What It’s Really Like on a Viking River Cruise

Want to know if a Viking River Cruise is right for you? I’m spilling all the details, including what they don’t tell you in the brochure, so you can make an informed decision. I’ll take you from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland along the Rhine River with lots of stops at charming old towns and villages in between. This Viking River cruise Rhine review is chock full of information that is helpful in planning your own Rhine getaway cruise.

I took 8 million photos so it’s impossible to share them all in one post. I’ll break up this trip into two posts so stay tuned for part two next weekend.

Viking River Cruise Best Things to Do on the Rhine River from Amsterdam to Basel Switzerland kellyelko.com #vikingrivercruise #vikingcruise #cruise #rivercruise #travel #luxurytravel #travelblog #travelblogger #amsterdam #basel #netherlands #switzerland #rhine #cruise #cruises #vacation #europevacation

When Viking invited me to set sail with them, I immediately packed my bags! Who wouldn’t want to sail to all the charming little European towns that dot the riverside? We traveled in October and I highly recommend Europe during this time of the year because not only do you get to experience the beautiful foliage and cooler temps, but it’s much less crowded and it’s cheaper too!

Viking River Cruise Rhine Review - everything you need to know to decide if a river cruise is right for you kellyelko.com #myvikingstory #vikingrivercruise #vikingcruise #rhinecruise #rhineriver #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #vikinglongship #kellyelko

What I love about the Viking Longships is that they are just the right size to float down the river and get up close and personal to all of the little towns. Plus there are only 90 staterooms which means it’s easy to get to know the crew and passengers. I love that you only have to unpack once instead of changing hotels every couple of days.

We sailed on the Hlin (pronounced “Lynn) on the 8 day Rhine River Cruise from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland (they do the same tour in the opposite direction too).

Viking Rhine River Valley Amsterdam to Basel Cruise kellyelko.com #myvikingstory #rivercruise #vikingcruise #rhinerivercruise #travelblog #travelblogger #travel #vacation #europe #europeanvacation

Booking was a breeze and a few weeks before we set sail, a package arrived in the mail with our personalized itineraries, red leather Viking luggage tags and more.

Airfare Tip: Viking can book your airfare and while I thought I could get a better deal by handling my own flights, I was wrong! I saved so much money by booking through Viking and I was able to have complete control over which flights I chose. So be sure to do your research. We flew into the Amsterdam airport.


We decided to add three nights in Amsterdam before the cruise and we’re so glad we did! With 165 canals, I can see why this is called “The Venice of the North.” Don’t let the stories of sex shops and pot scare you away because Amsterdam is so much more than that! I’ll share more about our time here in a separate post. Fun Fact: Amsterdam has more bikes than people!

Hotel Tip: If you are adding on time before and/or after your cruise, Viking offers lots of hotel packages you can choose as add ons to your trip. We saved money by booking our own hotels in Amsterdam and Basel because we didn’t feel we needed the extras that Viking offered including city tours and shuttle service to and from the ship.

Amsterdam has 165 canals and more bikes than people! kellyelko.com #amsterdam #netherlands #canals #amsterdambike #amsterdamcanal #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #kellyelko

Day 1 – Board Ship in Amsterdam

We celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary this day (October 13) and what a way to celebrate! We were greeted with a bottle of champagne and that night, after dinner, we were surprised to find a special “Happy Anniversary” dessert waiting for us in our room!

A buffet lunch was perfect for people who were arriving at different times of the day not to mention a late afternoon cheese and wine tasting, then dinner before we set sail that night. Can you say food coma?

Veranda Stateroom on a Viking River Cruise kellyelko.com #rivercruise #rhineriver #vikingrivercruise #vikingcruise #vikingstateroom #travel #travelbloggers #travelreviews

Our veranda stateroom was small but well laid out and I used the desk as my vanity (I loved the huge, well lit mirror) which made getting ready a breeze. The veranda made the room seem larger and I loved being able to pop outside to check the weather or just relax with a glass of wine. The bathroom was tiny but adequate (I loved the heated floors) but don’t expect to be able to bend over to shave your legs in the shower!

I’ll let you in on a little insider secret … when the boats dock, they often tie up to each other which means sometimes, you’ll have another boat parked smack dab against your window as you can see form the photo above. This is common on river cruises no matter which company you choose but it’s definitely something I want you to know before you go.

