Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 31, 2017 – Viking Longships are floating luxury hotels offering all the amenities and service of five-star resorts that are named after the gods of Norse mythology, and Vidar, a son of Odin, is the god of loyalty.
Sailing with Viking aboard the Vidar from the Netherlands to Switzerland, a seven-day itinerary traversed four countries from Amsterdam to Basel and featured the cities of Kinderdijk, Cologne, Koblenz, Rudesheim, Heidelberg, Speyer, Strasbourg, and Breisach.
Take full advantage of the departure city of Amsterdam, arrive two days before sailing for the extra time necessary to explore this vibrant city. The city offers many hotel choices, however, for this stay the Doubletree by Hilton, was close to the Amsterdam Central train and tram stations for our self-exploration.
From here, you can explore the many areas of Amsterdam, including the Museum Quarter, Anne Frank House, shopping districts, restaurants, and pubs as well as 100 kilometers of interconnected canals.
The I Amsterdam City card, available at various locations, including hotels, provides free access to many museums and transportation as well as discounts on food and other services. A pass, good for 48 hours, costs €67. One of the included activities you must try is the free canal cruise, which glides along the scenic waterways past floating houseboats, colorful residences, and under some of the 1,500 stone bridges.
One of the included activities you must try is the free canal cruise, which glides along the scenic waterways past floating houseboats, colorful residences, and under some of the 1,500 stone bridges.
After boarding the Vidar the Veranda Stateroom was surprisingly spacious (205 sq. ft.), bright and modern with two beds and floor to ceiling sliding glass doors opening to a veranda.
Cozy bathrobes are waiting on the beds along with fresh water and a bottle of sparkling wine.
On-demand movies, music, sports, and news are also available via the Sony 40-inch, flat panel TV. Viking has also made technology easy while cruising with standard American 110V sockets as well as 220V, 2-pin European outlets. Hair dryers are also included as is free Wi-Fi.
The bathroom comes complete with plush towels, upscale bath amenities, including a heated floor.
The Aquavit Terrace was the destination for a pre-sailing lunch, guests are greeted by staff members who already knew your names. This is one of the great things setting Viking apart from others, the personalized service.
Unlike larger ocean cruises, the Vidar has a maximum capacity of 190 passengers, which evokes an intimate river cruising experience. The international crew really goes out of their way to make you feel at home, doing their best to satisfy any request.
The bar lounge is an open and comfortable space to enjoy a cocktail, live music, and good conversation. The first night, the tour director introduced a musical trio as three handsome gentlemen from Amsterdam who played music from the 50s, 60s, and 70s as passengers danced until the wee hours.
Beer, wine, and soft drinks are complimentary during meals. However, guests can choose to add on a Silver Spirits Beverage Package, ($150 p/p for a 7-night cruise) which covers all house pouring wines, beers, and liquors like cocktails and mixed drinks.
The Vidar also has a library, internet computers, always available coffee and tea stations, and an onboard concierge service for special requests. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served in the ship’s restaurant although you can also opt to enjoy a bar-style menu in the Aquavit Terrace.
Service in the dining room is a combination of a buffet (breakfast and lunch) and personalized service. Guests can choose from a daily selection of entrees or pick something from the always available menu. Baby shrimp cocktail followed by the braised beef brisket and meat empanada, all of which were exceptionally delicious, began the cruise cuisines.
For desert the Chocoholic chocolate-whiskey ice cream, Baumkuchen with chocolate mousse, and a ganache cake.
After sailing through the night, our ship docked briefly at Rotterdam before sailing onto Kinderdijk. This small village in South Holland is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site and features 19 windmills dating from the 18th century, the largest concentration of windmills in the entire country. Sadly, only a fraction of the 150 original windmills have survived over time but this is a fascinating look at how they operated.
Sadly, only a fraction of the 150 original windmills have survived over time.
These workhorses are a visible tribute to how the Dutch were able to reclaim land from the sea, and today the windmills are surrounded by embankments that keep the waters at bay.
Optional tours at this stop included a visit to a Dutch cheese factory for an inside look at how cheese is made.
The journey continues to Cologne, Germany with a history that dates back 2000 years to the Romans. Cologne is one of Germany’s four cities along the banks of the Rhine River. After being bombed heavily by the Allies in World War II, the city has been rebuilt with a mixture of architecture.
Don’t miss the 1880 Kölner Dom Gothic cathedral a UNESCO World Heritage Site that escaped destruction during WWII. With its towering twin spires and elegant stained glass windows, it is considered the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe.
Popular spots in the city include the Hohe Strasse or pedestrian zone with shopping, restaurants, and boutiques as well as the chocolate museum, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, and House of 4711. The latter is one of the most famous perfumeries in Europe and has been in operation since 1792.
On day four of the cruise, the ship gently slid into the dock in Koblenz. ,Situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers, this city has a history dating back 2000 years starting from when it was a Roman settlement.
Walk to the Deutsches Eckat, the famous German Corner, where the monument of Emperor William I on horseback, triumphantly towering 120 feet above the city and affording grand views of the area from it’s base.
Not to be missed is the cable car excursion to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress that overlooks the town. The cars float silently over the Rhine and are among the largest in Germany in terms of capacity, able to transport 7,600 people per day.
The fortress, the second largest in the world, was constructed between 1817-1828 by the Prussians as part of the area’s fortification system. Upon reaching the summit, you can stroll through the passageways and enjoy cultural exhibitions.
A local beer called Festungs Bräu is brewed just for the fortress, and you can enjoy a stein while taking in a bird’s eye view of Koblenz.
