Monday, March 11, 2013

Our Bucket Lists

It's my turn at Vision and Verb today and because Astrid and I are leaving on a trip of a lifetime this coming Saturday, I had to talk about Our Bucket Lists.  So please join me there for a bit of an intro to this post about our Grand European 15-day river cruise.

It all started in August of 2011 when Bob and Peggy visited us for a week prior to their week's Amsterdam to Basel Viking cruise:

 It so happens we drove them to their Viking Helvetia and had all of about 10 minutes onboard before saying Good Bye.  What I should mention is that Astrid had previously declared she couldn't ever see herself going on such a cruise.  "It's so American!  This isn't something the Dutch do!"

But the minute we stepped onboard, she totally changed her mind. "I think I could do this!"

On the way home in the car, while she drove, I purused the 2012 catalog for ideas.  An hour later, arriving home, we had already picked the biggest European cruise of them all, IF we could swing it:  it was the Grand European Tour.

That week I immediately started an online conversation with a Viking agent in California and discovered we couldn't even book a 2013 cruise until December (2011).  But she would put me at the head of her list for the earliest date in the cheapest room at two-for-the-price-of-one.  It pays to be quick!  And to not care how cold it is!

And now, 18 months later, here we are ready to embark on the trip of a lifetime.  We saved all our nickels and dimes and didn't even have to go into savings.  We made it happen.  And if we kick the bucket next month after we get back, we'll die happy campers...having checked off the top item on our bucket lists.

Here's a snippet of what we'll see.

 And here's the map, from Amsterdam to Budapest, showing the 5 different countries.
(some passengers will go to Prague, Czech Republic, afterwards)

Saturday, March 16:  Day 1 Amsterdam

Arrive in Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, and transfer to your ship.* After boarding, the rest of the day is yours to relax or begin exploring the city on your own. (D)

Sunday, March 17:  Day 2 Kinderdijk

This morning, sail to Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you tour this fascinating network of windmills and other ingenious flood management technologies. After lunch aboard, enjoy an afternoon of sjoelen (Dutch table shuffleboard) and sample Dutch cheeses and jenever, a juniper liqueur. Cruise through the night. (B, L, D)

Monday, March 18:  Day 3 Cologne

You have a morning tour of Cologne, including a visit to the Dom, Germany’s largest cathedral and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After your tour, spend the rest of the day and evening exploring Cologne on your own—there are Roman ruins, interesting neighborhoods and wonderful museums like the Fragrance Museum and the Chocolate Museum. As always, your Program Director can help you plan your free time. Lunch and dinner are served aboard; we depart at midnight. (B, L, D)

Tuesday, March 19:  Day 4 Koblenz & Middle Rhine

Cruise past hilltop castles along the Rhine, stopping in Koblenz to visit Marksburg, the only Rhine castle never destroyed. After your tour, continue cruising; this stunning stretch of the Rhine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You pass the Lorelei Rock, which marks the river’s narrowest point; the rock is named for a local legend about Rhine Maidens who lure sailors to their doom. Lunch and dinner served aboard. (B, L, D)

Wednesday, March 20:  Day 5 Miltenberg

The morning is spent sailing along the beautiful Main River as it winds its way through the Spessart region. After lunch, stop in Miltenberg, known for its half-timbered houses, including the oldest inn in Germany. You have a walking tour and some free time to explore. Back on board, learn about the region’s glassblowing traditions during a live demonstration; you also have the opportunity to learn some useful German words and phrases. Sail through the night to Würzburg. (B, L, D)

Thursday, March 21:  Day 6 Würzburg

After breakfast, tour Würzburg’s Bishops’ Residenz, one of Germany’s largest and most ornate baroque palaces and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy scenic afternoon cruising—or instead of touring Würzburg, take an optional full-day excursion along Germany’s “Romantic Road” to Rothenburg, which features a turreted city wall and lovely Gothic and baroque architecture. Rejoin your ship for dinner and an interesting presentation about the European Union. (B, L, D)

