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5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2013
After a disappointing Hotel in Budapest the Cruise was all it was advertised to be. Our Cabin, Staff and River Boat were all very good. We were quite unhappy with the Dinner choices and quality. They seemed to be mediocre selections, small ... Read More
After a disappointing Hotel in Budapest the Cruise was all it was advertised to be. Our Cabin, Staff and River Boat were all very good. We were quite unhappy with the Dinner choices and quality. They seemed to be mediocre selections, small portions and tasteless especially based on the $$ paid for the trip. Since this was our 46th Cruise we feel that we had some basis for this. All of our Ports/Cities visited were well chosen and the Program Directors who accompanied us were terrific. Vantage booked the Flights are they were also good selections as was all our local transportation. Other than the meals we have no complaints about the Cruise itself. However, we should have heeded past Vantage passenger blogs and reviews. If we had we would never had booked this trip. We believe that Vantage pulled a "Bait & Switch' in our Pre-Cruise package. We were supposed to stay at the Elegant "Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal" in Budapest. Two weeks before we received a letter stating this Hotel was unavailable and we were switched to a Hilton business hotel. Corinthia rated #3 and Hilton rated #46. To compensate they gave us an extra dinner. ALL dinners at the Hotel were worse than on the Boat and actually not edible. Vantage Customer Service is nowhere to be found once you pay for your trip and would not budge on the Hotel change. Several of us walked to the Corinthia and found they were NOT overbooked and actually had a Large banner Welcoming "Viking Cruises". Several letters to Vantage have gone unanswered since returning. Beware of Vantage. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2013
we are in our early sixties and my wife is retired and I am transitioning into retirement. This is our first river cruise and we did not know what to expect. the results? would we do a river cruise again? absolutely! there is no experience ... Read More
we are in our early sixties and my wife is retired and I am transitioning into retirement. This is our first river cruise and we did not know what to expect. the results? would we do a river cruise again? absolutely! there is no experience like the peace and solitude of sailing down a great river especially at dawn or dusk or as we experienced in the rain. would be cruise Avalon again?maybe if there was A good deal to be had. Would we go in another cruise line? absolutely. the pros: Avalon was extremely well organized and professional.Everything went like clockwork, the tour guides were probably the best we have ever had. And the service was impeccable. the cons: principally, the food fell short. While you can't do much to ruin a breakfast, which was ample with omelet stations, fresh breads,juices, etc., the lunches and dinners did not come up to what one would expect from a cruise of this cost. The entrees were tasteless affairs, portions small,thrown together. essentially, the food was good enough to satisfy ones hunger but not once during the whole week did I nor anyone else in my group have a WOW moment from anything that was served.disastrously, the ice cream was terrible, having been frozen and refrozen; most of it had ice shards in it. One waited to go ashore to buy ice cream from a street vendor that was ten times better than what was serve in board. To be fair the included wines were perfectly acceptable to us so unless you are a wine lover there is no need to buy the expensive drink package. Another con while the ship was kept spic and span clean, the furnishing were also nothing to write home about . Functional Danish moden no frills communist era issue.you do not get the understated elegant feel that you do on Celebrity.Lastly and least importantly the linens left much to be desired, the towels really threadbare and cheap. Again, a good solid experience, but I am curious to look elsewhere for my next river cruise. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2013
DH and I had looked forward to the "Lewis & Clark" cruise on the Columbia and Snake Rivers for a long time. The ship was clean and comfortable; the ports were fantastic, although for what they charged they could have cut the ... Read More
DH and I had looked forward to the "Lewis & Clark" cruise on the Columbia and Snake Rivers for a long time. The ship was clean and comfortable; the ports were fantastic, although for what they charged they could have cut the price for shore excursions in half!! One thing that was really nice is that tour guides/bus drivers followed the ship so we had the same bus and guide for all shore excursions. The staff is very friendly and tries to be accommodating but they are sorely in need of training and supervision: 1. Breakfast buffet every day set out milk, cottage cheese, yogurt without any provision for keeping dairy food chilled. 2. At dinner the first night the Restaurant Manager was observed combing his hair in the dining room over a buffet containing clean and uncovered water glasses. 3. Passengers fill out menu for lunch and dinner at breakfast and restaurant manager assured me that if I wanted something not on the menu to just write it in and it would be prepared. I asked for chicken soup and salad for lunch(it had been served the day before) and waited over 30 minutes for soup because they didn't start making it until I was in the dining room! I waited 30 minutes for a hamburger at dinner (it was on the lunch menu) and 40 minutes for a small dish of blueberries and cottage cheese for breakfast. 4. Passenger dropped fork and a new one was brought by server and handed to passenger handle first!! 5. All of the passengers on board were 55+ and yet when one of them fell and cut her arm there was no first aid kit/or band-aids on board! I would love to book the Mississippi River cruise with ACL, but I'm afraid to. For the money we spent on this trip, I expected better. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2013
The Avalon Visionary is a lovely ship boat. Our 200-level portside cabin was excellent. The "French Balcony" is fantastic. Staff and crew are extremely friendly and accommodating. When there was too much sun at dinner, I ... Read More
The Avalon Visionary is a lovely ship boat. Our 200-level portside cabin was excellent. The "French Balcony" is fantastic. Staff and crew are extremely friendly and accommodating. When there was too much sun at dinner, I started to pull down the blinds. A waitress came running up to pull them down. She said, "We're supposed to do everything for our guests." Don't worry," I said, smiling, "I took a course in blind pulling." It's neat. They have mini-newspapers for Canadians. The buffets are never crowded and there's always plenty of table space available. (That's quite unlike our experiences on over a dozen ocean cruises.) Anyone complaining about the quality of food needs cerebral assessment. The breakfast and lunch buffets are elaborate and the dinners are excellent. (A brochure explains that, because of the limited space, the buffets can have no more than 80 or 90 items!) At dinner, the red and white wines flow freely ... with multiple refills (all for no extra charge). When they say dinner begins at 7 pm, you gotta be there at 7 pm. You select everything at the start, from a multiple-choice menu. Then the meal is served like clockwork; starters/appetizers/salads, soup, main course, dessert, coffee, tea. Every guest gets the same component at the same time. That's efficiency, eh? You come a half hour later, you miss your goose liver pate or caesar salad and begin your dinner with the cream of white bean soup. A neat thing? As we move from Germany thru Bavaria to Vienna to Hungary, the food changes to reflect the locale. Bavarian sausages, Wienerschnitzel, Hungarian goulash ... very nice! The maid came by twice a day to fix our room, leaving bottled water in the mornings and chocolate on our pillow at night. (Unlike ocean cruises, the bottles of water are free.) WiFi is free (unlike 75 cents / minute on ocean cruises) ... and we even got CNN on TV. There are free tours / excursions at many stops ... with guides and earphones. Although there is no elaborate evening entertainment (as there is on ocean cruises), we had musical entertainers, chocolate and beer testing sessions, talks and videos on local history and other things of interest. In addition to lots of information and a daily schedule (delivered each day to your cabin), the cruise director explains everything over the PA system. Because there are only about one hundred guests, you often bump into the same people. After a few days, it's like a "family gathering". Although there are elevators, the ship is cleverly designed so that the restaurant is between the 1st and 2nd floor and the lounge is between the 2nd and 3rd floors ... so there are just a few steps to negotiate. What is so neat is to see the villages, farms, vineyards, castles going by ... and the locks are fun. Our daily diary with comments, pictures and videos is here: http://www.gummy-stuff.org/Danube-diary.htm   Read Less
Sail Date: July 2013
We know the French go on strike as a sort of national pastime, or when they get bored; but no one was prepared for a strike by the German Lock Masters. Since this trip up the Rhine and across on the Main River, the Main-Danube Canal and ... Read More
We know the French go on strike as a sort of national pastime, or when they get bored; but no one was prepared for a strike by the German Lock Masters. Since this trip up the Rhine and across on the Main River, the Main-Danube Canal and the Danube River involved over 50 locks, this problem severly disrupted our itinerary. Of course Avalon cannot be blamed for this, and they responded as well as they could, but the final days were mostly river cruising without stops, and this disappointed everyone. However, to proceed with the review. We started with a five day sojourn in Paris, a city we had never visited. We will leave our comments on this part of our trip to the end, since this is a cruise review. We do note that we went to Basel, Switzerland, our embarkation port by French train, a TGV Lyria Premier "Piccolo", that made it in slightly over three hours, hitting 320 kph on some stretches. This was far better and more comfortable, as well as cheaper, than struggling out to CDG to fly. We have some advice on using the rail system. First, if you are hauling cruise luggage, take the lower deck so you won't have to haul your bags up to the top level. Next, when you go on line to get tickets, and they ask for your country of origin DO NOT put in the USA - choose someplace like Australia. It will be cheaper. I don't know why, but it works that way. We were required by Avalon to telephone them after 8:00 A.M. on the embarkation day to find out where in Basel Affinity was docked. The directions from the first person to answer the phone were incomprehensible, so my wife took the phone and asked in German. Someone else, I believe Helmut the Cruise Director, gave her the correct and simple address. The cab to the pier from the Basel train station was very expensive compared to Paris taxis. When we arrived it was at a semi-industrial area on the Rhine. We had been told that we could not board until 4:00 P.M., and it was then about 1:30. We explained that by no means were we going to take a 45 euro cab ride back to Basel and pay the same amount to get back to the boat, and that we were not going to sit in the sun on the pier. After some heated negotiation, we were allowed to sit "no moving permitted" in the lounge adjacent to the front desk. Avalon could have showed better initial flexibility and customer relations. We were later joined by two other passengers, Karen and Penny, who were also early arrivals and sent to join us. Eventually other passengers started to show up so the four of us were released from detention and paroled to our staterooms. When we arrived there, our luggage was waiting, and, overcoming the less than welcoming embarkation, we started to settle in. We believed then and believe now that Avalon should have displayed more sensitivity and discretion in dealing with its paying customers; but we were resolved not to let that color the entire experience. The Boat Despite the Cruise Director's claim, Affinity is of course a boat, not a ship. The locks limit the width of all boats and barges to approximately 36 feet. The low bridges limit the height to three decks, with the lower deck being partially below the water line. Several river cruises earlier this year were stopped en route because heavy rains raised the water level to a point where the boats could not pass under some of the old bridges on some European rivers. (There are boats cruising exclusively on the central prtions of the Rhine that are not so limited.) In any event Affinity is quite attractive and well designed even though it is 4 years old, almost ancient among the rapidly growing body of River Cruise boats. Basically it has two decks forward (about 45% on the length) and 3 decks aft, all in addition to the almost entirely open sky deck. The lower forward deck consists of the main dining room and the kitchen. The second forward deck holds the lobby, front desk, Cruise Directors desk, an internet station with two computers, the bar and main lounge, and an open forward