I received so many helpful hints from others prior to my cruise that I thought I’d share some highlights from my experience. I’m in my early 60s, an active, experienced traveler in good physical shape. I did this cruise with my sister, ... Read More
I received so many helpful hints from others prior to my cruise that I thought I’d share some highlights from my experience. I’m in my early 60s, an active, experienced traveler in good physical shape. I did this cruise with my sister, who has walking difficulties – she walks with a cane, can go steps, but walks slowly and can’t walk far without resting. So, some of this review will be from the perspective of someone with walking difficulties. Overall, we had a fabulous time and would happily sail with Viking again. However, there are a few small things that Viking could do to make it easier for people with limited walking abilities. Viking does offer a leisure/slow group for city tours and there were several others walking with canes that joined us for these. I did lots of research before the trip to make it as easy as possible and enjoyable for my sister – who had never been to Paris, Germany, or Prague before. I’ve been to Paris and Prague several times and to most of the places in Germany once, so I had a sense of what would be doable for us. For Paris, I relied heavily on Rick Steves’ guide.
We had booked Vikings precruise tour of Paris, but ended up arriving a day earlier than expected due to a pilot’s strike by Air France. I had booked our airfare via Delta and received an email about 6 days before departure. I called Delta and easily moved the flight up a day. Some who had Viking book didn’t find out until the day before departure. Viking had us staying at Le Meridien and I booked another night myself. Tip: I booked a room for about $ 350 per night. The Viking precruise tour package ended up being about $ 500 per night. I would have booked it all on my own, but didn’t want the hassle of changing hotels if Viking made a last minute change. I didn’t get breakfast included in the $350 room rate and didn’t want to pay the 20+ euros for breakfast, so went across the street to Starbucks (in the shopping mall) for coffee and pastries. Breakfast was included in the Viking rate – it was good but not 20+ euros good. The shopping mall also has a fabulous gourmet grocery store. Several evenings, my sister was too tired to go out to dinner. I got takeout from the store and we enjoyed that in our room. Found some small items for gifts and bought some wine to take on the cruise. Transportation Tip: If you don’t have a Viking Transfer from the airport, the Air France bus stops directly across from the hotel. I bought our tickets in advance online – the transfer was very easy and I didn’t have to stress watching the taxi meter rise while stuck in morning rush hour traffic. The hotel isn’t in an area I’d choose to stay in, but transportation connections were convenient.
Monday, 15 September
Our flight came in about 5:30 AM so we arrived at the hotel well before checkin time. I didn’t expect that we could check in – and we couldn’t. Checked our baggage with the porter. I went to the metro station to buy a carnet of metro/bus tickets (a carnet is 10 tickets – cheaper than buying them individually). We walked up to the Avenue de la Grande Armee to catch Bus # 73 to Arc de Triomphe where we caught the Open Air Hop On/Off Bus. Thought this would be a good easy thing to do on our first day and would give my sister a feel for the layout of Paris. I bought my tickets in advance. We had a beautiful warm, sunny day, so enjoyed riding on the top. I wouldn’t recommend this as the fastest way to get around. We were often stopped for fairly long periods of time as people bought their tickets while boarding. We got off to visit Notre Dame here, so skipped this part of the Viking Tour – later in the week.
Tuesday, 16 September
My sister was very tired so I went out on my own – after my breakfast run to Starbucks. Returned and we had lunch at Le Sud, just up the street from the hotel. Took bus # 73 again to Musee D’Orsay. Let me start here by saying how access-friendly Paris and Parisians are. If you are handicapped, admission to museums for you and your companion is free. Wheelchairs are also free (just need to leave an ID). I knew that walking around museums, especially the Louvre, would be difficult for my sister, the wheelchairs made it possible. The staffs of the museums went out of their way to show us to the elevators – not always easy to find.
Wednesday, 17 September
We’re officially on Viking tour now and enjoyed the hotel buffet breakfast. Each day, the host/hostess seated us at a table close to the buffet so we didn't have to walk far. We took the Metro to the Louvre – fairly easy walk from station directly into the Louvre’s underground shopping center. I didn’t plan on use Metro much as there are steps and often quite a bit of walking if you’re in a station with connections. (People readily gave up their seats for my sister). Again, the museum staff were very helpful – we were even directed to go in front of the velvet rope at the Mona Lisa, so my that my sister had a great view. Dinner this evening was at the Eiffel Tower. Tip: If you want to go up the tower for a tour or a meal, be sure to book in advance or face waiting in a very long line. To avoid this, I thought about booking lunch. In June, lunch reservations were already sold out for our dates in September, so we splurged on dinner. Expensive (about $ 110 each), but food was great and the view was fantastic. We took a cab both ways.
