Oh, no - cruise was slated for an Amsterdam-Budapest voyage. Had to be rerouted to Rotterdam as a sailing event that takes place every year in Amsterdam consumed all mooring spaces. Something the cruise line failed to let anyone know at ... Read More
Oh, no - cruise was slated for an Amsterdam-Budapest voyage. Had to be rerouted to Rotterdam as a sailing event that takes place every year in Amsterdam consumed all mooring spaces. Something the cruise line failed to let anyone know at the time of booking. A coach trip was not anything we had signed up for - thus, why we choose cruising. On arrival a mediocre dinner was served, which began two weeks of the best meals being purchased off the ship. Quite a disappointment. To compound, the food quality, was the attitude of servers. Seemed most irritated that we were there most of the time. Very regimented, if you asked for 1 egg in morning, you were told, "only do 2 egg orders". Coffee was slow in coming with regularity, so asked for a carafe of coffee for table, told "we don't do that, we serve". Of course, that was only every 15 min or so they "served". Which you would have to find them or flag them down. In there defense, I would say they were understaffed. Cabins were kept clean, wonderful hot water and pressure. No complaints. Beds on the other had were miserable. When stated after first night that we were uncomfortable, were told "all beds on ship the same, nothing can be done". I pointed out their 24 satisfaction policy, and the "hotel manager" said "well it is because the ship is new and the mattresses are not broke in",surely they did not buy the mattresses with that in mind. I suggested they put 4 duvets across our bed with sheet on top, they did and it was better,never really comfortable. One reason being they only have linens in twin for bed,even though it is a king size variation. So every night we got caught up in the sheets, my husband said it was like camping. Not something you would expect in "luxury" cruising. Two of the things I love about cruising - good food and a comfortable bed. Never been disappointed before. This cruise was not the best. Europe, though, is still beautiful and we loved that. Read Less
The brochure says "professional staff" but we had college students on their first cruise. Most of the wait staff had never waited tables before! I have been a "training tourist" at a resort and received better service. ... Read More
The brochure says "professional staff" but we had college students on their first cruise. Most of the wait staff had never waited tables before! I have been a "training tourist" at a resort and received better service.
Food was so bad that I sent back three plates and I have NEVER sent food back to the kitchen before. Oysters Rockefeller were a solid mass encrusted to the shell. Many items were overcooked or burnt. Eggs were consistently undercooked even when ordered medium or hard. Some food was quite good, but for the price I expected every meal to be outstanding.
Our cruise director had never been to three of the six ports of call and couldn't answer questions about them.
Rooms were OK, but sort of felt like hospital room decor. The illustration of the room in promo materials appears much more spacious than reality. At least there was adequate storage--however bathroom storage was awkward.
The main activity on this ship is small talk with other guest, especially at meals. The acoustics in the dining room made this difficult (impossible at times).
This cruise was quite expensive. I would have been disappointed at 1/4 the price. Read Less
The purpose of this review is to explain why, after our recent cruise in Russia, my husband and I will avoid Viking River Cruises in the future, and why we will advise others to avoid Viking, too.
We are experienced travelers, and we ... Read More
The purpose of this review is to explain why, after our recent cruise in Russia, my husband and I will avoid Viking River Cruises in the future, and why we will advise others to avoid Viking, too.
We are experienced travelers, and we understand that no trip is going to happen exactly as planned. We do, however, expect that as conditions change we will be kept informed. The number of variations between what was sold and what was delivered, coupled with the failure to keep us informed of significant changes in the itinerary (detailed below), were significant enough that the term "bait and switch" kept coming to mind. A certain amount of trust between the travel vendor and the traveler is necessary for a good travel experience. After this Russian cruise, we do not believe we can trust Viking River Cruises. In addition, in spite of three attempts to contact Viking about these issues (twice via e-mail and once by letter), no one at Viking has responded. This leaves me feeling that, once they have your money, they lose interest in you.
First: The condition of the ship was not as described in Viking brochures. When I made the booking with Viking in November 2009, I was advised by the Viking agent that the Pakhomov was an "excellent choice because it has just been renovated," something which figured heavily in my decision to book this cruise. In fact, per Stephan Busch, Hotel Manager, the Pakhomov had been scheduled for renovation in late 2009, but this renovation was not done. Mr. Busch told me on June 13, 2010, that he and others had made Viking Cruise Lines aware of the discrepancies between the ship as it was and the ship as it was described in Viking literature, but that "nothing had been done." In my view, therefore, we were sold something that did not exist.
