We chose this sailing so we could visit Christmas markets. We were not disappointed! Many markets, large and small, throughout the various ports. We were disappointed that we had to be bussed into so many towns however.
The ship was clean and fresh. Our stateroom (verandah) was roomier than we had anticipate with plenty of storage/closet space. The food was very good. Entertainment was primarily a piano player. We had a cooking demonstration, a Dutch tea, a young girls’ choir, a water management lecture, etc., on various late afternoons. Great accordion player one night during dinner. We felt no movement at all onboard nor experienced any engine noise. Only when going through the locks, did the ship rock at all. We would have liked more information on the locks and to know when the ship was scheduled to traverse them.
The schedule was rather regimented - not relaxing. I hit 10,000+ steps every day. All included tours were in the morning. It would have been gracious to have some optional tours in the morning, so that each day was not predicated by having to get up early to have breakfast to be ready to join an included tour. “Leisure walk” tours were available about day three, also in the mornings. No explanation as to how these would be different than the regular tours, except they might be slower paced. I would have appreciated more information. Viking did provide both water and umbrellas. Viking was no help at all when a passenger inquired about shipping items home, FedEx, etc.
Most tour guides were excellent. Gratuities are not included. You are expected not only to tip all shore tour guides and bus drivers, but the cruise director (ours was not overly friendly nor helpful. It felt as if she were simply “checking the boxes” and resented being asked questions) and ship staff. We will look for a truly inclusive cruise next time. The Euro makes purchasing souvenirs super easy. We had no difficulties at any border and needed to carry our passports only into France, as a result of the Paris terrorist attacks the preceeding month. Armed military was in evidence in Brussels airport and Strasbourg.
We had pre- and post-cruise tours booked through Viking. Our tour director for the pre-cruise tours was more than outstanding - just super (Nico Favoreel). Our group was reduced to six from 14-16, so the personalized service was exceptional. Our accommodation in Brugge, Dukes’ Palace, was wonderful. Viking met us at the airport and transported us to the hotel and to the various stops throughout the four days before we boarded our ship. Excellent service throughout. Our hotel in Amsterdam was switched to the Okura. A nice hotel, but it could have been anywhere in the world and not centrally located. Our post tour in Lucerne was an afternoon walking tour and we were left to our own devices the next day because not enough people signed up for the full-day excursion we had planned to take. Nonetheless, nice accommodations, though again, the hotel could have been anywhere in the world. We would have preferred hotels with “character.” Hotels in Lucerne and Amsterdam overlooked either a canal or lake. Transfer to Zurich airport, for just the two of us, was via Mercedes with a driver - wow!
Having lived in Europe, we anticipated drizzly weather; weather was exceptionally warm - no snow, very little rain. On a couple of occasions, it was obvious that we were being directed to specific gift shops. The Black Forest stop was very touristy.
The one evening when at least half the passengers went ashore for dinner, we hoped to have dinner just the two of us, but a waiter required that we move to fill a table with others. Unfortunate. Water was not initially provided with meals and often had to be requested several times. Wine flowed freely.
It would have been nifty had staff badges indicated home country as well as a name. Interesting to talk to young people from all over. English was spoken by all - some more fluently than others.
Cabin was fresh and clean and roomier than anticipated. Bathroom was tight but we folded the shower doors inward to gain elbow room. Bathroom floors were heated. We had a mini frig. as well as a flat screen TV. US electrical plugs were a welcomed plus. Verandah was so nice, even in the winter - it was exceptionally mild when we sailed. I recommend getting a top deck cabin - the views are really worth it. Those below us could not see about the riverbank whereas we could see into towns, etc. We could touch the lock wall as the boat went through. Cool!