Sail Date: April 2010
A friend and I went on our first river cruise in April 2010. We took Uniworld's "Tulips and Windmills" cruise of Belgium and Holland on the River Dutchess. We did not know what to expect and were totally pleased with our ... Read More
A friend and I went on our first river cruise in April 2010. We took Uniworld's "Tulips and Windmills" cruise of Belgium and Holland on the River Dutchess. We did not know what to expect and were totally pleased with our choice. The only thing wrong was that the weather was a bit colder than usual and prevented us from enjoying the upper deck. Also the tulips were not at their peak, although still lovely. The cabin was not large but adequate with very comfortable beds. The meals were fantastic. Huge buffets for breakfast and lunch with a set menu for dinner with 2 choices of appetizer, soup and dessert and 3 choices of main dish--one meat, one fish and one vegetarian. If none of these suited, you could have steak, chicken or salmon. Meals were at a set time and open seating with tables for 6. Wine was included. At 4 in the afternoon one could have "tea" in the lounge with your choice of type of tea and several little canapes. There was also an area with 24 hour self-service of all types of coffee, tea, iced tea, and ice water. There was entertainment every evening, nothing elaborate but fun. The staff were nearly all Eastern European, spoke excellent English, and were friendly and helpful. The shore excursion were all very interesting with the Keukenhof Gardens near Amsterdam being the highlight. I have mobility problems and was concerned that I would have difficulty with the shore excursions but found them not too difficult and twice our Cruise Manager established a "gentle walking" group. There were actually 8 of us with canes and 2 with walkers. Some excursions were "optional excursions" which required an additional charge, others were included. The places we visited were established along the rivers and so the centers of town were not too far. If you did not want to participate in the organized activity it was easy to go into the town on your own. The Cruise Manager had maps at every port and was happy to give you instructions. Our Cruise Director was Tony and he was absolutely wonderful. There was nothing we did not like about this river cruise and we intend to do another with Uniworld next year. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2010
We cruised the Rhine river on Avalon's newest ship for 2010 the Felicity. The ship is smaller in size with room for 138 passengers plus crew. It is modern in design with a spacious lounge in the bow and a smaller more casual lounge ... Read More
We cruised the Rhine river on Avalon's newest ship for 2010 the Felicity. The ship is smaller in size with room for 138 passengers plus crew. It is modern in design with a spacious lounge in the bow and a smaller more casual lounge with coffee,tea, fruit drinks and snacks in the stern. There is a small exercise room with several pieces of equipment on the lower deck, the mid deck has the restaurant and the sun deck. Our cabin was in the lowest deck without a balcony window yet it was very well appointed with twin beds pulled together to form one large bed, a small bathroom with shower and desk area. Not having a balcony window did not bother us a bit and we did not feel being lower in the water affected us in the least. We did not hear the 'roar' of the engines either as the Felicity promotes itself as a quite boat. We did however on occasion smell cigarette smoke which we complained about. Not sure why, but it usually only happened when we were in port. The food was quite good. Breakfasts were served at 7am and they were buffets with a chef available to cook omelets or eggs the way you wanted them. I thought the baked goods weren't up to European standards as they tasted kind of boxed. I've usually had excellent baked goods (croissants, pastries, etc) on my other trips to Europe. For lunch they had a lite lunch served in the lounge which usually consisted of buffet salad, pasta and desserts. In the main restaurant they served a buffet lunch. We ate there several times and I truly enjoyed their 'Cologne meatballs' and roast pork. They also served a set meal you could select which consisted of made to order type sandwiches - hamburger, monte cristo etc. I thought the lunches were quite good! Dinner was outstanding!! All 5 course settings except for the 1st and last nights. Veal, duck, lamb, beef, fish were all IMO very good. Usually there were 3 standards to select from and 3 specially prepared meals. I did however not like the rosti I had one evening, it had the consistency of a frozen potato. Wine and beer are free flowing at dinner. Night time entertainment consisted usually of a piano player however we did enjoy a trio of classical musicians one evening and a wood carving exhibition. The musicians were fantastic, the wood carving not so. Daily tours were OK, although if I ever went again I would skip some of them to do more independent sight seeing. The crew was always gracious to us. They were always polite, smiling and willing to help. Our Cruise Director Robert Z was fantastic and we always got a kick out of his shoe colors matching his shirt colors. I was very impressed with a younger person's ability to direct older people in the way he did. Overall we enjoyed our trip although I must say 7 nights is way to short to visit as many ports as we did. You really don't get to see a lot of each port. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2010
This was our first ever cruise and we chose to sail the Constellation simply because it sailed from Amsterdam and seeing we live in the Netherlands, this was the perfect departure point. Moreover, travelling with a 10-month-old, it was the ... Read More
This was our first ever cruise and we chose to sail the Constellation simply because it sailed from Amsterdam and seeing we live in the Netherlands, this was the perfect departure point. Moreover, travelling with a 10-month-old, it was the obvious choice. When we checked in, we were given a sheet of paper with some information, but it wasn't until we had sat down with some fellow Cruise Critics that we understood that there was a virus on board the Constellation. The Norovirus had decided to rear its ugly head on the cruise prior to ours and all the staff on board the Connie were working hard to clean her up. In the meantime, all passengers were given a lunch bag with a sandwich, juice, muffin and chocolate bar to eat. Bottled water was also available for those who wanted that. Finally at 3:00pm boarding began and it seemed to have gone rather smoothly. We were informed that the staterooms weren't ready, so we had to stay in the public areas. The complementary drink when entering was a good way to start the cruise. When the staterooms were given the all clear, we were able to get our stuff settled in and just had to wait to go to supper. Our luggage arrived during the course of the evening. Supper in the MDR (San Marco) was exceptional! The chefs certainly know what they are doing, although I felt that the pasta was a bit too overcooked. As an Italian, I can be rather picky about how pasta is prepared. Other than that, all the other food was beyond my expectations. The staff were all very friendly, helpful and more than willing to talk to us. It also helped that they all loved our daughter and did everything to shower her with attention. They would entertain her when we ate. Our stateroom attendant was also very quick to help us when we needed him. I don't think we could have survived the 2 or 3 episodes of baby vomit on the bed if he hadn't changed the sheets so quickly. The activities on board was very well organised. There was so much to do and so much variety in what they offered. There was simply not enough time to participate in all the activities. I had heard from the Cruise Director, Allan King, that someone complained about there being too many trivia games offered, but I felt the offer was good enough. The live shows and bands were amazing! I absolutely loved hearing Free-4-All, the ship's a capella group. The 4 young men are very talented and have amazing voices. As for the singers and dancers, one word: WOW! The shows simply took my breath away. Finally, I loved the other live shows offered (Ric Ceisler and Livewire). Despite the Norovirus, which had gripped quite a few cruisers on our cruise, we still managed to enjoy ourselves. I was very satisfied with the extra precautions taken to minimise the spread of the virus, although it is not entirely possible to stop it from going around. I was just so relieved that my 10-month-old didn't catch it. We were spared. The crew did their best to inform us of how best to minimise the risk of spreading the virus. Hats off to them. My husband and I agree that the cruise made a lasting impression on us, even if the ports of call passed by in a blur. I've made many friends on board the Connie and hope one day to return to meet with them again! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2010
