I accompanied my 90 y.o. mother on the Viking River Cruise (Danube Waltz) in April 2013. I tend to be somewhat skeptical -- yet on nearly every point my Viking experience exceeded my expectations.
The ship itself was great. Our French Balcony was of course small, but very comfortable and there was room for everything to be stowed away. Bathroom was fresh and modern, equipped with a vacuum flushing system that worked very efficiently.
We loved having only 179 passengers aboard, as we really got to know people. Most of our cruise was from USA, England and Scotland. I believe that someone could go on this cruise, not knowing anyone else, and they would feel totally be-friended and included. It is a wonderfully inclusive environment.
The food was simply amazing. Very elegant, lots of options and courses, not too large of portions -- so you didn't feel guilty trying lots of interesting things. I found the 'regional specialties' to be delicious. They always had the traditional back-ups on the menu: steak, roasted chicken, salmon, Caesar salad, etc. There was always fresh fruit and wonderful salad.
One huge hit with everybody was their Latte / Coffee machine that is available (and free) 24 hours a day. At 6am they have their amazing pastries from Schmidl bakery available (watch their video on Viking Food). I liked grabbing a moccaccino and small pastry early in the morning, heading to the Library and video-chatting with my husband (in USA) on FaceTime.
I found the internet to be way better than I had read. The Library is a great location, in case your room doesn't have the best Wi-Fi reception. I had almost no problems posting a few pictures on FB, getting email, looking things up on Google or FaceTiming.
I incurred almost no phone charges as I forwarded my iPhone to my home phone in USA. I asked AT&T to give me "International Roaming" (even if you don't make calls -- do this!), I turned OFF Cellular Data. Texts TO me cost nothing, texts FROM me were supposed to cost 50 cents, but most of the texting I did was through FaceTime, so it was free.
The sites we visited were literally "jaw dropping" for me. I 'd done my homework in advance, so knew quite a bit about what we'd see -- and I was still stunned with the beauty and history. Our tours were fabulous. We just went on the included tours, as that was enough for us. On excursions I learned that we could ask to be included with the "gentle walkers", so the guide would find the easiest route, and take it slowly.
I would have never thought Budapest would interest me -- But being up on Buda Hill seeing Matthias Church was amazing! Loved the Melk Abbey (Melk, Austria) and cruising through the Wacchau Vallay. Bratislava was an interesting medieval city. Vienna was so beautiful and elegant. In Salzburg we ate in a 650 year old restaurant, had delicious Hungarian Goulash. I bought my mementos here (but wore out my knees as it was a long day), Passau was a delight - town hall was beautiful and so rich in history.
The crew amazed me. They were so friendly and personable. I thought surely they would just put on an act of liking their guests. But they truly ENGAGED us and actually enjoyed the interactions. They responded to every request with a "can do" attitude. When it was time to tip, I was pleased to give the suggested amount, and also hand special thank you tips to several others that had truly blessed us - like Frances who (when asked) would make menu recommendations) or Alexander who greeted us by name each morning and would ask for my mother by name if she was missing.
I had considered NOT getting the Viking Optional Transfers (to and from airport) -- but in the end it was so much easier that I did it. It was a bit pricey, but it was so well organized and stress-reducing, that I was glad I chose that route.