We're Not Those Kind of People
If you have kept up with even half of my blogs you know that Jenni and I are very comfortable planning our own travels and doing so on a whim. So when we first considered booking a river cruise with Viking Cruise Lines our own argument was that “we’re not those kind of people”.
But who doesn’t love a good Pro/Con list? I know I do!
CONS: 1. We’re not old enough to cruise on Viking. 2. We’ll be at the mercy of someone else’s itinerary. 3. There’s still this whole COVID thing going on. 4. What if we don’t enjoy being around the same people all week? 5. I’m not sure I can take being on a boat for a week.
PROS: 1. Their anniversary special included FREE airfare and FREE, expanded alcoholic beverages throughout the day.
So we booked the Rhine Getaway less than 6 weeks out from departure. (Guess that qualifies as a ‘whim’)
Our cruise would begin in Basel, Switzerland and follow the current of the Rhine River in a northerly direction until we reached Amsterdam, The Netherlands. We would move back and forth between France and Germany along the way. Seven nights, eight days of being pampered.
We had a major decision to make as we reserved the cruise: the type of stateroom to book. There were basically three choices: Veranda balcony (with 2 chairs), French balcony (sliding glass window, no step out), and the below deck rooms where most of the Titanic 3rd class passengers perished. In all three cases, the rooms were much larger than the 84 sq ft we have in Wanda the van. We opted for the latter. We reasoned that we would spend very little time in our rooms and most of that would be spent sleeping. Despite what people on the upper decks believed, there were no wild Irish Third Class Dances on our steerage level. (Our stewards were from Bulgaria so it was an entirely different dance style!) Once we were on board and saw that we actually had our own lifejackets under the bed, we felt we had made a good financial decision.
Our room had small windows just above water level which provided an interesting perspective looking across the river. For those deciding which room-type to book, keep in mind that several times our ship had to parallel dock beside another Viking cruise ship so if you didn’t pull your curtains closed you would be staring at the people on the ship next to you. Consider that your room is primarily for sleeping and using the bathroom; you will always have places to escape to in the lounge, library, or on the roof.
Decisions we had to make in the weeks leading up to embarkation were which, if any, excursions to take. Every port had day tours which were included in our price. There were also optional excursions we could pay extra to do. We chose a few, mostly for places we couldn’t get to easily on our own during free time. In hindsight, we may have done better to limit those extras and just spend more time in the village where we were docked. But then again, when would I ever get the chance to stand on the roof of the Cologne Cathedral, more than 350ft above ground level?
Any concerns over food on board the ship were quickly pushed aside. To our delight, the only buffets were for a few breakfast items. Otherwise, we ordered from a menu three meals per day. Lunch and dinner ALWAYS included choices for appetizer, entrée, and dessert. My biggest complaint was that sometimes I just didn’t think I could eat another meal but I always rose to the challenge. It was a great opportunity to sample regional specialties as well as dishes we would only find at posh restaurants back home. And thanks to all the walking we did, I was actually down one pound at the end of the cruise from when I departed!
The first few hours on board reminded me of college orientation—trying to size people up, avoid the crazies, make friends, remember names. (Some people amaze me with their canny ability to remember names.) While many couples quickly realized we could be their children, we still had very engaging conversations with them. We bonded quickly with one particular couple who had similar interests and views; in fact, we had to apologize to each other at one meal because it seemed like we might be stalking each other! Unfortunately they were a casualty of COVID a few days into the cruise and we had to say farewell through an open window. By the way, masks were worn on board unless you were eating or drinking so . . . we did a lot of both.
For our first adventure in cruising, it was a success. In fact, we may be spoiled now. It certainly was stressful our first few nights off the ship as we had to fend for ourselves in an unfamiliar city and choose restaurants and food on our own.
One thing that made it enjoyable was the small-feel of the ship. We had approximately 161 passengers and 47 crew members on board. By the way, the ‘hotel manager’ said that in the one week we sailed 560 miles through 11 river locks. We ate 4,441 meals including 328 gallons of soup, drank 1,567 bottles of wine and 295 liters (78 gallons) of beer. We flushed the toilets 5,819 times. The crew washed 6,185 towels and 20,155 plates.
Turns out, we ARE those kind of people.