Sharing our Viking Grand European River Cruise experience, one that we will never repeat. Must say Viking does an excellent job marketing itself, however way under delivers. Buyer beware – don’t even think of sailing with Viking if you are younger than 70 (note to readers – I am a very active 59 year old).
We booked our 2 week bucket list river cruise close to 2 years ago, and at that time, Viking demanded full payment up front, while no other cruise line has ever asked for full payment till 3 months before the cruise. Viking proceeded to “nickel and dime” us regarding our air reservations, which we had booked thru them. Just to speak to a live person cost us $50. pp. We then said we wanted to go 2 days early, so to ensure we did not miss the cruise if we had flight issues. That added another $100 per person on to our tab. They then tried to steer us to their “partner” hotel in Amsterdam and wanted $1200. for the 2 nights, we said forget that – and booked a great hotel for a total of $218. for the two of us. Then the “icing on the cake” was since we booked the air thru Viking, they told us our flight back home was to leave at 5:30 am –meaning we had to get up at 2 am, for a close to hour trip to the airport and then get thru security etc. So, we said a big “No” to that option, and Viking socked us with another fee to change the air.
As part of the package we paid for, which we felt was ridiculously overpriced compared to ocean cruises, (we usually do 2 -3 ocean cruises on Celebrity annually and love them!), we were to have transportation from the airport to our hotel and then the hotel to the ship on embarkation day. Since we did not purchase their overpriced room for 2 nights at their partner hotel, Viking said, “you are on your own to get to your hotel and then to the ship”. They never offered a credit to our account, even though I asked for one, as we had paid for the service as part of our package. So, we were on our own to get to the hotel, which we managed, after we purchased the wrong train ticket, costing us $60. Upon leaving the hotel, we had to take several trains to get to the port. Once we arrived at the port, we were like a deer in headlights, as there were numerous Viking ships, and we had no idea where ours was located. So in pouring rain, we started walking, first one way, then another, as our luggage proceeded to get sopping wet.
To the room, now. So every morning our TV would not work, and we had to call reception and ask them to reboot the system. We were excited to see that the History channel was offered, until we found out that everything was in German, of which we speak all of 5 words. The beds luckily were long enough for both of us, but only contained a duvet on it – no sheets or blankets. So every night, you woke up at least 10 times to put the duvet back on that had slid off the bed.
There are no exercise facilities, nor a pool or Jacuzzi on any Viking ship as they feel guests get their needed exercise by walking the shore excursions. Well, their definition of “walking” and ours appears to be quite different. We would call it more of a “Mrs. Wiggins shuffle”, I could have run circles around many of the guests as they “walked” the routes. A number of the shore excursions offered a “Leisurely” or a more “Strenuous” walking route. However several guests chose the “Strenuous route” when they clearly should have been put into the “Leisurely” route. So many of our shore excursions enabled to see the sights at a ”snail’s pace”.
Now on to the food. We had been told that the food would be quite good with Viking, however once again we were let down. I will say that breakfast was quite nice and offered plentiful options, however for lunch, you had a very, very small sampling of entrees at the buffet compared to what you would have on an ocean cruise. (we never ate in the dining room for lunch). One day they had on the lunch menu, “Bavarian Meatloaf”. I was SO looking forward to this dish as I absolutely love my mother’s meatloaf and that was what I was envisioning. Needless to say, my dream was shattered when they served what all of us agreed appeared to be Spam with gravy over it.
Viking really promotes the never ending wine and beer served at both lunch and dinner. We were envisioning a number of varieties of nice European wine to sample throughout our 2 week cruise. Sadly, again, we were disappointed when we found out that only one red and one white wine were served at each meal, and appeared to be the same throughout the entire cruise, and quite disappointing. So much for sampling the lovely native wines.
Every evening before dinner, the guests would gather in the lounge to hear the port talk for the next day and extremely loud, live corny lounge music from 2 Hungarians, who dressed in different sparkly sequinned outfits each night, playing all of those good “oldies”, as no “rock” songs were part of their repertoire. As the majority of the guests were older, there was never more than 1 or 2 couples that would go to the lounge after dinner, so don't expect any "nightlife".
At the end of the two weeks, we were more than ready to head back home. However Viking made sure we would take a “memento” back home with us – getting sick. I can honestly say that about 90% of all of the guests were sick at some point during our cruise, so it was inevitable that we were going to get sick. I came down with the dreaded fast moving cold/cough the day we left the ship, which made flying quite painful.
The night before leaving the ship, we were told to place our luggage outside of our stateroom and it would be taken to our bus and then we would pick it up at the airport. We were hesitant to do this, but were “guaranteed” all would run smoothly. So panic set in when we got off the bus at the airport and waiting patiently for my husband’s luggage to appear. When the driver said that was all he had, with no signs of his luggage, and us needing to catch our flight, extreme panic set in. Communication chaos ensued as the Viking coordinator tried to locate his missing luggage. Eventually it was found back at the ship and was given to a cab driver to get it to the airport ASAP. So 30 min. later it shows up, and off we go running to our flight.
On the positive notes - as there was several, it was very cool going thru the 67 locks, some that were fascinating. The Program Director was excellent – Stephen was on our boat. We enjoyed most of the arranged shore excursions and the guides were all excellent, except for Hubert. Our ship stopped at some lovely little German and Austrian villages and we immensely enjoyed exploring Amsterdam and Vienna. The staff were very helpful and friendly, and our stateroom attendant was very accommodating. We are interested in going on some river cruises thru France, but will explore options with AMA or Uniworld, as we have heard wonderful things about those two lines.