Viking Tialfi Cruise Review by Ciao7777
- Sail Date: November 2018
- Destination: Europe River
- Cabin Type: French Balcony
I say that right away, because I wish someone was honest enough to tell me that from the start. Instead, I got cryptic emails from Viking. I then call them as the website suggests for updates, and they tell me I'm doing the right thing by trying to stay informed and to call as it gets closer to the day to find out about water levels. I called the day before I was going to leave and the cruise representative I spoke to had to put me on hold two times just to come back on the phone to tell me that they are still unsure if my trip would be affected by the low water levels.
Now that I have gone through the Rhine River cruise, I can tell you with certainty that your cruise will be affected. Even if it rained for a week, I don't think that would be enough to help the water levels. Let me put it this way, there were parts of the river that I could walk on. On the very first night when the Cruise Director welcomed us aboard, he said "I know you are all concerned about the water levels, but we won't know if we have to swap ships until the night before". Then, the captain got up, and made his welcome speech and said, "Yes, you will be affected". At least someone was telling the truth. The Cruise Director though, still insisted we won't really know till the day before. Then sure enough, on the day before, he explained that due to the low levels we would have to "Swap Ships". A lot of people had questions of course, but the Cruise Director stopped the Q&A session after a certain point stating it was time for dinner. Myself and other passengers realize there is nothing they could do about the water levels, but we didn't appreciate being left in the dark.
The Ship Swap meant we had to pack up before our tour of the day, and at the end of the day we would be 'bussed' to a new Viking ship, Tialfi, that was docked where the water levels would allow us to continue travelling to Amsterdam. The passengers from the other ship would then be bussed to our old ship. Our luggage would already be in our new ship, same rooms #'s, however, different crew, which was another disappointment, because I had gotten to know the crew members on Viking Alruna. We didn't mind packing up again, but what I did mind was skipping a port, Koblenz Germany. And even though Viking committed to making sure we got to go on all the included tours, the ship swap meant that we would not be able to go on the optional tours. I was very disappointed, because I was really looking forward to having dinner at the Eberbach Monastery. The low water levels also meant we couldn't do the "Middle Rhine Sailing" portion on our ship. We had to take a 2 1/2 bus ride to board a smaller boat that would allow us to cruise in the low water levels of the Middle Rhine. Note, the food on this non-Viking boat was "Horibleeeee" ! (A dry piece of Chicken (no sauce or anything) that was inedible with french fries - I just ate the fries). The Middle Rhine cruise itself, however, was magnificent, with memorable views of castles & fortresses. This is probably my favorite part of the whole Trip ! After cruising the Middle Rhine, we toured Marksburg castle, and then had a 3 1/2 hour bus ride to our new ship. They handed out lunch bags with a sandwich & fruit for the bus ride.
Despite all the disappointment associated with the water levels, I still give Viking a 3 star, because the crew was amazing, the food was amazing, and the included tours, although short (Not enough time on your own), were really amazing. (I'll do separate reviews with tips on each of the ports). Also, Viking is very organized with the Embarkation and Disembarkation process. They will give thorough instructions and help you if you need guidance.
I realize Viking and other cruise companies can not do anything about the water levels, however they can do something about treating passengers "Fairly" and with respect. I just wish they were truthful about the trip up front. I also wish the 25% credit off our next cruise "due to the disruption in our itinerary", would have been applied to the Current cruise - that would have made more sense, and have been a more sincere gesture.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
Amsterdam(This is actually the included tour with the cruise, but I could not find the port for Kinderdijk)View All 12,794 Amsterdam Cruise Port Reviews
Amazing Tour !!! Loved the Windmills !!! The windmills in the Viking Video was what drew me to this river cruise in the first place and it did not disappoint. This tour was beautiful !!! I thought maybe we wouldn't really be able to get close to them or see them very well, but we actually got to go inside one ! Very cool tour ! And the views itself are just amazing ! Exceeded my expectations.
The Windmills were directly across where our ship was docked, so after your "free time" you can walk back to the ship at your leisure.
View Cruise Critic's Amsterdam Cruise Port Review
Anne Frank HouseUnexpected highlight of the trip. We did visit Van Gogh, Rembrandt, & Rijksmuseum which were all great and worth seeing, however the Anne Frank museum was very moving & memorable. Along with getting to see her diaires, you will see the book case that opened up to the secret annex where they lived and you get to go inside the hiding passage way ! While you tour the house, the audio guide recounts her story.View All 89 Anne Frank House Reviews
Note, they can book up 2 months in advance so buy your tickets early, and heads up that it is a date/timed entry... and they are strict about the time.
