Sail Date: September 2018
Having enjoyed the Budapest to Amsterdam cruise we chose Viking again to see Paris. We did the pre cruise stay. We used city taxied to get around and found them to be friendly and mini tour guides. We had tickets for the Eiffel Tower and ... Read More
Having enjoyed the Budapest to Amsterdam cruise we chose Viking again to see Paris. We did the pre cruise stay. We used city taxied to get around and found them to be friendly and mini tour guides. We had tickets for the Eiffel Tower and went to the top and had a glass of champagne to celebrate. It was beautiful! We had a dinner cruise at night that was exceptional. The lights on the Eiffel Tower at night were spectacular. Paris at night was special. Monet’s Gardens were paintings come to life. It was great throughout the cruise that Viking takes you on tours early- usually least crowded times. The informative talks about the following days destinations were well done and I learned a lot of things I didn’t know. I really enjoy the Joan of Arch history. Our tour of the beaches of Normandy was inspiring and there was not a dry eye after the ceremony at the American cemetery. We had 2 WWII veterans on our cruise so it added something special. I cannot say enough about how wonderful the Viking crew was. My sister and I are handicapped. Our guides were thoughtful and made very attempt to make our visits to museums and sites especially in the Louvre and Versailles where crowds were difficult to be exceptional. They helped us maneuver through the crowds with our scooters. We never felt unsafe as the French had a very visible police and military presence at all tourist destinations. The meals on the ship were very good but we missed the variety of cookies we sampled on our previous cruise. This was France and no Macaroons. I loved France and Viking helped me have a great experience. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2018
We took two teenage grandsons with us, and that was when they could go. We took the cruise as a high school graduation present for the 18 year old one and took the 14 year old one too. All 4 of us had a great time, and the cruise met and ... Read More
We took two teenage grandsons with us, and that was when they could go. We took the cruise as a high school graduation present for the 18 year old one and took the 14 year old one too. All 4 of us had a great time, and the cruise met and exceeded our expectations. We thought the food, service by the wait staff and presentation of the food was outstanding. The shore excursions and the talks before them were great. Those talks prepared us well for the excursions. We all learned quite a bit about the places we visited. Since the cruise was primarily for the boys, not knowing whether they would ever get back to Paris, the Normandy beaches and the wonderful towns on the Seine, they will have lasting memories of the places we visited and have the desire to return to France at a later date. Those were our primary purposes of the cruise, and the were fulfilled. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2017
We had wanted to visit France years ago, but didn’t speak French and felt it was asking a lot to expect the French to know English. We retired a few years ago, and decided to visit the country anyway. We thought it best to go with a ... Read More
We had wanted to visit France years ago, but didn’t speak French and felt it was asking a lot to expect the French to know English. We retired a few years ago, and decided to visit the country anyway. We thought it best to go with a proven leader in the travel industry, and my sister had recommended Viking as she had enjoyed a Viking Cruise from Holland to Hungary. We made our reservations and then learned that my sister and 3 of her friends from Minnesota were on the same cruise (14 days in France). We had a fabulous time! Sometimes we were on the same excursions; other days, we had different experiences, but had the opportunity to share what we had experienced over a delicious dinner. We so enjoyed the leadership on the ship, as well as the staff who waited on us at dinner. We enjoyed the happy hours prior to dinner, when we learned about the next day’s activities. The evening entertainment was fun, and we enjoyed the special cooking demonstration, the French lesson, etc. As my husband needed to be in contact with research colleagues in the U.S., we were happy with the internet connection onboard. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2017
We did the Viking Rhine cruise last year and wanted to see Paris & the Normandy excursion seemed to fit our needs this year. As usual, our cabin was nice & they kept it that way as well as the whole ship. We found the staff ... Read More
We did the Viking Rhine cruise last year and wanted to see Paris & the Normandy excursion seemed to fit our needs this year. As usual, our cabin was nice & they kept it that way as well as the whole ship. We found the staff extremely helpful & competent & all went out of their way to make us comfortable. The food was outstanding, the wines were good and the entertainment was very nice. Our shore excursions were just right and the guides were extremely knowledgeable & helpful. Our only complaint was the bed covering was a combination bed spread, sheet & blanket. It became too hot in the middle of the night, yet your only option was to throw if off & then it became too cool. A sheet would help, but at least have a light blanket in the closet that could be used to compensate for this poor design. Also, our tour guide to Versailles apparently lost his ticket and we were sidelined for about 30 minutes while he tried to telephone for a replacement. In the mean-time, about 3000 other people poured into the place while we just stayed out of their way. Other than that incident, he was quite competent. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2017
We were a party of eight traveling with our family and friends. Our special pleasure was traveling with our eighteen and fourteen-year-old granddaughters that made our trip so wonderful. We particularly enjoyed the beauty of Paris and ... Read More
We were a party of eight traveling with our family and friends. Our special pleasure was traveling with our eighteen and fourteen-year-old granddaughters that made our trip so wonderful. We particularly enjoyed the beauty of Paris and how wonderfully we were treated by the French people. The excursions to the towns and beaches of Normandy were so moving, we really appreciated what our soldiers as well as the allies did to stop Hitler's tyranny in Europe. Our visit to Giverny and Monet's Garden was much more than we ever expected, living pictures of what we have seen on his canvas. The ship was beautiful, the crew could not be more accommodating, especially the husband and wife team who were the Executive Chef and Maîtres d'. We also would like to give praise to the Hotel Manager, the Cruise Manager, our tour guides and the food servers for their dedicated work. The food of course was fabulous! We loved our Viking experience! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2017
Everyone that had been on Viking River Cruises said they were wonderful. The Paris cruise was wonderful. Food was great, tours were easy, and the staff was more than helpful. Do not miss going on a Viking ship. They take care of ... Read More
Everyone that had been on Viking River Cruises said they were wonderful. The Paris cruise was wonderful. Food was great, tours were easy, and the staff was more than helpful. Do not miss going on a Viking ship. They take care of everything. Airport transfers were so easy. The ship was just the right size and easy to get around. Eating schedules were excellent. The trip to Normandy was well worth the cruise and the reason we went in the first place. Loved having guides with such great knowledge of all areas we toured. They have hired such great people to manage everything about your trip.Normandy is well worth the reason to go. We trip the Pre-package to Paris and glad we did. Wish we had taken even more days in Paris. There are so many museums to visit. Don't miss going to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The Hotel Rochester was a perfect location also with our daily tour guide. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2017
Primarily to go to Normandy. I love history and besides Normandy it was going to see various cathedrals, crypts, area where Joan of Arc was burned to death that held my attention. Also, seeing Monet's garden was spectacular. ... Read More
Primarily to go to Normandy. I love history and besides Normandy it was going to see various cathedrals, crypts, area where Joan of Arc was burned to death that held my attention. Also, seeing Monet's garden was spectacular. Richard the Lion Hearted's 'unauthorized castle' was a great experience and our guide gave a great lecture of the history and how England lost it. Actually, all our guides were great and very patient w/my continuous questions. On board life and service was always GOOD to EXCELLENT. I had thought of hiding under a bed in order to stay, but by now Viking would have drained my credit card and I would be chained to the oars. Viking may be the best Cruise lines at this time due to great staff, and attention to comfort plus included tours but I fear w/success will come complacency and indifference and I have noticed on some cruises a little flagging of morale. Keep the troops motivated. Good Job, so far, Viking. See you in November 2017 for Israel & March 2018 for Egypt. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2016
Heard good things about Viking. Everything was very nice EXCEPT the horrifying drive to the airport from river boat. THE DRIVER WAS THE WORST!!!!! So many asked that he slow down, and be cautious. He did not seem to care, taking turns as ... Read More
Heard good things about Viking. Everything was very nice EXCEPT the horrifying drive to the airport from river boat. THE DRIVER WAS THE WORST!!!!! So many asked that he slow down, and be cautious. He did not seem to care, taking turns as fast as he could. I hope you look into this driver before he kills someone! Crew was wonderful, accommodating, and gracious. They seemed to know what we wanted before we did. Cabin was always nice and clean. Bartender was terrific, and such a good memory. The excursions were so informative, getting us all in touch with history and the beautiful country of France. The guides spoke great English and were there to make sure we all had a good time. What a nice touch to be greeted with a warm terry towel when returning from an outing. We will definitely recommend Viking to friends and family, the service is unsurpassed! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2016
France's Finest started in Marseilles and went to Lyon. Then a transfer by TGV (high speed train to Le Peq to catch the Rinda. The first comment that I have is that Le Peq isn't Paris, or even very close. The times that we took ... Read More
France's Finest started in Marseilles and went to Lyon. Then a transfer by TGV (high speed train to Le Peq to catch the Rinda. The first comment that I have is that Le Peq isn't Paris, or even very close. The times that we took the bus in to Paris it took just over an hour each way, because of traffic. Destroys tours that are slated to be four hours. The optional tour for the City Highlights and the Louvre is a waste of time and money. After five hours of 'touring', we saw the inside of Notre Dame and had lunch. Lunch, at a café, was a very dry piece of white meat partially covered in tomato sauce. Could have been from a can. There was also a scoop of very undercooked rice. Two passengers thought for sure it was Minute Rice. The best part of the lunch was that you could get a beer. Ultimately we had less that one and three quarter hours in the Louvre. We really only had time to see the big three (Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and Winged Victory) and a couple of other things the guide thought were interesting. Again, the tour was a waste of time and money. Do a pre or post extension and do the Louvre on your own. Also, on the option tour of Versailles, with a worker strike warning for the day of the tour, the time was shortened by an hour. They offered to cancel and refund the money and we took that option. The tour did get in but only for three hours. We did the tour during our post extension and spent an entire day there and we could have spent more time in the gardens. All the other packaged tours were very good. The all day Normandy tour was excellent. We would have liked more time there but it took over two hours each way to get there by bus so I understand why times were as they were. The other thing that bothered us some was that there were basically four nights in Le Peq and two nights in Rouen. All four nights in Le Peq we had a very nice view from our veranda of a parking lot, police station, brassiere, and super market. I would also like to add that the dining room staff was excellent. Since we always sat in the same section, our servers figured out what we liked and met those needs. Also it would be nice if there were tables for two or four. Sometimes, you just feel like having a quiet dinner for two rather than having to converse with for or more other people. I don't think I would take this section of the cruise again. I might think about doing a few days in Paris and then stay in the Normandy are for a couple of days to see more sights there. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2016
