After many ocean cruises this was our first river cruise. It was one of Viking’s free/almost free air promotions, and everyone we talked to got air either for free or $95 pp return from North America. We had the basic ... Read More
After many ocean cruises this was our first river cruise. It was one of Viking’s free/almost free air promotions, and everyone we talked to got air either for free or $95 pp return from North America. We had the basic ‘aquarium’ class cabin, as nicknamed on the cruise boards b/c the river is at eye level looking out the window, which was a category E, for $2656 USD pp plus $95 pp return air. I think it was another $600 pp to upgrade to a French balcony (balcony doors with no balcony). We also booked Viking’s pre-stay option in Prague and post option in Budapest.
We were concerned that b/c air was so cheap, Viking would give us the cheapest flight legs flying all over the place, with bad transfer times. But we and several others who connected online before the trip were very happy, all of us got 2 legs from a major North American city, and same on return, with good transfer times. For those of us with free air, our Viking cruise contract stated that we were not allowed to contact the Viking air department to discuss changing the air itinerary they send you about 3 months before the trip. At this stage the air is not confirmed or purchased from the airlines, which you will find out if you try to do seat selection (can’t be done), meaning Viking can make changes if they want to. But if you like what you got you can call Viking and ask them to ‘ticket’ your flights and then you can do seat selection on the airline’s web site. Decide on pre or post hotels before getting ‘ticketed”.
We were on the Tor for the first half of the cruise, and were then switched to her sister ship the Var by bus for the rest, due to low water in the Danube around Passau. The crew were great, very friendly and helpful. No credit card account on board, you sign for everything and settle up at the end. Your ship card is just to get in your cabin. When you go ashore you get a paper card to hand in when you return. Both ships were lovely, clean, well appointed. Some days we were not allowed on the top sun deck because of bridges and locks. There is one main bar/lounge, one dining room, and a small light buffet area out the back of the lounge, the Aquafit. So of course the options for places to go on board are very restricted compared to much larger ocean ships, no choice of bars, no shops, pool, spa, sports deck, specialty dining/snacks, show stage, gym. Everyone disappeared by 9:30 – 10 except on the two nights when there was viewing on deck.
The cabin size was a surprise to us. The smallest we’ve seen were probably Princess at about 130-140 sq ft, and the largest were HAL and CCL at about 185 sq ft. Our category E was about 11.5’ x 7’ wall to wall, so about 80 sq ft. The fake balcony cabins were the same size, and the real balcony ones were perhaps 2 feet larger on the balcony side. The area with the bed was 7 x 7.5’, with about 1.5 feet of space around the sides and bottom of the bed. The bed is 60”, a queen. But there is lots of storage, drawers and shelves. And several 120v outlets. Our main disappointment with the cat E was that there was nowhere to sit, just a small stool/bench under the vanity. This was the same on the fake balcony cabins, but the real balcony cabins had one chair.
Sleeping while night sailing was interesting. There was no water noise in the cabin while on the river, but going through the locks could be noisy depending on your cabin location. One night our cabin seemed to be right near where the water was pouring in/out of the lock, best described as an elephant crashing around in a bathtub next door. Other noises we labelled as a plane taxiing, a huge toilet tank dripping, and a high whistle far away. When the lock gates were further from our cabin we could still hear the elephant but it was too far away to bother us. Our friends in the fake balcony and real balcony cabins did not hear water noises any time.
We thought the food was fine, equal to the ocean ships in quality. Three main dish choices at dinner, plus 4 standard option available any day. Free beer and wine at lunch and dinner. One set dining time, 7pm, no table reservations, sit wherever and with whomever you want. Table sizes from 6 – 10, no 2 person tables. The red house wine was Austrian, labelled Morwald – Blauer Zweigelt, kind of peppery with a bit of spice. The waiter said Viking owns that winery. Breakfast buffet was good, the usual options including made to order omelettes.
Nurenburg, Regensburg, Passau/Munich, Melk, Vienna, Budapest. All the ports were very interesting, medieval towns, churches, castles. Morning tours were free with optional tours in the afternoon for a charge. Almost all the tours required a bus ride, and the guides did a very good job. Lots of mainstream shopping for the ladies, the huge Donau Zentrum mall in Vienna near the ship, two streets near the tour in Munich, two huge Budapest malls (West End and Arena), and in Prague the Palladium and Novi. All show up on Google maps and are near trams or metros, write us if you want directions.
So river cruising could be for you if you like meeting lots of people at dinner and on tours, you don’t mind bus rides and are ok with group tours, you like your cabin being close to everything on the ship, you want to see inland cities the ocean ships can’t reach, and you don’t want to feel any wave motion while sailing. Viking is a well organised machine that coordinates everything well. The best online message boards we have found for having discussions with other cruisers is the community forums on Cruise Critic. Read Less