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191 River Cruise Reviews

We cruised the Viking Odin in September 2012 on the Danube from Nuremberg to Budapest. The cruise took us to places we had wanted to see. Our room was comfortable and well kept by housekeeping, the ship was very nice and the staff was very ... Read More
We cruised the Viking Odin in September 2012 on the Danube from Nuremberg to Budapest. The cruise took us to places we had wanted to see. Our room was comfortable and well kept by housekeeping, the ship was very nice and the staff was very good especially the Cruise Director Joe, the front desk personnel and the hotel manager. The dining room staff was very attentive. The daily excursions gave you an overview and we used receivers connected to the guide -- an excellent tool. For the most part the on-shore guides were knowledgeable and interesting. The 4 or 5 additional excursions could not be signed up for in advance of the cruise but these were quite good especially the Mozart-Strauss concert and the Danube Gorge. Why was the sign up not offered prior to sailing is a mystery. Dinners in the Main Dining room were extremely noisy because all 190 guests were present at the same time making it difficult to have conversation. The dining room was crowded with armchairs that made it difficult to get in and out. Food was good but not exceptional. We did not purchase the wine & spirits package because wine or beer was provided at lunch and dinner and while it was built into the cost of the cruise, it was not worth it. We (6 of us) would have preferred to pay as you go instead. The evening entertainment consisted of a few local performers or a lecture by one of the staff, and there really was no space on board for much of anything. We were often linked up with 2 or 3 other Viking vessels visiting the same cities and used each other for transit to shore. Viking's book about the trip was most informative but they did not need to spend money on a small leather bag to hold it and 2 name tags that hardly anyone wore. Viking's marketing is quite extensive and the patrons are paying for it rather than getting value for their money on the trip. Overall, the cost was high when you compare this with a high quality but small ocean going cruise ships. The only value with these river cruisers is that they can get into places where a small Ocean going vessel cannot go. However, the cost of this access and the marketing - $3 to 4k more than a small ocean going cruise line like Oceania - causes me to think that the trip was not worth the cost. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
We cruised from Amsterdam to Budapest on Avalon's Vista in July 2012 . We are new to cruising and were a bit underwhelmed by this cruise . The boat was very nice and our room was great The crew generally wonderful , especially our ... Read More
We cruised from Amsterdam to Budapest on Avalon's Vista in July 2012 . We are new to cruising and were a bit underwhelmed by this cruise . The boat was very nice and our room was great The crew generally wonderful , especially our waiters Thomas and Constantine . The cruise director , Dragan , was very obnoxious ,though many seemed to like him . The food was pretty good though , inevitably seemed repetitive . There were far too many "surprise" expenses for a cruise that implied that it was "all inclusive " . The included tours were uneven and the extra ones were overpriced and should not have been "extra" . The entertainment that was provided was very good with the exception of one talentless electric violinist . Although it may be conventional , I found the gratuities policy ( giving us envelopes and telling us exacly how much to tip everone including the cruise director ) offensive and we ignored it . We tipped those that provided us good service ( NOT the cruise director ) . We spent the same amount of money ( a bit more actually ) but giving it ,in cash , directly to those who deserved it . Our fellow passengers were suprising old . We expected that to some degree but at age 65 I didn't expect to be one of the youngest onboard . River cruising is nice but it is not a good way to see a place . You spend too little time on shore and you seem cutoff from local people and experiences . Avalon seemed too interested in getting extra money out of us at every opportunity given we were sold this cruise as "all inclusive " . We will probably do it again but I doubt if we will use Avalon Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We are four people, one in their 50's, and three in their 60's, and everyone is very well traveled.We took the route from St. Petersburg to Moscow. On the positive side we met many very nice people, which is very important on ... Read More
We are four people, one in their 50's, and three in their 60's, and everyone is very well traveled.We took the route from St. Petersburg to Moscow. On the positive side we met many very nice people, which is very important on this cruise, as there is nothing to do for most of the time. The brochure talks about all their shore excursions. On one of the "shore days" we were off the ship at 8:00 a.m and back on the ship at 10:15 a.m. It would be another 29 hours until we got off the boat again- with nothing to do for all of that time.We would have loved to explore some of the beautiful stops, but the tours are very self-contained and of a very short duration.However, the one worth taking with the optional excursion to the banya. Our banya treatment lasted a few minutes longer than it should and we had to run, soaking wet, back to the boat.The only down side to going to the banya is that you cannot see anything else on this island, as there is no time allotted for to do both. There is absolutely no entertainment on the ship. They advertise a piano bar, which actually means one musician playing background music. After several memos to Viking we did have one night where he actually played lively songs with audience participation. The food was barely tolerable, and the choices worse. Breakfast was the best of the meals, only it was exactly the same day after day. Sometimes they did substitute whatever vegetable was left over from the night before. One day we sat down to lunch with another couple.Four of us ordered as our main dish. The waiter came back to say that they were out of soup, but they had two portions of chicken kiev left. One night at dinner we ordered spring rolls (which were the main course). Two tiny spring rolls appeared and when we asked for another portion the waiter told us they ran out. Many nights we had a baked potato and a wilted cesear salad. Lunch did have a salad bar, but it was the same every day (I never figured out what the two extra salads were- they were labeled "with fish" or "with pork") If you are hungry after dinner you are just out of luck. After much discussion with the ship's manager we did manage to have a very small plate of cookies put out at l0:00p.m., but you had to know to be in the bar at that time. The food was the absolute worst I have ever encountered on any ship, or any two star restaurant. The staff was completely indifferent to us- they did not, in any way, try to make our trip any better. As someone else wrote, they never looked up at you, welcomed you (or ever had food/drink to welcome you back) or stopped their conversations. I just read another review of this ship and they talked about the sister ship Helga and how nice it was. Our hotel manager told us his hands were tied and all directives come from Viking. Apparently that is not true. Viking does not charge two star prices, they should not provide two star voyages. Despite all of the above, we had a wonderful vacation. We met really nice people and saw places we had only read about. I can just imagine how much better it could have been on a different ship or a different line. The beauty of Russia is a trip worth taking, just not on the Viking Ingvar. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
I have just returned from a 15 day cruise with Viking on their Grand European Tour (Amsterdam to Budapest). July 23rd to August 9th (included extended tour of Prague). The ship was the Viking Danube. First the good: 1. Food was ... Read More
I have just returned from a 15 day cruise with Viking on their Grand European Tour (Amsterdam to Budapest). July 23rd to August 9th (included extended tour of Prague). The ship was the Viking Danube. First the good: 1. Food was very good 2. Staff was very helpful with the exception of one unpleasant female wait staff 3. Off shore accommodations for extended trip to Prague quite good Next the BAD: Viking has already sold the DANUBE ship which will be retired from their fleet next January, 2013. I know why. Some of the things encountered: 1. No air conditioning on the ship for over 24 hours in 94 degree heat. Had to travel to another port to pick-up an engineer to fix the problem 2. Water went out on the ship on three separate occasions 3. Cabin carpet was dirty 4. Stains on the carpet in main areas of dining room and lounge area 5. Space in public areas so tight you would not walk through (dining room) or there was not enough room for all of the passengers to sit (lounge) Overall look of the interior was that of a old Holiday Inn motel. Not at all the standards of the ship I took to China in 2011. Vikings response was to apologize to the passengers about the air conditioning and give everyone a free glass of sparkling wine-very cheesy and did more to irritate passengers than soothe. The final result- more likely than not to consider other providers before using Viking again Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
I have delayed writing this review to await the dust to settle from the river cruise and to ensure objectivity rather than dwelling on the usual high or low experiences firmly fixed in your mind from the just completed cruise. The ... Read More
I have delayed writing this review to await the dust to settle from the river cruise and to ensure objectivity rather than dwelling on the usual high or low experiences firmly fixed in your mind from the just completed cruise. The information available about the Viking Njord from fellow Cruise Critic Reviewers prior to the cruise my wife and myself went on consisted of only one review, so I had no pre-conceived views prior to the cruise. The ship is a new build of the Viking Long ships and this was the Njord's 7th cruising of the rivers between Budapest and Amsterdam and return. The ship is visually appealing and being new, is presented very well as would be expected from a brand new multi million dollar build. There are several design flaws throughout the ship, one being the inability to comfortably seat and fit all passengers into the lounge/bar area at the same time. There are periods during the cruise when this is not an issue as passengers are spread though-out the ship or ashore, but it is not acceptable for people to stand when daily briefings are held prior to the dinner meal. The dining area acoustics are another serious flaw and trying to engage with other passengers during the meal periods near to and across the table is almost impossible due to the din generated in the room and amplified by the ceiling design and material used in the manufacture. The cabin design is functional and although quite small compared to ocean ships, is functional and adequate. The bathroom area is very generous and first rate. Hanging space for clothing is very limited due to the design of the hanging closet with the "bump". Again, it is not insurmountable because of the adequate drawer space. I must point out here, the senior management of the ship are well aware of these design flaws from past passenger complaints and feedback and are apparently working with the builder to apply a fix. Due to the complexity of the issues I would suggest this will be done when the ship is "down" for maintenance during the off season and not in the foreseeable and immediate cruise season. Apart from the above mentioned design flaws of the ship, it is a state of the art ship with contemporary fittings and well laid out. The dining room experience was good and it was apparent all staff were trying to meet the needs of the passengers. The staff were attentive and professional and alcohol and