At almost-46, I’m not exactly a spring chicken. I’m not saying I’m ready for golf carts and senior discounts yet, but I’m certainly past the age of wanting to party all night, sleep 4 hours and repeat the next day. If I’m being honest — and you know I will — I was never much for that even as a college student, unless working 3 jobs and a late dinner at Denny’s at 2 a.m. counts as partying.
That being said, I’m more than ready to embrace the slower, quieter, more thoughtful pace of a Viking river cruise. I know this because I enjoyed one such cruise in April, and already I’m wishing I could go back and repeat the experience.
I was the youngest person aboard. This makes for a decidedly novel experience, when I consider my white hair and the use of a cane (I have severe rheumatoid arthritis). Even if I didn’t have RA, though, I appreciated the good food, slower pace, tour itinerary, and not being kept awake by inebriated neighbors stumbling into their rooms at 3 in the morning after drinking all night at a club. While that might be the ideal way for lots of people to enjoy a vacation, it has never EVER ranked on my to-do list.
I hadn’t been on a vacation without my kids in over 15 years. I’d been going through a very rough time personally, and I needed the diversion more than I could possibly have known. Quiet time, relaxation, and allowing myself to be pampered and led was exactly what worked to get my groove back.
Our only irritating companion was the cold, steady drizzle of the rain along the Rhine and Moselle rivers in Germany. That’s easily conquered with some hot coffee, a good umbrella, and intoxicating scenery…. the latter of which we had in spades.
We got a cabin with a balcony at water-level. Here’s what you get to do with that: on a good day (which is most days, rain or no), you open the sliding glass door and sit on the veranda with a book and a beverage. The vineyards slip by. There’s very little noise and when the boat is underway, you don’t even feel the motion… it’s smoother and more relaxing than sitting in a car with the windows down on a scenic drive. You can smell the fresh earth, new growth on trees, and even see the occasional person out walking their dog along the banks of the river. On a less-than-stellar day, open the door and take in the same view from the comfort of the bed.
I did that on most days. It was HEAVENLY.
The food was wonderful, if not a bit limited in variety. For our 10-day trip (8 of which were spent aboard), we had no complaints about the food. As for the ports of call, my issue was that you spend so little time at each location, there’s no time to explore on your own. Honestly, 40 minutes after the end of a guided tour to see whatever you can squeeze in and then get back to the bus or be left behind is pushing it a bit. I would have loved an entire day in Trier, for example. There was simply no time to see the Imperial baths, which appeared remarkably well-preserved as we sped past them on our bus tour toward the old city center and Black Gate. I also would have loved more time in Heidelberg, but if I ever return to the area, I probably won’t limit myself to the Viking tours. That’s not to say that our tour guides for both cities weren’t amazing… just that I’d like to see more.
The fact is, you’re on rather a tight schedule with Viking cruises. The ships have to be at the locks at certain times, and if you irritate the lockmaster, you risk getting booted to the end of the line to wait your turn through the lock… and that puts everything else off schedule.
It’s somewhat unnerving to be on the boat anywhere near a window when it’s passing through a lock, by the way. The sides are so close! It’s not for the faint of heart or claustrophobic.
Viking has flooded my inbox and mailbox with at least a hundred messages and brochures in the three months since we returned from our trip. When I saw their 2-for-1 deal (no airfare, either), I decided to investigate. Down the hole I fell! Honestly, if it wasn’t so darned expensive even with the discounts, I’d have booked another cruise this week. Alas, 10K for 2 weeks is too steep a price for our budget. Should they make the Grand European Tour priced within reach, expect another cruise update soon.
I could do with a repeat adventure.