A review of the Viking River Cruise from Basel to Amsterdam

01-Basel - 2014-06-10

Overall, I have to give Viking high ratings for the Basel to Amsterdam cruise along the Rhine.

I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t also say that Mark and I did not feel this level of enthusiasm the first day or two on the cruise. We got off to a slow start.

Arrangements:
But let me start at the beginning. The Viking staff was very helpful and accommodating as we made our plans, and changed them, over phone calls in the weeks before our trip. The flights and trip were scheduled with no problems. Viking was also very efficient at providing us our luggage tags and itineraries before the trip. I was impressed by how they met us at the airport and whisked us away to the Viking Tor.

08-Basel - 2014-06-10

Accomodations:
Our room was very nice. We had a veranda state room on the third deck. It was largely occupied by a king-sized bed, but we did have a large counter that ran the width of the room with dresser drawers underneath, a closet, and room for a chair between the bed and the sliding glass doors to the veranda. We enjoyed sitting on the veranda when we docked and had time off in our room, or were cruising. We had a small, but adequate bathroom. If you’ve ever been on a cruise, you understand the space limitations. Our room was equipped with a wall-mounted television. The room staff did a wonderful job of replacing towels and freshening up our room every day. They left candies on our bed at night.

02-Basel - 2014-06-10

Dining:
The food was delicious and varied. There were a couple of dining options. The main dining room contained tables for six, eight, or ten people. Some of the tables lined the walls that were ceiling-to-floor windows. Unlike our ocean cruise many years ago, Viking did not assign seating at meal times. This was nice because Mark and I were able to meet a lot of interesting people as we shared a meal with them. It was also a little uncomfortable at times for two introverts like Mark and me when we had to find a place at a table or  join another party. This was more of a perceived problem, however, than a real one. Everyone was friendly. Many people were traveling with another couple, other family members, or a group.

The second dining option was the Aquavit area on the front deck. This was a more casual, buffet-style meal, and there were options of a table-for-two. Mark and I enjoyed several meals, with others and by ourselves, in the Aquavit.

A coffee bar outside of the lounge was stocked with hot drinks and donuts in the morning followed by cookies or other treats throughout the day. Although the food wasn’t provided in the excess that we had on our ocean cruise, it was more than adequate. We enjoyed it. Our favorite meal was the Taste of Germany night where a buffet of Germany delicacies was set up in the main dining room. Among the variety of foods were amazing soft pretzels, sausages, sauer-kraut, sliced baked meats, German potato salad, and desserts. We also were invited to tour the galley where the food was prepared everyday and where more food was served as we walked through. I think I picked up a cream-filled pastry or two and luscious strawberries on my way through. The kitchen staff prepared special foods from the local area throughout the week. One thing that stands out in my mind was a white cheese soup with grapes and walnuts from the Netherlands.

The food on the cruise met or exceeded our expectations.

The serving staff, however, on the first two evenings of the trip were a bit of a disappointment. We felt like we had to wait an excessive amount of time to be served, even simply to receive a glass of water before the meal. There were problems with things. The salt shaker was clogged and didn’t work. We had to ask several times for something we had ordered. The staff was even a bit rude, or at least not pleasant. I felt like for the amount of money we had paid for the cruise, we should be at least able to get a glass of water when we sat down. So we were disappointed at first, and we were not alone in this. I’m happy to say that the problems with the serving staff got sorted out and the remainder of the cruise we found no fault with anything.

Black Forest - 2014-06-14 --17

Excursions:
The other problem with the cruise the first day was the excursion. I was disappointed with the Black Forest excursion, and I felt like the excursion and, at this point in the trip, perhaps even the entire cruise had been oversold by the commercials I had seen of couples leisurely enjoying a glass of wine on a scenic hillside vineyard. We were moved onto a bus, driven through countryside, and deposited at what I could only think was a tourist trap. My expectations for what I thought we would see and do on this excursion were not met. But as I mentioned in my Journey into the Black Forest post the Black Forest cake that Mark and I shared somewhat redeemed the excursion.

Now, even though I spoke a bit disparagingly about being moved onto a bus, one of the things I liked very much about the Viking cruise was the way they managed moving the tour groups. They were extremely well organized. We stopped at the front desk every morning and received our group assignment and our on-board cards. The group assignment identified which bus we were to get on. At times they had up to four buses taking groups from our ship. On smaller optional excursions they had only a single bus or two. The on-board cards were to be turned in upon our return to the ship. They were filed under our names and used as a sort of roll-call so the staff could quickly check to see if everyone had returned to the ship. They actually did check this. One day Mark forgot to turn his card in and the staff phoned our room looking for him.

