5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
We just come back from a cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam with Viking and after reading all the opinions of other travellers we decided to have our input too. We travel with them exactly when the low water in Europe affected everybody ... Read More
We just come back from a cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam with Viking and after reading all the opinions of other travellers we decided to have our input too. We travel with them exactly when the low water in Europe affected everybody cruises and I think is fair to identify two different aspects of the issue. On one hand a big disappointment: you except Viking to be honest and transparent with their customers and inform them in advance about this type of issue which will bring ship changes, long bus rides, in general a discomfort for passengers. The only e-mail we got 8 days before the cruise was regarding the change of the ship: Viking Embla instead of Viking Lif. We contacted Viking office and we were told that will be no problems, that “everything is like was mentioned in the itinerary” and the “water is not a problem anymore”. Is it right Viking to lie to your customers just to avoid cancellations and compensations? On the other hand when we were on the boat and we started to experience problems with the water everything was perfectly organised smooth and with no stress and we reach Amsterdam after a 2 amazing weeks. In this case, when everything on the boat is so well planned and organised, having a minimum impact on our journey, was it so difficult to find the same level or respect and transparency when we call the Viking office? We travelled on 2 boats: Embla and Lif which supposed to be identical, but the reality was a little bit different. We liked Lif more being a newer ship, more comfortable and more spacious. But the massive difference was the service and the staff: while on Embla everybody was very professional on Lif we had the feeling that we landed on a “training vessel” with everybody trying to do their job but failing almost every time. Katja, the hotel manager on Embla, was always in control, always with the passengers and always efficient and smiling. Her leadership abilities reflected positive on her entire crew who was brilliant. On Lif Jeronimo, the hotel manager, was very arrogant, never interacting with the passengers and more interested in having a “good time” with the rest of the staff then acting to achieve a good service. We tried to speak with him about some on-board credit issues, but he was always busy, avoiding us and passing the problem to the reception. Not the expected level of customer service from Viking. George the restaurant manager was superb and everybody in Embla restaurant was perfect: remembering our names every lunch and dinner, impeccable service (we fall in love with Martina) and delicious food. On Lif we never had the chance to speak with the restaurant manager, the waiters giving us the feeling that they just learn the job, making mistake with orders, speaking in front of us in their own language and never check if an extra service was needed. We ended on Lif to have dinner in the lounge were Christian and Ivan were far more attentive and professional then others. The reception on Embla was extremely helpful, booking a lot of trips for us and helping everybody to find their way around. Especially Lucia was always kind and smiling and when she didn’t know the answer didn’t have a problem to ask the cruise director for the correct information. On Lif the two young men at the reception (didn’t make the effort to remember their name) were very unprofessional and arrogant with an attitude more appropriate to a cheap hostel than a Viking ship. At every question they were giving us the feeling that we were stupid, and this patronising way to answer was always topped with the wrong information. They were the worst receptionists ever!!! On the positive side the housekeeping on Lif was amazing with our steward Ivan very helpful and professional. While on Embla we never meet the Capitan, on Lif the Dutch Captain was a pleasure to meet and talk to and his evening presentation was informative and funny. The only constant exceptional experience for us on these two boats was the Program Director – Leonard. From the very first moment when we embark Embla in Budapest until the moment when we left Lif in Amsterdam Leonard was far above any expectations. His was an excellent organiser managing perfectly the guides, the coaches, the time tables, everything and everybody involved in changing the ships so well that for all of us was just a normal day not a major trauma or drama! During the long bus rides he was jumping from one coach to another, from one group to another to check if everything was fine and to solve any problems and he manage to find time during the transfer to buy to all of was a chocolate hart … how sweet! One day he was assisting a passengers with reduce mobility while he was giving information about best shopping in town and locating a lost cell phone and another day he was helping very professional (my husband is in ER) with a medical emergency (quite a ugly wound on somebody leg) while he was trying to help a passenger from another Viking ship left behind his group. Really ??? How many things you can do so well Leonard! Leonard knows the history, culture, tradition of any stone, city, castle and church on our itinerary and sometimes his explanations were better and more accessible than the guide’s ones! Each evening briefing and lecture was a unique opportunity to access in an easy, interesting and entertaining way complicated stories about history, art and culture. He had such a versatile personality: a strong organiser in the morning during the excursion, informative and efficient in the evening and fun and charming in the evening. What a joy to have him on board! For sure we will go back to Viking…they know how to make every moment special despite the fact that they still need to work on some issues (do something about Lif…is a beautiful ship with such low standards). And by the way we want Leonard as a Program Director! If anybody from Viking read our review, please send our massive “THANY YOU!” to Leonard for making this a vacation of a lifetime. He really is a “ Rockstar “ who made this so much fun and so Read Less
