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Sail Date: June 2015
This was our second Viking River cruise. Did a pre-trip extension in Berlin which was fab. Right in the heart of the city @ the Hilton, w/i walking distance of great food and prominent sights. Saw the Queen of England, spent a day in ... Read More
This was our second Viking River cruise. Did a pre-trip extension in Berlin which was fab. Right in the heart of the city @ the Hilton, w/i walking distance of great food and prominent sights. Saw the Queen of England, spent a day in the main train station just train watching & exploring, and enjoying sight, sounds & tastes of Berlin. On to Potsdam, our ship & headed to Wittenberg. My wife had a slight mishap and tripped going up the stairs from the dining room, and badly bruised her left leg and knee. For the rest of the trip, Sandy was the toast of the whole staff, with one staffer offering to give Sandy a shower. After a few days she was using a wheel chair to get around, but I continued to see the sight at every port. As we headed south on the Elbe, the water level kept dropping so that by the time we got to Meisen, we had to stop and do our remaining tours totally by bus, which was ok. We understand from local service providers that this happens frequently on the Elbe in summer. Plus we were in a major heat wave with temps getting to 95F (however, we were given a nice cash incentive when we book our next trip). Got to Prague where we also extended. My highlight was staying with Family in Litvinov & seeing where my families were from in Masti & Ujezd nod Zbecknem. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
My husband and I, together with two friends, were on the Elegant Elbe cruise in June, on the very new Viking Astrild. We were VERY lucky that the river level cooperated throughout our tour. The Elbe was very low during the weeks prior to ... Read More
My husband and I, together with two friends, were on the Elegant Elbe cruise in June, on the very new Viking Astrild. We were VERY lucky that the river level cooperated throughout our tour. The Elbe was very low during the weeks prior to our cruise, as well as the weeks after (low enough that Viking has had to cancel some July sailings). But thanks to some rain we were able to sail without major issues (however we had to use umbrellas during some of our shore excursions). We could not board the ship in Melnik as provided in the original itinerary, but instead boarded the ship in Decin, about half an hour away. Not a problem, as Decin has its own interesting sights to see. The Czech river authorities released some water from a nearby lock before our cruise to give the ship a "push." As mentioned the Viking Astrild is new (I believe we were on its 7th sailing) so everything was in great condition. The food was very good; I can't recall having any bad food, although I didn't particularly enjoy the German dinner since I don't really care for German food. The crew members were excellent, always smiling and eager to please. The program director Viktoria Muller was very well organized and made sure that everything went like clockwork. Onboard entertainment was fun and the lectures were educational. Shore excursions were mostly good, given the limited time available at each port. Every city has plenty to see, and there is no way that the local guides can show you everything. This was especially true in Dresden. If you want to see more, a river cruise is not for you. But for just the highlights, Viking's shore excursions are adequate. In some cities they also offer options for those who are less mobile. They even gave people the option to skip the tour in Potsdam and go directly to Berlin if that was their preference (though I don't recommend that since Potsdam is a "must see"). For the first shore excursion, we had the option of going either to Litomerice (beer tasting) or the Terezin concentration camp. I went to Terezin and found it very sobering and educational. I spoke to several people who went to Litomerice; they were not impressed. Not much to see in the town, and the beer tasting was nothing to write home about. The passengers on average were in their 60s-70s, but there were a few young people traveling with their parents. My husband and I met a number of very nice people who became frequent breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner companions. I was on the 2-week Rhine / Danube cruise last year and that is definitely more scenic than the Elbe, as well as very busy with other river traffic. I don't recall seeing other cruise ships on the Elbe other than the Astrild's sister ship, not counting the boats which just do day trips. There was never another ship docked beside ours. For the friends who were traveling with us, this was their first-ever river cruise. They found it "delightful" and were extremely pleased with the experience. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2015
My wife and I arrived in Budapest 4 days early to explore that beautiful city on our own, so, of course, our first contact with the Viking staff was when we boarded the Njord. From the first moment we were treated with great care and ... Read More
My wife and I arrived in Budapest 4 days early to explore that beautiful city on our own, so, of course, our first contact with the Viking staff was when we boarded the Njord. From the first moment we were treated with great care and consideration. The taxi driver let us off at a different Viking ship but the crewman from that ship walked us down to where the Njord was docked and even helped with our luggage. The cruise itself was great, especially the fabulous meals. The crew (from the Captain, the Cruise Director, the Head Chef, waiters, concierge, housekeepers, and all the rest) were friendly, efficient, and very helpful. We enjoyed the excursions and the free time to explore the cities along the river. Our only complaint was having to get up at 3:30 am to get us to the airport for our 6:20 flight. But we've had to make early flights before so that was not a big deal. Overall, we would highly recommend this cruise for anyone. We're in our middle 60's and not terribly athletic but we had a wonderful time. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2015
Very enjoyable trip of 29 days cruising the Danube, Maine and Rhine. Interesting stops along the way where we were able to get a good idea of the country side. Five luxury coaches were provided for off ship day trips. We were treated to ... Read More
Very enjoyable trip of 29 days cruising the Danube, Maine and Rhine. Interesting stops along the way where we were able to get a good idea of the country side. Five luxury coaches were provided for off ship day trips. We were treated to five star dining, often using product grown locally. Staff were very pleasant and were there to help in any way. Entertainment was provided most evening often found from the country we were visiting. All areas were cleaned daily and hygiene around food areas was always available. Information was on hand to help if you wished to do something on your own. Fitness area was not well used as it was rather small with only a few items to use. Cabin was perhaps abit cramped.The only complaint was that twice there was a very unpleasant smell which lasted for several hours, it was always there when another ship came and docked alongside. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
I did not know that Avalon is a part of Cosmos tours and ultimately Globus, an American Company. There were only 4 English People on the boat, the majority being American with a few Canadians and Australians. This does not matter of course ... Read More
I did not know that Avalon is a part of Cosmos tours and ultimately Globus, an American Company. There were only 4 English People on the boat, the majority being American with a few Canadians and Australians. This does not matter of course but lends a certain perspective. For example, the dress code is VERY casual.This boat is new with large staterooms and high quality fitments and toiletries etc. The tours are very well organised and the cruise director, Nancy Paredes is the best that I have come across. The food and wine is good apart from the vegetables which were mush. However our brochure mentioned a library and a shop which are non existent. The library is one shelf of books, half of which are travel guides and the shop is reception where you can buy a toothbrush. There was one nights entertainment, a trio of violins and guitar which were excellent. Other than that nothing! The lounge emptied at 10.30! This is an expensive trip and I had 2 big problems. The booking was made last September and 2 weeks before travelling, Avalon emailed us and changed the flights trying to blame KLM airline. This was untrue and it all descended into disorganised chaos. Also the brochure notified me for the first time that all gratuities are included in the cost of the trip. It does not say how much, nor can you opt out. I rang the Company who could not or would not tell me how much had been added to the cost of the holiday. Someone was supposed to ring back but never did. At the end of the cruise there were guidelines for gratuities for people who had not prepaid. These amounted to $200. Have I paid this? I don't know. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
