Eight ports, seven nights, four countries, no rushing and zero hassle. Geri Bain talks about her Rhine Getaway with Viking River Cruises
I was a bit skeptical about the idea of visiting eight ports in eight days. Would I be frantically trying to squeeze in all the sites? Would everything be a superficial blur? The answer to both questions is an emphatic ‘No!’ Viking River Cruises’ Rhine Getaway was one of the most relaxing and destination-rich trips I’ve ever taken. The ship, with its sleek, all-outside cabin design, was almost always docked right in town, so it was more like living in a luxurious boutique hotel that relocated itself in the heart of a new city every day, and it was thrilling to wake up to a different view from my verandah each morning. The ship traveled mostly at night, maximizing time in each port, so I usually joined one of the excellent guided tours in the morning and still had plenty of time to explore on my own, chat with locals at a cafe or bar, or toss a stick for a dog in the park.
My cruise was on the Viking Longship Hlin, one of a number of nearly identical Viking River Cruise ‘Longships’ that ply the Rhine River on this Basel to Amsterdam itinerary. We toured the vibrant cities of Strasbourg, Heidelberg, Cologne and Koblenz as well as the small towns of Breisach, Rüdesheim am Rhein, and Kinderdijk. There was also a half-day narrated passage through the stunning Middle Rhine, gliding past hilltop castles, pastures and farmland, and Lorelei rock, the legendary home of a siren who lured fishermen to their death. The line’s excellent guides made me feel like a true insider wherever we went, and thanks to Quietvox listening devices, it was easy to listen to their commentary while at the same time taking in my surroundings.
For meals, there was a choice of a formal dining room, with attentive waiter service that made the three-course lunches and dinners feel luxurious, and an informal buffet with both indoor and al fresco seating. Menus catered to American tastes with familiar favorites, as well as regional cuisine and specialty drinks.
There was no gym or pool on board, just a walking/running track and putting green that only a handful of people used. Most fitness buffs were happy to walk or jog around town. Evenings were laid-back with cultural performances such as a classical concert by a pianist-cellist duo and a light-hearted lecture on German-French cultural stereotypes. The focus throughout was on our destinations, and that suited me and my mostly baby-boomer fellow passengers just fine. vikingrivercruises.com