1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2012
My husband and I travelled on the brand new Viking Embla from Budapest to Nuremberg at the end of July, 2012. This is Viking`s Romantic Danube tour. We had arranged our own 4-night stay in Budapest, before the cruise, and our package ... Read More
My husband and I travelled on the brand new Viking Embla from Budapest to Nuremberg at the end of July, 2012. This is Viking`s Romantic Danube tour. We had arranged our own 4-night stay in Budapest, before the cruise, and our package from Viking allowed for this and through them we had arranged the flight from our local international airport for a very reasonable additional charge. This made the package particularly attractive as it saved us from a 2.5hr drive to Luton. Instead a 15 min taxi ride to and from our local airport. Upon arrival in our taxi on the embarkation day, Viking crew (all in red to match) were there to offer us a greeting and a warm welcome and were collecting the luggage up and smartly delivering it to our cabin (we later realized they were to be our very own waiters) Our cabin was one with a french balcony. We were on level 2 and diagonally behind the reception. Excellent spot for speedy access to the main stairwell, the exits and to all decks. The cabin is not large, but there are lots of smart storage spaces and drawers and shelves. (Our Boutique Hotel in Pest, where we had spent the previous 4 nights had been a similar size but had felt cramped as it lacked the clever bespoke touches) Inside the cabin there was a huge Sony TV on the wall opposite the twin comfy more than adequate beds. Available on the TV, using the remote, you can access the weather, the full itinerary, the team on board, Norse Viking legends, bow and lounge cameras, tv channels, Sky movies, music, etc. Fully interactive and impressive. In the shower room, the floor is heated and fully adjustable.Wow!!! Air conditioning as one would expect and with the full floor to ceiling glazed door a view to the world to die for....and die you might but a sensible height waist rail restrains urges for a toe-dip. In the cabin ready and waiting for us in there re-chargable units there were the radio packs, that we were to use on all our tours that required a guide. These radios proved to be perfect, no interference at all during the walks, unlike those we were issued while on Royal Caribbean tours!!! We asked the cabin attendant for more hangers, they were delivered to the cabin within 2 seconds. On the first full day in Budapest, we had chosen not to go to the guided tour, as we had both spent a lot of time sightseeing so we stayed on the ship and we sailed to Visegrad,up to the famous Danube bend. We practically had the whole ship to ourselves and immediately began to relax and make friends. You can`t help it, everyone you meet is so very happy. At Visegrad we met the rest of the passengers joining us for lunch after their Budapest excursion. On every tour there was the possibility to choose a leisurely tour for those elderly or people who are able to only walk slowly. The alternatives are all calmly managed before you leave the ship(often the day before with sign up lists and announced reminders) With simple numererical references you are escorted to your appropriate bus always with the offer of a bottle of fresh water to aid the relief of expected warm weather or dull a head from the previous nights indulgences. Sensible use of the same number for your groups, your local guide and the channel on your radio means its all pretty idiot proof. Well there is always at least one..... isn`t there... After each tour, you are welcomed back aboard with a sweet, colourful and refreshing drink. Nice touch! The timings were well rehearsed, and perfectly adequate. So much so that after each of the the tours we had enough time to relax a while, make our notes, write an e-mail, argue a little, make- up again and have a shower and change our attire. It didn`t matter if it were the evening before the dinner at 19.00 or for lunch where you can choose the sun lite terrace or full dining with wine or beers, you never feel rushed, just well motivated to enjoy everything being offered. All this and all around you are the comforts of a state of the art, German engineered craft, smoothly gliding through the strong current of the Danube. You feel barely any sensation at all. You only know you are moving when the awe inspiring views out of each window begin to slide by as if you are watching National Geographic on HD quality television. You continue to relax and enjoy this closeness with the world at large and it` s simple beauty. Joy at sharing it with your companion and your table guests who all "get it" and have the same enthusiasm for the day you all just enjoyed and the meal you are currently all enjoying and the .. ..well it must be something they put in the water, that or the alcohol is more potent on board a riverboat. Now towards the end of our 6th day after visiting Passau, our vessel docked at an unscheduled town, Vilshofen. No explanation available at first but complete trust in Viking. We were finally enlightened during the evening cocktail hour where our captain was to announce that the Danube`s water level was too low to continue safely to the next port of Regensburg. If it failed to rain that very evening further up in the Bavarian forests the itinerary would be affected. The whole thing is explained calmly, perfectly succinctly. No vagueness, no room for mis-understanding. They explained the whole thing and like a well oiled machine the plan, so well rehearsed it`s second nature, is put into action. A slightly earlier start to the day and breakfast. A marginally longer bus journey which it never feels like it`s an inconvenience more like a little adventure. Arrangements for a fine lunch in a local restaurant, and the following day an announcement that a refund to compensate for the outlay for lunchtime beer or wine is credited to our on board accounts. Very civilised. As it happened it did rain that evening and after our trip to Regensburg we were re-united with the Embla. The locks are fascinating, at least to begin with anyway. Each time we approached one in daylight hours and outside of mealtimes, most everyone is watching and waiting. We are all in awe of the precision our Captain displays as he negotiates the lock and other vessels. The distance between us looks barely 20cm or so. These other vessels mostly barges, some longer than our boat, especially when they lash two or more together are crewed by entire families.They all live aboard with their dogs and the family car strapped to the roof while flying the flags of their homelands: Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia, Czech republic, etc . Slowly the enormous doors close behind us and the sluice gates are opened. It takes up to half an hour to fill, which is why once you`ve seen two or three you`ve seen them all and one gets a bit blase about them, but they are still one of men`s wonders. Overall an exceptional company operating superb vessels, staffed by wonderfully caring employees and offering memorable holidays in beautiful surroundings. We have already booked our next cruise with Viking. 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
Sail Date: July 2012
First I want to say that the ship was exceptional. I can't think of one thing they could have done to make it more comfortable. The staff was great and the food excellent. That being said, I want to explain why this cruise was not for ... Read More
First I want to say that the ship was exceptional. I can't think of one thing they could have done to make it more comfortable. The staff was great and the food excellent. That being said, I want to explain why this cruise was not for me. I felt the activity level of the tours was for a much older crowd. Face it, most of the people were 20 years older than I was. So things went pretty slowly. After the first few days I just took a map of the town and ditched the guided tours. I highly recommend it. I saw more and was able to do what I wanted. As long as you get back to the boat before it sails, you can stay as long as you want on shore and eat there too. Don't rush back for lunch if you don't have to. Some ports you need to stay with the group though, to get into a museum or a church that requires tickets. I really hated the main dining room experience. (Not the food, I rate the food a 5+.) BUT there were no assigned seats and no tables for two or even four where you could unwind and relax after a full day of touring. Instead, you are seated with new people every night at a table of 6 or more. You are basically ON, having to interact, be pleasant and introduce yourself over and over again every night to new people. I am an introvert and this was just torture for me. Several nights and every breakfast I escaped to the Cafe on the Aquavit terrace where they had tables for two. But they also had a very limited menu with only 4 main course items that never changed. That would have been fine but none of the choices was just a basic salad. You could order Cesar salad in the main dining room anytime you wanted it but it wasn't available in the Cafe, which made no sense at all to me. Plus they always put out bread plates and knives but never gave you any bread! What was that all about? Not that I needed bread but it seemed so silly to have the plates there for nothing, LOL. I did eventually find some regulars to sit with in the main dining room, so I didn't need to escape to the Cafe as often. Well, some people must think I'm very anti-social after this post! But really, I went on the cruise to relax and this just wasn't relaxing for me. I was ready to go home after a week, I was so stressed out. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
This is my third Viking river cruise. I had expected this would be our best cruise yet, but we were disappointed. Moscow and St Petersburg were fascinating, but the river cruise itself was rather boring. We had long intervals of ... Read More
This is my third Viking river cruise. I had expected this would be our best cruise yet, but we were disappointed. Moscow and St Petersburg were fascinating, but the river cruise itself was rather boring. We had long intervals of nothingness and the there weren't many on-board activities planned. We watched TV movies in our cabin most nights. On some of our excursions, particularly the tour Moscow at Night, we could not understand the tour guide. His English was very difficult to decipher, which made the tour a complete waste of money. The air schedule was also a problem. We had less than an hour lay over in Atlanta. Our flight from Savannah to Atlanta was a little late arriving and we literally had to run through the worlds busiest airport and just made the flight. Not a very relaxing start to our dream vacation. Previously I was a big Viking fan and told many people in our Sun City community about your cruise line. However, now I feel that I can no longer recommend Viking. We plan to do a lot more traveling, but this may have been our last trip with Viking. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
This was our second river cruise with Viking: the first was in southern France. In both cruises, the service and ship were exceptionable. In Russia, the staff was superb. The tour guides who were with us for the duration were ... Read More
This was our second river cruise with Viking: the first was in southern France. In both cruises, the service and ship were exceptionable. In Russia, the staff was superb. The tour guides who were with us for the duration were well-trained, highly informed, creative, friendly, considerate, and spoke English perfectly. The local tour guides were also excellent. The food was very good, although it was not as exceptional as on the May 2011 cruise on the Rhone in France. Perhaps that was because we had a French chef. The optional tours were also terrific, especially the behind the scenes at the Hermitage. The other passengers who went on the regular Hermitage tour missed out on seeing the splendors in the other facility. Also, we got in the museum before the normal opening hours and avoided the crush of August tourists. I would suggest that, during August, Viking try to get all passengers inside these prized places before the opening hours. I would suggest that, for Moscow, Viking inform passengers in advance that the ship is a distance from the main city, and tell them how to use the subway system. There is no city that I have been in, including New York and Paris, that has the traffic problems that Moscow has. It took us almost two hours to get to the Kremlin by bus. We could have cut that time by going to the nearest subway stop from the ship. I know that many passengers could not use the subway, but I would still inform them of this option. It would optimized the time to visit Moscow, which thrilled me with its sights and vibrant life. 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: September 2012
My husband and I booked our Viking Embla cruise from Budapest to Nuremberg in September of 2011 directly through Viking. I anxiously tracked the progress of the ship from the shipyard through its first voyages with passengers (it was a new ... Read More
My husband and I booked our Viking Embla cruise from Budapest to Nuremberg in September of 2011 directly through Viking. I anxiously tracked the progress of the ship from the shipyard through its first voyages with passengers (it was a new ship and some of the earlier launches were delayed). I also followed the reviews of the other Viking long ships that were launched earlier in 2012. As the time for our trip got closer, I started watching the weather and water levels. I got many helpful hints from the boards here on cruise critic. We made our own flight arrangements and arrived in Budapest a day prior to boarding the Embla. I had arranged for private transport from the airport to our hotel (Residence Baron) and everything fell into place as planned. A taxi delivered us from our hotel to the Embla early the next day. The Viking staff greeted us warmly (paying close attention to security), checked us in and stowed our luggage until we could access our room. We could have stayed on the ship and taken advantage of the public areas and a buffet lunch, but we were anxious to see Budapest and went back out. The Embla was docked right by the Chain Bridge and an easy walk to the sights. Budapest also has convenient hop on, hop off buses for seeing the city. We came back to the ship after 3PM and checked into our room, a Veranda B with balcony on the starboard side on the main deck. It was located at the very far end of the corridor. We really liked this location away from the reception area as there is far less foot traffic and noise. There is a staircase right there to access the other decks. Our room was quiet and comfy. There was a place to stow everything and a safe for our valuables. The bathroom had a solid sliding door (so no light bothering the sleeper at night) and a heated floor (you can turn this off if you want to). The room is compact because this is a RIVER SHIP, built to fit into small locks. If you are looking for lots of room and a butler, I recommend that you rent your own boat and crew. I do exercises for my back and managed to find some room on our cabin floor to do these. There is