After landing in Amsterdam, we took the train (15 minute ride)which conveniently took us right to the port and after a few minutes walk we arrived at the Constellation's berth. We were expeditiously processed through check-in and ... Read More
After landing in Amsterdam, we took the train (15 minute ride)which conveniently took us right to the port and after a few minutes walk we arrived at the Constellation's berth. We were expeditiously processed through check-in and shown to our ocean-view stateroom. My husband was extremely concerned that he'd get seasick since this was our first cruise so we ordered a stateroom on the second deck. When we put out to sea, neither my husband nor I realized we had left shore until only after I had opened the curtains and saw open sea! Happily, throughout the whole cruise neither one of us felt a thing and our cruise was seasick-free. Our stateroom attendant catered to our desires including extra towels and maintaining the room expeditiously. We were definitely pampered in a way we could really get used to! The sea days were filled with all sorts of activities and we were rarely in the room, from lectures on the boat's navigational systems and ecology to the fitness center and spa we were kept happily busy all day long. Although one could just hang out with a good book next to the pool and relax without doing a thing. The ports of Stockholm, Helsinki, Talinn and Copenhagen were quite interesting but we felt didn't need any organized tours since it was possible to see the important places by ourselves. The only port we did feel it was necessary to book an organized tour was in St. Petersburg. Since the Russians are known for their bureaucracy we needed someone to organize our visa and other necessities. We didn't take the ship's port excursions since we felt they were overpriced and didn't cover many of the places we could see with an independent tour company. Also the ship's excursions covered only half-days for both days we were in port and the independent company took us for a full day excursion on both days for much cheaper. We also went to see the ballet, Swan Lake, at the famous Alexandrinsky Theater which was of a very high quality, although the Bolshoi didn't perform it. They were away on tour at the time. This the indepenent company also organized for us. Of course, the dining experience was something we had never encountered and the quality of the food was very high, although the chicken and fish dishes I found to be quite dry. The rest of the cuisine, especially in the Seaside Cafe, catered to our preferences of salads and healthy eating, although we couldn't pass up the desserts and visits to the ice cream bar! As we pulled into Amsterdam we realized that our dream vacation was coming to an end, so I ran up and got a brochure featuring other cruises offered by Celebrity so we could get a head start in planning our next cruise! The disembarkation process was very smooth and we were able to carry our own luggage off the ship and take the short walk back down to the train station and on to the airport for our flight home. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2010
15 days, started in Amsterdam and ended in Budapest. All in all, an enjoyable experience, wait staff was excellent (thanks Martin and Jana) and with one exception, food was great. Cabin was clean and well kept. Beds ok, toiletries ok, hair ... Read More
15 days, started in Amsterdam and ended in Budapest. All in all, an enjoyable experience, wait staff was excellent (thanks Martin and Jana) and with one exception, food was great. Cabin was clean and well kept. Beds ok, toiletries ok, hair dryer ok, no exercise room though. Clean towels morning and evening if needed. Had both a 110 and 220 plug in the room for recharging camera batteries. Managed to fit the empty suitcases in the closet, but if they don't fit, the crew will store them in another part of the ship. One note of caution, rooms 214 and 215 are right under the gangplank when docked, and depending on which side the ship is docked on, your view will be obstructed while docking, you will also be entertained by noise from some sort of pump kicking on and off almost continuously. Shore excursions were good although some of the local guides were a bit dull, but with the headsets that are issued you can wander and explore quite a distance from the tour guide and still hear every word without having to be withing earshot of the guide (Sonnenbrunnen , Vienna, in winter probably isn't worth the tour price, you can catch the public transport and pay the 12-14 Euro entrance fee, rather than the 44 Euro tour price fee if you really, really haven't seen enough palaces yet, although in summer it's probably very pretty). With the exception of Vienna, and Koblenz, there was sufficient time to explore on your own at most stops. My main complaints would be the Program (Cruise) Director staff, none had the personality I would look for when hiring for this position. There were a few nightly activities organized by the Program Director (i.e. glass blowing, local music demonstrations) but other entertainment activities weren't carried out as well as they could have been, any prizes were generally a bottle of Viking Champagne, which in all honesty, wasn't very good. The raffle also was disappointing, if memory serves, raffle items included Viking T Shirts, Sweat Tops and Caps, a jar of mustard and Viking Champagne, in my view, non worth the price of a raffle ticket (if anyone from Viking reads this, you may want to consider caps and Ts as freebies, great low cost advertisement). My second complaint is the internet connectivity on board. More often it did not work, even when in the middle of a city. I was counting on the internet to make hotel and train reservations after the cruise, but simply couldn't get on line, so ended up paying walk in rack rate at a hotel in Budapest instead of the internet rate, also missed out on the sale of an unexpected stock jump that would have paid for half of the cruise because of non access to the net. Excluding the above negatives, we enjoyed the cruise and will in all probability take another. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
We went on the Rhine Getaway from Amsterdam to Lucerne, with a 2-day post trip extension in Switzerland in May 2011. The vacation was booked as a birthday trip (I turned 40) and as a once-in-a-lifetime getaway since we hadn't done a ... Read More
We went on the Rhine Getaway from Amsterdam to Lucerne, with a 2-day post trip extension in Switzerland in May 2011. The vacation was booked as a birthday trip (I turned 40) and as a once-in-a-lifetime getaway since we hadn't done a lot of traveling over the past few years and we missed it. We've traveled in Europe and South America, but this was our first river cruise. Viking also arranged our air travel and transfers. With the cruise, air travel and 2-day extension, we dropped about 10k on this trip. To start, we received a lot of information before the cruise, with a cruise packet coming about 2 weeks prior containing our travel documents, itinerary and other general information. Our flight to Amsterdam was fine; however, upon leaving the plane we had to wait about 10 minutes for our bags, as they went to the wrong baggage claim. We then went to the first of two meeting points in the airport for our included transfer to the boat. No one from Viking was there. We decided to go to the second meeting point mentioned in our literature and again, no one from Viking was there. We waited for about 20 minutes and then my husband went back to the first spot while I stayed at the second. Still...no one. We waited another 20 minutes and then dug into our literature to find the "emergency" phone numbers. Well - the first number listed as an emergency contact was a disconnected number. Great! The second number was to Viking and we got a pre-recorded message that we should call back during Viking business hours. After spending another 20 minutes or so going from spot one to spot two and talking to everyone, a driver overheard us and said the Viking representative had been then earlier but was gone. He had a number and called, they dispatched a car for us personally. I was not impressed - they left us because we were 10 minutes late? We got to the boat (morning) and it was quite busy with activity, as the passengers from the last trip were still disembarking and getting rides to other destinations. We knew ahead of time that check-in wasn't until later in the day, so we dropped our bags off and went to explore Amsterdam. It did strike me that there is no security to get on and off the boat. I was a little concerned about leaving our bags there (even with luggage tags). Check-in was fine and we were provided with cookies, coffee and tea while waiting. Our cabin, on the lower deck, was small, but very clean and nicely laid out. Bed was pretty uncomfortable, but we weren't expecting much. We had a small porthole window, which was fine, as we knew we wouldn't spend much time in our room. Decor was fine, and I was provided with extra pillows and extra clothing hangers upon request. More specifics about different aspects of the cruise are listed below. THE SHIP The ship itself was