It was selected by a Travel agency my brother has booked with many times. We did the pre-trip to Paris then down the Seine to Normandy. All the side excursions were well planned and informative. Our tour guides were well informed and ... Read More
It was selected by a Travel agency my brother has booked with many times. We did the pre-trip to Paris then down the Seine to Normandy. All the side excursions were well planned and informative. Our tour guides were well informed and delightful. The rooms were just right for what the trip had planned. The food was excellent and wait staff were superbly trained as well as pleasant to interact with. The ship was easily navigated by a novice traveler. The areas for visiting and relaxing were inviting. My husband who is not a traveler could only sing praises for the trip, the ship's accommodations, and the variety of the menu. I would recommend this trip to all who have a need to see Paris. It was a comprehensive tour of all the must see places in the city. You were able to see many of the sights, but some were only from the bus. I would certainly take another Viking Tour without hesitation. I do need to say that we arrived right after this years flooding so there were some questions on whether we would be able to do some of the tours by ship, but the Seine went down enough to allow the tour to go on as scheduled. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2016
Second time Viking cruise; wanted to visit Amsterdam and many other cities along the Rhine river. We arrived two days before the cruise and stayed in Amsterdam. Visited many of the sights including a canal boat ride. Windmills were ... Read More
Second time Viking cruise; wanted to visit Amsterdam and many other cities along the Rhine river. We arrived two days before the cruise and stayed in Amsterdam. Visited many of the sights including a canal boat ride. Windmills were interesting and castles, forts etc. Our boat was the Rinda, a newer boat and was very clean and smooth. We made the mistake of arriving in the early (7 AM) morning in Amsterdam and couldn't check into our room until 3:00 PM. It was raining in Amsterdam; as a consequence, most of our time was spent in the Lobby of the Hotel. Service on board was excellent; the crew went out of their way to accommodate us with morning room coffee etc. Dining was excellent with a wide selection of local food, wine and beer. Hope to sail with Viking soon, also would like to check out Viking's Ocean Cruises. Viking is the only way to travel. Hope the come to the US and give our rivers a visit. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2016
Went from Paris to Normandy. Visited the Louvre, Museum D'Orsay, Eifel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, and shopping in Paris. Our tour guide, Ken, was all world. The first day we said after him, Bon Jour, siv vous ple. The ... Read More
Went from Paris to Normandy. Visited the Louvre, Museum D'Orsay, Eifel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, and shopping in Paris. Our tour guide, Ken, was all world. The first day we said after him, Bon Jour, siv vous ple. The French people could not have been more welcoming, hospitable and helpful. Then to Monet;s home and gardens. Awesome, beautiful, spectacular. Son Brian =, an artist, took more than a150 dazzling pictures of the flowers and gardens. The colors of the flowers jumped out at you! The river journey was smooth and almost comforting. Then to Rouen, and a tour of Notre Dame Cathedral and a newly constructed church in the shape of a boat. The story of Joan of Arc is different than what we learned as children. She must have been one great lady with faith much greater than mine. Then on to Normandy. It was overwhelming. When we came back to the ship, our room was ship shape, and the food and wine at dinner were better than good. When you arrive at the cemetery (we were at the American), it reminds you of the true cost of war. All those young men, probably an average age of 22, from so many countries who gave their lives for their nations. They had veterans in the group come up, and then saluted them with the crowd singing the Star Spangled Banner. Tears were like raindrops on a light day. I am so thankful to those who served and those who sacrificed their lives so that we were able to come to Europe as free men and women. Viking was top shelf. As the old American comedian would say-Try it, you'll like it! Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
1. Summary: After reading & watching the Viking advertisements and paying top dollar, we were disappointed; we paid for gold, but the Vikings delivered only bronze. We did see a lot of Paris and we did see a lot of other parts of ... Read More
1. Summary: After reading & watching the Viking advertisements and paying top dollar, we were disappointed; we paid for gold, but the Vikings delivered only bronze. We did see a lot of Paris and we did see a lot of other parts of northern France. However, the itinerary could have easily been adjusted to give more time in Paris, Versailles, and Normandy and less time in little villages/towns that were carbon copies of the other little villages/towns that we saw on the previous day. The food was mostly "ho-hum" average, with a few really great meals and a few total epicurean disasters. They filled our glasses with wine at every opportunity during lunch and dinner, and champagne was available at breakfast if we felt the need. On a scale of 1 (Poor) to 10 (Fabulous) we rated the trip at "6" and most of the other passengers that we talked with on the cruise were in agreement. The overall issue that drove us crazy was the schizophrenic nature of the cruise: one night we would get a truly great meal at dinner, but the next night was just awful; one day we would enjoy a very interesting and well planned guided tour but the next day we were left to wander a small town with yet another gothic church and not much else. If you're a zealous history buff, you may find everything to be exceptionally interesting, but how many gothic churches and former palaces can you visit in one week? France is littered with them. We would have preferred to have had more time at Normandy, the Louvre, and Versailles. Recommendations: Bring comfortable walking shoes and a hat, you will need them. If you plan to take this trip, please remember to put the camera or iPhone down once in a while and actually LOOK at the scenery, paintings, sculptures and other attractions with your own eyes. It's very easy to only see France through the 2-inch screen on the back of your camera and miss out on actually BEING there. We saw countless tourists solidly glued to their cameras throughout the tours, desperately trying to get the perfect picture of something or other, or hell-bent on getting a selfie with the Mona Lisa. I confess that I fell into that "give me photo or give me death" category more than once. Also, consider skipping lunch to spend more time in the venues; you can grab some quick ice cream or chocolate crepes or even eat at a cafe without having to take the bus back to the boat. Disclaimer: This was our first trip to Paris and/or France and our first vacation on a Viking River Cruise or any river cruise for that matter. We have previously taken two European vacations to Italy (Rome, Florence, Capri, Pompeii, Venice, Sorrento, and Assisi). We have been on 4 or 5 Royal Caribbean cruises (to the Caribbean) over the last 20 years, plus a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska and a cruise around the Hawaiian Islands. Also note that this trip took place in August; that's the month where most people in France head to the beaches and a whole lot of businesses are closed, especially the smaller "mom and pop" stores. Note: the French get at least 5 weeks of vacation each year, and they love to use it. The good news was that the traffic was dramatically reduced because everybody was out of town, and since we spent a lot of time sitting on buses, that time really added up. Also note that we were booked on the "Rinda", the larger boat that can't dock in downtown Paris, so they docked Rinda in Le Pecq which is a small town about 15 miles west of Paris. The Viking people like to refer to Le Pecq as "a suburb of Paris" but that's like calling Baltimore a suburb of Washington DC. They constantly told us that it only took 20 minutes to drive from Le Pecq to Paris, but the helicopter must have been in the shop while we were there since the trip was consistently 55 to 60 minutes one way every time we got on the bus; the red lights and construction zones didn't go on holiday. 2. Airlines - Getting There: They won't make your flight reservations when you sign up for the cruise and pay in full, so you have no idea of what arrangements are going to be made on your behalf until 30 days prior to the cruise. We flew out of Washington DC (Dulles) and they put us on an Iceland Air flight to Iceland (5.5 hours), and then another Iceland Air flight to Paris (3.5 hours). We had about one hour between flights in Keflavik (Reykjavik) where it was 40 degrees (F) at noon on the 3rd of August! Be prepared to be seated on the least expensive flights to and from Paris and for many this means hours of additional travel time; so when some passengers arrive on the ship they may not be in the best of spirits! It seemed that everybody we talked with ended up going through a different stop on the way to Paris. Some went through Iceland, some went through Heathrow/London, some through Munich, some through Stockholm. One couple was flying back home to Baltimore from Paris through Chicago with a 4 hour wait in Chicago. It was interesting that when we switched planes in Iceland, the authorities checked our passports, but when we landed in Paris, there was no immigration or customs; we went from the baggage carousel directly to the public areas of the airport where our Viking representative greeted us and herded all of the passengers into one area prior to getting on the bus for Le Pecq. 3. Does Le Pecq equal Paris? When we booked our vacation back in December, the other Viking River Boats were sold out so the Rinda was our only choice for the first week in August. The advertisements say "Paris, Paris, and Paris" but the Rinda is docked in Le Pecq (sometimes referred to by the Viking folks as the "Port of Paris"). It's a 1-hour Viking-provided bus ride to downtown Paris (Louvre, Notre Dame) one-way, so we felt cheated out of valuable time that could have been better spent in the city. The La Pecq issue has become an 800 pound gorilla in the room; we got a special letter prior to departure that explained and defended Viking's use of Le Pecq and the Cruise Director tried to explain away the issue while we were onboard. One good thing about Le Pecq, they have a Monoprix store there (like a Walmart - just a few steps from the dock) where we bought several bottles of wine and some chocolate to enjoy while sitting on our veranda watching the shoreline of the Seine go by. There is a small refrigerator in the cabin and you can stuff 4 or 5 bottles of wine into it; there is a corkscrew in every room. During meals, the waiters will be happy to open a bottle of wine that you provide if you want to go that route. 4. Das Boat & Das Staff: We were in Cabin 335, an "A" Stateroom with the veranda. We had a king size bed with one chair, 2 end tables, a bureau for the clothes, a closet, a digital safe, a small refrigerator, and a flat screen TV. There was just enough room to walk around the bed. The bathrooms are small and the shower measured about 4 feet wide and 24 inches in depth at one end and 18 inches in depth at the other end. The larger staterooms include a sitting area and larger bathrooms and showers. The veranda was just wide enough for two chairs and a small table. We used the veranda during 3 days and 1 night for sipping wine and taking photos of the quaint villages/towns and scenery as we sailed down the Seine. The veranda became our favorite spot for private relaxation during travel time. If you don't get a veranda, the sundeck is always an option. The TV comes in handy; you can get CNN and BBC news, sports, Viking documentaries, maps of the cruise, movies and TV shows if you wish, but you can also listen to the Cruise Director's lectures in the room if you don't want to go up to the lounge before dinner. They also have a camera on the bow of the ship and you can watch the view on the TV 24/7. They provide a variety of music channels, and I found it amusing that what they call "Pop" music was mostly rock and roll from the 50s and 60s; I would have called that "Golden Oldies." The suitcases fit under the bed for storage, and a 220-volt hair dryer came with the room. You'll find three or four 110-volt outlets in the room along with three or four 220-volt outlets. They provided life jackets under the bed and a safety exercise was conducted the first afternoon, but they like to joke that if the ship goes down, they will be serving cocktails on the sun deck; the Seine is only about 9 or 10 feet deep in most places and the ship draws 6 feet of water so the boat doesn't have very far to go before hitting bottom and lifeboats are not required. Amazingly, the Seine is only about 100 yards wide in most places so you're never more than 40 or 50 yards from shore during the entire cruise. When it is necessary to turn the boat around, they have to cruise to a wide spot in the river, make the U turn and then cruise back to the ultimate destination. The Seine has 6 locks between Paris and Normandy (think "miniature Panama Canal") and it was very interesting every time we entered a lock and the boat went up or down about 12 feet in about 15 minutes. Tours of the wheelhouse are available over several days if you're interested in the technology; the boat has bow thrusters to help make turns or to dock, and they use radar even though the river is very narrow. 