refreshments flowed freely during the meal periods. The staff were very cohesive and it was very visually apparent senior management were working positively with all staff to ensure passenger comfort. The quality of the food for the dinner meal was, in the main, adequate but not exceptional. Servings, although small, were adequate. The breakfast and lunch menus were good and you had several choices. This cruise was not an ocean going 24hr food feast to tempt you to over eat and I found that enjoyable as did my waist! You would have to be an extremely fussy eater not to find something you like at meal times but after 15 days some meal selections can be repetitious. The only big downside to the cruise was the inability to sit above on the sun deck when we wanted to watch the world go by. The weather on our cruise was exceptional and the ability to sit above deck with 360 degree views would have been (and should have been) the highlight of the trip. Viking Cruises (and other cruise companies as well in fairness) do not mention in advertising that a significant amount of days, in our case almost 2/3 of the cruise, you were not able to access the top deck due to low bridges. My wife and myself were a disappointed in the land tours as they were too slow and did not cover enough ground but again in fairness to staff and guides, they had to cater for passengers who were not as fit or mobile. The age demographics of the cruise were generally in the 60+ group. After many sea going cruises and this being our first river cruise, it is our opinion river cruising is not for us. In comparison to Sea Cruises, it is not value for money, does not allow enough time in ports and due to the sun deck being closed does not provide sufficient entertainment aboard during down times. That is not to say other people would not enjoy river cruising but be aware the bling and glamour portrayed in advertising can be somewhat less appealing when experienced in the flesh. In any event, this is just our opinion and everyone has different expectations. Do your research, be positive and enjoy the world of cruising whether it be by river or by sea. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We have just returned from the Viking Cruise/land tour Imperials Jewels of China. This trip covered 3 days in Beijing , 1.5 days in Xian, 5 day cruise on Yangtze River and 1.5 days in Shanghai. Included was 5 star hotel accommodation in ... Read More
We have just returned from the Viking Cruise/land tour Imperials Jewels of China. This trip covered 3 days in Beijing , 1.5 days in Xian, 5 day cruise on Yangtze River and 1.5 days in Shanghai. Included was 5 star hotel accommodation in the 3 cities listed,3 internal flights and a verandah stateroom on the Viking Emerald. The passengers, 160 in all, were divided into 4 groups of 40 each with a dedicated tour escort for the whole journey. This was not a relaxed cruise/land tour and was full-on, especially on the days when visiting the tourist sights in Beijing, Xian and Shanghai. There was a significant amount of walking in high temperatures and dealing with large crowds at the various sites. It was highly organised and always on the go, leaving very little or no free time on the land days. Apart from breakfast, dining was at local restaurants under the "lazy Susan " format with the food choice being very limited and sub standard at times. On the days of the internal flights it was quite time consuming though the organisation covering the check in and luggage handling and transfers to hotel was well organised, leaving us with no concerns. The Viking Emerald is a reasonably new ship and had all the modern conveniences to make the cruise very comfortable and relaxing. The meals were of a reasonable standard with a choice of either Chinese or Western. There was no entertainment apart from 2 revue type shows put on by the crew. Unfortunately the river cruise schedule had to be changed due to the Yangtze river being in flood and we were unable to sail through the Three Gorges and pass through the lochs which would have been a major attraction for us. However Viking made alternative arrangements to sail up the river to the Three Gorges Dam from Wuhan and return, giving us 4 days cruising and an extra day in Wuhan. Our tour escort was very good and knowledgeable on the key factors covering the places we visited, which was very helpful in helping us attain an understanding of the Chinese culture and lifestyle. The local guides were also of a high standard. One disappointing aspect of this trip was that once you were allocated to your group you were expected to stay with it, and the opportunity to mix with the other passengers was non existent because of the structure that was in place to move everybody around China during the trip. Whilst we understood this, we felt that on the cruise there could have been some relaxation in the group situation so that we could utilise the open dining policy that Viking offers. This was not the case and we were all directed to dine within our groups, and thereby the opportunity to meet and mix with the other passengers did not eventuate. To sum up this trip, it was more an adventure than a holiday in that it provided us with a fully organised insight into China. We understood such organisation was necessary as trying to cover the major tourist attractions on our own, would have been very demanding. Given the short time at our disposal, however, we have to say that Viking proved to be excellent tour operators and their superb organisation enabled us to cover a large amount of China in a very short time. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Day 1-4 To much time in Moscow. Shore excursions were very good but how many churches can u c. Day 5 Town of Uglich very little to see. Shore excursion to a local home was good. Day 6 Town of Yaroslavl could do without Day 7 ... Read More
Day 1-4 To much time in Moscow. Shore excursions were very good but how many churches can u c. Day 5 Town of Uglich very little to see. Shore excursion to a local home was good. Day 6 Town of Yaroslavl could do without Day 7 Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery "boring" Day 8&9 Unable dock bad weather. This was the most boring part of the cruise. Viking had no alternate plan for this. We had nothing to do for two days. Day10-13 The best part of the cruise. Loved the Hermitage,Catherine's Palace,Peterhof Palace and behind closed doors. Day 12 Many passengers asked if we could go shopping we were told yes. After lunch a bus arrived to take us shopping. So off we go shopping. To very ones surprise we went to one store in the middle of town were no other shops existed. This was quit clear the ship and or Viking Cruise and the store had this pre planed. I wanted to buy Russian Vodka with Russian labels this store had Russian Vodka with English labels. So much for shopping in Russia. The ship: No phone anywhere except in your cabin. When your traveling with other people a phone in the dinning area would be very helpful to contact them. Stairs in front of the dinning room very steep some one will fall. Tour guides excellent Wouldn't recommend this Cruise to anyone! This cruise could do away with everything except St.Petersburg Last year we sailed with Viking on the Grand European Cruise. Everything about the cruise was a 5+++++. So we anticipated the same for the "Waterways of the Czars river Cruise". Not so, very disappointing except for St. Petersburg Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
From June 3 to 17, we sailed on the Unwieldy River Empress from Budapest to Amsterdam. We had previously done a Nile River cruise on GCT which we found to be wonderful. This last trip on the Empress was a mixed bag. Rooms were expected ... Read More
From June 3 to 17, we sailed on the Unwieldy River Empress from Budapest to Amsterdam. We had previously done a Nile River cruise on GCT which we found to be wonderful. This last trip on the Empress was a mixed bag. Rooms were expected to be small and they were. We had 2 chairs removed from the 150 sq.ft. room so that we could circumnavigate the bed. Bathroom was good and bath amenities were very good. TV in the room was very limited with about 3-4 English speaking channels and 1 film per day on the ship's channel.Stewardess was wonderful and the room was very clean. Food was spotty. Breakfast was a buffet and had standard fare. Lunch was always a buffet with a really good and tasty selection of appetizers and entrees. Dinner was spotty, ranging from gourmet to awful. Usually 3-4 choices at dinner but they also has steak, chicken and salmon as standard fare (always available). We had salmon 5 times during the trip after we had to send back the daily choice of entree since it was inedible. At other times, the dinner was outstanding such as rack of lamb. The problem on this river boat was that save for mealtime the only other food available were candies in the foyer and cookies and/or coffees at the area that house the gift shop, gym, lounge area and computers. The Internet reception was a joke it was so bad. The itinerary was great, always on time with really good guides, clean buses, when needed, and "gentle walkers" had their own group. The cruise director was the best employee on the ship. The tours outstanding. Our morning wake-up call was usually prescribed by the sound of the thrusters which occurred at almost anytime during the nigh. 4 am was not unusual. We thought that getting a room toward the bow would alleviate our having to hear the engine noise. Apparently the best spot on the ship is in the 300 section toward the stern. Library, bar area and deck lounge areas were good though we thought drinks were pricey.The wait staff in the bar area and restaurant were really good people and very competent servers, mainly from eastern Europe. Everything on board was in Euros and you could settle in US dollars. The major irritant to me personally was that the $300 shipboard credit we had for our cabin was equated to Euros at the rate of $1.48 while the daily rate was circa $1.24. So we lost about 40 euros with the explanation the Uniworld only converted shipboard credit once a season and the they did, it was at the higher rate. We lost about 40 euros with that slight of hand. This was our first European river cruise. Would we do it again? Maybe, but on a ship that had more suites, amenities, less motor noise, and more entertainment or offerings at night. Seabourn have any river ships? Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
It's unclear whether Viking management exercises too-strict control over operation of the dining room, the Hotel Manager is incompetent, or both. I rather suspect that it's a combination, i.e., that the staff hide behind the ... Read More