Viking cruises are all top notch. I have sailed China with them before. Riverboats are small, food is excellent, service exceptional. Having said that, this cruise is of any interest ONLY if you are really into wine. Ports are very small ... Read More
Viking cruises are all top notch. I have sailed China with them before. Riverboats are small, food is excellent, service exceptional. Having said that, this cruise is of any interest ONLY if you are really into wine. Ports are very small villages with virtually nothing of consequence with the exceptions of Porto where you embark and Salamanca in Spain. The country-side is beautiful and the trip very relaxing. If we hadn't spent a week in Madrid and four days in Lisbon prior to the cruise, I would have been disappointed. There were no real port talks and no entertainment. I say this because on a Danube cruise (with a competitor) we had string quartets from the Vienna and Brataslava symphonies and art historians and historians talking about each country we sailed through. This is NOT that type of tour and if that is what you expect, you will be disappointed. A bread museum the size of my living room does not compare to museums in Vienna or Budapest. Having said all that, I learned more about wine (and drank far more than I normally do) than I ever would have thought possible. Moscatel (the cheap wine of my youth and the homeless) is really a delicious wine in Portugal and the vineyard & winery you tour is a highlight of the trip, as much because of the vintner himself as the delicious meal and wine we had there. The Mateus, another "cheap" wine from my youth was also far superior in Portugal and the Mateus estate is beautiful. Delicious, relaxing yes! Cultural not very much. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2015
This was my 5th cruise with ACL. It happened to be in my neck of the woods so didn't have to fly to get there. The scenery was spectacular. I would have been content to just sit on the boat and sail around looking at the scenery. ... Read More
This was my 5th cruise with ACL. It happened to be in my neck of the woods so didn't have to fly to get there. The scenery was spectacular. I would have been content to just sit on the boat and sail around looking at the scenery. The food, as always, was excellent with plenty of choice and if you didn't see something you liked the kitchen seemed quite happy to fix what you wanted. The servers seemed a little inexperienced so service was not as good as I am used to on ACL. Same goes with the cleaning the cabins. They could have been more meticulous. Most of the senior management was excellent, with the exception of the Activities Director who seemed scatterbrained and unorganized. I felt that sometimes it was because of her that we left late for excursions. Entertainment was so so. I guess I could say it was adequate. The shore excursions were terrific except for the bus overheating on the way to Hurricane Ridge. And even that was interesting because we had 2 deer come down and were very friendly. The onboard naturalist was excellent and very helpful. After all this carping, I have to say this was my 2nd favorite cruise with ACL and I will certainly use them again!!!! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2015
We were a grouip of six on the Viking Beyla Elbe River cruise in early June - One night in a nice Berlin Hotel (Steigenberger), seven nights aboard the Viking Beyla and One night at the end at the Prague Hilton. We arrived a week ealry and ... Read More
We were a grouip of six on the Viking Beyla Elbe River cruise in early June - One night in a nice Berlin Hotel (Steigenberger), seven nights aboard the Viking Beyla and One night at the end at the Prague Hilton. We arrived a week ealry and stayed in the outstanding Hotel Adlon in Berlin and stayed 5 days after in Prague in the Hotel Augustine to extend the trip. The Viking Beyla is a new smaller version of the Viking Longships which was built for traveling on the shallower Elbe River - see ship review below. Sadly when we had boarded the ship our outstanding Viking Program Director Radim and the ship's captain had the unhappy task of announcing that the river level was so low that the ship would not be able to sail as scheduled. So for four days we were in Mandenburg and Radim (and would guess large Viking support group somewhere) had to reorganize the schedule day by day to somewhow still offer coach tours to several of the sights we had been scheduled to sail to (the distances are not as great between stops as one would think). Viking has a fleet of deluxe coaches and great drivers who with Radim and his staff did the very best possible to be sure we were offered as much as possible while our river cruiser became a riverside hotel. We cannot say enough about the grace under pressure Radim and the Viking people handled all this last minute problem of making the very best of the no sailing/water level problem. Once we were able to sail it was a 3 day joy. Unfortunately the vistas on the earlier part of the trip are mostly flat farmland. Only when you get further up the river in Saxony do you get the beautiful mountains, castles, etc that you hope for but this was all cut short because of the schedule changes necessary. All in all it was a sad disappointment not to have been able to really enjoy the river cruise we had been looking forward to for so long. VIKING BEYLA as mentioned is beautiful and new. It is beautifully appointed and has a nice feel carrying only 98 passengers. The rooms are modern sleek, well appointed and well designed although on the small size as on all river ships. The forward main lounge opens up to include a nice outdoor covered terrace on the bow (a great pianist entertains). The dining room one deck below also has great windows thus is bright and well laid out for one sitting open dining. The food is just outstanding - all meals. Thanks to the great chef and his staff. The ships entire staff is tops and do everything possibnle to make you feel at home. In particular we salute Georgi who was both behind the bar and in the dining room and made sure the very nice wines kept flowing with his jolly smile. Our waiter Pater (as all the dining room staff) was on top of everything as was Andrea who was the main overseer in the bar. Viti our room stewardess was as good as it gets. So cheers to Viking, the Beyla and all the staff who were great in a unfortunate situation. I cannot rate shore excursions in that they were all not as planned and cannot give this trip a five star excellent that it surely would have been had we been able to make the planned schedule. We would love to do this again someday when it is an actual river "cruise". Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
Amacello review- seven nights Romantic Rhine (June 4-11, 2015): Day 1- Amsterdam (embark) Day 2- Amsterdam canal tour, then bus to meet up with ship at first lock. Day 3- Cologne (morning walking tour of city), Koblenz (evening ... Read More
Amacello review- seven nights Romantic Rhine (June 4-11, 2015): Day 1- Amsterdam (embark) Day 2- Amsterdam canal tour, then bus to meet up with ship at first lock. Day 3- Cologne (morning walking tour of city), Koblenz (evening walking tour) Day 4 morning cruising Rhine gorge, (Rudesheim (afternoon and evening tours), Day 5- Speyer or bus to Heidelberg (afternoon walking tours), Day 6- Strasbourg (morning walking tours, afternoon explore city on your own), Day 7- Bresach/Riquewihr (bus to city then afternoon walking tours), Day 8- Basel (disembark). Post cruise extension possible I have taken over 20 ocean cruises on 8 cruise lines. I wanted to try a river cruise and this one worked out with my schedule. I arranged my own air transportation and pre and post cruise hotels. I traveled solo. Good 1) The ship is nicely appointed. Cabins are compact but with loads of not easily accessible under bed storage. Closets were perfect for one person, but would be much tighter with two. Nice bathroom, with a good-sized shower with glass door, but limited bathroom storage. 2) The staff is very nice and repeatedly stated that “all you have to do is ask”. I did ask for and get pants hangers, and asked and paid for a cabin up grade from lower deck to one with a French balcony. 3) Free Internet is included, although cell coverage is spotty due to cruising on border regions. The in cabin media system had a range of European and American TV channel coverage, and recent movies on demand. 4) Wine/soft drinks/beer are included with meals. Cocktails are ~$7. 5) Food was generally very good. Eggs, waffles, pancakes MTO, fruits, all breads baked onboard. 6) Excursions are included, generally a bus tour followed by a walking tour with several types of tours for active and gentle walkers and also biking tours. Have to read closely to differentiate between see (drive by) and visit (get out of the bus). Use the quiet boxes, so I could wander away from the group and still get the commentary. 7) Lots of small groups (2, 4, 6, 8) travelling together- no large groups on this particular cruise, but I has head from fellow passengers that large groups (30-40) have occurred on previous cruises which dramatically changed the dynamics. Most passengers are 60-90 retirees, with one group of 40-ish travellers, and several extended family groups. 8) Local entertainment brought on to the ship was mostly good to excellent. Bad, 1) Ship is small (146 pax maximum, 112 for this voyage). The beds were European and very hard. Would have liked to have a choice of pillows. Really no place to hang out to read. Often the only room (Lounge) is in use for port talks or entertainment. So I spent a good deal of time in cabin watching movies, the scenery, or reading. 2) When I asked for sweetener other than “sweet and low”, the answer was that knew there were other kinds, but they did not carry them. So much for “All you have to do is ask”. Feel free to ask, but the answer might be no! 3) Nothing bad to add about media- They can’t control the cell coverage 4) Wish wine was available all the time, not just at meal times 5) Everyone ate at the same time. Lunch 11-1 pm depending on excursions, and generally 6-7 PM for dinner and you are asked to come within 20 minutes of those times. Didn’t like that, but it is a small ship so they have limited staff and kitchen space. 6) The excursion had limited choices. Some local guides ere excellent others not so good. 7) No accommodations made for solo travelers. Walking into the dining room brought back the horrors of high school lunchroom with lots of little cliques that formed immediately. Most nights I just asked around to sit with people, sometimes “seats were being held”, other times I met lovely fellow passengers. Sometimes if I sat down at a table then when the late arriving member of the “clique” arrived that acted put out. Really-I travel to meet new people, not sit with the same people every day. I am more used to ocean cruises were there are tables of solo travelers. On this ship there were only two solo travelers. This was my least favorite aspect of the cruise. Would I recommend this cruise? Yes for couples and small groups, definitely not for solo travelers. I might try another river cruise in 10 years, but I did not consider this a luxury experience. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
Although this is presented as a cruise the time on the water is only half of the trip. Nor did we embark at Shanghai but the option to choose Chonqing is not in the menu. This was our first experience of cruising since both my husband ... Read More
Although this is presented as a cruise the time on the water is only half of the trip. Nor did we embark at Shanghai but the option to choose Chonqing is not in the menu. This was our first experience of cruising since both my husband and I suffer from seasickness and had not thought it wise to try the oceans! The "Imperial Jewels of China", from Beijing to Shanghai is a once in a lifetime trip. It could hardly be called a "holiday" since leisure time is extremely limited at the beginning and end. Excursions to the "must do" sites such as Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Terra Cotta Warriors etc set off very early in the day to try to avoid the worst of the crowds (not apparently successful!) so leisurely lie in bed is not on the programme. And even on the ship the excursions and activities are time consuming. But apart from the endless crowds and the rather disappointing weather this is an amazing experience. The vastness of a country you see only a portion of, the different culture, the overwhelming scenery - so different as you pass through different regions, the seething crowds ...... The cruise part of the itinerary we enjoyed immensely despite a couple of wet days. Unused to the possibly more luxurious cruise ships we found The Emerald more than comfortable and the crew delightful. If you want more luxury stay put in the hotels that Viking arranged for the rest of the trip! We were unfortunate since the night we embarked at Chongqing was the night that the Chinese cruise ship went down in the Yangtze with the loss of about 400 lives. This impacted on our timetable but the crew were more than helpful and reassuring. We had hoped to be sunbathing on our stateroom balcony but sadly the weather was not that kind. In fact we saw the sun on few occasions which, coming as we do from Andalucia in Spain, was disappointing. The pollution in the big cities hides the sun and the weather systems down in the mountains mean the sky is often grey with heavy cloud and drizzle. So don't take this trip if you want luxurious leisure or if you have difficulty in walking for long periods of time or if bad weather might put you off or if you are allergic to crowds. Take it if you want to experience something totally different and have your mind blown by the "Imperial Jewels of China", it's something you will never forget! P.S. The Viking tour guides are fantastic, particularly ours, the lovely "Johanna", and make things run like clockwork even on such a tight and demanding schedule. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2015
We visited wonderful places - in awe factor order - Forbidden City, Great Wall, Terra Cotta Soldiers, Yangtze River Gorges, school visit, Zoo/Pandas, numerous historical/cultural sites sprinkled throughout our journey. Was not impressed ... Read More
We visited wonderful places - in awe factor order - Forbidden City, Great Wall, Terra Cotta Soldiers, Yangtze River Gorges, school visit, Zoo/Pandas, numerous historical/cultural sites sprinkled throughout our journey. Was not impressed with Hu Tong visit (much construction work which appeared mostly unkempt and junky) and a demonstration of hacky sac type game nearby. Our guide, Matt, was excellent - always in tune with our group and looking out for our welfare. I am an adventurous eater and the food was excellent everywhere we went. Viking Emerald is an older ship so it was not as well appointed as others but accommodations were satisfactory none the less. The ship's crew were friendly, courteous and professional always. The Chinese people appeared friendly and always smiled. We learned to say "Hello" in Chinese and that always brought a smile and a wave and occasionally a picture with "the American visitors" especially from the kids who were just adorable. We would not hesitate to book future Viking vacations in any country offered. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
This is a duplicate of the review posted for the preceding Paris leg of the trip. In May 2015 we embarked with UniWorld on their ship the River Baroness (RB) on the Seine, followed the next week on the River Royale (RR) sailing the ... Read More
This is a duplicate of the review posted for the preceding Paris leg of the trip. In May 2015 we embarked with UniWorld on their ship the River Baroness (RB) on the Seine, followed the next week on the River Royale (RR) sailing the Dordogne and Garonne in the Bordeaux region. This coupling of itineraries provides an excellent combination of the quintessential charming and glamorous Paris, with side excursions to interesting, quaint medieval towns, castles, chateaus, gardens, and to the Bordeaux region. The cruise lasted 15 days, including a land transfer from the RB to the RR using the high-speed TGV train. The itinerary of the trip was essentially as described in the UniWorld catalog. The scenic highlights of this cruise for me were of course Paris and surrounds, Normandy Beaches, St. Emilion, and the Chateaus of Bordeaux. The land excursions were mostly excellent, and very nicely selected to provide a broad spectrum overview of the area and culture. This review will mostly focus on execution of the cruise. Please be aware that some of the descriptions in this review will be in comparison to a UniWorld cruise we took in June of 2012, sailing on the River Duchess (RD) from Vienna, Austria, through Germany, ending in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. River Baroness and River Royale The RD set our expectations for a river ship. Never having been on a river cruise before that time, I was somewhat awestruck by the beauty and splendor of the ship; the reception, dining room, its lounge, and certainly its inimitable staff and crew. The stateroom was small, but definitely adequate. Three years later, now experiencing the RB, it is clearly an older ship in need of freshening. The reception area is tired and did not leave a great impression; neither did the lounge. The staterooms (level 100) are notably narrower than the RD, maybe a foot or two less, but that made a big difference in less ability for two persons to maneuver while dressing or trying to relax. This ship made us realize that on future cruises we need to get better informed and thoughtfully consider the ship and its accommodations. The sites where the ships docked were not necessarily in attractive or convenient proximity to their respective cities, except for Rouen and Bordeaux. But the most displeasing thing about where ships dock is that ships often tie up together side-by-side. This happened most of the time with each ship (RB & RR), resulting in no view whatsoever from the staterooms on that side of the ship. I realize none of the cruise ships have much control of this situation, especially due to the increasing popularity of river cruises. Fortunately, one usually does not spend much time in a stateroom except for sleeping. Culinary Experience As one would envisage, the cuisine is a delightful 5-star experience. Breakfasts, lunches, and dinners have typical, gourmet, and eclectic offerings to suit your preference. If in the unlikely case that the offerings do not meet your dietary needs or desires, the chef(s) are fervent to find something to your satisfaction. The best part of the cuisine are the dinner specials of the day, which are usually a specialty of a nearby locale; always a dining adventure. Dinners were usually five-course sumptuous feasts with fine wine selections. Moreover, much of the fare on-board is locally sourced. Of course, being in France, you can expect a smattering of interesting cheese, pate´, fish, duck, and luxuriant pastries and desserts. The soups were unique and delectable; they were on our must-have list every evening. On the RR, there was an excellent sommelier who every evening gave a short presentation of the wines selected for dinner. He also held wine education and tastings for small groups. This was a very nice and appreciated dividend indeed. One enticing option offered is the Saveur (flavor) Dinner in the RR Sky Lounge, a sunroom-like enclosure on the top deck of the ship. This popular sign-up option was limited to 25 persons or so, for a more intimate dining experience. The down-side of this experience is that the acoustics are so bad the conversation din was headache inducing. Further, the chairs had such narrow seats it was actually painful for some of us to sit. Lamentably, the staff admitted it was a known issue. Lastly, the sun shined so brightly through the large windows that sunglasses were a necessity. It was worth it though, to enjoy the perfectly prepared multi-course tasty cuisine. Almost as good as the food was the choreographed sharply executed food presentation at each table, reminiscent of a ballet. On the RB, the dining room staff were superb. They were omnipresent, yet nearly invisible when not needed. It seemed the very moment a glass needed refilling or plate removed, it happened instantly. The staff were all efficient, courteous, engaging, smiling and friendly. On the RR, the staff was equally efficient and worked assiduously, but apparently very understaffed, or maybe not as well trained. They just were not as attentive as the RB staff. My impression is that the staff was short due to cutbacks since the ship was obviously well below capacity. Shore Excursions Excursions are a main attraction of river cruising in France, and the itinerary offered on these cruises was exceptional. UniWorld’s selection of tours, sights, chateaus, castles, towns, farms, gardens, venues etc., were superb. They provided a broad overview of the region, while adding unique up-close views of past and present-day life. Because of the extent of the area, by necessity some of the tours required an extended bus trip to get to the destination, but those drives were often through beautiful scenic countryside with vineyards and charming villages. The guides were excellent, had amazing breadth and depth of knowledge, and were charming and witty, one and all. Each night before dinner a presentation was made about the itinerary and logistics for the following day, especially about the excursions and optional activities. Sometimes these were a bit hard to follow, much due to the fact that the written next-day itinerary was not distributed until after the talk. It would be much easier to grasp details if the itinerary was already in-hand when trying to listen to someone speaking with an accent. We found these talks to be important and useful to help decide which excursions we would choose, or not. UniWorld River Heritage Club The Heritage Club (Club) is obviously intended to reward, and thereby entice return customers. When poorly executed, as in our case, it is a dissuasion. The Club is purported to afford a cabin upgrade if available, have a private cocktail party with Captain and crew, provide a complimentary fruit platter upon arrival, and offer free weekly laundry, among other perquisites. After receiving none of these items on the RB, at the end of the week we inquired why. The purser said there was no record of our previous cruise (on the RD in 2012). Upon boarding the RR the next week, we asked the purser to look into it, as well as inquiring with our Travel Agent. The next day the purser said the record had been corrected. Nevertheless, there were these issues with the Club on the RR: 1) Never did receive a welcome platter. 2) Cabin upgrade was not offered, even though there were only about 74 guests on the ship (maybe 2/3 capacity), and apparently empty cabins. 3) We were ignored at the Captains cocktail party; no hors d’oeuvre served us. Admittedly, we were not sitting at a table with a “Reserved” card, but the reserved tables were occupied. We were, however, sitting at an adjacent table; likewise were a few other tables with Club members, but none of us were searched out. Part of the problem was that the cocktail party was set up in the lounge, and other guests started mingling with the party shortly after it started. Of course, none of those perks really much matter except for the cabin upgrade, and we were in fact afforded laundry service. UniWorld needs to overhaul management and execution of the River Heritage Club. Until then, you should ask for what you expect, - - or you may miss out. Summary These combined itineraries made for a great and enjoyable cruise. If you enjoy culture, art, and history, these are definitely for you, especially on the Seine. For the Bordeaux part of the cruise, you will enjoy it more if you are a wine aficionado or at least appreciate and enjoy wine. The length of the trip seemed about right, but another week extension onto the ship in the Burgundy region would probably be well worth it, given the expense to fly to France from the US or beyond. Obviously we had a few disappointments, hopefully just an anomaly, but we do not hesitate to recommend this cruise itinerary. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2015
Just returned from a Viking River cruise from Passau to Budapest. Overall a wonderful trip. We were in a cabin on the main deck. Very nice cabin with plenty of hanging space and drawer/cabinet space. You don't spend a lot of time ... Read More
Just returned from a Viking River cruise from Passau to Budapest. Overall a wonderful trip. We were in a cabin on the main deck. Very nice cabin with plenty of hanging space and drawer/cabinet space. You don't spend a lot of time in your room and many times you are docked next to another ship so we didn't miss having a balcony window. The half window was fine. Had an issue with a flooded bathroom (pump was broken) first night but the crew worked on it immediately and we had no problems after that. Great coffee machine on upper deck with all types of coffee such as café au lait, macchiato, cappuccino, hot chocolate etc. There were flavorings to add to the coffee and lots of varieties of tea. Cookies were served every afternoon. Food in the dining room was very good. Only complaint is at breakfast and lunch it was hard to get a menu or waiters to bring food not on the buffet. The chef on our cruise, Erik, was phenomenal and will do anything in his power to make your dining experience great including giving guest recipes for their favorite meals. Most meals were of the regional cuisine which was fun and flavorful. The hotel manager and activities directors were both exceptional, and the piano player sang Tom Jones tunes one evening and was wonderful. There were educational talks which were quite good and regional entertainment at night that was enjoyable. The ports were good. Passau was interesting but I could have skipped the organ concert it wasn't as good as I expected. If you get a chance have the Leberkase it is wonderful (it is also available in other stops.) The Melk Abbey Monastery was not to be missed and we had a great guide. In Durnstein I took the advise of the concierge and did not climb (as it was raining and he said it would be slippery and not much to see) but my husband along with another guest climbed to the castle ruins and said it was the highlight of his trip so I would advise if you are physically able to climb to do so. Bratislava was a disappointment as you do not go into the castle and there is not a lot to see. Vienna was wonderful but the tour does not take you inside any buildings. I was disappointed in the Symphony. The venue even though it was in the Palace was a quite ordinary room with jarring modern painting murals in orange and red on the ceiling and walls. Acoustics were good and the drummer had some amusing moments. Sailing into Budapest at night was spectacular and I was glad we started at Passau and ended here so that our first impression was the night time lights of all the gorgeous buildings on the Danube. Again the tour is mostly the exterior view of buildings except for Matthias Church. Our guide, Laslo, was the best. He sang to us and taught us a Hungarian dance which we did outside the church. Met some wonderful people and enjoyed our time. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
My wife and I sailed on the third sailing of the new SS Maria Theresa. We enjoyed much about the cruise although a few things left us scratching our heads. I will hit the highlights of the good, the not so good, and the unacceptable. ... Read More
My wife and I sailed on the third sailing of the new SS Maria Theresa. We enjoyed much about the cruise although a few things left us scratching our heads. I will hit the highlights of the good, the not so good, and the unacceptable. The good: The best part of the ship was the food and drink. The food is outstanding and on par with the best cruise ships have to offer (my point of comparison is Crystal). My wife and I enjoyed every meal and appreciated the ties to local cuisine. The chef has taken a light approach to sauces and that was much appreciated. The breads and croissants are to die for. The complimentary wines were wonderful and tailored to each region as the sailing progressed. Coffee is French press - the first cruise line that we have been on that has taken the time to do that. The staff was very nice and the service was of a generally high quality. The dining service quality was fine but not of the very highest quality. The difference is that cruise ships with the highest level of dining service anticipate your needs; they bring you coffee without asking, they offer a second bread stick before you request it, etc. On the Maria Theresa, we found that we needed to ask - they did not anticipate needs. It was not a big deal as the wait staff brought you what you asked for in short order. The little alcove for coffee on the lowest floor is delightful. It was a wonderful luxury to head there in the morning in my slippers, get a coffee and croissant, and take it back to the room. The included shore excursions were marvelous. The guides were uniformly excellent. The highlight was a special chamber orchestra concert that Uniworld arranged just for our ship in Vienna. This special effort that more main stream lines would not go to was much appreciated and something that we will remember for the rest of our lives. The not so good: Embarkation was anxiety filled. The ship was not where Uniworld said it would be, so when we got to the dock I had to scramble and ask other ships for help. It turned out that the ship was docked a mile away. It would have been nice if Uniworld had sent an e-mail or contacted our travel agent about the change in dock. But they didn't. Once we schlepped to the ship with our luggage, embarkation was a breeze. So if you book the Maria Theresa, please be aware that, at least in Amsterdam, the ship may be at a very different location than the one listed in your travel documents. I understand that everyone has different tastes in decor, so the following simply reflects the taste of me and my wife. We had read reviews about Uniworld's decor being over the top and now we know what they mean. This ship seems to reflect Marie Antoinette on a really bad "let them eat cake" day. The philosophy is that more is better - if a mirror looks good, add a lot more. If some marble in the bathroom helps make it wall to wall. If a pouffy drape and flowery upholstery and carpet work, add more. The result to us was not positive. There are so many mirrored surfaces that parts of the ship such as the downstairs hallway and the bathroom outside the dining room make you feel as if you are in a fun house. There are so many pouffy curtains that if the colors weren't subdued you could almost imagine that you were on a floating brothel. In looking back at the cruise it appears that Uniworld was attempting to recreate the feel of Versailles. Our opinion was that to do that effectively you need a much bigger space to work with. A more subdued decor approach works better with the small spaces a river ship has to offer. We were quite surprised to find that the Maria Theresa does not have any inside forward views and, to us, that was a significant deficit. The lounge is quite nice, but the forward view is blocked off. Sure, you can go up on the Sun deck, but if it is cool, the weather is inclement, or the Sun deck is inaccessible due to low bridges (which happened about 40% of the time on our cruise), then you cannot look out the front of the vessel. There is a surprising amount of vibration and noise when the ship is at high speed (as it was from Amsterdam to Cologne). During that period we could not sit in the Leopard bar at the rear of the ship due to the shaking. My wife had trouble sleeping during nights that the ship traveled at high speed due to vibration and noise and we spoke to a number of other passengers who said the same thing. The Maria Theresa boasts the latest technology, but that is a two edged sword. On one hand it is kind of neat that the TV is built into the mirror. On the other hand, I didn't really want to spend my cruise figuring out how to adjust the lights, air conditioning, TV, etc. After hitting the glowing round thing that is supposed to turn on the cabin lights for the fourth time in order to get them to turn on, I started longing for a simple light switch. The complimentary internet was nice and worked better than I expected - at least using my iPad. Trying to use the internet through the TV was an exercise in frustration. The cabin is cluttered with nonfunctional furniture. You would think that with space being a premium on the ship, that efficiency would be a priority. Not on the SS Maria Theresa. The design emphasis is on the Marie Antoinette look, not utility. Another example of the lack of utility was the layout of the dining room. Both the wait service areas and buffet stations are at the front of the dining room. So everyone has to walk past them to get to a table. Since the aisles are very narrow, this lead to traffic jams during breakfast and lunch as people entering the dining hall have to navigate past waiters filling drink orders and other passengers filling their plates at the buffet table. The obvious solution would have been to flip the room around and put the service areas and buffet tables at the back. This was one of the areas (along with the lack of frontal view and the lack of drawer space as described below) that had us scratching our heads and asking, "What were they thinking?" The unacceptable: When we got to our cabin, we called the front desk to ask where the drawers were for our clothes. After all, the ship was taking a 14 day cruise, so we figured there must be a hidden chest of drawers. The answer we got back was that there were cabins that did not have any drawers and ours was one of them. We were floored. You go on a cruise to not have to live out of a suitcase and now we were being forced to...well.... live out of a suitcase. When we talked to the hotel manager, she apologized and said it was a design flaw. But she didn't offer any useful remedy. Closing remarks: So would we book another cruise on the Maria Theresa? No. I do not want to cruise in a cabin without a single clothes drawer. I want a ship that has more tasteful decor and provides an interior frontal view. But I do want a cruise line with food this good and staff this nice. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
We travelled May 3/2015 from Amsterdam to Basel. We have travelled the large cruise lines in past,but wanted to experience what a River Cruise would be like. Because we were traveling from Canada we decided to land in Amsterdam on the ... Read More
We travelled May 3/2015 from Amsterdam to Basel. We have travelled the large cruise lines in past,but wanted to experience what a River Cruise would be like. Because we were traveling from Canada we decided to land in Amsterdam on the Friday before we would set sail Sunday. This was good decision to help with jet lag & also to get a good taste of Amsterdam. When we arrived at the airport Viking reps met us & we said that we weren't sailing for a few days but they helped guide us to the train & were more than helpful. Our hotel Movenpick seemed to be a hub for Viking for many different ships & we were able to get information as our embarking port had changed (everyone so helpful). When we arrived on board we were greeted by many Viking Crew members, one who walked us to our rooms ( Demeter also our favourite bartender)& our luggage followed in minutes. Our room was on the first floor (125)and it was very compact. We spent very little time there. Meals were good and our excursions were interesting. We purchased extra excursions which we felt were good value. The water levels were high as there was rain in Switzerland for over a week. This caused some disruption but for us, it was all part of the adventure. We were bussed to our excursions & once ate in Strasbourg instead of going back to the ship because of timelines. Viking took care of all of this. All hands on deck when we came back on board, stewards, hotel manager, & even the captain greeted us. They were appreciative of our understanding as itinerary changed, and we could feel it. It was a wonderful journey. Boyon was our cruise director & he was AMAZING. He & the hotel manager kept us up to date on any changes.Our consierge was also very helpful.I would highly recommend Viking & would travel again. Three couples travelled together & had a great adventure. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
This was our first river cruise. We started our cruise in Amsterdam on May 2 2015. We went to the Movenpick Hotel city center on Saturday to check in and take an optional "Flower time in Tulip Land" The Keukenhof Flower ... Read More
This was our first river cruise. We started our cruise in Amsterdam on May 2 2015. We went to the Movenpick Hotel city center on Saturday to check in and take an optional "Flower time in Tulip Land" The Keukenhof Flower Exhibition.The gardens are very big and beautiful. We were there just at the right time because all the Tulips were in bloom. Coach transfer to the MS AVALON VISIONARY after the Tulip trip.We boarded the Avalon Visionary and it was beautiful. Our cabin on the 3rd floor(upper deck) was more than we expected. A big queen bed facing a big French Balcony. It had a sitting area, chair, sofa, and table. The bath was better than any cabin on any cruise ship we were ever on before. We had our Mandatory SAFETY DRILL, then a welcome meeting and cocktail. 7 PM Embarkation dinner(every dinner was very good, with a good selection of food.) We really didn't leave Sunday we had an Included Canal Cruise of Amsterdam in the morning. Then lunch on board. at 1:45 we took the optional Shore Feature visiting The ANNE FRANK HOUSE. 5PM all aboard, then a port talk, 7PM Dinner, Afterwards music. The rest of the week was great with every day doing a city tour, then lunch, either a light lunch in the lounge or buffet in the main dinning room. Then Dinner at 7PM where you could sit anywhere with anyone you wanted to. The menu was very nice with meat or fish or chicken every day and wonderful soup salad and dessert. The ports were Amsterdam, Cologne, Rudesheim, and Mainz Strasbourg and Basel. We had a problem that the river was to high for ships to continue to sail down the river. We disembarked in Bingen and were driven to Strasbourg by motor coach were we were put on another Avalon ship named The Tranqulity II the same class ship as the Visionary only newer. After lunch we went to our new rooms(the same room as we had on the Avalon Visionary.) Then we did a tour of Strasbourg came back for coffee and cake then a port talk then dinner. After dinner a Black Forest Presentation then music and dancing. Overnight in Strasbourg. 8AM tour of the Black Forest by tour bus, for shopping for Cuckoo Clocks and some Black Forest Cherry Cake and Coffee. Back to the ship for a buffet lunch. After lunch a free tour to the City of Colmar France. This tour was Complimentary by Avalon. 4PM back on board coffee and cake. 6-7 Happy hour(every night) Port talk 7PM Dinner. Music and dance. We were to leave Strasbourg but due to the high water Avalon Tranquility stayed docked and we could not go Basel. Saturday we all left for Basel or Zurich by bus for our planes or trains home. The river being too high is no fault of Avalon, they gave every one $200.00 refund for the inconvenience. This was a great river trip and we are going to do another with Avalon. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
This was our first trip with Avalon Waterways River Cruise on their tour the Grand France Northbound from Cote d' Azur to the beaches of Normandy. I discussed my cruise on the first ship, Poetry 11 from Cote d' Azur to Pairs in a ... Read More
This was our first trip with Avalon Waterways River Cruise on their tour the Grand France Northbound from Cote d' Azur to the beaches of Normandy. I discussed my cruise on the first ship, Poetry 11 from Cote d' Azur to Pairs in a separate post. We had the same suite number that we had on the Poetry 11. The decor was very similar except for the colour scheme. As I mentioned in the other review, we were very impressed with the layout of the cabin and especially the balcony like arrangement. The staff were outstanding and really tried to make your trip experience enjoyable. The food was superb and a lot warmer to the taste than the Poetry 11 fare. From the beginning to the end we felt pampered. Yvette, our Cruise Director, was on top of things at all times and even arranged an easy walking group which my husband I joined quite often since we have knee problems. Rain was an issue on this leg of the trip as well. Giverny, Monet's country estate, was one such day. The pictures were beautiful with the overcast effect but the rain made lingering not an option. There were two things, on this particular part of the trip we were disappointed with. First, not realizing this was the anniversary of D Day and the beaches of Normandy, we encountered throughout the trip, derogatory remarks made about the Germans during the Second World War especially by the tour guides. The only exception was Martin, who was our excellent tour guide of Normandy and Giverny. His presentation was totally unbiased. My husband was born in German. His father was too old to participate in the war and he was seven years old when the war ended. To hear expressions like, "under the Nazi boot" upset him and now he realized why the guides were not that friendly, bordering on rudeness. I felt the same way because my heritage was originally German. I think the guides should be cautioned about presenting their personal views to their clients during an excursion. Our second disappointment and our whole focus for this trip was not really Normandy but the visit to Paris. Due to the rising water levels, we were bused into Paris and stayed at the Pullman Hotel, not centrally located by any means; no walking the Seine from your ship here. This hotel was the worst as far as the room was concerned and the food could not compare with the beautiful relaxed meals we had on the ship. Their restaurant was like a large cafeteria style set-up. In defense of Avalon and probably unheard of with any other river cruise company, they reimbursed us our money for one full day. Yvette, our Cruise Director, organized additional excursions for us which were normally not included. Hence, the "but" in my title. I guess one has to modify expectations on any trip and be prepared for the unforeseeable events. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
River cruising's dirty little secret- sometimes you don't get to cruise. We knew the day before we left home the ship would not be meeting us in Basal. Met by a bus at the dock and transfer was very seamless. Taken to Kehl ... Read More
River cruising's dirty little secret- sometimes you don't get to cruise. We knew the day before we left home the ship would not be meeting us in Basal. Met by a bus at the dock and transfer was very seamless. Taken to Kehl Germany, even further up the River than originally planned and sat there for four days (with a Viking Ship lashed to us for 3 days - that means people on that side of the boat had NO VIEW). Bus rides to excursions got longer and longer as we were further and further away from the planned excursions. Wednesday night we were told we were getting off the boat and would be in a Hotel in Weisbadden for two nights. Friday lunch we were told we would be getting back on the boat in Mainz for the next day and a half. A few excursions had to be cancelled or shortened due to extra time spent in buses. The staff, especially the cruise director Tomas and his assistant, turned themselves inside out to make it work. (Other things at play- a train strike and even a landslide!) When we could not get back to the boat for lunch we were given money to buy our own meal. The bus drivers became our heroes (3 point turns on mountain roads) for their inventive routes around all the traffic jams and we got to see parts of the country we would not have and even local curiosities like the self cleaning toilet seat at a road side rest area. Uniworld went so far as to charter another boat to take us on an hours long cruise through the Castle/vineyard area on the Rhine River. Because we went south to get back on the boat, we got a magical night time tour through the Castles and River towns when they were all lit up. Before we disembarked we had a compensating discount on a future cruise in our hands. We felt this was not adequate for all the upheaval we experienced. The trip became pretty grueling after spending so much time on the buses and the packing and unpacking was not what we paid top dollar for. Leaving the hotel in Weisbadden was done under a lot of pressure. Through our travel agent, we contacted Uniworld and they have come back with a much more adequate compensation package. I feel they have made good by us. Take away - pick your season for the Cruise carefully and pick your River as carefully. Our travel agent addressed this issue and was told the the Rhine is very reliable. While well controlled by the countries on the River, the Rhine floods ALL the time - the barriers all along the route speak to its history. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2015
I just loved the ship's restaurant staff. Such fun and so very happy to please us. The bar staff was equally lovely. I found out the hard way that they don't appreciate your bringing food from your excursions onto the boat and ... Read More
I just loved the ship's restaurant staff. Such fun and so very happy to please us. The bar staff was equally lovely. I found out the hard way that they don't appreciate your bringing food from your excursions onto the boat and eating them in the lounge. In your stateroom is fine. But they are more than willing to open a bottle of purchased wine in the lounge. Not sure what the difference is but lesson learned! Our excursions were very educational and geared nicely for all levels of ability and mobility. If you chose not to go ashore that was just fine. We ate several meals in the dining room and the food was great. The portions were reasonable and if you wanted something a bit different they were more than happy to accommodate you. We also ate several dinners on the Aquavit Terrace and that was equally nice. If it is too cool to have the doors open you have but to ask. GREAT service! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2015
This was our first cruise on a small ship. Our previous 4 cruises were with Holland America and Princess. The American Eagle is a new paddle wheeler and we were on it's christening cruise. She holds about 140 passengers and, being ... Read More
This was our first cruise on a small ship. Our previous 4 cruises were with Holland America and Princess. The American Eagle is a new paddle wheeler and we were on it's christening cruise. She holds about 140 passengers and, being new, there are some wrinkles to work out. I suspect many of these can be corrected, some not. First, the average age of the passengers is probably 70-75. Some with walkers or other mobility issues. Why the designers felt one slow elevator was sufficient for so many senior citizens I'll never know. Many were not able to climb 3 or 4 flights of stairs to get to or from their state rooms and the single elevator resulted in long waits for many. Really! Next issue is the ventilation system. The only way to keep the dampness out of the room is to run the air conditioning constantly. After a while, even down south, it gets too cold in the room. One the AC is off, the moisture in the room builds up quickly and everything gets damp. Even the slider to the veranda has so much condensation on the inside, you can't see out it. While in Baton Rouge and tied up at the dock, a wicked storm came through with 70 mph winds and tornado warnings. Every room on the port side received water damage as the strong winds pushed rain under the sliding door and wet the rugs. Really wet. It's not easy to dry out carpet so it took about 4 days for that to get corrected. The crew did what they could. This didn't help the moisture issue I'm sure. The acoustics in the dining room were terrible. Again, we're talking about senior citizens, many with hearing issues, but even with good hearing, it is hard to carry on a conversation at a table of 6 due to all the back ground chatter. Now, let me go over some of the pluses. Once you've paid your fare, you can pretty much put your wallet away. Unlike the big boats, excursions are included, going ashore on a hot day, water is free. Complimentary cocktails every evening with top shelf liquor. There is no jewelry shop, gift shop or over priced artwork to buy. Free wireless. Drinks with lunch and dinner free. The staff is all American and a friendlier, more polite bunch would be hard to find. There is entertainment in the evenings after dinner that includes free ice cream Sunday's. We're not talking big name entertainment but Bill and Laura on our boat kept us laughing, singing and amazed at their talent all week long. The rooms are larger than the typical veranda room on the big cruise ships. The excursions were mostly bus tours of the ports of call and plantation tours. The best part was the small boat experience. It is so much more personal. We were treated like kings and queens, not a number with a fat wallet. The crew gets to know most everyone, and visa versa. Would we cruise again with American Cruise Lines? Absolutely. The mega cruise ships have become too impersonal and greedy. It's probably safe to say my wife and I will seek out more small cruise ships in the future. We loved it! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
We love cruising rivers in Europe and went on Tapestry I about 6 years ago on Rhine. Tapestry Ii has much better dining area, lounges, rooms, etc. However, they are still working kinks out on safety in the halls. Walking down the hall ... Read More
We love cruising rivers in Europe and went on Tapestry I about 6 years ago on Rhine. Tapestry Ii has much better dining area, lounges, rooms, etc. However, they are still working kinks out on safety in the halls. Walking down the hall on our 4th day, 2 laundry bags were left lying outside in the hall beyond the large cart. We could not see them since the cart blinded them in our direction. With people coming and going at 8 am for breakfast and excursions, the laundry bag tripped me up and I went flying down on the floor. It certainly put a damper on our trip with bruises and pains for several days/weeks. Hopefully, they have rectified this type of error to prevent future passengers from this unpleasant experience. The food was good, free-flowing wine at dinner, and wonderful service by bar, restaurant and front desk. Entertainment on board was best provided by the daily pianist; the hairdresser-Anette is amazing; and entertainment lounges quite ample. I would recommend a better French singer on board for future performances. Normandy was very moving! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2015
We had a great time on our Viking Bordeaux cruise. We knew going in that it was mostly a floating hotel but we choose this cruise for the wine and itinerary and we were not disappointed. It cracks me up to hear people complain about this ... Read More
We had a great time on our Viking Bordeaux cruise. We knew going in that it was mostly a floating hotel but we choose this cruise for the wine and itinerary and we were not disappointed. It cracks me up to hear people complain about this cruise when all someone has to do is a little research and reading to see what this cruise is all about. If you want fantastic castles and rivers with sloped vineyards then do the Rhine. About us: We were a group of 6 from the USA. We ranged in age from 53 to 65. 4 of us are red wine lovers and 2 are new to wine. One became a red wine lover on the cruise. What we liked: The food and service were excellent. I thought that there was a good choice every meal. Our attendants, Robert, Peter, Boris, and Marcia were fantastic and should earn far more money that they get. The wine on board was different each day and while not Premier Cru was still good. The meal and wine at Chateau Kirwan was one of the best meals I have ever had. The wine tastings at Chateau de Tertre and Chateau D' Arche were fantastic. Three of the 4 local guides we had were great as were the tours to Cadillac, St Emilion, and Blaye. My excursion to taste Truffles was great. While I can't say that I like truffles, the whole experience was worth the money. The owner of the farm was truly a man who is passionate about what he does. Farrah, the truffle hunting dog was a joy. The beautiful vineyards on our bus trips and excursion were just starting to bloom. I have a new appreciation for Bordeaux wines. Viking transfers and travel arrangements were excellent. Our room, while small, was quiet, clean, and functional. What could be improved: Being that this is a Wine themed Cruise, I would have liked to have gone to a different vineyard everyday for a tasting. I thought the entertainment could be more varied than just a piano player (who was talented) every night. The 1 evening they had something different (French opera singers) was fantastic. Bottom line: We had a blast and will do a Viking cruise again. If you want fantastic scenery, go somewhere else. This cruise was about the Bordeaux experience, wine and food pairing, which Viking achieved. with success. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
We got back a few days ago from our Vantage river cruise. It was wonderful! We left from Amsterdam and sailed the waterways to Belgium and back. The River Splendor was a great boat. Very clean and great staff. My only real negative was the ... Read More
We got back a few days ago from our Vantage river cruise. It was wonderful! We left from Amsterdam and sailed the waterways to Belgium and back. The River Splendor was a great boat. Very clean and great staff. My only real negative was the noise in the dining room during dinner. It was like all passengers needed hearing aids and had to raise their voice to talk. It was hard to talk to the person across the table. For some dinners we chose to go to the buffet at the other end of the boat. Only 40 people (usually only 15-20) and same menu as in the dining room. The food at lunch and dinner was excellent. Wine was included at no extra charge.Breakfast was the same every day and was rather boring. Eggs, omelets, cereal, oatmeal, cheeses, juice, pastries, etc. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate was available in the lounge during the day. I had tried to determine before we left if my husband needed to take a sport coat for the captains dinner. He finally took one but next time he won't. Maybe 25-30% of the men wore one, the rest just a nice shirt and khakis or slacks. The rooms were clean and well planned. The shower was large and they provided nice size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc. We had a French balcony but next time I might not pay extra for it. We were hardly ever in the room and many times we were tied up right next to another river boat and had to keep curtains The shore excursions were wonderful. It was so well organized. The busses were comfortable and the tour guides very knowledgable. If we were to leave at 9am we left at 9 am. I don't usually like to be herded like sheep from one site to another but it wasn't too bad, mainly because of the guides. Also, wherever we went there were groups from other boats. Unlike Viking Cruises, there was no signage on the dock as to where the boat was docked. We arrived in Amsterdam 5 days before the cruise so had to make our own way to the boat. I called Vantage to find out where the boat was docked and luckily it was behind our hotel (Doubletree) within walking distance. It was behind 2 Viking Boats and not easy to find. This was our first river cruise and will not be our last. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
The brand new SUN is a nice ship. The beds are comfy, the opening windows are a nice touch and the food is pretty good. The staff were also very good. As this was the maiden voyage, there were some teething issues; hair dryers turned up ... Read More
The brand new SUN is a nice ship. The beds are comfy, the opening windows are a nice touch and the food is pretty good. The staff were also very good. As this was the maiden voyage, there were some teething issues; hair dryers turned up late, the pool wasn't in action until about day 4 and then it was very cold. Our bar fridge did not work for the entire trip and the light above our sink liked to blink off occasionally. For the most part, food was pretty good but often the cooked food (in the warming plates) were warm-ish. Also, I'm gluten free and it seemed like the waiters weren't well educated about what that meant and it wasn't always easy to get GF food. However, once I started speaking directly with the Maitre D or the chef, things were better. So don't be shy! My main gripe, as someone who is not yet retired, was the early timing of breakfast. Cooked breakfast was offered between 7 and 9. I don't usually get out of bed before 9 on holidays! So if I wanted a fried egg, I had to set the alarm. Setting the alarm is not really my idea of a holiday! Also, because of the early starts, we tended to do our own thing and only took advantage of 2 included tours. The first one was a bit dry but the 2nd guide was really funny and made the tour more enjoyable. If you have walking issues and/or you don't mind getting up early EVERY DAY, then you'll be fine. They did offer us a lunch when we embarked. Earlier reviews about starving until dinner on the embarkation day is no longer true. The self-serve coffee/tea is really good but a queue would often form since there is only one machine. All in all, I don't think I'd do this type of cruise again, but it was an interesting experience. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
This cruise was a gift to me from my husband, to revisit my roots. I was born in Basel, Switzerland and left from Le Harvre, France to immigrate to the United States of America as a child. My desire was to replicate the pictures I had from ... Read More
This cruise was a gift to me from my husband, to revisit my roots. I was born in Basel, Switzerland and left from Le Harvre, France to immigrate to the United States of America as a child. My desire was to replicate the pictures I had from Basel, so this was to be an enjoyable cruise for my husband and I, but I was also a woman on a mission– to see and photograph my roots. Anyway– we were on the Viking 'Odin' which afforded us luxury and a perfect home-away-from-home. Our stateroom was always kept immaculate by our 'housekeeper' Eloisa, and our meals were always 5-star delicious treats, served by friendly and efficient servers. The size of the number of guests on board- under 190, made it personable. We enjoyed the excursions offered to us by our Ship's Director- Dianna and made the most of them. The cruise ended in Trier, where we all boarded buses to our next destination: PARIS! That city was unique! We stayed at Le Meridien Etoile, with a Paris extension. Our room was clean, but we had problems with our room keys the entire time. I still am not sure what the problem was. The city tour along with our own touring using the Metro was simple and painless. I am so very glad that I had gone online three weeks prior our leaving the states and reserved tickets for the Eiffel Tower. The final day of our 'cruise' ended far too quickly, but it was indeed a delight! Read Less

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