2foodtrippers Cruising the Rhine with Viking River Cruises

Cruising the Rhine with Viking River Cruises

In Belgium, Europe, Food Tripping, France, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch22 Comments

Cruising the Rhine with Viking River Cruises was an unexpected treat during our year-long journey to taste the world. 

Cruising the Rhine with Viking River Cruises provides a comfortable opportunity to explore Rhineland. See what we thought about our scenic 12-day European cruise.

Cruising the Rhine. Rhineland Discovery. Viking River Cruises

In the grand scheme of things, people can be separated into two categories – cruise people and everyone else. We always placed ourselves in the latter category. We eschewed cruises as being nice for people who prefer more structure on their vacations and prefer the safety of guided trips with strict itineraries. We prefer immersive experiences that bring us into the heart of a country’s culture.

That being said, we were thrilled when we received an unexpected offer from Viking River Cruises. Needless to say, it was an offer that we couldn’t refuse. This was our chance to try a certain ease of travel and to see what it’s like to experience a trip with guides and planned meals.

As part of Viking’s generous offer, we were able to select a European river cruise that appealed to us. After pouring over the many options outlined on the Viking website and studying the photos and videos, we ended up selecting the Rhineland Discovery cruise. This 12-day cruise starts with two city destinations (Bruges and Amsterdam) before cruising up the Rhine with stops in cities like Kinderdijk, Cologne, Koblenz, Rüdesheim, Heidelberg, Strasbourg, Breisach and finally Basel.

It sounds wonderful. But what did we really think?

Viking Eir. Cruising the Rhine. Rhineland Discovery. Viking River Cruises

Viking Eir

Let’s be real. It’s hard to not enjoy a luxury cruise on the Viking Eir, a longboat with 95 staterooms and four decks. Food is plentiful and cooked to order, and the German beer onboard is some of the best in the world. Coffee flows all day long, and the crew’s main mission is to make everybody happy.

What We Loved about Cruising the Rhine with Viking River Cruises

Visiting Five Countries without Lugging Our Bags

We chose the Rhineland Discovery cruise for its castle-filled route. Cruising the Rhine. Rhineland Discovery. Viking River Cruises

We chose the Rhineland Discovery cruise for its castle-filled route.

As independent travelers, we lug around our bags – a lot. As a result, we sometimes suffer from tired backs and sore feet. What a treat it was to not have to worry about luggage for twelve straight days! This may not seem like a big deal, but it was a game changer for us. As an extra bonus, we loved unpacking our bags and feeling ‘at home’ during the length of the cruise.

Room with a View and Amenities

Our comfortable room had lots of amenities, but the view from the bed is what we loved the most. Cruising the Rhine. Rhineland Discovery. Viking River Cruises

Our comfortable room had lots of amenities, but the view from the bed is what we loved the most.

We weren’t sure what to expect from the room even though we had looked at various YouTube videos for a sneak preview. Our room turned out to be downright spacious with a comfortable bed, a full range of movies available on demand and wonderful bathroom products that got replenished on a daily basis. We were pleasantly surprised by the room’s private balcony with a table and chairs for two, which made it feel even more spacious. True confession – we didn’t use the balcony much once we discovered that the best view in our room was from the bed. It turns out that there’s not much better in life than lying in bed and watching the Rhine current stream gently next to the trees and hills of Western Europe.

Awesome Crew

Cheers to Marlon! He always had a smile on his face and beers in his hand. Cruising the Rhine. Rhineland Discovery. Viking River Cruises

Cheers to Marlon! He always had a smile on his face and beers in his hand.

We consider ourselves to be low maintenance travelers who don’t need a lot of assistance, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t appreciate excellent service. And that’s exactly what we got from the international crew while cruising the Rhine with Viking. Empty beer stein? Not for long. Fresh fruit in our cabin? You betcha. This crew was highly attentive without being intrusive, and it was our pleasure to tip them at the end of the cruise.

The Food

Not surprisingly, there was plenty of food on the cruise. We especially enjoyed the local meats and cheeses served to match each destination's cuisine. Cruising the Rhine. Rhineland Discovery. Viking River Cruises

Not surprisingly, there was plenty of food on the cruise. We especially enjoyed the local meats and cheeses served to match each destination’s cuisine.

We mentioned that the food was plentiful, and indeed it was. We appreciated the fancy, multi-course dinners and the big, hearty lunches served in the dining room, though we mostly opted for the simpler, more casual meals available on the Aquavit Terrace. However, we liked breakfast best of all. The range of breakfast foods ran the gamut from healthy fruit and yogurt to more decadent options. Passing on the menu items, we stuck to the breakfast buffet where we enjoyed cheeses, meats and other regional delicacies. The one and only thing missing was Nutella, but not for long. The attentive staff was kind enough to share their private Nutella stash with us once they realized we were true fans of the chocolate hazelnut spread.