It's unclear whether Viking management exercises too-strict control over operation of the dining room, the Hotel Manager is incompetent, or both. I rather suspect that it's a combination, i.e., that the staff hide behind the operating standards to avoid fixing easily manageable problems: responses to suggestions for improvement were met with "not my responsibility" or "it's not in the standards". Here's an absolutely ridiculous example: there were numerous slide shows in the Sky Bar, and the projector is not optimally aligned. Adjusting the tilt of the projector to move the image to the very top of the screen would make it easier for those at the back to see, but the suggestion that this be done was met with, "That would have to be approved by Viking corporate"! The suggestion that it was inappropriate to serve hot dishes on room-temperature plates at breakfast and lunch, and that there was a simple solution to the problem (caused by Viking's moving the egg and pasta stations to the end of the buffet lines) was brushed off by the restaurant "manager" with "that would require another waiter" when in fact, as noted below, the waiters are seriously under-employed. Whatever the cause, the result was 2-star food and service at 4-star prices. Baked goods, and much of the other food, were obviously purchased rather than freshly prepared from scratch and the so-called "omelette" offered a breakfast is no such thing: it's a scramble cooked in vegetable oil and dumped onto a room temperature plate. The waitstaff were extremely friendly and, like their supervisors, utterly incompetent. Their training obviously focuses on the former rather than seeking opportunities to be of service. Typically, when the attention of a waiter was finally obtained to, for example, get a cup of coffee or glass of wine, the waiters provide the requested service and then return to their stations without looking around to see if there are other any cups/glasses on the way that need attention. Note to management: Viking is a US company, and in the US the very first thing which happens upon taking a seat for breakfast is that a waiter appears with a coffee pot (the coffee, incidentally, is better from the instant dispenser outside the dining room). Our last breakfast aboard was typical: one of two table settings missing a fork and an empty milk jug. The poor service may also have something to do with Viking's tipping policy which, unlike any other vessel I've been aboard, recommends a single tip to be shared among the entire crew (stewards, waiters and crew). Tipping is for personal, not routine, services and the policy does not differentiate between the (exemplary) cabin stewards and (incompetent) restaurant staff. Another example of an easily remedied issues is the sorry (and unsafe) state of the computers in the Internet Cafe, the two computers provided apparently having never been updated since the were installed (auto-update off, 192 updates available for the obsolete Windows Vista and IE7 operating environment). Despite the fact that there are wired Ethernet cables available at both stations, the computers both utilize the overworked WiFi network aboard ship. Yet another is the fact that although the beds are not reconfigurable, the double beds are two twins with separate sheets. This doesn't work if you sleep together, rather than in the same bed. Switching to a single bottom sheet would help, but "gap fillers" are inexpensive. There's also an obvious lack of environmental consciousness: the 24-hour coffee dispensers encourage the use of paper cups and provide plastic spoons instead of wooden stirrers. Adding insult to injury, having charged an additional $200 to schedule our return on a different date from the end of the cruise, Viking dinged us $40 for the transfer to our hotel. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
Ease of boarding was exceptional, especially if your transfer was included with flight booked with Avalon. Moevenpik is easy to get to if you know that the pickup point for the airport shuttlebus is zone 1. Thanks to advance registration, ... Read More
Ease of boarding was exceptional, especially if your transfer was included with flight booked with Avalon. Moevenpik is easy to get to if you know that the pickup point for the airport shuttlebus is zone 1. Thanks to advance registration, boarding was easy, as the bus dropped us off next to the vessel. Baggage arrived promptly. The cabins are noticably smaller than ocean cruise ships, but storage space is excellent. Cleanliness and efficiency are the chief benefits. Since you rarely have the balcony door open (due to coolness, smell or other vessels right next to you) it's not worth the extra money for a balcony room. Wi-fi was inconsistent and slow. Food on board is plentiful, well-presented, but with little variety for breakfast, and below North American expectations for the quality of the main courses, compared to what you are used to. No one needs an extra drink package, since the wines and beers were included with dinner. Still, you would expect a cruise line catering to North Americans to be able to make a North American style coffee. Alas, no luck (for that matter, anywhere in Europe.) Service is friendly, prompt, and personal. The cruise director (Dragon) does everything he can to provide information, advice, and accomodate special requests (he even was able to retrieve a lost purse, and arrange for delivery on board). His expertise on the castles, and Amsterdam was exceptional. Shore excursions began well, then started to become repetitious, with the same historical, archetectual, and cultural information, with guides that were inconsistent in keeping their audience engaged. One highlight of the excursion list was the Heidelberg castle excursion, with entertaining stories from a well-informed guide who loved this place. Entertainment on board was limited to a piano player (limited requests and social skills) a trio of baroque musicians (Where were the German pieces?) and the show by the crew (Don't give up your day job). Most passengers turned in before 10. Disembarcation was well-organized, with only a short walk to the Amsterdam central train station. (or some took a transfer bus to the airport) Overall the trip was hectic, filled with sights to see, but on a much smaller scale than an ocean cruise. Personally I prefer the ocean cruise because of its variety of excursions, ship's amenities, level of luxury, and food. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
This was our 3rd Viking cruise and the first for the ship, Viking Nord. A beautiful vessel but with some design flaws, for example, the hangers would not fit in the closet unless they were turned at an angle due to a 'bump out" ... Read More
This was our 3rd Viking cruise and the first for the ship, Viking Nord. A beautiful vessel but with some design flaws, for example, the hangers would not fit in the closet unless they were turned at an angle due to a 'bump out" in the back of the closet. With space a premium on a river cruise, especially in a French Balcony cabin. BTW, Viking did not tell us that there are no chairs in this class of cabin;no where to sit except on the bed or on a footstool(with no back). And, the bathroom is designed so that the glass wall to the cabin can be made transparent. Why??? the bathroom is an improvement over their older ships. The major issue with the cruise was communication. For example,the hotel staff could not tell us where we were going and when. The itinerary that we were sent had all the correct ports just not in the order that we visited them. And, since this was the last week or so of the tulip season, why wait until the end of the cruise to visit Keukenhof Gardens? And, if Viking truly wanted all 180+ passengers to gather in the lounge for shows, lectures, demonstrations, etc. why have only seating for about 130 of us? Major design flaw on the longships. The cabin TV has a feature to list the weather and the next port. For 8 days it showed our first stop in Kinderdijk. Why? the staff did not know. The restaurant manager, chef, and wait staff were sensational! Can not say enough good things about the meals, the attentiveness, and the friendliness of all involved with the restaurant. The shore excursions were good to excellent except the stop in Rotterdam. Another example of poor communication. We arrived late and were not told why? We also were not allowed to leave the ship and not told why not?All in all,we are disappointed enough with the new longship Nord that we are considering Uniworld for our next river cruise in Portugal. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Uniworld River Ambassador - Floriade Cruise - May 20-27th, 2012 Preface to this review: I have been on a number of “ocean” cruises before I took my first river boat cruise. I do NOT like ocean cruises because they are ... Read More
Uniworld River Ambassador - Floriade Cruise - May 20-27th, 2012 Preface to this review: I have been on a number of “ocean” cruises before I took my first river boat cruise. I do NOT like ocean cruises because they are "factories" and passengers are only a "product" although I have found them useful/beneficial in only ONE way: they provide a brief taste of a country or place - perhaps enough to judge whether or not you want to return. This was my second river boat cruise. It was notable in so many ways, both good and bad, that it deserves a thorough review. The Good – Uniworld advertises itself as a “boutique” cruise line. Promotional materials suggest that this company provides service and services that are at least one step above the “common” providers. To be honest, if you can afford a river boat cruise, you are not amongst the lower income strata, so - to me - ALL of these are “boutique” cruises. That said, except for the usual couple of surly or unhappy people, the crew of the River Ambassador were SPECTACULAR at customer service, with at least the appearance of genuine concern for the happiness and comfort of all passengers. The River Ambassador crew and staff provided an attention to detail and special needs* I have NEVER experienced in any hotel, restaurant or other facility anywhere in the world. I make special mention of three people: Chef Bogdan, Restaurant Manager Zhivko and Head Waiter Alexandru. As you can tell from their names, all are Eastern European. In addition to the overall freshness and variety of the foods and menu choices, all three of these gentlemen went far out of their way to assure that my special need* to be gluten-free was met! The Pastry Chef even prepared gluten free cookies JUST for me! Of the four of us who usually dined together, I was gluten free, my wife allergic to strawberries, one fellow traveler allergic to shellfish and the fourth at our table allergic to bell peppers. The Uniworld staff KNEW about each of our special needs and assured that they were all met. This is NO small feat when caring for 200 or so passengers! A couple of meals were not to my liking, but that is to be expected. On the other hand, Chef Bogdan and his staff created AWESOME soups with flavor far exceeding the usual saltiness. he also created wonderful and INTERESTING entrees. Each meal included at least one fish choice and each entry was served with interesting and mostly delicious assortments and combinations of vegetables that would either be new or unusual to Americans. The River Ambassador kitchen offered at least 4 or 5 entrée choices every evening! The River Ambassador, itself, was fine as a vessel. It was stable and moved at a very nice speed (powered, I am proud to say, by two engines of American manufacture - the Caterpillar company). The Captain was excellent and omnipresent. Fully approachable by staff AND passengers. The sailing crew, engineering and hotel staffs and other employees were all excellent examples of customer service. MOST spoke excellent, fluent, English. The Average - City tours were average. There were some good tour guides and some poor tour guides. Local drivers and bus accommodations were all excellent. Planning for local excursions was uniformly excellent and well executed. As you will read in my review of ocean versus river boat cruising, city tours are INCLUDED at each port of call on river boat cruises. They are NOT options for which you are milked as on ocean cruises. The BAD - Accommodations - one word “claustrophobic.” MEN, NO ROOM to STAND to pee! Not to be funny, but I needed to move the toilet paper holder/toilet brush holder into the shower in order to stand in front of the commode. 