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2,934 River Cruise Reviews

I will start with the good things we liked about the cruise. It was wonderful sitting on the deck with a glass of wine and very relaxing DURING THE DAY. The excursions were outstanding, especially Normandy and Giverny. That's about ... Read More
I will start with the good things we liked about the cruise. It was wonderful sitting on the deck with a glass of wine and very relaxing DURING THE DAY. The excursions were outstanding, especially Normandy and Giverny. That's about it. We felt the staff (bar and wait staff especially) were sometimes rude, ignored us, or did not listen to our needs. Sometimes they would try and make jokes but they were really inappropriate, I felt. The food was not up to my expectations. I had it in my mind that it would be better than what I got on a larger ocean cruise ship since it was smaller. Not so. It was only ok. Dinner was 2 hours long every night because they served 150 people at the same time and had only 8 waiters. We did not get our main coarse each night until 1 1/2 hours into the dinner. I think it should have been divided up into 2 groups. Also, there should have been a disclaimer in their brochure or website that the forward cabins below would hear loud noises from the thrusters as they went through the locks at night. No sleep the first night due to this. Security was also very lax. We felt that anyone could board the ship they way they did it. Also, on the last day, at dinner, they gave us these cheesy 50 cent key rings of the Eiffel Tower that you could find all over Paris. Not the greatest experience aboard the ship. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
While water levels on the Elbe River precluded sailing, it was Viking's unforgivable failure to notify its customers of the situation in a timely fashion that makes their reputation seem suspect if not undeserved. Many passengers ... Read More
While water levels on the Elbe River precluded sailing, it was Viking's unforgivable failure to notify its customers of the situation in a timely fashion that makes their reputation seem suspect if not undeserved. Many passengers received e-mails from Viking saying there were problems on the Elbe with only about 24 hours notice and in some cases only after they'd already arrived in Europe. Further it appeared that inaccurate or incomplete information was provided to the ship-board personnel who had to face irate customers asking about modified itineraries, etc. Initially no Viking representative could definitively answer whether passengers would sail at any point and it goes without saying that there was no one available to explain customer alternatives such as cancellation or postponement. Basically, you were "stuck". Viking's solution was to first motor coach passengers to one ship (Viking Astrild serving as a floating hotel) on which they were lodged for three days then to motor coach passenger farther down the river to another ship (Viking Beyla serving as floating hotel number two) for another three days. Tours to featured sites were done by bus using the ships as home base. At no time did any Viking customer sail on any Viking ship. The crews of both vessels were superlative and to be honest, the sites visited went a long way toward mitigating the inconvenience. But, WITH LITTLE OR NO PRIOR NOTICE, a bus tour was foisted on folks who had purchased and expected a river cruise. A negative feeling hung over the entire trip. Viking's gesture of good will was to offer one thousand dollar vouchers to be used against the cost of a future Viking cruise. I believe most people considered this as tantamount to an insult. While Viking's equipment and on board staffing continue to be exceptional, its administration and customer relations - which is distinctly unresponsive - are a dismal failure. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
***Flight to Berlin: July 1 and 2*** Promptly at 9:15 AM, SuperShuttle arrived to take us to LAX for our KLM flight to Berlin, by way of Amsterdam, scheduled to depart at 1:45 PM, giving us plenty of time for check in and security ... Read More
***Flight to Berlin: July 1 and 2*** Promptly at 9:15 AM, SuperShuttle arrived to take us to LAX for our KLM flight to Berlin, by way of Amsterdam, scheduled to depart at 1:45 PM, giving us plenty of time for check in and security check. As chance would have it, we were joined in the van by another couple from Fountain Valley, Paul & Cheryl Ann, who were not only on our flight but were also to be on our cruise, also taking the two day pre-cruise extension in Berlin as were we. Our flight was slightly delayed due to the KLM crew being involved in a minor auto accident on their way to the airport, but soon we were all loaded aboard the Boeing 747 in seats 52 A&B on our way to Amsterdam, a non-stop, over night flight of about 10 hours over Western United States, Canada, Greenland and the North Sea. Soon after departure we were offered drinks followed by a surprisingly delicious dinner. KLM’s cabin service is really excellent, in my opinion, and our flight was unexpectedly smooth, contrary to my fear of turbulence due to the severe weather in the Midwest of the country. In fact, I recall no turbulence at all. Right on schedule, our arrival in Amsterdam was around 9 AM (local time) giving us about 3 hours until our flight on to Berlin. As it turned out, we needed that extra time to go from our arrival gate G5, first to our departure gate C4 and then on to the changed departure gate D84. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is vast and walking from one end to the other was indeed a workout! Finally, our KLM flight on to Berlin departed at 12:30 PM aboard a Boeing 737 with us in the assigned seats 11 A&B I had requested online. Only an hour and a quarter flight, we soon landed at Berlin’s Tegel Airport, a relatively small airport whose new terminal is still under construction; the baggage claim area reminded me of the one at Orange County’s original airport. We collected our luggage and then were greeted by a Viking agent for transport to our hotel, the Steigenberger, located adjacent to the Hauptbanhof, Berlin’s main train station. On the way from the airport to the hotel, we were given a brief city tour, passing by the Charlottenburg Palace and the Tiergarten. Hotel check in went smoothly and Viking’s Cruise Director, Matthias, who would be with us during the entirety of our trip straight through to Prague, greeted us, giving us the itinerary for our pre-cruise extension of two days in Berlin. Included with the cruise was an additional day in Berlin, which gave us a total of three days to see as much as possible of this beautiful city of around 3.5 million. ***First Days in Berlin: July 2 and 3*** Needless to say, the first afternoon in the hotel was spent relaxing and sleeping in our beautiful room, a change in room requested by Jim – as usual – from the one originally assigned, which had a terrible view. From this room we had a view of part of the Hauptbanhof, a magnificent and new glass structure whose multi levels contains a mall with restaurants, shops and other stores of all kinds. We would be utilizing the Hauptbanhof’s many facilities a lot during our time in Berlin. In the early evening we got something to eat at an Italian outdoor restaurant in the plaza in front of the Hauptbanhof and the Hotel; my menu choice was Baked Lasagna. Viking provided an extensive city tour on the morning of our second day, July 3rd, starting at 9 AM and ending around midday. We saw the Reichstag with its new glass dome and the Brandenburg Gate along with many ultramodern government buildings of the now Germany capitol. Many sights of interest turn out to be in the formerly Eastern Sector of Berlin and much construction is still in evidence, bringing the many buildings back up to Western standards. We toured a remaining section of The Wall which had separated the East from the West, as well as driving by Checkpoint Charlie, a famous cold war crossing between the two Berlins; it is now a mere tourist attraction. We drove past the location, now a parking lot, of Hitler’s underground bunker where he committed suicide in April 1945. Also a drive through the immense and beautiful Tiergarten Park displayed lush forests, lakes, flowerbeds, bicycle paths, and stately monuments. It was a very thorough and interesting city tour indeed. The Steigenberger Hotel is located near a bend of the River Spree which runs through Berlin and many river tour boats can be seen cruising up and down, so we decided to take one of these river boat tours during the afternoon. We only had to walk a short distance to the dock where we boarded a riverboat for our 2-hour round trip cruise, and it turned out to be a most enjoyable experience. Passing by the Reichstag on the way we saw many other important sights including the Museum Island on which spectacular museums are located. As the weather was SO WARM, many people were lining the riverbanks enjoying the day. For dinner we decided on the Hopfingerbrau Restaurant in the Hauptbanhof where we found a nice table out on their patio. My choice was their Roast Pork Knee that was gigantic! It was like eating a small ham! Delicious with crispy skin, I succeeded in finishing most of it, along with a couple of glasses of wine. Then it was back to our beautiful hotel room at the Steigenberger. ***Third Day in Berlin: July 4th*** After another large and sumptuous breakfast at the Hotel – included, we prepared for a prearranged visit with Wendy and Jörg who live in Berlin. Wendy is the daughter of my dear friend (recently departed) Irmeli Desenberg, and we had been invited to lunch in their home. At 11 AM we were met in the lobby by them and then drove around for another short tour of the city. Jim had brought roses for Wendy that he had purchased at a flower shop in the Hauptbanhof. Their home is an apartment in a building across the street from a lovely park with a lake; they have substantially remodeled the large apartment and it was a pleasure to join them and catch up on conversation. Following a delicious lunch of grilled chicken breasts, potato and tomato salads, we walked over to the lake where we enjoyed ice cream and a drink at a local cafe. They returned us back to the Hotel around 3 PM. At 4 PM we caught the Hop On, Hop Off tour bus that stopped directly in front of our hotel for a final city tour. Still being quite warm, our seats on the top deck were chosen beneath a cover. Although repeating many sights we had already seen, this tour was still interesting and enjoyable, and the views were great. We have now seen as much of Berlin as is possible in the limited time here. Again we dined at the Hopfingerbrau Restaurant in the Hauptbanhof, but this time I chose grilled sausages and sour kraut, which were very good – along with a glass of wine, of course. Afterwards we took a local train to a Bohemian district with streets crowded with many sidewalk cafes; it was Saturday night - remember, and the warm weather brought out many revelers. ***Leaving Berlin: July 5th*** The rest of our river cruise group had arrived at the Steigenberger Hotel the evening before, and this morning we were requested to have our luggage in the hallway before breakfast in preparation for our departure by bus, first to Potsdam and then on to our riverboat, the Viking Beyla, at dock in Dessau on the Elbe River. Again we enjoyed our bountiful breakfast at the hotel, my usual choice being a large omelet, before boarding our bus. It had been a great visit to Berlin, albeit VERY WARM. The day before our departure from home, Viking had notified us by email that the low water level in the Elbe River would force changes in our itinerary, preventing our riverboat from cruising upstream. Disappointing as that was, Viking did everything possible to make up for the situation. More details on this later. ***Potsdam and Dessau: July 5th*** Our first stop was at the bridge marking the former border between East and West Germany, and we all got off the bus to walk across this historic bridge. Then we came into the city that boasts many luxurious, large homes. Our scheduled stop here was at the magnificent rococo Sanssouci Palace, a spectacular and expansive edifice surrounded by lavishly landscaped gardens, built by Frederick the Great. We were conducted through many rooms, resplendent in gold leaf fixtures, paintings, statues and chandeliers. Beautiful! Next we were brought to the location of the 1945 summit of Churchill, Stalin and Truman that was to decide the shape of post-war Europe, the Cecilienhof Palace in the outskirts of Potsdam. We were not permitted inside but only were able to tour the grounds and view the large window of the room in which the conference took place. Then it was on to our ship, the Viking Beyla, at dock in