deck area with a few tables and chairs for forward viewing. The lower aft deck has eleven passenger cabins, all with windows rather than the open balcony doors found on the upper decks. The remainder of the space is occupied by the crews' quarters and ship equipment. The second aft deck is almost entirely staterooms, all identical. The far aft portion is used for the laundry and perhaps other housekeeping supplies. The third aft deck has more staterooms, including the four suites. In addition there is another small lounge area aft, with the library, a 24 hour coffee station, about 30 or so chairs with tables and a small open view deck overlooking the stern with eight or so chairs. There is also a hairdressers' room, which we did not investigate or use. The sky deck is reached by several outside stairways, aft, midships and forward. It houses the pilot deck/navigation bridge, which can be lowered a few feet if needed to get under bridges. This occured many times during the trip. There are deck coverings which can be raised, and a small hot tub. Staterooms There are 69 staterooms; 65 of them identical in layout except that the 11 on Deck 1 have windows. All the remaining 58 staterooms, including the 4 suites, have sliding glass doors opening to the water, with railings, for what is called a "French Balcony". The standard cabin is not large, 172 square feet, but this is a size more typical of a riverboat; and is quite adequate. The walls are a nicely finished white surface. There is a queen sized bed, which can be split into two single beds for those wishing it. Night stands are on either side and there is a convenient bullet lamp on each side which can be focused on a book for in bed reading. Opposite the bed is the desk set up, with one chair, a vanity mirror, several shelves and a mini bar, and over them all at one side, a flat screen TV. Next to this table arrangement is the closet, also with shelves and a wall safe. The bathroom has a corner shower, single sink and toilet. My wife and I found it all quite pleasing and perfectly satisfactory. As usual, we had no trouble storing all our clothes and other supplies. We did wonder how some of our substantially overweight fellow passengers would be able to maneuver in the shower. The only time we were on a cruise where we did not have adequate space for either sleeping or storage was on Viking's Clara Schumann for our initial river experience. We were able to explore one of the suites after almost everyone except for us had debarked. There is more furniture and a larger bathroom in the 258 square feet provided, and they are quite nice. Dining Everyone wants to hear or read about the food on cruises. It is not totally fair to compare river boats to ocean ships. The size constraints of these boats are fixed by the heights of the bridges, the depth of the various rivers, and the size of the locks which might have to be negotiated. Therefore the number of food items offered, and even their preparation, is quite limited. We were provided with a tour of the galley, and all were astonished that the meals we were served could be prepared in such small quarters. Only dinner was served by the waiters; breakfast and lunch being buffet style. The principal difference between this boat and a cruise ship for breakfast and lunch was the number of items being made available on the limited sized buffet station. There was less fresh fruit at breakfast, and while egg preparation was provided, side dishes were fewer. The same thing was true for the lunches, several hot offerings and a hot meat carving station was available, but fewer items were provided, and the desserts were limited; although, like all the pastries on the ship, they were quite good. Also at lunch, precisely one-half hour after the meal started, an assistant chef appeared carrying the ice cream choices of the day, which he served with grand flourishes. Generally speaking we both found the breakfasts and lunches well prepared and satisfactory. We were less enthusiastic about the dinners. My wife found very little to enjoy in the daily vegetarian offering. We might have put this down to a European lack of familiarity with this type of meal, except that there were at least two restaurants in Vienna (one closed for vacation, one other that we ate at) which had a number of vegetarian options). There were at least two major entrEe offerings that simply should not have been on the menu, because the kitchen was not capable of the preparation involved. One was a sauerbraten and the other a goulash; both traditional German/ Austrian dishes. Both however require special preparation. My wife marinates the meat for her delicious sauerbraten for at least a week. And goulash requires extensive slow simmering. Neither were applied here, and the Austrian Chef admitted to my wife, in German of course, that the sauerbraten was not close to the real thing. We also felt that Avalon should have provided additional wait staff, because the waiters had too many tables and passengers to attend and service was rushed and had occasional lapses. All the waiters were cheerful and friendly, and they poured the complimentary (at dinner) wine freely, but the service was somewhat erratic and very slow at times. By way of comparison, on a scale of 1-100; I would rate Crystal at 98, Oceania Marina at 97, Oceania Insignia and Celebrity at 94, Princess at 91, HAL at 90, Royal Caribbean at 87, NCL at 80 and Avalon and Carnival at 85. As a kind of post script, we should note that twice, when we would be ashore for lunch with no way to return to the ship, Avalon handed each shore bound passenger 15 Euros to buy lunch locally. We found the amount more than enough, but perhaps this was because neither of us have large hot meal lunches. But it did meet Avalon's claim that it provides all meals. No cruise ship does this. The Crew First and foremost, the Captain was amazing. He seemed quite young for his position, and obviously was in great physical shape. He was everywhere, seemingly at all times, doing everything, from manhandling the gangplank to hauling passengers' luggage, to guiding the boat through many difficult locks and past other river boats and barges on the various rivers. At one point he, and the captain of another Avalon Boat going in the opposite direction pulled up together so we were almost touching and could exchange handshakes and greetings with the passengers on the other boat, while our captain climbed across to greet the other captain. He was always cheerful and upbeat despite the concerns raised by the lock masters' strike and doubts as to when we could move and where we could go. We were told that the captains, and presumable all, the "sailing" crew, did not actually work for Avalon, but for a separate company that contracts out their services. Apparently only Helmut, the Cruise Director was an Avalon employee. When we were docked in Vienna for the last night, and most of the passengers had gone to a concert ashore, I saw the Captain wheel out a bike and take it along the Vienna pier side area for a well-deserved bit of relaxation. The Cruise Director, Helmut, from Vienna, had an extremely difficult cruise to manage, due to the strike. He was required to be in frequent contact with Avalon's home office in Switzerland, relating to them the information about the delays we would face (obtained from the Captain, I imagine), finding out what remedies Avalon could come up with and transmitting that unhappy information to the passengers. He tried to be as positive as possible in presenting the information and the options, but it was a thankless task. Some passengers complained about him, but I do not see how else he could have handled situations over which neither he nor Avalon had any control. He did seem to enjoy chatting in German with Edith, since apparently no other passengers spoke German. Of course the Austrian chef and perhaps some other crew members did also. Some of the more difficult problems arose from the fact that after he was able to send the passengers off to visit a town, there were often upsets to the plans, again caused by the strike, concerning where they would meet the boat to re-embark. This involved Helmut communicating with the bus drivers and making sure they could find our boat. One time the drivers almost got lost, and then had to drive the huge buses down very narrow small town streets to a pier which had never seen a river boat dock there before. The townspeople were delighted with this new show! All in all, I am sure Helmut and the Captain both breathed huge sighs of relief when we docked in Vienna. I have no idea how long the strike continued, but at least Affinity's next stop was down the Danube, not back to Germany. Our cabin steward, Petor, was excellent, working very quickly, and getting our laundry back the same day, a very big help with the clothing we had worn in Paris. The Dining Room waiters were friendly and pretty good, but I believe that even just one more would have allowed a much less hectic pace of food delivery for everyone. The front desk staff was cordial and helpful, although not particularly outgoing. And as noted, they were extremely inflexible when we arrived. A course in customer relations would not be wasted. The Hotel Manager was cheerful once the trip started, and we had gotten past our arrival issue. The Voyage We had a slightly delayed start since apparently there had been a small transportation problem for some of the passengers coming from Zurich. In addition, we were told that 21 passengers had missed a flight connection at JFK, and would be joining us the next day in Strasbourg. Fortunately, they made it, and their number included a family group of 13! Strasbourg Our first stop was Strasbourg, France, in what was once known as the Alsace-Lorraine. It originally was French, was taken over by Germany as the result of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, restored to France in 1918 after WW1, retaken by Germany in 1940, and returned to France in 1945. It has some mixed architecture and language as a result. During WW1 the British, in an excess of patriotic zeal, decided to change the name of the German Shepherd breed to "Alsatian". We first visited by an open river tour barge, since part of the city is actually an island. This gave us a unique view. We then returned to Affinity for lunch and went back to town for a guided walking tour in the afternoon as well as some free time. We used the system now followed by all river boats. We were divided into groups of less than twenty and given headset earphones and a control box. Each guide had his or her own frequency for their group. The control boxes had different colors so we could get together with our guide, and the white colored group was always for "gentle walkers". This worked out quite well. We had used it on our Viking Elbe River cruise, so we knew how it functioned. There were three optional tours at this stop, all requiring additional fees; unlike the mormal tours which were included in the cruise price. These were to the Black Forest, The Alsace countryside with wine tasting and the Maginot Line. I know there were some Black Forest takers, but I am not sure about the other offerings. When we re-assembled around 6:30 for the port talk for the next day, we were advised of the strike problem, without too many specifics about how we would be affected; except that we had to leave Strasbourg immediately and would not have the local on-board entertainment as planned. We also had the mandatory safety lecture which, as on Viking consisted of mostly saying that if the boat started to sink, go on the sky deck and you will still be dry as the boat rested on the river bottom. Heidelberg The next day was spent entirely on a Heidelberg visit. This involved a bus trip of about an hour or so each way. We first visited the castle above the town, and then were pretty much on our own. This was one of the stops where we were provided with 15 euros apiece to supply our own lunch. We did pretty well with that. Heidelberg is a town of about 150,000 and had been untouched by WW2. It still is a university town, with the historical legend of having students duel in order to get "fashionable" dueling scars. None were evident on our visit. Nor did we see any "Student Prince" singing in a local tavern. How neglectful of tradition is the present generation! It is a very attractive city nonetheless, with lots of older buildings and churches. Wertheim This is a comparatively small river-side town, and we enjoyed an easy stroll. It was apparently untouched by any major war damage, and still has a great many medieval structures. We returned to the boat for lunch, and the galley tour. This was a quiet day. Wurzburg- Rothenburg Wurzburg is noted for its extremely ornate and large Bishop's Palace. It is also a very pleasant town, and our guide, who actually was born in South America, was amusing and informative. In the afternoon we went to Rothenburg, a small and beautiful city, somewhat inland. It still has its medieval wall. We walked through a tower gate in the wall out to a beautiful grassy area with a view of a lovely valley. We then took our guide's advice and walked a section of the wall by ourselves. We were rewarded by another beautiful view of the grass lawn outside the tower gate where we had been. We also saw a nice cat in front of her home. This was the only cat we saw on our entire trip, although Paris, Germany and Vienna have plenty of dogs. This visit would have been one of the tours for which there was a charge, but Avalon made in complimentary