We signed up for this tour in December of 2012, at which point only the lower level cabins were available. In hindsight, we are glad we didn’t spend the extra. We then heard nothing more from Viking until a few weeks before our departure, when we received a booklet with descriptions of the various stops, along with travel suggestions. We departed for Prague expecting an enjoyable river cruise. What we got instead was a lot of time on busses. This was due in part to the lockworkers’ strike that began the day we were supposed to depart from Bamburg, and in part due to the actual logistics of the cruise. There was no simple way to tell this from the information we saw before signing up.
The lockworkers’ strike was the latest of several that had occurred this year. Viking professed to be surprised it was happening. However a quick web search revealed that the strike had been called by the lock workers union before we departed the US for the vacation, and was scheduled to last a week. If they knew and didn’t tell us, that is deceptive. If they didn’t know, that is incompetent. Had we known, we might well have decided to make other plans. It turned out the strike lasted two days, so the ship was way behind, but moving. Meanwhile, we spent time on busses going from where the ship was stuck or late, to planned or substitute destinations. Each day was seemingly invented the day before, with no clear knowledge of how the rest of the cruise would develop. Our impression was that VRC were just winging it, a day at a time. Given all their previous experience with disruptions, this was not impressive. The tour director and staff on the ship were nice and doing their best, but without any evident long range plan from their management.
Loading 4 busses of people, some of whom were not in real good condition, was a slow process, and of course this happened two or more times each day. This added a large amount of dead time to the trip. At the destinations, there were suggestions that some folks might want to join a “leisurely group” which would walk more slowly. In general however this did not work, and every group included folks who had trouble keeping up, thus slowing the process further. As a result, nearly half of each day was lost to bus logistics and driving time. The ship did not manage to catch up to the schedule until the last two days, and one of the scheduled stops was skipped completely.
Most of the time the ship was docked at industrial facilities or places away from the town centers, so except for one day, it was not possible to simply walk off the ship into the town. Our theory is that VRC has expanded so much, using larger ships, that these city center docks are simply not available. Again, had all of this been made clear when we were signing up, we would not have chosen this cruise (but still no way to know if any other would be different). The idyllic scenes one sees on the PBS ads or on their website do not represent what you really get (at least in this case).
This turned out to be a bus tour with a floating hotel that met us at the end of the day. If we had wanted a bus tour, we could have signed up for one at substantially less cost. Once home, we made our concerns known to Viking, and they offered us a $500 discount on our next cruise. We don’t plan on collecting.