Viking Eistla Cruise Review by BigTreeScotland
- Sail Date: May 2015
- Destination: Europe River
First the strengths, our ship, ‘Viking Eistla’, was beautiful, with a smooth, quiet, comfortable ride, and we were absolutely delighted with our cabin. Viewing space on the upper deck was plentiful, and at no time did we feel restrained in our viewing of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. We had chosen a balcony cabin, and we enjoyed a pre-dinner drink there on a couple of occasions. New river cruisers might want to consider just how much time they will spend on a balcony, as of course, you only see one side of the river. Also, when the ship is tied up alongside another ship, then opportunities for balcony-sitting are necessarily curtailed.
The restaurant food was generally of a high standard, though not consistently so. All staff that we encountered were very friendly and helpful, and in particular our cabin stewardess (from Dubrovnik) was quite superb at looking after our cabin.
Excursions are included in the price of the cruise, and though we did not participate in all of these, preferring at times to explore on our own, they were well organised and the guides were excellent. We particularly enjoyed the organised tour to the Peace Museum and Bridge at Remagen.
Now the negatives, and there quite a few.
Firstly, if possible do not let Viking make your flight arrangements. They seem to be focused on obtaining the cheapest possible route regardless of what this might mean to the guests. Despite direct flights from our home airport, we were routed via Amsterdam and required to change flights there. Essentially, this more than doubled the journey time for us. When we arrived at Frankfurt, we struggled to find the Viking rep, who it transpired was running around like a headless chicken looking for ‘lost’ passengers (not us). There appeared to be no strategy in place to deal with this situation. The additional airport delay meant that we arrived at our ship at 18.20 - so much for day one of our cruise! Some of our dining companions had joined the ship shortly after 10.00 that same day. Essentially, then, we lost a day and also the opportunity to “settle in, relax, and spend some time exploring the city”, as described on Viking’s website. I have since learned that travel arrangements have been problematic for other Viking cruisers on other rivers, but I was unaware of this at the time of booking.
Secondly, while the restaurant staff were always friendly and helpful, there did seem to some training issues requiring attention. We learned to delay ordering our main course until we were nearing completion of our starter, as on the first occasion our main course arrived just after we’d begun our buffet starter. When we pointed this out, our server explained that they, “were very fast”! The illustrations of dining on the Viking web gallery suggest small tables in a quiet dining room. The reality is that at dinner the dinning room is full, somewhat cramped, and with tables of eight. The picture of the Aquavit Terrace with its handful of diners is a complete mis-representation of the real situation which, on our cruise, was both cramped and crowded at lunchtime.
Thirdly, I recognise that what passengers are looking for from their cruise will vary depending upon individual taste. My wife and I had hoped for a balance of day-time cruising particularly on the Rhine, together with the opportunity to visit various ports-of-call. While we did have the opportunity to visit several interesting ports, we did feel that excessive amounts of time were spent in some ports, e.g.,
• Koblenz - 25 hours
• Cologne - 24 hours
• Nijmegen - 24 hours
This seemed to be due to the fact that we were sailing with the current, and according to the ship’s tannoy, “were making excellent time.” However, this had the knock-on effect that much of our actual cruising time was done during the night, and so the balance of daylight cruising time and port time was particularly disappointing. As a consequence we saw considerably less of the Rhine than we had anticipated. Perhaps cruising up-river might alleviate this particular issue.
Berthing : Viking’s information refers to city-centre berthing and this proved to be the case at the majority of halts. However, in Cologne we were berthed approximately 2 miles from the city centre – this despite vacant Viking berths in the centre. Although shuttle buses were provided during the afternoon, these are much less convenient than being able to stroll off the ship at any time. The buses did not run in the evening, despite the ship being berthed until midnight. Berthing was, again therefore, not as described in the information provided by Viking.
Internet Service : Viking’s website describes “free ship-wide wireless internet service”, but our experience was that this quite simply was not the case. At no point were we able to access the wireless internet in our stateroom, and even in the centre of the ship reception was sporadic.
Once again, the information provided by Viking was less than accurate.
It would be quite unfair to suggest that we did not enjoy our cruise, when we really did. The Rhine is a fascinating river, scenically pleasant, with great ports and a wide range of river traffic to add further interest.
However, these cruises are fairly expensive and, while I fully acknowledge the many positive Viking reviews, I feel that there were just too many disappointments on this particular cruise. If you are considering booking, do ‘read between the lines’ and enquire beyond the obvious.
I did write to Viking upon our return, but the Senior Customer Services Executive who responded choose to misinterpret some of my points, and completely ignore others. He did, however, send two £100 vouchers towards a future cruise with Viking. As if! These were returned to him, and we were sent a final, still patronising, cheque for £350.
In conclusion, we decided that we prefer sea cruising. We were, however, very impressed with the Rhine and I suspect we will cruise on that river at some future time - but certainly not with Viking.
250,000+ people have entered their email