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156 River Cruise Reviews

My wife and I took a Uniworld Rhine Cruise on the "River Beatrice" on 15-22 July 2012, from Budapest to Passau. We booked a suite, no. 407, for which we paid £3,299.00 each, less a small discount from our cruise agent. We ... Read More
My wife and I took a Uniworld Rhine Cruise on the "River Beatrice" on 15-22 July 2012, from Budapest to Passau. We booked a suite, no. 407, for which we paid £3,299.00 each, less a small discount from our cruise agent. We have the following comments:- The staff were exceptionally attentive and friendly. They can justly be congratulated for their service. It is a pity that Uniworld do not pay them sufficiently to avoid the necessity or expectation of gratuities. Most six-star Ocean Cruises state that their staff do not expect or accept gratuities as they are fully paid for their work and are happy to conduct it without any further payment from their guests. The price Uniworld charges per day is as much or more than a luxury six-star fully inclusive cruise by most American cruise lines, such as Seabourne, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea etc., for a comparable status suite, which should be an example to Uniworld. The tours were stated as inclusive for the "featured excursion", but the "irresistible optional excursions" were chargeable. This was not evident in the Titan Elegant River Cruises brochure, but was only apparent when our 2012 Cruise Companion and Shore Excursions booklet was received with our departure package. We booked a suite on the top "Rhine" deck, the most expensive, apart from the one Owners Suite. We therefore expected to enjoy excellent views whilst sailing and when at the ports. However, at most of the stops we were awakened to darkness, being overshadowed by another ship docked and tethered to us! This was shocking and a complete disappointment as it obliterated our views, gave us no privacy -- the windows of the adjacent ships looking directly into ours -- and any benefit of paying for a suite on the top deck was completely spoiled. Nowhere in the Cruise brochure, Cruise Companion or the itinerary details, shows any reference to this double docking and I consider this a clear misrepresentation by omission. All cruises I have been on show whether the ship is docked or anchored, with use of tenders for those ports. I would formally request a Notice of Complaint to the Uniworld Company for not stating in any of their descriptions, the possibility of double-docking and the consequent loss of privacy and views. the cruise was severely spoilt by this unexplained restriction of view from our "French Balcony". Had I been aware of this procedure I would not have chosen this particular cruise. Both my wife and I are extremely disappointed with the cruise and would not recommend Titan or Uniworld unless the possible situations will be fully explained in future publications. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Just returned from Viking River Cruise's Portraits of Southern France on the Viking Neptune. This was our first cruise with Viking and it will be our last. On the positive side, the crew was friendly and hard working, the tour ... Read More
Just returned from Viking River Cruise's Portraits of Southern France on the Viking Neptune. This was our first cruise with Viking and it will be our last. On the positive side, the crew was friendly and hard working, the tour guides were great, the free wi-fi was nice as were the bottles of water that were provided for each excursion. When we went to our cabin the first day, the hallway smelled like sewage. The smell lingered for a couple of days until a fellow passenger complained. The ship is old, shows signs of wear and rooms look like they could use a good cleaning. The bathrooms are dark and the tiles are old and looked dirty. The carpeting in our friend's room was stained and dirty and they had dust bunnies that were never vacuumed the entire week. Not sure the bathroom floors were ever cleaned either during the trip. The bathrooms are elevated about 3-4 inches (for plumbing I guess) and were an accident waiting to happen if you didn't pay attention stepping in and out over the raised lip in the doorway. Also, Viking did not provide clocks in the rooms and it was a good thing we brought our own. With few exceptions, the "gourmet" food was not very good and food service was s-l-o-w due to inadequate staffing levels. The pastries and French fries were good. A shrimp roll looked like someone had ladled tons of louis dressing on a hot dog bun and sprinkled a few cocktail shrimp. Steaks that were ordered rare to medium rare were served medium to well done on a regular basis and they were chewy. Sushi rice was densely packed and lacked any hint of rice wine vinegar. An appetizer sushi made of some kind of mousse was sliced so thin that it disintegrated into a mess when you tried to pick it up. Ice cream never made it to the table before it was melted. Our table seemed to hit the jackpot for damaged dinnerware. Throughout the cruise, we were given cracked coffee cups and water glasses that were badly chipped. One glass was chipped half way around the rim. Coffee and tea were never offered after lunch or dinner and we even had to ask for coffee one morning at breakfast. The wait staff of six did try hard to serve everyone, but it was extremely difficult since they had to take and serve drink orders, serve wine, take and serve meal selections as well as clear the tables. Even the maitre d' was clearing tables. Complimentary wine, beer and sodas were offered with lunch and dinner, but they served that same Viking-labeled bottle of red and white wine every meal. It would have been nice if they had served some of the local wines with some of the meals since we were in the heart of wine country. One passenger was so unhappy that he was ready to quit the cruise after the third day. There was a lot of grumbling among the passengers about the food and service. We booked our air transportation with Viking, which was a BIG mistake. They booked us on a 6:00 a.m. return flight out of Lyon. We got up at 1:30 a.m. to close our account and leave the ship at 3:00 a.m. for the hour and 45 minute drive from our last port, Chalon-sur-Saone to the Lyon airport. We complained about the booking when we got our flights 90 days prior to the cruise and were told that there was nothing Viking could do because the selection was computer generated and there were no other flights available by then. By the way, Avalon lets passengers choose their flights almost a year in advance. Needless to say, based on our experience, we and our friends will not be sailing with Viking again nor would we recommend them to anyone. Go with someone else. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
How I wish this review could be positively glowing, because steamboating on US rivers ought to be a glorious experience. Our recent cruise on the American Queen, however, showed that this enterprise is not only suffering from a number ... Read More
How I wish this review could be positively glowing, because steamboating on US rivers ought to be a glorious experience. Our recent cruise on the American Queen, however, showed that this enterprise is not only suffering from a number of Start-Up-Company ills, but seems to be run by people who are actually amateurs in the cruise business. We all know that you only get one change to make that all-important, great First Impression, but Great American Steamboat made poor impressions at every single opportunity. The short version of my review is this: Do Not spend your vacation money on the American Queen until at least 2014 - if this company is still in business in 2014, they will probably have fixed their boat and their operations, and may have even reached the point where they have looked at how the passenger experiences their performance, rather than being so fixated on managing their procedures and frequent mistakes. To be more specific, first the cabins. Even though we expected our Inside Cabin to be substantially smaller than staterooms on an ocean cruise ship, our room was so small that the two of us could not unpack, dress, or move around the cabin at the same time. The foot of the beds were so close to the wall of drawers / closet that we had to sidle in sideways, and could not turn around. Furthermore, there was only one electrical outlet in our cabin, and that was located just above the bathroom sink. If a passenger has a cell phone / laptop that needs recharging or has to use a C-Pap machine at night, the only electricity is right above the water taps in the bathroom. That is not only inconvenient - it is downright dangerous. The plumbing aboard was a constant source of problems, and these did not seem to be related to the plugged-toilet issues that are common on vessels with vacuum toilet systems: some cabins had no running water at all, while others had Cold water faucets that gave only warm water. There were almost daily water problems, especially leaks and floor flooding in the Front Porch food area. There were also other equipment failures, such as the table linens on the first night being completely un-ironed because some machine was broken. The food aboard was either much too fancied up, especially with strange-tasting sauces and spices, or was - at best - average for cruise ship fare. Buffet food often sat out in the open air (and sometimes in the sun) for too long to be totally safe to eat. Afternoon Tea food was consistently blah. The one, very bright spot in the dining aboard was the Front Porch, where a good selection of self-serve drinks, cookies, fruit, and snacks are available 24/7, free of charge, and where continental breakfast is available every day. The casual dinner venue at the stern, where the Dress Code is nicely relaxed, was, however, uncomfortable, over-crowded, noisy, and sometimes sooty from the boat's smokestack, and the selection of food was quite limited. The public areas on this boat are very pleasant, especially the Front Porch and the Library. The theater seating is not altogether comfortable, but the most disappointing part of the entertainment on our recent cruise was that, although the cruise ads led passengers to think they were in for a week of Big Band entertainment by the Glenn Miller Band, those musicians actually performed on only the last 2 nights of the cruise. Lynn Roberts, the band singer, was excellent, but the Band was only slightly above average, and the house musicians that supplied music before the Miller Band came aboard were nothing special at all. Many passengers felt they had been hyped and ripped off by the company. The average age of passengers the week we were aboard seemed to be well above 70 years old, and somewhere between 60%-80% of the passengers were aboard because they had sailed on one of the old Delta Queen boats. These folks seemed, for the most part, willing to put up with just about anything, because they had such fond memories of the old Delta Queen days. But for those of us who were new to steamboating, no matter how much or how long we had looked forward to the experience, found many things, each day, to be just plain sub-standard or even unacceptable. The very worst part of the experience was the extraordinarily poor handling of both the embarkation and the disembarkation processes. These two events - always stressful for passengers and crew alike - were completely botched, start to finish. Passengers were given incorrect information at nearly every turn, were seriously inconvenienced again and again, and then were dealt with by rude, unprofessional staff. Many members of the crew are hard-working people, and some even seem to know how to do their jobs with real expertise, but those are over-shadowed by the inept, and sometimes hostile, people-skills of other crew members. Even some of the good crew members show signs of disliking the way the company is being run, and the way both passengers and crew are treated by supervisors and top management. All in all, there is an atmosphere of an unhappy work environment that experienced travelers cannot miss. Anyone who expects sustained, polished, gracious hospitality will be unhappily surprised. Two huge positives are the Riverlorian, whose daily presentations add greatly to the quality of the passenger experience aboard, and the Steamcoach transport system in each port of call. Both of these amenities are unusual in the cruise industry, and they were much appreciated. People thinking about cruising on the American Queen need to be aware, however, that anyone with mobility issues is going to be seriously challenged: the boat itself has many steps and stairs, and every port involves not some nice cruise pier but a very steep river embankment (and often a flight or two of stairs without railings) that passengers must negotiate every time they get on or off the boat. There are crew members who will assist those who have difficulty walking or climbing, but the truth is that there are many times when passengers with mobility problems will be unable to get where they want to go while also maintaining their dignity and independence. This review surely makes us sound as if we are unreasonably picky travelers, but we are not. The two of us have lived and traveled all over the world, know well the reality that the unexpected and the inconvenient happen whenever you travel, and are just as willing as anyone else to be good sports. That being said, however, our experience with Great American Steamboat Company (or whatever they are calling themselves THIS week - yet another sign that they put their business into operation well before they were actually ready for Prime Time) was astoundingly disappointing, day after day. The company appears to be using income from current passengers to fund things that should have been taken care of before they started selling cruises to anyone, and savvy travelers will notice. People who are devoted to the old Delta Queen company, or who simply adore steamboats or river trips, or who love cruise living and entertainment regardless of consistent quality - these passengers may be well satisfied. We, however, were not, and we won't be back ... at least not until we know for certain that this company and this boat have improved tremendously. There are just too many other wonderful, reliable alternatives these days to put up with such poor overall vacation quality. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We booked the boat trip and our air fare with Viking. Paid an additional $100.00 which allowed us the choice of air lines. We chose Air France for their lie flat seats and their food. We got Delta which operates some of the AF routes. The ... Read More
We booked the boat trip and our air fare with Viking. Paid an additional $100.00 which allowed us the choice of air lines. We chose Air France for their lie flat seats and their food. We got Delta which operates some of the AF routes. The seats and the food were not what we specified. We called Viking immediately when we were advised of the selection by Viking. We live two hours from the airport. In order to make our 7:00 AM flight we would have to leave home at 3:00 AM.We found an Air France flight that left at 10:30 AM still making the connection to Moscow with a three hour overlay instead of six hours. Viking said it would cost more than $1000.00 to cancel and rebook. We spent the night before our departure in a hotel near the airport and still had to get up at 4:00 AM. It might be that Viking travel only has booking access to the less attractive departure times. This was certainly not we expected nor what we paid for. The Ingvar was spotless.Not a sign of rust or dirt anywhere. The rooms were also spotless. and orderless. Our first meal on board was not promising. The dining room staff was cheerful and friendly. The food was at best institutional. A Caesar salad was served with the lettuce lying in a wilted mass on the bottom of the bowl. Our table of seven had all ordered the salad and all of the servings were the same. The wine served with the meal was good. Breakfast was a buffet which was the freshest and the best meal. Except the bacon was deep fried and presented in a square mass which still had the shape of the packaging. Hollandaise sauce on the eggs Benedict was a congealed dark yellow mass which tasted like a pre-made mix. Breakfast was the best meal of the day. Lunch and dinner food selections, were not interesting and some times not at all appealing. During the cruise we saw the Captain and his officers one brief time at the meet and greet reception where they were in a receiving line which they left as soon as everyone had shaken hands. We noticed the crew members stationed at the gangway when we boarded or left the ship never looked up or broke off a conversation with another crew member to meet our gaze or to recognize or presence. One night several guests declined the visit the the ballet to see a late evening rehearsal and stayed on board the Ingvar. We found the dining room had closed when the ballet tour had been fed at six o'clock. The front desk told us we could dine on the sister ship Helgi.Unlike the crew on th Ingvar the crew on duty at the gangway of the Helgi smiled and greeted us as we boarded the ship. We introduced our selves at the front desk and the first officer who was standing there offered to escort us to the dining room. It was a remarkable difference in attitude in the ships crew. This was the first night of a tour that began in St Petersburg. The dining room was serving the same menu we had on or first night in Moscow. It was an interesting contrast. The food was better presented, better prepared and tasted better. It seems there may be a connection to the indifferent food and the indifferent crew on Ingvar with the better looking and tasting food and an engaged crew of the Helgi. Attitudes in companies always come from the top. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Had a fantastic time. One of the best cruises we have taken. The smaller, more intimate size was more relaxing, although the excursion were more demanding than we had expected. Will definitely recommend it to friends/relatives. Good ... Read More
Had a fantastic time. One of the best cruises we have taken. The smaller, more intimate size was more relaxing, although the excursion were more demanding than we had expected. Will definitely recommend it to friends/relatives. Good value for money spent. Crew excellent, knowledgeable, friendly. Food very good. Ship very comfortable, clean and accommodating. Asked for no. of ports visited, only went up to 8, we visited 14. Guided tours very good and educational. Suggest that maybe fewer ports would give us more time to explore more interesting cities/towns. Sometimes felt a bit rushed. Our pre-arranged before and after visits to Prague and Amsterdam were excellent with good hotels and guides. Suggest Amsterdam hotel be closer to downtown (believe there is a Hilton in Old Town). Airport transfers well arranged. Only real criticism is the cruise probably tried to accomplish too much, it would have been nice to spend more time enjoying the river scenery and castles as we drifted along the rivers/canals. Evening entertainment a bit lacking, but understandable considering the ship's size and lounge space. Let us know what you think of our cruise review. We have sent out about 22 emails (photos and captions) detailing our cruise to friends and relatives, with great response. Any interest in seeing them? Thanks again for a wonderful time. Henry N. Gates & John Richards. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Our family consists of parents and two teenagers. We signed up for a cruise going from Nuremberg to Trier. My first complaint is that the Viking booking agent (we went directly to the company) did not tell me the cruise was 99% senior ... Read More
Our family consists of parents and two teenagers. We signed up for a cruise going from Nuremberg to Trier. My first complaint is that the Viking booking agent (we went directly to the company) did not tell me the cruise was 99% senior citizens. My tour guides in other cities told me of this before we even stepped foot on the cruise. They were 100% correct. This cruise was painful from the moment we stepped on the boat (Viking Sky). The first day was an excursion in Bamberg that lasted from 9:00 to 11:45. Basically, your day is over by noon. There is nothing to do on the ship, other than stare out the window. The activities are more suited for a senior citizen home than a cruise ship. We had active days in Berlin, Munich and Nuremberg, before the cruise. One week on the boat could not match up to one day in Berlin. The internet woks rarely and is very slow. I anticipated the activities, food, and entertainment of a Caribbean cruise (but with a European twist). Not even close. The rooms were much smaller than other cruise ships I have visited. The food was average to poor. The pace of the cruise was more suited to 70 year olds, than people in their 40s or teens. The older guests seemed to be loving the trip. The crew felt bad for us and were very helpful. They tried their best to give us a good experience. Hats off to the crew for a wonderful job. My complaint is with the booking agent who sold us a cruise that was not appropriate for our group. If you are retired, this would be great. On a positive note, the cities we visited were wonderful. But, that had nothing to do with the cruise. We could have seen them without a cruise. As for the daily excursions, the guides were terrible. Some were not coherent and knew next to nothing about the venues. Because the group was all seniors, the guides would stop and make you sit for 15 minutes at a time while they spoke. My experience is that most guides walk and talk. At one point, we simply left the group and explored on our own. We had a great guide on the "extra pay" excursion to Rothenberg. Beyond that, the guides were merely babysitters. The crew was great, the venues were great and I don't regret giving it a try. For us, however, it was a huge waste of money and not the best use of our vacation time. Even one of the workers, who worked on ocean cruise ships, said this is a much easier job for him since there is so little activity on the boat. That says it all. I am a Top Contributor on TripAdvisor (also Profguy), but thought this was more appropriate for CruiseCritic. I wish CruiseCritic and TripAdvisor allowed cross registration. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
The Queen of the West looks tired. Our Veranda stateroom was small & cramped, and the door to the veranda was not all glass so the view we expected wasn't there. There were fumes so we didn't use the balcony much. The day ... Read More
The Queen of the West looks tired. Our Veranda stateroom was small & cramped, and the door to the veranda was not all glass so the view we expected wasn't there. There were fumes so we didn't use the balcony much. The day we arrived the toilet in our cabin was dirty and stained. There was zero storage in the bathroom -- no cabinets, no shelves, so I kept my toiletries on the floor. The passengers were mostly very senior; one man fell on the threshold to the lounge and broke his hip 3 hours into the trip and had to be evacuated at the first lock. Food was OK, but not much variety for vegetarians or the health conscious. On the bright side, the Columbia River was beautiful and the trip to Mount St. Helen's was good, as was the Maritime Museum in Astoria. You can ride all day on the little historic streetcar there, which was fun. We have been on the Rhine, the Yangtze, the Danube, the Mississippi on the American Queen, and the Amazon, and all offered much more quality for less money. Too bad because American Cruise Lines has other interesting itineraries in the US, but we won't be on them. Others must agree as there were just a handful of cruise line repeaters on this ship. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
We took a fourteen day river cruise on the Viking Idun. This is a new ship with several problems. For one our shower drain did not work properly and flooded our cabin once and our bathroom the second time. There is a leak in the lounge ... Read More
We took a fourteen day river cruise on the Viking Idun. This is a new ship with several problems. For one our shower drain did not work properly and flooded our cabin once and our bathroom the second time. There is a leak in the lounge that causes the entrance way on both sides to be constantly saturated. It smells, and has been like this since almost the initial sailing. Several days there was a terrible sewage smell on the lower deck, sporadic problems with toilets. The concept of river cruising is not for all. The days are long with hours of nothing to do. For some this is wonderful, not for us. There is no spa, casino, gym, art auction, etc. this is very laid back. You sit and watch the castles go by. Meals are at a set time, no room service. Being used to large ocean liner cruisers this was difficult for us. Since you sail through many locks that are low to the ship there are many days where you can't sit up top. There are things that Viking does very well. Having a leisure tour group for those who need a slower tour group, quiet boxes on the tours, so you can hear your guide without standing on top of him or her, good food, pleasant staff, and water available at each port. However the problems with the ship, the slow pace and an older crowd makes this a trip we would not take again Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