Sail Date: September 2017
RIver Cruising is a totally diff experience. We would not do it again. Nice to see so many spots but outside of a few ports if you are a traveler and have seen a lot of Europe there is nothing new here. Boats lack amenities such a space, ... Read More
RIver Cruising is a totally diff experience. We would not do it again. Nice to see so many spots but outside of a few ports if you are a traveler and have seen a lot of Europe there is nothing new here. Boats lack amenities such a space, gym, spa, dining choices. Our suite was nice however. We were thankful to have the balcony and Living room as the top deck was closed for the last 4 days of the trip. Food ok, breakast was the best part. VERY loud dining room. Budapest, Cologne Highlights, go to the TOP of Cologne Cathedral its breathtaking. If you want privacy stay in your room. Unless you get to dinner early there is a good chance you will be sitting with whomever. We enjoyed meeting people, but there were times when we wanted to eat along, and thats not possible. Suites include laundry service and drinks which is fabulous. Also saved on Businessclass airfare through Viking. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
I chose this cruise for the 2 for 1 sale, and it was supposed to go from Bucharest to Amsterdam. The first news we were given was that we would be changing boats in Budapest. Not ideal, but manageable. The good. The Cruise ... Read More
I chose this cruise for the 2 for 1 sale, and it was supposed to go from Bucharest to Amsterdam. The first news we were given was that we would be changing boats in Budapest. Not ideal, but manageable. The good. The Cruise director was amazing. His nightly port talks were not only informative but full of comedic content. He could easily make a good living as a night club comedian. The house keeping staff was great. Their attention to personal detail was very polished. The restaurant staff was very personable and their attention was top notch. The bad. The food was just okay. I equate it to the food in a restaurant of a three star hotel. It was good, but not nearly what I expected. The chef told me that he had to prepare the menus dictated by the corporate office. We were in a French Balcony stateroom on deck two. It was really small to say the least. The bathroom was nice, but also really small, one person at a time, and barely enough floor space for both feet. The bed was large and reasonably comfortable. The air conditioning worked well. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2017
I wanted to go with my friend. i always wanted to tour these countries but a bus tour, checking into a new hotel every night and checking out next morning did not appeal to me. Also all that sitting on a bus would have been painful. ... Read More
I wanted to go with my friend. i always wanted to tour these countries but a bus tour, checking into a new hotel every night and checking out next morning did not appeal to me. Also all that sitting on a bus would have been painful. The disappointing things were: no wifi for first several days until router replaced, only day in Vienna was a Sunday and all stores were closed. Because of water in part of the Danube was too shallow, we were bused to many towns so many hours on a bus. None of the ships could sail between Passau and Nuremburg, so we were bused about 3 1/2 hours from Embla to Nuremburg to be transferred to Aegir for the balance of the cruise to Amsterdam. Embla crew was excellent, especially Stephan, the tour director and thankfully he came with us on the Aegir. Although I am not completely handicapped, many other passengers were and like myself could not participate in the many difficult shore excursions on cobblestone streets and many hours of walking. The shore excursions are geared to younger people with no physical difficulties. I will be very selective as to who I would recommend this trip to even though I loved seeing the places I did get to see. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2017
We chose this cruise because it covered countries that we had not visited yet. Hungary and Croatia were the highlights of the cruise. Romania and Bulgaria were disappointing and we could have skipped them. Some tours were very good and ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it covered countries that we had not visited yet. Hungary and Croatia were the highlights of the cruise. Romania and Bulgaria were disappointing and we could have skipped them. Some tours were very good and interesting but others were a waste of time. Service aboard the Embla was good as expected since we had already cruised aboard the ship Odin and consider it the best choice. They seemed to have difficulty with fish dishes as they were not good. The time for the evening meal was a bit late for us seniors and they often competed with other activities in the lounge. On the day that we were to board there was great confusion and guests were required to sit in the lounge area for at least two hours before the cabins were ready for occupancy. I would have to think hard about taking another Viking river cruise since our six ocean cruises were definitely more enjoyable. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
This was our 2nd Viking cruise, the other being in 2014 in Russia for 14 days was wonderful and exciting, now comes my coparison. This cruise "The Grand European Tour" from Budapest to Amsterdam on the Embla was average at best. ... Read More
