IT WAS COLD! IT WAS MAGIC! As we sallied forth each day, braving the elements in search of new and exciting castles and forts and cathedrals and vistas and history, charming markets and good food and drink, I felt like a school child on an incredible field trip. We returned tired and cold but never disappointed. Our ship seemed like the warm, inviting winter home where you relaxed with good friends, good food and good drinks around a roaring fire (not literally) and talked about the day and plans for tomorrow.
Cologne was one of the high points for me. It started with a tour by the best tour guide I have EVER experienced.* He was local, very knowledgeable and marvelously witty. Then we toured the markets on our own; made it to 6 out of 7. The vendors were so nice and they all spoke English. The many goods they offered were beautiful and real (not tourist junk). It snowed the entire day and made everything magical. The cathedrals are magnificent in the snow, a complex maze of black and white. I'll never forget the beauty of Cologne in the snow.
The staff and crew of Viking make you feel that you are home, but with great service and gourmet food. My wife has a gluten allergy which is usually a problem. The dining staff and chefs made her feel special rather than problematic. Every meal was gluten free for her and special bread was hand-delivered. We have never experienced that level of accommodation anywhere.
* In 2010 we were both retired and went to Europe for the first time. I refused to be part of a "tour." Had been on Carnival to Nova Scotia and Holland America on the Alaskan Inland Passage. Not my thing. Ride, point, click and back on the bus/ship/whatever is not how I want to see a country, a culture or anything of real interest.
We spent a week by car on our own in Provence followed by Viking's Rhone-Soane cruise from Avignon to Paris, where we spent a week in a small hotel on the West Bank. I have fallen in love with France and Viking River Cruises. I didn't want to leave. I never imagined a tour could be as good as your tours. It always felt like a local, knowledgeable friend was showing a small group of us around his/her neighborhood. No straining to hear, thanks to the closed system from our guide only, no getting left behind when I see something I want to focus on, no rushing to stay near the guide and I always get all my questions answered. If it's my ideal way to travel, it must be Viking River Cruises. I look forward to many more.