1. Home
  2. Cruise Styles
  3. River Cruises Cruise Reviews
Cruise Ratings
2,086
349
191
156
100
See Reviews For
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2010
The purpose of this review is to explain why, after our recent cruise in Russia, my husband and I will avoid Viking River Cruises in the future, and why we will advise others to avoid Viking, too. We are experienced travelers, and we ... Read More
The purpose of this review is to explain why, after our recent cruise in Russia, my husband and I will avoid Viking River Cruises in the future, and why we will advise others to avoid Viking, too. We are experienced travelers, and we understand that no trip is going to happen exactly as planned. We do, however, expect that as conditions change we will be kept informed. The number of variations between what was sold and what was delivered, coupled with the failure to keep us informed of significant changes in the itinerary (detailed below), were significant enough that the term "bait and switch" kept coming to mind. A certain amount of trust between the travel vendor and the traveler is necessary for a good travel experience. After this Russian cruise, we do not believe we can trust Viking River Cruises. In addition, in spite of three attempts to contact Viking about these issues (twice via e-mail and once by letter), no one at Viking has responded. This leaves me feeling that, once they have your money, they lose interest in you. First: The condition of the ship was not as described in Viking brochures. When I made the booking with Viking in November 2009, I was advised by the Viking agent that the Pakhomov was an "excellent choice because it has just been renovated," something which figured heavily in my decision to book this cruise. In fact, per Stephan Busch, Hotel Manager, the Pakhomov had been scheduled for renovation in late 2009, but this renovation was not done. Mr. Busch told me on June 13, 2010, that he and others had made Viking Cruise Lines aware of the discrepancies between the ship as it was and the ship as it was described in Viking literature, but that "nothing had been done." In my view, therefore, we were sold something that did not exist. Second: Viking withheld information from us. In November 2009, I also booked the Helsinki extension, mainly for the "scenic ride though the rolling landscape," described in the Viking literature. Two or three days before that extension was to start we were informed that there would be no trains running between St. Petersburg and Helsinki on the day the extension began, and that we would be flying from St. Petersburg to Helsinki. Since our primary reason for booking the extension was to see more of the countryside, we would have preferred to fly home instead of going to Helsinki, but by the time we were informed only very costly alternatives were available. However, our air tickets for St. Petersburg to Helsinki were purchased by Viking BEFORE WE LEFT THE U.S. TO BEGIN OUR TRIP. In addition we were finally told, again just before the Helsinki extension began, that we would be in Finland during a National holiday, and almost all museums and restaurants in Helsinki would be closed. No optional tours were offered to take advantage of the holiday: we were simply left with a lot of free time in a virtually empty city. We were told in Helsinki that this Holiday had been celebrated for over 50 years - so Viking should have been well aware of it, but they didn't share that information. Third, there were numerous small things that, individually, would not have been of much concern but added up to irritation: • The "Itinerary & Departure Information" brochure states on page 6 that "Porters will...take your luggage to the transfer buses. Instead, one of the Viking guides pointed to luggage carts saying that we would have "a ways to walk before we got to our bus." When the bus finally came, one of the Pakhomov sailors loaded our luggage into the bus as we brought it to him. When we were in the bus, the Viking guide reminded us to tip the sailor. • The brochure states on page 25 that dinner is "generally" at 7:00 p.m. In fact, dinner was at 7 p.m. only once. Dinner was at 7:30 seven times, 9:30 once, 8:00 once, 7:20 once and 5:00 once. • The brochures states on page 26 that smoking is not permitted indoors on the ship. This apparently does not apply to the crew area. Heavy cigarette odors almost always emanated from the crew's quarters. Happily, this often served to cover-up the smell of raw sewage that wafted through the ship on a regular basis. • Again on page 26, the brochure indicates that staterooms aboard the Viking Pakhomov have safes and telephones. They don't. • From page 27, "staterooms aboard...Viking Pakhomov have televisions featuring channels with some U.S. or English programming." There was a television in the room, but most of the time - even in port - there was "no signal" and nothing on the television except the channel advertising Viking cruises. • Per page 28 of the brochure, "when possible, we will notify you of changes to your itinerary prior to departure; when not possible, your Program Director will advise you of changes. See discussion above about the Helsinki land extension. • The on-line description of the Category A Deluxe stateroom (the kind of room we booked) says that each has, "hotel-style beds (can be separated); large picture windows that open; private bathroom with enclosed shower; air conditioning; space under bed for storing suitcases; roomy wardrobe with wooden hangers; converter in the bathroom outlet." In fact, most hotels would be ashamed of the beds, which were small and furnished with thin mattresses. There is a large picture window, but we were advised never to leave it open because of the mosquitoes. There is a private bathroom in the stateroom, but the only thing that "encloses" the shower is a plastic shower curtain; thus it is nearly impossible to take a shower without getting the rest of the bathroom wet, too. There is an air conditioning unit in the room, but the desired temperature can only be approximated. There is space under the bed for storing small suitcases, but the "roomy wardrobe" isn't very roomy, and we had to sign for extra hangers if we wanted more than the few supplied with the room. There is no converter in the bathroom outlet; in fact, there is no outlet in the bathroom at all. And one more thing: there are only two public rest rooms on the boat. That was not an issue until the last day when all of us were required to leave our rooms early in the day, but many of us were not taken to the airport until late afternoon. I do wish to emphasize that the crew of the Pakhomov were friendly, helpful, and well-organized. I do believe that is very unfair to the crew to expect them to deal with a number of customers who have promised something by "the head office" which the crew cannot deliver. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2010
This past summer I had the pleasure to be a passenger on the Inaugural Cruise of American Cruise Lines newest ship, the "Independence" with an itinerary which included New England and Maine ports of call. Over the past 10 years I ... Read More
This past summer I had the pleasure to be a passenger on the Inaugural Cruise of American Cruise Lines newest ship, the "Independence" with an itinerary which included New England and Maine ports of call. Over the past 10 years I was also fortunate enough to cruise on the "Maiden Voyages" or "Inaugural Cruise" of all of their other ships. This trip was the 10th cruise I had taken since ACL resumed operation in 2000. If you are want a relaxing informal "Small Ship" experience sailing within US waters with a great US crew, one of the American Cruise Lines ships will be the ship for you. Many of the passengers I have met on the ACL cruises feel the same as I do as they too have been repeat passengers. We always enjoy discussing our previous experiences, trips, and itineraries with American Cruise Lines. Many of the cruises have had a local historian or naturalist on board, who keep the passengers well informed about the local history of the areas we visited. ACL also arranges for sightseeing tours in most of the ports they visit, however if you are free to arrange you own "shore excursion" or just stay on board and relax. While underway, my favorite "on board" activity is to sit on the sun deck and follow along with the Waterway's Charts for the area. Just think of a "Chart" as being your Roadmap if you were driving your car. I like to pin point exactly where we are by watching for the Channel Markers and buoy Markers as well as to try to locate the various Light Houses, Towers, Steeples, and Bridges which are marked on the charts as navigational aids. The ships also have an "Electronic Chart" or GPS in the lounge so that the passengers can follow along if they wish. All of the crew members go out of their way to make your cruise a memorable experience. The staterooms are roomy, and comfortable with individually controlled heating and air conditioning. Each room also has Satellite TV, and large pictures windows. Many of the staterooms have a small balcony where you can sit and enjoy the scenery. All of the ships are equipped with a small passenger elevator and the crew members are always willing to assist with wheelchair operation on and off the ships. In the past, I had always cruised with my mother and in some cases, other family members, however this most recent trip I felt completely comfortable traveling alone as a single lady. If you are looking for a casino, swimming pool, or nightly "show" entertainment, American Cruise Lines is probably not for you, but if you want a nice relaxing vacation aboard a small cruise ship with other passengers who have the same interest, they cannot be beat. Most of the passengers are seniors, many of whom are retired. I have already signed up from my next ACL cruise which will be the Potomac to Philadelphia itinerary in the spring of 2011 and I know I will sail on the Mississippi River aboard ACL's new boat in 2012. Can't Wait!!! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2010
My husband and I enjoy traveling usually on a tour, but packing and unpacking and being bused from one city to the next becomes taxing after a while. Now comes the beauty of the "river cruise." Most of the time we didn't ... Read More
My husband and I enjoy traveling usually on a tour, but packing and unpacking and being bused from one city to the next becomes taxing after a while. Now comes the beauty of the "river cruise." Most of the time we didn't know that the ship was actually moving. It was a lovely smooth sail and the sights of passing ships and barges, not to mention the farms, livestock, and vineyards, were picture perfect. How delightful it was to drop our luggage in our room, unpack, and begin a wonderful cruise down the Rhine, beginning in Amsterdam, cruising through the locks to Cologne, Koblenz, Rudesheim, Heidelberg, Speyer, Strasbourg, Breisach, and disembarking in Basel, Switzerland. The price of the cruise is inclusive of all meals, ever flowing wine and beer at dinner, and all morning excursions. The choice of food offered at all meals (breakfast and lunch buffet-style) will satisfy even finicky palates. Afternoon excursions are optional and I would steer clear of the wine-tasting tour. Our group was offered wines that were no longer in production so even though we tasted a 2008 Riesling, we could only purchase a 2009. Then we had to sit through a boring film. Only the scenery while traveling was beautiful. The only bright spot was that when you returned from a tour, the staff was in the lobby with tea and hot towels to refresh you. The ship was spotless and the rear lounge that offers coffee, tea, fresh fruit, and cookies 24/7 was always maintained by staff. Since we were continuing our journey after the cruise we took advantage of the laundry service which was extremely fast.The desk personnel were helpful and accommodating regardless of how many times you asked the same question. Robert, the tour director, reminded me of Billy Crystal's impression of Fernando Lamas. He was funny and charming, but when it came to business, he was knowledgeable and professional. We were transferring after the ship to another excursion and the Avalon staff made the transition effortless. We cannot extol enough accolades on Avalon for making this a great trip (despite the BA strike). I would cruise down any river with Avalon! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2010
July 11-18, 2010, Arles to Chalon sur Saone After 56 ocean cruises, my wife and I decided to try a river cruise. We chose Burgundy and Provence because we especially like red wine, and the only white wine my wife likes has bubbles in it! ... Read More
July 11-18, 2010, Arles to Chalon sur Saone After 56 ocean cruises, my wife and I decided to try a river cruise. We chose Burgundy and Provence because we especially like red wine, and the only white wine my wife likes has bubbles in it! We are wine fans, but were not as familiar with the regions of France, so this itinerary was just right....through the heart of some of the best red wine regions in France. We flew to Marsailles and were met outside customs by the Uniworld representative a little after 10am, and advised that the bus transfer to the ship would be at 11am. We relaxed in the terminal enjoying coffee and french bread and at 11 went looking for the Uniworld bus. Unable to find it, we checked with the Information booth and she advised they left at 10:40. They called Uniworld and the representative arrived and told us they were waiting for a flight due about noon. We finally boarded the bus about 12:40 and arrived at the ship in Arles a bit after 2pm. The embarkation processing was very prompt and we were in a cabin quickly. The luggage arrived a few minutes later. The ship, new in 2006, has a crew of 34, and a capacity of 134. On this sailing there were 125 passengers. The crew are multi-tasked on embarkation and debarkation day, loading and delivering. The ship has one elevator, so it could accommodate a wheelchair, but it would not be able to go up to the sun deck. The sun deck has hot tub aft, and many chairs, tables, and chaise lounges. There are two large awnings, but they must be lowered to pass under some bridges. There are 3 passenger decks, the bottom with portholes, the middle deck with windows, and the top deck has French balconies for each cabin, with a glass door that opens and you can actually step out about 2 feet to a railing. That is what we had booked. Considering they urged us to travel with one piece of luggage and a carryon, the storage was adequate. The bathroom was adequate with a glass enclosed shower. There was a 110 volt razor outlet in the bathroom, and a 110 volt outlet on the dressing table in the cabin. A hair dryer was provided. Bottled water was complimentary. The middle deck is where the dining room is located. Dining is buffet style for breakfast and lunch, and open seating for diner, with tables for 2, 4, 6, and 8. Breakfast included French pastry, omelets to order, a rotating daily choice of fruit filled crepes, or pancakes or French toast. Dairy products and fresh fruit were available. Lunch had salads, hot entrees, small pre-made sandwiches, pasta, and a carving station. Soup was available to order from the waiters. If you sit in the same area each time, you will have the same wait staff. At dinner they offered a 5 course menu with a choice of 2 entrees. My wife, who prefers fish, was happy to be offered halibut, grouper, John Dory, dorado, pike, salmon, and trout. Meat entrees included pork loin, strip steak, lamb shank, veal filet mignon, chicken, beef tournedos, and rabbit. Steak, chicken and salmon were always available as options. This was an Epicurean Adventurer theme, and local recipes, food and wine were featured. Wine at dinner is complimentary, and ranged from Cote du Rhone (Syrah), to merlot, pinot noir from Burgundy, as