Thursday, 18 September
Another morning on my own. In the afternoon, we went to Giverny with Paris Tours. It’s easy to get there on your own, but Paris Tours picks you up at your hotel. We were dropped off at the back, close to the lily ponds – there are steps. We did that first before walking up to the house and gardens. There were benches to sit on to rest. The bus picked us up near the house, so walking was minimized. Note: I really wanted to go to Versailles as I hadn’t been there in more than 20 years, but was concerned that my sister wouldn’t be able to keep up with a tour and if we did it on our own, it would involve lots of walking. And, recent reviews on TripAdvisor complained about the crowds. Also, I knew that Wurzburg would give us a baroque palace experience.
Friday, 19 September
Decided to take Viking’s morning tour of Paris (I wish they had 1 or 2 busses do this the first day of the precruise tour – kind of too late after you’ve been tin Paris for a day or two). The first part of the route took us through a part of Paris that we didn’t cover on the Open Air Tour. We got off near Notre Dame. I don’t recall if there was a slow group organized, but we wouldn’t have been able to keep up to get to Notre Dame. Decided to skip the rest of the tour and took bus # 63 to Pere Lachaise cemetery to see Jim Morrison’s (The Doors) grave. Used Rick Steves’ directions. I’d been before, but my sister wanted to go and it’s not a far walk from the bus stop and there are benches in the cemetery to rest. We took the same # 63 bus back and got off to visit the Rodin Museum – my sister’s choice. The gardens were lovely with roses and sculptures, but the house was not very accessible – just stairs. My sister was worn out by then – taking a bus would have meant a transfer and the taxi stand was quite a walk away. A woman in the gift shop offered to call us a cab – well worth it.
Saturday, 20 September
Left Paris about 8:00 for Luxembourg City. We were assigned to a bus with other “leisure travelers”. Here’s a little thing that Viking could do to help – have the bus with the leisure group parked closest to the hotel, ship, etc. While walking a few bus lengths isn’t a big thing for most, if you can’t walk far, it does make a difference – many times, our bus was the furthest one away. Had one stop along the way (bus drivers are mandated to stop for a break). Long lines at the restroom as all busses stopped at the same place. Nice shop to buy champagne, snacks, etc. Arrived Luxembourg City around lunch. With Saturday crowds and some kind of festival going on, it was hard to see and keep up with the guide on the walk to the center. She wasn’t very clear on when/where to meet for the city tour and some people missed it – we only had about 30 mins for lunch before the start of the city tour. We opted for a nice lunch instead. We went to The Chocolate House, recommended by Rough Guide, and across from the Grand Ducal Palace. Beautiful view, great food, and yummy desserts and bought some chocolate spoons to go (you dip these in hot milk for a hot chocolate drink). Stopped by the American Cemetery. Hard to keep up with our guide, but we heard what he said via the Quiet Boxes – what a great invention! Finally arrived in Trier to board the Viking Odin. Fast easy boarding process – if you’ve only cruised on ocean liners, you’ll be amazed at how fast checkin and getting your luggage can be! I booked our tour in December and the only cabin left was on the lower level. There is no elevator down. One flight of steps was ok for my sister. Being on a higher deck would have been easier. There is an elevator from Deck 2 (Dining Room) to Deck 3 (Lounge), with just steps up to the sun deck. If I cruise again with her, I’d go for a higher deck to minimize steps; with someone else, I’d be perfectly happy on the lower deck. We didn’t spend much time in our cabin and I’d rather splurge on something else. Had pre dinner brief by our program director, Titiana (I hope I spelled her name right). She’s an enthusiastic, ball of energy and did a wonderful job, as did the entire crew.
Sunday 21 September
Had a quick bus tour of the outskirts of Trier to see several Roman sites and then started our walking tour. We went with the leisure group. Had several opportunities to sit down but it was still quite a long walk. Couldn’t go into the basilica (primo Roman site) as it’s now used as a church and there was a service. We had time at the end of the tour to sit and have some hot chocolate. If you were on the fast tour, there might have been time to visit the museum by Porta Nigra. Note, my husband and I usually prefer to travel on our own and we’ve visited Trier before. This is one place where I’d have been very frustrated by the tour – we love Roman archaeological sites and I would have missed a lot if the Viking tour had been my only experience, but that’s one of the disadvantages of taking an organized tour. We had a late afternoon stop at Bernkastel. Did some window shopping.
