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7 Night Europe Cruise from Amsterdam

7 Night Europe Cruise from Amsterdam

Viking Tialfi Near The Hungarian Parliament (Photo: Viking River Cruises)
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Viking Tialfi

Viking Tialfi - Viking River Cruises

Destination-intensive itineraries with included daily excursions

Varied cuisine with complimentary drinks at lunch and dinner

Attractive Scandinavian-inspired design

Cruise Reviews

2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
Reportedly Alexander the Great wept when told there were no more lands left to conquer. In that spirit, after 30 Celebrity ocean cruises, I decided to try a Brandy Alexander on our first river cruise. Amsterdam to Basel 8-day Rhine river ... Read More
Reportedly Alexander the Great wept when told there were no more lands left to conquer. In that spirit, after 30 Celebrity ocean cruises, I decided to try a Brandy Alexander on our first river cruise. Amsterdam to Basel 8-day Rhine river cruise starting Dec. 15, 2018 on 180-passengers Viking Tialfi. We added Viking’s 2-day Lake Lucerne extension for $599 pp at 5-star lakefront Schweizerhof Hotel (built 1845), 1 guided tour, transfers and breakfast included. This review compares the Celebrity ocean and Viking Rhine river experience. Meal service is suspended during this irreverent? flight of fancy. Our TA had advised that the Rhine river was particularly scenic with hills and medieval castle ruins (nearly 40). The Rhine also has a heavy volume of commercial ships rushing close by at 12 knots when we were docked at the riverside. The first port’s guided visit let those inclined climb up the interior of a 500-year-old family-managed windmill. Included guided tours featured the Cologne and the Strasbourg Cathedrals and the 11th century Marksburg castle. The guided tour to the romantic Heidelberg Castle featured the world’s largest (58,000 gallons) wine barrel built in 1751. This Viking trip was titled Rhine Christmas Markets offering the attraction of bright festively decorated specialty seasonal stores set up in town plazas. However, the port stops allowed visiting only during daylight hours. Some markets closed at 7pm. Staff were scrambling at the end in Basel to organize and store all the supplies, kitchenware, etc. because it was the last trip until late March 2019. Background: I’m a frequent Celebrity cruiser, sailing accompanied by my starter wife of 43 years, Joan. Even after all this time I’m still a little chagrined that her favorite song is Deanna Carter’s “Did I shave my legs for this?” Some may have run into me since 2000 on past CC Celebrity roll calls and on board socials. Others on past Celebrity trips may have also crossed my path. If you overheard a woman telling her husband “Remember what happened the last time ….” – that was me! Alternatively, if you noticed a woman among other ladies saying “Now what’s he think he’s doing ….” – that was me! Advance message board “Roll Calls” are uncommon among the typically 150-200 passengers on a river trip. I normally organizes a review under the “Miniskirt” rule (short enough to be interesting but long enough to cover what’s essential) Times have changed however. I will modify the advice of “Sing like no one is listening”, etc. and instead will write like no one is reading. So liberating. Passenger comparison: The presence of only 180 passengers soon led to a comfortable relaxed familiarity among the predominantly active well-traveled 55-75-year-old couples (I’m sure the wives were much younger). On this trip I presume Mae West’s dictum that “good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.” did not apply. It’s rumored that Celebrity stopped publicizing ceremonies for the renewal of wedding vows after Guest Relations was flooded with hopeful individuals asking about expiration dates. Many were first-time river cruisers also. I understand E. Hemmingway said he drank (a lot) in order to make other people interesting. We found everyone cordial and welcoming in the lounge and at shared dining tables (irrespective of my drinking). Brings to mind Paul Hornung’s statement “I read about the evils of drinking, so I gave up reading.” And M. Mokhonoana’s “Millions of deaths would not have happened if it weren’t for the consumption of alcohol. The same can be said about millions of births.” The river ship held a safety orientation that was smaller scale than on ocean mega-ships. On ocean cruises, having grown up watching the Twilight Zone and X-files, I would look around my muster group hoping no one closely resembled William Bendix and/or Tallulah Bankhead. Stateroom comparison Viking’s bottom-deck ‘river view’ and upper-deck veranda cabins are generally similar size and layout to Celebrity’s but neither inside cabins nor super-size suites are offered. Viking river ships are not outfitted for mobility impaired passengers. A non-mix Patron margarita was $8. WIFI was free but laundry priced per item. For budget and packing convenience I