My wife and I have taken nineteen ocean cruises. It was time for something different. We were eager to explore central Europe. We decided to take a Viking River Cruise. We were amazed at how many river cruise ships are plying German waters! We took advantage of a 2 for 1 offer and had a 12 day vacation for around $2200 per person. The first two days were based on land. We stayed at the Novotel Paris Tour Eiffel. It was a four star rated facility. It was fine for the most part but the AC struggled to keep us cool in the humid Paris summertime. The two days in Paris included a half day excursion to see the city highlights. The rest was free time. From Paris we traveled to Trier, Germany. Enroute we visited the American Cemetery in Luxembourg and had a half day tour of Luxembourg City. We boarded our ship in Trier. A big advantage with this river cruise line was that all excursions are included in your price. On bigger ships there is a wide range of excursions offered that are mostly overpriced and similar to "cattle cars" in the amount of personal attention one receives. The excursions on the Viking Sky were mainly overviews of the places we visited and would have cost over $1000 per person on an ocean ship. River cruises are a great value.
Another big difference with ocean ships is with the food. On the big boats you get lots of food at just about all hours of the day. On the river cruise you get your three meals and that is it. Within each meal there were a few choices but not many. That is fine as we tend to gorge on the bigger ships. The food was of good quality and often reflected the region that the ship was in at the time.
Another difference was that the river cruise was a bit more sedate. Music was provided by a man with a synthesizer and was adequate. There were very few additional programs on the ship. Mostly a lecture or demonstration after dinner. That was fine for the most part and resulted in a relaxing time.
There was a port per day. The tours mostly took place in the morning. They provided us with "audiovox" listening units so we could hear the tour guide clearly even while lingering behind to explore something of interest. I think that you will see more and more tours using this new device.
After the seven day cruise we spent two days at a five star hotel in Prague. This was a nice way to end the vacation. We also had a general tour of Prague included by the cruise line with plenty of time to visit on one's own.
If you are looking for a cruise experience that is more location intensive and less ship focused a river cruise could be something for you. The clientele skews a bit older and slower but this is a wonderful way to see the world.
Trier- very interesting Roman ruins. This used to be a capital of the Roman Empire in the Rhine area.
Bernkastel- quaint town and wine tasting like you have never experienced (as much as you wanted as you do your own pouring).
Cochen- interesting restored castle. Another quaint town.
Koblenz- Not much here.
Rhine Cruise- a highlight of the trip. Amazing beauty.
Rudesheim- highlight is a tram ride to the top of the hill to view a monument and the Rhine valley.
Heidelberg- full day excusion including delicious lunch in the old town area.
Wurnberg- beautiful Residenz of the bishops worth the trip alone.
Bamberg- not the best of the stops. Fun but ok.
Nurnberg- the emotional highlight of the cruise when viewing the former stomping grounds of the Nazi party during their heyday. Sobering.