Monday, 22 September
Docked in Cochem to visit Reichsburg Castle. Minivans took us up to the Castle and then back down the hill for a walking tour of the town. I asked if we could go up in the first van so that we’d have plenty of time to walk in the town (without slowing anyone else down). The Castle was doable for my sister and we enjoyed the tour. We left the walking tour early to slowly make our way down. We had a leisurely afternoon – watched a movie in our cabin before docking in Koblenz.
Tuesday, 23 September
I visited Marksburg Castle while my sister relaxed on the ship while it cruised to Brauback– you never have to get off for port visits if you don’t want to. Titania made it very clear that this tour would be difficult for those with mobility issues and she was right. The walk up to the castle isn’t too bad, but once inside the gate, there are places where it’s rocky, steep, and uneven. The afternoon was spent cruising the Rhine and viewing the castles. We had lunch on the Aquavit Terrace and stayed there most of the afternoon enjoying the view. The crew brought lap blankets as it was cool and cloudy to start. There are plexiglass panels at the bow, so we were fairly well protected from the wind. Titania broadcast which castles were coming up so we knew what to look for. Rick Steves also covers this area well. Docked in Rudesheim about 5. It was a long walk into town from where the ship docked. Another tip for Viking – in Rudesheim and a few other places, the ship docked quite far from the center of town. Some of these towns had little tourist trains/trolleys. It would have been nice if Viking could have arranged for these to meet the ship – or offered to call a cab. We’d have gladly paid extra for the convenience. Tip for Christmas decoration shoppers – our first Kathe Wohlfahrt shop was in Rudesheim. There are also stores in Heildelburg and Rothenburg. One of our tour guides offered brochures for a 10% discount. Had a special German dinner on board along with a tour of the galley.
Wednesday, 24 September
Disembarked in Aschaffenburg and took a bus to Heidelberg Castle. Quite a steep walk to the entrance from where the bus parked. The leisure tour did stop at several scenic places to sit so it worked out ok. Bus took us to the outskirts of the Old Town and we walked to Zum Ritter for lunch (included) – a fairly long walk. We had a very good beef dish but you could order a vegetarian option in advance. A student from the University was seated at each table, but we were too far away to converse with him. Restrooms were upstairs, but Titiana showed us a hidden elevator. After lunch we were on our own and did some window shopping. We were to meet at Zum Ritter for the walk back to the bus. Unfortunately, there is no place to sit on the square – except for restaurants where you had to order something. We ordered coffee, just to have a place to sit and wait. Bus took us back to ship which had sailed to Miltenberg.
Thursday, 25 September
We had signed up for the Rothenburg tour – I had been there more than 20 years before and would have liked to revisit, but it would have meant a full day of touring which was too much for my sister. Don’t miss if you haven’t been. We had seen some medieval towns, but hadn’t seen a baroque palace and didn’t want to be too tired to enjoy Wurzburg Palace. The bus dropped us off near the entrance. There is a magnificent staircase, but the guide told us where to find the elevator to join the tour at the top. We left the tour after the Palace portion, foregoing the city tour to take more time to enjoy the gardens. We made our way through town on our own, crossed the old bridge (and saw our ship going through the lock) to catch our bus which took us on a short ride to the ship. Our afternoon was free and I walked back to the city. Except for the Palace, it’s not a very touristy town and you’ll find shops and department stores geared towards the locals, not tourists. Captain’s dinner tonight and most people dressed up a bit more – as others have posted, whatever you wear during the day is perfectly acceptable for dinner. A group of men had T-shirts imprinted with a tuxedo – a nice touch.
Friday, 26 September
A leisurely morning with a disembarkation briefing followed by a lecture on the European Union. Arrived Bamberg after lunch. Took the leisure tour through the city and had lots of time after to enjoy a local beer and do more shopping. Bus back to the ship, our final dinner and I paid our bill after dinner. Unlike ocean cruising, there were few extras to pay for. We added our tips and I had a few slacks laundered – that was it. We had no bar bill. We found that wine or beer at lunch and dinner was plenty for us. We bought 2 bottles of wine in Paris and only drank ½ of one! A note about services on the ship. We didn’t use the services of the concierge, but she provided information about tours and concerts in Prague and would gladly book for any of those interested. We talked with several people who used her to book trips to Cesky Krumlov or a car/driver to take them to other places outside of Prague.
Saturday, 27 September.
