When do you board a ship when you’re going on a river cruise? Viking Cruise Lines told us to board in the afternoon so we spent our last Swiss morning packing. Before we checked out we decided to step out for lunch at a sushi restaurant nearby … but rats, the place was closed.
Tip: Remember that most shops in Basel are closed on Sundays.
Fortunately, the Turkish sandwich shop across from the hotel was open so we each ordered a large doner wrap. Big mistake. The tortilla-like wrap they used had to be 16” around! It was so huge that with effort we could only eat half.
Tip: Check before you order one of these. If you don’t want to share, order a smaller size.
Inside the Viking Helvetia
Not wanting to drag our carry-ons through town, we took a cab to the port and boarded the ship. For a river vessel I was surprised at how long it was! It has three levels above the water line not including a full-length sun deck. We boarded the ship on the second floor, which is where the dining room is, and registered. Our room wasn’t ready so we left our bags and went off to explore our new digs.
First we climbed the stairs and found a bright sitting area with a 24-hour station offering fresh fruits, assorted teas and a machine that makes hot chocolate and various coffees. That would come in handy!
Through the glass doors beyond is a large bar and lounge area, every chair positioned to take in the beautiful view of the river and passing shoreline. Aft, past the more exclusive passenger cabins we found a lounge-cum-library with books about our destinations and board games. Seriously? Who has time for board games?
Downstairs on the main floor near the lobby is the dining room, with plenty of large windows that provide a panoramic view of the banks of the Rhine. For those passengers who need online access but didn’t care/think to bring their laptops, there is also a small station with a couple of computers.
Viking offered an afternoon stroll into Basel’s city center before they set sail, but we were too excited about our upcoming cruise to go back on dry land. We opted to go upstairs to check out the sun deck on the “roof” until our room was ready.
Soon everyone met for the Safety Briefing and we were off. Yep, even on the river people need to don life jackets for a safety drill.
Evening on the Helvetia
After dinner the cruise ship’s lounge becomes a social area filled with people who want to relax and enjoy the live music. The Hungarian pianist, Istvan, is very talented and has a wide repertoire.
Our cabin turns out to be only a few doors away from the lobby and dining room – quite convenient! It feels roomy, maybe because of its large window. We were happy to see that the window opens, perfect for a bit of fresh air or a photo up- or down-river. Early night because our next stop is Germany’s Black Forest and Colmar, in France’s Alsace region. Click on those links and read all about it!