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.

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

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

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

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.

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.





26 thoughts on “A review of the Viking River Cruise from Basel to Amsterdam”

  1. Thanks for the candid remarks, pro and con, about your Viking River Cruise. My husband and I have talked about taking one of these cruises for a few years now. Travel brochures and commercials can be very alluring, but not factual! I’m so glad you got to visit and photograph some of the places your dad saw and photographed while he was in the military! Your journal/journey has me looking for my piggy bank too, lol!

  2. I’ve been enjoying reading and seeing your trip. You’re one of the few bloggers that I get E-mails from (everyone else I do in the WordPress reader) so I’ve been seeing these in real time.

    Thanks for the summary of your trip! I appreciated the wrap-up and pros / cons to it. I think it’s a wonderful way to remember your folks and how hard they worked. It’s too bad they never could do something like this for themselves, but they had a good life and that’s not a small thing in today’s world. They loved all you kids (and the in-laws) and they were much loved as well. You & Mark did good choosing this for the inheritance.

    Thanks for all the blog posts that honored your father and how hard he worked to support the family, the laughter he had with Diane (loved that photo of them sitting in the sand as the water came in), and the many things you shared about your mother. She really had a burden taking care of Diane and later, your Dad, but she was a great woman and you did a wonderful job of capturing her.

    You did good. Pat yourself on the back.


    1. Thanks for your kind comments, Nancy. I feel the same way that sometimes I feel bad my parents weren’t able to go and do some of the things we are. But I also think they had a good life and were happy. I try not to dwell on what might have been.

    1. It would probably be hard not to enjoy the cruise. The question is really is it worth the money? I think it was. I did like it better than the ocean cruise we were on, even though I enjoyed that Alaskan cruise very much. On the River you are close to everything and you pass by many cities. The excursions were fascinating. And truthfully, I just liked the size of the ship. It’s more about the touring and sight-seeing and less about the eat, drink, and be merry of ocean liners.

  3. Just wanted to thank you for sharing your pictures and comments on the Viking River Cruise from Besiil to Amsterdam. Recalling that experience to mind again was very fun and I remember so well our conversation on deck about the book of memoirs you are writing about your dad!

    1. Thanks for following the blog posts, Fran. I enjoyed our conversation too. I hope all is well with you and your family. I’ll probably post more about my dad’s book when I get closer to publishing it. Right now it still isn’t finished.

  4. Thanks for the interesting commentary on your trip. My wife and I are planning on taking this exact same cruise next July. It is to celebrate my recent 60th birthday and also our July wedding anniversary. We last visited Germany in 1990 and have already seen much of what is offered but we traveled by car. That way of traveling obviously is quite different than this cruise experience. Now that we are older, it is unlikely we will travel as when we were young. I took German in high school and look forward to conversations in German. I enjoy the anticipation of what we will be doing and have been reviewing the information about the various points of interest.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the blog. I envy you that you are going to be going on the cruise. I’d love to do it again. Maybe some day we’ll be able to do another one. You may find it frustrating and limiting at times to be on a schedule as you will be with the cruise and tours, hopefully you will learn to quickly embrace it and the conveniences it offers. You’re right, as we get older it is easier and more enjoyable to travel this way. Have a great time.

  5. Christine, I enjoyed reading your blog again as we prepare for our Viking Alta trip on the Danube. When I was 9 my family rented the second floor apt in an old house that backed up to the Rhine. I spent many hours on the balcony watching the barges and tour boats make their way along the river. We lived directly across from the Drachenfels ruins. We toured the Marksburg Castle (among others that you mentioned) and did the Middle Rhine boat tour similar to your father’s boat trip. Your photos and detailed comments helped me “see” it all again. Thank you for sharing your “recap” as it eases concerns about our choice of cruise companies.

  6. Thanks so much for your blog! We are taking this cruise July 2016 and your detailed postings were very helpful.
    My wife and I met on a high school tour of Europe in July/August 1966. There were 8 of us from our area. My best friend’s mom was our chaperone. At one point during the tour, we promised to return on the 50th anniversary of the trip. 3 of the 8 will be on this cruise, including my best friend and his wife. We remember well cruising up the Rhine and I still have slides I took back then.

