Sailed on the Viking Freya in May 2014. This was not our first river cruise; comparing it to others this was about the same as the other cruise line with some small differences. Cabins (ours had an actual balcony with 2 chairs) are nice ... Read More
Sailed on the Viking Freya in May 2014. This was not our first river cruise; comparing it to others this was about the same as the other cruise line with some small differences. Cabins (ours had an actual balcony with 2 chairs) are nice enough, a decent bathroom, nice L'Occitaine toiletries, bottled water (gratis), good TV with adequate English language channels (although TNT and National Geographic were in German only--go figure as I think all passengers were English, American and Australian. Bedding was comfortable-TERRIBLE HARD CHAIR in the room (another passenger described the chairs as Bone Breaking). The rooms are large enough for a nice, soft comfortable chair and it would be an asset for Viking to consider their passengers room comfort.
As to seating, the chairs in the lounge were not particularly comfortable either; I know that whatever they install has to take a lot of wear and tear but I am sure that better quality more comfortable seating is available; many had no arm rests and a lot of we seniors find it much easier to hoist ourselves out of chairs with armrests. Tours offered were very generic and "touristy", several more interesting tours/events were available for an additional charge. On the Melk Abby tour there was a special "taxi" offered for people with walking difficulties; the taxi ended up being a small van with about 12 seats, they charged us a whopping 10 Euros per person-unbelievably exorbitant for about a 5 mile trip--someone raked in the money for that little jaunt. Almost all the buses were Vikings buses and were comfortable, clean new (with toilets) and in excellent condition.
Food for the most part was good with several options offered at each meal; the food quality was very good. I can't say I was dazzled by the onboard entertainment; several presentations were either cancelled or never presented--they were sorry enough that if I were Viking I wouldn't even mention them in my advertising, very disappointing. The entire staff were pleasant, helpful and eager to please, I think they would have done most anything to make your cruise a pleasant and happy experience, all spoke English. Sailing the Danube was the real attraction here and it did not disappoint. However, I can't consider this to be anything more than a nice, pleasant River Cruise Ship/Line; I certainly couldn't say that it was "luxury" and in my opinion should not be classified as such. Read Less
My husband and I were on the Grand European Cruise on Viking Skadi which departed from Budapest on May 17. We enjoyed it and consider ourselves lucky that the weather was mostly good and the cruise went mostly as expected, with a few ... Read More
My husband and I were on the Grand European Cruise on Viking Skadi which departed from Budapest on May 17. We enjoyed it and consider ourselves lucky that the weather was mostly good and the cruise went mostly as expected, with a few exceptions that were handled as best as they could be.
Embarkation was very smooth. My husband and I made our own arrangements for the flight (a lot less than what Viking was charging) and we took a taxi from Budapest airport to the Viking dock. The only issue was that we got off the taxi a little bit too far from the ship and had some difficulty carrying our suitcases over gravel / grass since there was no sidewalk. As soon as the Viking crew saw us they came and carried our bags. We got into the ship, gave our names, and were led straight to our cabin by the hotel manager. They didn't even check our ID to make sure we were who we said we were.
We were in a stateroom with a "French balcony" (not really a balcony, but a floor-to-ceiling window which slides open). It's a tight squeeze in the room, but we expected that. I have a few complaints: (1) the pillows are too soft -- almost like having no pillows at all; (2) the toilet paper dispenser in the bathroom is a terrible design - I had to keep removing the toilet paper from it and just setting it on the shelf; (3) toilet paper is a bit rough; (4) not enough hangers in the closet. I had to hang three or more pieces of clothing on each hanger, and I used all the 3 drawers just for my things. My husband used the shelves in the other half of the closet to stack his clothes (folded, not on hangers). Well, we survived. Maybe I brought too many clothes! Finally (5) wi-fi internet access is very spotty in the rooms.
Apart from these, I think the stateroom was fine. Bathroom amenities included La Occitane en Provence shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and shower gel. The shower has good pressure and is a good size for a river cruise ship. I never heard noise from the rooms next to us or the hallway. There is a safe and several electrical outlets, both US and European. The room was always cleaned promptly, usually while we were having breakfast, and the bed was turned down while we had dinner. One day we got a towel bunny and another day we got chocolates (I wish it had been every day!).
The TV in the room is a large flat screen, with just a few channels, a limited selection of movies, and all episodes of Downton Abbey. You can also get the weather forecast, a map of the ship's location, a lounge cam, and a bow cam. The lounge cam allows you to watch the daily briefing if you don't feel like going to the lounge for it.
Nice dining room, with tables set for six or eight. The lounge was a bright, comfortable place to relax at any time of day, and the best place to get wi-fi (a couple of laptops are also available for public use). There is a sun deck, but for more than half of our cruise it was closed. The water in the rivers was very high due to lots of recent rain, so the railings had to be dismantled, and all the tables and chairs removed so that the ship could go under the bridges. It was a bit scary sometimes to see that there was just a foot or less of clearance between the top of the ship and the bottom of a bridge! A few more inches and our cruise might have been canceled. Fortunately, for our departure from Budapest, as well as the most scenic parts of the cruise, the sun deck was available to us. Also on the sun deck (which has a shaded section) are a walking track, shuffleboard, and a giant chess board, as well as an herb garden for the kitchen's use.
Apart from the lounge and sun deck, there are a few other small other public areas where one can sit and relax -- a little library, the outdoor Aquavit Terrace, and some sofas in the atrium. They are nice enough.
Unfortunately our ship had a problem almost right from the start - water had gotten into the engine. This did not affect the first few days of the cruise, but we were told that instead of docking in Passau on Day 4, we would dock in Linz and would be taken to Passau by bus. While we were in Passau the ship would be repaired. Everybody had to get off the ship, whether they wanted to or not. Free lunch was provided at a restaurant in town (my husband and I decided to eat elsewhere, to save time so we could do more sightseeing). At the end of the day, the bus dropped us off at a different location so we could board the ship. The bus ride was an hour and a half each way, which meant significantly less time available to see the sights in Passau. In addition, for the next few days we had to disembark in industrial areas instead of the city, because the ship was behind schedule. To compensate for these inconveniences, there was one evening of open bar in the lounge. At another city, when the ship was delayed arriving at the port where we were to get back on, the cruise director offered free drinks at a bar in town (imagine the madhouse in the bar as a result).
Well, stuff happens and this little engine crisis caused some inconvenience, but I think that Viking handled it well and I didn't hear any major grumbling about it from other passengers. Upon our return Viking sent us a voucher worth 25% of what we paid for this cruise, good for a future cruise. I hope to take advantage of this voucher next year.
I would say that overall the food was very good. I enjoyed most of the meals, the main exception being the German-themed dinner when the pork was tough and dry. On a couple of evenings my husband said that the fish was overcooked. The portions are not large, so if you're a big eater you might want to order more food, but for me there was always more than enough. There was always a selection of several appetizers, entrees, and desserts, which changed every evening. And if you didn't want any of those, you could always have salmon, steak, or roast chicken. Caesar salad and a cheese plate were also always available. There were a couple of times when I couldn't decide which appetizer to have so I ordered two.
On our last evening, the kitchen was apparently trying to get rid of an excess supply of asparagus, so there was asparagus in almost every selection except dessert! I didn't mind since I like asparagus and since it was the peak of the season, it was quite good, and rather funny. But for anyone who doesn't like asparagus, it was probably a disappointment.
Wine, beer and soft drinks were included at both lunch and dinner.
Lunch and breakfast were buffet style, but you could also order from a menu. It was very easy to overeat at these times.
All meals are open seating. After a couple of days however we ended up eating with the same group of people for almost all meals. We met two other couples that we really liked and we all got along really well. We had our favorite table and favorite waiter who took good care of us. It's not really possible to reserve a table, so we tried to get to the dining room early to make sure we got our spot.
Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are always available from a machine. There were cookies for snacks. Croissants were also put out near the coffee/tea machine at breakfast time for anyone who doesn't like a big breakfast.
One afternoon there was "German Tea Time" with a variety of cakes and a special coffee with cognac. Another afternoon there was a demonstration of how to make apple struedel, with slices of struedel given out afterwards. It was good and they gave the recipe, but too complicated for me plus I'm diabetic so shouldn't be eating it anyway.
It seems that in order to be a Viking employee, one important qualification is to always have a smile on your face. Everyone was very nice and friendly. About 1/4 of the staff were from the Philippines, the rest Eastern European, except for the program director, Matthew Shaw, who is British. I was impressed with his multi-tasking -- he coordinated the excursions, gave a briefing every evening on the next day's events, served as master of ceremonies during the evening entertainment as well as "game show" host, and even did a little cabaret one evening, singing different genres of songs. I only wish he hadn't tried to "honor" Luciano Pavarotti by singing a couple of songs in Italian, because his accent was horrendous!
Our dining room waiter was a gem. We got to know him quite a bit and now he's my friend on Facebook!
Short city tours (about 1 to 1.5 hours) were included in every stop, as well as some free time. The quality of local guides varied. We had a really good guide in Cologne, a middle school history teacher. Overall I was satisfied with the tour guides though I often felt that the tours were too short. On the other hand, it's a bit of a pain walking through a city with a large group of people. A few passengers abandoned the guided tours altogether, preferring to strike out on their own. My husband and I went on only one optional tour, to Rothenburg. It was worth it as Rothenburg is a lovely town, but it was way too short. We lost at least 45 minutes because of late arrival at the port (Wurzburg). My husband and I left the included lunch early so that we could have a bit more time to go to the all-year Christmas shop. In Cologne we also took the free optional extension to the Roman museum (entrance fee included, and only a few people took advantage of it).
In some places we had only half a day to go sightseeing (and just a couple of hours at Kinderdijk). The city with the most free time was Vienna (not counting Budapest, where you can stay out all night on the first day if you like). After the short city tour in Vienna we had the whole afternoon and evening until 10 pm available. Note that when the Viking guide says "See the Opera House, Hofburg Palace, St. Stephen's Cathedral" etc you will see only the outside of these places, so the afternoon is a good time to see them on your own. Some people went the optional tour to see a concert after dinner. I happen to have a college friend in Vienna so took the time to see her. We went to a couple of off-the-beaten path places and had dinner in a nice restaurant with typical Austrian food. In Vienna, getting back to the ship requires a subway ride. When we got off the subway at 9:45 pm, we had no idea in which direction to go but fortunately someone showed us the way. It was about 10 minutes walk.
