My husband and I spent a wonderful week on the Viking Prestige from Sept. 7 - Sept. 14, 2014 from Passau, Germany to Budapest, Hungary. Viking arranged our flights and transportation from the airport in Munich to Passau; all was trouble ... Read More
My husband and I spent a wonderful week on the Viking Prestige from Sept. 7 - Sept. 14, 2014 from Passau, Germany to Budapest, Hungary. Viking arranged our flights and transportation from the airport in Munich to Passau; all was trouble free. It was very easy to locate the Viking representative at the airport and transfer to the bus was simple and quick.
We were welcomed on-board and immediately shown to our room. Lunch was still being served so we went to the Aquavit terrace where we enjoyed a delicious light lunch. We found the food on board to be very good. The portions were a good size - not too much which would be frustrating since I hate to waste food - and the quality was very good. I don't remember having an issue with anything that we were served and there were at least 3 options at each meal (plus the "always available" options - baked chicken, steak and salmon); there was always a vegetarian option. We dined with some people who had dietary restrictions and they were always served something that fit their needs.
The ports were all wonderful - both the small towns and the cities. The local guides were all very knowledgeable and friendly and the "quietvox" system was helpful - you didn't have to crowd around the guide and they didn't have to yell to be heard. We attended 2 optional tours - the Schonbrunn Palace and the concert in Vienna. Both were very enjoyable and worth the extra price. The service (dining room and housekeeping) was outstanding. We extended our trip (on our own) at the end by taking the train from Budapest to Prague. The concierge arranged for a taxi to pick us up at the ship and take us to the train station, called us in our room when the taxi arrived, and got our bags to the taxi; it took all of the stress out of getting to the train station on time. This trip lived up to my (very high) expectations. I would have no hesitation to book another Viking cruise! Read Less
We just recently returned from our week long Romantic Danube River Cruise. We were a party of four traveling on Viking for the first time. We felt like the crew gave over 100% in making sure all patrons were well taken care of at meals, ... Read More
We just recently returned from our week long Romantic Danube River Cruise. We were a party of four traveling on Viking for the first time. We felt like the crew gave over 100% in making sure all patrons were well taken care of at meals, going and coming from our land excursions and our time on the ship. The pace of the trip was relaxing. In addition to the many excursions planned, the schedule allowed for time to just sit on the desk and enjoy the beautiful countryside. We made lots of new friends from several countries. I would gladly sign up for another Viking River Cruise as I really enjoyed seeing the countries from a more intimate perspective. The ride was very smooth and quiet. Read Less
This was my first river cruise and I honestly don't feel it could have been better. We were treated like royalty from the moment we boarded. John, the cruise manager, was so well organized that we never had a doubt about where to go ... Read More
This was my first river cruise and I honestly don't feel it could have been better. We were treated like royalty from the moment we boarded. John, the cruise manager, was so well organized that we never had a doubt about where to go or what was available to us. the local guides were great and the on-board entertainment just right. In addition, the food was amazing, especially in their very fine restaurant which you can book once during the trip. I also enjoyed the free-flowing local wine and beer and found a few I hope to get here in the states. The only suggestion I would have is to try to make a reservation at least a year in advance so you can get a bigger room. The ones on the first floor are very small. I didn't really care about that because I was only there to sleep and change clothes. All in all, this was a great trip (Melodies of the Danube). Read Less
Recently back from a great cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest (followed by Prague extension). Exceeded my expectations. Had the youngest (German) captain in Viking (Bestla) fleet and it seemed he set a nice tone as everyone aboard enjoyed ... Read More
Recently back from a great cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest (followed by Prague extension). Exceeded my expectations. Had the youngest (German) captain in Viking (Bestla) fleet and it seemed he set a nice tone as everyone aboard enjoyed the experience. Biggest surprise was the great food. We've sailed quite a bit and it seems the food has steadily got worse but this time it was excellent. Also Viking matches others with free wine & beer at lunch & dinner and it flowed easily with me being permitted to select whatever beer was onboard. Enjoyed the ports and most of the guides did an good job. Nice to not have to pay for the tours. Took a couple of extra excursions but final bill was low. Cruising isn't cheap but we feel we got our money's worth out of this trip. Read Less
This was one of the best cruises we have ever experienced!!! The staff were fabulous!!! Our tour guide, for the whole cruise (Victoria) was extremely experienced and just a wonderful representative of her country!!! Our dining area staff ... Read More
This was one of the best cruises we have ever experienced!!! The staff were fabulous!!! Our tour guide, for the whole cruise (Victoria) was extremely experienced and just a wonderful representative of her country!!! Our dining area staff were wonderful!! We had Vera and Natashya and they would help us with any questions on selections, which were all excellent!!! We always did the quiet upper deck small breakfast which had fruit, yogurt, rolls, muesli, juices, coffee/tea, etc. Dinners usually started at 7pm unless tours arrived late back at the ship. All menu items were delicious!
We had a balcony room which was really great for cruising the Volga, etc!!! It may have been slightly smaller than we are used to on Celebrity, but they had so many amenities to compensate that we did not feel the difference!!! The bed was great and the features in the bathroom were excellent. All lectures were on the TV so you would not miss any information.
We were taken care of from arrival to departure!!! All tours were very informative and professional!!!! I cannot say enough on this subject!!!! This cruise seems expensive, but it is worth every dollar/euro!!!! It is very inclusive and you just feel you are taken "care of" for the entire experience!!!
All ship staff members were friendly and talked with you every day!!! Cruise life does not get any better than this for Russia!!!! Read Less
We just completed the Grand European tour from Budapest to Amsterdam. We were 10 in our group and were treated very well on the boat. Budapest, for those of you going here in the future, was our favourite city. Evenings in Budapest are ... Read More
We just completed the Grand European tour from Budapest to Amsterdam. We were 10 in our group and were treated very well on the boat. Budapest, for those of you going here in the future, was our favourite city. Evenings in Budapest are beautiful with the three bridges all lit up. The other stops were great too but this was the best.
It was incredible to see pictures of all the damage to these cities during the wars but the people rebuilt and the legacy continues for us to see.
The castles, the Cathedrals and museums were plentiful and very interesting. We took a couple of the extra tours along the way and would recommend them to future travelers.
He staff on the Skadi were great and special praise to Dan, the program director. He was so knowledgeable about every stop, he has an amazing sense of humour, he was friendly and helpful to all.
The food was great, just too much of it! You have the choice of eating in the dining room where you can be served or up top at the buffet. We enjoyed being waited on and were treated very special by Walter, Lucky and Vladamir.
Evenings on board were mostly spent sailing but there were a few where we stayed in post til late at night. Vienna was one of these nights and that is when we went to a concert at one of the many concert halls there. We also had entertainment come on board, local singers and dancers from the area. One evening there was a glass blower giving a demonstration. His wit was great! He had trained, at one point under Dale Chihuly, for those who know who he is. Very glad we got to see him working his magic simply by heating and blowing the glass.
