My daughter and I just completed our first Viking cruise and I have been trying to process my impressions.
Our arrival in Prague was smooth, no airline issues, the hotel was comfortable, the cruise director, Diana van der Tuuk, was on hand to direct and advise and the hotel in Prague was quite comfortable. My only negative experiences in Prague had to do with being taken advantage of by a Czech taxi driver and being charged over $100 at the hotel for two hamburgers, sodas, desserts and coffees when my daughter and I were too tired to go out and find more reasonable and better fare in the city. These had nothing at all to do with Viking, but were a consequence of fatigue and confusion. Departing from Prague by bus to Nuremberg, Diana van der Tuuk was very courteous to a gentleman who discovered he'd left his passport at the hotel about a half hour out, returning to collect it. Had I been the offender, I would have been most grateful for the courtesy, as one of the other guests, however, I was not happy to have our bus trip extended by nearly an hour, nor was I amused by his making a joke of it for the remaining bus journey.
Arriving at the ship we found a very courteous and attentive crew. We had a French Balcony cabin (Viking description) which was more spacious than other guest reviews had led me to expect, it was a pleasant surprise. The beds were quite comfortable, the bathrooms worked fine and were surprisingly roomy (and we LOVED the L'Occitane toiletries). The food was decent, if you expect the bounty and variety of an ocean cruise, you will probably be disappointed. In all honesty, I cannot rave about the onboard food, I found some of the culinary experimentation a bit odd, but our bellies were full and the staff was pleasant and I can't complain a great deal, either. I can't say enough about the staff, everyone on board was friendly and courteous; we definitely looked forward to getting back to the ship at the end of our days in the towns.
The lock master's strike along the river was frustrating, the long hours on the bus and sometimes curtailed tours along the river were a sour note, this was not the fault of the cruise line and was handled as well as could be expected. Diana van der Tuuk had her hands full and showed amazing tact dealing with the situation. She is a dynamo, as had been said by a passenger in another review, she seemed everywhere at once, making arrangements, dealing with complaints, and attempting to remove obstacles. Her commitment is truly commendable.
I did not care much for our time in Paris, a day is not enough at all and I just felt frustrated and tired. We opted to skip the scheduled bus tour and spent our morning in the Louvre, then paid for on a hop on and off bus tour of our own. I might suggest that Viking provide the on/off option rather than a set tour of the city by bus, but that is a matter of individual preference, I suppose. Our transfers were arranged seamlessly and we were very well informed as to how to proceed. I very much appreciated the organization and communication.
We opted for the Oxford / Highclere Castle extension. Our tour director/ guide, Jamie, was attentive and I definitely recommend that particular extension. The Old Bank Hotel in Oxford was absolutely lovely and the staff there almost as attentive as the staff on the Prestige. The tours were well planned and I very much enjoyed them.
Overall, the trip exceeded our expectations, with a scant few sour notes. I was disappointed to arrive in Nuremberg on a Sunday, when everything was closed; I did not take this into account when booking the cruise. Also, we would have liked to visit some of the spots in the Jewish section in Prague, but as we were there on Saturday, this also was not a possibility. I do think Viking needs to be more up front about the time you will spend on busses, I am not certain how much the strikes affected the time we were on the bus, but it was excessive, I felt the tours were rushed as a result of transit time and would have liked to have had more free time at some of the stops. The guides in the various cities were a mixed bag, some knowledgeable and courteous, some not so much.
I would certainly consider another Viking cruise in future, but will make sure I am more knowledgeable about possible schedule snafus beforehand.