With several exceptions of a minor nature this "Grand European" sailing from Amsterdam to Budapest was stellar in all regards. Our timing for this sailing was marred by the fact that Europe was experiencing it's coldest Spring in many years and that detracted from the overall experience. Can't hold VRC responsible for this! From our standpoint VRC was in the hotseat as far as us sailing with them again but WOW, their performance on this trip was mighty good. So good in fact that we will book a "Waterways of the Czars" itinerary with them in the future. The only gripes we had were too much idle free time in 3 German cities that were basically shut down due to Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday, the absence of space in the Viking lounge for presentations and local talent shows, and the inability for passengers to pay off their outstanding room charges until between midnight and 9am on the day of disembarkation. VRC should warn their customers who sail in Europe during the Easter holiday that most city visits on these days will result in shut down towns and shopping. The inadequate space in the lounge is well documented by other posters.
The food at each meal from lunch in Amsterdam to breakfast in Budapest was equal to the fabulous meals we have enjoyed on Silversea and Celebrity expeditions to Antarctica, the Arctic, and the Galapagos. We don't know how the staff on Aegir does it but they consistently presented superior dining experiences. The house red and white wines wines were just fine but certainly not top cabin. The menus were varied and portion size was completely acceptable. The soups and entree's were very good and the sorbets better than what we have enjoyed on previous ocean cruises. The availability of beverages and cookies during the day was appreciated. The hotel manager, Oliver, and the maitre'd Valentin (and their staffs) did a commendable job every day. Breakfast in the Aquavit Terrace was a nice departure from the hustle and bustle of the breakfast buffet in the dining room.
Our "aquarium class" lower deck cabin was adequate and the bathroom, although quite tiny, was fine. Closet space was ample but the drawers were not very high and had smaller than desired capacity. We did OK with the space. The bed creaked a lot but we slept well. A few times we were jolted at night as the ship bumped the walls in the locks. We quickly fell asleep after waking to the bumps. We got used to the vacuum pumps from adjoining cabins and would say this problem documented by other posters is overblown.
The internet connection throughout the sailing was good, far better than it was on our previous VRC sailings.
Most of the local tour guides were quite good as they balanced information, personal stories and humor. The visits to the "alt stadt's" in town after town did get a bit old as we visited the walled cities and saw the same old architecture throughout Germany. The "ABC" (another blooming church or castle or cathedral) tour comment got a bit of a workout by our fellow passengers!
Service in our cabin and in the dining room was outstanding with the staff going above and beyond in performance and overall kindness. Can't say enough about Stela caring for our cabin and Damir and Teodor in the dining room. It's a bit tight and a little on the noisy side in the dining room but we really have no gripes on this issue. Our table mates (two couples from Australia and Canada) were wonderful and we hope our paths cross again. They were greatly appreciated as were their colleagues. The concierge was very helpful and the program director kept things moving with good info and injections of his talent and advice. Wish the PD would have kept a better handle on the behavior of rude passengers who tried to talk over him when he was presenting important info to the group at the daily briefings.
We thoroughly enjoyed the onboard entertainment afforded by a glass blower, classical German singers, and a Hungarian music and dance troupe. Liar's Club, trivia, and longest German word competitions were fun.
We took advantage of a new VRC policy for future sailing vouchers which do not have an expiration date. It's too bad VRC does not have the technology to book future sailings whilst passengers are onboard.
Overall this was a very positive experience, one that will bring us back to VRC again.