My husband and I booked our Viking Embla cruise from Budapest to Nuremberg in September of 2011 directly through Viking. I anxiously tracked the progress of the ship from the shipyard through its first voyages with passengers (it was a new ship and some of the earlier launches were delayed). I also followed the reviews of the other Viking long ships that were launched earlier in 2012. As the time for our trip got closer, I started watching the weather and water levels. I got many helpful hints from the boards here on cruise critic.
We made our own flight arrangements and arrived in Budapest a day prior to boarding the Embla. I had arranged for private transport from the airport to our hotel (Residence Baron) and everything fell into place as planned.
A taxi delivered us from our hotel to the Embla early the next day. The Viking staff greeted us warmly (paying close attention to security), checked us in and stowed our luggage until we could access our room. We could have stayed on the ship and taken advantage of the public areas and a buffet lunch, but we were anxious to see Budapest and went back out. The Embla was docked right by the Chain Bridge and an easy walk to the sights. Budapest also has convenient hop on, hop off buses for seeing the city.
We came back to the ship after 3PM and checked into our room, a Veranda B with balcony on the starboard side on the main deck. It was located at the very far end of the corridor. We really liked this location away from the reception area as there is far less foot traffic and noise. There is a staircase right there to access the other decks.
Our room was quiet and comfy. There was a place to stow everything and a safe for our valuables. The bathroom had a solid sliding door (so no light bothering the sleeper at night) and a heated floor (you can turn this off if you want to). The room is compact because this is a RIVER SHIP, built to fit into small locks. If you are looking for lots of room and a butler, I recommend that you rent your own boat and crew.
I do exercises for my back and managed to find some room on our cabin floor to do these. There is a walking path on the Sun Deck which I occasionally used. Qi Gong exercises were offered in the Lounge early in the AM, but this was when I did my back exercises, so I didn't attend.
The ship was beautiful and well maintained. Just like in the brochure pictures.
The crew was excellent. Everyone was hard-working, pleasant, friendly, entertaining, and constantly helpful. Our program manager, Timea, was amazing, keeping us informed and all moving in the right direction at the right time. Gerhard, the hotel manager, helped my husband print out some information he needed from the internet. The captain actually piloted the ship. We had an opportunity to sign up for a tour of the pilots bridge. I highly recommend this as it's quite interesting. Our room attendant got us separate duvets when we requested, so we wouldn't be wrestling with the one cover. You can tell when a crew is happy. We chatted with several employees and enjoyed getting to know them.
The food was delicious. If you don't like the current days list of entrees, there are standard options that you can select. There is complimentary wine with lunch and dinner, and refills were not a problem. The wait staff worked hard to make everyone enjoy the experience. Don't like something? We'll get you something else. We enjoyed the dining room and didn't use the buffet on the terrace very often except for "A Taste of Austria" when some wonderful pastries were served with coffee and tea. There was a coffee/tea/hot chocolate station located outside of the lounge that always had cookies and small cup cakes available.
We never had problems getting seating in the dining room. We preferred some of the smaller tables by the windows as it seemed quieter there. We met many different folks from all over the US and Britain.
There was a good sized TV in our room that had on demand movies available and we watched a few of those later in the evening time. We were on vacation, so were not keen on looking at the news.
We were very lucky on our cruise. The weather was great and the water levels allowed us to make the trip to Nuremberg without incident. Viking has a hand sanitizer located at the entry to the dining room and encouraged everyone to use it. This seemed to help everyone stay healthy.
Although we went on some of the provided tours, we sometimes skipped them and went out on our own. We stayed on the ship along with a few others as it left Budapest and enjoyed having some quiet cruising time. I won't go into all the ports and optional tours. There is, however, a glass museum in Passau and if you like glass, this is a must see. I know Viking is always trying to improve it's service and tours. Some where great, others okay. A lot depended on your individual tour guide, your interests, and the time available.
Departure was easy. We had arranged for private transport to take us to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic at 9AM. Reception let us know when the driver arrived and our luggage was taken out to the car by the staff. We received a warm and friendly farewell.
We had a wonderful time on our cruise. Thank you Viking!