I take each of the girls, kids and grans, on a trip of their choice when they graduate from college. Our grand-daughter chose this Rhine cruise with a pre-extension at the Floriade, a once every ten years horticultural exhibit in the Netherlands. Our plane from the States arived in Amsterdam late, but Viking had a black Mercedes town car waiting right outside the door for us with a wonderful chauffeur named Bea. She was a wealth of information, funny and bright and made our jet lagged selves feel right at home. We were met in Maastricht by the concierge of the Beaumont hotel at curbside with our key. We didn't even have to check in. More great VRC service! Grandpa and I had taken this same cruise up the Rhine about three years ago and loved it, so I didn't mind doing it again.
So many reviews have been written about these trips, but what was different about this one was experiencing Europe through new eyes. Being able to see everything anew, watch her wonder and joy at everything was splendid. Viking was wonderful, celebrating her 21st birthday on board with not just any candles, but a Roman candle on the cake in the dining room. Pretty festive! I think this was the best service I've had on any VRC, the food was very good, and all of the staff were so helpful.
Favorite enrichment talk was on the European Union, most informative. We loved the shore tours, even the one to the Black Forest, where our bus was detoured because of road work. The same trip one of the other buses caught on fire under the carriage, a wiring problem. We all stopped and waited with the stranded passengers until they caught another bus. Everyone handled it well, and VRC was superb. The only dismay was because everyone's time at the clock shop was cut short. About that. If you go on the Black Forest tour, walk behind the buildings, down the paved trail and you will see a tiny chapel. Walk up and look through the basement window. It is filled with skulls and bones. I was told by one of the locals that this is the oldest church in the Black Forest. None of the tour guides mentioned it, or even knew that it was there.
We tried all of the local foods, including the white asparagus dishes which were in season, ate seemingly every two hours and stopped at every pastry shop. Strasbourg is my favorite town. Lizzie climbed the cathedral tower and I did some shopping. We bought original watercolors of Strasbourg from a street vendor for 2 or 3 Euros each, my favorite souvenir of the trip.
We walked miles on our own, always felt safe, and found the locals to be friendly and accommodating. In France we were fed more free samples than we could eat, almost. A most clever ploy by the shopkeepers to let us taste their wonderful offerings so that we would then be hooked and buy. It worked!
She wanted castles? She got castles! There was one seemingly on every promontory of the Rhine. We visited a few, Marksburg is still my favorite.
Were there some glitches? Certainly, since we wasn't the boss of everything, but they were minimal and easily rectified. Our motto was, 'We all paid too much money for this trip to have a lousy time'! Next time you get stuck at a table with some persistent complainers, give it a try. Works every time.
So many people on these boards are experienced cruisers, and know how to have fun. But try taking one of your adult grand-kids with you, just the two of you. We walked miles, laughed like crazy, and really got to know each other. The experience was one I'll cherish forever.