Probably the biggest thing to remember is to bring comfortable shoes. You do a lot of walking every day and a lot of it is done on cobblestone type sidewalks and roads. Read Less
So "Happy" we chose The American Empress Riverboat tour of the Columbia River this September 2014. It was a perfect weather, perfect staff & accommodations trip. From the very start, the Hilton Hotel in Vancouver was gracious ... Read More
So "Happy" we chose The American Empress Riverboat tour of the Columbia River this September 2014. It was a perfect weather, perfect staff & accommodations trip. From the very start, the Hilton Hotel in Vancouver was gracious and provided a great location for the pre-cruise night. On board the Empress, it was such a pleasure. The staff, like Bobby, Jennifer, Anton, Lisa, Frank, Lindy & Greg, and Diane, just to name a few, were all so personable and happy people without being hovering. We were pleased that American Steamboat Co. only hires American staff.... Wise choice and most appreciated.
Everyday was a charm....Hop-On Hop-Off Bus excursions at every port were so well planned...We especially enjoyed the Pendleton Round Up Rodeo, (which was ONLY on the schedule the very week of our trip)...Wow, Let'er Buck!. The meals on board were just lovely, expertly prepared and delicious, just right portions, too. The entertainment delivered, piano, quartet, singing, banjo and storytelling. Frank and Lindy & Greg were outstanding! What could be better than a fine dinner, followed by a great show every night. The scenery, the locks, the Native Culture, Lewis & Clark History, the ports...."all" were so carefully planned for us. It was our First Riverboat trip...... but it won't be our last. It met our expectations and so much more! Read Less
My first river cruise easily won me over to this type of travel. As a former independent, backpacking traveler, I was skeptical taking a "tour package". Viking River Cruise offered me beautiful accommodations, dining options ... Read More
My first river cruise easily won me over to this type of travel. As a former independent, backpacking traveler, I was skeptical taking a "tour package". Viking River Cruise offered me beautiful accommodations, dining options throughout the day, scheduled tours throughout Russia with plenty of flexibility to explore on our own. Viking provided seamless travel arrangements from takeoff to boarding and disembarking to takeoff afterward. As we toured Moscow worry free, Viking rebooked our flight home when Air France cancelled our original flights due to the pilot's strike. We enjoyed the open seating concept that allowed us to dine alone or freely make new friends by joining a table with open seats. As a life long learner I found the shore excursions informative and enjoyed the local guides at each port. Pre-port lectures on the ship prepared us in an entraining and informative way regarding history, ports, and current events in Russia.
Entire crew gets an "A+". Friendly, professional, attentive, and accommodating. Read Less
We did the cruise-only portion of the Paris to Monaco tour package. The ship was sold out months before departure from Chalon-sur-Saone on 02SEP14. Unlike many cruises on the Rhone River which start and return to Lyon repeating most of the ... Read More
We did the cruise-only portion of the Paris to Monaco tour package. The ship was sold out months before departure from Chalon-sur-Saone on 02SEP14. Unlike many cruises on the Rhone River which start and return to Lyon repeating most of the river views, the Avalon Scenery begins in Chalon-sur-Saone and finishes at the mouth of the Rhone in Arles using both the lovely and picturesque Saone as well as the Rhone rivers. There were double day stops, a sense of easing through southern France. In short, the pace was efficiently lovely.
Local tours were provided as needed and were outstanding. Extra excursions offered more to those with additional interests like wine tasting.
The staterooms were more than adequate, well appointed and quiet. The housekeeping we got was cheery and efficient. The ship was well appointed and functioned very well without any sense of it all being simply routine. The meals, buffet breakfast and lunch and smoothly served dinner offered lots of choice and new items appeared daily. The dining room needs to be altered to absorb more of the conversational noise especially for those siting in the mid section of the dining room where conversations were almost impossible. Although seating was open, most sat at the same tables every evening. I would advise future cruisers on the Avalon Scenery to head for one of the tables at the far end of the dining room on the first night to stake out a place so that conversations are possible without shouting to each other.
Tony, our cruise director, was attentive and aware of the needs of the passengers. He was amusing and made sure we all got as much from our cruise experience as possible. Alternate arrangements that are common on River cruises were explained he usually showed us how to get extra benefit from the new situation.
Given the lower fare than competing cruises that use the Rhone, this was money well spent. Read Less
I have recently returned from the Pandaw Cruises trip between Siem Reap in Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam on the RV Mekong Pandaw.
It is impossible to highlight one particular service or event as they do it all so brilliantly.
... Read More
I have recently returned from the Pandaw Cruises trip between Siem Reap in Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam on the RV Mekong Pandaw.
It is impossible to highlight one particular service or event as they do it all so brilliantly.
From the roomy cabin on a limited passenger river boat to the fine dining and casual luxury, it is just magic.
All land tours during the cruise are escorted with options for pre and post cruise tour options, leisurely paced and very well presented. Of course, you can just sit back and do nothing if that's what you want.
If you're in the mood for a trip on a luxury river boat in SE Asia I highly recommend Pandaw Cruises. Read Less
Wow! What s terrific experience. Beautiful scenery in the Douro valley, outstanding personalized service by the crew of the Viking Hemming - particularly chef Carlos Silva and the galley crew; excellent schedule of interesting, fun shore ... Read More
Wow! What s terrific experience. Beautiful scenery in the Douro valley, outstanding personalized service by the crew of the Viking Hemming - particularly chef Carlos Silva and the galley crew; excellent schedule of interesting, fun shore excursions along the river - including a visit to the Quinta do Seixo-Sandeman (port wine) vineyard at harvest time, and a visit to Salamanca, Spain.
Starting the trip in Lisbon we were a bit underwhelmed by the city - it was dirty and graffiti riddled when compared of other cities (like New York). The city tour was interesting, but mobs of tourists detracted from the experience. We found a lovely family restaurant near the central area for dinner "Restaurante Bom Apetite Avenida da Liberdade", Portugal address:Travessa da Glória, 20, Avenida da Liberdade, Lisboa.
On the way to Porto, the visit to Coimbra - along with the Portuguese lunch & Fado show - was excellent. Embarking in Porto was a pleasure - the Viking Hemming is a new ship with a gracious crew.
Like Lisbon, Port is an interesting city, but perhaps a bit dilapidated. The 'euro crisis' was mentioned frequently. Our introduction to Port wine at the Calèm Wine House was fun.
Cruising on the Douro River was great. The food on board was consistently excellent, as was its service. Other than cruising itself, visits to the Sandeman vineyards (harvest time - trucks full of grapes everywhere), Salamanca Spain with a Flamenco show and lunch+ at Favaios were highlights. The biggest highlight of all was the breath-taking scenery along the river and the amazing driving by our bus driver on narrow, steep, winding country roads.
On board activities during the week were fun - galley tour, Portuguese folk music show, cooking demonstrations, even just sailing through the four locks on the Douro.
We took the extension to Santiago de Compostela. Perhaps a bit more costly than it should have been for what was offered, but very interesting nonetheless. The cathedral, old city and large number of pilgrems who traveled there held our interest. The city tour was very well done. lots of restaurants in Santiago old town, but watch out, most of them open at 8 PM for dinner. We found a lovely restaurant in 'Restaurante Xantares' and another in "O Lagar do Franco". We had great Galecian seafood at both.
Overall a truly excellent trip - well done by Viking. Read Less
The difficult aspect of this review is to be accurate and objective, without sounding like a company shill. My wife and I were on the Sept. 20, 2014 cruise from Portland (Vancouver) to Clarkston.
