|Our home for 7 days; Viking Mani|
Quite different is the experience of river cruising. With roughly 200 passengers, these 440 foot long vessels are very little like their big cousins. Instead of unlimited entertainment options on board, days are spent leisurely floating from one city or town to the next. Reading, playing cards, sitting on the deck watching the countryside pass by, and establishing friendships solidified over dinner each night and onshore excursions each day, river cruising is more about being closer to the places you visit and the people on board.
Less than two weeks ago, Betty and I completed our first river cruise from Amsterdam to Basel on the Rhine River with Viking Cruise Lines. With a few extra days in Amsterdam before the cruise and then afterwards in the Swiss city of Lucerne, we spent 12 days having the time of our lives.
Most river cruise ships have one restaurant, maybe a more casual choice for breakfast and lunch, a lounge for cocktails and evening entertainment, and a roof deck with plenty of chairs for relaxing. Our ship had shuffleboard and a few putting greens for those so inclined. A small but well-stocked library, a few Internet connected computers, and a couple of shelves of gift items completed the package.
Our stateroom came complete with a balcony, a TV (that we rarely used!), plenty of storage, desk and chair, excellent air conditioning, and one of the best showers we have experienced anywhere! Twice-a-day steward service kept our room clean, bottled water restocked, and turn down service during dinner each evening.
The ship was so smooth sometimes the only way to know we were moving was to look out the window. On a river, with such a large ship, there was no swaying or motion sickness to contend with.
The crew was absolutely on top of their game: friendly and efficient. After just two days, we were greeted by name more often than not; one of the benefits of 200 passengers instead of 3,000.
Each day included a stop in a city with a walking tour lead by a competent local guide. We visited the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, a windmill site in Holland, Mannheim, Cologne, Heidelberg and the Black Forest in Germany, plus Strasbourg in France. Along the way, dozens of castles loomed over us from the steep hillsides that line portions of the Rhine.
|Yes, we were that close to the wall|
The flight time to and from Phoenix was tough. On our last day we awoke at 6:30am in Lucerne and weren't home until 8:30am Switzerland time, the next morning, making for a 26 hour day.
Even so, the friends we made and the places we saw made the effort worth it. Here are just a sampling of the thousands of photos Betty and I took on this memorable journey.
|Amsterdam canal at night|
|The famous Anne Frank House and Museum|
|Local guide with traditional wooden shoes|
|Cologne at Night|
|There are dozens of castles along the middle Rhine|
|How to make cuckoo clocks|
|How to sell cuckoo clocks!|
These last few pictures are from Lucerne, Switzerland and while on a sightseeing cruise on Lake Lucerne. Yes, those are the Swiss Alps in the background.