The Viking River Cruise - Grand European Cruise - Budapest to Amsterdam was incredible. Words cannot describe the cruise - it's an experience. July 29 -- August 12, 2012
First there is no real comparison of an ocean cruise vs. a river cruise ship . They both offer great cruises. A cruise ship sales far from land, holds several thousand people, serves food most of the day and night, more of a party atmosphere, and perhaps a younger clientele. The river cruise ship cruises the shallow rivers and canals, holds under 200 passengers, serves breakfasts, lunches and dinners at specified times, and generally the passengers are 60 plus retirees. There were no wild parties, but many great times. Viking provides entertainment from local musicians, craftsman, or lectures.
We were on the Viking ship Prestige which is only 13 months old and was absolutely beautiful. We had the lower level with the long oblong portholes slightly above water level. This did not bother us since we preferred being on the bow or sun deck enjoying the entire river-canal and scenery on both sides of the ship.
I, along with many others, was intrigued by the lock and dam system on the rivers and canals. Yes there are about 68 locks that raise and lower our ship over the hilly landscape. Each lock brings a few more passengers out to observe and take hundreds of photos. The Danube River proved to have a story of its own -- low water. Our schedule was altered slightly so we could get up river while the river was high enough to allow us to sail. Fortunately we made it through, ever so slowly.
The scenery, especially through the hilly wine country, was a camera moment for all. The small colorful villages were dwarfed by the steep vineyards. The castle country was an awesome sight. Why so many castles, who built it, and in some cases who rebuilt it. For answers, take the tours.
The daily tours were well done by the guides. Tours lasted from 1 to 2 hours and depending on the town frequently gave you free time to roam on your own or take an optional tour. Be prepared for some difficult walking through the cobblestone streets. As I said, the tours were great, but there is a limit to how much history you can absorb in a short period. On the tenth day I was ready for the Brauhaus Bier tour (brewery tour).
The food was outstanding. Breakfast and lunches are from a small buffet and optional selection in the lounge area. Local lunches were served on several days. The dinners were delicious (Yummy, Yummy).
I met some wonderful people from across the globe. There is ample time to mix and meet new friends. At the dinner I recommend moving around to different tables to meet your next friend. Most have a good story to tell.
I've read some reviews about how bad the crew was. Not on the Prestige. Everyone was extremely friendly, helpful, and professional. Some crew members followed us on tours, answered questions about the tours, schedule, and other issues. How often do you get a farewell hug from a crew member?
Wi-Fi was spotty. If you are on the lower level, forget it. Go on deck.
The biggest negative was getting my luggage off the ship. For such a well-designed ship, they forgot about handling luggage. They do it the same way the castles were build, manually lift and carry it. Two pieces of our luggage were missing as we prepared to board the bus to the airport. I had to board an adjoining ship, up to the sundeck, cross over to the Prestige, down four levels to find my luggage still sitting outside our room. We did get it to the bus and were off to the airport.