brought light weight quick-dry polyester undershorts that I could wash in the sink using shampoo. I later realized a potential downside of combining liberal amounts of shampoo but limited hand rinsing. If I fell overboard, rescuers could be perplexed by a foaming crotch. We had the lower deck standard cabin with long horizontal windows (“aquarium view”) at head height. The propeller sounds of from each of the many ships passing nearby were transmitted for 1-2 minutes through the hull. I planned to describe the passing propeller noise like briefly being within __ feet of a sloshing washing machine. So I tried to measure by sitting nearby but my wife had me to leave so she could do laundry. So the precise noise level remains as inexplicable as Al Capone’s secret vault room. Other Viking features: adults only 18+, no smoking, no casino, no photographers, no art auction, no theatre shows, no formal nights. Daily attire for men featured blue jeans or chinos. Our trip had a pianist nightly in the lounge and two guest acts, a rock trio (Eagles, Beatles) and classical violin duo. Food, dining As some wag noted “Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.” And rotund Orson Welles weighed in “My doctor told me I had to stop throwing intimate dinners for four unless there are three other people.” The food was available in a small casual buffet off the lounge or in the table-service dining room. Breakfast had the standard offerings including omelets to order and fresh breads, pastries. A self-serve fresh-grind Espresso/Cappucino machine was always available. There were fewer entrée choices but some local cuisine was included. In general, food was satisfactory and on par with Celebrity. Spa services are based on the proposition “Time may be a healer, but it is no beautician.” Viking river fleet does not have fitness equipment or spa facilities. Their website’s FAQ reports that the ship’s Concierge can arrange access to partner facilities in many ports. WEATHER Downsides Dreary gray, foggy, chilly drizzle was common on the river route but most seem prepared. The universal recommendation to ‘wear layers’ to flexibly adjust was in order. It occurred to me that the ‘layering’ lesson had been disregarded to their detriment by the area’s Neanderthals. They might have survived if they had used a deer skin base layer, fashionably accented with a interwoven pastiche of muskrat pelts, with a final poncho-style bearskin outer-layer – snake skin belt optional. Of course, only dark bearskin after Labor Day. It was too uncomfortable to use the topmost unsheltered viewing and lounging deck. Viking Tialfi did not have a pool but I saw a small lounging pool on a competitor’s river ship. WEATHER Upsides Unfavorable weather conditions lead to ‘Christmas Markets” trips being the least expensive of the season. It was $3,000 each for the ‘standard’ cabin but included round trip economy air (major US hubs), airport transfers, 2-4 hour guided tour at each port, free (slow) WIFI, house beer/wine with lunch/dinner. Balcony cabin fares jumped $1,000+ pp above standard but the weather precluded sitting out unless attired as recommended for a Neanderthal. A -$1,000 pp air credit applied if you provide your own travel. A Bayerische draught lager, a cabernet/merlot blend and a pleasant dry white Burgundy was included at meals. Suggested tips reached $190 for the cabin. The wintry weather held a pleasant advantage - crowds in major tourist areas were low. Along with other sites, we noted that popular areas such as Lake Lucerne would be practically impassable in peak season. Our guide claimed that Marksburg Castle, Braubach has 6 million annual visitors. There were only a couple hundred tourists on the dreary day our ship’s tour visited. River depth, noise vs Ocean Water is not as deep (at least on Rhine) - no Poseidon catastrophe here – even Shelly Winters could clamber up the TWO decks to escape. Most long-haul river ships have three cabin decks with upper open sun deck for viewing. The floor of the lowest cabin deck is below the water line. I saw another new river ship with 5 decks and our Captain said it could only travel between two middle-Rhine cities because of low bridges. Indeed, unusually high or low water levels for the Rhine can restrict ship travel. We learned that in a recent major drought, people could wade across the Rhine in some sections. Both Viking and Scenic offer a ‘water level guarantee’. They intend to bring another ship from the opposite direction to transfer passengers to bypass the unnavigable section. Refunds are offered if they can’t manage that substitution. LOCKS The lower Rhine is navigable because of numerous locks that each raise/lower a ship about 40 feet in about 10 minutes. The river cruise spends each day in a town or city, traveling overnight – no relaxing sea-days. At worst, the river is choppy, so no sea sickness. At one point there was a long loop in the river so passengers were transferred to busses and rode 30 minutes into the city while the ship travelled 3.5 hours