Christmas Markets along the Rhine
Winter, Christmas, Rhine, and River Cruising these definitely are a few of my favorite things. So when we were scheduled to be in Europe we opted to pick up a last minute river cruise cancellation. The deal was not too bad especially for a luxury minimalist as we paid sale price for the cruise due to the last minute cancellation. It averaged out to a 50 percent reduction on the full cost of the cruise. Not to bad for my luxury taste and a shoestring budget.
We had a veranda class room which means it has a classic room with a seating area. What this means is we had an actual balcony with chairs outside to sit at if we chose. It’s not your typical balcony style as cruise ships have but actually not bad at all. Also floor to ceiling window glass makes for an incredible cruising experience. Another popular choice is a French balcony which would have not had the little Veranda sitting area. It still has the wall to wall window that opens up to provide fresh air (in warmer months) and you are able to lean over a little and enjoy the sights, sounds and experience river cruising gazing at the scenery. Completely budget friendly and you still have great views. I would not hesitate to book this style at all.
I have to say being an avid ocean cruiser I did not know what to expect although expected that I would like it. River cruises always appear to cost more than an average cruise and when you try and compare the two it’s really apples to oranges. River Cruises are a different product all together and much different really than a ocean cruise. In my humble opinion there appears to be more bang for your buck with River Cruising than ocean. Definitely worth the cost. You are able to see more and do more than a typical style vacation where you are trying to get from one point to another. In River Cruising it’s taken care of for you.
Viking Cruises did not disappoint me in any way. From the moment we walked aboard until the moment we departed. You are presented with a much more intimate form of cruising. The vessels are smaller and the service is impeccable. Your price includes not only your floating hotel but your meals, not to exclude wine and beer at dinner and at lunch, but also your tours in every stop you make. You even have the option to purchase additional tours while you are in the various ports. Transport to and from the different areas if needed is also included. This might be somewhere that has a city center that may be a little farther away from the dock. On an ocean cruise you arrive and you are on your own unless you have purchased or purchase on shore a pre-planned tour package or transport.
Of course the luxury minimalist is always looking for not only a little luxury but also value in the product she is purchasing. Viking river cruise on the Rhine supplied just that. Hotel rooms are not only smaller In Europe but very expensive if you want to be close to the city centers. At 50 plus being the luxury minimalist I prefer not to choose to stay at a hostel. Which would completely offer affordability but not much on luxury. I am just fine staying at a nice hotel in the center of town adjacent and close to things. Because train, tram, and bus travel adds up when you are trying to see various places.
So river cruising is a great value for the money. Your floating hotel is with you, your transportation is provided, you have a tour guide if you want to take advantage of it, your meals are included, and to top if off so are drinks. Well beer and wine at least for lunch and dinner. Give me wine and I am sold. Ok, so the picture is of a beer but you get the point.
So once you can get over the sticker price shock and then start to realize the value of the service you are being given and you understand the said value it’s really a fantastic option. I cannot think of one area where Viking failed me. From start to finish the product was top notch. Service was everything that it had promised and more. There was not one moment that anything we needed was not available or easily acquired. I never let on I was in the travel industry as not to change their perception or mine.
On a River Cruise similar to an Ocean Cruise they have what is known as the Program Director except the program director on a river cruise is completely accessible and is on the ground when you depart the ship. He or she and the concierge make sure everything is in order on the ground, that everything is coordinating and that the local tour guides are there, ready, and have everything they need too. They make sure you understand they are available and even go on various tours with you. It’s pretty cool really and you are taken care of very well. It’s that extra little step to make sure you have a wonderful time. You will never be lost, and losing valuable time up trying to find things, places, streets, hotels, trams, buses and everything else that goes along with that. When you only have so much time for your vacation and are using your hard earned cash this makes all the difference in the world.
Meals on board are exceptional with a nightly dinner for all in the main dining area. Often featuring local cuisine styles and chef inspired creations. Most of the evenings we chose what the chef recommended and were completely satisfied and often delighted. It’s fine dining and more.
We chose Vikings “Rhine Getaway” River Cruise which began in Amsterdam with a visit to Kinderdijk for a visit to Netherlands UNESCO Windmills. We were then on to Cologne, Germany for a visit to Colognes magnificent Gothic Cathedral dating 1248 another UNESCO site. It was then on to Koblenz and a tour of Marksburg Castle which took around 700 years to build. We traveled down to Rudesheim gliding along the most scenic portion of the Rhine filled with medieval castles, quaint little towns, picturesque countryside, while passing the Lorelei, a legendary rock formation rising 440 feet above the river. From this it was on to Heidelbery & Speyer and then on to Strasbourg, France.
The final two stops were the Black Forest in Germany and concluding in Basel, Switzerland. So in 8 days you will see 4 countries, amazing history, as well as some of the most amazing scenery in the region. Christmas if fantastic for seeing this region often with less traffic then the summer season. Not to mention those fabulous Christmas Markets.
View from Cathedral to Christmas Market Photo Credit TravelwithT.net
In the next part of this series I will delve a little more into the sights and sounds of the Christmas Markets and the places themselves.
As always if you have any interest in any kind of travel please don’t hesitate to let me know. I would be happy to help you book as that is how I make living.