First river cruise - Castles of the Rhine: Viking Atla Cruise Review by GARYTHEHITMAN

Viking Atla 5
Member Since 2010
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First river cruise - Castles of the Rhine

Sail Date: November 2013
Destination: Europe - River Cruise
Embarkation: Amsterdam
Overall, a very enjoyable cruise, with a few rather obvious lapses with regard to food & beverage service.

Highlight of the cruise was the delightful and vivacious Cruise Director, Heidi. She effortlessly oversaw all facets of the passenger experience. Land tours went off without a hitch, briefings about the local sights were interesting and informative. and she even performed a cabaret singing act that was very professional. Bravo!

The onboard entertainment was mostly provided by a German piano player named Angel. He is a gifted musician, but a very average singer, mostly due to his high-pitched voice and heavy accent ("world" became "verld"). There were two specialty acts, a chamber music group (two violinists), and a French cabaret singer with accordionist accompaniment. Both were very entertaining.

Downside was the food & beverage service, which was enthusiastic and friendly, but often spotty and disorganized. At breakfast, the waiters were quick More to serve coffee and juice, but kitchen orders were often inexplicably slow. Even though we were often among the first to enter the dining room for breakfast, on more than one occurrence I had to wait 20 minutes for a kitchen order such as eggs Benedict. Once I waited 20 minutes for my order, and then another guest sat down next to me, and the waiter delivered his order (same as mine) within a minute or two, while I still sat there waiting.

Lunches were somewhat better, as many passengers were off the boat doing excursions, and a light lunch was also served in the upstairs lounge. However, one day there was a menu item for a grilled ham & cheese sandwich. The waiters announced that due to a shortage of ham, that menu item was no longer available, and would be replaced by a BLT sandwich. Sure enough, 20 minutes later the waiter showed up with a very skimpy grilled ham & cheese sandwich. ???

Dinners provided the biggest service challenge, as all passengers were usually on board, and everyone was served at the same time. Viking apparently does not use busboys, so the waiters had to first pour water and serve bread to the guests, then serve the wine and other beverages, then take the food orders, then refill the wine glasses, then serve the soup/appetizers, then refill more wine glasses, then clear away the soup/appetizers, then serve the main course, then refill more wine glasses --- well, you get the picture. Way too much hustle & bustle, little time for the wait staff to actually be attentive. Bless their heart, they did their best. The problem was with organization, not with effort.

During our cruise we were the beta test group for a new service approach where the waiters submitted the orders to the kitchen by means of a hand-held device that looked very much like an iPhone. I am guessing that this was a big help to the kitchen staff to get an accurate count of the different soups, appetizers, entrees, and desserts. But it did not seem to help the waiters to remember which guest got which dish. The waiters would still be asking us who got what, often multiple times.

Although wine was included at both lunch & dinner, other wines were also available from the bar, at extra cost. This must have been a closely guarded secret, because I never saw, and was never offered a wine list at any meal. Finally, on the last day of the cruise, I noticed another passenger being served a glass of wine separately from the regular offering, and so I asked for a wine list, and was able to order a glass of Cabernet. The wine list was VERY limited, but prices were pretty reasonable.

Despite a few flaws, my wife and I had a very nice cruise. Beautiful ship, great scenery, good food. Less

Published 11/23/13

Cabin review:

The cabin was a bit smaller than on an ocean going cruise ship, but still quite comfortable. The balcony had a small table & chair, but it was a bit cozy for two. Plenty of storage space. Shampoo & other toiletries by L'Occitane. Flat screen TV had an excellent picture, modest selection movies. Internet connections were quite spotty, depending on location of the boat. TV shows could be interrupted in mid-stream, some channels were dropped. Unlike other cruise ships, there was very little shipboard TV content --- no reviews of the upcoming ports, sightseeing tours, events,etc. Our cabin was located almost at the far aft end of the boat, and there was noticeable propulsion noises while the boat was under way. However, the noise was moderate, and there was nowhere near the vibration one might experience on a larger ship.

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