We had heard very good things about Viking River Cruises and we anxious to give it a try. Our travel experience has been with luxury and premium cruise lines and we love to travel independently, making our own way via rental car, and private guides. We found the experience of Viking on their Bucharest to Budapest route to be closer aligned to a bus tour on a boat. The itinerary was less than wonderful - no way to get into a town in some places unless you took the long bus tours.
Everything is done as a group: Excursions that lasted many hours on packed buses. Dinner with everyone heading to the dining room at 7pm - and no ability to have a quiet table for 2. Very loud dining room because the ceilings are so low. Unlike larger ships with 300-700 people, there was no attempt on this ship to learn the names of passengers or learn their likes or interests. Everyone is treated as a member of "the group".
Corporate could initiate some low or no cost amenities that could make this a better experience for guests:
1. Encourage staff to learn some of the guests names. We were told by one officer who we had just handled our shore card with our names, on a day when we did not go on the tour, that "he couldn't be expected to know all 175 names of guests"
2. Encourage officers to mingle with guests when they have time. Especially if the ship is empty, when most are on a tour.
3. Provide a morning coffee or afternoon tea in the lounge for those staying on board and not going on the tours. Make it special - This would be a welcome activity for those guest who choose to stay onboard. Have officers who are not doing anything sit and talk with guests during this period. Simply bring the cookies near the coffee machine into the lounge and serve the coffee or tea.
We found no fault with our cabin, it was comfortable and well decorated. Food onboard was quite good, but the buffets at breakfast and lunch were so crowded with people moving constantly. And the buffet area is right in the middle of the dining room.
Overall it was a very disappointing experience for us. But then again, most people onboard enjoyed the trip and the Viking Experience. Just not a good fit for people who like independent travel