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Everything posted by FuelScience

  1. Sorry you're having trouble finding what you need. I would suggest using the search function and search for the word Christmas, searching only on the River Cruise forum and looking in titles only. I've not done a Christmas Markets cruise, but perhaps the most important thing I've seen from other posts is to make sure that you don't start too early or too late. Make sure that you understand the dates the markets open and close.
  2. You might also check Avalon for similar itineraries. Their ships have a similar configuration where the front part of the sundeck is significantly lower than the back part. Also they have a nice open area in the front of the ship just in front of the lounge (similar to Viking's Aquavit Terrace).
  3. We did this cruise (northbound) a couple of years ago and enjoyed it. Avalon uses the Poetry II on the Rhone, so you might want to check out the reviews at the link below. Also, when you're in Tournon/Tain L'Hermitage, I would suggest skipping the walking tour and set out on your own and visit the Valrhona chocolate store across the river (about a mile walk). There are tons of incredible free samples, and when I checked out with my chocolates, the clerk dropped another handful of samples into my bag! You only have half a day there, but you should have plenty of time to load up on chocolate. Valrhona has a tour that gets mixed reviews, but everyone loves the shop. Enjoy! https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/getreviews.cfm?action=ship&ShipID=822 https://www.citeduchocolat.com/en https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g674303-d3704337-Reviews-Cite_du_Chocolat_Valrhona-Tain_l_Hermitage_Drome_Auvergne_Rhone_Alpes.html
  4. This is one you can do on your own if you're a little adventurous. You can catch the 357 bus in front of Centraal Station. The bus takes about 50-55 minutes and drops you off right at the auction. Our bus driver was eager to help us and make sure that we got off at the right stop. We took a 7:00 a.m. bus, but if I had it to do over, I would take an earlier bus in case the auction runs short (normal run is 7:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m.). You can also take a train to the airport and get a bus from there. The auction is definitely worth seeing!
  5. If there's a "must do" optional excursion, you should book through Avalon before travelling. On our Rhone cruise a couple of years ago, some tours didn't take place because not enough people signed up. The exception was for cruises where people had pre-booked. These excursions took place even if there were only a few people who had booked. It may have changed since, but Avalon's policy was that any tour booked before the cruise would take place regardless. If no one had booked before the cruise, then the excursion was conditional on some minimum number of participants.
  6. A couple of suggestions. First, just google what to wear on a river cruise, and you'll get lots of hits. Also, check out the blog at the link below. It's hard to navigate since the relevant posts are now archived (hint: do it by months). This cruiser posted a really comprehensive blog on what she packed for her Amsterdam to Budapest cruise. Also after the cruise she listed the items she wished she'd left at home. She also posted a lot on this site, but apparently the search function only goes back a year or so. https://rivercruisenewbie.wordpress.com/2014/07/
  7. You might give Avalon a call. they set a number of solo cabins aside for many of their cruises.
  8. Post #12 on this thread says that the cruiser docked in Honfleur on a Grand Circle cruise.
  9. Thanks for a great review. When planning your trip did you consider the Uniworld's one-way itinerary: Lisbon to Porto to Barca d' Alva to Madrid or reverse? We did the Douro in 2018 with Vantage and enjoyed the one-way trip: Madrid, Barca d' Alva, Porto, Lisbon (with an optional Madeira add-on). One nice thing was that Salamanca becomes a stop on the Madrid-Barca d' Alva trip rather than an all day out and back from Barca de Alva.
  10. My experience is a little different. On our Avalon Rhone cruise a couple of years ago, any optional tours that were booked before the cruise went on as planned, regardless of how many people had signed up. There were a couple of optional tours where no one signed up beforehand, and then only a few people signed up on board. Those tours were canceled due to lack of interest.
  11. Does the Elbe have similar problems downstream from Berlin? None of the lines serving North America seem to sail to Hamburg, but it might be a route worth pursuing if it doesn't suffer from the same navigation issues as the upper Elbe.
  12. Great to hear that you had a good trip. Look forward to hearing more. I have a couple of specific questions: Did you book directly with Croisieurope, or did you go through a secondary agency like Adventure Live or Road Scholar. I've heard that Croisieurope has a fixed menu rather than a choice of entrées. If so, was that a problem? Were you able to see the menus in advance and ask for an alternate entrée? Were English language tours available at stops? Thanks
  13. I wonder if Viking might be offering some last minute deals to people willing to put up with the bus tours in order to fill some of the spots that people are abandoning. I checked the web site, but didn't see any.
  14. Thanks Dave. We just sailed through Heilbronn with a little commentary as I remember. Future cruises this year will offer an excursion to the Federal Garden Show being held there. We were there a week before it opened. We took trains from Amsterdam to Saarbrucken on the day of departure. For those who opted for the optional Saarbrucken city tour, they were picked up at the train station and dropped off at the ship. We got there too late for the tour, so we took a taxi from the train station to the ship.
  15. I'll just add a couple of words. I'm hesitant to post since I've never sailed in Viking's Explorer Suite, but it may be worthwhile for me to mention our recent experience on the Royal Emerald, the former Scenic Emerald. The ship was leased by Teeming for our cruise. We splurged and got one of the two Panorama Suites. These rooms are on the top level on the back of the ship like Viking's Explorer Suites. Due to previous complaints, the ship owner completely refurbished the suites to deal with the vibration and noise issues. We didn't think the refurb was successful, and we were moved to a suite mid-ship so that we didn't have to deal with the noise. We used the dB Meter app on my wife's iPhone to measure the noise level. In our Panorama Suite the noise level averaged about 67dB while underway, ranging from 65 dB to 72 dB. In the Royal Suite mid-ship, the noise level measured about 40dB. We also measured the noise level with the engines off, and it was 35 dB. The noise level was worse on some nights than others. The captain said that water depth was a significant factor in noise level due to sound and vibrations bouncing off the river bottom. If that's true, it might explain why some people noticed the vibrations more than others.
  16. Krov looks interesting. Do you know if there are docking facilities anywhere near Moselkern that would be convenient for tours of Burg Eltz?
  17. Thanks JP. It was a good trip, and we're beginning to get over our jet lag.
  18. Sunday We boarded the MS Casanova on Saturday afternoon. We were shown to our room and got settled with no problem. After sitting through several announcements we approached the cruise director and asked about English announcements. He wasn’t aware that there were English speakers on board. We’ve figured out now that there are 6 of us, 4 from Finland and the two of us. So we’ve had individual briefings, and some announcements are given in English, but it’s pretty much a German cruise. This morning (Sunday) cruising on the Saar, there was a lot of commentary, but it was all in German. We didn’t reserve any tours before the cruise. The two Finnish couples who did apparently didn’t reserve them in English, so there will be no English speaking tours. The CD is trying hard to make us feel comfortable. After his announcements, he will hold a small session with the English speakers to explain what’s going on. Nicko has assigned seating at meals. The 4 Finns are at a table with two German ladies who apparently want to practice their English and didn’t want to move. So we agreed to sit at a table for 2 for the trip. We’re O.K. with that decision. The ship sails to Merzig tonight and leaves tomorrow morning for Trier. Monday We’re due in Trier around 12:30 p.m. Apparently we’ll be docked close enough to town to walk in, so we’ll do the city on our own, which is what we wanted to do anyhow. We’ll go straight to the Landesmuseum which DW hasn’t seen. The Landesmuseum was great. After touring the museum, we walked back to the ship going by the tourist office next to the Porta Negra and picking up some Karl Marx € 0 notes for some friends back home. Nicko is very efficient with dinner service. Everyone gets the same starter, soup, and desert. The only choice one has is the entrée. You have to decide on your dinner (and lunch) entrée at breakfast. So the kitchen can get the jump on things and get the meals out quickly. With dinner starting at 7:00 p.m., we’re easily finished by 8:15 to 8:30 p.m. After setting sail around 5:00 p.m., the ship docked in Bernkastel sometime before midnight. We skipped the guided excursion and wandered around Bernkastel-Kues on our own, doing a little shopping. We set sail around noon for Winningen, again arriving before midnight. Winningen is near the mouth of the Mosel. We set sail for tomorrow morning around 6:00 a.m. for Mainz. So we should pass the Deutsches Eck around breakfast time and sail the Rhine gorge during the say, arriving at Mainz at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday We got off to an early start, and then slowed down so that we would pass the Deutsches Eck at 8:00 as announced. It was a cool, foggy morning sailing down the Rhine gorge this morning. We sat on the top deck all wrapped up from Koblenz to the Lorely before retreating inside. I was a little