This was our first ever River Cruise after nine ocean cruises. We embarked in Budapest the same day we completed an 11-day Baltic cruise on a large Princess ship. The contrast was significant in terms of size, number of passengers and ... Read More
This was our first ever River Cruise after nine ocean cruises. We embarked in Budapest the same day we completed an 11-day Baltic cruise on a large Princess ship. The contrast was significant in terms of size, number of passengers and amenities.
Overall, our experience was mixed. Lots of things to like and some things were really disappointing.
First, the ship was difficult to find due to lots of construction in the pier area. We took a cab from the airport and, despite being given the location in writing from the friendly Viking greeter at the airport, our driver could not find the correct location (Viking has three piers separated by 3/4 mile). I didn't see it either. A 3/4 mile walk dragging luggage wasn't a good start. In retrospect,the Viking transfer, though expensive, would have been worth it.
The ship was new (less than a year old), very clean and well-appointed. The public rooms looked great. Pleasantly greeted by the Reception staff. Our cabin was almost uncomfortably small. See the Cabin review below.
The food was excellent. Fewer dinner entree choices than on the ocean ships but we never had a problem. Service at dinner was mixed. At times, it was outstanding; at other times it was difficult to get the staff's attention. Breakfast buffet was excellent with a large number of choices. For lunch, we normally ate from the buffet on the Aquavit Terrace and not the dining room. Seating there was more limited but it was open air.
The smaller size allowed much better interaction with other passengers and crew. Most dinner seating arrangements were "locked-in" the first night so while seating was "open" most guests ate with the same group once established on night 1.
Evening entertainment consisted mostly of a keyboard player and the bar.....There was trivia one night and outside singers another night who were very good. The traditional Captain's welcome and description of the the next day's excursion were well done, Cruise Director, Oliver, was exceptional. Always approachable and helpful with a smile all the time. The itinerary was modified slightly in order to avoid low river levels. The flexibility demonstrated by the officers and Oliver in rescheduling tours is much appreciated.
Excursions were well done. Take advantage of them. Guides were knowledgable and pleasant. English skills all very good. Only real complaint was that all the included tours were large, 40-45 on a tour. We took three optional tours, Schonbrunn Palace, Salzburg Highlights and Nuremburg and WWII which were also large. All were outstanding and worth the extra $. Limited free time (~1 hr) in Salzburg and at Schonbrunn. Lunch in Salzburg included a performance of Sound of Music songs. Be sure to sit up front for the best views. We arrived in Nuremburg early so took advantage of free time in the city in the morning. Time well spent.
Remember that this is a river ship and has limited amenities. The sun deck was not available after the first few days due to river levels. This reduced the available public space by almost half. We opted one afternoon to stay on board and found it almost impossible to find a quiet area in the lounges or outside to curl up and read a book.
Disembarkation went very smooth. Taxis were ordered the night before and arrived right on time. Luggage handling was excellent.
Our one real regret is not spending a few extra days in Budapest prior to the start of the cruise. It looks like a fantastic city to explore and we will be back.
Overall, I rated the cruise Very Good due to the strength of the itinerary, excursions and onboard service. Most of the short comings (cabin size, lack of amenities and entertainment and price) were well-known in advance. If we do another river cruise, it will most likely be with a small group of people we know. Read Less