We traveled for Budapest to Amsterdam
First the Good: Service was great, the crew was great, the food was great and we enjoyed the Aquavit option, particularly when the weather was hot - the cabin was always clean - the tour guides were great - a real mix of eclectic guides. The quizs were great fun. The schedule was good and luckily we did not encounter the river level issues that had affected earlier sailings. The included tours were generally pretty good and well organized - in general, the overall level of organization, running to schedule, etc., was excellent - the public areas absorb the 190 passengers surpirsingly well
Of the included tours:
We enjoyed Vienna, Melk Abbey and Wertheim in particular. The Passau Organ Concert was a bit disappointing - the church itself was fabulous, but the music played was to my knowledge of music quite obscure - something more widely known would have been appreciated, since my guess is that over 90% of those in attendance were tourists. The Nuremberg tour was "OK" - the 45 minute plus washroom break at the castle (due to limited facilities) dampened this tour for sure and meant that the gingerbread specialty store was closed by the time we arrived in the square.
Of the Optional tours:
The Rothenberg ob der Tauber tour was well worth while - the Mozart and Strauss Concert was excellent, the Dutch cheese making was very good and the Cologne Beer Night was good
The not so Good (personally):
We stayed in a French Balcony cabin - they are so small, you have to leave them to change your mind! - for those whom size matters, I suggest a survey across the river cruise lines to check out cabin sizes before you book - saying that you don't spend much time in your cabin is only partially true.
The "roof" deck, much touted by Viking in its advertising, is closed for more than half the trip - while this is understandable re the need to pass under bridges, I think that advance info about its availability is lacking - particularly since the roof deck is the only "fitness facility" on the boat - some other lines have fitness facilities
There are no bike tours offered (at least on the Budapest to Amsterdam direction) either at any of the city/town stops or along the 2000 plus KM of river and canals we passed along - some other cruise lines even have bikes on board - my overall resulting impression is that Viking is for the "not so active" crowd - something to be considered when choosing which river cruise line - for example, the Wertheim to Miltenberg stretch is reported to be a pleasant bike ride of three hours including a stop, while the boat takes five hours - well suited to an organized/available option, but not on offer. (Note that the front desk will help you to try and arrange things, but having more readily available options/contacts, even if not organized tours would help.)
The included wines were largely limited to a single choice in Red and White each meal - understandable re stocking and the limited size of the boats, but the initial local wine was not great!
The downright Ugly:
Viking Air - this has to be my worst experience ever - personally I would never recommend included air fares with Viking - there were two options - 1) you can let them assign you flights and tell you that's your schedule, or 2) you can pay $US50 per person extra - yes $50 per person extra for the privilege of actually talking to them - everyone I talked to had taken 1) above (and didn't know about 2) and had lousy flight schedules - for example, all those coming back to Vancouver from Amsterdam had stopovers in Toronto - a longer routing with a stop over to boot - we grudgingly paid the $50 each to find out that we had to pay a further $100 per person per "deviation" and that the "free" fare "allotment" was $1495 per person - any routing/fare combo above $1495 would cost us the difference - we wanted to go into Budapest two days early on our own - I could see on Expedia lots of options with good schedules less than the $1495, but had to pay the $100 per person for the "deviation" of arriving early - the only plus was that we were able to get them to fess up with a non-stop flight home - my guess is that probably as a "profit center", Viking Air makes internal money by assigning cheap terrible schedules to those that don't ask and making those that do ask pay in effect an extra $150 each for something reasonable (while still within the 1495!) - and on top of it I suspect they get travel arranger $$ back from the airlines - it was all quite unseemly to me - next time I would ask for pricing without "free" air and do a comparison
The price of the optional tours if booked on the boat are much more expensive than if pre-booked - the size of the onboard price "uplift" was outrageous to my mind
The ship's Szechenyi Baths tour is way overpriced - do it on your own
Cabin staff were great and the roomed was always promptly cleaned and made up - as mentioned above, the French Balcony cabins are tiny - don't plan to spend much time there