If you are considering a river cruise with Viking, you should be aware of certain things the cruise line does not tell you. 1. There is no compensation if the ship breaks down: We were unfortunate to take a 7-day Danube River cruise on ... Read More
If you are considering a river cruise with Viking, you should be aware of certain things the cruise line does not tell you. 1. There is no compensation if the ship breaks down: We were unfortunate to take a 7-day Danube River cruise on the Viking Odin from Budapest to Nuremberg. We sailed on June 16, 2012 Two days later the ship's propulsion system broke down slowing the ship so much that it could not make its advertized schedule for the duration of the cruise. Rather than docking in the remaining advertized ports (Passau, Regensburg and Nuremberg) the ship stopped short of each port and put everyone on buses for the day while the ship continued up river to make up time. The result was a bus tour instead of a cruise, although we did sleep on the ship each night. To make matters worse, the ship's water pump also failed one morning, so we all boarded the buses without the benefit of showers, bathing, etc. Also, the ships in-room entertainment system (TV and music) failed for several days. Finally, the only passenger elevator on the ship was out of service during the entire cruise. Since we did not get what we paid for, we politely asked Viking for a refund of some of our cruise fare. Viking flatly refused saying it was not their policy to provide refunds (even partial) for botched cruises. This policy is not mentioned in their brochure or passage contract. 2. Closed Passenger Areas: One of the features of the Viking Odin is the "Sun Deck," which is the top deck of the ship advertized as "360-degree view and shaded sitting area." Indeed there is one, and it makes up well over half of the common area of the ship, a nice feature. However, what Viking fails to tell you is that it will be closed for much of your cruise. This is no accident, on the Danube for instance, the Sun Deck is closed for about half the trip in order to allow the ship to clear low bridges. This "fact" is not mentioned by Viking in any of their literature. 3. Dining Restrictions: Viking Odin generally serves three meals a day, but only during very narrow hours. If you don't sit down within 10-15 minutes of the opening bell, you will miss the meal, and there is no buffet or room service whatsoever - not even a PB&J sandwich. Miss a meal, and you don't eat, period. Viking does not tell you this, instead they advertize that you can eat "when and where you like." Not true. If you are used to traditional cruise ship dining, you will be sorely disappointed. 4. Sub-Par Food: Yes, this is subjective but we were not alone in our opinion that the food was marginal, at best. The selections are very limited and poorly prepared. Airline meals are far better. Bottom line, if you have any prior cruise experience, Viking will be a disappointment. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
I was told river cruising would be different. Nobody told me how different. After 20+ ocean cruises we decided to try Viking based on recommendations from passengers on ocean cruises. Accommodations were small(not surprising), our cabin ... Read More
I was told river cruising would be different. Nobody told me how different. After 20+ ocean cruises we decided to try Viking based on recommendations from passengers on ocean cruises. Accommodations were small(not surprising), our cabin was 80% below the water line(again not surprising)and the cabin had a big screen Sony tv(very surprising). That would have been nice if there was anything worthwhile to watch or if the channels were in HD. No HD with a tv that size is like buying a Mercedes without wheels. But how much tv do you watch on vacation anyway? Let me say first that the entire crew on the Njord was very pleasant, enthusiastic, helpful and friendly. We had an 8 hour delay in Charlotte causing us to miss our connecting flight at Frankfurt but a call to the desk on the ship resulted in Viking sending a car to Budapest airport to pick us up at 11pm at their expense(we had purchased Viking's air & transfer package). A good start. But downhill from there. The concept of river cruising is light years from that of ocean cruising. Lack of space on the vessel, which must be built to fit the many canal locks the ship must pass through, precludes culinary variety and many types of activities. Yet we expected something to do aboard ship when the day's included excursion ended. There was a huge amount of downtime. A few lectures were scheduled but that wasn't enough to keep us or most other passengers engaged.What few activities they did have were all itinerary specific. Hungarian folk dancers, opera singers, a glass-blowing demonstration. Pretty boring. The best was the night they showed a slide presentation of Viking's other itineraries for the purpose of selling more cruises. More effort should have been put forward to involve the guests in active participation. It was almost as if they didn't think we could handle any excitement. We're old but we're not on life support yet. All this could have been forgiven if the food had been up to par. Most meat dishes were tasteless and unseasoned. Steak was an every night option on the dinner menu but the steaks I saw coming out of the kitchen were gray in color and apparently microwaved. At the money we paid for this vacation I was not going to order a microwaved steak. My wife ordered surf & turf one night. The "turf" consisted of a single small shrimp. Vanilla ice cream with blueberries? Two blueberries. Most of their soups were of the same milk- based liquid with some vegetable or another thrown in to make it mussel soup or mushroom soup or whatever. The pasta sauce was usually a white sauce called a cream sauce which I once again suspected was milk. They trotted this out about 4 or 5 times. They had a red pasta sauce once which I was certain came straight out of a jar. An osso buco another evening was inedible. The waiter told me, "You have to go to Italy to get good osso buco." I have had osso buco on many ocean cruise lines and have never been disappointed. In fairness there was a pretty tasty Hungarian goulash, a nice crab cake and a good spinach cannelloni entree along with some very good German sausages for lunch but on average the food was much too pedestrian for the price of passage. Bottom line, the poor food, dearth of activities and the overall subdued atmosphere will prevent us from going back to Viking or any other river cruise line for that matter. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Since I am a well traveled person and research my trips before I go this was certainly a big disappointment. My travel agent touted this as a good cruise. However, the food was mediocre and the specials at breakfast were not ... Read More
Since I am a well traveled person and research my trips before I go this was certainly a big disappointment. My travel agent touted this as a good cruise. However, the food was mediocre and the specials at breakfast were not "special". The service at meals was awful. I had to ask for a Sprite 4 times before I got it. At one meal I and two other ladies were the last to be served even though we ordered with everyone else. During the first night and subsequent nights where there were cocktail parties. I, as a non-drinker, was not able to get an alternative such as a soft drink or juice to toast with everyone else. I feel I paid for this. I also thought I should be able to get cappuccino in the dining room. When I appeared in the dining room for lunch and dinner there was no one to greet me or help me find a seat. As a SINGLE TRAVELR I had to go from table to table to see if there was a vacancy. I found this to be very humiliating. They advertised free Internet. This I count on to conduct business while I am gone. I even brought my own computer. There was no service during more than half the trip. One of the passengers said they thought there was no service contract in Belgium. When disembarking they called a taxi for me. It cost $25 for a shorter trip than my arrival which was $8.00. The trip was to be special with a tour of Keukenhof. These are the gardens and fields that one sees in photo brochures with stripes of many colors of tulips EXCEPT we arrived a little too late and portions of the fields were cleared away and just dirt was left. My main objective for the cruise was not achieved. Another tour stop, "Floriade" was an exhibition that occurred once a every ten years. The guide dumped us at the gate and disappeared without much of a clue as to what the highlights were. This was also disappointing as it was mainly commercial displays most of which were not very interesting. Personnel who cleaned the room did a good job. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
My lady friend having had a cruise on a European river before Viking Odin sounded like a terrific chance to have holiday in a floating river hotel. No such luck, probably the worst holiday I and many of the other passengers to whom we ... Read More
My lady friend having had a cruise on a European river before Viking Odin sounded like a terrific chance to have holiday in a floating river hotel. No such luck, probably the worst holiday I and many of the other passengers to whom we bcame friends felt the same way. The staff were terrific except for the cruise director who would have been better off on a club 18-30 trip. A very condescending attitude towards us Senior Citizens who had probably traveled half the world before he was born. Activities were non existent, no space and the interminable time cruising especially through locks was extremely boring. For the first four days we were not allowed to use the upper deck for fear we would be decapitated by bridges confined to the main lounge with a book to read could have done that at home. Cabin useless, so small my dog would not have felt comfortable. After showering I had to leave the "shower room" in order to dry myself I could barely move my arms. Entertainment was pathetic and that is being nice, the only good time was dinner when we sat with the friends we had made and had a good laugh and chat. The only good excursion which my Lady enjoyed was an opera trip, we did our own thing when we could get off the ship and it turned out we had been quite wise to do that. Not worth the money and if it had not been for the staff and food would have been an absolute disaster. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
This was our 2nd river cruise. I chose Scenic because I wanted to sit out on the balcony & the staterooms were spacious at 205 sq ft. They describe themselves as All-Inclusive 5* Luxury cruising. We flew from Vancouver to ... Read More