the city of Dessau where we arrived around 5 PM. This riverboat is one of a pair of new riverboats introduced by Viking just this year, especially designed to cruise the Elbe River. Along with her sister ship, the Viking Astrild, currently docked in Dresden, these riverboats have a very shallow draft required by the relatively shallow waters of the Elbe. Unfortunately, a recent drought has left the Elbe with even more shallow water levels, preventing the full transit into the Czech Republic. We were told that the Czech Republic was withholding release of much of the water flowing down into the Elbe as protection against its own water shortage. The Viking Beyla is absolutely beautiful! Carrying only 98 passengers, it has only two decks, in comparison with Viking’s new “Longships” which carry 200 passengers and have three decks. We cruised on one of these Longships last year from Budapest to Bucharest down the Danube River on the Viking Rinda. Our Veranda Stateroom 235 was the next to last on the starboard side of the ship. With everything brand new, our spacious stateroom boasted sliding glass doors out onto a private veranda, furnished with two chairs and a small table. Inside was a 42” flat screen TV offering a variety of satellite channels, including CNN and BBC, as well as a very modern bathroom with a sliding door, in which a large glass-enclosed shower held stylish fixtures. The two twin beds were luxuriously comfortable, equipped with duvets, and closet and storage space was quite ample. On the main deck are located Reception, the Lounge and Bar, and the outdoor Aquavit Terrace, in addition to Veranda Staterooms, French Balcony Staterooms, and two Veranda Suites. On the lower deck are located Standard Staterooms in addition to the Dining Room – sitting exactly 98 passengers. Crew quarters are also located on the lower deck. It is a very well designed and efficiently arranged ship. After a greeting by the crew including the ship’s captain, chef, hotel manager and the cruise director, Matthias, we were treated to a lovely dinner complete with complimentary wine. Dinner consists of an appetizer, soup or salad, entrée, and dessert. Then we set sail, departing the dock at Dessau for our one and only night of cruising as far as Wittenburg. ***Wittenburg: July 6th*** Breakfast aboard the Viking Beyla is a real pleasure, with the buffet of fresh fruit and juices, along with cheeses, hams, salmon, breads and pastries; of course there is a variety of hot meats available: bacon, sausages, and ham, in addition to sautéed mushrooms, scrambled or eggs cooked to order. My choice was always one of their delicious custom omelets with a little of everything in it: wonderful! There is also a lighter Continental breakfast available earlier in the Lounge where coffee, juices, fresh fruit, rolls and Danish are served. Even earlier, and always available, is coffee from a machine, including cappuccinos, along with juices and Danish pastries. With the low water level in the Elbe River preventing our cruising up river towards Prague, Viking had decided to leave the Viking Beyla docked in Wittenberg and use buses to carry out the daily tours scheduled for the first three days. Then we would be bused to Dresden where the sister ship Viking Astrild is similarly docked, busing us from there on the daily tours scheduled for the final four days. Since the two ships are identical, the “boat swap” would take place with each passenger on each ship moving from/to the same stateroom. A rather ingenuous solution, I thought. Our first daily tour departed at 9 AM to the city of Wittenberg, the home of Martin Luther, and we visited his home, the “Luther House”, his University of Wittenberg offices, in addition to the St. Marien Church in which he frequently preached. Also visited was the Castle Church where Luther had posted his “Ninety-Five Theses” thus beginning the Reformation throughout Germany. Our local guide was especially good; looking more like a football star, it turned out that he was a divinity student and his commentary was excellent. We then returned to our riverboat for lunch. As required by maritime law, we participated in a safety drill during the afternoon up on the Sun Deck, each of us sporting our life vests and receiving instruction from the crew. Later there was a shuttle bus available into the town center for additional sightseeing and shopping. On the way into town, we passed by a giant stork’s nest where a parent and two offspring were clearly visible. Big birds! Every evening at 6:45 PM we gather in the Lounge for a talk by Matthias, the Cruise Director, about what is planned for the next day and the details for our scheduled activities. Then it was off to the Dining Room at 7 PM for another enjoyable gastronomical feast. There is always a good variety of choices available, accompanied by complimentary wine, of course! ***Wittenberg & Torgau: July 7th*** This morning after our big breakfast of omelets, etc., our tour buses (3) departed the Viking Beyla at 8:30 AM, bound for the little town of Wörlitz in the vicinity of Dessau with its palace set in Wörlitz Park. Many famous personalities, including Goethe, visited this palace and its lovely English-style gardens. It was created by Leopold III in the second half of the 18th century and was the first park built on the European continent with garden landscaping in the British fashion. It comprises an array of landscaped elements arranged around a network of canals, watercourses and various lakes and islands. These landscapes, with impressive trees, meandering footpaths and numerous bridges, invite the visitor to discover architectural treasures such as the Gothic house, the Castle, temples and grottoes. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee added this to its World Heritage List in 2000, praising it as an exceptional and wide-ranging illustration of landscape design. After walking along the shores of the large lake, we were loaded into several big canoes that were paddled all around the lake by hand by a muscular German who, with the help of one of our group who spoke German, narrated our splendid trip, gliding along almost silently, viewing the floating water lilies and the many birds. It was a most enjoyable, relaxing experience to say the least! Then we had the opportunity of touring the interior of the Wörlitz palace before returning to our bus for the return ride back to the Viking Beyla for lunch. Each time we return by bus to our riverboat, there are crew members greeting us with a tray of small specialty drinks; smoothies, etc. On our first arrival to the Viking Beyla in Dessau, we were presented with cold towels to wipe our faces, which felt really good because of the high temperature that day. Very thoughtful! In addition to lunch served in the Dining Room, there is also a “light lunch” served upstairs in the Lounge: salads, sandwiches, fruit, etc. I personally never tried this out, preferring the comfort of the Dining Room. For our second tour of the day, in the afternoon we again boarded our buses for a trip to nearby Torgau, also famous in connection with Luther’s Reformation Movement as well as the location of Hartenfels Castle and St. Mary’s Church that holds the grave of Katharina, Martin Luther’s wife. Luther as well as Lucas Cranach and Johann Weber lived and worked in Torgau. The richly decorated Town Hall built in the 16th century forms one side of the large Market Square, and the nearby streets are lined with beautiful Renaissance-style buildings including the Church of St. Nicholas, dedicated to the patron saint of merchants. Torgau’s quadrangle-shaped Hartenfels Castle is the most important early Renaissance palace in Germany. Five brown bears are kept, in accordance with a centuries old tradition, in the castle moat. The chapel, located in the north wing and consecrated by Martin Luther in 1544, is considered to be the first purpose-built Protestant church. At the end of World War II, Torgau was the place where Russian and American soldiers met on the Elbe Bridge on April 25, 1945. This is commemorated by Encounter Monument on the riverbank. Then it was time to return by bus to our riverboat to prepare for the special “A Taste of Germany” dinner, preceded of course by Matthias’ Daily Briefing at 6:35 PM, very important since tomorrow would be the day of our “boat swap.” Our luggage would be collected outside our staterooms before breakfast for transit by truck to the Viking Astrild in Dresden. Our tour to Meissen would proceed normally except our return would be to the riverboat in Dresden. The special dinner was very good with all kinds of German dishes available, and two local German musicians playing an accordion and violin entertained us. German beer, of course, was served along with giant pretzels and mustard. My choice was roast pork with sauerkraut. Then it was time to pack up for our move. ***Meissen: July 8th*** At 9 AM our buses departed the Viking Beyla for the last time, headed first for the city of Meissen and then on to our second riverboat home, the Viking Astrild in Dresden. As our buses pulled away from the Viking Beyla, we were waved goodbyes from the entire crew who lined the top of the Sun Deck. Very touching. The drive to Meissen took over two hours and we made an intermediate “potty stop” along the way. Our arrival at the Meissen Porcelain Factory was just in time for our scheduled 11:45 AM lunch in a special dining room inside the factory. Unlike our previous lunches on tour, this one was included and hosted by Viking. Accompanied by wine, it was a very nice lunch of a grilled chicken breast with vegetables, proceeded with a tossed salad and followed by an ice cream dessert. After lunch we were escorted through a series of rooms in which demonstrations were presented concerning the different phases of porcelain production: clay modeling, attaching pieces of pottery and finally the painting, all very skillfully done and presented by the Factory’s professionals. Then we were given opportunity to view the many choice finished pieces of spectacular porcelain; dishes, statues, etc. Opportunity was also given for purchasing pieces at substantial prices, as you might assume. I resisted the temptation. We then were given a city tour of Meissen, visiting Castle Hill with a walking tour through Old Town. The 15th-century castle of Albrechtsburg sits high above Old Meissen, towering over the Elbe. It is the first truly residential fortress in Germany. The late-Gothic Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) has a spectacular 175-foot-high tower that looms over the old marketplace. In 1929, the church became the first of its kind to have a set of 37 playable porcelain bells that can be heard six times a day. The Market Square breathes a medieval atmosphere being surrounded by well-preserved Renaissance and neo-Renaissance houses, the Gothic Frauenkirche church and the late-Gothic Town Hall. A truly remarkable city. Now it was time to re-board our buses for the continuation of our trip to Dresden and the Viking Astrild. Arriving in Dresden and after a short city tour, we found our riverboat at dock near the city center, and disembarked our buses to board the Viking Astrild, our home for the final 4 days of our “river cruise”. The entire ship’s crew was all lined up on the Sun Deck to greet us, along with cold towels and special drinks. It was a relief to return to our same stateroom where we found our luggage and a chance to unpack – again, and rest and relax a while before dinner preceded by our daily briefing by Matthias. ***Dresden: July 9th*** After a restful night in our Veranda Stateroom 235 – identical to the one we had on the Viking Beyla, and a delicious, big breakfast of an omelet with crisp bacon, coffee and juices, we were then ready for our scheduled City Tour at 9 AM. Since our riverboat was docked nearby the city center, very soon we were let off the bus at the vast courtyard for the Zwinger Palace, one of the most ravishing buildings in the country. Originally used as a pleasure palace for the royals, the rococo Zwinger has an enormous and lavish courtyard, filled with fountains and, looking out from the rooftops, dozens of baroque sculptures, including one of Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders. There is a collection of 40 Meissen porcelain bells, which gently ring out every 15 minutes. The interiors are no less fanciful. Among its collections in the Old Masters Picture Gallery are works by Raphael, Giorgione and Titian; Rembrandt and his followers; Vermeer, Ruysdael, and the Flemish artists Rubens, Jordaens and van Dyck. Nearby is the Dresden Residential Castle, also a sprawling complex of buildings, in which is located - most notably, the “Green Vault” containing a comprehensive collection of the Saxony monarchs’ crown jewels, the largest such collection in Europe. Founded