Of course, no voyage is perfect, so I’ll ... Read More
The difficult aspect of this review is to be accurate and objective, without sounding like a company shill. My wife and I were on the Sept. 20, 2014 cruise from Portland (Vancouver) to Clarkston.
Of course, no voyage is perfect, so I’ll begin with the “rough spots”. It’s not apparent without examining the cruise itinerary, but the Clarkston to Portland (Vancouver) cruise actually begins in Spokane, a major metropolitan area in eastern Washington State. Getting to/from Spokane is considerably easier than Clarkston, or Lewiston, its twin city in Idaho. For most folks, this itinerary is probably better, because there’s a $49 charge to ride AQSC’s bus from Clarkston to Spokane, while it’s included in the cost of a cruise ending in Vancouver. The cost for both cruises is the same.
This is the first year of cruising for the American Empress, and some of the promotional and informational literature remains focused on her larger sister ship, the American Queen, which sails on the Mississippi and tributaries. For example, the American Queen Steamboat brochure states that the River Grill offers “a selection of sandwiches, fresh fruits, popcorn, and soft-serve ice cream around the clock….” In practice, ice cream was always available there, popcorn never was, sandwiches only around lunch, and fresh fruit for only part of the day. Light snacks and cookies were also available in the Paddlewheel Lounge from 3-5 daily.
AQSC presumes that all passengers fly to and from the cruise. They offer zero assistance in arranging transportation that’s not related to airlines. That’s both disappointing and short-sighted on their part. With no help from AQSC, my wife found a very inexpensive one-way car rental. We paid $65 for a two-day rental, from the Lewiston Airport ($25 cab ride from the dock) to downtown Seattle, where we live. That allowed us to visit with relatives in the area before traveling home.
The shower controls involve a flow control on the left and a temperature control on the right. The controls are identical, with no markings, and no explanation in the guest guide book. It’s a great idea, but not typical of most hotels, and could use some explanation.
I didn’t care for the coffee on the Empress. It tastes pretty much like generic diner coffee. In an area with so many excellent choices for coffee, AQSC could do better. The River Grill does have a self-service espresso machine. I didn’t use it, so can’t comment. I spent 20 years in the Navy, so this isn’t the worst coffee that I’ve tasted. That “honor” actually goes to Norwegian Cruise lines.
It would be nice to have an indication of the ship’s position, ideally presented as a channel on the stateroom television screen. Hopefully, this will be added for the ship’s second cruise season. A repeater in the Paddlewheel Lounge would be nice.
The deck plan on AQSC’s website is horrible. It’s too small, and nearly impossible to read the stateroom numbers. I found a better one on a cruise site. This was important when it came to selecting a stateroom.
The complimentary Internet access was so slow as to be unusable. In fact, my cell phone refused to recognize it as a valid Internet connection, though my laptop did. I brought a mobile hotspot, which had coverage for about 2/3 of the cruise, as did my cell phone. Of course, most cruise lines charge obscene rates for Internet connections. If you need to have an airline boarding pass printed, ask the Purser’s office, which has better Internet access.
This cruise is aimed squarely at adult passengers, with no provisions for children’s activities. I would not recommend it for families.
The main dining venue, the Astoria Room, offers sit-down service for all three meals. The River Grill offers buffet service for breakfast and lunch. For dinner, it is reservation only. Unlike the Astoria Room, the menu doesn’t change. The staff tries very hard to offer an excellent dining experience. However, the arrangement of the room works against them, and there is considerable noise associated with the service. My wife and I ate there one evening, then canceled our second reservation. I would be happier if the River Grill offered buffet service for all three meals. It’s a nice effort by AQSC, but the passengers’ interests would be best served by offering a dinner buffet service.
The first night of the cruise is actually in a hotel room, in Spokane or Vancouver. Bus transportation is provided to the ship’s embarkation point, though the Vancouver hotel is an easy walk from the dock. This is actually a very clever way to handle the check-in process, as well as baggage. Nevertheless, it is uncommon in the industry. AQSC stated that they had paid gratuities to the hotel staff, so none was expected from us. A voucher was provided for the hotel breakfast buffet. We had a wonderful time in the hotel, which is located adjacent to a very nice park in downtown Vancouver. We walked to the Veteran’s Memorial mural and to the Fort Vancouver site after checking in to the hotel. It’s a very pleasant area. With check-in accomplished at the hotel, you can go directly to your stateroom after boarding the ship, with your luggage waiting in your room. I should add that we rode Amtrak to the Vancouver station, which was a 15-minute walk to the hotel. We had roll-aboard suitcases and a backpack.
Now, the good stuff. Basically, this cruise is as close to all-inclusive as could be reasonably expected. Unlike some other cruise companies, there is no effort to nickel-and-dime customers with bogus fees and continual exhortations to spend more money with them. You pay the published fare, $109 in port taxes, and $16.50 per day of the actual cruise (7 days) for gratuities (you can adjust this figure at the Purser’s office). If you want to participate in the specialty tours, there is an extra, but reasonable charge. Drinks from the bar are charged an automatic 15% gratuity. That’s it, unless you purchase items from the small ship’s store. There is zero pressure to participate in the specialty tours or to purchase drinks from the bar. Dinner includes your choice of four local craft beers or two wines (red and white). All are from the Northwest or California, and the choices change daily. Servers will keep filling your glass until you say “no”. In the two lounges, the bartenders made it clear that they were there to provide your beverage choices, not to push alcoholic drinks. We often chose a glass of water. After a few evenings, one bartender (Dan) brought our water as soon as we sat down.
Bottled water is freely available, both in the staterooms and while leaving the ship in port. There’s no reason to bring your own. If rain is expected, loaner umbrellas are provided when departing the ship.
Drinks in the bar are reasonably priced. The most expensive was a martini, at $12. The most expensive cocktail was $9. Beer and wine were $4-6, as I recall. The daily Happy Hour features reduced prices and drink specials. A bartender told me that all cocktails are original recipes developed by AQSC. While AQSC reserves the right to “prohibit and retain” alcoholic beverages, our luggage was not inspected, and the topic was never addressed. Besides, wine and beer are free with dinner, and bar prices are very reasonable.
Repeatedly, the ship’s staff looked for ways to exceed our expectations. Our room attendant (Carol) offered to provide a different mix of coffees for the Keurig machine in our room, according to our preferences. When my wife commented to a bartender (Ed) that she liked Earl Gray tea, he said that he would insure that it was available in the Paddlewheel Lounge for the afternoon snack time. It was.
Very early in the cruise, several staff members, including entertainers, asked our names, then greeted us by name whenever we encountered them in the ship.
AQSC offers “hop-on, hop-off” tours at each port, for no charge. A fleet of three large, Greyhound-type buses follows the ship to each port. They’re easy to identify, with large murals of the American Empress painted on the side. One is dedicated to the specialty tours, and the other two operate on a schedule of every 15 or 30 minutes, depending on the port. Drivers remain with the buses, but local tour guides are hired from each port. Stops are typically placed at several local museums, dams, or interpretive centers, marked by sandwich board signs. AQSC has pre-paid the admission fee or donation, so there is no charge for their passengers.
Like its larger sister, the American Queen, the American Empress is a US-flagged vessel, so it meets higher safety and health standards than do foreign-flagged vessels that operate to US ports (e.g., Alaska cruises from Seattle). All crewmembers are legally entitled to work in the US. Very few appeared to not be US-born. All seem to enjoy their jobs. It is reflected in their work attitudes.