nice, but nothing that screamed "luxury" to either of us, as the trip is marketed as a "luxury cruise" experience. All areas of the ship were clean and neat, and quite efficient in design since it is smaller than an ocean liner. The lobby area, before going out on daily excursions, was much too small to hold everyone just standing around waiting to leave, but otherwise it was not a big deal. There is a beverage station open 24 hours per day, where you can get coffee, tea or water. There are cookies set out after lunch. The dining areas were fine, and had open seating, which was a nice way to meet other cruisers. The beds are pretty uncomfortable and the air in our cabin was extremely dry. I thought I was coming down with a cold by day 3 as I woke up with a really sore throat and was very stuffed up. This lingered the rest of the trip until we got to Lucerne and off the boat, so I never really felt great. We would leave the ship for the day and I'd start feeling better, but as soon as I got to the cabin I would start feeling poorly again. THE EXCURSIONS We had quite a few excursions, and we also signed up for almost all the optional excursions. We were, overall, disappointed in these activities. They are great about keeping on schedule, and we were broken into multiple groups for the actual tours; but I wish they'd had a group for more active people. We knew we'd be the youngest on-board (40 and 36), but there were plenty of others on-board who were active and fit enough to handle faster-paced tours. They had one tour that was for slower folks, it would've been nice to've had one for faster people, too. The majority of the excursion destinations were disappointing. Every place we went, with only a few exceptions, was so packed with other tourists that we could barely get around and see anything. The Viking marketing materials explained things in such a way that we thought we'd have "back stage passes," if you will, to these beautiful castles and churches. That was not the case. The trip to Heidelburg Castle was exceptionally disappointing, as we walked through the grounds, waited in line to get in and saw one big area inside; only to get herded back to our bus and leave. It was an absolute zoo and the castle itself was not worth the trip there. Going to Rudesheim was a complete waste of time. It was a giant tourist trap, obviously built for and around tourists. The walk into town was about a mile from the boat and there was nothing worth seeing. We did take an optional excursion into town that evening for dinner and it was fun, but we had to pay extra, of course. The trip through the Black Forest was likely the worst part of the trip, as we took a long bus ride through the forest (without any stops along the way to enjoy the view) only to arrive at a tiny outpost that was, again, a giant tourist trap (it was a giant shopping village where you could buy cuckoo clocks, blown glass, etc., and that was it). My husband was looking forward to the black forest cake, as we were promised; however, it was not included and came from a cafeteria-type eatery under the shops. He got a piece, it was okay. We wanted to see something authentic, not something thrown together for tourists. We did enjoy some of the excursions; Marksburg Castle was amazing, Strasbourg & Colmar were wonderful and Cologne was interesting. There was a lot of freetime where we could wander around the towns and shop, eat, explore...and we did! But in the end, the excursions, the parts that we were MOST looking forward to, were just so-so. THE FOOD The food on the boat, in our opinion, was just okay. There were normally three options to choose from: a beef/pork option, a fish option and a vegetarian option. The fish dishes were pretty bland and I stopped eating them completely after having one dish where the tiny bones were not properly removed and I got one stuck in my throat. Yep, a fish bone got stuck in my throat. If you don't like any of the proteins offered, you can always get a chicken dish, which I ended up getting one night and it was pretty good. There were lots of fried foods and everything was made with heavy cream sauces. Desserts were okay, but nothing exceptional. My husband normally got a different option than me, and he thought the food was pretty bland, too. Perhaps that's because the cruise itself is skewed to a much older audience? Nothing was outright bad, but most things were pretty mediocre. Lunches and breakfasts were good, normally consisting of a buffet with some good options. Meals were always on time and the dining areas were always clean and efficient. THE STAFF It was pretty hit or miss with the staff; no one was outright rude or uncooperative, but some were definitely better than others. We were constantly asking for water, coffee and wine refills during meals, which was annoying. Our program directors were friendly, helpful and personable and we enjoyed our local tour guides, as well (though we heard varying stories amongst the other groups). Our room was cleaned twice per day and kept in great shape. Reception desk staff was also helpful and nice. OVERALL There were absolutely some positives about this trip; but for the amount of money we paid, we were not "WOWed" by the overall experience and I just can't recommend Viking to others. we're not overly picky people and we have traveled quite a bit -- but we expected a lot more for the money. What could make it better? More options for dinner, including more regional dishes and less bland food. Smaller excursion groups, more geared towards activity level. Less tourist-based excursion destinations. I know that can be tough in such a place, but some of the choices were outright wastes of time. Convert the totally unused "library" on the boat into a fitness room. Make your staff completely wow the customers (oh, and give them a salary rather than depending on travelers to pay them by tipping, isn't $10k enough to pay?). I didn't want to get waited on hand & foot, nor did we make many special requests, but we only felt that a couple of people went out of their way to make sure we had the trip of a lifetime. More on-board activities such as the German street-food lunch and the flammkuchen demonstration. The lectures were interesting, but the interactive activities were really fun and with so much regional flair, it would've been nice to see/do more with that while we were cruising. So that's what it boils down to for us -- we paid a ton of money and didn't feel we got a ton of a trip! Had I spent half of what I paid, I might not be so hard on Viking, but this wasn't chump-change for us. We enjoyed the time we spent together, and we enjoyed seeing a part of the world we hadn't seen before and we made some great friends on-board; but I wouldn't cruise with them again unless they drastically dropped their prices. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
This was my first cruise and I can honestly say that it was the best vacation I've ever had. For the first time I didn't know what day it was, and I didn't care. The cruise managed to be both hectic and relaxing at the same ... Read More
This was my first cruise and I can honestly say that it was the best vacation I've ever had. For the first time I didn't know what day it was, and I didn't care. The cruise managed to be both hectic and relaxing at the same time. Hectic, because there were lots of shore excursions (ranging from the thought-provoking World War II tour in Nuremberg to the wonderfully fun wine tasting in Austria), and relaxing because everything was beautifully planned and I didn't have to make any decisions. We sailed through regions I had not visited before, and it was fun to look at a different view from the cabin window every morning upon waking up. Sailing through the Rhine Gorge was breathtaking, and sailing into Budapest at night simply magical. One of the things that made the cruise so great was our fantastic and very professional staff. They were working very, very hard but yet managed to give me the impression that they were having fun, too. They truly made my cruise a very special, unforgettable experience. The program team (Kurt, Jana and Claudia) was especially memorable and entertaining, being the most visible part of the crew. They were consistently helpful, friendly and knowledgeable. Another highlight was being serenaded (we celebrated our wedding anniversary during the cruise) by the great trio of George, Pavel and Kurt. Wonderful! The ship was small, only 150 passengers, which meant that I got to know a lot of my fellow travelers, which was great for a first cruise. There were some unexpected glitches during the cruise. The wi-fi worked only sporadically (it was fixed eventually), but to me it meant that I had more time to admire the scenery and chat with the other passengers, and my husband had a real holiday because he was not able to check his work. Blessing in disguise. The only criteria for having a great holiday should be 'did I have a good time?' My answer to that is an enthusiastic 'YES, ABSOLUTELY!' It was a wrench to leave the ship at the end of the cruise, and I would have been perfectly happy to just stay on board and keep cruising. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2011