well as several white wines from the regions. There is also a wine list available with wines for purchase. Dinner was generally at 7pm. I was impressed that at dinner the servings were not oversized. Sometimes on ocean cruises, if I eat the full 5 course meal, I'm stuffed! The portions served in the river cruise were modest and I didn't feel I had overeaten at any time. They also could accommodate special requests at dinner. Entertainment was limited to a pianist and small dance floor in the lounge on the top deck, where a bar is open all day, and continental breakfast and light lunch and tea are available during the day. On two evenings after dinner, a local pianist and vocalist played, and one afternoon a demonstration of silk painting was available. But with a city every day, walking excursions, and fine dining, not much more was needed. There was a flat screen television in the cabin with CNN, BBC, Sky News, and some movies. There is also a fitness room with 2 machines, a massage area, and a sauna, located aft on the top deck, just below the hot tub. Just outside the dining room on the middle deck is a boutique open a few hours a day, and a lounge with 2 computer stations, but no printer. Internet was available for 15 Euros for unlimited time during the week, and the satellite was generally available. In the lounge is a machine that makes instant beverages, including expresso, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. It is available 24 hours a day. There are also 6 bicycles available at no charge that can be used or reserved. They are beach cruiser style but have hand brakes and gears. We did use them in Lyon, the largest city visited during the cruise, to get around in the afternoon. Because the ship docks right in the towns, my wife was able to get up early and walk 5 miles each morning feeling safe and getting an early look at the new towns. Each evening before dinner they have a short presentation about the next day's agenda, including what time the morning excursions would depart. Each day there was a free excursion, all but two walking through the town with a local English speaking guide and a AudioVox set with earphones so we could hear the guide without being right next to them. We would walk through the area, narrated by the guide, and generally there was some time to walk independently before returning with the group, or we could remain on our own. One of the free excursions was by bus where we rode through the Burgundy vineyard areas and visited Beaune, followed by time on our own in the Saturday market, and a ride back. There are four optional afternoon tours available, at reasonable cost, that included a visit to an olive farm, a visit to lavender fields, a visit to a Roman aqueduct and wine tasting in Chateauneuf de Pape, a visit to a working 17th century chateau followed by Burgundy wine tasting, The vessel accounts for passenger leaving and returning to the ship by issuing cards for each person in the cabin. You collect your cards at the purser's desk when you leave, and return them when you return. The mix of passengers ranged from a credentialed chef from a community college in Illinois with a group of students, a group of 20-30 year olds, a good number of 60 somethings from England and Australia, and the rest North Americans, and one German couple. On Monday in Arles we had an informative lecture about Van Gogh, who lived there for 2 years and painted "Starry Night" and others there, before the morning excursion visited a Roman amphitheater, where they still hold bull fights, and other local sites. In the afternoon we walked around the town again, and stopped at a supermarket to purchase wine to take back aboard. We had a day and a half in Arles. On Tuesday we were in Avignon, a walled city to where the popes in the 1300's had fled from Italy and built a place for the popes. It is open for touring and our morning walking tour went into the walled city and to the palace. There was a room where the wines of the area were available for tasting or purchase. The tour then visited an indoor market where every kind of local fruit, fish, meat and cheese was available. In the afternoon we went on the optional tour by bus to the Roman aqueduct and the wine tasting at a winery in Chateauneuf de Pape. Wednesday we were in Viviers and the morning walking tour into this medieval village ended with an organ recital in St Vincent Cathedral. Thursday the ship was berthed in Tain L'Hermitage. The morning tour walked to a local winery for a tour, explanation and wine tasting. We then continued across the river on a pedestrian bridge to Tournon for a guided walking tour. Some of the vineyards on the hillsides here, especially on the L'Hermitage side, were originally planted by the Romans. Friday we berthed in Lyon, the second largest city in France and a city known for its food. The morning tour was by bus to the basilica which is Lyon's hallmark church overlooking the city, and narrated drive through the city. After lunch we rode bicycles back into the town, where we spent several hours. The ship is required to pass through about 10 or more locks sailing up-river on the Rhone and Saone rivers, at least one of which raises the ship 75 feet. Saturday we arrived in Chalon sur Saone, and in the morning traveled by bus through the Burgundy countryside to Beaune. It is a historic, walled city that for centuries has been at the heart of France's wine trade. It was, and still is, an affluent city. The land the vineyards are on is very expensive, and the wines produced, some of the best in France, are auctioned here. We had a guided tour through th Hospices de Beaune, a hospital built to serve the indigent centuries ago, and was still operated until the 1970's. It is now set up as a museum. We were then free to spend an hour on our own in the Saturday market, where vendors offered samples of cheese, sausage, and other wares. We purchased wine for our coming visit to Paris there, including an outstanding local sparkling white wine, a cremant, and a pinot noir. In the afternoon we walked throughout Chalon sur Saone visiting shops, watching two wedding parties, and sampling some wine. There is no need to put luggage out the last night. On Sunday, breakfast was available early for those with early departures. They arranged taxi for us and two other couples that were taking a train, and moved our luggage to the pier for the taxi at 7:45am. The taxi was only 12 euros for 3 couples and all out luggage. I had purchased tickets online from Rail Europe in advance for a train from Chalon to Dijon, and a high speed train with reserved seats from Dijon to Paris Lyon station for $69 per person. There was a long queue for taxis at the Paris Lyon station, but we were at our hotel by 2 pm. I had selected a hotel on the Left Bank in the Latin Quarter, just blocks from Notre Dame Cathedral, a brand new Holiday Inn with ultra modern room and bathroom treatments, and a refrigerator in the room. It was a block from Rue St Michele and literally dozens of bistros and a french bakery was half a block away. Also nearby was a bank, the BNP Paribas, with ATM's that Bank of America had advised me in advance would charge no ATM fee for using BofA debit cards to get Euros. I used this bank any time in France I needed Euros, and there were branches all over. With just 2 days in Paris we elected to purchase a 2 day hop-on/hop-off bus ticket for 32 Euros per person. There are 4 routes, and we chose the Paris Grand Tour route on Sunday, which included Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Eiffel Tower, and much more. With the Louvre alone needing most of a day, we left entry for another trip. The other routes we rode on Monday included the Montemarte Grand Boulevards, with a view of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the Moulon Rouge, and fashionable shopping districts. Next was the Blue route which included the site of the Bastille Monument, and Bercy, including the national library, the sports stadium, city hall, and the train station we had arrived at. Last was the Orange, Montparnasse - St-Germain route which included the Latin Quarter, Luxembourg Gardens, the Pantheon, and more. We ate the first evening in a bistro. Most offer a 3 course fixed price menu for about 14.50 euros per person. The second evening , we chose a small very nice restaurant overlooking the Seine and Notre Dame and paid a bit more, which with a bottle of Rhone wine ran about the same as a nice restaurant in the US. After dinner, we walked across the Seine, past Notre Dame to a bridge where we could see the Eiffel tower lit at night, and saw the hourly light show at midnight. We had arranged a private shuttle through the hotel from the hotel to the airport, about 20 miles away, about 40 minutes in traffic, and 60 euros. We look back on this trip as truly memorable. We loved the personal attention on the small ship, berthing in town, walking through the small towns sampling wines and visiting markets, and everything about Paris. And I learned much more about French wines and wine production requirements there. We'll do it again, perhaps Paris and Normandy next. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2010
I traveled on the River Beatrice with my parents July 2010. We selected Uniworld and the River Beatrice based on what we new about Uniworld's reputation and the newness of the ship and we abolutely loved it! If you are looking for a ... Read More
I traveled on the River Beatrice with my parents July 2010. We selected Uniworld and the River Beatrice based on what we new about Uniworld's reputation and the newness of the ship and we abolutely loved it! If you are looking for a luxurious hotel on the river, this is your trip and ship. We enjoyed two days in Budapest and then spent the day cruising to Vienna. It was a relaxing day that really made us feel like we were on vacation. The itiniery, the food, the included tours all worked so well and exceeded our expectations. The ship's staff couldn't have been more helpful and we felt pampered without feeling like it was a pretentious or uptight environment. Personally I was one of the younger people on the ship which was about 70% retirees but our fellow passengers became friends to us as we enjoyed the sights of Vienna, Salzburg, The Wachau Valley and Passau. While a riverboat cruise is not a cheap vacation, we found it to be a good value. Our money out of pocket was quite modest once on the ship. I would highly recommend Uniworld and I would highly recommend this trip -- particularly starting in Budapest. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2010
We have just returned from our first trip with GCT. This is not a first riverboat cruise, but the first with this com. First of all the River Harmony is a lovely CEAN ship. We chose the prelude deck and it was quite fine. Husband thought ... Read More
We have just returned from our first trip with GCT. This is not a first riverboat cruise, but the first with this com. First of all the River Harmony is a lovely CEAN ship. We chose the prelude deck and it was quite fine. Husband thought one deck higher would have been better. The Captain was next to us so if it is good enough for him it is fine for us. Being at the water level did not create a problem. The only noise was when the barges would pass by and it sounded like water rushing by the boat. When you heard it you then got use to it and knew what it was. It is strange how the boat never rocks with the water motion. Our room was the nices when it comes to storage and though the beds are only 2 twins i think most people know how to handle that. The beds were nice as I liked the idea that you could elevate them, just like a chaise lounge, good for those who do sleep at home with their beds up some. The bathroom was the best size especially the shower of any cabin catagory we have had on a cruise ship. Even if you are large I don't think you will have much trouble with the shower curtain taking a shower with you. The crew and the Captain are just as friendly and nice as you could ever expect. Our captain was always where he could be seen. Even on departure day the first group leaving at 4:30 a.m. he was there to say good bye. Everyone has a bad day but they never show it. They love to talk to you and of course the policy of GCT is for them to call you by name. They do a great job of learning that very fast. program directors are top notch. They are young and I can't figure out how they keep their cool around all the SENIORS. They know their stuff and if they can't answer some question they will let you know they will find out. I do think sometimes people try to test them. Our stops were very nice,you can check out the itinerary for those. Most included tours were of the towns, villages etc. It is nice as the P.D. do give you a good overview. The optional tours which for us was Luxembourg was very good and included a lunch that was very nice. The highlight of this tour is going to the American cemetary,puts tears in your eyes, the sight is just beautiful Other optional was the Delta Works, I did not want to go but was glad I did. Many women think it is a man think, but to see the work and story behind it was worth it to me. Now about food. The presentation is beautiful. Many people think it is good. I would only rate it as fair. I did not starve or go away hungry, but it was not high on my list of best ever food. Plenty choices for breakfast, with lovely fresh fruit. Lunch, salad bar could have had more things to put on the greens. Soup they served and the cold soup was my favorite as it always is on any cruise. Dinner is another story. Two choices for entrees, and all else is the same for everyone. Always on the menu is salmon or grilled chicken. There is a vegeterian choice also. Since at the end of the day dinner should be relaxing I found they rush to clear your courses so everyone is served the same thing at the same time. GCT to to blame for having only a certain amount of servers and believe me they work their tails off. More servers could make for a more relaxing meal. Breakfast and lunch you pretty much wait on yourself so that works out o.k. Evening was nice to be on the sun deck and a few nights they had special entertainment or just a great guy singing and playing the key board on the off nights. After a long day of walking and sightseeing it was good to turn in early for what would be a new adventure on the river the next day. It is a very relaxing way to see Europe along the rivers. Yes I would go again but not ready to sign up for another yet. This was a first for the home visits and that was very interesting. The home we went to the lady went beyond her duty to serve good treats and it was nice to see her home and yard. In fact I have emailed her with a return already. I think they love what they do with the Grand Circle program. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2010
The river cruise and tour was with GCT on the River Harmony. It was 5 days pre-cruise in the Alps, from Lucerne, then 14 days on the Rhine and Mosel rivers, then 4 days post-cruise in Brugge. The pre-cruise and post cruise were good; nice ... Read More