    This trip was somewhat unexpected. My wife and I just returned from a trip to Tuscany in December 2015. We were going to celebrate our first kiss which we shared August 10, 1966 in Florence. A week after making all the reservations for Italy, my friend Mark called us and invited us to join him on the cruise. We couldn’t say no!

    We normally like to strike our on our own. Our Tuscany trip was completely self-guided and we loved the ability to take our time and also change our itinerary on a whim. I also like traveling “closer to the ground” and getting to know the folks who live where we visit better, instead of just rushing from one tourist stop to the next. I’m working on shifting gears and being OK with the constraints of a tour, especially since it will cost far more than our week in Tuscany. I know you never have as much time as you’d like. We are staying two extra days in Amsterdam, arranged by Viking. For what it costs, it better be first class!


    1. We normally like to strike out on our own too. It was an adjustment for us. But when we looked at the big picture, it was a great way to see a lot of places in Europe. And the travel accomodations were good, and largely stress-free. We stayed a couple of days in Amsterdam too, self-arranged. Loved the museums there. It’s a beautiful place. Enjoy your trip. And happy anniversary. What a great idea.

  7. I loved reading all your posts concerning the Viking River Cruise you took! We have wanted to take one for a long time and have been saving toward doing so in 2017 for our 40 wedding anniversary. Reading all your posts, your pro’s and con’s and your overall review has convinced me that the money is definitely worth it. We will be booking with our AAA travel agent soon for the new Rhineland Discovery which will include 2 nights in Amsterdam, and then 2 nights in Bruges, Belgium. I want my husband to read your posts and see all your photos now. Thank you for sharing all the details and what you felt about the excursions. I have bad knees, too, and have wondered if I would be sorry with all the walking. You and your husband sound very much like us, and I’m sure we will find ourselves stopping at the cafes when we tire of walking and retiring to our cozy bed a bit earlier than some in the evenings.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed reading the posts, Karen. We spent two nights in Amsterdam as well, although we planned it ourselves. You will have options on the excursions if your needs give you trouble. I know you will enjoy your trip. It’s a great way to spend an anniversary.

  8. Thank you very much for writing in such great detail about your cruise experience. My husband and I will be going on the Basel-Amsterdam Rhineland Discovery cruise (with the Amsterdam add-on) in a few days. The Viking itinerary doesn’t give specific arrival and departure times, so your posts have been very helpful in figuring out where we might have time for ourselves that we should prepare and plan for. I also just got a 70-300 mm telephoto lens for my Nikon 3300 and from your beautiful pictures I’m sure I will be glad to have the extra zoom.

    1. We are going on the Alruna ship late October. Going from Basel and ending in Amsterdam. This will be our first Viking river cruise. I am a bit concerned about possibly much cooler weather than we were thinking.

  9. Hi Christine,
    I wanted to say how much I have enjoyed reading about your Viking Cruise on the Rhine. We are signed up to do the Amsterdam to Basel cruise in October. Trying to decide on pre and post extensions. The pre is for Amsterdam and the post would be Lucerne. Viking seems highly priced for the extensions but the convenience of everything lined up is appealing. Any advice? Did most people do the extensions on their own arrangements or through Viking? Thanks for your help.

    1. I’m glad you found the posts helpful. I don’t know about most people, but when we looked at what Viking was offering us, it didn’t seem very significant so we made our own plans. We’ve traveled abroad before so it wasn’t a big deal for us to do that. If I recall correctly all they really seemed to help with was the hotel. There were no tours offered. I don’t remember if they helped with travel arrangements. Sorry I don’t have more information. Have a great time.

  10. Thank you very much for the pictures and comments. You did a great job. We are doing the same cruise Jul / Aug of 18, but the Viking boat is Chartered by one of our wine clubs, so they are running the show. We are so looking forward to it. Will be our late Honeymoon. Thank you again. How many batteries did you take with you for your camera, if you don’t mind me asking. I’m assuming I’ll have one or two charging at all times. Again thank you.


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