We have done several ocean cruises on RC, Princess and Seaborne, but this was our first river cruise. Overall the experience was positive and probably most of our future cruises will be river cruises, mainly to get the advantages of ... Read More
We have done several ocean cruises on RC, Princess and Seaborne, but this was our first river cruise. Overall the experience was positive and probably most of our future cruises will be river cruises, mainly to get the advantages of smaller ships and smaller ports.
Our trip was the "Rhine Rhapsody" which started in Paris, with an optional extra night stay at the Hotel du Collectionneur near the Arc de Triomphe. Overall the hotel was very good, but the food at the restaurant was too expensive to even try and the included breakfast presentations were consistently cold. The hotel offered both wired and wireless Internet, so bring an Ethernet cord to avoid the unsecured wireless connection. Speeds via Ethernet were adequate with the free level of service. Only 220 volt power, so you do need adapters/converters.
I would highly recommend the extra night if you have never been to Paris, if for no other reason your included transfer will more likely be a private van rather than a bus. The Viking buses were all first rate, but not having to wait for other passengers to arrive was nice. But in any case, there is a lot to do in Paris, so spending an extra night was well worth the relatively nominal extra cost relative to the price of the entire trip.
In Paris we did a lot of walking, but did take the included guided bus tour (recommended). We didn't have any bad food at the outside restaurants, but did have trouble finding a place to eat our last night. Many of the restaurants closed at 7:00 that night, but that might have been due to the next day being a holiday (anniversary of VE Day).
The transfer to the ship did not go so smoothly, and was without a doubt the biggest disappointment. There were to be three stops--the first being a rest for the driver at what was essentially a truck stop. The second was for lunch at Luxembourg, with a city tour thereafter--two hours total. The third was to be the American Cemetery near the site of the Battle of the Bulge. Despite being on time if not early, immediately prior to leaving Luxembourg they informed us that we would be embarking the ship at a different site, and that therefore we could not see the American Cemetery. The Viking Rep on the bus did an excellent job, and was probably the best of the Viking tour guides the entire trip, but they did not give her the reason for the change (high water). Most disappointing though was that they didn't make this decision earlier so that we could have spent less time in Luxembourg. The tour of the city was not that interesting--one hour of free time in the city would have been adequate.
Once to the boat the differences between an ocean cruise and river cruise became apparent. Checking in when so smoothly I don't even remember how they handed us our room cards, but there were no lines and our baggage arrived promptly. I give more information about the room below, but no complaints there. It did have both 110 and 220 volt outlets, but no Ethernet connection (somewhat surprising given the size of the ship). The ship's wireless connection was free but encrypted, and sometimes slow. The ship's size has some advantages (e.g. usually only one set of stairs to climb and your own bathroom is nearly as close as any public restroom) and disadvantages (no exercise equipment, special salons, special dining, etc.). It also though means little or no entertainment--just a person playing piano in the lounge and two accordion players during the German dinner.
Breakfast was largely a buffet situation, although you could order things like Eggs Benedict from a waiter. Lunch and dinner included complementary wine, which was always satisfactory and helped keep our ship tab to under $50.00! Overall I would say the food was superior to other cruises, and some if it very good. Food service was probably just slightly inferior to all of our cruises except the Hawaii ocean cruise which was poor. There were however three or four waiters who really stood out and gave excellent service. This might be due to the fact that most our other cruises were not open dining. The German Night dinner was buffet only and therefore extremely disappointing to me (as was the music of the two accordion players). German night was definitely the low point of the cruise for me. On a positive note there was no formal night, although I did dress up a bit a couple of nights, including the one semi-formal night. Fortunately my dinner jacket went completely unused!
The cruise tours were mainly included, but of varying quality, some of which was not Viking's fault. For at least one tour the guide was a local selected by the castle site, and our's happened to be very bad. Overall though, being "only" in my mid-50s I was one of the younger people on the boat and more inclined to do it on my own rather than take a tour. Counting the Paris bus tour (recommended) I only did three or four other tours, and quite frankly I wish I had done at least one less (Basel). Unfortunately Viking does little to let you know what your nearby options are if you don't want to take an included tour. At Basel the cruise director even mentioned having to walk through a large industrial area if you didn't want to do the included tour. In fact it was merely a 30 minute walk to the starting point of the walking cruise, and only less than ten minutes of that was industrial and even that was a walk along the river and much of it was very scenic showing some of the better architecture in Basel. In contrast, the bus took just as long or longer to get to the starting point and went through much more industrial areas.
On board shopping is very limited, mainly to some coats and caps. They did offer a USB stick of all the pictures taken by the cruise staff, for a reasonable cost of only $18.00. Again, even with that my tab was less than $50.00 (excluding tips), so it was very nice to not have cameras shoved in your face very meal so that you could then buy a picture later. Overall I would not consider any of this a disadvantage--if anything it was all appreciated.
Disembarkation was again very smooth compared to ocean cruises. We had a very early departure which required wake up calls (not automated!) The bus left on time and got us to the airport on time. My only complaint would be that I couldn't pay the tab at 9:00 a.m the day before, but when it was time to pay I only had to wait in line for one other person to complete their process. Like everything except the buffets, no long lines were involved.
Overall I had a very positive experience and would recommend both Viking and the Rhine Rhapsody cruise (in the same direction--to Basel). Read Less