Last updated on April 12th, 2019 at 07:34 pm
Have you ever dreamed of taking a European River Cruise? You see them advertised on TV more and more these days. We have been on large ocean cruises, but wondered what it would be like to take a river cruise.
I did my homework and finally decided that my wife and I would have a wonderful time celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary on a Romantic Rhine River Cruise. I checked out all of the various companies that cruise this waterway looking for the one that I thought would best meet our needs. I also talked with friends who have taken river cruises and was not surprised that they all had their favorite cruise lines. Some recommended Viking, some AMA Waterways and some Avalon.
We got more recommendations for Viking than the others combined. I then went to several seminars at our local travel agency office that were put on by the river cruise companies before finally deciding to book our trip of a lifetime on Viking River Cruises. Of course, making that decision was the easy part.
Now, we had to decide what we really wanted to see, when was the best time to go to see these sights, how much time we wanted to travel, if we wanted to do a before and or after cruise add-on that we could purchase from the cruise company, which airline, etc… The other things to plan ahead were train tickets, having Swiss Francs and Euros in our pocket before the trip, and of course, learning about the tram or subway systems in the cities we planned to visit. It was almost getting to be too many things to think about, but as they always said when I was a Boy Scout, “Be Prepared”; so I always plan ahead.
Our other consideration was that if we were going to spend the dollars to fly that far, we were going to get more out of the trip, so we planned for three days in Zurich before the cruise to deal with jetlag and then three days in Amsterdam so that we could visit Keukenhof Gardens and see the sights. We added 5 days in Paris to really make it a trip of a lifetime. So, back to the first question. What did we really want to see? I love flowers and gardens, so I wanted to see the Keukenhof Gardens in Amsterdam. And, my wife wanted to go back and taste a real Belgium waffle. So, of course I included that in our itinerary!
After doing my homework, we decided that we needed to be in Amsterdam there before Mother’s Day if there was a late spring, and a week or two earlier if it was an early spring. The next thing was to decide to utilize the cruise line’s before and/or after cruise offerings. Since we wanted to have a less structured trip, other than the cruise, we chose to put together our own before and after cruise itinerary.
If you are less adventurous or if you don’t really want to have to lug your suitcases around as you go from air travel to train travel to subways or taxis, etc… I would suggest that you opt for the cruiseline’s before and after the cruise offerings. Friends that we met on the cruise did both and we have exchanged emails since returning home and they had nothing but wonderful compliments to Viking Cruises for their experiences before and after the cruise.
We booked the cruise from Basel to Amsterdam, which meant that we would fly in to Zurich, Switzerland and spend a couple days there seeing the sights and getting over jetlag. We then made our way to Basel on the train to start the cruise.
Also, since I did not want to have to carry 3 weeks worth of clothes, during the planning process I found a laundromat in an area of Amsterdam that we wanted to explore, then booked a hotel in that same neighborhood. We really wanted to stay in local hotels rather than in the big hotels for a better feel of the local area. Upon our arrival in Amsterdam, we disembarked and walked to the hotel. After dropping off most of our luggage at the hotel, we took one suitcase full of dirty clothes to the laundromat.
We were pleasantly surprised when we found that it was also a full service laundry. We left our dirty clothes and enjoyed lunch and a walking tour of Amsterdam, and picked up clean clothes for the rest of the trip later in the afternoon. After three wonderful days in Amsterdam, we caught the high speed train to Paris. What a wonderful way to travel! Since we made sure to visit the Centraal Station before it was time to leave, we knew exactly where to go to catch our train to Paris.
We had reserved seats so it was as easy as flying – other than putting our own luggage on the train. We arrived in Paris and took the B2 line south to the subway that took us to our hotel. We stayed in a cute 1 bedroom apartment near the Grinnel train station. Again, another smaller hotel that also had apartments in a nice neighborhood close to a farmers’ market. We chose this location because there were 3 trains that used that terminal, so we could go almost everywhere from there.
We spent 5 days seeing the sights in Paris before reversing directions, taking the B3 train to the airport to fly home.
While you are in the process of planning your trip of a lifetime, or any expensive trip, make sure to get travel insurance and do at the beginning, the day you pay your deposit for your trip. Why, because the insurance will cover you for pre-existing conditions if you do it at the initial booking stage. If you wait to do it just before you leave, and a medical issue causes you to cancel, you won’t get your money back if it was a pre-existing condition. Some of us are getting up in years and you don’t want a health issue to rob you of the trip along with the money you already spent. It would be bad enough to have to cancel the trip, but to lose all that money too, that would really hurt.
One of the great planning tools that you should use is the availability of videos of your travel destinations. I went online on my Blockbuster account to search out travel videos. Hard to find because they are included under a separate category. (Yes, I know that you cannot use Blockbuster anymore) I also searched my Amazon Prime Account. If you look in the index you won’t find Travel videos there either; but if you search “Documentaries” you will find the travel videos hiding there. For Paris, we viewed the following videos: Cities of the World, Paris, France and Modern Times Wonders, Tour D’Eiffel and Burt Wolf’s France. Finally, for France, we viewed these last videos: The Greatest Journeys on Earth, France, The Journeys of the Sun King, On Tour… BLUE DANUBE CRUISE WACHAU A Journey Through The Middle Ages and Paris France, The City Of Magic: A Dream Vacation Tour. We also viewed the Burt Wolf; The Rhine and The Danube, and the Burt Wolf; Holland and Belgium. Yes, I do know that the Danube is a different river, but I was thinking ahead to the next river cruise.
In the next several blogs, we will share more about our trip and what we learned along the way. Hopefully, you will be able to learn from our mistakes so that your trips will be trouble-free!
Turning Dreams into Memories,
One Vacation at a Time.
As you might guess, this document is a compilation of information from our travels as well as from other travelers. I hope it has been of value to you. Check out the important links below.
- Packing Checklist
- Parent Authorization Letter For Unaccompanied Minors
- Medical Treatment Authorization Letter
- Travel With Minors – Permission Letter
Don’t hesitate to email us when you return from your trip with any suggestions that will make this document better for you and your fellow travelers!
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