Just finished my 1st river cruise. Firstly, I will give you my opinion, and then my journal.
This trip for me was a great success, beyond my expectation because it fullfilled my preconceived experience what a European adventure should be like. I have had many ocean cruises, mostly Alaska, Panama canal, Hawaii, and Carribean Islands. River cruiseship is very unlike an ocean cruiseship. To be blunt, river cruiseship is a motel on water compare to the ocean one. However, unlike the ocean cruise, they don't just put you in port and one has to plan his own thing. Viking did an excellent job on their included excursions. Great guides who provided excellent and interesting facts on each city. This is one of my major fulfilments, I learned alot from the places I had visited. It is much more fullfilling to see beautiful archititures and then learn many facts behind it. It is not a relaxing cruise, but a positive one, because there was so much to take in each day. By the end of the day, I had to go straight to bed to recover for next day activities; so therefore, I did not had time to listen the ship's piano player and singer, Blondi (not the one who sang "call me", but he did hum a few bar for me} whom had an amazing voice. I had to apologize to him for not be able to attend his performances because I was so tired. He was a past opera performer and a very friendly person. The overall trip cost more than the ocean cruise, but for me, the excitement was also much more. I am already planning for the next one, most likely to Russia where there is a rich history and requires an expert guides to give me the facts.
From October 13 to 20th, we sailed on Viking Kara from Basel to Amsterdam. Starting from Vancouver, B.C..it took almost twenty fours hours to get to the Basel airport at 6pm in the evening. A Viking bus took us to the ship and the Captain was at the dock greeting us. As soon as we were all aboard, the ship started to leave. We did not have any time to see Basel as it was already dark. Other guests tell us that most shops were closed in Basel on Sunday and not much else was mentioned about its scenic sites.
Breisach, Germany: we arrived there during the night. We did not do the optional tour to Black Forest because, where we are from, we have many forests, waterfall, and rivers. It was a long bus ride and I heard it was very tourist commericalized on Cuckoo clocks and glass blowing. Instead, we took a walk to the church up the hill. a very pleasant morning walk and a good panoramic view of the surrounding. We found the walk around the town was very pleasurable and a good way to experience an old fashion European small town. An excellent start for the trip.
Colmar. France: an optional tour recommended to us by our agent. Very good advice. Beautiful sights and lots to see. Highly recommended.
Strasbourg, France, another amazing city, very European but unlike Colmar. Big cathedral. The walking tour started from near the Petite France area and walk to Notre Dame Cathedral,a beautiful structure, more so than the one in Paris. Then we were on our own. The area is located about two miles aways from the ship and shuttle buses were available for guests to return to the ship in the afternoon for lunch(I tip my hat to Viking for their plannings). For the rest of the afternoon, a free shuttle bus was also available back to the town. We chose to walk around the dock and ended up walking across the bridge near the University of Strasbourg. Nearby, there was a nice church which we were able to go inside and enjoyed its ambience. Actually, if we walked further, we could have reach the Cathedral again.
Heidelberg, Germany: Our ship was dock in Mannheim and Heidelberg is about one hour ride by shuttle. I got out in the morning to do some jogging and from across our dock was a city all lite up, it was dark in the October morning, and provided me with some good photos. Heidelberg is a pretty town and the castle is on top of the hill which one could view it from the town centre. The castle tour was very interesting. Later on, we had a hour or two on our own to tour the town which was also very pleasant. There was a large Christmas store which, even for me, was worth to a look around.
Rudesheim,Germany: we arrived there in the afternoon 5pm and half of the shops were still open, but not the Seigfried Mechanial music museum which I had planned to visit. I walked beyond the end of streets into the vineyard area. It offered a nice panoramic view of the river and its surrounding. Check direction with Google maps.
Next morning was the castle cruising. It started not far from Rudesheim, and then castles every ten minutes for few hours. A very interesting section of the cruise. At the last quarter of the cruise, I had to go inside the ship for a break to digest all those I had just experienced.
Koblenz, Germany and Marksberg castle excursion: Again, another interesting trip. A bit of walking on uneven ground. Make sure to wear proper shoes.
Cologne, Germany: from the dock, it was actually faster to walk to the Cathedral than take the shuttle due to the bridge nearby the dock was for walking and the train only. However, shuttles were still available for guest to ride back to the town center. Again a very interesting walking tour in the morning.
Bruhl Palace,Frances: an optional tour. The most ornate palace I had visited. The decor was breathtaking.
Amsterdam, Netherland in the morning. I went for a walk very early before the embarking. One thing that I was impressed was the ship's program director, it was his last morning on the ship and as he was moving on to another job with Viking, yet, he was at the exit and asked me if everything was ok and did I need help.
Rotterdam, Netherland. if you could, plan a day trip to this amazing city. The train ride is one hour and scenic. I did a walking circuit starting from the Central station, to the shopping district, Lijnbaan, then to the bridge (the Swan) then walk along the waterfront to Markthal. It was Tuesday and a big street market provided good shopping for various items and foods. A lot of people, beware of pickpocket. Great city.
Small, lots shelving. American as well as European plugs for electrical items. Heated bathroom floor could dry laundry within a day or two.