Viking River Cruise bathroom - small but love the heated floors kellyelko.com #vikingrivercruise #rivercruise #vikingcruise

It’s all about the common spaces and the lobby, with its glass roof, was such a welcoming place to come back to after a day spent exploring.

Viking River Cruise lobby - love the glass ceiling kellyelko.com #vikingrivercruise #vikingcruise #rivercruise

The top sun deck was the perfect place to walk off all of the food we seemed to be eating at every waking moment but hey, isn’t that what vacations are all about! I loved the fresh herb garden too.

Love the top deck of this Viking River ship with herb garden, walking track and golf kellyelko.com #vikingrivercruise #vikingcruise #viking #rivercruise #rhineriver #travel #travelblogger

Day 2 – Kinderjidk

We woke up to this peaceful view from our veranda. After breakfast, we only had to take a short walk to our destination (led by our guide of course).

Tip: There is an intercom in every stateroom so you can hear early morning wake up calls and announcements of when and where to meet for excursions. If you plan on sleeping in, be sure to turn off the intercom!

Love our veranda on our Viking River Cruise kellyelko.com #myvikingjourney #vikingrivercruise #vikingcruise #rhineriver #netherlands

You may be wondering is it worth getting a balcony on a river cruise and I can definitely say it was amazing! However, if it’s not in your budget, the French balcony cabins with their floor to ceiling doors that can be opened to catch the breeze are wonderful too.

Today’s shore excursion takes us to Kinderdijk which is a UNESCO World Heritage site with 19 enormous windmills. This is an included tour so it costs no extra money! It is such a spectacular sight to behold and straight out of a fairytale. Our local guide took us into a working windmill where families still live today.

Kinderdijk Netherlands is a UNESCO World Heritage site of 19 windmills kellyelko.com #windmills #kinderdijk #netherlands #trravel #travelblogger #europetravel #rivercruise #rhineriver

A working windmill in Kinderdijk Netherlands kellyelko.com #kinderdijk #windmill #europe #travel #travelblogger #netherlands

Kinderdijk windmills are a sight to see kellyelko.com #kinderdijk #windmills #netherlands #travel #travelblogger #unesco #travelblog #europevacation

This post contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something, I will make a small commission.

My rain coat was the perfect layering piece for the unpredictable weather and I recommend a cross body bag (I love this water resistant bag).

A fun pair of giant wooden shoes at Kinderdijk windmills kellyelko.com #kinderdijk #unescosite #windmills #woodenshoes #travelblog #travelblogger #kellyelko

The best part about returning to the ship was being surprised with a different daily treat in our stateroom.

Fresh strawberries on a river cruise kellyelko.com

The afternoon was spent on board taking in the scenery as we cruised along the Rhine.

Day 3 – Cologne Germany

It’s all about the food and the breakfasts on the ship were fabulous! We loved the made to order omelettes. Breakfasts were casual buffets while lunches and dinners were more formal sit down meals. I loved the casual dress code because after a long day of exploring, it was nice not to have to worry about getting all dolled up for meals.

Viking River Cruise - love the omelette station kellyelko.com #rivercruise #vikingrivercruise #travel #travelblogger #travelblog

We boarded a bus for a short ride to Cologne where our tour guide gave us a quick lay of the land then left us on our own to explore. The Cologne Cathedral (another UNESCO World Heritage sight) is HUGE and it was pretty impossible to get a decent photo!

the massive Cologne Cathedral in Cologne Germany is a UNESCO World Heritage site kellyelko.com #colognegermany #colognecathedral #travel #rhineriver #travelblogger #europevacation

Did you know Cologne is where the original Eau de Cologne was invented! I had to find the Farina Fragrance Museum and pick up some of the iconic red packages for friends and family (and of course one for me).

Farina Fragrance Museum makes the original Eau de Cologne Farina 1709 kellyelko.com #eaudecologne #farina1709 #colognegermany #perfume #farina #rhineriver #germany #travelblogger #rhinerivercruise

When in Cologne, you must drink Kölsch beer in an original “Brauhaus” (a traditional German pub where the beer is brewed). The waiters will continue to refill your glass unless you put your coaster on top to signal that you’re done!  By law, this refreshingly light brew can only be produced in Cologne so don’t miss it!