The river cruise and tour was with GCT on the River Harmony. It was 5 days pre-cruise in the Alps, from Lucerne, then 14 days on the Rhine and Mosel rivers, then 4 days post-cruise in Brugge. The pre-cruise and post cruise were good; nice hotels and good tours, but the river cruise was not my cup of tea. It was very regimented with tight schedules and too many ports. I think we visited 11 or 12 ports but I lost count. I much prefer setting my own schedule, stopping to smell the roses and being able experience each port's uniqueness. In talking with many towards the end of the cruise, few could recall one port from the next. The schedule was; up at 7:00-7:30, go eat breakfast, pick up transmitters, meet guide ashore to do 2+- hour walking tour of each village. Then, back to boat for lunch, then back to village on my own as there was nothing to do on the ship, then meet for the next day's preview talk at 6:45 while we sail for next village, then dinner at 7:00, then nothing to do but go to bed with nothing on TV but 2 old movies which were supposed to be appropriate to the tour; i.e. war movies like Anne Frank. The food, though presented well, was German, Swiss, Belgian food featuring blood sausage, over cooked meat with gravy over everything, sauerkraut, beets, cabbage, over cooked vegetables...you get the idea...old world food! There were no chops, no steaks, and the only seafood was overcooked, previously frozen fish. Both lunch and dinner seemed hurried with standing in line for the lunch buffet. Midway through the trip, I started staying ashore after the walking tour and searching out brew pubs to sample the local beer and then trying to find a pizza parlor for lunch! GCT sells only to Americans so for me, it would have made more sense to serve us the type of food we are used to with a sprinkling of the old world. The wine served with dinner was very poor quality. Even the bartenders remarked about it. I opted to buy a wine package and also buy wine ashore. There was no pool or spa on the sun deck. I was one of only three people who lay in the sun but after the heat wave in Switzerland and part of Germany, most of the time it was cloudy and cool. I believe I was the only person to use the spa on the lower deck but only used it once as only one jet worked. The ship was very well kept and clean. I had a cabin on the top deck with a small veranda. My cabin was small but at least the bed was good. The Captain and other staff personnel were great and so were the tour directors. They were definitely a high point. So, my bottom line is; River cruising is definitely not for me and I doubt that I will ever do another. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2010
Being children of the cold war, we had mixed feelings about visiting Russia. Needless to say, our concerns were unfounded. Not only did we have a great time on the Viking Kirov, but we updated our image of Russia and the Russian people. ... Read More
Being children of the cold war, we had mixed feelings about visiting Russia. Needless to say, our concerns were unfounded. Not only did we have a great time on the Viking Kirov, but we updated our image of Russia and the Russian people. Plus, we met may wonderful people on the cruise some of whom we'll add to our friends list. As for the ship and the crew, they were very professional and accommodating. The food and service were excellent with plenty of variety including local dishes. The guides were exceptional, all native Russians, mostly from St. Petersburg. Their English was excellent and, along with local guides, they provided us with reams of information about Russian history up to the current day. They were open about their recent history and the transition from Soviet to modern day Russia. After may years of propaganda on both sides of the Iron Curtain, it was refreshing to experience the openness. We were impressed with how clean and friendly both Moscow and St. Petersburg were. You've read about the heat and the smog. That was a challenge but we worked around it, thanks to an air conditioned boat and tour buses. This is an education trip, not one that you kick back and snooze ... although you can to that, but you would miss the best parts. When the trip is over, you brain is full and needs a rest. At least mine does. Not everything was perfect. Viking advertises WiFi. It worked sporadically and when it did, the bandwidth was very narrow. I took my new iPad which does not have an Ethernet connection, which was a problem so I had less access than those with net books or laptops. I wish Viking was fix the connectivity or set expectations better. Several people complained of feeling ill. Nothing serious but certainly took the fun out of the trip. We're not sure if someone brought a virus on board or maybe the ships water wasn't purified enough. Although hand cleansing stations were available, Viking was not as diligent as other lines in encouraging their use. I don't know if that would have helped. All in all, the experience was well worth the money. It gets four thumbs up from us. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2010
We sailed on the River Countess on a Rhine and Main Rivers ("Rhine Discovery") cruise in July 2010, from Basel, Switzerland to Nurenberg, Germany. We arrived on our own in Basel a few days early and toured on our own. The day ... Read More
We sailed on the River Countess on a Rhine and Main Rivers ("Rhine Discovery") cruise in July 2010, from Basel, Switzerland to Nurenberg, Germany. We arrived on our own in Basel a few days early and toured on our own. The day of departure, we took a taxi to the dock around Noon. The crew took charge of our luggage. The Hotel desk staff had us checked in (in) less than one minute and sent us to the lounge to wait for our cabin to be ready. There were sandwiches, pizza and cheese for us to snack upon, with free tea, coffee, iced tea and water. Soft (and hard) drinks were available from the bar. Sodas cost about 2.50 (Euros) while drinks ranged from 4.50 to 6.50. We explored the ship as well. As you can see from the floor plans, it is small. It has: Lounge in the bow; a small library with 2 desks with PC's, two 4 person bridge-style tables and two 4 person easy-chair groupings; reception area with "hotel" and Cruise Director desks; 4 decks of cabins; "shop" (10 x 10 feet) with jewelry and kick-knacks; a coffee station with espresso, teas, hot chocolate and iced teas; a fitness room with 2 x each of treadmills, bikes, ellipticals; (free) passenger laundry with 2 x washers and dryers (soap available for purchase at the Hotel desk); massage room; and restaurant aft. We met a few other couples while we waited. The other passenger groups ranged in size from couples to a group of 8 neighbors from the States. There were two families with teens, but I strongly recommend against bringing kids. The company and tours are not geared toward them at all. The age range of adults seemed to start at 45 and went up to 93, with two couples seemingly in their late 30's (or with much better plastic surgeons). There were 138 passengers on board for our cruise. An aside: One couple, from Australia, told us Uniworld had lost their reservation (yes, they had their confirmation paperwork) and had to scramble to find them a cabin. They were booked in a Cat 4 cabin, but were given a Cat 1 for the first ½ of their cruise (7 days). For the inconvenience, they were invited to the captains table and given a suite for the second ½ of the cruise. We were given our cabin keys at around 1:30. The cabin was a little smaller than most other cruise ship cabins we have had. It had 4 large drawers, 2 half-height and one full-height closets...plenty of space for our clothes and a tall space under both double beds for our luggage. One of the closets had a large safe, able to hold a large camera, wallets and laptop. It also included two fluffy robes and a large umbrella. There was a "makeup" area with mirror and stool with its own light as well. The TV was about 13 - 15 inches seemed to have lower resolution than SD, making it very hard to read the daily announcements, menu's, etc. The ship has satellite service which went in and out as we passed bridges, trees, clouds, etc. It worked fine while we were docked. Channels included CNN International, BBC, Discovery Channel, Cartoon Network. Two different recently released to DVD movies which changed daily played as well. For our cruise, they included Alice in Wonderland, Dear John and Shutter Island. As with our other cruise experiences, the bathroom was just large enough for a sink in a small vanity with mirror and lit magnifying mirror, toilet and shower. The shower was surprisingly large, considering the rest of the bathroom. The crew is simply the most cheerful, helpful group we have had the pleasure to meet. Everybody was smiling and seemed genuinely happy to help in any way possible. The Captain and Hotel Manager (married) were professional and very funny throughout our interactions. The Cruise Director (Claudia for this cruise) was very knowledgeable, helpful and kept close track of all 140 of us through our excursions. Unlike most of our other cruise experiences, the food ranged from very good to excellent. Even the breakfast and lunch buffets were of excellent quality. Lunch and Dinner menus were posted the night before on the TV and before each meal at the Hotel desk. Wait staff were all friendly and attentive, serving and refilling drinks at all meals and helping the mobility-challenged of us. Breakfast included a daily special, like crepes or eggs benedict, eggs/omelets cooked to order, a great selection of breads, juices, smoked salmon, cheeses, cereals and a variety of hot foods: scrambled eggs, bacon (crisp AND soft separately), pancakes. All meals were served in one sitting, without any assigned seating. All passengers fit at once(obviously). Tables held from 2 - 8 (10?), all with views out floor to ceiling windows side and/or aft. You could either sit at a table the size of your party or dine with other groups. Each meal most people either sat at tables with empty spaces or asked to sit in said empty spaces. If you wanted to "reserve" a large table for a large group, you simply got there as early as you could to hold it. The variety of people we met made for the best part of the cruise. We met families from US, UK, Australia and Canada. Most people were happy to meet each other, though there were a few groups more insular. Over the course of the cruise, we met about 16 different couples over meals and found a number of friends with whom we plan on keeping in touch. Lunch changed daily and always included a different carving station entrEe, such as a German version of a Pot Au Feu (the best offering, in our opinion), salmon with a lemon cream sauce and carved beef. There were also different soups each day, all made in-house. Every single one was excellent. There were a variety of cheeses, three different salads (changing each day as well...chicken and Caesar salads were great), two different hot entrees, vegetables and starches. Finally, there were always 2 or 3 desserts created by the in-house pastry chef. Her creations were always beautiful and had excellent flavor. Finally, if you did not like her creations that day, there was an ice cream sundae station. Dinner was served, as opposed to the buffets of the other meals. You were given a menu listing the (4) courses, with a choice of entrEe and occasionally a choice in appetizer. Appetizers included I am not going to discuss the tours at any length. They were a good compromise, given the range of passengers. All guides were friendly and easy for us English speakers to understand. Some thought the guides were long-winded, others thought they gave an excellent level of detail. Our only real complaint: Internet access was as close to useless as I have ever seen. At least dial-up provides you with a consistent connection, slow as it may be. The wifi network was only usable from the lounge and library (and on the rear sundeck, I think). Once you signed in to get access, you were usually unable to get any further to the Internet. There are also two desktop computers to share, which had exactly the same lack of Internet service. While I understand the spotty nature of Satellite Internet service, it should have at least been available while we were docked. The whole week, all of us would stick our heads into the library and ask the current set of frustrated EMailers if the "Internet was working". 75% of the time it was not, 10% of the time it seemed to move at 1 Kbps (Yahoo/G/Hot- mail would take about 5 minutes to load), and 5% of the time it was "normal". Mind you, that 5% of the time, maybe 2% gave us speeds fast enough for ANY media access. One poor woman worked for an hour to view pictures of her grandson and family online. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2010
I admit it: my husband I are hooked on river cruising. Once upon a time we thought it was fun to schlep our suitcases around by underground and walk for miles in search of unique destinations. Now we've discovered the joy of being ... Read More
I admit it: my husband I are hooked on river cruising. Once upon a time we thought it was fun to schlep our suitcases around by underground and walk for miles in search of unique destinations. Now we've discovered the joy of being met at the airport by a friendly face and having our suitcases taken to our room where we can unpack them for a whole week. A small floating hotel will take us to those unique destinations while we sit on deck and enjoy the scenery. And when we arrive, we can just walk off the boat and new delights are right at hand. We've discovered Viking River Cruises. Take, for example, the point of embarkation for our most recent cruise: Avignon. The cruise was named "Portraits of Southern France" and Avignon was a perfect starting place. We arrived in the morning and our room was not yet ready, so we decided to go out and explore. This was easy to do because our boat was docked directly across from the old city walls and quite close to the famous bridge. After visiting the bridge (though not dancing on it), we headed for a small museum which was not on the official itinerary but which has an excellent collection of medieval and early Renaissance art. Then we returned to the boat for a nap and a general introduction. After dinner we were free to go ashore again, because we did not sail until midnight. We happened to be there during the theater festival so the whole city was bursting with activity, and we strolled happily past mimes and jugglers and dancers, a beautifully illuminated carousel, and a multitude of cafés doing a lively business. There was even a giant Ferris wheel set up across from our boat. What a wonderful welcome! Southern France is very beautiful, truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. We had several half days when we were just cruising past vineyards and farms and villages. You could work on your tan or read a book in the shade and soak up the peace and tranquility. On one excursion in Burgundy we passed through ancient towns which looked little changed by the years. We saw dark forests and private chateaux and fields of sunflowers. I dream now of spending a vacation in a little cottage or B&B in Burgundy or Provence and getting to know the whole area better. Then there are the wine and the food. We had several opportunities for wine tasting and enjoyed learning more about the different wine growing areas we passed through: Provence, the Rhone Valley, Beaujolais, and Burgundy. I even brought a bottle of crème de cassis home in my suitcase. Naturally the boat had a French chef and what joy she was. Every evening before dinner, Magalie would lovingly describe the food she had spent the day preparing for us, especially the desserts. In Lyon, a small number of guests were given the privilege of accompanying Magalie to the market while she did her shopping. Also in Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France (so they say, the Parisians would beg to differ), we were given the option of having dinner at one of the famous restaurants. One of the things we love most about Viking is the mix of the well known and the not so well known that they provide. We saw the Palace of the Popes in Avignon, the café in Arles made famous by Van Gogh, and the remains of the abbey at Cluny. But we also visited places that I never would have expected and certainly never would have found on my own. In the town of Tain l'Hermitage we visited one of the wineries and tasted some of the wines. Then we stopped at the showroom of Valrhona chocolates. I had never heard of Valrhona, but now I know what my friends will be getting for Christmas! Our final stop, though, was a very special treat. The daughter of the painter Pierre