to four countries — Switzerland , France , Germany , and the Netherlands — and included six guided tours. 

This cruise is heavy on castles and cathedrals as you cruise along the Rhine River. It is a rich landscape renowned for vineyards producing white wines, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the culinary traditions of the Alsace region — with its influences from both Germany and France — as well as the windmills and cheeses of the Netherlands.

rhine river cruise blogs

One of the benefits of a Viking River Cruise is that a shore excursion is included in each port. We were both pleasantly surprised at the quality of these trips. Peggy is one who tends to explore on her own because, frankly, most tours she’s taken in the past have been pretty boring. The included Viking excursions typically took place in the morning and lasted about 3 hours. 

The guides were awesome! All were well-vetted and so knowledgeable about the destination. You will either be on a walking tour or a bus tour for which Viking uses their own buses. In your room, you will find a QuietVox audio receiver to wear around your neck with an earpiece. It allows you to hear the guide while the group can spread out a bit, which is nice for social distancing and if you want to linger and look at something a bit more as the group moves ahead.

Pro Tips: Tours start as early as 8:30 a.m. so get a good night’s sleep. Also be sure to wear good walking shoes. Peggy wore Keen’s Women’s Targhee II Waterproof Hiking Shoes . A hiking shoe gives you a great tread and support without the bulk of a boot. The terrain on this trip was very uneven with cobblestones and old pavement as well as some trails. Also note if you have mobility issues. Even tours rated “easy” have a walk from the ship to the bus which can be a challenge for some. Work with the ship’s program director or guest services for options.

Here are some of the fabulous excursions Peggy enjoyed on her Viking Rhine River Cruise.

700-year-old crossroads in the heart of the Black Forest, Germany.

1. The Black Forest

Breisach, germany.

I thought this was a great excursion and it was included. After our ship docked along the shore in Breisach, it was a short walk to the Viking buses where we met our guide, Walter Hirsch. The trip took us on a scenic drive through the fabled Black Forest, past three quaint villages and rolling hills covered in vineyards. We stopped at the Hofgut Sternen Hotel situated at a more than 700-year-old crossroads in the heart of the Black Forest. The location has a long history of hospitality towards travelers. 

Clock in Breisach, Germany

My first stop was at the restaurant to enjoy a slice of Black Forest cake before visiting the shops and looking at the amazing assortment of cuckoo clocks. I ended up having enough time to take a hike into the forest and walk along a rushing stream before heading back to the bus.

Beautiful sights on the Flavors of Alcase Excursion in Strasbourg, France

2. Flavors Of Alsace

Strasbourg, france.

This is the best tour I have ever taken and, with my travel history, that is saying a lot. This was the most expensive of the optional excursions I took at over $200, but I felt it was well worth it. This tour is rated “demanding” as total walking or standing time may exceed 3 hours. 

The tour took us through Grande-Île, UNESCO World Heritage Site in Strasbourg, France. This charming historic district is filled with darling small shops, restaurants, and food merchants. It seemed like every type of food had its own small shop. We went to a bakery for eclairs, a shop for cheese, and even one for gingerbread. 

Our guide Steve is certified by the French Government and had to pass both a written and oral test. This certification is required to give tours of French monuments and museums. Steve was so personable and knowledgeable about the culinary traditions of the Alsace region. This made all the difference when spending 7 hours with someone. 

In addition to stops for food sampling, the tour included a stop at a Winstube where we enjoyed a wine tasting of Alsace wines and nibbled on local cheese and charcuterie. We also learned about and ate Flamkuchen, a local Alsace specialty. Similar to a pizza with a thin crust, we tried a savory one with onion and bacon lardons, and a sweet one with apples then flambeed with calvados liquor. Very impressive. 

We also toured the Strasbourg Cathedral, timing it perfectly to watch the astronomical clock in action, before heading back to the ship.

Kinderdijk Windmills

3. Kinderdijk Windmills & Dutch Cheese Making

Kinderdijk, the netherlands.

I am a big foodie, so any excursion that involves a farm-to-table experience is one I will always sign up for. The ship made a brief stop in Gorinchem, the Netherlands, for guests leaving on this excursion. Alas, we just walked from the ship along the historic city walls to our bus because this was such a darling small town and so picturesque that I wished we had time to explore it. 

The bus took us to a farm in Streefkerk to see the Booij kaasmakers (cheese makers) and learn how raw milk cheeses are made. The Booij family has made cheese for over 350 years and the craftsmanship and experience shows in their superior cheeses. After tasting the cheese, I think our whole group purchased some to bring home; it was that good.

We then boarded the buses and headed to the Kinderdijk Windmills to take a tour and link back up with the ship. A nice surprise was greeted by our program director, who took all our cheese for us so we didn’t have to carry it around while exploring the windmills. I enjoyed my afternoon in this bucolic setting. The historic windmills provided a perfect backdrop to the canals with a variety of waterfowl swimming about.

Here are some of the fabulous excursions Missy enjoyed on our Viking Rhine River Cruise.