5. Where are the toilets? One of the first things that the Cruise Director (Michael B.) covered during the early daily briefings was the astonishing lack of public toilets all over France. We were warned to use any available rest rooms early and often because you would never know when and if you were going to find another one or how long the lines would be waiting to get into one. As a last resort, you might need to duck into a cafe, buy a glass of wine, and go stand in line at their unisex single-use restroom. "Depend" under garments might be a consideration for you! Unfortunately, because of the lack of facilities and the huge crowds at the venues, our group tours (typically 20 to 50 people) were delayed by 20 or 25 minutes every time we stopped for a potty break. At Versailles, the Louvre, Giverny, and Normandy, it wasn't unusual to see 10+ women waiting to get into the public ladies' rooms while there was no waiting at the men's room. Occasionally, we found rest rooms at a snack shop where they wanted 70 cents (cheaper than a glass of wine) to use the facilities when you can find them. 6. Paris: If you really want to "see Paris", you should consider booking a few days on the front end of the trip or the back end. We saw Notre Dame, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower (on the Viking excursions) and we walked mile after mile of Paris streets to visit some museums, stores and cafes on our own. We ended up spending 1 full day in Paris at the beginning of the trip and another full day (including a half day in Versailles) at the end of the trip. We do feel that by adjusting the schedule and reducing/ eliminating the time spent in Les Andeles, we would have enjoyed more time in Paris 7. Itinerary: As our first priority, we wanted to see Paris, Notre Dame, the Louvre, Versailles and Normandy. The other stops on the trip were expected to be icing on the cake. We soon realized that Paris requires a lot more time than previously planned, and we were not prepared for the long bus rides and having to wait in lines for everything including restrooms. And, since some of the less-interesting stops ate up more time on the schedule, we felt cheated out of time that we could have spent on our primary objectives. (See the "Excursions" paragraph below.) So Bottom Line: It was an "OK" itinerary, but it could have been much better. 8. Other Guests: The Rinda holds about 200 passengers. About 70 percent of the passengers appeared to be over 65. Maybe 10 percent of the passengers were under 30 with just a few under 18. The remaining 20 percent appeared to be between 30 and 65 years old. A few people were in wheel chairs or used a cane to get around. There are no tables for two on the Rinda, so unless you're travelling with a group, you'll be meeting lots of new people at every meal. So that you can prepare your answers in advance, here are the questions that are universally asked upon meeting unknown passengers: What is your name? Where are you from? Is this your first Viking Cruise? Where else have you traveled with Viking and around the world? What did you do before you retired? Where did you live before you retired? Are your children as deliriously happy, exceptionally smart, amazingly good looking, extraordinarily well educated, and hugely successful as our children? Note: If you intend to get creative with your answers, please coordinate with your travel partner(s) so that you all consistently tell the same fantasies during the cruise! Having said that, please note that we did meet five or six "very down to earth" couples who provided very pleasant dinner conversations and travel tips during the week. 9. Meals, Wines, and Lines: Our previous experiences on cruise ships always included excellent meals. The Vikings provided a few excellent meals, a few disasters, and mostly mundane fare. On top of that, the portions usually tended to be small with a few exceptions. I thought we had paid for "excellent" and "bountiful," but I guess I was mistaken. We learned a lot on the cruise. We discovered that by adding mushrooms and wine to chicken, you become a Coq au Vin chef, and adding a little cheese to cauliflower makes it "French Cauliflower." If you really want to impress your family, run your mashed potatoes through a pastry decorating bag, and then use a blowtorch to brown the top of the swirl; finally, jam a finger-sized piece of toast into the top of the swirl and you're ready for the kitchen on Rinda (smile). Spinach is "French spinach" when it is served in a pastry shell. If you buy wine, they will be happy to pull the cork for you - no problem, no charge. Dinners: The Split Pea soup was very good as was the French Onion soup and the Lobster/Shrimp Bisque (brown, not pink). The pork tenderloin was great. The Beef Wellington was very tasty but the meat was a little on the tough side, and the cheeseburger with fries was excellent; just like at the Outback Steak House. I had a prime rib dinner one night that was very good, but they served it with a little container full of BBQ sauce on the side. How strange; A1 steak sauce would have been much more welcomed. The Coq au Vin consisted of a leg and a thigh with some mushrooms and some kind of wine sauce; it was OK but the portion was on the small side. The plain chicken breast was a safe alternative but totally uninspiring. We tried to avoid ordering things that we didn't recognize on the menu. I ordered the penne pasta with shrimp one night and I got a large bowl of pasta with a plain tomato sauce that reminded me of SpaghettiOs eaten during my childhood, along with three (3) shrimp. Yes, I said three (3) medium sized shrimp. I was insulted and I should have sent it back but I didn't. Later in the week they served a shrimp cocktail appetizer that had 2 large shrimp, thus confirming my conclusion that three medium shrimp does not a meal make. That shrimp cocktail appetizer featured two large raw shrimp that were only partially deveined so I had to finish off the deveining task myself. I was tempted to cook the shrimp over the candle on the table, but I didn't want to make a scene on the Seine. One of our tablemates ordered the scallops one night and got four (4) golf ball-size scallops; the presentation was very nice but the portion size was "skimpy." The night after having the excellent cheeseburger, I decided to give the "Pulled Pork Sandwich with Cole slaw and fries" a try, and I ended up getting a Kaiser roll with a compressed pork patty that looked like a 3-inch pancake. The slaw came in a small cup with a few fries alongside. Has this chef ever been to Texas? What was he thinking? At the very least, he could have done some research on the Internet. Salads are not typically served with dinner on Rinda, but if you ask, you can get a Caesar salad added to your order. The house wine flowed like water; the waiters refilled our glasses every 10 minutes like clockwork. We received some interesting appetizers; one was a teaspoon filled with some kind of fish chutney; somebody suggested that it was raw tuna but we never managed to verify that guess. I got the steak tartar one night - very thinly sliced raw beef with a tasty sauce. The thought of eating anything raw scares the heck out of me, but when in France, do as the French, right? Lunch: We skipped a lot of lunches to stay at the venue du jour and avoid spending time on the bus and sitting for an hour or more on the boat for lunch. Our Viking-provided lunch at a restaurant in Normandy consisted of wine, a salad, Coq au Vin, scalloped potatoes, some zucchini, cans of soda, and a chocolate dessert. Unfortunately, it took 1.5 hours to get through lunch; that time would have been better spent at the museum. One day on Rinda, we stood in a line 10 deep (20 minutes) to get some French-sounding spaghetti thing for lunch. They put some olive oil in a skillet, added spaghetti, threw in some bland tomato sauce, and sprinkled some herbs on top. After simmering that for 4 or 5 minutes it was ready to eat. Again, the taste reminded me of childhood SpaghettiOs. If I ever go on another Viking cruise, I'll bring a jar of Ragu. The French are very big on having salads for lunch, and one day we did the Rinda lunch buffet which included salad, egg salad, pasta salad, some other salads, sausages, pickled herring, and cauliflower covered in cheese. Thankfully, the dessert table was exceptional and my willpower caved in as I sampled a large variety of cakes, pies, cookies, and candy. Hats off to the pastry chef; he never disappointed. If you're going to France for the wine and pastry you will be in heaven. Breakfast: Rinda serves a great breakfast. They make omelets to order at the buffet line but you might have to stand in line for 15 minutes to get one. Recommendation: Order an omelet from the waiter and you'll get in 3 or 4 minutes from the kitchen. You can also order pancakes, French toast (very dry), eggs, juices, eggs Benedict, and other items from the menu. The buffet selections were endless: champagne, omelets, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, oatmeal, granola, cereals, yogurts, pastries, bagels, toasted bread, croissants, smoked salmon, fresh fruits, hot stuff that I didn't recognize, some kind of crackers that I didn't recognize, muffins, you name it and it was there. We had absolutely no complaints when it came to breakfast, except that they could have cooked more than one omelet at a time at the buffet table to speed things up. 10. Airport & Driver Issues: Our bus drivers were pleasant, competent and punctual for almost all of the trips with the exception of our return trip to the airport on the last day. That particular driver was late arriving, texted and talked on her cell phone, and even started to read off the list of terminals that each passenger was headed to, all while driving at 60 mph on the highway. I was going to yell "put down that phone" while she was changing lanes with one hand, but I didn't know how to say that in French, and she didn't speak English! Also, the Viking representative at the airport took us to the wrong part of the terminal for our Iceland Air flight back to the US, and we would still be there if it wasn't for another passenger finding the ticket counter on his own and leading the way for the rest of us to the right part of the terminal. I think the Vikings are more worried about the arriving passengers than the departing passengers. 