to catch up. This conserved time for the morning tours. Another time the ship pulled to the river edge to let 12 passengers embark on a paid tour – a drop-off taking only 20 minutes. All included walking tours provided individual ear-bud listening devices to hear the guide. The ship carried power-assist bicycles for use in ports. Service was pleasant and attentive. The CD had 5 years prior ocean ship experience. The crew was predominantly from eastern Europe and seemed efficient and competent. Lake Lucerne (2-day Viking guided extension) Twenty of us were transferred from the Basel endpoint on a coach to Lake Lucerne’s elegant lakefront Hotel Schweizerhof. On arrival, most joined the guided 2-hour walking tour of the historic district. Viking stationed an concierge agent during the morning and afternoon for both days. On the third morning the included coach transfer left our hotel at 6am for Zurich airport to connect through Amsterdam to Atlanta. Others had later shuttle departures. Many tree sellers were along the avenues – apparently its common there to buy trees just before Christmas day. We hoped to ride the 100+-year-old steam-drive side-paddle-wheel ferries but they were in for maintenance over winter. We visited a local museum, took long walks and retired early. In summer, many sail to ascend 7000-ft Mt. Pilatus using variety of cogwheel rail (world’s steepest), cable car and gondola. SUMMARY A river cruise offers an attractive small-ship alternative to ocean cruises. A river cruise is more suitable to touring countries interior areas as opposed to coastal ports. A river cruise is more oriented to adults touring historic sights but provides only limited ancillaries like casinos, pools, and floor shows. Since I’ve written like no one is reading, I’ll end with an Oscar Wilde remark “I don’t want to go to heaven – none of my friends are there.” Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
To start, I would like to say I feel so bad for people who booked a River Cruise, but got cheated out of their vacation due to the low water levels. I hope someday you have a trip that will more that double your expectations. Next, for ... Read More
To start, I would like to say I feel so bad for people who booked a River Cruise, but got cheated out of their vacation due to the low water levels. I hope someday you have a trip that will more that double your expectations. Next, for those who will be traveling on the Rhine soon (Basel to Amsterdam), I want to say from the start that, Yes, the Water Levels will affect you. I say that right away, because I wish someone was honest enough to tell me that from the start. Instead, I got cryptic emails from Viking. I then call them as the website suggests for updates, and they tell me I'm doing the right thing by trying to stay informed and to call as it gets closer to the day to find out about water levels. I called the day before I was going to leave and the cruise representative I spoke to had to put me on hold two times just to come back on the phone to tell me that they are still unsure if my trip would be affected by the low water levels. Now that I have gone through the Rhine River cruise, I can tell you with certainty that your cruise will be affected. Even if it rained for a week, I don't think that would be enough to help the water levels. Let me put it this way, there were parts of the river that I could walk on. On the very first night when the Cruise Director welcomed us aboard, he said "I know you are all concerned about the water levels, but we won't know if we have to swap ships until the night before". Then, the captain got up, and made his welcome speech and said, "Yes, you will be affected". At least someone was telling the truth. The Cruise Director though, still insisted we won't really know till the day before. Then sure enough, on the day before, he explained that due to the low levels we would have to "Swap Ships". A lot of people had questions of course, but the Cruise Director stopped the Q&A session after a certain point stating it was time for dinner. Myself and other passengers realize there is nothing they could do about the water levels, but we didn't appreciate being left in the dark. The Ship Swap meant we had to pack up before our tour of the day, and at the end of the day we would be 'bussed' to a new Viking ship, Tialfi, that was docked where the water levels would allow us to continue travelling to Amsterdam. The passengers from the other ship would then be bussed to our old ship. Our luggage would already be in our new ship, same rooms #'s, however, different crew, which was another disappointment, because I had gotten to know the crew members on Viking Alruna. We didn't mind packing up again, but what I did mind was skipping a port, Koblenz Germany. And even though Viking committed to making sure we got to go on all the included tours, the ship swap meant that we would not be able to go on the optional tours. I was very disappointed, because I was really looking forward to having dinner at the Eberbach Monastery. The low water levels also meant we couldn't do the "Middle Rhine Sailing" portion on our ship. We had to take a 2 1/2 bus ride to board a smaller boat that would allow us to cruise in the low water levels of the Middle Rhine. Note, the food on this non-Viking boat was "Horibleeeee" ! (A dry piece of Chicken (no sauce or anything) that was inedible with french fries - I just ate the fries). The Middle Rhine cruise itself, however, was magnificent, with memorable views of castles & fortresses. This is probably my favorite part of the whole Trip ! After cruising the Middle Rhine, we toured Marksburg castle, and then had a 3 1/2 hour bus ride to our new ship. They handed out lunch bags with a sandwich & fruit for the bus ride. Despite all the disappointment associated with the water levels, I still give Viking a 3 star, because the crew was amazing, the food was amazing, and the included tours, although short (Not enough time on your own), were really amazing. (I'll do separate reviews with tips on each of the ports). Also, Viking is very organized with the Embarkation and Disembarkation process. They will give thorough instructions and help you if you need guidance. I realize Viking and other cruise companies can not do anything about the water levels, however they can do something about treating passengers "Fairly" and with respect. I just wish they were truthful about the trip up front. I also wish the 25% credit off our next cruise "due to the disruption in our itinerary", would have been applied to the Current cruise - that would have made more sense, and have been a more sincere gesture. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2018
Thought of trying river cruising in early 2017 and the Rhine River with castles along the way seemed enticing. Compared prices of different river cruise companies and Viking stood out as the more affordable one, without sacrificing quality ... Read More
Thought of trying river cruising in early 2017 and the Rhine River with castles along the way seemed enticing. Compared prices of different river cruise companies and Viking stood out as the more affordable one, without sacrificing quality of accommodations, food and excursions. Chose early November sailing when price is a bit less (definitely still not cheap), booked cabin with balcony and chose to stay 2 days in Amsterdam prior to cruise. Got flight arrangement from Viking too and it really turned out to be a good deal for us. Loved every minute of this trip -- Viking reps met us at the Schipol airport early in the morning and drove us in a comfortable van to the Movenpick Hotel, where other Viking reps gave us a short briefing, then we checked in our room at around 9 a.m! Our room had a good view of the harbor and Central Station. My husband and I were already having breakfast in the cafe nearby after an hour of checking in and off we went to explore Amsterdam. The things we planned to do in Amsterdam were all accomplished, thanks to early online reservation for Anne Frank House and Van Gogh museum. We got the I Amsterdam Card for 48 hours which allowed us to go to the other museums without waiting in line and use the tram. Amsterdam has a great public transportation system but too many bikes for our comfort. Embarkation was simple and easy on day of sailing, our cabin was very clean; all places of the ship were spic-and-span actually. All the Viking crew were very welcoming, shout out to Nelly, Gil, Michael and of course to Morgan, our cruise director. Though we had to swap ships on the 3rd day due to low water levels in the Rhine, we still didn't miss out on anything because we took a day boat to cruise the middle Rhine and have lunch there as well. The view from the top deck of our day boat was truly amazing, with castles and vineyards lining the mountains and Fall colors at its best!! Will never forget this experience. After this, we had to take a motorcoach for 2 hours to embark on the other ship, Viking Altuna, which was exactly the same as the Tialfi. Luggage transfer went smoothly and we kept the same cabin. The V Altuna crew greeted us warmly, with music and hot cocoa. Shout out to Evelyn, Mark Anthony, Suzana, Michael, Judy, Ben and the rest of the crew who spoiled us all with good food and wine, made sure we were safe whenever we left and came back from excursions. Chose an optional excursion in Alsace --went for wine tasting in Mittelbergheim but got a bit disappointed as we only went to 1 winery. Expected to go to at least 2. However, we were able to go to a vineyard and enjoy the colorful landscape. This review will be too long if I reviewed each included excursion. Overall though, the experience my husband and I got from this trip is priceless -- great weather, peak Fall foliage, less crowds and meeting new people, who vary from experienced cruisers to first-timers like us. Thanks to all that Viking has done to make this trip a memorable one. Will definitely go Viking river cruising again. Read Less
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