a walking path on the Sun Deck which I occasionally used. Qi Gong exercises were offered in the Lounge early in the AM, but this was when I did my back exercises, so I didn't attend. The ship was beautiful and well maintained. Just like in the brochure pictures. The crew was excellent. Everyone was hard-working, pleasant, friendly, entertaining, and constantly helpful. Our program manager, Timea, was amazing, keeping us informed and all moving in the right direction at the right time. Gerhard, the hotel manager, helped my husband print out some information he needed from the internet. The captain actually piloted the ship. We had an opportunity to sign up for a tour of the pilots bridge. I highly recommend this as it's quite interesting. Our room attendant got us separate duvets when we requested, so we wouldn't be wrestling with the one cover. You can tell when a crew is happy. We chatted with several employees and enjoyed getting to know them. The food was delicious. If you don't like the current days list of entrees, there are standard options that you can select. There is complimentary wine with lunch and dinner, and refills were not a problem. The wait staff worked hard to make everyone enjoy the experience. Don't like something? We'll get you something else. We enjoyed the dining room and didn't use the buffet on the terrace very often except for "A Taste of Austria" when some wonderful pastries were served with coffee and tea. There was a coffee/tea/hot chocolate station located outside of the lounge that always had cookies and small cup cakes available. We never had problems getting seating in the dining room. We preferred some of the smaller tables by the windows as it seemed quieter there. We met many different folks from all over the US and Britain. There was a good sized TV in our room that had on demand movies available and we watched a few of those later in the evening time. We were on vacation, so were not keen on looking at the news. We were very lucky on our cruise. The weather was great and the water levels allowed us to make the trip to Nuremberg without incident. Viking has a hand sanitizer located at the entry to the dining room and encouraged everyone to use it. This seemed to help everyone stay healthy. Although we went on some of the provided tours, we sometimes skipped them and went out on our own. We stayed on the ship along with a few others as it left Budapest and enjoyed having some quiet cruising time. I won't go into all the ports and optional tours. There is, however, a glass museum in Passau and if you like glass, this is a must see. I know Viking is always trying to improve it's service and tours. Some where great, others okay. A lot depended on your individual tour guide, your interests, and the time available. Departure was easy. We had arranged for private transport to take us to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic at 9AM. Reception let us know when the driver arrived and our luggage was taken out to the car by the staff. We received a warm and friendly farewell. We had a wonderful time on our cruise. Thank you Viking! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
My husband and I were quite pleased with our third floor stateroom with a balcony....enjoyed the views as we passed through towns.....also, a very convenient location for self-serve coffee bar, lounge and aquavit deck. The staff was ... Read More
My husband and I were quite pleased with our third floor stateroom with a balcony....enjoyed the views as we passed through towns.....also, a very convenient location for self-serve coffee bar, lounge and aquavit deck. The staff was very pleasant and accommodating.... evening music in the lounge was nice entertainment and provided a pleasant atmosphere for after dinner drinks and conversation. The shore excursions were very informative and gave a nice overview of each town...enjoyed staying in town after each excursion and "exploring" on our own! Our pre-cruise in Prague was delightful! Fell in love with Prague......Viking staff in the hotel were very helpful. Transportation to port via motor coach was comfortable. Really enjoyed small number of passengers on the river cruise.....much easier maneuvering for excursions, disembarkation, etc. We will definitely take another river cruise in the near future!!! Thank you Viking for a delightful experience!!!! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
Having done 18 ocean cruises, and several "bus" tours of Europe, I was intrigued by river boat cruising. After much research, I saw that Viking Cruise Line had build new longships for 2012, and looking for a less than two week ... Read More
Having done 18 ocean cruises, and several "bus" tours of Europe, I was intrigued by river boat cruising. After much research, I saw that Viking Cruise Line had build new longships for 2012, and looking for a less than two week stay, I decided to book the Romantic Danube Cruise with Viking sailing November 4-11 with a two night pre-cruise stay in Budapest, Hungary. I am a pretty independent "booking agent" that is I prefer to do my own on-line research and booking, and booked directly with Viking. I have to say that the Viking River cruise personnel when booking are just wonderful; they are personable, and really explain everything, not only with the initial booking but with any questions you have during that time up until the time of departure. You may also book you're air with Viking and for a small fee I chose to personalize by "flights"..I live in Philadelphia and wanted to utilize USAIR and to assure that I basically used that option and told the Viking representative handling the air portion of the trip, what flights I wanted including connections and what airline. Having never been to Budapest before, I was intrigued by this beautiful city on the Danube and booked Viking's option two day pre-cruise extension. Initially I had thought I was going to be in the Budapest Hilton in the Castle District and initially was disappointed when they had changed my hotel to the Budapest Marriott, but I was glad they did. We thankfully had no trouble with our flights since it was around the time in late October 2012 when Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast USA, and was greeted by a Viking Representative at the Budapest Airport. In addition to transfers, a Viking Representative was available for a good portion of our stay at the Budapest Marriott to help with transfers to the Longship Embla (was just a few blocks away on the Danube), to assist with any recommendations or options tours while in Budapest or restaurant reservations. Getting back to my comment on being switched to the Budapest Marriott...the location could not be better. It is located directly on the Danube on the Pest side of the city with fantastic views of the River, particularly at night when the entire Danube banks are lit up. In addition, having arranged a private walking tour, there is much more action in my opinion on the Pest City, albeit Buda Hills/Castle district are a must to visit. The hotel's exterior had a more bleak Eastern European"Bloc" appearance, the interior of the hotel was far superior to many hotels I have visited with an included huge daily breakfast buffet and a wonderful staff. Since the hotel was on the Pest side it literally was 1-2 blocks from the vibrant pedestrian only thoroughfare Vaci Utca, a great place to explore day or evening, and fully enjoyed the time in Budapest, including a visit to the Rudas Baths just across the Elizabeth Bridge from the hotel and a great way to soak away jet lag when arriving in the city. On the day of the cruise, our longship Embla docked,in a premier spot...right under the