The river cruise certainly has potential for an incredible vacation. The pace of seeing the countryside go by, and falling to sleep to the gentle forward movement are both unique and highly pleasurable. The final approach to Budapest was incredible and the Viking Egil was a beautiful ship. Overall though, Viking cut too many corners and by the time our trip was over, I was ready to be done with it.
The food and drink were inferior. I admit, I am serious about food. I am an avid gardener and cook. Most of what I serve is made from scratch, usually from my garden and the farmer’s market. When I eat processed food, its unusual, and I’m thirsty. I was thirsty all the time on the trip. This was also very disappointing to me, as one of the reasons I go to Europe is for the very quality of the food. The final dinner, as we approached Budapest, featured Hungarian goulash, prepared by the Hungarian chief. Sounds like a slam dunk, good move, right? Not quite. What was served were chips of beef on a plate, covered with a brown colored sauce. I don’t know what that was. Hungarian goulash is a soup.
The cruise package includes beer and wine with meals. These come from Viking labeled bottles that are clearly inferior. I’m not a big drinker, and it was a surprising cheapness on a luxury cruise, but not a big deal until we were in Germany, sampling world quality beer onshore. After that, forget it, it angered me. We paid a king’s ransom for that trip. I only have one beer or glass of wine with my meal. Viking saved money on that one serving, but lost a customer right there.
You should be prepared that the majority of you time will not be spent seeing European sites. The outings pictured in the brochures are very short. The onshore day usually began at 10, assembling in the parking lot for bus transport that took between 30 minutes to 2 hours. Their goal seemed to be to get us back to the ship by 4pm, so you see the excursion itself was very short. The tour guides varied in quality from funny, insightful and truly delightful to a complete waste of expensive vacation time. Be aware that the tour guides will expect a tip, as will the entire ship crew and program director, separately. You should factor in another $500 for tips.
Where your time will be spent is fraternizing with your fellow shipmates on the ship. All meals are served at tables of 6 to 8, although you can opt out and have a casual meal on the deck. After dinner, people move to the lounge where there is music, sometimes dancing and more drinks. These drinks are charged to your room. It is important to consider how this will sit with you. The clientele for these trips are almost entirely white, over 60, church going Christian, conservative, affluent Americans. Ours included a boisterous contingency from Texas. If that is a demographic you want to spend your vacation with, you will enjoy it. If not, you will find it uncomfortable, tedious or boring. Dinner was enough for us.
The stacked docking, or double docking was my safety concern. This is a practice where a single slip is used for 2 or 3 ships. The first is roped to the pier, the 2nd and third are attached sideways. You enter the middle or outside ship by passing through the first and second. Usually, the middle ship stunk terribly of mold or mildew and sewage. This stacked docking required us to close the curtain, making the stateroom claustrophobic and rendering the balcony unusable. They run the generator when they dock like this for some reason, and that is a constant noise that reverberates between the ships. What concerned me the most though, was that the only means of exit during these dockings was through the stateroom room and down the ship's hall. This lack of egress would be illegal in a hotel or apartment.
I have traveled a lot. I filled my last passport and needed to have additional pages put in, not once but twice. I understand and completely expect that disappointments and inconveniences are a part of travel. You have to suck it up, and go on with a smile to enjoy the rest. My overall complaint on this cruise though, was that there was something to suck up every day and that is just not acceptable for the price we paid. My specific complaint is that the stacked docking is a safety concern and with no means of exit, eventually someone will lose their life, trapped in a fire on a Viking ship.
the Egil is a beautiful new ship. The bathroom is amazing as it has everything you need incredibly fit into a very small space.