because of our loss of other stops. Kitzingen-Bamberg Kitzingen is a small, attractive river-side town where we strolled for short time in the morning. It was not listed as a stop, but we were glad we had the chance to see it. We then went to Bamberg which truly has many amazing buildings dating back to the 12th century. Bamberg is definitely a city to see. Once again we had an excellent guide. The only drawback was that the bus trip was about an hour and a half each way. That night we were treated to a "show" by the crew, which even involved the captain. Pretty corny as one might expect, but fun nonetheless. One of the acts was a juggler, and he was pretty good for an amateur. Nuremberg This also involved a bus ride and an all day visit. Nuremberg is noted for the War Crimes trials, but one cannot actually see the courtroom, only the building and the attached jail. We disembarked the buses for another 15 euro lunch, which turned out well since we found a place with their specialty -excellent small sausages; (well excellent for me anyway). Back on board we were told that the strike would prevent our stops at Passau and Regensberg. We were offered the option of remaining on board to sail to Vienna, with possible stops at Melk or Salzburg; but no promises in that regard - or disembark the next morning with luggage to travel by bus to Munich, spend one day there and the following day go by bus to Vienna, an all day trip. We then had a lecture on beer, followed by beer tasting of four different types. The balance of the trip. While a number of people originally thought they would go to Munich, most felt that, since one of the main pleasures of cruising is not packing and unpacking, they would remain on board. So, the next morning only 11 people left. Helmut had planned on going to Munich, but since so many were remaining on board, he did also. The next two days were spent on the river, with only one brief stop where we could get off and stretch our legs. We did not stop at Melk, nor were we able to have a side trip to Salzburg. We had visited Melk before and also spent two days in Salzburg on another trip, but we felt sorry for the people who had planned on enjoying both the beautifuly cathedral in Melk and the charms of Salzburg. It was during this stretch that we saw Avalon Expression on its trip from Budapest to Amsterdam. We pulled up together and exchanged greetings and handshakes, while the captains visited. It had started with 168 passengers, but had only 60 remained as the rest took the bus option offered rather than face the lock delays and cancelled stops. Vienna We arrived in Vienna on Saturday morning as scheduled. We had time for a one more tour, spending most of the day in Vienna. Our guide was somewhat elderly, but she did lead us to a great casual place for lunch, the Rathsberger, just off the main pedestrian street near the Statsoper. We also ate there for lunch the next two days. While there one of our fellow passengers suggested that we visit the Albertina Museum. Vienna was very hot, in the 90s, and we knew the Museum would be refrigerated. We were absolutely delighted with the exhibition then being held, of many late 19th and early 20th century artists, including Manet, Monet, many Picassos, Klint etc. We had a most enjoyable time, and it was very near where we caught our bus back to the boat. That night many fellow passengers opted to go to a concert in town. This was an additional charge, and we had seen one of these concerts on a prior trip. They are staged solely for tourists, not serious music lovers. The orchestra members are dresed up in late 18th century outfits with wigs etc. The music is largely from the Johann Strauss family, with perhaps one or two Mozart pieces. All the more serious musicians from Vienna are at the Mozart Festival in Salzburg in July; so we decided to skip this show and use the time for more leisurely packing. Some of our fellow passengers were forced to get up very early in the morning the next day to make their flights, but we were content to be among the last to leave since we were staying on in Vienna for two more nights, and did not want to arrive at our pension too early. Our taxi ride from Affinity to our Vienna residence took only about 15 minutes and was not expensive. Our cruise was over. Entertainment River boats are limited in this area, and we lost two entertainment offerings scheduled, due to the strike. These would have been local entertainers, but early sailing times prevented their appearance. We did have one musical evening (not counting the on board pianist) and this was a German zither player named Tommy Temerson, who was quite enjoyable. Edith chatted with him afterwards and was pleased to find out he knew, and had played in her home town. There were three lectures, all given by local educators, on history and the locks, and they all were knowledgeable, pleasant and worthwhile. Passengers As usual, the majority of the passengers were American, but there was a very large contingent of Australians aboard, I believe 4 from New Zealand, a few from the UK and and some Canadians. There were five or six young people, from early teens to early 20s, which surprised us a little. River cruising seems to offer more opportunity for socialize with fellow passengers, perhaps because we are always seeing people we recognize and with whom we are more apt to have shared dining times. Overall impression River cruising is different from ocean cruising in many ways. The small size of the boat, the much smaller passenger and crew size, the frequent stops, the guided tours, the limited entertainment, are only part of it. The peace and quiet of the rivers themselves make for a more relaxed overall experience. As noted earlier, it seems much easier to get to know ones fellow travelers and spend time conversing. The lock situation on this trip was a problem, but not enough to ruin the trip or make us regret it. Many of Avalon's amenities, free internet, free wine at dinner, the complimentary Rothenburg trip, and the overall effort to work with a very difficult problem made us believe that this is a good cruise line. We would recommend it as a way get to know countries in depth and in a much more personal way than from a large cruise ship. Pre-cruise Paris We spent 5 days in Paris, arriving on July 13. We stayed at the Hotel St. Jacques in the Latin Quarter portion of the 5th Arrondissment on the Left Bank. It is an excellent three star hotel, which fortunately has refrigeration, since the temperature was in the 90s for our stay. We have posted a review on www.tripadvisor.com. This was our first visit to Paris, and we loved it. Bastille Day (July 14) the big National Holiday, was rather frantic, and no one can possibly see what Paris has to offer in a short period of time, but we had fun. The Metro is marvelous, fast, efficient, clean, frequent. There is a website - www.ratp.fr - which not only provides maps, but has a system which shows you how to get from station to station in a marvelous way, covering the metro and bus lines, giving choices for the fastest route, the route with the least walking and the route with the fewest connections,and a map with clear directions. We had three great dinners; La Cuisine de Phillipe, Le Berthoud and Le Tournebievre, all reviewed also on Trip Advisor. We ordered Louvre tickets on line, and that got us in pretty quickly at 9:00 A.M. The Musee D'Orsay is also marvelous and there are many others. We found everyone friendly and helpful, especially since I tried to speak French as often as possible. Unfortunately, when they answered in French, I was often lost. Post cruise Vienna We had spent a week in Vienna in 2008 inorder to see Wagner's 4 opera Ring Cycle at the Statsoper. We stayed then, as well as on this trip, at the Pension Suzanne, also reviewed on www.tripadvisor.com. The only problem this time was that it is not refrigerated, and Vienna reached close to 100 degrees. We made do with a fan, but there are few shops that are refrigerated, and not all restaurants are either. That aside, Vienna is a marvelous city, with wonderful sights, stores museums etc. It also has great music, but not during July or August unfortunately. We mentioned the Rathsberger Restaurant, which is a buffet, and a very good place for a well prepared, very reasonable lunch. We ate at one rather unique place, the Wrenkh-Weiner Kochsalon, which had an excellent vegetarin dish for Edith and a marvelous trout for me. It is reviewed also on Trip Advisor, and is highly recommended. It is quite convenient, as it is close to Stephan Plaz, which is immediately in front of St. Stephan's Cathedral in the center of the pedestrian part of the Innerstadt, cwhich, as it sounds, is the center of the city. Vienna has much to offer. All in all we spent three weeks on this adventure, and while we were tired after our long flight back, we felt that the overall experience was well worth while.   Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2013
We sailed for 13 days from Moscow to St Petersburg in mainly beautiful sunshine. Moscow and St Petersburg were busy ports and there were sometimes 20 buses waiting to transport tourists from the port to the sights in both cities. Uniworld ... Read More
We sailed for 13 days from Moscow to St Petersburg in mainly beautiful sunshine. Moscow and St Petersburg were busy ports and there were sometimes 20 buses waiting to transport tourists from the port to the sights in both cities. Uniworld pre-booked early entry to The Hermitage so we toured freely until the general public were admitted an hour later. Tour guides were exceptional at every point except one who took us to every souvenir seller in Goritsky so we missed out on free time walking the main street to enjoy the atmosphere. This was annoying as souvenirs were always more expensive at the places the buses stopped than elsewhere and we were sick of the stuff sold after a week or so. The ship staff were wonderful and although they did not understand much English, they tried so hard to please and were genuinely helpful and friendly. Kizhi Island and the ballet in a palace in St Petersburg were highlights for us and we feel privileged to have seen them all. The lecturer on the boat was remarkable - Dr. Inna G. with a PhD in Russian history/politics/geography/life, etc was so inspiring. Her love of Russia and openness and huge intellectual capacity had everyone hanging off their chairs. The cabin was tiny which ensured it had to be kept clean and tidy. The beds were super-comfortable and the rooms and bathrooms were cleaned perfectly every day. The food was wonderful and over-plentiful; caviar and champagne for breakfast one morning a lovely surprise. Regional food was offered every day to sample and the chefs and staff were happy to take any special requests that anyone wanted. We met lovely people on board and thoroughly enjoyed this cruise. Read Less
24 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2013
Been on about 50 total cruises but only 2 Riverboat sailings. The first riverboat was 2 1/2 years ago on Viking's Pride, a 10 night Tulip Time sailing Amsterdam to Amsterdam. It was really only a 7 night sailing as three nights we ... Read More
Been on about 50 total cruises but only 2 Riverboat sailings. The first riverboat was 2 1/2 years ago on Viking's Pride, a 10 night Tulip Time sailing Amsterdam to Amsterdam. It was really only a 7 night sailing as three nights we were docked in Amsterdam using the ship like a hotel. The latest was an 11 night Avalon Waterways cruise tour on their Visionary. The tour included 2 nights in Prague at the Old Town Marriott, then a 7 night sailing from Nuremberg to Budapest ending with 2 night at the Inter-Continental in Budapest. Our Avalon Sailing was a charter but pretty much everything is what anyone booking with Avalon Waterways would receive. Let start with the ships themselves. I liked the Avalon Visionary better than the Viking Pride. It was smaller holding 128 vs. 178 and had a better decor. Lacking though were drawers in the cabins. Lots of shelves and cabinet storage but no drawers. Bathrooms goes to the Visionary as well. Bigger and nice layout. Beds were set up as a Queen on both ship but the Visionary had a thick topper, so no center crack like on the Pride. On the Visionary we had a Cat. E, minimum rate, which was much nicer than the minimum rate cabins we saw on the Viking Pride. We upgraded to a Cat. D on Viking's Pride because of no hotel beds in minimum. I understand Vikings new ships have comparable minimum rate cabins to the Visionary. Keep in mind that riverboat cabins are much smaller than those on large cruise ships. You spend very little time in your cabin other than sleeping. When going through locks you are requested to have your sliding doors closed in the cabins with them. Also when docked you might be right against another ship as they often dock two or three abreast. You have to walk through one or two other ships to get to the pier. Personally I would not pay for more than a minimum rate cabin as long as it had "hotel style" beds. Most cabins are about the same size in all categories except the suites which are still not that large. Save your money and book minimum rate cabin. They are always the first to go. Food goes to Viking hands down. Viking did 4 course table service lunches equal to those in a fine hotel, the same for dinner. Avalon did buffet lunches with one item that could be ordered from the kitchen. Most passengers didn't even know that unless asked for a menu. I felt the food on Avalon reminded me of large cruise ship buffets and pretty much the same everyday. Dinner, while offering table service were not as elegant as Viking. Wines and beer were freely poured on both at dinner. I am not sure now that Viking has added 24 new ships in just two years if their food and service is up to par with that offered in the Spring of 2011. The Visionary offered coffees, teas and other beverages 24/7 as did Viking but Avalon always had lots of fruit and homemade cookies set out as well. It was hit or miss with Viking for snacks. Both lines offer included tours in port as well as optional tours. I felt Avalon offered a lot more optional tours. I am not sure if this was because of a different itinerary or not. Both did a great job with their tours. All in all I would go on either line again. While pricey as compared to Ocean Liner Cruises I really enjoyed both riverboat sailings. It is a totally different experience and one that I am liking more and more. It is a great way to see Europe. I just wish they would offer more 10 or 11 day sailings. Most sailings tend to be either 7 or 14 nights on the riverboat itself. I have always felt 7 nights is too short and 14 nights a bit too long on board a ship or riverboat. Giving riverboat cruising a try. I think you'll enjoy them as much as I do.   Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2013