This was our 2nd Viking cruise, the other being in 2014 in Russia for 14 days was wonderful and exciting, now comes my coparison. This cruise "The Grand European Tour" from Budapest to Amsterdam on the Embla was average at best. We did the pre and post cruise extensions. Lack of local entertainment on board, 2 of which were musical and very nice and a local glass blower who was more about selling his goods. Each night at 6:45 there was a briefing for the next days included and optional excursions where the program director was in the zone for selling the optional tours. The first night she went on and on about the upcoming optional tours like an encyclopedia salesman. The dining staff was short staffed at best, very rushed, twice we had to ask where our food was. a few nights we were finishing dinner and wanted another glass of wine and just chat with friends and low and behold the wine is gone and they are setting up for breakfast with clanging dishes, just horrible service. then I was not feeling well with a chest cold nad canceled one of our optional tours for the next day which I explained to the concierge at the front desk and he knew I was sick. He had told me he couldn't do anything because we booked online and when we got home just call Viking for a refund and they would confirm I was sick. Not so! Called viking and was told that the policy is no refunds under any circumstances. all in all it was an expensive lesson I will never repeat and our plan after our Viking river cruise was a Viking cruise every other year. Not happening now. They really nickle and dime you. Theyt have grown to fast over the last couple of years in my opinion. Sorry Viking, you reap what you sow. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
The dining room seats 180 people. On our previous river cruises, there were only 120 passengers, not 180. The ceiling in the Embla's dining room is very low. This produces a terrible sound quality. It was so noisy I had to shout ... Read More
The dining room seats 180 people. On our previous river cruises, there were only 120 passengers, not 180. The ceiling in the Embla's dining room is very low. This produces a terrible sound quality. It was so noisy I had to shout to be heard by the person sitting right next to me. However, the service and the food were excellent. There is actually only one day of river cruising on this river cruise. That is the day the ship sails through "The Iron Gates." This is a very beautiful part of the Danube and this day was very relaxing. The rest of the week, the ship cruises at night when you are asleep. During the day, you are on excursions to destinations which are frequently far away from where the ship docks and require long bus rides. This is not relaxing. It is exhausting. The parts of the cruise I enjoyed the most were the Putszta horsemanship show and the home visit in Croatia. The 2-night stay in the Budapest Hilton was amazing. We were a stone's throw from the Fisherman's Bastion and had an incredible view from our room of all of Pest including the Parliament and the Chain Bridge. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
Our cruise started with bus tours even before arriving at the port of Giurgiu to board the ship. Each day included more bussing, sometimes 1 1/2 hours to get to the site(s) selected for the day's visit. Upon arrival we were given very ... Read More
Our cruise started with bus tours even before arriving at the port of Giurgiu to board the ship. Each day included more bussing, sometimes 1 1/2 hours to get to the site(s) selected for the day's visit. Upon arrival we were given very limited free time to use the restroom, take photos and possibly shop. I felt as if we were cattle being herded on and off the bus in order to change locations for a repeat of the previous stop. However, the tour guides and drivers were very knowledgable, pleasant and helpful. We traveled in 5 countries and needed 5 currencies, however I was only guided to an ATM one time! Many of our tour guides and drivers did not get a gratuity from me because I only had large US or Euro notes and no local change. Viking was no help on the currency matter and in my mind is remiss for not having some funds on hand to assist the passenger on this matter. Viking's corporate position on this matter seems to be it is the passenger's problem, not ours. They encourage us to tip but provide no assistance in changing small amounts of local currency. Viking should have a small amount of local currency available for passengers at each port. Electronically they could monitor and limit each passenger to something like 20 euros, including coins, each day. One of the last days I was finally able to change, on board, a 50 euro note for a 20, 2 10's and 2 5's. Nothing smaller and therefore again no tips for drivers and tour guides. We had lunch on our tours several times as Viking arranged stops with food, music, dancing, demonstrations, etc. At those stops were were again expected to tip, but no local or small denomination euros were available. We had previously used all of our change including US dollars and/or euros and finally resorted to the few US quarters my wife had left in her purse! Viking is economically hurting their tour contractors as well as their onboard staff by not having some form of ATM available. Viking corporate management is very aloof on this matter!! The busses used were modern and nice; the rides were often quite long and boring. For the Prague extension we had a 9 hour bus ride from Budapest which included 2 stops. I feel that there should have been an option of a train or plane for this connection. Upon arriving in Prague we were housed in the Corinthia Prague, a very nice hotel, but not close to the city center. Transit busses (more bussing!) ran every hour but we did not enjoy the city center in the same manner as if we were housed there. This hotel was quite remote and not in an area with a multitude of local restaurants from which to choose. This is a critical issue and limited our enjoyment of Prague. On board Embla we were quite pleased. Our bathroom had a distinct sewer odor, the bathroom door squeaked and banged back and forth several nights and it was impossible to shower without getting the bathroom floor wet. Our cabin(235) attendant was very responsive in keeping us clean and nice, the dining room staff were wonderful and the staff at the business/tour desk and the concierge were always ready to assist. The wines served were marginal, the coffee lukewarm and flavorless and the food was very bland. Not a 5 star experience! Each meal was nicely presented and served, just very bland. On 2 occasions I opted for the New York Steak which was stringy, gristly and tough; the provided knife made it a battle to cut a piece to eat. However, we did not let the mediocre food ruin our trip; food and beverage was plentiful and some dishes were spectacular. Breakfast was probably the best meal with the exception of the undercooked and limp bacon presented each day. The trip on day 7(?) in Kalocsa, Hungary was a mostly a waste. The traditional Puszta horsemanship performance was, at best, marginal. Here, again, the locals wanted to be tipped and made many items available for purchase. Viking seems to be intent on focusing our shopping on businesses they have preselected rather on giving us time to shop in the various areas that we have visited. My overall impression of this trip is 3 of 5 stars. The ship is nice, the staff wonderful, the food marginal and the side trips tedious. I will not recommend this trip to anyone as I feel Viking management is aware of these issues that I have identified and is aloof and unwilling to make responsible changes. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
Sailed from Bucharest to Budapest; visited former Communist controlled countries. Many of these countries are struggling, still, due to corruption in governments, unemployment, little to no infrastructure, etc. However, found people were ... Read More
Sailed from Bucharest to Budapest; visited former Communist controlled countries. Many of these countries are struggling, still, due to corruption in governments, unemployment, little to no infrastructure, etc. However, found people were wonderful. It was depressing to see so many "left-overs" from the Communist regime, i.e., falling-down buildings, little to no new construction or housing, etc. Cruise ship, Elba, is one of the new long ships. She was beautiful. But, we have been cruising with Viking since 2005; this was our 9th cruise, and we have found, that over the years, Viking has changed, some to to better, some not so much so. In the beginning, there were smaller ships, much FEWER ships on the rivers, and we felt like a part of the Viking family. Staff, in the beginning, interacted more with passengers, and it was more fun. There were fun activities on-board with the crew. In fact, we have since sailed with some crew more than twice. We have seen a definite difference in how the crew and staff are allowed to interact with passengers. One instance, one of the staff wanted to show us a picture on the cell phone, but he said he had to be careful not be seen doing this by his "boss." This would not have happened in the beginning. When we docked in Budapest, I personally counted 17-different cruise ships docked. In the first few years, we were lucky to see one or two ships docked at our same location, and more often, they were Vikings. I understand that Viking needs to catch up, but in so doing, Viking has also lost the intimacy of the cruise that first attracted us. We have scheduled one more trip, Tulips and Windmills, a repeat of our very first cruise with Viking. But, I fear this will be our last. We like the smaller ships, more interaction with staff and crew, and also with Captain and his staff. I remember one cruise where the Captain actually came into the lounge and sat with us for quite a long time. Never happen on the long ships...   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2014
Background: My husband and I have done one other river cruise – Viking’s Imperial Jewels of China which was excellent. We have been on 18 ocean cruises. We are in our middle 60’s, very active and avid walkers. Itinerary: The cities ... Read More
Background: My husband and I have done one other river cruise – Viking’s Imperial Jewels of China which was excellent. We have been on 18 ocean cruises. We are in our middle 60’s, very active and avid walkers. Itinerary: The cities of Budapest and Bucharest were amazing. The other ports in between were not very exciting or interesting. If I had it to do over - I would save this itinerary until after I’d cruised the more scenic rivers in Europe. The included excursions in Budapest and Bucharest were well done. Viking did a good job with their excursions in the smaller ports under the circumstances but there were several ports that we felt were not worth getting off the boat for. Boat: The Embla was beautiful and in excellent condition. The Aquavit Lounge and the other public rooms and areas were comfortable. The dining room was lovely but very noisy and as others on this board have suggested – we tried to get a table at either end of the dining room where the noise level was not so high. Wi-fi worked well throughout the ship in the public rooms. We were in cabin D208 which was fairly close to reception but I could only get a signal by our door and in the bathroom. The two coffee/tea/cookie stations were very convenient. In addition to oatmeal and double chocolate cookies, the pastry chef would also feature “local” cookies which were excellent. There were ice machines on each floor. Cabin: Our French Balcony stateroom was small – tiny compared to ocean cruise ship cabins – but quite comfortable and had plenty of storage. I’m a bath person and dreaded having only a shower during the cruise but the shower was great. The shower was a reasonable size and had glass doors instead of flimsy shower curtains. The water pressure was excellent and we never ran out of hot water. We found the beds quite comfortable and we enjoyed the in-room entertainment system with on-demand movies, TV shows and music. The 110 volt outlets at the nightstands allowed us to easily recharge our electronics. There is also a 110 outlet by the sliding glass door to plug in a hairdryer or curling iron. I’m always warm so I was impressed at how well I was able to control the temperature in our room. While I’m sure everyone else had their heaters on – I was able to turn on the a/c and set the temperature to a comfortable 68 degrees. Food: Food is very subjective. We are good, happy and not picky eaters. The food was pretty good but not great. The dinner menu always included 3 entrees – one meat, one fish and one vegetarian dish in addition to the always available items of salmon (very good), steak (very good) and chicken breast. We were impressed by the selection and quality of the appetizers each night. There were a total of 4 to choose from. There were several