Chain Bridge, the most famous of all Danube River Bridges, and let me tell you, once it got dark, walking up to the observation deck was a picture opportunity beyond belief. My companion and I arrived a bit later to check in as we were enjoying a beautiful fall Sunday in the city, and "missed lunch". I couldn't believe that the waiter actually went the kitchen and fixed us a nice hearty plate of finger sandwiches and drinks...and the personalized service that introduced on the First day did not stop. Budapest is a beautiful city and I would recommend not only to be beat jet lag (and if it's affordable) to come in a few days early and explore the city. Many who flew in that same day did have the evening to explore as being docked in the heart of the city, and the next day with the guided tour, We left Budapest Monday afternoon sailing into Austria for the next port of call Vienna. Another full day as we docked in Vienna at 8 am and left at midnight. Vienna city center is not on the Danube per se and is a short walk to the metro/subway for those that wish to explore independently. I had planned this trip for a while so I mapped out lists of things I wanted to see, and decided for the most part to skip the included tours with Viking. However for those that don't want to do that or may be limited, rest assure that in each and every port, there is an included tour with optional time for shopping/lunch, etc. I could easily write a review about each and every stop, but in summary from a full independent day in Vienna (from the Schoenbrunn Place, to the Naschmarkt and Wiener Schnitzel Lunch, shopping on Kartnerstrasse, visit to the Hofburg palace are and ending the day at a Viennese Coffee House), the other stops were the charming city of Melk and a visit to one of the most beautiful baroque buildings in the world, the Melk Abbey and Church, and the Bavarian cities of Passau, Regensburg, and Nuremburg, each city provided a unique travel experience. My favorite on-board cruising was the traveling from Vienna to Melk along the scenic Wachau Valley and Danube Bend. It was a cooler November day that morning and I enjoyed the slow vistas of the fall colors of the River passing along Baroque Church steeples and castle ruins while seated under a heating lamp drinking hot mulled Gluhweinn, prepared by the chef. In addition to the service, the accommodations were more than adequate. I decided to save a bit and booked a standard lower cabin. This was at water level with a window, and I did not feel "claustrophic" at all. Having sailed on 18 ocean cruises this cabin on the Embla was larger and more well appointed then ocean cruise cabins. The meals were also beyond what I expected. Each day was a full and hearty buffet breakfast with a mix of American style and more European continental style breakfast, or you could order from the menu. Each day there as lunch, and featured a dining room menu or a specialized them buffet like lunch on the outer deck. Beer and wine are included with lunch and dinner on Viking cruises as well as soft drinks/soda. Dinner was open seating and we quickly enjoyed seating with cruise guests which on my cruise was probably about 90% US guest. A full five course meal was available. Our chef Karl-Heinz Zwanleitner, was superb...never have I seen such pride and freshness in a cruise meal (btw, the passenger capacity was 180 on the Embla.) One night he made a fabulous butterfish, that he received a standing ovation when he walked into the dining room. The entire staff/and crew could not have been more friendly. Any questions or concerns I had (and they were mainly questions on "How do I get to center city Vienna on the subway"?) were addressed with a smile. For those that want to stay in touch on-line, the wifi on board did not work that well, but they had two public computers with internet access that were adequate. I mainly used them not to connect with work at home but to research restaurants and sites for the next day's port. I didn't know what to expect from River Boat Cruising, and on the Danube; prior reviews were "lukewarm" but I got the feeling there were so because of 2011 water levels during a drought period, in which I think the cruise experience on Viking was unfairly reviewed....you can't control the weather. I cannot stop telling friends and family and co-workers about the experience. In fact, one friend based on review just booked the Rhine cruise with Viking. I don't think I would ever do another "bus tour" of Europe, and looking forward to planning another river adventure with Viking. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
This was my first River Cruise. The ship, the Viking Embla was new and well done. My cabin (on the lowest deck) was smaller than those I am used to on larger ships, but was nicely decorated and the bed was comfy - important after a day of ... Read More
This was my first River Cruise. The ship, the Viking Embla was new and well done. My cabin (on the lowest deck) was smaller than those I am used to on larger ships, but was nicely decorated and the bed was comfy - important after a day of sightseeing? Only negative was the small closet. The tours were informative and the guides provided interesting experiences in Germany, Hungary and Austria. The food was very good. Enjoyed every meal. Having free wine and beer at lunch and dinner was a bonus. An overall negative was the lack of activities on board, but that was expected. Those who need nightly production shows should avoid a Viking River Cruise. But for a mix of culture, history, beautiful scenery, great food and excellent service I heartily recommend a Viking Ricer Cruise - the romantic Danube on the Viking Embla. Am looking forward to doing another river cruise soon! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
My sister and I have always wanted to visit some of Europe's Christmas markets. Booking Viking's Romantic Danube trip was a brilliant decision. We began with a 2-night pretrip in Budapest--one of the loveliest, friendliest, and ... Read More
My sister and I have always wanted to visit some of Europe's Christmas markets. Booking Viking's Romantic Danube trip was a brilliant decision. We began with a 2-night pretrip in Budapest--one of the loveliest, friendliest, and most reasonably priced cities in Europe. We had wonderful accommodations in the heart of the city at the Marriott Hotel with a room overlooking the gorgeous Danube. The Budapest Christmas markets were our favorite with nice handmade crafts as well as an array of Christmas decorations and foods. We also had plenty of time to visit many of Budapest's historical sites. Leaving Budapest was hard, but we boarded Viking's beautiful new longship, the Embla, and began our trek up the Danube. The Embla crew was the best I've experienced on any of my 16 cruises. Cruise Director Timi kept us laughing and we were sad to hear she was being promoted to headquarters and future passengers will be denied her sparkling personality and organizational skills. The young chef on the Embla was outstanding; meals were thoughtfully inventive and delicious--the best I've had on any cruise. On Dec.5 we were told to leave our shoes outside our cabin doors; we were delighted by a surprise visit from St. Nickolas (who bore a strong resemblance to the 6'5" captain!). The new longships are cleverly designed with free Wifi and wiring for both European and American outlets. Cabins were small, but well-designed with every cabin having large windows to enjoy seeing the 28 locks we traversed. We also loved our itinerary with leisurely stops in Vienna and Melk, Austria as well as Passau, Regensburg, and Nuremberg, Germany. (The optional Mozart/Strauss concert in Vienna is not to be missed!) We did lots of walking, and, yes, the weather was cold. But, we had packed accordingly and got into the holiday spirit by drinking mulled wines and eating handmade gingerbread along with a variety of bratwurst and local specialties. The charm of the towns and the bustle of the markets made this one of the top trips of my extensive travels. We had so much fun that we have already booked a return trip for next December to take Viking's Rhine Getaway to a selection of different Christmas markets. I highly recommend this trip if you don't mind winter weather. Prices are very reasonable and air fares are much lower in the winter. If you love the holidays, this trip is a must for you! 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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2013