We are a retired married couple who has been on about 6 cruises, both river and ocean. We have traveled extensively. Precruise information: This was our first cruise with Uniworld: we had heard nothing but raves about Uniworld, but the ... Read More
We are a retired married couple who has been on about 6 cruises, both river and ocean. We have traveled extensively. Precruise information: This was our first cruise with Uniworld: we had heard nothing but raves about Uniworld, but the experience was very disappointing. Pre-trip information was inaccurate as given by their polite phone staff. Not only does the cruise line not exchange currency on board like other cruises we have taken, but it is Impossible to use debit card in Russia. They gave us no advice on the best way to handle money in Russia. They told us we couldn't tip on the boat in U.S. money only Rubles, but when we got there we were told U.S. money would have been OK. They told us the cruise line didn't arrange private tours or make any arrangements for us, but they cheerfully did so. Uniworld's Russian boats are staffed by Russians and the USA office has no idea what happens on board so as to give future travelers accurate information. Drivers representing Uniworld who met us at airport didn't speak any English. Ship info/Stateroom: This was our first cruise with Uniworld. The boat was ok, but we should have believed their disclaimer that their Russian cruise versus all their other Uniworld cruises was not up to their usual standards. The boat holds about 250 people and everything is clean and adequate. There is no around the boat promenade for walking. Most of the time when the boat is docked, it is next to one or two other boats (so that our balcony room had the view of another boat most of the time). Our Stateroom was small, but adequate Cruise itinerary: Started in Moscow and ended in St. Petersburg (+ other small villages along the way). Docking spots for boat in Moscow and St. Petersburg (3 nights each) were noisy and far from the cities. Cruising route was not very scenic and went through some uninteresting lakes. One stop en route was just a "recreated" village for tourist purposes only, not a genuine village. Other stops were so so. Activities/Shore Excursions: The shore excursions are mostly included, plus some optional ones. They used mostly excellent local guides with headsets provided so that we could hear everything. The tourism is Russia is so intense that everywhere we went there were many, many tour groups, so that these headsets saved the day There was an excellent instructor on board (College Professor) who told us all about Russia in about 6 lectures (very light and informative). Also, there were presentations on Vodka, Caviar, and Bellinis (Russian pancakes). Service: Excellent staff. Friendly, cheerful and helpful. Top rating. Travel to port of Embarkation: We had Uniworld schedule our air and we arrived way too late on boat departure day. By the time we got to the boat it was 11 pm and there was very intensive touring for the first 3 days which was challenging because of the long travel day and jet lag. Anyone reading this should plan to get there a day before boarding the boat. Dining: We liked the food, although, we don't know why, some fellow passengers were not happy with the food. They had lots of Russian specialties. There was always a large buffet at breakfast and lunch. The only negative was the way too leisurely dinners, lasting up to two hours. The dining room staff was very friendly, especially the head of the department. The hours changed to accommodate touring schedules, which was very helpful. Children: no children on this cruise. Disembarkation: very organized. We had them order a taxi for us to go to a hotel, but the taxi came 45 minutes late. Uniworld gave the taxi driver our exact hotel name and he took us to the wrong hotel and we had to pay extra to go to the right one. We do not believe this is the cruise line's fault, but beware before you go into any taxi that the driver knows exactly where you are going and what you are going to pay. Summary: Generally, we were disappointed with our Russia experience, more so because of the inaccurate information we were given by the Uniworld Staff. A few more disclaimers would have gone a long way to give us more realistic expectations. Did not live up to the primo experiences we have had all over the world. We rated this trip as one of our least favorite.   Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
Viking River Cruise to Normandy Beach. This is just one person’s opinion. I love being on the water be it a boat or a ship. And I’ve done many cruises on the bigger cruise ships. This was my first Riverboat Cruise. And my review is ... Read More
Viking River Cruise to Normandy Beach. This is just one person’s opinion. I love being on the water be it a boat or a ship. And I’ve done many cruises on the bigger cruise ships. This was my first Riverboat Cruise. And my review is only regarding the Paris to Normandy cruise. First, let me say that the Viking Spirit was clean; the food was good; and the crew was friendly and helpful. It’s an 8-day cruise including 2 days in Paris. So, it takes 6 days to go to Omaha beach and back to Paris. The trip stops along the way at towns with one or two churches, souvenir shops and restaurants. The cruise is really short hops from town to town until you get to the port for Omaha Beach. There, you get on a bus and take a 2+-hour bus ride each way to the beach and the adjoining American Cemetery. There, the ceremony for us was moving and well worth seeing and experiencing. It took 6 days of cruising to get to Omaha beach and back when it is just about a 3 hour drive to get there from Paris. It’s just me but for this particular cruise, I think I would rather do the day trip to Normandy and then see more of France in its warmer regions. Mind you, I haven’t given up on Riverboat Cruises. On the plus side, the Captain was cordial and very informative in the wheelhouse tour. The cruise director, Anaka was charming and efficient; and Eva in particular, and the rest of the dining staff were friendly and personable. The food was very good and just the right amount. Not too much. The recommendations for the main course by the chef each night was always a beef dish which I don't eat but the fish, chicken and vegetarian dishes were all very good. I have nothing bad to say about Viking. I would recommend Viking for River Cruises. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
you will either love it or want to go back to big ship cruising! Here are the pros and cons: Pros: Docked right in the town and no lines to get off the boat; ship was lovely and service was very good; cabin storage was good; intimate ... Read More
you will either love it or want to go back to big ship cruising! Here are the pros and cons: Pros: Docked right in the town and no lines to get off the boat; ship was lovely and service was very good; cabin storage was good; intimate setting; wine flows freely (and "free") at lunch and dinner; bed was very comfortable; no noise from other cabins Cons: Priced substantially higher than cabins we've had on big cruise lines; food was not exceptional, only good most of the time-best meal was lunch because of the great salad bar; cabins are very small-hardly room for two to move around; passenger cliques were more noticeable ( and audible), of course, because of the smallness; very small "gym" where you can look outside and see the staff smoking... Our boat started in Arles--not Lyon where we disembarked. Arles is an interesting city for a day, but we stayed several days on our own prior to the cruise-and that was too much. The first day we were kicked off the boat because it had to go into dry dock to have a propeller replaced. So unfortunately we had to tour Arles again (were planning on sleeping in) and be off the boat by 8:30am--then we were bused to Les Baux, a beautiful mountain town. The latter is typically a non-free tour but because we were displaced for the whole day, it was comped. The rest of towns were interesting, especially Avignon where we had a terrrific guide. Lyon is delightful because it's a large city with great restaurants-we ate lunch at Le Sud-terrific! So-a river cruise is interesting, but I prefer the larger ship with more space, more good food variety and larger cabins. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2013
All of the river cruise offerings in Europe are good- very good in fact. They occupy a niche akin to the likes of Azamara or Oceania, if one wanted to reference ocean-going ship experiences. The components are straight forward, as the ... Read More
All of the river cruise offerings in Europe are good- very good in fact. They occupy a niche akin to the likes of Azamara or Oceania, if one wanted to reference ocean-going ship experiences. The components are straight forward, as the dictates of rivers and locks pretty much constrain the hardware. Ships are all virtually the same size. So the Viking Longships are the same as those of Uniworld or AMA or Avalon or Scenic or Tauck or A-Rosa. The layouts do differ, and stateroom sizes/attributes as well. They mostly ply the same waters, though Uniworld has a unique offering on the Po River in Italy, and Viking sails the Elbe alone. But choosing the right river cruise vacation is much like choosing a new upscale car- they all have four wheels and a lot more, but there is an intangible personality attached to each. This is not the place to go into a deep comparison between brands. Suffice to say that A-Rosa, a German company that got into river cruising over a decade ago, has enough experience and moxie to compete with the well know brands. My brother and I had the recent opportunity to cruise Lyon-Lyon on a 7 night voyage that took us downstream as far as Arles and back. The ship was the "Stella", and my view is that the whole trip was stellar! Arosa has only this year stepped into the North American market. We were on the first of their N.A. oriented cruises, with English announcements, all- inclusive fares (cruise, taxes and port fees,excursions, beverages, tips, meals, entertainment, bicycles), with an emphasis on incredible a la minute fine dining. The North American promoter of Arosa, David Morris, was also onboard for the duration, and 'Mario', the food and beverage manager for all of Arosa presided over the daily culinary offerings. So, this was a pretty special week, but I am pretty confident they keep the quality up all the time. Due to extremely high water levels, we were unable to head upstream to Chalon and Macon as planned; we remained docked in Lyon (hardly a hardship!), and took coach trips to the intended destinations in Beaujolais, Burgundy- as far as Dijon. We visited exalted wineries, ate 'family style' at an auberge in Beaune, and saw a lot of the pretty countryside. The local guides were charming and unflappable, in addition to being extremely well versed in the local history and attractions. Compared to the many that saw their vacations cancelled or markedly abridged due to the flooding on the Rhine and Danube, we were lucky indeed. The itinerary, beginning and ending in Lyon, meant more steaming time than the usual one-way trips of other companies. Sometimes, we would disembark, go on a tour, and rejoin the ship a ways up or down the river. Even at night, there was lots to see if underway. The Rhone has lots of lit up towns, industry and farms adjoining. Even the two nuclear facilities we passed had an eerie beauty to them. Now the details. Stella was launched in 2007, so is already middle aged by river ship standards. The newer ones have a bit more refinement, and the standard stateroom size, at 156 square feet, is on the small side. But there is a pool, which was a huge plus, and a much larger spa and exercise area than on the Avalon Scenery and AMA Amadagio, which we viewed while alongside at dock. What sets the line apart is the service and food quality. Quite frankly, I have not seen much else come close. Certainly on a par with Silversea- the food and wine, better. The staff ratio, though not as high as Tauck, is more than adequate to ensure everyone was well attended. Breakfast and lunch were buffet