This was our first river cruise -- the Grand European -- and we went in with limited expectations, although at the steep rates we did expect the best. We weren't disappointed. No complaints possible about onboard conditions and ... Read More
This was our first river cruise -- the Grand European -- and we went in with limited expectations, although at the steep rates we did expect the best. We weren't disappointed. No complaints possible about onboard conditions and treatment -- everything was well-maintained and the staff were extremely helpful and cheerful. The food was also superb, thanks to chef Michel and his team. It was hard not to over-indulge. Wine was included with lunch and dinner. Program director Claus ran a good tour and onboard event program as well. Pianist Jerzy provided good lounge entertainment and there were some special concerts a few evenings. There were many activities, but no feeling of pressure to participate. It was an enjoyable and relaxing atmosphere and we had a lot of fun. We travelled with friends, which added to the enjoyment, and we met lots of other interesting people on board.
A lot of the actual travel took place overnight, to permit shore stops and tours, with a limited amount of daytime cruising through the most interesting sections of the Rhine and the Danube. Most of the onshore tours were included, but there were a few optional extras. We chose a few and were happy with our choices (e.g. bus to Rothenburg, concert in Vienna, wine tour in Krems). Our shipboard days were very full, but you could always choose not to go onshore for a tour. There was plenty of relaxation time. We also took extensions in both Amsterdam and Prague. There was more free time in the extensions, but the tours were a little tougher, especially in Prague, where we had a very long and gruelling first day. Fitness involved walking, since there were no exercise facilities on board apart from a walking track on the top deck.
Tours at the stops were mostly on foot, and many on cobbled streets. Some were quite lengthy, a challenge for some passengers. I know I was stretched at times, having arthritis. They did offer some slower-paced tours in certain spots, as well as some tougher trips in others. It balanced out pretty well, but I would like to have seen a lot more information ahead of time in order to pace myself better. As well, they always give distances in times, and everything seems to be "5 to 10 minutes"...whether it could be 5, or 25, depending on your degree of fitness. A distance in kilometres would be more helpful, with information on the degree of incline and the frequency of stairs.
We had our flights and transfers arranged by Viking as well, and another time would probably do our own. Transfers were "legal" but very tight, with little leeway for delays or getting lost in airports like Frankfurt. We got where we were going, with our luggage, but it was the most stressful part of the trip.
We found Viking responsive to comments, both good and critical, and felt we got good value for the trip as a whole. We would consider travelling with Viking again, possibly on one of their new ocean trips. Read Less