Pilothouse tours were offered twice, and were scheduled during port visits, for obvious reasons. The Captain was very friendly and explained the technology used to operate and navigate the ship. I visited the pilothouse again, after the tour. I had a wonderful discussion with him about the technology in the vessel and the maritime counterpart to Crew Resource Management training, which is now mandatory for US airline pilots. Engineering tours are not offered, but are available on request – also while in port.
While every effort was made to have the American Empress look like a classic riverboat, its systems are very contemporary. The paddle wheel actually provides some of the propulsion, though powered by an electric drive motor. It is used only while cruising. For steering and maneuvering, the ship is equipped with two “Z-drives” and a very innovative bow thruster – all powered by the ship’s four diesel-electric generators. Three GPS systems, including an interesting GPS compass, along with a magnetic compass and gyro compass, two electronic map displays, and a radar screen, aid navigation. I was pleased to learn that the Captain is very comfortable with the technology, but still refers to paper charts. I am very familiar with airliner flight deck technology, and understand its limitations. The ship’s navigation technology is state-of-the-art for maritime applications, but well behind airliner technology. Technology in the engineering spaces is equally contemporary, though hidden from the public.
The Astoria Dining Room is a wonderful venue, with sit-down service. One early reviewer didn’t care for the blue ceiling lighting. I agree that it’s inconsistent with the overall décor theme, but not unpleasant. It’s just different. The food was wonderful, as was the very attentive and accommodating service. Dinners included an appetizer, soup/salad, entrée, and dessert, along with beer and wine. A comparable dinner in a downtown Seattle restaurant would cost around $50, plus tax and tip.
Entertainment was surprisingly plentiful and good for a vessel of this size. There were five entertainers, a music quartet, and the Riverlorian. That’s 10 entertainers for a ship with a capacity of a little more than 200 passengers! Two additional entertainers joined the ship during port visits. Two husband-wife teams (Lindy/Greg and Laura/Bill) provided great singing and dancing entertainment, plus Bill’s magic act. The piano player, Frank, is someone who simply must be experienced. He didn’t just play the piano – it was part of him. His casual, off-hand comments and stories were exceptionally entertaining. The quartet provided accompaniment for singing, as well as some great music alone. Entertainment was typically scheduled for Happy Hour in the Paddlewheel Lounge, one 45-minute show in the Show Lounge, and a second 45-minute show in the Paddlewheel Lounge. Unlike some larger cruise ships, all entertainment was finished by 10:00. This was a good thing, as it appeared that all passengers were eligible for AARP membership, with most being eligible for Medicare. This was a late-September cruise, but I would expect similar demographics in the summer.
Laurence Cotton, the Riverlorian, was outstanding. He takes his job very seriously, and is well-versed in Northwest history, culture, and geography. He offers a large lending library of relevant books, a book of nautical charts for our journey, and at-least-daily talks about the Columbia River, its history, and its inhabitants, including Native Americans. Two guest presenters were also worked into his schedule. He provides a variety of tourist-related information for each of the ports in advance of the visits, and a summary of what we’ve seen. He’s typically found in the River Grill for breakfast, available to chat with the passengers about river lore and history. I skipped some tours and activities, rather than miss his talks.
AQSC’s brochure suggests “country club casual” for evening attire. Women tended to dress a bit nicer than the men. There may have even been a cocktail dress or two. I saw one man wearing a sport coat, but several were in jeans. I wore a pair of white cargo pants for the entire cruise, with different polo or collared shirts. I felt very comfortable.
Our stateroom was in the lowest-cost category, located on the fourth (top) deck. I selected it because I wanted to be on the top deck, for several reasons. The only other choices on that deck were the expensive suites. On check-in, I asked the Purser about deals for upgrading to a suite. Unfortunately, all were booked, even though the ship was only 1/3 full. Bummer! She was very cooperative and helpful in suggesting upgrades to mid-range cabins, and offered a discounted price. However, we were very happy with our room, so remained there.
Our stateroom was small, but very comfortable. We’d requested a double bed. It was impossible for us to tell that two singles had been joined. The bed was very comfortable. The room included a desk, two chairs and a nice piece of furniture that housed the television, Keurig coffee machine, refrigerator, and several shelves for storing small items. Two large wardrobes provided plenty of closet and drawer storage. Even our cheap stateroom included robes and slippers. Several electrical outlets were available, unlike our previous cruise on the Norwegian Jewel, which offered a single one-outlet location to plug in all of our electronic devices.
To summarize, the American Empress (and presumably her sister, the American Queen) is a “class act”. There is no nickel-and-dime strategy to generate incremental income from the passengers. Everything seems to function smoothly, despite this being the AE’s first season with this company, and the employees are simply outstanding. I look forward to another cruise with AQSC, probably on the Mississippi next time. Read Less
My wife and I recently took a European River Cruise on the Scenic Jewel from September 15 through 29, 2014. This cruise started in Budapest, Hungary, followed the Danube through Austria and southern Germany, then took the Danube-Main Canal ... Read More
My wife and I recently took a European River Cruise on the Scenic Jewel from September 15 through 29, 2014. This cruise started in Budapest, Hungary, followed the Danube through Austria and southern Germany, then took the Danube-Main Canal to the Main River, and finally ended up on the Rhine, with the cruise ending in Amsterdam, a total distance of about 1800 km. Through good fortune, there was hardly any rain for the duration of our trip, with temperatures above 20 Celsius nearly every day. We are experienced ocean cruisers, but this is the first time we have taken a river cruise.
We also arranged air transportation through Scenic, and the transfers between the airport and the ship were quick and flawless.
The Jewel is a new ship, completed last year expressly for these waterways. It holds about 160 passengers on three decks, the top two having balconies with sliding windows that can be opened or closed depending on the weather. The cabins are spacious with every amenity and we found the beds very comfortable. All rooms featured an entertainment system with which you could access television, music, shipboard information and the Internet though we found with all the activities we hardly used that.
The ship features the ‘Crystal’ dining room which featured buffets at lunch and usually sitdown dinners. The food was uniformly good and they were very careful to point out dishes that might trigger my nut allergy. There is also an Italian restaurant called the Portobello that all passengers can try.
The ship has a lounge which also functions as an entertainment venue and bar/café. The entertainment was low key, consisting of folk artists, lectures and demonstrations. For those used to the splashy shows on ocean cruises, it will seem pretty small scale.
Finally there is a sun deck where you can watch the world go by, for every day on a river cruise there is something to see. On the Danube Main canal, access to the sundeck was restricted because of low bridges.
All excursions were included in the price we paid. The biggest problem we had was trying to choose one of the two or three options sometimes on offer. Scenic attempts to create experiences for their passengers so that in addition to the usual city tours, you can also do things like attend musical performances, wine tastings, “medieval feasts” and so on. There are power assisted bikes for those that like to explore on their own, and audio players that may be used for self tours. We were kept very busy with all the activities. The local guides were uniformly superior and in keeping with the all inclusive nature of the trip would not accept tips.
In every respect, this cruise exceeded our expectations. The service from the 50 staff members was uniformly friendly and attentive, and when this cruise company says that their cruise was “all inclusive” they really meant it, right down to the mini bar in the room and the free Wi-Fi. The only extra cost we incurred was laundry. There’s no doubt that all inclusive river cruising in Europe is expensive, but in this case you get what you pay for.
