Viking Embla Cruise Review by CelticMutt: Solid
Overall Member Rating
Destination: Europe - River Cruise
While there were a few minor glitches in our 17 days with Viking on the Embla and then on the Prague extension, the overwhelming majority of our experience was wonderful! The ports of call were outstanding, coupling small towns with major cities, but everywhere the ability to experience history and grandeur from the comfort provided by the ship made the experience something that will always remain one of our best vacations ever!
Before going further I'd like to direct you to my day-to-day report/review on our trip that I posted daily from the ship. It's a lot more detailed than I can manage here, but may be a bit long and wordy for the casual explorer.
Our first real negative involves the fact that we were actually supposed to be on Viking's Idun and not the Embla. We were never informed of the ship substitution and were actually unaware of the change until our transport bus pulled up in front of a strange ship. No More adequate explanation of the change was ever offered other than the fact that the two vessels were sister ships and identical. While we had no problem with the ship itself and in fact believe that we lucked out due to some amazing personnel that obviously the Idun couldn't share at the same time, the change DID inconvenience some passengers who spent time and energy looking for a ship that happened to be cruising the reverse itinerary and was nowhere to be found.
We found the food on the Embla to be wonderful, and a large cut above that which we've experienced on the host of ocean cruises we've taken. You cannot eat "continually" and if that's your draw for cruising, this may not be the best venue for you. The meals here were excellent with sit down or buffet choices at breakfast and lunch and excellent, many times local choices at dinner. Entrees were somewhat smaller than Americans may be used to, but after an appetizer, soup and in prep for a dessert, I found them to be perfect and I'm a big eater. Great cookies and coffee/tea are always available, but the main point is that with the included excursions you really don't have a lot of time for snacking.
The rooms (ours was a balcony) are somewhat smaller than the same category on an oceanliner, but there's a ton of storage and we managed nicely even though we were on board for a full two weeks and I top out at about 240! Couple of negatives: the bathroom door is the pocket type. It doesn't offer the best of privacy, can be noisy at night and opened itself on occasion. In my opinion a significant design flaw. The beds were comfortable, but squeaky - again if you get up at night between the pocket door, the bed and a pretty loud toilet flush, it can wake your partner!
The personnel on this ship at this point in time were outstanding. The cruise program director, Lucia was nothing short of outstanding! She was ably assisted by Mercedes (who would name their daughter after a car?! - Sorry, old joke!) who's the concierge. The wait staff was superb and the bar guys were as good. A point here though is that these folks change ships frequently (Lucia was subbing for a vacationing PD) and so the comments in this regard may be "temporary" as well. Still, they were great and contributed in a very large part to our enjoyment of this cruise!
There is entertainment. The piano player (Neil, I think) plays almost continually and is there in the lounge until the last passenger packs it in. Not late in our instance. There's also local entertainment that they took aboard on a few occasions. They weren't spectacular, but good and solid; much like you'd find on a ocean cruise.
Beer and wine are included with lunch and dinner and both choices were generally pretty good and flowed freely. Drinks are a bit steep in price, but the pours are liberal. We tend to opt for premium martinis by choice, and we found that they were huge here and that made them worth the tariff.
The passenger list is ... Not young! We're in our early-60's and felt like the "kids". There were probably 3 or 4 other couples our age or younger, but the rest of the list was 70's plus. No problem though. Made for a smaller crowd at the bar at night and a slower exit off some of the buses, but the folks were all very nice, friendly and most were experienced travelers.
I can't say enough about the ports of call. Each one was different enough to make the stops varied and interesting. Some, like the Cathedral in Cologne, the Melk Abbey, Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, the Lobkowicz Palace in Prague and the night entry into Budapest take your breath away! Even the smaller stops like Regensberg and Bamburg were delightful and historic. WW2 buffs will love Nuremburg! I thought the 14 days would leave me a bit jaded after all the palaces and churches. Not so. Even with my back acting up, we made every excursion and most of the optionals. A word about the tours. The included ones are excellent with informative, English speaking guides and there's one per stop. We found the optional tours to be every bit as good - some even better, but they are pricey and with the number offered, that can add up. Almost a grand for the two of us. Worth it, but you have to budget for it on the top of a pretty expensive cruise to begin with! Research your options beforehand because there are two opportunities to sign up, one comes early, and some of the tours can fill up.
All the tours are conducted in English using a device called a Quietvox. You wear it around your neck coupled with an earpiece and the tour guides can talk into theirs delivering a clear commentary completely separate from the guide a few feet away. It's your constant companion on the cruise and each room is equipped with 2 complete with chargers.
There are two computers in the upper lobby area for "no extra charge" passenger use. Personal device connectivity can vary between good and none depending on where your stateroom is located. It's good in cabins near mid ships and wains the farther out you get. We were in 329 about 70% aft from center and had none in the room at all. This is something Viking should be able to fix easily to make the experience equal for all their passengers.
The top "sun deck" is a nice experience with chairs, tables, lounges a putting green and shuffleboard. Some of the area is shaded with an awning and umbrellas. Note that when the ship is going through areas with low lying bridges (with us it was most of the Main and the Main-Danube canal) they have to clear the sun deck because clearances can be in inches. This represented about 6 days on our 14 day cruise. We did not miss it that much because most of the days we were off the ship the majority of the time and the lounges were generally not crowded at all. (With the exception of the daily briefing at which just about everyone attended. Chairs were at a premium if you came late.) A note here: the ride up the Rhine on the sun deck in the sun with castles and the Lorelei Rock was a real treat!
A great ship; a great time; wonderful people and crew coupled with 6 beautiful countries! Even with a couple of little glitches, who cares!? We loved it!
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Cabin review: Bal329
329 was a standard balcony cabin. A bit smaller than similar ocean vessel cabins of the same type. Plenty of storage. Balcony small but serviceable. Bathroom a bit cramped and could use more storage especially since the pocket door doesn't offer a back hook. Same pocket door is a bit noisy. No WiFi connectivity in this cabin although there is in cabins farther forward.
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