This early springtime cruise was incredibly affordably priced when we booked for six couples to sail. We were treated with superb service in every way: rooms were beautifully cleaned each day, meals were delicious and some of our group sat together for meals while others chose other tables to meet more like-minded river cruisers, the onboard entertainments were fun for our group to join in, and the absolute care and attention given to the tours at all ports of call is what makes a Viking River Cruise the best experience possible.
My husband and I especially appreciate the fact that VRC includes all drinks during meals in package price. We do not drink much, so it is fine to have one or two drinks a day for us. We have fun with friends-both old and new ones-during the evenings without extra alcohol. We have been on two VRC cruises (Rhine in 2013) and have not spent any extra money on drinks.
The tour guides are always very fluent in English. They are also very familiar with the city you are visiting that day. So, when we ask for extra information or reccommendations of where a local might eat or what a local does, we know we can trust the answers. I love history and I feel each and every tour guide we've met is me in other skin! They always fill the allotted time and I know they would have that much more to share if time permitted.
The Danube cruise highlights Hapsburg rule for more than a hundred years. Churches, palaces, cities: all are full of Hapsburg projects. On the Danube cruise one visits many Catholic cathedrals and learns about the interactions between the Roman Popes and the European monarchs. On the Rhine cruise there were many cathedrals which are now Protestant and the history of cities is influenced by the Reformation of the church and men like Martin Luther.
This cruise was also blessed with unbelievable weather for the end of March! We sat on the upper deck in pleasant 70Fahrenheit weather with just our short sleeves. It was so calm the day we sailed along the Danube canal that we were able to play cards in the open air!
Four of our couples traveling together also renewed wedding vows one day. The captain and concierge were most helpful when we shared our plan to do this when we boarded the ship in Passau. Right away, they said they knew a perfect part of the cruise to do so, and our pictures of the event have a beautiful castle in the background. Unfortunately, the photographer (one of the couples not renewing vows) had her computer stolen soon after returning to the States, so some thief stole the physical memory of that event. We do have beautiful pictures in our minds though, and we do have our spouses to share memories with each day!
A VRC is also a very relaxing trip, in our opinion. Unpacking once for an entire week is wonderful. You do NOT have to bring a dozen outfits. Seasoned travelers were on both cruises: I noticed quickly on our first cruise that women wore an outfit a couple times or mixed and matched. Men wore jeans or casual slacks and shirts a few times. So don't overpack, it's just a hassle you don't want to deal with when you are traveling to the ship from the airport and back to it when your cruise is done. Again, let me urge you to PACK LIGHT! Almost everyone wore jeans on day tours and casual dress for dinner at night.
Because of the small number of passengers and their decorum, one can also enjoy resting in the large lounges as well as one's stateroom. Watching the landscapes change as you sail a river is a remarkable thing! Here vineyards, there a cathedral, look a crumbling castle, oh there's a train... There's just so much to see and savor and the floor to ceiling glass walls make sightseeing so easy.
Our Rhine River cruise was in late November and we visited Christmas markets in each city. Truthfully, for us that got to be a bit stale by day four. We are not shoppers (I tell family and friends they have to GO and SEE Europe for themselves, I am not bringing bits and pieces of it home as gifts in my luggage). We asked for alternative things to do and tour guides were more than happy to share other delightful ways to spend a day in a city. We've also seen a couple cities with friends who live in them and skipped the guided tours.
As I am writing this review, I am saddened to know that yesterday (Dec 11, 2018) an act of terrorism occurred in Strausburg, which was a city and Christmas market we visited in 2013. How sad that our world is so broken and some souls are driven to such acts of violence. I conclude this long review by stating that I believe visiting other places and learning about local customs and enjoying them without judging them, is a lasting treasure one receives after going on a VIking RIver Cruise or generally traveling abroad. You aren't just a tourist with VRC if you take the time to talk to your tour guides and the ship's crew. Instead you know in your heart you have expanded your "family" with new friends. Even if we never see a person again, the memories live in our hearts and minds and we are forever aware of other ways of seeing life, of experiencing a day, of being human.
We are dairy farmers. We travel when we find great deals. Both these VR cruises were priced right. A week of travel that includes transportation, lodging, meals, drinks, tours, and entertainments for less than $1500-1999/person is a great deal. We book the least expensive cabins: on our first cruise the booking agent tried to persuade me to upgrade. "Why?" I asked him. "It sounds like all I am going to do is sleep in my cabin because VRC has lots for me to do all day." He agreed we would be entertained all day if we wished. We were; and I see no reason to book a "better cabin" because really a bed is a bed and a shower is a shower. I watch VRC emails and mailings constantly. I am waiting to find the next great deal and see more of the world while river cruising with Viking!
The rooms are small and extremely efficient in their layout. My husband and I are both large people and we were comfortable in the king size bed. We had plenty of room to walk around the bed and in front of it. The bathroom was sized for one of us to be comfortable in and surprisingly the shower unit felt huge! We book rooms on the lower level, so our window is flush with the river water level which is awesomely cool! We see boats sailing by our very noses if we happen to be in our room during the day. We packed for a three week trip through Germany before both cruises, as well as the cruise in a carry on airline approved luggage bag. We do laundry rather than haul a "closet" along on long trips.