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3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014
My husband and I have cruised on upscale larger ships and also took a Viking river cruise in China. We looked forward to a new travel experience in Europe. We started in Prague and stayed at the Intercontinental offered by Avalon. On the ... Read More
My husband and I have cruised on upscale larger ships and also took a Viking river cruise in China. We looked forward to a new travel experience in Europe. We started in Prague and stayed at the Intercontinental offered by Avalon. On the first day, and Avalon rep gathered us in a meeting room, provided a glass of champagne and then reviewed to trip. We were quite disappointed that there was no opportunity to meet other passengers, maybe by providing hors d'oeuvres and a social atmosphere. No clue as to where to spend our time or suggested restaurants in the area. Breakfast was good and the provided castle tour was nice plus the tour of the town square. The Avalon desk was not attended for most of our time there. Our transfer to the ship was add. While there was commentary by a guide, they stopped at a gas station like a 7-11 where we could purchase our own snacks. This was a 5 hour trip! Surprising to us that no food was provided like a box lunch. None of us spoke the local language and we did not have local money, Avalon didn't care. When we got to the ship, we were pleased with our cabin. We chose the cabin across from the two Royal Suites and were very happy we did. Perfect location, quiet and convenient. Our first meal was a disappointment and there was hardly any improvement during the entire trip in the quality of the food. There is only one seating for dinner but at least it is not fixed tables. There is typically a meat choice, a fish choice and a vegetarian main course for dinner. There are a few appetizer selections, plus soup. Surprisingly, you are asked to choose your dessert when you order the main course. There are also daily fixed choices: steak, chicken, fish. I chose Steak for my first meal. Tough and inedible. With less than 120 passengers at a sitting, one would think the meals could have been better and more creatively prepared. At almost every meal we were served string beans or asparagus wrapped in uncooked bacon. The baked potato was wrapped in tin foil, a sure giveaway that it was precooked. I left many meals uneaten and only one waiter ever asked if there was something wrong with the meal. Our first waiter, Vyrus, was so surly that we couldn't wait to get away from his table and never sat in his section again. Big surprise at lunch and dinner was complimentary soft drinks plus wine and beer. The chef, a really nice guy name Attila, did come around and ask how we liked the food and our entire table fessed up to the disappointment. He then tried to improve and a few subsequent meals were a little better and then slipped back again to barely tolerable. We blamed the quality of the produce and meats, but also the preparation. A few other topics of interest: Our cruise director was Nicco (SP?). I think his paperwork was much more important to him than people. With 119 passengers, mostly couples so we are at 60 or so unique names, you would think he could make an effort to recognize us preferable by name but we felt like we were in his way. After a day, my traveling companions and I asked if he could help us find bridge partners. There was no attempt for him to organize any kind of on-board games. We finally were able to find a few people and had a good time while going thru the endless locks. Except for one day towards the end, we got no commentary during our trip down the river. We had no idea where we were or what towns we were passing. For tours, we were give a 2 - 3 hour tour and then we were back on the boat. One day there was an optional afternoon trip to Rothenberg. At what we paid for this trip, would it be out of reason to expect this to be included? No option to visit local eateries except a coffee drink one day. It was probably our itinerary but the first few days on the boat we were very disappointed and felt we had made a terrible mistake with this venue. One option would have been to get off the boat and go into a local town and then rejoin the boat via bus and bypass a few locks. They were tedious. We do hope to take other river cruises, but I am afraid Avalon would not be our first choice or even second.   Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014
My wife and I are very experienced river cruisers. We have completed about a dozen to date, including three previously with Uniworld. After very good experiences with them, when we saw their promotion of a Grand European Voyage, our only ... Read More
My wife and I are very experienced river cruisers. We have completed about a dozen to date, including three previously with Uniworld. After very good experiences with them, when we saw their promotion of a Grand European Voyage, our only hesitation was the price. We thought it very expensive, and by far the most costly we have ever undertaken: but it was for 29 days and it was from one side of Europe to the other. In addition, we are something of ‘culture vultures’ and it seemed the opportunity of a lifetime to see a number of small countries that we might otherwise never visit, as well as return to major cities like Budapest and Vienna. So a top-class company, top-class itinerary, top-class price and inevitably top-class expectations. The River Princess; one, I believe, of four very similar vessels, was completely satisfactory as a ship and as a hotel. Service, cleanliness, comfort and enthusiastic staff were completely out of the top-drawer for my taste. However, our dining experiences fell well short of what we have had experienced before and indeed what we expected for the money we were paying. Breakfast and lunch; both buffet service: were exemplary, but Dinner was frankly, not good enough. Menu choices were far too narrow and if you don’t like fish and prefer red meat as I do, on too many occasions it was a struggle. True, they offer steak as an alternative, but in my experience on at least two occasions, it was inedible. When I complained, some interesting and very good food was prepared, as a “special”. But I became tired of having to complain and became embarrassed in front of other passengers at our tables, who wondered why we were getting special treatment. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I was also frequently disappointed by the range of options available as on-shore excursions. I expected places like Budapest and Vienna (we spent four days in Vienna) to be stuffed full of cultural opportunities organised by the ship. They weren’t. In the mornings we would have options that clashed and in the afternoons nothing at all. Uniworld in the past have employed excellent local guides who really know their stuff. In art galleries and museums, they know the locations (perhaps changed) of key exhibits and they can talk about what you are looking at without endless references to a guidebook. Of course, not everyone wants to spend their time looking at architecture or museums. But they are not forced to take these excursions, but I was very disappointed in Uniworld’s minimalist approach. The overall itinerary I thoroughly approved of, but it was the detailed execution that let us down. For us this was a high-stakes holiday. We spent a lot of money with a company that I respected highly. I cannot recommend their Grand European River Voyage or its components if you are looking for a detailed overview of trans-European culture. We were very fortunate with the weather and a lot of the scenery was magnificent, but that’s only part of the story. We paid top-dollar and certainly in the dining room and on-shore, I felt we did not receive value for money.   Read Less
Sail Date: August 2014
Most nights we were docked back at Bordeaux. It's just a crazy cruise itinerary. Seeing the same place over and over was a tad boring. All of the bus trips took hours and hours to get to the area. By the time you got back to the ship, ... Read More
Most nights we were docked back at Bordeaux. It's just a crazy cruise itinerary. Seeing the same place over and over was a tad boring. All of the bus trips took hours and hours to get to the area. By the time you got back to the ship, there was no time to do local walking except after dark. The tour guides on the bus would tell you to go to sleep because there was nothing to see on the way to the truffles, Bay of Arcachon & Cognac. The tours themselves were worth the drive, but our legs swelled up from all the sitting. We could not do some tours because the other ones conflicted. On the drive through PAUILLAC (MARGAUX), FRANCE we were driving around and around the same areas back and forth. The dinner at a chateaux was not really in a chateaux, but rather a new building built to hold events. We were not allowed in the real chateaux. The food was prepared and served by the same Viking staff from the ship. Wine was from the local vineyard. I did not like this cruise and would advise people rent a car to see the region. The rivers are a muddy run off mess with nothing to see along the way, unlike the Elba Viking cruise we had been on previously. Our room was large and we had a balcony, which was below the dock most of the time. Useless for views. Most of the time traveling was at night. The trip to SAINT-ÉMILION was a fiasco with busses not appearing on time and people feeling stranded by the guides. The town is not an easy walk for some people and the cripples were not warned. I am glad I saw it while still in good health. They should rename the cruise "Bordeaux to Bordeaux". Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014
The cultural experience in China was excellent. The guides and ship staff were pleasant and hard working. English language skills were very good. The Viking Emerald, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Although the on-line information ... Read More