nights when we would have liked to order more than one but there just did not seem to be enough time for the wait staff to handle multiple first courses. The one occasion my DH did order 2 appetizers – the second one was never delivered. Rather than keep the rest of our table waiting – we ordered only one each night. Dinner took a full 2 to 2 ½ hours every night. Service was very slow the first four days but improved by the end of the cruise. The soups (except for the New England Clam Chowder and Chili) – were very good. We enjoyed them especially for lunch in the Aquavit Lounge. There was a pasta station each day for lunch in the dining room along with a salad bar and several miscellaneous items like pre-made sandwiches. There was also a menu for breakfast and lunch that you could order from in addition to the buffets. The breakfast buffet featured an egg station that you could custom order eggs and omelets from. There was always bacon, different kinds of sausage, cereal, breads and fresh fruit available. Entertainment: I believe 5 out of 8 days/nights we were treated to folkloric shows both on board the boat and on shore. On several nights we had lectures and not very interesting ones at that. Really? I know the average age of the passengers was over 70 but there must be other forms of entertainment available for us “age-challenged” passengers. The one night we played Name That Tune was great fun. The pianist was excellent and had a great voice but he was under-utilized throughout the trip. Hotels: The hotels Viking used were excellent. The Budapest Marriott Hotel and the Bucharest Radisson Blu were beautiful and within walking distance or metro to many attractions. The included breakfasts were wonderful with many choices. Miscellaneous: The staff were friendly and very accommodating. Our cabin steward did a great job. As previously mentioned, the dining room staff got off to a really slow start but improved as the cruise progressed. Since this was the first cruise of the season for the Embla, it was understandable that there was a learning curve.   Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
We joined the ship in Bucharest for originally a 21 day cruise to Amsterdam but had to vacate the ship in Budapest due to the flooding of the Danube. It it s beautiful ship and the general operational organisation of the ship is ... Read More
We joined the ship in Bucharest for originally a 21 day cruise to Amsterdam but had to vacate the ship in Budapest due to the flooding of the Danube. It it s beautiful ship and the general operational organisation of the ship is fghenerally very good. We become very disappointed with both the service and food onboard. Because we were going to be onboard for three weeks we decided the take one of the Panorama Suites, the most expensive cabin on the ship. This came with an all inclusive premium wine and beverages package if we booked by a certain date with we did. The bar was always manner by the same staff. On the first night, I ssked them to fill the glass with ice when making my gin and tonic and give me a slice of lemon not lime. Every time there after I ordered my drink of the same guys I had to go through the same process. They got it wrong every time without fail. On every other ship I have been on (and I have been on plenty) when I go back to the same barman he has remembered my request and in most cases as I have walked into the bar for a drink before dinner he has seen me coming and is already preparing the drink. Now to the dining room, well the staff were busy taking orders and serving as you could imagine. As they were asking the individuals if they wanted red or white wine I pointed out that I was on a premium wine package so could I see the wine list. Well, first of all they appeared to not knwo what I was talking about, then I was told they lost it and finally the found it and presented it to me. Seven wines were on the list mainly from Bulgaria and Romania. Hello!! has anyone heard of these wines? If you had to buy them they were 22 euro a bottle. Not too premium in my view. Anyway there was one bottle of Bordeaux wine a little loweer down seperated by from the others by a line. I picked that one which I was prompty told was not part of my package. Having spoken to the hotel manager I was told I could order as many bottles of this as I like in my cabin but not in the dining room. Are you serious? Accordingly he immediately sent one to my cabin which I did not open. I thinked him the following and advised that I now only had to arrange transport of the bottle to the dining room tonight to which ne promptly obliged. Are you serious? So the nonsence of ordering wine to my cabin and having transported to the dining room continued. Food, well whilst there was nothing wrong with the quality generally is was minimal in size and very limited in variety. Breakfast and Lunch became very boring and very ordinary in presentation. Overall I think Viking have to educate themselves about the top end of the market if they are going to try and compete at that end. They need to understand what they demographic expect and receives on other ships. As a mass market product where you get the punters on at a low cost and then charge them for everything that move, they havea great product, but when you deal at the top end where the price is up at the front and then everyhting else is to flow faultlessly and above expectations , they have a bit of work to do. And finally there were the flies in the dining Room that I referrer to the hotel manager. I said to him one day, "is there any chance of fumigating the dining room one night as we all have a conversation with the flies buzz around and land on the glass rims every meal" his answer " yes it is bad I know, it the rural area we are in (meaning Romania, Bulgaria, Serbis and Croatia)" I replied, "well, I have sailed on a lot of ship even in China and I must say I have never had flies in the dining room before" It's a pity because if they got it right it would be a great experience on their beautiful new ships. Maybe we just truck it unlucky with some nom so good staff But is has put us off. W were happy to get off at Budapest due to the flooding Danube. And if you are thinking of taking a Panorama suite, don't. The soot from the engine stack landsall over the balcony at the rear of the boat so you cannot sit outside. The carpet in the suit is already ruined at the balcony door. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2013