Palue has purchased a lovely old house in which to display the paintings left to her when her father died. She welcomed us personally to this small museum and talked to us about her father and his work. We had never heard of this painter, but felt so honored to find out about him in this way. Then there was the little town of Viviers. We visited it at night, starting off down a shadowy tree lined avenue. And then we climbed, all the way to the overlook and church at the top, up and up the narrow twisting cobblestone streets, under the glow of golden street lamps. We could hear a party behind closed doors and we met a few cats out hunting, but mostly it was quiet, as our wonderful guide shared her stories. She lives there, in the oldest part of the town; she pointed out her house to us and gave us a little glimpse of a private life in southern France. All our guides were outstanding. Viking works with local guides who live in the places we visited, so they know more than the facts about the history and culture. They know the inside jokes and the local color. Several of them had come from other countries and married locals and stayed. Their enthusiasm for their adopted country was contagious. We joke that we actually took two trips in one, the one Viking planned for us and the one we planned for ourselves. France included three important Roman provinces, so major Roman ruins abound. Of course, the very biggest ones were on the official agenda: the impressive amphitheater in Arles and the Temple of Augustus and Livia in Vienne. But we wanted more, and because of the way Viking arranges the schedule, we could have it all. At almost every destination there are both a guided tour and some free time. They always tell you that you can use that free time for shopping or to stop for some pastry with coffee or a glass of wine. What they don't tell you is that you can run off at the first opportunity and see Roman ruins. The city of Arles has a wonderful antiquities museum and they even provide a free bus to go there, so that's where we spent our free afternoon. (I even found time to purchase a Provencal table cloth for our back porch.) In Vienne archaeologists have discovered a Roman suburb of villas and shopping districts. When we asked our guide if we would have time to go there, he looked at his watch and said, "If you hurry!" We hurried. We did not have time to visit what looked like another outstanding museum, but we did tour the well presented site. And finally, in Lyon, there is an amazing museum built into the hillside adjacent to a well preserved Roman theatre and smaller odeon. You can take a funicular up the very steep hill and visit both. But our biggest do-it-yourself adventure was the Pont du Gard, the massive bridge-cum-aqueduct near Avignon. I was a bit shocked to discover that this was not included as even an optional tour. It is one of the outstanding Roman achievements in the area. But I do understand that it is not possible to include everything and Viking has very strict timetables they must follow because of the locks on the rivers. Nevertheless, we were not going to get that close and not see it, so we booked a taxi ahead of time to pick us up and wait for us there. It was absolutely worth every euro, even in the nearly 100 F. heat. Our Roman ruin fixation, however, did mean that we were not able to participate in most of the optional tours, another Viking feature. Realizing that not all travelers want to be on the go all day, they provide some optional excursions. Among the ones we missed were the Chateauneuf du Pape vineyards, Lyon by night, and the villages of Les Baux and Saint Remy. And we missed out on a lot of pastry eating and coffee or wine drinking too. So I have told my husband that we should just do the same trip again. It would be more restful and we would get to enjoy more of Magalie's superb cooking. What more could anyone want? Read Less
Sail Date: August 2010
The ship, Viking Neptune, was clean and comfortable and we were very glad to reach it after a very tiring journey from St. Pancras to Chalons-sur-Saone. A change of trains at Paris was organised by a Viking Representative, but at the ... Read More
The ship, Viking Neptune, was clean and comfortable and we were very glad to reach it after a very tiring journey from St. Pancras to Chalons-sur-Saone. A change of trains at Paris was organised by a Viking Representative, but at the second change in Dijon we were left to manage trains, platforms and luggage with no help or inforamtion. At first the food seemed plentiful and good, but we quickly realised that none of it was really fresh. As we stopped at towns with some of the finest food in France, everything we ate came from the freezer. Fruit was unripe and bread was sometimes still frozen at the centre. Tours were organised daily, but half of them were 'optional' and extra fees were charged. Guides were knowdegable, but a great deal of walking was involved, and this prevented many of the older and less able passengers from participating. On-board entertainment was minimal, with little attempt to create an atmmosphere of enjoyment, and lectures were less than gripping - a talk on mustard, for example. TV offerings were minimal and old. The majority of the crew were German, as were most of the pasengers, and announcements in heavily accented English were difficult to understand. Those crew members managing the reception desk were often less than courteous, and quite unhelpful at times. Cabin and waiting staff were very pleasant and efficient. This was our first river cruise, and will be our last with Viking. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2010
This was our first River Boat Cruise (though not our first ocean cruise) .. however it certainly will NOT be our last! We found it just delightful! In our opinion and for our taste .. FAR superior and FAR more interesting than ocean ... Read More
This was our first River Boat Cruise (though not our first ocean cruise) .. however it certainly will NOT be our last! We found it just delightful! In our opinion and for our taste .. FAR superior and FAR more interesting than ocean cruising! We found the smaller AMA Amalegro ship of 75 cabins and open dining seating to be much more conducive to a very friendly outgoing atmosphere onboard. Now to details .. good but uneven service and staff.. Some with great attitude, always ready with helpful suggestions, answers and smiles .. others .. with an actual response to a courteous request .. "I only have two hands.". This said .. we especially were impressed with the professionalism and fun attitude of the restaurant's Maitre de, Mr. Gabor Lukacs .. he made up for a lot! The same could not be said of the Second Captain, Ludovic Schrepf, .. I do believe I never once saw him smile on the entire trip! I was shocked to see a smile on his "gallery of staff" photo .. my goodness .. he DOES know how to smile. Quite a sour .. or shall I say dour personality for a ship of this type. To progress in the travel industry I think he needs to be sent to "Charm School"! The food itself needs improvement .. not in quantity but in quality. From chatting with the other guests (and the fact that we are seasoned travelers ourselves) it is obvious the ship is dealing with some fairly well developed palates. For such a small ship there is no excuse not to be putting out a cuisine to astonish .. this experience was pedestrian to be honest. Sounds good on the menu but so so on delivery most often. Quite frequently overcooked vegetables and meats, soups that taste primarily of stock .. could hardly tell one from the other, horrific cookies presented in the Lounge in the afternoon that were an insult to the taste buds! Just no excuse not to have excellent pastries available in this area of the world! I was shocked at the lack of creativity, imagination, flair in terms of the taste .. all presentation and no taste! The waffles I had the last day for breakfast would be a perfect example. I swear you could have taken a photo of the plate for a food magazine! Darling heart shaped waffles surrounding a mound of whipped cream with a beautifully carved strawberry in the center .. all dusted with powdered sugar .. truly a wonder to behold! Yuck! Dry .. tasteless .. like eating cardboard. I had two bites and left the rest .. what a disappointment .. again .. all presentation and NO FLAVOR! I will be frank with you .. we spoke with several couples who said they would NOT consider another AMA Waterways River Cruise based on the food experience of this cruise. Since you are essentially a "captive audience" onboard and food is an important component of any cruise .. PLUS since a River Cruise is not exactly cheap compared to an ocean cruise .. they are going elsewhere. One couple said they have been very happy with Avalon River Cruises .. we are going to check into them next. I don't know if the food problem is with the lack of imagination with the current Executive Chef or poor decision making in upper management but it really is too bad. Just because they are running a business with a "full ship" .. word gets around if you take advantage of people and don't deliver as expected. Clean cabin, adequate storage space, good bedside reading lamp, #322 had a lovely view of passing sights, one very comfy easy chair (would be nice to have the space for 2!) however the space is SO tight that to even uncover your duvet at night is a struggle .. not a half inch of spare space, small but adequate bathroom with an electrical outlet which was nice, very nice shower with 3 heads. Only downsides were the free internet NEVER worked in our room and only occasionally in the Lounge .. but most of all .. the beds were TERRIBLY hard! Merely a thin mattress on wood slats! Upon the ship's next remodel they MUST do something about the mattress situation. Anyone with a shoulder/hip/back would be in trouble! Housekeeping was very helpful in accommodating me by adding 2 duvets to my mattress .. that helped immeasurably for my back but onboard the supply of duvets would be grossly limited so ask EARLY if you have such a limitation! We felt the land Day Trips in total were excellent. We especially liked the method of individual earphones connected to the Tour Guide Leader .. didn't miss a word of any guided tour. I'm sure most of you know .. but prepare for all kinds of weather! The last week of August on this cruise .. many didn't prepare with the weather rainy and in the low 50's to barely 60's. Layer .. Layer .. Layer .. bring at least one turtle neck sweater and jacket. Also be VERY careful stepping down at all times .. we had several twisted/bruised people after wet slippery steps were misjudged! AND quite a few colds .. bring cold medicine and wash hands frequently! Sure enough my 2nd night dinner companion (delightful fellow!) gave me a bad cold bug that I am still fighting! EXCELLENT onboard entertainment and organized activities upon arrival at some ports! We really enjoyed many of them .. very well done! Especially the local talent in port towns! The Tour Director, Lilo Lehmann, could not have been better. While quietly VERY efficient and professional .. she was just so friendly, helpful and outgoing .. making everyone feel welcome and a part of the happy little group. Just perfect for the job .. I'm sure they don't pay her enough! Overall we were delighted with our first experience and it will not be our last! We have fallen in love with the concept and may even rearrange future travel plans to accommodate more River Cruises .. just probably not with the AMA because of the quality of the food .. unless we read on TripAdvisors.com that they have improved it GREATLY! If it is at all possible for you .. fly into Prague EARLY! It is a GORGEOUS city! We flew in 9 days early and it could have been longer .. we just LOVED it! We stayed at the Hotel Paris and it was a delight .. book directly for a good rate with a WONDERFUL buffet breakfast (room #307 is VERY quiet and a small but nice balcony)! http://www.hotel-paris.cz/ Read Less
Sail Date: August 2010
This review is mainly about the ship details. As far as the itinerary and excursions they were second to none. We found out that the ship was scheduled to be renovated at the end of the year which left me concerned as to the appointments ... Read More
This review is mainly about the ship details. As far as the itinerary and excursions they were second to none. We found out that the ship was scheduled to be renovated at the end of the year which left me concerned as to the appointments and whether Uniworld would let the ship get run down. They did not disappoint me there. The ship was very clean and nice but not to today's increased standards and competition. Hence the renovations. One inexcusable critique though is directed to the dining room. The first presentation to me was a appetizer served in a chipped bowl. I thought at first maybe it was something overlooked but when I looked over to my husband's dish and saw 2 chips in his bowl I became very disappointed. I didn't say anything but stewed over it for the evening. The next day at lunch I was served a glass dish with chipped all around the edge. Well that blew it for me and I call the dining room manager over and told her that dish belonged in the garbage. Then I went to the center of the dining room where the chef was dishing out ice cream and went through the stack of bowls and told them to get rid of all the chipped bowls. On on other incident my wine glass was chipped around the lower part. So I am no sure what was going on. The kitchen manager was very young and only 2 weeks on the job in fact many of the crew were relatively new to the job. No excuse for it though. That was my only complaint for the whole cruise. Uniworld tried to make everyone as comfortable as possible. Our rooms were always clean. We never did meet the room attendant though. The bar stayed opened until the last person left. The musician was very good but he couldn't sing very well. We didn't seem to mind much. This was our first river cruise and I would definitely do another one. I don't believe it is for everyone though. The average age on our cruise must have been 65 years. There are not many activities on the ship as the tours can keep you going all day. You have the option of staying on board or doing places yourself. The tour guides were excellent as were the tours. But if you are more interested in sitting around by a pool and drinking this would not be for you. We took the pre-cruise extension in Amsterdam and it was very good. The hotel room was OK but not North American standards. Our room was very small and overlook the air conditioning unit. So it was very expensive $500 each for 2 nights. We did have a tour included as well and the use of the guide. Breakfast was also included. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2010
VIKING RIVER CRUISE - ELEGANT ELBE CLARA SCHUMANN AUGUST 27 - SEPTEMBER 6, 2010 After 25 sea cruises, we decided that our "cruising life" would not be truly representative of the genre until we did a river cruise. ... Read More