Black ForestThe previous reviews are right, it takes about 1 1/2 hours to get there, and I believe we only spent maybe 1 hour and 15-20 minutes there. I opted for the hike, which was a guided hike for the first 15 min and then your on your own to continue if you want for another 15 min. I only hiked for the 1st 15 min to make the most of my time and went to the cafeteria to eat Black Forest Cake which was very yummy !View All 57 Black Forest Reviews
My boyfriend wanted to do the cuckoo clock demonstration, which wasn't very long either, because he had enough time to also watch the cake making process... until he saw me in the cafeteria eating cake and he then helped me eat the large portion of cake which was perfect for sharing.
We were pressed for time, so we quickly went to the shop to buy souvenirs. I really liked the motion sensor cuckoo clock magnets, which made a cuckoo noise upon motion. Very Cute ! There is an on/off switch, which is great, because after a while it can get annoying, but it is still a very cute gift idea. I just wish I had bought more while I was there, because I didn't see any of these specific solar magnets at the other German cities we stopped at.
I've seen reviews that didn't think highly of this place, but I really enjoyed it. I think what some people have to realize is that the drive there is part of the adventure. I thought the views were beautiful.
Note, the drive up does have a lot of turns. Luckily I read someone else's review that warned of this, so I wore a patch for motion sickness and I was fine. Unfortunately, there was one passenger who was so sick, she stayed on the bus and missed the whole tour.
We also did the optional tour to Colmar. I've seen past reviews and have friends who said they didn't think much of this tour/city, but I think what made this little medieval town so charming for me is that I went during the holiday season. The whole region was preparing for the Christmas markets and so the town was beautifully decorated. Also, I saw a video on Facebook about "Little Venice" in Colmar, which was beautiful. Our guide pointed out where we could find "Little Venice".
CologneBruhl Palace Optional TourView All 12,794 Cologne Cruise Port Reviews
We did an optional tour to Bruhl Palace, which I regret, but my boyfriend really wanted to see the Palace. First of all, they were doing construction to the side of the palace and the gardens looked nothing like the postcards. Maybe it's because I was there during the fall, but I didn't think there was anything special about the gardens.
After seeing the main house, you will have to get back on the bus and they will take you to the hunting lodge, which was another disappointment. Some people didn't even get off the tour bus. I left in the middle of the Lodge tour and went back to the bus.
Although this is probably one of the most ornate palaces I have ever seen (and I've been to Rome, Spain, etc), I really wish we skipped this tour and had walked around Cologne instead. The Chocolate Museum of Cologne was walking distance to where our ship was docked that day and I really wish I had gone there instead.
View Cruise Critic's Cologne Cruise Port Review
Cologne CathedralBeautiful Cathedral with interesting history. Worth the time, especially if you have a good guide.View All 144 Cologne Cathedral Reviews
Cologne Old TownCologne is a beautiful city, but I didn't think much of the included tour. The Beautiful Cathedral was the only attraction we enjoyed. We skipped the rest of the walking tour after the cathedral and explored on our own.View All 42 Cologne Old Town Reviews
Viking provided us with a free shuttle to/from the ship and to the city center for those who wanted to return. We had reservations for the optional tour, which I regret. I would have rather gone to the Cologne Chocolate Factory that was close to where our ship was docked.
I also have to mention a great souvenir shop, "German Souvenirs", that was close to the Cathedral across from where the Viking shuttle bus parked. I bought 4 beer steins and he charged 37.99 Euros for shipment to California via DHL. It did take 25 days to receive, which he did give me a heads up about, but they arrived in perfect condition. He individually wrapped each one and then added more bubble wrap to the entire box. I am really impressed at the diligence he took to package my beer steins. He also emailed me when he shipped them out (which was the next day), and when I couldn't track my package online, he resent the link and checked into it for me (he replied the next day).
I had to mention this shop, because the other shops I visited, didn't seem to have as much knowledge on the shipping process and I had no confidence in them. I was worried I would be paying for steins & shipping costs and then never receive the product. "German Souvenirs" knew the exact process for shipping out Steins. He told me the cost, the # of days it would take, and he explained how he was going to package it. Very reliable, very reasonable priced, & Great Customer service !
