River cruising’s popularity has been soaring for years. If you haven’t tried one yet you might be wondering what makes them so special and why do guests return to river cruising again and again.
This past summer, Meredith Burbidge, Vision Travel’s Content Marketing Manager, set sail onboard Viking Lofn to find out.
Rhine Getaway with Viking Lofn
I arrived at the cruise port in Basel on a blistering hot day in August and the first thing I noticed was the lack of crowds. As I approached the Viking arrivals area, there wasn’t a crush of guests waiting to board, only a couple dropping off their luggage with the concierge, otherwise, the river bank was sparsely populated with locals out for a stroll in the stunning sunshine. ” Welcome to Viking,” the smiling concierge greeted me, “please make your way on board and they will check you in,” So I sauntered down the gangway, boarding a ship had never been so easy. It transpired that easy would soon become my most overused word to describe my river cruise.
Life On Board Viking
After hassle free check-in that took all of three minutes, I headed off to explore my home for the next week. The ship’s decor was understated and bright with light wood finishes and interesting pieces of artwork dotted around. My stateroom was only about 150 square feet, so it was definitely cozy, but brilliantly laid out and never felt crowded or cramped. I honestly didn’t spend much time in the stateroom I was too busy touring fascinating cities, enjoying the view from the top deck or savouring the delicious food in the dining room.
I loved the size of the ship because it only had four passenger decks it was really easy to get around and it was impossible to get lost. One of the huge benefits is if you are on the top deck taking in the view and need to retrieve something from your stateroom, you can be down and back before your travelling companion even knows you are gone. I never felt the pressure to bring EVERYTHING I might need with me because I knew I could always pop back and grab a book or a new memory card for my camera.
The Viking staff were incredibly charming and were one of the main contributors to the easy factor on board. Nothing was too much trouble. For example, one of my fellow passengers happened to be gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian. Every morning at breakfast the dining manager would seek her out to discuss the day’s menus. The chef not only adapted the meals to her needs but also created some unique dishes just for her.
On Tour with Viking
Viking River Cruises includes a shore excursion in every port they visit. The tours varied from visits to historical castles, city walking tours to a scenic drive in the Black Forest with a short hike. Guests were provided with a listening device that allowed us to hear our guide without having to crowd around. This let me wander along towards the back of the group and stop to take pictures without missing anything or getting lost down a cobblestone alley.
Embarking and debarking for these jaunts was extremely civilized. With less than 200 guests on board, there was never a line. Due to the compact nature of the ship, my stateroom was less than a minute from the gangway so I just wandered up once the tour departure was announced.
The Rhine Experience
A river cruise gives travellers the ability to visit not only major cities along the route but also the chance to stop in at smaller villages that they might otherwise miss. The Viking Rhine Getaway itinerary was designed so most of the time the shipped sailed at night, allowing us to maximize our time in ports, the exception being when we hit castle alley along the Middle Rhine.
The day our cruise arrived in the Middle Rhine was a little overcast and drizzly but that was actually good news as the area had been experiencing a drought and the rain was badly needed. As there was ample cover on the top deck and the ship’s chef warmed us up with “Happy Hot Chocolate”, hot chocolate with a shot of Bailey’s, the weather wasn’t a barrier to enjoying the spectacular scenery. Gavin, our Cruise Director, made the history of the area come alive with tales of knights and feuds. We relaxed as the turreted castles perched on soaring cliffs and the picturesque medieval villages glided past and took picture after to picture in an attempt to capture the magic.
Entertainment on Viking
I was a little concerned that I would find the entertainment on board limited as in the past I had sailed on larger ships with endless choices. I was worried for nothing. Every night after dinner the Viking lounge was host to a variety of entertainment. One night there was a fiercely competitive trivia game, in Cologne, we were entertained by world-class musicians and every night the Viking resident pianist played to the crowd. We were lucky enough to have a few talented guests on board who added their voices the performances, enhancing the family atmosphere.
A True Vacation
For me, my Viking River Cruise was a true vacation. I loved leaving all the details to the amazing Viking staff. Normally I am the architect and tour director for my holidays which means researching train times, booking entry tickets to sites and figuring out where to eat. With Viking every detail was taken care of, and if I needed advice, like what beer to sample in Germany, Gavin, my capable Tour Director had the answer. Easy.