Fun Excursions

Viking offers many excursions on its Rhineland Discovery cruise, many of which are at no additional cost for participants. The free tours are good – mostly slow-paced walking/bus tours with lots of information and minimal pressure. However, the optional excursions are the ones that truly wowed us with their passionate guides and small group format. These tours really offer travelers an intimate chance to experience many of the cultural delights that Europe has to offer. It may seem like a hardship to spend the extra cash after already plunking down a bunch of dough for the cruise itself, but these are sincere, honest excursions that will detour you from the more touristic itineraries.  Here are our three favorite excursions:

Cologne’s Beer Culture Dinner Tour

Hitting the Streets of Cologne for the Fun Pub Crawl. Cruising the Rhine. Rhineland Discovery. Viking River Cruises

Hitting the Streets of Cologne for an Evening Pub Crawl

As we learned over dinner at a brauhaus that dates back to 1858, Cologne locals never eat while drinking. They only drink while eating. Living like locals was not a problem for us during this excursion where we drank an endless number of small glasses of chilled Kölsch beer at no less than four different family owned pubs each oozing with Köln culture. We even learned how to toast like a local during this fun pub crawl. We now like to clink the bottom of our glasses and say ‘Prost!’ even though we’re no longer in Cologne. In addition to drinking beer, we also enjoyed soaking up Cologne’s history through this walking tour of the town’s narrow, lively, rebuilt North German streets.

Taste of the Best of Alsace

This picnic style lunch was the highlight of our Strasbourg food tour excursion. Cruising the Rhine. Rhineland Discovery. Viking River Cruises

This picnic style lunch was the highlight of our Strasbourg food tour excursion.

We were pleased to get our first taste of Strasbourg during this full day excursion which served as an introduction for our future stay in the fairy tale Alsatian city. The informative tour guide from Food and City Tours Strasbourg introduced us to a variety of local fare starting with kugelhopf  and continuing with chocolate, cheese, baguettes, wine, flamenkuche and finally pain d’epices, a local pastry similar to what Americans call gingerbread. Highlight of this excursion? For us it was the picnic style lunch at Oenosphère where we sampled excellent local wines from nearby vineyards along with an assortment of amazing French cheeses and charcuterie.

Black Forest Hike & Farm Visit

Lunch with a View in the Black Forest. Cruising the Rhine. Rhineland Discovery. Viking River Cruises

Lunch with a View in the Black Forest

We pinched ourselves as we ate an authentic German lunch and drank local beer with a view of the Black Forest. Was this real life or a dream? Viking’s local tour guide took us on a winding tour where we visited old and new farms, hiked up forest trails and drank schnapps in addition to enjoying lunch with a view at a local eating hall. This excursion took us away from the standard cuckoo clock shops and allowed us to see the magnificent, lush, green Schwarzwald hills along with a glimpse into the day-to-day struggles of old German culture. We also enjoyed visiting a modern German farm complete with its on-site schnapps distillery not to mention adorable goats and cows.

The Rhine Itself

One of many castles we passed while we were cruising the Rhine with Viking. Cruising the Rhine. Rhineland Discovery. Viking River Cruises

One of many castles we passed while we were cruising the Rhine with Viking.

We mainly chose the Rhineland Discovery cruise for the opportunity to cruise the Rhine and see castles sprinkled along its verdant shore. Despite some cloudy and rainy weather, the view did not disappoint. Seriously, the castles just kept coming as we lounged on the wide open sundeck of our longship. We toasted and drank hearty, dark Kostrizer beers as we sailed along the Middle Rhine River streaming by the famous Lorelei rock and oh-so-many castles.

What We Didn’t Love So Much

Feeling Rushed

As full-time travelers and influencers, we usually travel slowly with a week or even a month in each location. Though it was great to hit five countries in twelve days, it wasn’t so great to have to leave each one so quickly. Sometimes, when traveling Europe, we just like to slow down, plant ourselves at an outdoor cafe and soak in the atmosphere. Some people like this quicker style of travel, but it’s not our preferred approach.

Spotty Internet

As two internet junkies, it was a bit stressful to have spotty internet during the cruise. Though out of Viking’s control, the internet (or lack thereof) was a bit of a bummer.

Friendly Faces in the Kitchen on the Viking Eir. Cruising the Rhine. Rhineland Discovery. Viking River Cruises

Friendly Faces in the Kitchen on the Viking Eir

Final Thoughts on Cruising the Rhine with Viking River Cruises

Clearly, we loved a lot more about the cruise than we didn’t love. Does this mean that we’ve crossed over to being cruise people? Well, we wouldn’t go that far, but we’re very open to taking another cruise to help us with that transition.

We thank Viking River Cruises for hosting us on the Rhineland Discovery cruise and covering our excursions.