Medieval village of Colmar

4. Medieval Village Of Colmar

This was the first taste of the adorable villages you dream about when planning a Rhine River Cruise. We took a bus to the village and then were on our way. It was the end of the Easter break in Europe and several Easter Markets, think Christmas Markets but with a spring feel, were still set up — a real treat! 

Colmar is just so picturesque. It’s like being dropped into a storybook. Our guide excellently engaged us with stories from centuries of history, unique architecture, and other small details I would have been sure to miss had I been exploring on my own. The stroll was lovely and at an easy pace. The only problem was, you want to stop and linger at the cafes and shops! 

That’s where the QuietVox audio receiver Peggy mentioned above really pays off. It’s in every room on a Viking River Cruise and allows you to linger at the store windows to take a look, but still listen in as the group moves ahead. We did have about 45 minutes to explore at the end of the tour. This was plenty of time to pick up a few goodies.

Biking in Cologne, Germany

5. Cologne By Bicycle

Viking offered an included walking tour of Cologne during our stop. Many on board took part and really enjoyed it. However, if you like a smaller group setting, want to work off a few calories from all the delicious food, and of course, enjoy riding a bike, this is the perfect tour for you. 

We met our lovely guide just off the ship and we were off. We biked across the Rhine River with several stops along the way to hear about the history and take pictures, including outside of the cathedral and the store where eau de cologne was invented. Our guide, a trained opera singer, even shared her talents with us at one stop. While that can’t be guaranteed on every Cologne bicycle tour, it was magical. The tour also included a stop to relax and grab a coffee or tea, which was included. Then, we made our way along the Rhine for several miles before heading back to the ship.

This tour allowed our group to see a lot of the city in less time, and with just six of us taking part, created great opportunities for getting to know one another, even while biking along the Rhine. We became fast friends and it made the entire experience so much more enjoyable. 

I hadn’t ridden a bike for years before joining this tour and while riding through a major city was daunting, and I felt a bit rusty at the beginning, it was a great experience and the guide was very patient. Finally, the team behind the guide is prepared should any issues arise. We had one member of our party blow a tire and they met us within minutes.

Another Option: Cologne’s Beer Culture & Dinner

This excursion was a ton of fun. We learned a little and laughed a lot! If you like beer and want to try authentic German fare, which was delicious, this is a great experience. The only problem was that it had to end, but guests on the ship were dancing the night away when we returned and you only need to know one thing: there was a conga line which always signals a great time.

Pro Tip: I ended up wearing my comfortable, exercise-type clothes much more than I thought I would on this trip. There’s no need to overpack, but just don’t forget to pack a few things you would normally wear when out for a good walk or bike ride.

bicycling around windmills

6. Kinderdijk Windmills By Bicycle

Viking really puts you in the middle of the action on this stop. The windmills are basically across the road from the ship just begging you to come visit. Viking offered a walking, barge, and bicycle tour of the windmills. After having such a great time on the Cologne bicycle tour, I decided to join this one as well. 

What made this unique was being able to really see the windmills from various perspectives, as well as riding along the village that adjoins them, which wasn’t accessible on the walking or barge tours. I will say, our guide was just okay. He wasn’t very engaging, nice enough, but the competition was stiff with the many other fabulous guides we experienced throughout the week.

What We Both Loved

Finally, I agree with Peggy that the Flavors of Alsace was amazing and would highly recommend it. We had an excellent guide and a really great group of people from the ship on the tour, which made it even more enjoyable. We even had time to ride the double-decker carousel — a first! I also loved the included Black Forest excursion. The drive up was a bit windy, in case tight turns on a bus can make you woozy.

Other Excursions Guests Enjoyed

I made a point of chatting with the guests, learning which excursions they were going to experience and following up to see what they thought. A few that stood out were: the Black Forest E-bike tour, Mercedes-Benz Factory visit, Wine tasting and Dinner at Eberbach Monastery, and Moselle Wine Tasting.

Castles Of The Middle Rhine

While not an excursion, seeing 21 castles in just a few hours is what draws guests to this cruise. The sailing through the Middle Rhine is an unforgettable experience. The crew shares details of each castle over the ship’s intercom while you are able to just excitedly watch each go by. I feel the top deck is the best place for this, but it can really be enjoyed from anywhere, which is pretty special. 

Pro Tip: After booking your Viking Cruise, make sure to read 5 Important Things To Do To Prepare For Your Viking Cruise . There are detailed tips on how to research shore excursions and when to book.

Image of Missy Glassmaker

Missy Glassmaker is an Emmy-nominated producer and writer. She spent most of her career in broadcast television news, working in Providence, Rhode Island; Knoxville, Tennessee; and St. Louis, Missouri. Missy enjoys cooking, entertaining, and of course, traveling. Her favorite travel companions are her twin sons, who are always ready to explore.

Image of Peggy Cleveland

She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest. Her work can be found in Northwest Travel & Life Magazine , 253 Lifestyle Magazine , and other regional publications. She is the author of 100 Things to Do in Tacoma Before You Die , Reedy Press, and a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA). The name of her travel blog came about from her friends constantly asking her, "Peggy, Where Should I Go?"