This was our 2nd river cruise. I chose Scenic because I wanted to sit out on the balcony & the staterooms were spacious at 205 sq ft. They describe themselves as All-Inclusive 5* Luxury cruising. We flew from Vancouver to Amsterdam direct on KLM. The plane configuration was 2,4,2. They have seatback entertainment. Meals are good. They offer water and juice frequently. KLM is an innovative airline. Read all about it on their website or their in-flight magazine. We stayed 1 nt PRE at the Radisson Amsterdam which is a 10 mins walk from Centraal Station. Other hotels nearby are the Victoria Hotel, Bellvue Hotel and the Ibis Amsterdam. Hotels near the cruise terminal are the Doubletree (formerly the Mint ) and the Movenpick. We got to the hotel about 2 pm, our room was ready, we dropped our bags & explored Amsterdam. We bought 1 one day transit ticket for about 7 euros. We visited Oosterpark ( lots of birds here ), Vondelpark, visited several street markets, had dinner in Chinatown. When looking for a restaurant, choose the one that's busy. That means the food is good. The local supermarket AlbertHein is also good for snacks etc. When you use transit, you have to scan the chipcard both when you enter & exit the vehicle. We saw more bicycles in Amsterdam than when we were in China. It was quite cold in Amsterdam, only 8-9*C and the tulips were only 30% bloomed at Keukenhof. Maybe mid-April would've been better. The cruise terminal is a very long 20 mins walk from Centraal Station. Better to take a taxi. We boarded the ship the next day at 5 pm. Embarkation dinner was a buffet from 5 to 7 pm. All aboard at 10 pm. The ship is modern looking. They also have a self-serve coffee/tea station in the lounge where you can dispense your own latte, espressos etc. However, the beverage is already at drinkable temperature. I thought it could be hotter. I was disappointed in the Scenic product. Other than the L'Occitane toiletries, it didn't feel luxurious. We didn't dine on fine china, meals were not attractively presented, the stateroom steward neither introduced himself nor greeted us by name. When booking a balcony on a river cruise, don't choose the lowest deck, otherwise you'll be watching garbage floating by. Don't book staterooms ending in 20 or higher. There is a lot of vibration and noise in the aft of the ship. When I returned home, I researched 4 other river cruise lines: AMA, Avalon, Viking and Uniworld. These companies offered 2 or more tours in each port, easy or energetic tours and the pictures of the meals were way more gorgeous than ours. I met one man who had cruised with Uniworld. He said the meals were superlative. The tours by Scenic were mostly walking tours to free attractions. The only paid attractions that were included were the Keukenhof Gardens and the Amsterdam scenic boat tour. The passengers were mostly Brits, Aussies, Canadians and a small number of Americans. Many were 1st time river cruisers. I met one couple from Australia that only travel with Scenic Tours because the gratuities are included. On the return flight, you go through security screening at the gate. First they call families with children and all the Elite members. Then they call all economy passengers. They board the plane 45 mins prior to departure. This time the seat configuration was 3,3,3. The flight attendants were more friendly and meals were even better. Strange thing was that the plane started taxiing before the flight attendants told people to sit down & buckle up. They even served ice-cream as a snack ! Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
The Amalotus was new so no excuses in most areas of comment. The ships hold approx 126 people however for the second time this season there was only 26. What an absolute blessing, when it is full the restaurants and lounge areas would have ... Read More
The Amalotus was new so no excuses in most areas of comment. The ships hold approx 126 people however for the second time this season there was only 26. What an absolute blessing, when it is full the restaurants and lounge areas would have been extremely uncomfortable. You would think with so few people on board that there might have been a friendly atmosphere for travelling however stubborn, older people of any nationality always makes for a challenge. The company APT has many strict rules about how to board the ship and disembark for excursions etc, however the old people we travelled with arrogantly and dangerously refused to wear their life jackets because "I have a boat at home and never wear one "etc etc what they failed to realise with all their wisdom and life experience that they then place others at risk and would in an emergency expect other to come to their safety in a risk situation. Not acceptable the rules are their for everyone know and accept this before you go or don't go! APT also sells these cruises to any one over the age of 40, this is a myth, if you are under 55 you will feel like you have made a huge mistake and also you will not be made to feel welcome, old people are bullies and treat other adults as children to get their own way -- it's a sad fact that left us wondering at what age do old people become so nasty and manipulative The ship looks new as it still should, the first lunch on arrival was a buffet and a la carte, salads, fruit feature as the best options, the desserts as mentioned in some other reviews are not worth looking forward to, small selection, unimaginative there was obviously no pastry chef on board, fresh fruit and poor quality pastries are the best you can hope for kind of like cheap supermarket fare. Knowing this we took chocolate and our own goodies for deserts The lobby shop is a waste of time, loads of rubbish that you can pick up anywhere at markets, nothing to provide a memory of your trip and nothing of any value APT has failed on the sundeck, it is furnished with old crabby cane furniture, it is already mouldy, there is no music no atmosphere and bad decor and the bar area is not what they presented in their brochure photographs -- misleading but that's the way that operate! We had a suite, very dark they have not incorporated the colours and fabrics of the Vietnam/ Cambodian culture, a missed opportunity there The bar has a drink each night for everyone that is complimentary, it was about 50/50 as to whether this is drinkable, mostly very strong made of local spirits, however drinks were cheap anyway approx $6-$8 for a cocktail The aircon in our suite was terrific and much needed, due to their being less people on board getting access to the DVD library and the interest was not too much of a problem The balcony area had 2 chairs in the suite but only one for other cabins- what a stupid thing to do, a romantic cruise down the Mekong and only one of you and sit outside for the view- another example of cost cutting and bad planning, the amenities in the suites were cheap rubbish, in an effort to appear ECO friendly the 5 star extras you are paying for have been sacrificed. The bathroom was great wood panelling a huge bath with jets and spacious shower the linen was good quality the bed comfortable The chefs are Indonesian and from the Philippines, so no flair to food simple only. Breakfast is also a simple meal so special choices here pretty much less than you would have in your own home, the restaurant has no atmosphere no music just a silent room - another missed opportunity The floors in the rooms are fake wood and due to the extreme heat are already starting to warp and buckle, every small every simple hut along the Mekong has cable TV and satellite service however APT cannot get an antenna or dish to provide this service We did our own thing on excursions which made it possible to fit in more and get a better feel for where ever we were, if you are capable of only shuffling along stay with the guide, again this was not a trip for people who were not physically active, but again like so many of these trips old sick people with less mobility provide challenges and delays for staff and other travellers- please do not do this, some trips state that you need to be mobile for a reason and climbing off and on small rocky boats is precarious. The evacuation procedure was not done until the afternoon of the second day so just lucky we did not sink on the first?? What is with cruise ships their first priority should always be safety -- you are on your own anyway as only a handful of staff speak any English The breakfast buffet has kid's cereals on it -- why? There were no kids on board thank goodness -- please cruise companies cater to the adults who are paying 5 star prices The sheets in your cabin are not changed daily you would need to request this- and don't forget this cruise is sold as a 5 star experience, if this is what you want you will have to ask for it They ran out of tea bags lucky that I had brought some of my own????? Again great planning- who is thinking of what the guests need We bought bunches of flowers at the local markets and put them in our cabin as the cruise will not do this for you even though you are in a suite, and you will have to fight to get a vase to put them in- good luck The seafood was for the most part excellent and all of the fresh fruit- no rich food at all so great for a diet plan when you remember the absence of dessert temptations. Because most of the places you are visiting both in Vietnam and Cambodia have no differences in terms of attractions and scenery you will visit 3 silk weaving places and several identical markets and 3 floating villages, - hard to maintain the same enthusiasm but that's where you are in the world and that is all there is to see , the small villages are a massive step back in time, no electricity some of them and horse and cart for transport but all the people are friendly and there is a percentage that want a piece of you -- you are a wealthy tourist right? The guides provide an Ok service, they really need to be able to communicate properly one of ours would tell different groups of people different times for departure so some would be stressed out and some relaxed- they would sometimes change the times for breakfast and not tell you- hopeless, if you question these confusing practices you could be accused of being racist and well we know how defensive that response is and how unnecessary The ship docks midstream every night except at phom penh The Cambodian guide straight out lied about his countries history in an attempt to hide his kings' actions during their very famous genocide, now why would a guide do that you have to ask yourself, the guides have their hands out for tips frequently and they don't always deserve it Despite all being poor they have a university education are well travelled and would be quite happy for you to sponsor them. Because you are travelling with geriatrics you will miss out on the most special places for example, Oudong one of the ancient capital city in Cambodia, we decided to go here and give a miss the visit to yet another newly built temple What a great decision thanks to our own research a special amazing place don't miss it if you have the chance we walked around as much as we could -- beautiful APT changed our free choice dinners in both destinations to inferior restaurant options leaving us very disappointed -- no explanation of course just suck it up The ship may be new but is badly built in Vietnam and they are famous for their poor quality build and it is furnished with dated examples of Asian furniture sale stock, it will age and deteriorate quickly The scenery remains unchanged for the whole trip so I guess the idea of doing this trip is to enjoy the cruise which you will have trouble doing when it is full, the public areas like many river cruise ships do not cater for all on board so your cabin takes on a higher importance. Also having seen hours and hours and hours of Cambodia by bus I can tell you that there is nothing of any interest there, bad roads, no facilities, no infrastructure you are better off spending a week in Siem reap and doing day trips around there and also spend a few days at least in phnon penh it's a great fun city with easy access to museums and the killing fields and do a Mekong river cruise from there for the day -- its easy, plenty of good quality, affordable river cruise ships, they provide meals and then you have seen all there is to see. This cruise is touted as the thing you must do after European river cruising however -- think very hard about what you expect and measure that against what you are going to get, you do your cruising mostly at night anyway when its pitch black and there are no views. Honestly if I had my time over I would do what I have suggested above.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
We recently returned from Uniworld's European Serenade, 12 night, Vienna to Amsterdam. We had high hopes for a grand vacation. The itinerary was excellent, as was the "cruise manager" who was the equivalent of the cruise ... Read More