Friday, March 22:  Day 7 Bamberg

Sail through the morning; after lunch, we visit Bamberg, with its medieval city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your walking tour includes a visit to the magnificent 11th-century cathedral, reworked in late-Romanesque style in the 13th century, and the very picturesque city hall built on a tiny island in the middle of a river. Take some free time to enjoy Bamberg and perhaps try some of the town’s distinctive smoke-flavored beer before returning aboard. (B, L, D)

Saturday, March 23:  Day 8 Nuremberg

After breakfast, disembark in Nuremberg. Visit the ruins of Zeppelin Field, used in the 1930s as Nazi parade grounds, and see the Palace of Justice, site of the famous Nuremberg Trials. Spend some free time exploring Nuremberg’s Old Town area, or join an optional World War II history tour including the Documentation Center Museum. We depart just before dinner. (B, L, D)

Sunday, March 24:  Day 9 Regensburg

Arrive in Regensburg in the late morning; after lunch, tour this wonderfully preserved medieval city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site including structures dating back to Roman times. Discover many 13th- and 14th-century patrician houses and see the splendid St. Peter’s Cathedral. During free time, visit the Alte Wurstküche (Old Sausage Kitchen), Germany’s oldest restaurant. Dinner is served aboard before our evening departure. (B, L, D)

Monday, March 25:  Day 10 Passau

On this morning’s walking tour, see Passau’s narrow streets and Italianate architecture, and pass the Veste Oberhaus, a 13th-century fortress that served for centuries as a bishop’s stronghold. Then, listen to a concert on Europe’s largest pipe organ in St. Stephan’s Cathedral.† Take some time this afternoon to explore Passau before returning aboard for dinner. (B, L, D)
†Passau organ concert is only available May 1–October 31 and is closed on Sunday.

Tuesday, March 26:  Day 11 Melk & Krems

After breakfast, visit the abbey at Melk, a 900-year-old Benedictine monastery featuring Austria’s finest Italian baroque architecture. Rejoin your ship; cruise through the spectacular Wachau Valley this afternoon. Before dinner, you have free time to explore the historic riverside town of Krems; see the Steiner Tor, the last remaining city gate, or sample some local vintages from this famous wine-producing region. (B, L, D)

Wednesday, March 27:  Day 12 Vienna

Ride along Vienna’s Ringstrasse, which replaced the city walls in the mid-19th century. You will also see Vienna’s world-famous Opera House, St. Stephan’s Cathedral and Hofburg Palace. Return aboard for lunch. The rest of the day is yours to further explore Vienna’s many cafés and museums; you could visit the home of your favorite classical composer. After dinner, enjoy an optional classical concert. (B, L, D)

Thursday, March 28:  Day 13 Bratislava

Arrive early and embark on a walking tour of Slovakia’s charming capital to see attractions like the medieval fortifications at Michael’s Tower, baroque Jesuit Church and Gothic St. Martin’s Cathedral. You also pass by several baroque palaces from the Habsburg Dynasty before you return to your ship for an afternoon of scenic cruising. Late tonight, arrive in Budapest. (B, L, D)

Friday, March 29:  Day 14 Budapest

The Danube River divides this Hungarian capital city into “Buda” and “Pest.” Explore both parts, starting with Pest’s National Opera House and historic Heroes’ Square. In Buda, stroll Fishermen’s Hill to Fishermen’s Bastion and Matthias Church. Enjoy lunch aboard with the rest of the day to explore on your own. Return to your ship for a traditional Hungarian farewell dinner. (B, L, D)

Saturday, March 30:  Day 15 Budapest

After breakfast, disembark and proceed to the airport for your return flight.* Or, extend your journey with 3 nights in Prague, Czech Republic, where you tour Old Town landmarks and Prague Castle. (B)

Europe River Cruise - Amsterdam canalEurope River Cruise - windmill at Kinderdijk, NetherlandsEurope River Cruise - Cologne, GermanyEurope River Cruise - Koblenz, GermanyEurope River Cruise - Viking Longship sailing near Durnstein, GermanyEurope River Cruise - Würzburg, GermanyEurope River Cruise - Bamberg, GermanyEurope River Cruise - Nuremberg, GermanyEurope River Cruise - Regensburg, GermanyEurope River Cruise - BratwurstEurope River Cruise - Melk AbbeyEurope River Cruise - Passau waterfrontEurope River Cruise - Vienna, AustriaEurope River Cruise - Bratislava castle, SlovakiaEurope River Cruise - Hungarians in local costumeEurope River Cruise - Chain Bridge, Budapest
Pinch me!  (images courtesy of Viking)
Oh, and did I mention that beer/wine with meals and the daily excursions are part of the price?

 Here's our longship, Viking Embla ** (image courtesy of Viking), built in 2012...almost brand new.
EMBLA is the Mother of the Human Race!

** ADDENDUM:  3 days before our cruise our longship was changed to the Viking Idun,
a sister to the Embla and built the same year...changed due to scheduling issues.
IDUN is the Norse goddess of apples and youth.

The longships are designed for the European tours to go under the bridges.
Our room is on the main deck.  Only 200 passengers total!

Do you need a bigger room than 150 sq. ft. for 15 days?
Nope.  Me neither. 
(image courtesy of Viking)

Here's a better idea of where we'll be living for 2 weeks!
 We will sleep in our own stateroom but will live on the ship.  HA!

Now you know why this is at the top of our Bucket List and why my Vision and Verb post today is about such things. 

Astrid and I made the decision to do this while we are still healthy and full of life...hopefully not just before we kick the bucket.  However, as Astrid often says, if we're gonna die anytime soon, please let it be AFTER our vacation!

See you in early April, God willing and the creek don't rise....


  1. Oh my goodness, what photos I expect to see on shutterchance. I know you will have the best time.
    This year I'm of to Canada in September. Hope to see Europe again at Christmas 2014.

    1. It is Mercury Retrograde for sure because this wasn't supposed to publish till tomorrow, Monday. Oh well. I'm so glad to see you here, Aussie. And yes, I'm sure I'll be working on images for a loooong time. HA! They;ll keep me out of trouble. :)

  2. Solar Panels and an herb garden on the ship! I am so excited as we will get to see it all through your (camera) eyes! My husband's family is from Slovakia - one of my daughters is a throw-back :) - the rest are blue or blond haired. The creek wont' rise.... Enjoy!

    1. I'm so "out of it" with Mercury Retrograde, Margaret, because this wasn't supposed to publish till tomorrow, Monday. I've just changed the date but your comments will stay, I see. It's the correct day for my V&V.

      Anyway, you can imagine how psyched we are. We've waited 18 months for this. It's hard to believe it's now at our fingertips, in less than a week. Once we get to Slovakia, we'll wave for you. :)

  3. It looks and sounds wonderful, I hope you both have a great time.

    The date did have me doing a double take and made me wonder if I had missed a day!

    1. It first published on Sunday, Cherry, and when I realized that was the wrong date, I changed it to Monday. But as you see, you still found it. HA!

      But thanks! We are so looking forward to this trip and expect to totally live in the moment of it.

  4. It was a long waiting, but today next week, we will be on the ship. Sometimes I have to pinch myself, 'is this true'. Like you said, we saved all dimes and nickles and €'s, to have this one trip of a life time.
    5 more days at work and than 'hasta la vista'....'arrivederci'...'tot ziens'...
    See you after Easter... that feels so good, I hope to hide my grin, but then, I think we kind of deserved it.
    This is a wonderful post, Viking Cruises can be happy with you on board, imagine after posting your pictures, everybody wants this trip....

    1. I am so excited I jumped the gun one day early in posting this. HA! Yes, pinch me. We'll pinch each other every day to make sure we're alive and living in the moment. I doubt we'll ever do this same trip again so let's enjoy every minute we can while we have it. And THANK YOU for realizing you could do it after stepping onboard Bob and Peggy's ship. That was all it took. I love it. :)

  5. Oh how I love that you posted your daily adventures! I'm printing now so I can read them every day and just lust after all the eye candy that I can imagine you two seeing! How deserving for you two!!!!