disappointed at the Lorely. I’d heard that Germans always sing the song as they pass by, but no one joined in when they played it. The lounge is nice, but the windows aren’t that big, so one doesn’t get a great view from there like one does on newer ships. Unlike newer ships, there’s about as much outer wall as there is window in the lounge. When you’re in the lounge, there’s no coffee machine where you can go and push a button and get a nice coffee, espresso, etc. If you don’t have the drinks package (€169 per person for a 7-night cruise), then you have to order your coffee from the bar and pay. Speaking of ships, the MS Casanova is a nice old ship, but it’s beginning to show its age. For instance, the television sets in the rooms are old picture tube type sets with a screen about a 15” diagonal. There’s one channel in English so we can keep up with the news back in the U.S. Rooms have traditional metal keys rather than newer magnetic key cards. We made use of The River Cruise App this morning on the Rhine and it was nice. The app runs on iPhone and Android. The info for this section of the Rhine (Mainz-Koblenz) was $4.00. As one cruises the river, the app uses GPS and starts the appropriate commentary at the right places. This was especially nice with the ships commentary being mostly in German. The CD did print out a copy of his “script” in English so that we could follow along if we wanted, but we tended to rely on the app. Note that the app won’t work in “background,” i.e., you can’t start up another app and the River Cruise App will keep playing its commentary. Activating any other app stops playback and GPS tracking. Other than that, it’s a nice app. Wednesday: We enjoyed our day in Heidelberg. We arrived around noon, and we set out after lunch to walk around the town. I spent a year studying in Heidelberg in 1971-72, so walking around the town was something of a “sentimental journey.” I forced DW to walk by the Bunsen House (yes, he invented the Bunsen burner) where I’d polished my German at the Interpreter’s Institute. We walked the Hauptstrasse, much more relaxing now that it’s a pedestrian street. Back in the day there were streetcars and autos going up and down the narrow street. We also walked by the Mensa (student cafeteria, but anyone can eat there). When I would go in during my student days, I would walk a gauntlet of students forcing pamphlets into everyone’s hands urging us to “Support the People’s War in Indochina,” or “Stand with the People’s War in Northern Ireland.” I didn’t see anything like this at today’s Mensa. The chemistry building where I spent most of my time was across the river in Neuenheimer Feld, and we didn’t have the time for a visit. Frankly a visit wouldn’t have meant a lot with all the folks I knew there now gone. We did manage a visit to Käthe Wohlfahrt, but didn’t buy anything. We mostly wandered around the old time and stopped for a coffee and cake before returning to the ship for dinner. Thursday: We pulled into Bad Wimpfen around 8:00 a.m. It was a cool sunny morning, and we decided to wait until 9:30 or so before setting out on the town. There was a ship’s walking tour, but we decided that we didn’t want to pay for a tour in German that I would barely understand, and DW wouldn’t understand at all. We had a nice walk around the picturesque town (and a significant walk UP the hill from the river bank to get there). There was excitement on the ship this morning. A Polizei (Police) boat pulled up alongside as we docked, and then customs agents came on board from the shore. Shortly after the tour left the boat, all the crew were called to the lounge, and from what we could tell, the police and customs agents checked everyone’s passports and work permits. They were on the boat for 2-3 hours, but it looks like everyone’s still here. In the afternoon we took a walk along the Neckar, visiting the Ritterstifts St. Peter church. It was a nice walk before returning to the ship for coffee. Many of the cruisers took a new excursion to Buchen and a cave there. The excursion is scheduled for 6 hours. Friday After leaving Bad Wimpfen the boat sailed to Lauffen, the last port for this cruise. Due to work on the docks at Ludwigsburg and an event in Stuttgart, we couldn’t proceed any further in the ship. So we were here for the last two nights. Friday morning we set out for our tour of Ludwigsburg castle (€38 each). After about an hour on the boat we arrived, divided into two groups and set out on our tour of the 452 room castle (the Swabian Versailles). The tour was entirely in German, but enjoyable nevertheless. I tried to listen and translate for DW, condensing a couple of minutes description of a room into a single sentence summarizing what I had understood. After the tour, we had over an hour to walk around the huge gardens where things were beginning to bloom. This castle is definitely worth seeing. I was surprised that I’d never heard about it until the cruise. We returned to the ship for a one o’clock lunch and walked into town to get a little exercise and see the old town. Friday night was our gala dinner, and we prepared for disembarkation Saturday morning. Saturday Two buses left for the Stuttgart train station at 7:30 and 7:45. Those who’d opted for the city tour were on the late bus. We took the early one and set out for our train to Frankfurt. As always, I'd be glad to answer any questions. Also, I have the dailies from the trip, and if anyone's interested, I can post the pdfs on line and give a link to them.
