A Rhine River cruise is a wonderful way to experience Europe and a top choice for a first time river cruise. If you've never been on a river cruise before -- or have previously been on ocean cruises -- it's hard to know exactly what to expect. Take a look at our list of mistakes to avoid and enjoy your best-ever experience on a Viking Rhine River cruise.
To avoid unnecessary stress from flight delays or cancellations plan to arrive at least one day before your cruise departs. You should also allow plenty of time for airport transfers at the end of your voyage, especially if you're going to be traveling during the morning rush hour.
On cruises booked in some countries, such as the U.K., flights are included in the fare. If you are flying in from the U.S. on a first time river cruise it is well worth getting Viking to book the air and advise you of the best flight timings.
Also consider adding a pre- or post-cruise extension to your sailing to make the most of your time in Europe. If you are flying in from North America a pre-cruise stay will also help you get over any jet lag and board the riverboat in the best possible shape for the vacation ahead.
Even in summertime the weather on the Rhine can be changeable and you will be spending more time outside than you do on an ocean cruise. Bring plenty of layers, including a waterproof jacket, sweater and something warm to sit outside in the evening, along with a hat.
When it comes to Rhine River cruise tips the single most important item is a comfortable pair of shoes as you will be walking -- a lot. Leave behind any formalwear as river cruises are much more casual than ocean cruises and there is no formal dress code.
All of your meals and snacks are covered and on a Viking Rhine River cruise, the onboard menus will also feature delicious regional specialties from Germany, The Netherlands, and Switzerland. Viking also has always available classics.
However, it is a shame not to try some food and drink ashore to get a real flavor of the destination. Drop by at a cafe in the wine-making town of Rudesheim for a traditional coffee topped with cream and brandy, sip a cooling Kolsch beer brewed in Cologne at a waterfront bar, try the curious smoked beer in Bamberg or call in at the world's oldest sausage house in Regensburg, located close to where your ship will dock.
Unfortunately, there are pickpockets in every big town and city. Minimize risks by only taking small amounts of Euros -- which you can easily obtain from ATMs on arrival if need be -- when you are out on shore excursions or walking around by yourself.
You will only need money for small extras such as coffee, snacks or gifts and even these can be paid for with a credit card. River ships are cashless and any onboard spending, including gratuities if they are not covered as part of your fare, will be added to your final account to be settled by credit card.
For your best first time river cruise experience, don't be tempted to miss the daily pre-dinner port talk about the next day's port of call and activities. Although important information will be outlined in the daily program left in your cabin these talks provide an in-depth look at what's coming up including a detailed look at the shore tours with an overview of difficulty levels and the amount of walking involved. They also provide the opportunity for you to ask any questions.
With daily included shore tours, and the option to book some additional for-fee tours, you can expect the very best excursions on Viking Rhine River cruise. As previously mentioned, river cruises are much more active than ocean voyages especially as there are no days at sea. Rather than feel overscheduled or tired, it is far better to study the itinerary in advance and decide what really interests you. Just because a walking tour is included it doesn't mean you have to take it.
Likewise, the optional tours -- with a clue in the name -- are there for anyone who has a special interest, such as wine tasting, or is looking for an extra level of immersion. If you decide to stay onboard you will have a full-service experience in terms of food and drink and the chance to relax with a book or take a nap. Also, don’t forget to enjoy scenic sailing moments along the iconic Middle Rhine to enjoy the historic castles and hillside vineyards.
On a Viking Rhine River cruise there's a wide choice of cabins on the line's trademark 190-passenger Longships, including two-room suites and cabins with walk-out balconies. If you're setting sail on your first ever river cruise choosing the right cabin can make a big difference to your overall experience. If you are planning to spend most of the day out on excursions, or discovering different destinations independently, then you are likely to be more than happy -- and save money -- by booking a lower deck cabin with a fixed window.
If you are going to pass on some of the shore tours and spend more time on the ship then a veranda cabin is a good choice. If you are going on a Rhine River Christmas market cruise, like Viking’s Christmas on the Rhine itinerary, it is unlikely you will sit outside, so think about a lower deck cabin or one with a window that slides open. If you have mobility issues book a cabin closest to the elevators to avoid having to go up and down corridors to reach the lounge or restaurant. A Viking agent or specialist cruise adviser can help select the right cabin for you.