128 square feet is NOT adequate; this Is NOT “BOUTIQUE” even if “recently remodeled.” I imagine in order to conserve fresh water, the pressure to the shower head was severely restricted. While Uniworld had refurbished the cabins with modern “rain” style removable shower heads, there was insufficient water pressure to point the head upwards! Noise level - horrendous - engine, locks, deck sounds even one level down, etc. Entertainment - minimal and disappointing. Ports of Call - The FLORIADE was a MAJOR disappointment. It was THE reason we chose this cruise! The first signal of coming disappointment came when the on board cruise director gave his pre-port of call lecture and told his travelers that they should NOT expect the Keukenhof (a floral wonderland near Amsterdam). Despite the name “Floriade” this is NOT a floral exposition. In fact, as far as I can recall (my wife and I did NOT visit the entire Floriade. We were so disappointed that we left after a couple of hours), there was only ONE area truly devoted to flowers – a green house type of arrangement. The Floriade tried to be a mini-world’s fair but – in my opinion - did not succeed very well. One of the few interesting displays was a geodesic dome in which you STOOD on a glass floor and watched what I believe was a Google Earth display beneath your feet. While it was dizzying because the camera zoomed in and out around the globe, it was fascinating. Unfortunately, apparently NO attempt is made to keep the floor clean. Maybe that is emblematic of the way we care for our Mother Earth! The Floriade is spread over 160 acres. Most of it is EMPTY grounds. I understand that the Floriade was supposed to end in June but has been extended. DO NOT BOTHER! If you want to see flowers and can afford the trip, go to the Keukenhof! If you can only afford domestic travel, go to the Philadelphia Flower Show which is AWESOME! Other ports of call: The cruise started in Brussels. Brussels is your basic, large, European city. It was neither notable nor exciting. On the other hand, it was not disappointing either. You can easily eat your weight in fantastic chocolates, Belgian waffles and – of course – BEER. Antwerp came next. Unless you are interested in buying diamonds, you can skip Antwerp. We then passed into the River (Meuse) Maas in the Netherlands and stopped at Maastricht. Unfortunately, Maastricht is so lacking in notability that I remember NOTHING about the town. Venlo, Netherlands and the Floriade came next. The next port of call was Cologne, Germany. Unfortunately, by this time I had developed a raging flu (perhaps as many as 25% of the passengers had the ailment – SADLY, these at least moderately well-to-do and likely well educated people did NOT have the brains to COVER their mouths when they sneezed and coughed!) so I missed the city tour. I heard that Cologne is an interesting city mostly rebuilt as it was before World War II. I did go into Cologne the following morning and found it to be worth visiting. The final stop on this cruise was Königswinter, Germany. For me, this was the BEST port of call on the cruise. Königswinter is the location of two notable castles on a mountainside overlooking the Rhine. On the top of the mountain, are the ruins of Drachenfels Castle. Halfway down the mountainside is Drachen Schloss (or Schloss Drachenburg or Castle Drachenburg). If you do not want to hike up the mountain, you can get to both of them on a wonderful cog railway. On a clear day, which ours was, you can see all the way to Bonn and, I think, Cologne, from the mountain top Castle. After the cruise, my wife and I took a train from Cologne to Munich. If you have never traveled by train in Europe, it is THE way to go! Munich was WONDERFUL. A GREAT place to visit!! Overall impressions: Uniworld’s staff were uniformly AWESOME. I tipped people personally who I have NEVER tipped before because of their personal attention to MY needs and wishes. This particular cruise is NOT worth taking. Based on this one experience, I gladly recommend Uniworld to other travelers; just NOT this particular cruise and DEFINITELY not the Floriade.   Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Stateroom; Television: Satellite TV with ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Discovery Channel, TNT. No weather channel. Hair Dryer and Magnification Mirror in bath. Shampoo, Conditioner, Shower Gel, Lotion provided upon request. They ... Read More
Stateroom; Television: Satellite TV with ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Discovery Channel, TNT. No weather channel. Hair Dryer and Magnification Mirror in bath. Shampoo, Conditioner, Shower Gel, Lotion provided upon request. They do not have a clock (alarm or otherwise) in the staterooms, although they do offer "wake up" service. Slippers & robes may be provided. Some people had them in their rooms upon check-in, others had to request them. They did not seem to have enough for each guest, so if you don't get one, request it right away. They advertise that "All staterooms feature gourmet coffee brewers and Starbucks coffee", however this is incorrect, as no staterooms have this. River Times: Is the daily schedule of events and locations, which is (supposed to) delivered to your stateroom each evening along with turn-down service & a small chocolate. There are many errors in this publication, as it is basically just a re-print from the last cruise. They forget to change the date, weather, location and times of events often. So anything that you want to do, make sure and double check the time and place. Athletic Club: There are 2 treadmills, 1 elliptical and 1 multi-function weight machine. Swimming Pool: There is a small pool, however there is no water in it. I was told that there was an "engineering" problem and until addressed, they would not have water in the pool. I was told that there definitely would not be any water in the pool during our cruise, however, on the next to last day, there was (cold water). The pool is more like a spa tub, as it is very small, not deep and is jetted. There are several lounge chairs around the pool. Mark Twain Gallery: This is basically the "library". A very nicely appointed room for quite activities (similar to the ladies parlor and the gentlemens card rooms). Contains a VERY limited selection of books. All seem to be about the river, the civil war, or the local area. They do have current local newspapers also. No paperbacks or "current" titles (at this time). It looks like people are starting to drop off magazines that they have purchased and read, for others to enjoy. Wi-Fi: They do have wi-fi on board although very limited band width. Photography Services: They advertise professional on-board photographers, but I have not seen any. (Probably most people appreciate not being harassed by photographers). Included Shore Excursions: They have a Hop On/Hop Off bus system, which included the admission to many attractions. Each bus had a "tour guide", however, they often had nothing to say. The company would be well suited to give these guides a script to follow, giving riders information about the town/areas they are visiting. Riverlorians: The "riverlorians" on our cruise were Travis Vasconcelos and Mary Charlton, with a "guest lecture" by Toots Maloy. There was a "talk" almost each day about the river and steamboating/steamboats. The riverlorians were also available a couple hours each day (an hour in the morning and again an hour in the afternoon) to meet with and ask questions, borrow binoculars (which was a nice "extra"), etc. Entertainment: There was a Mark Twain impersonator. The Steamboat Syncopators, the 6 piece orchestra. A 4 person ensemble of Singers/Dancers who were very good. Also 5 other musicians who played (and attempted to sing- only Brian could you listen to for very long) in the various bars. On the last night of the cruise the entertainment was the Harry James Orchestra. Restaurants/Food Service: Contrary to their advertisement, there is not any "room service", so if you wish to "relax in bed with a cheerful breakfast tray" (as advertised), you will have to go to either the Front Porch or the Dining Room and carry the food back to your room. However, I saw no evidence of any trays available so that you could do this. J. M. White Dining Room - Breakfast (buffet and a la carte menu options) 6:30am-9:00am, Lunch (buffet and a la carte menu options) 11:30am-1:30pm, Dinner First Seating 5:15 & Second Seating 8:00pm Front Porch of America - Breakfast 6am-10am offers cold cereals, fresh fruit and muffins/sweet rolls. Lunch 11:30am-1:30pm finger sandwiches, hot dogs, bagged chips, popcorn. They advertise that this is where "light snacks and sweets will be available all day". These are hot dogs, popcorn, soft serve ice cream and cookies. This is where you go to get coffee, tea, soft drinks, juices throughout the day. River Grill - Lunch 11am-3pm (weather permitting). They serve hamburgers or hoagies/po'boys (on alternate days), chips and salads (potato or coleslaw). Dinner 5:30pm-9pm *Reservations are required. They offer airline chicken breast, beef tenderloin, or one additional option each evening, along with baked potato, a vegetable and green salad. None of these items are cooked fresh to order, but made in advance in the kitchens and then re-heated at the bar. Tea Time - A small selection of "nibbles" and sweets, along with tea (bags & water) or coffee are offered between 4pm-4:30pm. Engine Room Bar - Late night hors d'oeurvres served from 10:30pm-11:30pm There are no "Pre-dinner canapes and hors d'oeuvres" as listed in their brochure. It is VERY loud in the dining room, making it difficult to carry on a conversation. The food was just okay ... nothing special. They did some odd things, like serving prime rib but not offering horseradish. Serving corned beef and offered sauerkraut, but not mustard. Served lobster but did not offer drawn butter or lemon. They also one night served a shrimp appetizer, but the shrimp had not been cleaned or deveined! That was totally unacceptable. On the other hand, there were two nights (out of the 8 that we were on board) that I would rate the food as "very good". The night that they had the beef tenderloin, it was served exactly as ordered (medium rare), and the last night when we had the "Inaugural Gala Buffet", which included lobster, shrimp (this time cleaned and deveined), scallops, beef tenderloin, etc. (I don't know if this will be a regular occurrence as this was the night before their christening and all the "big wigs" were on board.) At all meals, they way overcooked the vegetables, turning them to slimy mush. Their Jazz Brunch, was horrible (it was NOT the menu that is in the brochure), up to and including the skinned baby pig (with it's side carved out) that was on the buffet - causing anyone with an appetite to lose it! The "complimentary" red wine that they served at dinner was acceptable. I did not try the white wine. The dining room service needs much improvement. We ate at same table or at least in the same section (same wait staff) for almost every meal (b-l-d). They never did learn to bring us coffee at breakfast (had to ask), offer fresh cracked pepper for our salads/soup. Although I had red wine each evening, they couldn't seem to remember whether I drank red or white, and several times poured a different label of wine into my glass while I still had wine in it. The drinks generally ranged from $6-$9. A bloody mary was $8, but offered everyday at happy hour for half price. They use Zing Zang bloody mary mix, which I was not familiar with, but is very good! Jack Daniels was $6 and Baileys Irish Cream was $9. Our problems began before we even embarked. We made the reservations in December, 2011 and were asked to call them back the middle of January to make our train travel arrangements from Memphis back to New Orleans. Long story, but they never did send us any information (tickets to get on the boat, our train tickets back to New Orleans, a voucher for our hotel stay in New Orleans, nothing)! We ended up spending part of our day in Memphis trying to get out train tickets straightened out. Our room was filthy for the first few days of our cruise. Finally after, getting no satisfaction, I posted a message on the cruise critic bulletin board and we finally got our room cleaned. Of course, the next day, our room was not cleaned nor even our bed made by 6pm, so finally (after blowing my top), they changed our room steward(ess), and from that point on we had no problems with our room. The public rooms are well decorated although they really should address problems like the peeling wallpaper. Also, it became a running joke watching the flowers wilt in the main entryway. They did not change the flowers until the last day when Pricilla Presley came aboard for the official christening. All of the staff that we had contact with was very nice (personable). There just didn't seem to be much training or direction given to them, and I blame management for that. I met with both Jeff Kreda, the CEO and David Kelley, the VP of Hotel Operations, and they used had many excuses (which they continue to use), but with the exception of changing our room stewardess, I saw absolutely no difference in service. We did receive a letter on the night before we disembarked stating that beginning on April 27 (the day after we disembarked), that whey were making "substantial changes." I hope that they do, otherwise I fear they won't be in business very long. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
