Just got back from our 15-day Grand European cruise, and all I can say is WOW, WOW, WOW!!!!! Everything was top notch. We cruised on the newer long boat, Gefjon. The ship, crew, food, and excursions were excellent. I will give as much detail as I can.
We booked about 45 days in advance and let Viking make all of our travel arrangements since we got our airfare for free. Flights went smoothly, and when we arrived in Budapest, we were greeted by 2 lovely ladies from Viking. We were quickly escorted to our private van, which took us to our ship (about 20 minute ride). We were lucky enough to arrive at 10 a.m. to our ship, and we were quickly greeted by a few staff members and shown directly to our room.
ROOM: We had the veranda suite (#315), which was on the 2nd level. The room was an average size for a ship with ample storage space for clothing, large area under bed to put suitcases, a little fridge, hair dryer, TV, safe, and a few 110 American outlets. The bathroom was small, but large enough to accommodate my 6'4", 280 lb husband. The bathroom was stocked with shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and make-up remover pads/Q-tips, and shower cap. Nice touch with heated floors! The veranda was small with 2 chairs and a table, but nice enough to sit out on the cool mornings with our cups of coffee watching the scenery.
FOOD: Food was amazing, and of course ample! You could eat in the Aquavit Terrace for a light breakfast, lunch, or dinner - or you could eat in the main restaurant downstairs for a full course meal. We usually ate breakfast in the main restaurant, and had a choice of any breakfast dish you can imagine. If it was not out on the serving table, you could ask for it to be made for you. We rarely ate lunch on the ship, as we tried to eat on our own during our excursions to get a taste (and drink) of the local cuisine. Dinner consisted of an appetizer, main course, and dessert. There were plenty of options, and you could eat 2 main courses, 2 desserts, and 2 appetizers... or even more if you wanted. My husband is a big guy, and without even being asked, they always brought him double and asked if he would like to try something else. Beer and house wine (which changes depending on your location) is included with lunch and dinner. We did not purchase the Silver package, as we did not think it was worth it for us. You really have to drink a LOT or drink very expensive liquor/wine for it to be worth it.
EXCURSIONS: We went on as many included excursions as we could, which were very informative and led by very knowledgeable guides. The extra excursions that we paid for were the Mozart concert, Salzburg, Rothenburg, the pub crawl in Cologne, and the cheese making tour. Salzburg was a bit expensive at 200 per person with a 2-hour bus ride, but as we are fans of Sound of Music, it was nice to see some of the areas where the film was made. We were a bit disappointed with Rothenburg, as we specifically went there for the Steiff teddy bears, but as it was Sunday, all the stores were closed! Had someone told us they would be closed, we would have saved our money and did the included excursion. The pub crawl was probably our favorite. We went to 4 different pubs and drank with the locals, which also included a very nice German dinner with pork, sauerkraut, potatoes, and a cheese/meat dish with dessert... and all the Kolsch beer you could drink. The cheese tour was also a bit expensive for what it was... considering you end up in the cheese store purchasing as much as you think you can buy without going over your luggage weight... and yes, the cheese was excellent!
STAFF: I cannot say enough about the staff! Every one of them were amazing. By day 2, we were being called by our first names (still have no idea how they remember all the names), the wait staff knew what we liked to eat and drink... and how much. We all became friends for 15 days. I need to shout out to Meike, our cruise director, Eddie the concierge, and the bartenders and wait staff who treated us like kind and queen.. Stephan (waiter), Stephan (bartender), David, Marvin, Brando, and Lucia - you all rock!
MISC: We had no problem with water levels. There were over 65 locks that we had to go through, which most of them are at night while sleeping. You never feel like you are moving like on an ocean cruise, so sea-sickness is not an issue.
Entertainment is what you make of it. We had Tony the piano player (sorry for torturing you, Tony), who plays every night, and after a few drinks, we were all singing along the piano. Don't expect glitzy shows, as the ship is small and just cannot accommodate that kind of thing. There were a few nights when they had local dancers/singers come in, which was quite nice... but we usually sat in the Aquavit and played board games or just talked with our new forever friends. Honestly, you will be so tired from the day's activities, you will just want to relax by the time you are finished dinner.
The average age of the passengers seemed to be 55+. Although we were one of the youngest couples, we certainly had to "keep up" with our fellow passengers who were very young at heart. This cruise is really not for the person who cannot walk or handle many cobblestone pathways, and even some climbing up steep hills (on some excursions) to castles and palaces. Again, you can make the trip your own. Many times we diverted from the included tours and went off on our own.. and if possible, we would take public transportation back to the ship or a taxi (the staff will give you excellent directions on returning).
In summary, I can honestly say, this was the most memorable experience we have ever had. We made some life-long friends and are even talking about a reunion for another trip. I really do not have one bad thing to say. Can't wait for our next trip!!
The cabin is small, but decent enough to put all of your belongings. Large space under bed for bags and suitcases. Plenty of closet space for hanging clothes.