Second: Viking withheld information from us. In November 2009, I also booked the Helsinki extension, mainly for the "scenic ride though the rolling landscape," described in the Viking literature. Two or three days before that extension was to start we were informed that there would be no trains running between St. Petersburg and Helsinki on the day the extension began, and that we would be flying from St. Petersburg to Helsinki. Since our primary reason for booking the extension was to see more of the countryside, we would have preferred to fly home instead of going to Helsinki, but by the time we were informed only very costly alternatives were available. However, our air tickets for St. Petersburg to Helsinki were purchased by Viking BEFORE WE LEFT THE U.S. TO BEGIN OUR TRIP. In addition we were finally told, again just before the Helsinki extension began, that we would be in Finland during a National holiday, and almost all museums and restaurants in Helsinki would be closed. No optional tours were offered to take advantage of the holiday: we were simply left with a lot of free time in a virtually empty city. We were told in Helsinki that this Holiday had been celebrated for over 50 years - so Viking should have been well aware of it, but they didn't share that information.
Third, there were numerous small things that, individually, would not have been of much concern but added up to irritation: • The "Itinerary & Departure Information" brochure states on page 6 that "Porters will...take your luggage to the transfer buses. Instead, one of the Viking guides pointed to luggage carts saying that we would have "a ways to walk before we got to our bus." When the bus finally came, one of the Pakhomov sailors loaded our luggage into the bus as we brought it to him. When we were in the bus, the Viking guide reminded us to tip the sailor. • The brochure states on page 25 that dinner is "generally" at 7:00 p.m. In fact, dinner was at 7 p.m. only once. Dinner was at 7:30 seven times, 9:30 once, 8:00 once, 7:20 once and 5:00 once. • The brochures states on page 26 that smoking is not permitted indoors on the ship. This apparently does not apply to the crew area. Heavy cigarette odors almost always emanated from the crew's quarters. Happily, this often served to cover-up the smell of raw sewage that wafted through the ship on a regular basis. • Again on page 26, the brochure indicates that staterooms aboard the Viking Pakhomov have safes and telephones. They don't. • From page 27, "staterooms aboard...Viking Pakhomov have televisions featuring channels with some U.S. or English programming." There was a television in the room, but most of the time - even in port - there was "no signal" and nothing on the television except the channel advertising Viking cruises. • Per page 28 of the brochure, "when possible, we will notify you of changes to your itinerary prior to departure; when not possible, your Program Director will advise you of changes. See discussion above about the Helsinki land extension. • The on-line description of the Category A Deluxe stateroom (the kind of room we booked) says that each has, "hotel-style beds (can be separated); large picture windows that open; private bathroom with enclosed shower; air conditioning; space under bed for storing suitcases; roomy wardrobe with wooden hangers; converter in the bathroom outlet." In fact, most hotels would be ashamed of the beds, which were small and furnished with thin mattresses. There is a large picture window, but we were advised never to leave it open because of the mosquitoes. There is a private bathroom in the stateroom, but the only thing that "encloses" the shower is a plastic shower curtain; thus it is nearly impossible to take a shower without getting the rest of the bathroom wet, too. There is an air conditioning unit in the room, but the desired temperature can only be approximated. There is space under the bed for storing small suitcases, but the "roomy wardrobe" isn't very roomy, and we had to sign for extra hangers if we wanted more than the few supplied with the room. There is no converter in the bathroom outlet; in fact, there is no outlet in the bathroom at all.
And one more thing: there are only two public rest rooms on the boat. That was not an issue until the last day when all of us were required to leave our rooms early in the day, but many of us were not taken to the airport until late afternoon.
