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3rdCoastFan

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  1. An idea if you're Amsterdam proper with a few hours to spare - Hungry Birds. We loved our Hungry Birds food and walking tour last spring. They reply quickly over email - you could ask for a sample itinerary to see if the tours would cover places you haven't visited yet. We really appreciated the curated guide to all of the food influences - we had a fun group and a great guide, too, so that made it even more enjoyable. https://www.hungrybirds.nl/
  2. Worth noting, too, that the included beer is limited to Bitburger -- which is very decent but it's something you may tire of before the week is out. Similarly, there was one red and one white available (a blend and a dry Riesling, if I recall) that did not change during the trip. I was glad to try different wines most nights. I received multiple answers from the Viking customer service reps prior to my trip about what was included in the beverage package (all wines? all spirits?). Once I was on board, I found that certain bottles of wine were not included but every spirit (including the high end single-malt whiskies) was included.
  3. O'Hare has been doing a decent job of making improvements. Terminal 3 has a restaurant called Publican Tavern that I still seek out even if I'm flying out of Terminal 1. All things being equal, I don't think there's a particular downside to the earlier flight - 4 hours at O'Hare can pass by quickly enough.
  4. I'd like to echo the suggestion to review the comparison stickies in this forum. Viking has a great PR team and I had no idea there were so many options for river cruises until I started to read posts here in advance of my Viking cruise last spring. I don't regret sailing on Viking in the least - the price was right given what we were looking for and with the air fare deal we secured. As far as optional excursions, prices varied on my Rhine cruise last April. Dinners in a particular town were around $100/person. Daytime tours may have been $50-75/person. An all-day excursion - like the Alsatian food/wine in Strasbourg - was close to $200/person. Once you select a line and specific cruise, you may want to read through 'roll call' threads from past years to get more feedback on specific excursions. You can sign up ahead of time - or wait until you're on the boat. You may find that some are sold out if you wait that long, though. The 'included' excursions never sell out (at least on Viking cruises). The included excursions were generally good on my Rhine cruise. At times, the boat would make a brief stop early in the morning so that everyone could board buses. We would then ride to the port town and do our tour while our boat continued to sail. Other times, and I'm thinking of Strasbourg, in particular, you get a lengthy bus ride before getting dropped off outside the city center. Strasbourg does not permit buses to enter the city center so that's not anything Viking can control - but, point being, if you're expecting every port stop to be smack dab in the middle of a town, you should re-calibrate your expectations. As far as Viking ships, there are two "prestige" class ships on the Danube - the Viking Legend and Viking Prestige. I'm sure these are fine but if you pick a cruise on the Danube, I would prioritize a cruise on one of the Longships.
  5. The attached PDF may be helpful (downloaded via: https://www.zurich-airport.com/passengers-and-visitors/arrivals-and-departures/transfers ). The longest walk between gates appears to be 30 minutes. Provided the incoming flight is on time, 90 minutes should be more than sufficient. It may also help your anxiety to look at other departures to AMS that day. If the BOS-ZHR and ZHR-AMS flights are on the same ticket, Swiss is obligated to put you on the next available flight. There appears to be a 5:30pm flight on Swiss that should still work as well as options via KLM. Would you be able to change to the earlier Swiss departure (assuming there is one - I don't know if the 5pm and 9:45pm flights are daily departures)? That may get you a 6hr layover - arguably too long (though long enough where you could get into the city of Zurich for a little bit). Flyer_transferinformation_20171028_EN.pdf
  6. Just chiming in with my experience - during our Rhine cruise last April, we could pre-pay in USD or let Viking invoice gratuities in Euros to our account when we checked out. I think the amount was roughly equivalent after converting Euros to USD. Note that Viking counted all 8 days of the trip, even if the first and last day were abbreviated due to embarktation and disembarktation. That didn't bother us too much, but others may feel differently. If you want to give anyone their own tip, maybe a favorite waiter or bartender, etc., you must do so with cash handed directly to them. There's no way to single someone out if you pre-pay or charge gratuities to your room account.
  7. Jumping in as a fellow Gen Xer - on our Rhine Getaway last spring, we were definitely the youngest couple on board. This generated some amount of curiosity from fellow passengers but nothing ill-intentioned (though one couple referred to us, jokingly (I assume), as the "breeding pair" and promised to save us first in case of a cataclysmic accident). We generally ate meals on the Aquavit Terrace which was nice - we didn't share any of the large tables in the main dining room. On excursions, you can generally wander off on your own - just tell the guide and be sure to meet everyone at the end point on time. Given the unpredictability of when you can arrive and leave from a given port, it can be a challenge to strike on your own entirely - you may have to rely on the ship's buses to get back and forth, for example. We did have an absolutely lovely time overall. It was exactly the type of vacation we were looking for - relaxing, good food, easy to unplug from the rest of world (first time a bad wifi connection was good for anything...) and a variety of sights, cities and experiences we would not have enjoyed otherwise.