Drink Kolsch beer at a real Brauhaus while in Cologne Germany kellyelko.com #kolsch #colognegermany #brauhaus #germany #travel #beer #travelblogger #rhineriver #rivercruise

When we had our fill of Cologne, we enjoyed strolling across the Love Locks Bridge to get back to the ship.

Love Locks bridge in Cologne Germany kellyelko.com #lovelocksbridge #colognegermany #travel #rivercruise #rhineriver

Love Locks Bridge overlooks the Cologne Cathedral in Cologne Germany kellyelko.com #lovelocksbridge #colognegermany #colognecathederal #rhineriver #rivercruise #travel #travelblogger

Our ship had a prime location with a spectacular view of the bridge and the cathedral! The ship has two dining areas and this is the more casual Aquavit lounge with seating inside and out on the front (or the bow) of the ship.

Viking River Cruise - love the views from the glass enclosed restaurant kellyelko.com #vikingrivercruise #vikingcruise #rivercruise #vikinglongship #travel #travelblog #cruisereviews

We loved getting to know the friendly crew including Captain Wim, Sara our Program Director, and Mohamed (or Mo as everyone called him) the Hotel Manager. They mixed and mingled with the guests and one morning when we found the Captain sitting alone at breakfast in the main dining room, we joined him and had a great time chatting.

There are lots of optional night tours too like the popular Cologne’s Beer Culture Dinner but we enjoyed touring the beer halls on our own so we were happy to eat dinner on the ship.

Tip: House wine is served at lunch and dinner but if you prefer a nicer bottle of wine and cocktails, I recommend buying the Silver Spirits package so you can get unlimited drinks any time of the day or night!

Viking River Cruise crew! See what it's really like to take a River Cruise kellyelko.com #rivercruise #vikingrivercruise #rhineriver #colognegermany #travel #travelblog #travelblogger

Day 4 – Koblenz Germany

We chose to tour Marksburg Castle (there are many tour options to choose from every day) which is one of the few remaining castles on the Rhine that has remained intact. We took a short bus drive up a winding road to the top of a hill and were met with this spectacular view! There are optional tours this day including a walking tour of Koblenz so you’ll have to decide which one works best for you.

View of the Rhine River from Marksburg Castle in Germany kellyelko.com #marksburgcastle #rhineriver #rhine #rhinecruise #rivercruise #vikingcruise #germany #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #rivercruisereviews

View of the Rhine River from Marksburg Castle in Germany kellyelko.com #marksburgcastle #rhineriver #rhine #rhinecruise #rivercruise #vikingcruise #germany #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #rivercruisereviews

View of the Rhine River from Marksburg Castle in Germany kellyelko.com #marksburgcastle #rhineriver #rhine #rhinecruise #rivercruise #vikingcruise #germany #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #rivercruisereviews

View of the Rhine River from Marksburg Castle in Germany kellyelko.com #marksburgcastle #rhineriver #rhine #rhinecruise #rivercruise #vikingcruise #germany #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #rivercruisereviews

Middle Rhine Castle Corridor

When we were done exploring the castle, we went back to the ship to enjoy the most scenic sailing day of the trip!

Viking River Cruise along the Rhine River kellyelko.com #rivercruise #vikingrivercruise #myvikingjourney #vikinghlin #rhineriver #vacation #europevacation #travel #travelblog #travelblogger

This stretch of the Rhine is filled with castles perched high in the hills. Most have been turned into luxury hotels! There are tons of castles on both sides of the river.

Middle Rhine River Castle Corridor - this stunning stretch of river has tons of castles kellyelko.com #rhineriver #rivercruise #middlerhine #castle #rhinerivercastles #travel #travelblog #travelblogger

Middle Rhine River Castle Corridor - this stunning stretch of river has tons of castles kellyelko.com #rhineriver #rivercruise #middlerhine #castle #rhinerivercastles #travel #travelblog #travelblogger

We sailed past this spectacular 430 foot Lorelei Rock where legend has it that the beautiful maiden Lorelei sunk the ships of distracted sailors.

Lorelei Rock on a Rhine River cruise kellyelko.com #rhineriver #rivercruise #vikingcruise #myvikingjourney #loreleirock #germany #travel #travelblog #travelblogger

A little wind and rain didn’t dampen our spirits! The upper deck of the ship has a clear overhang making it perfect for being able to take in the sights while staying dry. Viking handed out a map of the castles and Sara, our Program Director, gave commentary over the loud speaker. If you want to see the castles up close and personal, pack a pair of binoculars.

