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(Photo Credit: Missy Glassmaker)
I recently took a Viking River Cruise on their Rhine Getaway itinerary cruising down the Rhine River for eight days. It was an incredible journey visiting four countries and experiencing their distinct cuisine along the way. A river cruise is a very different experience from an ocean cruise when it comes to dining. On Viking River cruises, you can dine in the main dining area or at the Aquavit Terrace, which is an indoor-outdoor dining area. Both serve the same menu for each meal. Although it doesn’t have the variety you will find on the ocean ships, I ate very well.
Viking does a great job curating experiences that provide excellent opportunities to visit small local businesses and creators both on the ship as well as on their excursions. I am quite the foodie and consider food and wine an important component of travel. Meeting local cheese and winemakers as well as many others filled that need for me.
I was on a press trip for Viking Rivers Cruises on their newest ship, the Egdir. All opinions are my own.
Pro Tip: Each day Viking provides a Viking Daily, a four-page flier with the next day’s schedule as well as historical, cultural, and culinary information about your next destination. The culinary section can give you ideas of what you might want to taste during your visit.
Every morning I ate breakfast at the Aquavit Terrace. Our cruise was still on the chilly side, so I often had it all to myself. The view was lovely from the front of the ship, especially if cruising.
I ate the same thing just about every day. I love a European-style breakfast with meats and cheeses and fresh bread and croissants. Noshing on a crispy, buttery croissant and sipping fresh coffee, well it doesn’t get much better than that. You can also order breakfast items off the menu. One day, I just felt like eggs and was able to customize a one-egg omelet. It was just the right size and allowed room for croissants.
On both sides of the ship just outside the lounge are two coffee stations. A high-tech machine dispenses coffee, lattes, cappuccinos, and hot chocolate. A water dispenser offers still or sparkling water. In the morning, find breakfast pastries and, in the afternoon and evening, a variety of cookies which change each day.
Pro Tip: If you like a late-night snack, snag a few favorites to bring back to your room because there is no food available later at night.
The Viking River Cruise menus have a section of items that are available each day and then a daily menu. I loved the variety of fresh salads with a new one each day. I really enjoyed these and loved that it was a smaller portion so you could enjoy something else as well. This was a good thing as each day the chef prepares a selection of appetizers and small bites to choose from. Always so fresh and appetizing that I often chose more than one!
One afternoon on a rare sunny day during our trip, I was able to dine outside on the Aquavit Terrace. The service was excellent, and the brownie dessert served at lunch that day was the best ever. The decadent, dark chocolatey goodness of the brownie was drizzled with a buttery, rich caramel sauce then topped with roasted pecans and served with a side of vanilla ice cream. So memorable.
What a treat to enjoy traditional Black Forest Cake in the Black Forest. The included excursion was a bus trip that took us to Hofgut Sternen, Germany — the Black Forest Village. From its humble beginnings as a 13th-century medieval horse station, it has evolved into a stop for visitors to the region. The long tradition of craftsmanship in the area is supported by the shops in the Black Forest Village.
Black Forest Cake is a culinary treat that infuses layers of chocolate sponge cake with kirsch, a local cherry brandy, mounds of whipped cream, sour cherries, and chocolate shavings. Enjoy a slice and pick up the recipe during your visit.
Pro Tip: The village can get rather crowded, so while everyone is exploring enjoy your cake first. The restaurant offered a special for Viking cruisers that included a slice of traditional Black Forest Cake and a cup of coffee. I enjoyed having the place to myself, and then I explored the village and even had time to hike a bit.
I love meeting fellow writers during a press trip because they know things. Chris Owen of Chris Cruises is an expert on Viking Cruises, having been on over 30. When docked in Koblenz, he loves to get a Currywurst with pommes frites (fries) at an imbiss (a German fast-food stand) near the ship. Seeing the joy on his face munching on one of his favorite treats, I of course had to try one. Yum! Hard to believe this is fast food.
I took the optional Flavors of Alsace excursion, which involved walking and eating throughout the Grande-Île UNESCO World Heritage Site of Strasbourg in France. This historic area is filled with small shops and eateries with a culinary heritage that is a blend of French and German cuisine. Here are a few of my favorites…
I enjoyed this delicious Alsatian traditional flame-cooked dish at the Le Gruber Vinstube, which strives to preserve the authenticity of Alsatian cuisine and the traditional Vinstubes. Flammenkuchen is like a pizza, but the crust is super thin. The traditional savory version has a light delicate crust and is topped with a creamy sauce, bacon lardons, onions, and cheese. A more dramatic presentation was a version with apples that is drizzled with Calvados (a brandy from Normandy) and then lit on fire. A very impressive dessert.
Pro Tip: Check the Viking Daily each day for Live Culinary demonstrations. On our day in Strasbourg, Chef Lulian taught us how to make Flammenkuchen.
One of the highlights of this tour was visiting Un Cantalou a Strasbourg. Owner Jeroud introduced our group to wines from the Alsace region perfectly paired with local cheese and charcuterie. He led the paired wine tasting of three regional wines, and it was a great presentation. Informative without being stuffy. Jeroud was so knowledgeable, but his bubbly personality made this such a fun event.