Another good thing about river cruising is that with only 160 passengers you soon get to know your fellow travellers, unlike a large cruise ship where you hardly ever see the same person twice.
We would unreservedly recommend Scenic to anyone considering a European river cruise and will use them again ourselves.
This was our first River Cruise and we are so glad that AMA Waterways was the line our Tour Company used. The service was Excellent, the staff were the most amazing professionals, you felt like family. Everyone knew when you needed ... Read More
This was our first River Cruise and we are so glad that AMA Waterways was the line our Tour Company used. The service was Excellent, the staff were the most amazing professionals, you felt like family. Everyone knew when you needed something, they keep an eye on you, and if your cup or glass was empty refills were always forthcoming.
Our tour started in Budapest with a two night stay, then our transportation to the ship was quick and efficient. The embarkation process was very seamless, and we were escorted to our cabin. The room was spacious enough for us, the closet held our luggage, so we never felt crowded. River cursing is a different experience from ocean cruising, and I totally loved it!
Shore excursions were well planned, many of the walking tours were separated into, active, regular & gentle walkers. Many excursions included were of great interest to us, there were also optional tours of interest to many of our fellow travellers.
This trip was a celebration of our 40th anniversary, and it was a Stellar Trip, Thanks AMA. Read Less
Just home from a fabulous cruise on Scenic's beautifully appointed Sapphire which included a 3 day land tour in Prague at the beginning of the trip. This enabled us to get ourselves somewhat acclimatized to the 8 hour time difference ... Read More
Just home from a fabulous cruise on Scenic's beautifully appointed Sapphire which included a 3 day land tour in Prague at the beginning of the trip. This enabled us to get ourselves somewhat acclimatized to the 8 hour time difference from our flight from Western Canada. The tour guides were very informative, Scenic buses always at the ready to transport us to and from our land tours.
The ship was beautiful with true 5 Star service. Kudos to our Room Steward Dana, Butler Zoltan and Cruise Director Patrik. Food was great & bar service always readily available. My husband & I made many new friends onboard; of the 165 passengers onboard 80% were fellow Canadians with the balance comprising of Brits, Aussies and a few Americans. We'd highly recommend Scenic Tours and would readily take another in the future. Read Less
We decided to book the AmaWaterways's "Europe's Rivers & Castles" trip as it combined 2 nights in Prague, 7 nights on the Main and Rhine rivers and ending with 3 nights in Paris. I had visited Europe on business ... Read More
We decided to book the AmaWaterways's "Europe's Rivers & Castles" trip as it combined 2 nights in Prague, 7 nights on the Main and Rhine rivers and ending with 3 nights in Paris. I had visited Europe on business before I retired but my spouse had never been to Europe. The overall trip exceeded our expectations in almost every catagory. AmaWaterways led by Cruise Manager, Reka Piros, did an outstanding job throughout the trip and into Paris. The daily AMA Newspaper provided everything from the weather report to that day's scheduled tours as well as optional tours. They even had a daily USA newsletter.
Our hotel in Prague was the upscale Inter-continental. It was located so we could walk for dinner at a local restaurant or shop and we did both. The City Tour of the Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge are musts to see. We took a tour bus up and walked back down. The local tour guides and the neat headsets and small groups worked very well.
From Prague we took a nice tour bus to Nuremberg for a city tour and arrived at the ship late afternoon. Our luggage was handled efficiently and we began our first night at the Chef's Table Restaurant where we met other travelers who we visited with throughout the cruise. Everyone has one night at that private Restaurant and then they eat in the main Restaurant each night. Right away on our first full day arriving Bamberg, Germany we enjoyed the incredible breakfast and did so every day usually sitting in the same area alone or with other passengers we met and visited with. The menu of all of the meals included optional items and the service was consistently very good.
We enjoyed the scheduled tours most days but also took the optional Rothenburg Tour and enjoyed it a lot. We took numerous photos each day and more when we reached the Rhine and all of the wonderful castles and towns we passed by. Our Cruise Manager, Reka Piros, provided periodic talks about what to see and why and was always accessible at her desk near the reception area.
While some passengers took advantage of the free bikes on the ship for local tours we stayed with the bus tours since they had local guides and we could go at an easier pace in small groups. The tour of the Reichsburg Castle in scenic Cochem was very well done with the interesting local Tour guide "Margarete" leading us. The shuttle bus made it easy on the legs as it is located above the city.
The pace of our daily schedule was up to us as there were many options available and we took advantage of them. As our river cruise was nearing the end of its schedule I was curious as to how they would handle the process of our leaving the ship and moving our luggage to Paris for the final three nights there. It was done most efficiently. Some 104 of us were going to take a high speed train to Paris after the Luxembourg tour. The process they used not only verified that our luggage would go to our hotel (which it did) but that we would not have to worry about getting on and off the train as it was all well coordinated. Our stay was at the Pullman Montparnasse Hotel; the room was comfortable on the 18th floor.
We loaded our Paris visit with both scheduled tours as well as some optional tours and it was worth it. The weather turned rainy for part of our Paris time but we expected it and dressed appropriately. On our last night we took a cab to the Louvre Museum for a small group tour and then a cab back to the hotel. The final morning Ama was there to insure we and our luggage made the trip to the airport and check in. From start to finish we loved the trip. Read Less
Just got back from a really wonderful cruise on Scenic Sapphire, Nuremburg to Budapest. First river cruise we've done after several ocean cruises. I think we like river cruising better. Our time on this cruise was really outstanding. ... Read More
Just got back from a really wonderful cruise on Scenic Sapphire, Nuremburg to Budapest. First river cruise we've done after several ocean cruises. I think we like river cruising better. Our time on this cruise was really outstanding. The service, especially by our butler was perfect. Attentive, thoughtful and friendly but not too friendly. Just right. The junior suite we had was perfect: convenient and quiet. The balconies that can be open in nice warm weather or completely (or partially) closed in in cool or rainy weather are a really great feature.
It's a small boat - 167 passengers. So entertainment is not going to a cast of thousands. We're not big on shipboard entertainment but the guy on this cruise played piano, keyboard, guitar, sax and who knows what else, accompanied electronically and struck just the right note. He knew the age group he was playing for and matched it perfectly.
The fact that the cruise and all shore excursions are all inclusive (and no tipping) is another outstanding feature. For me, it's a game changer. Read Less
Embarked on the Rinda after spending a pre extension in Nuremberg. All transfers were included making getting us from the airport to the hotel and to the Rinda without event. Viking and the crew made settling in a breeze. We did return to ... Read More
Embarked on the Rinda after spending a pre extension in Nuremberg. All transfers were included making getting us from the airport to the hotel and to the Rinda without event. Viking and the crew made settling in a breeze. We did return to Nuremberg to tour via bus and saw where the Nazi trials were held as well as the grounds where the Nazi rallies were held. We continued on to Regensburg which is a preserved medieval city and visited the optional tours of Weltenburg Abbey and the Danube Narrows. We took advantage of all the optional tours because we wanted to see as much as possible. Passau was a wonderful small town situated at the confluence of the Danube, Ilz and Inn river. We took a walking tour around town and had the opportunity to visit St. Stephan's Church for a pipe organ concert. We had free time in the afternoon, so we had lunch in a local restaurant and shopped. Next on to Melk to tour the Melk Abbey and then on to Vienna. We took advantage of the Mozart and Strauss concert which was optional. Who would not appreciate hearing a performance in Vienna of Mozart and Strauss? The next morning we toured the Schonbrunn Palace. You can opt out of any tour and do your own thing keeping in mind that the ship schedule needs to be met. They do check that everyone is onboard and I know of no one being left behind. The last stop was Budapest which is a exceedingly beautiful city with a lot to do and places to shop. We were docked near the Chain Bridge which made it very convenient to so many activities. We started on the Pest side of the city with a stop at Mathias Church. We also took the optional Horse Farm tour. There are so many other visits to describe that were fun and educational. The thing to keep in mind that you can do as many or as few of these tours as you wish.