From a large city to a small town, Rüedesheim is as cozy, charming, and picturesque as any town you are likely to find in Germany. Located in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, the area is known for its wine growing and vineyards. But, there is much more to see and do here.
You can explore nature by walking along many excellent and scenic hiking trails that overlook the Rhine, visit ancient castles, and sample some of the finest Riesling and pinot noir wines in the region.
The town’s meandering lanes look like something out of a fairytale with half-timbered houses, hidden courtyards, and small hotels and eateries. Here, you can make arrangements (on a separate trip, of course) to actually sleep in a large wine barrel (cozy but more spacious than you might think)!
One of the optional excursions is a night of food and fun at Rüdesheimer Schloss for dinner. Owner Susanne Breuer makes every guest to her hotel/restaurant feel like family.
She insists on providing the best in fresh, local ingredients for her meals. Make sure you also try the Rüedesheim coffee, a local specialty that you won’t want to miss—even if you aren’t a coffee drinker!
Day five of the journey brings us due south of Frankfurt. Heidelberg was our next stop after a bus trip from Mannheim. Old and modern might be a good way to describe Heidelberg, and both are integrated into the town’s infrastructure.
Pedestrian paths with cobblestone streets line the main shopping areas with church steeples and a towering city gate still majestically guarding the entrance to the town.
The 12th century Heidelberg Castle is perched on a hill above the city and a great place to view the entire town. The castle was destroyed in earlier days but the ruins are well-preserved and colorfully lit for the holidays.
A tour bus and local guide escorted us to the most interesting parts of the fortress, including the world’s largest wine cask, which was apparently enough to keep 5,000 guests and castle dwellers in, shall we say, good spirits.
Other sights that should be on your must-see list include the Old Bridge spanning the Neckar River and built by Prince-Elector Karl Theodor in the late 1700s as well as the Student Prison.
Yes, you heard right. Any minor infraction would land students of Ruprecht-Karls University in what amounts to a modified detention for a few days—at their convenience, of course.
Today, you can tour the jail and view the artwork created by the guests that adorn the walls and ceilings.
The Vidar moved down the Rhine to Speyer to meet the bus. About a 30-minute walk from the river will take you to Speyer and its most impressive landmark, the Imperial Cathedral (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the final resting place of eight emperors from the Holy Roman Empire.
There are other noteworthy areas of the town to explore, including the Jewish quarter, German baths that date from 1126, and a modern Automobile and Technology Museum that houses an entire U-boat and a full-sized Lufthansa 747 jumbo jet.
Truly an international city, Strasbourg was selected as a UNESCO World Heritage of Humanity Site and it is the stopping place on day six. With winding cobblestone streets, flower-laden bridges, half-timbered houses, and plenty of shops and restaurants, Strasbourg is an amazing place to visit.
You might be so enchanted with this town that you could easily miss one of its most feathered attractions- white storks. Long considered a symbol of fertility and good luck, the storks can nest atop trees on the outskirts of town as well as in the Parc de l’Orangerie.
The pièce de résistance, however, is the Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg. Construction of this Gothic work of art started in 1015 and the spire was finally placed in 1439. Today, this magnificent cathedral is undergoing renovation, but you can still tour the inside and see the massive astronomical clock dating from 1843.
Today, this magnificent cathedral is undergoing renovation, but you can still tour the inside and see the massive astronomical clock dating from 1843.
Breisach, Germany is the docking point for a foray into the Black Forest on Day seven. The famous forest lies to the east of Breisach, across the Rhine. The soil here is rich and fertile, producing wines that are shipped all over the world.
Viking offers a couple of excursions including an optional World War II tour to revisit historic battles fought here and the Black Forest and the medieval town of Colmar visit which took up much of the day, but it was fascinating and well worth the time.
Sometimes called Little Venice, Colmar is picture perfect with lovely pastel-colored half-timbered houses, Gothic churches, and even canals intersecting the cobbled lanes.
One of the unexpected sights you can find here is a 12-meter high replica of the Statue of Liberty. This one can be found in one of the roundabouts and was created as a tribute to the life of its famous sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the same man who created the Statue of Liberty in New York City.
The Black Forest or Schwarzwald (Black Woods as it is known in Germany) is somewhat of a misnomer since the entire area is a rich green tapestry of verdant farmland, rolling hills, and evergreen trees. Some of your best photo ops will be here. Visit the cuckoo clock factory, sample authentic Black Forest ham, and learn how they make their famous Black Forest cake. The key ingredient, in addition to the sponge cake and real whipped cream, is kirsch, a cherry water made from Morello cherries.
Watch out though as the Chriesiwässerli is about 45% alcohol.
Basel, Switzerland is the final stop along Viking’s Rhine Getaway and the disembarkation point. You can choose to extend your trip here or go to another wonderful city— Lucerne, Switzerland. You won’t want to miss the Swiss Museum of Transportation (the number one attraction in the country) and the Golden Round Trip.
The latter is a three-part excursion that includes a ferry ride across Lake Lucerne and a trip up an incline railway to the top of Mt. Pilatus with a cable car descent along the spine of the mountains.
Viking offers a complete, well-organized trip from the tour buses to local guides to the program director, Nicole on this trip. Everything has been perfected down to a science. You will know when to get ready and leave, what to bring, and how you will be fed throughout the day.
The service is also impeccable. Every crew member is trained to put the needs of the guests first and it shows right down to finding the correct wrap for a badly sprained ankle, delivering just what I needed to my room—with a smile, of course!
FTC Disclosure: This was a sponsored trip, however, all opinions herein are the authors.