We recently returned from Uniworld's European Serenade, 12 night, Vienna to Amsterdam. We had high hopes for a grand vacation. The itinerary was excellent, as was the "cruise manager" who was the equivalent of the cruise director on ocean ships. The shore excursions were very good, but did tend to provide an excess of "free-time" for shopping. The pricing of the voyage was very high, but we thought that it may well be worth it. The trip was, in a word, disappointing. Despite the initial pricey cost of the cruise, each passenger is expected to provide tips, not just for the cabin attendants and wait staff, but for the entire crew. Additionally, the "cruise manager" is to be tipped by everyone on a per diem basis which basically pays his whole salary. This amounted to $436 per cabin, a bit much on top of the cruise fare. The food was clearly second rate. When posting roast leg of lamb, we were fed lamb shanks, a cheap greasy substitute. The same happened when veal was offered, more shanks. The Angus beef steaks were embarissingly bad. There were few choices at dinner time, among them fish that no one had ever heard of, "emperor fish", "butter fish", etc. This month's Consumer Reports has an article on "mystery fish". That was our dinner menu. The lunch and breakfast buffets were chaotic. There was no order of approach to the serving areas, consequently everyone was going in different direction at the same time. A significant issue that was inadequately addressed was infection control. There were two hand sanitizer dispensers on the ship, but that's where infection control ended. At no time were any of the staff wiping down bannisters, handrails, etc. Consequently virtually everyone on board cought a nasty cold. Passengers were allowed to handle food items such as bread picked-up for slicing, and then return it to the serving area for someone else to pick-up. Hygiene 101! The Dutchess is getting tired, and fortunately will go in for a needed drydock. We found the ship to be rather noisy. Passengers in the bow area were subjected to the roar of the diesel engine powering the bow thrusters. This often went on all night as the ship manuvered into various locks. The service crew onboard is from eastern Europe and lacks the polish expected in a first rate resort or ship. I know that there are many river cruise lovers out there, but this is how we saw Uniworld's River Duchess. i wish it were a prettier picture. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
This is the second small ship we have cruised, with the first one being on the Yangtze River in China. That was wonderful, and I believe it was the same cruise line, but different ship. Let me begin with the positive...the room/bath was ... Read More
This is the second small ship we have cruised, with the first one being on the Yangtze River in China. That was wonderful, and I believe it was the same cruise line, but different ship. Let me begin with the positive...the room/bath was the best we've had on a ship...mostly because of the roomy, full-sized bath. The ship was modern and nice, although a bit sterile feeling. Having said that, the food was lousy and repetitive (had risotto at least four times at different meals during the first two days!), and the staff were rude and unfriendly, with few exceptions. The only friendly staff on board was the cabin stewardess, two bar servers, the chef, and the piano player. Everyone else, including the cruise director, were unfriendly to different degrees. You could tell that most crew members were tired of working and wanted to go home. I won't said that cruise line again, although perhaps other ships would be OK. This was certainly not! Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We are experienced travellers and what happened to us on this trip has never happened before and the problems we experienced ruined what should have been an enjoyable expereince. Our difficulties started in the air routing selected by ... Read More
We are experienced travellers and what happened to us on this trip has never happened before and the problems we experienced ruined what should have been an enjoyable expereince. Our difficulties started in the air routing selected by Viking River cruises (we had chosen to purchase both the air and cruise portion from Viking something we normally do not do). For some reason they chose to route us from Vancouver (the closest major airport) through Toronto and Frankfurt to St. Petersburg using Lufthansa airlines (codeshare with Air Canada to Frankfurt). A direct flight from Vancouver to Frankfurt was available with Lufthansa and other passengers on our cruise who started in Vancouver were booked on this flight. This meant we had to stay overnight in Vancouver the day before our flight as it left in the morning (the more direct flight did not leave until the afternoon). This in itself was not a major problem until things started to go wrong. This happened about 20 minutes before our flight was to leave when Air Canada announced there was some problem with our plane and that it was going to be replaced with another smaller one which would not accommodate all the passengers. For some reason we were told to go to another gate where we would be given further instructions. We were not surprised to find a long line when we got to the new gate. At first we were told to sit down and we would be called to the desk when the agents could help us, a few minute later we were told that those who had connecting flights in Toronto which they would miss should get in line. My wife stood in line while I checked out flight schedules on my laptop. After over an hour wait we eventually got to the front of the line. We asked to be rerouted to St. Petersburg and the agent refused to do this saying she only had time to get reroute us to Toronto. By past experience we knew this would just mean more time in a line in Toronto and we insisted that our complete rerouting should be handled now. Eventually another agent agreed to do this. When we talked to this agent we first requested the direct Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt as there was space on it. Instead we were routed via Calgary on Air Canada flights. The agent did contact the baggage handlers and told them the new routing for us. We sent an e-mail to Viking telling them our new arrival time and flights. Viking did reply to us and told us there would someone to meet us when we arrived. Unfortunately when we did arrive in St. Petersburg (6 hours after originally scheduled time) our luggage did not arrive with us. We went to lost luggage where we were given a raft of paperwork to complete. There was another couple who were taking the cruise filling out the forms too. The agent told us our luggage was in Toronto. After about an hour of doing this we eventually got to meet with the Viking rep. She had sent on the other passengers already but had a van for us (this was really well handled as I am sure the others were happy to get to the ship right away and not have to wait for us). When we got to the ship we gave our luggage paper work to reception and asked for copies. We were told we could have our clothes cleaned overnight and they would be available before breakfast. We decided to do this. The next morning when breakfast was announced our clothes had not come back because there was no one in housekeeping yet. The clothes did arrive 15 minutes later and we were able to get a quick breakfast before our first excursion. When we got back to the ship at lunch we were told our bags had not come with those that were delivered. Now we were going to have to get some toiletries and clothes so we asked the cruise director if there was anywhere nearby where we could do this. He told us of some places in the centre of St. Petersburg where we could go but said there was nothing local. We asked if we could be dropped off there on our way back to the ship and were told to talk to our tour guide about this. When we did this she was concerned that we would we would not have time to shop, have dinner and catch the ballet performance that evening. So we had to got in our travelling clothes while many of shipmates wore jackets and dresses as we had planned to do. That night we sent our clothes to the laundry again since our bags still had not come and all we were able to buy on the ship was shaving cream and deodorant they did not even have any t-shirts in our size. We now felt that somehow we would have to go do some shopping the next day and asked to see the cruise director to discuss how we could do this. He had gone home so we asked for him to call us when he arrived in the morning. In the morning reception told us the cruise director was stuck in traffic and could not meet with us. We asked if someone else could help and were passed to the hotel manager who agreed to come to our cabin and talk to us. He was very empathetic and helpful and told us there was a large mall 10 min. away by taxi and said he would arrange for us to go there when we got back at lunch. As our bags were still missing when we returned a taxi and boxed lunch were waiting for us. However we were charged 60 euros for the cab. The next morning we were told our luggage had been found in Moscow and should arrive in the afternoon. At lunchtime we were told we would have to forego our afternoon excursion and go to the airport to get our bag and that we would have to pay another 60 euros for a taxi. At this point we were quite frustrated and calmly suggested that Viking should pay for the cab. A man in a suit interjected without introducing himself and said this was not Viking's fault and we would have to pay for the cab and claim from Lufthansa. I asked who he was and was told he was Viking's Manager of Russian Operations. I reviewed the facts with him but he was still adamant that this was not Viking's fault and they had no responsibility. while this was happening the hotel manager had arranged for us to go to the airport and back with the Viking reps who were going to meet passengers coming in to join another Viking Cruise. When the time came to leave for the airport we were told our bags had not arrived. Half an hour later we were told that one bag had arrived and did we want a taxi to go to the airport (yes it would cost us 60 euros). Although it was tempting to tell them to keep the bag I decided to go to the airport and get the bag while my wife went back to the mall to buy some more things since no one knew where her bag was. I finally got my bag and my wife had enough clothes to get her through until we arrived 6 days later in Moscow. All our spare time during this 6 days was spent talking about, writing letters and e-mails about the lost bag. This meant we always had anger and frustration boiling under the surface and left us very little time to enjoy the passing scenery or take in the lectures and lessons offered. When we arrived in Moscow we were told a)the bag was there b)we would have to go to the airport to get it at our expense and c)that trip could take up to 3 hours each way. We gave instructions for the bag to be returned to Canada. This did not happen and after more effort on our part showed up 4 days after we got home. Now for the actual cruise. Ship and Cabin The ship was pleasantly finished and comfortable but offers little in the way of amenities. There was a bar and a small library equipped with 2 computers and the dining room. The free Internet came in handy and the speed and access were quite good unlike the slow speed and expensive service on ocean cruise liners. There was a small and poorly stocked store that offered little other than souvenirs you found everywhere you went in Russia. Our cabin was small but comfortable except for the pillar between the bed and the desk which made it hard to get by if someone was sitting at the desk (a common occurrence for us due to the above). Dining Room: The food was okay not outstanding and definitely below the standard of the ocean lines we have been on. Breakfast consisted of a buffet set up on both sides of the dining room. It had a good variety of cereals, fruits, breads, cold meats and egg dishes and other than the pancakes (hard and doughy) was fairly good. The service was quite good and the staff very pleasant and helpful. Entertainment: Practically non-existent, there was a piano player in the bar but we never heard him play but then we were rarely in there. Excursions: This is where Viking does deliver on its promises. All the guides we went with were excellent. They knew their Russian history and added in their opinions on Russian politics past and current. All excursions were interesting and we found St. Petersburg to be one of the best European cities we have ever seen for architecture. The palaces are incredible especially since they were so badly damaged during WW II. We went to the optional Cossack show which was fun but overpriced (mind you that seemed to be the case in most of Russia). We also did the optional home visit in Uglich. This was worth it as it was our our only chance to meet an ordinary Russian and see how they lived. Overall: The wors trip we have taken thanks mostly to Lufthansa. We think Viking could have done a better job in support i.e. paid for taxis and phone calls to insurance providers, offered t-shirts and toiletries when luggage delayed so long and some compensation for tours we had to miss since we paid for these as part of the package. Without the luggage problem I would have to rate them at 2 stars on a 4 star system when I would rate Holland America/Princess at 3 and Oceania 3.25. Service: Most of the staff were very good especially the Hotel manager. However the chief receptionist was one of the worst people I have every dealt with on a cruise ship. She even told my wife to wait until she got home to deal with her lost bag. The cruiseship director was not really that he even said all he was responsible for were the excursions and refused to help with anything not related directly to that. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