    1. You're a sweetheart, Robin. Thank you for following us along the way. It really will be quite the trip. I can just see you loving to do it one day with someone special! :)

  6. how fun, so happy for the both of you. so cruising is sooo AMERICAN eh?

    anyway, we've been cruisers as you know and we've been salivating about this river cruise for sometime now. we have not filled out 1/4 of the coffee can with our pennies yet so we have a long ways to go.

    but you two kids enjoy :) i'm sure you'll have the best time of your life. bring back some photos, i don't need to say that do I?

    1. You are so good at finding the deals, Maria, so I'm quite sure you'll figure it out eventually. It helps that we already live here in Europe and don't have to pay a lot of money coming and going outside of the cruise itself. That's one of the reasons we decided to do it now, while we're still living here.

      You KNOW we'll have scads of pictures, which I'll probably be working on the rest of the year. HA!

  7. I'm SO excited for/with you and Astrid! Thank you for this itinerary. It will be fun to follow you!

    Now I'm going to watch the videos.

    1. You can see why we're calling this the trip of a lifetime, sister. We'll love if you follow us to see what we're doing every day! Thank you.

  8. The long ship is fantastic! I showed Don, and like Astrid he said, "I could do this."

    1. Oh, Ruth. I could wish this for both of you!!!

  9. Oh my! Now that I've hopped over and looked at more details of your trip I'm REALLY jealous. This looks like an amazing journey.

    1. We'll over-the-moon with excitement, Maery. Thank you for taking a peek and sharing the journey with us!

  10. What an adventure! Seeing all these towns from the riverside will be quite a treat for you. As for Americans cruising, when I cruised on the little ship in Norway, we were the only Americans on board, out of 120 or so, and last fall on the Black Sea cruise the largest numbers of passengers were Italians and Russians, Americans were in the “others” after the Germans, French, etc. I have the percentages somewhere. While in Venice I saw a lot more British, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders than Americans but that could be the economy. I am looking so much forward to reading about your trip – what a fantastic route.

    1. We're eager to find out what main nationalities will be represented, Vagabonde. I know that eveything will be in English, so I'm guessing Britishers, Austrailians, New Zeelanders AND Americans will be involved. I'll let you know. :) I do know the ship is full!

  11. Enjoy your nectars! and floor to ceiling windows. Glad you are resting from your blog to relax into your vacay of a lifetime!

    1. Thanks, Susan! I can hardly wait to show everything we have seen. :) It really has been a trip of a lifetime!

    2. You are BACK!!? Can't wait to see and hear. :)

    3. NOOOOOO,Margaret! We're in Vienna today and won't be back from Budapest till a week from today, April 3. We have excellent internet service and try to stay up on things as we are able, that's all. :) But thanks for checking in on us.

    4. ;P Vienna!! Oh, I think this is cruise is on my bucket list :) Cheers.

    5. HA! You'd love it, Margaret!!! :)

  12. What a trip Ginnie! I can't wait to see your pictures of Budapest especially.

    1. Well, Stacey, it's definitely been the trip of a lifetime! We're in Budapest now till Wednesday and hope to see a lot more, even though it's raining right now. Rain or shine, we'll see as much as we can! Thanks.

  13. Definitely on my bucket list.. I should have come here as I know you post rather than looking in fb.. I really wish that my parents would do this trip soon... :)

    1. Actually, Jen, I had the chance to post a collage a day on FB while on the cruise! I will also make a post of that once we get back. We have one more full day in Budapest today and then fly back tomorrow, Wednesday. It really has been a trip of a lifetime that I could wish for anyone. If your parents can swing it, tell them to sign up early and get their tickets two for the price of one! It was cold this first cruise of the season but unseasonably cold, I've heard. (It's called global warming, I think!)