Having previously cruised with Viking to Russia and China, we chose this year to do the Grand European cruise on the new long boats, starting in Budapest and ending in Amsterdam. Once again, we found this tour to be a wonderful experience.
I'm not sure how I feel about the long boats...they ARE long and we were at one end so got a lot of exercise walking anywhere but the lobby was glorious, the dining room, under the watchful eye of maitre d' Alexander was beautiful and the food exquisite. My only complaint was the on previous Viking cruises, the staff was always able to answer questions about food, but this staff did not always have the answers, though they were very accommodating, even considering the length of the dining room they had to travel with every serving.
The off shore excursions were varied and interesting. They also did something we did not find in Russia or China--they had "leisurely" tours, for those who had less stamina. I steadfastly resisted taking a leisurely tour, thinking I would miss out on something, but always exhausted when I returned to the ship after the regular tour. In Koln, I finally gave in and took the leisure tour and would ALWAYS do so in the future, if offered. What a wonderful way to see the city and still return to the ship with enough energy to stay up for the evening's entertainment.
We always take the optional tours and loved the chance to visit with Mrs. Brunovska in Slovakia, while the others did a tour of Bratislava. I sorely missed the chance to visit a horse farm, which had been one of the things that I most wanted to do on this cruise, but not enough people signed up, so it was canceled. Also sorry that the famed Lipizzaner stallions were out of town when we hit Vienna, but Viking can't be blamed for that!
There were several different types of entertainment on board, from folk dancing (much better than we saw at a folk restaurant in Prague), opera (so-so), a very earnest but just OK classical trio, and a skit put on by the staff, which was very funny, as well as the more educational lectures. The Germany and Austria lunches were lots of fun, with chance to taste lots of local foods and beverages, while local music played.
The view along the Danube and Rhine was breathtaking in spots (I swear we were in a castle subdivision from time to time, with castles everywhere you looked). The only surprising thing was how often the upper deck was not available, due to low bridges which required the flattening of all furniture, and even the lowering of the captain's cabin. People should be aware that there are about 4-5 days when you are not allowed out on the upper deck at all, but it certainly was not a deterrent to seeing beautiful scenery from the middle deck. By the time we hit Castle Central, the deck was open and everyone was out with the cameras.
There were only two computers available to the public, but I had my own, so mostly didn't need it. Internet connection was fair, depending on where on the river you were. On the occasions when I needed to use a ship computer, I solved the problem of a waiting line by using it at 1 or 2 in the morning (an option which would not work for most!)
This was yet another top notch experience with Viking and I look forward to our cruise in Ukraine next month.
We started in Budapest and enjoyed the city very much. The tours were excellent and we saw a good amount of both Buda and Pest. the most moving part of the experience was the shoe exhibit along the Danube, which brought tears to my eyes.