I recently returned from a Viking River Cruise along the Rhine River from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, the Netherlands aboard the Viking Var, one of Viking’s newest longships.
Regarding the ship – all of the 15 longships are identical. Clean lines, minimal décor, a Scandinavian ‘Ikea-style’ with blond wood and glass, giving the illusion spaces are larger than they really are. Well laid out, lots of nooks and crannies to sit and read or enjoy a coffee. Wonderful hot beverage machines available 24/7 for Latte, Capuccinos, cocoa or plain coffee with cookies or Danish depending on the time of day. There is a small library onboard, and free Wi-Fi throughout. There is even an internet area with two desktop computers available free of charge.
Cabins are small. Window and French Balcony cabins are just 135 square feet. Very efficient storage and a 40” flat screen TV takes your mind off of it. Padded headboards are nice and I realized quickly they are there because that is your chair if you want to sit and read. No other space in the cabin for that. Bathroom is small but functional. Nice L’ Occitane products provided. River ships are virtually the same size, but Viking puts close to 200 on their ships as opposed to about 150 people on their competitors.
Public areas are very nice; the Aquavit Terrace (an indoor/outdoor bistro-style café) was really popular. Even though it was cold out, if there was no rain it was busy. Dining room is spacious and the food/service ranged from good to very good. All meals are open seating, with nice soup/salad/sandwich options on the Aquavit Terrace if you prefer. There is a lovely lounge where the daily briefings or demonstrations are held (we had a glass-blower and a local children’s singing group), and a full-service bar where most people hung out in the evening. A solo piano player was the only regular entertainment.
Viking owns 70 prime docking positions on the rivers so it’s rare not to go immediately off the ship without crossing another. They have nice big umbrellas available at the door so no need to bring one (unless you don’t want a big red VIKING umbrella advertising that you are a tourist).
The Program Director (like a Cruise Director on an ocean cruise) MADE this cruise. She was phenomenal; from fun costumes she wore in the evenings to her excellent briefings and stories, games, as well as the coordination of tours. I doubt she ever slept. I was told by many other passengers that while other Viking Directors are very good, she was one of the best they’d had.
The itinerary – If you’ve never experienced the European Christmas Markets, I highly recommend it! Now, I am a Christmas fanatic and collect hand-carved nutcrackers so I was thrilled. The towns and villages all decked out for the holidays are truly enchanting. Each port has its own specialties and decorations. I must have visited 15-18 different markets. My poor husband was the mule J It is a wonderful way to enjoy the holidays ~ lots of Mom/daughters and families taking their 2nd, 3rd, 5th market cruise. I can see how it would be habit-forming. I’ve done the same itinerary during the month of May and it is entirely different.
Bottom line for me:
This is an excellent choice for someone who wants the river cruise experience at a ‘reasonable’ price and is willing to pay in full well in advance (could be up to 2 years!). I personally would not recommend the smaller cabins unless you are WELL PREPARED for it. We talked to several guests who said just that ~ they were aware and felt they were functional for what they needed. But consider booking a full Verandah stateroom.
You will enjoy the ship, food and service. Most tours are included (and are quite good) but there are optional excursions at a cost. We took a few and 2 out of 3 were very good.
Important to know about Viking:
- Their best promotions require ‘pay in full’ regardless of how far out the date is.
- Note the differences – smaller cabin size, lack of spa/fitness center, optional tours offered, etc.
- If you are considering the full Verandah category, you might also consider a French Balcony aboard Amawaterways or Uniworld. Pricing would be competitive.
Cheryl Oddo, Branch Manager
Branch: Sorrento Mesa
9710 Scranton Road, Suite 170 | San Diego, CA | Google Directions
Toll-Free: (800) 683-4074 | Direct Line: (858) 551-4486
Tags: Amsterdam, basel, Cruise, european christmas market, rhine river, River Cruising, Switzerland, the netherlands, viking river cruises
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