style, with an omelet station and lots of European local specialties. When was the last time you saw red mullet or quail on offer? Dinners were a 2 hour leisurely affair with fixed menu gastronomic wonders arriving in succession, each paired with outstanding premier and grand cru wines, auslese dessert wines, then grappa or port or whatever afterwards in the lounge. From Tartar of King Crab, to Rack of Lamb with eggplant caviar to Chocolate Canache with Passion Fruit Sorbet, the food was truly spectacular. Top notch cheese selections were there each night (with chutneys and figs in addition to the usual fruit and cracker accompaniments) Cocktails flowed freely all day (included), and the bartenders were quite excited to be making North American concoctions including excellent martinis and a creditable Mai Tai. Champagne- will that be Pommery for you, sir?... was pretty well always available, though there were also offerings of Prosecco and methode champenoise sparkling wines. A foodie's delight? Without reservations! And in the midst of the glorious wine districts, nothing could exceed. To top things off, both a wine and chocolate tasting were conducted, with exquisite offerings. The tours were a range of fairly prosaic walking excursions to a, get this- lunch at Michelin 3 star Paul Bocuse's eponymous restaurant outside of Lyon. Included without fanfare, lunch for two would likely set you back $400 if you walked in the door, but was a free inclusion aboard A-Rosa. So too a tour of the Southern Ardeche, a lavender museum visit, an onboard performance by genuine French chanteur Luc Brian, who sang Piaf an octave lower, as well as talks by preeminent author and journalist, Kati Marton. A very personable young historian, Silvia Sonntag, gave talks in German, but also led an impromptu tour of Arles for a group of the English speaking coterie. She acted as a sort of cultural attache, translating and demystifying the 'French experience' for German and Anglo alike. This kind of versatility and 'beyond the call' attitude balanced the somewhat more formal approach of the cruise director. There was an on-deck barbecue one day, fresh shucked oysters another. I missed Les Gitans- musician dancers who performed one evening when we had chosen to simply walk the streets of Avignon. Maybe the other river cruise lines come close or are on par in some departments, but the extravagances onboard are clearly unequalled. Their food costs are about triple the industry standard, yet the pricing, once all is considered, is more than competitive, perhaps because they are 'new kids' in the USA/Canada markets. I enjoyed the German ambience and mixed passengers. The demographic was younger than some of the other river cruise lines. A contingent of Arboretum and Botanical Garden members from Dallas added energy and knowledge with their calling out of shrub and tree names on bus tours, in Latin of course, and their ability to keep the bar open until one am. There was little in the way of language barriers, though some crew, from Hungary, were a bit deficient in both German AND English. A bit of French certainly helped out ashore, but cocooned as one is on a cruise, it is easy to get by without. A-Rosa is offering terrific deals in the short run on the Rhone and Rhine, including a waiving of single supplements, and upgrades to french balcony staterooms, from around $2600 for the Rhine and $3100 for the Rhone/Saone. Sweet Dreams pastry chef Gale Gand will be aboard August 17th and 24th, 2013 Lyon departures. The 'Hearty Boys'- also part of the culinary celebrity aristocracy, will be aboard a week earlier. My only complaint was having to go home, but at least I can savour and cherish my memories.   Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
After hearing so much about the benefits of river cruising we thought we would give it a go and selected the Uniworld Soane/Rhone wine country cruise. The cruise itself was very good to excellent. Ship was in good condition and very clean, ... Read More
After hearing so much about the benefits of river cruising we thought we would give it a go and selected the Uniworld Soane/Rhone wine country cruise. The cruise itself was very good to excellent. Ship was in good condition and very clean, only exception was tile in our shower that was quite grotty - made no sense when rest of ship was so clean. Crew and staff we friendly and helpful. Food was very good and nice size portions. The local wine served with meals was all excellent. Dining room service was a bit spotty, wondered at one point if they were short crew. Would agree with a previous reviewer that cliques formed quickly, tougher to mix, mingle and meet new people at dinner than we had experienced on other cruises or land tours. On board entertainment was geared to the over 90 set. I am sure the individual artists were very talented but Uniworld is obviously not targeting fit and active baby boomers. Overall I expected better / more from the excursions. We had some excellent guides but we also had a couple of real duds and for what we paid they all should have been top notch. We ended up buying the supplemental tours as we quickly realized that if we did not, there was nothing to do in the afternoon other than sit around the ship, which I am sure is fine for many travellers, but not us. All the supplemental tours were excellent both in content and guides. Included tours were a mix, but the common denominator was that they were all low impact, stair and hill avoidance and in the case of the trip to Les Baux rushed. I am sure buried in the small print of the contract it says that excursions can be cancelled or can be limited in the number of participants. The supplemental excursion to Pont du Gard was cancelled the night before because not enough people had signed up. Because of some new inane policy on Uniworld, the tour director cannot make announcements, so no effort was made to advise passengers that the tour would be cancelled unless more people signed up. Ultimately the tour director arranged for 4 taxis to take 17 of us there, a worthwhile excursion, but I felt overall very poorly handled. Similarly, both "strenuous" walking tours were filled before we had a chance to sign up, limited to 25 persons. So in Lyon we had the choice of a bus tour or doing things on our own, at our own expense. We opted for the later. In Avignon, same, tour filled. We went on the general tour of the Pope's Palace but left it early to follow our own tour plan.Our friends were on AMA, same week, opposite direction. They had previously travelled with Uniworld but felt AMA was a step up and almost all their excursions were included. If you are an active traveller, I would suggest you think twice about a river cruise. We will probably give it another try in 10-15 years. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
I will try to stay on matters relevant to prospective travellers and not to dwell on incidentals. A few specifics that may set a framework: we travelled from June 20-July 5, 2013, from Shanghai to Beijing with extension to Guilin and Hong ... Read More
I will try to stay on matters relevant to prospective travellers and not to dwell on incidentals. A few specifics that may set a framework: we travelled from June 20-July 5, 2013, from Shanghai to Beijing with extension to Guilin and Hong Kong; Im 68, overweight, but long ago athletic, and my wife is 57, not athletic, but generally fit. I wont try to cover everything but will focus on pros and cons, each in chronological order. PROS - Vikings organization from airport(s) to hotel(s) to boat. Worriless. - The Tour Escort system, which always give you a bilingual person to rely on and learn from. (Ours was Gao, and he was a mensch.) - The extremely high quality of all hotels. - The Shanghai Museum. Limited but a great way to fill the 75-minute slot available. Ceramics/porcelain the highlight for me, followed by painting; wife favored the bronzes. As much archaeology as art, but learning about Chinese history through artifacts became a valued layer of our trip. - The boat in general (the Viking Emerald). Service excellent, food good, and lecturer (Daniel Peng) informative and witty. Laundry was fast and fairly priced. - The staterooms. Ours was high-end (Deck 5) since we booked late (April) and it was the one that happened to open up, but I believe even the least expensive are good and all have picture windows and balconies (dont expect to use the latter much in the heat and humidity) as well as good bathrooms and showers. Storage a bit short for hanging sweaty clothes. - Fellow passengers. Generally open, good-spirited sorts. We travelled by ourselves but never lacked for good meal companions, although we did find ourselves averting our glances from people whose life stories we already knew and scanning for tables with people who looked interesting. - Casual dress. Shorts the norm. In the heat and humidity, its a relief never to have to dress up. - The Hubei Provinical Museum in Wuhan. We arrived in late afternoon, in a hurry to get to the boat, and only had time for a quick concert on replicas of musical instruments recently unearthed from the tomb of Yi (the king of the Zeng Sate in the Warring States Period (476 BC - 221 BC), then a quick tour of rooms with original chimes and other artifacts, but exhibit was impressive and musicians were skillful. - The scenery after the Three Gorges Dam. Youre in the mountains now. - Smaller boat ride through the lesser Three Gorges. This stretch (and especially the later trip on the Li River in Guilin) reminded me of one of my favorite travel experiences ever, sailing through a fjord in Norway. - Shibaozhai Pagoda on the Yangtze. Very scenic. I cramped a calf on walk to it and didnt climb Pagoda, but wife tells me it was great, and it looked great from outside. - Chongquin Zoo. We saw seven pandas, which our cheerful local guide Romy told us was exceptional. - Terra Cotta Army Museum in Xian. Words cannot describe. Truly one of the wonders of the world, along with, on succeeding days - Great Wall in the Badaling Hills outside Beijing, and - The Forbidden City. These last three sights epitomized the best feature of our trip: being transported into a different world and culture and history. The adjoining Tienamin Square didnt do much for us. Mainly a big, empty space with a strong sense of Mao. - Foot massage in Guilin (were now on the extension and our escort is Jimmy, who was also very good). Another extremely likable, cheerful local guide, Lisa, arranged this. All but a few of us signed up and none regretted it. - Li River Cruise from Quilin to Yangshuo Village. The dimpled, sandstone mountains were spectacular. - Spectacular cityscape from Victoria Peak over Hong Kong and downtown Kowloon. - The 8:00 to 8:18 PM light show from the highrises on the bay was also delightful, and we were lucky enough to catch it on a clear day from a terrific 29th floor restaurant, Aqua (not on tour itinerary). Before I turn to cons, I should note that weather makes a huge difference, and we lucked into good weather in Hong Kong, on the Li River, in the Lesser Three Gorges, and on several other days. Heat, humidity, and smog are givens for most of the trip, at least in summer, but we were able to see nearly everything clearly (or through a scenic mist) and never felt a need to don our masks. CONS - lunch and dinner at local Chinese restaurants in Shanghai. Truly mediocre (and I love Chinese food back home in Los Angeles). I feared that this would become the norm, but the rest of the local restaurant stops were better. - Acrobatic show after dinner in Shanghai. I kept nodding off, and I dont think it was all the fault of the jet lag. The acrobatic routines were, well, routine, and the music was mind-numbing. A far cry from Cirque de Soleil. - Endless bleak landscapes of pre-fab looking highrises, most of which didnt seem occupied (whos doing the planning here?). Downtown Shanghai and Beijing are spectacular, but we came away from busrides through other areas grateful we didnt live there. - The Three Gorges Dam. We used to apply a standard with our sons (now grown and not on this trip), If we wouldnt do it at home, why do it here? and weve never gone to the Hoover Dam. Then, for the Three Gorges, you add in the heat, humidity, and fog/smog that makes it unlikely youll see much. Guide joke, They say there are two kinds of days here, foggy and very foggy. - The Viking School in Yueyang. The children are adorable and the cause is probably worthy, but its painful to think of the kids being required to perform for the Westerners (ours had come in on a Sunday, just for us). Also, this morning excursion is the only event of the day. I cynically pictured Viking Executives sitting around brainstorming, What can we throw in for people in the long, dull stage of the cruise before the mountains? I know, lets help fund a school! - The scenery before you get to the Three Gorges. All bleak and flat. Look, theres a sandpile! - The walk to the Shibaozhai Pagoda. Although the Pagoda is at water level a short distance from the boat, they routed us to it through a steep, two-block climb through a gauntlet of hawkers then a similar descent. This was when I tweaked my calf. - The stop at the jewelry store on the Hong Kong tour was endless. Id felt mildly peeved at the shopping opportunities at a silk rug and embroidery outlet in Shanghai, but I was fuming by the time they let the captive audience out of the jewelry store. True, Im not a shopper, but they could have told us, Youve got half an hour, and shoppers and non could have been satisfied. As it was they kept us for over an hour until the last person stopped showing any interest in the over-priced baubles. A few general impressions. We had a great time. We wanted to escape our routines, and China and Viking certainly provided that, and in as much comfort as it would be reasonable to expect. The five internal flights in China got to be complicated and tiresome, but Viking handled them smoothly, and I accept that they were necessary for us to get as rounded a tour as did. Well definitely be looking through our Viking catalogue for future river cruises, but well also be checking other companies. Cruisecritic provided a helpful resource for this trip (amazing how you can sort out a consensus through the few people who loved everything and the few people who hated everything), and we expect to use it more broadly.   Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