I just returned from Viking River Cruises' Imperial Jewels of China, September 18 -- 30, 2011. This is a once in a life time kind of trip. I am rather disappointed with the misrepresentations by Viking River Cruises. Viking River ... Read More
I just returned from Viking River Cruises' Imperial Jewels of China, September 18 -- 30, 2011. This is a once in a life time kind of trip. I am rather disappointed with the misrepresentations by Viking River Cruises. Viking River Cruises brochure touted the "Viking Emerald" as the "Yangtze's most elegant and newest ship." It was definitely not an elegant or luxury cruise ship by any stretch of the imagination. The carpeting in the hallway was uneven. There were little crawly creatures and cockroach in the bathroom. According to the Program Director, Iowa Xian, Viking River Cruises bought the ship from Century two years ago, a Chinese company. As a matter of fact, all onboard literature referred to the ship as "The Viking Century Emerald." The ship's captain and crew were Chinese. The captain did not speak English. There was no professional staff or entertainment. The Program Director was a Tour Escort turned Program Director, and who openly expressed desire to return to his old job as tour escort. There was not even a theatre or show room. They just put up chairs in the so called "Observation Lounge" on Deck 5. Presentations were displayed on a stand-up projection screen. The same set up for movie viewing (The Last Emperor.) The menu choices were limited. I asked for an entrée without potatoes. I was told it could not be done. I was asked to pick from a stand-by choice of chicken or salmon. I asked for Eggs Benedict without the Hollandaise sauce. After waiting for 30 minutes, I was given a poached egg, period! It opened to question on the skills of the kitchen staff! This is definitely not worth the price Viking River Cruises is charging for the trip. I am also very disappointed with Viking River Cruises customer service. I booked directly with Viking when they had a 2-for-1 sale. I was shocked to see that they charged foreign transaction fee on my deposit. Later, I gave the booking to a travel agent, and did not have to pay any more foreign transaction fee. The customer should be informed about the foreign transaction fee. I could have used a different credit card which did not charge foreign transaction fees. The Customer Service personnel at the toll-free number provided misinformation. I was told that they used small planes of 50 passengers and therefore must stick to luggage weight restrictions. This was far from truth. We flew on regularly scheduled commercial flights. It turned out that the best part of the intra-China flights was that we never had to handle our own luggage and no worry about luggage allowance. The tour escort had "nice cousins." Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
I will start with a few snippets from the March 2010 AMA press release: "March 25, AMAWATERWAYS TO INTRODUCE MS AMAKATARINA IN RUSSIA The completely renovated ship will be the largest and most luxurious vessel sailing ... Read More
I will start with a few snippets from the March 2010 AMA press release: "March 25, AMAWATERWAYS TO INTRODUCE MS AMAKATARINA IN RUSSIA The completely renovated ship will be the largest and most luxurious vessel sailing the Volga-Baltic Waterways. The 212-passenger ship boasts 24,025 square feet of space dedicated to 106 cabins. Seventy-six of those cabins feature balconies. Passengers can choose from an impressive 10 cabin categories spanning four decks to meet their personal needs. Four different suite categories offer incredibly spacious accommodations ranging in size from 280 square feet to a luxurious 432 square feet... "From the time that we first launched our Russian Waterways program, it has proven to be one of our most popular and successful itineraries. Now, we are taking Russian Waterways to the next level of luxury and comfort with the AMAKATARINA. We are overseeing every detail of the ship's renovation. This will allow us to make sure the vessel is perfectly tailored to the high standards that AMAWATERWAYS passengers expect," said Rudi Schreiner, president of AMAWATERWAYS." ------------- Now we will talk about reality. This was our first river cruise and we were not encouraged by the reviews coming out of the earlier sailings. We lowered our expectations as suggested and tried to roll with the punches. We traveled two days early to Moscow and toured on our own to see some of the sights not covered on the AMA itinerary. We arrived at the boat around 4 PM and embarkation was easy, our cabins were ready and our luggage was delivered right away. Unfortunately, or maybe wisely, AMA published no photos of the ship or even design drawings until after the inaugural sailing so we were only going on their descriptions when we booked. This was a mistake. The cabins range from 110 sq. ft. to 432 sq. ft., the majority being 238 sq. ft. or less. Only the 15 "suites" are 270 sq. ft. and up as opposed to AMA's press release claims of 280 sq. ft. and up. We booked early so we could get one of the larger cabins, a Marinsky "suite", at 320 sq. ft. Accommodations could best be compared to those at a Motel 6. While our cabin was spacious the extra space was not utilized any differently than the narrower deluxe or superior cabins, it just had several extra ft. between the bed and the desk. One would expect booking a "suite" priced 63% higher than the standard cabin rate that you would have a nicer bathroom, extra storage and at least one comfortable chair. Not true. The bathrooms are tiny, consisting of a sink with no counter space, a medicine cabinet that opens the wrong way into the bathroom (taking up almost the entire space) and a small shower with a 1" step down into the shower with its plastic curtain, hence their description in their promotional material of having a "separate" shower. The hot and cold water taps are reversed and the handles turn the wrong way. The towels are pretty thin. They do not change them at night, just in the morning and the prevailing humidity and small bathroom space pretty much guarantee that they won't dry by evening. The hair dryer is one of those institutional ones attached with a hose, and not even in the bathroom, but mounted on the wall next to the bed. There is a desk on one wall and they could easily have added a desk drawer and a line of drawers underneath. There is only one outlet in the entire room. The only storage in the room consists of a wardrobe with hanging space and shelves, but no drawers. We found that all of our stuff fit in the wardrobe, but would recommend bringing additional hangers and putting your socks, underwear, etc. in packing cubes to store on the shelves. Our "sitting area" consisted of two desk chairs and a small table positioned blocking the balcony door. The bed was OK - we like firm mattresses - but there is only one pillow so it is difficult to read in bed. If AMA oversaw "every detail of the renovation" then the person in charge of making sure it was "tailored to the high standards that AMAWATERWAYS passengers expect" certainly missed the mark. Our first clue about what was to come food-wise came at the welcome snack that was laid out in the Symphony bar area. There was a platter of open face "sandwiches" with a piece of spam or cheese slowly drying out on a slice of white bread; no condiments. There were soggy animal crackers and some stale cookies, tea and coffee. We had a peek at the first night's dinner menu consisting of chicken broth or zucchini cream soup, chicken breast with lemon sauce or Russian baked vegetables in a pot, Russian ice cream with cherry sauce. Not exactly a gala "welcome aboard" dinner! In general throughout the cruise the food was overcooked and not very good, but edible. I uniformly ordered the vegetarian entry and cannot personally recommend ordering meat, chicken, fish etc. There were a few logistical problems, such as dinners for half the table arriving 20 minutes apart, but they only happened a couple of times. With each sailing I think the wait staff is improving with experience. The same wine is poured every night - a Russian Chardonnay that tasted more like Sauvignon Blanc and a Russian Merlot. The main dining room is very crowded and a problem in the morning at the breakfast buffet as people try to squeeze through tight spaces with their food. Every morning you could sign up to eat dinner in the smaller Symphony restaurant. Same menu, same food, just a smaller less crowded dining room. The young restaurant staff worked very hard and we thought that they were a bright spot, as were the young college students who accompany the tours, hand out headsets, make sure all are accounted for, etc. The onboard lecturer was interesting, had a great sense of humor and gave a good overview of Russian history along with life in current times. Housekeeping was so-so. Several nights we did not get our turn down with the daily two bottles of water and friends had to actually tip someone to take away the birthday cake that had been left sitting in their room for days. The reception staff was not very organized or knowledgeable. They often gave out inaccurate or contradicting information, or were unable to answer basic questions. Internet was iffy - off and on, mainly off. In addition, before the cruise some basic questions posed to AMA's home office resulted in inaccurate information. I was not left with an impression of a well-managed, professional tour company. On a positive note, the tours and guides everywhere were uniformly very good to excellent. The only thing I would have skipped was the shopping stop at Arabat St. in Moscow. We learned a tremendous amount about Russia. Moscow and St Petersburg are must-see cities and seeing smaller towns along the Volga was interesting as well. We did not have Marina as our cruise director, but a young man and woman, who tried hard but they weren't seasoned in their jobs - quite a few communication and other issues arose, but nothing major or a big deal for us personally. Schedules were changed several times. Overall I observed a lack of customer service orientation and proactive thinking from many of the staff that may be a cultural thing along with a training issue. Most people we talked with were not terribly happy and felt their expectations were not met. Given AMA's hype of a new luxury experience in Russia I doubt they will find many repeat clients from among those on our trip. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We started our tour in the Berlin Hilton. Unlike Uniworld that offers airport to hotel transfers free whether or not we fly w/ them. Coming from Uniworld cruise on the Rhine we flew to Berlin and joined Viking. Taxi from Tegal airport to ... Read More
We started our tour in the Berlin Hilton. Unlike Uniworld that offers airport to hotel transfers free whether or not we fly w/ them. Coming from Uniworld cruise on the Rhine we flew to Berlin and joined Viking. Taxi from Tegal airport to Berlin Hilton $15. Vikings sells transfers and we had to buy both transfers in Berlin and Prague for $120. Taxi to Prague airport cost $50. Starting at the Berlin Hilton and ending at the Prague Hilton were the best parts of our trip. We booked our own pre and post hotel extensions for less than Viking was charging. When i do that w/ uniworld we're allowed the use of their staff. Viking staff refused to speak w/ us because we hadn't booked their extensions. Before we joined the ship we toured Potsdam. A 3 hour tour that was dragged out for 6 hours. A woman on out bus who spoke German told us the guide said to the bus driver "what are we going to dow/ them all day". We were exhausted and bored when we finally joined the ship. From the beginning i regretted choosing Viking -- we received lousy service BEFORE we boarded the ship. The cabin was large, but there was no shower door. The shower was only a drain in the corner of the room, therefore it flooded the entire bathroom and drained onto the rug. After every shower the cabin smelled like sewage, Thankfully, the L'Occtaine Verbana bath products masked the odour. Complaining to the hotel manager didn't change anything. We were told to shower less and believe me we did. The smell was horrific. L'Occtaine is great, but .... The ship was filthy. There were cobwebs in our cabin window. When we disembarked there were still the same cobwebs in the window. Martin,the tour manager was rude and did not know the guides. There was a red card for bad and green card for good guide system, but we were stuck w/ some incompetent guides. Thakfully we LUCKED OUT in Wittenburg (the reason we took this tour) our guide was working on a Phd in History. Very knowledgeable. I couldn't help but compare Martin to the Uniword tour manager who knew heer guides and directed us to those who focused on history. When i asked Martin a question because we had chosen to skip the tour to the porcelin factory in Miessen and walk into town on our own, he shrugged and snapped, "i don't know". The lectures provided, one by Marin that focused on cars and one by a guide brought on board who lectured on Luther. I have Masters in theology and a BA in Religious Studies and one in art history so I din't expect i'd learn much, but i was appalled when the lecture on Luther focussed on modern Northern Germas buying socks as Christening gifts and a table on how much beer countries in the EU drank. Apparently the Czecs drink the most beer and the Germans come in 5th in the world. What happened to Luther? The tours were well organized, but only Dresden and Wittenburg were worth visiting. WE visited Saxon, Switerland but my daughter and i figured it interest woulden't us because it was an oudoor tour and we thought it would be like Vancouver. Upon the other passengers return we learned that everyone we spoke to was bored -- another hour long excursion dragged out for 3 hours. They were taken to a canyon, took pictures and then sat on rocks for hours. Unfortunately, our choice was bored on the ship or bored on the excursion. Our cabin was too ugly even to sit and read. How long can a person sit in the lounge? Afternoon tea on Uniworld is sustantial sandwiches and sweets served on elegant china. On viking it's instant coffee and stale cookies. The meals were tolerable, but advertised Russian Borsht turned out to be greasy German Borsht; Coconut Thai soup turned out to be chicken noodle sans coconut. The only decent mean was breakfast. They had great porridge. The luncheon salad bar was sparse and inedible followed by odd offerings on the menu. We'd actually have skipped supper, but i'm diabetic and must eat. Service was ho hum except for one waiter and i tipped him seperately. It is e first time on any cruise i chose not to tip one the whole. The service sucked. Reception staff never looked up when i came near and never smiled. Shopping: Uniworld had daily specials in the boutique or on a table at rece sales. Viking has no shop and didn't offer specials on the meager items they carried. I bought a uniworld sweat shirt one day when it got cold for $15. Viking sweat shirts were $40 every day. We were bussed to the Prague Hilton and then toured the city. The guide reccommended a lovely little hotel w/ a restaurant that overlooked the rennaissance clock in the town square. Good food and a great view. The Hilton's we stayed in before and after were the best part of our Viking experience. Berlin and Prague were well worth visiting; i'd skip the river cruise by Viking in the middle. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Flight was ok, flew connecting through Toronto (continental) to Air Canada first class. No problems going there, food was all right, dinner was pretty good on the plane, breakfast not so much. Service very good, but not the best, booked ... Read More
Flight was ok, flew connecting through Toronto (continental) to Air Canada first class. No problems going there, food was all right, dinner was pretty good on the plane, breakfast not so much. Service very good, but not the best, booked through Viking Air. Arrive in Shanghai to find the Viking crew standing outside, and we were told to wait at an ATM machine as they were waiting on other guests. We waited there for close to 50 minutes (what's that saying about first impressions?). Finally after 20 hours of flying we got on the bus to go to the Portman Ritz. Upon arrival Daniel, our tour guide for the entire trip, proceeded to help us get a smoking room and welcomed us. The hotel was wonderful, and we ate in the Chinese restaurant attached to the hotel. Very good, and something that is easy to miss in this hotel is the 2nd floor bar, where they have live jazz every night from about 8pm till midnight. Also this bar is half smoking, half non-smoking, and it seemed like no one was on the non-smoking side all the night we were there. The next day, we woke up nice and early to go touring. First we go to some sort of garden, it was very nice looking, and we got some free time to visit the merchants. After that we stopped on the Bund to look at the river and skyline. Then we were brought to the first "Tourist Trap", the embroidery "factory", which was mostly a store with pushy salesman, and a restaurant in the back. The food was mediocre at best, and Chinese (which you learned to hate by the end). After this we went to the Shanghai museum that had some interesting coins and jade pieces, but it was nothing to go nuts about, definitely worth a visit though, and was one of the authentic highlights of Shanghai. At night, we went to an Acrobat show, which was quite good, but between the jet lag, and touring all day, it was very difficult to stay awake. The following day we were transitioning to the airport to go Wuhan, but not before we got to just one more "Tourist Trap" in Shanghai. That morning we went to the rug-making factory (woke up nice and early for it too). It had 2 people making rugs when you first walk in, then a shopping area easily 10 times the size of the "factory". We had a box lunch, which could not be consumed. We flew to Wuhan, which took off about an hour late and went to a Provincial museum with a remains of a tomb. Definitely a highlight of the trip, and was quite amazing. We heard them play the bells from the tomb. Which was quite nice. We then went to board our ship, the Viking Emerald. Once on board the ship, we realized this is no cruise like we from the United States are used to. They have no food for long stretches of the day except peanuts, and ramen noodles, however for some reason they offered an all you can drink policy for a very reasonable price (I believe $175 for 4 days, but included premiums like Grey Goose and Hennessey). The room was cruise ship small, but about the same as any regular cruise boat. There was no smoking lounge anywhere, so smokers beware in the bad weather. While there was a Chinese BBQ on the back of the ship, it went completely unused, and the only reason we knew it existed was due to the large sign saying BBQ with pictures of food, that looked considerably better than the food you were eating the whole trip. While on the boat we encountered many poor dishes, and it made me dream of such splendid meals by the great American chef, Colonel Sanders, whose food quality is outstanding compared to his trip (please note, I find KFC to be repulsive). I however digress as we did eventually make it to a KFC next to the Great Wall, not because there weren't good restaurants near the wall, as I am sure there were, but out of desperation for something familiar. The boat did feature a very inexpensive and nice spa, that was a plus, but they offered no enrichment activities, and the biggest show of the week was the crew talent show, which consisted of Chinese chefs trying to sing which in polite terms, reminded me of watching a prison rodeo on TV, where all the prisoners kept smiling while being attacked by a bull. The Yangtze was very beautiful however, and many of the sites we saw were very good. This includes The Three Gorges, which were stunning, the Dam, the locks, and a beautiful pagoda on a hillside. These tours were quite well executed except for one stop, involving the Viking School. The Viking School was an absolute disgrace that should give great shame to Viking. This insulting school "sponsored" by Viking, consisted of the kids acting as a tourist attraction, in an overly run down school made of depressing of cement, with pictures of the Great Leaders of China on the walls. There is a broken basketball hoop in the courtyard however, and it is questionable the amount of donation Viking has actually made to this school. If I had to guess it was no more than a $1000, and I am pretty sure the buses the arranged to go visit the school outweigh their donation every year. Not only was the condition of the school extraordinarily bad, it was depressing in and of itself to be at such a horrid place on vacation. This may be cold-hearted, but the Chinese people chose to have a communist government, and therefore deserve their communist school, capitalism does not need to fund it, and frankly the funding that Viking gives to the school makes capitalism look bad. But I digress. After leaving the river cruise we went to a cruise see the pandas, which was ok, and had another awful lunch in a hotel. What was amazing about all of our food stops, is that they only provided you with one glass of soda, and refills could be purchased. For the $14,000 that we paid (without airfare), one would think that soda would be reasonably included. After we flew to Xi'an where we greeted with the Terra Cotta Warriors. This was the highlight of the trip that everyone should see. It was truly fascinating and awesome. They gave us an adequate amount of time there, and it did not feel rushed. That evening we decided to leave our tour (as we really did not want to give Viking any more money), and g to dinner by ourselves. We went to Huili Japanese Restaurant, as suggested by our Amex Concierge. We hired a hotel limo (Kempinski Hotel) for $80 for 4 hours (a brand new BMW 750li), and went downtown for the evening. Our tour guide seemed surprised that we would wander off on our own, but this seemed more like a sales pitch for the event that evening they were upselling. We had a wonderful meal at Huili and would recommend it to anyone. It was the 2nd best meal we had the whole trip. Our meal came to $38 Dollars including tip, and consisted of 7 courses each, and 4 extra large beers. They do not speak English however, but with the help of my phone, we used Google Translate to tell them what we wanted, and it worked perfectly. We then stopped at a Wal-Mart just to see the difference between a U.S. Wal-Mart and a Chinese Wal-Mart. The next day we flew to Beijing for the last part of our pre-extension trip. We were brought to the "least visited" part of the wall, which felt like the most visited part of the wall. It was packed with tourists, and there is a place where all the tour guides hang all their flags in front of the gift shop next to the KFC, and rows of tourist traps, and I counted at least 15 flags. If you are looking for a private and intimate experience with one of the world's great wonders, look at other tours. After we had our "lunch of local specialties" which consisted of us being paraded through another tourist trap jade factory place, to the back where they had a huge dining room with 10 different tour groups. At this place we had a meal we could not consume, and I was about 30 seconds away from standing up and screaming, but didn't, as many of the people on our trip were clearly trying to make the best of their vacation. I will explain why they did not seem to care later, but once again I digress. We then went to see a recital by the Peking Opera performers, where the duck was quite good, and the performance was quite bad. It was unbelievably annoying and I do not recommend it. We stayed at the Regent hotel in Beijing, where the service was quite excellent, and the hotel was beautiful. When we woke up, we went to see Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City in extreme heat, and while it was quite fascinating the heat got to me after a while, and of course someone got lost in the group and it took us an hour to find them because they did not have an international cell phone. We then skipped their "lunch" which I am sure was at some sort of tourist trap, and we went for lunch and dinner on our own at the hotel, not trusting the food of Viking any longer. The next day we flew to Guilin to being our Hong Kong extension. In Guilin we stayed at the Shangri-La, which had wonderful food, and our meals were in the hotel. We went down riverboats once again and experienced the 5-hour trip down the river, in what seemed like part 2 of the Three Gorges. It was truly a waste of time, and we would have appreciated an extra day in Hong Kong. When we did reach Hong Kong, the trip was more to our pace. There was a small introductory tour in the beginning that brought you to the major sites and 2 days of free time, where we had custom suits made, wonderful dinners on our own, and we even took a jet boat to Macau. This was the highlight of our whole trip, and we realized the reason why... Viking wasn't there to mess it up. While I could not mention everything in the above post, I can say that there were many things we learned from this trip. We learned that as we are seasoned travelers, who have been to over 41 countries, we do not need a corny tour to show what is good, and at the price we paid, could have arranged everything using private cars, first class flights, and our own restaurant preferences. The average Viking guests are traveling upper middle classes, with little to no demands or requests. There are many teachers, retired factory managers, etc. on the trip of their lives, and it shows. There are no repeat performances, there is no chance they would ever come back to China, and this is their dream trip. They are afraid of the unknown, and the tour guide engages this perfectly. This is not a cruise like Crystal, where you discuss the other 40 countries you have been to, or compare notes and complaints compared to other trips you have been on. This group of travelers creates an issue, as they do not demand the service that a truly affluent traveler knows to demand. While this may sound incredibly snobby, it is simply true, which is why I believe there are so many positive reviews of this trip. This trip brought us to 4 tourist traps, which were applauded by the guests around us, while I longingly looked out the windows at the true culture we were missing. We were squished onto crowded planes for short domestic flights of 4 hours after delays (which our tour guide told us were quite common in China), and not made aware that we urgently needed to upgrade to first class (after all, if we had booked it ourselves, it would have been first class, but because they were only supposed to be 1 hour trips, we didn't go through the effort). Looking back however, this trip would not be appropriate to upgrade to first class, as you would likely outcast yourself from the rest of the travelers. This compared to Crystal where it seemed like an echo on the one flight we took from St. Petersburg to Russia, as to why they did not offer a first class option. This trip is not for the well seasoned, and overall is not a very good trip. The food is repulsive for the entire trip, and we found when we got home we spent nearly $1,000 feeding ourselves. The loads of corny jokes from the tour guides such as "my cousins help you with your bags" and "my cousins have blocked the internet" were sad and desperate attempts, that made me feel like I was in a really crappy travel comedy film you watch during a Tuesday afternoon rain delay for a 3rd rate baseball city. You really need to consider anyone else, or consider doing it on your own, you should be more than able to considering the service provided by the hotel we stayed at. This trip was pathetic, and easily the worst trip I have ever taken, but since I like to end on a positive note, all the hotels were very nice, but Viking did not own them (or the ship for that matter). Also, you never had to handle your bags, as they had porters at every stop (which our tour guide referred to as cousins). Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
The embarkation was smooth, and the baggage was delivered promptly. The cabins, however, were not ready. The AC was not working, the toilet would not flush properly, they forgot to put in the refrigerator, and there was no life jacket. ... Read More
The embarkation was smooth, and the baggage was delivered promptly. The cabins, however, were not ready. The AC was not working, the toilet would not flush properly, they forgot to put in the refrigerator, and there was no life jacket. We set aside extra time for ourselves so that we would see some of the places in St Petersburg and Moscow which were not part of the published itinerary of the cruise ship. However, it turned out that the sight seeing itinerary of the ship was changed without prior intimation to us. So, we ended up seeing some of the places twice. Internet access on board was sporadic at best, and a lot of passengers were desperately trying to connect. The availability of TV channels was very limited. Entertainment on board the ship was nothing to write home about. There were not enough places for the passengers to hang out. The ship was apparently very old, and was squeaking continuously. The ship did not even have umbrellas for shore excursions. Passengers were expected to bring their umbrellas from all over the world. The chef was very insensitive to the food habits of the diverse backgrounds of the passengers. They were serving beef and pork without even informing the passengers. The attitude and enthusiasm of the young dining room staff and guides was the best part of he cruise. They were working almost 18 hours a day, with constant smiles on their faces. Certainly not value for money. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We have cruised a ton - mostly on SeaDream - but we didn't realize how spoiled we were until we traveled on the River Beatrice. We sort of got a taste upon arrival when we pulled up in our cab and 2 staff came to get our bags. No ... Read More
We have cruised a ton - mostly on SeaDream - but we didn't realize how spoiled we were until we traveled on the River Beatrice. We sort of got a taste upon arrival when we pulled up in our cab and 2 staff came to get our bags. No smiles from them or "welcome to the ship". The ship itself is lovely. No complaints there. We are 60 and 65 years old, but it seemed that most other passengers were much older than we are and mostly American. We were traveling with friends so were a party of 4. Dinner is supposed to be open seating between 7-9 pm. We had been in Europe for several weeks before the cruise and had been eating dinner between 8 and 8:30pm. So the 1st night we are enjoying a drink in the lounge about 8:15pm and the maitre d' came up to ask if we were eating dinner. He said that if we came down late he wasn't sure he could seat us together. The dining room is poorly laid out. Mostly long tables for 6-8 or round tables for 8. No one is organizing the seating when you arrive in the dining room so you have to wander around and find a place to sit. Since everyone on the ship appeared for dinner at 7pm - when we arrived in the dining room we were always joining other people half way through their dinner - so we felt pressured to eat at 7pm. Ship was pretty full I should point out. Can't imagine going on this cruise as a twosome as there are no tables for 2 and no room service or in room dining - so you would be dining with other people every night. Not as high a staff ratio as SeaDream, but staff was always working hard, but not as friendly as I would like. We felt very regimented and that never works for us. It wasn't what we expected and we would not do it again. Also the Danube River was surprisingly uninteresting compared to the Med cruises we have done. Maybe it was just the part we saw - Budapest to Passau. Best part of the cruise was the 1 day bike ride we did on our own along the Danube from Durnstein to Melk!! Also liked the self service washing machines (2) and dryers (2). Overall an average experience! Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
The included tours of the various ports were done by local guides and were, by far, the best part of the cruise. The tours were around 3 hours long, mostly walking, and included historical aspects, local color, humor, and loads of ... Read More
The included tours of the various ports were done by local guides and were, by far, the best part of the cruise. The tours were around 3 hours long, mostly walking, and included historical aspects, local color, humor, and loads of information. The sites we toured were varied--Papal Palace, medieval charity hospital, winery, chocolate store...to name a few. If only I could say as many nice things about the other parts of the tour. The room was quite spacious with lots of storage, but nothing out of the ordinary. The food, although prepared by a chef with lots of skill and personality, was fair, mostly because the provisions were obviously not bought from local markets in France but rather bought in bulk at the beginning of the cruise and probably frozen or at least refrigerated. But the absolute worst part was the customer service provided by Viking, starting with the contacts in the US and ending with the desk crew on the ship. They messed up our air tickets at least three times and it took 5 calls from my TA and myself to get it straightened out. The other couple we were traveling with had an even worse experience with the air booking. Then the Viking concierge on our pre-cruise stay gave us incorrect advice, telling us the only way we could visit the places we wanted to visit was by booking a local private tour for 525 euros. The tourist info in Nice showed us the way to do exactly what we wanted for a total of 72 euros. When we had questions of the personnel at the desk about places in the port, or about our transfer, or about the strikes in France, we were told that we would be given the information later when we needed it. I guess it didn't matter that I wanted to know then; they would decide what I needed to know. The optional tours and the beverage package are outrageously expensive. The "straw that broke the camel's back" was what happened to a couple I didn't even know on a transfer to the airport to return home. We had early flights, 6:30 AM from an airport about an hour away. That meant we had to leave the ship about 3 AM. We had "bitten the bullet" and arranged the expensive transfer before we left the US because we knew the times would be difficult. In the 9 passenger van, there were 4 of us and the driver. When we got to the airport there was another couple from our tour. Viking had made them arrange for a taxi from the city, a VERY EXPENSIVE transfer, because they had waited too late to book the transfer. I don't know how late was too late, but we had plenty of room in our van. I don't know why Viking couldn't have worked something out to help this couple. They just don't care. And that is why I will not be on another Viking cruise--the customer service is simply abysmal. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
The ship, Viking Neptune, was clean and comfortable and we were very glad to reach it after a very tiring journey from St. Pancras to Chalons-sur-Saone. A change of trains at Paris was organised by a Viking Representative, but at the ... Read More
The ship, Viking Neptune, was clean and comfortable and we were very glad to reach it after a very tiring journey from St. Pancras to Chalons-sur-Saone. A change of trains at Paris was organised by a Viking Representative, but at the second change in Dijon we were left to manage trains, platforms and luggage with no help or inforamtion. At first the food seemed plentiful and good, but we quickly realised that none of it was really fresh. As we stopped at towns with some of the finest food in France, everything we ate came from the freezer. Fruit was unripe and bread was sometimes still frozen at the centre. Tours were organised daily, but half of them were 'optional' and extra fees were charged. Guides were knowdegable, but a great deal of walking was involved, and this prevented many of the older and less able passengers from participating. On-board entertainment was minimal, with little attempt to create an atmmosphere of enjoyment, and lectures were less than gripping - a talk on mustard, for example. TV offerings were minimal and old. The majority of the crew were German, as were most of the pasengers, and announcements in heavily accented English were difficult to understand. Those crew members managing the reception desk were often less than courteous, and quite unhelpful at times. Cabin and waiting staff were very pleasant and efficient. This was our first river cruise, and will be our last with Viking. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010

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