We can't gush enough about the Antoinette and the service we received there. The staff was so helpful and friendly, including accommodating my husband's serious food allergy (the chef even baked my husband a cake for his ... Read More
We can't gush enough about the Antoinette and the service we received there. The staff was so helpful and friendly, including accommodating my husband's serious food allergy (the chef even baked my husband a cake for his birthday! first time he's ever been brought a cake and had waiters sing to him in a restaurant -- usually if he's going to have a cake, I have to bake it!). We were very comfortable in our cabin, and also really enjoyed playing board games in the pretty lounge, basking on the sun deck (the "Romantic Rhine" stretch of cruising with all the castles was really incredible), and swimming in the tiny pool (be warned that it is usually quite cold). We thought we'd be really excited about the movie theater, but we didn't want to see any of the movies being shown there. The food was great, especially the "epicurean dinner" night. We wished there were tables for 2, but had nice conversations with the other passengers who sat with us (at breakfast and lunch we were usually able to have a table to ourselves). The itinerary itself was not the big draw for us, the boat was. We did a lot of wandering on our own, and found Koblenz and Strasbourg to be the most interesting towns to see by walking around. Rudesheim was the least interesting of the places we stopped. The fitness center is small but nicely equipped, with an elliptical machine, a treadmill, a rowing machine, yoga mats, some free weights, a mysterious vibrating platform that confused me, and three stationary bikes, one recumbent. The ceiling is low and the treadmill is a bit tall, so people taller than me (I'm 5'9") would not be able to use it without bumping their heads! I don't see a place to add pictures to this review, but will post on the forum and link to pictures. We recommend taking a few days beforehand in Amsterdam and we found it easy to get to the boat on our own; however, arriving in Basel was a little difficult as we were taking the tram to the train station and the tram ticket dispenser wouldn't take paper bills, and it was hard to find a place to get change because everything is closed on Sundays. All in all, highly, highly recommended. We had an amazing time. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2011
As first time cruises we traveled with family who are old hats but we used Cruise Critic to help with the planning and as a result we had an absolutely amazing trip. We are now converts to the cruising experience and are planning the next ... Read More
As first time cruises we traveled with family who are old hats but we used Cruise Critic to help with the planning and as a result we had an absolutely amazing trip. We are now converts to the cruising experience and are planning the next trip already. Not sure what to put so I may seem to be rambling but here goes. We arrived at the embarkation early and basically walked right on to the ship, really had no waiting other than the security area. The staff were very helpful and so we were able to begin enjoying the experience with no stress after boarding. When we disembarked our group was called as we arrived at our meeting area and we were able to leave the ship pick up our luggage and be on our way with absolutely no delays. Not having anything to compare it to we were very pleased with the ship, it was easy to find our way around and we were always greeted with pleasant smiles and helpful staff. We did not use any of the extra facilities or services - to busy relaxing and enjoying the piano bar (see below). We did use the buffet area for breakfast and for snacks when we arrived back from the port visits. We were able to find what we needed and it was very tasty, we even tried some things that were new to us which is what these experiences are all about. We tended to take our before dinner refreshment in Micheal's Club and were treated like we were someone important. Randy and Lily became a key part to daily activities - checking in each night before and after dinner and they made us feel like old friends. Not sure if this appropriate but we would encourage a visit to see Randy and Lily in Micheal's Club. During this trip the piano player was Richard Rubin and we also highly recommend spending time with very talented musician. His "act" is very dependent upon audience interaction so keep that in mind. We had the late sitting and this is the only real negative because they changed the time from 8:15 to 8:45 which makes for quite a late evening. We ate all the dinners in the dining room except for the day in Berlin because we arrived back too late. Our dining room staff of Sweetee Gonzales(?) and Nesimi Tucmuck(?) were again instrumental in making this such an enjoyable experience. We had a table with just the 4 of us and we were able to laugh and joke with the staff developing a good rapport. Obviously the meals were great with a good selection although I would have liked to see a couple of regional dishes when we were in the areas. It would seem to me that this would be an opportunity to showcase what are some of the unique foods in northern Europe. I realize that there are health concerns and food inspection concerns but I wonder if those could not be overcome. We did not participate in any of the Cruise line shore excursions. With the exceptions of Berlin and St. Petersburg we did the ports on our own using the Jump On and Off buses and generally these worked well. Copenhagen was not as good due to traffic congestion but that is the nature of the beast when 6 cruise ships arrive in the port at the same time and there was road construction in the older areas of the city. For Berlin and St. Petersburg we used SPB Tours and had great service and tours. In both centers we opted for the private car with a driver and guide and we found that this was an awesome way to see the cities. Especially in St. Petersburg where were able to by-pass the long lines and because we were a small group we were generally able to move quickly through the crowds. Highly recommend this company. All in all it was an interesting experience and if you are interested in the history of the Baltic region and the historical cities located there we highly recommend this cruise and a cruise on the Constellation is certainly one you will remember for a long time. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2011
We recently went on the Baltic cruise and WOW, what an experience. Everything went so smoothly and met expectations that we thought all ships were like that. We are hooked on cruising now and are already planning our next voyage. Having ... Read More
We recently went on the Baltic cruise and WOW, what an experience. Everything went so smoothly and met expectations that we thought all ships were like that. We are hooked on cruising now and are already planning our next voyage. Having recently read the reviews of another very well known ship, I was surprised to see a lot of unhappy people which made me realise how lucky we were to have chosen the Constellation for our first voyage. Cabin We booked a cabin with a balcony but were upgraded to concierge class with a restricted view. I was at first disappointed but actually it was only a small metal structure which in no way restricted the view so we scored. The room was lovely and spacious with plenty of room to unpack all our things. The bathroom is small but very pretty with a fresh rose and all the guest amenities you would expect. The shower has a little wash line so you can rinse out a few things which dry quickly overnight so take a bit of washing powder with you. Food The food was fantastic although for one or two nights, the choices in the San Marco restaurant were uninspiring. Sometimes the starter portion was very small but there is so much food, you can't possibly complain. The "brunch" organised towards the end of the trip was spectacular and beyond the imagination of the average person. The buffet on 10th floor was really great and we often chose to eat there, specially breakfast. The variety is amazing and although some of the stations closed at different times of the day, there was always lots to choose from at any time of the day. Lots of people chose this option and it was very crowded but you never had to wait for more than a few minutes. tea, coffee, juice and water available 24h. In my opinion, the "specialty restaurants" are superfluous. We did not use them. Excursions We only took the St Petersburg excursion. The SA rand does not go very far and we felt the excursions to be expensive. Generally we walked into town, sometimes quite far, but you see things along the way. I would recommend that you do some research on what buses to catch and what you want to see before you sail e.g there are warnings about the HOHO buses in Copenhagen. I did this and could make the best of the day. We booked the Celebrity St Petersburg 2 day excursion and although it was expensive we were not disappointed. It was