Overall, I had a very nice experience on the Viking Gullveig for the Romantic Danube cruise in November 2017. There were some really wonderful parts of the cruise and some areas that need improvement.
At the outset, the booking process was pretty straight forward. We worked directly with Viking to book our room. The representative was very knowledgeable and responsive to questions. Arranging our flights, however, was much more complicated. We chose to do a stopover in Nuremburg before flying on to London and then home to the U.S. It took many, many phone calls, too many e-mails to count, and countless hours on the phone with Viking's air representatives to arrange the flights. The problem was that Viking had limited contract seats available during the time of our travel (and, apparently, at all times). This made the flight booking process frustrating. In addition, we later learned (and only because I constantly watched my reservations on Delta's website) that our connections changed, leaving an inadequate connection time (30 minutes). No one from Viking called to inform us. I had to spend hours on the phone directly with Delta completely re-booking the itinerary.
We booked an Explorer Suite room, which was supposed to include complimentary private transfers to the ship. However, since we arrived the afternoon before the cruise departed, we were told after booking that the private transfers would not apply. Upon our arrival at the airport, we were surprised to see Viking representatives at the airport picking up other guests. This was disappointing.
Upon our arrival at the ship (again, which we had to arrange ourselves), we were immediately greeted by the ship's General Manager and escorted to our room. He gave us an overview of the amenities in the room and assisted us with getting our luggage situated. He was very welcoming and we appreciated his assistance.
On embarkation date, a light lunch is provided in the Aquavit Lounge. There are pastry stands located outside the lounge, offering pastries, cookies, coffee, and tea 24/7. Unless you are in an Explorer Suite, these are the only beverage options offered 24/7. We found the refrigerator in the Explorer Suite was always stocked with beverages and housekeeping would replenish it with items we requested.
The dining facilities on board are cozy and inviting. The tables seat 6-8 guests in an "open seating" format. Reservations or holds are not accepted for any table. We always found interesting guests to dine with. However, there would often be a line waiting to get into the dining room for people to get tables in preferred areas or in the section of a particular staff member.
The food was really wonderful. The Chef did an excellent job providing a wide-variety of options. And even more impressive was the fact that he coordinated so many meals of high quality out of an extremely small kitchen. During the galley tour on the last night, I was very impressed with the cleanliness of the space and the chef staff's ability to utilize the space so effectively. Hats off to the Chef and staff!
The service was really great. Within a day, most of the staff knew either my name or room number. They were welcoming and accommodating. They assisted with most any request in a timely fashion. Housekeeping staff were very attentive as well. The room was always clean and comfortable.
The comfort of the room, though, was greatly diminished by the noise generated by the engine room. Both Explorer Suites are located at the aft of the ship, directly above the engine room. Anytime the ship is moving, there is a significant amount of noise and vibration in the room, to the extent that glasses and objects on the tables will rattle. It was so bad one night we actually called the front desk and engineering came to check the room. We were told it was the standard noise for that room. For the price of these suites, the noise level was really unacceptable. We spoke with other passengers on the same floor in different rooms and learned that it was isolated to the two Explorer Suites.
The cruise includes a number of complimentary tours and a variety of optional tours. We found most of the included tours to be really exceptional. In particular, Viktoria in Budpest is exceptional. Her knowledge of her hometown and ability to convey the information in an interesting, witty, informative manner was superb. The tour guides in Passau were also wonderful. We found the tours in Vienna and Nuremburg to be a bit lacking. Both tours were mainly via coach, leaving little opportunity to go in and really see things or explore. The view was from the window of a coach bus. The tour guides on these excursions were also less enthusiastic than others. Be ready for early mornings on this itinerary! Most tours start around 8:30 a.m., with the latest around 9:15 a.m. The tour on the last day in Nuremburg is in the afternoon, but only because the ship gets to port late.
The cities visited on this itinerary are fantastic and highly recommended. They are each beautiful and unique. I would cruise this itinerary again and again and see something different every time. The most beautiful stretch of the cruise is from Krems to Passau. The countryside is gorgeous and the cruise director provides commentary about the sights as you cruise. Get to the Aquavit Terrace and/or Lounge early to get a prime seat by the riverside windows! You won't be disappointed!
The amount of time in each port greatly varies. Do not plan on being in each city for a full day and do not make any outside plans until you know exactly what the ship's schedule will be. For example, we expected to spend two full days in Budapest--the day we embarked the ship and the following day. However, in reality, the ship is only in Budapest for about 24 hours. Guests arrive around noon and the ship sails before noon the next day. The Budapest tour begins at 8:30 a.m. and concludes around noon. However, the ship sails as soon as the tour begins. Guests are then bused by coach to the ship's location, about an hour outside of Budapest. This was very disappointing, as there were many things on our list to visit in Budapest (and other cities) that we could not, given this unexpected itinerary change (which you don't find out until you're on board). Budapest is one example; this happens often. You will also spend a lot of time on a coach bus during the river cruise.