In some cities the only way to and from the ship was via the Viking bus, so you had better be on time if you don't want to get left behind. However the Viking staff were good at counting everyone to make sure no one was actually left behind. A couple of people got a little scolding from the program director when they did not appear at the meeting place on time.
Between Budapest and Amsterdam there are 67 locks. At the first one, many people went out to the sundeck to watch. After that it was generally a ho-hum event, but it could be interesting to see how different types of locks operated. The ship went through many of the locks at night while we were sleeping. Each lock takes about 20-30 minutes, but could be longer if another ship has to be accommodated at the same time. Occasionally we bumped hard into the sides of the locks, which can be very narrow -- just a little wider than the ship. Our waiter told me that on the previous sailing the ship never bumped into the lock walls, so it's not inevitable. Maybe we had a less experienced captain.
We were very lucky with the weather! There was a brief period of rain in Budapest, and a few sprinkles in other cities (Viking provides large umbrellas, but I brought my own little one), but otherwise the weather was lovely. Average temperature was in the 60s, so I usually had to wear a sweater or jacket (some Canadians wore shorts). It was never more than 70 degrees. No sweat! We were told that the week before our cruise, it rained nonstop for several days. Even in Amsterdam, where it rains 200 days of the year, we had sunshine (though the cruise was over by then).
Most of the evenings the entertainment was just a lone musician singing and/or playing the piano. Other evenings we had: (1) songs and folk dances from Slovakia; (2) opera music; (3) a glass-blowing demonstration; (4) Matthew's cabaret; (5) team games on two nights (a 50s-60s quiz and a guess-the-meaning-of-the-word game). In addition during the German-themed dinner there were roaming musicians.
During the day there were a few presentations: (1) the life of Mozart; (2) a history of locks and canals; (3) how locks work; (4) history of the European Union, with a guest lecturer; and (5) Dutch cheese and jenever ( a Dutch liqueur). Except for the one on the EU, the program director gave all the presentations, using Powerpoint. They were ok, a good way to pass the time during less-interesting scenery (no question-and-answer afterwards). Matthew also did some commentary on castles while we were on the Middle Rhine and in the Wachau Valleys.
Viking caters to an English-speaking clientele. Most of the passengers were from the US and Canada; there were a few from Great Britain and Australia. In addition there were a few from Latin America. I would say that most people were in their 60s or 70s. I think there were only two people who were under 30 (not together, but traveling with older relatives).
We arrived in Amsterdam early in the morning. Some people had very early flights but breakfast was available for them even at 4 am. Everyone got color-coded tags depending on their time of departure, so their bags could be taken by the staff from outside the staterooms. My husband and I were staying in Amsterdam for a few days, so we could disembark when we liked (but everyone had to leave their rooms by 9 am to allow for cleaning). The staff called a taxi for us (arranged the day before) and the taxi came on time. It was organized chaos as passengers departed and new ones came on board.
We were sad to leave! My husband and I are hoping to do another river cruise next year.
This was our second Viking River Cruise and while we preferred the cabin aboard the Helgi to the new Viking longship Aegir from Budapest to Bucharest that we took in September 2013, the service was worse. It seemed the wait staff was ... Read More
This was our second Viking River Cruise and while we preferred the cabin aboard the Helgi to the new Viking longship Aegir from Budapest to Bucharest that we took in September 2013, the service was worse. It seemed the wait staff was mostly inexperienced so perhaps the poor service was not their fault but that of Viking itself for poor training. One night I ordered turkey and was served fish, which actually turned out to be better than what I originally ordered. Another night I requested ketchup and received barbeque sauce. Most of the dining room staff were either Russian or Filipino. They were very friendly and tried to do things correctly but just seemed inexperienced and poorly trained.
In addition to preferring the Helgi cabins, we also liked the dining room set up: Instead of one large room with low ceilings and a table for 6 the smallest size on Viking Aegir, Viking Helgi had two separate rooms, table for two and tables for four so that you were not forced to socialize and the noise level was much less so you could actually carry on a conversation. On Aegir, this was almost impossible. Plus, on Aegir, they never served anyone until all tables were full, meaning sometimes you did not receive any food until 7:45. On Helgi you could order as soon as you sat down at 7:00 and courses were served promptly.
The quality of food left something to be desired. In one way this was positive since there is little chance to exercise on board (no gym) so I actually lost weight on both cruises. The best food was the lunch salad bar which was help-yourself and was quite good, if repetitive, with the same food served each day. Entrees were less appetizing.
Free internet service both at the two computers provided and in your cabin is a Viking plus. The Russian River cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow was better than the Danube cruise in Eastern Europe in that we did not have long bus rides to towns and villages but docked right in the town generally. Our included tour of the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg was excellent and very informative.
Our cabin had two poles coming out of a box-like structure which was near the bed. I could put small items on it and never ran into it but those booking these ships should be aware than many of the cabins on all decks had one or more poles not pictured in the brochures--nor does anyone tell you there will be one in your cabin.
I still prefer the space on ocean cruises and the variety of activities available to river cruises. Giving the poor service (cabin service wasn't great either) and food on board Viking river cruises, I doubt I will take another river cruise--certainly not with them. Read Less
This was our first cruise of any type. We arrived when dinner was well underway and we were not especially impressed by our reception - we were somewhat hassled to get into dinner (they knew we would be late arriving due to the fairly long ... Read More
This was our first cruise of any type. We arrived when dinner was well underway and we were not especially impressed by our reception - we were somewhat hassled to get into dinner (they knew we would be late arriving due to the fairly long wait at Munich to be transferred which was not our fault or our choice). We were shown to a table where we were fortunate to be sharing with folks on our wavelength who quickly became friends. I imagine that this could have been a different experience and feel that an option sometimes of a table for 2 would be welcome - perhaps some bookable small tables for a special day or because one needs some privacy would be a good idea.
All that said the cabin, though small, was well equipped and comfortable(we were on the middle deck with a French balcony). I would not pay extra to be higher up as our friends had done because they had trouble with noise overhead from people playing quoits and from early joggers - also whilst an outside balcony would be lovely it is an expensive way to see nothing but another boat jammed up against ours in most of the ports. The tours and guides were variable but it was a great way to get a taste of different countries and cities. We saw so much and were delighted with the experiences. The food was excellent; some waiting staff were without doubt more committed than others to the service but overall they were good. The 3 line whip to pay large tips at the end of the cruise is unwelcome. This is an expensive holiday to start with and it should be an entirely discretionary tip for individuals who have offered especially good service. The rooms were serviced every day and I cannot fault the domestic staff. Overall a lovely holiday and we have booked to do another river cruise next year. Read Less
Viking Delling was a very organized machine. The whole cruise experience: shore excursions, dining, room service, drinking, check-in & out, waiters; ran like a watch. The crew’s English language skills were excellent for a mostly ... Read More
Viking Delling was a very organized machine. The whole cruise experience: shore excursions, dining, room service, drinking, check-in & out, waiters; ran like a watch. The crew’s English language skills were excellent for a mostly Slovenian crew.
There are a few areas for improvement. The biggest shortcoming on the cruise is the lack of use of the top deck, which has the best views and the only exercise track. On the Main-Danube canal and if the Danube is running high (Spring and early Summer), the deck structure is collapsed and the pilot house lowered to clear bridges. Nobody is allowed on the top deck, and the only outside space is a small space forward with glass walls---not many photo ops except through windows. The Downton Abbey film shows the boat in Budapest with the deck awnings up, which wasn’t the case on our cruise.
The Viking river cruises cater to a more senior clientele. Later in the cruise the director divided the shore excursions into walkers and non-walkers and this helped. The main problem is a shortage of shore time accentuated by slow moving groups. In Melk and Nuremberg we stuck with the tours, which were back at the boat for lunch. In Regensberg, Passua, and Vienna we did not take the bus back, but struck out on our own and had a better time. In Melk the town and abbey require more time than was available.
The food is way above average; the wine and beer are just average. I expected much better beer from the Germans.
Nurenberg—The old Nazi sites are disappointing as you don’t enter any of them, just drive by. The Nazi parade grounds are a forest/park. The tour should just go to the castle and provide for a walk from the castle through the town.
Regensberg—The Old Stone Bridge is under repair. After a painfully slow morning walk, I broke away from the walking tour, crossed the heavily scaffolded bridge, and using my best German found the biergarten and the brewery and had a memorable lunch with great beer (with the crowds, and for half the price of the “oldest sausage factory” near the boat docks).
The ferry trip to Weltenberg Abbey is better than any other part of the regular river cruise! The Abbey is top notch with an excellent historian. There just wasn’t enough time, but otherwise an A+ adventure.
Passau—We ditched the tour, used a tour book and a local map, and struck out on our own.
Melk—There is not enough time to appreciate this abbey, and no time at all to walk through the town of Melk.
Vienna—There is too much to see in Vienna and spending time on the bus in a city is waste as is returning to the boat for lunch (miles from the museums and such). We ditched the bus at the first stop, toured what we could based on a Rick Steves guide, and took the excellent subway home at night. You can’t expect to see Vienna in a day.
Budapest—The morning tour for “walkers” worked well, providing perspective and orientation. A tour book lead us to the massive inside market close to the ship. If you are not staying in Budapest a few extra days, this is all the time you’ll have.
River Cruise from Avignon to Lyon aboard the SS Catherine. 4/6/2014-4/13/2014.
Summary: We would do it again. Uniworld cannot be beat. Service: 5/5 stars. Shore tours: 5 stars. Food quality and presentation: 5 stars. Room (Suite) design ... Read More
River Cruise from Avignon to Lyon aboard the SS Catherine. 4/6/2014-4/13/2014.
Summary: We would do it again. Uniworld cannot be beat. Service: 5/5 stars. Shore tours: 5 stars. Food quality and presentation: 5 stars. Room (Suite) design and dockage: 3.5 stars. Program: 4 stars.
Our credentials: this was our first ever river cruise. We have been on 5 ocean cruises on different lines. Of those we found Celebrity to be the top, Carnival the bottom. Princess and RCL were the others. We are in our early 70s. We have experienced a range of hotels from Red Roof Inns to the Marriott Marquis on Times Square. Similar dining experience.
Background: This was the first commercial cruise for this ship. Our Travel agent recommended Uniworld over Viking because of service and passenger/size ratio. For virtually the same size ship Uniworld books a max of 160 passengers and Viking is closer to 200. Also, Uniworld fares include tips, most shore tours, and bar….including most spirits. The complimentary mini bar and carafes of spirits in your room are tailored to your preferences.