fabulous - beyond expectation. You can't do this city justice on your own in 2 days. One review I read, suggested a tea break. He also mentioned that it was very strenuous. I am undergoing chemotherapy and did not feel tired at all. It is all so exciting and there is so much to see, you don't even think about a rest or have time for tea. Do some walking before your cruise and you will be ready for the 2 days. Entertainment The "on board" group of entertainers were excellent and their shows were magical. The "guest" entertainers were okay but I felt they could have saved a lot of money by using some of the lead "on board entertainers" to do their own show - they were that good - but I suppose that would make Celebrity look cheap! The lectures were on interesting topics but the lecturer was so boring and did not seem to have a good knowledge of his topics. A real pity. Our only gripe Our only gripe was the beverage packages. We took the classic package at $44 per day plus 15% service fee. We misunderstood the explanation on the brochure, thinking that we had to pay for tea, coffee and water on the ship. The wording is misleading (but clear if you read it again) as you only have to pay for SPECIALITY tea, coffee and water eg Irish coffee. Even so, you are off the ship most of the time and it is almost impossible to use this package fully. When we found it did not suit us, we tried to cancel the package but the management would not move on the subject so we ended up paying over $1,100 unnecessarily. This was really our fault but I did feel that the management could have seen we made a mistake and been more sympathetic. All in all, I can highly recommend the Constellation for a wonderful and trouble free cruise. The ship was late coming into Amsterdam and we missed our flight but I don't see that as a reflection on the Celebrity or part of this review. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2011
Cruise: Very good itinerary. Amsterdam, Warnemunde (+Rostock), Stockholm, Helsinki, St-Petersburg, Tallin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam. Refurbushed Embarkation: Super efficient! Was supposed to be there at 13.30. We arrived at 12.00 and ... Read More
Cruise: Very good itinerary. Amsterdam, Warnemunde (+Rostock), Stockholm, Helsinki, St-Petersburg, Tallin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam. Refurbushed Embarkation: Super efficient! Was supposed to be there at 13.30. We arrived at 12.00 and boarded not long afterwards. Stateroom: Had an inside stateroom. Personally, we wouldn't pay more for a window or a balcony since we don't spend our free time in the room. Since it was our first cruise, was a bit worried about feeling claustrophobic. Not at all! The room is very well designed with a huge mirror at the back. Staff: Very, very nice staff. Made our experience an unforgettable one. They work so hard all day! It was nice to talk to them and learn more about their background and their life at sea. Food: Loved it! I am a food addict and I need to eat well during my vacations. I was very impress at the quality of the food especially since there's nearly 2000 cruisers eating each night. There is so much food, all the time, that you will find something to eat for sure! Didn't try the specialty restaurants. Shows: Impressive! Usually not a fan of resort free shows. Was really impressed at the quality of the shows! Dance shows, musical comedy, violinist, circus act, etc. Activities: a lot of activities...dance classes, movie theater, clubbing, casino, poker tournament, wine tasting, ship tours and much much more. Disembarkation Day: Really easy as well...Nothing to say... Loved our cruise and our first experience with Celebrity Cruises. We will cruise with them again for sure! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2012
I loved river cruising. The best times were spent in the front of the boat watching the world sail by. The stateroom was well appointed and the bathroom sufficient-the shower was large by European standards. The bed in single staterooms ... Read More
I loved river cruising. The best times were spent in the front of the boat watching the world sail by. The stateroom was well appointed and the bathroom sufficient-the shower was large by European standards. The bed in single staterooms is quite hard, but my room attendant did her best to make it more comfortable. I would recommend the itinerary,saw so much and enjoyed most of the shore excursions. However, I think the wait staff in the dining rooms tend to provide better service to couples than to singles-we were usually the last served and our orders were often mixed up. I thought the stateroom service was excessive-why does anyone need their room cleaned and towels changed twice a day? I actually was lectured by the head housekeeper for telling my room attendant I only needed her to check my room once a day and not to change my towels more than every 3-4 days. I felt the customer should have the option of how much service they required. The worse part was the 'gray' water sewer system had problems and created a stench in my room (and in other parts of the boat) for a couple days. It was alleviated by running water down the shower drain and covering drain with a bathmat, but was very unpleasant. I was surprised that a ship only a year old would have this type of problem. The target population for Viking is obviously very mature couples (late 70's to late 80's). I am an active 60ish and didn't really feel like I fit in. I would definitely do another river cruise, but I think I need a cruise line that fits my lifestyle better. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2012
This was my first cruise so I wasn't sure what to expect but it was a pleasant surprise. My friend and I booked a balcony room which was ample enough space for being on a ship. I was a little nervous about getting seasick, but ... Read More
This was my first cruise so I wasn't sure what to expect but it was a pleasant surprise. My friend and I booked a balcony room which was ample enough space for being on a ship. I was a little nervous about getting seasick, but didn't have any issues until the second night we were sailing due to the rough northern Baltic waves. I really liked the cruise staff and they made me feel at home. They were extremely friendly, helpful, and enthusiastic. Our waiter and assistant waiter had a lot of interesting stories to share with us. Our cabin was also immaculate every time we came back from anywhere on the ship or a port because our stateroom attendant took really good care of us. I also liked the ship's entertainers and performers. We saw them several times hanging out in the ship and would strike up a conversation with them. The ports we visited were beautiful and breathtaking. I don't think I was able to see much due to the limited amount of time we had so my biggest takeaway is to make sure that you book an excursion when visiting. We took wonderful pictures in Geiranger and Olden. Alesund and Bergen could have been explored more in depth if we knew where we were going. We did hit Bergen on their Constitution Day so that was interesting seeing everyone in their national costumes. Overall, I liked how well kept the ship was and the amount of massive windows where you can look out to sea. It was peaceful and relaxing and I loved seeing the frothiness of the waves. I would definitely go back on a cruise again with Royal Caribbean because it left a great impression on me. Perhaps next time, I will try a Caribbean or Alaskan or Mediterranean cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
I had given up on ever experiencing a cruise holiday and I was pleasantly surprised that my wife readily agreed to a cruise on the River Rhine last year. Viking River Cruises did not let us down!! Our first experience was great even ... Read More
I had given up on ever experiencing a cruise holiday and I was pleasantly surprised that my wife readily agreed to a cruise on the River Rhine last year. Viking River Cruises did not let us down!! Our first experience was great even if the weather was rather wet precluding evening drinks on the sun deck. The on board evening entertainment in the cocktail bar was so good and had us dancing most nights. This is not to say that there are no areas where the already excellent product may be improved ,but these were only very miner points such as having to queue for ones food on occasion and lack of Internet connectivity in the staterooms. The staff/crew were fantastic taking great care of all of us and ensuring that where possible our whims were satisfied. We shall most certainly be taking another river cruise ( in Europe) with Viking. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2012
This was our first River Boat Cruise, so we really did not know what to expect. We have been "big ship" cruisers for 20 years. The staff, cruise director and captain of Visionary are exceptional. They are all very involved ... Read More