My family and I recently came back from our 21 Day Romantic Seine & Rhone Paris to Barcelona APT tour in June 2013 on board AmaLegro and AmaDagio. We all had a wonderful time there and I would like to use this opportunity to share my ... Read More
My family and I recently came back from our 21 Day Romantic Seine & Rhone Paris to Barcelona APT tour in June 2013 on board AmaLegro and AmaDagio. We all had a wonderful time there and I would like to use this opportunity to share my experiences and thoughts with everyone. Hopefully, people would find my article useful in their decision making and preparation for their trips with APT and/or AmaWaterways. There are 2 parts of my review: part 1 covers 3 days in Paris and 7 day on board AmaLegro, and part 2 covers 7 day on board AmaDagio and 3 days in Barcelona. This is part 2 of my review. The second part of our journey started from disembarking from AmaLegro in Paris and taking 1 day of bus ride from Paris to Lyon where our luxury river ship, AmaDiagio, awaited. It took us to a spectacular cruise from Lyon to Arles on the Rhone River, exploring the fascinating sights of Southern France. Compared to our previous experiences with AmaBella and AmaVerde travelled from Amsterdam to Budapest in 2011, AmaDagio is very similar to those ships but a few years older. There are public lounges in the front and back of the ship, free internet and Wi-Fi access, and gym. The cabins are well equipped and reasonably spacious. The food and shore excursions were certainly the highlights of my cruises. The quality of the food (3 meals, morning tea, and afternoon tea) was excellent and services from the restaurant and bar staff were very good. Although there were a few problems relate to non-alcoholic drink not being refilled and no pepper served in a timely manner in the beginning of the trip, the restaurant manager, Andras Rafajlovics, was able to resolve all of our concerns effectively and swiftly. He was very attentive and thoughtful in dealing with passengers’ special diet requirements, such as food allergies. My favourite shore excursions along Rhone River were (1) Lyon city tour where we visited the Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourviere and the Old Town of Lyon; (2) Beaujolais wine region; (3) attractive Roman town of Vienne where we saw the 1st century Roman Temple of Augustus and Livia; (4) Grignan and Truffle Farm (5) Avignon walking tour that took us to see the Palace of the Popes, Rocher des Doms, and the bridge of Avignon; and (6) Arles where our guide show us the amazing Roman Amphitheatre and stroll through the town’s squares and cafes bathed in the provincial light that inspired Van Gogh’s most famous works. All passengers on walking tours were accompanied by Quietvox and people could join different groups to suit their fitness level. There was daily information session every afternoon by the tour director informing everyone the details of shore excursions for the next day. We have a different tour director on board AmaDagio from AmaLegro. Every day when we left the ship for shore excursion, Captain Louis Devaux and Hotel Manager Luis De Sousa Marques would always standing by the ship exit to say good bye to us then greeted us again when we came back from the shore excursion. I was impressed with this old school French hospitality. If you are planning to participate in Vivers “Ghost Walk” in the evening, then please make sure that you take a torch with you from the ship reception before you leave. Although you would be accompanied by tour guides, there was limited lighting in some part of the journey. I almost tripped over on the stairs on the way down from a castle because I couldn’t see the missing tile from one of the steps as there was no light shining over the stairs. Similar to my experiences at AmaLegro, I have the same safety concern with the design of the spiral staircases to level 1 cabins in AmaDagio. Compare to all other stairs in the ship, the tight construction of these stairs with narrow staircase width, steep gradient, and handrail on only one side, they are not easy for the elderly passengers to use. With majority of the passengers on board over the age 50, every day I saw elderly passengers struggling with these stairs. I am a much younger person and even I found the stairs gradient very challenging. I felt climbing up these stairs was like a rock climbing exercise because these stairs are just too steep. After 7 day cursing along Rhone River, we disembarked AmaDagio and travelled by coach from Arles to Barcelona. We stayed 3 nights in Le Meridien Ramblas Hotel Barcelona and attended tours organised by APT. I filed a formal complaint to APT after the tour to raise my concerns. APT addressed my concern about the evening tour swiftly. APT was initially sceptical to my concern about the level 1 stairs and told me that these staircases comply with European safety standards, and since nobody ever complaint about the stairs and have been no accidents recorded, then it must be an isolated problem. So I had no choice but to liaise with other level 1 passengers and encourage them to contact APT and tell APT what they thought about level 1 stairs. In the end, APT agreed to pass on my suggestions regarding a second handrail to AmaWaterways for future consideration, and APT would encourage anyone who has disclosed their mobility concerns to book cabins on level 2 or 3 in the future. Overall, we had a lovely time in Barcelona and on board AmaDagio. It could have been perfect holiday for us if it wasn’t for the dangerous stairs. We do not hold any grudge or vendetta against APT or AmaWaterways, but we want to share our experiences with people who are considering taking the European river cruise with APT / AmaWaterways, so people would be much better prepared than us.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2013
We have traveled extensively and always independently. This was our introduction to group travel. With absolutely no interest in being confined to a ship with thousands of passengers we chose a river cruise with 188 passengers. Our tour ... Read More
We have traveled extensively and always independently. This was our introduction to group travel. With absolutely no interest in being confined to a ship with thousands of passengers we chose a river cruise with 188 passengers. Our tour began in Prague, but we embarked at Bamberg (Nuremberg was originally scheduled point of embarkation).The Viking Prestige is a comfortable boat. It has none of the bells and whistles one would expect to find on an ocean going vessel- no casino, no theatre, no pool. However, the boat is a well laid out, nicely appointed comfortable and very relaxing ship. The WiFi worked well enough that we could keep in necessary touch but not so much we were compelled to be constantly linked in. That is a good thing. The Prestige has wonderful staff that knows you by name, caters to your needs and looks after you in a wonderful unobtrusive manner. Our cabin steward, Snezana, was terrific. She took exceptional care that our room was always tidy, our supplies were replenished in an ongoing manner and our laundry was taken care of properly. Her sunny disposition was a terrific day starter!We found the meals and service to be very good. Meal seating is unassigned and we were able to enjoy the company of other passengers; some repeatedly and some a one-time event by design. Breakfast and lunch provides an option to be seated in the dining room with full service or for a lighter fare on the observation deck/lounge. We had some good guides and some that left something to be desired – especially towards the end of the tour. However, all in all we were pleased with service knowing that because of the rising river levels and last minutes maneuvering folks were not always in the right place and backups were being used. Diana van der Tuuk, the program director, was constantly available and seemed to be everywhere at once. She was always very interested to know who led a good tour and who did not. Diana was constantly observing from the background. The hotel in Prague was good – a Hilton with little to say you are in Prague – but clean, comfortable and situated in walking distance of Old Town. The hotel in Paris – a Starwood property – is very much a business/group travel hub. Very worn and tired – much like many expensive hotels in Paris. It was in comfortable walking distance to the Arc de Triomphe and just two blocks from the Metro. Cabs were readily available. Europe is currently experiencing some of the worst flooding in decades. The last portion of our trip was affected by this rise in water levels. Though we had witnessed high water throughout the journey, the last leg on the Moselle River was aborted. We were given a bus trip to Cochem, more time in Koblenz and an unscheduled port stop in Cologne. All very good options, but this did make the last leg into Paris a very long and hurried affair. Viking was working very hard to meet their tour commitment while scrambling to assemble buses and guides along with every other tour company needing to do the same thing. We had a great time. While we could say we were sometimes inconvenienced and the weather not Caribbean perfect, we relaxed like never before, slept like babies each night and felt cared for by the Prestige staff. We were on a river – you got to go with the flow! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2013
My husband & I are avid cruises, and have been on many cruises prior to the Scenic Rhine & Rhone river cruise, and we believe that if you are told to expect 5 Star and pay a lot of money for 5 Star that is what you should receive. ... Read More
My husband & I are avid cruises, and have been on many cruises prior to the Scenic Rhine & Rhone river cruise, and we believe that if you are told to expect 5 Star and pay a lot of money for 5 Star that is what you should receive. We have never once had a complaint with a cruise liner before, but we are so disappointed with this last cruise that we felt that others should be aware of our experience with Scenic cruises. My husband and I have just returned from a Scenic 14 day Rhine and Rhone river cruise with 3 days in Paris beforehand on the Scenic Spaceships Sapphire and Emerald. If you have ever picked up a Scenic brochure or indeed seen one of their ads on TV, you will hear and see that these trips are supposed to be 5 Star all the way. This was to be the trip of a lifetime 3 days in Paris followed by 14 days cruising the rivers in 5 Star luxury. At least that was what we were led to believe. Balcony rooms, unlimited alcohol, 5 Star dining all for the price of $22,500. Unfortunately the reality was between 3 and 4 star at a maximum. Our supposed spectacular dinner at the Eiffel Tower was more like a 3 star, get what you are given dinner on the first level. No spectacular view at all and a very definite time limit on how long you could sit and enjoy the "scenery". Very big disappointment, especially as there is a much better restaurant, Jules Verne one floor up, but of course more expensive. My husband and I had much nicer meals just in local cafes than this 5 Star Scenic experience. We began our 14 day, 2 river cruise on the Scenic Sapphire. We were very happy with the look and feel of this ship, and the staff were in fact exceptional, especially Miguel and Kurt. The food was mostly 4 Star, however the evening entertainment certainly left a lot to be desired. They seem to get one piano player on the ship for a whole week and that is all the entertainment provided. If you don't want to listen to the same music night after night the only choice is to spend the evening in your cabin as there is nowhere else to go on-board. If you like buffets you will enjoy the food on these 5 Star spaceships if not, you need to be prepared to be very disappointed. I expected table service for every meal; however the only meal that received this was at dinner. It was very unfortunate that so many people ended up with dreadful colds which of course spread like a wild fire through both ships when buffets are the only source of food and people who are sick are handling all the serving utensils. The 2nd week we moved over to the Scenic Emerald. This spaceship is definitely a lot older than the Sapphire and it showed. Our cabin was so disappointing not only was the TV falling off the wall but it didn't work for 4.5 days out of the 7 we were on board. The quilts on the bed had no stuffing left in them, in fact if you picked them up towards the light they were totally see-through. The food on this ship was inedible a lot of the time. If my husband and I were off the ship we in fact preferred to eat at the local restaurants than go back to the ship to eat. We had raw rabbit the first night on board the Emerald and the second night was no better with veal that could not be cut up it was so tough. I won't even begin to describe the dessert of Crepe Suzette that consisted of a piece of crepe roughly the size of my little finger that was an absolute disgrace and that everyone just looked at with absolute bewilderment. Half way through our 2nd leg of the River Cruise I did in fact email Scenic Cruises directly and let them know of our disappointment in regards to the food, entertainment and the quality of the ship. I received a reply from the Customer Liaison Manager, which was appreciated. She informed me that she was disappointed in our feedback and apologised that the meals were not to our tastes and that all of the things I mentioned in my email would be bought to the attention of the new Cruise Operations Manager. She also advised me that she had passed our comments onto the Cruise Director on board the Emerald. The Cruise Director did in fact come to talk to my husband and I later on the same afternoon. She listened to what we had to say, apologised profusely, but of course there was not a lot she could do. She did in fact agree that what we were receiving was not 5 Star and that it should not be advertised as such. If I was advised that Scenic offered 4 Star food and accommodation and we actually paid for 4 Star service, then I would have been happy with what we received. But we were promised 5 Star and certainly did not receive it. I have informed by travel agent of the problems we had and she of course was very upset as she recommended this trip in the first place. We are very frequent travelers, but will never be using 3 Star Scenic ever again.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2013