VIKING RIVER CRUISE - ELEGANT ELBE CLARA SCHUMANN AUGUST 27 - SEPTEMBER 6, 2010 After 25 sea cruises, we decided that our "cruising life" would not be truly representative of the genre until we did a river cruise. "We" are my wife Edith, a homemaker and retired health care worker from Phoenix, AZ and I am a retired city attorney from that City also. We considered the many standard cruises down the Rhine or Danube, but chose the Elbe cruise from Prague to Berlin for several reasons. We liked the cities on the trip; Prague, Dresden, Meissen and Berlin in particular. Edith is German born, and enjoys a language advantage in the German portion of the trip. All of the stops (until West Berlin) were under Communist rule until the wall came down in Germany in 1989, followed by the "Velvet Revolution" in Prague, which liberated the former Czechoslovakia. All of this promised a unique experience which was largely borne out by our trip. Preparations and Getting There Viking is the only cruise line offering this trip. They offer a discount if paid in full by wire transfer, and we opted for this. Due to the fact that one day in Prague is included as well as one day in Berlin; we thought it better that Viking make the air arrangements, which probably were slightly cheaper than if we bought "open-jaw" air tickets going to Prague and returning from Berlin. Fortunately I remembered to check the weather reports, and found out that the temperatures would run between the low 50s and low 60s, with the strong probability of rain for at least the first 6 or 7 days of the cruise. This led to a thorough reconsideration of what we would bring as clothing, which proved to be a blessing. The last time we had been in that neck of the woods, in 2003, the temperatures had been in the 80s and 90s, in early August. It is really important to check the weather on any river cruise because the chief attraction is the time spent ashore. Our outgoing flight involved only one stop in Atlanta and then on to Prague, arriving at about 9:30. While we had early wake-up call, our flight to Atlanta left Phoenix at 7:20 A.M., this was a pretty straight forward and routine trip. We were met by a Viking representative and taken to one of the two Hilton Hotels in Prague. It is a new structure, slightly outside the "Old City", but within easy walking distance of that part of town. For a review of this hotel, you can go to Tripadvisor.com; but suffice to say - do not eat at the hotel restaurant The prices are outrageous, unless you like to pay more that $5.00 for a bottle of water. The breakfast brunch, included as in all European hotels, was quite good however. Viking provided us with a nice tour of the Palace area and the Old Town the next day after arrival. This was our introduction into being divided into three groups, and being provided with Viking's Quietvox tour audio system, in which we were provided with a small radio receiver and an earpiece connection for listening to our guide. It works pretty well, although it requires a short warm-up period. Each guide "broadcasts" on a different frequency. The next day we had lunch at a local restaurant suggested by Patrick, one of Viking's staff assisting at the hotel. It was hearty Czech food, quite good and very reasonable, about half what we had paid at the Hilton. Patrick also had led a non-scheduled, informal walking tour the night before which Edith enjoyed, but I skipped. All Aboard We were instructed to mark our luggage with one of three different colored ribbons, and they were transferred to one of three busses by color. At about 3:30 we started departing for Melnik, Czech Republic, mostly by freeway, which took about 45 minutes. There we were simply handed real keys to our staterooms - no plastic, thank you When we entered our cabin, which had been designated as Class A Deluxe, we were shocked to find out that it was not the enlarged cabin pictured and described in the Viking brochure. Instead of a reasonable sized, 180 square foot cabin with a double bed and space for a dresser and decent sized closet, we had a standard 120 square foot cabin. The other seven couples who had purchased and expected the same accommodations were similarly outraged. We were told that the refurbishment was still In the future, even though the brochure had said the ship and cabins were "Fully Refurbished". The upper third of the window tilted open, but with the cold weather we hardly ever opened it. But the only other choice was to take a taxi back to Prague and fly home, so we were stuck with our cabins. Clara Schumann is small for a river cruiser, and is specifically designed for the Elbe River. It has no propellers, only a "water-jet" system which sucks in river water and spins it back out. This is a design attributable to the fact that the Elbe is a very shallow river in parts, and could be getting shallower each year. On some occasions the actual cruising has been abandoned since the ship had insufficient water and would have become stranded. Bus trips were substituted. Fortunately 2010 had a somewhat rainy summer, and we never experienced a problem. The ship has two fully enclosed decks and an open deck topside, which also held the wheelhouse and was partly covered. The upper deck had cabins aft, the reception area and the lounge, with bar forward. The lower deck had cabins aft, a small sauna, and the dining room forward. One could not go from the lower cabin area directly to the dining room, but was required to go up the stairs to the reception area and then down to the dining room.. We were told that this was a safety design decision. The dining room and lounge would each hold the full complement of passengers. The cabins all had a couch which turned into a single bed, and another bed opposite which pulled down Murphy Bed fashion. There was a small table between beds in front of the single window. There was one small closet and two shelves. The pull down bed had a narrow shelf above it, and there was another overhead shelf towards the door. The bathroom was small and the shower had a curtain with no division between the shower floor and the rest of the bathroom, so that water would flow out into the general bathroom area. One had to put the floor mat up on the toilet, and then put it back down when one emerged from the shower. There was some room in a cabinet, which proved to be sufficient for most toiletries. There was no room for suitcases, but ours were taken away by our room attendant and returned the last night for packing. We asked for and got a few extra hangers. We met at 6:45 for a safety briefing that had an aspect quite different from our prior cruises. We were told that if the ship sank, simply go to the upper deck, since we would still be high and dry as the boat rested gently on the bottom of the shallow Elbe River. Our "Cruise Director" Martin Caco, is called "Program Director". He introduced the Officers and the other major players. With all the kitchen and attending staff, the crew amounted to only 34 people. Our next day tours were outlined, as they were every day, by Martin, who is from Slovakia, and speaks six languages The Cuisine We then went to dinner, which of course is open seating. The dinner menu included a specific vegetarian menu, which pleased Edith. For everything else there were basically two choices for salad, "starters" which included a soup, entrEe and dessert (with a cheese plate option). Beer and wine were served without charge at dinner, and not limited to one glass, but freely poured as requested. Edith said the wine was not bad, but since I do not drink I have no opinion. Luncheons we partly buffet, with a few options which could be ordered. The buffet had sandwiches and one hot entrEe, as well as a salad bar. The breakfast buffet was very good indeed, with several hot options, lots of fruit, cereal, and the ability to order pancakes, waffles and egg dishes including omelets. The coffee was pretty good by cruise ship standards. I would like to single out the baker for the highest marks, well up there in the tradition of fine European bread and pastry making. Overall I would rate the dinner meals at three stars+, the lunches at two stars+ and the breakfasts at four stars+. These ratings are by way of comparison with our prior cruising experiences, which include the superlative Crystal Serenity experience (twice), ten Celebrity cruises and three Oceania trips; all at four+ to five stars, not to mention Princess and HAL, both at four stars in most cuisine categories. If one was to compare Viking with normal restaurant dining, their rating would be higher. The main reasons for my opinion are the limited selections available (a necessary result of the ship's size) and a certain lack of imagination. The dining room service was largely cheerful and pleasant, hampered, as is so often the case, by some language difficulties, varying from one staff member to another. But I imagine that no one goes on a river cruise expecting cordon bleu cuisine, so I would not downgrade our overall experience too much by the limitations in the food area. The Riverboat Cruising Experience This is what we came for, and this is where we had the best experiences, despite the poor weather. With one exception, an optional visit to a concentration camp near Litomêrice, Czech Republic, our first stop, all tours are included in the cruise fare. The various stops are governed by the distances between the towns involved, and to some extent by the sights available. The ship does not exactly move with lightning speed, and I would imagine the trip back up the Elbe from Berlin to Prague varies a little in its timing of stops and sailing because that portion is against the river current, while we went with the flow. In some instances we spent a morning traveling, in others the afternoon, and on other occasions, all day in town.. Sometimes we remained docked overnight, but sometimes we sailed at night. The Elbe is not very wide, varying from probable less that 100 yards across (my estimate is calculated by what golf club I think I would need to get across this "water hole") to perhaps 250 yards. As noted, it is very shallow. One can stand behind the wheelhouse and see the depth gauge, which normally read about 2 to 3 meters, with the draft of the ship being one meter. While there are a number of towns, ranging from hamlets to one large city (Dresden), there are many stretches in which we were gliding in absolute silence between farm lands, hearing sheep bleat, to forests where one passenger spotted a deer, and we all saw lots of waterfowl, egrets, cranes, ducks and swans. The silence of our passage was due to our unique propulsion system, which had no turbine whine or propeller noise. It was extremely restful, albeit a tad chilly and damp, sitting on the upper deck watching everything flow quietly past us. Ports of Call Our first stop was LitomErice in the Czech Republic. As in every stop, we landed close to the center of town, and we simply followed our guide on a walking tour of this pretty little place. The guides were evidently supplied by local tour companies, and met us at each stop. Dagmar, our first guide was extremely talkative and repetitious, (we really did not want to know the history of her name) and we were pleased when the weather, for which she was not dressed, persuaded her to return to her bus early and left us to wander around on our own. I was even able to spend most of the 100 Czech korunas left from our supply exchanged easily for euros at the Hilton in Prague. This was about a four hour afternoon stop. The next day we crossed into Germany and stopped at a small town called Bad Schandau in a hilly region called the Saxon Alps. Just a trifle ambitious since the hills maxed out at about 800-900 feet. However we rook a bus ride of about 40 minutes back and around into the hills until we arrived at a tourist stop with a hotel and restaurant close to the ruins of a fort overlooking the river from about 850 feet. Here many of us paid all of 1€ to extend the tour over some steel grate bridges and up stairs out into the escarpment where we had stunning views of pinnacles rising up from the ground, and then into the ruins themselves. The views out across the river were also grand. We went back to the main part of the site and had coffee in a restaurant with a panoramic view of the countryside. This was really a high point of the cruise. When we returned and cruised away, for a few minutes, we could look back at where we had been, and even see the restaurant. The sun came out briefly and the whole experience was delightful. The next day (and in fact the next night) were spent in Dresden. This is the city which was almost destroyed completely in a fire bombing air raid in January 1945. The rebuilding has been virtually completed, and it is certainly worth visiting. A highlight was being able to listen to a ½ hour organ recital on a magnificent instrument in the Dresden Cathedral. We also had the chance to do some shopping in a new shopping area, and to buy some euros at a Deutsche Bank ATM. It started raining very heavily on us, but with Edith's umbrella and my rain jacket, we got by pretty well. Edith and I both love good china ware, and we looked forward to Meissen, our next stop and the home of Meissen porcelain since about 1708. The factory "tour" was a staged trip showing us a few details about how the china is painted and prepared, but not really how it is produced. This was disappointing, but the Porcelain Museum attached was not. The work that has been done here over the centuries is amazing. There also was an "outlet" store and a regular store. One or two of our fellow passengers actually made a purchase. The prices are quite high to say the least. We also had a chance to walk around town for a short while. After a brief afternoon trip we came to Torgau, a town noted for the meeting between the American and Russian armies in late April, 1945, the virtual end of the European phase of WWII. We had a quick tour and although we remained docked there overnight, I do not think anyone went back into town. The next day, after amorning of travel, we reached Wittenberg, the seat of Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation, including the church where he nailed the 95 theses. The original wooden door has not survived. The tour of his home was interesting and the town has a large central square with a strikingly beautiful Rathaus, or City Hall. The next stop, Dessau, was marked by a tour of a striking, 17 square mile garden built by a ruler in the 1800s. This visit included what was called a "gondola" ride, powered by a pleasant young oarsman, around a lake forming part of this park. Actually, in lieu of the gondola trip, one could enjoy a tour of the main castle building. Our next stop was Magdeberg, but only for docking purposes since we arrived in the early evening with just time for the Captain's Farewell dinner and re-packing. This last exercise meant we had to take turns in the cabin to deal with our own suitcases, since there was nowhere nearly enough room for both of us to operate at the same time. We did have the Baked Alaska parade however. The next morning we boarded our buses to travel to Potsdam, about an hour away, for a tour of that suburb of Berlin. We viewed a couple of castles including a short tour of one castle, the last home of "Kaiser Bill"; Kaiser Wilhelm II who led Germany through WWI and fled from this building in 1918 (with 20 boxcars of furnishings) to exile in Holland where he died in the late 1930s. After that we were dropped off in town to have lunch on our own, which we did at a nice, reasonably priced, sidewalk cafe, Afterwards we visited (but did not enter, the castle where the 1945 Potsdam Conference between Stalin, Truman and Clement Atlee took place in August 1945, effectively dividing up Europe into East and West. This building is now partly a hotel, but it was occupied by Kaiser Wilhelm's son until he fled the Russian Army in the spring of 1945. The Hohenzollern family is still around. After this we drove into Berlin which began virtually next door to this site, and to the Hilton Hotel in what was once East Berlin. This was a much nicer hotel that the Prague Hilton. After dinner on our own (where we ran into and joined some fellow passengers) we went on a walking tour guided by Patrick from Viking. He had been on vacation for a week and went to Rome to assist our departure. The people joining the ship for the return trip to Prague had actually passed us in the parking lot in Potsdam. The walking tour took us to Check Point Charlie and down a nearby street where we could see a remnant of the Wall. After a good nights sleep, and an excellent buffet breakfast we left for the airport at about 8:45 for our return to Phoenix via JFK, again with only this one stop. A note on "castles". This term simply means a building which served as a residence, usually one