This was our first River Boat Cruise, so we really did not know what to expect. We have been "big ship" cruisers for 20 years. The staff, cruise director and captain of Visionary are exceptional. They are all very involved with you and your cruise. The captain played his trumpet as we passed the Lorelei and the crew did a talent show which was such fun! The meals onboard were very good with a nice variety. One tip, check the breakfast and lunch specials each day before going to the buffet. Dinner was great. Six of us travelled together and were able to sit together without a problem each night. Wine at dinner was wonderful and we had more than our share. The included excursions were great. I was in a walking boot due to a foot problem but was able to keep up without a problem. You will receive earphones and a receiving device on each excursion. The guide then transmits the details of the excursion as you walk. This enabled all of us to hear without a problem and was excellent for my husband who wears hearing aids. My only regret was that we didn't have more "free time" in the cities. Our guides were fun and informative. I would strongly recommend the optional trips to Alsace and Colmar. For the small cost, these excursions really gave you a flavor of the area. Also, make sure you are on deck when going through the locks (at least one). We travelled through the Panama Canal on a "big ship" and enjoyed the locks. But on this small vessel, it is really "up close and personal", a real treat. I have three minor "complaints". The bar did not stock bourbon, only CC and Jack Daniels. But since the wine was so good, it really didn't matter. Rafting is a real bummer, but necessary evil. On the third day of our trip, I awoke and opened our curtains only to be looking at the vessel we had rafted with. This occurred 4 times for us so basically rendered our French balcony worthless. Finally, it would be nice to know a basic time for the itinerary. Example, we had a flight delay to Amsterdam (7 hours!). We arrived at 4PM versus 9AM on Sunday 6/10. However, from the brochure, I thought we had all day in Amsterdam on Monday. No, the boat left at noon so I only had 4 hours in Amsterdam. I would strongly recommend adding a day (minimum) to the front of your cruise. Post cruise, we spent 3 days in Lucerne. We all had a marvelous time with Avalon and I would recommend them highly. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
My husband and I just returned from our first cruise. We are casual people that enjoy history, art, and site seeing - the river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest was perfect for us. We will definitely go on another river cruise again with ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from our first cruise. We are casual people that enjoy history, art, and site seeing - the river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest was perfect for us. We will definitely go on another river cruise again with Viking. The Viking Prestige ship and entire crew were fantastic. Everyone was extremely friendly and ship was very comfortable - it included a library, comfortable lounge (not over-the-top decor), elegant dining room, and all staterooms are the same size unless you chose a suite. We decided for our first cruise to stay with the lower deck - standard room. We were not disappointed and will save our money (by not upgrading) in order to take another trip. Each day there were planned activities that provided historic information about the city/towns we were visiting with local guides. Most days we also had free time to do our own roaming through the city/town. We loved the architecture of the cathedrals, buildings and town squares. I think my husband said he took over 1900 pictures - and he ended up being sick by the time we arrived in Prague and didn't even get to take many pictures in this magnificent city! The entire river cruise experience on the Viking Prestige far exceeded our expectations. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
This was only the third voyage of this vessel but the air conditioning did not work for a number of days and we were told that the parts are coming. The lounge was very hot at all times and the noise level was extremely high. The crew ... Read More
This was only the third voyage of this vessel but the air conditioning did not work for a number of days and we were told that the parts are coming. The lounge was very hot at all times and the noise level was extremely high. The crew was excellent in all departments. They new what there jobs were and preformed them to a very high standard. The food in the dinning room was always very good and the portions were the right size. Our first program director was very good and very helpfully. With 3 days left on the cruise we where told that she had to leave for a family emergency. We discovered that this was not the case. We heard that she and 5 or 6 others, from different vessels had been terminated. They were non-Europeans, whats this all about? The vessel was very comfortable, other than no air conditioning. Most of the tourers were very good and we learned a lot of history. Would consider Viking for another great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2012
We cruised from Amsterdam to Budapest on Avalon's Vista in July 2012 . We are new to cruising and were a bit underwhelmed by this cruise . The boat was very nice and our room was great The crew generally wonderful , especially our ... Read More
We cruised from Amsterdam to Budapest on Avalon's Vista in July 2012 . We are new to cruising and were a bit underwhelmed by this cruise . The boat was very nice and our room was great The crew generally wonderful , especially our waiters Thomas and Constantine . The cruise director , Dragan , was very obnoxious ,though many seemed to like him . The food was pretty good though , inevitably seemed repetitive . There were far too many "surprise" expenses for a cruise that implied that it was "all inclusive " . The included tours were uneven and the extra ones were overpriced and should not have been "extra" . The entertainment that was provided was very good with the exception of one talentless electric violinist . Although it may be conventional , I found the gratuities policy ( giving us envelopes and telling us exacly how much to tip everone including the cruise director ) offensive and we ignored it . We tipped those that provided us good service ( NOT the cruise director ) . We spent the same amount of money ( a bit more actually ) but giving it ,in cash , directly to those who deserved it . Our fellow passengers were suprising old . We expected that to some degree but at age 65 I didn't expect to be one of the youngest onboard . River cruising is nice but it is not a good way to see a place . You spend too little time on shore and you seem cutoff from local people and experiences . Avalon seemed too interested in getting extra money out of us at every opportunity given we were sold this cruise as "all inclusive " . We will probably do it again but I doubt if we will use Avalon Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2012
My wife and I would like to acknowledge the excellent service received on our recent European Jewels river cruise with Uniworld. This was our first ever cruise, and I'm not so sure the Uniworld River Queen set the bar to the point we ... Read More
My wife and I would like to acknowledge the excellent service received on our recent European Jewels river cruise with Uniworld. This was our first ever cruise, and I'm not so sure the Uniworld River Queen set the bar to the point we will never be able to recreate the environment again on any future cruise. The entire crew under Captain Ferdy's direction (along with "Siggy" and Lawrence) made us feel like we were part of the family, with Hildagard our Cruise Manager providing an exceptional iterary each and ever day. Martin's resturant and lounge staff were on point (especially "Banjo" and Alex!) and his executive chef and team never disappointed at any meal. Martina had the hotel staff working at peak performance. Not a single issue, not a single excuse, not a better team on a cruise than the River Queen for those 14 days. We can understand why the River Queen was ranked #1 recently. If Uniworld can find a way to bottle this winning formula on each and every cruise ship they own.... The sky is the limit! Someone told me many years ago - if you love your job, you will excel at it - I don't think there was a single Uniworld employee on the River Queen that didn't want to be there. Uniworld - the River Queen knocked this one out of the park! I will be recommending the Uniworld Boutique River Cruises to anyone looking for a vacation idea. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2012
My wife and I decided to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary by going on our first cruise somewhere in Europe, as we have never been on a cruise or to Europe. We first looked at small cruises in the Mediterranean Sea, something between ... Read More
