Viking River Cruise From A Rookie’s Point Of View

Never had I ever taken a cruise of any kind until a few months ago when we embarked on a Viking River Cruise along the lovely Rhîne, boarding in Amsterdam and disembarking in Basel, Switzerland.

The VIking Hlin

Over the years, my lack of enthusiasm for a cruise would more accurately be characterized as a lack of enthusiasm for travel on a giant cruise ship in the middle of an ocean.

First, I am sun-averse so days spent on the Lido Deck perfecting my tan would be completely wasted on this fair-skinned gal. Also, my extreme claustrophobia, oddly, makes me develop a case of the vapors just thinking about being out to sea without a speck of land in sight. Maybe “reverse-claustrophobia”?

But a river cruise? That I could handle. Worst case scenario, I could swim to shore, right? This comforting, if a bit delusional, thought allowed me to throw caution to the wind and make my reservation.

Also, I knew I’d have a wicked case of FOMO (fear of missing out) if I didn’t join with the rest of our group of college pals on this trip.

THE SHIP

Our Viking River Cruise ship, The Hlin, has capacity for about 190 guests and 50 crew members on four decks.

On top is the sun deck offering lounge chairs and tables, a walking track, shuffleboard court and putting green. Fortunately, the sun deck also has canopies which provide the shade some of us require. On the upper and middle decks, the ship has a small library, a restaurant and a lounge containing a bar, buffet area, and outdoor seating section.

Viking Hlin at dock

Our room was on the middle deck – a “Veranda B” stateroom. For perspective, the middle deck is where the gangway meets the ship in the photo above.

Measuring about 205 square feet, the room was not big but certainly comfortable with plenty of space to unpack and store suitcases out of sight. We had a small veranda (room for 2 chairs and a cocktail table). While we spent very little time on the veranda, we loved being able to open the sliding glass door and step into the fresh air.

In general, the design vibe of the Viking River Cruise ship is clean, simple and beautiful. Every inch of the ship feels calm and comfortable. Quite Zen.

THE FOOD

Chef Arezina and his staff prepared fabulous meals and snacks for us. At each meal, guests can choose from the menu in the restaurant or dine on lighter buffet fare in the lounge. The meals, afternoon snacks, and demonstrations highlight local foods and traditions.

dinner in the restaurant

Maître d’ Ivan greeted all guests with a smile and guided his staff as they made meal service seem effortless – quite a feat!

Meals include house wine (quite good!), beer, and soft drinks.  For an extra price, Viking offers the Silver Spirits Program which allows for unlimited soft drinks, wine, beer, and cocktails including local beers, fine wines, and brand-name liquors. These same upscale drinks are available for purchase individually.

We are not cocktail drinkers so, even though tempted by the opportunity to try a greater selection of wines and factoring in an occasional night-cap of Bailey’s on the rocks, we did the math and decided to skip the Silver Spirits Package.

By the way, Viking allows guests to bring bottles of wine on the ship. Waiters will happily serve this wine for you without a corkage fee.

A special shout-out to our waiters Rudy and Jimmy for taking such good care of us and making every meal a memorable experience!

Rudy and Jimmy

EXCURSIONS

One excursion is included in the itinerary for each day. Additional, optional excursions can be added for a modest price.

The included excursions are tailored to give guests a feel for the port location. Each tour is led by a local guide. Viking equips all guests with a listening device which makes it possible for guides to speak in a conversational tone. Guests don’t have to elbow their way into position near the guide in order to hear what is being said.

As our included excursions, we enjoyed walking tours of Cologne, Heidelburg, and Strasbourg, a trip through the Black Forest, a visit to Marksburg Castle and a tour of the spectacular windmills of Kinderdijk.

Windmills at Kinderdijk

Our Program Director, Daniel, made certain that all guests were safe, comfortable and in the right group. And, while I’m sure he often felt as though he was herding cats, he never got flustered and never wavered from his cheery disposition.

The choice of optional excursions included a visit to the Mercedes Benz Factory, an evening of beer tasting in Cologne, wine tasting and dinner at Eberbach Monastery (which OBVIOUSLY we signed up for) and many more.

Our absolute, number one favorite excursion of the trip was “Colmar in World War II: Museum & Memorial”. This optional excursion was created and led by a local man named Malcolm who has a passion for World War II history and a true gift for making the story of what happened in the Colmar Pocket come alive.

Audie Murphy Memorial

Maybe you’ve heard of Audie Murphy, the 19-year-old soldier who single-handedly fought back an entire company of German soldiers? Well, you have never heard the story told as Malcolm does. It is something you will never forget and this excursion is not to be missed!

THE REST OF THE EXPERIENCE

When we weren’t off on excursions, we spent time on the sun deck playing cards, trying our hand at shuffleboard, and taking in the scenery along the way.

Relaxing on the Deck

The weather cleared for our beautiful afternoon of sailing amid the castles of the Middle Rhîne River.

Middle Rhine

Captain Ivan and his crew expertly guided the ship along the river through lock after lock, graciously invited guests to check out the Wheelhouse and answered all of our (possibly annoying) questions.

The entire staff was incredible. Led by Hotel Manager Armin, each member of the staff and crew were professional, kind, helpful, charming – truly A+. The level of customer service we experienced on the Viking River Cruise was exemplary.

Every member of our traveling group loved the trip. We felt that it was an excellent value for the dollar and we are ready to sign up for another voyage!

Now that I’ve shared the nuts and bolts of the Viking River Cruise, next time I’ll give you our thoughts on what we did right and ways we will make our future trips even better.

Here’s a teaser: the very best thing we did as we started to plan this trip was to reach out to our incredible travel agent, Sandy Grodsky of SG Travel Advisors. Sandy guided us through the entire process providing sage advice and saving us from making some rookie mistakes. Sandy’s blog, You May Be Wandering, features amazing travel ideas and breathtakingly beautiful photos. Check it out!


FYI, I have received no compensation from Viking, although I would happily entertain and readily accept such an offer. Just sayin’…


Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

You Might Also Like:

Happy National Drink Wine Day

I wasn’t going to miss this one…

Mocadeaux Wine collage

Happy National Drink Wine Day!!!

Cheers!

 

 

You Might Also Like:

Pizza Is Nature’s Perfect Food. Add Wine, Even Better!

How on earth could I have missed National Pizza Day on February 9th?!?!?!

Me, the gal for whom pizza is the universal cure for what ails me and the dish I would request for my death row meal?!?

Me, the one who was an advocate of “Pizza for Breakfast” long before scientists proved its health benefits?!?

pizza for breakfast

I’m so ashamed.

I can remember the first time I tasted pizza. I was about 5 years old, 1962 or so, when a trip to the Round Table Restaurant on 4th Street North in St. Petersburg, Florida, changed my life.

And, because the internet is amazing, I can show you this from eBay:

Round Table Restaurant

Holy trip-down-memory-lane, Batman! Even now, I can remember the taste of that ooey, gooey, delicious cheese pizza and how excited I was any time my family dined at the Round Table.

Over the years my love of pizza has taken many turns.

During stretches of my life, the Dark Days as I like to call them, I had to be content with frozen pizza, managing to get by, doctoring up Stouffer’s French Bread Pepperoni Pizza, adding a little extra mozzarella cheese.

In college, Food Service pizza purchased from the little kitchen in the basement of my dorm became an all too frequent late night treat. #Freshman15 …Also…  #SophomoreJuniorSenior15

Upon graduation, I was lucky enough to move to Chicago, otherwise known as Home of the World’s Best Pizza.

Now I know that some folks disagree and say that New York pizza is better or that Chicago deep dish pizza isn’t really pizza.

Those folks are wrong.

I’m a bit of a traditional purist when it comes to pizza – just one or two toppings, red tomato sauce, and plenty of mozzarella cheese (the chewy, stretchy kind not the fancy fresh mozzarella which belongs on a caprese salad or a gourmet flatbread).

You’re probably thinking, “That’s all well and good, Mo. We love pizza too and heartily agree that Chicago pizza is the best pizza. But we were promised wine!”

OK, let’s go.

Pizza and wine – the perfect food made more perfect.

Here’s the thing…

Pairing wine with pizza shouldn’t be complicated. It’s all about choosing pizza toppings you enjoy and a wine you like to drink.

If you are a Chardonnay fan who loves a veggie pizza, go for it!

Pair your meat-lovers pizza with Cabernet Sauvignon? Great!

Pinot Noir, the perfect middle-of-the-road-food-wine, can be a good choice for those who can’t decide and/or simply love Pinot Noir.

But if you want to think outside the box a little and explore some new taste treats, how about one of these:

SYRAH

 

2012 Blair Fox Syrah

2012 Blair Fox Syrah from Santa Barbara County

Syrah is a full-bodied wine that combines luscious fruitiness with a bit of smokiness and spice. It is an excellent foil for the spice and heartiness of traditional pizza meats like pepperoni or sausage and also works well with my favorite topping: green olives.

We are particularly fans of Syrah from California like this Blair Fox wine from Santa Barbara County. Other Santa Barbara favorites are Foxen, Fess Parker, Jonata, Kunin and Andrew Murray.