My wife and I are avid cruisers. This cruise was my 15th and it was my wife's 11th cruise. All of our previous cruises had been ocean cruises. We thought we'd try a river cruise because there are parts of Europe we'd like ... Read More
My wife and I are avid cruisers. This cruise was my 15th and it was my wife's 11th cruise. All of our previous cruises had been ocean cruises. We thought we'd try a river cruise because there are parts of Europe we'd like to see that are not easily accessed by an ocean cruise ship. We started this trip with a pre-cruise stay in Paris. The only things I booked with VRC (Viking River Cruises) was the cruise and a departure transfer. We stayed in a wonderful boutique hotel in the heart of Saint-Germain. Guests on our cruise who used VRC for the pre-cruise arrangements got to stay at the Le Meridian Etoile, which is a huge hotel with a modern decor. I was glad we opted to make our own reservations for a hotel in Paris. The Viking Spirit is a very comfortable ship. It doesnt take long to figure out where everything is because it is so small. The decor of the ship was consistent with what we paid for the cruise. Not overly fancy, just comfortable. The cruise was memorable, but I have to say that VRC didnt knock my socks off. VRC did an excellent job organizing the included excursions at each port of call. The tour guides were knowledgeable, friendly and easy to understand. The way their itinerary is arranged for the whole week works very well. They continued to be very organized when it was time for us to leave the ship. We were taken to the airport in plenty of time to catch our flight home and there was a staff member from the ship with us at the airport making sure we found our proper check-in point. What I found disappointing was the finer points of this cruise. VRC is very good at producing promotional videos. Leading up to my cruise on the Viking Spirit, I watched just about all of the promotional videos that are available on VRCs web site. A primary theme in the videos is the elegant travel that VRC provides. Ive been on a lot of cruises, some with excellent service and some with average service. The service on the Viking Spirit was a little disappointing. With the exception of the soups, which were excellent, the food was pretty average. We ate at a local restaurant one night when the ship was in Rouen. The meal at the restaurant was outstanding, which is what I would have expected of the food being served on the ship. The food on the ship just didn't seem to match what Id seen in the promotional videos. Another low point was the service in the lounge and in the dining room. One thing my wife and I enjoy when we are cruising is to have a cocktail in the ships lounge before dinner. At cocktail time, I almost always order the same drink. On cruises where I've been served by the same person on more than one occasion, the server will sometimes make a point to remember me and my preferred drink. Such was not the case on the Viking Spirit. In the lounge, I was served by one of 3 people during the entire cruise and no one remembered what I ordered each evening. What made it worse was that I frequently had to get the attention a server to take our order because no one would ask us if we wanted anything. This average level of service continued in the dining room. It was apparent that many of the ships staff members had multiple jobs. We would see servers from the lounge also working in the dining room. One evening, a server excused herself before we had finished our meal explaining that she had to start her second job. The same person who took our dinner order would serve the meal and would also bus the table. It became obvious that VRC had a minimum number of staff, which was just enough to get by running the ship. Dinners frequently took over 2 hours for 3 courses. Yes, we were not in a hurry to go anywhere, but it should not take that long to serve dinner to everyone on a ship that size. Little things like leaving the bread plates on the table through dessert and having a server stand on my right side and reach across my face to pick up a plate on my left side diminished the experience. I do not fault the staff on the Viking Spirit. They worked very hard and their hearts were certainly in the right place. VRC had not equipped them to do an excellent job. They hadn't been trained to serve properly and there was not enough staff to adequately handle the number of guests. After my cruise on the Viking Spirit, it was obvious to me why VRC had the money to christen 10 new ships at the same time earlier this year. They must be making huge profits off these cruises. My next river cruise may or may not be with VRC. Dont misunderstand me. I had a fabulous trip. But, I had such high expectations for VRC and what was ultimately delivered fell short of those expectations. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2013
We love big ships, but we took advantage of a discount on this trip since Viking cancelled our trip last year due to the ship not being completed. Hubby was stationed in Belgium and always wanted me to see this part of the world. The ... Read More
We love big ships, but we took advantage of a discount on this trip since Viking cancelled our trip last year due to the ship not being completed. Hubby was stationed in Belgium and always wanted me to see this part of the world. The cities are lovely and it is always an interesting reminder that life doesn't stop because it's snowing. We Floridians tend to forget that. I bought ear muffs and that helped a lot with my nice heavy jacket. All of our local guides were exceptional: knowledgeable, fun, great English skills. We played tag with the Freya along the whole trip so I can understand how a previous reviewer was disappointed to look out every morning at our ship instead of a nice view. I think that was me waving. Having been on the Odin last year, the room were quite different. It was large enough and the bathroom was bigger but there was only 1 drawer, so we used our open suitcases under the bed as "drawers." We kept falling through the hole between the two twin beds and our attendant told us there were no linens for double or larger beds, so all beds are made up with twin duvets. That was a little inconvenient.Flight accommodations went without a hitch and KLM is now our favorite line. Entertainment was OK. We loved the singers and dancers and skipped the EU lecture since we were tired. Food was OK and portions were "mini." Some fellow passengers though the food outstanding but we thought mediocre compared to the other choices we have had. The service staff was very friendly but so slow. We all felt they were short-handed. We didn't get coffee until the meal was over, despite asking for it earlier and several times the orders were delivered at different times and to the wrong people. The breakfast menu does get boring after several days. The buffet was often cold if you were not one of the first in line. We understand this old ship is being retired this year? Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
I have been on many cruises, but never a river cruise. When I saw an add for Viking's 2-for-1 special I knew it was a perfect opportunity. As far value for the money goes, this cruise couldn't be beat. We saw Switzerland, ... Read More
I have been on many cruises, but never a river cruise. When I saw an add for Viking's 2-for-1 special I knew it was a perfect opportunity. As far value for the money goes, this cruise couldn't be beat. We saw Switzerland, Germany, and France for a fraction of the cost. Every morning we woke up in a new port and got ready for an 8 am tour. While most people like to sleep in on vacation, it was definitely worth getting up. The tours were led by local guides and they were wonderful. They all spoke English very well and provided us with all sorts of detailed information about every town and village we happened to be in. The tours were a huge part of why this cruise was so wonderful. As far as the ship goes it was very nice. The cabins were larger than those on the ocean ships, and very comfortable. Breakfast was always buffet style in the dining room, but they also had a small menu that you could order waffles or omelets from. For lunch we were provided with 2 options, a buffet in the lounge, or table service in the dining room. Dinner was served everyday at 7 in the dining room and the menu always had a local dish so we could try foods from the region we visited during the day. The only bad thing I can say about this trip is that there was some sort of virus traveling around the ship and the staff neglected to tell us. We had 8 people in our group and 5 of us came down with this norwalk-like virus. I became so ill that I was unable to get ashore in Cologne, which should have been the best Christmas Markets on our trip. I also overheard other passengers commenting on being in local emergency rooms because they had become ill. It would have been nice for someone on the ship to mention that something was going around so we could take extra precautions, or for the staff to have been out disinfecting every surface like they do when viruses are detected on the larger cruise ships. If not for this illness this cruise would have been a 10 out of 10, but despite this setback I would still recommend Viking because of the great value. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2012
A friend and I booked a trip on the Viking Freya to take in the Christmas Markets along the Danube this December. Overall, it was a fabulous cruise in terms of the ports, service, staff and shore excursions. For those who love to shop, it ... Read More
A friend and I booked a trip on the Viking Freya to take in the Christmas Markets along the Danube this December. Overall, it was a fabulous cruise in terms of the ports, service, staff and shore excursions. For those who love to shop, it is a great time to check out the holiday items in Europe and experience the foods/drinks of the region. That said, the only issue we had was with the cabin. The ship itself is ultra modern and Scandanavian chique, however, the bathroom facility, although well outfitted for essentials, has glass walls. The walls one can change from clear to smokey but it still allows for a shadow show of all happenings in the bathroom. The irony here is that more than the majority of guests are of AARP age and not exactly modeling material. There is no fan so that all sounds in the facility can be heard in the main cabin. Another member reviewed the ship when it was first launched and commented on the bathroom lighting. The entire cabin is ablaze if one person uses the bathroom at night and turns on the light. Just a horrible design!!! If you are very comfortable with your partner's body functions (and your own) then this would be of no concern. If you are traveling with a friend, not a life partner, then you may want to consider another river cruise line unless Viking decides to change their bathroom design. Just saying................ Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
We enjoyed a one week Christmas Market cruise on the River Beatrice, going from Passau to Budapest December 2, 2012 Ship: The ship is well designed and very nicely appointed. The public areas are beautifully decorated and comfortable. ... Read More
