I booked this cruise to have a nice, relaxing time on the river, having been inspired both by a friends past trips and by their wonderful television commercials. Sitting leisurely on the deck, with a glass of good wine and enjoying the ... Read More
I booked this cruise to have a nice, relaxing time on the river, having been inspired both by a friends past trips and by their wonderful television commercials. Sitting leisurely on the deck, with a glass of good wine and enjoying the gorgeous views along the Rhine and Danube rivers, eating great food with excellent service at meals, and having the occasional guided tours by expert guides was my dream fantasy, and unfortunately, that's what it turned out to be, a dream fantasy. Instead of having the wonderful time on the river I anticipated, we had a series of bus trips to connect with our next of four separate boats. Because of low water, we spent more time on buses than on water which meant that almost all of the actually river was seen only through bus windows occasionally. I understand that Viking cannot control the water levels in several countries in Europe, but they knew about this as early as July and when asked about it before hand, were told everything was fine. Not until approximately 4 days before our plane ride to connect with the boat in Amsterdam were we notified of any problems, and that was for Passau, a city toward the end of our trip.
Because of the busing, most of our excursions were reduced by as much as 65% which meant that the 'expert tour guides' were rushed and our 'free time' almost non-existent.
The boats were mostly dock at ports that were anything but scenic, especially when we paid for a veranda stateroom with a balcony and the boats were often parked sandwiched together putting us in the middle which gave us a 'wonderful' view of the adjoining boat.
Much of the time when we were on water, we were in lochs, which meant that our view was of concrete walls and our upper decks, where on only one night were we allowed outside to take pictures of the sunset while the rest of the time this deck was closed due to low bridges. Supposedly this would not have been true on the most scenic parts of the river, but because we were on a bus, not a ship, we did not have that experience.
On each bus they had a guide. I was never sure sure why as there was only one time that this guide gave us any real information about the landscape or history of the area. Mostly, they told us what we needed to know at the potty breaks and when we got off the bus to get on the new ship. For that, we got to tip the guide and the bus driver 2 Euro each for everyone of these bus rides. At the last rest stop, all 7 Viking buses stopped which meant our 1/2 hour break took almost the entire time waiting on line to use the aforementioned potty as the line wrapped around the building. At each of these stops, the potty cost money, and most people got something to eat or drink because 4 hours on a bus takes it's toil on you and the bottle of water given to each of us just didn't do it. That meant more expenses incurred to our already costly trip.
On one of the excursions, we were forced to pay for our own lunches for which Viking repaid us 25 Euro shipboard credit. As I did not intend to drink other than wine at dinner, and as I was not interested in their pricey products, all with the Viking name on them, the money was not used. They would not apply it to decreasing anything on the trip, consequently, that meant I paid for my own lunch when all lunches were meant to be paid for on the trip.
Another 2 times, we were herded as a group to mediocre at best restaurants because we were not on the boat.
Because of the need to continually change ships, we were living out of our suitcases, or repacking every other day. Our luggage had to be out in the halls an hour or so prior to disembarkation to cue at the buses which meant that getting a good nights sleep was impossible as we left early to have any time to see any sights.
Meike, our program director, did an amazing job and should be complimented, but at the same time, she was giving us the company line that we had to wait till the day before to know whether we would be changing boats. This could not have been true because in everyplace where we talked with the locals, it would have taken days if not weeks of pouring rain for the water levels to be high enough.
Some of the stories about our bus trips are also laughable; the first bus broke down, the second bus back into a tree destroying the back window, and the buses were over 1/2 late picking us up at one point leaving us to stand on the sidewalk on a busy street for over that time. The one saving grace, we were close to a public bathroom.
The staff on each ship were obviously frazzled as they had to do so much more work; meeting a greeting different groups of people almost daily and then having to get ready for a new group the next day. As you might imagine, some of the staff was better than others. Out of the four boats, I feel 2 had good service, the other two less than good. The desk staff, however was great on all boats as was Meike.
The boats were identical but some were obviously more worn than others. The last one being their 'hotel' as it is permanently moored at Budapest. It did show its wear. We were given a key to open the doors to the room which was VERY hard to use and many of the people around us had to ask for help.
Except for the glassblowing entertainment, we did not participate with the planned activities. They held no interest for us and were not very exciting; Country and Western night, an historian, and a musical duo for each separate ship.
I must say that I was disappointed in the food. One night we ordered a Ribeye steak that was so touch and gristly, I could barely eat it. Most soups appeared to be made in a Vitamix and were so pureed that there was no substance only a rather bland liquid. When I ordered the potato soup, I was amazed that their was absolutely no sign or taste of potato.
The wines they served with dinner, always the same every night on every boat unless you paid an additional price for their special selection, were often cheap table wines that were more vinegar than wine and needed at least 2 hours to breathe to be palatable.
Lastly, our flights. I cannot complain about our flight to Amsterdam. Everything went well, but our flight home is another matter. We had Viking book our flight. We live in Phoenix, Arizona, which is one state East of California for those who are in other countries. Our flight was booked through Los Angeles, California, where we also had a 4 hour stopover. When we ask about changing this so that we could go directly home, we were told that would cost an extra $50 each just to talk to someone even though they were responsible for this booking. This meant that we were either in the air or in airports for over 24 hours. As Vikings customers or mostly seniors, this seems like a lot to ask.
To summarize a long account, if I had wanted a bus tour of Germany, Hungary, Austria and the Netherlands I would have booked with a company that specializes in them. This tour would have cost much less and also been much better in every way I am sure.
Do not believe Viking's hype. They do not put their customers first. They could have informed us in advance of what was happening, offered to decrease the price of the cruise or allowed us to cancel, especially as we paid for cancellation insurance, but instead all we heard was, "We cannot be responsible for the weather."
Think twice bout Viking, it is not worth it. Read Less