Viking Alruna Review

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Amazing Christmas Markets

Review for Europe River Cruise on Viking Alruna
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NorCalTraveler2008
6-10 Cruises • Age 60s

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Sail Date: Dec 2022
Cabin: French Balcony

This was our second Christmas Market cruise with Viking. The previous one was in 2017 on the Danube River (Nuremberg to Budapest). We love the German Christmas Markets and wanted to see what the Rhine River cities had to offer. We were emailed at the last minute that our ship, the Tialfi, was no longer going to be our ship and that we would be sailing on her sister ship, the Alruna. We appreciated being kept up to date on the change and were assured that the ships were identical.

We arrived in Switzerland a week before our sail date so we could explore what Switzerland had to offer. We would highly recommend doing this as Switzerland is an amazing country, even in the cold weather(it also helps with jet lag if you are coming from the US). We bought a Swiss Travel Pass that allows you to get on any train, bus, tram at any time and travel to see the cities within Switzerland, it also get's you into most museums. We found this extremely convenient and cost effective. We stayed in Basel at the Motel-One Hotel in the heart of the city(Barfusserplatz) and traveled out to a different city each day(St Gallen, Zurich, Bern, Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Murren, Interlaken, Thun, Bern, Luzerne, Engelberg/Mt. Titlis) and also saw what Basel had to offer. Many of these places had Christmas Markets and others didn't but we found the cities charming with friendly people and wonderful food.

We boarded Viking Alruna on a Saturday and the ship was docked at the St Johannes dock(closest to the old part of Basel). We were able to take a tram from our hotel to a stop very close to the dock. Boarding the ship was very easy. Staff took our luggage to our room and we checked-in with our passports and vaccination cards. The ship was all decorated for Christmas with Christmas trees and pine boughs around the ship. We then had lunch on the ship(the soups were all homemade and delicious). We still had a few hours before we sailed so we went to explore more of Basel. They have two large Christmas Markets(Munsterplatz & Barfusserplatz) that are very close(walking distance) as well as decorated streets. The food at the market stalls was plentiful and yummy.

Cabin Review

French Balcony

We loved the French Balcony in the winter time. We had a full balcony room on our previous winter river cruise and never went out on it due to the cold weather. Having said that we haven't been on a summer cruise and think a full balcony might be nice when the weather is warmer. The rooms are typical cruise ship rooms, small but with lots of storage space and cubbies to hold stuff. The bed was a little firm for my back but was okay for a week. The bathroom is the star of this room with heated floors and a shower door instead of a curtain. Be sure to bring an F converter for electronics as there are only a few 110 outlets.

Port Reviews

Amsterdam

We were excited to go to Amsterdam(keep in mind we were there in December). It was at the end of our river cruise and we decided to spend an additional 2 days before flying home. We found the city dirty, full of younger people that were rude and entitled. We loved what we did in Amsterdam(Anne Frank Museum, Light Festival canal cruise with Captain Dave, Windmills of Zaanse Schans, Van Gogh Museum, ate poffertjes and stroopwafel) but not the city itself. The bicycles are a hoot, watch out they will run you over.

Basel

We chose this cruise so we could go to Basel. We had heard the Christmas Markets here were amazing and voted the best in Europe. We arrived a week before our cruised sailed and used a Swiss Travel

pass to go to a different Swiss city each day. We loved the train pass and found it very convenient and easy to use. We stayed in the Motel-One Hotel in Barfusserplatz and it was easy to take the tram to the train station each morning and it also had a wonderful Christmas Market right outside our door. The historic part of the city is easy to walk and there are many museums and things to see. The Munster is beautiful and sits on the River Rhine. The German part of the city is located across the river and is easy to access via bridge or tram. We were only here in the winter but have heard Basel is wonderful in the summer and for the Art Festival.

Koblenz

We loved Koblenz! There is a lot of history here(Deutsche's Eck, 3 panels of the Berlin Wall, to new places like the Zentralplatz & Seilbahn). They had 6 Christmas Markets and we found ourselves just wandering around the city loving all the decorations and food. We also took the Seilbahn up to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress for the Christmas Garden (light installations all around the Fortress). This was very fun and unique and the views of Koblenz at night were spectacular.

Mannheim

We took the bus into Mannheim and had a walking tour of the water tower part of the city. The Christmas Market was interesting? the products were items from China, Asia, Mexico, nothing handmade or from Europe. We found it very disappointing. We walked around for a few minutes and then headed across the street to the shopping mall to spend the rest of our time before the bus picked us up. In our opinion, we sacrificed time we could have spent in Rudesheim by stopping in Mannheim.

Strasbourg

Loved, loved. loved Strasbourg! Again you are bused into the city and dropped off in the Tanners area of the city. The walk past the old half timber houses was amazing. The streets are so cute and all decorated for Christmas. There are 8 Christmas Markets in Strasbourg. Too many for us to see in the limited amount of time we had. The Norte Dame is amazing inside and outside! We loved Place Kleber, Place de la Cathedral and Place du Marche-de-Poissons. We found the cutest shops and place for lunch. Just not nearly enough time in the wonderful city. The tour guide did a great job explaining the history of Strasbourg.

Breisach

We chose to do an excursion from Breisach to Colmar/Riquewihr(the Black Forest excursion was canceled for December). We took a bus to Colmar and spent the first part of the time with the tour guide who was very knowledgable about the region. We then had free time to explore on our own before we met for lunch. There are 6 Christmas Markets in Colmar and they sort of run together as you walk the city. There are canals and half-timbered houses throughout Colmar and it is very picturesque.

We had fun shopping and eating snacks in the markets and then it was time for lunch in a local restaurant. It was very crowded so we thought this was a good sign. Our designated area was towards the back with everyone else from the ship. Our waiter was very unfriendly and seemed very disinterested in serving us at all. I hope Viking is reading this because the food was inedible. We felt like we were getting the leftovers from the previous day or week. No one was eating the food. I am sure Viking paid handsomely for the meal. They really need to select another restaurant or monitor what is being served.

We could have spend a lot more time in Colmar, however, we were rushed back to the bus to drive to Riquewihr. I had read this was a very picturesque small village and was excited to see it. It was now raining and the village was very small and you should have seen the people pouring into it. The cars were parked everywhere with people trying to get in. Needless to say our experience here wasn't the most pleasant. The Christmas Market was very small and the dirt(mud) floors didn't help. We just wanted to get dry and out of the cold. The shops were packed with people trying to stay out of the rain so you couldn't really even look at things. Our bus was out in some field so we couldn't go sit on the bus. I think this was another area where Viking should consider less is more and only do one city per day for Christmas season.

We loved the tour guide and the city/village were beautiful but quality is better than quantity.

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