This was our first river cruise and the entire Vantage team did such a good job, we are deciding our which itinerary will be our next. We normally travel independently, but occasionally choose an organized trip; river cruising was uncharted territory for us - so we decided on a Christmas cruise that fit my winter break (yes, I'm a teacher but also retired navy).
I chose Vantage after much research on ports, schedules, prices, tours, amenities, ships, reviews...well, you name it, I looked it up. It took me two years to commit and I'm so glad I chose this company and this schedule.
We took the pre-trip to Budapest and really enjoyed the location, hotel, transfer service and local shore excursion to the opera house and day in market with included themed lunch. I highly recommend this pre-trip. We had plenty of time to wander the city of Budapest and really see the area.
The crew was perfect (all of them) and our hats off to the captain and entire nautical crew for keeping us on (or ahead) of schedule even during the already stressful low water conditions on the Danube. My husband is a working boat captain and was amazed at how competently and flawlessly (and silently) the nautical crew navigated, moored, and worked around passenger events and needs.
The hospitality staff and crew cannot be matched. They were on par with the fanciest of 5-star hotels. Our cruise director (Martin Kratkoczky) and our concierge (Renata Lovrovic) were wonderful and made the cruise perfect for everyone.
Our cabin was huge (at least for this old navy retiree) and our head and shower were opulent and had enough head and shoulder room for my XXL husband.
The dining room service and food was amazing and the dining room staff worked very hard at making meal time memorable and fun. This is when most of us met other passengers and became friends. The dining room and kitchen staff went out of their way to remember our names, what we liked to drink or eat.
Our room attendant (Melinda) was extremely diligent in keeping our cabin perfect. I know that there are many more crew that work out-of-sight that I'll never be able to name.
Disembarkation was flawless as expected. Our flights were as direct as possible and the flight times Vantage reserved were the best - we flew economy but would recommend upgrading to at least economy plus (my husband is XXL and it's more comfortable in a wider seat when flying 10+ hours).
Port excursions - 95%. This is the only area that I am hesitant in giving a perfect rating - not because of anything that Vantage crew or local guides did or didn't do...my complaint is with other passengers who insist on pretending they are fit enough for a full-day or even half-day walking tour. Possibly Vantage can suggest breaking groups into slow/fast or mobile/less-mobile groups or offer an abbreviated or "slower-paced" tour choice or a quicker tour for the few who want more individual time but still want a short guided tour.
We originally booked a D-class cabin (Odyssey Deck - lower level) but it only had a standard window so we upgraded to a C-class cabin prior to sailing (328 on the Explorer Deck - middle level). The cabin we chose had floor-to-ceiling windows which opened into a French balcony. Surprisingly, Vantage upgraded our cabin to a B-class cabin (302) which was on the same deck and identical to our chosen C-class cabin but was in a more forward location on the ship (the upgraded cabin was amid-ship while the cabin we selected was aft - closer to the engines). I must say the engines were relatively quiet and vibration was almost non-existent even when we walked to the stern while underway.
Budapest has a great Christmas market. Very convenient and easy to navigate.
We spent Christmas in Bratislava and although most shops were closed, we still found several things open on our included city tour and watched the activity at the city's ice skating rink.
This was my second visit to Vienna but my husband's first. We chose the Hapsburg museum tour (the ship offered an alternate tour to see the Gustav Klimt collection). Vienna is always a top destination - the markets were still open until Three-King's Day.
We took the included Melk Abbeyhtour. What a grand place! I wish it was not a Sunday as most everything was closed. A beautiful town - even for pictures. I recommend to walk to and from the abbey through the picturesque town.
We took the included tour to Salzburg. This was my second trip but my husband's first, nice town - would like to spend more time here...and also got to walk Linz for a couple of hourse at night...also a nice town that I'd like to explore.