Like many other reviewers, we were experienced ocean cruisers but first time river cruisers, and we loved it. The small boat meant getting to know people and having time to talk. I worried I would be bored---not at all. We're planning our next trip now.
We did our own air reservations for two reasons: extra cost to get to one of Viking's east coast departure cities, and the extra charge for any variation from their normal air arrangements, since we would spend two days in Plzen before the trip. Our travels from New Mexico were gruelling as expected but we had no issues. Czech train service from Plzen to Prague was easy and cheap, and the station is under a mile from the hotel. If we had known how cheap it was, we would have sprung the bit extra for first class. Dealing with luggage on the train, hoisting it from the platform and to the shelf over the seats--strong argument for packing light. At the Prague train station's tourist information office, we got 24 hr. transit More
We connected with Viking at their desk in the hotel's lower level lobby. Though we had the so-brief half day bus tour, we wished we had gotten to Prague a couple days sooner to explore more. Old Town is a long walk from the hotel; the transit passes were welcome and easy to use.
Both the Prague Hilton and and Paris Meridien Etoile accommodations and breakfasts were high quality. On the boat, the bedding was very comfy, food fantastic, and staff wonderful. Loved the coffee/tea bar with fresh baked goodies all the time. Cabin size was cozy as expected but adequate. The program/cruise director Diana was outstanding, like the Energizer Bunny.
The cruise, in a word, was great. The bus portions between Prague and Nuremberg and between Trier, Germany and Paris were not the most fun but part of the package to see those endpoint cities, but the river system link every place. In late June/early July, we went from rather chilly to hot, so appreciated having layers of clothes. Rain in Heidelberg was disappointing, but Diana virtually ran from a bus up to the castle toting an armload of red Viking umbrellas to distribute to the unprepared. Disappointing experience of the castle, but nature happens, and we deal with it as well as we can (note to those commenting on the effects of the river flooding just weeks before, an inevitable event of nature).
I won't detail all the charming towns (Bamberg, Wurzburg, Nuremberg, Cochem, Mainz, Trier...). We wished we had more time in most, but that's part of the compromise with cruising. Unlike most other cruisers, we had to get back to real life and work.
Things I'm glad I did:
--Reserve a Main (lowest) Deck cabin, even if I had to stand on tip-toes to see out the window. I could commune with the passing ducks and swans.
--Packed light, nice but not super dressy clothes, in medium size suitcase and small backpack. DH regretted his large suitcase, but he has big shoes...
--Worried about pickpockets in Prague and Paris, I just kept my shoulder bag/purse underneath a shirt over tanktop.
--Walked from the Eiffel Tower across the bridge for lunch at the Cafe Carlu in the museum complex, with perfect view of the tower.
--Learned of and used the inexpensive Air France shuttle to the airport, from the bus stop directly across from the Meridien Etoile.
What I wished I did:
--Bring a few wire hangers for the closet and an inflatable hanger for handwash.
--Bring a second plug adaptor so I didn't have to do musical plugs for phone, camera, and curing iron.
--Study the history of the region and the cities to better appreciate the massive amount of information that guides have to share.
--Take the optional wine tour in Bernkastel, which we heard was really good and informative.
--Have more time especially in Prague and Paris.
--Took the offer onboard for a price reduction for a next cruise.
The river cruise is a very different experience from an ocean ship of 3,000 and more. No big production shows but some enjoyable small scale entertainment (except for the lame folk group). Dining was lovely, seat yourself, less formal than with a big ship's maitre d'. After I messed on the galley tour time, I had a one-on-one tour with the head chef. There's nothing like the wheelhouse tour on a big ship, and some engineers toured the engine room. The library was well stocked in general and with material geared to our itinerary. Overall a much more personal experience. This is not to say I won't do more ocean trips as well as river trips. I enjoy both for different reasons. Less