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Apr 26

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The Rhine River Cruise Itinerary

It all began with reminiscing about our honeymoon cruise. We’d had such a great time the first time, we decided it was time to do another one. Suddenly, we found ourselves booking a Rhine River cruise.Viking River Cruise ship docked on Rhine River

Rhine River cruise vs. a Caribbean cruise

Living in Panama as we did, we quickly found that few cruises leave out of there. That of course meant that we’d have to fly to Miami, or wherever the cruise left from. 

Comparing prices, we decided to head to Europe and soon were asking ourselves, why not try a river cruise? Except for the lack of rough seas, it would be the same thing, right?

Wrong.

Put all your Caribbean memories aside and prepare for a different experience.

Okay, some things are the same.

  • It’s still true that you get to see a lot of places and you only have to unpack once.
  • Lodging and all your meals aboard are included
  • There’s free entertainment on board every night

But that’s where the similarity ends. When it comes to river cruising,

  • Wine is included with lunch and dinner
  • There are no boring days at sea where all there is to do is sit by the pool and look at an endless stretch of water.
  • On a river cruise, it’s all smooth sailing and every day is a new place. Or even, a new country.
  • You’ll never need medication for a queasy tummy.
  • Most of the shore excursions are included in the price.

Choosing a cruise

River cruises can be as exotic as the Mekong, as wild as the Amazon, or as romantic as the Danube. Looking at the list of choices in our search results, we felt like kids in a candy shop. Everything sounded good to us.

Our first step: We considered the cost of getting there. The cruise is one thing; getting to the port is another. It didn’t take long to realize that Europe was the most affordable option.

Next step: Find a reputable, affordable cruise line. Thanks to Google and some cruise forums (Cruise Critic was my favorite) we made a list of some with excellent reputations and reviews. It took a bit of time to compare prices, but we finally settled on Viking River Cruises.

Finally: Select the cruise route and date. We soon found out that our choices were limited because most of their most popular routes were completely booked. Who knew they start filling up the year before? Anyway, we finally chose to enjoy a trip on the Rhine River. Our one-week cruise would take us to four countries: Switzerland, Germany, France and Netherlands.

Our Rhine River Cruise

Every cruise port had an included tour. There were four optional tours, quite fairly priced. Certainly they cost less than what our Caribbean cruise line charged for its excursions. Considering the amount we were saving just on that—plus they were once-in-a-lifetime opportunities—we signed up for all four.

Our biggest splurge was on the optional Silver Spirits package (unlimited cocktails, premium wines, beers, espresso drinks, and more). Okay, it wasn’t necessary but it sure was nice to have those better local wines at lunch and dinner, with as many refills as we cared to have. Better yet, we could have lattes after dinner and were able to visit the bar whenever we wanted and not worry about an exorbitant bill at the end. We don’t drink a lot but we considered it peace of mind insurance.

We had a fabulous time—it was worth absolutely every penny—and we met some wonderful people, some of whom we still keep in touch with.

Tasting jenever with one of our new friends - another one took the photo

Tasting jenever with one of our new friends – another one took the photo

Below you can see all the places we visited. Though you’ll get a taste, what you won’t see here are all of Dan’s amazing photos. (That would be one LONG post!) The best shots are in each destination’s story, so read on and then head over to our photo galleries for even more shots.

DAY 1 – Basel

We started our cruise in Basel on the Rhine River, where Switzerland, France and Germany meet.

DAY 2 – Breisach and the Black Forest

We arrived in Breisach during breakfast, then took a picturesque bus tour through the scenic Black Forest and its rolling hills and dense forests. We stopped to visit a very old, historic abbey and then drove to a local workshop and see a cuckoo clock-making demonstration and eat Black Forest cake. I even got the recipe.

souvenir shop in Black Forest

Back to Breisach for lunch on the ship. Then, while some of our shipmates enjoyed an afternoon in town, we took an optional excursion to the quaint Alsatian town of Colmar. To see what our dining companions were raving about we took a short walk through Breisach after dinner. The ship set sail in the late evening.

DAY 3 – Strasbourg

Our ship docked in Kehl while we were sleeping. Today we could take a guided tour of Strasbourg, home of the European Parliament and capital of France’s province of Alsace. Our bus took us through a few of the province’s quaint villages on the way. They reminded us of Belle’s town in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Alsace is a curious blend of French and German culture and we were excited to sample its delicacies.

alsace wine tasting by Robert Blanck on Rhine River cruise

The included Alsace tour includes an opportunity to sample local wines

DAY 4 – Heidelberg and Rüdesheim

On the fourth day we woke up in Mannheim and spent the morning touring Heidelberg University and the ruins of Heidelberg Castle. We then took a walking tour through the city’s Old Town.

We spent the afternoon cruising down the Rhine to Rüdesheim in time for dinner. Some stayed on the ship but we’d signed up for an optional dinner in town. But this wasn’t just any old boring dinner….

Oompah band in Rudesheim

DAY 5 – Braubach …

This morning we sailed along the most scenic stretch of the Rhine, where castles overlook the river from their hilltop locations. This part of the Middle Rhine Valley is so beautiful that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’d also pass the famous Loreley Rock.

Ship cruising on the Rhine River

… Marksburg …

But it wasn’t all cruising. We also were given an opportunity to have a guided tour through one of the castles along the way. It was in great shape, especially for being 700 years old, and I was surprised to learn that people actually still live there!

