Thanks to Viking River Cruises for hosting my travel arrangements and stays. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
River cruising is one of the best ways to see the world. It is a floating hotel, incredible staff, a small number of guests, and delicious food. On my third and most recent Viking River cruise, my husband, Eddie, and I cruised the Paris to the Swiss Alps segment by land and river. Our trip took us to four countries and a different port almost each day through France, Germany, and Switzerland, with a quick visit to Luxembourg along our drive, for sightseeing.
If you have been looking for a great cruise itinerary, with the best of both worlds (cruising and land trip), this Paris to the Swiss Alps cruise may be the one for you. Let me show you what Viking River Cruises is all about and what this trip entails.
Choosing Viking Air
Did you know that Viking can also book your air travel to reach the boat? Since it was so convenient and they were able to find better pricing than I could on my own, we let Viking River Cruises handle our air arrangements from Orlando, FL through Detroit, MI to Paris, France.
Upon arrival in Paris, we were greeted by a Viking River Cruises staff and transported through Paris to the Marriott Paris Rive Gauche, our home in “Gay Paree” for the next two days. I appreciated that Viking selected a Marriott property for me, always providing excellent customer service, comfortable accommodations, and all the hotel perks we enjoy.
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Visiting Paris with Viking River Cruises
My original plan was to visit Disneyland Paris, however the plan got changed since there was a marathon in town and a display causing many train stops to be closed and traffic to be at a standstill.
Instead, Eddie and I took the metro to the Eiffel Tower. It was super easy to navigate, and this is coming from someone who lives in the South and hardly ever uses public transportation. We walked around the base of the Eiffel Tower, took hundreds of pictures, and then opted for a Seine River cruise to see the city from the water.
The architecture in Paris is amazing and the four to six o’clock hour was best for capturing great photos with the sun being in the right spot. We cruised past the world-famous Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and the spectacular Notre Dame Cathedral.
On day two in Paris, Viking guests were treated to a city tour excursion that took us to the Notre Dame Cathedral. An advantage of traveling with Viking is we are able to skip the long lines. We entered the packed cathedral as a group, then were left to wander through on our own. It was incredible to see the historic artifacts and sheer beauty inside the cathedral; definitely a bucket list check for me. This was the day before the tragic fire.
After that, we went were given free time to explore the area. I visited a few souvenir shops and had a delicious Croque Monsieur and hot chocolate.
Breakfast in Paris and the Marriott Hotel
Viking River Cruises provides breakfast every day of the trip. In this case, we had a designated room at the Marriott Paris Rive Gauche for our breakfast buffet, prepared especially for Viking guests. There were stations with eggs, potatoes, bacon, all sorts of breads, granola, cereals, Müesli, plus deli meats and cheeses. To drink, we had coffee, juices, water (gas and no-gas, which means carbonated or not in Europe), and teas.
Versailles Side Trip
Viking River Cruises offers a few optional pay excursions that you can sign up for. We chose to visit Versailles, which is one of the greatest castles in the world. The price was $150 per person.
Eddie and I joined others on the Viking bus which drove us through parts of Paris to reach the Palace of Versailles. This famous palace was the main residence to a succession of kings until the French Revolution. It is one of the largest castles in the world and undoubtedly one of the most lavish.
Versailles is a massive draw in France, so the lines are quite long. Again, when traveling with Viking, we were able to skip the two to three hour waiting lines to get into the Palace of Versailles and enter through a separate group entrance. But once inside, it was shoulder-to-shoulder with the thousands of guests visiting one of France’s most popular attractions.
Touring the castle’s many rooms were fascinating, as we learned about history along the way. Glistening like a diamond was the famous Hall of Mirrors, which definitely did not disappoint. Versailles is a National Landmark, seeing 6 million visitors per year, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site for over 30 years.
Day 3: Goodbye Land Trip, Hello River Cruise
We said goodbye to Paris on the morning of cruise day three and boarded our custom Viking River cruise coaches for Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. The ride was about 2 1/2 hours away. Local guides were waiting for our arrival to take sightseeing around the town.
We had a little free time in Luxembourg City, giving us time to shop for souvenirs or have a coffee and pastry. You will hear this phrase a zillion times on your trip “a cafe and bread”, meaning a coffee drink and one of the dozens of pastries sold in this part of Europe—from croissants to bunny bread (I was traveling over Easter holiday), and everything in between. I found the architecture impressive and the friendly city to offer affordable shopping and dining.
A Surprise Visit
After leaving Luxembourg City, we drove a bit outside of the city to a second stop–a surprise destination. We arrived at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial, the place where General George S. Patton is buried along with 5,073 other WWII servicemen from the Battle of the Bulge. The American military war grave cemetery is meticulously maintained and is a fantastic representation of the American pride in its military heroes.
I’ll admit my husband and I were both very teary-eyed as we browsed the solemn white cross headstones, the quotes by President Eisenhower, and finally, the 371 names of those still missing in action. Wow, just wow!
Afterwards, we got back on the motor coaches and drove to thee Viking Kvasir where we boarded the beautiful ship. At the boat, we were given stateroom cards and our suitcases were delivered to our rooms. Viking Kvasir’s staff greeted us for a welcome toast and then a delightful dinner.