I do wish to emphasize that the crew of the Pakhomov were friendly, helpful, and well-organized. I do believe that is very unfair to the crew to expect them to deal with a number of customers who have promised something by "the head office" which the crew cannot deliver. Read Less
Upon check-in at the hotel in Berlin the cruise director told us that due to the low water level on the Elbe we would not embark in Magdeberg as scheduled but be bussed to Dresden instead. Upon arrival in Dresden we were told the chances ... Read More
Upon check-in at the hotel in Berlin the cruise director told us that due to the low water level on the Elbe we would not embark in Magdeberg as scheduled but be bussed to Dresden instead. Upon arrival in Dresden we were told the chances of sailing were not good and since the prospect of rain and/or release of water by the Czechs could not be ensured we had to adopt a day to day wait and see posture while Viking did what they could to salvage the "sailing". We ended up staying in Dresden for the entire week and were taken by bus to Wittenberg and Torgau, Saxon Switzerland/Bad Schandau, and Meissen. We missed Magdeberg, Melnik, Litomerice, and Dessau. Viking cancelled the following Elbe itinerary. Viking awarded us with a 40% credit toward future cruising through December 2012 as compensation (some restrictions may apply but we'll have to see how that unfolds). One member of our group is 91 and whether or not he is able to make the trek to Europe remains to be seen so the credit may not be a good deal. Viking says the credit could be transferable to a family member. I understand a fellow passenger has opened a lawsuit against Viking alleging Viking knew well enough in advance to provide us with the option for a full refund or rebooking on another voyage. We were lucky as Dresden has immense importance to our family from World War II and we were able to make connections there that otherwise would have been impossible. We enjoyed multiple days in Dresden on our own initiative without a lot of help from the cruise director who could have found more activities for our group in that city. If we did not have the Dresden connection I would have been very disappointed with Viking's treatment of us. Bus rides to some of the scheduled stops were long, not very comfortable, and the reduced time at those stops detracted from our enjoyment of them but Viking was trying to make lemonade out of lemons. Food and staff were good but the cruise director was stressed and surly at times. The assistant cruise director was very nice and helpful. Our D category cabin was small (120 square feet) and the twin bed setup wasn't very romantic. The food was OK but nothing special. Read Less
Booked a Categrory B, Deluxe Cabin on the Viking Surkov for the Waterways of the Czars cruise (Aug. 10-22,2009). On day one of sailing there was an obnoxious smell of raw sewage in our cabin and in the hallway. We informed reception and ... Read More
Booked a Categrory B, Deluxe Cabin on the Viking Surkov for the Waterways of the Czars cruise (Aug. 10-22,2009). On day one of sailing there was an obnoxious smell of raw sewage in our cabin and in the hallway. We informed reception and were told that this is normal when the ship is in motion, the sewage sloshes! We were unable to sleep because of the stench and the fact that the A/C didn't work. Other travelers complained, with the same results... There were two large pipes leading from the ceiling into a very large wooden box in the floor, right next to the bed. The picture in the brochure shows a small table and 2 chairs - non existing! The entertainment on board (as per brochure) is also non-existing. There was a Vodka tasting, at 15 Euros per person. The Russian folkloric entertainment was in a tent and cost 26 Euros per person. Check your credit card bill - Our entire cost of the trip was paid by c/c and there was a $600 "foreign exchange fee". We booked through California, why would we have to pay this charge? Your US Dollars are being sent to Switzerland! After much aggravation, the $ 600 were refunded. On board, they use a unit system (which equals Euros). The last two days of the cruise (after the bills were settled in Euros) they switched to Rubles! The food was good until it came towards the end of the trip, by then the salad bar looked beyond wilted. The endive salad was rotted! My feeling is that Viking could care less about the comfort, or health, of their travelers. They have your money up front and know that you won't take the same cruise again. I have this gut feeling that perhaps this company is not above board.. We have traveled all continents and plan on continuing our travels but definitely NOT with Viking Cruises!Kizhi Island Located on Lake Onega (Europe's 2nd largest lake) Open air
architectural museum & UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wooden churches
& other buildings were brought here from other parts of Russia.
Transfiguration Church - 300 years old, built completely of wood (no
nails) 22 timbered onion domes. It was a rainy, gloomy day and made the
church look ominous (Halloween?), but yet a very interesting excursion.
Goritzy On the Shore of Lake Siverskoye Visited Kirillov-Belozersky
Monastery, founded in 1397 by St. Cyril filled w/ beautiful icons &
frscoes. Now a museum.Yaroslavi - Called the Golden Ring city Figured prominently in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Not much to explore in these ports - churches, icons, frescoes. Uglich Town dates to 1148. Foound this to be a more interesting
excursion, besides just seeing icons, frescoes. Ivan the Terrible's son
was mudered here. The resulting uprising caused great distruction. In
17th-18th centuries wonderful architectural buildings were constructed.
