We chose the cruise on the Elbe River to see a different part of Germany than we had seen on previous Danube and Rhine river cruises. The summer and fall of 2015 were very problematic for river cruises on the Elbe due to the extremely low water level. We were informed just 5 days before we were due to leave the USA that our itinerary would be greatly altered and that we might not actually sail. We were previously aware of the possibility but were a little frustrated by the lack of advance notice but found out that they were truly making the decisions to sail or not one day at a time. Viking offered us penalty free cancellation or a $1000 voucher if we chose to sail. As pleased past passengers on Viking, we chose to sail. We were pleasantly surprised when we got to the hotel for the overnight stay in Berlin to find that we would be sailing, how far to be determined on a day to day basis. We were fortunate to be able to sail the first half of the itinerary, ending the cruising portion of the trip in Dresden. Dresden was a beautiful city and we docked near the city center. The second half of the "cruise" we remained docked and took day trips to the planned destinations with slight modifications. By being able to sail half the route, we avoided a ship swap, Viking's way of handling cruises when the water level was not high enough to allow any sailing. While this was not the cruise we had planned, Viking and the individual crew members went out of their way to make it a great experience. There were only 37 passengers (out of a maximum of 112) so everyone was moved to staterooms on the upper deck. This meant an upgraded cabin for us and many others. Extra excursions were added like a paddle boat ride in Dresden to see a little more of the river where it was too shallow for the Schumann to sail. With the small number of passengers and the regular crew, we all got very personalized attention. Our city tour groups were very small as in most cities they kept the number of local tour guides the same despite our reduced numbers. It was interesting to learn about life in East Germany after WWII. Our local guides had parents and grandparent who had lived through the war. One guide, a religious scholar, related that his grandfather was in the German SS; he was not ashamed of this as his grandfather had no choice other than to join or be shot. The trip to Terezin, a Czech concentration camp, was sobering but served to remind us of the horrors of WWII.
We received a cabin upgrade due to our past patronage and the small number of passengers. The room was spacious for a river ship. There was a French balcony so the room was bright and airy although the weather did not permit keeping the window open.
Dresden is a beautiful city. The ship was docked a short ten minute walk from the city center which allowed us to come and go as we pleased.
While we had no planned activities in Berlin, we did spend about two hours on a bus tour as we left the city and travelled toward the ship.