11. Excursions: Excursions are good. One major issue when you're exploring on your own is having to wait in line for an hour or more when trying to get into a museum (usually a former palace) or other venue; that's not a problem when you're on a Viking excursion since they have group tour tickets with timed entry. Also, having a tour guide is really great since they know where the important stuff is located (it would have been very easy to get lost in the Louvre), they can give you the historical background, and they know where to find the restrooms. Unfortunately, after the (mostly) 2+ hour tours were over, we only got about 30-45 minutes of "free time" which is just enough time to visit the gift shop and hit the restroom before getting back on the bus; not enough time to really go off and explore. We tried to get around that problem in Paris by skipping the trip back to the boat for a lunch; that way we could spend more "free time" in Paris and catch the last bus back to the boat later that afternoon. We were lucky; the weather was perfect throughout the week except for a little light rain while we were inside the Louvre, but we didn't need the Viking-provided umbrellas at all. The Viking folks provide bottles of water every time you leave the ship - take a few - you'll need them. They also provide little radio receivers (about the size of a cell phone) with earpieces so you can hear the tour guide speaking even if you're 100 feet away; that worked out great since the museums are loud and packed solid with people and we didn't have to stand next to the guide in order to hear her/him. Day 1 - Le Pecq & St. Germain: You can tour the town of St. Germain with a guide in the afternoon to see churches and a former palace, and you can buy wine or other essentials at the Monoprix store in Le Pecq, just a few steps from Rinda's pier. There is a pretty good view of Paris in the distance across the Seine from the Palace in St. Germain. We found an ice cream shop just across the street from the Palace where we sat and enjoyed a break from the walking as we watched the locals for a while. If you arrive from the airport early enough, you can take a Viking bus to Paris, and skip St. Germain, but we arrived at 3 p.m. after the last bus to Paris had already left. St. Germain was interesting since it was our first stop in France; plus we were sleep-deprived from the flight so I'm not sure we could have survived an intense afternoon in Paris. Bottom line: St. Germain was an "OK" stop on the itinerary, but not very special when compared to Paris, Rouen, Versailles and Normandy. Day 2 - Notre Dame & Paris: We took the Viking tour of the Notre Dame Cathedral in the morning, but our group had to stand in line for about an hour waiting to get in; no timed tickets there. Then we spent the rest of the day exploring Paris on our own: walking to the Latin Quarter, and walking past the Louvre, walking through the shopping districts and walking around a lot of monuments. We had lunch in a small cafe in the Latin Quarter - Pizza and wine no less. Then we walked up the Champs-Elysses to the Petite Palace to catch the bus back to the ship at 5 p.m. So, except for lunch, we walked the entire day. Bring comfortable shoes. The Eiffel tower was plainly visible off in the distance, but it was too late in the day to visit it, and we were booked on the night tour of Paris on the last day when you get to visit the tower when it is all lit up. Bottom line: The first day in Paris was "good." If you can't read a map, and/or you can't walk long distances, you should plan on bringing money for a taxi or a bicycle rickshaw so that you can get around Paris and make it to the return bus on time. Day 3 - Vernon, Giverny & Monet: If you're into art, this is like dying and going to heaven. We took the Viking tour (including express tickets to enter the property and a guide to provide the walking tour) to visit the vast gardens and ponds (complete with lily pads) that Monet used for inspiration when he painted. It was kind of like actually walking through some of his paintings. Then we took a tour of Monet's house (after waiting in line for 40 minutes) including his personal art collection. The gift shop there has a wide variety of unique items, all geared toward Monet of course. There are a few museums and cafes there in the small town of Giverny, but we didn't have time to visit any of them. Day 4 - Rouen - Joanie on the Pony: Rouen was where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, not exactly Disneyworld, but if you appreciate the religious and historical perspective, you'll probably enjoy the trip. The town is fascinating because a lot of the original medieval structures are still standing and the narrow cobblestone streets wind through the city - it's "Old France". Rouen offered endless shops, cafes, and fast food opportunities (think: chocolate-filled crepes, ice cream, chocolate/ candy and McDonalds) along with small art galleries and clothing stores. There's a modern church in the square where Joan met her maker; it's just across from the restaurant where Julia Child became interested in French cooking. Rouen was one of the better venues on the itinerary. Day 5 - Normandy Beaches: The first thing we found out on this tour was that the landing beaches at Normandy cover over 50 miles; that's more than the distance from Atlantic City to Cape May, NJ. It was a 2-hour bus ride from the Seine to the coast. Along the way, our guide provided a large amount of background information along with personal stories about her grandparents' dealings with the occupying Germans during the war. The trip focused on the American cemetery and the beaches where the "Mulberry" artificial harbors were used to offload men and supplies after the initial invasion. Unfortunately, we simply drove slowly past many other beaches that contained dozens of relics and several museums on our way to Arromanches where we saw dozens of the concrete breakwaters still sitting on the flats at low tide more than 1/4 mile out from the shoreline. We lost about 20 minutes after arriving due to the long lines at the restrooms. The museum there was packed with people and we had time to watch a 30-minute film that documented the preparations and landings, but we didn't have much time to walk through the extensive museum because the Viking tour focused on feeding everyone lunch at a local restaurant - an hour and a half of valuable time that we would have skipped if we had known how long lunch was going to take. (A crepe or an ice cream on the street would have been sufficient; you might want to consider skipping the sit-down lunch if you go.) It's a shame that we spent more time in the restaurant than we did in the museum or on the beach. After the stop at the Arromanches beach, we headed for the American Cemetery where we walked through the sea of marble crosses and Stars of David that marked the graves of more than 9,800 servicemen and women. We witnessed a memorial service there which was quite moving. The visitor's center/museum was excellent; we spent about an hour there. Then we headed to Omaha Beach at Saint Laurent Sur Mer to see a memorial and the beach where the Americans landed. Day 7 - Les Andeles: They could have skipped Les Andeles all together. When we arrived, a carnival had taken over the docking area so the reality of the surroundings didn't look at all like the Viking Cruise commercials that we saw on TV. There's a partially-destroyed castle on the top of a high hill near the town, and it's a long uphill (steep) climb to get there - maybe a half mile or more. The cruise director previously warned us that the castle tour was not for everyone. We had to stop several times along the way to let everyone catch their breath and wait for stragglers. The view of the Seine and surrounding areas from the castle was beautiful. The Cruise Director acted as our guide and he provided an incredible amount of information about Richard the Lionheart and the history of the castle. There was a quaint restaurant at the bottom of the hill and the nearby town provided yet another gothic church, one or two cafes, and a shop or two, but spending an entire day there walking the cobblestones felt like a waste of time since we had already been to Giverny and Le Pecq. We actually resorted to playing miniature golf on Rinda's sun deck for a lack of things to do that afternoon. Les Andeles was one of the most disappointing venues on the itinerary. Day 8 - Louvre: We paid 69 Euros each for the Viking-provided Louvre tour. We arrived with our tour guide at a few minutes before 9 a.m. just before the doors opened. We were the second group in line at the "Group" entrance so we got in very quickly. The Louvre is enormous and 10 million tourists visit it each year. Our guide walked us through several sections over 2 hours which included the "must see" Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa, and the winged goddess of Victory statue. You can take pictures as long as you don't use flash. By the time we got to the Mona Lisa, the room was crammed with several hundred visitors, each of whom were determined to get a "selfie" with the smiling lady. As you can imagine, the pushing and shoving got pretty intense (we were warned about this prior to the tour) not unlike trying to get into the Sistine Chapel on Easter Sunday or trying to get near the Trevi fountain at noon in Rome. They also warned us to be careful to protect ourselves against pickpockets. We had some free time after the tour ended (hello gift shop), and we decided to skip the bus trip back to the boat for lunch and head out on our own to explore Paris. We had "brunch" at a great little cafe just a few blocks north of the Louvre; it was called Le Pain Quotidien Saint-Honore (address: 18 place du Marche, they also have a web page!). Our selections included: wine, salad, a baguette, and Quiche Lorraine - all for 37 Euros (for two). Very picturesque, very relaxing, great food, good portions, and they had a one-at-a-time unisex restroom! They even had an English menu and the waiters spoke enough English to take our order. After wandering through Paris for another hour or so after brunch, we were able to get the Viking bus at 2 p.m. that took us from the Petite Palace to Versailles for the afternoon Versailles Palace tour. Day 8 - Versailles: We paid 79 Euros each for the Viking-provided Versailles tour. We arrived on the Viking bus around 2:45 p.m. The Palace at Versailles was huge, and the crowds were even bigger. They told us that the gardens covered 750 acres - that's big. This place was the king's hunting lodge! The reflecting pool was a mile long - that's big. The first thing you notice is gold; gold on the gates, gold on the roof, gold on the statues, and that's before you even get into the building. Once inside past the metal detectors, there is gold on all the walls, gold on all the furniture, golden clocks, golden sculptures, golden lamps, gold on the chandeliers, gold on the ceilings, gold woven into the fabrics, and the place is littered with priceless paintings and other sculptures. No wonder the starving masses staged the French Revolution. We had timed tickets for 3 p.m. and our guide got us in the door a few minutes before 3 so we were just a little ahead of schedule. Once inside, we (again) lost 20 minutes for a potty break. Then we became part of a traveling beehive of humanity that swept us along the halls and rooms like a huge mass of logs heading down a river toward a sawmill. The camera on my battery died after 300+ pictures that day, just before we got into the Hall of Mirrors, so I had to switch to my iPhone for the remainder of the day. Our tour guide described the incredibly staggering opulence enjoyed by the king, queen and several thousand of their closest friends at Versailles while we viewed the endless rooms, chambers, halls, and a chapel that looked like a small version of the Sistine Chapel. After our guided tour ended, it was "hello gift shop", and then we had an hour or so to visit the gardens (they required a separate Viking-provided ticket). The fountains, sculptures and reflecting ponds were endless and literally breathtaking. We noticed two soldiers carrying assault rifles while we were there; the first time for that. In Paris you will see police with pistols, some on rollerblades, some on motorcycles, most in cars, but Versailles was the only place we saw assault rifles. Day 8 - Night Tour & Eiffel Tower: The Viking bus drove us around Paris on our last night to see the Seine, and all the significant monuments, bridges, palaces and shopping districts. Then we stopped at the Eiffel Tower to disembark and watch them put on the 10-minute light show at 10 p.m. It was quite spectacular - definitely worth the trip, especially since we didn't visit the tower on our previous treks across Paris. The grounds around the tower were packed; similar to (but not as large as) people watching fireworks on the 4th of July at the Washington Monument in DC. It was a great way to end our trip before heading back to the ship to pack our suitcases. Bottom line: Day 8 in Paris/Versailles was "very good." We finally got to see the Louvre, Versailles and the Eiffel Tower and we got to sit in a little cafe for a very nice meal and some wine. It was a very long day, but it was worth it. Too bad everything had to be crammed into one day. Day 8 was a Sunday in August, so lots of stores and cafes were closed, but enough were open to meet our needs. 12. Viewing the Seine from our Private Balcony: The boat usually travels at 15 to 20 MPH with plenty of quaint villages/towns along the way. Chalk colored cliffs lined the Seine for about 25% of the trip. Occasionally we would see rail yards and industrial areas with graffiti on the walls and bridges. We passed lots of barges and a few powerboats. We enjoyed our private time on the balcony with wine and chocolate; if you don't book a room with the veranda, the sun deck is the best option. 13. Language Issues: I confess, all I really know about the French language I learned from Pepe Le Pew cartoons as a child (smile). 95% of the time English was spoken fluently. Everyone on Rinda spoke fluent English. Most people that we met on the tours (waiters, shop keepers, cashiers, and museum staff) spoke English. Of course, the tour guides spoke fluent English. In one chocolate shop in Rouen the staff didn't speak English or they refused to but we still managed to get some samples and purchase "Tears of Joan of Arc" chocolate drops. Please note that although just about everyone speaks English, they typically have thick accents and they may not speak "American English" so you might have to ask for clarifications from time to time. We bought one of those "Learn French Fast" CD courses at Costco for $39.95 a couple of months prior to our trip, but we never got much past "Hello, goodbye, thank you very much, please, where is the toilet," and counting from one to 10; and as it turned out, we really didn't need to speak French although it was fun trying. 14. Money: Bring Euros with you; except for the airport gift shop in Iceland and gratuities on Rinda at the end of the cruise, dollars are not accepted anywhere, although credit cards seemed to work anywhere. 15. Conclusion: Now it's back to work, back to a low carb diet, and I have to download 1,000+ photos and videos from my camera and iPhone and create a DVD Slideshow for posterity. I can't wait to read your assessment of Rinda after you get back from your trip. We are not planning to book another Viking River Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2015