While there were a few minor glitches in our 17 days with Viking on the Embla and then on the Prague extension, the overwhelming majority of our experience was wonderful! The ports of call were outstanding, coupling small towns with major ... Read More
While there were a few minor glitches in our 17 days with Viking on the Embla and then on the Prague extension, the overwhelming majority of our experience was wonderful! The ports of call were outstanding, coupling small towns with major cities, but everywhere the ability to experience history and grandeur from the comfort provided by the ship made the experience something that will always remain one of our best vacations ever! Before going further I'd like to direct you to my day-to-day report/review on our trip that I posted daily from the ship. It's a lot more detailed than I can manage here, but may be a bit long and wordy for the casual explorer. http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1834574 Our first real negative involves the fact that we were actually supposed to be on Viking's Idun and not the Embla. We were never informed of the ship substitution and were actually unaware of the change until our transport bus pulled up in front of a strange ship. No adequate explanation of the change was ever offered other than the fact that the two vessels were sister ships and identical. While we had no problem with the ship itself and in fact believe that we lucked out due to some amazing personnel that obviously the Idun couldn't share at the same time, the change DID inconvenience some passengers who spent time and energy looking for a ship that happened to be cruising the reverse itinerary and was nowhere to be found. We found the food on the Embla to be wonderful, and a large cut above that which we've experienced on the host of ocean cruises we've taken. You cannot eat "continually" and if that's your draw for cruising, this may not be the best venue for you. The meals here were excellent with sit down or buffet choices at breakfast and lunch and excellent, many times local choices at dinner. Entrees were somewhat smaller than Americans may be used to, but after an appetizer, soup and in prep for a dessert, I found them to be perfect and I'm a big eater. Great cookies and coffee/tea are always available, but the main point is that with the included excursions you really don't have a lot of time for snacking. The rooms (ours was a balcony) are somewhat smaller than the same category on an oceanliner, but there's a ton of storage and we managed nicely even though we were on board for a full two weeks and I top out at about 240! Couple of negatives: the bathroom door is the pocket type. It doesn't offer the best of privacy, can be noisy at night and opened itself on occasion. In my opinion a significant design flaw. The beds were comfortable, but squeaky - again if you get up at night between the pocket door, the bed and a pretty loud toilet flush, it can wake your partner! The personnel on this ship at this point in time were outstanding. The cruise program director, Lucia was nothing short of outstanding! She was ably assisted by Mercedes (who would name their daughter after a car?! - Sorry, old joke!) who's the concierge. The wait staff was superb and the bar guys were as good. A point here though is that these folks change ships frequently (Lucia was subbing for a vacationing PD) and so the comments in this regard may be "temporary" as well. Still, they were great and contributed in a very large part to our enjoyment of this cruise! There is entertainment. The piano player (Neil, I think) plays almost continually and is there in the lounge until the last passenger packs it in. Not late in our instance. There's also local entertainment that they took aboard on a few occasions. They weren't spectacular, but good and solid; much like you'd find on a ocean cruise. Beer and wine are included with lunch and dinner and both choices were generally pretty good and flowed freely. Drinks are a bit steep in price, but the pours are liberal. We tend to opt for premium martinis by choice, and we found that they were huge here and that made them worth the tariff. The passenger list is ... Not young! We're in our early-60's and felt like the "kids". There were probably 3 or 4 other couples our age or younger, but the rest of the list was 70's plus. No problem though. Made for a smaller crowd at the bar at night and a slower exit off some of the buses, but the folks were all very nice, friendly and most were experienced travelers. I can't say enough about the ports of call. Each one was different enough to make the stops varied and interesting. Some, like the Cathedral in Cologne, the Melk Abbey, Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, the Lobkowicz Palace in Prague and the night entry into Budapest take your breath away! Even the smaller stops like Regensberg and Bamburg were delightful and historic. WW2 buffs will love Nuremburg! I thought the 14 days would leave me a bit jaded after all the palaces and churches. Not so. Even with my back acting up, we made every excursion and most of the optionals. A word about the tours. The included ones are excellent with informative, English speaking guides and there's one per stop. We found the optional tours to be every bit as good - some even better, but they are pricey and with the number offered, that can add up. Almost a grand for the two of us. Worth it, but you have to budget for it on the top of a pretty expensive cruise to begin with! Research your options beforehand because there are two opportunities to sign up, one comes early, and some of the tours can fill up. All the tours are conducted in English using a device called a Quietvox. You wear it around your neck coupled with an earpiece and the tour guides can talk into theirs delivering a clear commentary completely separate from the guide a few feet away. It's your constant companion on the cruise and each room is equipped with 2 complete with chargers. There are two computers in the upper lobby area for "no extra charge" passenger use. Personal device connectivity can vary between good and none depending on where your stateroom is located. It's good in cabins near mid ships and wains the farther out you get. We were in 329 about 70% aft from center and had none in the room at all. This is something Viking should be able to fix easily to make the experience equal for all their passengers. The top "sun deck" is a nice experience with chairs, tables, lounges a putting green and shuffleboard. Some of the area is shaded with an awning and umbrellas. Note that when the ship is going through areas with low lying bridges (with us it was most of the Main and the Main-Danube canal) they have to clear the sun deck because clearances can be in inches. This represented about 6 days on our 14 day cruise. We did not miss it that much because most of the days we were off the ship the majority of the time and the lounges were generally not crowded at all. (With the exception of the daily briefing at which just about everyone attended. Chairs were at a premium if you came late.) A note here: the ride up the Rhine on the sun deck in the sun with castles and the Lorelei Rock was a real treat! A great ship; a great time; wonderful people and crew coupled with 6 beautiful countries! Even with a couple of little glitches, who cares!? We loved it! Bill 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