Tip: Pack layers! We traveled in October and some days called for heavy coats while other days, a long sleeve shirt was all that was needed. Also, pack a small travel umbrella (Viking provides bright red umbrellas but you’ll stand out like a tourist if you use one)!

Click the pics to shop some of my travel must haves …

Packing tips for a river cruise kellyelko.com #rivercruise #packingtips #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #rhineriver #packingtips

Rudesheim Germany

What a day! After being wowed by the castles, we docked in Rudesheim around 5 pm just in time for dinner. The only problem was, not many restaurants were open so we spent our time wandering around this charming little town of vine covered, story book buildings.

The charming Rhine river village of Rudesheim Germany has beautiful vine covered buildings kellyelko.com #Rudesheim #germany #rivercruise #rhineriver #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #vacation #europe #europevacation

I was a little bit disappointed and didn’t think there was much to do here (lots of touristy t-shirt shops) so we eventually took the scenic walk along the river back to our ship where it was time to dine!

Rudesheim Germany is a charming little town with beautiful architecture kellyelko.com #Rudesheim #germany #rhine #rivercruise #myvikingstory #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #kellyelko

Wein is a universal language!

Charming little wein shop in Rudesheim Germany kellyelko.com #germany #rudesheim #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #cruise #myvikingstory #wineshop #vacation


Viking River Cruise - love the Cologne Germany skyline lit up at night kellyelko.com #cologne #colognegermany #travel #travelblog #travelblogger #vacation #cruise #vikingcruise #myvikingstory #kellyelko #rhine

I’ll be back soon with part two of our Viking River Cruise where I’ll share more amazing sites including my favorite city that we visited! I’ll share who we hung out with and an unbelievable blast from the past that we ran into on the ship!

P.S. I posted more in my Instagram Stories here including some great videos!

Read Part 2 of My Rhine River Cruise Here

Have you ever been on a Viking River Cruise? Are you thinking of going on one? Feel free to ask questions or leave your reviews and tips in the comments.

My friend Diane wrote a great post about her Viking Cruise along the Seine from Paris to Normandy and you can read it here!

See More of Kelly’s Travels Here

Find out if a Viking River Cruise is a good fit for you! kellyelko.com #vikingrivercruise #vikingcruise #rivercruise #rhineriver #viking #travel #travelblogger #travelreviews #travelblog #vacation #europeanvacation #travelabroad #kellyelko

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  1. We took this fabulous Viking cruise a couple of years ago, so reading this post brought back so many memories! The canals and charm of Amsterdam (even the red light zone : ), the castles along the Rhine and the spectacular windmills were just a few of the many enchanting sights we viewed from the balcony of the ship. Having sailed on both ocean liners and river cruise ships, I have to say that river cruises have so much more to offer in terms of comfort, size and individual services. Highly recommend! Happy Anniversary and can’t wait to hear how you enjoyed Strasbourg!

  2. Oh, wow! I loved this! I get mail from Viking and wondered what one of their cruises would be like. I feel like all cruise ships have small rooms and bathrooms so that won’t deter me. The sites look amazing! Thank you for sharing! I am looking forward to Part 2!

  3. We were on the Viking Villi during that same time! Our trip was Amsterdam to Budapest and then we racked on days in Amsterdam and Prague. Beautiful sights on the river and cities. Loved Cologne, Kolsch beer, Cathedral and the Lock bridge, and also bought cologne!

  4. First, Congratulations on 24 yrs of marriage! Second, can’t wait to hear more about your trip, it looks amazing. The trip has lots of beautiful sites to see. Looks like I’ll have to add this journey to my list.

  5. What a beautiful trip! We haven’t gone a cruise before, and have even been reluctant. Thank you for sharing the beauty saw and tips on how to set up everything.

  6. Happy Anniversary!! This was very informative Kelly. Awesome job! I love the windmills and the pics of you and your husband. May I ask about all the purses hanging up??