We had gone on cruises on large ships and wanted to experience this particular cruise through France to the Normandy area. We found the Viking cruise to be much superior to large ship cruises because they (Viking) allowed a much more ... Read More
We had gone on cruises on large ships and wanted to experience this particular cruise through France to the Normandy area. We found the Viking cruise to be much superior to large ship cruises because they (Viking) allowed a much more personal experience, including personal time in cities throughout the cruise, less harried excursions, and all the touches you expect on a "cruise". These experiences were lush food, with apparently local produce and sources, extraordinary guides on excursions and state of the art buses. The excursions were executed on time, without problems even in slightly difficult driving conditions and weather. And our experience on this once in a lifetime trip was top drawer. We appreciated shopping opportunities, as well as all the photo taking opportunities as well. We had no problems with translating languages, as it seemed that most staff on board spoke at least 3 or more languages. It was extremely helpful, and added to our great time on Viking Cruise Lines. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2014
Bucharest to Budapest was our second cruise. Eastern Europe and the Danube River featured lovely small towns with down to earth experiences on a farm as well as large cities with the museums and cathedrals. The Rinda is a lovely ship and ... Read More
Bucharest to Budapest was our second cruise. Eastern Europe and the Danube River featured lovely small towns with down to earth experiences on a farm as well as large cities with the museums and cathedrals. The Rinda is a lovely ship and all the personnel just tops. Food was fabulous. We enjoyed all the passengers: a very varied group. And the guides were extremely knowledgeable and able to answer all manner of questions. In March we will travel from Nuremburg to Budapest. Plan on travelling the entire Danube. For us it is the only way to travel. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2013
The Cruise Overall, pretty much what I expected, having read many threads and posts on the Cruise Critic message board, as well as other sites. As we were going during Christmas, I was expecting very cold weather. As it turns out, we got ... Read More
The Cruise Overall, pretty much what I expected, having read many threads and posts on the Cruise Critic message board, as well as other sites. As we were going during Christmas, I was expecting very cold weather. As it turns out, we got very lucky and had mostly unseasonably better weather than you normally get this time of year. I had bought a new, heavy duty winter coat, waterproof boots, and other winter paraphernalia. I only wore my big coat a few times, and got along with a lighter coat, supplemented by a layer of a long sleeve tee shirt and a light sweater. I also used gloves and a hat most days. The temperature was usually in the 40s, the only bad weather was the last day in Kinderdijk, the windmills, when it was cold, rainy, and very windy. Most of the time the weather was ok, making the trip much more enjoyable. You never know about the weather, though. Just the week before, there had been a major snow storm in that part of Europe. We saw the remains on the mountains in the Black Forest, but that was the extent of snow that we encountered. I probably should mention that we are from New Orleans, so when the temperature gets below 50, we get cold. My wife was also very comfortable wearing a variety of coats, and other layers. The cruise started in Basel, Switzerland. We booked our cruise, including flights and a two-day post cruise extension in Amsterdam, directly through Viking. We worked with Ceasar Reyes [Ceasar.Reyes@vikingcruises.com], who was extremely helpful, accessible, and knowledgeable about the various tours. He originally suggested the Rhein Getaway cruise when my wife first talked to him. Of course, I then took over the process and was leaning to the Danube Waltz, with a chance to visit Vienna. Ceasar told me he thought the Rhein Getaway would be a better cruise for our first one, and he was right. I'm sure the Danube Waltz cruise is great also, but the Rhein cruise was perfect for us. As this was our first river cruise, after several ocean cruises (Carnival and Windstar). We picked Viking based on a recommendation from some friends who have traveled with Viking several times. Viking did not disappoint us, but I will talk more specifically about Viking later in this review. We also decided to let Viking handle all of our travel arrangements for several reasons: the price seemed reasonable, if anything caused us to be late getting to the boat and we were on a Viking sponsored trip, they would hopefully hold the boat, and we figured if we ran into any problems getting to or from the cruise (weather, in particular), Viking would help get us to where we needed to go better than if we were doing all of this on our own. I know there is a lot of debate on these message boards regarding using the cruise company for all or your travel arrangements, using a travel agent, or doing everything other than the cruise on your own. I think it is all up to the individual and how much risk, you are able to stomach. For us, using Viking for everything made sense, but I can see doing other things on your own, or using a TA to work for you. As a side note, on the last couple of Carnival cruises from New Orleans to Mexico, we have booked our own shore excursions outside of the Carnival offers, and it worked out well. The only thing you have to make sure is to give yourself enough time to get back to the boat before it sails, because they will leave you. Our travel arrangements were from New Orleans to Washington Dulles to Frankfort, Germany to Basel. Returning was from Amsterdam to Chicago to New Orleans. All of the flights were either United or Lufthansa or their subsidiaries. The flights, though long, were acceptable. Going over was the weekend before Christmas, so the planes were full. We were on a really big Lufthansa for the Washington to Frankfurt flight, one with a 3-5-3 configuration in steerage class, and I was sitting in the window seat on the right hand side. I felt cramped in my seat on this flight. We looked into upgrading, but the costs of 1st class or business class was too expensive. We were able to upgrade to more legroom using Economy Plus on the Amsterdam to Chicago flight for $274. I thought that upgrade was well worth the money, as that was the longest leg of the flight, nearly 9.5 hours. The New Orleans to Washington flight was delayed about a half hour, but we still got to Washington in plenty of time to make our Frankfurt connection. All of the other flights were on time and we had plenty of time to get to our connections. One thing I have learned regarding traveling to Europe is that it is a very long flight, so you just have to make the best of it. If you can afford, or have mileage, to upgrade, by all means, do it. We used the neck pillows you can buy in the airport gift shops, as well as the pillows and blankets the airline gives you. I had looked into sleeping pills, but after hearing some horror stories about Ambien, I decided against that and we went au natural. I will tell you that no matter how difficult or inconvenient it is to get to Europe, it is well worth the hassle. The cruise took us from Basel to Breisach to Strasbourg (Kehl) to Heidelberg (Mannheim) to Koblenz to Cologne to Kinderjik to Amsterdam. Seven nights. All of the ports where nice. The point of this cruise was the Christmas markets and spending Christmas day on the Rhein. Each morning, there was a planned excursion (free), and in Breisach, there was an optional tour to Colmar, France. In Strasbourg there was an optional tour to the Alsace wine country to the town of Obernai, and in Cologne, there was an optional tour to 5 different brew houses to sample the local beer, known as Kolsch. Each of the optional tours was around 35-40 Euros. Euros are about 1.4 times the US dollar, so 40 Euros = around $56 US. There was also an optional tour normally scheduled in either Heidelberg or Koblenz, but it was not offered because of Christmas. I thought the optional tours were well worth the time and money. We went to a small vineyard in the small town of Obernai owned by Robert Blanck. He took us into the cellar, explained the wine making process, and showed us two barrels that have been in use by his family since the 1700's. I continue to be amazed at how old and how much history there is in Europe. We live in New Orleans and think we have a lot of history here. Compared to Europe, we are limited regarding history. This winemaker in Obernai, France has wine barrels older than the US. Strasbourg, France was founded in 5 BC. Just one other reason to visit Europe as often as possible. One other interesting note regarding wine production is as you go North in France and Germany, white wine is more predominant. Due to the colder weather in that region, the white grapes are hardier and can withstand the colder temperatures better. Some red wine is produced in the region, but most red wine is produced in the southern part of Europe. The tours were very well organized, and most people on the cruise participated in the ones included in the cost of the cruise. The tours always included a non-strenuous group, so pretty much everyone on the cruise was able to go. We also used little radio devices with an earpiece that allowed us to hear the tour guides very well. The radios are kept in chargers in your room and you take them with you on each tour. Another nice touch that Viking provided was a bottle of water and maps for each of us as we left the ship for the tour. On several occasions there was also some food waiting at the boat when we got back. Nothing big, but a small sample of a quiche lorraine for example. The tours do involve getting on and off buses, but really, there is no other way to get you from the river to the various sites within a reasonable driving distance of the ports we docked at. The longest bus ride was to and through the Black Forest, but we stopped twice, so the amount of time spent on the bus was broken up adequately. The tour guides we had were great, spoke very understandable English, had great knowledge of the areas we were touring, and were extremely pleasant and helpful. I usually tipped them 10 Euros, which I thought was well worth it. One thing to say also about the tours regards the bus drivers. These guys really don't get much appreciation, but they are essential to making the tours go smoothly. Some of the roads they have to navigate are very narrow, or winding, or up and down mountains. On the same tour, they may encounter a mountain road with snow, ice, or rain, a small local narrow road, or even the autobahn. They also stay with the buses while you are off, allowing you to leave your packages or coats, without worrying whether they will be there when you get back. I thought they did a great job and I would give them a 5 Euro tip at the end of the tour. I know tips are an issue to a lot of people on these cruises, as well as on other cruises. My rule of thumb is that if the person provides a service of value, then they should get a tip. Again, you have to decide individually how you feel about tipping and go from there. As far as the Christmas markets go; that is a very subjective discussion. First, most of the Christmas markets close on the afternoon of the 23rd. If your main reason for taking a cruise this time of year is to spend time at the markets, I would suggest you go earlier in the month. I believe most of the markets open around our Thanksgiving time. We were able to go to the markets in Basel, Colmar, Strasbourg, and Obernai. We did find other markets open in Cologne after Christmas, but the one there was a little different from the ones we visited before Christmas. One other thing to note. In Germany, Christmas is celebrated on the 24th, with the 25th and 26th being holidays. Starting the afternoon of the 24th, stores started closing and hardly anything was open in Koblenz on the 25th, while more stuff was reopening when we got to Cologne on the 