When folks ask us why we booked American Cruise Lines Queen of the West, we reply that we did it to have the experience of traveling on the Snake and Columbia Rivers from Clarkston Washington to Portland Oregon. We wanted to travel on a ... Read More
When folks ask us why we booked American Cruise Lines Queen of the West, we reply that we did it to have the experience of traveling on the Snake and Columbia Rivers from Clarkston Washington to Portland Oregon. We wanted to travel on a paddle wheel river boat even though the paddle wheel is now just for looks and atmosphere. We wanted to view the scenery and nature, to learn about the history of the area and the Lewis and Clark Expedition and to have time away from work, telephones, television and noise. This is a very slow paced trip with few activities for young, active people. Nothing at all for children and teens. The bus tours (cost extra on most trips) are easy going with few physical demands. The passengers are generally very senior. Very! We were among the youngest passengers. A highlight of our trip was the on board historian Todd Weber who does a series on presentations on Lewis and Clark and the history and nature of the area, but he is not on every trip. If you want to hear and see him, verify before making your booking. The open seating meals are a good idea, but the times listed are not exactly as stated because you really need to get into the dining room at the opening time as the pacing of the meal service is slow. Even though we booked one of the more expensive rooms on the ship (mid-3 deck) it was a tight fit, especially the bathroom and closet. The balcony is tiny with very small chairs and cocktail table. Large suitcases do not fit under the bed so you have to live with them as furniture. We managed to get a 27 inch suitcase into the closet which is about 32 inches wide. The shower is small and water pressure varies but is never good. We had mostly hot water. Travel with at least a couple of friends (most people seemed to) so you will have company. The large groups didn't socialize outside the people they came on board with. Drinks at the cocktail hour are generous. The entertainment is very old fashioned. We gave up on it. Being on the great rivers is very interesting, but our first few days out of Clarkston, the scenery was dry, beige and vacant of wildlife. It all changes down the Columbia when suddenly the world becomes green and lush. As we passed Portland (to return the next day to overnight there) and went down to Astoria Oregon, we had a good idea of how big and busy the river is at that point. The overnight on the boat in Portland seemed like an expensive way to add a day to the trip with few benefits. Would we do this exact same trip again? No. Once is enough. When we return to that part of the US we will do our own driving. Would I pay that much money for a similar trip? No. It wasn't a good value for money although we were pleased to support an American owned and staffed cruise line. We needed a lot more activities and photo opportunities. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
On May 6th, my wife I recently completed a "Tulips and Windmills" cruise on what turned out to be the maiden voyage of the Viking Freya, one of Viking's brand new class of "Longships". We are fairly seasoned ... Read More
On May 6th, my wife I recently completed a "Tulips and Windmills" cruise on what turned out to be the maiden voyage of the Viking Freya, one of Viking's brand new class of "Longships". We are fairly seasoned travelers. This was our fourth river cruise. (The others include the Rhine with Viking and the lower Danube with Uniworld, as well as the Amazon and the Columbia.) We've also taken numerous other cruises with Windstar, Paul Gauguin, Hurtigruten, Carnival and others, and we plan to take many more cruises in the future. We have a good idea of what we like and what is reasonable to expect on a cruise. THE CABINS Overall, our cabin was very nice. Among the things we liked were the heated bathroom floor, the big flat-screen TV, the safe and ample storage. I wish the weather was better so that we could have enjoyed the veranda, but there's nothing Viking could do about that. The shower is the best I've had on a cruise ship, and the towels are big and fluffy. I also really like the king-size sheets and duvets. Our biggest complaint about the cabin - and this is HUGE - is the damned glass bath/shower wall. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING???? Being able to transform the wall from clear to frosted (and back again) is certainly high tech and glitzy, but it significantly degraded our cruise experience. Why? Because there is no way to make the wall opaque, so whenever the bathroom light is turned on at night, the entire cabin is illuminated, thereby disturbing whoever is still in bed trying to sleep. This one single feature will prevent me from ever considering cruising on a Viking ship which is so equipped. THE DINING ROOM The food on the Viking Freya was almost always very good and nicely presented. The dinner portions were on the small side, which I think is just right. (I hate to see food wasted.) The one exception was the "highly recommended by the chef" sea bass, which was just awful: dry, overcooked, tough and flavorless. The included wines were decent and plentiful. I have three major dining concerns. First, the dining room is very, very noisy. We think this is because there are too many tables squeezed into too small a space with no partitions to break up the noise. Second, the dining staff was mostly inexperienced, often inefficient and frequently less-than-friendly. I'll chalk most of this up to it being a brand new ship. Third, the Aquavit venue breakfast offerings were too limited . . . seemingly little more than coffee and a couple of stale donuts. THE SHIP The Viking Freya is new and shiny, and, as mentioned above, the cabins have several attractive features not found on other river cruise ships. But there are several things about the new "Longship" class that were disappointing. The biggest, single concern is that the lounge is cramped and simply too small to handle the passenger compliment. When there was a presentation or performance, not everyone could fit in there to see it. Numerous times, the staff set up a couple dozen uncomfortable folding chairs to try to handle the overflow, but even that didn't always work. We left a couple of lectures early because we couldn't see. Our impression is that Viking was so intent on creating Aquavit and the forward open dining area, that they cut back too much on lounge space. We also had several problems that I'll mostly chalk up to maiden voyage glitches. For example, the elevator almost never worked; the AC broke one night leaving rooms hot and uncomfortable; the TV weather channel was never programmed for "our" cruise, so we got weather reports for cities along the Danube; and for a few days there was a sewage problem that stunk up much of the 2nd level cabin area. TOURS & EXCURSIONS Not too much to say here. Mostly, the tours were good and well organized. I really like the personal receivers. I also like that they included several variants on many of the excursions, such as "regular" or "leisurely", and occasionally offered extended stays, (eg., in Brugge). MISCELLANEOUS We wish the Viking Freya had a paperback book exchange area in the library. This has become common on almost all of the vessels we've cruised, (and in many hotels and B&B's as well). All they need is a couple of shelves designated and labeled for folks to drop off books they've finished, and/or to pick up books someone else has left. It's mostly self-monitoring and provides a useful service to the passengers. On the last night of the cruise, the cruise director and staff pushed and cajoled passengers to buy raffle tickets for some unspecified mystery merchandise. They never told us ahead of time what they were raffling off or where the proceeds from the raffle would go. (The raffle items turned out to be a couple cheap Viking hats and towels.) The whole thing was unseemly. I was annoyed by the way the cruise evaluation forms were handled, especially when the cruise director coached passengers to inflate the ratings on the forms. I think he was way out of line to do so. Early in the cruise, I asked the front desk person if I could get a copy of the form early in the cruise so I could fill out portions of it along the way. There are so many things that happen on days 1-4 that ought to be mentioned, but I forget about them by the end of the cruise, and I thought detailed comments would be especially useful for the maiden voyage of a new ship. But I was told "No". Instead, they handed them out the day before departure. SUMMATION Viking is a quality company, but I think they have made several serious mistakes with their new class of "Longships". If we sail with Viking again, it will only be on one of their older, and preferably smaller, ships. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
This 9-night Tulip and Windmill cruise is fine for what it does include (nice tours) but very poor for how Viking handled the whole experience on the Idun - during and after the cruise. BTW - We loved our first trip with Viking so the ... Read More
This 9-night Tulip and Windmill cruise is fine for what it does include (nice tours) but very poor for how Viking handled the whole experience on the Idun - during and after the cruise. BTW - We loved our first trip with Viking so the changes in attitude were a real shock. Check for photos on Flickr.com from the Idun trip in the public areas in the Viking River Cruise group or search Viking or Idun. We will post more photos this week including cabins and food. Ports can be searched by name. The good - the program director [Mieke Bakker] and her staff were terrific - the best part of the cruise! They were well organized, well informed and very helpful. We loved them all. Our local tour guides were also really good and well chosen. Our time off the ship was the best part of our trip - before, during and after the river cruise. We took several of the optional tours (Delft, Arnhem battlefield tour, extended time in Bruges) and thought they were good value. We loved the floating vegetable market on the No Holland tour. Bruges wasted too much time (45 min each way) walking to and from the big buses but Bruges itself was great. Viking needed to include a canal ride or mini bus tour (yes, they have local tour buses in town) to see the highlights that were skipped. Hoorn (great but we were there early in the day and everything was closed) was very scenic and Antwerp was wonderful on the tour and for free time. We loved seeing the windmills, too. The OKAY... The FOOD was disappointing after our first trip with Viking. Portions were smaller and no seconds were offered. Wait staff was very friendly and willing but not well organized and they were obviously very new to the ship. We enjoyed the maitre d' [Ladislav Pisko]. The food itself was very bland and very repetitive. It was not representative of any of the regions or quality that we found off the boat. This is Europe - where were the delicious pastries and specialties that we found off ship? Same ice cream every night - different color; no flavor. Ditto for puddings. Desserts were what our non-cooking friends serve at home. Main courses did not reflect the region and weren't at all special. The two-bite "lobster" on the last night was a joke - dry and tiny and flavorless. The food menus are now written by corporate (we learned on our kitchen tour) and most food is frozen and shipped in except vegetables. We like the chef [Klaus Ungruh] and his crew did their best with what they had. The cost skimping really shows and it cheapened the experience this time around. The wine and beer were fine. Also okay was the entertainment. It didn't start till 9pm - too late after long days. The best were the clog dancers and the shanty singers. The rest were just okay at best - mostly talks short on detail or interest. The captain [Yuriy Chaplynskyy] was an unusual choice for an English-speaking ship as he was limited in English to "hello & welcome." Thus, he did not mingle with the guests (just smiled and left as soon as he could). The captain on our first cruise in France was very congenial and helpful. Chaplynskyy did spend a lot of time during the day frowning and watching workmen as they carried parts (doors, etc.) on and off the ship. The BAD... SEWAGE WATER in the shower -- What made the trip a total disaster for us was the continued sewage (smelly) water that broiled up several inches from the drain in the shower and the lack of any interest by the ship's crew. The closest we could get to help or a response was an indifferent "engineering is aware of the problem" at the front desk. The hotel manager [Gerald Hauswirth] avoided us and did not return requests to see him. When we finally trapped him (literally) in his office on the last night he would only say that customer relations would handle it AFTER we got home - not even a sorry for the inconvenience of no shower for the entire trip! [We are still reading about this problem of sewage leaks in July comments by others on this forum.] We observed the same problem in other rooms in our hallway but the office staff insisted that ours was the only problem! All ships have problems but the lack of ANY communication, response or caring made all the difference in how we now view Viking. Why would we care about a FUTURE discount if they didn't care about how we were treated in the first place? We don't trust that to change. NO ROOM HEAT OR AC -- The air heating and air conditioning did not work (heat only for 4 days and cold only for 4 days) in our room & temp couldn't be changed. This was fixed on day 9 of 9. GLASS DOORS a problem -- The glass closet doors would slide open with a thud at night as the boat moved and turn on the closet light waking us up. We finally wedged a suitcase there at night to alleviate the problem. POORLY DESIGNED SPACE... The lobby is all for show. Pretty doesn't trump comfort. The lounge is too small for the size of the passenger load. The shiny, hard low ceilings in the dining room make it impossible to converse even with the person next to you. Room size for Fr. balconies has shrunk to wiggle-room-only to make the balcony rooms on the other side of the hallway more spacious. ITINERARY TIMING...The visit to Keukenhof Gardens on April 9 was way too early in a typical year. I'm sure the rain isn't the same every day but the flowers were on their usual bloom schedule according to locals that we talked to before and after the stop. The trees had no leaves, the shrubbery was often brown and dried, and the tulips were merely a "promise" of things to come. It was mostly daffodils and hyacinths. That day was very disappointing - wet and cold with most flower color inside in cool/cold buildings. There was nothing spectacular that day and that's a lot of why we booked. I see that next year they are doing the visits even earlier so I feel for the folks who go. They seem to be trying to squeeze in more trips to make up for the money they lost this year with unfinished boats. Also, all of the optional tours were on days 2-4 when jet lag was still a problem for many. We were not told of the optional tour to Delft (which was good) until we were on board and it was time to sign up. Front Desk... Wasn't organized at check-in and the desk staff didn't even bother to welcome folks. This didn't change during the trip. And it was obviously a great imposition for them when we tried to check on room problems. We were so looking forward to this trip but, all in all, we aren't keen to repeat this experience with Viking. In fact, we won't be sailing on a longboat again. They are too flawed and Viking doesn't care if you have a bad experience. They are committed and it's to their investment not to their passengers. That's what hurts the most. Viking spends all their money on beautiful ads but they don't bother to get the experience right anymore. With Customer Service Dept. only trying to get future trips out of us it isn't a solution for a lack of caring and good service. Combine that with Viking's current reputation for a lack of communicating with customers about cancellations and changes until the last moment has bumped Viking from the top to the bottom of our list (and that of our travel agent and friends) and we recommend not using them. We've waited to post this to see if time would soften our disappointment but we are sorry to say that nothing we've read recently indicates any improvement on Viking's part. If you luck out with them, congratulations, but we aren't willing to knowingly pay for another bad experience. We love to travel and we'll put our money elsewhere. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
We had previously done river Cruises with Viking on the Rhine and the Seine. Having had very good experiences in the past we were really looking forward to our cruise through the Netherlands on a new ship the Viking Njord. Upon boarding ... Read More
We had previously done river Cruises with Viking on the Rhine and the Seine. Having had very good experiences in the past we were really looking forward to our cruise through the Netherlands on a new ship the Viking Njord. Upon boarding we, got into our "new" room and found it to be clean but very tight, as it was only 139 sq.ft. The bathroom appeared to be a nice improvement over previous bathrooms as the shower was bigger. One of the features of the shower, however, was one which allowed the wall facing the bedroom to become transparent. Consequently if you hit the wrong button your shower became public. This would have been a interesting feature 40+ years ago on our honeymoon, but it clearly missed the demographic on the cruise ship. The closet was another issue as it had a bump out at the back of it that did not allow the hangars to fit so it made accommodating hanging clothes very difficult. The room had only one very small stool under the vanity with no back for support and it was virtually impossible to use anyway because the room was so compact. These, however were fairly minor issues compared to the cruise itinerary and the ship's lounge. As it turned out, due to delays, this was the ship's maiden voyage. The itinerary we received was not followed. While we understand the Cruise line reserves the right to alter the itinerary, the problem on this cruise was that no revised itinerary was every published, despite repeated requests from the passengers. We were advised the night before at the daily briefings where we would be going the next day. That presented major problems as well. Everyone was expected to attend the daily briefings, but the lounge could only accommodate about 60% of the less than 200 passengers. In our opinion this was yet another design flaw with this ship. Why book two hundred passengers and then only accommodate 60% for all of the community activities which included briefings and entertainment? If one intended to catch up on cruise pictures, the itinerary or ports of call, using the new flat screen TVs, that was impossible also. Although the TV menu listed all of these features/programs none of them ever became available during the entire cruise. Our cruise was entiled Tulips and Windmills and by and large we missed the tulip fields. Our cruise began in Amsterdam and should have begun with a tour of the Tulip Gardens. Instead it was the very last day of our cruise. Our guide for the Garden tour began by telling us that had we been there a week earlier we would have gotten to experience a lot more of the garden's beauty. The one part of cruise which was superb was the ding room team. The food was very good and our wait staff, especially Ronaldo, was an absolute pleasure to be around. They were all well trained, efficient and most accommodating. We enjoyed them immensely and credit them with making our meals most enjoyable. I should note that our cruise ship staff seemed a bit harried. Perhaps it was the fact that this was the maiden voyage and there were a lot of questions, especially about the itinerary that they were unable to answer. We had not experienced anything like that in our other two Viking cruises. We are planning a trip on the Danube and also a Russian Cruise and were certain we would continue cruising with Viking, but we are exploring other Cruise lines now. In an effort to be helpful to Viking, I wrote a 7 page critique of our experience and submitted it on the last day of the cruise. Weeks later I received a call from Viking when we were not available to answer it. In the message, I was told there was no need to return the call as they had a record of my concerns. As A loyal Viking Cruiser I had higher expectations in terms of their interst in my feedback. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
I suspect, with delays in construction, our ship was rushed into the water for the start of the tulip season in the Low Countries - without the benefit of test sailings and dry runs. How else could Viking explain the many glitches on this ... Read More
I suspect, with delays in construction, our ship was rushed into the water for the start of the tulip season in the Low Countries - without the benefit of test sailings and dry runs. How else could Viking explain the many glitches on this beautiful new ship. So, with mechanical failures.....an engine breakdown, water outage, non-functioning thermostats and other smaller problems,....we had to change ships and spend a day in a hotel that disappointed. We lost touring time and had to pack and unpack over and over agin. Viking's solution was to give us a voucher for on board purchases and comping our non included excursions. After our cruise we communicated with them and were then given another voucher of 50% towards another cruise. The voucher is non transferable and has an expiration date. Limiting our options and forcing us to take another cruise or lose the compensation. A better way to handle this would have been a refund that would allow us to choose how to use the compensation. As for the time we spent on the ship, apart from the discomforts and inconveniences already mentioned.....the accommodations are lovely. The staff was excellent. The tour guides were charming and very well informed, as well.....but you have to be ok walking very slowly through towns, cities, museums and churches with a group of 20-40 others. The personal earbuds that transmit the guide's voice directly to your ear worked wonderfully. However a few passengers hired private guides for a day or half day in each port for a more personal, thorough and efficient experience. The food was very good. Small portions but they are happy to get you seconds. And if you stick with what is served you won't gain weight during your cruise .... and that, to me, is a bonus! The dining area, or restaurant, as they call it, was very noisy because of the low ceilings. There are no tables for two and so every meal is an intense social experience similar to being at a wedding, every evening, where you know no one. Holding a conversation with 4-6 strangers every night is tedious and difficult since the Db level gets louder with each glass of complementary wine...nice touch, however. My advice is to go with a few friends and have your own table. Now,granted, some people may enjoy this type of forced, shallow camaraderie but it was not for me. So consider your own feelings about this. Despite the inclement weather which wasn't surprising in April, we were very comfortable on board. And if you are a hardy soul who needs to get some exercise during a sailing day there is a walking track on deck. Not sure if we'll ever do another cruise with this company...might try another....in hopes of a more peaceful dining experience. Definitely something to ask about in advance of booking. Something I never would have thought about unless forewarned. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
My wife and I took the full 16 night tour starting in Hanoi and finishing in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) with an extra on our own at either end (March 5 to 22, 2012). We flew from Vancouver to Hanoi with China Airlines. Just one word of ... Read More
My wife and I took the full 16 night tour starting in Hanoi and finishing in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) with an extra on our own at either end (March 5 to 22, 2012). We flew from Vancouver to Hanoi with China Airlines. Just one word of warning: bring your own food! Just think solid like a rock blue scrambled eggs - and they were probably among the better food. I will not go into any detail about all the things we did and all the excursions because they have been very well described elsewhere. I'd rather concentrate on the aspects of the trip that reflect AMA Waterways. Hanoi is a fabulous city and well worth the visit and if nothing else, you will learn how to cross the most uncrossable street: nobody gives an inch, and neither should you! Sofitel Hotels in Hanoi, Siem Riep and Saigon were first class. OK, one minor draw back: after having had a lovely dinner and entertainment on our first night in Siem Reap, close to half of our group came down with an illness which caused fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. Well, one explanation offered was that people may have drank too much cold water on such a hot day. Another was that people must have been carrying this form a flu and that it just happened to break out at that point in our trip. Great miracle that Brits, Aussies, Cannucks and Yanks can synchronize their illness so well. And no, it could not have been food poisoning; shouldn't have that affected all of us? This also meant that my wife and I had to cancel our dinner reservation in Siem Reap which we had been looking forward to. Yes, that's the risk you take travelling to exotic countries. We spent two full days seeing all the temples and holy sites of Anchor. On the third day we took off on a five hour bus ride to meet the ship because the water level in the Tonle Sap Lake was too shallow for the AMALotus. We expected that to be the case, although we would have preferred to embark at Siem Reap. Can't blame anyone here. Can't blame AMA either for the fact that we had to drive almost to Phnom Penh to meet the boat for lack of roads to a point further up-river. The docking location was a sight to behold: the bow of the ship rammed into the river bank and the stern tied onto a bush. Two planks were laid out to meet the bank to form a gangway adorned with rope rails on either side. We were welcomed by half the ship's crew with big smiles on their faces, received our keys and went to our staterooms. There was a strong smell of creosote (the smell of railway ties or power poles, the wooden ones). The staterooms were spacious and the bed was comfortable, even the bath room, especially the shower, was bigger than I had seen on other ships. However, there was no place to put anything. One wardrobe is all - and that is shared with the safe and the water heater (which I had to turn on first incidentally - I know I could have called to have that done but I figured it out myself). There is a small balcony with one chair screwed onto the floor and a little side table. There was room for a second chair which would have been nice. The air conditioning worked non-stop which means it was inadequate. There is a card slot by the entrance which controls power, including air conditioning for the stateroom. You do not need to have a room key in that slot; your Airmiles card will work just fine. And before I g=forget: someone mentioned that the stateroom is tastefully all clad in wood. That is true for the floor. The rest is cheap laminate. Try and get a stateroom as far forward on the boat as you can get because engine, shaft and propeller make an enormous racket while the boat is in motion, the further back, the worse. All that disturbs you up front is the raising and lowering of the anchor (don't worry, the boat is not breaking apart, although it does sound like it). Lets get to the ship: Someone mentioned tasteful artwork adorns the walls - you know who you are and if you took it, please bring it back! Anyway, we had nothing but bare walls. So, at our orientation we were warned again to use sanitizers since some of our group were obviously infectious with (food borne) illness. Also, we were proudly told that there is a guest to crew ratio of 2:1. That means since there are 124 guests there have to be 62 crew, right? Now lets count: two at reception, two bartenders in the lounge, one bartender at the sundeck, approximately 8 servers at dinner, the purser and of course, Sigi, the hotel manager. Add to that six for housekeeping (two per floor). Yes, and we need cooks, say six, and one spa lady. That leaves That leaves 34 people to operate the boat - WOW!!! Sigi, the hotel manager used to work on the big ocean going ships. That has become too much work for him. He prefers the small boats now. I call it semi-retirement. I don't think he worked more than an hour a day, though he was always the first one having his meal in the restaurant, guess quality assurance. Anyway, with such a favorable guest to crew ratio, you would expect stellar service, you would, wouldn't you? OK, let's try something easy like phoning for some ice. Sorry, there is no room service - and no ice bucket in your room either even if you occupy suite. Yes, and we need to eat too. For lunch you have a buffet for starters, salads and dessert (choices don't change throughout the cruise - unless they run out of something, of course). You also have the activity station where you can get the stir fry or pho of the day. The main course is a la carte: one meat dish (mostly western) one fish dish (local) and one vegetarian dish and for lunch there you can also have a choice of burger and two other fast food things I don't remember. Dinner is fully a la carte with the same plethora of menu choices, except no fast food. Thanks, AMA for making the choice so easy, any more and I would never be able to make up my mind. The service at meal time is best described as totally disorganized. While the staff are very friendly and very willing to please, they would surely benefit from a bit of supervision, direction and training. The most noticeable were staff searching for empty plates to take away of which there weren't any while they could have been serving coffee or drinks. It was like everybody was doing the same things at the same time and other things had to wait their turn. Did I tell you there is wine with lunch and dinner, totally free, not a penny. Needless to say, it isn't worth any more than that. Please, AMA, pour it into the river and charge us a bit extra but give us palatable wine. Is that too much to ask for? The local beer is reasonably good and the free gin and tonics are fine too. be careful with the local rum, though, it takes a bit of getting used to. Best deal: mimosa for breakfast, made with Russian sparkling wine which is not bad at all - and it's free. Should have swiped the occasional bottle, just never occurred to me. Entertainment: OK, there you are, floating down the Mekong, you can't afford to have a six piece band travel along together with a few dancers and a string quartet. So what you get is a piano player/crooner and a spot the lie game put on by the some cruise staff. On two nights local groups perform and they are, indeed, very good. One last thing about tipping. We all know that wages in Vietnam, and especially Cambodia are extremely low, and make no mistake, that also applies to the AMALotus. The payroll on the Mekong is quite different from the payroll on the Rhine. So we are asked to tip everywhere and yes, you do need to bring at least $75 in singles per person. Incidentally, half the ship was occupied by Australians who had booked their cruise through APT (no idea how they are related to AMA Waterways) and they had all their tips included. What's so difficult to do that for the rest of the group, even with the option to prepay your tips? So, AMA Waterways, yes, this was an amazing trip, but not because of AMALotus but because of the fabulous countries, and the fabulous people. And yes, the cruise offers a great way to see and experience the country and the people which would be a lot harder to do through any other way of travel. But please, on your ship live up to the reputation your company has in Europe. Sorry, this turned out to be quite a bit longer than intended. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
It was our first trip on a SeaDream cruise ship... and it was the company's first time (maiden voyage) visiting 'The Amazon.' First, it must be said, the absolutely BEST part sailing with SeaDream are it's wonderful ... Read More
It was our first trip on a SeaDream cruise ship... and it was the company's first time (maiden voyage) visiting 'The Amazon.' First, it must be said, the absolutely BEST part sailing with SeaDream are it's wonderful passengers. They are by far the company's greatest asset, and some of the nicest, most fun-loving folks you will encounter on ANY cruise ship. And SeaDream crew members (on the whole) are as well great fun and very professional. As for the company... it can and SHOULD be better... there were numerous lapses. NOT a good thing for a line charging TOP dollar for what is touted as a high end cruise product. It all starts with the ships... and both SeaDream I & II are OLD... what was passable 30 years ago does not work well in today's world (even with some upgrades)!! - cabins are far too small... for those use to and familiar with larger ships they are substantially smaller... and the area around the bed(s) is particularly tight.... and in today's market, high end clients want cabins with balcony's.. SeaDream ships DON'T have any... not even the owners suite ! .... bathrooms are ridiculously tiny.. and there is a fairly high step up to enter the bath.. toes get banged quite often.... closet and bathroom doors are not secured by any restraining hardware.. very annoying when ship is rolling.. this requires just a simple solution and is totally unacceptable.... the boat sauna is for 1 person only.. even if you are not claustrophobic.. a hot steam in this small space will change that... and SeaDream ships are lacking in inside common areas... limited bar/lounge areas to accommodate guests... also, the library on-board is very limited... bring a good selection of ebooks... (larger ships again have it much better... all major pluses with bigger, newer ships). - extra charges for many services are prevalent... and would appear to be an integral part of company policy.... some of the shore excursions are priced exceptionally high... $160.00 pp for a one hour local 'native' performance was agreed by many to be exorbitant. - excursion tours are at times poorly managed and executed.. planning is below par for a high end cruise line.. there were missed opportunities to attend important local festivals on shore due to what seemed little or no advanced research or planning.... emphasis on critically important stops was lacking... I.E. missing only opportunity to see virgin forest because no emphasis was placed on that excursion by those in charge... a desirable village tour was cancelled... and several guests were given no choice and did not do any of the scheduled zodiac tours as a result... all so we could get to a 'shopping' experience on schedule... missed out at another magical night at the carnival festival in Santorum... as we arrived a few hours too late.... a real disappointment was never getting to see a true portion of the old growth virgin Amazon forest ... an old growth tree remaining here and there but that's all... the one stop that we had a chance was not at all properly presented and no one was made aware of what they were missing... extremely frustrating! !! - pool water was unsightly after several days use.. pool water did not appear to be filtered.. and was not able to be changed until a larger port was reached after several days of additional sailing.... insect and a/c were major issues... in a climate that the ships is normally not accustomed to sailing... some of the common areas were exceptionally cold at times... numerous passengers were in agreement. - food is mostly passable but not great... same for the 'complimentary' wines.. prompting purchase of dinner wines on several occasions... it really should be better on both counts considering the high cost of the cruise... dinner starts serving at 7:30, catering exclusively to those passengers who like to eat later in the evening... after dinner all 3 bars on-board were not scheduled to open till 9:30.. as a result passengers at times were left to force an issue to find a bartender to get an after dinner drink... under the pressure, they somewhat conceded and altered the time to 9:00 ... without being asked passengers are over-poured wines at lunch and dinner ... not a good policy. (again, major pluses in all matters on other high end cruise lines) - PA announcements for the most part are non-existent ... (and those that are given don't go into the cabins) passengers are left asking questions about basic goings-on... and on several occasions passengers were given unwarranted misleading information as excuses for events... many grumbled about being given obviously dubious information. - expedition lecturers came on board later than they should have... and they are not used adequately for guests hungry for excursion and Amazon information, and were left to play movie trivia in the afternoon to pass time... very little at all was discussed regarding the future problems and critical nature of the Amazon's future.. this was most surprising and disappointing... SeaDream is looking to make a Med or Caribbean trip of the Amazon, in that regard they are a 'fish out of water.' - attitude on-board is that we want you to be happy... but we really do not believe we should be hearing any complaints... and unhappy guests were talked to out in the open common dining areas by the captain of all people...