In 1980 my sister Elaine and I decided to visit Europe. We booked a coach tour from Brussels to Paris via Germany, Italy and Switzerland and also bought a Eurail ticket.
We packed our cases and our luggage trolleys and hauled them on to coaches and trains for 4 months. Our coach tour was not the best. We travelled along the autobahns, saw very little along the way and lunch stops were in roadside cafes. “We are here for as long as it takes the last person to be served and eat” was the rule.
We travelled for 10-12 hours each day which included the listed sightseeing. Smoking was allowed in those days. We had to carry/haul our cases to our room each night. Sometimes this was down the street and around the corner if we were staying in different hotels.
That was 1980.
Our next visit was 29 years later in 2009. We were now in our 60’s and wanted a bit more luxury this time. Thank goodness for cases with wheels! We did a coach tour of Italy and 1st class train travel through Switzerland, Austria and Germany then by coach along the Romantic Road to Frankfurt. Then it was on to Brussels and Antwerp where we embarked the Viking for the 14 day Antwerp to Basel cruise.
Oh! What joy! Unpack, put the cases under the bed for 2 whole weeks and relax and watch the world go by.
Our cabin was quite spacious, plenty of room to move around and we were able to open the French Doors. We wandered around each deck, found the self serve tea and coffee, the library, the sundeck and bar. We signed up for the Australian, UK and USA news sheets which were put under the door overnight.
Of the 198 passengers we were the only Aussies with 8 British and the rest Canadian or American. All were lovely people and great fun to be with.
Our day started with exercises in the library at 7am then to the buffet breakfast with a good variety to choose from. Lunch was light lunch in the lounge or something more substantial in the dining room. (We usually had light lunch then went to the dining room for their yummy desserts).
Dinner was 4 courses but we usually skipped the first course as we always had an extra dessert of ice cream. Every night Bruno would ask “who wants ice cream” and all hands would go up. The food was delicious.
The staff, mostly from Eastern European Countries was excellent – all spoke perfect English and were very helpful.
Entertainment was supplied by Dimo playing on keyboard and pre-recorded music at various times throughout the day and evening. We had a visit from 12 Dutch ladies in traditional dress that performed several dances and we also had a glass blowing display.
On the sundeck we had Fruhschoppen – a German tradition of mid-morning beer, roasted suckling pig and sauerkraut. Another day we had International Food Day followed by a short Bingo session. We had a tour of the Galley with some samples supplied and a tour of the wheelhouse– no wheel only phones to crew, Harbour Master and other ships and also GPS and radar.
For sightseeing Viking divided us in to 5 groups and given “whispers” – headphones – so that you could hear the local guides without them having to yell. Only problem with these was if you were wandering around taking photos whilst listening to the guide you might have found the group had moved on and you couldn’t see them.
Panic!! Which way did they go? We were in group 5 so the whispers were in basket no. 5, our bus was no.5 and our walking group was no. 5. It was all very well organised without being military like.
We docked in the centre of town and were always given a map for extra sightseeing. We had several excursions by coach where we had walking tours and saw lace making and chocolates in Bruges, pottery in Delft, and a cheese farm in Gouda. Palace Het Loo - “The Versailles of the Netherlands” in Arnhem was beautiful. At Marksburg Castle near Braubach there was a lot to see and being a little short on time we missed the torture chamber (thank goodness).
In Heidelberg we visited the Red Ox Inn where the drinking scene from The Student Prince was filmed. At the market we came across a postcard machine where you stood in front of it, had your photo taken and it printed your photo surrounded by many Heidelberg scenes. You could also choose your own greeting.
On our tour to the Black Forest we saw Black Forest Foxes, a local breed of horse with a dark brown coat, white tail and very long white mane. We saw the volcanic area called Kaiserstuhl and also a demonstration of the making of cuckoo clocks.
Of course we saw much, much more than mentioned above. The magnificent buildings of Europe, the canals and museums of Amsterdam, the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the Cathedrals, Palaces and Town Halls everywhere, the castles on the Rhine and the wonderful old instruments at Siegfried’s Musikkabinet in Rudesheim. In Basel we found the Puppen House Museum where they have the world’s largest collection of old teddy bears (2500), beautiful dolls, toy shops & dolls houses. Six thousand objects on 4 floors.
At Kehl I noticed the staff heading to the local pool so I went too. I managed 15 laps which was a pretty good effort after all of that delicious food.
The last night we had the Captain’s cocktail party where all staff and crew were introduced and thanked for a job well done. It was a magnificent cruise.
For more information about Viking river cruises you can visit our website or call one of our experienced consultants on 1800 017 849