Great cruise thru Eastern & Central Europe: Viking Embla Cruise Review by Uvalde Coyote
Overall Member Rating
Great cruise thru Eastern & Central Europe
Destination: Europe - River Cruise
We booked the three-week European Sojourn cruise from Bucharest (Giurgiu), Romania to Amsterdam, Netherlands. We made separate arrangements for our three-day pre- and post-cruise experiences in Romania and The Netherlands. Although we determined all of our accommodations, our travel agent finalized all of our lodging and travel arrangements, which (in listening to some of our fellow passengers) saved us considerable frustration and expense. And, after learning about the frequency and levels of flooding along the Danube and Main Rivers in the past, we were glad to have had travel insurance (even though we didn't need it, this time).
Our assigned More Veranda Stateroom on the Upper (third) deck was quite comfortable. We had hoped to be upgraded to Veranda Suite, which would have given us a separate sitting room that would have been handy when our waking / reading schedules diverged; however, we learned that those rooms did not have as much drawer / storage spaces as ours did. We did have a bit of noise from the Sun deck when there were track walkers or passengers playing shuffle board; but, since the management asked everyone to limit those activities to mid-day, it was only a minor annoyance. Our room stewardess was extremely efficient and accommodating.
We have often told friends that the "best thing about the cruise was the food" and that the "worst thing about the cruise was ALL of the food." We both had to learn some restraint in selecting from the buffets and ordering. The menus were nicely varied, only repeating a few items over the course of 21 days. Of any of the offerings, only the soups could use some improvement. The open seating plan led to our getting to know many of our fellow passengers. The evening "stampede" for desired tables and servers even became a bit comical.
We took this cruise on the Danube, Main and Rhine Rivers because we had never been to this part of Eastern and Central Europe. We were fascinated by the history and relative economies of the various countries and regions. From our perspective, Viking has done a nice job of balancing organized tours, free time in the various ports of call, and daylight sailing through the picturesque countryside. That is not to say, however, that they don't need to continue to refine some of the excursions to get away from some of the corny, staged presentations like the Puszta horse show.
A couple of observations regarding shipboard technology: (1) The free wi-fi was appreciated; however, Viking needs to enhance its bandwidth. When everyone was onboard and attempting to connect on-line (uploading photos, etc), their wi-fi slowed to a snail's crawl. (2) The various presentations in the lounge could be transmitted to all of the passenger rooms--however, only from the ceiling-mounted camera. Several of the presentations included photo or PowerPoint visuals that could be projected onto a screen in the lounge. The system needs to be programmed to allow for displaying these presentations on the stateroom TVs, as well.
We definitely recommend a Viking river cruise to others. However, as with all travel planning, do your homework ... know what your are getting, and whether that meets your expectations. Having a few hiccups along the way is what makes travel an "adventure." Viking simply needs to keep in mind that it is charging a five-star fee ... and owes a five-star experience. All-in-all, we think they are doing a pretty good job at doing so. Less