The other problem with the excursions in the first couple of days was that Mark and I felt we didn’t have enough time to explore our surroundings. This was frustrating initially. But as the trip progressed things improved. Some excursions had more built-in free time to explore on your own. Also, as we started adding up our experiences, we came to grips with our expectations and really enjoyed the convenience and ease of travel provided by Viking.

Even though we got off to a slow start, we enjoyed the other excursions. Some more than others. You can see links to detailed descriptions and photos of the excursions, if you missed them, on my Basel to Amsterdam Viking River Cruise page. If you’re only going to check out one excursion, choose the Castles on the Rhine or The Knights of Marksburg Castle from Wednesday. This was my favorite day on the cruise.

Programs:
In addition to the excursions, the program director, who I thought did an excellent job, presented programs in the lounge throughout the week that included a Flammkuchen, Rudesheimer Kaffee, and glassblowing demonstrations, to mention a few. Typically there was entertainment in the lounge in the evenings from musical ensembles to quiz games.

Special touches:
One of the reasons I really liked the Viking Cruise was all the small details or special touches they put into each cruise. They provided a bottle of water to each guest whenever we left the ship for excursions. Umbrellas were available and within grasp. Each night in our room we were provided with a Viking Daily, a four-page publication with information about the next day’s activities including a detailed itinerary and helpful and interesting information about the location. A convenient hand sanitizer station outside the dining room door to use before entering, not very glamorous but a definite must in light of the potential problems cruises can encounter.

Thumb’s up:
Overall I have to give Viking River Cruise from Basel to Amsterdam a big thumb’s up. It was an expensive trip, but I think it was worth it. And you don’t have to take my word for it. Mark feels the same. We saw a lot of amazing things in a short period of time and came to understand that area of the world that the Rhine runs through much better than we would have likely been able to do on our own. It was a relaxing way to travel with everything taken care of for us. All we had to do was show up. Viking knows its stuff and is a pro at conducting these cruises. I would absolutely do another Viking River Cruise.

Now I’ve got to go find my piggy bank and start saving up.

 

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who have stayed with me through this lengthy discourse of Viking Cruise posts. And to my fellow bloggers, I hope to get back to reading about what you’ve been up to soon.

 

 

 

 


Writing through the grief

Just a short note today. I’d like to invite you to read my guest post, How Memoir Writing Helped Me to Grieve My Loss, at Kathleen Pooler’s blog — Memoir Writer’s Journey. Kathleen is a writer and a retired family nurse practitioner. She is working on her own memoir about “the power of hope through my faith in God. Hope Matters” and believes “we are all enriched when we share our stories.” In the 2-1/2 years she’s been blogging, Kathleen  posts writing and publishing tips that have helped her along the way.

I initially found Kathleen on Twitter and when I realized she was a nurse practitioner, I asked her if she’d like to read Dancing in Heaven. Nurses have been among my best supporters. She subsequently read and reviewed Dancing in Heaven on Amazon and Goodreads.

I’d like to thank Kathleen, for the lovely reviews of Dancing in Heaven and for inviting me to be her guest today.

I hope you are able to take a minute to read my thoughts about writing through the grief.

How Memoir Writing Helped Me to Grieve My Loss~ A Guest Post by Christine Grote


Dancing in Heaven receives glowing first international review

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Those of you who regularly follow my blog will know that I recently sent a copy of Annie’s story dancing across the ocean to the small country of the Netherlands where my blogging friend Marion waited with open arms.

This morning I sat at my computer intent on posting a blog I had written yesterday about motherhood, but first I checked my email. That’s where I found out that Marion has finished Dancing in Heaven and written an absolutely heart-breaking review of the book. It continues to both surprise and validate me when readers are able to put into words what I had hoped to write. Marion has done this.

I hope you have a minute to stop over and read the conclusion to our ongoing series about Dancing in Heaven‘s trip to the Netherlands.

Dancing in Heaven

Posted on June 7, 2012 by Marion Driessen at Figments of a Dutchess

“As I turned the last page, tears were streaming down my face. Happy that sweet little Annie was finally able to dance in heaven, no longer hampered by the prison that her body had been for her sparkling and merry mind. Sad that her radiant smile was now only a memory.” Continue

Photo courtesy of Marion Driessen at Figments of a Dutchess June 7, 2012

This was a fun and rewarding adventure for me and Annie’s story. If you missed any of the posts you can find them below.

Thank you Marion. You’re a terrific writer and friend.


Self-publishing update — another review

With my surgery, recovery, and a little (actually it is a rather large) benevolent writing/editing project that I have been working on day and night for the past four days, I have devoted next-to-no time on promoting Dancing in Heaven and am hoping the Indie Book Blowout is carrying me through this month. (Your opportunity to buy a Kindle version of Dancing in Heaven for 99cents ends Saturday.)