of several residences, of the family which happened to be ruling at one time or another. The buildings were not the fortified warrior homes that we usually associate with the word castle, and which are more common in England and Scotland. Our "castles" were usually only palatial residences constructed in the 1700s and 1800s, with a few being occupied until the end of WWI, which signaled the end of Central European Royal family ruling dynasties. One exception was the Konigsberg castle near Bad Schandau, high above the Elbe, which was a true fortification, at least when viewed by us from the river. Passengers There were 108 passengers out of a possible 110. With the exception of two couples, the median age was somewhere in the 60s (to be kind). We discovered that nearly everyone we talked to had done other river cruises. The open seating enabled us to meet a large number of fellow travelers, and this was very enjoyable, although we could not meet everybody. The homelands ranged from New Zealand and Australia to Canada, Germany, the UK and the United States, with the last being the best represented of course. I should note that some people had taken advantage of Viking's pre-cruise two day tour of Prague and more remained for their two day extension in Berlin. Miscellaneous Stuff Attire is quite casual. Only a few of the men wore jackets and fewer yet wore ties for the Captain's Farewell Dinner. The ladies dressed up a bit more for that event. As you might imagine, good walking shoes, an umbrella and a lightweight rain jacket are necessities. I often wore my Tilley hat, but wearing any kind of headgear in Europe immediately identifies you as a tourist from America. Tipping was suggested at $9.00 to $11.00 per person per day. I paid by credit card, but since the on-board currency was the Euro it ended up as an odd figure. Tipping of guides at the rate of 3-5 €s per couple was the norm. My guide book said that a 10% tip for restaurant servers in the Czech Republic was the norm, but in Germany a service charge is often included in the bill. The Crew and Other Matters As noted, Martin was a very good program director and was visible and available almost all the time. The Captain spoke little English, and was pretty inaccessible and distant. Most of the restaurant servers and cabin attendants had a working knowledge of the English needed for their jobs, There was entertainment in the form of Vladimir, who played an electric type piano in the lounge in the afternoon. Tea was served every afternoon, with a few goodies, but all other food was available only at regular meal times. Coffee and tea wer always available at a station in the lounge. Overview River cruising is distinctly different, and to enjoy it you must be prepared to do a lot of off-boat touring which will involve walking and listening to guides talk a lot. Like any cruise, there is some free time, and not much by way of on-board entertainment. The actual "Cruising Down the River" part is relaxing, and you have countryside to look at, not just ocean. Our cabins were exceptionally small according to fellow passengers who had done more river trips, and we did not sleep all that well on our narrow beds. But this (and the weather) were the only significant drawbacks to what was otherwise a very pleasant, relaxing and refreshing cruise as well as being a very new experience. We believe that we will do at least one more river cruise, in Europe rather than Russia or China, in 2012, since 2011 is pretty well planned already. We would definitely recommend river cruising. Phil and Edith Read Less
Sail Date: August 2010
Oh, no - cruise was slated for an Amsterdam-Budapest voyage. Had to be rerouted to Rotterdam as a sailing event that takes place every year in Amsterdam consumed all mooring spaces. Something the cruise line failed to let anyone know at ... Read More
Oh, no - cruise was slated for an Amsterdam-Budapest voyage. Had to be rerouted to Rotterdam as a sailing event that takes place every year in Amsterdam consumed all mooring spaces. Something the cruise line failed to let anyone know at the time of booking. A coach trip was not anything we had signed up for - thus, why we choose cruising. On arrival a mediocre dinner was served, which began two weeks of the best meals being purchased off the ship. Quite a disappointment. To compound, the food quality, was the attitude of servers. Seemed most irritated that we were there most of the time. Very regimented, if you asked for 1 egg in morning, you were told, "only do 2 egg orders". Coffee was slow in coming with regularity, so asked for a carafe of coffee for table, told "we don't do that, we serve". Of course, that was only every 15 min or so they "served". Which you would have to find them or flag them down. In there defense, I would say they were understaffed. Cabins were kept clean, wonderful hot water and pressure. No complaints. Beds on the other had were miserable. When stated after first night that we were uncomfortable, were told "all beds on ship the same, nothing can be done". I pointed out their 24 satisfaction policy, and the "hotel manager" said "well it is because the ship is new and the mattresses are not broke in",surely they did not buy the mattresses with that in mind. I suggested they put 4 duvets across our bed with sheet on top, they did and it was better,never really comfortable. One reason being they only have linens in twin for bed,even though it is a king size variation. So every night we got caught up in the sheets, my husband said it was like camping. Not something you would expect in "luxury" cruising. Two of the things I love about cruising - good food and a comfortable bed. Never been disappointed before. This cruise was not the best. Europe, though, is still beautiful and we loved that. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2010
My husband's and my 12-day AMA Enchanting Rhine land/cruise began in Zurich, Switzerland, where we spent 2 nights at the Marriott. Peter Whitehead, our outstanding Amalyra Cruise Director, was in the lobby when we arrived (we booked ... Read More
My husband's and my 12-day AMA Enchanting Rhine land/cruise began in Zurich, Switzerland, where we spent 2 nights at the Marriott. Peter Whitehead, our outstanding Amalyra Cruise Director, was in the lobby when we arrived (we booked our own air and took a taxi to the hotel--CFH46.80, paid by cc, no tip required) and directed us how to begin exploring Zurich as the day was free. We found no ATM at the airport nor did the Marriott have one, but Peter directed us to the train station, where we got CFH100, which was plenty to get us through our time in Switzerland. Zurich is a lovely, easily-walked, clean, and quite enjoyable city, as well as having clean (and free) public toilets. We found Switzerland to be rather expensive but did have some lovely meals at not too exorbitant prices. The Marriott's full breakfast was included and very good. The first day we had a delicious bratwurst from a stand in the train station for lunch and that night a wonderful dinner in the Marriott's Thai restaurant, White Elephant. That may sound crazy, but we were bleary-eyed from our overnight flight and following exploration of Zurich on foot. The next morning we had a very nice city tour which began on buses through the University area and Lake Zurich Marina and ended with a walking tour of the Old Town. We had the afternoon to ourselves and had a very nice inexpensive buffet lunch at Limmatblitz near where the Limmat River, which divides Zurich, spills into Lake Zurich. That evening we had a nice dinner at Ruden Bar along the river walkway not far from the hotel. I should stop here and say that throughout we were blessed with nice weather in the 70's, mostly sunny with a shower here and there only. We were told along the way that it had been terribly hot in June and July had been awful, but August arrived with glorious weather. Weren't we lucky?! The next morning we were transported by bus toward Lucerne with breathtaking scenery along the way. We stopped at gorgeous Brunnen on Lake Lucerne, where we had a sandwich lunch (on our own) on the waterfront. We then boarded a ferry that took us across Lake Lucerne to our hotel (Radisson Blu) in Lucerne. (Luggage had been brought by the buses.) After settling in at the hotel, we struck out to explore Lucerne. What a lovely place! The Chapel Bridge is amazing! Again, very walkable, clean and just gorgeous with the Lake's blue water and surrounded by the Alps. That night we had a delicious dinner outdoors at Fritschi, a restaurant with a colorful fresco facade. I would suggest, however, if you go there, make a reservation as we saw them shooing people away for no apparent reason to us. The following morning after breakfast (included) there was a walking tour of Lucerne, then a free afternoon. We had a delightful and inexpensive lunch of Swiss "canapEs" at Baeckerei Hug, a sort of deli place we discovered while walking around. After lunch we continued exploring areas we had not been to before and ended up on the Lake's waterfront park opposite the hotel, where we were treated to a really fun rock concert at the bandshell by the JayCee's. We had a fondue dinner that night at Hirschen, once again, a place we discovered while walking around earlier in the day. The next morning we left by bus to head toward Basel, where we would board the Amalyra. On the way, we made a stop to see Lucerne's emotional Dying Lion deep relief carving in the sandstone cliff above the town, a tribute to the Swiss Guard who died in 1792 trying to save the life and honor of Marie Antoinette. (Note: Do NOT use the public toilet at this site! Gross!) We arrived in Basel in time for a walking tour before lunch, after which we had a wonderful wurstwegge (sausage roll) from one of the carts in the Marktplatz. The thing I enjoyed most about Basel was watching the ferry cross the Rhine (from the bridge near the museum). The ferries are hand-operated by tiller, crossing the river by tacking against the current, held in position by a rope suspended above the river. We met the buses at the Kunstmuseum, which took us to the ship after a stop at the Switzerland, France and Germany crossroads monument. Check-in was a breeze and our luggage was already in our room 214, which was 170 sq. feet with French balcony, well-located, nicely appointed, with ample storage space, lovely toiletries, and a very comfortable bed. We did, however, ask for a top sheet rather than the heavier duvet provided (too much for us). That evening was the Captain's Welcome, at which all the ladies were given a long-stemmed red rose, perfect for the budvase in every cabin, and which remained fresh throughout the cruise. The next morning we had the choice of an included tour to Colmar, France or Freiburg, Germany. We chose Colmar and can't help but think it was the right choice! We started at an Alsatian wine tasting at La Cave Wolfberger in the village of Equisheim, which proved to be an unexpected gem! What a whimsical and delightful place! We then moved on to Colmar, which also was a delight--colorful, picturesque medieval town dating back to 823 with canals throughout, and the birthplace of Bartholdi, sculptor of the Statue of Liberty. The next day we had a wonderful canal cruise and walking tour of beautiful Strasbourg, the capital of the Alsace region of France. The afternoon was spent cruising to Speyer, one of Germany's oldest towns, where we had an evening walking tour after dinner. The next morning we toured the Castle and Old Town in Heidelberg, and in the afternoon Worms (full of ancient history as well as the Reformation), then cruised to Rudesheim overnight, where the following morning we visited Siegfried's wonderful music museum, filled with his collection of fascinating music boxes. Do not miss doing this! After Siegfried's we went into the hillside vineyards for a wine tasting, after which we walked around the charming town of Rudesheim on our own. This afternoon we cruised through the scenic Rhine Gorge, which is lined with innumerable castles. That night we arrived in Koblenz, where we had an evening tour after dinner. The following morning we continued cruising to Cologne, where we had an Old Town walking tour after lunch including the magnificent Gothic cathedral. Afterward we walked around on our own and had a glass of Kolsch, Cologne's beer specialty, at an outdoor cafe. Cologne was under construction everywhere it seemed (building a subway!) but was still an enjoyable place to visit. That night we were treated to the excellent La Strada trio, whom we had fallen in love with on our AMA Danube cruise last year, as the evening's after-dinner entertainment. We cruised overnight and the following morning into the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal, arriving in Amsterdam midday. After lunch we had an afternoon canal cruise through the heart of Amsterdam followed by a bus tour of surrounding areas. We left the bus near the flower market for free time. We chose not to return to the boat by bus but rather to walk around on our own and then walk back to the ship (easily doable). The main thing we did while on our own was to walk through the Red Light District. Very interesting indeed! We flew home the following morning. Peter pre-booked a taxi to the airport for us, for which we paid €35, tip included. It was a truly wonderful trip from beginning to end. I would say that with the exception of the Rhine Gorge, the scenery along the Rhine was not as generally gorgeous as the Danube, but the ports were truly wonderful. I highly recommend this trip and I can't say enough about AMA! My husband and I are completely "hooked" on their excellence. As after our Danube cruise, a few days after coming home we received a thank you postcard, handwritten and signed by Peter (CD), Oliver (hotel manager) and Rein (Captain). Nice touch, don't you think! I would be happy to answer any questions you might have by e-mail - jgarrett@hlcapital.com. Note: You might also be interested in reading my review of our August 2009 AMA Legendary Danube on the Amadante. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
My husband and I have cruised on ocean going vessels before and have travelled extensively. We are both in our sixties and are pretty active. When we were on a hiking trip to Germany a few years ago, we ran into some folks who were just ... Read More