The cultural experience in China was excellent. The guides and ship staff were pleasant and hard working. English language skills were very good. The Viking Emerald, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Although the on-line information states that the ship was built in 2011, it is obviously a much older ship, possibly refurbished several times. The cabin floors were uneven and the bathrooms were very dated. The ship sported several different names on signs on midship and on the bow, so perhaps it is used by different cruise lines simultaneously. Food in the dining room was all right, as long as there were western-style meals served. If the menu was announced as "traditional Chinese dinner" you could count on really cheap cuts of meat, flavorless noodles and sauces and little variety in vegetables. We found it humorous that the chef's biggest claim to fame was the breakfast yogurt--which was good, but hardly something to write home about. The on-board informational talks were all given by the cruise director. While a nice person, he was hardly an expert in all of the topics that he tried to talk about, so the level of each talk was at about a 6th grade level. He was unable to answer most questions that were put to him. The on-board entertainment consisted entirely of different members of the ship's crew (cabin attendants, diningroom staff, security personnel) who had been dressed in different outfit/costumes and then waltzed around the dance floor swinging their arms. Nice effort, but completely amateur. The land portion of the cruise tour was very good. The hotels were excellent 4-5 star. Air travel within China was what you would expect for a tour group, but our main Viking guide facilitated everything very smoothly. The ports were what we came for, and were not disappointed. A lot of walking was required. We greatly enjoyed the huge number of cultural sights included in the tour, and the local guides provided by Viking were appreciated, although their English skills were not as good as the main guide's. The constant tipping took a little getting used to, but the main Viking guide facilitated the passengers acquisition of smaller local currency to make this process easier. It was a trip we will remember for the rest of our lives.   Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014
My family of six (88, 61, 59, 29, 25, & 18 years old) took the two Owner's cabins, which each can hold three people and are located on the top deck, next to the captain's cabin. The captain was always at the helm or corner ... Read More
My family of six (88, 61, 59, 29, 25, & 18 years old) took the two Owner's cabins, which each can hold three people and are located on the top deck, next to the captain's cabin. The captain was always at the helm or corner pilots stations when we traversed locks or did anything tricky, and his mate was usually there, also. The captain was also very friendly, making a point to greet all the passengers and often welcoming us back to the ship. I would guess that the average age of passengers was upper 70's. There was only one other person in the younger age group at 45 years old. The age of passengers only mattered because it limited the activities on excursions significantly. Most excursions only allowed an hour and a half to do anything. We took a 4 hour round trip to the Mount St. Helen's observatory (too cloudy to see), but only had a little over an hour there because that was the most any passengers would have liked except our group. We were the only ones who went walking on the trails. This made for pretty dull sight seeing. Even at a museum, everyone (except us) was pretty pooped after an hour and wanted to go before the allotted time was up. This should be taken into consideration when considering this cruise. If you aren't pretty sedentary, you'll probably find the trip more relaxing than you'd want. The most enjoyable trips were Multnomah Falls and walking the trails at Mount St. Helens, although we had to walk quite fast since the visits were short. We also really enjoyed the Bonneville Dam visit. Going through the locks was quite memorable, and I think we traversed 8 of them. The staff are young and personable. Actually, they're the friendliest hospitality employees I've ever encountered. However, they are not competent. The food service was incredibly slow. We took to bringing water into the dining room at lunch when we would otherwise have to wait for drinks service because we would get too thirsty. The waits were interminable. The same people who served meals also cleaned the cabins. They were very poor at this. I don't know if the staff weren't trained well or if there were too few of them, but I would have expected better. The food itself was not good. It was generally bland. Fish like salmon and steelhead trout were overcooked, as was chicken. The only protein I had that was really well cooked was duck. We had lots of salads, and they had a couple of dressings that were very good. The worst dish was an entree they called deviled crab. It was a gratinee dish full of some creamy liquid and a few very tiny pieces of crab. We didn't really take much advantage of the available entertainment as it wasn't to our taste. That doesn't mean it might not have been done very well. I wouldn't take another American Cruise Lines trip. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
My wife and I have just returned from cruising along the Danube from Nuremburg to Budapest. Much of what your previous correspondent said I fully agree with, although I have to say that we found the food generally pretty good. Staff were ... Read More
My wife and I have just returned from cruising along the Danube from Nuremburg to Budapest. Much of what your previous correspondent said I fully agree with, although I have to say that we found the food generally pretty good. Staff were pleasant and attentive and kept the ships public areas as well as our cabin spotlessly clean. Compared to an ocean going cruise this is an expensive holiday and we were looking forward to something very special. Sadly the organisation and accommodation failed to reach anything like expectations. Our flights from Manchester with Lufthansa were booked through Emerald. Our outgoing flight was at 7.15 am necessitating an early start leaving home at 4.00am. We arrived at Munich mid morning and then had a 90minute coach trip to Nurenburg. On arrival we were advised that the cabins would not be ready until 3.00pm. There was an option to take a coach to Nurenburg to explore the city. Having been on the go since 4.00am we were in need of refreshment. A very limited menu was available including the smallest plate of fish and chips you have ever seen, at a cost of £12.50 per portion. For the price paid for this holiday I would have expected complimentary sandwiches or at least a light buffet and soft drinks. Cost containment? Not a good first impression. We paid a premium for a Panorama Balcony Cabin on deck 3, it was small, so small that the sliding door into the toilet/shower room was no more than 12ins from the bed. Who wants to sleep right next to the loo door! Emerald place great importance on their innovative sliding windows. Yes, the top window does slide down giving you the opportunity to stick your neck out and admire the countryside. However, if you sit down, your view is interrupted by a thick wooden bar in the middle of the window, requiring you to either stretch your neck above it, or bend your neck to avoid it. When you dock, you frequently get other ships docking alongside you making these sliding widows completely useless. Also, if you don't want others from the adjoining ship peering into your cabin you have to draw the blinds down making the cabin during daylight hours gloomy and for all practicable purposes unusable. At the end of the holiday our return flights were booked from Budapest departing the ship at 4.00pm then flying to Frankfurt, before catching a connecting flight to Manchester at 9.55pm arriving Manchester at 10.40pm. My wife and I are both retired and considered these arrangements very inconvenient especially at the end of the holiday At the time of booking at the beginning of September I inquired with Emerald as to whether there were earlier or more direct flights. This apparently was not the case and no alternatives were offered. So it came somewhat of a surprise to find from other guests who had booked after us that they were returning on an early afternoon flight to Manchester. Whilst killing time waiting at Budapest airport, surprise, surprise, a Ryanair flight direct to Manchester took off at 5.25pm. So much for Emerald's customer help and advice, or rather lack of it. For the cruise price being charged, Emerald will have to do a lot better than this if they are going to improve customer satisfaction. We did enjoy the cruise along the Danube, but for the reasons given we did not feel 'valued' and will not be returning customers, better value and service can be found elsewhere! H B Jones   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
Our trip was the first week in July 2014, "Portraits of Southern France" sailing on the Viking River Cruise's longship Heimdal. Read the Cruise Critic's overview of the Viking Heimdal, it is spot on in its description ... Read More