We enjoyed a one week Christmas Market cruise on the River Beatrice, going from Passau to Budapest December 2, 2012 Ship: The ship is well designed and very nicely appointed. The public areas are beautifully decorated and comfortable. The dinning room could use more small tables, as most are tables for 8 and you almost have to shout to talk to someone across the table. The overall noise in the dinning room is louder than the River Countess or River Duchess. Staterooms: This is where the ship really excels. We had a suite and it was superb. The room was large, and well designed. There was an abundance of closet space. The decorating was top notch. The bed and chairs were both very comfortable. The bathroom was of a nice size and well designed. Shower was larger than any river cruise boat, though the water pressure was terrible (more latter). Staff: We experience inconsistent service. The Captain (Tom Buining) and the Hotel Manager (Mario Mirao) were outstanding. They were both always present and very approachable. The Cruise Manager (Markus Schindelegger) was one of the best we have experienced. He was very friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. The service in the dinning room was somewhat disappointing. Once the main course is served, the waiter rarely checked back to see if everything was satisfactory. On the nights the Captain dined in the room, we never would see our waiter between the main course and ordering desert. Our waiter (and others) would spend all their time at the Captains table. The overall service in the dinning room was not as good as on the River Duchess or River Countess. The worst overall service was on the last night and several guests commented that that was not a way to leave a good impression. The consensus at our table is that they need more wait staff. The other disappointment in the staff was the "Butler" service for the suites. I put the term in quotes, as I would not use that term to describe was service (or lack thereof) we received. When we first arrived on the boat, the "butler" took us to our room. His information about the room amenities was very limited and he only brought in one of our suitcases, leaving the other in the hall for me to retrieve. Except for when we first arrived on the boat, we only saw out butler in passing in the hallway, in the specialty dinning room (were he serves dinner) or serving the Captain's table in the main dinning room. We have had butlers on other ships and have found them very responsive and they seamed to anticipate our needs; but this was not the case here. We were never asked by our butler how things were going or if we needed anything. I don't feel we should have to run him down to obtain assistance (and even when we did, he did not do anything). Our assistant butler was very personable and always gave outstanding service in the dinning area, but we rarely saw him otherwise. When we experienced an issue with the lack of water pressure in our shower, I first contacted the front desk to report it. After a day of no action, I contacted our butler and asked him to have it addressed. After yet another day of no resolution, and no communication from either the front desk or our butler, I contacted the Hotel Manager directly. The situation was rectified in about an hour. He also checked back with us the next day to ensure it was working properly. The response from the front desk and the butler is not the service I would expect on a Uniworld ship, especially in a suite. Food: This is where the ship slipped a bit from our other River Cruises. The main issue was the menu choices. In general the food quality was good to very good. Unfortunately, the steaks were never cooked correctly (we asked for medium well and the steaks were medium rare at best), and we could not get our waiter's attention to exchange them until everyone at the table had finished dinner and he returned to see what we wanted for desert. The chef is trying to be too fancy and needs to have a menu that appeals to a wider number of persons. On one night, the choices were duck or fish. Half of the table did not like either choice. (I heard this complaint from several others on the cruise) Lunch was usually the best food. The soups were excellent, as were the vegetables. There was always a nice selection of main courses to choose from. There is a specialty restaurant at the rear of the ship that seats about 24 persons. They served 3 specialty dinners (fixed menu) in the room that you could sign up for and one for suite guests. The food and service in the special dinning room was excellent both nights we tried it. All lunches and dinners included a limited choice of free beer and wine which were usually very good. In short: Raves: Wonderful ship design with great furnishings, outstanding cabin, Captain, Hotel Manager and Cruise Director, Lunches, Itinerary, Daily Laundry service in suites Disappointments: Dinner Menu selections, "Butler" Service, Overall dinner food service in main dining room, allowing children to run in the hallways Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
This was our fifth Viking cruise within the last 3 years and we have another booked so we are fans of the brand. If you book on an early offer price they are rarely bettered in our experience. This trip was booked for 2 reasons.We are ... Read More
This was our fifth Viking cruise within the last 3 years and we have another booked so we are fans of the brand. If you book on an early offer price they are rarely bettered in our experience. This trip was booked for 2 reasons.We are fans of German Xmas markets plus we wanted to try out a new Viking longship--as they call their new design. They have launched several this year with more to come in 2013. Ordinarily we have not booked a french balcony cabin as even on a deal a standard plain window cabin is coming in at around £155 each a day which is plenty but that does include an excursion a day plus house wine or beer with lunch and dinner (and bottled water plus tea/coffee from a machine 24/7). This time was no exception but it proved to be a mistake. Every time you used the bathroom plumbing noises were very evident in the cabin so if one was taking a shower the other endured a racket in the main cabin as the water flowed through the pipework.It was even louder in the bathroom . Additionally if another boat or barge was passing by then you picked up its engine noise from about 4 lengths before to about 4 after.And this was even if the boat was passing on the opposite side of our ship. We resorted to sleeping with wax earplugs to try and get some uninterrupted sleep--but with difficulty I wondered if the extra noise on the longship was due to its construction--maybe aluminium was used for lightness and strength.No one will tell me.I am surprised that they have built so many to the same plan without introducing just one and getting feedback on its "wrinkles" and then sorting them out. We were not alone in our criticism .Others near us complained of the same when we mixed as we ate and chatted about the cruise.(all open seating).So we will not travel on the lower deck on one of these again! Having said all that the remainder of the ship was fine --very light and airy.A bit short on seating in the main lounge for daily briefings if everyone turned up. Breakfasts and lunch were mainly buffet style and food choices good but unexceptional.Dinners were served after ordering usually from a choice of 3 on the menu and were very good indeed in our view.To us the house white is indifferent and the red just about palatable but it is included in the price paid. The itinerary was the standard Amsterdam to Basel with some very good daily stops but being december we had xmas markets for 5 days out of 7 to enjoy in and around the standard sightseeing tours.And snow on 5 out of 7 also which made the Black Forest coach trip quite magical. Will we go back on Viking? Certainly but regettably will have to pay more to be higher up if the booked trip is on one of these new ships in which case we will go less often. Having written to Viking about the noise levels we are still waiting for their comments if indeed they do bother to reply Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2012
My husband and I have been on 3 previous European River cruises: The Seine on Viking, The Rhine on Uniworld, and the Danube on AMA. The cruises on Uniworld and AMA were both Christmas market cruises as this one on the Visionary was.The ... Read More
My husband and I have been on 3 previous European River cruises: The Seine on Viking, The Rhine on Uniworld, and the Danube on AMA. The cruises on Uniworld and AMA were both Christmas market cruises as this one on the Visionary was.The only thing they all had in common was that they went to Christmas markets. Both AMA and Uniworld had Christmas activities scheduled on the ship with AMA going all out to keep up the Christmas atmosphere. Other than some tasteful decorations, the Visionary had no Christmas activities. Not even a cooking demonstration on how to make some Christmas yummy! There was one lecture on the formation of the EU. Sadly the water was high and we barely cruised and it was at night. The busing and the night in the hotel in Frankfurt were handled very smoothly, but it was a disappointment not to see the small towns along the Main. The ship was beautiful and our cabin gorgeous. The food and wine were good. If we had never been on other Christmas cruises maybe we would have been satisfied. As it was we were very disappointed with the lack of Christmas on the ship. The towns along the Main were all charming decked out for Christmas. Our guide, Victoria, was such fun that even the bus ride had everyone having fun! (Maybe the happy hour on the bus helped keep us happy!) Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
This was our second Viking River cruise, travelling back to back from the "Europe" Rhone/Saone cruise. Many of my comments are the same regarding the cabins, cleanliness, service, food. It would be really good if Viking ... Read More
This was our second Viking River cruise, travelling back to back from the "Europe" Rhone/Saone cruise. Many of my comments are the same regarding the cabins, cleanliness, service, food. It would be really good if Viking would put decent blockout curtains in the windows. On the nights in Rouen there was a carnival/funfair across the other bank of the river and the noise and lights were quite penetrating into our cabin, with the curtains doing little to keep out the bright and strobing carnival lights. Not Viking's fault I know, but blockout curtains would have removed the annoying flickering lights. We enjoyed the trip to the Normandy beaches but would have preferred it if the guides had promoted the information centre at the American Cemetery. There was at least an hour and a half worth of material there to be viewed and discovered and it was disappointing that we only found it in the last half hour of our time there. No emphasis was put on this centre whatsoever and yet it contains more information than the guides gave us at any time. There are also clean, queueless toilets on the lower floor which were greatly appreciated by those who found them. Our tour was a bit muddled because of a general strike which also involved lock masters - so we visited the ports in a different order than planned. It was good that the captain had this flexibility. Most of the little towns start to look a little bit the same after a while, but the guide who took our group on the tour of Auvers sur Oise made the town, and Van Gogh come alive - she was indeed "the best tour guide in the world"!! This cruise was calmer, easier and more relaxed than the first cruise we did the previous week. This may have been part due to familiarity with the vessel, some of the crew and many of the passengers, but I certainly found it a more pleasant cruise. And of course, time in Paris at each end of the cruise was well spent. We had an interesting experience when we, and others, were treated to a very sleazy display by a senior member of the ship's crew. Unfortunately it made it difficult to view this crew member with any respect for the rest of the cruise and as it was someone with whom one almost had to have daily contact, it was a little discomfiting. That wasn't Viking's fault either, just very poor judgement and behaviour by the person involved, which let down the company. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
We enjoyed the cruise and enjoyed seeing several European cities for the first time. Viking did a fine job taking care of the things they were responsible for. We enjoyed all but one of the local guides and all of the on-ship guides. ... Read More
We enjoyed the cruise and enjoyed seeing several European cities for the first time. Viking did a fine job taking care of the things they were responsible for. We enjoyed all but one of the local guides and all of the on-ship guides. The food was excellent and so was the service in the dining room. This is our third Viking cruise. One, Windmills and Tulips, two, Vietnam and Cambodia, and this one. Of the three, we enjoyed the tour of Vietnam and Cambodia the most - smaller ship, more interesting/unique destination, although the food was not good as on the other two. Why do we rank the Grand European cruise last for overall enjoyment? The weather was not great, but what can one expect for this portion of Europe in Nov. And, the number of passengers. Obviously, nothing to compare with an open sea cruise, but just large enough to not get acquainted with everybody, but too small to not feel that we should. And, this cruise did not have as much variety as the one in Cambodia. After the first week or so, the churches started to run together in my mind. Overall, a well done cruise by Viking, but maybe not the best cruise or time for us. Pics - http://dbolt.smugmug.com/Travel/Grand-European-River-Cruise/ Read Less

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