Comments

  1. We’re of the latter type, like you guys. Living in a “cruise-ship town” in Alaska pretty much turned us off from cruises, and those of the former type that you mentioned. I’ve been on a few cruises when i was a young lad, but the fond memories I have can mostly be chalked up to the freedom I had to get away from my parents on the ship. With all of that being said, you’ve almost got me sold on this trip…that charcuterie plate alone…and the beer…

    1. Author

      In many ways we enjoyed the services offered by Viking. It was nice that we didn’t have to think about moving our bags from town to town. However, once off the ship we were consumed by the urge to explore, on our own, once again!

  2. How did you get an invite to take a cruise. I’d like one, too, please.

  3. Wow this certainly looks like a journey of tastes. That food looks incredible. I agree with what you say about speed, sometimes going from independent travel to tours can be very full on.

    1. Author

      We like to absorb a city before making travel decisions. At least we were given a small sampling of the cities so we can return for a second look.

  4. We’ve never taken a cruise but lately have been toying with the idea of taking one. We also love slowness travel and rarely go to more than one country at a time when we travel but Viking makes it sound very tempting. Love that the staff was attentive without being intrusive and also like the sound of the excursions. Most of all, it’s great to know that the food was good.
    Brenda Tolentino recently posted…Look First Class with this Getaway Packing List for AutumnMy Profile

    1. Author

      We think you have to look at a Viking cruise as a separate entity from a more independent trip. For us, it was certainly the most relaxing way to cover a lot of destinations in a short period of time.

  5. I’m not in the cruising crowd but find the idea of a river cruise to be quite appealing. The excursions and the food look like you got a great taste of the Rhine.

    1. Author

      Daryl: I remember cruising the Middle Rhine many years ago on a day cruise. It was nice not to have to hop a train at the end of the trip and cruise for a few more days.

    1. Author

      It would be fine way to sample that mode of travel. Watching the water roll by our room placed us in an easy state of mind.

  6. I totally understand when you say there are cruise people and then there is everyone else. Although I’ve never actually been on one and I know you shouldn’t knock things until you’ve tried them, I do feel like the style of travelling is not really my cup of tea. I do have to say that the excursions you went on do sound really interesting and it seems like you had the chance to experience local culture a little bit.

    1. Author

      The Black Forest excursion definitely allowed us to experience some places that weren’t even in the guidebooks. We still love independent travel, but the Viking ship was a relaxing and different experience.

  7. My wife and I have had so many discussion lately, after having been to places like Venice, Dubrovnik, and Kotor, Montenegro. Cruise-ship culture is strange, and I’m not sure it’s for me. The lone exception are the river boat cruises like Viking, which are small, intimate, and typically dock right in the middle of a city. The thought of going to a port, waiting in line to get onto a coach to be bussed to a city, then rush around, only to line up for a bus back to your boat, does not sound like fun to me. The time saved by docking in the heart of a city is vital.

  8. Wow – that picture of the Black Forest is stunning! My parents are taking a Rhine river cruise in April and although it has a couple different destinations, they’ll be hitting a few of these. Will send on this post to them!

  9. I’d love to do a Rhine cruise. There is no question that I would fit into the ‘cruise’ category in total happiness, especially with the slower pace of a river cruise – though I can see why you wish you could linger longer. I did a canal barge cruise in France for the first time this year and it was fabulous. I got to see France from a totally different angle. Sounds dreamy to me.

  10. Hi Guys,

    Wow! Beautiful shots. 2 things. 1: I noticed the fig. Before a recent trip to Cyprus I’d not have noticed it. But our neighbor grew them all over the grounds – perfect weather – so we had fresh figs every freaking day LOL. 2: The Black Forest shot? Epic! And my mom grew up there, until she was 5. She always showed us pictures of Haslach. I need to visit her village and hope to do so soon. Thanks for the awesome share guys 🙂

    Ryan
    Ryan Biddulph recently posted…Are You Excited to Build a Rabidly Loyal Blog Community?My Profile

  11. This is a great, informative post. I’ve only ever taken one cruise, The Disney cruise. Of course it was the best lol. I would love to take another cruise soon. This one looks great ?

  12. This cruise looks amazing and I think you picked a good one (I lived in Germany for 3 years and loved it). I’d be freaking out about the internet too, but I’d just go eat some of that yummy food to take my mind off of it lol!

  13. Wow, your trip looked amazing! I agree with everyone here about not being a super cruise-y person because I put a high value on my independence, but I went on a narrow boat trip in England when I was younger and really loved it, so I’m definitely interested in going on another river cruise in the future. I came across this tour site a while back that lets you compare different river cruise companies and trips and it’s super cool- ever since I have been toying with the idea of booking a cruise and I think you guys just sold me on it haha!

  14. We’ve often wondered about taking a river cruise. Like you, we sometimes like to be able to stay put a little longer, relax, sightsee and take in the vibe of a town or city. However, I think it would be a nice treat to do one day , relaxing on board watching the beautiful views go by, Another one for my “to do” list.
    Therese Bruning recently posted…10 Tips For Booking Flights OnlineMy Profile

    1. Author

      You should check out Viking Cruises when you’re ready to try a river cruise. They really do a nice job with all the details and the overall experience.

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