A Unique River Cruise To 4 Countries, 3 Rivers, and Scores of Castles 

Viking Idl on the Moselle River

Veteran cruisers John and Sandra Nowlan describe a unique river cruise itinerary that took them to four different countries on land and sea.

Throughout history, Vikings always had a sense of restlessness and adventure. Norway-based Viking Cruises tapped into that passion for travel and has become the major player in river cruises on European waterways. 

Most guests on Viking river cruises from North America fly into the town or city where one of the line’s longboats awaits them and leave for home upon disembarkation. 

A Different Kind of River Cruise

View of Paris from our hotel room
View of Paris from our hotel room

Our Viking “Cities of Light” was a unique river cruise, distinctly different from the ones we had taken in the past. 

This itinerary started in Paris and ended in Prague, but there was no sailing on France’s Seine River or the Czech Republic’s Moldau. Instead, guests were treated to two days in Paris and another two days in Prague, both at fine hotels, and complimentary city tours were provided. 

The actual cruise only began on Day 3 after a long, four-hour bus ride, including a poignant short stop in Luxembourg to visit the American Cemetery.

On the coach to Luxembourg
On the luxury coach to Luxembourg

The cemetery in Luxembourg includes the graves of more than 5,000 U.S. war dead, including General George S. Patton. 

General George Patton gravesite at the Luxembourg American Cemetery

General George Patton gravesite at the Luxembourg American Cemetery

Boarding Our Rivership

On day 3, we finally boarded Viking Idi, which was docked along the Moselle River in Trier, Germany’s oldest city.

A highlight there was the Porta Nigra City Gate dating from the 2nd century AD. It’s considered the best-preserved Roman gate in the world.

Trier’s second century AD Roman gate
Trier’s second century AD Roman gate

The 190-passenger Viking Idi, one of 80 longships in the company’s extensive river cruise fleet, is ten years old but well-maintained. Like most longboats, it’s 443 feet long and 36 feet wide. It was a tight fit in many locks in the rivers.

Navigating one of the many locks
Navigating one of the many locks

The cordial crew of 53 was attentive and professional during all seven days as we sailed the Moselle, Rhine, and Main Rivers. 

Viking Idl's welcoming crew
Viking Idl’s welcoming crew

The cabins seemed a bit small. Ours, located on the second deck, was 205 square feet, including a tiny, two-chair balcony. But it was well-planned and functional with floor-to-ceiling windows, U.S. and European electric outlets, excellent lighting and air conditioning, a heated bathroom floor, and fog-free mirrors. 

Our balcony stateroom on the second deck of Viking Idl
Our balcony stateroom on the second deck of Viking Idl

Fresh fruit was replenished daily in our room. Slippers were provided, but only in one size. Deck 3 includes 275-square-foot junior suites and two 445-square-foot Explorer suites. All rooms have a fridge, but only the pricier third deck has fridges stocked with drinks.

Public Spaces on Viking Idi

The Viking Idi’s Restaurant (forward on Deck 2) can accommodate all guests with tables for six or eight. The arrangement encourages conversation with fellow guests, primarily American but with a sprinkling of Canadian and British.

A small, optional dining area called Aquavit, near the bow on Deck 3, has tables for two or four people, but the menu is identical to the restaurant’s. 

Main dining room on Viking Idl
Main dining room on Viking Idl
Varied entertainment each evening
Varied entertainment each evening

The lounge (forward on Deck 3) is used for all briefings and entertainment. In addition to a resident pianist, several local musical acts, including a glass blower, were brought aboard in the evening. With a full ship, the lounge can get very crowded, with poor sight lines for many guests.

Food and Wine Offerings

Enjoying complimentary wines at lunch and dinner
Enjoying complimentary wines at lunch and dinner

As on most cruise ships, an “always available” menu—salmon, chicken, or steak—is popular, but most guests choose regional specialties like Zwiebelrostbraten (braised beef) or Wienerschnitzel, accompanied by complimentary Moselle or Rhine wines.

Regular or non-alcoholic beer is also available but Viking does not yet stock some of the better non-alcohol wines. Overall, we were very impressed with the quality and variety of the cuisine.

An Unique River Cruise Itinerary Even With Bus Rides

Endless vineyards along the Moselle River
Endless vineyards along the Moselle River

Most guests chose this 12-day Viking itinerary because it included four countries—France, Luxembourg, Germany, and the Czech Republic—and three European river systems. 

