My husband and I chose Viking for our first European river cruise after having done about 10 Ocean Cruises on various lines (Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity & Oceania). We heard wonderful things and had high expectations. ... Read More
My husband and I chose Viking for our first European river cruise after having done about 10 Ocean Cruises on various lines (Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity & Oceania). We heard wonderful things and had high expectations. Overall it was a wonderful trip but we felt that there were some things travelers should know about.
Viking is spoken of very highly here in the U.S. where we live. We booked a category AA Veranda Suite so that we would have a sitting area separate from the bedroom. We were not assigned a cabin upfront and while travelling to Amsterdam received a call from our travel agent that we were upgraded to one of the Explorer suites. We were elated. When we arrived, there was NO ONE around the ship at our small docking area. We actually held the taxi in case the driver made a mistake! We boarded the ship and found the Grand reception area.
Again, there was NO ONE around. Finally, a crew member came out from behind a door, asked our names and confirmed our cabin and said welcome aboard. That was it!
There were no security checks like on large ocean cruises. We were then escorted to our cabin.
Our Explorer suite was lovely with a separate living room with two floor to ceiling sliding doors leading to a wrap around balcony that enhanced our cruise experience.
HOWEVER...we did have two issues with this suite. We want future travelers to know that river ships travel primarily at night and the Explorer suites are at the back of the ship DIRECTLY ABOVE the engines. The vibration was something you can get used to but they appear to have two settings, full throttle and idle. Our second issue was that our mattress was horrible. It was very firm yet incredibly lumpy and uncomfortable! We told our steward and she exchanged our "topper" for another lumpy one. We started our cruise on a different ship (the Viking Mimir) due to low water levels and switched to our ship (the Vili) in Nuremberg. We had the same issues on the Vili.
We felt the food on board could have been better. Breakfast was always excellent with a wonderful buffet suitable for Americans and Europeans with a cook to order egg station. We always had lunch at the Aquavit terrace to enjoy AL Fresco dining. The choices were more limited but there was always a salad, some side dishes and a meat option and of course, desserts. Dinner in the dining room was nice but the service a little slow.
The dining menu is heavy towards regional cuisine and spending so much time in Germany and having local dishes during our shore excursions, I chose to opt for something off the "regular menu" side which always consisted of a steak, chicken and salmon choice. The salmon was very fishy, the steak was of poor quality and tough and the chicken bland. For staple menu items, they were disappointing. My husband did like the regional cuisine.
As wine drinkers, one thing that allured us to Viking is that they include it during lunch and dinner. We felt the quality of the included wine was quite poor. The varietals would change each day and we always tried this to see if it would be acceptable. On occasion, we drank the free option but because we also had the silver spirits beverage package, we often chose something different. However, it always took a long time for the servers to get a different choice and they did not have any California Chardonnays or Cabernet's on board. This is somewhat understandable since we were in Europe but as highly popular wines in the US and the cruise line catering to Americans, we were disappointed.
We also asked for Sambuca after dinner in the bar and they did not have it on board. We felt the options were very limited.
All the passengers would meet in the lounge before dinner for our "next day Port update". Service in this area was adequate but we often times had to flag down a server or get up and go to the bar to get a drink.
The Included shore excursions were always wonderful. The wireless hearing devices are great. They allow you to hear your guide without having to stay right next to them to hear what they say. Many were walking tours in the cities which would end with a little free time to explore on your own. For the tours that required bus transportation, the quality and cleanliness of these were exceptional. We enjoyed all our excursions and found that this is one area that Viking excelled in.
One thing to note for any new river cruise travelers is that there is an extensive lock system on these European rivers. We traveled through about 60 locks during our two week journey. During the first half, from Amsterdam to Nuremberg, there were Five days where the upper deck was COMPLETELY closed in order to allow the ship to pass below many bridges. This meant that the walking track was unavailable. The river ships are very small and there was little to do during these five days while on board other than sit in the lounge and admire the views (which is, of course, why you do the river cruises but I wanted to mention this for anyone expecting activities/entertainment).
We feel fortunate to have been given the Explorer suite and enjoyed the extra space.
The visits to all of the European ports were wonderful. It was an amazing trip. Despite the low quality food and beverage choices, the bad mattress and lack luster service we enjoyed the cruise very much. However, if we have the option to do it again, we will try a different cruise line. Read Less