Service on the ship was impeccable. The room was kept very well by the young woman assigned to our cabin. The cabin is designed to keep you organized during the week with areas under the bed for luggage storage. We had a room with a balcony which made for a very relaxing time as we sipped our coffee or wine as we traveled. Meals were offered several ways with light meals offered off the lounge location and from a menu in the restaurant. The meals were beautifully presented, varied and delicious. Standard offerings such as salmon or chicken were available for those less adventuresome. Wine and beer during meals were local as available and suited us well. The wait staff was interesting in that they were from many countries. They took care of us very well.
Local entertainment such as musicians and dancers were available in the lounge on several evenings. One night the passengers got involved in a talent contest. No pressure to participate and by that time we had many new friends so it was fun. Remember there are only 190 passengers so you really do get to know many of them.
Disembarkation was also easy. We stayed on in Budapest at the Marriott for a couple of days. Viking got us to the hotel and when it was time to leave, also arranged for our transfer to the airport.
We are starting to think about our next Viking River Cruise. Where to go...so many choices! Read Less
We had made many ocean cruises before this river cruise. We were amazed with all of this cruise. Hospitality, comfort, food, tours; everything was beyond expectations!
Every cruise member were always going out of their way to help, to ... Read More
We had made many ocean cruises before this river cruise. We were amazed with all of this cruise. Hospitality, comfort, food, tours; everything was beyond expectations!
Every cruise member were always going out of their way to help, to cheer, to make our experience the best one possible. The fact that we are about 168 passengers on board makes it a very intimate atmosphere.
Our room wich was a few feet above water level had 2 sliding patio doors wich we could open wide; the feeling was awsome!
The itinerary was great; remember, you're on a river. You're always close to great scenerys without the motion of the ocean. Always nice and calm.
I could go on and on! You just can't go wrong with this kind of cruise.We will be back and tip of the hat to AMA for offering such a great product! Read Less
We loved our second AMA cruise at least as much as our first one, which was from Nuremberg to Luxembourg. But the countryside and culture are entirely different and less visited, so this is a special trip. We learned a great deal about the ... Read More
We loved our second AMA cruise at least as much as our first one, which was from Nuremberg to Luxembourg. But the countryside and culture are entirely different and less visited, so this is a special trip. We learned a great deal about the history of Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Croatia, from the times of the Ottoman empire right up to the present -- the conflicts arising from the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. I was impressed that AMA scheduled a tour of Vukovar (Croatia), where terrible atrocities where committed – not your typical visit to architecture landmarks and cultural icons. The Vukovars have created a sobering, respectful memorial to the many who were outright murdered, and the war victim cemetery with it row of empty plots for those still missing is a stirring visit too. They have also left the shell-pocked water tower as-is, an always-visible reminder. This optional excursion should not be missed.
I went on all three optional bicycle tours, which as always were guided by local knowledgeable and personable guides. I liked all three, but particularly recommend the one to Ada Ciganlija & its lake in a park in Belgrade, and most of all the one in Hungary to the White Stork Museum in Kolked, from Mohacs where we were docked. This little museum really is out-of-the-way, but the passionate naturalist who guided our tour made it memorable. The third was through downtown Novi Sad and was another eye-opener about life in Communist and post-revolution Balkans.
We were treated very well by everyone on and off the ship in every place we visited. Our fellow passengers were a great bunch, and we had good times with quite a number of them.
Dining was like going to a top ranked restaurant every evening. The only possible complaint we had was that early birds using the jogging track on the top deck – above us – disturbed our sleep-in. Passengers were asked to curb this, but AMA should just outright ban running there before 8am. Early birds can run onshore.
We cruised upriver, so docked in Rousse, Girugiu, near Bucharest, Vidin, Belgrade, Novi Sad, Ilok, near Vukovar, and Mohacs.
We opted to take the Istanbul pre-tour extension which is pricey but was worthwhile, partly because to get from there to the Danube, you go by bus through rural Bulgaria, a fascinating trip, including an overnight stop in Plovdiv and visit to Veliko Tarnovo. I also recommend tours to Belogradchik / Baba Vida, Belgrade city, and of course Bucharest.
You will encounter many currencies on this trip ... just go with the flow, obtain some when you first enter each country, and use what you don't spend, for tips when you leave for the next country.
I cruised on the Kalaw Pandaw from Sept. 6 to 13, 2014, embarking in Mandalay and debarking in Bagan, Myanmar (Burma). The Kalaw is a beautiful little river steamer built almost entirely out of a dark hardwood that is indigenous to ... Read More
I cruised on the Kalaw Pandaw from Sept. 6 to 13, 2014, embarking in Mandalay and debarking in Bagan, Myanmar (Burma). The Kalaw is a beautiful little river steamer built almost entirely out of a dark hardwood that is indigenous to Myanmar. The boat is in excellent repair, well maintained and clean. Because the boat is small, it does not have the amenities of the large cruise ships, but that does not matter to me. I don’t need a pool, gym, separate cocktail lounge or the other amenities of large ships. All of us could socialize out on the deck whenever we wanted to. Cruises on Pandaw are down to earth, which I liked. The ship’s small size and shallow draft enable the captain to take it right up to the river banks and sail it in parts of the river where larger boats cannot go.
This was the inaugural cruise for this itinerary and, I think, this boat. Service was excellent. Crew and staff were friendly and went out of their way to accommodate our wishes. Food was ample and very good. Laundry sent out in the morning was back by evening. All excursions were included in the cruise price. Transfers to and from airports or hotels was included too. Gratuities were included, but most of us gave staff cash tips anyway because the service and overall experience was so good. The itinerary was excellent. We were taken to well known historic sites and temples, as well as remote villages and places that I would have never found on my own. This mix of excursions added very much to the enjoyment of the cruise. Our tour guide was excellent. He spoke English and had extensive knowledge about every place we went. We learned a lot about the history and culture of this enchanting country. Because the boat ties up to river banks, your shoes may get a little muddy or dirty and the same with some of the excursions that we went on. No problem. You take off your shoes when entering the boat. Crew clean them off and deliver your shoes to your room. Sandals should be worn. You have to take off shoes and socks to enter the temples anyway.
The Irrawaddy River is huge. It is the main economic artery of Myanmar. We were 600 miles north of Yangon (Rangoon) and the river was larger than the Mississippi R. at New Orleans. The Irrawaddy is famous for its sunsets. The river did not disappoint us on this trip. Many of us would sit out on the deck in the evening to watch the sunset.