This trip was one of the most expensive cruise vacations we have ever taken and was generally disappointing. Before I begin this review, let me say that we contacted Viking many times prior to leaving on our trip due to reports of severe ... Read More
This trip was one of the most expensive cruise vacations we have ever taken and was generally disappointing. Before I begin this review, let me say that we contacted Viking many times prior to leaving on our trip due to reports of severe flooding on the rivers we were to cruise. We constantly went to the Viking website for updates on river flooding conditions and impact on cruises. Many cruises just prior to ours were being changed or cancelled. We were willing to reschedule our trip if we were to have any problems in completing the trip as planned. Viking repeatedly reassured us that we might have to bypass Passau due to severe flooding and start on the Embla before switching to the Skadi, but otherwise our trip would proceed as scheduled from June 16 to June 30, 2013. When we arrived in Budapest, we were informed we would cruise as planned with just the Passau change to an alternate city. We were not told there would be any delay or change of type of transportation. We talked daily the days before boarding the ship in Budapest to the cruise representative in the pre-cruise hotel and were not give anything in the way of different information. The actual trip turned out to be quite different. We were supposed to cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam on the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers. Due to flooding damage to locks, the better part of 5 days of our 14 day cruise were interrupted and we were instead put on a bus trip through Austria and Germany. We missed some of the most beautiful parts of the Danube which had led us to want to do this trip in the first place and missed the Main River entirely. Upon arriving in Vienna (3rd full day on ship), we were informed we would have to leave the Embla, and would be housed for two nights in Bavaria at a resort and 2 nights in Nuremberg….with assurances that both would be 5 star, air conditioned hotels (the weather had been in the high 90’s and even over 100 for days). The first resort in Bavaria was attractive but had no air conditioning of any kind in rooms or dining rooms, making a miserable stay in 100 degree temperatures. The second in Nuremberg was not 5 stars but supposed to be air conditioned but it hardly worked. Luckily the temperatures broke on our second night there and we could open the room windows. Sites we were to see were abbreviated to short tours in favor of long bus rides (some days we spent four to six hours on buses). During this five day/four night land odessy, we were only told each night before what we would be doing the next day. Relaxing days on shipboard were exchanged for packing, unpacking, long bus rides and “forced” marches through sites on days when we checked out of one place and didn’t check in to the next till evening. No alternatives were available to tours for those who couldn’t walk all day or didn’t want to do an excursion. We at one point were told to purchase our own lunches while on the bus trip and told we could get up to 25 euro per person reimbursed for this purchase since we had already paid for lunches on the ship and were unable to access those. When the cruise ended the last day, the 25 euro “reimbursement” turned out to be credit toward shipboard purchases and many on the cruise had to use their 25 euro to purchase Viking trinkets/shirts in their onboard “gift shop” as their reimbursement. I believe we were not given the full picture by Viking prior to our cruise nor were we given any choice in whether we wished to be hauled around on buses. I feel Viking should have informed us of what we were facing and allowed us to choose to continue the land “cruise”, fly or train to the city where we could wait to next board the ship, or leave at the point the cruise as scheduled was no longer possible and have a refund of the price of the remaining days. We were only given enough information to plan from day to day while off the ship and to me, the goal of saying they took us to scheduled sites and completed the cruise contract of delivering us to Amsterdam was their plan…..which according to their contract is what they agree to do in any way they see fit. There were many other disappointments with this cruise. The food was mediocre; we felt their dining rooms were understaffed and meal service was extremely slow. We often waited 30 minutes between the salad and main courses. ”Wines of the regions” advertised turned out to be one choice of white wine and one choice of red which was served nightly on every night we were on the cruise unless you cared to pay for more choices. Poor communications and confusing instructions from program staff were the norm. A persistent and very unsatisfactory experience was the lack of air conditioning in our cabin on the 3rd floor. Within 2 hours of check-in to our cabin on the Embla, we reported the air conditioning to not be working. The cabin temperature hovered around 80 degrees. Our traveling companions in the cabin next to ours reported the same problem. We repeatedly asked for the air conditioning to be fixed as the outdoor temperatures were in the 90s and over 100 two days. We had 3 sleepless, hot nights before they were able to “fix” our air conditioning…….they finally got the temperature down to 72 at night and around 75 during the day. Finally the 4th night on the ship the temp went down to about 68….then the last night on the Embla the entire ship’s air conditioning went out and we again had a hot, uncomfortable night until it was repaired. I will also say that a balcony cabin seemed to be of little use. 50% of the time, when the ship was docked we were side by side facing at touching distance another river ship. Evenings after day time sightseeing was generally when you’d want to