Viking River Cruises Reviews & Ratings
We sailed from Basel, Switzerland up north on the Rhine River and ended at Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Viking also offers the same route in reverse, from Amsterdam to Basel so you can pick either. For a couple stops on the journey, boats running in opposite cities are docked together.
We had a wonderful time and especially loved how organized the entire Viking journey was, from pre-departure to on-board, everything was seamless. Also unlike many other cruises or guided tours, almost everything was included, which made it feel like a truly relaxing vacation.
Here’s a snapshot of our 7-day itinerary and what we got up to each day!
Day 1: Arrive in Basel, Switzerland
We arrived in the small, quaint town of Basel after our international flight. This was the general arrival / travel date so we expected to just check in and relax but discovered that Viking organized a guided walking tour of the town. That was a nice surprise!
There’s also the option to arrive a couple days early and/or stay a couple days late. If you are thinking of this, here’s a quick guide to the best hotels in Basel to help with accommodation.
Basel is an underrated tourist attraction and the third largest city in Switzerland. The town has a gorgeous Medieval center and plenty of world-class art museums. There’s a reason Art Basel is held here!
We checked out the Romanesque cathedral, took endless pictures of the colorful medieval buildings and headed back to our ship to relax and meet everyone for cocktails and dinner. A great first day!
Read more: An Afternoon in Basel, Switzerland’s Most Underrated City!
Day 2: Germany’s Black Forest & Colmar, France
On our second day, we sailed northward to dock at Breisach, Germany. In the morning, we learned how to make cuckoo-clocks, put together Black Forest cake and walked a bit throughout the Black Forest.
The wooded mountain range is the site of many local legends and populated all over with black fir trees. If you like hiking, the mountains are wonderful!
In the afternoon, we signed up for an optional tour to Colmar. Located in the Alsace Lorraine region, the town is part of France but throughout much of history, changed hands between Germany and France. You’ll find lots of German and French spoken as a result!
I highly recommend visiting this quaint medieval town. Every street looks perfectly preserved and it’s quite colorful. We wandered mostly on our own, ducking into gelato shops and chocolate stores while enjoying the colorful, medieval feel.
Read more: The Most Picturesque Alsatian Town of Colmar
Day 3: Strasbourg, France
If you skip the optional to Colmar, no worries! Strasbourg is its larger cousin and also located in Alsace, France.
We had a wonderful guide for this day who guided us throughout the small canals, pointing out colorful streets and letting us know about Strasbourg’s tangled history in the hands of Germany and France.
Strasbourg occupies a strategic position on the Rhine River and is the ninth largest city in France. It’s home to many European councils and organizations, like the European Court of Human Rights (a building built like a ship) and the Council of Europe.
For the most part, we stuck to the Old Medieval Town but drove through the modern section. Highly recommend a visit to the Cathedral!
Read more: 24 Hours in Strasbourg (coming soon)
Day 4: Heidelberg, Germany
Heidelberg is a university town with a energetic, small town feel. In the morning, we visited Heidelberg Castle, which perhaps should be called a ruined fortress, as much of it was destroyed by lightening, fires and war.
The ruins and castle are built high above the city and the observation terrace is well worth a look! Meanwhile, the city was almost entirely spared from bomb attacks during World War II and it’s narrow streets and baroque charm remain largely intact.
We explored Heidelberg’s Old Town (Altstadt) by walking along the main shopping street Hauptstrasse. This is actually the longest shopping street in Europe! For the most part, I spotted large chain stores & restaurants.
I actually recommend skipping this street to explore the quaint alleyways and backstreets instead. Much more picturesque!
Read more: The Best of Heidelberg Germany in 1 Day
Day 5: Rhine River Castles & Koblenz, Germany
By day 5, we had reached the middle Rhine and spent our morning above deck watching the gorgeous small German towns and castles along both sides of the Rhine River. Our Viking program director gave a guided tour along the way, pointing out castles left and right.
Many of them are situated high above local towns and we saw lots of German camper vans parked at the base. I recommend bringing a pair of binoculars for this part, as some of the castles can be set a bit farther away and the detail through a zoom is incredible.
By afternoon, we reached Koblenz, a city set at the mouth of two rivers. We explored Marksburg Castle and wandered a bit on our own after. This was another ruined fortress high above the river. Interesting history, but wear good shoes! The entire castle is unpaved, rocky and entirely uneven.
A couple others from the cruise did the optional dinner excursion on this day and raved about it.
Read more: A Photo Diary of Pretty Rhine Castles
Day 6: Cologne, Germany
During the Holy Roman Empire, Cologne was the largest medieval town in Europe. Naturally, it’s Gothic cathedral is the hallmark draw! The nice thing about this stop is the ship can dock right into town, so you can join the tour or explore on your own.
We explored the Kölner Dom’s interior and were suitably awed. If you want a great view, Viking offers an optional tour that takes you all the way to the very top! I had already been to Cologne on a previous trip so instead, we opted for a palace excursion.
We visited Augustusburg Castle, one of two gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage site classified as Bruhl Palaces. The castle was once home to the prince-archbishops of Cologne and is decked out in gold, marble and all-around extravagance.
I particularly liked the massive entryway staircase which was gilded and made my mouth drop open when we turned the corner. Highly recommend this day trip if you love castles half as much as I do!
The interiors were really unique and the guided tour was excellent. After the main palace, we did a quick tour of the hunting lodge as well, which was just as stunning.
Read more: Exploring Cologne (coming soon)
Day 7: Kinderdijk, The Netherlands
Kinderdijk is home to the Netherlands’ famous windmills. I’ll admit I didn’t know too much about the country outside of Amsterdam and our guide was quite helpful to explain the history of the nation and the purpose of its many windmills. Much of the Netherlands would sink, were it not for windmills to pump away water.