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2013
My wife and I flew from Australia in Business Class on the 10th of June 2013 as part of four months travel throughout Europe beginning with a two week Viking River Cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest and the Viking River Cruise formed the ... Read More
My wife and I flew from Australia in Business Class on the 10th of June 2013 as part of four months travel throughout Europe beginning with a two week Viking River Cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest and the Viking River Cruise formed the beginning of our journey which was supposed to allow us to relax onboard for two weeks, before embarking independently, for three and a half months throughout Europe and everything was booked and paid for accordingly prior to leaving Australia. Six days prior to flying out of Australia, I discovered on SBS news on the 4th of June that there was flooding occurring in and around Bohemia so I emailed both Vacations To Go (who we booked the river cruise with) and Viking River Cruises to get an up date as to what was going to happen as a result and that my wife and I were not interested in an altered bus and river cruise scenario at the last minute, so we wanted information sooner so we could have the time before flying out of Australia to plan an alternative cruise which was not going to be affected by the floods, for example, sailing through the Fjords of Denmark, Sweden and Norway as we were going to be in Amsterdam. We were offered a last minute cancellation or a 50% credit voucher of the total amount paid which is not transferable to be used within 12 months off any future Viking River Cruises which we made both Viking and Vacations TO Go very clear, that we were not in a position to look, at as my wife has Melanoma Cancer and this trip, was the trip and was planned accordingly. We asked both organisations if we took up the cancellation offer, what was the actual amount that we would be refunded, who would be refunding the money and when would the refund amount be actioned so we could plan alternative arrangements as we only had few hours before having to check out of our hotel in Amsterdam, leaving us with a two week hole in our itinerary in the middle of a European summer with no place to go and a $13923 hole in our budget. All along we emailed both organisations wanting to know who was going to refund us the money, how much was the actual amount going to be and when was it going to hit my credit card or bank? We have even gone to the Vice President of Viking River Cruises as we were instructed to by Vacations To Go and to date, haven't even got a reply. Viking wanted to know from Vacations To Go what amount we had paid even though the amount was paid via AMEX directly to Viking? Consequently we did not get answers regarding the cancellation so we were left with no option but to board the Viking Skadi on the 22nd of June 2013 and sail to Frankfurt before being bused around which was not part of our plan. All of this email dialogue was taking place after 2 a.m. Amsterdam time and we were due to board that day! Still to this day we are none the wiser and in fact got an email from the Customer Service Manager of the Australian branch of Viking River Cruises on August 23rd which stated that as the cruise proceeded in a modified form, had we in fact cancelled, we would have forfeited all monies paid which amounted to $13,923. So our decision to board the vessel was totally justified, what else could we have done? We have subsequently asked both organisations to consider giving us the credit voucher amount back in monetary terms but they have ignored our requests and the sensitivity of our situation. We both feel that we were given a false sense of a credit when in fact they had no intention to cancel as they were only ever going to do a combination bus and river cruise and as they had a captive audience, they had all the cards stacked in their favour and used them accordingly. The modified land portion of the river cruise (four days & nights), which included a bus tour, with accommodation and food were appalling and of a two star rating as we had paid for a five star vessel with cabin that included a private balcony. All my wife and I wanted was the actual information regarding money back so we could make the decision earlier and avoid what was and has been the worst travel experience both of us seasoned travellers have ever endured. Fellow travellers: " You have been warned"....If travelling with Viking "travel at your own peril" Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2013
We took the long European Sojourn cruise, Amsterdam to Bucharest. We made a great choice; seeing Europe from the river is fantastic. Unpack once and let Viking take you to see wonderful ports, sights, ways of life. One word of caution: ... Read More
We took the long European Sojourn cruise, Amsterdam to Bucharest. We made a great choice; seeing Europe from the river is fantastic. Unpack once and let Viking take you to see wonderful ports, sights, ways of life. One word of caution: we initially booked a lower level (100 series, riverview) cabin. On the 1st night the noise of water rushing by the ship's hull and any passing ship's propeller noise was going to be a "show stopper" for us. No way were we going to have this for the 23 day duration of the cruise. I immediately snagged an upgrade to the 2nd level cabin (#206) and gladly paid the extra cost. This saved our cruise from being a disaster. We moved cabins at 1AM that first night... thank goodness there were cabins available. We tried everything: pillows over our heads and ear plugs. Seriously, we considered leaving the ship and cutting our cruise short. That's how bad the noise was. Cabin: small but quite adequate, good storage space & ample closet space, well appointed, French balcony is nice, bathroom is roomy and well equipped with large shower. Bed very comfy but squeaked a little but I just pulled the beds apart a tiny bit and all was fine (when they're together they tend to rub and squeak). Both 110 and 220 volt electic outlets were available; fridge was nice and we kept our bottled water cold for the hot daytime tours. Dining was great... breakfast and lunch sit-down or buffet was perfect and dinner was just perfect as well. The single dinner seating at 7PM with all passengers was catered flawlessly. Internet WiFi connectivity was spotty depending on ship location. Our connectivity was not the best so I took my laptop up to the internet center and had better WiFi connect speed. In the center, two computers are available for passenger use at any time. I'm a coffee drinker and having it (& capachino, hot chocolate, etc) always available, especially with the home-made cookies and muffins was really appreciated. Remember, there's no "all-day dining" as on ocean liners Ports of call and the accompanying tours were well organized and the guides were knowledgeable and spoke English well. We had a slight detour as one of the locks was still under repair but Viking took care of us very well considering the situation. Two nights in Nuremburg & 2 nights at a lovely resort outside Paseau was the extent of our detour. Viking made sure we had 5-star accommodations and saw all the sights we were scheduled to see. To see the countryside from the river, to visit all the various ports/cities/towns/historic sites was nothing short of wonderful. Ship was super, meals were great, service was exceptional, fellow passengers were in our age group (55 thru 75) and tours went off like clockwork. We highly recommend Viking and this European Sojourn cruise. We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise, seeing 10+ countries, traveling in deluxe comfort and experiencing Western & Eastern European ways of life. I also suggest that booking a 2nd or 3rd floor cabin be seriously considered... I haven't read a review that mentions the noise, but I can say that the noise we encountered dictates no more 1st level cabins for us. If anyone else experienced similar noise, please let me know. We are advocates of river cruising and we're planning another Viking cruise for 2014... perhaps the Russia or Portugal river cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2013
The crew was great, very accommodating in all aspects. Cabins are smaller than ocean cruise ships, but very efficient with all needed amenities including refrigerator. Veranda added additional room, but upper deck verandahs not necessary ... Read More
The crew was great, very accommodating in all aspects. Cabins are smaller than ocean cruise ships, but very efficient with all needed amenities including refrigerator. Veranda added additional room, but upper deck verandahs not necessary as you are often rafted to a ship next to you in port. On the river, views are the same on either deck. There are many many towns you pass while cruising, and a verandah is well worth the additional expense. Included tours are similar in each town, visiting the main church and a few other sights. Guides are sometimes hard to understand due to listening device and accents. Sufficient time to explore towns after included tours (usually about 90 minutes). We participated in only two optional tours, opting instead to wonder through the town ourselves. Dinning was very nice (all casual) usually with two options, the dinning room or the indoor/outdoor terrace. Meals were very well prepared with appropriate size portions. Note the sun deck is closed while on the Main Canal (about 4 days) due to low bridges. Entertainment is limited to a piano, but numerous talks on the canal and other subjects added to the voyage. Expect to learn the names of most of the 190 passengers aboard as the ship is relatively small and you are almost always dinning with more than 2 people. The captain and crew reacted very well to lock strikes and other challenges to reschedule excursions to ensue we had the full experience. If departing from Budapest, consider several days on your own prior to starting the cruise. Great city with lots to offer. Hotels can easily get you to the ship at minimal cost. Departing we used the ships transportation which made the final leg of the trip easy.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2013
The Embla is one of Vikings newest cruise ships, known as 'long boats' Our Embla cruise was from Budapest to Romania (billed as "Budapest to Bucharest", but not strictly speaking to Bucharest itself since it is inland). ... Read More
The Embla is one of Vikings newest cruise ships, known as 'long boats' Our Embla cruise was from Budapest to Romania (billed as "Budapest to Bucharest", but not strictly speaking to Bucharest itself since it is inland). This portion of the Danube is less developed than its upper reaches and this cruise was leisurely, but not packed with memorable experiences. Rather, the pleasure was in getting to know other passengers, in becoming acquainted with the crew, and in spending time together, something our every day lives does not always permit. Our precruise hotel was the Budapest Le Meridien. I've reviewed this hotel for Trip Advisor and will not go into detail here other than to note that it was excellent and was about four blocks from where the ship docked so we were able to walk to the ship (baggage was transferred by Viking). We arrived early because my partner had heard that a glass blowing class was being offered on board and she wanted to ensure a place for herself. There was no class (the crew explained that the glass blowing class was offered only on the longer cruises offered up river) so we had some lunch on the glassed in after deck and then walked around Budapest's pedestrian mall for a while. We boarded in the later afternoon and the ship departed around dark. We had a truly spectacular sail down the river through Budapest with the lights along the river providing a wonderful display (there is also a laser show from the roof of one of the buildings). The Embla is a very well designed ship that offers efficient public spaces and cabins, although both are quite small. There was a total passenger group of less than 200 and one seating only for dinner. A buffet is offered on the after deck for lunch and dinner, but essentially the same food is provided at both locations. The Embla is a new ship and so everything is fresh and functions very well. Cabins are of a modern design, although at times the design is a little too cunning for its own good. It took a day or two, for example, to figure out how to use the shower without getting water all over the floor (the trick: close the doors after entering the shower and bring them together simultaneously to make a tight seal. The shower has two levers, one an off on with one below it to regulate heat. Set the heat dial to the preferred level and then just turn the water on after closing the doors). Service on the Embla was superb and actually better than on better ocean cruise lines. The passenger group is small and it was very easy to get to know the crew as individuals, which I believe resulted in better service.. My partner's birthday was just before cruise departure. The Maitre D independently found out about that and approached me the first night of the cruise to offer her a cake in celebration. We found this very thoughtful and symbolic of the level and type of service offered by the Embla crew. Dinner is provided with table service. Lunch offers a buffet with served entrée options. Breakfast was buffet but pancakes were available on order. All of the food was excellent. Wine was included at both lunch and dinner. There was one red and one white choice, both very nice Hungarian wines, with more expensive options available for purchase by the glass. Beer and whiskey were also available. There were very few on board activities and limited shore excursions. Generally there was a single excursion included in the cost each day with optional excursions at some stops. As this cruise was off the beaten path few of the ports were noteworthy visits for positive reasons. Vukovar in Croatia still suffers from the results of the wars in the 1990s, has war damage in many buildings, and has a 40 percent unemployment rate. Belgrade, once the capital of Yugoslavia, remains stunted by the war and was generally shabby. Bulgaria and Romania were much more interesting. Disembarkation was handled smoothly via a motor coach trip to Bucharest. We stayed at the Radisson Blu in Bucharest, which I also reviewed on Trip Advisor. In general embarkation was handled much more smoothly than debarkation. The Viking staff in Bucharest seemed disinterested and lacked knowledge. There was little information provided about the process of getting from the hotel to the airport and if we had not proactively made sure our luggage was in the lobby and that we had arrived well ahead of time I am not sure that we would have caught the bus to the airport. As an example, we paid for room service for breakfast because there was no information provided that we saw concerning a bag breakfast provided by the hotel. In summary, we really enjoyed our vacation on the Embla and are looking forward to another Viking cruise on another itinerary another time. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2013
We had heard very good things about Viking River Cruises and we anxious to give it a try. Our travel experience has been with luxury and premium cruise lines and we love to travel independently, making our own way via rental car, and ... Read More
We had heard very good things about Viking River Cruises and we anxious to give it a try. Our travel experience has been with luxury and premium cruise lines and we love to travel independently, making our own way via rental car, and private guides. We found the experience of Viking on their Bucharest to Budapest route to be closer aligned to a bus tour on a boat. The itinerary was less than wonderful - no way to get into a town in some places unless you took the long bus tours. Everything is done as a group: Excursions that lasted many hours on packed buses. Dinner with everyone heading to the dining room at 7pm - and no ability to have a quiet table for 2. Very loud dining room because the ceilings are so low. Unlike larger ships with 300-700 people, there was no attempt on this ship to learn the names of passengers or learn their likes or interests. Everyone is treated as a member of "the group". Corporate could initiate some low or no cost amenities that could make this a better experience for guests: 1. Encourage staff to learn some of the guests names. We were told by one officer who we had just handled our shore card with our names, on a day when we did not go on the tour, that "he couldn't be expected to know all 175 names of guests" 2. Encourage officers to mingle with guests when they have time. Especially if the ship is empty, when most are on a tour. 3. Provide a morning coffee or afternoon tea in the lounge for those staying on board and not going on the tours. Make it special - This would be a welcome activity for those guest who choose to stay onboard. Have officers who are not doing anything sit and talk with guests during this period. Simply bring the cookies near the coffee machine into the lounge and serve the coffee or tea. We found no fault with our cabin, it was comfortable and well decorated. Food onboard was quite good, but the buffets at breakfast and lunch were so crowded with people moving constantly. And the buffet area is right in the middle of the dining room. Overall it was a very disappointing experience for us. But then again, most people onboard enjoyed the trip and the Viking Experience. Just not a good fit for people who like independent travel   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: 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
We have taken nine cruises (this was our 10th) with Viking. We had not traveled to this part of Europe and we wanted to see these former Communist countries. Of course, Viking was superb however, the countries visited were for the most ... Read More
We have taken nine cruises (this was our 10th) with Viking. We had not traveled to this part of Europe and we wanted to see these former Communist countries. Of course, Viking was superb however, the countries visited were for the most part very depressing to see. Some of our fellow travelors were first timers with Viking, and were expressing their dismay. We tried to tell them that this was not the norm and to try another cruise before making any decisions about river cruising. It was very sad to see these beautiful countries falling under such corruption; to see wonderful old buildings decaying before our eyes because of corrupt governments. Roads, schools, buildings, etc., were in terrible condition and the impact of the Community regime is still very much prevelent. We saw bombed buildings that are left to crumble, from 20+ year's ago. Then, we saw the people, with smiles, greeting us, welcoming us to their country. Quite a difference. Several of us on the cruise talked about how the people would react if they could travel to the US and see what could and should be possible for them. The one cruising item that has changed for us over the years, is the huge number of river boats cruising European rivers today vs. when we started. I counted 17 different cruise ships in Budapest, when we were first in Budapest several years ago (our 2nd cruise) there were four (4) ships on the river bank, two of which were Viking. Also, the boats are larger now, and seem to be much more formal (i.e., crew does not interact as much with passengers as in the beginning), being more formal may appeal to some, but to long-time cruisers, this is not nearly as much fun and the atmosphere on the ship is somewhat strained as well. One of the best times we have had on Viking is when the crew becomes your "friend!." We have traveled more than once with the same crew members, and on meeting them the second time around, they remembered us, but were hesitant to interact with us as they did the first time due to "new rules." This is really unfortunate for Viiking, as this is what first attracted us to the Viking Cruise Line. I sincerely hope the management will re-think this change. We have scheduled another Viking cruise in 2014, a repeat of our very first cruise Tulips and Windmills. Not sure if we will continue with Viking, but we will see. We have always been treated fairly by Viking and I woundn' hesitate to recommend them, but would also tell them about the large number of river cruise boats currently occupying beautiful European rivers. 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
Sail Date: May 2014
We planned on spending several weeks touring Europe before taking the cruise. While we were still home and making final checks on paperwork and schedules, we found that our boarding papers would be mailed only three weeks prior to the ... Read More
We planned on spending several weeks touring Europe before taking the cruise. While we were still home and making final checks on paperwork and schedules, we found that our boarding papers would be mailed only three weeks prior to the cruise. That was a major problem for us since we would not be home. A call to the Viking office determined that we COULD NOT pick up our boarding documents at our point of embarkation and they didn't think they could have them ready for express mailing to us since our departure from the US was too early for them to prepare. After considerable pleading and an additional charge for express preparation and mailing, we were able to get the required paperwork prior to leaving the US. Upon arrival at the ship, the crew was very friendly and helpful and basically treated us like royalty. The tour schedule was fantastic as were the guides. One of the most enjoyable tours was with the head chef to visit the local market for supplies. The arranged schedule is a very busy one, so be prepared! Coffee in Europe is an art and it was a bitter disappointment to find that the coffee on board was really bad. That was general point of discussion at most of the tables we sat at. The other disappointed was that the menus did not showcase local cuisine except for a few nights. The evening programs were marvelous. Overall, our disappointments with good and coffee are minor but compare yo the excellence of everything else, they stood out and were quite memorable. 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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