Day four of our river cruise and our first port of call was to Trier, my favorite port in Germany. Trier is Germany’s oldest city that is highly picturesque and was once the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.
Our four-hour tour included Trier Highlights (St.Peter’s Cathedral of Trier, the Porta Nigra/the ancient city gate, Electoral Palace, and the Church of Our Lady) with a little time on our own for exploring. Trier is the birthplace of Karl Marx, so if you should wish, you can photograph a huge statue dedicated to him at the tourism center. Also you’ll want to grab a snack of ultimate cheesy pretzels or pizza spargel, affordable and really tasty.
Later that afternoon, our Viking River Cruise departed for our next stop, Bernkastel-Kues, an adorable little town with cobblestone streets in the Moselle Valley. Be sure to look for the beautiful 1608 Renaissance Rathaus (town hall) and Fountain of St. Michael.
Optional Cruise Excursions
Eddie and I took the optional Bernkastel-Kues Tour & Tasting to learn about the robust and Rieslings of this famous wine region. The price per person was 44 EUR. My favorite wine was the 2003 Bernkasteler alte Badstube am Doctorberg Riesling Auslese, with hints of honey, apricots, and vanilla notes. These wines are sold at Totalwine.com in the United States. Our tour took place at Dr. Pauly Bergweiler’s tasting room.
Other optional tours during our 12-day trip included:
- Historic Mainz and St. Stephen’s Church (Mainz) EUR 59
- Heidelberg & Martin Luther’s Worms (Speyer) EUR 139
- Alsatian Wine Tour & Tasting (Strasbourg) EUR 89
- Highlights of the Alps (Basel) EUR 309
- Lindt Exclusive Chocolate Workshop (Zurich) #UR 199
After the wine tasting, Eddie and I ventured up the winding corridors to have dinner at Gast und Weinhaus Burkard where we feasted on a fabulous pork Jagerschnitze and Spaetzle.
Amazing Wine Country
Day five took us to Cochem, which included a 5-hour excursion to the Moselle Wine Country and the 11th century Reichsburg Castle. We decided to skip the optional Viking sightseeing tour and see Cochem on our own. It is one of the prettiest ports of call on the itinerary with its half-timbered houses and winding streets.
I recommend seeing 1the 5th-century St. Martin’s Church and doing the Cochem Chairlift for spectacular views (840 feet) of the whole city. The fee was around 7 EUR. If you decide to see the 1,000 year-old castle on your own, you can walk up the steep hill at your leisure.
On days four and five of our trip, we were privy to scenic cruising through the Moselle River and wine region and French, then later German countryside. In Koblenz, we reached the river’s confluence with the Rhine River. This wine region covers about 22,000 miles of terraced hillsides completely full of vines. The world’s best German Riesling wines are grown here.
More Amazing Towns in Germany
The city of Koblenz was our setting for day six of our Viking River Cruise. We had a quick two-hour leisurely stroll to explore the area and then set sail for Wiesbaden. Things to look for in Koblenz are the Four Towers (shopping area), Festung Ehrenbreitsein (Europe’s second largest preserved fortress), and German Corner. Here, we found eye-catching cafes with even more beautiful pastries than the previous stops, more clothing and souvenir shops, and fountain Diet Coke from the local McDonalds (picture me clapping here).
The scenic cruising took us to the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, which is a UNESCO site. You’ll see quite a few storybook villages rising up from the banks of the river along the cruise, as well as campgrounds with thousands of visitors. At this time, Viking delivered cold spearmint refreshments to us on the top deck to beat the heat. Watch for Lorelei Rock, where the Lorelei maiden used to sit and sing, luring the sailor into his doom as they were astounded by her beauty and song.
After docking in Wiesbaden, we were free to explore the town for the evening. Eddie and I got off of the boat and found a fantastic Mexican restaurant with killer margaritas.
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Cruising Into Day Seven
On day seven, we were in Mainz for the Gutenburg Museum and Mainz Cathedral, the two biggest draws. This city was one of the major trade centers in the Middle Ages.
During our visit, it was a religious holiday so everything was closed. Imagine how surprised we were when the Gutenburg Museum opened especially for Viking River Cruises’ guests? Viking is definitely able to pull some strings to make passengers happy and frequently goes the extra mile.
The Gutenburg Museum is the home of the most famous Mainz native, Johannes Gutenburg, who invented movable type book printing. The museum is well done, showing printing progress and history and the delicate, preserved 42-line bibles. Today, only 49 copies of the 180 original Gutenburg Bibles exist.
After touring the museum, we were given two hours for free time. Eddie and I went to see the St. Stephen’s Church and Marc Chagall windows on our own. The church was originally built in 990AD, but during WWII, it was badly damaged. Upon restoration, artist Marc Chagall was enlisted to create the commissioned windows in blue stained-glass. They are truly gorgeous. We concluded our day in Mainz with sweet treats from a cafe.