Uniworld also includes transfers even if you book alternate transportation. The only requirement is that you meet up with their “standard” transfer points; usually an airport, or possibly a hotel on their pre-post stay itineraries.
Passenger demographics: On this cruise they told us there were 114 passengers. We are not sure if that included the several Uniworld “suits” on board to check out cruise #1. Of the “paying” passengers about 30? were travel agents. They pretty much hung together and did not want to talk about their jobs or what special accommodation was made to have them on board. These were mostly women in their 40s.
Of the remainder most passengers were couples between 50 and 60. No children.
Service: Simply the best we could ever ask for. Each individual—whether one of the 2 butlers assigned to the 6 suites, a server, a housekeeper, or a sailing crew member—always had a smile and a greeting. Every one was willing to help in whatever way they could. As an example of their care, there was even a Uniworld rep at the departure airport. She greeted us as the transfer bus unloaded us at the airport, offering whatever assistance we might need to complete our departing flight arrangements.
Food: The menus and presentation were simply top notch. Breakfast and Lunch were mostly buffets. Thankful for these; we could measure our portions to accommodate our senior stomach capacities. Dinner was served with several options for appetizers and main course. The cuisine competes with the finest of any shore restaurant.
As an example: the breakfast buffet was more than a buffet. One could also order from the galley any form of eggs cooked to order; including eggs benedict.
Room design: We were booked in a regular suite. On board there is one level higher—Royal Suite. There was ample room to move around. The negatives with regard to design are two: First, the outboard horizontal up/down half of the window was clever (the upper half was powered up and down) but the horizontal frame was about at eye level when sitting in the “full” balcony. Call “full” maybe 2’X8’? Second, there are sliding glass doors inboard of the balcony. These doors separate the balcony from the inboard sitting area of the wuite. So picture a balcony 8’ wide with 4 2’ sliding sections. The maximum opening is now 4’. Very annoying to squeeze past them to sit on the balcony. We used the balcony rarely due to the obstructed view. Fortunately the weather was unexpectedly warm and sunny so the outside decks—esp the sun deck—were totally acceptable.
Dockage: For 2 of our 7 days/nights there was another ship docked against ours, on our side. Thus for privacy reasons we had the curtains closed, making for a virtual inside cabin. And since the curtains are on the inboard side of the “full” balcony its square footage was not usable.
Shore Tours: These were well organized and guided by true professionals. Our Shore Tour Director, Emmanuelle, was a vivacious bundle of energy and information. She handled the stress of the first set of tours for the season with cool and entertaining professionalism. Every night she gave a talk about what to expect on the next day’s tour, including some local sayings/language.
Our guide in Viviers ended our tour at her home, where she and a neighbor friend served bread, wine, and cheese! Be sure to try to get on Frances’ tour in Viviers!
Shore Tours: Gentle Walking:
One of the attractions of Uniworld was its offering of Gentle Walking for its shore tours. On some tours Gentle Walking was treated very well……taxis available to meet at intermediate stops for instance. On other tours Gentle Walking appeared to be an after thought. Some tours had no accommodation for Gentle Walking from the general tour. For example, Emmanuelle described the general tour as “level, with few steps”. But level cobblestone is not the same as level concrete. We rate their Gentle Walking as a nice thought but needs more attention.
Program: To our mind the most negative aspect of the cruise was Uniworld’s decision to have unannounced, private, invitation-only parties most nights in the most intimate bar—the Bar du Leopard. This usually included dinner for a dozen or two. It virtually closed that bar/lounge—and thus the general access to the indoor swimming pool—between 7 and 9 each night. Unknowingly, we received this “special” honor one night (This night was for Suite occupants.). We feel guilty because we thought it was a one night only event but now realize that 90 % of the paying passengers were excluded each night. When we complained to the Cruise Director she told us we could use the lounge because “there were only 14 in tonight’s party”. But who wants to be a party crasher?
The whole approach just seemed contrary to one of the guiding principles of France: Egalité. As far as we know not everyone was included in one of these soirees. We even know of some who got invitations to more than one. This was the only situation where we felt unwelcome and Uniworld appeared to us to be inhospitable.
It is actually sad that the hospitality offered by every Uniworld individual gets tarnished by such an organizational decision.
Tips: Even knowing tips were included we did leave some tips for the people who helped us personally the most: the butlers and the housekeeper. Certainly these were nowhere near the amounts one would leave if tips were not included. We never felt the slightest pressure to enhance the included tip schedule.
This was our 7th river cruise, and 3rd with AMA.
We arrived on time in AMS and found the AMA desk. The excellent service we have consistently experienced on AMA started there and continued until we were in our taxi on the return to the ... Read More
This was our 7th river cruise, and 3rd with AMA.
We arrived on time in AMS and found the AMA desk. The excellent service we have consistently experienced on AMA started there and continued until we were in our taxi on the return to the airport.
- Staff and crew were excellent and our Captain, Rob, was very personable.
- Cruise manager Peter Whitehead was not only a great CM, but also quite a personality. He was witty and warm and it was delightful getting to know him over the course of the week.
- Staff members who made our experience extra special were Csaba in the main restaurant, Elvis in the main lounge, Octavian in Erlebnis and also manning the omelette station at breakfast, and Viktor at reception.
- Our BA twin balcony cabin was comfortable and the weather balmy enough to enjoy it throughout the cruise. We love AMA's power showers and lovely bath amenities.
- Erlebnis was wonderful! As past passengers we were invited to dine with the Captain one evening at Erlebnis and that was the best meal of the cruise - exceptional.
- Keukenhof Gardens was at its peak the day we visited. The sun was shining and the weather was warm. We spent about 90 minutes here and that was perfect. There was an option to stay longer but we had other plans for our afternoon in Amsterdam.
- The Limited Edition tours were very good. Our favorites were chocolate making in Ghent and a walking tour of the Jordaan district in Amsterdam.
- Scenery while cruising in this area is nothing special and did not compare to the other rivers we have traveled.
- Antwerp was our favorite port. We decided to head to Brussels on a DIY day as soon as we arrived and walked to the station and hopped the train for the one hour ride. We were very happy we did as we enjoyed Brussels. We were back by 2pm and spent the remainder of the day in Antwerp. The weather was cold and very windy on this day, spiked with rain showers. That made exploring the city less enjoyable than it would have been otherwise but it is a lovely city and easy to navigate.
- Ghent was pleasant and this was our second visit. We walked for hours in the areas of the city that were away from the main tourist area and then grabbed a taxi back to the boat late afternoon.
- Hoorn was a last minute itinerary change (from Volendam) and was charming and pretty. Much was closed on this Monday but we enjoyed the lovely scenery of this port.
- Amsterdam is not our favorite city but it is growing on us the more we visit. This was our 3rd visit. The boat docks in a very convenient location and we were able to walk everywhere we wanted to go. We now know that we prefer the area away from the tourist center and it is there we find the charming neighborhoods and quieter canals and streets that we prefer. Since the weather was pleasant, the outdoor cafes and bars were very busy and it was fun to wander the various areas of the city and explore. We do not care for the center of Amsterdam that attracts the hard partiers and bachelor parties but it is easy to get away from this area and discover the quiet and pretty residential neighborhoods.
We preferred our cruises on AmaDante and AmaCerto to AmaBella in terms of the ship itself. The layout and design of the ship was not as functional. Dining room was cramped and cut up; bar was very small in main lounge; there was no dance floor. Our bed was not very comfortable and lighting in the bathroom and cabin was dim, making it hard to put on makeup. Wifi was problematic throughout the cruise.
Entertainment was not a strong point of this cruise, as it was on our other two AMA cruises. Rolf, an excellent vocalist, was the best of the local entertainment brought aboard. Things were quite dead after the evening entertainment wrapped up, unlike past AMA cruises (this could have been the demographic which was not as young as our past cruises). The 60's party was a non event, where on AmaCerto, it was a cruise highlight and so much fun! The piano player, Peter, was very nice and we enjoyed him during the afternoons but had much more fun with the in house piano player on our other two AMA cruises. This aspect of the cruise was a disappointment as we do enjoy a bit of dancing and socializing after dinner.
Food was good on AmaBella, but not as interesting or exceptional as on our other two AMA cruises, with the exception of Erlebnis. Breads were wonderful and my husband totally enjoyed the ice cream selections at lunch each day. My two pasta dishes (saffron gnocchi with spinach and tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms) were the best of my meals in the main dining room. My husband had a lovely duck one afternoon at lunch and the salad bar choices were always fresh and varied. The cheese board, which I look forward to every day on AMA, had the same choices every day at lunch and dinner and did not reflect the local offerings.
We enjoyed the wines served with lunch and dinner, which varied by day.
There were no passed hors d'oeuvres at the Captain's welcome or Farewell cocktail receptions, as there were on our past cruises with AMA. They did offer tapas at the bar, which we tried once after coming back in from port. We never saw anyone else ordering these so not sure if this is an experiment that will last.
All in all, we enjoyed our cruise. We prefer other itineraries/destinations to Belgium and the Netherlands overall, especially in terms of visual beauty and interest while cruising.
We look forward to our Rhone cruise with AMA in the fall and will be booking a cruise on the Rhine for 2015 shortly.
A group of us have just returned home from our Rhine River cruise on the Viking Gullveig. Overall, the cruise was very nice; we visited some beautiful locations. Having cruised the Danube last year with Viking, I was expecting another ... Read More
A group of us have just returned home from our Rhine River cruise on the Viking Gullveig. Overall, the cruise was very nice; we visited some beautiful locations. Having cruised the Danube last year with Viking, I was expecting another magical cruise, that is, until I was faced with the "fatal design flaw" in the new longships that Viking introduced. Last year we stayed in a very nice room with a French Balcony and it was great; that was pre-longship. There was room enough on the Viking Legend for a table and two chairs in front of the French balcony so we could enjoy our cabin. That cabin measured 170 square feet. Viking decided that the new longships would have verandas (balconies) on some of their rooms. To make those verandas, they shifted the main aisle between the cabins and took away 35 square feet from the French balcony cabins; that's a loss of more than 20% of the available space in the cabin, making the French balcony cabins so tight that two normal sized people have a difficult time maneuvering in the cabin. There is less than one foot of space between the side of the bed and the French sliding doors. To look out the French balcony, you must either sit on the bed or lean over the railing outside your door. This extreme reduction in space did not result in a reduction in price for the French balcony cabins. I call this a fatal design flaw because it cannot be easily changed without tearing the entire interior of the ship apart. What was Viking thinking? French balcony cabins are now 135 square feet and the cheaper lower deck cabins are 170 square feet; some one screwed up and it will not be easily fixed.
