Viking River Cruise - Rhine River - Trip Report

Discussion in 'Travel' started by DGS49, Aug 22, 2016.

  1. DGS49
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    DGS49 Gold Member

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    I assume many of you, like me, have received mountains of advertising about Viking River Cruises. If you have any interest, here are my thoughts after completing the "10-day" cruise from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland, via the Rhine River.

    (1) There are mainly geezers on board, FWIW. The going is often slow on walking tours, getting into the bus, and so on. But you are on vacation, so lighten up.

    (2) The cost varies greatly, depending on when and how you book. So if you are interested, be creative in your approach. The best deal we heard about was a couple who booked a couple weeks in advance. We booked 6 months in advance and obtained a theoretical 50% savings, but just about everyone we talked to paid pretty much the same amount, so I don't think anyone actually pays the published standard rates. And remember, Viking wants all your money very early in the process, so if you do it the normal way, they will be holding your money for several months before you actually embark.

    (3) All the "infrastructure" is great. Boat is excellent, clean, modern, and fully equipped (they are all basically the same design and size, due to constraints of the river locks and dams). Food and service are excellent. Transport is flawless. Seating at meals is "open," so you are free to make friends and either sit with them regularly or move around to meet other people. With only 180 people on board, you can meet a lot of people in a relatively short time.

    (4) Hold on to your wallet. They are constantly grabbing at it for one thing or another. There is an included tour at every port, and their tour guides are excellent, but they are always at you to buy the Optional Tours, which are god-awful expensive. Drinks are, of course, over-priced, but not as bad as at a baseball game, so I guess it's all right.

    (5) There is not as much going on in the boat as on an ocean cruise. No casino or shopping mall on board, no "Broadway" or "Vegas" shows to see on the boat. Remember, on an ocean cruise, 70% of the motivation is the Ship, and on a river cruise, 70% of the motivation is the destinations.

    (6) Our stops were fantastic. The cities and towns and things we visited were great, and well worth the price. The tourguides were excellent, but they all speak with an accent, and you will have to give them 100% attention to hear and understand everything they are saying. Viking also provided some short on-board lectures on what it is actually like to live in Germany and Switzerland - I thought these were as valuable and informative as the tours themselves.

    This is a great way to see some fabulous, interesting, important, historical venues. Doing it by rented car would probably be cheaper, but there is some value in not having to worry about finding places to stay and park, and getting acceptable food to drink. On the river cruise, there is an excellent meal, included in your fare, three times a day. if you want to eat "on the economy" you are free to do so, but having that fallback is good. (I gained about 5 pounds on the 14 total days of this trip).

    If I feel inspired later I will write some about the specific cities and castles that we visited, but those are specific to this tour. For now I just wanted to give my thoughts on river cruising with Viking in general. It's all about value for the money. We paid about $11,000 for ten days, including the airfare, and we probably got dinged for a thousand more in miscellaneous bullshit, including tips (a whole 'nother subject, if you know what I mean).
     
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  2. strollingbones
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    strollingbones Diamond Member

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    thanks i have wondered how those cruises are.....

    how did the tips go? that is a pricey vacay
     
  3. strollingbones
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    strollingbones Diamond Member

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    no pictures?
     
  4. bodecea
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    bodecea Diamond Member

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    Thank you...We've always eyed those trips.
     
  5. Iceweasel
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    Iceweasel Diamond Member

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    Sounds neat but I'm too independent for something like that. My cup of tea would be renting a motorcycle and touring the countries. A small group with a tour guide would be great, they have them so maybe someday ....
     
  6. tinydancer
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    tinydancer Diamond Member

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    Thank you so much. The river tours have fascinated me. They seem like the ideal way to get to certain destinations in a safe and more than a comfortable fashion. By all means continue with your review.
     
  7. DGS49
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    DGS49 Gold Member

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    The "suggested" tips are $10 per person per day for the cabin steward and $2 per person per day for the cruise director. 2 people times ten days = $240. Keep in mind that the "cabin steward" tip is shared with everyone on the boat (cooks, waiters, dishwashers, etc). To me, it seems excessive but maybe not. They all bust their ass to make you comfortable and happy.

    Footnote: The WiFi service is sub-standard, which they admit up front. If you using it when no one else is using it (0630), it's fine, but in the afternoon and evening it is overloaded and not even worth the effort.

    As for the motorcycle tour, this would be ungodly expensive and somewhat chancy. Renting an MC over there - one you would actually want to ride - would be at least 150Euro/day, the weather is very chancy, and navigating would be a pain in the butt, unless you had a good Nav system on board. Following up that thought, I would take the train from major stop to major stop, then do one-day MC rentals locally if the weather is good on that particular day. Is Eagle Rider in Europe?

    Tangent: Europeans are neurotically safe about their MC riding gear; they all wear leather from head to toe, and good quality, full-face helmets, But NONE of them wear any protective gear when riding bikes. Maybe WE are a little bit neurotic about bike safety.
     
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  8. HenryBHough
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    HenryBHough Gold Member Supporting Member

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    Wife and I did the same Rhine trip a couple of years ago - also with Viking.

    All the good stuff others mentioned is accurate, according to my experience.

    As to the shore tours, Viking breaks the shore parties into relatively small groups but the grouping is random. They could improve things by allowing people to sort themselves into groups according to their ability to walk/run. The slower-moving groups might see less but could better enjoy things. The faster-moving groups would not feel held back.

    For the Rhine tour I'd recommend the Basel/Amsterdam choice of directions. When the boat is going with the flow there's less time on the water and more time available for shore touring. That the OP did the Amsterdam/Basel direction could have influenced the need-for-speed on the shore tours due to the shorter time in port as the boat had to buck the current.

    Meals were good but overly formal. Service was slow and meals that should have taken an hour dragged on for two or more. Some nights there are separate buffet offerings but these were very few. Most nights it was take the whole big meal and spend hours in the dining room or settle for a soggy sandwich at the bar. To me the meal service is Viking's greatest shot at improvement.
     
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  9. DGS49
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    DGS49 Gold Member

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    As a contrasting view about the duration of meals (esp. supper), I think the service is slow on purpose, as it is in, for example restaurants in Italy. The INTENTION is to make dinner last 90-120 minutes, as that gives you the opportunity to socialize, not only with the people at your immediate table, but also with others nearby.

    If the meals were "quick," what would be the point? What are you going to do back in the room? Seriously. The TV programming is suitably poor.
     
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  10. HenryBHough
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    HenryBHough Gold Member Supporting Member

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    Please don't believe that everybody would scurry back to their room as you seem to choose.

    There's so much to see from open areas without being cooped up with people you may not like at all. MAY not. It's the lack of choice that was unfortunate. And, when meal times coincide with hours dockside to sit around inside is to miss out on time that could be spent ashore, seeing places at your own pace. Of course that DOES require getting up off one's ass......
     
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