be on a balcony…….we would be looking directly into the ship windows next to us and at arm’s length in closeness on many nights, so we did not use it most of the time. Also, if so inclined anyone could hop over the adjoined railings and into your room's open balcony door when docked. I wouldn’t bother paying for this. So far, our shipmates have received notice of a 50% reduction in a future cruise if booked in the next year. This is not a refund and not a bargain, as 50% off Viking Cruises are routine and we receive tons of brochures with these advertised regularly to the public. Also, it in no way compensates for the travel expenses of airlines, beginning and ending hotel stays, and other expenses associated with taking such a future trip. I talked to several people who had saved and not taken other vacations in previous years to be able to afford this expensive trip. A credit to make up for what happened on this trip will do them no favors as the other costs of taking another Viking Cruise will not be possible for them. I have friends who in the past had great Viking experiences. I can only surmise that things with this company have changed. The weather is not Viking’s fault, but how they handle their passengers and whether they are truthful about conditions and changes which might be possible demonstrates their company’s values. I for one will not be traveling on Viking River Cruises again and would not recommend it to friends.   Read Less
Sail Date: April 2013
The Grand European river tour in April-May 2013 was our 2nd tour with Viking. The first was the Roof of the World tour in China and Tibet. We booked the European tour based on our very good experience in China. Overall we were disappointed ... Read More
The Grand European river tour in April-May 2013 was our 2nd tour with Viking. The first was the Roof of the World tour in China and Tibet. We booked the European tour based on our very good experience in China. Overall we were disappointed by comparison. First the good points: • Crew and staff were great-well trained, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. • Local guides were good-knowledgeable and coherent-they spoke English well • Comfortable bed and excellent room care • Smooth sailing boat • Historical sites and medieval towns along the route are awesome Second the downsides: Food-Great on the China trip. Not so good on this European trip. Just a cut above good buffet food. • The beef was inconsistent-sometimes so tough it was like an exercise to chew it, other times thin and overdone. Once out of three times it was good. • The fish was, for the most part, below par. Sometimes fishy, sometime bland. If you .take the trip-stick with the salmon. • Soup was way below the norm-for example, the Black bean soup has no black beans! All the soups were watery. I believe they use dry soup mix, but of a cheap variety-like something served at a school cafeteria. Lipton package soup is better. • The wine was like home made from a kit-it’s from Viking’s own winery and needs a lot of work before being sold as suitable for restaurant use. The red wine in particular was not as good as a jug bottle of Gallo. They do, however, graciously allow you to bring your own wine to dinner and not drink theirs. If you enjoy a decent wine, bring your own in spite of the fact that it increases your cost. Tours As I stated above, the tour guides were good, however, the tour groups had between 25 and 35 people. For the guides it was like herding old cats. Moving a group of that size and age through streets in a city was problematic. Boat Lounge is not large enough to accommodate all the people at the same time so that if you came in late you had to stand in the back or along the window walls to hear the presentations. Top Deck A negative to the trip was that for 5 days the sun deck was shut off, thereby limiting activity to the interior-no walks or scenic views from the top. All the river boats may have this downside, but it would have gone down better with me had Viking stated as such prior to accepting large quantities of money. Overall, in spite of the things noted above, we enjoyed the trip. There were several stops where you can stay ashore for lunch or dinner and the concierge will help make the reservation. The scenery is great and the stops along the route are enjoyable and educational.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2012
Viking Danube Cruise Embla-- Explorer Suite We would rate this experience at 3.5 stars. It had the potential to be worse. The underlying problem is that the business model is wrong for the upmarket traveler. Despite advertising, it is ... Read More
Viking Danube Cruise Embla-- Explorer Suite We would rate this experience at 3.5 stars. It had the potential to be worse. The underlying problem is that the business model is wrong for the upmarket traveler. Despite advertising, it is not a luxury cruise. Our reference level is large suites in luxury ocean cruise lines such as Seabourn, Silversea or Regent, with whom we have done a dozen or more trips of 1-2 weeks duration at comparable prices. Booking the Explorer Suite (the most expensive ) on the Viking Embla falls short in four respects and it is not clear from the advertising. First, the accommodation at the largest suite level is at least 40% smaller than a comparable priced ocean accommodation, somewhat imposed by the restrictions of the riverboat itself and the lock system through which it must pass. The bedroom in particular is extremely tight. The ceiling is very low. In the Explorer, the largest suite on the boat, which lists for $33,000 for seven nights for two and sells for just over $20,000, the bedroom when closed off is about 10 feet by 10 feet making it feel like a tomb. The suite is advertised as 440 square feet, but that includes the balconies (some two feet wide) so the interior space is about 375 square feet. It is cut up into two tiny rooms plus a nice bathroom, a hallway, and quite large closet. There is no table and chairs to dine in the suite nor is there room for them. Seabourn, for example, lists the interior square footage and the veranda square footage separately. Second, the service level is much lower. There is no room service available