It seems ridiculous to gripe about a Holiday Cruise up the Rhine River from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, but when researching cruises, I appreciate details which tend to make a real difference, but are rarely reported. Here are the things I feel added up to a completely unsatisfactory vacation.
You cannot eat dinner alone. There are only tables for six, eight, ten. It rapidly becomes tedious asking people about their lives and then acting as though you are instant friends and interested. One man's son was incarnated and his daughters didn't want him at their home for Christmas so he was cruising unhappily; another woman's husband had committed suicide. Lots of older people who wanted to talk. I didn't want to go on vacation with them, but did. No Room Service and you can't take a plate to the bar.
The food was not good. Breakfast was adequate (a buffet) and lunch was the high point, especially the salads, but dinner was simply bad. A $7.95 All You Can Eat Buffet in Vegas would have been an improvement.
I like to sleep with my partner. Pushing twins together works if you really make them into a queen bed and not leave a big open line down the middle. Even the sheets were twin and the blankets (while lovely European cotton) were two twin sized blankets.
They were very understaffed. I don't know if this was due to the holidays but, while we had the liquor package (150 Euros more per person) you couldn't get a drink easily because the bar tenders were always off doing something else. People were lined up all the time. The staff didn't look you in the eye because they feared you might ask them for something.
They ran out of everything--wine, nuts, juice.
The Cruise Director stayed on the intercom incessantly repeating things until you couldn't remember what you were supposed to do. Morning, noon and night--didn't matter what you might be doing in the privacy of your suite, she was talking to you with no way to silence her. It continued in person until you wanted to smack her.
The itinerary was not good. Part of it was due to the fact the Rhine was high and we missed some ports, but mainly because the timing was poor. Two hours in Heidelberg, but four in Kinderdijk? Kinderdijk has a few windmills (fabulous) which take maybe 30 minutes at best. We ran through Heidelberg, pretty much seeing nothing. Amsterdam was waiting but we stayed docked for hours in Kinderdijk and didn't get into Amsterdam until we were ready to go to the airport. The other stops were either an Old Town or a church.
Everyone was kept in a big group--all 200 of us. So, four big buses would pull up and dump everyone at a small cuckoo clock shop or a glass blowing demonstration. Totally overwhelming so no one saw anything and everyone was unhappy.
There is no elevator. It bothered some of the older passengers but we had no trouble going up and down. The problem came when the supplies were delivered or the staff needed to get food platters up to the lounge/bar. The staff formed a human chain to pass wine cases, toilet paper, fruits, fish and all other supplies up and down as needed. Passengers had to dodge the toss and it was embarrassing when you heard the grunts. Every lunch platter was carried up the one set of steps while you attempted to stay out of the way.
The staff stays to their daily rituals regardless. Couldn't get off the ship because of high water? Too bad I need to vacuum the room, hallway, steps...now. Ten minutes late to the dining room? Order now, get on the schedule with the rest of the table. If you didn't want to play games with the Recreation Director, she pouted--"It would only take two minutes."
They don't have a computer system for accounting. You are supposed to leave your credit card over the last night so "my colleague can do the processing". Every Diet Coke and Old Fashion required a paper written ticket unless you were on "a package". They owed us for a cab ride and couldn't just credit the bill, but rather had to pay out in Euros. You had to leave your room key so they could keep up with who was on or off the boat. Think lines.
We were on the top deck but many of the guests on lower decks complained about the smell in their rooms and backed up toilets. That was just rumors for us, but folks were upset.
Having Wifi was great.
We cruise a lot. We are generally happy people, but the irritants simply added up until we couldn't wait to get off the boat. We take what we spend on vacations seriously and when we realized that we would rather have stayed at home, we knew it was time to report it for others considering Viking.