A group of us have just returned home from our Rhine River cruise on the Viking Gullveig. Overall, the cruise was very nice; we visited some beautiful locations. Having cruised the Danube last year with Viking, I was expecting another magical cruise, that is, until I was faced with the "fatal design flaw" in the new longships that Viking introduced. Last year we stayed in a very nice room with a French Balcony and it was great; that was pre-longship. There was room enough on the Viking Legend for a table and two chairs in front of the French balcony so we could enjoy our cabin. That cabin measured 170 square feet. Viking decided that the new longships would have verandas (balconies) on some of their rooms. To make those verandas, they shifted the main aisle between the cabins and took away 35 square feet from the French balcony cabins; that's a loss of more than 20% of the available space in the cabin, making the French balcony cabins so tight that two normal sized people have a difficult time maneuvering in the cabin. There is less than one foot of space between the side of the bed and the French sliding doors. To look out the French balcony, you must either sit on the bed or lean over the railing outside your door. This extreme reduction in space did not result in a reduction in price for the French balcony cabins. I call this a fatal design flaw because it cannot be easily changed without tearing the entire interior of the ship apart. What was Viking thinking? French balcony cabins are now 135 square feet and the cheaper lower deck cabins are 170 square feet; some one screwed up and it will not be easily fixed.
Enough on the fatal design flaw. The crew was absolutely wonderful The excursions were well planned and the tour guides were excellent; everything I expected on a Viking cruise. The food was good, though the menu sometimes didn't meet my tastes, but the fallback of a New York strip steak is always nice. The ship was always kept very clean and the common areas were very nice. As for the ports, I wish we had more time in Amsterdam. We arrived mid-morning and had a welcome lunch on bard (much appreciated). We took a canal cruise that was very interesting. Couldn't get into Anne Frank's House; lines were very long. If you want to visit Anne Frank's, go on-line a month in advance and book the combined Canal Cruise with Anne Frank's House. Tickets sell out very fast.
The second day we visited a windmill site in the morning; it was very interesting. That visit lasted about two hours and then we cruised for what seemed like an eternity to Cologne, arriving the following morning. The cathedral in Cologne was enormous, but lacked character that we have seen in other European cathedrals. If you visit the Chocolate Factory, skip the tour and go directly to the on-site store. The self-guided tour is not worth 9 Euros; spend those Euros on candy in the store. Heidelberg, Strausbourg and other stops were equally enjoyable.
We ended our cruise in Basel, Switzerland, and took a two day excursion to Lucerne, which was beautiful. The optional excursion to Mt. Titlus was amazing. All in all, a very nice cruise. I preferred the Danube with its larger cites, especially Budapest, but the Rhine cruise was very nice. Sadly, with Viking adding so many longships with "shoe box" sized French balcony cabins, we may have to explore other cruise lines for our future river cruises in Europe.