Rhine River Cruise
Nearly 40 years after we qualified and drifted apart a group of friends from Colombo Medical School suggested a get -together to catch up and compare notes. Eighteen of us just split up after a week on the Viking Eir cruising on the river Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel. Meeting on board a ship named after a goddess of healing was purely coincidental but significant.
This certainly is one of the most memorable holidays for me and my partner. Atmosphere on board was friendly and informal, being a small vessel, the number of guests remain small in comparison to an ocean cruiser, so by the end of the week we knew most of the passengers contributing to the friendly atmosphere.
We had one of the standard cabins on the main deck (the staff kept calling them "Staterooms") compact but perfectly comfortable with a shower room. Having to negotiate the locks in the river these boats have to be narrow so the rooms are smaller in comparison to an ocean cruiser. The common shared spaces are spacious, comfortable, light and airy; we spent very little of our awake time in the room.
One of the most memorable things about Eir was its staff. Everybody from captain to the cleaning staff was cheerful, polite, helpful, and tried extra hard to make it a pleasant experience for the guests. Even the grumpiest and most miserable and complaining guest had to lighten up because of this atmosphere created by the crew.
The Chef (Bobby) and his team kept us fed and entertained during meal-times, food was plentiful and very tasty, with a great variety for most of us omnivores, except one strict vegetarian among us who had a limited choice. Wine served with meals was good and the staff very helpful. I have to mention a few by name because of their friendly and attentive service. Cerasela (Ali)waited on us most of the meals with Bart, and two other guys who’s names I forgot to write down but all were equally helpful. On the second day of our cruise I witnessed with embarrassment a somewhat demanding passenger order three main courses from the menu in a single meal and fussing about the food yet the waiting staff were extremely patient polite professional to attend to all the demands of this guest.
I found Natalia who served us at the bar very attentive, knowledgeable, and she seemed to remember our individual tastes. She asked me what I liked to try out and I told her I liked single malt scotch whiskies.
Over the next few nights she introduced me to several not so common malt whiskies each night. I found her advice very helpful in exploring whiskies I had not tried before.
The excursions included in the cruise were good and quite educational as well as enjoyable. Since we were more interested in the company and catching up we did not book many of the optional excursions, the one I took namely the visit to Mercedes-Benz manufacturing plant was disappointing.
I have to mention few other individuals who played crucial roles to make us feel welcome and enjoy our holiday. Captain Vadim, hotel manager Luciano, program director Daniel, Maria at the front desk, maitre d’ Ronell, are some of the helpful staff I need to be thankful to.
Small but perfectly formed. We spent very little time awake in the cabin because we were busy elsewhere. Bed very comfortable, clean, shower- room small yet more than adequate.