We have traveled extensively and always independently. This was our introduction to group travel. With absolutely no interest in being confined to a ship with thousands of passengers we chose a river cruise with 188 passengers. Our tour began in Prague, but we embarked at Bamberg (Nuremberg was originally scheduled point of embarkation).
The Viking Prestige is a comfortable boat. It has none of the bells and whistles one would expect to find on an ocean going vessel- no casino, no theatre, no pool. However, the boat is a well laid out, nicely appointed comfortable and very relaxing ship. The WiFi worked well enough that we could keep in necessary touch but not so much we were compelled to be constantly linked in. That is a good thing.
The Prestige has wonderful staff that knows you by name, caters to your needs and looks after you in a wonderful unobtrusive manner. Our cabin steward, Snezana, was terrific. She took exceptional care that our room was always tidy, our supplies were replenished in an ongoing manner and our laundry was taken care of properly. Her sunny disposition was a terrific day starter!
We found the meals and service to be very good. Meal seating is unassigned and we were able to enjoy the company of other passengers; some repeatedly and some a one-time event by design. Breakfast and lunch provides an option to be seated in the dining room with full service or for a lighter fare on the observation deck/lounge.
We had some good guides and some that left something to be desired – especially towards the end of the tour. However, all in all we were pleased with service knowing that because of the rising river levels and last minutes maneuvering folks were not always in the right place and backups were being used. Diana van der Tuuk, the program director, was constantly available and seemed to be everywhere at once. She was always very interested to know who led a good tour and who did not. Diana was constantly observing from the background.
The hotel in Prague was good – a Hilton with little to say you are in Prague – but clean, comfortable and situated in walking distance of Old Town. The hotel in Paris – a Starwood property – is very much a business/group travel hub. Very worn and tired – much like many expensive hotels in Paris. It was in comfortable walking distance to the Arc de Triomphe and just two blocks from the Metro. Cabs were readily available.
Europe is currently experiencing some of the worst flooding in decades. The last portion of our trip was affected by this rise in water levels. Though we had witnessed high water throughout the journey, the last leg on the Moselle River was aborted. We were given a bus trip to Cochem, more time in Koblenz and an unscheduled port stop in Cologne. All very good options, but this did make the last leg into Paris a very long and hurried affair. Viking was working very hard to meet their tour commitment while scrambling to assemble buses and guides along with every other tour company needing to do the same thing.
We had a great time. While we could say we were sometimes inconvenienced and the weather not Caribbean perfect, we relaxed like never before, slept like babies each night and felt cared for by the Prestige staff. We were on a river – you got to go with the flow!