26th. Just beware that around Christmas, lots of things are not open, so plan accordingly. Again, having done a lot of research prior to the trip, we were not surprised or mad because of it. We knew what we were getting into before we left. My opinion of the Christmas markets was that once you saw one, you've seen them all. I was expecting more of an arts and crafts type market. While there was some of that, there was also a lot more commercially produced items for purchase. We still enjoyed going through them. The best part of them, to me, was the food and drinks available. The bratwurst and knockwurst grilled over open fire pits were awesome. If you've ever been to the Salt Lick barbecue joint outside Austin, Tx, you will see where they got their idea for their fire pit that they cook on. They also have hamburgers, called meatballs, that are excellent. There is a wide variety of pastries and other desert items. Drinks include beer (very, very good) and Gluhwein. Gluhwein is hot red or white wine, with some cinnamon, sugar, and citrus peel added to it. It is served very hot and you get to keep the mugs it comes in after you pay for it. I think it is an acquired taste, as after one, I didn't need any more. The market we found in Cologne was different from the others in that it stays open for a few weeks in January, after Christmas. It had a lot of food and beer available. We actually had a tequila shot, which is served with a piece of bacon, rather than a lime. Got to love the Germans and their food. We also found a curling rink there, which was great, as I love watching the curling competition in the Olympics which is coming up shortly. Overall, the Christmas markets were enjoyable, but we did not take the cruise just for that reason. Also, getting money is no problem. There are ATMs everywhere. You can access them easily. The only problem I had was in Basel, which uses Swiss francs, when I couldn't figure out how to get Euros out of the machine. Since we got francs, which are only used in Switzerland, we used them all in Basel before we got back on the boat to start the cruise. I did let my bank know that we would be in Europe over the dates of the cruise before we left and had no problem using our debit cards anywhere we were. I did not let American Express know that we would be in Europe, and we got a call from them in Amsterdam, after we had used our card at the Heineken factory. The AmEx website said that there was no need to let them know if you would be traveling, but next time, I will let them know as well. It's good to know that they are looking out for you. A lot of the market stands took AmEx as well as cash. I was really interested in seeing Strasbourg as I have always heard what a fabulous city it is. I was not disappointed. Strasbourg is fabulous. One of the things we really like visiting in Europe are the churches. The cathedral in Strasbourg is no exception. It is incredible. At this time of year, with schools out and people getting ready for Christmas, the crowds are pretty big in the cities we visited. Especially in Strasbourg, Cologne, and Amsterdam. We were able to get into the cathedral and tour it, even with a lot of other people trying to do the same thing. They have a little gift shop right in the cathedral that we were able to buy a few Christmas presents. I found some first day covers (envelopes) commemorating Pope John-Paul II's mass he said at the cathedral in 1988. Those are some nice Christmas presents for some of my friends who collect stamps. All in all, Strasbourg was everything I ever heard about it and was great getting to see it. The Black Forest was another area that we really wanted to see. The weather turned out really nice, as we had a lot of sunshine as we rode up and down the hills and mountains. Lots of leftover snow, but we didn't have to deal with it, just look at it from a distance. We stopped at a church in one of the small towns in the forest. Just spectacular. We then went to the cuckoo factory, which also has the restaurant serving Black Forest cake. We were also offered the opportunity to hike part of a trail leading into the forest, which we did. Trail follows a mountain stream and because of the weather the past week, there was still some icy patches that you had to maneuver over. This was a somewhat strenuous hike and if you are the least bit mobility challenged, I would forgo this excursion. You were able to go as far as you wanted and we probably walked about a half-mile up and a half-mile down. Plenty of exercise for me. My wife, who works out daily, was having some withdrawal issues with not having gym facilities available on the boat. I kept reminding her that she was getting plenty of exercise during these excursions, even though she didn't feel like she was working out. We ended up in the clock factory. We bought a really nice one, as well as several other items. The good thing about this store was that they will send everything home for you. That came in really handy as at the end of our trip, we had no room left in our suitcases to get everything else home. The cuckoo clocks come in a wide variety of prices, so if you want to get one, I think everybody can find an affordably priced clock. They appear to be well made and the people working in the store where very helpful and spoke very good English. The price of the items we purchased, plus the shipping and insurance came to about $500 US, which I thought was a pretty good price. We found other cuckoo clocks in other places we visited on the cruise and all of the prices were similar. At least I can say that ours came from the Black Forest. We didn't get a chance to try the BF Cake, but from folks who did it sounded like it tasted pretty good. Maybe next time. So after Strasbourg and the Black Forest, I was very happy with the cruise, because those were the two things I really wanted to see. And then we got to Cologne. Let me just say that Cologne in the nicest place I have ever been to. In fact, I am now reviewing my retirement plans to see if I can retire to Cologne. Cologne is clean, civilized, and the people are extremely friendly. The cathedral blows away every other church I have ever seen, including the cathedral in Strasbourg that we had seen just days before. Cologne, as was most of Germany, was destroyed during WWII by around the clock bombing for over a year. In the daytime, the Americans bombed it, and at night, the English bombed it. Everything was destroyed, except for the cathedral and the original brew house. Don't know how those two structures survived, but they did. Someone must have been looking out for religion and beer during those horrible times. The Germans blew up the bridge over the Rhein as they retreated when General Patton and the US Army showed up. Everything had to be rebuilt, so most of the city is around 50-60 years old. So even though Cologne has been around a very long time (founded in 38 BC, 38 BC!), it is a very modern city. As I mentioned before, we did a pub crawl that evening after dinner and sampled the really good Kolsch beer brewed in Cologne. That was a lot of fun. Also, as everywhere we went on this cruise, even after dark, I was never concerned for our safety in any of the areas we were in. During our entire 10 day stay, I only saw three policemen, and they were all in Amsterdam. I am sure there is a police presence in Europe, they just blend in very well or I didn't know where to look for them. On Christmas Eve, we were in Mainz, which was pretty well closed down by the late afternoon. We did find a nice Catholic church about 3 blocks from the boat that had a mass at 5 or 6 pm. Can't remember exactly the time. It was a very easy walk to the church and we got there about 20 minutes before the mass started. As all churches are at Christmas and Easter, this one was packed, and it was a good size church. We were able to find a space to sit on the side of an alternative alter in the very back. Couldn't see the alter, where the priest was, but could see a little on a TV monitor about 50 feet in front of us. Although the mass was in German, we could pretty much keep up with it, as the mass was said in the same order it goes at our church at home. My wife was able to take communion fairly easily, as they had a number of Eucharistic ministers and assistant priests giving communion, so it did not take very long to minister to the entire church. It was nice to get to the mass, especially since it wasn't at midnight. On Christmas day, we cruised up the Rhein, viewing all of the castles on both sides of the river. It was very enjoyable and a really unique way to spend Christmas. I was a little worried about my wife on Christmas day, as we would be away from our kids, but especially that we would be away from the grandkids. It worked out fine as we were able to face time all of them on Christmas day, which allowed us to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and make sure they were all ok. We were able to keep up with work, home, and the world while on this cruise. I have an Apple iPhone 5s, and my wife has an earlier iPhone model. We were able to stay connected to the internet on the boat most of the time. The only time we lost reception for any sustained period was when we cruised up the Rhein on Christmas day. I think it was because the mountains were the highest there and the river is the narrowest there. That was the only time we didn't have internet access, and I'm talking only 1-2 hours. I was also able to access the internet through my Kindle Fire while on the boat. The last stop on the cruise was Amsterdam, where we had booked a 2-day extension. In hindsight, we should have planned a pre-cruise extension and left immediately after the cruise to fly home. I woke up on Saturday in Amsterdam with one of the worst hangovers I have had in a long time, on top of a lack of sleep catching up with me. Needless to say, we had a great time at the Captain's dinner and the last night in the bar the previous night. We were taken to our hotel, the Radisson Blu, and while waiting for our rooms, we were taken on a two hour walking tour. The tour was great and the guide was extremely knowledgeable and helpful, especially after the tour during the rest of the day and the next day. However, nursing a hangover and needing some sleep, a walking tour was not the best way to recover, especially as the weather had turned cold. We made it through the tour and back to the hotel, where we got into our room around 2:30 pm, and were able to get some much needed rest, before tackling the crazy city of Amsterdam. Amsterdam is nice, but honestly, don't think we will be going back, other than using the airport. Amsterdam is noted for the red-light district and the availability of marijuana. And yes, there is a lot of both. However, once you've seen the red light district, you don't need to see it again. And even though marijuana is not legal in Amsterdam, a huge misconception, it is, in the words or our tour guide, "tolerated". Also, after the cruise is over, being as tired as we were, it would have been better to have gone straight to the airport, got on the plane, and slept on the way home. Oh well, you live and learn. Even though a pre-cruise extension would have worked for us, a post-cruise extension may work better for others. Some people may also want to extend the cruise at both ends; nothing wrong with that approach either. We did get to tour the Heineken factory. It was great and we picked up some presents for my son and son-in-laws there. We also did one of the get on/get off buses, which gave us a chance to see all of Amsterdam, from a distance. Also, the Radisson Blu is a very nice hotel, very well located. Our room was great. Good choice by Viking. The airport in Amsterdam is great. Very organized and easy to get around in. Line to check in Monday morning (12/30) was extremely long, but it moved fast as they had plenty of people working the counter. I think we only stood in line for 30-45 minutes. As we kept getting closer to our gate, I kept waiting for the security lines, but they never appeared. It turns out that the security checkpoint is at the individual gate. Once we got to the gate we went to a little stand where we showed our passports and tickets and were asked the usual questions, did you pack your own luggage, has it been in your possession the whole time, etc. We then went through the scanners. Pretty easy for the most part. My wife got a pretty thorough hand search, but that seems to happen to her every time she flies. Also, the other thing that I liked about flying into Europe was once we got through customs in Frankfurt, we were done until we left Amsterdam. Because of the European Union, they have removed border checks for passports, so once you get into a country you can to everywhere else without having to be checked. Made for traveling through 4 different countries very easy. As I said, we really enjoyed the cruise. It was pretty much what I expected based on the research I had done before we left. Let me take the opportunity, before I forget, to thank everyone who participates on these boards, allowing folks like me and my wife, to do a lot of