by Augustus the Strong in 1723, it features a rich variety of exhibits from the Baroque to Classicism. It is named after the formerly malachite green painted column bases and capitals of the initial rooms. It has some claim to be the oldest museum in the world. Back on the bus we then drove past the famous Volkswagen Glass Factory, made almost entirely of glass, where the final assembly of Volkswagen’s exclusive range of luxurious Phaeton sedans takes place. At the heart of the new production line is a “slat belt” that carries the vehicles, accompanied by all their necessary components, to be assembled. Smart little driver-less buggies then move silently around collecting components and putting them in the right place. Another very clever example of German engineering at its best. As you might expect, Phaeton customers are encouraged to come to Dresden to see their car being built and receive VIP treatment when they collect their finished product. What a great way to buy a car! Our bus also passed by the Semper Opera House that we would tour separately in the afternoon, an optional tour for which we paid 10 Euros. Another optional tour was to the Volkswagen Glass Factory, but we chose the former. Then it was back to the riverboat for our lunch. At 2:30 PM we embarked on our hour-long tour of the Semper Opera House, using one of the buses for transport. Built by the architect Gottfried Semper in 1841, this opera house has been the location of many operatic premieres, including major works by Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss. Being a very popular tourist attraction, we lined up outside the entrance, waiting for our group’s assigned time. When finally admitted, we were shown through various rooms, eventually coming to the main auditorium. Seated in a couple of rows in the rear of the theater, we struggled to hear our guide’s commentary over that of the several other tour groups, also located in the theater. As a climax to our visit, the giant screen shielding the stage was lifted, revealing the backstage and its equipment. Since there would be a performance that evening at 8:00 PM, we were quickly escorted out and our tour was over. We then walked around on our own, finding a sidewalk café for a glass of wine for me while Jim roamed around taking photos. When Jim returned he told me that he had encountered some of our group at another sidewalk café, so we joined them for yet another glass. Our welcome to Dresden was complete. Returning to the ship by foot, it seemed a longer distance than I had thought, but soon we were back aboard and it was almost time for dinner, preceded by Matthias’ briefing, of course. After dinner at 9 PM there was live entertainment in the Lounge, the Allegria Concept, performing musical compositions that once entertained royalty in the Saxonian Court, but my bed won out instead. ***Dresden and Königstein: July 10th*** Following our usual substantial breakfast of omelets, crisp bacon, coffee, and juices, we again loaded aboard our buses to travel to the day’s sight of interest, the Königstein Fortress, the “King’s Stone.” One of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe, the “Saxon Bastille” shields itself behind walls over 130 feet high, and three consecutive drawbridges stand before the gatehouse. The 23-acre fortress, which has never been attacked, overlooks the town of Königstein and the Elbe River at an altitude of 800 feet. It is composed of more than 50 buildings and landmarks. Today you only have to take the Fortress Express elevator to discover the history of Königstein – from the time it was declared a border fort of the Bohemian kingdom in 1241, to 1955 when the open-air military history museum began. One can walk the paths of soldiers along the rampart during war times; take in the Treasury House that stored the Saxon State reserves, and gain insights into the festivals and banquets of Saxon royalty from such artifacts as the gigantic 18th-century wine cask of Augustus the Strong, rebuilt of glass and steel. There are less familiar periods of history to explore too, such as when it was the most feared prison of the state of Saxony, housing Johann Friedrich Böttger, the co-inventor of European china. Or during both World Wars when it served as a prisoner of war camp, first for French and Russian officers, then for British, French, Polish and other Allied officers. Walking around among the different buildings was most interesting; there was a pavilion at the cliff’s edge from which one could look down on the Elbe River, winding along, far below. We should have cruised along that stretch of river! Also available among the buildings was a pub that I found from which I partook a large beer. A small church was also of interest. Overall, it was a very enjoyable place to visit and spend some time. As usual, our bus returned us to our ship for a late lunch at 1 PM. During the afternoon, Jim and I decided to take the local Hop On, Hop Off tour bus which departed from a location not too far from our ship. In addition to viewing many things already seen, the bus also crossed the river and passed through neighborhoods and small business districts. Again we passed Volkswagen’s Glass Factory as well as the Semper Opera House, but this time the views from the bus were much better than before. Unfortunately, the two hours spent on the Hop On, Hop Off bus got us back to the ship too late for us to join the Viking Explorer Society Cocktail Party, scheduled at 5:45 PM. Too bad. Missed some free champagne. Matthias’ briefing was at 6:45 PM and he mentioned the evening’s Music Quiz following dinner, which caught the interest of myself as well as Joan and Lisa, two friends we had made from Florida. Thus, after dinner at 9 PM in the Lounge, Joan, Lisa and I formed our team for the Music Quiz. By some strange freak of luck, our team came out the winner! Our prize was a bottle of the ship’s champagne, wrapped with a group photo of the entire ship’s crew. We surprised a lot of the other passengers participating. Good! ***Dresden and Bastei Rock Formation: July 11th*** Near the German and Czech border is an area referred to as “Saxon Switzerland”, now a National Park and designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, and is characterized by numerous freestanding rock columns, a favorite of local rock climbers. The most spectacular of these is the Bastei Rock Formation reaching a height of 305 meters above sea level; the jagged rocks of the Bastei were formed by water erosion over one million years ago. The Bastei has been a tourist attraction for over 200 years. In 1824, a wooden bridge was constructed to link several rocks for the visitors. This bridge was replaced in 1851 by the present Bastei Bridge made of sandstone. Our tour bus had to park in a designated area requiring a moderate walk down a road in the forest before reaching the Bastei, and entering the complex of rocks was an experience not to be forgotten. With views of the Elbe River winding along, far below, the path out to the Bastei Bridge showed its age with the sandstone banisters alongside. The path is rather extensive requiring many stairs and metal bridges in addition to the famed sandstone bridge. The views in all directions were outstanding. Rock climbers on neighboring rock columns could be seen; NOT a sport for me! It was with reluctance that we had to depart this most spectacular location and re-board our bus for return to Dresden and our ship, just in time for lunch at 1 PM. The afternoon tour from 2:30 until 5 PM was to the Moritzburg Castle, a Baroque palace in Moritzburg, in the German state of Saxony, about 13 kilometers (8.1 mi) northwest of the Saxon capital, Dresden. The castle has four round towers and lies on a symmetrical artificial island. It is named after Duke Moritz of Saxony, who had a hunting lodge built there between 1542 and 1546. The surrounding woodlands and lakes have been a favorite hunting area of the electors and kings of Saxony. The interior of the castle is furnished with examples of opulent baroque decor from the time of Augustus the Strong. The walls are covered in 17th century gold-gilded leather. Many rooms' furnishings are dedicated to courtly hunting. The collection of red deer antlers is one of the most important of its kind. The castle's largest collection of antlers is shown in the Speisesaal ("dining room"). Most of its 71 trophies are between 270 and 400 years old; they were purchased or acquired as presents. Among them is the heaviest red deer antler in the world, weighing 19.8 kilograms (44 lb) and spanning almost 2 meters (6.6 ft). However, both Jim and I had become weary of yet another castle and decided to pass on the above tour, choosing instead to remain on the ship (me) and start my packing for the next day’s departure, and Jim returning to the city center for yet more photographs. At 5:30 PM Matthias gave his usual daily briefing including details for disembarkation tomorrow morning. Luggage would need to be placed in the hallway by 7 AM with our names on attached colored tags. Since there would be a choice of tours, one to Litomerice with the brewery tour (red tag), and one to the Terezin concentration camp (green tag), our luggage would be loaded on the appropriate bus for transit and delivery to our Prague hotel. Our choice was the later, to Terezin in the Czech Republic. Preceding our Farewell Dinner at 7 PM was the Captain’s Cocktail Party at 6:15 PM with free drinks, toasting a farewell to the Captain and his crew of the Viking Astrild. This was our only “dress up” occasion and my blazer and tie finally saw use. Dinner was extra special, as I remember, with a sense of sadness for the conclusion of our “cruise” experience. During the previous week our small group of 83 had become quite friendly and bonded. Although many of us would be taking advantage of the 2-day Prague extension, many others would be returning home the next morning after arriving in Prague. ***Terezin and Prague: July 12th*** Enjoying one last huge breakfast of an omelet, crisp bacon, sautéed mushrooms, coffee and juices (grapefruit and orange), and having first placed our luggage in the hallway, it was now time to depart the Viking Astrild one last time. Envelopes with tips for the crew had been prepared (12 Euro per day is suggested); our tip for Matthias would be given in Prague. Promptly at 8 AM the buses were all loaded and ready for departure, first to either Litomerice or Terezin, and then on to Prague. We were each supplied with a box lunch to enjoy along the way. As our buses pulled away from the dock, the entire crew of the Viking Astrild stood on the Sun Deck, waving goodbye to all of us. They had done a wonderful job caring for us during these past 4 days, as had the crew of the Viking Beyla during the first 3 days. Our trip from Dresden toward Prague began on a modern motorway that very soon crossed the Czech border. After a while we departed the motorway onto a lesser highway, headed to the town of Terezin. Theresienstadt concentration camp, also referred to as Theresienstadt Ghetto, was established by the SS during World War II in the fortress and garrison city of Terezín (German name Theresienstadt), located in what is now the Czech Republic. During World War II it served as a Nazi concentration camp staffed by German Nazi guards. Tens of thousands of people died there, some killed outright and others dying from malnutrition and disease. More than 150,000 other persons (including tens of thousands of children) were held there for months or years, before being sent by rail transports to their deaths at Treblinka and Auschwitz extermination camps in occupied Poland, as well as to smaller camps elsewhere. We first drove around the town of Terezin passing many buildings once used as apartment buildings for the sequestered “enemies of the state” before eventually arriving at the camp itself. Approaching the gate we passed by a large cemetery with many, many flowered gravestones, and a large Star of David sign prominently displayed at the end. Inside the outer gate, we continued passing through gate after gate, until we came upon a large courtyard of sorts. From there we were guided through several rooms in which prisoners had been interred, observing the wooden multi-layer “beds”. Heating was critical and was almost nonexistent for the prisoners, and food was meager and scarce. Many died of malnutrition and exposure. At the end of our tour we were shown an edited movie produced by the Nazis attempting to white wash their activities in this camp, showing the prisoners smiling and happy, playing and enjoying other sporting activities. The ultimate propaganda piece. Edited into this movie were excerpts showing the reality of the situation. Very humbling experience to watch. We then departed this horrible place and proceeded on towards Prague, the “City of