Our trip didn't start off perfect - far from it! We missed our connecting flight to Amsterdam due to weather, and terrified we would miss our sailing, we scrambled to find other flights. After 1 hour on hold with the airline, we were routed through Manchester to Amsterdam and only arrived 6 hours late. But we were exhausted and realized that our bags had not made it and we were ready to drop! But coming out of baggage claim we were enthusiastically met by a Viking representative who already knew of our situation. He secured a private car to take us to the ship and ensured us that Viking would take care of our lost luggage. When we checked in on board the ship, the clerk was also aware of what had happened and the cruise director was already making phone calls to track the luggage. He assured us that the luggage would arrive on our second day while docked in Cologne, but I had my doubts. Sure enough, that morning he contacted the airline and told them where to deliver the luggage and there it was! I tell you all of this because there are lots of river cruises, lots of great itineraries, and many options out there for you. But as a traveler in a foreign country, your number one concern is that there is someone there to take care of you. Viking did all of this and more. Rene was tireless in his efforts on our behalf and the crew helped us by supplying us with things we needed and even cleaning all of our clothes overnight free of charge.
Now .. for the ship and the cruise itself! The Helvetia was everything I expected and more. Our cabin was a good size, but the best part was the French balcony that allowed us to fully open the sliding door and watch the river run. It was especially beautiful at night and the sound was hypnotizing. The public areas were great - plenty of places to sit and watch the banks of the Rhine, including on the top deck. I loved the dining room - tables of 6 or 8 meant that you sat with new people every night and got to meet lots of passengers. The food was excellent. It was more American than European, though there were always local specialties on the menu. This is not your "belly up to the bar" kind of cruise! No huge buffets, just elegant, delicious, fresh meals!
The itinerary was excellent and the section of the Middle Rhine was everything I had dreamed it would be. Rene did a continuous explanation of all that we were seeing - the castles, vineyards, and small towns. We were able to walk off the ship in every port to walk around and each port had an included city tour. We did take a bus tour into the Black Forest and I was so grateful since I wouldn't want to just stay on the river and miss that! Each night included a talk about our next port, or a language lesson or food tasting for the region we were visiting.
We made great new friends from around the world and experienced a beautiful part of Europe. It was my 50th birthday and our 25th anniversary and we had saved for years to make this happen. It was worth every dollar. If you are looking for an elegant way to see Europe, want to be well taken care of and feel pampered, learn a bit while you travel, and relax all at the same time, a Viking Cruise is for you! We're already saving for the next one!