Basel to Amsterdam On a Viking Rhine River cruise

Viking River cruise welcome

Wanting to learn more about the different options for river cruises, I decided to take part in an Educational Journey on the “Viking Var”, one of Viking River Cruises' new “Long Ships”.

The ship is like most others except, I would say, more sleek in design. Every inch has been optimized to its potential and therefore accommodates roughly 25 to 30 more passengers than either the more upscale AMA Waterways or Uniworld river cruise ships. The staterooms are modern in design and have what is necessary to be comfortable. The Suites, Junior Suites and Deluxe Staterooms are on the Upper and Middle Decks – all with Verandas.

As do most European river cruises, Viking River Cruises offers complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with onboard lunch and dinner service. Bottled water and complimentary cappuccino, coffee and tea are available at their 24-hour hot beverage bar. You do have a choice of breakfast, lunch and dinner with open seating.

The Aquavit Terrace is a wonderful outdoor seating area at the bow of the ship where you can have meals al fresco or just enjoy the scenery and read a book. Onboard Internet service is also complimentary, as are most daily shore excursions which include must-see highlights and delightful surprises.

The 8-day trip took us from Basel in Switzerland all the way up the legendary Rhine River to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. We boarded the ship in Basel and cruised through the night to “Breisach”, the port closest to the Black Forest region, where our first excursion took us. The scenery is magical and I have never seen so many cuckoo clocks in one place ever! The famous Black Forest Torte will never taste quite as good as when eaten along the Rhine.

The next stop was Strasbourg. We docked at Kehl, the German side of the River. It only took 10 minutes to cross the Europa Bridge and cross into (the outskirts) of Strasbourg, France. We did have to take a coach to downtown Strasbourg in order to walk around the city and be in awe of the Strasbourg Cathedral. With the Christmas Markets in full swing, it was a lovely experience, especially at dusk when all the lights were twinkling.

Traveling to Mannheim, we took an excursion to Heidelberg, one of Germany’s oldest and most romantic cities. The beautiful baroque old town and the magical, partly ruined, picture-book castle Schloss that overlooks it is not to be missed. On our way to Ruedesheim, we passed quaint old Villages on the River Banks and Castles on the hills. Christmas Market was in full swing and the famous Drosselgasse lined with café’s and lively brass bands to entertain with Christmas Music was as busy as ever.

We arrived in Koblenz midday, on the way passing the famous “Lorelei Rock”. According to legend, it was here that the beautiful maiden Lorelei used to sit and sing sweet songs. Koblenz is where the Rhine and the Mosel meet “The Deutsche Eck” (“German Corner”) and is dominated by the Statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I. We had time to explore the city on our own and visit more Christmas Markets.

Cologne…What can I say…  We had a great city tour in the morning and free time in the afternoon to check things out on our own. Strolling through Cologne is like walking through time. Cologne’s most famous attraction is the cathedral, whose twin spires dominate the sky line. The “Koelner Dom” is Germany’s largest cathedral. They had the Christmas Market right in front of the Dom and it was magical. Sipping two glasses of Gluehwein and some pretzels made it even more special. Should you have any time left over, there are many museums and galleries to enjoy.

Chocolate lovers should not miss the “Schokoladen Museum”, a shrine to the art of Chocolate making.  We had a private reception at the Museum which paired wine and/or champagne to specific flavors of chocolate. Almost had too much of a good thing.

We traveled through the night to make our way to the Netherland’s – Land of the windmills! “Kinderdijk” to be exact. Kinderdijk is a village in the south of Holland, approximately 10 miles east of Rotterdam. The windmills of Kinderdijk used to pump water from one reservoir to another, on two levels. They had 16 windmills in this area but now, there are only 8 left. They are beautifully lined up and a sight to behold looking over the landscape.

All things must come to an end and our journey took us to Amsterdam, traveling at night. Some people stayed on and some prepared to get back home.

Even so it was December, the weather was sometimes almost Spring like. I was hoping for some Snow to make everything look like a Winter Wonderland, but it was not to be. Either way, it was a great trip, thanks to the Christmas Markets along the way.

Next Stop----River Cruising the Danube!

Maike Cenci