Our trip was the first week in July 2014, "Portraits of Southern France" sailing on the Viking River Cruise's longship Heimdal. Read the Cruise Critic's overview of the Viking Heimdal, it is spot on in its description of the Ship. I must begin by saying the longship Heimdal is flawless. Beautiful accommodations, public rooms and all sparkling clean. Coffee/tea/hot chocolate and cookies always in the common areas. Truly wonderful. STAFF...all very pleasant and efficient. rating 5+++ The longship itself, excellent. rating 4.95 Tour guides, fabulous, knowledgeable, witty, pleasant. rating 5 The towns where we docked and toured, rating 5 Very good food. rating 4.25 If you read the Cruise Critic's description of the cabins however, I have to disagree with several items. The glass showers are not snug...we felt they were roomy and well designed...the shower door does however leave a small puddle on the bathroom floor but it is not in the main walking area...of course your bathroom room is tidied and cleaned at least once a day, more if needed. Also we thought the toilets had super-power flushes unlike what was described in the cabin description. The rooms are well sound-proofed with the only noise from the neighbors being if you are in the bathroom and they flush you can hear that a little. It was fabulous having the normal European 220 volt AND the American 110 volt sockets..and plenty of them. The WIFI was not as good as the description said if you had an IPad. Many people who brought along Ipads had to sit in public areas to get WIFI while if you had a computer, you could get reception in your room. I was sitting on the sundeck of the Heimdal on the last day in Avignon and I got reception on my Ipad from the Uniworld boat which was two boat lengths away from us but no signal from either of the Viking ships which were tethered together at one dock space, the Heimdal or the Hermod. It would be worth the money for Viking to boost the WIFI for all annoyance it caused. What was not so good? 1. The Heimdal Nearly everything about the boat is fabulous. These were the only 3 problems: -There is not enough seating in the lounge for all of the passengers to be able to attend the daily briefings or presentations. -The French balcony rooms only have one place to sit in a cabin for 2 people. -The unpleasant sewage smell in the public areas of the boat when docked in Avignon. (we were told that happens when 2 boats are docked together sometimes...yuck) 2. Last minute embarkation dock/town switch with no explanation. Our experience was exactly the same as reported in an earlier review written by "Atkinsonguy" whose cruise was in May 2014. We had rented a car and traveled toward Chalon-Sur-Saone where we were to embark when we received a last minute email that we would be embarking in Lyon...no explanation of why...We too, drove back to Lyon to find the Heimdal. Luckily we had wi-fi where we were staying... 3. The planning of our time while in Lyon... For four days we sat in Lyon. The first night some things were delayed because a group of people would be arriving later than most of us. Apparently that was the Paris pre-trip extension. We were fortunate as our cabin faced the river and we could see the activity on the river as well as the other bank and the hill behind with the ever-changing dramatic sky. We had friends who paid for a full balcony who were on the other side of the boat and all they saw was a concrete wall and the quay...they felt unable to sit on their balcony because of all the people on the quay. She said, "We were the entertainment for the people walking by." They just stopped using the balcony. We never got to walk around Chalon-Su-Saone or the other towns on the Saone which might have been a good thing to do on Sunday (as nothing is open in Lyon). But the decision was made to take us on the tour of old Lyon on Sunday (the tour was fabulous) but our free time was given when no museums or even shopping was available. Monday we were bussed to Beaune on a cramped, uncomfortable bus...2 hours up and nearly 3 hours back (terrific traffic jams outside the tunnel going back into Lyon) We were given 1 hour of free time from 12 to 1pm...but of course everything closes between 12 and 2. The lunch served at a nearby restaurant was the worst meal I have had in years. When the plates were collected after the meal, all 8 of the people at our table still had half the food left on their plates as it was inedible. It really surprised me that Atkinsonguy reported the same thing happened in May...and apparently Viking did nothing to improve the food or change the restaurant. Again we had a terrific guide and great tour of the hospital for 45 minutes. The 45 minute wine tasting was not worth going to as the wines were not to most of the group's taste. We wanted to go to some museums in Lyon and I was told the only time I would have to do that was Tuesday morning but I'd have to be back on the boat by 11:15am as we would be leaving at that time. Had I chosen to go that would have given me about 45 minutes at one museum. It was explained that the water was too high for the boat to make it under the bridges and that is why we would be missing sailing on the Saone River. I understand that this can happen but choices about how to get us on our tours and to spend time in the cities and villages should be made with the thought of maximizing our opportunities during free time...to have a reasonable amount of free time when we are able to actually see and do things. Also it was sad to lose half our cruising time on the river.. 4. The sundeck and walking track. Once we got underway spirits lifted but then another issue bothered a lot of us...as Atkinsonguy said, "Vikings literature states "Weather permitting, the ship‘s sun dec is its most popular area when the ship is sailing." Not true on this cruise. The weather was mostly fair but the sun deck was NEVER opened when the ship was moving." The same was true on the July sailing. They closed the sundeck. That put smokers in the side verandahs off the reception area which often put smoke in the hallways and made the common areas midship unavailable to nonsmokers if they wanted a smoke-free environment. We got to go on the sundeck the first full day in Lyon and the last day in Avignon. Not the cruising experience I imagined while watching all the Viking ads on TV. Are we glad we took this cruise despite the negatives? leaning toward YES because they have a good product but poor planning in optimizing our time when unable to follow the itinerary impacted the experience. The decision makers didn't seem to listen to feedback from passengers about the bad lunch in Beaune reported in May yet in July passengers have the same bad experience. We reported uncomfortable busses and were told the next day there were better busses, but the last day they were back to the cramped conditions where anyone a bit taller had their knees poking into the backs of the seats in front of them again. (and therefore into the backs of the people in those seats) Knowing what we know now about river cruising and what can go wrong, (too high or too low water and the problems that brings which caused us to miss half our cruising time or inability to ride along on the sundeck or use the track) would we take another Viking river cruise? Definitely not. Too much money and not worth the risk that you can miss half of your sailing/cruising experience. Now you will know some of the questions to ask before you plan your cruise...because the people who take your booking over the phone (and your payment) are extremely helpful in answering all your questions. I found them personable and extremely helpful. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
Overall: I think it is very tricky to try to add Americans to what was once a mainly German cruise line. The announcements were in English and German and all the printed materials were in English and German. We did get an all-English ... Read More
Overall: I think it is very tricky to try to add Americans to what was once a mainly German cruise line. The announcements were in English and German and all the printed materials were in English and German. We did get an all-English newsletter every day and an all-English “Daily Calendar” The staff was pretty much bi-lingual, but their first language was German, so they spoke to one another in German. In spite of all that, this could be a good cruise for people who are looking for a middle of the road cruise. The pricing is lower than AMA or Avalon and the inclusion of all alcoholic beverages could be a plus for some travelers. In speaking with another agent on board, she said that her experience on the newer ship on the Rhine was much better. The food was far superior and cabins were nicer. Lounge: The lounge and bar area seems to be quite small. It was always well used. At times there was nowhere to go to find a quiet space to check emails. In the front of the boat, the lounge looks over a lot of equipment, disrupting the view. The dining room: The dining room was attractive and set up for people to interact. After any meal they did ask you to leave so they could set up for the next meal. This happened several times, and we moved to the lounge where it was difficult to have a quiet conversation. Sun Deck: This space has a large seating area and a pool with lounge chairs. The weather was cool and rainy, so no one used the pool. On good days people sat and visited. Since smoking is allowed on the sun deck and there were numerous smokers,we opted to stay in the lounge most of the time. Meals: Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style, with no ordering off the menu. There was an option for egg dishes like omelets and scrambled eggs made on the spot to your specs. Breads, cold cuts, cereals and fruits were available. Regular coffee, hot chocolate and tea were available. Generally no pastries were offered in the morning, only muffin halves. Dinner was buffet on three nights and on the other nights there was a set menu with three choices: meat, fish or vegetarian. I was quite disappointed in the food. The cereals offered for breakfast were: mueseli, corn flakes and cocoa puffs. There was a pot of porridge available. We thought it tasted like gummy oatmeal. The yogurt was put in a large bowl to ladle out by ourselves and was poorly labeled. Many times the food was cold by the time I got it to our table as there were many people trying to get at the buffet. Since this is a German company, there were foods offered that were not usually part of the American diet, such as herring for breakfast and rabbit for dinner. Dessert mainly consisted of cakes and puddings. There was a mid-afternoon coffee and tea service that included cakes and desserts. Excursions: Excursions were set up so that the English-speaking people were on one bus with one tour guide and the German speakers were on another bus. The German bus had about 12 people and the English speaking bus had about 33 people. There was no differentiation in the large group by abilities. (no gentle walker or active walker groups) so we kept to the pace of the slow walkers, some of whom used crutches. This made the tours tedious for people who wanted to see more. In Arles, we decided to just walk the town on our own. Americans were treated to lunch at Paul Boucuse Restaurant in Lyon. Paul Bocuse is a 3-star Michelin chef, so lunch was a fabulous treat. I would say that it was one of the highlights of the cruise. The other guests were not invited, nor were aware of this excursion until the Americans returned and were gushing over the wonderful food. The excursion to the Ardeche, which included a visit to the Lavender museum and lavender fields was well worth it, although we spent a lot of time on the bus.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2014