    1. Ok I’m so dumb and embarrased. I just googled it and saw that they are locks, not purses. On my phone it looks like purses. 😢😔

  7. Viking is wonderful! We did the Amsterdam, Windmills and Tulips one in March-April. It was fabulous! So beautiful. We have been on the Seine Paris to Normandy. Highly, highly recommend that trip. We have booked and scheduled our next one, the Mediterranean Odyssey. Barcelona, Venice, all and everything in between! We always book the bigger Veranda’s. Sitting area separate from the bedroom/bathroom. Highly recommend!
    Did I say I love Viking cruises?!?!
    Glad you had that wonderful time. You need to treat yourselves to another!
    Thanks for sharing your trip!

    1. Wow Melanie sounds like you are a river cruise fanatic! We met so many people on the cruise who had taken others in the past and I think that shows how great they really are to have people keep coming back for more! Enjoy the Med! I’ve been to Venice and it’s fabulous but very crowded!

  8. Thanks for all this information, yes i have thought about it and wondered what they were like so i am writing down all these tips. You guys are such a cute couple no wonder your girls are so pretty.

    1. Thank you for your comment. We are taking this cruise this May for our 50th anniversary. First time on a cruise. Are there any hints that would help. It does not sound like there were any negatives that we need to be concerned about.

  9. We did this journey on our own years ago, visiting Marksburg Castle which was amazing. The stories told by our German speaking tour guide was incredible (we don’t speak German so we eavesdropped on a girl who was translating for her friend). I timed our trip to do the Rhine in Flames. To this day, my family still says it was the most incredible fireworks display we’ve ever seen. Hundreds of boats, decorated with Christmas lights, even though it was July, line up and we all set sail up the Rhine. From each of those castles fireworks began going off and it was a sight to see! We stayed in Rudesheim and when I woke up early in the morning and opened the shutters, I did feel like I was in a fairy tale. I have blonde hair & as I was gazing over the rooftops I heard clicking & chattering in maybe Japanese(?) below. Apparently my blonde hair made me look like a typical German Frau and they were pushing each other out of the way to take my picture!! I’ve always wanted to do a cruise, avoid the terror I always feel driving on the autobahn so I’m looking forward to the rest of your post.

  10. Hi, Kelly. We did this same cruise 2 years ago at Christmas (seeing those famous Christmas markets has been on my bucket list for a while and I wasn’t disappointed). So glad to hear you had a favorable experience. Coming from Miami, I thought I knew cruising. But Viking takes it up a notch. Also, while I’m not an ocean cruise fan, river cruising is a whole ‘nother thing. Travel is about your destination – the terrain, people, customs, etc. These Viking cruises allow you to appreciate and enjoy that. Can’t wait to read the second post. Bet I know your favorite city already! Oh, and happy anniversary!

    1. I went on one ocean cruise 25 years ago and wasn’t a fan! I know Viking does some though – maybe I’ll have to try one of theirs! The Christmas markets sound amazing and I’d love to go back for them.

  11. I enjoyed reading this Kelly – I did an AmaWaterways cruise in Dec ’18 – basically the same route you took, but started in Basel – I THOROUGHLY enjoyed it! I’m doing another cruise in May of this year – this time up the Danube (with Ama) – looking at your pic’s of the ship, ours was pretty comparable – that was really ‘different’ the way the boats dock next to each other!

    1. How fun Leanne! At one stop, we were tied to an Ama ship and had to walk across it to get to land! The Danube sounds fabulous and I hope you enjoy your trip!

  12. What a wonderful experience! Your photos are so beautiful and it’s nice to see what the ship looked like…It really is a good size and your stateroom looked comfortable too! Those huge Caribbean type cruise ships never appealed to me but this is definitely something I would like. Much more intimate with constantly changing scenery! Great tips, Kelly!

  13. Fun Kelly! That’s the same cruise Mark and I took last May & we loved it. We are going on another Viking River Cruise in September to France & we are excited. It was fun to see your pics of all the places we went.

  14. Kelly, you did a wonderful job with descriptions and photos of your excursions. My sister and I are taking the Rhine Getaway trip in July of 2023. Since the descriptions of the excursions on the Viking site are not very detailed it difficult to decide which ones to take. We are trying to decide between the Medieval Colmar and the WWII Colmar excursions. I have heard positive and negative reviews of the Medieval trip. Also it looks like the food tour in Alsace is a lot more extensive than the description of it. It looks like you see more places along the way than I had imagined. Thank you for any input you might have.

    1. You can always call Viking for a more detailed description of the tours Elaine! The Alsace was a highlight of our trip for sure. So many great little shops and food we would never have tried on our own. Enjoy your trip with your sister!

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