Enough on the fatal design flaw. The crew was absolutely wonderful The excursions were well planned and the tour guides were excellent; everything I expected on a Viking cruise. The food was good, though the menu sometimes didn't meet my tastes, but the fallback of a New York strip steak is always nice. The ship was always kept very clean and the common areas were very nice. As for the ports, I wish we had more time in Amsterdam. We arrived mid-morning and had a welcome lunch on bard (much appreciated). We took a canal cruise that was very interesting. Couldn't get into Anne Frank's House; lines were very long. If you want to visit Anne Frank's, go on-line a month in advance and book the combined Canal Cruise with Anne Frank's House. Tickets sell out very fast.
The second day we visited a windmill site in the morning; it was very interesting. That visit lasted about two hours and then we cruised for what seemed like an eternity to Cologne, arriving the following morning. The cathedral in Cologne was enormous, but lacked character that we have seen in other European cathedrals. If you visit the Chocolate Factory, skip the tour and go directly to the on-site store. The self-guided tour is not worth 9 Euros; spend those Euros on candy in the store. Heidelberg, Strausbourg and other stops were equally enjoyable.
We ended our cruise in Basel, Switzerland, and took a two day excursion to Lucerne, which was beautiful. The optional excursion to Mt. Titlus was amazing. All in all, a very nice cruise. I preferred the Danube with its larger cites, especially Budapest, but the Rhine cruise was very nice. Sadly, with Viking adding so many longships with "shoe box" sized French balcony cabins, we may have to explore other cruise lines for our future river cruises in Europe. Read Less
Returned from a river cruise on Avalon Waterways Artistry II. This ship is a little over a year old and is very well maintained.
Entertainment on this ship was sparse but it did not bother me. After a full day sightseeing we were pretty ... Read More
Returned from a river cruise on Avalon Waterways Artistry II. This ship is a little over a year old and is very well maintained.
Entertainment on this ship was sparse but it did not bother me. After a full day sightseeing we were pretty tired after dinner. One night there was a string trio with a classical guitarist that was delightful. The other passengers were lovely and conversation in the lounge and meeting new people was nice.
The food was plentiful, okay, not great except the cream soups which were fantastic. I have never eaten so many different types of cream soup in a one week period. To be fair, my husband and I are picky eaters and do not eat many things. Wine and beer are included with dinner and the crew kept the glasses full. The breakfast buffet was good as was the lunch buffet.
The most amazing thing about the ship is the crew. When we disembarked, I left a very expensive ring in the cabin and did not realize it until I was at the airport. Everyone was extremely helpful,including the bus driver and the bus dispatcher, The ring was found in the room and it was returned to me. The cruise director, Gusta (sorry about the spelling) was fantastic in organizing the return, the room steward, who I assume found it and turned it in was amazing. I will be forever grateful to these wonderful people and Avalon should be extremely proud of their employees.
While everything on board the ship was great, the touring part of the trip was not very good. In Antwerp, Ghent and Maastricht, were started touring at 8:30AM when nothing is open and finished in about an hour and a half, then given about 45 minutes on our own. I believe we should have been allowed more time in these ports. Part of this hurried touring I am sure was because the cruise line wanted to sell optional tours. In Ghent we could stay downtown, but at other locations we had to get back on board because they were moving the ship. I was a long way to travel to see nothing, especially in a city like Antwerp where there is alot to see. We spent half a day in Veere to see a dyke which I felt would be better suited to a middle school trip. It is a very impressive dyke but really not that interesting unless you are an engineer.
While most of the local guides were fine, we had a bad experience visiting the Ryksmuseum in Amsterdam. The guide took us to the wrong gate, left the vouchers on the bus and basically wasted an hour of a three hour trip. She also was the guide in the museum and I believe she was making up the commentary as she went along. She pointed out a candlestick in one of the old master paintings and told us that the artist painted it as a phallus "to be used for the same purpose that President Clinton used the cigar in the oval office." It just went on and on. If they didnt have a qualified guide available, they should have told us and let us look at the paintings at our own pace.
Would I take another Avalon cruise? Maybe. I would investigate the time in each port very thoroughly before booking. Read Less
We've just completed Viking's Portraits of Southern France on Viking Hermod (south to north). It was mostly enjoyable but the weakest out of our six European cruises. We really enjoyed the friendly passenger mix of US, Canada and ... Read More
We've just completed Viking's Portraits of Southern France on Viking Hermod (south to north). It was mostly enjoyable but the weakest out of our six European cruises. We really enjoyed the friendly passenger mix of US, Canada and several from Great Britain making for good conversation and company.
The ship: Hermod was lovely as is usual with Viking's ships. Not enough seating in the lounge however and we had to stand several nights at the pre-dinner talk along with many others who stood or skipped the activity. Husband found the cabin fine but I did not like the tiny window (too dirty to view from this cruise) and increased ship noise. In general, I do not like the cabin size in the new Viking French balcony rooms (same on lower deck even though they list them as larger - must include the high shelf space in front of the window?) which have no space on either side of the bed and a useless bedside shelf where bedding easily swipes anything off of it. Room and bed comfort and closet and storage space (improved from first longboats) are otherwise very nice. Everything in the cabin worked well and the plugs are numerous and very handy.
Internet: Very poor. I was surprised because we'd heard that it had improved this year. We had trouble even getting on for several of the days with both an i-Pad and a Samsung tablet. So did others around us. Unusable in the lower cabins but also very poor upstairs. It seems that the antennae is lowered often on this cruise and the signal is not a strong one at the best of times.
The crew: The crew with one exception were friendly, enthusiastic and went out of their way to be helpful. The front desk and dining room staff were especially good as was the Chief Engineer. He always had a moment to interact with passengers and we enjoyed his company the most. The program director might be good at organizing but is not a people person. His talks were short, data driven and included little other than what was in Viking's written material. He did not enjoy or encourage questions. We found his lack of enthusiasm affected our choices of activities. This is the first trip that we haven't done most or all of the optional tours - this trip we did none because they seemed boring before we even signed up after listening to his brief, dry descriptions. We hope they were better than that. The room stewards were terrific with very fast laundry service and everything onboard was sparkling clean except cabin windows (on the outside). We had trouble seeing out with all the bird and waterspots on our lower deck window (worse than other ships) and they weren't touched the entire trip. We didn't dock often next to another ship and that was a big plus or would have been if we could see out.
The food: Very good. The chef and his crew were quite skilled at presentation and did a good job. All the meat we saw was rare even when ordered otherwise (we find this the usual case on board V ships). We do find Viking's standardized menus a bit predictable and how can they not have fresh, from scratch pastry when in France!?! What a waste of opportunity to please and impress.
The entertainment: Lacking. Before I start, we really enjoyed the pianist. He was wonderful. Talks were not inspiring. The cooking demonstration was appreciated but very simple and not special for being in France. Evening entertainment was almost non existent this trip. We were really spoiled on our Christmas Douro trip with two lunches included off the ship and two dinners off the ship which added so much atmosphere and felt very special with the entertainment offered at each as well as onboard. This trip had the least special touches of our six cruises.
The itinerary: Great potential but mostly unrealized. Too much time was spent getting from airport to ship at both ends of the trip. The airport greeter was just that - she was nice but only got us from the main lobby to the bus and then left for home. There was no help with luggage at the airport either direction. Another loss of meaningful time was that spent in getting to and from destinations from uninspiring docking points. There was little sightseeing where docked and even less information given about options. The south to north itinerary seems negatively affected with some of the more appealing optional tours unavailable in this direction. Scheduling tours around the lunch meal (both morning and afternoon tours) back onboard was a real negative. Tours were continually rushed to get us back in time for lunch or dinner with insufficient free time other than the scheduled stops. The few choices where you could stay in town (some distance from the ship) were all day or nothing it seemed. We would have loved to stay in town for lunch and have an hour or two to explore rather than have to stay all day or nothing. We like a little time to relax before dinner and this itinerary did not allow for good choices. This itinerary offers nothing extra and nothing that felt special especially south to north.
Arles' free time was only shopping in a gift shop at the Van Gogh hospital stop unless you chose to stay the entire day. Tain l'Hermitage's free time was only at the chocolate shop. Our favorite stop here was the Musee Pierre Palue. Beaune's free time was so short we had to skip the wine tasting to even have time for a cup of chocolate in a local cafe. Avignon's free time was also short but it was one of the few places we could walk back to the ship on our own which we did. Lyon's free time was on a holiday so stores, etc. were closed and we didn't know that until the night before. The restaurant recommendations were all very high priced in Lyon.
We really missed the previous Viking system with a program director and a couple of assistants who usually stayed with each group in addition to the local guides. Our previous program director's were more hands-on and interactive with the passengers. The program director seemed to do little other than take a few photos and discouraged questions at his short presentations. The new concierge system seems lacking in value even though she was nice.
Note that the upper decks is most often closed on this cruise due to the numerous very low bridges on the river. One in particular we were holding our breath when we went under and the chief engineer was on the stairs watching inch by inch to make sure we cleared. I don't know what they do if there is rain that brings up the water level.
The local guides: We were very lucky with our local guides and each day they were the value added. They knew the locales, the stops and the local people at each. They shared their enthusiasm as well as their extensive knowledge. They made the trip for us and were the highlight each day. Without "great" guides our ratings would be lower.
The air arrangements: We tried this for the first time using Viking's air arrangements. In spite of Viking's efforts, it was not something we want to do again unless we have to. They use a computerized system which does not take into account time for immigration, customs, terminal transfers for local to international, etc. Transfer times at airports (such as Paris) were too short and we found planes already boarding before we could even get to them while rushing all the way. We were especially displeased with having to arise before 5am in Lisbon to get to Marseille and our boat by 7pm -- we were routed Lisbon to London to Marseille. A direct flight is less than 2 1/2 hours and we chose the south to north route distinctly because there was a direct flight from our pre-cruise stay in Lisbon. Also we were not pleased with having to leave the ship before dawn because Viking backtracks so far to the airport at the end of the cruise. Thanks to Viking's efforts, we did enjoy entering the US through Seattle instead of San Francisco avoiding the usual nightmare. Delta reassigned our confirmed seats the week before we left on the trip necessitating upgrading our seats to avoid sitting next to the lavatory or in the back row. We felt trapped into this and wonder if that is Delta's usual way of handling discounted tickets in order to sell upgrades.
