I have never done a cruise before, ocean or otherwise, but my friend and I who are both in our 50s decided to do the Passau-Budapest Danube Waltz. The advertisements were compelling, but they don't do justice to the stunning sights. Our flight to Munich was great; a Viking agent picked us up immediately and put us on a cushy bus to Passau....absolutely no problems. The boat, the Magni, is clean, new, tasteful, and we were greeted with a champagne cocktail. Our room was ready when we arrived, even though we were there before check-in time. It had ample room for our luggage and ourselves and was chic and well-designed--down comforter and smart finishes. No wasted space. A huge flat screen TV that offered CNN, BBC, and a few other channels, (that seemed to show American crime dramas only), as well as the weather, movies, and travel videos. The floor in the bathroom is heated!. We had the French Balcony room and could open our door and look out whenever we wanted. I was surprised at how quiet it was. And smooth too--I couldn't tell when we were moving or docked.
The food was delicious--mind you I am not a connoisseur---and certainly not adventurous with food---so I was pleased to see food I recognized. American cuisine along with local/European dishes. They have GREAT coffee machines--espresso, cappuccino, coffee, tea, hot chocolate---anytime of day or night.
Everyday there are activities planned--mostly bus or walking tours of various places--but you are free to go off and do what you want. I am not much of a group-tourist--I prefer to go on my own, but I did find that the 45 minute bus and/or walking tours did give me lots of information and afterwards we would go exploring on our own. Don't underestimate the places on the tour. Our first site in Passau was a cathedral. I yawned at the thought, but the place just floored us! Baroque style (get used to it--it's everywhere in Europe) and we even got an organ concert! There are other excursions you can do. We did Schonbrunn Palace but I wouldn't do it again. It was crowded, vast, and held so much ornateness and over-the-topness that I became overwhelmed after the first few rooms.
It seemed to me that the stops got better as we went--first Passau, then Melk (whoever heard of Melk? It has an abbey that is nicer than anything you have ever seen--who knew?), Salzburg, then Vienna. I didn't think there could be anything grander than Vienna---until Budapest appeared. We arrived at night and the place was lit up like a birthday cake for God! DO NOT MISS IT.
The service onboard is impeccable. Rooms cleaned thoroughly. Food served quickly and special requests honored gracefully. Every one of the staff, from the program director to housekeeping, were friendly and attentive. Bed turn-down service with next day's itinerary on your bed when you come back from dinner. I had never been treated so well and at the end of the cruise, I didn't want to leave. That is service.
Okay now for the downside :# 1. We went to shop the Christmas markets, but everything was way too expensive. Wait until Bratislava or Budapest to shop--prices are much more reasonable. But it was still fun drinking their mulled wine and soaking up the atmosphere. #2. If your airfare is included and Viking is making your reservation, you cannot upgrade your seats beyond economy 'comfort' class. The seats were roomier but not like in first class.
Overall, we had a great cruise. I have no other cruises to compare it with, but at this point, I don't plan on cruising with anyone but Viking again.