Donatien Maître Éclair was a fabulous stop. Owner Donatien Fehr is a true artist who has taken this humble pastry and elevated it to a whole new level of culinary delight. In addition to sweet pastries, he has created the savory éclair. On my visit, he was offering a ham and asparagus creation that utilized fresh, local asparagus. The crisp éclair shell was filled with flavorful filling and topped with ham and asparagus. It was so tasty. ‘
I also tried a pistachio cream sweet éclair which was divine. One of the things I was amazed about on this tour is that so many businesses focus on one thing and do it very well. Imagine a shop focusing on only eclairs!
The Kölner Senfmuseum — or mustard museum — in Cologne, Germany was such an interesting experience. Mustard Miller Harald Löhausn shared how a pure milled mustard is made, and we also got to try the different mustards. These mustards are made on site with no additives from a basic recipe of mustard seeds, vinegar, salt, and spices. The mustard seeds are dry ground and added to the ingredients to ferment for a week then wet ground before aging for two months.
This all-natural mustard will keep for 2 years at room temperature. The mustards are packaged in handcrafted stoneware containers that are just beautiful and make a great souvenir. So how does it taste? Pretty good with a rich flavor not found in grocery store mustards. The best seller is their original from a recipe dating back to 1810.
Pro Tip: Purchase one stoneware urn, which is heavy, and then the refill pouches to lessen the weight of your luggage. Also buy one of the small wooden spoons which must be used to ensure the flavor of the mustard which is affected by metal.
Viking River Cruises offers a variety of dining experiences off the ship. I tried two, and although I tend to avoid the touristy experiences, I found I really enjoyed both of these excursions.
Despite getting on the kitschy mini-train that moved us from the ship to the restaurant, this was a fun experience. Rüdesheim is a charming small town and the Drosselgasse, a narrow pedestrian passageway, is just darling. The Rüdesheimer Schloss had a fest hall vibe to it where we enjoyed a farm-to-table meal of favorites from the Rheingau region. We even got to try the local Schnapps.
It was white asparagus season and we hadn’t had the opportunity to try them. The restaurant accommodated my request and I was able to order a plate for our table. The entertainment was fun and most of us joined in for the chicken dance, or the duck dance as it is known in this area.
This was such an interesting experience. We started at the Brauhaus zur Malzmühle, which since 1858 has been one of the more popular Brauhaus in Cologne. We enjoyed a multi-course meal with a variety of German favorites before joining our guide to try a few brew houses.
Kölsch is a crisp, light beer that is only brewed in Cologne. Unlike other areas of Germany where beer is served up in large steins, Kölsch is served straight from the barrel in special 7-ounce glasses which allows you to finish the beer while it is still cold. Such an interesting experience. Papa Joe’s Biersalon will remind you of the movie Cabaret with its jazzy vibe. It is worth a stop to see this collection of mechanical music machines from player pianos to animatronic musicians. Super fun.
Each Viking River Cruise itinerary will have different experiences, but the dining experience will be the same on each river voyage. I love this consistency of the brand — you know what to expect. Each trip will have a variety of on-ship culinary demonstrations and excursions as well as the delicious food served in the Dining Room and Aquavit Terrace.
TravelAwaits’ Senior VP, Missy Glassmaker, also enjoyed a week on the ship. Here are her picks for the best eats.
I agree with Peggy’s picks. The dining options were amazing and endless. Here are a few additional dining experiences I loved.
I never pass up duck when offered and this did not disappoint. Served with shiitake mushrooms, butternut squash, and Korean barbecue sauce, it was the perfect dinner choice to kick off our trip.
I couldn’t believe I ate this decadent meal for lunch, but I’m so happy I did. It felt like a special meal you would only enjoy on a rare Friday or Saturday night out, but it actually wasn’t too heavy for lunch and was oh so delicious.
Viking does an excellent job of incorporating local dishes into the nightly menus. Bitterballen was served while we were sailing through the Netherlands. It’s a breaded beef meatball served with spicy mustard. It was my first time trying it and I’ll definitely be looking for it again on my next visit.
I didn’t keep track of how many croissants I consumed for good reason, but I enjoyed a few each day and one was better than the next, from plain to chocolate, apple, and pecan. Simply delicious!
This was offered a few times at lunch and dinner while sailing. It’s simple but perfect. Enjoy with the Chianti I recommend below.
I loved the Kolsch in Cologne and the Riesling in Alsace, but the wine on the ship just felt special in part because the staff was so ridiculously amazing, they knew what I would love before I did. My favorites were the Chateau Miraval Cotes de Provence Rose with lunch and the Poggio al Sole Chianti Classico during and after dinner — occasionally paired with chocolate mousse for a lunch treat. The Gentil “Hugel” Alsace was also very good the first evening.
Viking really wants you to enjoy your meal. If you don’t like one thing, pick something else. Having trouble deciding? Pick both. I ended up with two desserts at one meal and loved sharing with the table. You’ll order, and eat, more food than you expected, but that’s what the excursions are for, and there’s a walking track on the top of the ship. Enjoy!
Heart set on a river cruise? Read all our Viking content here.
Peggy’s writing career began almost 40 years ago when she began working as a photojournalist for the Army Reserve. She combined her travel skills, learned moving 33 times — to 49 states, Europe, the Caribbean, South Korea, and Australia — with her writing experience to become a successful travel writer.
She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest. Her work can be found in Northwest Travel & Life Magazine, 253 Lifestyle Magazine, and other regional publications. She is the author of 100 Things to Do in Tacoma Before You Die, Reedy Press, and a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA). The name of her travel blog came about from her friends constantly asking her, “Peggy, Where Should I Go?”