  19. Notamermaid, I'm glad we did it. As I said, we enjoyed the cruise, and don't regret taking it. There were indeed hiccups, but that's part of the adventure.
  20. I found the food and accommodations to be comparable to what I've experienced on other river cruise lines. Not that Teeming leases its ships, so you may need to look around to find reviews of the ship that's being used on your cruise. For example, Teeming is leasing a Croisieurope ship for a Rhone cruise this fall, so any ship-specific observations I had about the Royal Emerald wouldn't apply to that ship.
  21. While waiting for a horse race to start in 1965, German president Heinrich Lübke is reputed to have turned to Queen Elizabeth and uttered, “Equal goes it loose,” a word-for-word literal translation of the German phrase “Gleich geht es los.” A better translation would have been “It’s about to start.” Anyhow, Gleich geht es los with this review of our Nicko cruising experience. German/English Cruise? We left Amsterdam at 8:08 Saturday morning headed for Saarbrücken. After a quick taxi from the train station we were checked into our room and settling in. Soon we heard the cruise director making an announcement over the intercom. No surprise that it was in German, but we waited to hear it repeated in English. After all, this was advertised on Nicko’s web site as a German/English cruise, and we’d confirmed that through calls and emails with Nicko’s home office in Germany. When no English announcement followed, I walked down to the CD and asked him about English announcements. He answered that this was a German cruise. He had not received any notice that English speakers would be on board. After some checking, he found that there were 4 Finns along with us who were primarily English speakers. For the rest of the cruise, he did a great job of repeating important announcements. For critical items he met with us privately to make sure that we understood things. His commentary while cruising scenic portions of the Saar, Moselle, and Rhine was all in German, but he printed out an English version of his script so we could follow along. I studied for a year at the University of Heidelberg almost 50 years ago, so I retain some of my German, but I probably understood 20-25% of what went on. Nicko assigns seating at all meals, and we were originally slated to sit with 2 German couples. We asked about moving to sit with the 2 Finnish couples, but apparently the 2 German ladies who were sitting at their table wanted to practice their English, so we ended up by ourselves at a table for 2 for the rest of the cruise. We were expecting the tours to be offered in both English and German, but due to Nicko’s failure to let the CD know that we were coming there were NO tours in English. We ended up only taking one tour (Ludwigsburg Castle). We walked along, and I translated what little I understood for my wife. I should mention here that there were no included tours. Nicko offered tours in every port, but they all required extra payment. Let me close this section by saying that the CD did a great job of accommodating us. He wasn’t the problem. I blame Nicko for advertising this as a German/English tour and then not notifying the CD or delivering on English tours. MS Casanova The Casanova is classified as a “Boutique” ship by Nicko. It lives up to its classification in that it has a certain elegance and classy feel. It’s an older ship, but in pretty good shape. It’s showing its age in some areas. For example, the television sets in the cabins are old ~15” picture tube sets. You can’t even buy these sets anymore. Move ahead Nicko! Our room was about 12 m2 (130 sq. ft.) and pretty crowded. There was a stool, but we never used it; if we wanted to sit, we sat on the bed. The shower also needed some work. Don’t know if this is the norm for Nicko, but cabins numbering in the 100s (ours was 114) are on the top level and 200 numbered cabins are down below. One shortcoming of the ship was the limited visibility from the lounge. Some sailing days were cold and windy, and the lounge was the place to sit if you wanted to be comfortable, but there was as much wall as glass in the lounge, and the front view was very limited with the musician setup on one side and a big wall dead center, leaving only about 1-2 meters of glass on the right side of the front. It’s also worth noting that in their documents