We flew from Atlanta to Basel via Amsterdam on August 20, arriving on August 21. Had about a 3-hour layover in Amsterdam which gave us time to locate our flight which was in the "lower 40". We took a bus to our plane and walked up the stairs. In Basel Roy and Mom (who had wheelchair assistance) were moved by a lift to the ground so they didn't have to walk down the stars from the plane.
We found a cab which could accommodate all 6 of us and our luggage and arrived at the St. Gotthard in Basel around 11am. No problem at all to check in early. Great location, across the street from the train station and around the corner from the tram stop. We had free tram passes for the 2 days we were there so this worked out great. No restaurant in the hotel, but several nice ones in each direction. Breakfast was included in our reservation, which at the price, it should have been. I think we paid 250 Swiss francs per night. Rooms were relatively small, but pretty good sized for Europe. Adapters came in handy for charging computers, cell phones, etc. Took dual voltage flat iron and curling iron which cold plug into German or Swiss plugs by using the adapters; all electronic chargers could also be used with these.
After arriving we went to eat at the train station and Dad picked up something for Mom at the McDonalds next door. All of us flaked out, took naps until we got together for dinner around 6pm or so at the restaurant next door. After dinner we took a quick tram ride downtown.
The next day we went to Les Reyes Trois hotel for lunch. Had reservations to celebrate Mom's birthday there. Amazing restaurant, with lunch having about 7 courses. She enjoyed it, which was important. They have a balcony overlooking the Rhine where we watched all the river traffic. We also took tram to the marketplace downtown and to see the cathedral. Great veggies early in the morning. Later in the day we took the tram as far as possible just to see what we could see, about 50 miles into the suburbs. Dad, Sandy and John to the zoo. We met Liz, Henry and Jean at a pizza place for dinner.
We had a lazy morning the next day then got a cab to go to the riverboat (actually 2 cabs). They had to search a little bit to find the exact location of the boat, but once we got there, people from the ship helped unload the taxis and took our suitcases from there. We were guided to the lounge and a buffet lunch and waited until about 2pm before we could get into our staterooms.
My first impression concerned how easy everything was and how personal. They took care of our suitcases right away, and we walked onto the ship. No lines, no security, just make yourself at home. Everything light and airy feeling, very friendly staff. We met the Captain within 10 minutes of boarding! Our cabins were on Deck 2, same as the reception desk and the restaurant. We had a French balcony which is a room with a sliding glass door with no where to go...but lots of window! Not very much closet/cabinet space, but enough; also, pretty tight getting around the bed for us, but doable. I'm not complaining here, just know not to bring a huge amount of clothes.
Day 1 - Basel
After boarding the Jarl you have the option of taking a bus to the city center and going on a walking tour. We didn't do this since we'd been in Basel, but several of our group did. We had our initial meeting in the lounge at 6:30 meeting the captain, hotel manager and program director, all of whom were friendly and welcoming. This was followed by dinner at 7:30; we cast off at 7pm. The head chef, Georg and Maitre d' Sasha were wonderful. Just about every night Georg would give us at update before dinner as to what our options would be. When one of our party was sick one evening, Sasha brought some crackers, apple sauce and soup to her in her cabin...think that would ever happen on an ocean cruise??? We added the silver plan to our drinks at $150 per person for the 7 day trip and were able to drink whatever we wanted for the entire trip. We'd order a drink, say we had the silver plan and that was all it took. Your wine at meals is included, but they didn't have the wines I like and cocktails are extra. We thought it was a good deal and it was. I didn't record what we had for meals, but they were great. The crew would get fresh produce and meats, whatever, from just about every port. We even saw the captain helping load and unload!
Day 2 - Breisach & Black Forest
We had breakfast in the dining room, your choice of buffet or ordering from the menu (or a combination of both). Our first excursion, from 8:30am to 12:30pm to the Black Forest. I chose not to go to look at cuckoo clocks, but to go for a walk. After about 10-15 minutes I turned around, just too much in the way of hills for my lack of fitness. Ran into Mom and Dad and we went into the restaurant and ordered some black forest cake'too large for 3 people and to die for! Really pretty area there. I didn't actually go into any of the shops of which there were 2-3, but of course you can. Pretty drive. Viking had 3-4 buses that followed the ship to most destinations; tour guides changed but buses and drivers remained the same.
