Viking Torgil Cruise Review by sygwilson: Portugal's River of Gold
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Portugal's River of Gold
Having just come back from Viking's RIVER OF GOLD trip I feel it necessary to post some comments I hope will be valuable to others. This makes my third trip with Viking. This trip was picked out by my Mom who is 87. She likes the idea of packing an unpacking once (with the exception of the time spent in the beginning of the trip in Lisbon) and the sites you can see as you are cruising along the river.
Of all the river cruises I have taken (Alaska, Russia, China, Egypt, Grand European) this ship was one of the nicest. The Torgil and its sister ship the Hemming are brand new to Viking this year. Large floor to ceiling windows in both the bedroom and the sitting area (we had a suite) and a French balcony that accommodated two chairs.
The crew was outstanding and I do not use that term lightly. Always friendly and quick to offer assistance without ever being expected or requested. Our tour escort was vivacious, helpful and understanding when my Mom More sometimes struggled to get around. She basically does not walk using only a wheelchair to get around, but sometimes walking was required to get down a steep gang plank.
Nicely furnished cabins with flat screen TV's and a large choice of International channels. Comfortable furniture.
Greeted us at the airport in a timely manner and took us quickly to out hotel in Lisbon.
Viking is not the most expensive of river cruises, nor is it the cheapest. Once on board you quickly notice that the vast majority of the passengers are older people (almost all retired except for a few of us) and probably not the most nimble. Clearly the company caters to a group of passengers who are both affluent and have abundant time to travel. This being said Viking has overlooked some key concepts that should have been mandatory for a ship that would have this type of clientele. For one thing the doorways into the cabin and from the cabin into the sleeping area were entirely too narrow making it virtually impossible for a wheelchair to pass through unless you had a travel chair (much narrower) as we did. Even then it was a challenge to carefully go through making an effort not to damaged the doorways. The shower did not have a handle which several of the passengers (who used canes) would find necessary or at the very least helpful when taking a shower. Making your way through either the dining room or lounge area was another challenge requiring that chairs be moved out of the way each time to make way for anything wider than a single person. The top of the ship has a beautiful deck with a large canopy, tables and chairs and lounge chairs, soaking pool, putting range and shuffle board deck. THE PROBLEM- no access for anyone who is not able bodied to handle the stairs. Because the deck has to 'collapse' to accommodate for the low bridges it passes under there is no way an elevator can reach the top deck. HOWEVER, on older Viking ships they did have chairs that went up the railing to the top deck much like those used in homes to help handicapped individuals 'climb' stairs. The lack of this made one whole part of the ship totally unaccessible to my Mom who loves sitting out doors and having a panoramic view.
This ship is referred to as a mini-longship. Due to the length of the locks in Portugal the ships have to be shorter than those used on other European rivers. Therefore there were virtually no amenities on board. The library consisted on about 25 paper back books lined up under a giant TV screen-almost all of which where about Portugal. The gift shop was a slightly oversized closet with both Viking items and some that were representative of the region. Several passengers commented on how the video advertisements (often shown during the PBS Masterpiece Theatre shows) depict a ship that is not at all like what we experienced making you feel a little mislead.
The food was very erratic. A wide variety of food was offered at the breakfast buffet with hot items that could be ordered. Lunch also had a cold buffet and again items could be ordered off the menu. Dinner was the most unpredictable. Sometimes quite good yet other times ordinary or simply poor. Meat was not prepared as requested, dessert was always ice cream, sorbet, cheese platter and one new bakery item-some good others rather tasteless. The best desserts were surprises-homemade truffles and another night chocolate dipped strawberries.
On most trips of this type I have experienced a 'welcome dinner' the first night. Most people are tired from traveling and welcome the idea that the first dinner is arranged for them especially if they do not care to go out that night. This gives everyone the opportunity to refresh, not worry about where to go to dinner and have the opportunity to meet fellow passengers before embarking on the cruise. Then the next day you are on your own to explore, eat out where you choose before embarking the following day to travel to the ship. Viking not only did not do this, but the 'help desk' did not even have a list of local restaurants that could be handed out as you registered at the hotel-favorite local restaurants by type of food, cost and/or location.
Final note, the Program Director gave a thorough description of what to expect on the day of disembarkation. However included in the description was her definition of what Below Expectation, Met Expectations, etc.meant. She told us that if we rated anything as 'Met Expectations' we were saying our experience was below average. Since when? What she was basically doing was skewing the definitions so that no one would give less than an Above Expectations or Exceeds Expectations. Ridiculous. Less
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