Sailed with Viking River Cruises (Emerald boat) Imperial Jewels of China. The land portion of the tour in Beijing/Xian/Shanghai were wonderful with fabulous 5 star hotels. The Yangtze River cruise needs some help-maybe 3 stars if I am ... Read More
Sailed with Viking River Cruises (Emerald boat) Imperial Jewels of China. The land portion of the tour in Beijing/Xian/Shanghai were wonderful with fabulous 5 star hotels. The Yangtze River cruise needs some help-maybe 3 stars if I am generous. The ship supposedly is not that old but looks really shabby inside and out. Carpets are worn, floors are warped, room has mold on ceilings due to the high humidity, bathrooms in staterooms are vinyl and tired. The river itself is so polluted and dirty with trash floating down all the time that your balcony will not be used. The embarkation is a dirty side street along the river bank with many steps old stone steps to maneuver down-no modern port-felt bad for older folks trying to carry luggage down. No entertainment on board-some mahjong classes, lectures, staff variety show-very cheesy. Excusions were very good-side trips into the 3 Gorges is breathtaking & prettier than the main river. Navigating the locks were very impressive as well. Overall choose this tour because it gets you to all the major attractions safely and just realize the river cruise is not up to Western big companies such as Celebrity and Norwegian. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
We had a fantastic trip filled with memorable experiences. Russia is an amazing country with awe inspiring monuments, museums, culture and heritage. The people are proud of their country and welcome visitors. They are shaped by many ... Read More
We had a fantastic trip filled with memorable experiences. Russia is an amazing country with awe inspiring monuments, museums, culture and heritage. The people are proud of their country and welcome visitors. They are shaped by many appalling events in their history. I think Moscow to St Petersburg is the best way to do it as I would not like to face Moscow traffic and travel times at the end of the trip. The crew on Viking Truvor were friendly, helpful and knowledgeable, particularly the tour escorts who enhanced the experience. The ship is well appointed and there is no doubt that Viking is the major player in Russia and has preferred access to berths, tour destinations, buses etc. I have some complaints about Viking's organisation. They may seem petty but it is often the small things which make all the difference. I consider this to have been an expensive cruise (£10,000) and do not feel it was good value for money. Consider all the cruise companies who operate in Russia (and there are many) and perhaps these points may help you make up your mind. The deposit seems very high: £2000 paid over 1 year in advance. The flights are in line with most tour companies, but the transfer time was 1 hour, which is fine if all goes well, but our flight from St Petersburg was delayed (and I got the impression this happens quite often), we made our connection by running through Zurich airport, but our luggage didn't. We were unable to check in online with Swiss.com. The majority of fellow passengers were American and Australian. They seemed to have been offered a range of incentives which were not available to UK guests: 2 for 1, free flight, free gratuities, free premium drink packages, welcome bottle in cabin. So that's all the negatives, now for the cruise itself. Domodedovo airport Moscow is 2 hours from the river port. The traffic in Moscow is horrendous and trips to and from the port take 1 hour on average. We enjoyed all the tours in Moscow, but the Folklore Show was outstanding. The cruise along the waterways is relaxing after all the crowds in Moscow. We saw lots of ospreys but wildlife is not abundant. The ports of call are fascinating although I would have liked more free time to explore independently after the main tour, but the distances travelled are so large I don't think that's possible and of course you don't have to take the organised tour. Dollars seemed to be the preferred currency in most outlets. Life on board ship was very relaxed, the food was excellent and the service was prompt and efficient. The dock at St Petersburg is disappointing. It is not easy to travel into the city independently and there is nothing to explore in the vicinity. There were no tours scheduled for the final day, although you could purchase optional tours. I don't understand why we had 2 very heavy tours the day before. There are huge crowds, but we had early access to St Catherine's palace, although I think a lot of tour companies do this. L'Hermitage, the summer palace and the ballet are all amazing. So, although I have reservstions about Viking, I have no hesitation in recommending Russia as a truly memorable experience. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2014
On the plus side, the rooms were large, great itinerary, included all shore excursions (due to many complaints and mixed messages, both from the office and on board), room steward and dining waiters were very friendly and helpful, nice ... Read More
On the plus side, the rooms were large, great itinerary, included all shore excursions (due to many complaints and mixed messages, both from the office and on board), room steward and dining waiters were very friendly and helpful, nice lunches at The Grand Hotel and Pillar & Post, computers on board as well as 2 hours of free wi-fi a day if you had your own computer/ipad, Unfortunately, the negatives outweighed the positives. The first night our rug was soaked with water due to a broken pipe (room next to ours was in worse shape). They didn't have enough equipment, so we had to wait until they got more dryers & dehumidifers the next day. Then, we had the noise of that equipment for the next 3 days. Others had water problems, too. One room had water on the bathroom floor 4 of the 10 days aboard. The ship was full, so no one could be moved, except the people who complained about noise (see previous review) and exchanged with the musicians when others had more serious water problems! Staff were not honest about the problem--said it would be taken care of while we were at dinner but nothing was done. Communication, or lack thereof, was a problem the whole trip. The concert in Parry Sound was 2 hours late. We were 2 hours late to Niagara Falls, resulting in longer lines and eating lunch at 2 p.m. followed by cocktail party at 5:30 and dinner at 6:30. The onboard lecturer, Blake, was condescending, arrogant, and added nothing to the trip. We didn't meet anyone who liked him. We had problems with meeting family in Holland, although I tried to make arrangements beforehand. Lots of bad information from office and on cruise; however, a local Holland rep solved the problems--THANKS TO LINDA. Food was average compared to other riverboat cruises we have taken. Desserts were very dry. We have been on 5 US river cruises & 1 in Europe, and there were more problems on this cruise than all the others combined. We are not usually complainers, but I wrote 4 pages of comments to Pearl Seas. We will not recommend the Pearl Mist. Too bad because it is a nice ship. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2014
We just got back from Portugal after a trip on Uniworld's Queen Isabel Duoro River cruise. Since several of our fellow travelers had sailed with Uniworld many times before and raved about the experience, we had great expectations. So ... Read More
We just got back from Portugal after a trip on Uniworld's Queen Isabel Duoro River cruise. Since several of our fellow travelers had sailed with Uniworld many times before and raved about the experience, we had great expectations. So here are my downsides and upsides comments. The downsides: While the boat is relatively new, it certainly lacks the style of the other Uniworld boats, based on the glossy photos in the brochures and reports from our friends. And while the crew was generally friendly, the service was very uneven, especially at dinner, suggesting insufficient training and supervision. Waiters would come once and then disappear and have to be hunted down for refills of the water glasses. It was the food, however, that was the big disappointment. The first evening I had a pasta and vegetable dish (being a vegetarian) and I was dismayed to realize that the veggies were frozen and the pasta cooked well into mush territory. Yikes. This is not a complicated dish to prepare well! Subsequent meals were similar, ranging from the kind of grub you generally get at a business convention to slightly better than standard fare. Breakfast was generally much more interesting and varied. The wines served at the meals were basic plonk which is kind of inexcusable since there are some very good Portuguese wines that are quite inexpensive (I drink them at home). The upsides: The Duoro River is achingly beautiful, underdeveloped and with little boat traffic. The excursions were well thought-out and organized and led by the incomparable Kirsten (who turned out to be the only Uniworld employee on board). We embarked and disembarked at Porto which has gone to the top of my list of European cities to photograph - visually rich and exciting. Conclusion: 3 days into the trip, we learned that the Isabelle is chartered from Duoro Azul which also owns the boats used by Viking and AMA and essentially has the monopoly on this route. So, what we had was an Azul experience, not a Uniworld experience and I was told by many fellow passengers to please not judge Uniworld by this particular cruise. Bottom line: if you want to sail the Duoro, be aware of the charter situation and price shop; no need to pay Uniworld prices since Azul services them all. Note also that I am taking all of the comments about Uniworld's other cruises seriously and booking a trip on the Danube to celebrate my 60th birthday. Second time a charm? Let's hope so! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2014
The organisation of flights, transfers and trips was excellant.The ship was comfortable very clean and the staff were always cheerful and friendly and requests were dealt with quickly. Meals were of a good standard but portions were small, ... Read More