Nicko warns you not to drink water from your sink. They say that it’s OK for brushing you teeth, but you should get bottled water for drinking. Demographics I think that this cruise had the oldest set of cruisers I’ve experienced. One solo cruiser was 100 years old! There were several people walking with crutches (no elevator). I don’t know if what we experienced was typical, but we met several people who do this same cruise EVERY YEAR. In fact, one couple had started this year in Stuttgart, cruised to Saarbrücken, stayed on the ship and were cruising back home to Stuttgart for a two-week total cruise. I should note that we really didn’t get to know too many people. Sitting alone at every meal limited our interactions. We exchanged greetings and small talk with the two ladies at the table next to us. They take the cruise every year and sit at the same table every year. Overall Impressions: The first thing to say is that we enjoyed our cruise. Our CD Ferdinand did everything he could to accommodate us and make sure that we had a good trip. We sailed the Saar and Neckar where we’d never sailed before, and we got to see beautiful sections of the Moselle and Rhine again. The food was comparable to what we’ve experienced on other lines—maybe tuned a little more to the German palate, but good. By the way, like everybody else, Nicko likes baked Alaska (Eisparade) for their gala dessert. Bottom line. I would not recommend Nicko if you don’t speak German. Maybe if I’d been more persistent before the cruise in assuring myself that English tours would be available things might have been different. Looking back at the web site and the documents I received via email, there’s absolutely nothing committing Nicko to do anything at all to accommodate English speakers on the tours that are presented as being bilingual. All that I can say for sure is that they’ve got an English web site, and they’ve translated their travel documents into English. If you do want to try some of Nicko’s unique itineraries, I would be on the phone making sure that I had a guarantee in writing of what would and wouldn’t be included. This isn’t simple. Nicko has no office in the U.S. (or U.K. I think), so you have to call them in Germany, and some of the times I called, the person who answered the phone didn’t speak English. All in all, they don’t give the impression of being serious about wanting English speaking cruisers. I’ll follow this up with a day-by-day overview of the cruise.
  22. The food was comparable to what we've had on our other cruises (Viking, Avalon, & Vantage). On difference is the fact that Teeming doesn't offer alternatives to the menu items. On other lines, we've always had the option of a standard steak, fish (usually salmon), chicken breast, or vegetarian item if nothing on the menu appealed to us. Teeming didn't have that option. We did a 9-night Netherlands trip. Teeming will have another Netherlands trip in July, but I think that it's 7 or 8 nights.
  23. Due to some computer issues, I won't be posting live from Nicko's MS Casanova, but I'll post a review after returning next week. I'll go ahead and say that there are only 6 "English speakers" on the trip, DW and I and 2 Finnish couples. We're doing OK!
  24. For something on the river itself, I would suggest a couple of apps. First, Rick Steves's Audio app. It has free downloads from his web site. There's one, "The Best of the Rhine" that would be useful. It is indexed by km marker for the Rhine gorge. The other is the River Cruise App. It costs (~$4 per river section, for instance, we just used the Mainz to Koblenz section). It has commentary and uses GPS to automatically start the commentary. We just passed through the gorge (sailing for Mainz right now), and we found the app to be very good. You can also tap an icon and get the text for the commentary or call up a map. Search River Cruise App in Apple's app store or Google Play.
  25. Teeming posts projected arrival and departure times for their cruises on their web sites. This cruise was through the Netherlands, so no real scenic stretches and sailing was almost all at night. They held pretty close to the times listed on their website. It was nice having those to plan our days. We're on the Nicko cruise now, but due to computer issues, we probably won't post a review until we're home next week.
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