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7 Rhine River Cruises for Every Type of Traveler

Whether you love the idea of sailing past dozens of castles and forts or are eager to explore one of europe’s more underrated wine regions, there’s a rhine river cruise for you..

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8 Rhine River Cruises for Every Type of Traveler

A cruise down the Rhine River remains one of the most popular vacation options for travelers looking to get a taste of central Europe.

Courtesy of Avalon Waterways

One of the world’s great rivers, the Rhine, marks a storied stretch of winding waterway that spans 765 miles and six nations— Switzerland , Liechtenstein, Austria , Germany , France , and the Netherlands—from the Swiss Alps on to the North Sea. European river cruise itineraries here most commonly glide through four of these countries in one whirlwind week, on regular runs between Basel, Switzerland, and Amsterdam , with stops in France and Germany along the way.

It’s a romantic route marked by the region’s legendary castles and half-timbered houses, hillside vineyards, and fairy-tale Black Forest landscapes—along with a pass through the dramatic Rhine Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Apart from all that surface beauty, cruising the Rhine affords an immersive contextual understanding about how this ancient highway and trade route—pivotal since ancient Roman times through to today—has contributed to the history, culture, and economic development of greater Europe. The Rhine is one of the busiest and most economically important waterways in Europe , and your journey will also take you past hulking factories and stacks of shipping containers for a behind-the-scenes look at how essential goods are transported across the continent.

A Rhine River cruise provides seamless door-to-door delivery to the attractions of bigger cities like Basel, Strasbourg, Cologne, and Amsterdam, as well as access to less-visited but entirely worthy destinations such as Koblenz and Rüdesheim in Germany, where you’ll get your fill of castles, churches, museums, and wineries—all from the comfort of your floating hotel with accommodations, meals, and guided excursions included.

In 2022, the Rhine River experienced one of the worst droughts in recent history —some parts of the river in Germany dropped to below 16 inches of water in key navigational areas. The drought affected the flow of cargo and river cruise ships. While ships are still sailing , keep in mind that low water levels may affect river cruise itineraries by shortening the amount of time that passengers have in port when ships are forced to sail at a slower pace.

Nevertheless, river cruise companies have seen a major rebound in demand since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Rhine river cruises are still among the most popular sailing itineraries in Europe. Here, we present seven of the best Rhine River cruises (in no particular order) for every type of experience, whether it’s food, family adventure, wine—or something else—that floats your (river)boat.

Amawaterway's "Captivating Rhine" itinerary runs from Amsterdam to Basel, while their "Enchanting Rhine" cruise runs in the opposite direction.

AmaWaterway’s “Captivating Rhine” itinerary runs from Amsterdam to Basel, while its “Enchanting Rhine” cruise runs in the opposite direction.

Photo by Bjoern Wylezich/Shutterstock

AmaWaterways: Captivating Rhine

Cost: From $3,000 per person Days: 8 days Departure Port: Amsterdam, the Netherlands Final Port: Basel, Switzerland (AmaWaterways’ Enchanting Rhine Cruise runs from Basel to Amsterdam and is the same itinerary, just in the opposite direction)

The seven-night “ Captivating Rhine Cruise ” sails between Amsterdam and Basel, with stops in Germany (Cologne, Rüdesheim, Ludwigshafen, and Breisach) and France (Strasbourg)—it’s a paradise for wine lovers. Itineraries include wineries, vineyards, and cellars: Hike through the vineyards of the winemaking town of Rüdesheim; visit the “Great Vat,” an 18th-century, 49,000-gallon wine barrel in Heidelberg; or taste the famous white wines of Alsace in Riquewihr. Some notable varieties to sample include riesling, which is known as the “queen of the grapes” along the Middle Rhine, while red wine drinkers will enjoy Germany’s full-bodied and velvety spätburgunder (known as pinot noir in France and made using the same grapes).

However, there are plenty of other things to do on this cruise for those who want to experience the culture of the towns along the route or hope to stay active on vacation. AmaWaterways has several cruise excursions available for each port on its itinerary, including gentle walking tours with local guides and bike tours through the gorgeous central European countryside. (Tip: Don’t miss the bike tour of Strasbourg, which explores the charming city’s modern role as one of the de facto capitals of the European Union, as well as its historic Alsatian identity with a well-informed local guide and leisurely 10-mile ride.)

Viking runs regularly trips up and down the Rhine with its line of over 40, nearly identical sister ships.

Viking regularly travels up and down the Rhine with its line of over 40, nearly identical sister ships.

Photo by Shutterstock

Viking: Paris to the Swiss Alps

Cost: From $3,299 per person Days: 12 days Departure Port: Paris, France Final Port: Zürich, Switzerland

Viking, which bills itself as “the thinking person’s cruise,” is a major player on the Rhine, where it operates more than 40 riverboats—nearly identical sister ships with a capacity for 190 guests. Of particular interest to history buffs is its “ Paris to the Swiss Alps ” cruise tour, a four-nation trip that bookends a seven-night sailing on the Moselle (a Rhine tributary) and Rhine with a two-night, hotel-based stay in both Paris and Zurich . After taking a coach from Paris, guests visit Luxembourg en route to Trier, Germany, the embarkation point for a voyage that stops in Bernkastel, Cochem, Koblenz, Mainz, and Speyer in Germany, as well as Strasbourg, France. The cruise ends in Basel before continuing on by ground transfer to Zurich.

