Wow, the maiden voyage. We were hoping that all the bugs would be worked out before we boarded. Actually we booked our cruise so that the ship would be sailing for two months before we sailed, but alas no such luck.
Amsterdam started out with a bang. We were mooned by a passing boat as we sat down for our first dinner aboard the ship. It started the cruise off with laughter and goodwill among the passengers who were lucky enough to witness the event. We had an excellent tour of Amsterdam before we set sail for Budapest. The first set of locks we went through to reach the Rhine river were quite tame in comparison to the locks that we encountered later on in the cruise. The countryside was peaceful, aromatic and we actually saw some real windmills. Our first port of call was Cologne. If you have been before, they offer a short version of the city tour. I would definitely take this version the next time as I have seen the cathedral enough times now and would rather enjoy its quiet beauty on my own without having to listen to a tour guide wax on about their interpretation of the stained glass windows. It was the next day when we realized the problems of being on the maiden cruise of a yet untested ship design. We had heard the tale of Loreley when all of a sudden bang, a huge black cloud was to be seen at the stern of the ship. The Captain and crew were unaware of the smoke until they suddenly noticed that the passengers on deck were trying to get their attention and looked. Viking set a new legend. The first time an anchor had been lowered on a Viking ship and the first time a Viking ship lost its power in the Loreley channel. We waited for 2 1/2 hours for the tug boats to come and two us to safety where the Cumins engineers arrived to try to repair the engines. At his point none of them were working. We never did make it to Rudesheim. They managed to get two of the three engines up and running about 4 am and we arrived in Mainz late. We got off the ship and had our city tour, but the ship had to leave right away so that it could make up for lost time. They put us on a bus where we had to travel a distance down the river to meet the ship. We arrived before the ship did to the agreed meeting place. We made it to Wertheim but due to the loss of time due to the ship breakdown ended up waiting forever to be picked up. The ship was suppose to pick us up at 12:30 , then they said 1:30 and then the ship finally showed up at 2:15. It was a fascinating town to be stuck in and they had good local bakeries which was a good thing as lunch was more than a little late that day. The next day we made it to Wurzburg and Rothenburg. The tour this day was great and the Residenz palace is well worth a visit. The lunch provided in Rothenburg was delicious and the town was fascinating. Do make sure you visit the Christmas store while here. We had to get off the ship early and take a bus to Nuremberg as the ship was still behind schedule. I wish we had arrived in this city on a day other than Sunday as it basically was shut down as there are no stores, etc open on a Sunday. They had a few ice cream and pizza restaurants open. Regensburg wsa interesting. Passau had an incredible local guide and just listening to her made the day very pleasant. The organ concert was excellent. I wish we had more time in Melk as it would have been nice not to have to rush to get back to the ship. Durnstein I could have skipped without regret. Vienna, what can I say. I wish we could have more time. The optional music concert was fabulous even though it was extremely hot in Vienna. We enjoyed our time in a Vienna coffee house and the tour guide here was excellent. Bratislava, quite honestly they could cut out the "choo choo train" and everyone would be quite happy. By the time the tour guide described what you were seeing you were already past the building and could not see it anyhow. The town is interesting but it would have been nice to have a little more free time to explore on your own. Sailing into Budapest at night was a magical experience. I would say that this was the highlight of the entire cruise. We did the next afternoon have the mother of all storms come in the afternoon, and people were quite happy to sit on board the ship and avoid going out in the rain and wind. I wish the storm had not arrived as I would have liked to have seen more of the city.
The local tour guides have been hand picked by Viking and it shows. They were knowledgeable and entertaining. With the exception of the tour guide in Cologne waxing on a little too long about the stained glass windows, I would say all of the tour guides did an excellent job. I did feel gypped in Nuremberg as the ship arrived too late for us to have the city tour included with our WWII optional tour. The ship has some major safety concerns that need to be addressed immediately. They have a hatch without railings around it on the front deck that if someone was not watching could take a very nasty tumble down steep metal steps. These steps lead from the galley to the lounge for the serving of food. They do not have lighted exit signs on the doors leading to the staircases for emergency purposes. They need to do something about the spacing in between the steel plates on the first deck. If someone wasn't watching, they could easily catch a high heel in the hole and give themselves a nasty twist. I felt that the ship should have had better communication with the passengers. With all the technical glitches, their term not ours, we should have been told what happened to the engine and that the ship was safe. When the ship was late in arriving at some of the ports for passenger pick up there was no cruise staff to be fund until the time the ship was actually supposed to be there and then they disappeared again until the next supposed arrival time. Quite a few of the staff members were brand new to Viking and it showed.
The dining room staff bent over backwards. I honestly felt that they could do with 2 more staff members to speed up the process.. The ratio was 43 staff to 189 passengers. Simply not enough staff. They were still bringing equipment on board at the end of the cruise that should have been there before the ship set sail. I think it would have been beneficial for the Captain and crew to have sailed the entire cruise at least once before they took a load of passengers. The bumps in the night might not have been as noticeable if they had had a practice run of entering the locks.
All said and done, I think we will be looking at another river cruise line the next time we do Europe. We were disappointed after the service Viking had provided on the Yangtze River in China the year before.