This 9-night Tulip and Windmill cruise is fine for what it does include (nice tours) but very poor for how Viking handled the whole experience on the Idun - during and after the cruise. BTW - We loved our first trip with Viking so the changes in attitude were a real shock. Check for photos on Flickr.com from the Idun trip in the public areas in the Viking River Cruise group or search Viking or Idun. We will post more photos this week including cabins and food. Ports can be searched by name.
The good - the program director [Mieke Bakker] and her staff were terrific - the best part of the cruise! They were well organized, well informed and very helpful. We loved them all. Our local tour guides were also really good and well chosen. Our time off the ship was the best part of our trip - before, during and after the river cruise. We took several of the optional tours (Delft, Arnhem battlefield tour, extended time in Bruges) and thought they were good value. We loved the floating vegetable market on the No Holland tour. Bruges wasted too much time (45 min each way) walking to and from the big buses but Bruges itself was great. Viking needed to include a canal ride or mini bus tour (yes, they have local tour buses in town) to see the highlights that were skipped. Hoorn (great but we were there early in the day and everything was closed) was very scenic and Antwerp was wonderful on the tour and for free time. We loved seeing the windmills, too.
The FOOD was disappointing after our first trip with Viking. Portions were smaller and no seconds were offered. Wait staff was very friendly and willing but not well organized and they were obviously very new to the ship. We enjoyed the maitre d' [Ladislav Pisko]. The food itself was very bland and very repetitive. It was not representative of any of the regions or quality that we found off the boat. This is Europe - where were the delicious pastries and specialties that we found off ship? Same ice cream every night - different color; no flavor. Ditto for puddings. Desserts were what our non-cooking friends serve at home. Main courses did not reflect the region and weren't at all special. The two-bite "lobster" on the last night was a joke - dry and tiny and flavorless. The food menus are now written by corporate (we learned on our kitchen tour) and most food is frozen and shipped in except vegetables. We like the chef [Klaus Ungruh] and his crew did their best with what they had. The cost skimping really shows and it cheapened the experience this time around. The wine and beer were fine.
Also okay was the entertainment. It didn't start till 9pm - too late after long days. The best were the clog dancers and the shanty singers. The rest were just okay at best - mostly talks short on detail or interest.
The captain [Yuriy Chaplynskyy] was an unusual choice for an English-speaking ship as he was limited in English to "hello & welcome." Thus, he did not mingle with the guests (just smiled and left as soon as he could). The captain on our first cruise in France was very congenial and helpful. Chaplynskyy did spend a lot of time during the day frowning and watching workmen as they carried parts (doors, etc.) on and off the ship.
SEWAGE WATER in the shower -- What made the trip a total disaster for us was the continued sewage (smelly) water that broiled up several inches from the drain in the shower and the lack of any interest by the ship's crew. The closest we could get to help or a response was an indifferent "engineering is aware of the problem" at the front desk. The hotel manager [Gerald Hauswirth] avoided us and did not return requests to see him. When we finally trapped him (literally) in his office on the last night he would only say that customer relations would handle it AFTER we got home - not even a sorry for the inconvenience of no shower for the entire trip! [We are still reading about this problem of sewage leaks in July comments by others on this forum.] We observed the same problem in other rooms in our hallway but the office staff insisted that ours was the only problem! All ships have problems but the lack of ANY communication, response or caring made all the difference in how we now view Viking. Why would we care about a FUTURE discount if they didn't care about how we were treated in the first place? We don't trust that to change.
NO ROOM HEAT OR AC -- The air heating and air conditioning did not work (heat only for 4 days and cold only for 4 days) in our room & temp couldn't be changed. This was fixed on day 9 of 9.
GLASS DOORS a problem -- The glass closet doors would slide open with a thud at night as the boat moved and turn on the closet light waking us up. We finally wedged a suitcase there at night to alleviate the problem.
POORLY DESIGNED SPACE...
The lobby is all for show. Pretty doesn't trump comfort. The lounge is too small for the size of the passenger load. The shiny, hard low ceilings in the dining room make it impossible to converse even with the person next to you. Room size for Fr. balconies has shrunk to wiggle-room-only to make the balcony rooms on the other side of the hallway more spacious.
ITINERARY TIMING...The visit to Keukenhof Gardens on April 9 was way too early in a typical year. I'm sure the rain isn't the same every day but the flowers were on their usual bloom schedule according to locals that we talked to before and after the stop. The trees had no leaves, the shrubbery was often brown and dried, and the tulips were merely a "promise" of things to come. It was mostly daffodils and hyacinths. That day was very disappointing - wet and cold with most flower color inside in cool/cold buildings. There was nothing spectacular that day and that's a lot of why we booked. I see that next year they are doing the visits even earlier so I feel for the folks who go. They seem to be trying to squeeze in more trips to make up for the money they lost this year with unfinished boats.
Also, all of the optional tours were on days 2-4 when jet lag was still a problem for many. We were not told of the optional tour to Delft (which was good) until we were on board and it was time to sign up.
Front Desk... Wasn't organized at check-in and the desk staff didn't even bother to welcome folks. This didn't change during the trip. And it was obviously a great imposition for them when we tried to check on room problems.
We were so looking forward to this trip but, all in all, we aren't keen to repeat this experience with Viking. In fact, we won't be sailing on a longboat again. They are too flawed and Viking doesn't care if you have a bad experience. They are committed and it's to their investment not to their passengers. That's what hurts the most. Viking spends all their money on beautiful ads but they don't bother to get the experience right anymore. With Customer Service Dept. only trying to get future trips out of us it isn't a solution for a lack of caring and good service. Combine that with Viking's current reputation for a lack of communicating with customers about cancellations and changes until the last moment has bumped Viking from the top to the bottom of our list (and that of our travel agent and friends) and we recommend not using them. We've waited to post this to see if time would soften our disappointment but we are sorry to say that nothing we've read recently indicates any improvement on Viking's part. If you luck out with them, congratulations, but we aren't willing to knowingly pay for another bad experience. We love to travel and we'll put our money elsewhere.