Heidelberg CastleHeidelberg is beautiful !!! The tour itself was a short tour of the castle, then a stop for lunch, and then some free time to shop (Very Short !). The included lunch was at a local tavern, which was great ! They handed you a large glass of beer as you walked in and the food was delicious ! The only complaint I have is just like the other tours, I didn't have enough "free" time on my own.View All 153 Heidelberg Castle Reviews
On our way back to the tour bus, we saw people walking towards a large bridge that was very close by. There were quite a bit of people taking pictures from the bridge, and then I realized what their view must be like from that bridge. Had I known about this bridge I would have walked there instead of shopping to really take in the amazing views of Heidelberg. (To see the picture/location, search "Old Bridge" in Heidelberg)
Castle ToursThe low water levels also meant we couldn't do the "Middle Rhine Sailing" portion on our ship. We had to take a 2 1/2 bus ride to board a smaller boat that would allow us to cruise in the low water levels of the Middle Rhine. Note, the food on this non-Viking boat was "Horibleeeee" ! (A dry piece of Chicken that was inedible with french fries - I just ate the fries). The Middle Rhine cruise was magnificent, with memorable views of castles & fortresses. This is probably my favorite part of the whole Trip ! After cruising the Middle Rhine, we toured Marksburg Castle.View All 18 Castle Tours Reviews
I read many reviews about the challenges of getting around Marksburg Castle, and was concerned, because I am scared of heights and wasn't sure exactly what people were trying to describe, so I'll do my best to be more descriptive here.
1st, the many steps - When you first arrive at the castle, from where our tour bus was parked, we did have to take about 3 flights of stairs. But the stairs were wide and you had a rail to hold on to, and it wasn't very steep. Our tour guide and a few others walked around up a ramp to avoid the stairs. I didn't think it was a lot of steps to get up to the castle like other reviews mentioned, unless maybe some tours weren't fortunate enough to park where we did and had to take more steps ?
2nd, uneven steps - As you first enter the castle, you will see right away what everyone means about uneven steps. The short steps at the very beginning aren't steep at all, but there are no rails to hold on to. It was wider, maybe 4 or 5 people can walk up the steps at the same time, but you have to watch where you step as the steps are not even (different sizes in width/height). As long as you are wearing the right type of shoes and you're watching where you step you will be ok. On our way down these steps, there was an elderly woman walking with a cane in front of me who was having a hard time walking and I was scared she was going to fall, and so my boyfriend helped her down. The cruise director warned everyone about the situation with the steps/stairs and added that the tour is not suitable for everyone.
3rd, steep steps - I'm scared of heights and there was only one step that I thought was steep. This was about midway during the tour when we went into a very narrow secret passage way where the knights would have to walk through sideways, because it was so narrow. The stairs in turn were narrow and really steep. There were rails to hold on to, except for one part of the stairs where you are transitioning to the next set of steps. Just for that split second, my fear of heights kicked in, but like I said it was just a quick second until I could get my hands on the next set of rails. Again, it wasn't a very long stairwell either.
Overall, the steps/stairs situation wasn't that daunting after all. I have to be honest though, if you are in a wheelchair, walking with a cane, heavy set, etc, this tour may be a challenge.
The short tour of the castle itself was cool, with a lot of rooms, weapons, etc still intact. Worth visiting, but again, my complaint as with the other tours is the very short "free" time you have on your own. I didn't get time to buy souvenirs in the shop as the line to pay was too long by the time my tour was over. I also wanted to buy some hot chocolate and goodies before the 3 1/2 hours trip back to the ship, but I didn't have time. (Note, we were affected by a Ship Swap which meant longer bus rides).
After a few tours, we finally figured out a trick to getting more "free" time.... You don't have to finish the tour if you don't want to, just be sure you know where the meeting point is. Also, If you are placed in a group that had to wait till your group was called to start the tour (such was the case at Marksburg Castle), try and jump in with a group that has an earlier start time.
StrasbourgStrasbourg is much bigger and has much more of a big city feel than Colmar, because of the modern shops, while still having some medieval influences, such as the beautiful "Notre Dame Cathedral of Strasbourg", which is definitely worth a visit. What also made this city so charming is that I went during the holiday season so the whole region was preparing for the Christmas markets. These are some of the most beautiful decorations I have ever seen !View All 135 Strasbourg Cruise Port Reviews
We took the included tour and then went back to the ship for lunch. We then went back with the free shuttle Viking provided for the afternoon.
View Cruise Critic's Strasbourg Cruise Port Review