That afternoon 3 of our group went on a World War II excursion and thought that made their trip. Excellent guide, very knowledgeable, and a great museum in Colmar. All things Audie Murphy, and just fabulous. Several of the others went for a walk in Breisach to the cathedral up at the top of the hill and through town. All enjoyed that, also. The cost was $39 per person and think they would have paid more!
Entertainment was primarily a wonderful piano player, who had a really extensive repertoire, including "All My Exes Live in Texas" with a German accent! Sit and listen to him or dance, at your discretion. He did a great job.
Day 3 - Strasbourg
We arrived in Kehl, east of Strasbourg at 8am and after breakfast went on a bus tour around Strasbourg, seeing various UN buildings and the European Parliament before stoping at the cathedral and touring it. We had made reservations at the Chez Yvonne a local restaurant, that had been in operation since the 1800s, to celebrate Sandy's birthday. Her favorite thing in the world (other than her husband) is foie gras and that's their specialty. It was only a few blocks from the cathedral so this worked out great for us. Great meal, then some of us took a cab back to the ship and others walked around some more and returned to the ship via the shuttle which the Viking Jarl was operating until 5pm.
Day 4 - Heidelberg and Rudesheim
Bus tour of Heidelberg followed by tour of the castle then back to the ship for lunch. The ship cast off at 1pm for Rudesheim, arriving about 6:30pm. That afternoon we visited the wheelhouse and stood behind the captain to learn about how the ship was being operated, radar, etc. Very interesting...again, something you don't do on larger ships! After dinner a group of us went to Rudesheim and visited their street of wine taverns on our own, just a little ways from where the ship was docked. Others enjoyed a glassblowing demonstration. We stayed in Rudesheim overnight.
Day 5 - Cruising the Rhine, Marksburg Castle, and Koblenz
Traveling down the Rhine and seeing the amazing castles most of the morning until we got off for a tour of Marksburg Castle. Not for the faint of heart with lots of uneven stones, steps and uphill walks, but a wonderful sight to see. Don't do this one unless you're in pretty good shape! From here the buses took us to Koblenz (ship had already arrived there) where we had lunch. We were there the rest of the evening. That evening attended a great musical trivia quiz with program director Rene and our great piano player.
Day 6 - Cologne
We arrived in Cologne around 9:30am for a city walking tour including the old town and fabulous cathedral. We were docked about 10 minutes walk from the cathedral, very centrally located in an area with lots of other riverboats, a park-type area. There was a chocolate museum and a mustard museum which some enjoyed. A few of us just stopped in a cafe and had some great wine or beer. Some of our group did a little shopping since we were close to downtown. We sailed that evening around 11pm.
Day 7 - Kinderdijk
We were sailing in the morning, had an interesting program about all things Dutch from Rene and a great cooking demonstration from Chef de Cuisine Georg. After lunch we arrived in Kinderdijk and had an interesting tour of all their windmills, even walking inside one (and some climbing up). That evening we had our farewell dinner with all the crew being introduced in the dining room.
Day 8 - Amsterdam
We woke up in Amsterdam harbor with riverboats on either side of us, but I went up on the sun deck and could see the harbor. After breakfast we left the ship with help from the crew carrying our luggage. Rene and Dora had made arrangements for taxis for us to go to the train station. We could have walked, it was so close, but not with all our luggage! Off to Hamburg and our next trip.
1. Internet was great, free, and never had any problems getting on.
2. We never had problems hearing the information in the lounge. Just be sure and get there early so you can get a seat. Most days it's not a problem.
3. Food was wonderful. If you don't like their food, I don't know what to suggest.
4. Laundry service was available with about a 2-3 hour turnaround, fastest I've seen anywhere
5. Sometimes they set up leisure groups for those who walked slowly, but several of the guides didn't seem to know that was the purpose of the leisure group...we kept on asking them to slow down and they never looked back. If you're a slow walker, you might have to go on your own or else stay at the ship.
6. I'D TAKE ANOTHER VIKING CRUISE IN A HEARTBEAT!