For this adventure, we booked our own hotel stays in Amsterdam (before the cruises began), Budapest (at the end of the cruise), and our own airfare because it saved money. The transfers to and from the airport and cruise ship were very easy to book on our own.
We boarded the Viking Spirit in Amsterdam for the "Dutch Journey", 7 night cruise, thru the Netherlands. Our overnights in Amsterdam gave us plenty of time to see all the sights and visit museums.
Our cruise took us to Enkhuizen where we visited the Zuiderzee "outdoor" museum. We enjoyed the free time in Hoorn. Our stops in Marken, Edam & Vollendam were interesting and we had time for sightseeing, shopping and cafe stops to taste the local brew. We toured the Paleis Het Loo at our Arnhern stop.
At Dordrecht we toured the amazing Kinderdijki Windmills!
We both enjoyed the Delft excursion and our relaxing stop at a sidewalk cafe in the town center. Be sure an order the tiny, buttery pancakes with LOTS of powdered sugar. Delicious!!! This cruise ended back in Amsterdam with a trip out to the Keukenhof Gardens. We had planned this trip around the "tulip season" which was supposed to be at it's peak in April. But, this year the tulips were late so not at their peak. The indoor display was fantastic and the gardens and grounds are worth a visit any time of year.
Our next cruise started after another night in Amsterdam: 14 nt. Grand European Tour. We chose these two cruises back to back because we were able to book the same cabin and not have to move our belongings for 3 weeks. We stayed in cabin 214 which was located next to the stairway making it very convenient. Perfect location. The cabin was 154 sq. ft. with plenty of storage.
The Grand European Tour's first stop was Cologne where we visited the Cathedral. We enjoyed all the stops along the way: Rudesheim, Mainz, Wertheim, Wurzburg, Rothenburg. Each town has it's own uniqueness and we always enjoyed our free time to explore.
Nuremberg was one of our least favorite stop but maybe because we were there on Sunday. We discovered that this 2 weeks cruise was much more relaxing than the previous one. We had plenty of time to spend on the upper deck and view the magnificent scenery. My husband especially enjoyed experiencing our journey thru the locks. Because of the time of year and the recent rains, we had to leave port early one day to make it under a bridge before the river got too high. The crew removed the upper railing, chairs and lowered the pilot house so we could clear the bridge by 3 inches.
We met people in Budapest that were stuck and couldn't move on the river because they didn't have enough clearance. We were so glad that our captain and crew were so good that we could continue on our river cruise. We make stops in Regensburg, Passau, Melk, Durnstein and Vienna.
One of the reasons that we chose Viking again (we had taken a Viking Cruise in China) was because almost all the excursions are included. Each town we visited we had guided walks to see the most important features and then plenty of free time to leisurely explore. The local guides were great; friendly and well informed. We enjoyed our visit to Vienna and the evening concert of the Resident Orchestra was well worth the extra expense.
Our least favorite stop was Bratislava and from there we headed into Budapest. We arrived at night and what a sight to behold! This city is so beautiful as you enter along the river and see all the city lights. Our cruise ended here and we extended our trip by staying in hotel for 3 nights.
We will definitely take another Viking cruise someday. The crew and staff are excellent. The food was very good. We enjoyed the open seating at meals which gave us the opportunity to meet new people. We made several new friends and established our own little dinner group where we shared our daily activities and our local wines.
The only disappointment was that when we were traveling thru all this wonderful wine country, the wine choices on board didn't change. My husband was also disappointed that we couldn't get local beer on board. We solved the wine problem by buying our wine on shore and opening it in our room before dinner. (7 Euro fee to have it opened at the dinner table.) Our friendly bartender was always willing to give us a couple of wine glasses to take to our cabin. The Reisling wine we bought in Rudesheim was the best we've ever had: So smooth and fruity. DELICIOUS!!!!
We loved our time in Amsterdam. There is so much to see in this OPEN City and we walked all over. Warning! Watch out for the bikes! They will run you over.
Our stay in Budapest was great and we used the tram system to get everywhere. WARNING! Every time you change from one line to the next. (Yellow to red, or green to red, etc.) Be sure and validate a new ticket. If you get stopped and you haven't got a validated ticket for that line-you will be fined!!! Don't ask me how I know this.