research before any of our trips. There are a lot of issues with the internet, but the Cruise Critic website and the message boards are part of what is great about the it. The Boat: Viking Rinda The Viking Rinda, which is named for the Norse god of the frozen earth, or at least that's what I think the description of the picture at the top of the staircase said, is the river boat we sailed on. It is one of the newer Viking longboats, and I think it is only a couple of years old. It is very efficiently designed, using limited space optimally. When you enter the boat, you generally come in on the starboard (right) side. You walk into the "lobby" with the front desk and concierge located to your left. There is a small gift shop on the far wall. The entrance is on the second deck, there being three decks all together. We were in Veranda Suite 304 on the 3rd deck. We had the first room as the rooms start, which gave us great access to the lounge, which was at the front of the ship on the 3rd deck. The Veranda Suite includes a sitting room with a couch, chair, and TV. The front room is where the balcony is located, accessible through a sliding glass door. There is also a mini-refrigerator located there. The bedroom had a sliding glass door that accessed the outside. We had a nice size, probably queen, bed. Very comfortable. Their is also a TV in the bedroom. The bathroom was adequate, located to the right of the bed. Very narrow, with the shower on the right, the sink in the middle, and the toilet to the left. The bathroom has a pocket door that closes very easily. It is also a step-up into it, so be careful if you have mobility issue or have had too much to drink. There was a closet with a small, two-drawer dresser located at the bottom of the closet. To the left of the dresser was the closet floor, used for storing shoes and dirty clothes. Overall, the room, much like the ship, uses the limited space very efficiently. Storage is an issue, as there is not much of it. Part of it was our fault as we, mainly me, way over packed for what we did and what the weather turned out to be. My wife insisted that she used everything she brought, so I am not going to try to describe or explain packing from the female perspective. Hopefully, there are other threads that the women can get some ideas as to what is needed in the way of clothes, coats, and other items for a trip of this duration during this time of year. I will say that I brought a lot of stuff (bathing suit, short sleeve shirts, too many pairs of socks) that I had no need of nor use for. What I did end up needing more of was long sleeve t-shirts and light weight sweaters/sweatshirts. I only brought 4 long-sleeve shirts, so I used the on-board laundry service to wash them, so that they lasted through the trip, including Amsterdam. The laundry service was very easy to use. You put your clothes in a laundry bag left in your cabin, fill out the sheet describing the articles you need cleaned, and leave it in the room. Your steward picks it up and delivers it back to you the next day. Again, we were extremely lucky with the weather, so most days I went out in a pair of jeans, a long sleeve t-shirt, a light weight sweater/sweatshirt, and a lighter nylon coat, which I threw in my suitcase just as we were leaving the house. I always had my gloves and ski cap, which I used probably 50% of the time when we were outside. We did get a little bit of rain, never enough to really cause problems, it was more that it had rained and it was wet in some of the areas we went to. I wore my waterproof boots on most occasions when it was wet or looked like rain. Other times I wore my new balance walking shoes, or my crocs (with socks). I had purchased 3 pairs of wool socks. I only wore one pair once and it was just too hot, so I stuck to regular socks the rest of the trip. I also brought two pairs of dress pants, several dress shirts, and a blazer. I really didn't need any of that as the cruise is extremely casual. I could have gotten by most nights with what I wore during the day on the excursions. What we generally did, was return to the ship before dinner, shower, and change clothes. I never wore my blazer and only wore one pair of dress pants the first night and the last night, which was the captains dinner. I only wore 2 of the dress shirts, so I could have left probably half of the clothes at home and never missed them. The other thing to think about when packing is that you are in a town or city every day and there are stores available if you forget something or find you really need something you forgot. These cruises are not like going down the Amazon, or to the Galapagos, or to Antarctica. Europe is pretty civilized. As casual as this cruise was, I am curious as to how the dress is during the summer. Are shorts acceptable in the dining room, or are you expected to wear pants? I didn't see any of the other rooms, so I can't really comment on space or storage in them. I will say that because of the time of year, the balcony in our cabin went unused, except to occasionally go outside for some fresh air or to cool off, when the cabin got hot. The boat was extremely warm. I never needed a jacket or coat while on the boat. In fact, we usually slept with the window open in the bedroom to keep the cabin cooler at night. For some reason, I found the boat and most of the buildings we went in very hot. I don't know if people complained that the boat was too cold or if it takes so long to heat things up that once they get warmed up, they don't get cooled off. The first morning, in Breisach, it was pretty neat to go out on the balcony and see all of the ducks and swans hanging out around the boat. I think in the future, we will look at the French Balconies, due to a lower cost and since we didn't spend much time in the room other than sleeping, we can probably get by without the balcony. Although, it was nice to have the extra sitting space. The TV content is interesting. Several channels including CNN, BBC, USA, MGM, and a couple of others that I can't remember. Most of the content was in English, but it seemed to change to German in the mornings. Weird, but we didn't spend a lot of time watching TV. There was also a pretty good selection of movies to watch, all made in the last 10 years or so, with a lot of variety. There was also several music channels, which is probably what we kept the TV tuned to most of the time. There was Country, Pop, Musicals, Classical, and a couple of other channels. Very good variety and kept a nice atmosphere in the room. The TV also had the current weather and two boat cameras, one on the bow (front) and one in the lounge. The Dining Room is located on the 2nd deck, to the right as you enter the boat from the starboard side. It was again a very efficient use of space as everyone usually ate dinner in it, since there is no room service, and the only other food available is in the lounge. (More on that in a minute.) Most of the tables seated 6 people, I think there may have been a few 8's and maybe some 4's, but I don't think there were any 2's. Most people seemed to sit at the same tables with the same people starting about the 3rd night. We didn't eat in the dining room, other than the nightly meal, so I can't comment on breakfast or lunch. The wait staff was pleasant for the most part, but did seem to be a bit hurried in getting folks in and out. The meals were ok, nothing that overly impressed me. I wasn't expecting a 5 star dining experience, but I did expect a different menu than what was offered. There was always a meat, fish, and vegetarian entree, as well as a steak and chicken entree available. The appetizers were good, and the desert was ok. I generally had some ice cream each night which was very good. Again, the food overall was not an issue, I just think it was more what I like to eat and what I don't like to eat. My wife, and everybody else on board, seemed to enjoy the meals and there weren't any complaints that I was aware of. If your interests in taking a cruise is based on food, both quality and quantity, that is not what you will get on this cruise. It is not a Carnival cruise, where you can stuff yourself 24 hours a day. Again, the food was fine just not a lot that I cared for. (I will address the Christmas dinner later, though.) On the 3rd deck, where our stateroom was, there were two computers set up. I didn't use them as our phones and my kindle fire had internet access. They were always in use, every time I went past them. On both sides of the ship, there is a coffee service, which includes tea and hot chocolate. I don't drink coffee, so I can't comment on it, other than to say my wife, who is a huge coffee drinker, liked it. During the day, there was always some pastries and cookies there also. They were very good. On the starboard side was the elevator. So for people with mobility issues, there is a way to get from floor to floor. I don't think the elevator went to the top deck (outside), but I could be wrong. I didn't find the elevator until the next to last day, as it was on the opposite side of the boat from where our cabin was. I want to finish this part with the lounge, but first let me mention the top deck. It obviously was not used much this cruise due to the weather. I am sure during the summer and warmer parts of the year, this deck is used a lot. It has a lot of deck chairs and a place to get towels. There is some shade setup, but most of the deck is open. It has a running track, two putting greens, and a shuffle board court. It also appeared to have a smoking section, but I could be wrong about that. Again, I am sure this deck is used a lot more when it is warmer. One morning, when we did not have to get up, we did hear someone running on the track above us. Our cabin was just below the track, so you could hear it pretty well when someone was up there. Something to think about during other parts of the year if you get a cabin on third deck. Also, the bridge or pilot house is located here. Very interesting. The whole bridge is moves up and down, hydraulically, in order to get under some of the bridges on the river. Again, a very well designed feature on the boat. Back to the lounge, where we spent most of our time on the boat. What can I say, except it was a great place to spend some time. Of course the bar is located here, there is a piano and piano player, who entertains at lunch time and in the evenings. It is also where breakfast and lunch are served, which is where we ate those meals. Both are buffets and the food was good. Always a couple of choices, hamburgers one day, pizza another, as well as soup, salad, bread, and desert. They also had pickled vegetables every day for lunch, which were great. Breakfast included toast, english muffins, etc, with a toaster to toast the bread. Butter, margarine, philly cream cheese, and jelly was available. There was also a selection of cold cuts, ham and salami, and cheese every morning. There was also some pastries available. Fruit was also available both at breakfast and lunch. The fruit, especially the citrus, was very good. Not sure where they got it from during this time of year, but it was very tasty. The dinner menu in the lounge, would have suited me fine if we had eaten there every night. The menu included burgers, quesadillas, ceasar salad with chicken or steak, etc. Basically, bar food. And very good bar food. We ate there twice, once because we wanted a change from the dining room, and once because of some issues related to the Christmas dinner, which I will discuss later. The bar was located in the lounge and it had everything you could want to drink, including soft drinks. Diet Coke is Coke Light in Europe. Tastes better too. We decided to buy the Silver Spirits package right after we booked the cruise, which cost $210 US each, and was well worth it. During meals, beer and wine do flow. You can get plenty of each while you are eating. However, outside of meals, you pay for your drinks, including soft drinks. In looking at the drink menu, for example, Grey Goose vodka ran 7.50 Euros per drink or about $10.50 US. I needed to drink about 20 drinks over the course of the cruise to come out even on the package, which I think I did the first night. The part of the package I wasn't sure about was that anything you wanted to drink, any brand, any amount was included. I asked Ceasar specifically about that and he assured me it was. He was right, anything you wanted at any time, in any quantity was available. It was nice to just order a drink and have it served with no "paperwork". Like most cruises, if you didn't have the package you had to sign a tab for your drinks each time you ordered one. There was also a wine list, different than what was served with meals, that you could order and take to dinner with you. We drank a very good red wine from the Czech Republic that was excellent. The beer was also excellent, as it was all across Europe. When the bartenders and waiters figured out that I like beer, they started serving me in a bigger glass. Very perceptive, those boys and girls. I would highly recommend buying the package. It is well worth the money. I'm not sure, but I