We just come back from a cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam with Viking and after reading all the opinions of other travellers we decided to have our input too. We travel with them exactly when the low water in Europe affected everybody cruises and I think is fair to identify two different aspects of the issue. On one hand a big disappointment: you except Viking to be honest and transparent with their customers and inform them in advance about this type of issue which will bring ship changes, long bus rides, in general a discomfort for passengers. The only e-mail we got 8 days before the cruise was regarding the change of the ship: Viking Embla instead of Viking Lif. We contacted Viking office and we were told that will be no problems, that “everything is like was mentioned in the itinerary” and the “water is not a problem anymore”. Is it right Viking to lie to your customers just to avoid cancellations and compensations?
On the other hand when we were on the boat and we started to experience problems with the water everything was perfectly organised smooth and with no stress and we reach Amsterdam after a 2 amazing weeks. In this case, when everything on the boat is so well planned and organised, having a minimum impact on our journey, was it so difficult to find the same level or respect and transparency when we call the Viking office?
We travelled on 2 boats: Embla and Lif which supposed to be identical, but the reality was a little bit different. We liked Lif more being a newer ship, more comfortable and more spacious. But the massive difference was the service and the staff: while on Embla everybody was very professional on Lif we had the feeling that we landed on a “training vessel” with everybody trying to do their job but failing almost every time.
Katja, the hotel manager on Embla, was always in control, always with the passengers and always efficient and smiling. Her leadership abilities reflected positive on her entire crew who was brilliant. On Lif Jeronimo, the hotel manager, was very arrogant, never interacting with the passengers and more interested in having a “good time” with the rest of the staff then acting to achieve a good service. We tried to speak with him about some on-board credit issues, but he was always busy, avoiding us and passing the problem to the reception. Not the expected level of customer service from Viking.
George the restaurant manager was superb and everybody in Embla restaurant was perfect: remembering our names every lunch and dinner, impeccable service (we fall in love with Martina) and delicious food. On Lif we never had the chance to speak with the restaurant manager, the waiters giving us the feeling that they just learn the job, making mistake with orders, speaking in front of us in their own language and never check if an extra service was needed. We ended on Lif to have dinner in the lounge were Christian and Ivan were far more attentive and professional then others.
The reception on Embla was extremely helpful, booking a lot of trips for us and helping everybody to find their way around. Especially Lucia was always kind and smiling and when she didn’t know the answer didn’t have a problem to ask the cruise director for the correct information. On Lif the two young men at the reception (didn’t make the effort to remember their name) were very unprofessional and arrogant with an attitude more appropriate to a cheap hostel than a Viking ship. At every question they were giving us the feeling that we were stupid, and this patronising way to answer was always topped with the wrong information. They were the worst receptionists ever!!!
On the positive side the housekeeping on Lif was amazing with our steward Ivan very helpful and professional. While on Embla we never meet the Capitan, on Lif the Dutch Captain was a pleasure to meet and talk to and his evening presentation was informative and funny.
The only constant exceptional experience for us on these two boats was the Program Director – Leonard. From the very first moment when we embark Embla in Budapest until the moment when we left Lif in Amsterdam Leonard was far above any expectations. His was an excellent organiser managing perfectly the guides, the coaches, the time tables, everything and everybody involved in changing the ships so well that for all of us was just a normal day not a major trauma or drama! During the long bus rides he was jumping from one coach to another, from one group to another to check if everything was fine and to solve any problems and he manage to find time during the transfer to buy to all of was a chocolate hart … how sweet! One day he was assisting a passengers with reduce mobility while he was giving information about best shopping in town and locating a lost cell phone and another day he was helping very professional (my husband is in ER) with a medical emergency (quite a ugly wound on somebody leg) while he was trying to help a passenger from another Viking ship left behind his group. Really ??? How many things you can do so well Leonard!
Leonard knows the history, culture, tradition of any stone, city, castle and church on our itinerary and sometimes his explanations were better and more accessible than the guide’s ones! Each evening briefing and lecture was a unique opportunity to access in an easy, interesting and entertaining way complicated stories about history, art and culture. He had such a versatile personality: a strong organiser in the morning during the excursion, informative and efficient in the evening and fun and charming in the evening. What a joy to have him on board!
For sure we will go back to Viking…they know how to make every moment special despite the fact that they still need to work on some issues (do something about Lif…is a beautiful ship with such low standards). And by the way we want Leonard as a Program Director! If anybody from Viking read our review, please send our massive “THANY YOU!” to Leonard for making this a vacation of a lifetime. He really is a “ Rockstar “ who made this so much fun and so
Perfect space for two people, intimate. I loved having the balcony as I would sit out there in the morning, reading and or just viewing the scenery. I also practiced yoga daily either in my room next to the balcony or used both spaces. The bathroom size was also large - enough room for a shower,toilet and our items we used could be stored in the there. As far as our luggage, plenty of space under the bed, we used the dresser drawers and closet which helped us plan out our wardrobe for each day.