We even got to tour inside the home of a windmill keeper (see photos of a windmill interior here!). What I didn’t realize was that windmill caretakers actually lived inside them with their families!
I thought the interiors were particularly interesting and our guide mentioned that some Dutch families managed to fit 13 children inside.
They’re quite small so I noticed lots of hooks for hanging, curved bunk-bed type rooms and lots of stair ladders. The Dutch windmill keepers also had a number of really unique boats which I took too many pictures of!
Fun fact: Kinderdijk is in the region of Holland in the nation of The Netherlands where the people speak Dutch.
Read more: Visiting A Dutch Windmill Home (and other day trips from Amsterdam!)
The Rhine Getaway Cruise
One thing I liked about sailing with Viking is how leisurely the day to day pace is. There’s generally an opportunity to sight see in the morning and afternoon, with one included tour and one optional tour.
We chose to do 2 optionals and on the other days, relaxed on board or went into town to explore on our own! It was a well-balanced pace and I truly felt “on vacation”.
Here’s a recap of our daily itinerary with Viking:
Day 1 Arrive in Basel, Switzerland
Day 2 Morning: Sail to the Black Forest
Afternoon: Explore Colmar, France
Day 3 Explore Strasbourg, France
Day 4 Morning: Explore Heidelberg’s Castle and Old Town.
Evening: Stop in Rudesheim
Day 5 Morning: See German castles along the Rhine River
Afternoon: Visit Koblenz, Germany
Day 6 Morning: Visit Cologne, Germany
Afternoon: Day trip to Bruhl Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Day 7 See dutch windmills at Kinderdijk. Arrive in Amsterdam in late evening.
Watch video: Tourico Vacations Viking River Cruise
Once on the boat we had a large group 18 people of all different ages and the staff took very good care of us. The waiters in the dining room took care of our family as if it was their own and paid close attention to our needs. If we suggested or asked for something it was there for us the next day. Of all the tour guides we had there were only 2 that weren’t that good. All the others were extremely knowledgeable and answered any questions we had. The only thing I would suggest to do different is cut out the 3 hrs we have in Slovakia and either add time to Vienna or Budapest. Those 2 cities are beautiful and it was hard to squeeze everything in. All in all my family had a great time and made wonderful memories on this trip.
Editorial review of Viking River Cruises
Founded in 1997 as a line offering Russian river cruises to Europeans, Viking expanded to the North American market in 2000.
What Makes Them Stand Out?
Since 2007, Viking River Cruises has zoomed from carrying one-fifth to one-half of all passengers in the fast-growing European river cruise market. Not only is Viking the world’s largest river cruise line with some 66 ships now in service around the globe, but the line is operating at near full capacity in Europe, with many itineraries sold out months in advance.
Who Travels With Them?
They cater primarily to “culturally curious” English-speaking Americans, Canadians, British, Australians, and New Zealanders aged 55-plus. (Think sophisticated viewers of PBS’ “Downton Abbey,” which its helps to sponsor.)
Where Do They Operate?
Besides European rivers such as the Rhine, Danube, Moselle, Seine, Duoro, and the waterways of Russia between Moscow and St. Petersburg, Viking now cruises three rivers in Southeast Asia -- the Yangtze, Mekong, and Irrawaddy -- and along the Nile in Egypt.
Why Travel With Them?
While they may not rank as the most luxurious river ships, many of Viking’s vessels are sleek, innovative, and freshly minted: the line has added 18 new ships in 2014 alone. Overall, Viking has established a reputation for offering an incredible value - high-quality service, food, and guided shore excursions at competitive prices, all adding up to strong repeat customer loyalty rates.
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About the companyFrom Viking River Cruises
Inspiring destinations, thoughtfully designed itineraries, immersive cultural explorations, state-of-the-art ships, fine cuisine, excellent service and remarkable value. All created with personal attention to every detail.
We call this the Viking Experience. It’s the way your bartender has your drink prepared at just the right moment. The gentle guidance from your tai chi master during your lesson in China. Or the handwritten directions from your concierge to the oldest coffeehouse in Vienna. Every aspect of your time with Viking, from expertly prepared meals to carefully created enrichment programs and beautifully appointed ships, is planned to bring you closer to experiencing the most from your destination.
With more itineraries in more destinations worldwide, we offer behind-the-scenes insights and opportunities that set us apart from other travel companies.
While we deliver the expected and iconic, such as visits to museums and landmarks, we also go beyond. On every itinerary, you can experience local life through such excursions as home-hosted visits or trips to local markets. We also offer the opportunity to see the working world of bakers and artisans, and the option for our guests to experience priviledged access to museums, private collections and after-hours events that we thoughtfully curate.
DISCOVER YOUR DESTINATION
Our daily shore excursions include must-see highlights and delightful surprises. These expertly guided tours bring you closer to the art, architecture, history and people of the land.
GAIN GREATER INSIGHT
Watch a local German glassblower or learn about French Impressionism. Our Culture Curriculum, an enriching onboard program, infuses every cruise and brings history to life.
CAPTURE THE CULTURE
Accompany us on a shopping trip to the local market. Walk through the door of a centuries-old cathedral or visit a contemporary art museum. Meet local fine food and wine purveyors. Our tastings and demonstrations expand your mind and satisfy your senses.
Have you yearned to visit the vaults of the famed Hermitage Museum? Attend a classical concert in Vienna? Enjoy a Tang Dynasty dinner show in Xian? Your Program Director can organize a variety of optional tours.
An appointment at the best spa in Prague or dinner at one of Lyon’s Michelin-star restaurants? Our onboard Viking Concierge is there to assist you with special requests.
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