a Hundred Spires”, arriving there around midday. Our first stop was at our hotel, the Hilton Prague, where our luggage was all taken off the buses to be sorted and sent to our assigned rooms. After a bathroom break, we loaded back on the buses to begin our city tour. Situated on both sides of the River Vltava, we stopped at a bridge where our bus let us off, and we began our walking tour into the Old Town and the Jewish Quarter. We passed the old synagogue as well as the Jewish Cemetery where graves are layered 12 deep due to space constraints. Then we came upon the huge square with the Astronomical Clock Tower, and were given free time for lunch. We chose a sidewalk restaurant recommended by our guide, where I sat at a table with my glass of wine while Jim roamed around taking photos. When he returned we got something to eat before it was time to meet our group and return to our bus. Those choosing to do so remained on the bus for a further tour of Castle Hill, but many of us departed the bus at the Hotel, our rooms now ready for occupancy. Of course, our assigned room on the first floor did not suit Jim who immediately requested a change of room to a higher floor, which was done. Our view is now into the open atrium of this square-shaped, multi-storied hotel, from room 4086. Being exhausted from the day’s many activities, I crashed on my bed and fell into a deep sleep, hardly awakening when Jim returned with a sandwich for me. Prague would have to wait until tomorrow for me. ***First Full Day in Prague: July 13th*** As usual, a buffet breakfast is provided by the Hotel, so again I was able to feast on yet another custom omelet served along with bacon and fresh fruit, and with coffee of course. We encountered several from our group also enjoying breakfast at the Café in the Hilton’s atrium. Participation for breakfast is closely monitored by the maître d' who checks your name and room number against a list. Several other groups, in addition to the Viking groups, were also at the Hotel. Our main tour of the day is to the Lobkowicz Palace, a part of the Prague Castle complex, our departure time being at 12:15 PM. This 16th-century palace houses a private museum that includes priceless paintings, furniture and musical memorabilia. You tour with an audio guide dictated by owner William Lobkowicz and his family – this personal connection really brings the displays to life, and makes the palace one of the castle’s most interesting attractions. Built in the 16th century, the palace has been home to the aristocratic Lobkowicz family for around 400 years. Confiscated by the Nazis in WWII, and again by the communists in 1948, the palace was finally returned in 2002 to William Lobkowicz, an American property developer and grandson of Maximilian, the 10th Prince Lobkowicz, who fled to the USA in 1939. Highlights of the museum include paintings by Cranach, Breughel the Elder, Canaletto and Piranesi, original musical scores annotated by Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn (the 7th prince was a great patron of music – Beethoven dedicated three symphonies to him), and an impressive collection of musical instruments. But it’s the personal touches that make an impression, like the 16th-century portrait of a Lobkowicz ancestor wearing a ring that William’s mother still wears today, and an old photo album with a picture of a favorite family dog smoking a pipe. The palace has an excellent cafe, and stages concerts of classical music at 1 PM each day. As it turned out, Jim and I were the only ones from our group signed up for this tour and we were delivered by bus to the Prague Castle entrance where we joined another Viking group from another hotel, coincidentally with the same guide that we had had the previous day on our trip from Dresden and Terezin to Prague. Walking into the Prague Castle complex, our first stop was at the St. Vitus Cathedral, an absolutely magnificent Neo-Gothic edifice, dating back to 1344 with renovations completed in 1929. The inside is massive with soaring Gothic vaulted ceilings. A most impressive place! Then it was on to the Lobkowicz Palace entrance where we were immediately guided into a private dining room, already set up for our luncheon. Including wine, the lunch was really quite good, with a mixed green salad preceding a delicious Czech goulash, followed by a tasty cheesecake with wild berry sauce for dessert. No day at Prague Castle is complete without attending a classical music concert performed in the beautifully decorated 17th-century baroque concert hall of The Lobkowicz Palace. Our concert was presented with performances on piano, violin, and cello. The program presents works by the great baroque composers, Bach and Vivaldi, the champions of the classical style, Mozart and Beethoven, and the great 19th-century Czech composers, Dvořák and Smetana. It was truly an experience to remember. Equipped with the supplied audio guide, we then toured through the different galleries of collections, all exquisitely displayed. I was most impressed with the hand-edited copies of Beethoven’s 4th and 5th symphonies as well as Mozart’s re-orchestration of Handel’s Messiah – all originals! A visit was made to a balcony, from which the view out over Prague was breath taking. Then it was time to depart, and our group was ushered out and down a long walkway a considerable distance to a street below in the “Little Quarter”, where our bus was waiting to return us to our respective hotels, the Hilton and the Marriott. Later than evening, there were 6 of us – myself and Jim, along with Joan and Lisa in addition to Yvonne and her daughter Lisa – who hired taxis to take us to one of the Viking-recommended restaurants where we enjoyed authentic Czech cuisine in the downstairs dining room. I again chose the Roast Pig Knee that I had enjoyed in Berlin, but this one either wasn’t cooked as well, or my knife was too dull, and I had great difficulty managing it. It was a lot of fun in any case, a farewell get-together since Joan & Lisa would be leaving for home the following morning. Our return to the hotel by taxi turned out to be MUCH cheaper than had our trip TO the restaurant; Hilton’s taxis were greatly overpriced. ***Second Day in Prague: July 14th*** We all met for our final breakfast together, me again enjoying an omelet with juices and pastries. The wait staff here was almost overbearing, lurking to the side to remove dirty dishes as soon as possible. One had to wonder if their service was all that well intended. Afterwards we said our goodbyes to Joan and Lisa who would be leaving at 9 AM for the airport. Jim had purchased roses the previous day and delivered one each to Yvonne and daughter Lisa. Then we went down to the Lower Lobby to bid adieu to Joan and Lisa, and Jim presented them each with a rose just before their boarding the van. A nice touch. Having investigated the availability of the local Hop On, Hop Off buses (vans), we decided to take the Red Line that came near the Hilton as far as the Old Town Square, and then switch to the Green Line. The ticket also included a riverboat tour as well. Reaching the Square around lunchtime, we decided to go back to the sidewalk restaurant we had chosen the previous day for lunch. Again, I relaxed with a glass of wine while Jim roamed around for photos; he sought out the Charles Bridge, which was rather nearby. While waiting I fell into conversation with a Canadian couple at the next table that were traveling independently. She was Czech by birth and owned a house in the outskirts of Prague. She would be staying for a month or so, and he only for a week. They were from Toronto. Ready to return to our City Tour Van, the Green Line, we found a stop but had to wait out several vans for space. We finally got on one and proceeded towards the River to catch our riverboat cruise, which also turned out to be quite fully loaded. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable and scenic tour on the River, passing beneath the Charles Bridge before changing directions back upstream towards where we had boarded. Off the riverboat, it was then another challenge to find a Green Line van with space; we again had to wait for the second one to come by, but when it finally came, it was going out of service, so we just took a taxi back to the Hilton. So, not the best experience with our Hop On, Hop Off vans in Prague. Later that evening we walked a short distance from the Hotel, through a shopping mall, to a side street where we found another of the Viking-recommended restaurants, this one quite small, call DVur. It looked interesting and we decided to give it a try, which turned out to be a good choice. Inside we chose the rear-most table for two, as far away as possible from a large table, set up for 12; our choice was wise. It seemed that the one waiter was working all by himself, in addition to his mother who was cooking. The service didn’t suffer, however, and our meal was quite good; my choice of Goulash was excellent, along with a couple of glasses of wine. ***Final Day in Prague: July 15th*** Our departure from the Hotel to the airport for our 6:20 AM flight was at 3:30 AM, with our luggage to be placed outside in the hallway by 3 AM, so it was a short night – a VERY short night! Fortunately our packing the night before hadn’t taken that much time or effort and I even got a few hours of sleep before our wake-up call came at 2:30 AM. Then it was downstairs to the Lower Lobby to catch our van to the airport, along with another couple from our ship. We were given “breakfast boxes” in lieu of our usual breakfast buffet, a poor substitute to say the least! Arrival at Prague’s airport presented a large, very modern terminal, reminiscent of a big aircraft hanger. The Viking agent with us helped use a kiosk to print our boarding passes. Check in went routinely, as did the required security check, and soon we were on our way to the gate area for our short flight back to Amsterdam on one of KLM’s Embraer 190 aircraft with 2-2 seating. At the suggestion of the KLM agent, we also checked our carry-on luggage through to LAX – for no additional charge! I thought there was a surprisingly large crowd of people for such an early hour, but it may have been because of so many early morning flights. Finding our gate C4, we had only a short time until boarding began at 5:50 AM, and soon we were seated in seats 14 A&C, seats I had previously selected online. The hour and a half flight went smoothly; midway we were given a hot breakfast of an omelet, delicious but not quite that with which I had become accustomed. Our arrival at 7:50 AM in Amsterdam gave us 2 hours in which to find our departure gate E17 for the Los Angeles flight; this time there were no surprise last minute gate changes! Contrary to their usual boarding practice of loading by row numbers, KLM chose to load ALL passengers at once, and there was the expected crowding and shoving to board. Fortunately, we soon found our assigned seats, 41 A&B, the ones I had selected online, and – without any carry-on luggage to worry about, we were soon on our way aboard KLM’s Boeing 747 at 9:05 AM, next stop Los Angeles. Our early morning rising soon took its toll and sleep came easily; I even slept through the first drink offer! Soon a full meal was served and again I thought the food was quite good, especially with yet another glass of wine. Dozing on and off through the flight, the 10 hours seem to pass relatively quickly. At midway in the flight we were given a snack of a small pizza that was very good! Of course, the entertainment center on the seat backs was of great help, as well as my Smarter Image earphones that block out most of the background noise and replace it with soothing classical music. The aircraft statistics – world position, speed, altitude, etc. – occupied the majority of my time, although I did watch a very good movie, “The Golden Lady.” At one point during the flight we were also served ice cream, a first for me. It tasted really good! Then about an hour before landing we were served a delicious, hot breakfast; no more wine for Ron! 4 little bottles were quite enough! Throughout the flight we had nothing but smooth air, again a surprise from past trans Atlantic flight experiences, and our arrival at LAX was near on schedule at 11:45 AM. The landing was rather hard, I thought, but soon we were at Bradley Terminal, waiting to disembark. The new Bradley Terminal is quite beautiful but is also quite LARGE! The LONG walk from our arrival gate to customs check takes a lot of time and energy. New for me was the self-service customs check kiosks into which you enter your passport information, have your photo taken, and then take away the printed report. Luggage collection was as soon as might be expected and once all 4 pieces of our luggage had been retrieved, we then proceeded towards the exit, giving our customs sheet to the official. Outside the terminal, we already knew where to go to catch our SuperShuttle van for our trip home, and it wasn’t that long until we were on our way back to Orange County and home, arriving here around 3 PM. So there it is, another exciting and interesting trip completed. One lingering thought I have is of all of the special things we saw and did in what was formerly Eastern Germany, and in what excellent condition we found places that were so heavily damaged in World War II. To now be able to view and experience these sights was a great privilege. Sure, it has been 70 years since the War’s end but the renovations have been substantial. It was great to view all that we did and to do the many things we did. A good trip, despite the low water in the Elbe! ~Ron Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
This was by far the highlight of our month in Europe. We have never done a river cruise before, but we will certainly be traveling with Viking again! From the moment we stepped on board to the time we left the cruise in Basel, we were ... Read More