The castle’s “master bedroom”

… and Koblenz

Another short cruise then took us to Koblenz, a pretty town where the Moselle joins the Rhine. What timing! We arrived during the Federal Flower Show and so Viking purchased free tickets into the show for every passenger. That was a bonus we hadn’t expected.

Aerial gondolas over the Rhine take people to the National Flower Show in Koblenz

DAY 6 – Cologne

Cologne, home of 4711 Eau de Cologne, is just as famous for its Gothic cathedral (another UNESCO Heritage Site). This is where our walking tour of the city ended. We spent a lot of time exploring shops and finally had to return to the shp in the afternoon because our feet hurt.

Our day ended with another optional tour: Bar hopping in order to try kölsch, Germany’s only true, all-barley, pale ale.. It’s a locally-produced beer that can’t be exported.

More new friends

DAY 7 – Kinderdijk (a UNESCO Heritage Site)

Kinderdijk is a long cruise from Cologne so our morning was spent on board. While we were en route the crew gave us a chance to enjoy some classic Dutch cheeses and sample jenever, a Dutch gin (see the photo above). We also joined a competition in Dutch table shuffleboard and relaxed on the sun deck, just watching the changing scenery.

As home to 19 authentic, working windmills, Kinderdijk has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status. We had the unique opportunity to not only learn how the Netherlands continues to keep its below-sea-level land dry but to also explore the inside of an actual working windmill. Dan took lots of photos of its mechanics and a windmill keeper’s living quarters, as well as the town of Kinderdijk itself.

Noah's ark, as seen from a Rhine River cruise ship

Secret highlight: Cruising past the famous, life-size replica of Noah’s Ark.

One of our rare photos together – he’s usually behind the camera

DAY 8 – Amsterdam

We were really sorry to wake up on our final day. Sadly, our breakfast in Amsterdam marked the end of our extraordinary tour. We only had the rest of the day to explore Amsterdam because we were leaving for Paris in the morning. And there’s a lot to see in this city.

This is a typical sight in Amsterdam


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Other posts in this set

  1. The Rhine River Cruise Itinerary
  2. How to See Amsterdam in One Day
  3. More Reasons to Take a River Cruise
  4. 10 Reasons to Take a River Cruise
  5. Rhine River Cruise: Anchors Aweigh!
  6. A Quick Tour of Heidelberg Castle
  7. One Day in the Black Forest (plus Black Forest Cake Recipe)
  8. An Evening Stroll Through Breisach am Rhein
  9. One Day in France's Alsace Region
  10. One Day in Strasbourg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  11. Rudesheim am Rhein
  12. When Koblenz Hosted the Germany National Flower Show
  13. River Cruise Journal: Cologne and Chocolate
  14. On a Rhine Cruise: Visit Marksburg Castle
  15. River Cruise Journal: Windmills and Cheese Wheels
  16. Cruising the Middle Rhine Valley

Permanent link to this article: http://www.aswesawit.com/taking-a-rhine-river-cruise/

4 comments

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  1. Patricia

    I am enjoying your comments and pictures. I was just on a cruise with Uniworld on the Rhine in November. One of my favorites was Colmar, just beautiful. I would like to go back there sometime and stay longer in Colmar and Basel. it is such a picturesque valley.
    We had high water levels on the Moselle river and had to dock in Koblenz and bus to locations for 3 days. That is a weather dependent fact of river cruising but I think river cruising is the way to go. very relaxing to have you clothes and body in one room for the whole tour and not have to pack up, over and over again. Also, all the staff is so friendly and accommodating, and the big plus….they speak perfect English. Did you get to see Cochem? We went to the local wine Fest on the evening we were docked there. So much fun to see the locals enjoy wine and Life!

    1. Linda

      We’re so happy you’re enjoying our posts. Did you enjoy Uniworld? We’ve never experienced their service but hear they are quite good.

      We absolutely adored Colmar but didn’t get the chance to see Cochem. Glad you enjoyed the winefest; what else is there to do in town? We’re always looking for new things to see!

  2. Patricia

    The wine fests travel around Germany, it would be fun to follow a few and drink with locals on a further trip. Entering the tent was scary at first, we were a group of 5 ladies; but after entering and finding a seat, we had a ball. Everyone was so friendly and some spoke English. I think it was a Saturday night and the people we sat near working together and chartered a bus for a two hour ride to Cochem, so they left a midnight and we stayed a little longer. The only American song was “Rocky Mountain High” which everyone knew every word well and we all sang along with the band.
    Cochem has a small lovely castle at the top of the hill with a grand view of River and valley. And lots of sidewalk cafes for which it is known, pastries, Rudesheim coffee, and wine. Plus, lovely little twisting streets to walk. hotels on both sides of the river. the ladies I was with shopped at the best little shoe store near St. Martin church, allowing us to buy good quality boots and shoes. Our boat was docked there for over night which allowed us the time to walk to the wine Fest after dinner.
    that is my only disappointment with river cruising, not enough time to explore these beautiful little towns, but only so much can be seen in 13 days. I want to return someday and rent a car or travel by train for a more leisurely visit.
    my only experience has been on two cruises with Uniworld, but some of our other travelers cruise only Uniworld.

    1. Linda

      We agree, the problem with cruises is that they only give you just enough time to see if you’d like to return somewhere! On the other hand, sometimes they take you to places you might never have thought to visit otherwise.

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