On the Rhine Getaway cruise last year we had a fabulous time. The food was great, the trips, despite a couple of really rainy days, were enjoyable and informative. The evening entertainments were sparkling and the Programme Director Renee was lively and the life and soul of the party. Nearly all the reviews of this cruise are fulsome in their praise for the experience, and I heartily concur with them!
Having had such a sterling experience last year we almost immediately signed up for the Romantic Danube cruise. Naturally having had such a brilliant experience we assumed that this was the norm for Viking. Oh dear! We should have read read the reviews. This year was a great disappointment, especially when compared to last time.
Three days before departure Viking informed us that due to low water levels we would not be starting from Nuremberg but Passau near the Austrian border. We were under the impression that this was a rare event; Viking was being rather disingenuous because according to the reviews fluctuating river levels are quite common. This should be mentioned specifically in the brochure, that water levels can fluctuate and this should be taken into consideration before booking. No mention is made of this until the travel documents arrive, after you have paid in full.
Further the excursions would be rearranged to suit the new schedule. So this meant the excursion to Nuremberg involved a round trip of seven hours, with little time to see the sights; added to that the visit to the Nuremberg Courts was cancelled because they are closed on a Tuesday.
When we arrived at Munich airport there was a security alert causing a delay of one hour and twenty minutes before we were able to disembark the aircraft. Not Viking's fault and when we were met by the Viking rep the transfer to Passau was smooth and efficient. On arrival we were met with the sight of our mooring for the next two days. An old cement works! This was to be our home for the next two days and we had to be bussed everywhere for our excursions. Plus there was a pervading smell of sewage, which lasted for ??? several days.
Last year most moorings were in or near the town centre so we could stroll off the boat and into town. Not so this year. Except for Tuesday when we actually moored up in Passau, anywhere else on the itinerary could only be accessed by coach.
Our stateroom was a French balcony, but this was a waste of time because we were nearly always “rafted up” next to another Viking ship so all we saw was the state room on the other boat. No privacy at all. The curtains were drawn for most of the time. And on the Wednesday our air con broke down, leaking water all over the floor. It took the engineer four tries to fix the fault; give him his due he always arrived within a couple of minutes of being alerted. The upshot was that one night we were without air con and the weather was stiflingly hot so we had an uncomfortable night of it.
In all we only had two days of actual cruising. We did cruise the Wachau Valley which was beautiful. However we missed the Danube Bend. Instead, on Thursday 2nd August, we had to moor up at Komarom on the Hungarian/Slovakia border with seven other Viking ships. The staff then told us that the ship would be going no further, due to a lack of water. Instead those wishing to visit Budapest would face a coach journey of at least one and a half hours each way. In addition, those catching an early flight on Saturday would have to pack and leave with all their belongings to stay overnight at a sister ship stranded the other side of Budapest. To say the least many passengers were not happy; notwithstanding the fact that the staff were having to drip feed the bad news. The upshot was there was no experiencing of Budapest's night life. Komarom did not have the same attractions.
As compensation we have been offered 25% off the price paid for our holiday. This is in the from of a voucher which must be redeemed by the end of 2019 and the trip must be taken by 2020. No mention of a cash refund, so Viking have little to lose by this offer.
On the positive side all the arrangements were well organised and went efficiently and smoothly. Our French balcony was compact but very comfortable and our steward Marius was friendly and efficient. The food was of a very high standard and we liked the regional taster menus which changed every night according to which region we were supposed to be in. Panayote the maitre d' was very efficient and friendly and special mention should also go to Aileen and Atilla our servers. In fact all the staff were very efficient and nothing was too much trouble. A nice touch was whenever possible the Captain would come and join people at their tables.
Would we sail with Viking again?
BUT before booking I would advise that you read fully ALL the reviews on Tripadvisor and Consumer Affairs and Cruise Critic as well as on Viking's own website. The cruises are excellent, but you need to be fully aware of any possible pitfalls.
Small and compact - plenty of storage space.
Did not use the French window much due to lack of privacy. Spent too much time moored alongside other Viking ships.
We liked the heated floor in the bathroom.
Passau has suffered an awful lot of flooding!
Our guide Mary was excellent and very knowledgeable about the sights of Vienna.
Gottweig Abbey was very good. The guide was informative and considerate of passengers' needs as it was very hot. There is a lot of steep steps to negotiate so those with mobility problems need to be aware.
To get here we had a coach journey of some one and a half hours each way.
Commentaries on all the coach journeys would have made them more interesting.
As a medieval town it had much to recommend it.
Lunch was provided at a local restaurant. There was plenty of free beer or wine, but the food was average.