My wife and I love cruises in general and European river cruises in particular. These cruises are a great way to explore Europe with the benefit of staying in the 1st class hotel (your state room). We had done many different cruises and know a bad one when we "see" it. The one on Viking was our first with them and it was BAD. It went wrong right away. When our large group arrived to the embarkation port of Chalon-sur-Sa'ne our ship wasn't there. The Viking's rep informed us that due to the high level of Sa'ne the ship couldn't get there, so it is waiting for us in Lyon. And how are we supposed to get there? Well, we didn't book our transfers with Viking, so our group lead had to negotiate with the bus company that arranged for our transfer from Paris to take us to Lyon. Shouldn't it be Viking's responsibility? Under the normal circumstances Viking's buses should have been waiting for us right there, but they weren't. We finally got on board. The ship looks OK, nice size, clean state room. We were exited. Until dinner time. The menu variety was yucky, but the food was even worse. Our appetizer told us everything there was to know about a quality of food and head chef's abilities. Unfortunately our first impression was the right one. We are not snobs, but we do know our food - Viking's food was of poor variety and quality. One would expect great French cuisine experience on the river cruise in France. We've got neither French, nor good one. They couldn't cook over-easy eggs in that kitchen without overcooking them. That's how bad it was. The only thing I can't complain about were breads and smocked salmon - thanks God they didn't need to prepare it, or they would mess it up too.
Entertainment was virtually non existent. Sure they had a piano player/singer on board. But the guy had a personality of a tofu (if you know what I mean), with the cheap musical repertoire of the "YMCA" and "Celebration Times". We felt like at a cheap wedding every time he "entertained" us. Not sure if he made his own music choices, or Viking forced him to play this garbage, but either way it was not pretty. They did bring a French band once - the lady singer was very good. On our other river cruises (we sailed with Uniworld previously), local musicians were entertaining us almost every night.
Cruise director on the cruise was doing his job, but to the minimum. There was no "going extra mile" in him. His MO was "I do what they require of me and that's it".
Although itinerary was pretty decent, most of the local city guides were of a poor quality with very bad English. We made best effort to listen to them, but some of them were so bad we just turned off our ear pieces. There were some exceptions though.
Sure there were positives. The ship, although fairly old, was nice and clean, with plenty of well appointed common areas. State rooms were nice sized, well maintained, clean, with high-end bathroom stuff (soap, lotion, etc.). Most of the crew were absolutely great folks. State room stewards were invisible while doing great job of keeping our room in order. Waiting staff was friendly and tried very hard to make our meals enjoyable. Too bad they couldn't make up for the bad food. Purser desk personnel was friendly and helpful. So no complaints here. They offered free WiFi, which was great. But, unfortunately, it was very unstable. I don't blame Viking for that - satellite connection can be tricky - but think I should mention it.
To sum up our cruise experience - we weren't happy with Viking and will think twice before booking our next cruise with them.