The value: Because we got a good sale on the trip with air we felt we got our money's worth - sort of. We would rather have better discounts on the trip itself and leave the air arrangements to us. We did not feel that the itinerary or entertainment was up to Viking standards. We love France so we're disappointed that the trip felt so rushed and generic when such potential went unrealized. Viking can do better and, in our experience, usually does. Read Less
We cruised the "Romantic Danube" itinerary with Viking in April 2014 with three adult children on the Freya. Freya is one of the new Viking longships and a definite step up from their older vessels. In addition to the very light ... Read More
We cruised the "Romantic Danube" itinerary with Viking in April 2014 with three adult children on the Freya. Freya is one of the new Viking longships and a definite step up from their older vessels. In addition to the very light and airy Scandinavian design throughout the vessel, the new longships have an elevator for passengers with mobility issues, an indoor/outdoor lounge area, and shuffleboard + putting green on the top deck, The regular rooms (I have not seen the suites) are compact but very well laid out. Ample closet space though another few hangers would have been nice. Lots of drawer space as well as space under the bed to fit luggage meant that everything could be tucked out of sight. The housekeeping staff keep the rooms spotlessly clean. The balconies are big enough for two chairs and a small table but we generally preferred to go up the public areas, with soaring glass windows inside or the lounge chairs outside. One complaint I heard from other cruisers who did want to use their patios was that the boats were often docked beside each other, so one's balcony view was a stateroom on another ship.
River cruise ships are much smaller than ocean going liners, so the experience is more intimate but also more limited. There is no fitness room, pool, sauna, theatre, etc. There are no children's activities (and indeed few to no young children on these trips.) There is one bar and essentially one restaurant. Entertainment in the lounge is pretty basic: a piano player/singer throughout the day (same person) + some evening local entertainment brought on board, albeit limited based on the size of the dance floor area in the bar. I would guess the average age of the cruisers to be about 50. If this is what you are expecting, you will be pleased; if you are comparing it to a Caribbean or ocean cruise, you will likely be disappointed.
The restaurant was very good. Serving staff were experienced and provided extremely attentive service. If one chose to sit in the same area and get the same wait staff daily, it was not long before they knew your name and your preferences. My daughter dislikes onions, and after the first dinner the waiter brought all of her food with the onions removed without her asking. Viking has bumped up the dinners a notch on the new ships to be more like fine dining. The portions are slightly smaller but the presentation is upscale. One could ask for more but we found the portions filling without making us feel "stuffed". Each night had three new choices for appetizer/entree/dessert and a cheese course based on local cheese course. If none of those appealed then steak/salmon/Caesar salad were always available. Breakfast was a full buffet with omelette bar (+ one could order eggs benedict, pancakes, etc. fresh from the kitchen). Lunch varied, depending on whether one went to the restaurant to eat or was lucky enough to get a table in the Aquavit lounge (indoor/outdoor) on a nice day. We enjoyed eating in the lounge but the tables are limited and all round, so going with a party larger than four is difficult. The dining tables seat six, with a few larger tables for bigger parties.
The port excursions are a combination of included tours with some optional tours that could be purchased separately. The included tours were mainly general overview/bus tours of the city in question, taking in the biggest sites in a couple of hours. The optional tours (usually on the other half day) were more of a variety. The tours are well explained in the pre-cruise guide and at the nightly briefings. The guides were all local and a bit hit/miss for the novice guides so early in the season. Viking runs a "leisurely" tour for those a bit slower on their feet but it was hard to tell the difference. What they need is a "spritely" tour for the younger cruisers. If one is not the patient type, the waits for everyone to disembark, get on the bus, figure out the headsets, etc. can be frustrating. Of course, one can also dispense with the tours altogether - the concierge service for arranging your own activities was very good.
We had flown into Budapest a few days before the cruise started and I think from now on we will generally do a pre-cruise extension, which speaks more to the generally lousy/unreliable airline service these days. It's far more pleasant not to spend the first day or two just de-stressing from getting to embarkation! This particular cruise spends the first two days in Budapest so it is a bit less stress-inducing. Having said that, the concierge service is really top notch at working out issues with late flights, lost luggage, etc.
Of course, some aspects of the vacation are beyond the control of the cruise company: bad weather, low water, lost luggage, late flights. The experience is partly what you make of it. We have experienced all of these problems and still had a good time.
We find all of the Viking Cruises to be a reliably good value. Their website is great! If you take the time to read the information available you will be well informed with few surprises. Read Less
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
We left Jacksonville Nov. 29 on The Great Rivers of Florida. This was a very relaxing cruise on quiet waters. The historian/naturalist Rachel Perkins was excellent in sharing her love for this area and her knowledge of the waterways and ... Read More
We left Jacksonville Nov. 29 on The Great Rivers of Florida. This was a very relaxing cruise on quiet waters. The historian/naturalist Rachel Perkins was excellent in sharing her love for this area and her knowledge of the waterways and islands as well as the birds and other wildlife. The crew was outstanding: friendly, competent, and extremely hardworking. The cabin (lowest price) was roomy, comfortable, and clean. Meals were excellent, and the chef knew how to handle meats. There was always a choice of meat or fish/vegetables, and they were very good about making substitutions. We also appreciated their choice for half-portions which were quite ample. Shore excursions were mixed with some getting great reviews like the boat tour around Amelia Island and some that could be skipped like the walking tour of Green Cove Spring. The public rooms need some attention. Dining room chairs tended to be too soft and too low for many of us, and the higher, firmer chairs were at a premium. The lounge also had low, soft seating which is not always the most comfortable for some of us. This is a small ship, and 41 was a very comfortable number to cruise with, easy to meet and talk with people. The first night's entertainment was a historical re-enactor who was very good, discussing the early development of the area. The musical entertainment on other nights tended to be very average to below average and we skipped out after the first few minutes. By and large, the other cruisers were well-educated, some but not all retired. There were no cliques and even the family groups were open to meeting and talking with all of us. Read Less
We were first time cruisers, first time winter in Europe, first time to Hungary, Austria or Germany. If you love Christmas, like we do, you will be in heaven.
First, let me say we were very fortunate- the weather was 35-40 every day, no ... Read More
We were first time cruisers, first time winter in Europe, first time to Hungary, Austria or Germany. If you love Christmas, like we do, you will be in heaven.
First, let me say we were very fortunate- the weather was 35-40 every day, no snow, no sleet, no rain, no ice. The entire itinerary ran on schedule, and the river behaved. There were no stomach bugs, no lost luggage or missed flights, no bus-instead-of-river substitutions.
Overall- I am not sure the cruising experience is for me. I wanted a whole lot more time in the cities/ towns. I was very happy we did the Budapest pre-extension. Wandering around for hours exploring neighborhoods, markets, churches and shops into the nighttime is for me. Forced conversation with strangers on a ship cruising on the river all night with nothing to do s not for me. We were very fortunate to become very friendly with one other couple and would definitely travel with them again. My husband loved the cruise experience, so I would perhaps do another river in the future if we had companions to go with.
That being said, the ship was very attractive and comfortable. The food and service good. We were on the third floor, which I recommend as people complained about cabins above them (noise).
Negative- our ship concierge that week was a pill. No one liked her. There is far too much ship time.Going through locks is excruciatingly boring. I suppose the ship time may be nicer in the warm weather. The entertainment is OK. The evenings are a bore.An exception was a gypsy violinist and his band the second night.
1. Budapest: Viking was waiting for us at the airport and immediately took us to the Budapest Hilton. They had their own concierge in the lobby. Hotel was phenomenal, city was wonderful. Be sue to make it to a thermal spring bath. A highlight for me was mass at Matthias Church with the organ and choir- magnificent. Christmas Market: so-so. Buy paprika, painted eggs or marzipan and brandy- skip everything else. Issue with Viking: tour guide was boring and only did the same side as our pre extension- Buda. Was disappointed they did not take us to Pest. Make your own tour arrangements and see Pest. The transport to and check in at the ship was a breeze.
2. Vienna: my favorite. Christmas markets were beautiful and good.Tour guide was very good.We got to see the Lippizaner Stallions (for free) up close. Demel has strudel to die for. Shopped in the Swarovsky flagship store. The whole town is beautifully decorated (chandeliers down the middle of one street). Issue with Viking- none.
3. Melk- adorable town with some nice store.Tour guide- local young woman who grew up there and attended the abbey school. Phenomenal, Vatican- worthy abbey. If you've been to the vatican you'll understand.If you haven't, Melk is on that scale. Plus: we walked to and from the ship to the town. Negative: not enough time!
4. Passau: Now we are onto the real German Markets. It will not disappoint! Lovely picture postcard town, good guide, nice walking tour. We were greeted by singing school children. Plus: lots of shops outside the market, even a mall. Very walkable. Negative: not enough time!
5. Regensburg: A favorite of both of us. Another picture postcard town and fabulous markets.Good guide. We liked the foods here the best. Wursts and desserts to die for! Be sure to stop at the Weissbrauhaus of Regensburg. It's a great pub-style place with really nice atmosphere and terrific food and staff. Plus: nice antique and other little interesting shops. Negative- not enough time.
6. Nuremberg: the grandaddy of em all Christmas Market we almost didn't get to see. I thought there'd be a riot when the tour director announced we'd get to the market MAYBE if we had time, for about 1.5 hrs in late afternoon. They put priority on a boring (and I love tours) castle tour of a bland rebuilt castle like structure. Melk Abbey it is NOT.Skip it and take a cab to the market. The director managed to get a bus for us to the market that morning for about 1.5 hrs. Thank goodness- it was uncrowded and we managed to get some great stuff. When we returned in the afternoon, it was so packed we could barely move.
Deprature: Note to self: never agree to a 4 am departure again. There is no live help at the airport in the middle of the night, and the line was out the door. Tedious. The Viking people stayed with us until we were checked in.They really provide very good service.
So, I'd recommend the cruise, with Viking, on Bragi, on Danube, to see Christmas Markets. Myself, I'd rather a land tour, but would perhaps do a different river for the Markets if we were traveling with friends. Read Less
Sailed on Viking Magni Christmas 2013 with another couple.
Only glitch was airline 'lost' luggage for 1 of the 4 I was traveling with (no fault of Viking).
Luggage lost was delivered to our stateroom next day (thank you Viking ... Read More
Sailed on Viking Magni Christmas 2013 with another couple.
Only glitch was airline 'lost' luggage for 1 of the 4 I was traveling with (no fault of Viking).
Luggage lost was delivered to our stateroom next day (thank you Viking staff for calls made).
1. Stateroom was clean, well kept 3 times daily (stow your luggage under the bed folks) & spacious.
2. Meals were served 3 times daily with ample hours to figure out when we wanted to eat on board. Selections were great: Breakfast included eggs, fruit, omelets, juices, coffee / American and European favorites. Lunch was the same (included special orders from the menu) and Dinner was always the best ever ... adult beverages, fine steak, salmon, salads, appetizers, deserts. Service was a '10'.
3. Tours included were easy to figure out (not only were they written out in the package we received when embarking; the evening before we got to the next port ... cruise director would remind all of us when to hook up with the bus, the walking tour, etc).
4. Entertainment ... fun!! If we stayed on board (trying to get over a cold we caught before boarding) we had access to the on board library, the Wi-Fi access on 2 deck levels, the sun deck on top side, the video in our stateroom showing the camera of which lock we were going through and we had the on board staff repeatedly asking if we needed anything (dang, the staff was amazing!!!).
5. Close quarters - Yes, it was fun to get to know the other 180 +/- fellow guests. Some were nice, some were not. All were a lot of fun to meet. I (personally) love traveling like this!!! I swapped emails with a bunch of the nice ones and waved good bye to others (no email offered).
Can't believe how nice this trip was!!!
All transfers, cabs, tours, meals, towels, smiles included - I was able to do my own thing when I wanted to AND had all details set up by Viking for 90% of everything else.
I will be traveling with Viking again.
This was our first river cruise and we recommend it and plan on river cruising again. We chose Viking because the catalog we received in the mail included an itinerary we had always wanted to do. The age demographic is largely 70+ . Being ... Read More
This was our first river cruise and we recommend it and plan on river cruising again. We chose Viking because the catalog we received in the mail included an itinerary we had always wanted to do. The age demographic is largely 70+ . Being considering younger we did make friends and connect with others our age
We departed December 8, 2013 on the Paris Normandy cruise. We visited with family in UK prior to the trip so we did not do the pre stay or post stay in Paris. We did add on transfers once we arrived back in CDG and were very well taken care for our 30 minute ride to the ship. Our cabin was a corner one next to the staircases but was very well laid out and spacious and we liked it over the conventional cabins down the hall. Great storage and use of space. The staff were extremely courteous and helpful throughout the duration of the cruise. Each evening there was a debriefing of next day excursions or ship program. Very well organized. You leave the ship - you turn in your room key and get a pass which you turn in upon your return. This was a very efficient way of figuring out who was on or off the ship.
There is only one dining time and it is open seating. The food was very good. Not excellent but very good. The portions are not those you would find on ocean liner cruisers, which is fine unless you are there for a food frenzy. The food was always elegantly presented . They tried hard to make it regionally based upon the day's visit. The breakfast buffet was very generous but repetitive, however, you could order a la carte. We lunched in the dining room most days vs. the buffet. I feel the lunch menus could have been a little bit more imaginative and did get the feeling that we were at the end of the season when coming to menu creation. At the captain's farewell cocktail they ran out of hors d'oeuvres after being passed to only half of the lounge. When pointed out they did bring more to the entire lounge. I admit I am a food and service snob and did note that one time they used a saucer as a serving dish and I suspect that the crab meat on crab cake night was fake crab meat. To my husband's delight one day they did serve hot dogs :(n For wine lovers such as us ...we would very often buy a bottle of wine at the many local wine shops and they either corked it right there at the shop or the ship would do it for you. There was not any question bringing it on board and they were happy to offer a corkage service at no charge.
The entertainment on board is limited. There was a resident piano player who was somewhat engaged. They did have a spirit of Normandy night with local entertainers which was good. Most nights we were tired from daily activities we crashed after dinner. They did offer some "cultural" activities during sailing. Some things they listed as on board events were pretty lame. Would have liked to seen more educational topical info as in lectures relating to upcoming stops.
The excursions were excellent and the guides were all fabulous. We opted not to do the intro to Paris half day tour the first day since we had been to the cite several times before and explored Montmartre and Ile st. Louis instead. Visit this small island on the seine by foot when you walk to the left side of Notre Dame and over the bridge. It is literally far from the madding crowd of tourists with small, and I mean, small restaurants and shops. Be sure and get ice cream! Beautiful gift shops and galleries. The Metro is extremely easy to use and in fact if you take the walking, get acquainted, walking tour the first day and the guide instructs you on how to use the Metro. Taxis are very expensive and Metro is the way to go.
Our first excursion out of Paris was to the site of Vincent Van Gogh's last days. This particular day was bitter cold and we did not layer properly. Loved all we learned about this very troubled and brilliant artist. Rouen is great shopping. Wish there had been more to the Joan of Arc site. We did take advantage to leave the ship for dinner and dine at a local restaurant recommended by the ship. A Petite Auberge. A delightful culinary experience at what we thought was a very reasonable price. Recommend doing this to get a true local flavor outside of the ship dining experience.
The highlight of our cruise was the visit to the Normandy Beaches. It was somewhat of a pilgrimage for us after losing my 95 year old Father-in-law this year who was a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge. You can read and study in history books, or online, but when you are there it is totally incredible. Very emotional day. They had a ceremony for our tour group at the monument which was very poignant. The day of the castle tour I chose to shop the two gift shops with other female companions. Two nice shops for last minute gifts. My husband did the castle tour which is ancient ruins on hillside and a challenging hike for most. This is a short 2 hour dock.
The final day was Versailles. Our other reason for picking this itinerary. We opted for the whole day tour and I think this was a mistake. Unless you did not complete all you wanted to see in Paris prior to this point then opt for the half day tour. I really regret doing the full day. Half day or full day you get to see the same tour of Versailles Palace with free time to browse the gardens and gift shop. The whole day gives you 1.5 hours in the town of Versailles for lunch and shopping. Quaint but just more shopping and eating. Back to Paris on the bus and they drop you off for 2.5 hours at the Champs Élysées and return you to the boat at 0630 pm in time for dinner on the last night. Meanwhile the boat sails from Conflans to Paris during the afternoon and you leisurely enjoy the afternoon on the river.
The coaches were all very clean. Follow the tipping guide .......if you are lucky enough to get Thierry as your guide in Paris or Versailles you are blessed and consider that a huge bonus. He is very entertaining!
Dressing tips: Dining dressing is casual. Many do not change from day clothes. The captains toast/dinner was really no different than any other night. Ladies ..just take a different scarf and jewelry and wear the same outfit. Layer for those excursions at this time of year. Temperature in the cabin was a little erratic. I do have to say the linens and bed comforters were super soft and comfortable.
On a final note. They only gave us a two hour window for check in at CDG and it was a very tight time frame. Long lines at check in and security and when we arrived at the gate they were boarding the plane. No duty free shop time! Would we travel Viking again? Possibly...it was great value for the money but I would explore other river cruises first.
First off let me say that I really like this cruise line. So much so, that we are taking them in Alaska this summer. The crew was very friendly and helpful. The food service and staff were excellent. The other passengers were quite ... Read More
First off let me say that I really like this cruise line. So much so, that we are taking them in Alaska this summer. The crew was very friendly and helpful. The food service and staff were excellent. The other passengers were quite friendly and engaging. The entertainment, with one glaring exception was very good. The lectures and information about our ports was exceptional and the shore excursions were very good. The cocktail hour every afternoon is a great way to mix and mingle and get to know the other passengers.
If you are on this Cruise Critic site to help in the selection of your next cruise, let me give you some idea of what to expect and not to expect from American Cruise Lines….
- If you want a cruise with 4000 of your best friends, assigned dinner tables and times, food from a cement mixer, half hour waits to get on or off the ship, an iPhone App to save you from getting lost on the ship, a $500 bar bill for a seven day cruise, being nickel and dimed to death for everything other than your room and meals, American Cruise Lines is not for you.
- If you want to cruise in the lap of luxury with a spacious suite cabin, a mini bar and fridge in your cabin, 24 hour coffee bar with a barista, a fancy bar and lounge with a uniformed bartender, over priced and spotty wifi, over priced and poorly presented shore excursions, and young adults frolicking in the surf, then American may not be for you either.
- What you do get on ACL is a compact, efficient ship with great food and a very helpful and friendly crew. We cruised from Charleston to Jackson on a New Years holiday and thoroughly enjoyed it. We have cruised Royal Caribbean, Avalon, Seabourn, and a small motor sailer in Greece. AMC is one of our favorites. We have already booked another cruise with American.
- Since this is supposed to be a critique, let me address a few things to the ACL home office that might improve the overall ACL experience.
Never use the band we had on New Years Eve and New Years again. They were so bad that there were requests to have them put off the ship on Sapelo Island.
Get new uniforms for the hotel staff. Whatever that is they are wearing in no way reflects their high level of professionalism.
Get “plug-in” clocks for the night stands. The battery operated LCD clocks are hard to see in the daytime and impossible at night.
Get bigger TV in the staterooms. Considering the average age of your guests, I am not sure anyone could see those 15” mini screens.
Get better coffee in the lounge. I heard several passengers say they were going to Starbucks when they got off the ship.
- I never expected ACL to be Seabourn, but for heavens sake, fire your interior designer. OMG! Valences over the windows! With the exception of the dining room, the rest of the furniture, especially in the lounge looks like an assisted living center. Your passengers might not be spry but your decor should be a little more spry and up to date.
This was our first river cruise so we have nothing to compare it with other than luxury ocean cruising with Silversea and Regent. It was called "Great Capitals and Vintage of the Danube". It started with a 3-day land ... Read More
This was our first river cruise so we have nothing to compare it with other than luxury ocean cruising with Silversea and Regent. It was called "Great Capitals and Vintage of the Danube". It started with a 3-day land pre-extension in Prague (based in the very nice Hilton Old Town), followed by a 7-day cruise from Vilshofen to Budapest. It was a wine-themed cruise, with multiple on-board tastings of St. Frances winery (Sonoma Valley, CA) excellent wines, and opportunities to visit several Austrian wineries (not so excellent). We enjoyed our mostly stress-free easy-paced cruise and interesting shore excursions, but would not recommend it if you absolutely MUST have gourmet cuisine or stellar dining room service and fine wines when you travel.
PRAGUE 3-day pre-cruise: we met our pleasant and intelligent cruise director Uwe Nietschke (sp), who coordinated a well-organized and interesting stay which started with practical recommendations for local restaurants, ATMs, safety, etc the first post-jetlag check-in evening. We had an interesting second day sightseeing tour (bus and walk) with a stimulating local guide, then just the right amount of free time. The Hilton Old Town was centrally located with good service and comfortable rooms. The optional, extra fee private Lobkowicz Palace tour the second day was fascinating, with many old musical instruments and weapons on display, followed by a classical music performance. We did not go to Terezin, a former internment camp for Jews, as I had been there before, which was another optional sidetour (recommended if you have any interest in European Jewish history). Instead we visited the Museum of Communism on our own (Uwe helped us with details), sandwiched between a McDonalds & a casino.
We then were bussed over to the ship in Vilshofen, with a stop in the colorful old city of Regensburg on the way. We did a city walking tour with a well-spoken guide, then had free time (we opted for a tasty local cuisine lunch at Regensburger Ratskeller in the town square).
EMBARKATION was easy (walk right on), then everyone sat in the noisy lounge area for 30-45 minutes until cabins were called (it might have been particularly noisy because there was a very large lively group traveling together from Puerto Rico). It was crowded during the initial milling around with limited service and toilet access lines, but I do not know how this could be improved. A lot of time (too much) was spent introducing all staff.
CABIN: (AA violin deck) was modern, always immaculate, and spacious enough, with a beautiful bathroom (would be too small if you are a Person of Size) and two balconies (one where you could sit outside if weather would allow it). The queen-sized bed was disappointingly hard, with no option to turn the mattress over for a softer side, as we have seen on Silversea. The free in-room WIFI worked quite well most of the time (not in locks) and was a refreshing change from ocean cruising where wifi is slow and very expensive. There was an in-room fridge to use as you wished, or with the free still water (no sparkling option) provided daily. Laundry service was quick, efficient, and cheap, so I used it several times instead of struggling with in-sink rinseouts and line-drying (our clothing was only lost once, then found, with apologies).
DINING: On-board dining and waiter service were mediocre, but tolerable. Breakfast and Lunch were basic buffets, crowded but always with a place to sit on comfortable chairs, adequate enough, with fresh produce, but nothing special except for the breads, which were fresh and crispy, baked daily. Pastries and cookies were mediocre. Guests were oddly not allowed to take their (free) food on a tray into cabins, which would have helped alleviate the crowding or allowed for privacy when guests are not in a social mood at mealtime. Each day also offered a clear or creamed soup option, and the creamed misc vegetable soups I tried were quite good. The overstressed waiters not uncommonly had difficulty keeping track of any unique requests (e.g., they would rush over at dinner to pour regular water and would be put off when I would ask for sparkling instead; I usually had to ask two to three times for the sparkling, and trying to buy expensive sparkling water bottles at the bar to take into my room in between meals was met with initial resistance). If they happened to be pouring white wine to start, but I wanted red, it would not uncommonly be a long time before the red would finally appear, requiring reminders. Dinner was served at a fixed time for everyone, with an unremarkable fish, vegetarian, and meat (usually beef) option each night and a generic white and red local wine, neither of which were very good, but not horrible. The specialty restaurant option we could eat at once during the cruise that had a lot of buildup and required reservations was actually nothing special (they had beef or fish options which were ok, but accompanied by suboptimal service -- e.g., other than getting water poured, for the first 30 minutes we sat there we did not get bread, wine, or an appetizer and were basically ignored, and the bread, when it finally came, was stale). The reds poured at dinners were typically not big enough to stand up to the beef dishes. There were almost no options to order nicer wines for a fee (only a couple reds were available off-menu, none of them full-bodied). The exception was the night when St. Frances wines were allowed to be paired with the food (though the cruise-featured St. Frances wines we tasted were excellent, they were surprisingly not allowed to be sold or drunk on-board other than at the pairing or the tasting, not even in the bar, so even if you do a "wine cruise", do not count on routinely being able to drink really nice wines with your meals, as this was the only "pairing" dinner). Coffee drinks were available around the clock for self-serivce, out of a push-button instant machine, which provided mostly tasteless weak coffee that all tasted the same whether it was labeled espresso or cappuccino. Really good coffee drinks were not to be had on board, neither at meals nor from the bar for a fee.
Other than overworked and sometimes irritable waitstaff, personnel on the ship were polite and helpful and spoke English reasonably well. Personnel were mostly Romanian, Bulgarian, and Hungarian (the captain was Dutch). Front desk girls were pleasant and helpful. When we returned from excursions, it was nice to be greeted by varying little treats offered on reembarkation, e.g., hot wine, hot tea, tasty sweet morsels, or similar.
EXCURSIONS we did while cruising are listed below. Whenever we had bus trips as part of the tours, I appreciated that the buses had on-board toilets for "emergencies", which helped allay any anxieties about drinking too much coffee or wine while touring. We did not bike, so cannot comment on bike options at ports, which a surprising number of passengers did despite cold weather.
PASSAU walking tour -- very interesting old town, awesome church, huge pipe organ, recommended
CESKY KRUMLOV -- fascinating though touristy old Czech town which has been remarkably renovated since the fall of Communism; weather was bad, so we could not appreciate outdoor dining, would be stunning to tour in warmer weather
MELK Abbey -- awesome old library with ancient books, scenic views from the hill, amazing old church
DURNSTEIN walking tour -- cute little old town, but as it was Sunday morning, most stores were closed & some guests complained about no bathroom access.
SCHLOSS GOBELSBURG wine tasting: a lovely old castle and winery; oddly, we had to do our tasting of the Gruener Veltliner wines (not my favorite) in a cold, unheated castle room, and there was not enough time allowed to actually BUY wine as multiple tour groups were going through. Interesting cellar tour, though too long, saw old bottles covered with decades of mold.
HIDDEN VIENNA WALKING TOUR -- very interesting and good exercize, followed by free time; another night in Vienna would have been good to allow more touring options without rushing or getting overly fatigued. We ate hearty Austrian cuisine at an old inn, Griechenbeisl, where Mozart and Beethoven signed the walls.
BUDAPEST CITY TOUR -- basic overview of this war-ravaged city, followed by the ship's cruising up and down the Danube in town at night to highlight the pretty illuminations of historical buildings.
We stayed an extra day after the cruise at the Budapest Hilton, which the city tour takes you right by, on the castle hill (also don't miss the "Hospital in the Rock" museum we did on our own, and note paying the fee to go into St. Stephen's Basilica is worth the price)
FINAL FAREWELL DINNER: (this followed the late afternoon/early evening Budapest city tour) -- again, there was a fixed time for all to appear, and people were hungry post-tour, but had to wait 1.5+ hours sitting around before they were able to access food, while personnel spent time reintroducing and thanking the crew for a great cruise with abundant applause, repeatedly praising themselves and solicting customer applause, followed by a somewhat lame "Hungarian" folk music presentation which delayed dinner even more (the Hungarian part was fine, with an excellent violinist, but the musicians then also tried to play modern music , apparently to something for everyone, including out of place Michael Jackson style gyrations by a young girl). This long, protracted pre-dinner thank-you session and music would not have been so bad if guests had not already had crew introductions on embarcation and had had waiters going around serving tasty appetizers and drinks.
DISEMBARKATION -- stress-free; though rooms had to be vacated by 9am, people who had later flights could comfortably hang out in the lounge for a few hours and get coffee from the machine.
SUMMARY We definitely enjoyed the itinerary, port excursions, and comfort of the modern cabins, the seamless connections, and overall had a good time. The outstanding cruise director, Uwe, was a soothing highlight of the service. The dining/food/wine/coffee selections and other culinary service (other than the St. Frances tastings) were basic and adequate, but disappointing in what I expected from a luxury-priced cruise, but I have no other river cruise experience, so perhaps they are all like this and my expectations were unreliastic.
This was our fourth cruise on Viking having previously cruised in Russia, on the Danube and on the Rhine. This time we persuaded five friends to join us.
There are sometimes complaints about the flights (and flight times) selected by ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise on Viking having previously cruised in Russia, on the Danube and on the Rhine. This time we persuaded five friends to join us.
There are sometimes complaints about the flights (and flight times) selected by Viking. My advice woiuld be to research which flights are available then pay the small amount extra and ask Viking flights if they can get the flights and seats you want. I did this on Lufthansa and we flew when we wanted to, got the seats we wanted and got our Star Alliance mileage. A word of warning about Delta; these flights are discounted fares and Delta will only give 25% of the actual miles flown if you collect Skymiles. Also Delta partners with Air France which does not respect seat bookings and you may find yourself in another area of the aircraft and split up if you are a couple.
Now to the ship. The Neptune is not new and therefore shows some wear and tear. It is however extremely clean both inside and out and was kept that way for the duration of the voyage. The cabins (we had a B) are not large but the storage is excellent and the bathroom well appointed. Our cabin stewardess was a phantom but every time we returned to the cabin she had been there to tidy up, put out fresh towels etc.
We were on the last cruise of the season and felt the chefs and dining room staff did an excellent job. They were beginning to run out of a few things but the staff bent over backwards to keep everyone happy. I am not a wine expert but I would classify the wines as drinkable. There is always the option to buy wine at one of the tastings and have the wine steward open them for you.
The captain handled the ship with great expertise; watching her dock the Neptune was a treat. She was always to be seen around the ship and was very pleasant. She did not however speak any English.
The excursion were enjoyable with clean buses with good drivers where used and any local guides were informative and spoke English well. Frequently on this trip, plans for excursions were changed due to the high water mentioned in the previous review. Now it rains too much or it doesn't rain enough; a fact of life and certainly not Viking or any other cruise line's fault. Where Viking missed the boat so to speak was information. The Cruise Director and the "concierge staff" answered questions with fixed smiles and shrugs of the shoulders. We were told the locks were closed. No, the water flowing into the locks was too strong. No, it was French law we couldn't be on board! I speak enough French to understand most of what is said and I found the captain's briefing on the situation was loosely translated by the Cruise Director, telling us what she thought we wanted to hear rather than what was being said. It didn't take the lawyers on board long to realize that the real issue was liability!
If one reads these review boards one knows that these water situations occur with some frequency. It would certainly be a big improvement if Viking had printed material ready to distribute explaing how water conditions effect the ship and what the captains are required by law and/or the company to do.
Cruising is like most things- caveat emptor. If being switched to buses, or missing a port or two or even moving to hotels is not for you then don't river cruise on any line. And do your research, if you have mobility issues remember some of the excursions cannot avoid steep climbs/descents, rough terrain/cobblestones.