  8. While the entire terrace is available or lunch, they only prepared 6 tables for dinner (4 4-tops and 2 2-tops, if I recall correctly). These tables are all 'inside' so if they close the glass doors, I wouldn't expect temperature to be a concern. There are heat lamps on the outside portion, though, and they have plenty of blankets available. Dinner service started at 7:15 and the same menu as the one in the dining room was available. Same beverage options, too. At the start of my cruise, 1-2 tables remained open during dinner. By the end, though, people were showing up at 7 and found all of the tables occupied. On my cruise, most everyone just defaulted to the dining room - or perhaps didn't know that dinner was available on the terrace. Since the terrace never closes, one could hang out as early as you like and snag a table that way.
  9. When I was in Amsterdam last April prior to my river cruise, we booked a tour through Viator. We met at Centraal and traveled by bus to a bulb farm first and then to Keukenhof. As I check now, though, I see that the tour is marked "not wheelchair accessible". Perhaps they offer alternatives that would be accessible, even if i means skipping the bulb farm?
  10. We had no issues with our US cards last April when going through Germany. No issues when I was in Prague last, either. Odds are good that you may get some confused waiters in restaurants since the card reader will spit out a slip for you to sign but that should be the extent of it. Actually, I did sometimes have trouble with ticket kiosks for trains or public transit. Those would often ask for a pin - I could sometimes get away with just hitting enter or I would use a different card. Not sure if that will even come up since you're traveling with Avalon, though!
  11. I think Viking winds up being a common first timer experience, certainly for those of us in the US - they advertise quite heavily here. When we decided to take our April 2019 cruise in February 2018, we didn't do much comparison shopping. In the time since, I've been surprised at how many cruise lines operate along European rivers. I don't think any of @jeremybe's cons are necessarily out of line - but despite (or perhaps because of) the heavy advertising by Viking, I never expected them on my cruise. That is, Viking is pretty clear about what they offer and that does not include true open dining or bikes, etc. There are other river cruise lines that have multiple dining options, fewer passengers per ship, bikes, butler service, etc. - but you're going to pay more for them than what you did on Viking and you may find fewer sailings to pick from. For example, you could leave on May 20, 2020 from Amsterdam to Basel on Scenic and pay $4200 for the cheapest room - or depart on Viking and pay $3500. It's not the best comparison since Scenic includes airfare; there's also a sale price for Viking that brings it down to $3000 (not including airfare). Still, if you want some of those extras as noted above, they are out there. An old co-worker of mine is a big fan of ocean cruising. She was shocked at the price we paid for our river cruise compared to what she typically pays for her family of 4. But that's just it - ocean and river cruising are very different and it's difficult to compare the two. I think Viking delivers quite a bit for the cost when compared to other river cruise lines. Comfortable is a good word to describe the trip - and not anything I would think of as a negative. It was very easy for us to completely unplug from our lives and enjoy the experience. I didn't love the rigid dining times but I knew that going into it. Same with some of the bus rides from a dock into town - not great, but I knew what to expect. The current payment requirements are absurd but I still wouldn't think twice about taking another Viking cruise if/when the right opportunity presents itself.
  12. On my Rhine cruise last spring, the included wine was limited to one red and one white throughout the cruise (neither of which I particularly liked) and the included beer was Bitburger (which is fine but not something I want to drink every day). The drinks package made sense to me but, obviously, tastes vary.
  13. If it's helpful, below is the wine list from my Rhine Getaway last spring. This should give you an idea of the variety available - many of these were available via the Silver Spirits package, too.
  14. Viking will likely have a couple of walking tours arranged in the late morning/early afternoon. Nothing too elaborate - just enough to give you a basic overview of the city center. Depending on where the boat is docked, these may depart from the boat itself or you may need to use a shuttle, provided by Viking. I was able to drop off my luggage as early as 9am and then took a tour I had arranged on my own. When I returned to the ship around 5, my luggage had already been moved to my room. A lot of the major museums appear to open at 9am. Canal tours probably start even earlier. But that also depends on your amount of jet lag and what you're comfortable with. Personally, I would try to drop my luggage off at the ship and then get breakfast somewhere. I've always enjoyed Bakers & Roasters (two locations, one is convenient to Centraal Station @Kadijksplein 16) and then visit a museum or two. Add in a canal boat tour (which typically run 45-60 minutes) and that should be enough to fill the time before your room is ready.
  15. Munich is generally regarded as an excellent airport for connections. 90 minutes is about twice the minimum connection time for Munich so assuming planes are on time, you will have no issues. Odds are that your luggage will make it to the flight before you. When we were coming back from our Rhine cruise last spring, we had about 50 minutes in Munich to connect from our flight from Basel to Chicago. While we certainly hustled, I don't think it took us more than 25-30 minutes to get from a remote jetway, via bus, to our gate. It also looks like there are several flights between MUC and NUE. I assume they put you on the first one in the morning (perhaps at or around 8:40am)? The next flight out would be at 1:15 and while waiting around in an airport is a crummy way to start a vacation, at least you won't be stuck overnight.
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