I intend to sail on Pandaw again and recommend this cruise line to other travelers as well.
This was our first river cruise and we chose AMAWATERWAYS AmaKatarina after discussions with our travel agent.
We were very pleased with our holiday and would certainly travel with AMA again and we would absolutely recommend their Russian ... Read More
This was our first river cruise and we chose AMAWATERWAYS AmaKatarina after discussions with our travel agent.
We were very pleased with our holiday and would certainly travel with AMA again and we would absolutely recommend their Russian Waterways Cruise. We understood that there had been quite a few cancellations on this particular cruise as people were concerned about the political situation in the Ukraine. At no time did we feel any such concern and we met tourists from all over the world. The AmaKatarina is an older ship, leased by AMAWATERWAYS from a Russian company. It is by no means luxurious but it is comfortable and certainly ‘home’ for this trip.
WEATHER: We were fortunate and had good weather the entire cruise. It did look like rain a couple of days but we always travel with rain gear and travel umbrellas. The ship had umbrellas for any passenger that needed them. As this was September, cooler weather clothes were the norm.
PORT TRANSFERS: We chose on this trip to book the AMA transfer. A representative met us at the St. Petersburg Airport (Pulkovo) and escorted us (and many other passengers) to 2 modern, clean buses. A guide accompanied each bus to the ship. Our luggage was loaded on the bus for us and also delivered to our shipboard stateroom very quickly.
When we ended our cruise in Moscow (we were able to work with the ship’s Cruise Director to get the departure time that we wanted) an AMA guide accompanied us to the Sheremetyevo Airport. She was with us throughout the check-in procedure. Another couple took a taxi to this airport and they did, in this instance, have a cheaper fare. If the traffic had been bad it could have cost them more. This is a chance you take. The ride was 7-8 kilometres in length and took 35 minutes for us.
CHECK-IN: Upon arrival at the start of our cruise we were directed to the Reception Desk and were very quickly processed. Our passports and Russian arrival cards were kept by the ship while we were docked in St. Petersburg.
CABINS: Our room was on the second floor, starboard, and mid-ship. The cabins are compact. There is 1 closet for hanging clothes and some shelves for storage. There is a safe which had the capacity to hold 2 iPads, a camera, wallets, etc. There is a small fridge in the room. Although we did not spend a lot of time on our balcony we did enjoy having it, being able to enjoy the fresh air and sitting outside when we could. The bathroom shower stall is small but the water pressure and temperature were great. We were given bottles of water each evening and toilet paper/toiletries were replaced as needed, without having to request them. The first night we did request extra pillows and blankets and they were provided promptly. There is no alarm clock so bring a travel alarm clock with you if this is important to you.
There was only 1 electrical power plug in our cabin so that made it difficult to charge the camera batteries, iPads, etc. Bringing a power bar would take care of this issue.
MEALS: There are 2 dining rooms on board. At each entrance you were expected to use hand sanitizer. A great idea! There could have been more of this throughout the ship; but the passengers certainly needed to be more aware of basic hand hygiene to prevent disease contamination!
Breakfasts were buffet style and there was plenty to choose from. Lunches were also buffet style and there were always options for vegetarians, meat and fish eaters. Soup, salad, cheeses, breads, crackers, fruits, desserts, tea, coffee (including brewed decaf) and water were always offered. Dinner was a sit down/served on the 2nd floor dining room while the 3rd floor restaurant remained buffet style. The food offered was the same. We liked to eat on the 3rd floor as we liked to choose what and how much we were eating. The staff members in both restaurants were all very friendly and tried very hard to please. They quickly learned the likes and dislikes of the passengers. The food was well cooked but basic, not gourmet--always plentiful and always options for everyone.
My husband has a severe food allergy and the Restaurant Manager checked the food to be served daily (and when we ate off the ship on excursions) and made sure that we were aware of any potential food dangers. My husband was given a laminated card to be shown to wait staff that had the allergy written in English and in Russian. We were given excellent care and attention.
Beer and Wine was provided at dinner. At lunch you had to pay for this and for soft drinks.
STAFF: The staff were very friendly and tried very hard to please the guests. The Tour Guides were students or graduates of the linguistics program at University. All staff were employed by the Russian Cruise Ship Line with the exception of the Hotel Manager and the Cruise Manager who were employees of AMAWATERWAYS. Most staff had some English language, some more than others of course. We were always greeted with a smile. In summary, we were very pleased with the staff on this cruise.
Every evening a newsletter, the Daily Cruiser was left in the cabins with details of the next day’s itinerary and any information that the passengers needed to have.
EXCURSIONS: The tours were well organized and a ship tour guide was always with each group along with the local guides at most places we visited. Our favourite tour guide, Maxim was excellent and managed to keep track of wandering tourists – not an easy task!
Personal audio devices and headsets were provided for each excursion so that it was very easy to hear the guide as you toured.
In St. Petersburg we chose to take the free shuttle provided into the City rather than sign up for an optional tour. We enjoyed walking the Nevsky Prospect, (twice) visiting the Church of Our Saviour on the Spilled Blood and wandering on our own.
There were organized walking groups for several styles of passengers—those who wanted to sleep in and join the group part way through the day, the gentle walkers, the regular walkers and the fast walkers. This certainly was advantageous for those with different tour needs. We always chose the fast group as we felt we did see more and also had free time to further explore. You chose the group the night before at the Reception Desk.
Using hydrofoils in St. Petersburg meant more time at the tourist site, less time sitting in traffic. Moscow traffic is bumper to bumper, 24/7. This added to the time on the bus and took away from time we could have been sight-seeing.
Another day in Moscow would have been appreciated. Because of fog on the river the ship could not travel and we arrived quite late into Moscow. Although we saw the Kremlin we were rushed and did not get to truly see and appreciate major landmark. The second day in Moscow was busy with too many activities. We left the ship at 9 a.m., returning at 11 p.m. Although we had a free hour in Red Square, there is so much to do there as we could not see St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Tomb, etc. We ran out of time! We had chosen the extra tour to the Russian Circus in the evening (which I would not do again as this show was long, including a 45 minute intermission so that the children could go on stage and get pictures with the fountains and was a show of skaters, acrobats, a comedian). This is the only extra tour that we paid for. When we returned to the ship we were given dinner but, as everyone had to disembark the next day, starting in the early morning hours for some, this day was just too long.
In retrospect we should have booked a couple of days in Moscow after the cruise ended. Those passengers that we have stayed in touch with and who did this all reported that they enjoyed their extra time and saw the same and different sights with lots of time to explore.
SUMMARY: We truly enjoyed our first ever river cruise and we were happy to have done this with AMAWATERWAYS. We highly recommend their Russian Waterways River Cruise. We will certainly travel with AMAWATERWAYS again.