The itinerary is loaded with history-rich excursions. Among the highlights is the American Cemetery where more than 5,000 World War II soldiers repose in Luxembourg; a tour of relics of Roman baths, an amphitheater, and city gates at Trier; a visit to the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz to explore the history of the printing press; a stroll through the palace and gardens of Versailles in France; and Germany’s historic university city, Heidelberg.

Frankfurt, Germany

Frankfurt, Germany, was the birthplace of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who penned the play Faust .

Avalon Waterways: Active & Discovery on the Rhine

Cost: From $2,849 per person Days: 8 days Departure Port: Amsterdam, the Netherlands Final Port: Frankfurt, Germany

The Avalon Waterways “ Active & Discovery on the Rhine ” itinerary incorporates an array of customizable excursion options that emphasize physical activity. Choose from guided tours like kayaking the canals of Amsterdam, hiking through the Netherland’s De Hoge Veluwe National Park (140,000 acres and home to red deer, wild boars, and pine martens), jogging while sightseeing in Cologne, or biking through Düsseldorf. Or set out on your own in ports with loaner bikes and Nordic walking sticks on hand. The river cruise operator also offers a series of “discovery” excursions, hands-on, interactive experiences that often focus on culture and cuisine.

Adventures by Disney

Cost: From $5,399 per adult; from $4,899 per child Days: 8 days Departure Port: Amsterdam, the Netherlands Final Port: Basel, Switzerland

River cruise lines have long catered to the over-50 crowd, but the industry has been shaking things up in recent years with the emergence of several family-friendly river itineraries . Leading the charge is the six-year-old partnership between Disney (via its Adventures by Disney tour operating arm) and AmaWaterways; their seven-night Rhine River itineraries unfold aboard two ships, the 156-guest AmaLucia and the AmaSiena. Both riverboats include rare connecting staterooms and suites, designed with families in mind, and fun onboard activities like cooking classes, karaoke nights, and swimming in the heated pool.

Sailing between Amsterdam and Basel, the ship stops in France (at Strasbourg) and Germany (at Mannheim, Rüdesheim, and Cologne) en route. Excursion highlights—all led by up to eight Disney-trained “Adventure Guides”—include a “Black Forest adventure” outing, where you can choose between an alpine toboggan run or a zipline ride and hike to Germany’s highest waterfalls at Triberg Waterfalls; a visit to a chocolate museum in Cologne; horseback riding in Riquewihr (the French village that inspired Beauty and the Beast ); an indoor winter park in Neuss, Germany (for a sledding or tubing adventure, no matter the season); and the Rhine requisite and fun-for-all-ages Heidelberg Castle tour and Amsterdam canal cruise. Note that itineraries are suggested for kids ages eight and up, and a minimum age of four years old applies.

European river cruises are especially popular around the holiday season when Christmas markets are in business.

European river cruises are especially popular around the holiday season when Christmas markets are in business.

Photo by ecstk22/Shutterstock

Scenic: Christmas on the Rhine

Cost: $4,195 Days: 8 days Departure Port: Amsterdam, the Netherlands Final Port: Nuremberg, Germany

Scenic Cruise’s “ Christmas on the Rhine ” takes the best parts of a typical Rhine river cruise and sprinkles in a little holiday magic. Taking place just once a year from December 21 to 28, this cruise sails during Christmas—a memorable way to observe the holiday. The journey begins in Amsterdam, where guests are invited to take a river canal tour or visit the nearby towns of Alkmaar and Schermerhorn, home to windmills that date back to the 16th century. Then the ship will wind its way through Cologne, Rüdesheim, Würzburg, and Bamberg before finally ending in Nuremberg. There are plenty of places in each port to soak up the festive European atmosphere, while making time to pick up a Christmas-themed trinket or two in either Amsterdam or Cologne, Germany.

The moist, but well-drained soil of the Netherlands provides the perfect growing conditions for tulips.

The moist, but well-drained soil of the Netherlands provides the perfect growing conditions for tulips.

Photo by Travelpixs/Shutterstock

Uniworld: Tulips and Windmills

Cost: $4,699 Days: 10 days Departure Port: Amsterdam, the Netherlands Final Port: Antwerp, Belgium

Uniworld’s “ Tulip and Windmills ” cruise begins on the Rhine, but then veers to the west toward Belgium. While in the Netherlands, travelers can look forward to skipping through acres of tulips at Keukenhof Gardens and getting up close and personal with Kinderdijk’s 19 UNESCO-protected windmills that have guarded the low country from rising sea levels for centuries. Guests will also get to visit small, charming Dutch towns, such as Enkhuizen, Hoorn, and Veere, and take in the dazzling skyline of Rotterdam. Art fans will be sure to especially enjoy this itinerary, which features stops at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo (which houses nearly 100 works by Van Gogh) plus a tour through the world-renowned Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which has been nicknamed the “home of the Dutch masters.” Once in Belgium, visitors can take in Ghent’s world-renowned architecture on a walking tour and learn about the UNESCO World Heritage site Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp. Be sure to munch on those Dutch and Belgian pastries when you can.