My wife and I decided to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary by going on our first cruise somewhere in Europe, as we have never been on a cruise or to Europe. We first looked at small cruises in the Mediterranean Sea, something between Spain and Turkey. But after doing a exhaustive searches we did near it down to a couple of the small cruises with no more then 1000 people on a ship. I thought this was still too large for my liking. My wife suggest that we look into River boat cruises in Europe. I thought what a great ideas, not only is the ship is small with small crew and passengers, but at least there was scenery to be looked at as cruise along the river, instead of looking at the open sea. So, we narrowed down the competition to Avalon, Viking and Uniworld. After spending a long time looking at reviews and comparing cruise lines we picked Uniworld and we decided to do the Castles along the Rhine trip. We booked our trip late February of 2012, through AAA, looking for Category 2 room. But this level had sold out, so we went with a Category 1 room, which was fine with us, we would have the French balcony to be used, as my wife would be able to enjoy her coffee on the balcony. We flew from Boston to Zurich to Amsterdam via Swiss Air, very nice flight with no problems. We arrived a day early so we could tour the City of Amsterdam. The S.S. Antoinette is one of the newer ships that Uniworld has, started sailing last year. The ship has nicely decorated rooms, that are a bit cozy but very functional. The bed was very comfortable, the shower stall has plenty of room. The hot water is controlled in the shower so that someone doesn't get scalded as it is very hot water that comes out of the sink. The dining room and the main bar salon are very elegant. The food was excellent we tried different foods related to the region we were cruising through, that we have never had before. There is free beer and wine during lunch and dinner service. There was just so many choices for food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The crew were top notch from the housekeeping to the waiters, very friendly and seem to enjoy their jobs. We spoke to several of the crew who have come from big ship cruises to the small river boat cruise and they all said the very much enjoy the smaller cruise ship compared to the big cruise ship. The ratio of crew to passengers on this crew was something like 62 crew to 135 passengers. We did all the included excursions, including the optional pay excursions as well. Beware, you will be feeling tired when finished each day, since during our week long cruise the temperatures was around 95F/35C or higher each day. But a short nap before dinner would recharge our batteries. The only thing I would do different with the excursions is to leave the tour group earlier and do our own exploring, since time is limited on the excursion. We did do this the last few days. I ended up with over 2000 photos of the landscape, cities, local homes and people, very beautiful country side. This was our first cruise and don't see how we can top this on our next cruise, which we would like to go with Uniworld again along the Danube River. Glad we picked Uniworld and can't wait to do our next river boat cruise with them. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2012
We boarded the Amacello in Amsterdam for the first leg of our APT cruise to Monte Carlo. The cruise was everything we had hoped for and more. Right from the start , Kate our fantastic tour director set the tone for a fun, well organized , ... Read More
We boarded the Amacello in Amsterdam for the first leg of our APT cruise to Monte Carlo. The cruise was everything we had hoped for and more. Right from the start , Kate our fantastic tour director set the tone for a fun, well organized , informative holiday. The staff were all really helpful. Nothing was too much trouble. We were always greeted with big smiles and it was easy to tell that they were happy to be working on the Amacello. The excursions were well paced for the most. We were at the younger end of the passenger list and so found the pace of some of the walks a little slow but there was ample opportunity for free time to do things at our own pace. We struck a very hot spell in Germany when it was 40 degrees plus 3 days in a row and we always had plenty of bottled water, cool towels and iced drinks on our return. The ice cream party went down a treat one hot afternoon! APT used excellent local guides and high quality coaches for the excursions. The group size on these was not large at all and the Vox boxes were really good because you could move away a little and still hear. Last but not least the food was incredible. Breakfast was the usual buffet but with the addition of beautiful freshly cooked omelettes! Lunch and dinner was beautifully presented and represented the local cuisine. Wine flowed freely and was a better quality than the usual house wine. I would like to make a special mention of the delicious cheese board too! Our first river cruise was incredible but little did we know that it could be bettered! Read on for the second installment of this review! We left the Amacello early in the morning to travel through Switzerland to Lyon to board the Amadagio for the second part of the cruise. Same great tour director Kate, different but just as fantastic staff and another very well kept boat greeted us in Lyon. This is the first year that APT has sailed on the Rhone but you would think they had been doing it for ages by the quality of the included tours and local guides. The boat only sailed during the day and only for short times as the towns were a lot closer than on the Rhine. This meant that each evening we could take a walk into the town after dinner. One evening there was a guided ghost tour into Viviers which was a highlight for us! The itinerary for this cruise has something for everyone- visits to hilltop villages, medieval and Roman towns, wineries, a truffle farm, a goat farm and an olive farm. Again the food and wines were beautifully prepared and chosen and the servings just the right size. On this cruise the evening entertainment was fantastic as was the silk demonstration one afternoon near Lyon. My husband really enjoyed the visit to the wheelhouse with Captain Alain too. The only time we could not get Internet on our iPad was when we were in a lock and there was always enough strength to use Skype video. The laundry service was really efficient and reasonably priced and both boats had a great little gift shop with topical souvenirs so that you did not have to waste time ashore looking for them if you did not want to. The one tiny disappointment was that there weren't many people our age on the cruise, most being in their late 60's or 70's. However we soon learned that age is no barrier to having fun just that maybe we can go a little longer! Thanks again to the wonderful Kate for giving us so many laughs and good information about the towns we visited or sailed past. This may have been our first river cruise but it won't be our last! Thank you APT or Amawaterways as it is known in USA. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
Viking went totally beyond in meeting our expectations. We were met at the Amsterdam airport and taken immediately to the ship. We dropped off our luggage and toured the Amsterdam Canal (on our own) before boarding the ship. It did not ... Read More
Viking went totally beyond in meeting our expectations. We were met at the Amsterdam airport and taken immediately to the ship. We dropped off our luggage and toured the Amsterdam Canal (on our own) before boarding the ship. It did not even take five minutes for us to get checked in and taken to our stateroom. Our luggage was in our room waiting for us. The ship, Viking Prestige, was clean and so comfortable considering we were on the river for 15 days . We felt our cabin was very comfortable. The bathroom was perfect for the two of us. The beds were very comfy and helped provide us with good sleep every night. We cannot say enough about how much the staff on the ship tried to make our time with them THE BEST. To our knowledge, nothing escaped their attention, from remembering that one of us loved our coffee refilled often, to the turn down in the evening for a good night's rest. The food was delicious, varied,and plentiful. Our program director, Maryann, was exceptional in providing and planning the best experiences in shore excursions as she and her staff could. The water levels made her job extremely stressful for three days, but she pulled it off without a hitch. The hotels, food, excursions, and even the bus rides were great. We did get to return to the ship for the final two nights, which was a real treat. We did not feel the daily tip per person suggested by Viking was not out of line at all. We feel the staff worked very hard to provide a wonderful vacation for us. Leaving the ship to go to the Budapest airport for our return trip home was as easy as it was at the beginning of our trip. We would not hesitate to travel with Viking again. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
My husband and I took this cruise to Scandinavia this past August 12 - 24. It was our first cruise, and generally, we enjoyed it very much. The accommodations were excellent, as well as the service. The entertainment was generally very ... Read More
