This was our first ever River Cruise after nine ocean cruises. We embarked in Budapest the same day we completed an 11-day Baltic cruise on a large Princess ship. The contrast was significant in terms of size, number of passengers and amenities.
Overall, our experience was mixed. Lots of things to like and some things were really disappointing.
First, the ship was difficult to find due to lots of construction in the pier area. We took a cab from the airport and, despite being given the location in writing from the friendly Viking greeter at the airport, our driver could not find the correct location (Viking has three piers separated by 3/4 mile). I didn't see it either. A 3/4 mile walk dragging luggage wasn't a good start. In retrospect,the Viking transfer, though expensive, would have been worth it.
The ship was new (less than a year old), very clean and well-appointed. The public rooms looked great. Pleasantly greeted by the Reception staff. Our cabin was almost uncomfortably small. See the Cabin review below.
The food was excellent. Fewer dinner entree choices than on the ocean ships but we never had a problem. Service at dinner was mixed. At times, it was outstanding; at other times it was difficult to get the staff's attention. Breakfast buffet was excellent with a large number of choices. For lunch, we normally ate from the buffet on the Aquavit Terrace and not the dining room. Seating there was more limited but it was open air.
The smaller size allowed much better interaction with other passengers and crew. Most dinner seating arrangements were "locked-in" the first night so while seating was "open" most guests ate with the same group once established on night 1.
Evening entertainment consisted mostly of a keyboard player and the bar.....There was trivia one night and outside singers another night who were very good. The traditional Captain's welcome and description of the the next day's excursion were well done, Cruise Director, Oliver, was exceptional. Always approachable and helpful with a smile all the time. The itinerary was modified slightly in order to avoid low river levels. The flexibility demonstrated by the officers and Oliver in rescheduling tours is much appreciated.
Excursions were well done. Take advantage of them. Guides were knowledgable and pleasant. English skills all very good. Only real complaint was that all the included tours were large, 40-45 on a tour. We took three optional tours, Schonbrunn Palace, Salzburg Highlights and Nuremburg and WWII which were also large. All were outstanding and worth the extra $. Limited free time (~1 hr) in Salzburg and at Schonbrunn. Lunch in Salzburg included a performance of Sound of Music songs. Be sure to sit up front for the best views. We arrived in Nuremburg early so took advantage of free time in the city in the morning. Time well spent.
Remember that this is a river ship and has limited amenities. The sun deck was not available after the first few days due to river levels. This reduced the available public space by almost half. We opted one afternoon to stay on board and found it almost impossible to find a quiet area in the lounges or outside to curl up and read a book.
Disembarkation went very smooth. Taxis were ordered the night before and arrived right on time. Luggage handling was excellent.
Our one real regret is not spending a few extra days in Budapest prior to the start of the cruise. It looks like a fantastic city to explore and we will be back.
Overall, I rated the cruise Very Good due to the strength of the itinerary, excursions and onboard service. Most of the short comings (cabin size, lack of amenities and entertainment and price) were well-known in advance. If we do another river cruise, it will most likely be with a small group of people we know.
The bed, furniture, bathrooom and towels were all first class. Very comfortable. Storage was adequate. No issues with the number and placement of electric outlets. The ability to open the slider and get fresh air was nice. Be advised that this cabin is very small (135 sq ft). Literally only 12" between the bed and the slider curtains in the one-bed setup. And that side of the bed is inaccessible (without climbing over) if anyone sits on the stool in front of the mirror.
The location was only two cabins from the reception area. While we were originally concerned about this, it was actually very convenient and we never heard any noise frmo the traffic passing by. The cabin attendant was very good.
Combined with noise in the public spaces (see main review), we would opt for the veranda stateroom on our next Viking river cruise.
Day 2 -- Good overview with stops on both the Buda and Pest sides. Rain in the morning and then overcast. Great overlook of the Danube and government buildings. Night cruise on the Danube after dinner on Day 1 was stunning.View All 353 City Tour Reviews
Included excursion. Short bus ride to Abbey on bluff overlooking valley. Toured main buildings and optional look at the roof structure from inside the attic.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Included excursion in the AM. Walked from ship through neighborhood to U-bahn station and took the subway to the city center. Nice sites including Opera House, Hofburg, St. Stephen's cathedral, Judenplatz (jewish memorial) and Spanish Riding School, home of the Lipizzaners (from the outside). About 45 minutes of free time before taking bus back to ship.View All 169 City Tour Reviews
PM trip to Schonbrunn Palace. Toured state rooms and grounds (during free time). Grounds are extensive, could have used more time. Recommend this optional tour.View All 179 Schonbrunn Palace Reviews
Optional tour to Salzburg. Highly recommended. Two+ hour bus ride (with rest stop on the way). Scenic countryside and a few small towns on the way. Walked through Old Town with sights to St. Peter's restaraunt for lunch. Three other Viking tours joined us. Very good sound of Music concert (about 6 songs) by four talented singers. About an hour of free time after lunch. Guide traveled too fast through town and lost some members along the way. Bus pick-up delayed due to number of buses in area. Met Viking Egil upriver from Passau.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Included excursion in the AM. Four stars only because of the weather. Walking tour through Regensberg with bright red Viking umbrellas covered a great deal. Good commentary and guide pointed out some hard to see sights.. Tour ended and we got very easy directions back to the ship allowing us to explore more.
Arrived early so Viking added bus transport in the AM for self-exploration of the city center. Picked up a self-guided walking tour map from the Visitors Center. Walked a lot and climbed up to the castle which gave great views of the city. PM was the optional WWII tour which was fantastic. Included the Documentation Center museum, Congress Hall and the Nuremberg Courtrooms. Had almost an hour at the Documentation Center on our own - very moving. Zeppelin Field was dropped from the tour due to an auto race being staged there.