Bags out by 7 and we were to be out of cabins by 8. After breakfast, we went back to our cabin – about 7:30, only to find that beds had been stripped and all towels were gone – a bit tacky, but we still left an extra tip for the cabin steward as she had been great all week. We also had to leave our quiet boxes – not sure why. The busses took us to Nuremberg. We didn’t have quiet boxes and couldn’t hear our guide most of the time. We went to the Zeppelin parade ground, the castle and then back to the Old Town. I liked Nuremberg more than I thought and will revisit if I'm in the area so that I can see more of it. We had lunch at a café on the square – we tried to pay by credit card and the waitress told us that the restaurants on the square don’t take credit cards, so be sure to have cash. The clock on the Church of Our Lady on the square has a mechanical show at noon – wish our tour guide would have told us that – maybe she did, but we couldn’t hear. We caught the end of the show. Bus to Prague for stay at the Prague Hilton. Like Le Meridien in Paris, I wouldn’t choose to stay in this location. But, the hotel is really nice. There are ATMs and currency exchange machines in the lobby so it’s easy to get Czech currency. I’m a Hilton Gold member and the Executive Lounge is probably the best I’ve encountered. My sister was too tired to go out, so we ended up eating “dinner” here every evening (a shame to miss out on real Czech cuisine, but we did have great lunches!). Tip: I had wanted to go to Pivovarsky Klub Microbrewery, 272 Krizikova –about 2 blocks beyond the Floenc Metro. My husband and I dined at their sister restaurant several years ago and enjoyed it. Be sure to try Becherovka, an herbal liquer made in Karlovy Vary. I also love Czech bread dumplings - often offered with goulash - the sauce on the dumplings is delicious. The hotel is not far from the Florenc metro/bus stop, but for us it was a long walk. There is a small shopping mall across the street with a grocery store and pharmacy (walk through here to get to metro).
Sunday, 28 September
We got new quiet boxes for the tour - yeah! Took the leisure tour to Prague Castle. Disappointed that we couldn’t visit St. Vitus Cathedral (Sunday services again) but we did hear the bells pealing which was almost as good. Saw the end of the changing of the guard ceremony. We had plans to meet family at 12. The bus was going nearby our meeting point and the driver kindly let us off. The fast tour had planned on stopping at the Charles Bridge and the group would walk over this to the Old Town. The slow group would have missed the Charles Bridge part.
Monday, 29 September
This was the end of the Viking Tour, but we extended one day in Prague and another 5 days in the Czech Republic. We took a taxi to the Mucha Museum (I love Art Nouveau). We walked from there to Obecni Dum (Municipal House) to see another Art Nouveau exhibit and had lunch in their beautiful café. Would have loved to have come back for a concert – it’s a really beautiful building. Walked to Old Town Square to see the Astronomical Clock and then shopped at Erpet Bohemian Crystal – across from the clock. Tip: Someone who used to work at the US Embassy Prague recommended this shop as a reputable place, especially if you want to ship your purchases. We bought some garnet jewelry here, but if I had wanted to make a large purchase, I’d do it here. We probably should have asked the store clerk to call a cab for us, but we walked to the Mustak Metro station and took it to Florenc (near the hotel). There is an elevator at Florenc but we had to wait a long time for it. Someone with a bicycle got on and there was no place for us so we had to wait for the next one (bikes aren’t supposed to be allowed). We had a drink at Hilton's rooftop lounge for a nice view of the city.
Tuesday, 30 September – Friday, 3 October
We had breakfast in the Executive Lounge – same food as the lobby buffet, but not as crowded. We had arranged for a Hilton car to take us to the airport (800 kc) and the car dropped us off at the car rental place as requested. We drove to the palace at Horovice (my great grandfather was a guard there) and stayed at nearby Chateau Zibrou – very interesting if you’re in the area and want a castle hotel stay and an interesting tour. I didn’t know it when I booked but Mucha spent several years here and there is a nice exhibit of his work. Next to Cesky Krumlov for 2 nights. Then to Putim, a small town outside of Pisek where we visited more relatives. I only mention this if there are any fans of the book “The Good Soldier Svejk”. Parts of the book take place here and a movie of the book was filmed here. There is now a statue of Svejk here as well.
Saturday, 4 October
Drove back to airport to return car and stayed at Airport Marriott. Since we had a very early morning flight, it seemed easiest to stay here. Very reasonable priced – about $ 85. And there are walkways to both terminals. We enjoyed a good dinner and our final Czech beer here.
I hope that some of you find this review useful. I'm happy to try to answer any questions. Read Less