My husband and I took this cruise to Scandinavia this past August 12 - 24. It was our first cruise, and generally, we enjoyed it very much. The accommodations were excellent, as well as the service. The entertainment was generally very good, and we especially appreciated the pre-disembarkation prep talks given by Linda; she was excellent! We personally could have done w/out the "Staffs' Got Talent" show, which I understand is a fixture on cruises; they didn't! Tops in the entertainment for us was the indomitable Perry Grant. Don't pay attention to those naysayers; they don't know what they're talking about. This guy's humor is a mite sophisticated, so if you don't get it...all I can say is, after my husband and I discovered his show in Michael's Club, we made sure to return for almost ALL of his shows. He is very talented and absolutely hysterical. When we disembarked in Amsterdam, and I spent 3 days listening to people speaking Dutch, I must have looked like a nut, because I kept cracking up remembering Perry's rendition of "speaking Dutch" (the Dutch passengers aboard were hysterical, too!). The only thing I was surprised about and disappointed with was the uneven quality of the food. I know the staff is preparing food for thousands of people, but I still expected the buffet to have better-tasting food. I mean, how difficult is it to make good-tasting bread? Or decent tuna fish salad? The food in the dining room and Tuscan Grille specialty restaurant was generally very good, but here again, I was disappointed with the desserts. They were generally just "OK," and sometimes not good at all. Really awful we're the chocolate chip cookies (the REAL ones), also not something you need Michelin stars to be able to execute well. And I was particularly disappointed w/some of the food prepared on Russian Night. While the coulibiac and Russian-style potato salad were pretty good, the hot borscht and beef stroganoff were inedible. I actually offered my easy and delicious hot borscht recipe to the head chef; he said he wanted it and his asst chef said they'd come to the dining room that night (the last) to look for me and get it, but they didn't. I felt bad that all those people had had such a wonderful time in St. Petersburg, but then weren't able to experience the simple but delicious pleasure of these Russian classics. The other thing I'd probably wish for is more shopping time (at least 2 hours) built into the tours. I also very much enjoyed Karen Dodd's nature presentations, but would have preferred the trivia sessions to be more general (geography, history, maybe about the ports of call), and they would have been more enjoyable if small prizes were given out after each session. And come on, it was SO ANNOYING that they kept trying to sell us stuff and that we didn't have free wi-FI, but from what I understand, this is typical of a cruise at this price range. I liked this port of call because it really looks like a medieval town (I'm a history buff; this may not be everyone's cup off tea), and the shopping is fabulous! A tour really isn't necessary; it's small enough for a self-guided tour. Ate lunch at Olde Hanse, where the servers wear medieval garb, and the place is only lit w/candles! The food was very good, too. Buy sweaters, natively-made linen wraps, etc. The prices are fair. And we were able to return to the ship when we were finished (well, if the truth be told, I wasn't finished, but would I ever have been?!) by shuttle bus. Tour guide was fabulous, saw the important sites, palaces, etc., and had oodles of time for shopping! The idea of see stuff, then hang out in the city center for a few hours and return on a shuttle bus is a terrific way to combine sightseeing and shopping; I would have liked ALL the tours to be this way. Tried traditional Danish smorgasbord; expensive but delicious! Talk about wonderful bread! Danish people exceptionally nice (pretty much everyone in every port of call was nice). Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
The holiday of a lifetime was how I would describe our River Cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest on Uniworlds luxurious River Empress in early October. I have never experienced so much commitment toward the guests enjoyment of a holiday. ... Read More
The holiday of a lifetime was how I would describe our River Cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest on Uniworlds luxurious River Empress in early October. I have never experienced so much commitment toward the guests enjoyment of a holiday. From the Captain to Zsanett, our stateroom stewardess, they were superb. I want to mention the waiting staff but then I would have to talk of the reception staff, the hotel manager, the bar staff, the Tour Manager, the Chefs, the sailors because everyone did their job expertly and then showed kindness and thoughtfulness beyond their duty. The moment we arrived on the quayside at Amsterdam we were swept up into the friendliness, efficiency and quality that is Uniworld. Our cases were spirited away and were there in our stateroom when it was ready, a buffet lunch was waiting along with a welcoming coffee, wine or soft drink. Every breakfast, lunch and dinner was first class with options always to suit everyone's taste and often reflecting the country and area we were in at that time. Drinks with meals were complimentary and again a reflection of the local area. Almost every day there was a town, castle or Church tour and almost all were included and well handled. If I could find a tiny fault with the holiday then I would say that one or two of the local guides fell short of the very best. We did not have to disembark and did, indeed, choose to cruise on one day and did not regret it as the scenery was superb. There was often evening entertainment on board or land. No cash is required on board as payment for all drinks, optional tours and gift shop purchases is signed for and paid by credit card at the end of the holiday. Alot of the cruising between stops is done at night and that was fine but I could have coped with more time on the river during daytime. The Rhine was beautiful with wonderful Autumn colours in the many surrounding forests but the Main was the star for me with the romantic Danube a close second. A highlight, amongst many others during the trip, was the Mozart and Strauss concert in the grand and atmospheric Liechtenstein Palace in Vienna. Thank you Uniworld for a wonderful holiday -- need I say more than to add that we have already booked the 11 day Portugal, Spain & the Douro River Valley for the same time next year. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2012
Many reviews essentially repeat what others have said which is good in that they reinforce others' voices. But what we want to stress are a couple of points not often made. First, two major differences between river and ocean ... Read More
Many reviews essentially repeat what others have said which is good in that they reinforce others' voices. But what we want to stress are a couple of points not often made. First, two major differences between river and ocean cruising; and second, the differences between cruising and land-touring. The first point: . The smaller number of passengers means that we actually got to know several other travelers. Together for two weeks, we often ate, lounged, and walked together, whereas on the larger ships, we might not ever see the same person twice (unless meal seating is designated). With Viking, dining seats are not assigned, so you can rejoin (or avoid) people you've already met. . We were never more than 5 minutes from any part of the ship...no need to pack a lunch for a trip to the library or the observation deck. Need something in the room or want to change your sweater?...you'll be back before your tea gets cold. Very convenient. The second point: In the past 40 years, we have made numerous trips to, and driven thousands of miles through, most of Europe. This time however, we wanted to experience the unique point-of-view that the middle of the river provides. We may one day return by car to some of the port cities we visited, but we thoroughly enjoyed being able to see the hundreds of miles of river valley between them. There were literally hours of cruising in which we could not see a road, vehicle or town...something you can't do by car. No worrying about parking, choosing a hotel or restaurant, packing and unpacking, getting lost, or dealing with local drivers. Totally relaxing, 3-meals-a-day. Our next trip will likely be a road trip, as we may find a village where we'd like to spend more than a single day, or an unsigned road that might have an adventure at its end. But we will be back on a river one day. This was the Viking Danube's antepenultimate cruise; one more round trip between Budapest and Amsterdam and she'll no longer be part of the Viking fleet. An "older" ship, she was still everything we were looking for on a 1200 mile journey, so we are assuming that Viking's new ships are terrific. Viking was wonderful. Every detail had been anticipated, due to 30+ years of cruising. Tours, crew and staff, meals... we were never disappointed and have recommended the line to many friends. Read Less

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