My mother and I had our Grand European Tour split between two ships. We were originally supposed to be on the Kvasir from Budapest to Amsterdam, but right before we were leaving our pre-cruise in Prague, we got an email from Viking stating ... Read More
My mother and I had our Grand European Tour split between two ships. We were originally supposed to be on the Kvasir from Budapest to Amsterdam, but right before we were leaving our pre-cruise in Prague, we got an email from Viking stating that we were going to board the Idi instead when we got to Budapest. Unfortunately none of the Viking staff in Prague were aware of the change. That's apparently not unusual according to Viking staff. This lack of communication between Viking Administration and their customers and staff is one big negative against the Viking brand. It caused confusion and created a number of really disgruntled passengers for the bus trip to Budapest. The reason we were given, once we were on board the Idi, was that because earlier in the summer high water prevented the ships from going the full length of the cruise, so passengers changed ships and the ships went back. Our cruise was when Viking was going to revert back to the original schedules in order to be able to go on their winter cruises correctly. We were finally given this news by the amazing Program Director who was parachuted into our cruise to deal with unhappy passengers and he converted just about everyone into a happy camper. The Idi staff did the rest. As other reviewers have said, if you have the same cabin on a ship that is the same age and identical in every way, there should be no problem. We finally exchanged ships in Nuremberg and it was as seamless as promised. We left our baggage on the Idi, went on our tour of Nuremberg and returned to the same cabin on the Kvasir.
A note about older longships: we were docked at one point, tethered to a Viking Longship that was a couple of years old and I noticed that it was a little ragged around the edges. The wood stairs were kind of worn and there was quite a lived-in quality to it. It was perhaps this particular ship, but we were also tethered to this year's ships and last year's ships that looked in excellent condition.
The glitch: On every cruise there is a glitch. On ours, it was an accident of a barge that ran into a bridge ahead of us and which prevented us from getting to Regensburg. We docked at an industrial site and were bused to Regensburg. We returned to the dock after the tour and the next morning, when we were supposed to have arrived in Nuremberg to switch ships, we had to take a bus to Nuremberg. The ride was under an hour and we went on our tour then were driven to the Kvasir and our bags were already in our cabins. The Kvasir passengers had their tour and were driven to where the Idi was docked to continue their trip to Budapest while we went on to Amsterdam. I must admit that Viking staff handled this unfortunate situation with expertise and know-how.
In part 2 of this review, I discuss the basic differences between the two ships in terms of staff since the ships themselves, apart from different art work, are essentially identical. The long and short of it is that the Idi staff (waitstaff, room attendants) were far superior to the staff on the Kvasir. The difference is in the management of the staff. On the Idi the waiters and waitress were on top of things at all times. They bent over backwards to make sure that you got what you wanted and needed quickly and efficiently. You could tell one waiter that you need more water and even if he is not the waiter assigned to your table, you would get it. There would be communication between the staff and the team work was amazing. On the Kvasir, you had to get your wine from one person and food from another and it had to be in order. If you changed your mind, you could tell it was a big deal to add a cheese plate to you order. On the Idi, it appeared effortless and passengers felt comfortable.
We also lucked out on the Idi with probably the best room attendant that ever lived. I will name her because she deserves all the accolades she can get. Zsuzsana was beyond the best. She was so attentive, that our room was on a continuous tidy up, add water, etc schedule. Our room would be cleaned while we were at breakfast, no matter when we went to breakfast. Whenever we got back to the room after breakfast, it was prepared for the day. If we used a towel or washcloth during the day, it would be replaced as would be our soap, gel, whatever we used. She was the greatest. (We had the worst room attendant possible on the ship when we switched to the Kvasir, unfortunately).
Another difference I don't discuss in part 2 of my review is the food. There were subtle differences between the two ships and I think that the menus are pretty standard but the cooking can be somewhat personalized. I think the Idi food was better, perhaps more expertly seasoned. I know that when we got to the Kvasir, the food was way over salted only on the first two days which made my mother's legs swell up. But generally the food was excellent on both ships. I stayed away from the fish and people at my table kept insisting the what was served as haddock was not in fact haddock. I did find out that they get their beef from Argentina and I have to say that anything I had that was beef was especially wonderful. Their venison was probably farmed because, although it was outstanding, it had no taste of game at all. The goulash soup served after the concert in Vienna was a tad on the tasteless side, definitely not one of the highlights of the trip.
The house wines were excellent. I have been interested in wine for a number of years and whoever makes the decisions for Viking has found some excellent reds from Austria and Hungary. The local whites were of course very good. I also fell in love with their house German black lager beer and had one every day at lunch.
What would have made this trip even better? Perhaps a staff member who does massage. Thai massage does not require disrobing and could have been used by many tired passengers. Perhaps a staff member who also gives yoga classes. This does not require a special room and it could be done on the sundeck. Perhaps, having information about the cruise available for download on an iPad. It would have been nice to sit on deck and know exactly where were were if there was a Viking app for that. I talked to the Program Director about the possibility of spending 2 days in Vienna. I had been to Vienna in the past so I had seen most of what I had wanted to prior to this cruise, but for people coming for the first time, there truly was not enough time. Perhaps, a little more time in Budapest would have also been nice for those not doing a pre-cruise there. We did our pre-cruise in Prague and only arrived late afternoon the first day in Budapest. Where do you cut? Well, past Koblenz, there's only Cologne and if you're there on a Sunday, apart from the Cathedral, there's not much to do. So I would cut that to half a day. I would probably eliminate Kinderdijk, or limit it to half a day. The tour to the windmills was interminable. It could have been done in an hour, yet we were there for what seemed forever and, at Kinderdijk, all day. I would extend Amsterdam, so that passengers disembarking there could have a day, like in Budapest, rather than having to leave immediately if they are not doing a post-cruise. Alternately, I would have been just as happy to end the cruise in Cologne and be bussed to Amsterdam for a post-cruise had there been an extra day in Vienna and Budapest. I know you can't please everyone all the time and when I look back at this cruise, it was simply wonderful. I will have beautiful photos and memories and in the end that's all that counts. Read Less
Viking has it down to a science! The river cruise was superb in every way. The happy-hour used to review the next day's itinerary+timing = fabulous! The moving of groups off the ship was smooth and efficient. City maps available the ... Read More
Viking has it down to a science! The river cruise was superb in every way. The happy-hour used to review the next day's itinerary+timing = fabulous! The moving of groups off the ship was smooth and efficient. City maps available the night before at the front desk. The local guides were the BEST available: lively, intelligent and enthusiastic. The transmitters were easy to use and protected from any screaming. The destinations were superb (Budapest, Vienna, Melk, Passau, Regensburg, Nuremberg). Every spot had a LOT to see and experience. The cruise director (George) had a terrific personality: vivacious and indefatigable!! The onboard personnel were attentive and gracious. The food was plentiful and delicious. All around BEST cruise experience!!! Read Less
My wife, Nancy, was sick when we came aboard, had to obtain a Doctor immediately, and she was sick the whole cruise which clouded my review of this trip. However, under these circumstances, I did enjoy the trip. The whole crew was very ... Read More
My wife, Nancy, was sick when we came aboard, had to obtain a Doctor immediately, and she was sick the whole cruise which clouded my review of this trip. However, under these circumstances, I did enjoy the trip. The whole crew was very supportive, obtaining a doctor, finding a taxi to fill the prescriptions, taking food into our stateroom for my wife, checking on her when I was off the ship, and many more kindnesses that I don't have room to tell you about.
The weather was fair to good, and I was able to go ashore without difficulty.
As on my previous trip in 2013, my time aboard the Prestige was great. The service and facilities were fantastic. I enjoyed every minute aboard -- the food was great, the lounge was comfortable and always available. The crew and the services they provided did an outstanding job-- each and every one. Read Less