Viking Helvetia Cruise Review by beachgal: First River Cruise - won't be the last!
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First River Cruise - won't be the last!
Destination: Europe - River Cruise
Our flight arrived in Amsterdam about 7am so we got our luggage, got a cab and arrived at the dock around 7:30. It was hard to tell which was our ship because many ships were all lined up next to each other at the dock. He got out to look for Helvetia, and it was the very last one. When we got to the ship, we walked through another ship to get to ours. We planned to just drop off our luggage, but the front desk took our names, let us keep our luggage there and told us to go get a hot drink and offered us breakfast. It was raining hard so we sat in the comfortable lounge, had a hot drink and a snack and waited for the weather to clear. We had a chance to talk to others who had just finished the cruise and get their feedback -- everyone was happy.
Restaurants/shops that we tried to use credit card in Netherlands only took Mastercard. Several restaurants/shops in France/Germany would not take any credit card. Take plenty of cash with you -- we had to use ATMs to get more More cash. Also keep 50 euro coin on hand for bathrooms -- some were free, some we had to pay for.
Cabin very small (smaller than we're used to on the cruise ships). I know I saw the picture when we booked it, but when you walk in, there is a single size couch and my friend and I looked at each other like "where do we sleep?" The room steward quickly popped the other bed out of the wall and made it up. The beds were very comfortable for us. Not much room in between to maneuver. Our suitcases would not fit under the bed (we really tried but they were both too tall). We stood them up behind the door (our friends in another cabin kept theirs in the shower!) We made it work -- after all, we didn't spend much room in the cabins. Bottled water was provided in the rooms.
There were several 220 outlets in the cabin, but only ONE 110, and that is the razor outlet in the bathroom at the very top of the ceiling. We were able to plug in our ipads to recharge, but if you plan to bring any type of heated curling iron, you will need to bring the converter & adapter. They had some adapters at the front desk, but you would need the converter & adapter for a curling iron. Hairdryers are provided.
Wine was provided at lunch & dinner. Soft drinks provided at meals, otherwise, there is a charge.
Only complaint was with the food. There was plenty of it, but compared to all the other cruise lines I have been on, the food options were lacking. Breakfast was great, buffet set up with fruit, steel cut oats, cereal, and you could order hot items off the menu, omelette, bacon, french toast, etc. You could eat lunch either in the dining room (order from menu) or upstairs in the lounge where there was a wonderful salad bar, along with soup and several hot items to choose from. Dinner was the most lacking for me, just not many choices of entree (you could always get salmon/steak and a couple of other entrees). For instance, one night was "surf and turf" which consisted of a sirloin steak and ONE large shrimp on top. We did have choice of filet mignon one night. We certainly didn't starve but just not up to par compared with other cruises (all 8 at our table were pretty well-traveled and all agreed on the food). The soups were very watery and a lot of the food was just tasteless. The 24-hour beverage station was handy to get tea, coffee, hot chocolate, water and cookies.
The most fun I had was our free time in the towns we stopped at, loved looking in the shops & stopping at the wonderful cafes/bakeries to taste some delicious pastry with coffee. Get in shape to walk -- we averaged walking about 5 miles a day!
Staff was just awesome, very friendly and eager to help. Cruise Director George Nakos was lots of fun, as was Bobby, the piano player. Viking arranged for 4 new Mercedes buses to follow the ship en route so when we went out for tours in the morning, the buses were there. Sometimes the ship sailed on down the river and the buses picked us up there, very well organized and coordinated. George went with us on tours, along with local tour guides. Only optional tour we took was the Colmar, France tour, which I highly recommend. We walked around the very cute town and of course had to stop & sample the pastries.
The Rhine was too high to sail into Basel on last day. Poor George was making lots of calls to get alternate transportation for all on board. We had arranged private driver to pick us up at Basel port, so George arranged for him to meet us at the Basel airport -- Viking bus took us to the airport.
On last day of the cruise, we received an email from United that our flight was canceled from Basel to Frankfurt (we did not book our flight through Viking). Didn't get an explanation why the flight was canceled, but when we got to Basel hotel, they told us that Lufthansa (United's partner) was on strike. So we got to the Basel airport the next morning at 6am, and they rerouted us -- by bus (lugging 2 pieces of luggage) to the train station, then train to Zurich airport (the train ride was nice). Long day home back to WV, but we made it (my checked bag didn't make it until the next day).
We all loved the river cruise and will probably do another. Less
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