2009 Martinelli Zio Tony Ranch "Gianna Marie" Syrah

2009 Martinelli Zio Tony Ranch “Gianna Marie” Syrah

In Sonoma, Martinelli makes a number of great single-vineyard Syrahs. And in Paso Robles, a new favorite is Terry Hoage.

If a straight-up Syrah is not your thing, how about trying a red blend containing Syrah?

We have plenty of wickedly good Syrah blends from Napa’s Alpha Omega and Lewis Cellars in our wine collection. Fess Parker makes “The Big Easy” which should be available at your favorite wine store.

Syrah is a frequent ingredient in red wine blends so do a little exploring and ask your favorite wine salesperson for some suggestions.

Zinfandel

If you are enjoying a pizza that is hearty, rich, and topping-packed or a fabulous Chicago style deep-dish pizza, you might want to give Zinfandel a try.

Zinfandel is best known for its notes of pepper and spice. No shrinking violet, this medium to full-bodied wine stands strong to balance equally bold foods.

Zinfandel is famous for its compatibility with barbecue flavors so if a BBQ chicken pizza is your jam, Zinfandel might be your new best friend.

Hendry Zinfandel

2010 Hendry Blocks 7 & 22 Zinfandel

We are huge fans of Hendry’s Zinfandels from Napa. (By the way, if you want a really unusual, deep-dive wine experience that you will never forget, visit Hendry. You can read more about the Hendry experience here.)

Stroll the aisles in the Zinfandel section of your wine store and you will see great, reliable producers like Duckhorn, St. Francis, Frank Family, Klinker Brick, and Seghesio.

Just as with the Syrahs, if you want to dip your toe into the Zinfandel pond slowly, consider a red wine blend. Rely on the knowledgeable folks at your wine store. They know their stuff, love wine and want you to have a positive wine experience!

Enjoy your pizza! Enjoy your wine! Life is good!

Designated driver, Uber or cab

Or, serve your pizza and wine at home and save the cost of the Uber ride!

No one paid me to say this.

Thanks for stopping by,

 

 

You Might Also Like:

Hello!

Hello

Hello!

You haven’t heard from me in a while. A pretty long while.

My lengthy, unintended absence started slowly. Looking back at past posts, it seems that the tide turned in early November of 2016. Around that time I seemed to lose my blogging mojo.

Go figure…

Anyway, I’ve missed my blog and I’ve missed interacting with you folks so I’m going to heed the words of the wise and wonderful Taylor Swift to “shake it off”, “keep cruising” and believe “it’s going to be alright”.

I’m back in the game.

“Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Returning to my blog after an absence feels a bit like going to a class reunion without having done a good job of staying in touch. Will people remember me? Will they care that I showed up?

This insecurity is probably why I have only attended one of my high school reunions.

My 20-year high school reunion turned out to be a blast owing entirely to the fact that I attended with my BFFs, Ellie and Therese. We all flew to Florida for the event and these gals knew how to make the weekend special. Ellie arranged our rental of a red convertible and Therese arranged for us to stay at her parents’ gorgeous beach house.

Even with Ellie and Therese at my side, I had some trepidation about reconnecting with the rest of my classmates all those years after our graduation. In my defense, my family moved out of town after I graduated and left for a college 1,000 miles from our high school. Also, this was back in the dark ages, WAY before Facebook made it possible to stalk connect with long, lost pals.

Excuses, excuses. The bottom line: I had not done a particularly good job of keeping up with others – not even a Christmas card here and there. So it should have come as no surprise that when I stepped up to the registration desk on the first day of the reunion I was handed a badge bearing my name but the yearbook photo of someone else.

Hello my name is Mo

Clearly, I had not made my mark on the hearts and minds of the organizing committee.

Hopefully, I’ve made more of an impression on you, my loyal readers, and you will welcome me and my blog back into your life.

Oh, I know what will do it…

Mocadeaux wine glasses

WINE!!!!!

Yes, indeedy. Just because I haven’t been writing about wine certainly does not mean I haven’t been diligently doing research on the subject.

The same can be said about fabulous food and adventures. I have stories to tell about travels to Paris and the Rhine River Valley (my first cruise!), Disney World with 5 grandchildren, restaurant recommendations and yummy dishes that Chef Peter has made accompanied by perfectly paired wine, of course.

I hope you will stay tuned!

Mocadeaux - page break

P.S. I’d like to extend a personal thank you to my dear blog pals Katie from Preppy Empty Nester and Kelly from Just Typikel for their kind and gentle “where have you been??????” messages of concern. Ladies, I’m pretty sure that attending another blog conference with you would get me fully back in the groove. Who’s in?

Thanks for stopping by,

 

 

 

You Might Also Like: