Netherlands

Rhine Runaway – River Cruise Part I

Other parts of this series so far:

Rhine Runaway – Booking Process
Rhine Runaway – Houston to Amsterdam
Rhine Runaway – A Short Visit to Amsterdam

I must say that Viking knows what they’re doing. Our rooms were on the lower level, below the waterline and very compact, but had what we needed. A lot of forethought had been put into the design of the rooms. There were quite a few US 110-volt plugs as well as the standard European ones. That was great as it allowed us to use all of them since we’d brought adapters along.

Guided tours are included with the price of the cruise and there are optional tours available for purchase. Our longship could carry approximately 190 passengers but we weren’t quite full on this trip so they could divide us into relatively small groups which made our tours much easier. Each cabin has radios that will tune to the guide’s transmitter so they don’t have to shout. That’s great because the average age of passengers on this particular ship was probably early-to-mid 60s so I felt like a young ‘un! There’s also usually a “leisurely tour” group for folks with mobility issues so that they don’t slow down one of the other groups. I thought this was great planning on Viking’s part.

On Friday we were in Kinderdijk, Netherlands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the numerous windmills found there. When we arrived, we thought all the windmills looked the same but our guide soon pointed out differences in the ones on our side of the canal vs. the ones opposite. There was one windmill restored for touring and I was struck again at how compact everything was and how difficult that must have been for a family to live in.

Kinderdijk Windmills

Kinderdijk Windmills

Saturday we stopped in Cologne and docked right next to the city. We had a walking tour in the morning and then had the afternoon to ourselves. The cathedral there is the most-visited tourist site in Germany and it’s easy to see why. It’s a huge building with gorgeous stained-glass windows and fantastic architecture. Some of us also toured the German-Roman museum and viewed a number of mosaics that had been uncovered on the site (right next to the cathedral).

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

Just about every place we stopped had a magnificent church or cathedral that was several hundred years old. It just reinforced to me how young the US is! It was amazing to think how these huge buildings could have been built 300-500 years ago!

Easter Sunday found us at the port in Koblenz where we boarded motor coaches for the drive up to Marksburg Castle. It was never invaded due to its perch high on a river bend and it’s not close enough to a major city to have been damaged during the World Wars so it’s everything you might imagine a castle to be. They’ve done a great job preserving this castle and it has lovely views out over the river.

Marksburg Castle

Marksburg Castle

Later that day was one of the highlights, cruising down the Middle Rhine. Fortunately the weather was great and we sat up on the sun deck in lounge chairs beneath an awning and watched a number of castles and towns as we cruised past. The cruise director provided narration as we passed. It made for great photos and was a wonderful change of pace.

In the evening, there was an optional excursion to a local restaurant in Rudesheim. We boarded a small tram (made up to look like a train) that wound us through the streets of the town and dropped us off near the restaurant. It’s a quaint town and I wish I’d taken the time available before our outing to walk through it.

The dinner was quite good, served by friendly staff. We were serenaded by a live oompah band and after dinner there were several audience participation activities. From a half-dozen people downing shots off the same paddle at the same time to audience members being recruited to play bass drum & cymbals as the band marched through the restaurant, the staff did their utmost to be sure everyone had a good time. All in all it was worth the extra charge for the visit.

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Categories: Europe, Germany, Netherlands, River Cruise | Leave a comment

Rhine Runaway – A Short Visit to Amsterdam

Other parts of this series so far:

Rhine Runaway – Booking Process
Rhine Runaway – Houston to Amsterdam

I’ll be the first to say we did not do Amsterdam justice. A combination of a few things factored into that but at the end of the day we decided we’d just have to return with Amsterdam as a destination.

I finally made it to the ship around 9:30-10:00 am and was warmly greeted. It turned out this was the maiden voyage of the Viking Bestla so all our cabins were ready. I was traveling with a group of 12 people, 10 of whom had traveled together and had already arrived. My roommate for the trip and I live in different cities from each other and from the rest of the group so we were on different flights. She was due to land a couple of hours after me so I decided to just wait for her on the boat.

Once she arrived and got settled in our cabin, it was lunch time. Since our meals were included we decided just to eat on the boat before venturing out. Amsterdam has canal tours with several companies operating them. We’d bought one online from Viator so we set out to trade our vouchers for tickets. We’d gotten some general directions as to the location of the ticket booth but they all involved walking through the Centraal Station and we came to find out that’s not possible without a ticket. (Or if it is, we couldn’t figure it out!) After a good bit of walking we finally found the ticket booth and waited about 10 minutes to pick up our tickets. Then we got in line for the boat and that killed another 45 minutes or so. At least the sun was out and the temperature was pleasant!

Centraal Station in Amsterdam with a tour boat

Centraal Station in Amsterdam with a tour boat

We finally got our turn on the boat and it was interesting. However the lack of sleep on our flights combined with the same narration in three languages (Dutch, German and English) meant we were not as alert as we’d have liked to have been. We’d hoped to go see the Anne Frank house while in Amsterdam but by that point we were just too tired and thought we’d run out of time before meeting the rest of the group for dinner.

So we saw a bit of architecture and learned a bit of history but have now added Amsterdam to the list of places to spend a few days.

Categories: Netherlands | Leave a comment

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