Cruise Day 8
Day eight brought us to Speyer, Germany on the West bank of the Rhine River and to a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The gorgeous Romanesque Speyer Cathedral, circa 1061, was the main draw. There are eight famous emperors buried inside. I loved the look of the cathedral’s intricate building materials and its magnificent stained glass windows. The pipe organ was incredible!
Eddie and I enjoyed browsing around town, admiring the architecture and the wide range of snacks to choose from. Be sure to look for the clock tower. This is another German town with yummy pretzels so we sat down at Maximilian Cafebar Restaurant to snack on one and have a flavored tea. We also skipped lunch on the ship for a Hawaiian pizza and baked pasta dish at Restaurant Porta Nuova.
We concluded a fabulous day in Speyer with a visit to the Technic Museum Speyer, which also had a fine car collection.
Strasbourg, France on Easter
The ninth day on the cruise was our last day on the boat. It was to Strasbourg, France, the most beautiful and romantic town I’ve ever laid eyes on. We had a four-hour group-led tour of the morning, then were brought back to the boat for lunch. That afternoon was an optional wine tasting tour or ride the shuttle back into town to spend a few more hours exploring, which is what we did.
We strolled around the old town (France’s Alsace region) and took dozens of photos of the fantastic half-timbered houses and the meandering streets. It was Easter Sunday, but many shops in Old Town (Petite France) were open to buy souvenirs and have a coffee, gelato, or bread. I love the cobblestone streets of this gorgeous town.
Eddie and I tried to go inside Notre Dame Cathedral Strasbourg, but the lines were too long with it being Easter Sunday. Instead, we celebrated our defeat by having sweet (Nutella) and savory (ham and three-cheese) crepes at a local cafe (La Cigogne Bar & Creperie) and then a stroll along the picturesque canal.
Speaking of Easter, Viking had special Lindt chocolate treats for us in our staterooms and on our breakfast tables, as well as colored eggs. What a thoughtful surprise!
A Special BBQ
Back onboard after our perfect weather day in Strasbourg, Chef Jakub Jackowski and Captain Patrik Jermolin donned their aprons and took advantage of the gorgeous day. They fired up the grill to serve us passengers a special al fresco barbecue lunch. We had four types of sausages, mustard for dipping, potato salad, and several other side dishes. Lunch was served at Aquavit Terrace, which offers outdoor eating and a buffet-style lunch.
Switzerland was our home for the last days of our cruise, days ten through twelve. Basel was the first Swiss city we visited shortly after disembarking the ship, along with our luggage. We were transported by motor coach to Basel where we enjoyed a short walking tour. Highlights of the day included Basel’s Market Square and most-impressive architecture.
Again, this was on another public holiday (Good Monday) so Viking River Cruises threw in a special outing to see the Rheinfall, biggest waterfall in Europe. We had 90-minutes to grab lunch, use the restrooms, and take amazing pictures of this grand waterfall that reminded me of Letchworth in upstate New York.
Last Stop: Zürich
Later, we checked in the Sheraton Zürich Hotel for our two-day Zürich Switzerland stay. The hotel was stylish and contemporary, but in a part of town where there wasn’t much to see or do. It was, however, on the tram route and it was easy to use.
Our first morning in Zürich started with a breakfast at the hotel (again, Viking buffet for our exclusive use) and a four-hour tour including a walking tour of the city and Lake Zürich cruise. Grossmüster Church (founded by Charlemagne) and Limatt River were two of the highlights. Surprisingly enough, the white that appeared in the backdrop of our lake cruise was actually the Swiss Alps, beautiful and snow-covered. The boat ride was lengthy and a little boring, but it offered great photo-ops.
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Eddie and I stayed in town after our boat cruise for some shopping and sightseeing. We saw the twin-spired Grossmünster church with its stained-glass windows. Across the Limatt River, we admired the Fraumünster’s distinctive green spire. Marc Chagall created five windows of the abbey’s choir.
We found a delicious Thai buffet for lunch at the Blue Monkey and later had traditional Cheese Fondue at Swiss Chuchi. I highly recommend having fondue in the country where it was invented. The creaminess of the cheese was sensational, and you could taste the kirsch in it. Raclette is another popular dish on nearly every menu around town. The buffet at Blue Monkey was a nice find, too, and we loved the ambiance of the restaurant.
Switzerland is the most expensive place I’ve ever traveled. You can expect each meal to be between 25 to 45 USD per person (though they use Swiss francs) and bottled soda/water/small draft beer to be around $6 each. Below you can see $6 beverages, a $29 pasta dish, and $21 Margherita pizza.
Revitalized, Recharged, and Reconditioned
Eddie and I left our twelve day adventure with Viking River Cruises full of special memories, new friends, dozens of educational facts floating around our heads, and thousands of pictures. We both felt relaxed even though we had been going almost non-stop the entire time. This was one of the best trips we have ever experienced.
With 40+ cruises under my belt, the love I have for Viking River Cruises speaks loads to how dedicated they are to creating wonderful vacations and adventures for its’ passengers.
If you have tossed around the idea of a river cruise, I’d love to hear from you. I can also answer any questions you might have, or point you in the right direction if I can’t.
Life is short— live your best life today. Happy cruising!
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