and certainly no butler service. No stocked refrigerator with drinks is included. Tips are not included. The dining room guests are herded into a crowded room filled with big tables allowing little privacy. It looks like a high school cafeteria with table cloths. There is no reserved seating and no tables for two. There is no distinction made for guests in a suite that cost $7000 or less...for the trip from those that cost $20,000 for the trip. That is fine if you paid $1000.00 per night or less, but the Explorer suite costs almost $3000.00 per night. At that level one has the expectation of elegant dining. Officially there is no alternative to the dining room except a sandwich menu on the deck behind the bar, which does contain tables for two and four. On our trip we were able to get served on the deck by a very concerned and professional staff that was unbelievably accommodating. Actually , they were among the best teams I have ever known in more than 20 years of cruising.... Pavel, restaurant mgr...Michael, hotel mgr...Radostina Alexsieva and, Kristin Krauss, tour assistants, Vivien Kiwitt, front desk, Timea Stit (head of tours and entertainment) and wait staff Jackie and Alan. They worked in what is basically an almost impossible situation. Other guests complained of slow and poor service; this is probably because the boat did not have enough kitchen/dining room staff, with the economics determined by passengers paying a third or less than Explorer suite category. Third, the intrinsic quality of the food and beverages was disappointing, especially the meats, cheeses, and the sparkling and still white wines that were included with the meals. The chef, Karl Heinz, was actually superb, and did the best with what he had. We saw his efforts for us on the back deck, Aquavit Lounge, but trying to serve an elegant meal to 188 people who all enter one room at once is almost impossible, especially when one offers a menu with choices. Fourth, and most importantly, the itinerary is highly dependent on water conditions in the Danube. These can affect the advertised destinations either because the water is too low (not enough under the keel) or too high (in order to pass low bridges). Viking's solution is buses and hotels, for the inaccessible sites, which can amount to one or more nights of a seven-day trip. Thus you may miss your first night on the ship and are put up in a hotel room instead. On our trip most people spent the first night of the cruise in hotels in Nuremberg and then were bussed to Valshofen for the second night of the cruise. They thus had six nights on the ship, not seven. This gets you to most (but not all) of the advertised shore excursions, but falls far short in value of the $3000/couple/day of the Explorer suite. You could do better paying for chauffeured transportation, private guides, great restaurants, and luxury hotel suites and still pay not much more than $1000/day for a far superior experience. Even ocean liners blow the itinerary once in a while owing to weather or mechanicals, but the risk in the riverboat environment is higher and is too well-hidden in the advertising brochures. The Danube Cruise is especially prone to bussing instead of sailing and the company ought to provide a history of completed versus incomplete sailings before you sign up so that each passenger is aware of the risk and how that risk is typically handled. Substitutions evidently happen quite regularly. When you are paying $3000.00 per night for a suite on a ship, a $150.00 hotel room and a two hour bus ride to the ship at another port down the Danube, missing sights on the river that are important is not a reasonable exchange. In general the service staff mentioned above made a real effort to address some of the shortcomings, and we are grateful to them for salvaging the trip. However, we conclude the underlying problem is that the business model is wrong for the luxury travel market.. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2012
Day 1-4 To much time in Moscow. Shore excursions were very good but how many churches can u c. Day 5 Town of Uglich very little to see. Shore excursion to a local home was good. Day 6 Town of Yaroslavl could do without Day 7 ... Read More
Day 1-4 To much time in Moscow. Shore excursions were very good but how many churches can u c. Day 5 Town of Uglich very little to see. Shore excursion to a local home was good. Day 6 Town of Yaroslavl could do without Day 7 Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery "boring" Day 8&9 Unable dock bad weather. This was the most boring part of the cruise. Viking had no alternate plan for this. We had nothing to do for two days. Day10-13 The best part of the cruise. Loved the Hermitage,Catherine's Palace,Peterhof Palace and behind closed doors. Day 12 Many passengers asked if we could go shopping we were told yes. After lunch a bus arrived to take us shopping. So off we go shopping. To very ones surprise we went to one store in the middle of town were no other shops existed. This was quit clear the ship and or Viking Cruise and the store had this pre planed. I wanted to buy Russian Vodka with Russian labels this store had Russian Vodka with English labels. So much for shopping in Russia. The ship: No phone anywhere except in your cabin. When your traveling with other people a phone in the dinning area would be very helpful to contact them. Stairs in front of the dinning room very steep some one will fall. Tour guides excellent Wouldn't recommend this Cruise to anyone! This cruise could do away with everything except St.Petersburg Last year we sailed with Viking on the Grand European Cruise. Everything about the cruise was a 5+++++. So we anticipated the same for the "Waterways of the Czars river Cruise". Not so, very disappointing except for St. Petersburg Read Less
Viking Embla Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.1
Dining 4.0 4.1
Entertainment 3.0 3.6
Public Rooms 5.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 1.0 2.8
Family 1.0 2.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.0
Enrichment 4.0 3.9
Service 4.0 4.4
Value For Money 3.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 3.7

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