My husband and I have cruised on ocean going vessels before and have travelled extensively. We are both in our sixties and are pretty active. When we were on a hiking trip to Germany a few years ago, we ran into some folks who were just off a riverboat and they raved about what a good time they were having. It put the idea in our heads to give it a try. After a lot of research, some of which used this web site, we decided on the Waterways of the Czars itinerary of the Viking Riverboat cruise company. We also chose to add the Helsinki pre-cruise extension option. Usually, we make our own air arrangements but we decided to let the cruise company take care of it for this trip. The tour company advised us that we would have to arrange for a Visa to visit Russia. We were given to option of using a company that would arrange for the Visa for us for a fee. After checking on the internet, we opted to arrange for the Visa ourselves. The tour company sent us an Invitation to Visit Russia form that we would need. We downloaded the application form from the internet and followed the directions exactly. They give you a list of items that must be submitted to their embassy. In just 3 weeks we had our Visas. We flew to Helsinki at the end of August and enjoyed 3 nights at the Radisson Blu Plazza in the heart of Helsinki. It was a great place to get over jet-lag and to see a new city. It isn't a five star hotel but it is clean and quiet and very central. A Viking Representative met us at the airport and whisked us to our hotel. Our first day in Helsinki we were given a walking tour of the city. We had free time that afternoon and all the next day to explore on our own. A Viking representative was at the hotel every day to give us advice about where to go and how to get there. We got very comfortable using public transportation and enjoyed our stay in the city. On our day of departure the Viking rep. met us in the lobby of the hotel. Our luggage was whisked away for us and taken to the train. We all walked over to the train station, only a couple of blocks away. Our Viking rep. took us to the train and got us on the right car. She made sure we understood the procedures for crossing the border into Russia and gave us our tickets. We realy enjoyed the scenery of the 6 hour train trip. Food and beverages are available on the train but we took our own. The train is stopped for about an hour at the Russian border while the guards take all the passports away and get them stamped - or whatever it is they are doing with them. We were met at the train station in St. Petersburg and taken by bus to the ship. The journey that usually takes 30 minutes took almost 3 hours. The St. Petersburg traffic jam had to be seen to be believed. Car ownership has exploded in Russia in the past 15 years and the city wasn't prepared for the resulting congestion. Russian drivers are not the best in the world either. It is the first time I have seen people drive along on sidewalks and pedestrian paths. Pedestrians need to be careful. I think that Russin drivers believe that the white lines indicating pedestrian crossings are only some weird form of graffiti. We liked the fact that most of the tours arranged by the tour company are included in the cost of your cruise ticket. There were a few optional tours offered so that we had the opportunity to tailor our cruise to our own interests. We were also given free time and lots of information on how to get around on our own. We had lectures on Russian history and the Russian language. I found that the information in the lectures really helped us to get the most out of our trip. On the first day of the cruise, you pick your guide from 6 that are available. That guide is with you for the entire cruise. Some days a local tour guide is comes along as well in order to add their expertise on the area you are visiting. All the tour guides were excellent. After three very busy, very long days touring St.Petersburg, we sailed down the Volga-Baltic waterway to Moscow. Along the way we stopped at 5 very different ports and had tours at all of them. Usually, the tours to these small towns and cities were half-day tours so we had time for our Russian lessons. We also had around table discussion with all our guides one afternoon as they answered all questions about modern life in Russia and Russia under the Soviet regime. They were very frank in their answers. It was obvious that they are very proud of their country and are very aware of the challenges that they face. The scenery along the way was lovely. The ship glides slowly along the canals with hardly any felling of motion at all. The captain said that on the big lakes there can be some bigger waves. The lakes were like a mirror when we sailed. We ended the cruise with 4 nights in Moscow. It's a good thing that we rested up while sailing on the canal, because we were really busy in Moscow. We had come a long way and we wanted to see as much as we could. We had three very full days seeing the city and enjoying every minute of it. The ship was very comfortable. It was refurbished in the last couple of years. The decor is Scandanavian Modern. There is one sitting in the dining room. The food is not as varied as on a cruise ship but it was very good and there was plenty of choice for everyone. The food was beautifully presented and the portions were small. There was coffee, tea and hot chocolate available 24 hours a day. Even though the dining room was open seating, we all sort of gravitated to our favorite spots fairly early on the cruise and the waiters learned our preferences remarkably quickly. Staterooms are a little smaller than on an ocean going cruise ship but there was plenty of room for our belongings. Our room steward was perfect. She kept our room beautifully and we never saw her. She was the majic genie that just did her job invisibly. The cruise is not appropriate for children. There are no facilities for them and they would not be very interested in the lectures and tours. There is no casino and no glitzy entertainment. If you are looking for evening excitment on board, you are doomed to disappoinment. There is no gym or exercise equipment but the activity director leads exercise classes on deck on mornings when there is no early tour. There are always a dozen or so hardy souls keeping him company. There were two computers available for passengers. They were very busy. There is free wireless Internet available in your room although there it was a bit slow. There were a couple of times on the trip when we had no Internet service. On disembarkation day, we had our luggage outside our rooms 30 minutes before the shuttle took us to the airport. Unfortunately, our flight was at 5:50 AM. We had to get up at 1:45 AM. That is pretty early when you are facing a very long trip home. However, one of the guides was with us on the bus. He escorted us to the right check-in counter and made certain that we understood where we had to go to navigate the check-in and security procedures. Since all the signs were in the Russian alphabet, it would have been pretty confusing without his help. We were very happy with the whole riverboat cruising experience and are going to do it again next year. We have already booked the cruise! Our expectations were certainly exceeded by this cruise. We thought the service was outstanding. It is a very different experience than ocean cruising. We like the smaller number of passengers and made some really great friends over the two weeks. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
As we had heard from others that traveled with Viking was of the same quality and service as AMA Waterways and they had the itinerary that we wanted, we booked a cruise with them. On 9/3/10 we embarked on Viking MS Maribelle in Lyon on ... Read More
As we had heard from others that traveled with Viking was of the same quality and service as AMA Waterways and they had the itinerary that we wanted, we booked a cruise with them. On 9/3/10 we embarked on Viking MS Maribelle in Lyon on their Southern France Serenade 8 day cruise on the Rhone and Saone Rivers. Our first impression of the ship was that it was an old ship and that it did not have the luxury appearance of their Neptune ship. When we got to our stateroom, we were disappointed to see that it did not have a bed, but had two small couches which turned into separate small twin beds with hard mattresses. This was the same setup throught the ship. My husband who is tall could barely fit and if you turned too quickly, you hit the wall. Next came the very small shower that when you turned on the water, the curtain stuck to your body. The dinning experience can be described as the same level and quality as eating at a Denny's restaurant. The food was without taste and of poor quality. They added so much ice to their orange juice that when it melted, it was more water then orange juice. They served their left over smoked fish from the night before for their breakfast. You got the feeling that they were rationing their food throughout the trip, not that it matter as it was of poor taste that you did not want large portions anyway. They offered wine with dinner at no cost, but it was cheap wine, so you were not too eager to drink much of it. The cruise director though friendly, provided minimal service. He did not go out of his way to provide more service then required. Some of the waiters had a difficult time understanding English and made it hard to get service from them. The maitre'd came across as very rigid and strict with rules that it made you feel uncomfortable asking for service. The stateroom cleaning staff, however, were very good. They service your room efficiently and left your room sparkling clean. The entertainment was very poor. The one musician aboard played the same beat to every song in a Hungarian tone. This was not conducive to wanting to stay and enjoy hearing him play or enjoy dancing to the music. The one thing that was good about this cruise, were the port and shore excursions. We saw some very beautiful areas of France and sites. During the cruise, we heard that Viking leased the ship Ms Maribelle and it's crew as there was a high demand for this itinerary. In my opinion they were more concerned with making money, then providing quality and excellent service. Throughout our trip, we heard the same complains from a number of passengers and it became a joke to talk about the quality and service of the ship. We could not wait to get off the ship. It was very upsetting to feel this way after having travel so far and having spend the money and receive this kind of treatment. In summary, we would not recommend this cruise to anyone and would not recommend Viking as it appears they cared more about making money and little about the service and quality they provide. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2010
I have wanted to cruise in the 1000 Islands and on the St. Lawrence River for some time, so I have been looking at this cruise line for years! We finally got a date that worked! The cruise met all my expectations and then some. The small ... Read More
I have wanted to cruise in the 1000 Islands and on the St. Lawrence River for some time, so I have been looking at this cruise line for years! We finally got a date that worked! The cruise met all my expectations and then some. The small crew was fantastic! Although the cabins are very small, they are certainly adequate. And who wants to stay in the cabin when there was so much to see and do? The ports of call interesting. We learned a lot of history and fascinating facts about the areas. All the shore excursions were well organized. The Cruise Director joked about our "stretch limos". They were really school buses, but the rides were short. The food was delicious. They offered 1/2 portions, so that was a plus. I only gained 5 pounds! This is not a cruise for a family with small children. Most of the passengers were in the 60 to 80 range, most quite active. They were an interesting collection from many locations -- Canada, Texas, Australia, Hawaii, Florida, California, New York. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
We were aboard the River Beatrice for seven nights from Budapest to Passau and then took Uniworld's extension to Prague. After several ocean cruises, this was our first river cruise and the best cruise ever. The suite was luxurious, ... Read More
We were aboard the River Beatrice for seven nights from Budapest to Passau and then took Uniworld's extension to Prague. After several ocean cruises, this was our first river cruise and the best cruise ever. The suite was luxurious, with lots of room to move around as well as plenty of storage and a nice size bathroom. The food was great, especially at the special events such as the captain's dinners. The level of the food would rival many of the excellent restaurants we have here in the SF Bay Area, and the wine poured with dinner was of good quality. The fact that the wine and excursions were included in the initial price meant that you didn't have to worry about buying a wine package or standing in line to sign up for excursions as we have done on all of our ocean cruises. Each Uniworld employee went out of their way to make our trip enjoyable. The cruise director, Christine, is exceptional in every way - she has an extensive knowledge of the area and is very articulate, patient and warm. And the people we met on the cruise were interesting and fun to be with for a week. Regarding the excursions, the local guides were almost always excellent, and the QuietVox system allowed everyone to hear the entire presentation. On some of the city tours, after we tired of regimentation and buses, we were able to break away and find our way back to the ship on our own. This was especially easy in Vienna especially, where the Metro line can take you within a 10-minute walk to the ship. The Prague extension was enjoyable as well. Getting there was easy because a bus picked us up at the ship and took us to Prague, and Uniworld's guide Jana in Prague was exceptional. She offered a private optional tour of the theatre where Mozart first performed Figaro, conducted by the 85-year-old former symphony conductor, as well as a tour of the beautiful second floor of the Municipal Building. Her included tour of Prague Castle was very well done, and she took very good care of the Uniworld group throughout the stay, including handling everyone's airport transfers. All in all, this was a great trip, and we will definitely use Uniworld in the future. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2010
My husband and I enjoyed our Uniworld cruise, "Castles on the Rhine". This was the third river cruise we have taken, the first being an Avalon cruise from Prague to Budapest and the second a Uniworld "Tulips and ... Read More
My husband and I enjoyed our Uniworld cruise, "Castles on the Rhine". This was the third river cruise we have taken, the first being an Avalon cruise from Prague to Budapest and the second a Uniworld "Tulips and Windmills". We began with a day on our own in Amsterdam, an attractive and interesting city in which to relax and catch our breaths after the flight over, never a favorite part of travel. The River Ambassador, while the smallest and oldest ship we have cruised on, was attractive and well-maintained. While the cabins were the smallest we've ever been assigned to, we ended up spending more time in the comfortable lounge. The crew could not have been better, and the cruise manager and hotel manager were terrific. There were excursions included every day, and the local guides did a good job. We felt that the food was the best we have had, and decent wines were poured freely with dinner. The breakfasts offered good variety and an omelet station. Lunches were very good with a variety of salads, soups, a couple of hot entrees, sandwich-making possibilities and always a tempting dessert table. The itinerary offered by this cruise included a day and a half in the Alsace region of France. We enjoyed a canal cruise in Strasbourg and a full day visiting the charming villages of Riquewihr and Kaisersburg. Speyer, Germany was also a favorite town along the way. Our fellow cruisers included other Americans, many Canadians, and a few from "down under". The average age was, perhaps, 60, and it was a very congenial group. River cruising is a great way to go for a relaxing holiday visiting interesting places while enjoying good food and companionship. Uniworld does an exceptional job of providing a quality experience. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
My wife and I (until I lost her to cancer six years ago) made it to Europe some 8 times over the years. The first trip was pretty much on foot, then by rail, then with friends in their car. We stayed in tiny, cheap hotels and ritzy places ... Read More
