This was our first river cruise and our first cruise with Viking. We sailed from Budapest to Passau on the Viking Sky. I had read several of the reviews before we left and I have to admit that I was quite concerned about many of the comments as they were so poor. Based on our experience, I cannot believe that the other reviews were for the same ship we were on. We had an excellent trip and found only a couple minor deficiencies.
We spent 4 nights in Vienna and one night in Budapest on our own prior to the cruise and then 3 nights in Munich and 2 nights in Fussen post- cruise. We did our own planning, air arrangements, and train transfers to and from the ship. Since we were in Budapest a day early we were able to talk to some of the people who were currently on the ship sailing from Amsterdam to Budapest. Their impression of their voyage was extremely positive.
The Viking Sky was docked at the foot of the Chain Bridge. We boarded and checked in about 11:00am and had no problem leaving our luggage with the staff until the staterooms were ready around 3:00pm. We then spent a couple of hours wandering around the 'Buda' side of the city. There was a small buffet with soup, salads, sandwiches, and chicken paprika with pasta set up in the lounge. We grabbed some lunch about 2:00pm and relaxed until we were able to get into our room around 3:00pm. The bathroom and shower were larger than what we've had on the big ocean ships. It was especially nice to have glass shower doors instead of having to deal with a curtain. The bed, pillows, and down duvet were very comfortable and we slept well every night.
After dinner the first night our fears of poor food and service were put aside. The meals were excellent and reflected the cuisine of the country in which we were docked. Based on our experiences in restaurants both pre and post cruise, the food on the ship was as good and sometimes better. The house wine was included. They had a white and a red each night and basically poured as much as you wanted during dinner. Specialty wines were always available by the bottle but we saw no need to order any additional wine. We felt there was plenty of choice at dinner and it wasn't pork every day. I had duck, venison, veal, lamb, and beef over the course of the week. There was always a fish choice and others at the table said it was very good as well. Soups, appetizers, and desserts also had a local and cultural flair. We didn't find anything at any meal that was bad or poorly prepared. Even my steak at the Captain's dinner was cooked medium rare as I requested.
Breakfast was terrific. There was a huge buffet with cereals, breads, meat, cheese, pastries, scramble eggs, bacon, sausage, and smoked salmon every day. In addition you could order Eggs Benedict, omelets, French toast and blueberry pancakes. The service was efficient and excellent. Lunch also had a huge buffet plus a couple of choices for appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Generally it was way too much - especially after a big breakfast.
After doing quite a few ocean cruises, we felt there were two really big benefits to a river cruise: being docked right in the main part of town and the ability to walk around the ports after dinner. Some nights there was local entertainment on board such as a gypsy band in Budapest. There were also some great lectures and demonstrations while cruising during the day - such as the bridge tour, strudel making, EU history, and especially the Program Director's personal experience growing up behind the iron curtain.
The included tours with local guides in each port were outstanding - especially the tour of Melk Abby and the all day tour to Salzburg. We did the optional tour to Cesky Krumlov since we were not going to Prague after the cruise. It seems like we were busy all the time and the week just flew by. We met some really great people whom I'm sure we'll be in contact with and see again. The Program director arranged for a taxi to the Passau train station and we were off to Munich.
The only criticisms we had were the lack of refrigerator and noise between cabins. Although we were really lucky and didn't have noisy neighbors, we heard several complaints from others about the noise and snoring coming from other cabins.
This was an excellent experience and we look forward to taking another river cruise.