16 gmhToday Sept Oct 2017 16 - Page 90

BACKDROP PHOTO: Marksburg Castle of Braubach. ABOVE: The Alruna, Viking Cruise Line river boat. INSET: New friends, Mark and Laurie MacShane from Minnesota, and Kathy and Tim Grannan from Ohio with us, J. Chris and Larry Mickartz as we sail down the Rhine viewing some fifty castles. Special thanks to Laurie MacShane for many of the photos included in this article. I n June 2017, J.Chris and I celebrated our 20th anniversary by taking a cruise down the Rhine River from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands. It was J.Chris’ first trip to Europe. We chose the Viking Cruise line for our trip and were very pleased that we did. Viking does it right — and a river boat with just 180 passengers and fifty crew members made for a perfect adventure — just the right blend of siteseeing, cruising, culinary exploration, relaxation and socialization. We began our adventure with a ten-hour flight to Amsterdam from SFO on KLM. We had upgraded to Economy Class for additional leg room — a very good idea for such a long flight. Once seated, we had the pleasure of meeting Gina San Pietro who was sitting in our third seat. Gina is a world traveler who lives in the Bay Area but has a second home in Italy with her husband who is a civil engineer serving in the Air Force. She was very knowledgeable about travel and our conversations made the time fly. After a continued visit at the Amsterdam airport, we said goodbye to Gina and promised to keep in touch. We then boarded our short connecting flight 90 to Basel where we were met and shuttled to the ship by the Viking folks and before we knew it, we were in our stateroom primed for our journey. The voyage began with a formal introduction and orientation to the ship by the crew. One of the things that struck us was the international makeup of the crew…a Dutch Captain, an Irish Cruse Director, a Romanian Hotel Manager, a Polish Head of Housekeeping, and Filipino Maître d’ and Executive Chef. Another was that everyone spoke English as well as several other languages. While their English was not always perfect, it was not pretentious and much better than most guests: Swiss, French, German or Dutch. Our ship was the Alruna, a 443-foot, 190-passenger riverboat originally launched in 2016. In Old Norse mythology, Alruna was one of three sisters who connected up with three brothers. She was a Valkyrie or one who decided who was to live or die in battle. Alruna went off to battle herself and did not return. The ship Alruna has three decks and 95 rooms. It travels well on its hybrid diesel-electric