Tauck's Rhine Enchantment intinerary combines two great modes of transportation: cruising and trains.

Tauck’s Rhine Enchantment intinerary combines two appealing modes of transportation: cruising and trains.

Photo by Gaspar Janos/Shutterstock

Tauck: Rhine Enchantment, Amsterdam to Milan

Cost: $6,400 Days: 11 days Departure Port: Amsterdam, the Netherlands Final Port: Milan, Italy

OK, I know what you’re thinking: There are no waterways that directly connect Amsterdam with Milan. Tauck’s “ Rhine Enchantment ” itinerary combines arguably two of the most popular modes of leisure transportation in Europe: cruise ships and rail. After sailing from Amsterdam to Basel (with stops in places like Düsseldorf and Heidelberg), guests will take a train along a stunning route through the Alps to Milan. The cost of the trip includes three nights at the Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan during the Italian leg of the journey, a private boat ride on Lake Como, and a gala evening at a baroque palace situated along the Rhine near Wiesbaden, Germany.

This article was first published on June 10, 2019. It was updated on August 19, 2022.

The entryway to the opulent grand Zwinger museum complex in Dresden, Germany

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  • Aug 16, 2022

Adventures by Disney Rhine River Cruise Review

This summer, Diserella Travel Advisor Christie Wilson and her family enjoyed a Rhine River Cruise tour with Adventures by Disney and I've asked her to write a review for our readers (see below). Adventures by Disney brings the masterful storytelling and legendary service Disney is known for to guided vacations across all seven continents.

What makes an Adventures by Disney vacation special? The guides! Disney-trained Adventure Guides ensure that every detail of your trip is attended to. From checking you in to your hotels to recommending local dining options and not-to-be missed experiences, your Adventure Guides will help you foster a lasting connection with every destination.

rhine river cruise blogs

Day 1 - Basel, Switzerland

Our Adventure started in Basil, Switzerland aboard the AmaLucia. Advetures by Disney partners with AmaWaterways for their river cruise adventures as the quality of their ships and level of service are a good match for Disney. We got in early and boarded the ship around 11am. We were some of the first on the boat, but couldn’t check into our room until a little later.

rhine river cruise blogs

We enjoyed a nice, light lunch onboard. After settling in, we had a meeting in the lounge to meet our 5 Adventure Guides, do the safety drill, toast to a good trip and hear about our next day. Then, for our first dinner, we were invited to the Captain's table! We had a gourmet 7 course meal. It was all small bites and delicious. We tried cauliflower soup with almonds and figs, Tiger shrimp, braised Irish short rib, a salty caramel tart, and a lime macaroon and mango sorbet for dessert.

rhine river cruise blogs

After a long day of traveling it was nice to get into our room. My daughter and I shared a room and my husband and son shared a room. There must be someone over 18 booked in each room. If you feel comfortable leaving your kids in their own room, you can change the sleeping arrangements once you are onboard.

Every day while at dinner you get turn down service and a Daily Adventurer. This was a newsletter with your schedule for the next day and had the excursions you were doing listed on it. It also had information about the town you were going to and the weather, sunrise, sunset, and the ships phone number and docking location.

Note: We had breakfast and dinner on the ship each day. Everything is inclusive: meals, tips, transportation and all excursions. The only thing you need to pay for is souvenirs and if you have lunch off the ship.

Day 2 - Breisach, Germany

After Breakfast my daughter and I went on a Toboggan Run in the Black Forrest. My daughter got up to 42 kmph on one ride. Mine was much slower...lol! You had a hand break so you could control the speed.

rhine river cruise blogs

Next up was a visit to a museum of authentic houses and life in early Black Forrest Germany. We churned butter and then got to taste our butter on German Grey bread which, according to our Adventure Guide Daniel who is from Germany, is the best bread. We made clocks also.

rhine river cruise blogs

My husband and son went zip lining and had a visit to Triburg Waterfall in the Black Forrest. The boys had 8 zips to enjoy as they soared above the trees.

We all had a group lunch (included) of authentic German food; schnitzel for the girls and a variety of

meats including schnitzel and wursts for the boys. Desert was black forest cake, of course. Both excursions were

excellent and so much fun.

rhine river cruise blogs

Back on the ship they had tea time everyday from 4 to 5 pm with drinks and tea sandwiches if you wanted. Our guides always held a daily meeting before dinner to discuss the day and talk about the next day. Dinner was at 7pm. The teens could eat together in the wine cellar and on select nights the Junior Adventures could eat in the lounge with the Adventure Guides. Then at different times there was a happy hour with all drinks included and there was always a late night snack.