My wife and I (until I lost her to cancer six years ago) made it to Europe some 8 times over the years. The first trip was pretty much on foot, then by rail, then with friends in their car. We stayed in tiny, cheap hotels and ritzy places (one time when I won the trip in a contest.) Each time we seemed to step up in class. I really regret that I was not able to share with her my trip (with wonderful, loving friends) on the Viking Legend from Amsterdam to Budapest last August. I have never known an outfit to be so organized, yet so comfortable. The staff was beyond belief...they were not happy unless they were doing something for us. The food was superb, selected to reflect the area in which we were cruising at the time and prepared in such a way that you felt it was the absolute best, but not to "gourmet" that you failed to recognize the food. Once again, the staff in the restaurant was friendly, but super efficient. When it was announced that a group of buses would leave the ship at 1 pm, they left at exactly that time. Staff members were always within sight in case we needed directions or help (I suspect they had a portable defibrillator in that little red backpack.) I was having some trouble walking and was using a cane. Special groups they called "leisurely" (a nice word for SLOW) were assembled at each tour spot. The included excursions were excellent and the couple of optional ones were well worth the small extra charge. I never felt left behind or made to feel I was causing a problem with my handicap and I really appreciated that concern on their part. The only complaint I had was that there was no elevator on this boat. The tremendous variety of speakers, musicians, glass blowers, cooks, etc. that they offered on the ship most afternoons and/or evening were also excellent. I could not believe how spacious my cabin was and the sliding glass doors allowed me to photograph many sights and sites without having to shoot through the glass. As a professional photographer, I really appreciated that, too. I could go on for many pages, but will sum it up this way: I got much more than I expected for my money in every way and will never forget the experience! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
The included tours of the various ports were done by local guides and were, by far, the best part of the cruise. The tours were around 3 hours long, mostly walking, and included historical aspects, local color, humor, and loads of ... Read More
The included tours of the various ports were done by local guides and were, by far, the best part of the cruise. The tours were around 3 hours long, mostly walking, and included historical aspects, local color, humor, and loads of information. The sites we toured were varied--Papal Palace, medieval charity hospital, winery, chocolate store...to name a few. If only I could say as many nice things about the other parts of the tour. The room was quite spacious with lots of storage, but nothing out of the ordinary. The food, although prepared by a chef with lots of skill and personality, was fair, mostly because the provisions were obviously not bought from local markets in France but rather bought in bulk at the beginning of the cruise and probably frozen or at least refrigerated. But the absolute worst part was the customer service provided by Viking, starting with the contacts in the US and ending with the desk crew on the ship. They messed up our air tickets at least three times and it took 5 calls from my TA and myself to get it straightened out. The other couple we were traveling with had an even worse experience with the air booking. Then the Viking concierge on our pre-cruise stay gave us incorrect advice, telling us the only way we could visit the places we wanted to visit was by booking a local private tour for 525 euros. The tourist info in Nice showed us the way to do exactly what we wanted for a total of 72 euros. When we had questions of the personnel at the desk about places in the port, or about our transfer, or about the strikes in France, we were told that we would be given the information later when we needed it. I guess it didn't matter that I wanted to know then; they would decide what I needed to know. The optional tours and the beverage package are outrageously expensive. The "straw that broke the camel's back" was what happened to a couple I didn't even know on a transfer to the airport to return home. We had early flights, 6:30 AM from an airport about an hour away. That meant we had to leave the ship about 3 AM. We had "bitten the bullet" and arranged the expensive transfer before we left the US because we knew the times would be difficult. In the 9 passenger van, there were 4 of us and the driver. When we got to the airport there was another couple from our tour. Viking had made them arrange for a taxi from the city, a VERY EXPENSIVE transfer, because they had waited too late to book the transfer. I don't know how late was too late, but we had plenty of room in our van. I don't know why Viking couldn't have worked something out to help this couple. They just don't care. And that is why I will not be on another Viking cruise--the customer service is simply abysmal. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2010
This was our first ever river cruise. We have taken about 10 ocean cruises, so we wanted to see how a river cruise compared. What's nice about cruising on a river is the fact that you can always look out and see something and not just ... Read More
This was our first ever river cruise. We have taken about 10 ocean cruises, so we wanted to see how a river cruise compared. What's nice about cruising on a river is the fact that you can always look out and see something and not just open ocean. Plus you stop a lot, sometimes twice in one day. And since the river boats don't hold as many people (ours had 140 passengers), it's easy to get on and get off. And the ships are designed to hold the required number of passengers. In other words, there is a seat for everyone - in the lounge, in the dining room, etc. Our trip was the 7-day Blue Danube Discovery from Budapest to Nuremberg with a pre-cruise extension in Budapest and a post-cruise extension in Prague. All we can say at this point is that we are really glad we went on this trip. It was very enjoyable. Would I say it's better than an ocean cruise - in some ways yes, in some ways no. Each has it's pros and cons. Would we do a river cruise again, you bet. With AMA? YES! The hotel in Budapest was the Sofitel Hotel sitting about 200 feet from the Danube. Our double room overlooked the river and the beautiful castle/fortress on the hillside on the other side of the river. The bridge over the river and the this castle/fortress were lit up at night giving an impressive view out the hotel room window. It was a very comfortable hotel and we were in want of nothing. The room package included a big buffet breakfast each morning. Usually we ate enough at breakfast that we only needed a snack during the day to keep us going until dinner. Food in Budapest is what we called rather spicy because the Hungarians seem to like putting paprika in everything and in every conceivable way. But you still have to try it just for the experience. We tried the Hungarian Goulash which is different from Czech Goulash in that the Hungarian variety is like a soup served in a bowl and the Czech Goulash is meat and dumplings served on a plate and not as spicy. The included city tour of Budapest was quite good hitting all the highlights of Budapest with its rich history. Of course, the bus doesn't have time to stop everywhere, but the guide points out the sights of interest to most visitors and you can always go back somewhere with your free time of which there was plenty. We're not going to go into all the details of every stop we made on this 7-day trip down the Danube, but what we will say is that you should take advantage of all the included excursions as they are quite informative and enjoyable and you did pay for them. As for the optional excursions, we would suggest the evening concert in Vienna for those who do not normally have the opportunity to attend such classical events. We think it was probably the best of all the excursions we took. Another one that was fun is the optional Folklore dinner in Prague. It was a different experience than anything we have seen before. The food was good, the beer and wine flowing freely, and the entertainment very enjoyable from the Czech/Slovakian musical players, singers and dancers. As for the cruise itself, the ship was comfortable and the crew outstanding. One thing we did notice is that during our 7-day cruise, the ship never once rocked from side to side or bumped or anything else. It was a very, very smooth ride! Everyone was so very friendly. We upgraded our cabin by one category so that we would have a large window and sliding door so as to see the scenery as we cruised along the Danube. We're glad we upgraded after seeing the inside of one of the lower cabins. You would have to be at least six feet tall to see out of one of those windows. I think they're simply designed to let in light as opposed to offering any kind of view because they are high and small. Our cabin was quite comfortable with a queen size bed, lounge chair, ottoman we used as another seat, a flat-screen TV/computer, makeup desk, in-room safe, and plenty of closet space. The bathroom was well-equipped and modern. We were very comfortable during our week long journey. Internet in your room is included with your cruise. We only used the internet when we were in ports as the reception was always better. There is a large lounge and bar on the main deck with enough seating for everyone. This is also the entertainment area when performers come aboard for evening entertainment of which there was a lot. And it was all good. The dining room is directly below the lounge area at the front of the ship. There again there is enough seating for everyone at the one and only dinner service at 7:00 p.m. -- dinner has no assigned seating. There is no alternative restaurant or eating venue on these ships, but they do offer a number of different dinner choices each evening. The dinner choices are normally things from the country or area where they are transiting that day. As are the included wines. It was amazing how many different wines they served on a 7-day cruise. And they always had both red and white wines at dinner. If you are not a wine drinker, you can have beer or soft drinks if you like at no charge. They also had main course staples each evening - steak, chicken, fish, chef salad - for those not wanting to brave the local cuisine. A vegetarian dish was also on the menu each night. We had the chicken one night and it was very good. Breakfast was always buffet style with a lot of choices, but you could also order eggs cooked to order, omelets, pancakes, etc. Food is served just about every 3 hours. Coffee and tea are available 24-hours. Early risers can nibble on pastries and toast until the breakfast room opens (times vary but usually by 7:30). A cookie tray is put out about 10:30. A light lunch (soup, salads, one hot menu item, and dessert) can be eaten in the lounge or you may partake of the full lunch in the dinning room. After lunch the cookie tray appears and around 3:30 finger sandwiches and small pastries appear. We had some laundry done on the ship because we didn't want to pay the airlines $90 for another suitcase. The cost to have roughly a week's worth of underwear washed for two of us was 24 Euros (about $34). They picked it up at 8:00 p.m. and it was back the next morning by 10:00 a.m. The boat also had a very nice aft lounge that always had fresh fruit and water available. Board games and a computer with a printer were also available in the lounge. Just off the lounge was the exercise room. Although small, it had something for everyone -- sauna, free weights, treadmill, and bike. Bottled water was also available. For nice days, the sun deck had a walking track, sun chairs, small Jacuzzi, and large chess board. Our cruise ended in Nuremberg, Germany where we stayed overnight on the ship and then boarded motor coaches the next morning for our trip to Prague. Each motor coach had a local Czech tour guide on board who provided narration on our journey to Prague. The trip to Prague was pretty much an all day affair with a restroom stop at the German/Czech border and then another stop for lunch in the beautiful little town of Karlovy Vary. It's a picturesque little spa town with a river running through it. There is a fancy hotel there where some of the scenes from the movie Casino Royale with Daniel Craig were shot. After a short tour of the town, our Czech tour guide suggested a local restaurant for lunch. That's where we sampled the very good Czech Goulash along with a good Czech beer. Our lunch stop was two hours and then the rest of the trip to Prague lasted about another one and a half hours arriving at the hotel about 3:00 p.m. Our hotel in Prague was the Intercontinental Hotel located right in the old town area and just a couple blocks from the Charles Bridge and five minutes from the central plaza. The hotel is a 5-star hotel with all the amenities we could want. The room included a large breakfast buffet each morning. There are too many items to mention, but suffice it to say they have everything - meats, cheeses, eggs to order, pancakes, cereals, breads, juices, fruits, etc. Prague is a beautiful old city. It's easy to walk to most of the tourist attractions, shopping areas, and restaurants of which there are many. Prague is where we did the optional Folklore dinner. We had two full days to explore, but it wasn't enough so we'll have to go back someday. Our cruise director, Csaba, from Budapest was absolutely outstanding. He was there at the hotel when we first arrived and stayed with us all the way through to Prague. He was very professional, knowledgeable, and most of all he was very friendly. He's a 36-year old single guy who loves his job and you can tell by the way he goes about his business. We'd love to see him again on another cruise. Csaba also used his computer to check everyone in 24-hours before our flight departed Prague. He could not print out boarding passes, but you could get your seat assignments and do pre-check-in. Although you may initially be taken aback by the price of a river cruise, you must remember that a lot of things that may not be included in an ocean voyage are in included here such as local tours with transportation provided and local tour guides. You are also given an audio box with ear pieces so you can hear the guides as they take you through these old towns without having to be two feet from the guide in order to hear something. They really work quite well. They also have three different paced tour levels - fast, regular, and slow. Join whichever group you want. Free bottled water is also provided in your stateroom each day. Postcards are mailed for free by simply dropping them off at the front desk on the ship. It doesn't matter where they are going - U.S., Europe, etc. All in all, we were very pleased with our first river cruise and would not hesitate to do another one. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2010
This is first river cruise, and probably the last! Get to fly home tomorrow! The brochure was very misleading and this has been very frustrating for all aboard. The internet has been "not working" for 95% of the cruise. I've ... Read More
This is first river cruise, and probably the last! Get to fly home tomorrow! The brochure was very misleading and this has been very frustrating for all aboard. The internet has been "not working" for 95% of the cruise. I've only been able to log on between 3 and 5 A.M each morning. The cruise line has done nothing to help and just given flimsy excuses. It could've offered a 10-15 minute ship to shore phone credit so travellers could contact loved ones, etc. I believe river cruises are meant for those folks that are older, need nothing but a lounge and a bar while being herded around. Here are the main differences I noted. 1. No evening entertainment or shows, AT ALL. 2. Excursions are nearly non-existent with only choice in most ports is to take the ship offered excursion, or stay on the ship! 3. Eat only at the 3 scheduled meal times. No pizza spot, dessert spot or other offerings. The staff was great and the ship was clean and organized. After 33 cruises, I'll stick to ocean cruises which have more activities, excursion options etc. Maybe when I'm 90, I'll try this style. I'm no rookie at cruising. I'm 62, have visited 92 countries and taken 33 cruises. Viper Read Less

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise