My husband and I cruised on Viking Shumann along the Elbe River in March going from Magdeburg (Germany) to Melnik (Czech Republic). We extended our trip two-day before in Berlin and two-day after in Prague on our own. (You need to pay ... Read More
My husband and I cruised on Viking Shumann along the Elbe River in March going from Magdeburg (Germany) to Melnik (Czech Republic). We extended our trip two-day before in Berlin and two-day after in Prague on our own. (You need to pay Viking deviation fees if you choose this option.) This choice was more economical and convenient for us. Viking arranged our airfare.
The ship was sold out. We booked a B category stateroom, which was on the lower level of the ship. We saw the Elbe River up close and personal. The stateroom was bit on the small side, but it had a large window. I enjoyed sitting by the windowsill and watching the sceneries go by. The room was comfortable and quiet. There were two twin beds, separated by a table. The temperature control was located on the side of the table.
There’s not much closet space in the room, so we left most of our clothes inside our luggage and stored underneath the bed. Reading from the previous reviewers description of the bathroom, we were bit nervous about the drainage situation. We needn’t have worried. The bathroom floor was slanted slightly toward the drain so the water flowed toward it. While the floor mat did get wet, our wonderful housekeeper, Marija, always gave us fresh one every day. The amenities provided are from L’Occitane, and smells wonderful! The towels were all bit rough. I wished I had brought my own face towel from home.
The food on the ship was excellent. Every night, the executive chef Bozhidar Bogdanov (affectionately called “Bobby”) told us what would be on the dinner menu. He was the most engaging chef we have ever met! Every serving staff was friendly and very pleasant. The dining room is communal so you can sit anywhere and with whomever you liked. We always end up sitting with the same group of people due to similar interest and taste. Drinks were included with the meals, but the wine selection wasn’t very good.
There is chair-lift on each floor for those people with mobility issues.
There’s not much entertainment on the ship. Evenings are laid back and mellow with occasional appearance of local performers and lectures. Peter is a one-man orchestra who played the digital synthesizer piano at the Observation Lounge every night. Once, when the ship docked at night in Torgau, we walked to the Hartenfels Castle and to the empty market square. It was bit strange to be walking around in the deserted streets in the dark. I wished I had brought my own flashlight from home, as Viking only had a few to hand out. Most evenings, my husband and I simply went back to our stateroom to look for the next day’s activity, or just watch TV. I brought a book to read but never opened it.
There is sun deck, but it was too cold to go up there. The only time many of us went up was when we were sailing through the Saxon Switzerland and also when the ship was going through Dresden at night. The jagged sandstone mountains of Saxon Switzerland National Park were worth wearing our jacket/hat/gloves, and also when we sailed through the beautiful nighttime skyline of Dresden. The crew gave us hot ciders to chase the chills.
The excursions on this cruise involved a lot of walking. A map of the port and the surrounding areas was available at the reception desk and all the passengers were provided with a bottle of water before leaving the ship. The places where we visited were all fascinating and full of history. Our Program Director, Bojan (pronounced “BoYan”) Bozic, was very knowledgeable and funny. Every night before dinner, he went over the next day’s event so we were all well prepared.
The passengers were divided into three groups. An English speaking local guide accompanied each group. All the buses were comfortable and had bathroom. (Public bathroom requires .50e fee.) All the places on the itinerary were open (i.e. Sansouci Palace in Potsdam and Worlitz Garden in Dessau); however, everything was bare and lacked color, but the history of each place speak for itself. Eastern Europe in March was cold, damp and windy. A number of people came down with cold.
One note of caution -- in Prague, especially on the Charles Bridge, it was VERY crowded! Between hordes of tourists from around the world, street performers/vendors, and beggars (who begged lying down), there are pickpockets. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep your wallet in a safe place. We were very surprised at how crowded the city was – and it wasn’t even a tourist season! I shudder to think what it would be like in the peak season. Also, try not to pay in large bills, as you won’t necessarily get the right change or the right currency back. (We were given a change in Costa Rica coin, which wasn’t even worth a penny.)
Prague is very beautiful; as are all the cities we visited, i.e. Berlin, Wittenberg (under renovation for Martin Luther’s 500-year anniversary in 2017), Dresden, Saxon Switzerland, etc, etc. Both Germany and Czech Republic have seen hell and reborn to become the major tourist destinations of today. They are indeed worth visiting and sailing through the Elbe River is the way to go.
Some helpful info:
Germany – uses Euro
Czech Republic – uses Koruna (many places will accept Euros but will be more expensive)
Local guides – 2e per person, per day
Drivers – 1e per person, per day
Ship’s staff – 12e per person, per day Program Director (who accompanied us everywhere) – 2e per person, per day
Since this trip required a lot of Euro coins for the two of us, when we got to Berlin, we went to the Deutch Bank and got a roll of 2e and 1e each. It was very convenient. Read Less