We selected the 14-day Grand European Tour river cruise more than 12-months prior to embarkation. We splurged on the Explorer Suite as a treat to ourselves. On a prior Viking cruise we had a Veranda Suite, and enjoyed it. Needless to say we anticipated this 2019 cruise with the greatest of expectations.
Our original itinerary was for the Viking Vali ship. A week or so prior to the cruise we received notification from Viking that the river levels were low in Germany and what Viking's contingency plans would be if the water levels became impassable. We hoped for the best and went ahead with our plans. As it turned out the Viking Vali was unable to get back to Amsterdam due to the low water levels so the whole set of guests were put onboard the Viking Tir. All Viking river ships are for the most part exactly the same layout, so this change was not a problem. It turned out the rivers' water levels improved during our cruise so we were able to remain on the Viking Tir for the entire 14-day trip. HOWEVER, there is more to know about low water levels on a ship's comfort which will be noted later in this review.
We did a pre-cruise stay in Amsterdam, and several excursions (some included and some for extra charges)...all were fine. Yes, some wished we had more time, but it's not until we're on the excursion that we realized that. Oh well. The villages of Passau and Melk were unexpected treats; the concert in Vienna was so-so.
Dining and the crew's service onboard the ship were very good and matched what we expected from prior cruises. Granted we did pay quite a bit more for the Explorer Suite, so when a crew member knew our suite number they did give us a little more attention. The duo who entertained in the ship's Lounge every night were average; he was talented on instruments, but she was at best an average vocalist.
Explorer Suite #341 on the Viking Tir:
The accommodations in the suite are very nice, spacious, clean. The personal "butler" was excellent; he was actually the head of the housekeeping staff.
Here's the horrible part. As soon as the ship pulled away from its mooring in Amsterdam the noise and vibrations started. We never noted unusual noise and vibrations in other areas of the ship. We had one sleepless night, then another. We walked around the suite trying to stop the vibrations and noises, e.g., stuffed a map in the pocket door to stop its wiggIing, separated glasses to avoid their tinkling noise, etc. I talked to the Hotel Manager about it, and invited her to experience our dilemma, which she did. I called down to the desk in the middle of the night requesting ear plugs (which they did not have at that time but they did go buy some for us the next day). I told the Hotel Manager that we could not continue with little sleep for the duration of the cruise or we'd not enjoy any excursions and become raving lunatics! She agreed and shortly thereafter offered us another room for "sleeping only"; it was Veranda Suite #320. It was a true inconvenience to traipse down the hallway in our jammies every night and then traipse back to room #341 every morning. But at least room 320 was peaceful and we got some sleep.
After we got home I did some research on ship vibrations. There is a lot written on this topic! But to be brief, if the water level is more shallow then a ship will vibrate more, especially the stern (which is where Explorer Suites are located). The vibrations might sync with the engine. And the vibrations cause everything in the suite to shake, even the walls and joints, which contribute to all the noises. I'm no engineering expert but I believe the shallow river contributed to our problem.
About 2 weeks later, Viking sent us an email regarding the issue. After some negotiating which was not too painful (not a lot of conflict), Viking issued us vouchers for future travel (ocean or river cruise) totally about $6900. We thought this was fair based on the difference between the costs of an Explorer Suite verses a Veranda Suite. A guest cannot expect a full refund since the guest did eat and drink and took excursions.
Although I'd go on another Viking river cruise I'd only have a room which was mid-ship, and be more aware of the river levels.