We just returned from our long-anticipated Viking river cruise in France and came away wishing we had paid closer attention to the itinerary (Portraits of France) as our expectations were not met. We made assumptions (based on Viking's marketing and other friends cruise experiences in other countries and on other cruise lines) about what a river cruise would entail and felt if we had known what to pay attention to, we would have chosen a different itinerary and possibly a different cruise line.
Our main disappointments were as follows: 1) there was minimal to no time to spend on either our balcony or topside due to touring schedule and/or time of day we were sailing.We expected to see scenic vistas while sailing, but instead saw miles of flat farmland...AND much of the sailing took place at night and we saw nothing 2) we also anticipated time to leisurely stroll through quaint towns where we docked, but instead oftentimes were docked in industrial settings where our stateroom view was an abandoned,graffiti-laden warehouses. On only two occasions were we close enough to walk into the town for a very short period of time. 3) the 7 day agenda was very structured and very fast-paced....not conducive to relaxation and independent exploration. 4) dinners got tedious as there was only one dining time (7pm) and we quickly saw that passengers would line up 15-20 minutes early outside the dining rom in order to secure specific seating. The 'Captain's Dinner' was quite humorous because the Captain did not attend it nor did the Captain speak English (all passengers were from U.S., Canada and Australia). 5) do NOT pay extra for the elite beverage package...definitely not worth the cost. My advice to anyone looking to take a river cruise: pay attention to the # of passengers, the sailing timeline, the scenery that you can expect to see, the amount of free time and proximity to towns, the ability to dine off the ship at least once. AND...read reviews from passengers who have been on the cruise ( ship and itinerary) you are considering!
The additional living room made the stateroom much more comfortable (well worth the added expense). The bedroom is extremely tight making it impossible for two people to pass each other between bedroom and bathroom. Closet and drawer space is minimal, making the living room space ideal for added storage. Friends travelling with us had a room on the bottom deck which had a small, too high for viewing anything, window. It felt claustrophobic and we referred to it as their 'aquarium' room. Luckily they were able to switch to an upper deck room on day three.