Like me, haven’t you wondered what it was really like to take a Viking River Cruise? I have always been curious about cruising but had actually never been on any kind of cruise. You may find that surprising, but truthfully for some unknown reason, cruising has not been at the top of my travel adventure list. But that list has just been re-written!
Recently, I was presented with the opportunity to travel with Viking River Cruises on the Elegant Elbe River Cruise that begins in Berlin, Germany and ends in Prague, Czech Republic.
The room was larger than I expected, perfectly appointed with everything I would need which included all of the important USB ports, luxurious bath products, a lovely balcony and a gorgeous view of the Elbe. I was impressed by the quality of the fabrics and a comfy bed was a plus! The stateroom was certainly smaller than a hotel room, but I expected that. Viking does a superb job utilising the space with extra drawers and areas that can be dual purpose. Like a desk that doubles as a makeup table!
Where can you tour, learn and immerse yourself in local culture more easily than on a Viking River Cruise? Every detail was handled smoothly, every expert guide painted history so vividly, we all were spellbound. I learned more on this cruise about WWII than I ever learned in school. Just imagine walking the streets of Berlin and to see exactly where the wall was erected and pondering the anguish of the German families that were separated for decades. In addition to a top-notch crew, I met wonderful new friends as well, and found every person I met on this adults-only ship to be well-travelled, engaging and always interested in what I had to say.
One of the best advantages of this size ship was that it was large enough to give you privacy but small enough to feel friendly and comfortable. There was plenty of space for solitude and more than enough lovely places to meet up with friends and have a great conversation.
Tours & Excursions
Viking includes an excursion every day in the price of the cruise, which means that there are fantastic opportunities for cultural experiences without incurring additional costs. The following tours were all included, apart from the Walking Food & Culture tour for which a small supplement was payable.
A Walking Food & Culture Tour of Berlin, Germany
Who knew that a food tour of Berlin would be part of my Viking River Cruise? Bonus! In my opinion, food touring is the perfect companion to every city tour. What better way to understand the city culture than to taste the food that locals love to eat!
This tour was an extra excursion that I took with a few of my new cruising friends. As it turned out, it was more of a visit neighbourhoods/local food tasting /insider’s tour. Lucky us. In addition to tasting delicious local food like bratwurst, soft, freshly baked pretzels and schnitzel, we learned about unique art and urban culture that would never be found on a typical city tour of Berlin.
Adjacent to Hackescher Markt is probably the hippest place in town. Hackesche Höfe is a courtyard complex that has been renovated from old apartment buildings. This beautiful multi-use structure was a favourite of mine because the architects cleverly renovated this trail of commercial buildings to create a walking mall with a welcoming aesthetic, adorable shops and uniquely-designed comfy places to sit and have a coffee or a meal. What a highlight!
Sanssouci Palace – Potsdam Germany
Just outside Berlin, oozing with charm and rich history, is the idyllic town of Potsdam where Frederick the Great built his summer home. Sanssouci, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, actually means ‘without a care’ in French.
This beloved summer palace built in the rococo style was gilded, opulent, elegant and has been compared to Versailles in France. Built as a place of private refuge where Frederick could relax with his dogs, each room was created and designed for a specific activity. The music room was quite an intriguing and ostentatious space and one of my favourite rooms.
In the marble receiving hall, uncomfortable narrow sofas were propped against the wall and offered to his guests. The idea behind this design was to keep these visitors uncomfortable so they did not linger too long! King Frederick was quite cheeky, wasn’t he?
Today Sanssouci’s incredible architecture, priceless antiques and exquisite garden design amaze visitors and is especially lovely in the summer. The grounds are still as extraordinary as they were hundreds of years ago with splendid vineyards, fruit trees and well-tended landscaping.
Precious Meissen, a Disneyesque, tiny town of 30,000 people with a spectacular gothic cathedral high on the hill. This captivating little city is famous for the manufacture of porcelain and has been creating this exceptional quality European porcelain since 1710.
It is best to start near the top of the city near the well preserved cathedral which is adjacent to Albrechtsburg, Germany’s oldest ‘Schloss’ (castle) and make your way down the cobblestone streets. The large market square is decorated with colourful flower baskets in the spring and host to several festivals including the wine harvest celebration.
As part of the Viking Tour, we took an informative walking tour of the Meissen factory and learned why the Meissen porcelain set the standard to be the world’s finest. The insignia of two cobalt blue crossing swords mark every piece of authentic Meissen porcelain.
Truthfully, I have only just scratched the surface of all the intriguing cities and tours we enjoyed on this ten-day tour. Our was stacked with experiences that will impress and delight you. If you are even remotely contemplating a Viking River Cruise, do it! I easily and emphatically recommend this unique travel experience. This river cruising ‘newbie’ is already perusing the website to choose where to take my husband next year!
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Viking River Cruises.