The organisation of flights, transfers and trips was excellant.The ship was comfortable very clean and the staff were always cheerful and friendly and requests were dealt with quickly. Meals were of a good standard but portions were small, we did feel cakes mid afternoon would have been nice.We would have liked more entertainment, there were local acts on a couple of occassions, but nothing during the day while cruising and as the sun deck was closed on occassions because of low bridges you had to either sit on your balconyc[fine if you are on the sunny side of the ship and if it isn't raining] or in the lounge. There was a resident pianist playing a lot of the time but i feel more could be provided especially in inclement weather.I felt it was wrong of the cruise director to ask us to inflate marks given on the survey form and I also objected to being asked to tip because the tips make up half of the crews wages,they should be paid adequately by Viking. The ship arrived at Nuremberg 5 hours early,Viking organised 2 coaches for those who wished to go into the town on a first come basis,we decided not to go into town as we were going on a tour after lunch.It was a beautiful day and we along with other people thought it would be nice to sit on the sun deck but it was closed for some unknown reason,there was nowhere to walk as we were moored by scrub land which had a motoway running alongside it and the tow path was closed our balcony on the other side of the ship looked at an industrial site,a wasted morning.There are improvements needed to justify the price. could say more but there is no more room Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2014
All my friends do Viking so I liked being different and felt that Avalon was a step up. The ship was new and very pretty. Unfortunately we rafted to Tauck and Uniworld and saw a big difference in décor. For example when the US was playing ... Read More
All my friends do Viking so I liked being different and felt that Avalon was a step up. The ship was new and very pretty. Unfortunately we rafted to Tauck and Uniworld and saw a big difference in décor. For example when the US was playing Germany in soccer one of these ships had big TVs set up in the lounge just for that night (I asked) and many were watching. We went aboard our ship and not a creature was stirring. The food was OK, the cleanliness was fine. A special food and wine pairing one had to sign up for was run by the staff who as it turned out just served and couldn't tell us any information on what was being served and also couldn't get the plates away from us fast enough. My table of six found it laughable but sad. This was unlike the professional beer tasting they did earlier. Also, in my many years of cruising I have always done room service for breakfast. This was available with a very austere menu of almost no choices plus the notation that a service would be added- something I have never come across before on my many cruises from Azamara on down. They never left a breakfast menu after that! We had one tour guide for 140 some people- not enough of Tony to go around but he worked hard. We did a Grand Circle a year ago with 100 people and three full time guides on board. Also, in the restaurant they were understaffed. I noticed that just one waiter, one night when we ate by ourselves and I had time to observe, took orders and delivered all the entrees on my side of the boat. The second waiter poured the wine. Worst of all was when we arrived and were told to go into the bar to order a drink- which I did. When I was asked my room number I incredulously asked if I was going to be charged. When told yes I glared and walked away. We had just come from at least a three hour bus ride passing Nuremberg because the river was closed to traffic and we needed to board at Passau. This was only nature's fault but I expected more than the raspberry juice I was told was complimentary! Not the normal welcoming on any ship. The entertainer on board most nights was very non engaging. The optional tours we took were good. I was disappointed from the expectations I had for this cruise to mark our 40th wedding anniversary. Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2014
This was our first river cruise in France, and perhaps our last, for reasons below. The ship is well run, with a mix of Germans, Brits and Norwegians. Language was not a problem, but for English announcements were always a follow-up to ... Read More
This was our first river cruise in France, and perhaps our last, for reasons below. The ship is well run, with a mix of Germans, Brits and Norwegians. Language was not a problem, but for English announcements were always a follow-up to German, still what do you expect on a German ship. Meals were a big disappointment, the brochure described the food as European. In France I thought they would make the effort to include French style meals, no such luck. Beautiful soft French cheeses were on board, but not served at Dinner, except 2 instances. Fine if you like it for breakfast. The wine selection was good, but not premium wines, these cost extra. The no, no of this cruise was the sun-deck allowed smoking everywhere including the dining area. When will river cruise companies realise that the majority of passengers are non-smokers, and dislike intensely cigarette smoke, especially when eating or sitting on deck looking at the view. I will not be river cruising again until they change smoking policy. All sea going companies now restrict smoking to specific areas. We enjoyed the scenery and compliment the crew, especially the Maitre d' for doing their best with a full ship. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2014
I had heard people rave about how wonderful these river cruises were with Viking. Unfortunately, for the amount of money we paid, I was rather disappointed. I will start with the positive: The people who worked aboard the ship were ... Read More
I had heard people rave about how wonderful these river cruises were with Viking. Unfortunately, for the amount of money we paid, I was rather disappointed. I will start with the positive: The people who worked aboard the ship were terrific, the food was incredible, the excursions were extraordinary, and the scenery on the river was out of this world. My husband and I went during early June and the temperatures were anywhere from 75-80 F(perfect) so there is not reason why we were hot aboard the ship the majority of the time. I was uncomfortable at times during the night and during dinner. Secondly, the advertisement for Viking is that everything is inclusive. That's true if you are happy with one included excursion per day which was over by lunch time at 12:30. After lunch you could do one of 3 things: 1) Take a nap, 2) Get off the ship by yourself and explore but sometimes you were not near the city center, 3) Or PAY for another excursion which is what we did if we wanted something to do during the afternoon. I was also disappointed with the all inclusive beer and wine during lunch and dinner. The wine was terrible and cheap! They served cheap wine from Australia on a European river cruise. So my husband and I opted to buy an additional wine package for the two of us. Also, their is no evening entertainment that is good so basically you can hang out at the bar after dinner, go to your room at 8:30, or go for an evening stroll(and again you may not be at a city center). Our room was also a box. I have never stayed in such a small room on a ship before. I'm not saying there weren't beautiful and exquisite parts to this river cruise but Viking should not advertise "all inclusive" when it really isn't up to superior standards for what you pay.   Read Less
Sail Date: May 2014
Trip started with an overnight stay in Memphis at the Hilton. Hotel was in East Memphis but was within walking distance of a small mall so convenient for picking up last minute items at Target. Food at hotel restaurant was very good and ... Read More
Trip started with an overnight stay in Memphis at the Hilton. Hotel was in East Memphis but was within walking distance of a small mall so convenient for picking up last minute items at Target. Food at hotel restaurant was very good and reasonably priced. There was a delay in checking in as they had assigned my elderly aunt and I a king bed rather than two queens - the American Queen staff on-site ( a young lady by the name of Ms. Cruz) was very helpful. Extra AQ staff at the hotel would be a good idea - long line ups to ask questions about information that was contained in the literature provided. Transfer to ship was relatively smooth. You were able to pick up a scheduled departure ticket. We had to check out at noon but our departure was not until 3:15. The earliest departure was 2:30. We chose to carry our own luggage on board rather than have someone come to our room at 8 am to pick it up. Public areas on board were comfortable and well maintained. The Grand Saloon was the location of onboard entertainment which was surprising very good. The first night there was a wonderful singer, there were shipboard entertainers (two men and two women) a few nights, a New Orleans "Dixie" band another night and an interesting husband and wife team playing a variety of string instruments. The riverlorian lectures were very interesting and worth attending. Lots of seating but the balconies went first - two balcony sections are reserved for the suite cabins and the other balcony sections were often saved by one person in a group going very early to "hold" seats. Not a big issue as the view was good from all seats. We were on late seating in the J. M. White dining room so our entertainment started 6:30, usually over by 7:30 which left us about 30 minutes for a pre-dinner drink in the Main Deck Lounge (just outside the dining room) with piano tunes by Phil. There was a plunge pool, good for a refreshing dip; a small, but well equipped exercise room (just behind the pool); and, several good bars. The River Grill had a great bartender but was often extremely busy, especially at sail away for the calliope concerts (the "grill" consisted of hot dogs on a rotating machine - think "The Simpsons"). The Engine Room Bar was a good stop and had outside areas very close to the paddlewheel (look out for the spray - I imagine the aft cabins on decks 3 and 4 were surprised by the amount of spray even a few decks up) Very sound pretty good so far right! There were drink specials daily and the wine served at dinner was of good quality. The disappointing part of the cruise was the food. The most disappointing food onboard was the bread. Every night our wait staff came around with dinner rolls etc but each night the bread was really terrible. There were a sufficient number of choices (at least two main courses listed and other main offerings available, although you had to ask about the "daily specials"). We learned too late that these daily specials were often the best choice as they were individually prepared. The food was good but not special and often served cold, this was a problem especially for coffee. Every night there was bread pudding on the menu (as well as other desserts). The bread pudding were the unused "pastries" from breakfast. I believe in reusing however not when we are paying $800 per person per day. The unused "pastries" was not a rumour but confirmed by the pastry chef who was often present at the breakfast buffet. Delicious cookies were served daily-both in the Front Porch Café and also in the forward section of the Mark Twin Gallery. There was also an espresso/cappuccino machine in both locations, so at least there you could have hot coffee. There was always an a la carte option as well as the buffet for breakfast and lunch. Buffets were usually very good. I tried the much publicized Bananas Foster French Toast one morning. It was very unappealing (a unidentifiable gooey mess) and the taste was even worse - too much of a good thing!?! Bottom line... despite the hype about the food and Madam Charbonneau the food was at best okay with failing grades for the temperature of the food, presentation and the bread. The pluses included the entertainment (previously mentioned) and the staff (although a surprising number were "in training" so, although they were wonderful, they were obviously inexperienced). The hop-on, hop-off buses were extremely well run (you picked up your departure ticket at the pursers desk the night before or in the morning). AQ handed out excellent maps of the hop-on, hop-off routes along with details of the various stops. Most of the stops included free admission for AQ guests. In the morning i.e. the first four hours of the hop-on, hop-off there was a local guide talking about the city and the various stops. At each port there were also "premium" excursion available. We opted to take a few - one in Natchez, The Story of Cotton, a full day tour of three plantations and finally a tour of New Orleans including airport drop off. Bikes are available (reserve one of the lime green bikes along with a lock and helmet at the purser's desk)These were good value for money. On our sailing the premium excursions sold out quickly and there were a number of people on a waiting list. We had booked our tours prior to sailing and were glad we did. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2014
The cruise was great fun and the positives were: 1. Staff friendly 2. Tours were on the whole good value for money 3. Cabin was clean and comfortable 4. Free water was very welcome Negatives: 1. Food was hit and miss especially the ... Read More
The cruise was great fun and the positives were: 1. Staff friendly 2. Tours were on the whole good value for money 3. Cabin was clean and comfortable 4. Free water was very welcome Negatives: 1. Food was hit and miss especially the captain's dinner when being allegeric to fish i ended up eating cheese and biscuits as no alternatives could be found. 2. Waiting staff in the restuarant were also hit and miss. Very slow at time and the same with the bar staff. 3. Pre-cruise - we were not advised of any optional trips. This seemed to be extremely random and not impressed at all with this. 4. Still waiting to find out why we didn't get the direct flight - again this seemed a random allocation and was really not impressed. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2014
Boarded the brand new Emerald Sky at Basel (Switzerland) for a cruise to Amsterdam. A few teething problems with a new boat that might not be solved very quick. Some of us never received luggage tags or the fancy folder before traveling, ... Read More
Boarded the brand new Emerald Sky at Basel (Switzerland) for a cruise to Amsterdam. A few teething problems with a new boat that might not be solved very quick. Some of us never received luggage tags or the fancy folder before traveling, hence not much information. On arrival at the airport, went out the nearest door to find nobody to meet us, eventually we found somebody after asking at information (not a good start). We booked this boat because of the heated indoor pool & booked the nearest cabin we could to have regular use. Unfortunately it was not working !!! can you imagine Royal Caribbean launching a new boat the swimming pool not working !!! they offered us wine & beer, which was included at meal times anyway & still charged for the mini bar & as the wife does not drink, we would have rather had the pool. The cruise director is the only person employed by Emerald, the rest of the staff are agency contractors. The service from the agency staff was superb & can not be faltered, the cruise director tried very hard but did not have a natural ability although most of the passengers liked her. Overall we had a fantastic holiday but that was due to meeting some fantastic people & having very good weather. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2014
Having only ocean cruises to compare to, I hope this review is helpful to those is our situation who had not ever been on a river cruise before. 1. Dining: Absolutely expect to spend 2 or more hours eating dinner every night in the single ... Read More
Having only ocean cruises to compare to, I hope this review is helpful to those is our situation who had not ever been on a river cruise before. 1. Dining: Absolutely expect to spend 2 or more hours eating dinner every night in the single main dining room as a social occasion and with different guests, repeating your occupation, cruise status etc over and over during breakfast and lunch as well. At first it was fun to meet others but quickly we wished we had more options for private dining or room service or a table for 2 or 4. Our saviours were our travel companions who are delightful and 2 occasions of eating at the alternate bar location. BREAKFAST: nightmare of lack of direction every morning. Finally focused on grabbing a yogurt and beelining to a table and ordering from the menu. One unfortunate dining night where you foraged for food - a MESS. I basically didn't eat as the food was scattered all over the ship and there was NO traffic plan or people movement. Not pleasant at all and I don't know what the point was supposed to be. 2. Age: We were young for this group of travelers. All the limited activities, TV shows, movies, music etc were geared to an over 70's crowd and NOT to our taste. (50's and early 60's) and we felt we didn't have anything to do while in our cabin in the evening. 3. Internet was slow, but it was better than none. (large ocean cruises generally have EXPENSIVE SLOW service) 4. Drinks with dinner (wine and beer) were very nice and complimentary. 5. Maitre D was absolutely fabulous and accommodating if you have any kind of food allergy or special diet. 6. Excursions were very very good with excellent culture and history immersion. 7. Evening activities: not to our taste with the exception for an occasional folk dance demo which tended to be too long for my taste. 8. Cruise destination: Budapest to Bucharest. I found the trip fascinating but the views along the way, although lovely rural views, were not the stunning views that we would have seen from Amsterdam down to Budapest. I would have preferred the upper Danube, if I chose again, although I don't expect to ever get my husband on another river cruise. 9. We felt viking employees were not overly helpful with the elderly, particularly disembarking on steep ramps and boarding the buses. Many times other unrelated travelers were assisting them while the employees were chatting. 10. Do I regret doing this trip? - In a way, yes at this time. the trip cost us $11,000.00 with a ridiculously long (30 travel hours) time to get home. I recommend getting an air package that allows you to have input in the travel arrangements. 11. Was it easy? VERY ridiculously and gloriously easy with Viking REALLY orchestrating every detail. Very impressive!!! 12. Hidden costs? none. Hotels selected by Viking were very very nice. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2014
Yes, this cruise was in April, and it is now July, but I wanted to see if a few months would change the way I felt about the trip-Short Answer-No. A little background: I am 53, DH is 57. While we have been on a number of traditional ... Read More
Yes, this cruise was in April, and it is now July, but I wanted to see if a few months would change the way I felt about the trip-Short Answer-No. A little background: I am 53, DH is 57. While we have been on a number of traditional cruises (19) this was our first River Cruise. This particular cruise, Southern Mississippi, had been on our bucket list for some time. As anyone who has sailed on the American Queen, or has looked into sailing on this boat, knows that the cruises are not cheap, and you pay a premium for this unique experience. I had very high expectations for this trip. We flew into New Orleans Wednesday evening and took a cab to our hotel in the French Quarter. The price for a cab to/from the airport is a flat rate of $33 for two (+ tip), $14 for each additional person. My parents drove in from Texas for a couple of days before our cruise to visit, and they wanted to stay at the French Market Inn. I had read several not glowing reviews of this place, but I was pleasantly surprised; the hotel was clean, staff was friendly, and the price (About $98 per night) was very reasonable for the French Quarter. The rooms are on the small size, but had everything I require. After a day and a half of exploring New Orleans, and eating some great food, my parents left to go back to Texas, and we moved to the Hilton Riverside for the beginning of our AQ experience. While I can understand why AQ uses this hotel, I wasn’t very impressed by the building as I found it completely void of charm. It is close to where the AQ docks, and has the space to house a large number of guests, and conference rooms to do check-in. But like most large hotels it seemed cold and impersonal. However, I will give the staff an A+ as everyone was friendly and helpful, and in the case of the front desk clerk, able to fix a problem. When we went to check-in at first they could not locate our reservation. It turns out our last name was slightly misspelled (I didn’t even notice) and that extra letter in our last name gave us several moments of panic. Then we lugged our bags to our room and major disappointment-Not only did we not have the king bed requested (DH is 6’8” and needs all the space he can get), but our view from the window was a brick wall! For the price this room costs I thought this was unacceptable. DH went to front desk, and we were able to get the room changed to a deluxe king, that included a view. The person at the front desk told my DH that the AQ gets the lowest grade rooms for their guests. The next morning we took our included breakfast vouchers to the restaurant, which served a buffet. The line to the restaurant was very long, but moved relatively fast. The food was average, but the service was friendly and good. Our check in was scheduled for 10am. Guests taking a pre-cruise tour had check-in scheduled for 8:30, and returning guests and suite guests were scheduled for 9 am. We walked by the room reserved for checking in around 9:10 and noticed no line, so we asked if we could check in early as we wanted to take a self-booked tour and the answer was yes. Check-in was very quick; a minute or 2 to get your cruise card. Another 1-2 minutes to register our credit card. If desired, one could book optional shore excursions at this time. There was one long line-for table assignments for dinner. It was moving very slowly and since I didn’t care where I sat we decided to forgo this part of the check-in process. I would rue this decision later. After checking out of the Hilton we went on a self-booked swamp tour which was quite good, and got us back to the Hilton at around 2:45. Since we could begin boarding at 3:00 we walked around the back of the hotel, along the river front and got in line. There was already a considerable line, and by 3:00 it stretched for quite a ways. Promptly at 3pm they opened the gangway, and passengers began boarding. The line moved quickly, and they had staff to assist anyone in a wheelchair. I loved the fact that as we boarded crew members that appeared to hold positions of authority were greeting everyone as they boarded. We were only one deck up (Texas) and someone was there to point us in the right direction. We quickly found our cabin (Florida), and I opened the door and…….I was completely charmed. Yes, the cabins were a bit small, but at a glance I could tell the bed would be comfortable (It was with a pillow top mattress and two fluffy pillows each), and a quick glance into the bathroom I saw that we would have a decent size shower. All the linens were fresh, white and new looking. Even my DH, who normally could care less about our accommodation’s loved our cabin. After putting down our carry-on’s we started exploring the boat. At every turn I thought the AQ was delightful. Our first stop was the Front Porch Café, where we got a light bite, and then we toured the Gentlemen’s and Ladies Parlors, and other public areas. Our favorite space had to be on Deck 4, FWD where there were a number of rocking chairs available to just sit and rock, and watch the bank of the river go by. By time we had finished our exploring it was time for the Muster Drill. While very easy; one donned their lifejacket and stood outside their cabin, and a crew member came by and checked you name off a list, no real instruction was given. If there was an emergency and the call went out to abandon ship I think it would be complete chaos. I didn’t see any lifeboats so I can only guess that the drill is to jump overboard and make for shore. No sooner was the muster drill over and it was announced that we would be setting sail at 5:30. This was something as a surprise as our itinerary had us leaving New Orleans at 9 PM. We had planned to go back on shore as soon as muster drill was over to pick up a few more souvenirs, and get another praline at Laura’s Sweet Shop (Best pralines ever!) on Decatur in the French Quarter. No reason for an early departure was given. Then came, what for us was the only real negative of the entire cruise, the dining room. When I had booked this trip, and I had booked it as soon as the 2014 schedule was released, and I had selected Late Seating (There were two seating’s; 5:15 and 7:45). Apparently, late seating was overbooked, and we were bumped from late to early. I was not happy. I just can’t eat my dinner that early, and I don’t understand how if I had confirmed late seating for dinner according to my documents how I can be bumped to an earlier seating without my consent. I spoke to the Maitre d’ to no avail. Her suggestion was that we eat dinner in the Front Porch Café nearly set me over the edge. What I paid what we paid for this trip I wanted to eat a fine dinner in the dining room, not hot dogs in the café. I grudging agreed to accept early seating for the first night, with the promise we would get late seating the other two nights. It just went downhill from there. When we showed up for dinner there was mass confusion in getting people seated. We were first seated at one table only to be moved 5 minutes later to an 8-top in which we were the only people sitting there. Later we were joined by a couple that got bumped from their 2-top by the window to being stuck with us at a bad table in the middle of the room that had no waiter assigned to it. We found out we had no waiter when one came by and asked why we were sitting at a table that had no waiter assigned to it! Needless to say our service was horrible. Whoever had a second to spare would come over to take our order, clear plates, and if we were very lucky, refill our water glasses. I heard later that late seating had it even worst. There were suppose to start at 7:45, they didn’t allow passengers into the dining room until 8:45! We spoke to one couple that at 10:30 PM they were just then getting dessert. Lunch the next two days was just as bad. Even though lunch was served as a buffet, so no real service was required by the wait staff, it was still impossible to get water or ice tea. At brunch on Easter Sunday, and lunch the second day I know I shocked people by going to the wait stations and grabbing pitchers of water and tea and filling mine and my husband’s glasses, and anyone else at the table that wanted water/tea. Later on the second day I did go back to the Maitre d’ and asked about my late seating assignment that she had promised, and of course she had not been unable to fulfill that promised. Without raising my voice I did let her have it. Then I went upstairs and asked to speak to the Hotel Manager, and I let him have it too. I am not normally the type of person who complains, but when one pays $1000+ a day the expectations are high, and should be met. We did eat dinner the second night at the Front Porch Café and it was good, and wonders of wonders when I got up on our final day there was a note from the Maitre d’ that she had a place for us in the late seating. While still not up to my expectations, I will say service was better the last night. As for food I would say it ranged from good to very good. I had better in New Orleans, but the food was acceptable. Back to the positives- Saturday night (The night before Easter) there were foil covered chocolate Easter Bunnies on our pillows, which I thought was an amusing touch, and they offered two Easter services on Sunday, one at sunrise, and the other at around 10 AM. We had a wonderful room steward, and the crew members assigned to the Front Porch Café were friendly and helpful. I liked the entertainment. Each night they had a production show in the theater that while not as elaborate as to what are found on the big cruise ships was very enjoyable, and no issues with finding a seat. There was also a piano player just outside the dining room that appeared to be quite popular. On Sunday we were suppose to get to Baton Rouge around 1:00 in the afternoon, but the captain asked that at least one representative from each party meet him in the theater at 1:15, where he announced that due to high water and a swift current we would not make it to Baton Rouge until about 6, by which time everything would be closed. We did go by the shore line and saw the City Skyline, and promptly turned around and headed south. It seemed to me that most people took the cancellation of our stop in Baton Rouge in stride. As we headed south we did pass the Queen of the Mississippi heading north. It was kind of neat to see the other riverboat on the Mississippi that carries overnight passengers. . Our final day had us docked near Oak Alley Plantation, and a tour of the plantation was included. We had a special “Before Hours” tour as we had signed up for the premium tour of Laura Plantation as well. Oak Alley was beautiful, and out tour guide very knowledgeable. Then it was a short ride to Laura Plantation. If you can only go to one plantation I would go to this one. While the house is not as grand as some of the other plantations, the tour is wonderful, and you can get a real feel for what life was like on a plantation. And that was basically it. We set sail for New Orleans around 8:30 PM, and arrived somewhere between 2:30-3:00 in the morning. We were first off the boat to catch a cab to the airport for an early flight, and our trip was over. To sum it all up: Did I enjoy myself? Yes, very much so and I would love to sail on the AQ again, BUT they need to work on the fiasco that is the service in the dining room, or they can lower the price to a point that my expectations are lower. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
Sailed from Bucharest to Budapest; visited former Communist controlled countries. Many of these countries are struggling, still, due to corruption in governments, unemployment, little to no infrastructure, etc. However, found people were ... Read More
Sailed from Bucharest to Budapest; visited former Communist controlled countries. Many of these countries are struggling, still, due to corruption in governments, unemployment, little to no infrastructure, etc. However, found people were wonderful. It was depressing to see so many "left-overs" from the Communist regime, i.e., falling-down buildings, little to no new construction or housing, etc. Cruise ship, Elba, is one of the new long ships. She was beautiful. But, we have been cruising with Viking since 2005; this was our 9th cruise, and we have found, that over the years, Viking has changed, some to to better, some not so much so. In the beginning, there were smaller ships, much FEWER ships on the rivers, and we felt like a part of the Viking family. Staff, in the beginning, interacted more with passengers, and it was more fun. There were fun activities on-board with the crew. In fact, we have since sailed with some crew more than twice. We have seen a definite difference in how the crew and staff are allowed to interact with passengers. One instance, one of the staff wanted to show us a picture on the cell phone, but he said he had to be careful not be seen doing this by his "boss." This would not have happened in the beginning. When we docked in Budapest, I personally counted 17-different cruise ships docked. In the first few years, we were lucky to see one or two ships docked at our same location, and more often, they were Vikings. I understand that Viking needs to catch up, but in so doing, Viking has also lost the intimacy of the cruise that first attracted us. We have scheduled one more trip, Tulips and Windmills, a repeat of our very first cruise with Viking. But, I fear this will be our last. We like the smaller ships, more interaction with staff and crew, and also with Captain and his staff. I remember one cruise where the Captain actually came into the lounge and sat with us for quite a long time. Never happen on the long ships...   Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
This Danube River cruise was our 4th Viking River cruise and we have always enjoyed them. It is a great way to see Europe without having to pack up every day and move to another place. This cruise however was disappointing. The reason for ... Read More
This Danube River cruise was our 4th Viking River cruise and we have always enjoyed them. It is a great way to see Europe without having to pack up every day and move to another place. This cruise however was disappointing. The reason for this is the "rafting up" the boats do when they dock. Out of 8 nights, 6 were tied up next to another boat so when we opened our curtains, we were looking into someone's bedroom on another boat. I wouldn't have minded as much if we had paid for a cabin below without a french balcony but why pay the extra money to have no view but another bedroom? When we made our reservations we should have been told that there was not enough dock space and this was a possibility. It was definately not what we paid for. We also found the excursions were not as interesting as the other cruises we have been on. The food was delicious and rooms comfortable . Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2014
It is apparent that Viking Cruises are meant for an average age of about 65. As 46 and 48 year olds, we found it disappointing that there were not many passengers around our age. We lost power overnight, for 12 hours and the Viking ... Read More
It is apparent that Viking Cruises are meant for an average age of about 65. As 46 and 48 year olds, we found it disappointing that there were not many passengers around our age. We lost power overnight, for 12 hours and the Viking corporate office offered us a voucher for money off a future cruise. We informed them we do not intend to take another cruise like this for perhaps 15 years, and would prefer to have our bill reduced from the cruise we just took, or to be reimbursed a few hundred dollars. This is common practice at hotels when we are inconvenienced the way we were on the Atla. We had no running water, so no showers, no flushing toilets. In addition, the emergency lighting in all cabins was on all night long. Viking corporate refused our request and once again offered only a voucher for future cruise that we don't intend to take. If you are looking for an experience like the commercials show, with lovely scenery passing by, do NOT take the Amsterdam/Antwerp/Amsterdam cruise. You will either be cruising at night, or be docked with a ship parked next to you every single day. We had sailing scenery only twice out of a 9 day trip. Totally not worth paying for the balcony we thought we'd enjoy. Wifi speed is non-existent, ironically one of the modern windmills in the middle of nowhere was having 4G installed on one of the days we visited. It takes forever to connect, and is sketchy at best. Food was fine, nothing to write home about. The crew was the best part, friendly and always doing their best. Keep in mind the ships are small. No gym and very limited opportunity for exercise. Walking tours were interesting, but we would have liked more time in many of the places. However, due to the general age of the passengers, the tours are no longer than 2 hours. These cruises are definitely targeted toward 60 and up, although some of the more active people at those ages were also unhappy about the pace. Most disappointing was Viking's unwillingness to compensate us for what was an extremely un-vacation-like night during an extremely expensive vacation. Cannot recommend them. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2014
Background: My husband and I have done one other river cruise – Viking’s Imperial Jewels of China which was excellent. We have been on 18 ocean cruises. We are in our middle 60’s, very active and avid walkers. Itinerary: The cities ... Read More
Background: My husband and I have done one other river cruise – Viking’s Imperial Jewels of China which was excellent. We have been on 18 ocean cruises. We are in our middle 60’s, very active and avid walkers. Itinerary: The cities of Budapest and Bucharest were amazing. The other ports in between were not very exciting or interesting. If I had it to do over - I would save this itinerary until after I’d cruised the more scenic rivers in Europe. The included excursions in Budapest and Bucharest were well done. Viking did a good job with their excursions in the smaller ports under the circumstances but there were several ports that we felt were not worth getting off the boat for. Boat: The Embla was beautiful and in excellent condition. The Aquavit Lounge and the other public rooms and areas were comfortable. The dining room was lovely but very noisy and as others on this board have suggested – we tried to get a table at either end of the dining room where the noise level was not so high. Wi-fi worked well throughout the ship in the public rooms. We were in cabin D208 which was fairly close to reception but I could only get a signal by our door and in the bathroom. The two coffee/tea/cookie stations were very convenient. In addition to oatmeal and double chocolate cookies, the pastry chef would also feature “local” cookies which were excellent. There were ice machines on each floor. Cabin: Our French Balcony stateroom was small – tiny compared to ocean cruise ship cabins – but quite comfortable and had plenty of storage. I’m a bath person and dreaded having only a shower during the cruise but the shower was great. The shower was a reasonable size and had glass doors instead of flimsy shower curtains. The water pressure was excellent and we never ran out of hot water. We found the beds quite comfortable and we enjoyed the in-room entertainment system with on-demand movies, TV shows and music. The 110 volt outlets at the nightstands allowed us to easily recharge our electronics. There is also a 110 outlet by the sliding glass door to plug in a hairdryer or curling iron. I’m always warm so I was impressed at how well I was able to control the temperature in our room. While I’m sure everyone else had their heaters on – I was able to turn on the a/c and set the temperature to a comfortable 68 degrees. Food: Food is very subjective. We are good, happy and not picky eaters. The food was pretty good but not great. The dinner menu always included 3 entrees – one meat, one fish and one vegetarian dish in addition to the always available items of salmon (very good), steak (very good) and chicken breast. We were impressed by the selection and quality of the appetizers each night. There were a total of 4 to choose from. There were several nights when we would have liked to order more than one but there just did not seem to be enough time for the wait staff to handle multiple first courses. The one occasion my DH did order 2 appetizers – the second one was never delivered. Rather than keep the rest of our table waiting – we ordered only one each night. Dinner took a full 2 to 2 ½ hours every night. Service was very slow the first four days but improved by the end of the cruise. The soups (except for the New England Clam Chowder and Chili) – were very good. We enjoyed them especially for lunch in the Aquavit Lounge. There was a pasta station each day for lunch in the dining room along with a salad bar and several miscellaneous items like pre-made sandwiches. There was also a menu for breakfast and lunch that you could order from in addition to the buffets. The breakfast buffet featured an egg station that you could custom order eggs and omelets from. There was always bacon, different kinds of sausage, cereal, breads and fresh fruit available. Entertainment: I believe 5 out of 8 days/nights we were treated to folkloric shows both on board the boat and on shore. On several nights we had lectures and not very interesting ones at that. Really? I know the average age of the passengers was over 70 but there must be other forms of entertainment available for us “age-challenged” passengers. The one night we played Name That Tune was great fun. The pianist was excellent and had a great voice but he was under-utilized throughout the trip. Hotels: The hotels Viking used were excellent. The Budapest Marriott Hotel and the Bucharest Radisson Blu were beautiful and within walking distance or metro to many attractions. The included breakfasts were wonderful with many choices. Miscellaneous: The staff were friendly and very accommodating. Our cabin steward did a great job. As previously mentioned, the dining room staff got off to a really slow start but improved as the cruise progressed. Since this was the first cruise of the season for the Embla, it was understandable that there was a learning curve.   Read Less

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