This was by far the highlight of our month in Europe. We have never done a river cruise before, but we will certainly be traveling with Viking again! From the moment we stepped on board to the time we left the cruise in Basel, we were treated with respect, courtesy and friendly crew. Everyone was amazing and went out of their way to ensure all guests had a fabulous time. The shore tours were very well organized and executed. The guides were local to the area and passionate about their cities. We travelled in the midst of the heatwave and our comfort was taken into account every step of the way. We were in the 'cheap seats' as far as our accommodation was concerned, but we had no issues with engine noise or feeling cramped. The rooms were lovely and our steward was amazing! We ate in the restaurant most nights and became very friendly with a lovely couple from Mobile, Alabama. In fact, we still email each other weekly. The food was second to none, thanks to the amazing culinary skills of Mark Anthony. Our waiters, in particular Kyle, Branislav and Jerome were very attentive and super friendly. Nothing was too much trouble. If they could possibly cater to your requests, they would do so in a heartbeat. The entire trip was so well organized and the crew were incredible. I highly recommend the Viking Hlin to everyone!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
My mother, who is 91, and I travelled on the Viking Beyla this summer in late June. It was a wonderful experience, a first cruise for both of us. My mother really enjoyed meeting the other travellers and was able to keep up with all the ... Read More
My mother, who is 91, and I travelled on the Viking Beyla this summer in late June. It was a wonderful experience, a first cruise for both of us. My mother really enjoyed meeting the other travellers and was able to keep up with all the action and participate in the outings. The staff was very helpful and in particular, our wonderful Kiwi excursion planner made sure mum was comfortable and a part of the action! The ship is very new and well laid out and the facilities are great, as were the entertainment and educational talks. It was a good thing that the cruise involved a lot of walking, as we needed to exercise to justify the lovely meals and tasty desserts! Although due to low river levels, we had to start our cruise further up river, the experience of visiting the lovely towns and villages along the river as well as the beautiful bucolic landscape was fabulous. I'm sure my mother is ready to go on another cruise! Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
Our cruise was wonderful and we will never take a cruise on a large cruise ship again. We like the smaller ship because we got to know the staff and the people who were taking the cruise. Our tours were very interesting, and enlightening ... Read More
Our cruise was wonderful and we will never take a cruise on a large cruise ship again. We like the smaller ship because we got to know the staff and the people who were taking the cruise. Our tours were very interesting, and enlightening because our tour guides were so knowledgeable. The crew was so wonderful and attentive. Our cruise director was so knowledgeable and funny at the same time. When we returned at the end of our tour we were always greeted with a little treat and they welcomed us back. It was like a little family. Also it was so easy to get off the boat and back on, unlike the larges ships. Our room was delightful and we enjoyed the view of the shore as we cruised the Seine. We enjoyed the games that we played (French history), our bus tour was wonderful. We will always use Viking for our tours. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
Our first river cruise after being on many luxury ocean cruises was a bit of a disappointment. This cruise was advertised as an all inclusive luxury cruise. Unfortunately it started badly. We had stayed one night before the start of the ... Read More
Our first river cruise after being on many luxury ocean cruises was a bit of a disappointment. This cruise was advertised as an all inclusive luxury cruise. Unfortunately it started badly. We had stayed one night before the start of the cruise at the Scenic sponsored hotel in Nice, and were given a bottom room. The day of the cruise we were supposed to be picked up at our hotel for transfer to Tarascan to join the cruise. The car never showed and we were not contacted by any local agent of the cruise line. I had to call an emergency number in Switzerland and was told that a car would be there in five minutes. They called back to tell us to take a cab to the Nice airport to join a bus carrying other passengers to the cruise. Not only were we inconvenienced but the entire busload of passengers was kept waiting at the airport for our arrival. The ship accommodations proved better than I might expect for such a small ship. The dining room was unfortunately poorly air conditioned and uncomfortable for dining. It appeared that the ship had no engineer aboard to fix the problem so this persisted for the entire cruise. I was also put off by the poor response of the company to our problems and their complete failure to respond to our last e-mail. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
We have recently returned from the Jewels of Russia River Cruise starting in Moscow and finishing in St Petersburg which has been great. We were met at the Airport and taken by Coach to the Ship Tsar where we were welcomed on board. The ... Read More
We have recently returned from the Jewels of Russia River Cruise starting in Moscow and finishing in St Petersburg which has been great. We were met at the Airport and taken by Coach to the Ship Tsar where we were welcomed on board. The ship itself is quite comfortable. (Not a space-ship), and, BALCONY CABIN adequate. Meals and service on board were of excellent standard, with drinks served for Lunch and Dinner. The staff were all very warming, friendly and dedicated, which helped create a relaxing atmosphere. Excursions, Concerts, Circus, Ballet, Cathedrals, Museums, Metro Subways etc. were all Highlights, and, very well organised throughout the cruise, with free time given. Once sailing, each village being Uglich, Yaroslavl, Goritsy, Kizhi Is, and Mandrogi all have their own stories which are all interesting. Back on board it was time to relax and reminisce with fellow passengers, and staff. There were many fun activities for all. Vodka Tasting Session, Traditional Russian Doll making, Russian Language and Songs, Martryoshka painting class, and, Ice-Cream Parties to name a few over the 14 days. Each evening there was Live Music and Dancing with Surprise Entertainment the last night before arriving in St Petersburg, which was exceptional. To say what has been most enjoyed, would be difficult as the whole cruise was of high standard. Thanks to all involved for such wonderful memories to treasure. We continued on with Scenic to do the Baltic States Land Tour which has also been enjoyed by John (my husband) and myself. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
We had two nights in a hotel in Budapest before going to the ship which was very good although the hotel was very busy especially at breakfast. The Viking staff was very helpful at the hotel. This was our fifth Viking River Cruise and ... Read More
We had two nights in a hotel in Budapest before going to the ship which was very good although the hotel was very busy especially at breakfast. The Viking staff was very helpful at the hotel. This was our fifth Viking River Cruise and one of the best. The crew were extremely friendly, like a big happy family. The cabin was comfortable and very clean, our steward was always very polite. The dining room crew were excellent and nothing was too much trouble. My husband is lactose intolerant and there was always milk available for him. Something we have trouble to get on other holidays and hotels. We were even given milk to have in our cabin to sue when making hot drinks from the landing. The cookies were great too!! The cruise Director was informative and helpful. Some of the trips were a bit rushed especially in Vienna and the evening entertainment was nothing special on board. We have enjoyed all our Viking River Cruises but thought this one was the best. It was such a happy ship and the crew provided an excellent service. We have already booked to go on the Douro next year. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
My wife and I plus another couple planned and booked this trip 18 months in advance. We booked our own flights and transfers as we are very familiar with doing it and it is much cheaper to do so (about half). We stayed in Prague an ... Read More
My wife and I plus another couple planned and booked this trip 18 months in advance. We booked our own flights and transfers as we are very familiar with doing it and it is much cheaper to do so (about half). We stayed in Prague an additional 2 nights and booked that ourselves as well. We were able to get he same hotel and keep our room all 4 nights. We loved Prague, it is an amazing city. Paris, not so much. We found Prague and Germany to be fairly priced, but Luxembourg and France were ridiculously expensive. Several reviewers complained about the buses and time on buses and I agree, there was a lot of bus transportation to and from excursions. BUT, it was handled well and Viking did a great job getting us where we needed to be on-time. We felt that most of the time we had enough time to see what we wanted to see. A few things many reviewers complained about was not enough time to tour on your own. Maybe they were not aware you can opt out of the tours if you are not interested. We did this several times so that we could do our own things instead. The tour guides were local and knew the area, the history and did a fantastic job detailing the area to us. The Voice Boxes were GREAT and an excellent way to take walking tours. Now for the ship "Idun". Frankly, I was amazed. I was 100% impressed with the stateroom, the staff, the food and the ship in general. The food was very good and abundant. The staff was 2nd to none. The rooms were clean and well maintained. My ONLY complain was the wireless internet did not work well at all. We were in the rear of the ship and the signal was almost nonexistent. In the lounge areas it worked well. The ONLY complaint I have in general is the long trip to Paris. I would have preferred to skip Paris and spend more two more nights on the ship. Lastly, I would have expected to receive the same level of accommodations while on land as we did in the on ship room we had. For example - In the hotels, a much nicer room where mini bar and food was included. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
We embarked the Queen of the Mississippi in New Orleans, this was our first small boat cruise, what a wonderful experience, no lines or waiting EVER. The boat went north on the river up to Memphis, they had interesting & informative ... Read More
We embarked the Queen of the Mississippi in New Orleans, this was our first small boat cruise, what a wonderful experience, no lines or waiting EVER. The boat went north on the river up to Memphis, they had interesting & informative shore excursions that were included in the price for the most part, except for Graceland in Memphis. The rooms were very roomy and comfortable and all have a deck with table & chairs, the service on this boat is excellent by everyone on this boat. The food was wonderful, they offer have cocktails & hors de oeuvres 5:30-6:30 and then dinner! After dinner there is always entertainment by different performers. They offer breakfast, lunch & dinner selections & you can also get half portions. The nice thing about this cruise is your not slammed with a bill at the end for alcohol, shore excursions etc. This is an older crowd as there really isn't much to do for younger children, no pools, clubs, activities etc. We liked it so much we booked another cruise with them for next year & would recommend it to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
The trip had its ups and downs, starting with the flight out of Philly: - the upgraded seats promised were not confirmed and they had no info about special meals (I am vegan, my daughter vegetarian) either, so they had no food I could ... Read More
The trip had its ups and downs, starting with the flight out of Philly: - the upgraded seats promised were not confirmed and they had no info about special meals (I am vegan, my daughter vegetarian) either, so they had no food I could eat - not a good start. Also, the 4 hours in-between flights in Paris ensured that we completely missed the first day in Budapest: while our fellow travelers were welcomed with cocktails in the morning, had lunch on the boat and an organized visit of Budapest, we were sitting down on the floor of an overcrowded terminal eating peanuts. Once we made it on the Freya, more bad news for me: although there were 3 vegans on board, the chef told me that they cannot accommodate individual preferences in food, so it was a lot of raw. unseasoned veggies and lettuces. 3 times we also had for dinner 3 transparent pieces of tofu with our veggies - not much in terms of protein, is it? Healthy overall, but so not worth the money I paid - NOT AT ALL! The other 2 vegans filled up on bread and olive oil - unlucky for me, I'm gluten intolerant, so cannot eat bread more than once a day without serious consequences. There were ample amounts of butter patisseries for breakfast (not vegan), so my husband went to the Chef toward the end of the cruise to ask him to make me once something I could eat at breakfast (muffins can be made with applesauce) in addition to the same 3 kinds of fruits I had had every day: the next morning I was brought a cup of very-VERY salty gooey rice. He meant to insult us and he did it - we never asked for anything after that. On the bright side, I lost 4 lbs on the trip, although I had most of my lunches on-land, in the places we visited - Europe is very accommodating for vegans, it's a shame that the cruise did not think our money was enough to feed us too. We had already visited two on the destinations (Vienna and Melk), but the guides there provided additional information and insights. The guide in Nuremberg was great too, the best by far. In Regensburg, we had a guide who was not one: she brought her very succinct info on little cards, and to all questions from our group she would answer: "ha-ha-ha, I don't know!" It was not funny though. She talked about Martin Luther and again, when someone asked when he lived, she said that it was funny, people asked that before, but she forgets to look it up. When I said early 16th, it did not seem right to her. It was a perfect waste of a morning. The kids were dismayed by the lack of on-board entertainment, the WIFI (you could connect to but did not work), and the absence of young people. There was a 13 year old with her mom and grandma, but that was it. Their typical customer is in their late 60's. We were all disappointed by the lack of entertainment: apart from the one opera night there was just a piano player at night playing his oldies but goldies (for the target audience). The most dismaying thing though was when the concierge told me she could not put me in touch with people whose cabin was on the 3rd floor (to go together to a concert) because "they're from the 3rd floor, you understand, they're really high up people". I might be wrong, but I probably spent more on 2 cabins on the lower floor than they did for their single one on the 3rd! The same concierge booked us to see a concert at the Golden Hall (Muskiverein), when I clearly told her that we wanted to be inside the Opera House at Opemring 2, Wiener Staatsoper, I repeated it for her - she just did not care. I really wanted to be inside the Opera: I studied opera, 3 of my relatives are opera singers, and on our first visit to Vienna years before we could not get tickets for that night's performance. When our taxi dropped us off at the Opera, where indeed there was a performance that night, and yes, they did have tix available, we were told our tickets were not for there - with the help of nice policemen we were directed to the Hall, where us and a good segment of the Chinese population watched musicians dressed like Mozart perform snippets from his concerts and operas. Not good and again, it shows how much Viking cares about you once you have paid. At the end of the cruise, when my husband asked the concierge about the cab we had ordered she told him she was too busy preparing for the next guests - it would have taken her the same time to tell us where cabs came. For the formal night at the end of the cruise, although we arrived at 7:03 in the dining room (dinner started at 7), none of the tables had more than 3 seats available. They could have asked people who were not a family or together to move to the next table to accommodate us, but instead we were told to move to the upstairs deck where we had our last dinner alone, away from the party, in our long gowns and pretty make-up. Somehow it was a fitting end to this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
This was our first time on a River Cruise and I did enjoy the overall experience of river cruising but would choose another company next time, in regard to some reasons listed below. This cruise was along the Danube from Passau to ... Read More
This was our first time on a River Cruise and I did enjoy the overall experience of river cruising but would choose another company next time, in regard to some reasons listed below. This cruise was along the Danube from Passau to Budapest and back over 8 days. When we arrived in the train station in Passau we were surprised that there was no representative from Arosa to offer passengers any information on when and/or where our prearranged bus transportation to the vessel would be available. Our luggage was taken from all the arriving passengers but that was it with assistance. We were travelling with another couple and after all of us were wandering around for quite awhile trying to get some help and being unsuccessful, we decided to just take a taxi to the vessels location. Have no idea how long the other train passengers had to wait for their transportation but do know that we were well settled in on the vessel when they finally did arrive. This needs to be improved. The ship itself was in good condition with the exception of one problem that was apparent with a sewage smell that would appear at times in the lounge area and nearby stairway to the outer upper deck and unfortunately there were also some issues with our companions cabin and this smell as well. When we inquired about it we were told they were aware of the situation but were told from head office that it would be addressed later on in the season. This is not acceptable. Our cabin ( French Balcony ) on Deck 3 was comfortable and well serviced by the attendants throughout the cruise. Actually the crew overall were very friendly and offered good service and spoke enough English for any english speaking guests which were very limited ( think I was the only one ) but they did leave a daily activities leaflet in both English and German in our cabin, as they knew I was only English speaking while my spouse and our travelling companions are fluent in German. This was a nice touch. Wifi was very inconsistent the entire trip whether we were moving or not, so if one needs to rely on consistent daily computer contact, this is something to consider with Arosa. Not sure about other companies out there. Something to consider also is that for any people with physical challenges, there are no elevators onboard. We did see a number of people really struggling at times especially on stairwells to the outer deck... I think that with the overall older clientele cruising nowadays, all vessels should be fitted with elevators. As previously mentioned meals on board were buffet style and although food was quite plentiful, we found that a lot of dishes were too greasy and food would often look like it was sitting in a lot of oil. Seemed to be popular with the German clientele but not really appetizing for our particular tastes. Would also have been nice if the evening meal at least could have been a sit-down dinner. We also opted for the all inclusive beverage package and would enjoy a pre dinner cocktail each evening and on occasion, one afterwards. Did enjoy the ports of call along the Danube and did a combination of ship excursions and touring on our own along the way. The ships excursions were all done in German so not the best for me but I did enjoy the sights. Vienna was lovely as was Budapest with it's architecture and also the much smaller Bratislava. In conclusion, with the issues that did arise on our cruise and for our particular tastes regarding food and meals, we would not do another cruise with Arosa. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
We stayed in London as part of our pre-cruise package. Viking reps were consistently present and were available for all our queries.We have taken five ocean cruises before this cruise. the Viking Star is a beautiful well deigned ship ... Read More
We stayed in London as part of our pre-cruise package. Viking reps were consistently present and were available for all our queries.We have taken five ocean cruises before this cruise. the Viking Star is a beautiful well deigned ship with classy decor. Food and staff were exceptional always attending to our 'needs' and continual questions....very very gracious. cabin 3077 was immaculate. Cabin stewards were excellent. Numerous activities on going. Service was first class. Dining was super delicious. Yum yum. Staff, again, excellent. The port and shore excursions were all excellent. We took most of Viking's complimentary excursions. We enjoyed each and every shore excursions. Every tour guide was well versed in the purpose of the tour. Where would you see little ducks climbing little stairs from the harbor onto the pier and escorted across to the park? Stavanger, Norway!! Entertainment was always good. All performers were excellent. Disembarkment went smoothly. All 'hiccups' were handled professionally by Viking personnel. We had a wonderful time. Thank you very much. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
We wanted to visit Amsterdam after touring Belgium War Graves in Ypres and surrounding districts; as it was a comfortable train journey from Brussels to Amsterdam we chose Viking Cruises which coincided with our travel plans. Having said ... Read More
We wanted to visit Amsterdam after touring Belgium War Graves in Ypres and surrounding districts; as it was a comfortable train journey from Brussels to Amsterdam we chose Viking Cruises which coincided with our travel plans. Having said that, we also researched the myriad of River Cruise offerings to our Australian populace and found Viking had the most attractive offer from the point of destination, comfort, cuisine and type of river craft. With no more than 150 passengers on board we felt comfortable immediately on boarding at Vikings Private Moorings in Amsterdam Harbour. Our Cabin was "true to label" in every way from a two room suite with floor to ceiling glass walls for river views, king bed, plush linen and a heated ensuite floor for extreme comfort. The cuisine varied according to the area of the Rhine we visited on our journey to Basel in Switzerland with attention to detail and backed up by wonderfully friendly and efficient service of our wait staff.Our cruise Director was also very knowledgeable and able to point out hidden aspects of the destinations we visited on our way up the Rhine. Local guides were very capable in their knowledge and also very helpful with directions throughout the different Countries/Cities/Villages we visited. The upper deck on our Viking was very comfortable with sun lounges , deck chairs and shade cloth for those seeking fresh air or superb night time viewing of the Universe and Villages as we serenely made our way. We were never bored with the itinerary, never rushed and never hungry on our wonderful journey, congratulations Viking! Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
Absolutely Awsome river cruise on the Rhine River at the end of June. We've travelled the world on many ocean cruises and decided to try a river cruise. Choice of companies was many but we are absolutely delighted to have discovered ... Read More
Absolutely Awsome river cruise on the Rhine River at the end of June. We've travelled the world on many ocean cruises and decided to try a river cruise. Choice of companies was many but we are absolutely delighted to have discovered Emerald Waterways. What a great company, shiny new ships, outstanding staff and very interesting tours and experiences. Clearly the new kid on the block and they are trying very hard to impress and that they did. From the captain to the cruise director to the servers and housekeeping staff, all were very professional and brought a can do attitude to their job and the passengers comforts. Our Chef was excellent, with very creative meal selections served in a leisurely fashion allowing for wonderful interaction with with new found friends from across the globe. If we had to point to only one staff member that best represented the crew it would be "Alexandra", a young hostess/server who greeted everyone with an infectious smile and a level of service that belies her young age. A medical emergency with one of our passengers in mid cruise was handled expeditiously, professionally and in a very timely manner by the crew and land based emergency services which gave us an even greater sense of comfort in the emphasis that Emerald Waterways places on its passanger's safety and security. All in all, we would say without hesitation that Emerald Waterways is well on the way to becoming the Gold Standard by which all other River cruise companies will be judged. Beverly/Jerry Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
What an absolutely fabulous time! River cruises are not for the folks looking for on-board entertainment! One fantastic musician/singer (Valentine!) and an evening with the crews talent show, and 1 Bulgarian folk dancers! The rest of ... Read More
What an absolutely fabulous time! River cruises are not for the folks looking for on-board entertainment! One fantastic musician/singer (Valentine!) and an evening with the crews talent show, and 1 Bulgarian folk dancers! The rest of the time was used to rest for the next day! this tour was non stop once on the boat! Every day we were in port for most of the day except the day going through the Iron gorge. If you haven't exercised in a while, make sure you start walking NOW!!! we averaged about 5 miles a day walking. At 53 I was the youngest passenger out of 81 (ship was only partially full!) - Budapest was AMAZING! We stayed at the lovely InterContinental, 9th floor overlooking Buda - the beauty of the city at night reflected over the Danube and was simply beautiful. Both Buda and Pest sides were fascinating - old in Buda, new in Pest,,,,and they did an excellent job of infusing the old and the new into a gorgeous city. The local food was delicious but be wary of restaurants that have buffets sitting out, even if it's behind a counter! We ate at a Chinese restaurant but as the food was sitting out and then reheated for eating, my companion got very ill. Luckily it passed before we boarded the ship the following day. Take the Hop on Hop Off and jump on the Funicular to head up the mountain to the Castle district. Also visit Margarita Island, but find out exactly where the Hoho boat picks you up!!! there are NO signs anywhere so get exact directions (it's the first boat launch area facing the Pest side) - other than graffiti all over the city, the place is stunning! And visit the Grand market for souveniers, especially Hungarian Paprika! great deals and everyone at home loved them!! The first day of the trip we met with the passengers and cruise director - the 2nd day we had a morning city tour and did our own thing in the afternoon. The following day we did the Hop on Hop off and in the evening boarded the ship. Boarding the ship was very easy. Everyone travelled by bus to the ship where we got on! that simple. Turned in our passports, got our room key, and it was done! Food aboard the ship was delicious - awesome steak, and soups!! terrific!! Salad dressings other than the Ceaser were mediocre, but everything else was great!!! and eating while sailing and so close to the water was a great experience! The Danube is a beautiful river that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime! Serbia city tour was very interesting, as was Vir Lipinski - an ancient civilization excavated on the banks of the Danube - during our travels through Serbia the Captain even let me steer the ship!!! :) Bulgaria - Belgradchik Rocks is a must (included tour) - and the restaurant where we ate lunch was fabulous as well. Lovely views, but again, the graffiti is overwhelming and detracts from the beauty of the city. Most of the folks on the ship gave locals any extra currency they had before leaving the country - and make sure if you like to shop, you get local currency for at least Hungary and Romania. The other countries would prefer their own money but we did use Euros - but the exchange rate isn't the greatest. Romania was very interesting, and a side trip to Transylvania was a interesting as well.. ..the castle Bram was in a lovely part of town but didn't resemble what tourists imagine it to be! well lit, light in color, and housing a bunch of modern day costumes! the views overlooking Transylvania were spectacular. We went with Avanti tours which took us to a 2nd castle which was fully designed as in the day it was used by royalty, and was the highlight of the trip! Plenty of Dracula items to purchase outside of the Castle Bram. Plan on a very busy day, unless you choose to do your own thing. Our normal day on board was wake up at 630, breakfast at 7, done by 8, on the bus at 820 and returned late afternoon, dinner at 7 with everyone, and then bed by 930. then the next day same thing!!! it rained and was chilly most of the time which was perfect for me, but remember to bring an umbrella, a rainproof poncho, and a raincoat if you get tend to get chilly!! we did not find any places to shop except H & M in Bucharest, but it was pouring and the bus stop was too far to walk over !! normally I like to buy clothing from Europe but did not have a chance this trip...just no locations that we visited were in a "city" but more of town visits. Flight home was long, 28 hours total travel time! next time I fly to the western portion of Europe, stay a day or two, and then fly directly home to the US! too many layovers makes for a very long trip!! Everything else was very smooth and well done!! the only disappointment was that I was expecting a presentation on what we would be seeing the following day, but the nightly chats were more of an itinerary for the following day- I was hoping for history lessons of what to see, look for, etc but that did not happen. The ship was small, lovely, clean, no sundry shop so make sure you have everything you need! Crew was excellent! it helps if you learn a little of the languages before you go (simple phrases, often included in the Avalon packet!) - thank you, please, hello, etc. Very much enjoyed this and would highly recommend a river cruise for people who are interested in history and education over beaches and personal activities! both are great vacations!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
I was more excited about this cruise before I went than any of the other 9 I have taken. It was highly recommended by my travel agent and all of the information I had received looked terrific. Viking's ads on TV painted a beautiful ... Read More
I was more excited about this cruise before I went than any of the other 9 I have taken. It was highly recommended by my travel agent and all of the information I had received looked terrific. Viking's ads on TV painted a beautiful picture but it was all false. They knew before we got on the ship that they had a problem with the generator. Every day we gathered for a meeting and everyday the story changed we might do this or maybe not so it was total confusion and drama for the entire trip. We spent 5 days on a hot buss without working air conditioning and 4 nights in hotels. The food was terrible it is the first time I actually lost weight on a cruise. I ask the waiter how does Viking manage to take ground meat for a hamburger and make it to tough to chew? Three nights I had the steak and they were all tough too it certainly was not prime beef which you would expect when you pay a premium price for a cruise. Very little entertainment other than the piano player. We were supposed to have unlimited wine with dinner but we didn't get that either when we were in the hotels it was a 2 glass limit and the meals in the hotels were limited to one choice if you didn't like chicken or were tired of chicken to bad. They did refund 25% and give us a voucher for 25% off a future cruise if you take it within one year. They must be smoking pot if they think anyone will get on another Viking ship within a year. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
I was more excited about this cruise before I went than any of the other 9 I have taken. It was highly recommended by my travel agent and all of the information I had received looked terrific. Viking's ads on TV painted a beautiful ... Read More
I was more excited about this cruise before I went than any of the other 9 I have taken. It was highly recommended by my travel agent and all of the information I had received looked terrific. Viking's ads on TV painted a beautiful picture but it was all false. They knew before we got on the ship that they had a problem with the generator. Every day we gathered for a meeting and everyday the story changed we might do this or maybe not so it was total confusion and drama for the entire trip. We spent 5 days on a hot buss without working air conditioning and 4 nights in hotels. The food was terrible it is the first time I actually lost weight on a cruise. I ask the waiter how does Viking manage to take ground meat for a hamburger and make it to tough to chew? Three nights I had the steak and they were all tough too it certainly was not prime beef which you would expect when you pay a premium price for a cruise. Very little entertainment other than the piano player. We were supposed to have unlimited wine with dinner but we didn't get that either when we were in the hotels it was a 2 glass limit and the meals in the hotels were limited to one choice if you didn't like chicken or were tired of chicken to bad. They did refund 25% and give us a voucher for 25% off a future cruise if you take it within one year. They must be smoking pot if they think anyone will get on another Viking ship within a year. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
Can not fault anything on this cruise and the staff were fantastic. Lovely to be on holiday and understand everyone as the main tourists are Australian, Kiwis, American, Canadian and British. The average age is about 65-70 but this did not ... Read More
Can not fault anything on this cruise and the staff were fantastic. Lovely to be on holiday and understand everyone as the main tourists are Australian, Kiwis, American, Canadian and British. The average age is about 65-70 but this did not bother us as everyone so friendly and we were by far the youngest. We had a balcony suite which was sufficient - all toiletries included and everything in your mini bar - plus refilled every day. The ship was only three weeks old and has a well thought out layout. There is even a little dipping pool on the top deck which was 40oc when I got in but very pleasant. A lot of the other scenic boats do not have one. The dress code - quite casual. Nobody got really dressed up for dinner. Food - good selection but they will also make whatever you want. Drink - all free-husband made full use of it!!! On board there are electric bikes - these are put on shore when docked for you to use-great fun and worth a shot-free to use. Our scenic rep Gary who stays on board was full of fun and information - he organises all your trips, entertainment, deals with any problems etc. There was only one hick-up he had to deal with-in each cabin there are two commentary electric guides for your tour information-these kept loosing signal but when we left the ship they were getting all check out and reprogrammed. Would definitely recommend:) Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
Don’t think of this three-week odyssey as a vacation, but as a journey. It’s not an easy trip for several reasons, but the payoff comes in surprising ways along with a few pretty significant downers. The 21-day Roof of the World ... Read More
Don’t think of this three-week odyssey as a vacation, but as a journey. It’s not an easy trip for several reasons, but the payoff comes in surprising ways along with a few pretty significant downers. The 21-day Roof of the World cruise/land “vacation” offered by Viking River Cruises, which we took, included the Hong Kong/Guilin supplemental portion. Start your trip in Beijing because you’ll want to get that portion completed. It’s a very important and interesting part of the experience—Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall—but it is exhausting and Beijing is not very interesting. This is a difficult trip physically and there are almost no accommodations for anyone that can’t walk or stand for eight hours a day and that is very evident in Beijing. The Chinese obviously don’t believe in sitting and there are virtually no benches, chairs or even surfaces to rest your bum—besides, you are walking pretty much non-stop in heat, humidity and staggering air pollution. There are approximately 22 million people in Beijing and there are about 8.5 million in New York City, just to give you a comparison. We didn’t see the sun for three days and there are simply lots and lots of people everywhere. Viking does an admirable job considering everything they must juggle. Their best asset is, without a doubt, their people. Our guide, Jenna, was fabulous—knowledgable, kind, smart and always working. Her English was perfect and her attitude admirable given the Chinese Government and the hundreds of variables she managed daily. Coming in second to Jenna was the quality of the hotels. We stayed at several Shangri-la hotels and two Fairmont hotels and they were all exceptional. The breakfast buffets at these hotels were the best of all the food offered on the trip. Often, we also ate dinner at the hotels and while it got a little old, you could eat the food. That was not always the case on the cruise and in the local restaurants. You get pretty tired of the same Chinese, lazy Susan, family-style offerings such as limp tasteless book choy. Drinks also seem to be an issue. Wine is pretty non-existent, beer is served (ONE per customer) and they’ll take you down if you ask for a second soda. Budget for your liquor consumption and figure nothing is included. Viking does a great job with the baggage, transfers and details associated with what turned out to be seven intra-China flights, endless bus rides and interference by the Chinese government. Just as we were to leave for our cruise portion of the flight, we were informed a portion of the Yangtze River had been closed. This necessitated us taking two domestic flights in one day, topped off by a five hour bus ride that put us boarding at 3:00 a.m. After the five hour ride, we were told we should “tip the bus driver”. Really? I didn’t want to use him in the first place and I’m responsible for the government closing the river? Tipping is something of a concern. It is endless. I don’t mind tipping, but every bus driver, every local guide, porter and handyman?? We tipped Jenna more, because she was worth it, but you are “advised” to tip $15 a day, per couple for the tour guide. If you are on the trip for 21 days, that is $315. There is vitally no internet. None. No Facebook, CNN or Google. Sometimes, when the stars and moon align and it’s 3:00 am, you might get Yahoo in the larger cities. The entertainment is not worth mentioning because, while very pleasant, are the same people who clean your room. The Emerald riverboat is old and clearly not of Viking quality. The towels are dripping with loose threads and the sheets are worn thin. The bathroom is small and dated. The balconies are small with chairs that are capable of eating your flesh and the food less than. The staff are generally eager to please and have a reasonable command of English. We saw a lot of China and that was great. Viking did an amazing job fitting everything into the schedule. We personally hated all the “factory tours” that resulted in a “shopping opportunity” but people bought, so I guess it’s part of the program. The Terra Cotta Soldiers were amazing and Lhasa a true highlight. We both got very sick with the altitude sickness so plan on bringing medication. The hotel had a doctor, but it ran about $300 extra per person to get treated. Shanghai was a wonderful surprise (so different from Beijing) and Hong Kong was stunning. The quick trip to Guilin was worth the effort because the ride down the Li River was exceptional. There was just so much to see and you do start to understand the different Chinese thought process. We were a small group—21 in our group and 18 in a companion guided group—together because our itinerary included Tibet and most on to Hong Kong—and that provided a surprising upside. You get to know the people well and, while I wouldn’t have selected many of them in a general sense, it was a fabulous group of interesting people—aged from 22 to 80 years. The people absolutely made the trip—and Jenna was the glue that made it all possible. Take this trip for what it is—a journey with lots of average Chinese food, exploring emerging tourist sights and highlights of cultural enrichment, coupled with the great need to be adaptable while getting to know a variety of great folks. And, train physically before you go! Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
The pre-cruise interface with Viking was excellent. The high quality of the cruise was indicated when we were first met at the Amsterdam Airport. The greeters were polite and professional. The motor coach provided from the airport to ... Read More
The pre-cruise interface with Viking was excellent. The high quality of the cruise was indicated when we were first met at the Amsterdam Airport. The greeters were polite and professional. The motor coach provided from the airport to the harbor was neat, clean, and the driver was informative with local knowledge. Upon arrival at the Kara, we were informed the crew would make every effort possible to have our rooms ready prior to the designated time and for the most part the crew lived up to their promises. The tour guide in Amsterdam was passable, but not excellent. He did lead up properly around the city, but he seemed to be in a hurry to return us to the ship or to leave us to our own accord. The dining staff was polite and prompt in their duties. The servers always insured the beverage glasses were properly filled. The food quality for the most part was superior to other cruises. We were disappointed with "German Night", the buffet served for dinner was slightly above a lunch buffet. I had anticipated a meal including: Schnitzel, Rouladen, Kassler Ripchen, etc., but we were served "German Ham", that "meat" was never served at Mutti's or Grossmutti's. We realize the meals were catered for the American taste, but a little more European/German influence would have been appreciated. The walking tours of the various cities were very good. The English spoken by the guides was impeccable. The knowledge possessed and relayed was greatly appreciated. One aspect I would like to have seen amended is the before and after cruise options. Time did not allow a two day extension in Amsterdam and two day extension in Lucerne. We would like have had one night in each city, instead of two in one. Additionally, the hotel in Lucerne was excellent. However, could Viking have not provided a less expensive option. We are in the budget/planning process of our next Viking River Cruise. We are looking heavily into the Heart of Germany/Christmas Market Place cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
Recently we participated in what was advertised as an 8 day river cruise, for people with a "good level of fitness", up the Mekong from Saigon to Siem Reap. It promised active excursions that required a good level of fitness. ... Read More
Recently we participated in what was advertised as an 8 day river cruise, for people with a "good level of fitness", up the Mekong from Saigon to Siem Reap. It promised active excursions that required a good level of fitness. It was the promise of the days spent on the river on the luxurious AmaLotus, along with the opportunity to enjoy active excursions, that sold us on the trip. We arrived at the given time at the Sheraton Hotel in Saigon to register. As we watched other participants gather, we wondered if we were in the right place, as very few of the people gathering looked to be of a "good level of fitness". A number needed canes and walking sticks to aid in their mobility. It turns out that this was the right group and the right cruise. Our excursions were limited by the lowest common denominator, where our guides were apologizing if the distance we needed to walk was longer than 15 minutes. This could hardly be called "active". The cruise was billed as an "8 day river cruise", with fine print stating that the itinerary would be subject to change depending on weather and conditions. That's fair enough. What was not made clear is the fact that it is only for a scant 2 months out of the year that the ship is actually able to navigate up the Tonle Sap all the way to the port nearest to Siem Reap. The fact is that the trip really was a 7 day river cruise and one day on the bus, having back-tracked to Phnom Phen. The bus trip was over 6 hours long and all the was provided was the cost for the use of the toilets on the two toilet stops along the way. On arrival to Siem Reap, those of us who were not continuing with APT, were basically ushered off the bus and left to fend for ourselves, without even refreshments or a basic lunch provided after a less than comfortable bus ride. On the positive side, the ship was beautifully appointed and the crew were helpful and friendly. The food was abundant and deliciously prepared. Sadly the wines were questionable. The saving features of the cruise were the local guides. While the excursions were disappointing overall, the guides made up for it with their generous sharing of their passion for their respective countries and their perspective on both historical events and how they continue to impact and influence the current social and political climate. Tim in Vietnam and Wanti in Cambodia in particular deserve a special mention. Thanks to them a trip that would have been a major disappointment, was redeemed to a great degree. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
This was our second Viking River cruise. Did a pre-trip extension in Berlin which was fab. Right in the heart of the city @ the Hilton, w/i walking distance of great food and prominent sights. Saw the Queen of England, spent a day in ... Read More
This was our second Viking River cruise. Did a pre-trip extension in Berlin which was fab. Right in the heart of the city @ the Hilton, w/i walking distance of great food and prominent sights. Saw the Queen of England, spent a day in the main train station just train watching & exploring, and enjoying sight, sounds & tastes of Berlin. On to Potsdam, our ship & headed to Wittenberg. My wife had a slight mishap and tripped going up the stairs from the dining room, and badly bruised her left leg and knee. For the rest of the trip, Sandy was the toast of the whole staff, with one staffer offering to give Sandy a shower. After a few days she was using a wheel chair to get around, but I continued to see the sight at every port. As we headed south on the Elbe, the water level kept dropping so that by the time we got to Meisen, we had to stop and do our remaining tours totally by bus, which was ok. We understand from local service providers that this happens frequently on the Elbe in summer. Plus we were in a major heat wave with temps getting to 95F (however, we were given a nice cash incentive when we book our next trip). Got to Prague where we also extended. My highlight was staying with Family in Litvinov & seeing where my families were from in Masti & Ujezd nod Zbecknem. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
This was my first river cruise, based on my wife's recommendation, she did the Moscow to St. Petersburg cruise last year with a friend. From the moment we boarded on the first day to reluctantly leaving on the last day we received ... Read More
This was my first river cruise, based on my wife's recommendation, she did the Moscow to St. Petersburg cruise last year with a friend. From the moment we boarded on the first day to reluctantly leaving on the last day we received 5 star treatment, nothing was too much trouble for our hosts. The accommodation was clean and comfortable, the food was tasty and well presented (I'm a fussy eater) and gave you a flavour, pun intended, of the area being visited. The evening entertainment was excellent. Apart from the overall package, a couple of things struck me as being a nice touch, every time you left the ship you were given a bottle of cold water also, as one who uses a walking stick, I appreciated the fact that each walking tour had an "easy walking" group that went at a more leisurely pace and avoided the steeper routes. The ship was not one of the new longships but it did not detract from the overall feeling of being on an elegant cruise. I would thoroughly recommend a Viking river cruise for a relaxing holiday. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015

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