We sailed on Oct 13. The ship is lovely and our cabin was more than adequate. High end linens and toiletries in a well configured room. Can't fault the staff for anything. They were absolutely flawless. Meals were high quality and the ... Read More
We sailed on Oct 13. The ship is lovely and our cabin was more than adequate. High end linens and toiletries in a well configured room. Can't fault the staff for anything. They were absolutely flawless. Meals were high quality and the variety was endless. If you didn't see what you wanted and the chef had time, he would try to accommodate you and make it. The two times they brought in entertainment ( a jazz trio and then two opera singers) were very high quality.
The tours in Venice were amazing. The walking tour that led into the Doges Palace was great. Seeing St. Marks go from darkness to light that evening was incredible. We were very impressed, thinking this is a terrific cruise..
Then we started on the bus tours. We couldn't sail the Po just like most of the other cruises this year. So we sat for a minimum of 1 1/2 hours (Paduva) and often much longer ( Bologna 4 hours) on a bus to get to a somewhat interesting city. The walking tours were well done and we saw some great sights. The Vox system of broadcasting worked really well. The lunch in Ravena and Bologna were very nice and the pasta making workshop was terrific. The last two reviews have done a great job in describing their experiences.
We just felt somewhat disappointed that we didn't sail on any river. I wonder if in their haste to offer a river cruise in Italy and beat the competition, that they didn't do due diligence on whether Italy is a place that should offer a river cruise. The ports of call are okay and would be much more attractive if they were a stop on a river that you were sailing on. We may try another river cruise down the road, maybe the lower Danube, but this is a very expensive bus tour the way the Po river cruise stands at the moment.
We had a good time because we always have a good time, but it just fell a little short of what we were expecting. Read Less
We were on the middle deck and the rooms were large and very comfortable. We really liked the huge window that opens half way down the wall. The bath was very large. It is covered with marble that is over the top. The room and bath were ... Read More
We were on the middle deck and the rooms were large and very comfortable. We really liked the huge window that opens half way down the wall. The bath was very large. It is covered with marble that is over the top. The room and bath were larger than Viking ships. Common areas are pleasant but no better than Viking. The staff were for the most part very good to excellent. The food at breakfast and lunch were similar to Viking, but the dinners were slightly better. Wine with meals is included and poured liberally.
The tour manager was a bit disorganized, even precipitating arguments with guests during port talks. The tour manager was difficult to listen to, and many guests missed important deadlines. They do not give overhead announcements, which adds to the impression of disorganization. Bikes were available at each port, which was a very nice feature. Shore excursions were very good.
Embarkation and disembarkation were simple and efficient. Several pieces of equipment in the fitness room were out of order. The indoor pool went unused and was over the top. If you want the top of the line, this is it. However, the extra costs aren't worth it, unless you crave an indoor pool and floor to ceiling marble in the bath. Read Less
Having done many ocean cruises this was our first river boat trip. I love the itinerary, in our case from Istanbul to Bucarest to Vienna but found the cabin uncomfortably small.I had a premium cabin with a "french balcony" ... Read More
Having done many ocean cruises this was our first river boat trip. I love the itinerary, in our case from Istanbul to Bucarest to Vienna but found the cabin uncomfortably small.I had a premium cabin with a "french balcony" (translates as the sliding glass door opens and there is no balcony). There is approxamatly 4 feet on each side of the bed and then a very small bathroom. We dressed and bathed in shifts so we wouldn't be bumping into each other. The public rooms were nice but always full. The outdoor roof deck was nice when the weather was good.
Free time was limited in port if you went on any tours and a lot of time was spent getting on and off buses. There were many places I would have like to have spent more time in, but a rivier cruise is not the best way to do that. Food was reasonably good, but service was always rushed. The crew was friendly, mostly eastern European. Breakfast and lunch are always a buffet. The ship was recently refurbished and clean and nice. The Internet worked most of the time but not in more remote areas. I would rate this ship a 3 and 1/2 star rating but think it will be better in 2014 as they go all inclusive, which is a much preferred way to handling tipping and drinks. Read Less
I was a newly minted 61-year old and my daugheter was nigh onto 40, and from the Viking River Cruise advertisements, we were expecting the passengers to be in the same age range. Imagine our surpise when they were more like in their ... Read More
I was a newly minted 61-year old and my daugheter was nigh onto 40, and from the Viking River Cruise advertisements, we were expecting the passengers to be in the same age range. Imagine our surpise when they were more like in their 70's or higher! My daughter said she felt like she'd just step into the casting call for the movie "Cacoon"! Since we're were on the ship way too much do to cruising WAY too slow up the Elbe River and thus were spending tons of time with the other passengers, it did have a negative impact for us and our expectations. And since it was always communcal dining, you were always stuck listening about someone's recent ailments, what they did in high school (who cares?!), etc. And there's no room service, so it was either skip the meal or eat as fast as you could to escape.
The food, crew, excursions, rooms, etc. were all top notch - not a compliant there at all. The hotels were really nice and all of the airpost transferes were done really well.
Another thing we noticed is that on VRC's itinerary ads, they talk about you visitng various ports, but they never say how long you'll actually be at the port, and due to us being on the "slowboat to China", we were very dissapoiinted in how little time we had in the various cityies along the way. I'd rather have a speedier boat and stay longer in the variuos ports than vice versa!
The room was nice, albeit small; but it's a small ship so that it can cruise the Elebe river. But there was a good deal of storage for as small it was. The housekeeping staff were absolutely amazing, couldn't have been friendlier or more helpful. Read Less
The Viking Grand Europe River Cruise, Amsterdam-Budapest appealed to me because it offered an opportunity to see many countries without the hassle of packing and unpacking and arranging for transportation. The cities we visited were all ... Read More
The Viking Grand Europe River Cruise, Amsterdam-Budapest appealed to me because it offered an opportunity to see many countries without the hassle of packing and unpacking and arranging for transportation. The cities we visited were all new to me and this seemed like a good way to "sample" places that I'd like to return to in the future. That said, the itinerary was a good match for what I wanted.
From booking to disembarking, this trip met or exceeding expectations. Viking delivered on all its advertised luxuries. Except for the weather, which either rained or threatend rain every day but two, I was delighted with the experience. Again, I think it is critical to do your research ahead of time so you know what a trip like this is and isn't.
What it is:The long-ships are essentially a very well run hotel on the river with experienced staff. From the enthusiastic program director to the service oriented waitstaff, there is a clear message that they are working to make your trip the best. The excursion guides are locals and in addition to being well informed, they are terrific ambassadors for their cities (many of which are hoping that tourism will boost their economy). We had a room on the third deck with a balcony. Our travel companions had a suite on the same deck. Since we spent little time in the room, the space was adequate and the balcony was a nice feature. I think the French balcony would have been fine as well and a real upgrade over the small window on the first deck (not good if you like fresh air at night). The food quality seemed to improve significantly as the trip proceeded. I highly suggest spending the extra money to eat lunch in the cities when in a port if you want to meet locals and get a real sense of the local cuisine. Breakfast and dinners on board were very good with the last few night's dinners excellent. If you like lingering over dinner this is the place. Dinner starts at 7 and we were usually at our table until 9:00. The evening entertainment varied from fair to fabulous-especially the off-ship concert in Vienna. I wish there were more of these options offered especially when in larger cities such as Cologne. If you don't like arranged guides with quick visits to cathedrals and palaces and walks through medieval towns, this is NOT the trip for you. There were times I was wishing for more free time (which you could do in lieu of the guided tour), but over all it was a good balance of free and structured time. As with any cruise, you can be as social or solitary as you wish. Our fellow travelers were easy to interact with. Since we were traveling with another couple, we spent much time together while also engaging with others at meals and during the day trips. The layout of the ship makes it easy to find a quiet spot to read or relax as you cruise down the beautiful river. As a relatively fit and active couple, we were surprised to learn that our daily walks through towns (many with great hills and stairs to climb) proved adequate for our exercise needs. I was brave enough to weigh myself upon our rerun and shocked to find I had only gained pound (and I drank beer and ate dessert every day). Lastbut not least, this was a trip where you could dress as casually as you wanted. Some dressed up a bit for dinners, but you really could live in jeans everyday if you so desired.
What it is NOT: It is not the kind of trip where you are going to feel you get your value worth if you stay on the ship all day. It is not a trip for those who wish to spend quality time
in one or two cities (although the pre and post trip options would allow for this). It is not a trip that will satisfy if you are not willing to take a chance on the unpredictable weather, which can cause significant problems as many travelers noted during the June floods. It is also not a trip that you should consider if you aren't willing to compensate the excellent staff. Some on board our trip commented on the tipping guidelines but we thought about what we would tip if we went out to dinner every night for 15 nights and it seemed within reason. That said, they are just guidelines. We were happy to compensate all the staff for their excellent service.
Overall, this was a very good trip in large part because we had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Like all trips, there was some luck involved. No floods or strikes or ship malfunctions. Other than a mild cold, all went off without a hitch. Now, if someone from the staff could just help me sort through my1000+ photos... Read Less
We joined the Crystal in Budapest for the first seven days of the cruise. The ship was excellent, the crew pleasant, and the captain appeared to run a tight but happy ship. Our cruise director Marin who was with us the whole journey on ... Read More
We joined the Crystal in Budapest for the first seven days of the cruise. The ship was excellent, the crew pleasant, and the captain appeared to run a tight but happy ship. Our cruise director Marin who was with us the whole journey on both ships was well informed, efficient, and dealt with everyone with courtesy and never lost his sense of humour. The transfer to the Jewel at Nuremburg was done well, they even arranged for rooms to be cleaned first for a couple of passengers who were ill.
The side trips were well organised and there was plenty of choice. There was no need to spend anything once onboard unless you required laundry. We did not feel that the crew on the Jewel were as happy, the Captain did not appear very much at all and the Hotel Manager seemed to run the ship. Some of the Crew were very surly and did not engage with the passengers much. Our room was spacious and clean. The coffee/chocolate machine in the lounge was excellent. So far all good.
However, and this was a big disappointment for us, the food! Too many buffet's with hot food being served on cold plates..even at breakfast, eggs and bacon on cold plates. Often the food in the evening was also served lukewarm. The menu was pretentious and you needed an interpreter. Many evenings we resorted to the everyday available chicken breast or steak, and we requested steamed vegetables as there was not much in the way of vegetables. We were even served tinned carrots and soup with globules of fat floating on top. Don't expect fine china either.....