One of the best ways to see some of Europe’s greatest cities is to do a river cruise. You get aboard, unpack your clothes and enjoy multiple destinations as your “hotel” follows you. A typical day begins in one city, you have breakfast on the ship (all meals are included on most cruises) and then walk off to explore the town. Normally there’s an included walking tour, followed by free time or optional paid excursions. You explore the city and maybe have a bite to eat in town. Later in the afternoon, if you don’t go out on one of the ship excursions, it’s back to the ship to prepare for the nightly onboard dinner. After dinner there’s nightly entertainment and music in the ship’s lounge. At night the ship sails to the next port and you wake up the next morning in a new city.
But what is it really like, what is the ship like to live on for a week? I just returned from a fantastic Viking river cruise called the Rhine Gateway, sailing down the Rhine River aboard the Viking Eir. We started in Basel, Switzerland and explored Switzerland, France, Germany and finally the Netherlands over eight days and seven nights.
The ship, the Viking Eir, is 443 long and 37 feet wide, carries 190 passengers in 95 staterooms. Some of the rooms on the first level have no view, some have small portholes. Other cabins have large windows or French balconies and the premium cabins are known as veranda cabins and they have full balconies. You can also stay in Veranda Suites, which have small sitting areas or rent one of the two large Explorer Suites.
The ship has a rooftop deck area with a jogging / walking track around its perimeter. There is a full-size shuffleboard court as well as a putting green. There are also several sunning areas and rows of deck chairs to enjoy. There’s a small spa where you can get massages and beauty treatments.
The ship has a small shop located in the lobby, and a library and coffee area on the second level outside the lounge. There are also desks with some computers for web access. The ship has a large dining room area with a lounge and bar located one level underneath.
I have to mention the great crew, as their enthusiasm and attitude really adds to the experience. When you do a river cruise, you get to know the staff. The waitstaff in the dining room, the activities staff and the cabin attendants. They get to know you too and what you like, so they will bring your favorite beverage and really personalize the experience. Same for the cabin attendant, they get to know how you like your stuff in your cabin so it has a very personal feeling.
The food was great, three meals a day (with alcoholic beverages) are included in your cruise fare. Breakfast was always a lavish buffet, with additional items being available from the kitchen. Lunch also had a buffet component and dinner was off the menu. Each night featured a local speciality (starter, main and dessert) as well as changing selections. There were also set menu items (steak, fish, chicken) always available. You can read more about the food here.