My wife and I have been on numerous cruises (18+) throughout the world on various cruise lines over the years. This was our third cruise with Viking; previous cruises were to China and Egypt. The 15-day Grand European Tour started with the Prague Extension in the Czech Republic on October 4, 2017. Our flight from Florida was arranged by Viking and flew through Frankfort, then to Prague. No problems. The Viking representative was waiting for us at the airport in Prague.
The Prague Extension was great, the Palace Hotel was in the old part of town and an easy walk to everything of interest. The included tour was nice, the Lobkowicz Palace tour was very interesting and the Kutna Hora trip (including lunch) was fantastic. We also attended the Folklore dinner. Prague was worth the time and money. We were then bused to Budapest, Hungary to start the River Cruise. The bus trip was around 6 hours or so, in a very nice modern bus. We stopped a few times for restroom breaks and lunch (on us).
Boarding the ship was very easy; they were waiting for us. Our room was towards the middle the ship on deck 2, room 209. This was a good location because we were near public rest rooms, the front desk and the stairways to the upper floors and lounge. Most points of interest are on 2 (dining room), 3 (lounge) or the sun deck (the roof). Deck 1 has some passenger rooms and all crew rooms. The ship was a few years old and was very nice; very clean. The staff was great and the food was excellent. The chef would provide a little discussion of the dinner menu every night and appeared to be excited about the food and his staff. Breakfast was available in the dining room and also on deck 3 in the lounge in a reduced menu. It was similar for lunch. Beer and wine were provided during dinner and lunch. Coffee and cookies were available in two locations 24/7. Food was almost always available someplace.
The ship provided complimentary water prior to every tour. The Program Director, Kane, provided information about tours and timing and basically everything you need to know on a timely basis. He even provided entertainment in the evenings when local entertainers were not on board. The ship had two entertainers on board who performed in the lounge several times during the day and in the evenings. They were very professional and excellent musicians.
We generally just took the included tours, although we did pay to add the Thermal Bath in Budapest, Hungary, the Mozart & Strauss Concert in Vienna, Austria and the Rothenburg ob der Tauber tour in Wurzburg, Germany. These are three don't miss tours. The visited Ports of Call follow.
Budapest, Hungary – The included tour, run by a local guide was a nice way to learn about the history of the area. It required some walking over cobblestones and dodging around traffic but generally was not an issue. We had some free time after the tour for walking around to shop (or get a beer), if interested. The additional thermal baths were a blast. It's what the locals do.
Vienna, Austria – The included tour was similar to the Budapest walk around. The Mozart & Strauss Concert is a must see ... get a seat up front. It's a small group of musicians but they have a full sound.
Melk, Austria – The included tour was primarily the Melk Abbey. It's up on a hill over looking the river and is outstanding.
Passau, Germany – The included tour was similar to the Budapest walk around but also included an organ concert … impressive.
Regensburg, Germany – The included tour was similar to the Budapest walk around.
Nuremberg, Germany – The included tour was similar to the Budapest walk around. The discussions about the 2nd World War are interesting.
Bamberg, Germany – The included tour was similar to the Budapest walk around. The city is noted for it's smoke-favored beer … try it at the brewery. You can buy it at a window and take it out to the street to drink it. Don't forget to redeem the little plastic token for your glass deposit.
Wurzburg, Germany – We didn't take the included tour in Wurzburg, but paid to visit Rothenburg, one of the optional tours. Rothenburg is a walled in, medieval city. While the tour was similar to the Budapest walk around, the free time was great. We walked around the wall circling the city and visited a few of the shops. A very interesting place to visit … one of the highlights of the trip. The included lunch was very good, German food and drinks. The tour include a short visit to Wurzburg.
Wertheim, Germany – The included tour was similar to the Budapest walk around. This city featured a glassblowing shop with beautiful items to purchase. One of the owners provided a demonstration the night before on the ship. The presentation on the ship was a little wordy but the glass work was first class.
Koblenz, Germany – The included tour was to the Marksburg Castle. The Program Director warned of the difficulty of this castle but it was worth it. The castle is on a hilltop that required taking many steps up to the castle and then walking on very uneven walkways. But, this is a real castle where people lived with few conveniences. It is worth the walk/climb up and down.
Cologne, Germany – The included tour was similar to the Budapest walk around except it is centered around the largest cathedral in Northern Europe. We had a great lunch at the Famous Papa Joe's on the square prior to walking across the bridge and enjoying the view … nice day.
Kinderdijk, Netherlands – The included tour was a short walk to a windmill (in the rain)…. a real windmill that you can walk into and up to the living area. This was interesting.
At the end of the cruise, we added the additional days in Amsterdam. We toured both the Van Gogh (on our own) and Rijksmuseums (included in the Golden Age tour). It was worth the extra time and money. The weather turned bad but we had our ski jackets with us.
Additional information was available about the Jewish population in several cities … this is optional and free; take it, it is very informative and interesting.
Overall, the cruise was wonderful. You will see too many locks (67), vineyards, palaces, churches and castles; but you will meet many very nice people on the ship and also, tour guides and locals. You will also walk …. a lot. Viking really took good care of us; they were always there to make sure everything was taken care of during the trip. They really seemed to care. A great trip.
Nice cabin, queen size bed, one chair with arms plus a stool ... and a big screen TV ... kind of a small shower but nice for most people. The room included a small Veranda but we really didn't use it too often. Storage was good and the room service excellent.