Similar to other Viking river cruises, the guests on Viking Idi were generally well-educated and often retired, with an average age of 65 to 70. A few complained to us about the long bus rides from Paris and to Prague but it was convenient to fly into and out of major cities. 

After leaving Trier, we sailed downstream on the Moselle, surrounded by endless, steep river banks full of vineyards. Grape vines covered every available acre on the south-facing hills. The river soon joined the even wider and busier Rhine, where we turned upriver for a glorious afternoon of top-deck relaxation. About 20 ancient castles, some well preserved and some in ruins, crowned steep hills on both sides of the ship.

Slow boat, fast train, and ancient castles on the Rhine
Slow boat, fast train, and ancient castles on the Rhine

Comfortable Viking buses took guests on a full-day tour of Heidelberg, home of Germany’s oldest university. In addition to stunning town views from the 12th-century Heidelberg Castle, our lunch was arranged in a large beer hall, with university students at each table anxious to improve their English. This was a unique opportunity for international friendship.

Lunch with university students in Heidelberg
Lunch with university students in Heidelberg

Our second to last day on Viking Idi was among the most memorable. We took the optional, extra-cost tour to Rothenburg, considered the best-preserved medieval town in Germany. 

Rothenburg, the best preserved medieval town in Germany
Rothenburg, the best-preserved medieval town in Germany

A 1.5-mile wall connects five gates with 13th to 16th-century guard towers. A lunch of traditional stuffed cabbage rolls was included in the excursion.

The world’s largest ceiling fresco at the Bishops’ Residenz in Wurzburg
The world’s largest ceiling fresco at the Bishops’ Residenz in Wurzburg
Elaborate rooms that rival Versailles
Elaborate rooms that rival Versailles

Afterward, we stopped in Wurzburg to tour the opulent Bishops’ Residenz. In the 1700s, prince-bishops wielded enormous power and wealth, so one of them decided that a grand palace would appropriately recognize his importance. It includes the largest ceiling fresco in the world and dazzling rooms that rival Versailles. 

Castles high and low
Castles high and low

We left the mighty Rhine overnight and joined the more tranquil Main River towards our final port, another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Bamberg, Germany.

Now the northern terminus of the Main-Danube Canal, Bamberg was the center of the Holy Roman Empire in the 11th century. The charming town is now best known for its Rathaus (Town Hall), built in the middle of a bridge in the 1400s (now a museum). We enjoyed Bamberg’s unique (and very tasty) smoky beer. 

Heading to Prague

In Bamberg, all Viking guests disembarked the ship and boarded buses for the four-hour drive to Prague. Our one break en route was in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg, the site of the emotional Nuremberg Trials, where high-profile Nazis learned their fate at the end of World War II. 

Viking guide in Nuremberg shows photos of Nazi rallies at this stadium
Viking guide in Nuremberg shows photos of Nazi rallies at this stadium

Nuremberg was chosen because it was the site of the most massive Nazi rallies, where Hitler gave rousing speeches to adoring crowds. That huge field and stadium was our first stop, where an excellent tour guide told us about the rallies and their impact. Then we headed for the market square for lunch and a final taste of excellent German bratwurst and beer.

Two days in Prague, including a walking tour of its Old Town and a chance to sample traditional stuffed dumplings smothered with onion and cabbage, proved to be a fitting end to an excellent twelve days with Viking. 

A typical Prague dish. Potato dumplings stuffed with smoked ham, covered with onions and cabbage
A typical Prague dish. Potato dumplings stuffed with smoked ham, covered with onions and cabbage
Enjoying traditional bratwurst and sauerkraut in Nuremberg
Enjoying traditional bratwurst and sauerkraut in Nuremberg

A Unique River Cruise for True Vikings

Long bus rides at both ends of a river cruise are not for everyone. 

But suppose a touch of Viking restlessness and love of travel inspires you. In that case, this unique river cruise itinerary offers the chance to experience four countries, three major rivers, scores of castles, and many UNESCO World Heritage sites.

This, under the care of Europe’s most experienced river cruise line, makes the adventure worthwhile.

Disclosure: The Nowlans were guests of Viking Cruises but any opinions expressed in this post are their own.


All photo credits: John and Sandra Nowlan


Read More


Save to Pinterest!!

River Cruise Pin

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *