We had previously taken 3 European river cruises with Vantage Travel, a much smaller cruise line, and loved the experience. Our friends suggested that they would rather have a boat with verandas so that they could enjoy time in their room even when they weren't up to taking the excursions, so we agreed to go with them on this Viking "Rhine Getaway" cruise. We started with a 3-day pre-cruise extension to Lake Como which was delightful, and the Viking Program Manager accompanied us all the way from Italy to where the Herja was docked in Basel, Switzerland. The stateroom was smaller than what we had become accustomed to on prior cruises, but with good storage options, we soon stowed all of our belongings and acquainted ourselves with the ship. The Herja is just a few years old, and is maintained in perfect condition. Crew members are always polishing, cleaning, vacuuming, tidying up and keeping everything ship shape.
We met Renee, our cruise director, at a Welcome Aboard event that evening, and were ready for cruising. He was very professional and knowledgeable and funny too. When we went on the very first excursion to the Black Forest the next morning, we marveled at the efficiency of the Viking organization. We were assigned to one of the 4 Viking buses that awaited us just outside the boat and were whisked away to our first excursion right on time. The guide was knowledgeable and entertaining, and the excursion proceeded with the efficiency of a German clock. This experience continued throughout the tour. Buses and guides were always waiting when we arrived in the port, and the guides gave us clear instructions as to when and where to meet at the end of the tour. There were a few opportunities to wander into some of the towns on our own, and we enjoyed touring in a less structured way and sitting down at a cafe for a local beer. All of the ports and excursions were interesting and worthwhile, but my favorite part of the tour was the morning that we spent cruising the Rhine Gorge with Renee narrating the history of the castles we saw along the way.
Meals were interesting and varied, with local dishes featured based on the port we were in. Breakfast was always a buffet, with an omelette station. Lunch had some buffet choices and some plated meals, and dinners offered a choice of 2 or 3 salads/appetizers and 3 entrees. Steak, chicken and salmon are always available if you don't like what's on the menu. Service from every crew member we met throughout our cruise was friendly and exemplary.
The weather was perfect for our entire cruise, and no alterations had to be made to the itinerary due to river conditions, which can sometimes happen later in the summer when the river is low. It's best to do these tours in spring for best weather and river conditions. The others who have given low ratings to this ship and itinerary traveled in late summer when the river was low. All cruise lines have a Plan B for when the river cooperates and you may not get to experience the ports that were advertised.
Small, but good storage allowed us to stow everything out of the way. Floor to ceiling sliding door onto the veranda enlarges the space and offers additional seating.
Port is very industrial and we arrived too late in the day to take an excursion
beautiful city and interesting history and architecture
Nice tour of the castle, and then plenty of time to wander around the city on our own, visiting churches, cafes and shopsView All 180 Heidelberg Castle Reviews
Black Forest excursion was rather contrived; we were driven to a group of shops and buildings and the main attraction was shopping... Tour guides disappeared for an hour or so and left us to wander on our own.View All 71 Black Forest Reviews
Walking tour to the cathedral is short, and we didn't get to go into the cathedral because of a mass. The beer culture dinner tour in the evening was great fun, but the restaurant was really hot !View All 125 City Tour Reviews