think you can buy it on board before the ship sales. You can ask about that if you are interested in purchasing it. Every night in the bar before dinner is a presentation by the cruise director as to what is going to happen the next day. Times, places, etc. There was also usually some type of local entertainment each evening. We usually attended the briefing each night, had a few drinks before dinner, went to dinner, back to the lounge to finish the night. We were generally in our room around 11-11:30 pm each night. So it wasn't like we were staying out until dawn, but we did spend a lot of time in the lounge. There was a piano player with a really great little electric piano he played. It looked like a small grand piano, I mean really small, but was hooked up to an amplifier and had all kind of accompaniments, including background singers to go with the songs. The guy playing the piano was superb. I'm not sure where he was from, but he could really play and sing. All types of music. We were very fortunate that several of the guests turned out to have very good voices, and they did some singing both solo and as duets, during the cruise. We also were able to dance on the small dance floor by the bar. By the last night, there was more dancing and singing than any of the previous nights, even though most nights there was a good crowd in the bar. I'm not sure how that works during other times of the year. You have to realize that it got dark around 4 pm every afternoon, and didn't get daylight until after 8 am in the mornings. It was also too cold to really be outside. In the summer I would imagine there is more use of the outside deck in the evenings, so the lounge may not be as crowded as it was on this trip. There also may be entertainment at night outside also. All in all, the boat is self was perfect for the cruise. Viking has done a very good job with design, functionality, and efficient use of the available space. One other thing, I had read about being docked next to 3-4 other boats in some ports. We only experienced that once, in Koblenz, when we were tied up next to a Tauck boat. It was very easy to get from our boat to theirs to the dock. You went from the top deck, across a little gangway, to the Tauck boat, down some stairs and out there entrance. Nothing difficult at all. BTW, the Tauck boat was really nice, very nicely decorated for Christmas. Since nobody was spending much time outside or on their balconies, I don't think being docked next to another boat was a big issue. However, at other times of the year, it could be an issue for some. One other thing I should mention is the sounds and motion of the boat. Remember, you are on a river so the motion, for the most part, was not really noticeable. From where our cabin was, it was pretty quiet also. You could feel the engines running, but it was more a discreet vibration that seemed to be a part of the "noise" of the ship. Kind of like running your air conditioner at home. Not unpleasant at all. It could be that other parts of the ship may be noisier, but I didn't experience any of that. Also, you need to go outside, regardless or the weather, at least once when going through a lock. It is an incredible experience and a real engineering marvel to see how they are built and how they work. Viking I was extremely satisfied with the cruise, the staff, and the arrangements Viking made for us. In fact, we are trying right now to book another cruise this year, but the dates we want are sold out for just about all of the cruises. That should tell you something about the quality of the Viking cruises. The staff on the boat was incredible. They were always there. I don't know when they sleep, because they were always working. The staff in the lounge was particularly helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly. I think it was by the night of the first day, that most everyone in the lounge new our names, our room, what we liked to drink, etc. There was always somebody cleaning the common areas on the boat. The cruise director, Henriette (I believe), was everywhere. She would be seeing us off on a tour, waiting on us at the bus stops, and welcoming us back to the boat at the end of the tour. I was convinced that she was a twin, if not a triplet. The room steward cleaning our room was great. She was very unobtrusive and did a great job keeping our room cleaned. She seemed to know when we weren't there, to get the cleaning done. When we did run into her, she was very pleasant and friendly. In fact, I never saw anything but smiles from all of the folks working anytime you came across them. To sum up the quality of the people working for Viking on this cruise, early in the cruise one of the windows in the lounge was broken. They taped it up and put a curtain over it during the rest of the cruise. I figured they would fix it when we got to Amsterdam. Sure enough as we got off the boat around 9:00 am, I noticed that the window had already been replaced. And it was a little cold that morning. One other thing I really liked about how Viking treats its passengers was coming and going from the boat. When you left, you picked up a card with your name and cabin # on it. When you came back, you handed the card back in. Upon return, there was no security scans to go through. If you bought something in town, wine for example, you could take it back on board and drink it, if you so desired. That is a very different policy from the ocean cruises I have been on, where bringing booze back is frowned upon, and held for you until the end of the cruise. A small thing, but, in my opinion, a really customer friendly position to take by Viking. I am not sure how these cruises are marketed. Obviously, we see the commercials almost daily on TV and we get the fabulous brochures in the mail. Plus emails almost daily, so I know there is a substantial marketing budget for Viking. I couldn't figure out how this cruise ended up being 100% geared to an English speaking group. As best as I could tell, the cruise was made up primarily of Americans, with some Canadians, some English, some Aussies, a couple from Bermuda, and a family from Mexico City. Everyone I ran into spoke English and all of the tours, events on the Boat, menus, etc. were in English. I wondered what happens if someone from Italy, for example, who does not speak or understand English, calls Viking to book a cruise. Does Viking refer them to a different cruise or cruise line that can accommodate an Italian speaking group? Or does Viking have an ability to accommodate non-English speaking passengers on any of their cruises? Don't know the answers, just curious. The age of our cruise was much younger than I had been led to believe regarding the age of most river cruise passengers. I thought that the cruise would be primarily 70-80 year olds, but I would say the average age of the passengers was probably somewhere in the 40's. There were a number of teen-agers on board, which contributed to the lower overall age than normal. I don't know if the age of our cruise was lower because of the time of the cruise (Christmas, kids out of school) or if river cruises, particularly Viking, is attracting a younger crowd. I would not bring any kids on this cruise unless they were at least teens. I don't think the cruise had any activities for small children, who, I think would have been totally bored on this cruise. The good news is, there are plenty of other cruises that cater to smaller children. We hung around with a couple from California that had their teen age daughters with them, and a Mother and her college age daughter from Nova Scotia. All of the "youngsters" seemed to really enjoy the cruise and liked the tours, meals, connectivity, and overall mood of the cruise. Complaints (and they are very minor) We had one issue in the dining room, on Christmas night for the Christmas dinner. There was a scramble to get to the dining room, as everyone on board wanted to eat there that night. We sent the "teen-agers" I mentioned above down to grab a table, while we adults finished our drinks in the lounge. They got a table, but were chased away from it, by a fellow passenger who told them that that table was hers and that she and her group always set there. The kids, being very well mannered and not wanting to create a scene, left and came back up to the lounge. After we went got down to the dining room, there were no tables left, or seats for that matter. Reluctantly, we went back to the lounge to eat there. As soon as the folks in the lounge heard what had happened, they immediately set up tables to accommodate all of us. When we asked if we could be served the Christmas dinner there instead of the bar food, they went and talked to someone. The next thing we knew, we were studying the Christmas dinner menu, trying to decide what to order. A small disaster averted by the very understanding crew in the lounge. We ended up having a great Christmas dinner with some new friends we had made on the cruise, while we continued sailing up the Rhein. The only other complaint I have, and again a small one, is the Christmas Eve masses in Mainz. There was a group taken by one of the Viking crew to a church for the Christmas Eve services. We were given appropriate notice as to when the group was leaving and what time to be in the lobby. We didn't make it in time to join the group, realizing that we could get to the church on our own as it was only a few blocks away from where the boat was docked. The fact that we missed the group excursion, is not Viking's fault, it was ours. However, it would have been helpful if the staff had provided a listing of churches and times for their services, so we could have decided when to leave and where to go. That's it. That's all the complaints that I have. What we would have done differently We would have done the pre-cruise extension than the post-cruise extension. Although it looks like we have just booked our next cruise in May for the Portraits of Southern France, with a post-cruise extension in Paris. Going to have to get a little more sleep and drink a little less the last night on board to be ready for 3 days in Paris. Getting there a day early will help you get acclimated to your surroundings after spending close to a day getting there. We may try to get to France a day early, closer to where the boat leaves for our cruise in May. We might have looked at going to Paris after the cruise once we found out how easy it was to get there from Amsterdam by train or car. The folks we hung out with were both going to Paris for a few days, one group by car, the other by train. It is very easy to get around Europe, especially by train, and most places are fairly close to each other. For example, Amsterdam to Paris is 5.5 hours by car and 3 hours by train. Something to think about next time. We also will probably try to eat one meal (dinner) off the boat at one of the stops. Not that the food on the boat was not good, it's more that there are some really great restaurants in the ports we visited and we should have taken advantage of that while we were there. Again, maybe next time. I plan to pack much less next time and take advantage of the laundry service on board the ship. Like I said, I way over packed by bringing items I could never wear in the weather we had, and I really only needed casual clothes. Just one more thing I really like about Viking. Next time, I plan to write down the names of all the people, both on the boat and with the tours, so I can name them when asked or if I write another review. As I said before, they were all great, and I should have taken the time to acknowledge each of them properly. Final Comments We were very pleased with the cruise. I was very pleased with all of the Viking folks, on the boat, on the tours, and behind the scenes. They all worked very hard to make our trip memorable. For comparison purposes, this Viking cruise was very similar to our cruises we have taken with Windstar. It is a smaller boat, I heard there were 160 passengers on our cruise, which gives the crew a chance to know who you are and what you like, especially in the bar. There is no casino or workout facility. No spa or 24-hour food service, but we never missed or wanted any of that. Everything about the cruise met or exceeded our expectations, and as you can see, we have already booked a second one. I thought we received great value for the cost of the trip. Overall, I would rate Viking and our cruise on a scale of 1-10, between an 8-9, with a 10 being unobtainable. In my mind a 10 would include sensational weather, unbelievable accommodations and service, and at the end of the trip, we would get our money back. I would highly recommend river cruising, particularly with Viking. We plan to take many more cruises with this very well run company.   Read Less
Viking Rinda Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.6
Dining 4.0 4.6
Entertainment 3.0 4.0
Public Rooms 5.0 4.7
Fitness Recreation 1.0 3.5
Family 1.0 3.5
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.6
Enrichment 4.0 4.3
Service 4.0 4.9
Value For Money 3.0 4.4
Rates 4.0 N/A

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