Moscow Amazing City! Very clean. The Metro is easy to navigate. Metro
is very clean, elegant, marble, paintings, chandeliers, sculptures -
Red Square - dating to 15th century. Not as impressive as I imaged,
except for the St. Basil Catheral colorful onion domes.(never got
inside though) Kremlin - More cathedrals, palaces, museums & the
seat of government. By now, I am tired of seeing & hearing about
the icons and frescoes. Every tour guide has the same verbatum speech.
Armory - Fantastic, but very difficult to get close to exhibitions,
especially the Faberge' eggs. The crowds are unbelievable! Exciting
city - much to see and do, but be aware of pick pockets, etc. Read Less
My husband and I recently returned from a two week Rhine and Moselle River Cruise on the Affinity from Amsterdam to Basel. While most of the ports were good or excellent, the ship and services were disappointing and need much improvement, ... Read More
My husband and I recently returned from a two week Rhine and Moselle River Cruise on the Affinity from Amsterdam to Basel. While most of the ports were good or excellent, the ship and services were disappointing and need much improvement, especially for a cruise that "targets upscale North American passengers". I preface this review with the fact that we are experienced travelers and have taken other river boats before, being very pleased with the experience.
THE SHIP- Room size. At 172 square feet, the impression is that the room is larger than the regular room on other river boats. While we did not measure the room, it did not appear to be any larger than other boats. You should not have any illusions of spaciousness.
Beds- What a disappointment. While the ship(and beds) were new, the mattresses were soft and the bedding (quilts and pillows) so small, making sleeping uncomfortable. Be aware that there is a split in the middle of the two beds and could be somewhat improved if full size bedding and mattress covers were used.
Computers - There were only two computers located in the lobby for up to 138 passengers. This is way too low considering that in many ports internet cafes are not available and there are few activities and entertainment on board, increasing the demand and frustration of passengers.
Coffee and tea service all day - Yes, but it is located in a remote area of the top of the third deck, which is not easily accessible.
FOOD AND DINING - Breakfast buffet was good, however often food or drinks were not replaced on a timely basis. Cooked-to-order omelets available and good. Lunch buffet had better selections than dinner, however very often the touring schedule was such that getting back to the ship in order to eat lunch was not only inconvenient, but also wasted valuable touring time. In several ports, we chose to stay in town and eat lunch. The ship finally provided tour buses to shuttle guests back to town after lunch as well, but it took two weeks to get that service provided! Dinner - several things. Most distressing was open seating as it made it difficult to get a large table for a group of six or eight. Food - limited selection. Boring -little food of high quality. Everything was very salty. Difficult to get coffee or tea during or after meal (procedure was no coffee until after dessert) and no sweetener on table. Waiters very nice but "busboy" quality with no personality and little common sense. Did not seem to understand North American preferences as per "upscale" tours.. Very interested in constantly filling wine glasses.
ENTERTAINMENT - Only two nights of outside entertainment for two weeks, one of which was very poor. Keyboard player available every night for dancing.
CRUISE DIRECTOR AND TOURS - For the most part, our local guides were very good or excellent. The Cruise Director on board did not give adequate information. There were several errors and miscommunication made prior to docking. She did not seem to know about local holidays and closings until too late to make alternate arrangements. Her information on local ports very limited. Insufficient information concerning levels of difficulty for limited mobility guests. There were many incidents where the Cruise Director's poor information or lack of communication was detrimental. She was also very defensive when approached with recommendations for improvement.
TIPPING POLICY - The printed guidelines of Avalon suggest a gratuity of $18 per person per day for the cruise staff plus $4.50 per person per day for the Cruise Director (which would be over $7,000 in tips for two weeks!). This is outrageous and almost double the tipping guidelines of both big ship cruises and other river cruises. Obviously, with our dissatisfaction, we tipped accordingly. Unfortunately, many others may have been scammed in to believing Avalon's policy is the norm. This was an indication of Avalon's attitude towards its guests, where form over substance was important.
In summary, we enjoyed the cruise because of the great ports and our ability to independently tour them when necessary, as well as meeting some lovely and congenial people, who shared our feelings. Given the cost of the cruise at more than $700 per couple per day (without airfare), next time we will think about using five star hotels and land based tours so that we can have more control over our travel experience. Read Less