The husband has been fascinated with Viking river cruises for years.  I have been less enthusiastic.  My idea of a good vacation is to get settled in a city for about a week and explore the heck out of it.  Get off the beaten path.  See all the touristy sites but then also have the time to explore a five story department store in Lisbon and go see a movie, for example.  A day at each stop just isn’t enough.

But, he really wanted to do a river cruise and he’s been dragged up and down mountains because I read about “something cool up there” on a website.  I decided to be a good partner and entertain his plan.  He started saving money.  Weird thing #1 about Viking cruises – You can’t really figure out how much they cost.  There are listed prices but they are vague and subject to change and what about airfare?  We saved until we figured we had it covered and then he called.

Thing #2 about Viking cruises – You have to plan ahead.  We got serious about scheduling in the early spring of 2018.  There were 2 cruises left available in 2018.  By that I mean there was one cabin available on a boat for a specific week on a Danube cruise and another one cabin available for one specific week only on a Rhone cruise.  Each of the cabins was in the bottom of the boat, or “steerage” as I liked to call it to harken back to my Polish immigrant great-grandparents and the fate of those on the Titanic.  This was good for our budget though.

How did we decide?  We picked the most boring one.  That seems counter-intuitive but stick with me here.  Reread paragraph one.  Ok, now on one cruise we’d be hitting cities I’ve longed to visit – Vienna, Budapest – and then sailing away the next day.  How do you pick what do in Vienna in that time frame?  Obviously, the Spanish Riding School and then compress the whole rest of the city into an afternoon.  When do you spend hours in cafes?  Even thinking about it in my living room made me start to hyperventilate.  So, we went with the Rhone cruise.  I’ve been to Nice before.  I never considered going to Avignon or Lyon.  We’ll get two days in each small city and in between we hit some small towns.  One day is enough to see each small town’s Roman ruins and fancy church.  I don’t feel like we’re missing must-see sites.

Thing #3 about Viking cruises – They plan for you.  The thing I stress over the most on European vacations in getting from the airport to the hotel and back.  I’m good from there.  Here other people are in charge of that.  They also figured out the air connections.  I was dreading that, especially with not arriving and leaving from the same city in France.   They fly you from the closest airport to your house.  Our closest airport is small.  We are relatively close to a larger one.  We offered to fly from there.  They said no.  We are going from small airport to Chicago to Brussels to Marseille and then from Lyon to Brussels to Newark to home.  Guess what this cost per person?  $300.  Yeah.  That took a while to grasp.  I was convinced it was a deposit on the airfare.  Nope.  We paid $300 when we booked the cruise and then they figured out our airfare later.  I want to fly to Europe all the time for $300.  Heck, I want any flight in the U.S. for $300.

After we booked our cruise, the husband started haunting the website.  When he noticed another availability pop up suddenly on our boat, he called and got us upgraded out of steerage to the cabin of the people who had just cancelled.  There haven’t been any other cancellations on the boat.  We’re classy now.  I’ve apologized to the ancestors for getting uppity.

We have our free excursions booked.  Each day we have a guided tour of the area.  Our afternoons are free to do what we want.  I just hope that our tour guides don’t have those little flags to keep the group together.  I don’t want to be part of a big block of tourists following the flag like lost little ducklings.