Day 3 - Strasbourg, France

After another scruptous breakfast, we all departed for a Batorama Canal Boat tour. Some of the other passengers did an Alsace Canoe Excursion. We got an excellent glass topped boat tour of Strasbourg. We saw the EU European Parliament, European Court of Human Rights and the University of Strasbourg.

rhine river cruise blogs

After the canal cruise we had some time in town to shop and get gelato before heading back to the ship for lunch that included escargot and coq au vin. We saw Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg:

rhine river cruise blogs

Back on board in the afternoon we had a macaroon cooking class. The kids loved mixing flavors and making macaroons. Then it was tea time and happy hour.

rhine river cruise blogs

After dinner we had a private organ concert at St. Thomas church where Mozart once played. To experience the organ as it was meant to be heard was memorable. By then it was late, so we headed back to the ship to relax and go to bed.

rhine river cruise blogs

Day 4 - Ludwigshafen, Germany

Today's adventures was a tour of Heidelberg Castle by a local guide in authentic costume.

rhine river cruise blogs

We were broken into small groups and had a local guide tell us all about this remarkable castle and the

life of Fredrick V and Elizabeth Stuart (1600’s), the most famous couple to live there. The tour was so

interesting; we saw cannon balls in walls, a two story wine barrel, and even an intricately decorated

rhine river cruise blogs

Following the castle tour we took a train ride down the mountain to the town for time on our

own. We had lunch at a local German restaurant, with pretzels, schnitzel and currywurst. Then we

checked out the town, had more gelato and picked up some gummy bears and chocolate before heading back

to the ship.

rhine river cruise blogs

After relaxing on the ship we enjoyed tea time and making friends. Then our usual meeting

before dinner at 7. After dinner was the big surprise. We had the inventor of Spaghetti Ice

Cream on our boat talking to everyone and giving out ice creams for everyone. Spaghetti Ice Cream is as

common in Germany as a hot fudge sundae is in America. Vanilla ice cream is put in

a noodle maker and squeezed out onto a whipped cream and topped with strawberry sauce and

white chocolate curls. So it looks like spaghetti with sauce and cheese. It was so delicious.

rhine river cruise blogs

Later, we played Bingo in the lounge until our sugar rush wore off and then off to bed.

Day 5 - Rudesheim, Germany

We were off to an early start at 8:30 for our tour of Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Cabinet. This had so

many musical cabinets from carousels and gramophones to singing birds in music boxes that

inspired Walt Disney to make the Tiki Room, one of my favorite shows.

rhine river cruise blogs

Next I went to enjoy some Hot Chocolate at Café Rudesheim Schlos while the rest of my family took a gondola to the top of the vineyards which overlooked the Rhine and town. Later my husband enjoyed a Rudesheim coffee, a coffee with brandy that is lit on fire and topped with a giant whipped cream. He said it was delicious. I’ll take his

word for it.

rhine river cruise blogs

Lunch was at a German Bier garden. After some shopping we left my husband to his wine tasting while the kids and I enjoyed a local treat called a chimney. It is dough wrapped around a spit and cooked, then sprinkled with your choice of topping. We chose cinnamon sugar. It was almost a foot long and delicious.

rhine river cruise blogs

On our way back to the ship of course we got gelato. It was All Aboard by 3:45pm. As we sailed, we all went to the top deck for a castle tour of the UNESCO protected Rhine Gorge. We saw so many castles — some

in ruins and some are hotels now. Then, happy hour and our meeting for next day followed by dinner.

Another dinner for Junior Adventures also. Tonight's evening entertainment was Karaoke. We enjoyed a

bunch of people having fun singing, then off to bed.

rhine river cruise blogs

Day 6 - Cologne, Germany

Today we got to sleep in a bit and enjoy a later breakfast before taking a walking tour of Cologne with a local guide. We split ourselves into small groups. We went with the new friends we made who also had kids our kid's ages. We learned most of the town was bombed out during WWII except the cathedral. All the stained glass and relics were removed from the cathedral. Along the way we encountered a wedding (on a Tuesday!) in the town center.

rhine river cruise blogs

After the tour we split up and did different excursions. My son and I walked around the cathedral then walked to Lindt Chocolate Musuem. We enjoyed the Chocolate Museum, especially the chocolate fondue. My husband and daughter had a private tour of 4711 Fragrance House which even had a cologne fountain.

rhine river cruise blogs

Then back on the boat for lunch and the teen pool party. The adults had Fruhschoppen, a German tradition of pretzels and sausages. We also had a lesson on the area's history by our Adventure Guide Daniel as we sailed down the Rhine. We sailed right by Daniel's home town of Dusseldorf.

Tonight we had our Captain's Cocktail party before our meeting about the next day’s events. It was a great time and we thanked all our staff and adventure guides for such an amazing trip thus far.

We had an exceptional Gala dinner followed by trivia night. Now I will brag a bit, my husband and I are very good at Disney Trivia. Well, after many trivia losses on Disney cruises we were vindicated and Team Schnitzel won!! After celebrating off to bed.

Day 7 - Amsterdam, Netherlands

We docked in Amsterdam for the next two days. We had an early morning start with a canal cruise

around town. There are 2.5 bikes per person in Amsterdam and bike lanes on all roads. So watch your

step so that you don’t get run over by a bike!

rhine river cruise blogs

Amsterdam was so clean, nice and friendly. After the canal cruise we visited the Van Gough Museum. We saw Sunflowers , The Potato Eaters , Almond Blossom , and Irises . It was amazing to see them in person.

rhine river cruise blogs

Then we went back to the ship for a light lunch of burgers and pizza. After lunch it was off to Zaanse Schans, an open air museum with working windmills and shops. We toured a windmill, ate cheese and more gelato, and decoupaged clogs. We learned that area of the Netherlands is called Holland. Holland is an area of the Netherlands, but not all of it.

rhine river cruise blogs

On the way back our Adventure Guides had Stroop Waffles for everyone. They were filled with honey and were so fresh and delicious. We made it back in time for our evening meeting about departing tomorrow, then dinner. After dinner my daughter and I relaxed in the lounge and listened to some local musicians.

Day 8 - Amsterdam, Netherlands

Sadly, the Adventures by Disney part of our trip had come to an end and it was time to leave the beautiful AmaLucia . Everyone had been assigned different times to disembark depending on when their flight or taxi was arriving. We were taking an afternoon train, so we had a taxi pick us up at 8:30am and take us to the train station to put our luggage in lockers.

After our luggage was secured, we walked around town and got lunch at a café. The food was very good. My husband and I shared a grill platter. They brought out a propane stove and placed a heaping tray of various delicious meats and veggies on it. We could have shared with the kids it was so much food, but they had grilled cheese with pineapple and a burger. We had a little time for shopping before catching our train to Paris to continue our adventure.

Our river cruise was so wonderful and exciting. The towns were gorgeous. The food was delicious. The staff was beyond helpful. What a wonderful way to experience Europe! I highly recommend Adventures by Disney to everyone.

For more information or to book your own Adventures by Disney vacation, contact Christie Wilson or your favorite Diserella Travel Advisor .

rhine river cruise blogs

About the Author:

rhine river cruise blogs

Christie Wilson's family motto is family motto is Life is an Adventure, get out and see the world . An avid Disney fan and traveler, Christie has experience with Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, and Adventures by Disney.

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A Rhine River cruise takes you into the heart of Middle Europe, where stately castles, fairytale villages and cultural centers have long been witnesses to history. The river’s banks are brimming with historic treasures, natural beauty and vibrant capitals. Here are a few highlights Viking reveals to you:

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  1. Our Viking River Cruise: Rhine Getaway Part 1

    1463 shares. Read along on this travelogue of our Viking River cruise, the Rhine Getaway which explores one of Europe's best loved rivers, we cruised on the Viking Kara longship from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, The Netherlands on a scenic cruise of castles and cathedrals on the Middle Rhine of Europe, an area rich in history and beauty.

  2. Review: What It's REALLY Like Aboard Viking River Cruises

    Viking River Cruises Review. Recently, I sailed on my first Viking River Cruise up the Rhine River to explore Switzerland, Germany, France and The Netherlands on their classic 'Rhine Getaway' river cruise. The entire trip was calm and relaxing and I felt like it struck the perfect balance of sightseeing and leisure!

  3. Viking Rhine River Cruises: Rookie Mistakes to Avoid

    On a Viking Rhine River cruise there's a wide choice of cabins on the line's trademark 190-passenger Longships, including two-room suites and cabins with walk-out balconies.

  4. Remembering My Incredible Viking Rhine River Cruise

    Lovely Heidelburg, Germany. Travel back in time to Heidelburg, the historic capital of Rhineland-Palatinate, where the oldest university in Germany (1386) and the scenic Neckar River Valley await. The must-see Heidelburg Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stands tall as a Romanesque cathedral dating back to the 11th century.

  5. A Viking Rhine River Cruise Review: Basel To Amsterdam

    Viking offers various Rhine River cruise itineraries, and the one we booked was called the " Rhine Getaway .". As of summer 2022, this cruise is eight days long and spans four countries: Switzerland, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. We traveled from Basel to Amsterdam, but it can be booked in the opposite direction as well.

  6. What It's Really Like on a Viking River Cruise

    We sailed on the Hlin (pronounced "Lynn) on the 8 day Rhine River Cruise from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland (they do the same tour in the opposite direction too). Booking was a breeze and a few weeks before we set sail, a package arrived in the mail with our personalized itineraries, red leather Viking luggage tags and more. ...

  7. Viking River Rhine Cruise Review: Ports and Excursions

    Our Viking River Rhine Cruise tour guide gave an intriguing glimpse into what life was like during the time of castles, kings, knights and princesses. Find out what made this castle so intriguing in this story, Marksburg Castle with Viking River Cruises. Marksburg Castle in Braubach, Germany (Photo credit: haveseen, Depositphotos.com)

  8. What It's Like to Go on a Rhine River Cruise

    One of the newest ships in the company's fleet, it offers two dining options (a main restaurant and the dinner-only Chef's Table, which seats 32 guests), a spa, a walking track, and complimentary beer and wine. But what distinguishes AmaWaterways from the seemingly endless array of Rhine River cruises is its wellness program and active ...

  9. 11 Most Memorable Experiences On My AmaWaterways Rhine River Cruise

    1. Marveling At Castles Along The Rhine. Sailing through the dramatic Rhine Gorge, a roughly 40-mile stretch between Koblenz and Rüdesheim, was an unforgettable highlight of my Rhine river cruise. The Upper Middle Rhine Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with historic castles, palaces, fortresses, and legends.

  10. The Best Rhine River Cruises for Every Traveler

    Best Rhine River Cruise on a Budget: Gate 1 Travel. For wallet-conscious cruisers used to deals on ocean-going lines, the price of a Rhine River cruise can come as a shock. For about $1,000 less ...

  11. Cruising Down the Rhine River: Our Great Viking Longboat Experience

    In 2015, we traveled 820 miles down the Rhine River on an eight-day Viking River Cruise from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Basel, Switzerland. It was one of the best trips we've ever taken—and we don't say that lightly, having logged more than 2 million flight miles across the world! The experience was simply outstanding, from start to finish.

  12. Viking Rhine River Cruise: Visit 3 Countries On A Floating Hotel

    Viking has been making great strides to incorporate local food products and recipes into its menus. During our Viking Rhine River Cruise, the crew organized a delightful "German Night" with an all-German buffet dinner, local beers and wines and festive music. Some of the delectable local specialties served on German night on the Viking Hild.

  13. 11 Best Things to Do on a Rhine River Cruise

    A Rhine River cruise offers travellers the opportunity to visit vibrant cities, beguiling villages, and witness an extraordinary landscape of magnificent castles, rolling vineyards and verdant ...

  14. 8 Highlights of a Rhine River Day Cruise, Germany

    You sleep on the boat and enjoy entertainment and dinner on the boat. You mostly discover the highlights of the Rhine River Valley during the day trips. Some of the most popular Rhine River Cruises are. the classical Rhine River cruise from Basel to Amsterdam. the Romantic Rhine by Avalon Waterways.

  15. An 8-Day Cruise Itinerary Along the Rhine River

    Speyer, Germany. AmaWaterways. The Rhine Valley is Germany at its fairytale-like finest. As an AmaWaterways guest on the seven-night "Captivating Rhine" river cruise, you'll stand in awe of the medieval castles perched atop cliffs, Gothic steeples towering over half-timbered villages, and manicured vineyards clinging to verdant hillsides.

  16. 6 Fabulous Shore Excursions On A Viking Rhine River Cruise

    TravelAwaits writer Peggy Cleveland and Senior Vice President Missy Glassmaker were hosted on Viking's new Longship, the Viking Egdir, on the 8-day Rhine Getaway itinerary. This cruise took them to four countries — Switzerland, France, Germany, and the Netherlands — and included six guided tours. This cruise is heavy on castles and ...

  17. The 7 Best Rhine River Cruises to Book Now

    Cost: From $3,299 per person. Days: 12 days. Departure Port: Paris, France. Final Port: Zürich, Switzerland. Viking, which bills itself as "the thinking person's cruise," is a major player on the Rhine, where it operates more than 40 riverboats—nearly identical sister ships with a capacity for 190 guests.

  18. 24 Viking River Cruise Insider Tips

    Plan in advance how you will pay gratuities. 5.2 23. Tip ship staff early in the cruise. 5.3 22. Collect Euro coins for bus driver and tour guide tips. 5.4 24. Use Euros for all offboard tips, even in countries that use other currency. 6 More Viking Content on Backroad Planet. 6.1 Viking Expeditions.

  19. River Cruising News & Reviews

    May 12, 2024 By Ralph Grizzle Leave a Comment. This week on the Rhine river, while cruising on AmaWaterways' AmaLucia, I chose to straddle a saddle on four excursions by bicycle. "It's the best way to see a place," our guide Monika said as we …. [Read more...] Filed Under: AmaLucia, AmaWaterways, Bicycling, Breisach, Cruise Companies ...

  20. 4 Incredible Countries You'll Explore on a Rhine River Cruise

    Basel. Basel on the Rhine. Many river cruises on the Rhine start or end in Basel, a city known for its love of art and museums. The city has the highest concentration of museums in the country and is centered around a market square, making it perfectly easy to tour. Basel is a fantastic representation of Switzerland as it's situated right ...

  21. Adventures by Disney Rhine River Cruise Review

    Advetures by Disney partners with AmaWaterways for their river cruise adventures as the quality of their ships and level of service are a good match for Disney. We got in early and boarded the ship around 11am. We were some of the first on the boat, but couldn't check into our room until a little later.

  22. Rhine River Cruises

    A Rhine River cruise takes you into the heart of Middle Europe, where stately castles, fairytale villages and cultural centers have long been witnesses to history. The river's banks are brimming with historic treasures, natural beauty and vibrant capitals. Here are a few highlights Viking reveals to you: Uncork new discoveries as you raise a ...

  23. Rhine River Cruise

    Rhine River Cruise. Revel in the scenic beauty along the spectacular Rhine River. 8 Days. from $5,399. View Rates & Dates. Trip Type. Small Ship Adventures. 20 Meals. 7 Breakfasts, 6 Lunches, 7 Dinners.