Fortunately, I have a few things in the pipeline and one came through today—a book review by Stephanie Cowart on Your Need to Read. I think Stephanie did a great job of capturing the book. It always lifts my spirits when a reader is uplifted by my story.

I hope you will take a minute to check out the review on Your Need to Read, leave a short comment for Stephanie, and help me support my supporters.

I hope your life is calm, peaceful, and contented in these last days before Christmas.

If I can tear myself away from the editing for a moment today, I hope to capture a photograph to bring you of the Christmas or Squirrel-chasing, Bird-defending dog. He’s quite fearsome.


Lisa Kramer gives Dancing in Heaven a heavenly review

I wasn’t going to blog today, but I wanted to thank Lisa for her review of Dancing in Heaven on her Hub page, and give you all a chance to read it.

Lisa Kramer or Lisa Wields Words

Lisa Kramer

Book Review: Dancing in Heaven a gift of love
by Lisa Kramer

“The world of publishing is changing, as more and more people take advantage of technology, bypass traditional publishing houses and either self-publish or focus solely on e-publishing. While many people view this change with trepidation, after reading a few too many poorly written books published by so-called “vanity presses,” I see it as an opportunity for some truly talented writers to share important stories. I have been the victim of reading poorly written books published by traditional publishing companies, and have come to realize through blogging and reading that there are incredible writers out there who simply couldn’t find their way through traditional means.

“So, I was not worried when I opened Christine M. Grote’s memoir Dancing in Heaven since I had shared part of her journey to publication with her on her blog. I already know that she is a talented writer. I had already read some sections of this memoir, and recognized the poignancy and beauty of the story. I knew that she cared too much about this story and agonized too long on every detail to make something not worthy of having hundreds of readers.[...]

“I was right.”

Near the end of the review Lisa writes,

“While this may seem ultimately sad, I can’t help but rejoice in being allowed to share a little bit of Annie’s story. When I started reading I had a flashback to a childhood memory, of visiting a friend’s sister who, like Annie, never left her bed without help. I remember being a little afraid as I entered that room, and not knowing where to look or what to say. Now, I wish that I had taken time to know her better, and to discover the true gift that I am sure she was to her family. I only hope that woman, who passed long before Annie, is somewhere out there with Annie, dancing in full-bodied joy!”

Thank you for this image, Lisa. Thank you for taking the time to read and review Dancing in Heaven.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Read complete review here.

In addition to her Hub page Lisa also blogs at Lisa Wields Words, and tweets @LisaWieldsWords.


Cynthia Robertson reviews Dancing in Heaven (with a giveaway)

Cynthia Robertson is a writer living in Arizona. She is the founder of the Arizona Novel Writers Workshop – dedicated to helping writers write and polish their novels for publication. Cynthia has written a monthly newspaper column, Lucid Moments, and has had her short story Peanut Butter Kisses published in a literary journal.  She has recently completed her novel Sword of Mordrey, an historical adventure set amid the sun-baked alleyways of ancient Jerusalem and the squalor and color of medieval London.

I ran across Cynthia’s blog fairly early in my (somewhat brief) blogging career. I remember reading a post where she talked about a stack of books she had to read and review.  I’ll let her tell you the rest.

Dancing in Heaven

By Cynthia Robertson

Book Review and Giveaway

When I was quite young I remember wishing, or maybe even praying, that I could share my life with my sister Annie. In the innocence of my child’s worldview, I suggested to God that perhaps I could take Annie’s place every other week. We could trade places and then she could have the chance to ride a bike, roller skate down the sidewalk, climb trees, have friends, go to parties and do all the things I loved to do. (Quote from Dancing in Heaven)

When Christine Grote asked if I would read and review her memoir, Dancing in Heaven, I was hesitant. I don’t read memoirs typically…and the focus of this one was a younger sister who spent her entire life brain damaged and paralyzed. Would the book be depressing? Would it be maudlin? I knew Christine was self publishing…would the writing be horrendous? Would the layout be a nightmare of typos and random odd formatting? I recall that I wrote Christine back and asked her how many pages the memoir was—figuring if it was short, I could get through it, no matter what. She graciously wrote back that it wasn’t long, 179 pages, and lots of photos, so it could be read in an afternoon or two. “Okay,” I said, “I’ll do it.”

I’m so glad I did.

Read more.

I really hope you will click the link (leave a comment on Cynthia’s blog for a chance to win a copy of Dancing in Heaven) and take a moment to finish reading Cynthia’s review. It moved me to tears. She nailed me with the opening quote she selected. She really “got” it and was in turn able to communicate it beautifully. I want to publicly thank Cynthia for her great sensitivity and insight.

Initially I was hesitant to ask Cynthia for a review. But after having gotten to know her a little better through blogging comments and a few tweets here and there, I decided I would.

I’m so glad I did.


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