The day before disembarking is a bit chaotic. The staff are all working hard to get ready to flip the ship, as guests for the next cruise start arriving as soon as you disembark. It is stressed repeatedly that guests must be out of their rooms at the scheduled times. You can sense the vibe of the ship change on this day. If you have laundry requests, they must be given to housekeeping at least 24 hours prior to disembarking (this is not written anywhere). Lastly, we were surprised to learn the day before disembarking that we must be out of the room by 9 a.m. and our luggage must be outside our room for pickup by 8:00 a.m. Prior to booking, and again before our trip, we were told by Viking Representatives that check-out was Noon. We made connecting travel plans based upon those representations, only to be told the day before disembarking that we must be out of the room by 9 a.m. Guests must also settle accounts by 8:30 a.m. that day, even if they stay on the ship past that time. This must be done in person; they do not maintain payment information from booking.
Lastly, I must add that this cruise and itinerary will be difficult for anyone with a disability or injury. My mother had an unfortunate injury and sprained her ankle while on our trip, thus this last bit of information. If you have an accident and sustain an injury, the ship does have a wheelchair and cane available to use onboard. The rooms are not designed for wheelchair use, though. They're simply not large enough, not even the explorer suite. A wheelchair has to be folded up to go into the rooms. The tours are difficult for anyone in a wheelchair or with a significant disability. There is a lot of walking involved on cobblestone streets. The least I walked one day was around 4 miles, the most 6.5-7 miles. Most of the cities are very hilly. On days that you must take a coach back to the ship, the coach is often parked a long distance away. In short, it can be very physically demanding if you want to take advantage of what is included in the package you purchased. Also, as we unfortunately experienced, the optionally purchased medical insurance was impossible to utilize. The amount of paperwork the insurance company required was voluminous and the doctors my mother saw refused to complete it, even when requested directly by the insurance company. In addition, we were not accompanied to the hospital by a Viking representative fluent in German (we were in Vienna at the time), as the brochures state would happen. Lastly, the ship will not reserve any dining tables or seats towards the front of coaches for people with a disability or injury. Everything is first come, first serve. I also expected (but did not receive) a follow-up from Viking...even by e-mail...after the trip.
While I would take this cruise again, I would go armed with more information about how the cruise works, the length of time in each port, and what happens in the event a trip to the hospital is needed. I would also not book an Explorer Suite, but would choose a Veranda Suite on the upper floor. The space in the Veranda Suites is comparable. The bathrooms are the same size and the layout is much better. The only things missing in the Veranda Suites are the wraparound balconies....and, the noise.
The Explorer Suites on Gullveig are very spacious, offering plenty of room for two people. The bedroom is quite a bit smaller than expected, however, compared to the bedroom space in the Veranda Suites. The bedroom is tucked into the hallway and just narrowly accommodates the bed.
The living room area is very spacious, with a comfortable couch, chair, desk with lighted mirror for a vanity, and tables. The wraparound windows offer breathtaking views.
The cabins need more power outlets. There are only two European plugs in the bathroom and neither is designed to be used with a converter for American plugs. Having an American plug or plug compatible with a converter in the bathroom would be ideal.
The big complaint about the explorer suite is the noise. The two explorer suites are on the Aft, directly above the engine rooms. The amount of noise and vibration in the room was quite surprising, given the price for this room. And, unfortunately, it was worse at night when the ship was moving. The vibration would often cause glasses or items on the tables to rattle. We called the front desk to inquire about the noise, engineers came to check the room, and we were advised that is the usual noise level for the room.
The crew break area is also in between the explorer suites. We often smelled cigarette smoke in the hallway outside the explorer suites that appeared to be more noticeable when the door to the crew break area had recently opened.
Excellent! Viktoria our guide was fabulous! Sites visited were perfect and very informative.View All 85 Highlights Tour Reviews
All by coach, guides not very enthusiastic or informative.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Gorgeous abbey! Wish we were allowed time to explore the town as well!View All undefined undefined Reviews
Excellent tour guide! Excellent city! Highly recommended!View All 218 Walking Tour Reviews
Beautiful city, but the guided tour only covered a very few sites.
Important city in history, but the tour was not that great. It is all by coach, with no opportunity to really see the sites unless you pay for an optional tour. In addition, the ship arrives in port late, leaving not much time to explore on your own.