The Grand European river tour in April-May 2013 was our 2nd tour with Viking. The first was the Roof of the World tour in China and Tibet. We booked the European tour based on our very good experience in China. Overall we were disappointed by comparison.
First the good points:
• Crew and staff were great-well trained, enthusiastic and knowledgeable.
• Local guides were good-knowledgeable and coherent-they spoke English well
• Comfortable bed and excellent room care
• Smooth sailing boat
• Historical sites and medieval towns along the route are awesome
Second the downsides:
Food-Great on the China trip. Not so good on this European trip. Just a cut above good buffet food.
• The beef was inconsistent-sometimes so tough it was like an exercise to chew it, other times thin and overdone. Once out of three times it was good.
• The fish was, for the most part, below par. Sometimes fishy, sometime bland. If you .take the trip-stick with the salmon.
• Soup was way below the norm-for example, the Black bean soup has no black beans! All the soups were watery. I believe they use dry soup mix, but of a cheap variety-like something served at a school cafeteria. Lipton package soup is better.
• The wine was like home made from a kit-it’s from Viking’s own winery and needs a lot of work before being sold as suitable for restaurant use. The red wine in particular was not as good as a jug bottle of Gallo. They do, however, graciously allow you to bring your own wine to dinner and not drink theirs. If you enjoy a decent wine, bring your own in spite of the fact that it increases your cost.
As I stated above, the tour guides were good, however, the tour groups had between 25 and 35 people. For the guides it was like herding old cats. Moving a group of that size and age through streets in a city was problematic.
Lounge is not large enough to accommodate all the people at the same time so that if you came in late you had to stand in the back or along the window walls to hear the presentations.
A negative to the trip was that for 5 days the sun deck was shut off, thereby limiting activity to the interior-no walks or scenic views from the top. All the river boats may have this downside, but it would have gone down better with me had Viking stated as such prior to accepting large quantities of money.
Overall, in spite of the things noted above, we enjoyed the trip. There were several stops where you can stay ashore for lunch or dinner and the concierge will help make the reservation. The scenery is great and the stops along the route are enjoyable and educational.