I was told river cruising would be different. Nobody told me how different. After 20+ ocean cruises we decided to try Viking based on recommendations from passengers on ocean cruises. Accommodations were small(not surprising), our cabin was 80% below the water line(again not surprising)and the cabin had a big screen Sony tv(very surprising). That would have been nice if there was anything worthwhile to watch or if the channels were in HD. No HD with a tv that size is like buying a Mercedes without wheels. But how much tv do you watch on vacation anyway?
Let me say first that the entire crew on the Njord was very pleasant, enthusiastic, helpful and friendly. We had an 8 hour delay in Charlotte causing us to miss our connecting flight at Frankfurt but a call to the desk on the ship resulted in Viking sending a car to Budapest airport to pick us up at 11pm at their expense(we had purchased Viking's air & transfer package). A good start. But downhill from there.
The concept of river cruising is light years from that of ocean cruising. Lack of space on the vessel, which must be built to fit the many canal locks the ship must pass through, precludes culinary variety and many types of activities. Yet we expected something to do aboard ship when the day's included excursion ended. There was a huge amount of downtime. A few lectures were scheduled but that wasn't enough to keep us or most other passengers engaged.
What few activities they did have were all itinerary specific. Hungarian folk dancers, opera singers, a glass-blowing demonstration. Pretty boring. The best was the night they showed a slide presentation of Viking's other itineraries for the purpose of selling more cruises. More effort should have been put forward to involve the guests in active participation. It was almost as if they didn't think we could handle any excitement. We're old but we're not on life support yet.
All this could have been forgiven if the food had been up to par. Most meat dishes were tasteless and unseasoned. Steak was an every night option on the dinner menu but the steaks I saw coming out of the kitchen were gray in color and apparently microwaved. At the money we paid for this vacation I was not going to order a microwaved steak. My wife ordered surf & turf one night. The "turf" consisted of a single small shrimp. Vanilla ice cream with blueberries? Two blueberries. Most of their soups were of the same milk- based liquid with some vegetable or another thrown in to make it mussel soup or mushroom soup or whatever. The pasta sauce was usually a white sauce called a cream sauce which I once again suspected was milk. They trotted this out about 4 or 5 times. They had a red pasta sauce once which I was certain came straight out of a jar. An osso buco another evening was inedible. The waiter told me, "You have to go to Italy to get good osso buco." I have had osso buco on many ocean cruise lines and have never been disappointed. In fairness there was a pretty tasty Hungarian goulash, a nice crab cake and a good spinach cannelloni entree along with some very good German sausages for lunch but on average the food was much too pedestrian for the price of passage.
Bottom line, the poor food, dearth of activities and the overall subdued atmosphere will prevent us from going back to Viking or any other river cruise line for that matter.