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Sail Date: June 2011
This was our first river cruise out of 10 cruises. We love small cruise ships and wanted to see how this compares to ocean cruising. We made our own travel arrangements.The River Antoinette is beautifully decorated and has many amenities ... Read More
This was our first river cruise out of 10 cruises. We love small cruise ships and wanted to see how this compares to ocean cruising. We made our own travel arrangements.The River Antoinette is beautifully decorated and has many amenities for a small ship. The Dining Room and Lounge are bright and comfortable. Because of the weather we didn't spend a lot of time on the upper deck and never visited the Leopard Bar. We enjoyed the pool and fitness room. The staff was excellent and committed to customer service. I especially commend the cruise manager, the waiters and the room stewards. They made a nice cruise a great cruise. Low water levels on the Rhine created some problems, but they found alternatives to ensure it didn't impact our experience. We had a category 4 stateroom. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of storage available and the bathroom, while compact, was well laid out. The bed was very comfortable. BUT the stateroom was cramped. If we were both in the room, I had to climb over the bed to reach things. There were 2 chairs under the window leaving only a few inches of clearance to the bed - more of a nuisance than a sitting area. We couldn't fully open the bathroom door because of the bed. Breakfast and lunch buffets were excellent, with good variety and quality. However I feel the dinners could be improved. First, the food always arrived warm, never hot. We sat at different tables served by different waiters so it cannot be attributed to the wait staff. The quality and presentation of the food was good but I have another issue. Dinner selection was limited to 2 items per course, but on 3 nights the menu was set and we could only choose the main course. The 2 main course selections were usually fish and red meat, both of which are problems for me so I frequently ordered the alternative - broiled chicken. When I asked for a Caesar salad minus the anchovies the waiter told me "no alterations to menu items" (this was the first time I've heard "no" on a cruise). Other waiters were more accommodating and helpful. The 6th night a waiter showed me a special vegetarian menu. I wish I had known about it earlier.Shore activities were very good. The guides hired by Uniworld were excellent. Two of the activities (Marksburg Castle and the winery) used guides supplied by the facility and they were okay but not up to the quality of the other guides. The assisted listening devices worked very well and definitely made the tours more meaningful. For several ports, shuttle buses were supplied from the ship to the center of town giving us greater options to indulge individual interests after the organized tours. The ship entertainers were fine. We had already seen most of the movies shown in the theater (which included "The Sound of Music") so we didn't use that amenity. WIFI was routinely slow - and stopped whenever we entered a lock. They loaned laptop computers to passengers who didn't bring their own and one was always available. Disembarkation was very smooth. Even though it's a small ship, it still takes a lot of organization to get everyone off in a timely manner. We appreciated the arrangements made by the staff and their estimates of time allowances, taxi rates, etc. were accurate. In summary, we really enjoyed this cruise. We'll do a few things differently next time - upgrade the room and ask about alternative menus - but that next time will definitely be with Uniworld. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
The first thing one must know about river travel in Russia is that the company you have booked with does not own the ship. All ships are owned by Russian companies. They are staffed by those companies with the exception of one or possibly ... Read More
The first thing one must know about river travel in Russia is that the company you have booked with does not own the ship. All ships are owned by Russian companies. They are staffed by those companies with the exception of one or possibly two employees of the line you booked with. The best term I can think of to make this clear is that your river cruise line has chartered a Russian ship. We traveled on Amawaterways "Amakatarina" This is not the name of the ship. The company who owns the ship is Vodohod and they have named the ship "Rostropovich". Remember, it's a charter. I am starting with the food as this seems to be the shocker to most cruisers, especially those who have previously only cruised on ocean liners or on the river boats owned by the operating companies in other countries. The culture of the ship will be Russian. The cuisine will be prepared and designed by Russians. Our ship did have a "chef consultant" who was employed by Amawaterways, but there was little he could do about the management of the kitchen. In accordance with Russian law, all food must be cooked to a certain temperature before it is permitted to be served. I do not believe that the fact that food continues to cook after leaving the heat source is factored in. Knowing in advance that the culinary culture is not what we Americans are used to should prepare you for the dining room. The soups were fantastic, especially the cream soups. Salads were interesting and tasty. Breads were very good. Desserts were creative and delicious. A lot of attention was given to plating the dishes in an aesthetic manner. The porridge (hot cereals) at breakfast were delicious and there is plenty of fresh produce, wonderful cheeses and fruit. All meat dishes will be of the "pot roast" family. Though I did have a good fish dinner, my table mates complained about theirs. Fish and chicken can also be very dry and over-cooked. There is nothing the company whom you booked with can do about this. It's not worth complaining as it is not likely to change. It is the Russian law and the culture of obeying every "jot and tittle" of the law still remains even after the fall of communism. Vegetables were well-prepared, though well cooked, and the pastas were great. The vanilla ice cream is absolutely grand! The dining room staff was cheerful willing to do just about anything to accommodate the guests and fluent in English. At dinner red and white wine, beer and sodas were free and free-flowing. Iced tea can be requested, but it has an herbal mixture, pleasant, but different. Be careful at the bar and with ordering cocktails. If the cocktail is on their drink menu, there's no problem, but they have no ability to deal with what is not on their menu. For instance, a vodka martini will be charged as two drinks; 700 Roubles for the vodka and 2,000 Roubles for the "martini" This is due to the fact that the brand of vermouth they use is "Martini" brand. They consider this a two liquor drink. Best bet is vodka on the rocks. The cabin was really large for a river boat. All the Vodohod ships are the same outside so we could see how this reconstruction differed from the others. The cabins are at least one and one-half, and, more than likely twice the size of the other ships. Where there would be just a single window on the others, the Rostropovitch (Amakatarina) had a window and a full glass door. Where the other ships had a promenade which passed the windows, the Rostropovich had dividers that created private balconies. The balconies are quite large. We guessed at about 6 or 7 feet wide and about 11 feet or more longer. We did not bring a tape measure, so this is just an eyeball measurement. There is a closet with hangers on one side and shelves on the other side. The safe takes up most of one shelf, but we found that we had adequate room for all of our things. There is a double shelf next to the entry door where one can store luggage. We got both suitcases onto the bottom shelf and used the top shelf to hold our packing cubes with underwear, socks and sleep clothes. I did take some extra wire hangers with me and a set of those plastic things that make one hanger space into a vertical space for several hangers (as seen on TV). The shelves held everything else. There is a large desk that has room beneath it for shoes. Lots of counter space there. There is a small cabinet under the desk that holds a mini fridge. It is empty and cold, unlike some of the "coolers" on ocean liners. There is a flat-screen TV with some cable channels. They did play movies with a Russian theme a couple of times, but we never found the time to watch them. The desk has the single electric outlet. I brought a converter and found that I needed the extender to get it to fit as the socket is deep. I also brought a multiple outlet electrical strip with a surge protector that allowed me to plug in more than one thing at a time. My husband uses a Bi-pap machine and I had been advised to bring my own extension cord. The ship provided a bottle of distilled water as had been requested. There was no charge for the water. There are two night stands, each with a drawer, a clear top (lights were pinned on the wall) and a cavity below the drawer for more storage. There is a chair which we kept on the wall of the bathroom as it was difficult to get around it when it was by the desk. The balcony was very large and had two comfortable wicker chairs and a little table. The bathroom is about normal size for a small ship. The shower is slightly lower than the floor so that the drain is in the shower and it makes it a "dry" bath as opposed to a "wet" bath like on other ships running the itinerary. One of us could use the sink while the other showered. The hot water was magnificent and the water pressure was awesome! We were told that we could brush our teeth with the water in the sink, but not to drink it. Plenty of bottled water was provided. The sink has some edge to it so you can keep your tooth brushes in the tumbler and the soap in the soap dish formed on the sink top. There is a very large medicine chest above the sink that holds quite a bit. I always travel with an over the door shoe holder and we used ours on this cruise as we do on ocean liners. They provided a bar of Palmolive soap and little bottles of shampoo and shower gel. The beds are separate, though pushed together. They have a nice duvet and we found the mattresses to be extremely comfortable and the pillows were to our liking, though some who prefer very soft pillows might not. The duvet was kind of folded in half and I felt like I was a hot dog in a bun when I climbed into bed. I supposed I could have opened it like my husband did, but I enjoyed being wrapped up. Air conditioning is controlled by the engine room. There is a thermostat on the wall but it is ineffective. We had extremely hot weather on our trip and I think the ship did the best they could to keep the cabins comfortable. We have traveled in Europe before and their idea of air conditioning is not our idea of air conditioning. We were always comfortable enough to sleep and we both slept very, very well. You will need to put your key card into the slot next to the door to work the electricity. This is very European. Also the key cards are very modern. Yo just hold them in front of the lock, no swiping or dipping. There is no clock. Bring a travel clock. There is a treadmill, a stepper and a Nautalis-type gym machine on the top deck. I took an exercise class, but it was a joke. The walking was quite enough. Dancing in the evening was a help, too. The music in the lounge was great! WiFi is a challenge. Though the signal from the routers was excellent, very very often the servers would drop you or "reset." I did report it on my comment sheet. I believe that the satellite system can only handle so many computers at a time and it just throttles down. There has to be a better way to manage it. I found that late at night was a good time to use it. I also made Amakatarina my "home" and often disconnected and reconnected from the network screen on my Windows 7 Starter netbook. The excursions were fabulous. Moscow has a terrible traffic problem and it can be frustrating to be siting on a bus in traffic but the guides managed to keep up interesting patter about the culture and the sites we were passing to make the most out of a bad, but uncontrollable, situation. One day we did some walking touring in the morning then got on the bus for a canal boat ride where were served a buffet lunch. The food was good, but the same over-cooking rules applied. I believe that Amawaterways arranges this canal boat tour for lunch so that the bus does not have to go back to the river port and fight the traffic. I don't believe any of the other lines do this. We did take a tour of the Metro in Moscow and it's astounding. The art is magnificent. In St. Petersburg, they used the hydrofoil several times which left from the same docking area where the ship was. We also had lunch at a beautiful restaurant in St. Petersburg on one of our tour days, again to not have to go back and forth on the bus. The guides were knowledgeable and cheerful. The ship company has a compliment of young people who accompany the guests on the buses or hydrofoils and walking tours at all times. They are attentive and they are very responsible. They all speak fluent English. My husband has some mobility issues and needs a slower walking pace. We were in the "gentle walkers" group and they truly did honor the concept. If a group was walking too fast, there was always the youngster from the ship who made sure everyone in the group was accounted for and brought up the rear. No one ever got lost or left behind. By the way, the "pink" group, which we were a part of was divided into a regular group and a gentle walking group so no one who did not want the slower pace was forced to live with it. If someone from the regular pink group was a bit tired, they were permitted to switch to the gentle group. This was handled extremely well. The only criticism I have about the sightseeing in general was that when we were sailing, there could have been a narration on the ship's PA telling us what we were seeing and where we were. My little book "Russia By River" was a great help and we passed it around. Otherwise, we wish we had more time to see St. Petersburg. There is so much to see and do there. I felt that I had enough free time as the tours took up most of the day and unlike a Danube, Rhine or other Western Europe cruise, when you do stop at a post where you walk off the ship, there isn't much to do. I was happy with the shopping opportunities. Marina is the Amawaterways cruise director. She is at the absolute top of her profession. She is cheerful, helpful and tries very hard to accommodate everyone's special needs. I have nothing but praise for the job she did. On board the ship the cultural presentations and activities were great. The ship travels with two musicians and a folk group. Among the things we did were a class in making blinis, painting a wooden doll, a vodka tasting class and a Russian tea class followed by an authentic Russian tea party with special china cups and little cakes. There was a three-part lecture series on the country's history and culture as well. We got to have a meal in a Russian home which was very interesting. I feel that the main reason for river cruising is to get up front and personal with the people and the culture and we most certainly did on this cruise. The art in The Hermitage is so fantastic that it reduced me to tears. To see so many, many Impressionists in one place is indescribable. We met many interesting people from all over the globe on our cruise and just about all of them were friendly. We collected lots of email addresses. I took over 4 GB of photos which have to be sorted, including some of the cabin and the ship. We had a fabulous time in Russia and I would recommend this cruise to anyone who does not 'live to eat' and can accept that part of the river cruising experience is absorbing the local culture. I'll try to answer individual questions via email at kelliepoodle@yahoo.com. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2011
My first river cruise, but have traveled a lot with Tauck, so I had the Tauck high quality/service expectations going into it, and they were met. They have a quality crew partner in Scylla and to the casual observer they seemed to work ... Read More
My first river cruise, but have traveled a lot with Tauck, so I had the Tauck high quality/service expectations going into it, and they were met. They have a quality crew partner in Scylla and to the casual observer they seemed to work well together. I've only been on a few small-ship cruises, but felt that the cabin size and storage space were more than adequate (though I travel with only a 22" suitcase and a backpack). The shower was excellent--good water pressure and no sharp edges on which to bang elbows. Good ventilation, too; could wash out "smalls" in the morning and they'd be dry by the end of the day. Tour was Tauck first class. Nice shore excursions most days, always with the option of staying on the ship, and often with the option to either return to the ship for lunch after a morning tour, stay in town for lunch and return at around 3, or even to head back into town for a quick visit after lunch. Very accommodating and flexible, with their own coaches (with bathrooms) and great drivers. My Highlights: Trip to WWII cemetery in Luxembourg, Baden Baden--nice sized town but not overwhelming, the amazing vineyards along the Mosel, the smaller towns along the Mosel (Boppard, Cochem, Bernkastel), the fact that there were no add-on charges, excellent food with wine included at dinner. Quality of Vox sound box. Tips/Notes: Fun to eat at least one meal back in the Lido bar; smaller, more intimate, able to see a lot off the stern. This ship will be moving to France for cruises there starting in the fall, and this tour will get the newest ship in the fleet. Some of the Scylla crew will join the new ship, some go w/the Emerald Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
This was my first cruise and I can honestly say that it was the best vacation I've ever had. For the first time I didn't know what day it was, and I didn't care. The cruise managed to be both hectic and relaxing at the same ... Read More
This was my first cruise and I can honestly say that it was the best vacation I've ever had. For the first time I didn't know what day it was, and I didn't care. The cruise managed to be both hectic and relaxing at the same time. Hectic, because there were lots of shore excursions (ranging from the thought-provoking World War II tour in Nuremberg to the wonderfully fun wine tasting in Austria), and relaxing because everything was beautifully planned and I didn't have to make any decisions. We sailed through regions I had not visited before, and it was fun to look at a different view from the cabin window every morning upon waking up. Sailing through the Rhine Gorge was breathtaking, and sailing into Budapest at night simply magical. One of the things that made the cruise so great was our fantastic and very professional staff. They were working very, very hard but yet managed to give me the impression that they were having fun, too. They truly made my cruise a very special, unforgettable experience. The program team (Kurt, Jana and Claudia) was especially memorable and entertaining, being the most visible part of the crew. They were consistently helpful, friendly and knowledgeable. Another highlight was being serenaded (we celebrated our wedding anniversary during the cruise) by the great trio of George, Pavel and Kurt. Wonderful! The ship was small, only 150 passengers, which meant that I got to know a lot of my fellow travelers, which was great for a first cruise. There were some unexpected glitches during the cruise. The wi-fi worked only sporadically (it was fixed eventually), but to me it meant that I had more time to admire the scenery and chat with the other passengers, and my husband had a real holiday because he was not able to check his work. Blessing in disguise. The only criteria for having a great holiday should be 'did I have a good time?' My answer to that is an enthusiastic 'YES, ABSOLUTELY!' It was a wrench to leave the ship at the end of the cruise, and I would have been perfectly happy to just stay on board and keep cruising. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
Our two main issues with this trip are that it was advertised as a luxury cruise ("luxurious", "fine dining", "cuisine") and at $24,000 for the four of us it was certainly our expectation. The other issue was ... Read More
Our two main issues with this trip are that it was advertised as a luxury cruise ("luxurious", "fine dining", "cuisine") and at $24,000 for the four of us it was certainly our expectation. The other issue was that the boat and crew were not ready to sail. Airport Arrival - We arrived at 16:30 at Moscow airport and stood (literally) for two hours before we were taken to our bus where we then stood for a long period of time in the heat. One lady fainted and was attended by other passengers. No effort was made to provide medical assistance by the three people from the boat that met us. Once the bus arrived the passengers had to load their own luggage. My husband and I stood with our luggage as well as my parents and we also offered to load the luggage of the older couple as the woman had fainted. There was no room left in in the garage of the bus and we stood there for a long time before finally carrying the suitcases up onto the bus. We received a minimal amount of help from the three young people from AMA Waterways at this point. Our driver drove through downtown Moscow rush hour traffic instead of taking the highway past the city. We were in stop and go traffic for two hours. We finally reached the boat between 8:45-9:15 PM. Problems aboard the ship Water was leaking in a number of the suites including ours, it also poured outside our suite. Water was collecting in the lower floor ballroom. At one point they had shopvacs going non-stop sucking up the water. Water also poured from the bar ceiling while we were enjoying our cocktails. One morning the entire ship had no water for showers or toilets. Then another day the air conditioning did not work. There were smells of diesel fumes generally in the aft section of the boat. Rooms near the diesels were noisy and vibrating so make sure you don't get a room near the rear of the boat. Even the dining rooms would be vibrating while underway. Dinners Food was advertised as "Fine Dining" but it was more like "home cooking". There were a few selections but both restaurants had the same menus and there were no real difference between "themed" dinners and regular meals. 2 dining rooms were ridiculously overcrowded with little space between the tables. This could have been easily solved with two seatings but instead there was pushing and shoving so guests could get in and hold a table. After a while we realized that people were paying extra to reserve tables in the smaller, quieter restaurant as they sat at the same table every meal. Bars were closed once dinner started so it was difficult to enjoy a cocktail before dinner. Once you sat down to dinner you were pushed to order right away and chastised if you wanted to sit and enjoy a cocktail. Bartenders were not experienced and did not know how to make even simple drinks (e.g., Vodka martini). There were a large number of people ill (including one of our party) during the latter part of the trip and the empty seats in the dining room were quite noticeable near the end of the trip (or maybe they were just sick of the poor food). Ship Amenities Fitness room consisted of two very small rooms. One with a treadmill but the ceiling was so low anyone over 6 feet couldn't use it. The other small room has a couple of bikes. Outside there is a universal weight machine. The sun deck was behind the two engine stacks. While you were on the deck, either underway or at dock, diesel fumes were a problem. The ship's doctor was also the masseuse.Tours Tours were generally poorly organized. One day we took a bus ride in Moscow to Red Square and then bus for a river cruise with cheap lunch. After lunch we got back on the bus to back to the Kremlin. Most of the day was spent in transit. Funniest of all tours was the stop in Sivirstroy - "Enjoy some free time to stroll through this unspoiled Russian Village and browse for irresistible handmade trinkets". Obviously there were kickbacks dictating where our boat stopped. This was the site of an old power plant and the town of the former workers. The newly renovated house with the Mercedes obviously rented the shops to local people who sold their wares - caps and other trash from China. The tour of the authentic Russian homes with beautiful gardens was laughable. The homes were built for the power plant in the 30's, rotting and decaying. We had a BBQ there in an old shed with food from our boat. The only prosperity in this town was from selling Russian souvenirs made in China (e.g., Barak Obama and USA baseball team wooden dolls) to the tourists during summer. Tour guides Occasionally our guides were good but most often they were reciting by rote about the year something was built and its dimensions. Overall None of the passengers on this trip that we spoke with were pleased with this trip. The general feeling was that we were deceived about the level of service and luxury that AMA Waterways advertised. Also, the general feeling of being on an economy cruise where we all learned quickly where to find; cutlery, napkins, toilet paper, water (water cooler at the end of the hallway), clean towels. Many of the passengers had a point of reference having been on other cruises and river cruises. If we had known before leaving Toronto that the level of service would be so low, then we would have made other arrangements as this trip was a waste of money and more importantly our time. The lack of pictures provided for this boat should have been a clue to the deception by AMA Waterways. Few of the staff speak English beyond a few words. However, several went out of their way to make this trip pleasant and we would like to thank them. While the level of service by staff is sub-par, this could be easily overcome through training. The problems with this trip are not the fault of the staff but goes right to the top at AMA Waterways. We made an unscheduled stop as a couple needed to get off. The joke that went around the ship was that they had complained about the service. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
We traveled on Viking's Waterways of the Czars river cruise on the Viking Kirov, starting in Moscow June 12th, 2011 and ending in St. Petersburg on June 24th. We have only done one other river cruise, which was on the Danube with ... Read More
We traveled on Viking's Waterways of the Czars river cruise on the Viking Kirov, starting in Moscow June 12th, 2011 and ending in St. Petersburg on June 24th. We have only done one other river cruise, which was on the Danube with another company a couple of years prior, but let me say that Viking really did an outstanding job on this cruise. The ship was first rate, the crew was extremely professional, the food was superb and the tours were well organized. The onboard activities, such as the history and language lectures, were excellent. That's not to say everything was perfect, but rarely is that the case when it comes to travel. Now, let's get into the details. We were not entirely satisfied with the Viking air travel department because they put us on a really tough and tiring itinerary to get over to Moscow, with crack-of-dawn departures, less direct routes and long layovers, which left us pretty wiped out by the time we got there. The lesson here is to stay on top of things and make sure you get the arrangements that work best for you. The pickup and transfer in Moscow was flawless, however, and we got settled on the ship in no time. Even though we arrived well after 9 p.m., the dining room stayed open so we could have dinner before unpacking and getting to bed. One of the drawbacks of the docking locations in both Moscow and St. Petersburg is that they are quite far from the city centers. This is not peculiar to Viking as all the river boats dock in the same area. However, this means most bus tours start and end with almost an hour in horrible traffic moving at a crawl. This also means you will see the outer regions of those cities and their enormous number of dilapidated Stalin-era buildings, thereby providing a very bad first impression. In my opinion, the river cruise lines should put their passengers up at city center hotels to avoid these issues. Having said that, I have to give our guides major kudos for utilizing the travel time to inform and entertain, so it's not just wasted time. I don't mean to harp this, but another drawback of not staying in a downtown hotel is the lack of time for just walking the streets and getting to know the city. We would've loved to have explored more of the area around Red Square. Likewise, in St. Petersburg, there was a great area downtown that offered a much in the way of exploration possibilities. It was ironic that, as much as the river cruise lines tout their ability to dock in the city centers of their various ports of call, in the case of St. Petersburg, it was some of the larger cruise ships that were berthed very close to the downtown area. Of course, those same large ships cannot go to Moscow, so that's the trade-off. Bottom line is that, if your focus is on Russia, then a river cruise is the way to go. This trip is not about seeing great cities, though there are flashes of greatness to be seen, it's really about discovering Russian history, meeting its people and knowing what today's Russia is like. You will learn that Russia is struggling mightily to move from the Soviet era to the modern era and it's going to take a long time. There is great architecture mixed in with some of the most depressing blocks of prefab housing you've ever seen. Keep all this in mind and you will be able to better accept what you are seeing. The Viking guides did an outstanding job of telling it like it is. The thing I liked about this itinerary is that, in between the hectic pace in both Moscow and St. Petersburg, the schedule is more leisurely on the river as you visit the small towns or just cruise the waterways. The scenery was just beautiful, better than I had anticipated. I should mention that, once you select a bus on the first day of tours, you will stay with that bus, and that tour guide, for the rest of your trip. On the Kirov, we had Misha as our guide and he was excellent. On one of the optional tours, where you don't necessarily use your original bus, we had Victoria as our guide and she was absolutely brilliant. Of the optional tours offered, in Moscow we did the Military Museum (good) and Moscow By Night (very good), in Uglich we did the Home Host Visit (very good), and in St. Petersburg we did the Peterhof Palace (excellent). One of the highlights of the trip was definitely Red Square and the Kremlin, part of the included tours in Moscow. Being a baby boomer and having grown up with so many references to that place, it was a thrill to see it in person. Regarding the onboard experience, we thought the Kirov was a much nicer ship in the way of stateroom decor, passenger space, dining room set-up, outdoor deck layout and lounge comfort than the smaller European river ship we were on. All of the ships used on the Russia river cruises are an East German design and many, but not all, of them have been fully gutted and remodeled like those in the Viking line. Just be mindful that all river cruise ships are NOT anything like the large mega-ships cruising the oceans of the world so don't expect fancy. In the mind of most passengers, the quality of the cruising experience is mostly defined by the quality of the food. Maybe the reason we were so impressed with the food on this cruise is because the food on our Danube cruise on another cruise line was so mediocre. However, our friends who traveled with us and who have never been on any river cruise, confirmed our assessment that the food on Viking Kirov was just superb. I will focus on dinner, as breakfast and lunch on most cruise lines is pretty straightforward (usually buffet style with the option of ordering off the menu - all very good). We have never had a selection of soups that was so consistently good, day after day after day. In talking with the restaurant manager, he said they take pride in making their soups from scratch and not re-hydrating powdered soups as some might do and that tells me something. Next, from the appetizer course to the main course to the desserts, the presentations were excellent. And not just at the Captain's Dinner as some cruises do, but every single day. Were there any dishes that just didn't measure up? Sure, but I would say we encountered about a 95% success rate. My understanding is that, after some complaints a while back, Viking now uses beef that exclusively comes from the U.S., and a good tender sirloin steak (as well as salmon and chicken) is always available at every dinner, no matter what else is on the main menu. Without going into too much more detail, let me just say that we were continually amazed at the quality of the presentation being put out by the kitchen for such a large group of passengers. The chef makes it a point to provide a variety of menu themes from various parts of the world, which really makes things interesting. There was never a repeated menu throughout the 13 days of our trip. The dining room staff was consistently good, with some wait staff even exceeding that standard with some of the most attentive table service I have seen. I have to acknowledge the restaurant manager, Gunther, as the driving force behind the dining room performance. Clearly, he has developed a team, one that has stayed on the Kirov for several seasons, that works so well together and respects his leadership. Gunther always had time to stop by your table to see if you needed anything or to explain what goes into various dishes. Now, having said all this, I am realistic to know that it's possible not every dining room in every Viking ship will have the same level of accomplishment. However, I have to believe the basic corporate philosophy that enabled the performance we enjoyed on Kirov would also be in evidence on all their ships. Ok, a just little bit more about our shore experiences. We are very comfortable using public transportation but the couple we were traveling with was a little more apprehensive so we didn't push it. The Moscow dock is at the very end of the Green Line, so it would be hard to get lost, especially if you know the Cyrillic alphabet. The schedule of tours we chose in Moscow, however, did not lend itself to a lot of free time and to using the Metro on our own. We did have a free afternoon but chose to relax back at the ship as we were all still pretty tired after our trip over. So, I used that time to take a nice walk around the park adjacent to the dock, see some of the other ships, have a closer look at the Stalin-era terminal building, etc. In St. Petersburg, you need to take a shuttle bus from the ship to the metro station and then the metro ride itself into the city center. That seemed too complicated to us so, on our free afternoon, we opted for the shuttle bus offered by Viking for $20, which was expensive but included a guide to help you navigate the downtown area if you needed it. I have no idea which method would be faster, the bus fighting the traffic or the metro with the required shuttle. Perhaps the best way to get into the city center is a new water taxi service. There is a pickup point right near where Viking docks and I believe the cost is reasonable. I know there's always the temptation to fill absolutely every minute of every day with some activity because you figure it's your one and only chance to see each destination. For us, however, there is some wisdom to not overdoing it to the point of getting exhausted. I don't much like the feeling at the end of a trip that I can't take anymore and just want to get back home. I think it's best to leave a little something in the tank to prime your next great adventure. One final note, when the Program Director tells you they are taking you to the airport 3 hours early for your flight back home, don't question it. The process through the airport is excruciatingly slow. In summary, the Waterways of the Czars is a great cruise and Viking does an excellent job of taking you there. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
If you enjoy touring but not packing and unpacking then this is the trip for you. Once you have checked in on the boat all your practical needs are taken care off and you can relax and just enjoy the holiday. We were on Viking Kirov, a ... Read More
If you enjoy touring but not packing and unpacking then this is the trip for you. Once you have checked in on the boat all your practical needs are taken care off and you can relax and just enjoy the holiday. We were on Viking Kirov, a modern, clean, well appointed and very well run ship. Organisation is first rate and the food is very good and plentiful. The tours, included and optional, gave a good introduction to the sights of St.Petersburg and Moscow, including poor driving habits (not the coach drivers!) and mammoth traffic jams, and the stops during the cruise provided enjoyable, interesting and occasionally quirky contrasts. The history lectures given by the guides during the cruise were very good and together with the almost impossible language lessons considerably enhanced the Russian experience. The audio system used by the guides was a constant problem. The ear-buds supplied were not as easy to use as the Quietvox earpiece on our Seine cruise in June, and the guides microphones were highly directional and some of the local guides did not understand that if they turned their heads to point out something to either side then the microphone was no longer in front of their mouth and their words were inaudible to many. Other criticisms are minor and refer to the boat. We would have liked an organised option to the 4 course lunch, it was just too much with a 4 course dinner every evening. We did, in fact, emulate the example of another couple and simply make up plates from the buffet starters and take them to the Panorama bar and have them there. As a beer drinker I would have liked a draft beer available rather than just two types of bottled beers. Finally the layout of the lounges and dining room was not as good as our Seine Cruise on the Viking Spirit. The Panorama Bar was very nice, but quite small, while the Sky Bar, which was used for all the lectures was large but had no forward view and this, for me, limited its appeal. The dining room, which was used for all meals, was effectively split in two by the central kitchen and services station and this detracted from the atmosphere and versatility of the space. Do not, however, let these minor criticisms put you off a terrific cruise full of memorable experiences. Viking are a very professional company and the fact that this was our second cruise says it all. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
Our trip didn't start off perfect - far from it! We missed our connecting flight to Amsterdam due to weather, and terrified we would miss our sailing, we scrambled to find other flights. After 1 hour on hold with the airline, we were ... Read More
Our trip didn't start off perfect - far from it! We missed our connecting flight to Amsterdam due to weather, and terrified we would miss our sailing, we scrambled to find other flights. After 1 hour on hold with the airline, we were routed through Manchester to Amsterdam and only arrived 6 hours late. But we were exhausted and realized that our bags had not made it and we were ready to drop! But coming out of baggage claim we were enthusiastically met by a Viking representative who already knew of our situation. He secured a private car to take us to the ship and ensured us that Viking would take care of our lost luggage. When we checked in on board the ship, the clerk was also aware of what had happened and the cruise director was already making phone calls to track the luggage. He assured us that the luggage would arrive on our second day while docked in Cologne, but I had my doubts. Sure enough, that morning he contacted the airline and told them where to deliver the luggage and there it was! I tell you all of this because there are lots of river cruises, lots of great itineraries, and many options out there for you. But as a traveler in a foreign country, your number one concern is that there is someone there to take care of you. Viking did all of this and more. Rene was tireless in his efforts on our behalf and the crew helped us by supplying us with things we needed and even cleaning all of our clothes overnight free of charge. Now .. for the ship and the cruise itself! The Helvetia was everything I expected and more. Our cabin was a good size, but the best part was the French balcony that allowed us to fully open the sliding door and watch the river run. It was especially beautiful at night and the sound was hypnotizing. The public areas were great - plenty of places to sit and watch the banks of the Rhine, including on the top deck. I loved the dining room - tables of 6 or 8 meant that you sat with new people every night and got to meet lots of passengers. The food was excellent. It was more American than European, though there were always local specialties on the menu. This is not your "belly up to the bar" kind of cruise! No huge buffets, just elegant, delicious, fresh meals! The itinerary was excellent and the section of the Middle Rhine was everything I had dreamed it would be. Rene did a continuous explanation of all that we were seeing - the castles, vineyards, and small towns. We were able to walk off the ship in every port to walk around and each port had an included city tour. We did take a bus tour into the Black Forest and I was so grateful since I wouldn't want to just stay on the river and miss that! Each night included a talk about our next port, or a language lesson or food tasting for the region we were visiting. We made great new friends from around the world and experienced a beautiful part of Europe. It was my 50th birthday and our 25th anniversary and we had saved for years to make this happen. It was worth every dollar. If you are looking for an elegant way to see Europe, want to be well taken care of and feel pampered, learn a bit while you travel, and relax all at the same time, a Viking Cruise is for you! We're already saving for the next one! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
We had a wonderful time on the River Duchess from Amsterdam to Istanbul in summer 2010. It is amazing that one can travel, in great comfort, on a boat from the North Sea almost to the Black Sea. The scenery along the rivers and canals is ... Read More
We had a wonderful time on the River Duchess from Amsterdam to Istanbul in summer 2010. It is amazing that one can travel, in great comfort, on a boat from the North Sea almost to the Black Sea. The scenery along the rivers and canals is superb and many passengers took advantage of the top deck to experience this to the full. The first lock, the first city, the first town, the first low bridge - all an experience and this was just at the start of the adventure. Arriving in towns/cities by boat is a real experience. Hotel, restaurant and cruise managers, chefs and restaurant staff were top class and this made the trip very enjoyable. The captains and crew did an excellent job throughout the journey. Progressing through numerous locks and navigating a meandering river takes significant expertise and experience. A passenger had a serious health issue when we were cruising through Germany and he was taken to hospital with little fuss. On the section from Vienna to Istanbul a doctor was on board. In the event of a problem you felt secure that everything would turn out well. The wonderful towns and cities we visited were interesting from many points of view but the time available in each is necessarily short. Tours were well organised and relaxed and the local guides were generally good but in some instances it would be better to read up on the area and do your own thing especially if the boat is nearby. It was easy enough to peel off the group once we had our bearings. Uniworld supplied maps of most towns but we tried to augment these with maps from the local tourist offices in the larger towns. We had 3 days/4 nights in Vienna and that was great. Istanbul was fabulous and we had a few extra nights there as well as in Amsterdam. The included bus excursions were exceptional: Hungary (Pecs/winery), Croatia (Osijek/home hosted lunch), Bulgaria (Veliko Tarnovo/Arbanassi). We did no optional excursions. We never thought we would spend time in interesting Balkan cities like Mohacs, Vukovar and Belgrade which were the centre of conflicts over many years. A lecture on the recent Balkan conflict organised by Uniworld was most interesting. Food & included wines were excellent. One had to be careful not to overindulge! Serving sizes at dinner were small, a great idea as the breakfast and lunch buffets offered a substantial and tempting selection. I had fish most nights and these meals were excellent as were the other dishes - gourmet quality all. The cheese board selection was superb. Vegetarians were well catered for. There were always plenty of fresh salads and vegetables at lunch along with soup, fish etc and Orlando the Executive Chef was often on hand smiling and ready to slice off baked lamb, pork etc. This was always delish. We generally passed on the wonderful deserts but the desert chefs were so good that it was difficult to do and at times we were tempted. There were usually apples available but as it was summer and the local fruit and berries were in season there could have been more of these (suitably ripe) made available. The open seating allowed us to meet many other passengers and this was a highlight as there were many interesting people on board. At first we thought it desirable that tables for two should be available but soon realised we didn't need any. The refurbished boat will apparently have these available for 2012 and all tips will be included in the price which is a great idea. The only glitch with dinner was the occasional long wait. This seemed to coincide with nights where there was on-deck-dining where a chef and waiter were required on deck. Perhaps this left the restaurant short of staff. Our cabin was fine and large enough for us with plenty of storage. The bed was firm and we asked for the doona to be replaced with sheets as we find doonas are too hot. Our lovely housekeeper put the doona under the bottom sheet to make the bed a bit softer - a great touch and typical of the caring service on board. The aircon worked perfectly except for the last night on board where a power problem resulted in it's failure throughout the ship during dinner service. It was fixed by the next morning. The only problem we had with the cabin was with the noise from the thrust system during lock progression and docking. Our cabin was near the front of the boat and we should have been warned, perhaps by our agent, but at least by Uniworld. I would avoid booking the first few cabins near the front. I should say, however, that not all passengers in those cabins thought there was a major problem. The cabin review rating entered is for the cabin without consideration of the noise. There was a great little fitness room which was little used except in the early morning. The laundry was a very useful facility and was heavily used. Internet reception was generally useless during cruising, as you would expect, but improved when in port. For serious Internet activity such as transfer of large amounts of data it was best to use facilities in the towns and cities. No doubt the cruise companies will solve this one eventually. Entertainment was adequate and generally consisted of a piano player in the lounge. Later on in the cruise local groups would come on board and entertain the passengers. These were always of a high standard. We look forward to doing another river cruise and would love to travel with Uniworld again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2011
My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the Grand European Cruise through Viking River Cruises. We also had the pre-extension in Amsterdam and the post tour in Prague. Both additional tours we enjoyable. We are experienced travel rs though this ... Read More
My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the Grand European Cruise through Viking River Cruises. We also had the pre-extension in Amsterdam and the post tour in Prague. Both additional tours we enjoyable. We are experienced travel rs though this was our first river cruise. We very much enjoyed the initial guided tours of the cities we visited. My wife enjoyed the time on our own later to see what we wanted to see. There are actually more ports of call than this program allowed. We visited 15 different cities. I would not have visited several of these cities if not for the tour. It would have been my loss. The sites chosen and the tours given opened us to discover cities that may be the bread and butter of river cruises but not of train travelers. The staff made the entire trip feel more like a large family vacation. They were open with their suggestions and assistance and readily available if needed. They also arranged for many activities on the ship. While nothing like a large cruise ship, it was more than sufficient. And the intimacy of the events added to their charm. We particularly enjoyed the open seating for all meals. It allowed us to meet nearly all of the 150 passengers. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
We left our bus tour in Amsterdam and flew to Budapest to commence the two week cruise back to Amsterdam. On arrival in Budapest, without transfers being previously arranged, we were fortunate to meet a Viking representative at the airport ... Read More
We left our bus tour in Amsterdam and flew to Budapest to commence the two week cruise back to Amsterdam. On arrival in Budapest, without transfers being previously arranged, we were fortunate to meet a Viking representative at the airport who assisted us with directions to the ship. Our attempts to tell the taxi driver, who did not speak much English, were not quite so successful but after much arm waving and pointing we were safely delivered to our ship. We were immediately made welcome by the staff on board the Viking Danube. Refreshments were provided and we got to meet our fellow travellers while our cabin was made ready. We discovered that the majority of passengers were from the USA with a few each from Australia, Mexico, Canada and the UK. Thus began a very enjoyable and totally relaxing two week interlude. The food and waiter services were excellent, the staff could not do enough for us. The chefs excelled themselves at every meal. They even provided us with piping hot soup and crusty rolls at midnight on our return from an excursion to a concert in Vienna. The range of food was amazing. We dined on local specialties throughout our cruise. Our days were filled with interesting and exciting excursions and our nights with fascinating entertainment. The trip covered the Danube, Main and Rhine rivers. We stopped each day in a new city or town. Viking staff accompanied us on all our excursions so we were able to enjoy the experiences to the fullest knowing that they were there to assist if required. We really felt at home after the rough and tumble of 6.30am starts and rushed breakfasts of our bus trip. The range of included excursions was good as was the range of optional excursions. We were able to explore the towns each day as we progressed down river. We collected hundreds of photos of local people, buildings and places. We saw a wide range of historical buildings, castles and churches as well as the astonishing scenery of the rivers themselves. To sum up, Viking River Cruises is a very civilised way to see the sights of Europe. We would heartily recommend a river cruise to anyone who is contemplating a holiday. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
On the cruise, five family members celebrated several milestone events: 50th wedding anniversary for Joyce and Chris, 25th anniversary for Beth and Jim, and high school graduation with honors for Rebecca. This cruise began in Prague and ... Read More
On the cruise, five family members celebrated several milestone events: 50th wedding anniversary for Joyce and Chris, 25th anniversary for Beth and Jim, and high school graduation with honors for Rebecca. This cruise began in Prague and ended in Berlin. The sights seen on this cruise provide an educational and beneficial glimpse of European lifestyles, both from ancient Slavic history and the post-WWII era. The travel experience provided by Viking River Cruises was outstanding; better service could not have been asked for. We did not have a single travel-related worry. Our flights were organized and coordinated through Viking- once the luggage left our hands at JFK Airport in New York, we did not have to worry about it again. The knowledgeable Viking staff handled it. Once we landed in Prague, we were brought to our hotel and were given a great recommendation for dinner. The staff warmly greeted us at the hotel. The following morning we went on a tour of Prague. Throughout the trip, each tour guide was friendly, knowledgeable, and accommodating. The tours were not rushed; each traveler was given a chance to ask questions and learn more about each site we visited. The touring experience provided by Viking was second to none. The embarkation of the ship went smoothly and quickly. Once we were on the ship, we were well taken care of. Several times a day, the maitre d' announced upcoming events, like dinner, disembarking tours, or an educational lecture going on in the lounge. This service allowed travelers to decide what they wanted to do--no one was left in the dark. We all knew what was happening on the ship and what tours were being offered. Since many of our meals were on the ship, the food was a very important part of the cruise. The choices of meals and the buffet-style breakfast was exquisite. Everyone was always happily satisfied with the meals; we always left dinner full. The wait staff was accommodating, friendly, and informative. The staff on the ship went above and beyond expectations to please all the travelers. Drinks were served promptly and with flair each time they were ordered. Our group became good friends with the bartender on the ship. The service was top shelf, the best in the business. I feel that Viking River Cruises offers a comfortable, stylish, and intriguing way to see Europe. I would recommend Viking River Cruises to anyone looking to explore Europe in a personal manner, meaning that each traveler is handled and treated like a person, not just another customer. Overall, I would rate Viking River Cruises a definite 10 out of 10! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2011
Impressions of the ship: It is brand new inside - refurbished from head to toe. The outside, however, is the same (oldish) ship that every other tour company uses. It seems that the Russians built one basic hull for this purpose, and there ... Read More
Impressions of the ship: It is brand new inside - refurbished from head to toe. The outside, however, is the same (oldish) ship that every other tour company uses. It seems that the Russians built one basic hull for this purpose, and there are many in service on the rivers. I didn't feel that any of the Viking or Grand Circle ships that we saw docked alongside ours were nicer in any way. One advantage of the Uniworld redo is that the outside decks were converted into large balconies on the top two levels by cutting the windows into a large sliding door. These are the only Russian river cruise ships with a balcony. Except for the large balcony, the cabins are smallish, about 2 1/2 feet longer than the length of the bed. This is on a par with other river cruise ships, as the size of the ship is limited due to the width of the locks it must pass through. The cabins are spotlessly clean, very white, and decorated simply. There is a small desk and chair in the standard balcony cabins. The bedding is very high-end and comfortable. Cabins contain a hair dryer, small safe, and 2 US 110v outlets, so there is no need to bring a converter unless you are using a high voltage curling iron, for example. All floors, except the Onega deck, are accessible by elevator. Otherwise, the stairs are steep. The public areas of the ship are also spotless, clean, and comfortable. The staff is charming and helpful. On our cruise there were 162 guests and 100 staff! Food was generally good. Breakfasts were a buffet that included European meat and cheese selections, cereals, breads and jams, at least three types of eggs, potatoes, sausage, bacon, and either French toast or pancakes. Lunch was also a buffet, including soup (usually excellent) sandwiches, salads, a choice of several hot dishes, and desert. Dinner consisted of appetizer, soup or salad, a choice of two main courses, desert and cheese, coffee or tea. Unlimited beer, soda or wine was included with dinner. Sometimes the main course was not on a par with the other meals (or with high-end big cruise ships); however, the service was absolutely first-rate! The scenery between St. Petersburg and Moscow was spectacular - a surprise to me. We used the balcony most nights to view the passing villages (actually, in late June, there really wasn't any "night" to speak of). Tours were generally good; however the tour guides use the ships headsets which didn't work very well. A combination of poor fidelity on the sets along with the Russian accents of the guides when speaking English made it often difficult to understand what they were saying. Hopefully, Uniworld will remedy this in the future. I thought one stop was a dud, but it was more of an excuse to offer souvenirs and have a picnic lunch. The others were wonderful. If a "glitzy" cruise ship impresses you, go on a big cruise liner. Keep in mind, however, that there will be no access to the smaller cities and towns, and sightseeing would be rather limited. Otherwise, the ship and the tour were a wonderful experience, and I recommend it highly for those whose primary focus is sightseeing. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
My wife and I had been interested in China from a social, economic, and tourist perspective for many years, but did not visit due to concerns about the language barrier, governmental issues, and quality of services. We are in our 50s and ... Read More
My wife and I had been interested in China from a social, economic, and tourist perspective for many years, but did not visit due to concerns about the language barrier, governmental issues, and quality of services. We are in our 50s and 60s, and have extensively travelled, but none of our previous travels prepared us for the reality and wonderful experiences of China on our Viking River Cruise. We began our journey in Shanghai, and arrived a few days early to see the city and surrounding areas. The Pu-dong Hilton's concierge arranged a car to retrieve us from the airport, checked us in at our room, and helped with other trips. The Hilton's people provided excellent service, and wonderful food and lodging. Shanghai was a reality check for us, since it is such a major city with high-end shopping and modern buildings juxtaposed with the old Shanghai and Bund area. The architecture was beautiful in both areas and blended the old and new China. A new "Luxury" temple with huge wooden beams and precious metals was under construction in the middle of Shanghai, while the old temple was on a side street, albeit well visited and filled with the aroma of incense, and both well worth the trip. One thing we anticipated, and quickly realized, is that in many places including rural areas, bathrooms may not be to the same standard as the US, so it is worthwhile to have a supply of packaged wipes. For transportation, we would ride a taxi or bus to reduce travel time for longer trips, and then walk for hours. We received cautions about watching for pick pockets, but did not experience any issues. We could move around the city for just a few dollars equivalent. Language was not an issue with transportation, except taxis, and concierge and door men handled this by giving us cards to provide instructions for the return trip to taxi drivers. Buses required coins to ride. The Pu-dong area is a high-end part of Shanghai. Fashion appeared to be very important for women and to a lesser extent men. We visited a high rise mega-mall filled with shoppers of all ages, but mostly female, laden with bags of their purchases from luxury stores. I just wanted a new set of sandals, and it was an easy purchase. I identified the style and multiple sales people (all young women) measured my feet, paid with a credit card, and then returned to the sales desk to retrieve my sandals. The sales people were very friendly, and we can truly say that everyone we met in China was friendly and helpful to us at all times. We transferred to the Shanghai Shangri-La hotel to meet our Viking River Cruise tour group. Viking utilized excellent hotels throughout our journey, and the Shangri-La brand hotels we experienced in Shanghai, Guilin, and Hong Kong were the best. We applied for the Shangri-La loyalty program, since it allowed us to obtain cash at a lower cost than ATMs. Be sure to take advantage of breakfast at the Shangri-La (especially Shanghai); it is a culinary adventure. In addition, meals were a fun event that provided an opportunity to meet new people and enjoy different foods. Most of the lunches and dinners on shore were served lazy susan (family style) while others were buffet style. This provided an excellent opportunity to taste the food, if not familiar, and eat more of what you like. Also, all meals were casual, so no suits or ties needed, although the Beijing Opera was smart casual. At the first night meeting, we received an assignment with Francis Yang as our tour guide. Mr. Yang led the group that was going on to Guilin and Hong Kong after departing Beijing. Mr. Yang took good care of us at all times and made our journey, easy, pleasant, and safe. Mr. Yang anticipated our needs, and was the best tour guide we have experienced in our travels. We still occasionally communicate via email. We will forever be "Francis Group" and move on with a wave of the raised Viking pennant. We toured Shanghai as a group seeing silk and carpet factories, museums, acrobats, and more, and then flew to Wuhan to board the Viking Emerald to begin our journey on the Yangtze. Mr. Yang provided our airline tickets, handled all of the luggage arrangements, and escorted us through airport security with ease, and made sure everyone arrived in good shape. We learned about the Viking shopping guarantee for purchased items, and it was true because the merchant replaced an item at no cost after we received it in damaged condition. The Viking Emerald was a modern and extremely clean ship. We had a stateroom with veranda that provided us with views ranging from tranquil scenery, cities, and factories, to an occasional hydrofoil streaming along the Yangtze. The veranda was a great place to take pictures, relax and enjoy the experience together. The Viking Emerald crew was friendly, strived to learn our names and to deliver outstanding service. We utilized the on-board laundry, and were pleased with the service and low cost. There certainly is no need to over-pack for this trip. There were many high points of our cruise on the Yangtze including visiting a museum. temple, and Viking-partnered elementary school, but going through and touring Three Gorges Dam was the highlight. To go though the dam was an awe inspiring experience, especially after having learned about its history and seeing relocated villages along the Yangtze. Chongqing was our disembarkation city, and a city of 30 million people. The Viking Emerald tied up to a floating dock a couple hundred feet from shore. It was a wonderful experience to see local farmers hand-carrying produce and other foods to the ship for its return trip. The farmers also handled the ship's baggage and would carry a passenger, if desired. We flew from Chongqing to Xian, where we saw the Terra Cotta Army and Pandas. There was still excavation and reconstruction of soldiers underway at the Terra Cotta Army site. The Pandas were great fun, and zoo a wonderful place for people of all ages. We moved on to Beijing, visited the Great Wall and jade factory on one day, and then Tienanmen Square and Forbidden City the next day. The anticipation was high for our tour to the Great Wall because there initially was fog in the mountains that acted like a curtain, and then lifted later in the morning. To be on the Wall was like being at a festival with traditionally clothed bands marching and people helping one another to take pictures to remember their visits. Tienanmen Square and Forbidden City were huge sites that displayed much about the history and culture of China. It was hot in June and this day required stamina and plenty of hydration to keep going. We went to the Beijing Opera and to a restaurant specializing in Peking duck for dinner. Both were pleasant experiences, and the opera was much different than Western opera. We moved on with another flight to Guilin, which was an area filled with magical landscapes of towering mountains, low river-lined valleys, and farms like in Chinese paintings. A day cruise along the river with lunch on-board ship gave a closeup experience that produced many great memories and pictures. Our last stop was Hong Long, and there was plenty of free time. We toured the city on foot, and went to Macau for an afternoon. The trip to Macau on a fast ferry was an event itself, and it was interesting to see the island. The only substantial delay we experienced during our entire trip was a half day with a return flight home from Hong Kong due to a medical emergency on the inbound US flight. Viking representatives helped us with options and escorted us to the airport. After a very hard working Delta Airlines representative finalized our arrangements, we checked our carry-on baggage at a secure storage locker and used this day to visit Lantau Island and a fishing village outside of Hong Kong to see dragon boat races. Everyone should hope for a delayed flight because the experience is priceless on Lantau with the 4-mile cable car ride to its peak. Our Viking River Cruise tour was a a wonderful life experience, where we enjoyed ourselves and learned so much about other people, their country, culture, and history. All of the Viking team members we encountered delivered excellent service, and especially Francis Yang our tour guide. The Viking Emerald and all transportation were in top shape and extremely clean. We would highly recommend Viking River Cruises based upon our experience. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
We just returned last week from the Enchanting Danube cruise on River Beatrice and really enjoyed our first river cruise. We did the pre-cruise in Prague and found the hotel (Imperial Art Deco) to be lovely as was our local contact, Jana. ... Read More
We just returned last week from the Enchanting Danube cruise on River Beatrice and really enjoyed our first river cruise. We did the pre-cruise in Prague and found the hotel (Imperial Art Deco) to be lovely as was our local contact, Jana. The excursions around Prague were great and it was also an easy city to get around in ourselves for sighteseeing, shopping etc. Boarded the ship in Passau which was a 4 hour bus ride through some beautiful contryside. The River Beatrice is a beautiful ship, fairly new. We had a suite which was wonderful because it came with FREE laundry service! The decor of the ship was elegant. I was not sure I would like the system of earphones and boxes for the tours but actually it was very nice. It allowed you to wander a little and still hear the guide. Very nice. The lounge and dining room were both lovely, never a problem finding a table. We did eat dinner in the Captain's lounge one night. That was a nice, intimate dinner that you had to sign up for. There was a set menu for that. I never saw the spa or the exercise room! I loved the fact that right on our floor was a little coffee bar where you could always get coffee, cappucino etc. People did dress a little nicer for the Welcome and Farewell dinners, mostly ladies in slacks with fancy tops and many men did wear jackets, but not all. Breakfast and lunch were buffets (plenty of choices) and dinner usually had a choice or 3 entrees. The food was very good. So was the wine. We found the excursions to be good, very knowledgeable local guides. The cruise director, Christina, who has since left for another Uniworld ship, was excellent as were all of the employees. I would definitely do another river cruise. My only caveat would be that it would be on a newer ship, such as River Beatrice. We boarded a sister ship one day in Port that was an older ship but refurbished. I did not care for it, it seemed much smaller with lower ceilings etc. I would recommend Uniworld but on the newer ships. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2011
We had waited a long time for our special Tauck River Cruise having booked many months in advance and having reviewed on-line brochures for most of the main river cruise lines. Our departure was a smooth one and the flight was without ... Read More
We had waited a long time for our special Tauck River Cruise having booked many months in advance and having reviewed on-line brochures for most of the main river cruise lines. Our departure was a smooth one and the flight was without problems (except for major delays passing through security in Frankfurt). We arrived in Budapest on a clear, sunny day, collected our luggage and looked for the Tauck representative who was meeting us (even though we were arriving a day ahead of the official beginning of our tour and staying at a non-tour hotel for one night. There he was holding a sign with our name on it. He walked us and 2 other couples on our cruise to the private shuttle to take us to our hotels. We walked our luggage the short distance to the Intercontinental hotel the next morning thinking that we would check the luggage and check in later in the day. Nope - Tour Directors were already at their table in the lobby; we were greeted with friendly words and smiles, checked in and had our luggage in our room in about 10 minutes. Wow - became our favorite word for the attitudes, knowledge and friendliness of the Tour Directors for the next 12 days. We had an amazing Welcome Dinner at the Budapest Academy of Sciences the first evening, toured Pest and Buda via buses with Tour Directors in charge and local guides at some places (Opera House, Castle Hill). On the second day, we boarded the boat mid-afternoon, were welcomed on board by Cruise Direct Lynn Hardcastle, provided our room keys and found our luggage already in our cabin. We were met by our room steward, Giorgio, unpacked and made our way to the lounge for orientation by the Captain and staff. The Captain was a hoot - so clever and funny and visible throughout the trip. We had a wonderful welcome reception and dinner that included beautifully presented full course meal with wine flowing throughout dinner (complimentary every evening during dinner).A full description would be too long to include here, so I'll just include the highlights. The beauty of Budapest and then the countryside as we cruised away was just the beginning of a lovely way to see some of the best parts of 4 countries (Hungary, Austria, Germany, and Czech Republic). The excitement (that never waned) of watching the Captain take us safely through multiple locks with little room to spare at times was one of the new experiences. Sailing through the Wachau Valley after visiting lovely Durstein was spectacular, especially when we passed the Melk Abbey. Surprise stop for coffee and local pastries on the only slightly rainy day that we encountered in Bratislava was so much fun and much appreciated. Fantasizing about Julie Andrews running across the meadows in the Austrian Alps as we passed the meadows on our way to Salzburg and seeing the fountain where Maria played with the Trapp children in the Mirabel Gardens and visiting Mozart's birthplace in Salzburg. Two days in Vienna, the organ concert in Passau's magnificent St. Stephen's Cathedral, sausage lunch in Regensburg are just a few of our special memories. But most important was the way we were treated all the time and by everyone on the staff. The Tour Directors - David Lane, Jeremy Shifferly and Fero Bakos - were incredible. They made a great team - knowledgeable and presenting great lectures in the lounge, problem solving every day with ease and grace, telling stories while in transit to inform us and pass the time while traveling. We felt like we were leaving good friends when we said good-by. Lynn and her staff on the boat were always ready with something to drink and a cool towel when we returned to the boat after excursions, reception desk staff were friendly and always ready to meet needs, cabin was always clean and bathroom sparkling when we returned to it each day. Bartenders learned our favorite drink quickly and within a day of boarding and called us by name (especially, my DH and how he likes his martinis). Food was plentiful and good - a bit on the high fat/too much salt side for us, but delicious most of the time. Buffets in the AM and for some lunches were presented beautifully and more than ample. Highlights were the welcome dinner and farewell dinner. Lighter food was available in the Lido Bar area but we didn't find it to our taste. Although we certainly loved the coffee/ hot chocolate machine!Entertainment was 'folkloric' - several times local entertainers were brought onboard to present local music and dances and well appreciated by all. One night, there was a hilarious staff show featuring the captain and one of the reception staff as an elderly couple getting into a bed (made with sundeck lounges and bedding)...very funny!! Local guides used microphones and each guest had an Audio-vox with headphone. We loved all of the guides that we had (guests were divided into 3-4 groups with one guide to a group) except one who walked and talked too fast for some of the guests. Guides were s so proud of their hometowns and very knowledgeable about the history and relevant sights. Excursions were very interesting and there was adequate time to take the guided walk and also have some free time to explore on our own. We learned so much - I feel like I've just passed a course in Central European history. And the pictures!! I can't even count how many I took - there was something that screamed for a picture to be taken at every turn. What a beautiful part of Europe. Disembarkation was easy and well organized. We left our luggage in the hallway outside of our room and next saw it in our room in Prague. Our tour ended with a bus ride to Prague from Regensburg and two days at the Prague Marriott (we added an additional day at that end as well so we had 3 full days to see and learn to love this city in the Czech Republic. Two Tauck tours and a private tour that we arranged for our extra day (plus an orientation walk by our Tour Director, Fero, when we arrived in Prague). On our day of departure, we were told to leave our luggage in our room and come down to the lobby at 7:30 AM to meet our ride to the airport. The bellman at the hotel had a list of times people were leaving and automatically went to the room and had our luggage in the lobby before the car came. We had a last look at Prague as we drove to the airport. As we got out of the car, we were met by a Tauck representative with a cart who walked us to the correct line for checking baggage. Our last works were - They think of everything!! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2011
Started trip with pre-trip in Prague, Hilton great but Viking staff generally confused there. Once we got on boat staff and trip looked much better. An included tour everyday. Local guides, whisper sound systems included so everyone could ... Read More
Started trip with pre-trip in Prague, Hilton great but Viking staff generally confused there. Once we got on boat staff and trip looked much better. An included tour everyday. Local guides, whisper sound systems included so everyone could hear, and Viking staff that knew exactly what they were doing. All the staff seemed dedicated to making sure you had a good time. I can't say enough about wearing good shoes. The cobble stones are wicked and exhausting. Most of the tours are through the narrow town streets with frequent stairs. That is just the way of European towns. The food was excellent with vegetarian offerings at every meal and a variety of alternatives if you didn't like the menu choices. I never heard anyone complain about the meals. On the other hand, it took four flights of stairs for me to get from my room to the dining room to be sure you are in shape for this cruise. For things to bring clothes, people loved the shoes, scarves, paprika, and sweet mustard. There are lots of cute clothes and dolls for kids and Coo Coo clocks. Do try some of the local sausages and beer along the trip. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2011
We booked our Hurtigruten cruise with our local travel agent and about 2 weeks before departure, our travel documents arrived. We booked the 12 day round trip from Bergen - Kirkenes - Bergen. Our trip started in Oslo. We spent a day of ... Read More
We booked our Hurtigruten cruise with our local travel agent and about 2 weeks before departure, our travel documents arrived. We booked the 12 day round trip from Bergen - Kirkenes - Bergen. Our trip started in Oslo. We spent a day of sightseeing but wish we had allowed 2 or 3 days for Oslo. The next morning, took a morning train, the Norway in a Nutshell. This is highly recommended with beautiful scenery seen by trains, boat and bus. It takes all day and we were so glad we did it. We arrived in Bergen in the evening and spent the next day and a half sightseeing. Around 3PM we arrived at the Hurtigruten terminal to board the Nordkapp. After checking our large suitcases we were directed to a large waiting room. After not too long of a wait, we were allowed to board and were told our cabins would not be ready until around 6PM. We were able to get into the cabin and drop off our carry on luggage right before the dinner buffet. We met a lovely couple from Australia and had dinner with them. Our first cabin did not have enough shelves for our clothes, plus a window that was about 2 feet deep, so not too good for seeing out. So after about 5 days were allowed to upgrade to a cabin on the 6th Deck which was really great. The beds are really comfortable and there was plenty of room for our larger suitcases. In case you do not want to keep the large suitcases in your cabin, there is a storage room where you can take them to. The ship has a tour director who announces upcoming ports and things of interest to see. There was a large panorama lounge on the 7th Deck for relaxing and seeing the scenery or for reading. There are buffets for breakfast and lunch, with a set time for dinner. If you do not like a lot of fish (like me) you can ask for a vegetarian meal, as long as you let them know by noon. Each meal had an appetizer, main course and dessert. We never went hungry! We booked three excursions. The first was a Geiranger excursion. The Nordkapp went down the Geiranger Fjord, then we disembarked by tender to the small town of Geiranger. We then boarded a bus that went up into the mountains, where we were able to look down and see our ship heading back to Alesund to pick us up. The scenery was beautiful, with a lot of sheep in the meadows. The second excursion was to the North Cape. At Honningsvag, we boarded a bus that took us through very unusual scenery. We saw a lot of reindeer on the mountain sides. After stopping at the North Cape visitor center, we took a lot of photos. That day the weather was very cold and windy. We then headed to a Sami camp and took photos of a Sami with his reindeer. There was a small souvenir shop there. Our third excursion was a tour of the Lofoten Islands. They are very beautiful with dried fish hanging on people's homes. Also, there are large racks where the villages can dry their fish. Every day, there are Hurtigruten ships leaving Bergen to make the round trip to Kirkenes and back to Bergen. It stops at 34 ports going north, and 34 ports going south. What ports are made during the night, are usually made during the day time on the trip back. Some ports are only for 15 minutes, some 30 minutes, and a few are 2 or 3 hours or more. The ship blows it's horn 5 minutes before leaving. The entertainment is the scenery which is always changing. I took loads of pictures of lighthouses, some are very beautiful, and some are really small. Most people were either out on the decks or in the Panorama Lounge. There was one guitar player in the evening that was really good. There is a small Cafe if anyone would be hungry. It is also for the locals who board the ship from port to port. The Gift shop was small, but held a lot of items and there were always sales going on. There is an internet room, but the connections are really slow. It took us 40 minutes to log on and write one email while we were in Kirkenes! There is also a small kid's play room. Getting off the ship, even if it is for 30 minutes or less and just watching the cargo being loaded and unloaded is very interesting. We saw farm implements, potting soil, frozen fish and even kitchen cabinets! Disembarkation is like most cruise ships, we had to leave our luggage outside our cabin by 9AM, and be out of our cabin by 10AM. So we just stayed in the Panorama Lounge until the ship reached Bergen. Then, we were dismissed by our cabin deck, which we were one of the first. We then caught a taxi to our Bed and Breakfast. This was a great trip and highly recommend it to anyone who does not need to be pampered every day and can be independent. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
We have traveled extensively, but have only started our cruising career. We have had two extensive cruises, one for 26 days, and the other for 30 days. Cruising is our preferred method of travel in the future. Having visited Europe ... Read More
We have traveled extensively, but have only started our cruising career. We have had two extensive cruises, one for 26 days, and the other for 30 days. Cruising is our preferred method of travel in the future. Having visited Europe more than 30 times, I am familiar with Europe and love it dearly. My desire to visit Russia was based on my study of history (I am a retired University VP, amongst other executive career positions in government and industry). My expectations of Russia were mixed, with an expectation of many Stalinist buildings and drab city facilities. My experience was exactly the opposite and the cruise exceeded every expectation. Russia is fantastic. St. Petersburg was a surprise and a delight. The visits to Peterhof, Catherine's Palace, the Hermitage, the Swan Lake Ballet, and the city in general were breathtaking. The quality of life was much better than expected and the Russian people were polite and helpful. Our cruise to Russia and the stops along the way have become life-time memories. Moscow was everything you could hope for and much more. The tours to the Kremlin, Red Square, the Metro, and the folk concert were simply beyond description. Our experience on board the Kirov, our cruise ship was exceptional in every respect. The food was 10 star, the staff were exceptional, the tour guides were first class, and the entire experience was amazing. We have made a movie of our cruise and have now convinced several other couples to go to Russian on Viking River Cruises. My sincere thanks to everyone associated with Viking River Cruises. I could write a book on this trip. Thanks again. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
Even though there were approximately only 130 passengers - EVERYONE was easy to get along with. Everything about the ship was great. The decor in our cabin (category 1) was beautiful. Although I did not realize that there are only 4 ... Read More
Even though there were approximately only 130 passengers - EVERYONE was easy to get along with. Everything about the ship was great. The decor in our cabin (category 1) was beautiful. Although I did not realize that there are only 4 cabins that have double sinks in the bathrooms. We enjoyed having the "French Balcony" - sliding glass door. The reason that the ships do not have balconies is because of the width of the numerous locks that you travel through. Sometimes there are only inches between the ship and the walls of the lock. The food was delicious and the service always great. We had the most interesting dinner conversations with numerous new friends on the ship. The included shore excursions were fantastic. My favorite was wine tasting under a castle with 1,000 lite candles. The tour guides in every city were very knowledgeable. We are looking forward to cruising with Uniworld again in the near future. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
It was a no brainer to chose Viking for our trip to China since our European trip from Budapest to Amsterdam was so successful. Service is our main reason to travel the Viking way. We also love the intimacy of a small ship along with ... Read More
It was a no brainer to chose Viking for our trip to China since our European trip from Budapest to Amsterdam was so successful. Service is our main reason to travel the Viking way. We also love the intimacy of a small ship along with the relaxed dress code. Food and drink was another factor. We enjoyed the cuisine and non-alcoholic drinks. Guides, housekeeping and waitstaff were superior. Cabins utilize every inch of space wisely. Open seating is critical to my husband and I since we make friends along the way. This setup allows us to invite new friends for a meal together and to join some of the other passengers we haven't met yet. We must reiterate the wonderful job the guides do. They treat us so well they become like "family". I trusted his experience explicitly and time and time again he never let us down. The amount of hours he worked in the evening and early in the morning showed us how dedicated to excellence your employees are. It is easy to recommend Viking to friends and family. We want them to have the same wonderful memories that make us two our your biggest fans. I hope to continue exploring new vistas aboard your ships. Russia is on our wishlist for Fall, 2012. See you soon. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
My husband and I have been ocean cruisers for 20+ years, and this was the first European river cruise we have taken. It without a doubt, was the very best vacation we have ever taken! We loved the ship, enjoyed the relaxed companionship ... Read More
My husband and I have been ocean cruisers for 20+ years, and this was the first European river cruise we have taken. It without a doubt, was the very best vacation we have ever taken! We loved the ship, enjoyed the relaxed companionship of our fellow passengers for the entire trip, the food was fantastic for all meals onboard the ship. The whole experience was very relaxing and invigorating at the same time. We loved all of the shore excursions which are included at every stop and loved how we were each given our own headsets so we could hear the tour guide no matter where you were in the group. The buses provided for our shore excursions were first class Mercedes Benz coaches! The ship personnel made returning to the ship each day after our tours even more fun by greeting us with some small eatable treat or smoothie. After much research we felt this was the best of all itineraries as we visited the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. It is just so peaceful and relaxing to be floating down the beautiful quiet rivers while gazing at scenery that includes castles and cathedrals on both sides of the ship. We still love ocean cruising too, but it cannot compare to European river cruising. To anyone considering going......GO! You will never regret a single moment or dollar spent. It is truly the best vacation we have ever taken and we can hardly wait to go again! We have booked for 2013 on back to back Viking River tours starting in Marseille France and going all the way to the Beaches of Normandy and Paris for our 40th wedding anniversary. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2011
My partner and I flew from Edinburgh to Munich via Amsterdam on Sunday 4th May 2012. Right from the start the arrangements made by Viking River Cruise clicked into place. KLM fights were comfortable, only slight hitch was the timing of ... Read More
My partner and I flew from Edinburgh to Munich via Amsterdam on Sunday 4th May 2012. Right from the start the arrangements made by Viking River Cruise clicked into place. KLM fights were comfortable, only slight hitch was the timing of the change on onward outward flight at Amsterdam - it was a bit too tight changing aircraft due to size and distance from arrival to onward flight. We were met at Munich and taken by coach to Viking Legend, our temporary home for the next 9 nights. First impression of the ship was good. It looked smart, neat and clean. Crew appeared to be very professional and friendly. Whilst we enjoyed a late buffet style lunch the crew were busy getting our baggage to our cabins and ensuring all was ready to hand over to us. Our holiday had started. We stayed overnight at Passau and on Monday we had walking tour of the City of three Rivers. Local guide was excellent and set the standard for local guides on such city tours. Our cruise started om Monday afternoon as we set sail from Passau down the Danube. This would be the norm, on this cruise most of the sailing would be at night, I will admit I was a tad disappointed at this, I came to understand the reasoning -but I would have liked to have a cruise in the day. Our stops on the cruise were from Passau, Linz, Melk, Durnstein, Vienna, Bratislava then Budapest. Each stop had an inclusive walking tour plus extras. We took the extra tours in Vienna which consisted of a visit to Schnbrunn Palace and an Evening Concert. Whilst I enjoyed the Schnbrunn Palace tour, with the benefit of hindsight I would either suggest it is done in the morning rather than the afternoon giving the option to explore the gardens and have lunch there instead of returning to the ship. My big disappointment was the Concert - not the concert itself which was superb, never has 2 hours flown by so quickly. My disappointment was being told no photography allowed, yet on getting there I saw videoing and photography. Still I have the memories of a great concert. If Vienna was the cultural highlight, then Budapest was the photographers highlight. The sailing into Budapest was at night but was a sight to see. The city and bridges were all lit up and the "Blue Danube" had turned to black and gold with the reflections, again a wonderful memory that will last me as long as I live. To summarise and cut short an otherwise long feedback review. Ship: Viking Legend. Condition: excellent, clean, smart and comfortable. Bar/Lounge was comfortable with good view from windows. Cabin - Standard class e was great, comfortable,clean and the shower was superb. The plumbing (vacuum) did make a bit of noise in use, but we soon got acclimatised to that. Crew: very professional - in fact we hardly saw the sailing crew. Hospitality Team. Bar staff/Waiting staff - excellent and friendly. The team that arranged the guided walks etc were great. The Tour Director and team were attentive and had arranged a good itinerary of visits and entertainment at night. All local guides were knowledgeable of their city and sites, providing good background and historical details. Cruise. These cruises only give on a taste of the cities they stop at, but they also provide relaxation. Whilst the sailing was mostly at night, the day or afternoon cruising was relaxing. Overall. I feel that this was value for money - especially the drinks package It allowed me to keep to a sensible budget re shipboard spending. A great atmosphere on board, you were made to feel welcome, it was your holiday and nothing was too much for the crew. Oh yes - the food, no I had not forgotten the food and still not forgotten the food. Superb does not do justice to the presentation and service nor to the taste. Conclusion - would I go again? Yes, would I travel with Viking again? Yes In fact the day after I got home I booked fro a different river cruise with Viking next year. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
Many friends started talking about their good experiences with river cruising, many with Viking. After looking thru Viking's catalogue, I convinced my husband to go from Prague to Paris (Cities of Light). On a river cruise, you do not ... Read More
Many friends started talking about their good experiences with river cruising, many with Viking. After looking thru Viking's catalogue, I convinced my husband to go from Prague to Paris (Cities of Light). On a river cruise, you do not have to pack and unpack. While we were in a new port every day, starting in Wurzburg, Germany,we never felt rushed. Most of our outings were by foot, rather than daily bus rides. The cabin was comfortable and Viking makes use of every inch. Meals were always good and being able to pick you meal partners was great. Small ships are perfect, as you get to know almost everyone. My husband really enjoyed the river cruise part of the trip. He is perhaps typical of some others, after seeing 1 castle and 1 cathedral, he has seen them all. I, on the other hand, was fascinated with all of the beautiful and historic buildings. I would recommend this type of travel with Viking to anyone wanting to see other cultures. The Cities of Light cruise travels on 4 rivers. The itineray goes both directions, Prague to Paris or vice versa. Give it a try! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2011
We have been on two other AMAWaterways cruises (Danube from Budapest to Nuremberg and Main/Rhine/Mosel from Nuremberg to Trier) and although this was unlike the other two it still embodied everything that AMA does well ... SERVICE, ... Read More
We have been on two other AMAWaterways cruises (Danube from Budapest to Nuremberg and Main/Rhine/Mosel from Nuremberg to Trier) and although this was unlike the other two it still embodied everything that AMA does well ... SERVICE, SERVICE, SERVICE.Embarkation was smooth, the cabins were ready at 11am, the Cruise Manager (Marion) was there to greet us with the Captain (Henk), the ship was sparkling and we felt like part of a family when we boarded.The cruise itself was hectic (meaning, we spent little time on the ship during the day as the schedule was so busy ... we did do the two EXTRA excursions to Brussels and Brugge). The food was EXCELLENT, the staff unbelievably attentive and personable (knew our names the 2nd day and used them consistently).I would recommend this cruise to anyone who who likes 'total immersion'. Every moment of every day seemed to be filled with something to do with Holland or Belgium. There was not much time just to relax and enjoy the ship and the crew (breakfast and dinner ... and sometimes lunch). No 'river cruising' during the day as the ship often met us at a new location while we were out 'touring'.All in all a highly recommendable experience (if you are active and like to be kept busy).AMA is still the best on the rivers (even better than Scenic, their main competitor). Read Less

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