(most unusual no other senior officer had this responsibility) - SeaDream ships use common pathways as a walking/ jogging track.. disturbing to guests seated alongside these areas... (larger ships have designated running/ walking decks). - in the Port of Manaus there was free wi-fi ... on the boat it costs $35 a day, or $0.35 a min ($25 an HR)... (most other luxury lines include wi-fi for all returning passengers). - the time spend going from Barbados to Manaus is not worth the cost ... there is nothing happening (at sea) for too many days, and you are not really seeing or doing much of anything... most all guests agreed. - several important staff on-board do not fully understand their interactive roles with passengers... i.e. wine sommelier... activities director... and the captain.... and no one appeared really adequately in charge of the expedition guides...as a result planning and coordination of their expertise was very uneven at times. - pack the lightest light weight clothes you can bring... you and your clothing will be somewhat damp most all times, and lighter clothes will dry much quicker... there is no laundry on-board (as on other larger ships)... and SeaDream laundry costs are again very high. - having the same routine every evening (6:30 cocktail hour... dinner at 7:30) for 3 weeks becomes wearisome ... and there is no after dinner entertainment to break up the monotony (as on all larger ships)... most all activities on the various parts of the river are identical... and 3 weeks is a long time to be doing the same things over and over... zodiac tours became very repetitive ... birds-trees-water... village tours were a bit more diverse.. but not well organized and fewer in number than should have been.. and no meetings with truly indigenous peoples were scheduled while in Brazil... a very long stretch. As indicated, three weeks is far too long to be on a voyage with SeaDream. There are things to like (and most of their long time loyal cruisers believe sincerely in the company)... but for us, they are much outweighed by policies, mindset, and lack of ship's amenities. In hindsight, we might only have done a Manaus to Iquitos segment...but more than likely would have really looked to doing it with a more accomplished adventure travel company. As previously stated, the passengers and majority of the crew were absolutely wonderful... but in the final result, we came to experience 'the Amazon'... and in that regard we feel somewhat shortchanged by the overall SeaDream experience...(especially in consideration of its high cost). Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Previously we took the Viking Paris and the Heart of Normandy tour and had a fabulous time so we were excited about this Danube trip. The only problem was that the Legend was infected with a stomach virus bug and I got sick with vomiting ... Read More
Previously we took the Viking Paris and the Heart of Normandy tour and had a fabulous time so we were excited about this Danube trip. The only problem was that the Legend was infected with a stomach virus bug and I got sick with vomiting and diarrhea on the day we got to Vienna. After the chamber music concert that evening I was back on the ship only 15 minutes before I sprinted for the bathroom. Another passenger actually threw up in her hands at the concert!What upsets me most is that Viking wouldn't acknowledge that they had a serious problem and thereby put profits over people. If I had been forewarned, I would have exercised my trip insurance and cancelled.I can personally name 15 other passengers who got sick and a fellow passenger said that the total was over 34. One told me that passengers leaving the ship as he got on said most of the passengers on that cruise got sick. I was unable to go to the abbey in Melk or the walking tour of Regensburg. Consomme isn't my idea of a cruise dinner but that's all I could hold down for 3 days. At the New Year's Eve party I was unable to drink and it galled me to be charged for a Ginger Ale in the Lounge Bar. I thought that the crew seemed disengaged, tired, and ready to go home. They were going through the motions.On arriving from the airport at the dock in Budapest,we had to take our own bags down an extremely long and steep and dangerous gangway. The crew was nowhere in sight. I was also disappointed that Viking seems to arrange air travel routes which are the cheapest for Viking even if it means lengthy circuitous travel for the passenger. We left NYC at 10:40pm on Monday, 12/26 and finally arrived at the Legend in Budapest at 5:30pm Tuesday just in time for the nightly briefing and dinner but leaving no free time to see Budapest on our own. The next day Budapest tour was just a bus drive-by and didn't include the Terror Museum or going into St. Stephen's Basilica. At the end of our trip, we were told to have our bags outside our door at 3am with a 3;30am bus departure for Nuremberg Airport.The "breakfast" we were promised consisted of a pastry. No Viking staff member accompanied us to the airport, we weren't told where to go and the bus driver spoke no English.We were at the airport before 4am and the ticket counters didn't even open until 4:45am and our flight to Paris didn't start boarding till 6am. Next time I'll make my own travel arrangements. In Vienna, after the bus tour we elected to stay in the center city instead of going back to the ship for lunch. This proved to be a smart move since it enabled us on our own to visit the Imperial Apartments, the National Library(you have to see this majestic room!), and the Sacher Hotel for a Sacher Torte.Be sure you sign up for the Schonbrunn Palace tour in Vienna. We were lucky because their Christmas Market stalls were still open after Christmas when we visited. In Nuremburg the WWII tour was great. The food on board was generally good. There's no reason to purchase the liquor package since since you can have as much wine as you want at dinner.The local tour guides were excellent.The WiFi internet service was definitely subpar with lots of dead zones. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This was our fourth river cruise and third on Avalon (fourth if you consider last year was a back to back). We were looking forward to celebrating Christmas and New Years in Europe as well as experiencing Avalon's newest ship. ... Read More
This was our fourth river cruise and third on Avalon (fourth if you consider last year was a back to back). We were looking forward to celebrating Christmas and New Years in Europe as well as experiencing Avalon's newest ship. Ultimately, the highlights were experiencing the wonderful city of Prague, making new friends and enjoying the view of the fireworks in Vienna from the Sun Deck. We did the pre tour in Prague and loved the city. The hotel was The Hilton, a nice convention hotel located a 20 minute from the center. We did not do the included tour and instead hired a personal guide who was wonderful. I would be happy to provide contact info if anyone is interested. Rooms at the hotel were large and modern and the staff very helpful. Breakfast was included and more than adequate. The bus ride to Nuremberg was uneventful and we arrived at the ship at five. The Panorama is a lovely ship. The design of the staterooms really maximizes space and views and the new beds are memory foam and very comfy. The new bathrooms are also lovely and we enjoyed the upgraded amenities. They have installed a very good in room entertainment system, and we enjoyed being able to listen to music or watch a late night movie in the cabin. Our cruise director, Jon Lupe, was the best we have had yet on Avalon and was both efficient and gracious. We saw some familiar faces aboard including Dan, the Hotel Manager, Johny in the dining room, Radu behind the bar and Peter, the dining room manager. Where the cruises really disappointed was the food. There was a noticeable cheapening in the quality and variety of food offered on this cruise compared to one year ago when we were very pleased with the food and wine served. Gone from the menu were rack of lamb, roast duck and the wonderful and flavorful fish dishes and soups. Instead we were served mostly bland and very small portions, much of which went uneaten. We were not the only unhappy customers when it came to the food served but everyone has different tastes and food is always subjective Wine was also cut off at the entrée, which was new from previous cruises. We were not sure if this was server related or a new policy. This was also a departure from previous cruises, as was the overall decrease in variety and quality of wine offered. I am also a big fan of cheese after dinner and looked forward to some of the excellent cheeses served previously. Both quantity and quality were noticeably less than in the past. We were aboard for New Years eve and the entertainment was quite a let down. Instead of music for dancing, the CD presented an hour long audience participation story telling. A group of us wandered across to the Vantage boat docked next door and watched as their guests enjoyed a live six piece dance bank and a table full of hot snacks. Vienna came to the rescue and many of us headed topside and enjoyed the truly spectacular fireworks display that lasted for forty five minutes. Another high point was Vasco, the houses musician, who grabbed a guitar and was joined by Dan one night for a rousing set of music. They were joined by two guests, one a pianist and the other a harmonica player and we all enjoyed a truly terrific impromptu jam session that was the best entertainment of the cruise. We all commented that we wished they had saved that for NYE. All in all, we found the ship beautiful with great appointments but were let down by the overall experience of the Panorama and hope it was just a random off cruise and not representative of fleet wide changes. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
In Nov 2011 we booked a river cruise through Viking for a 15 day cruise sailing the River Rhine from Antwerp to Basel, Switzerland. Food was average, crew was great, room great, and ports of call guided tours were perfect. The problem ... Read More
In Nov 2011 we booked a river cruise through Viking for a 15 day cruise sailing the River Rhine from Antwerp to Basel, Switzerland. Food was average, crew was great, room great, and ports of call guided tours were perfect. The problem came half way through the cruise and we were off loaded onto buses to finish our 'cruise' staying in hotels, on and off buses, and dealing with packing and unpacking. These are the reasons we booked the river cruise was to not have to live in hotels and buses....we've already done that several times and now we are ready for the lazy days of a river cruise. Water levels being low was the reason given which is true, the problem was Viking knew this well in advance, knew the cruise couldn't be completed without the bus tour and never once offered us the opportunity to postpone our trip for a later date or make any other arrangements. They didn't say anything until the night before we were put on buses. Other reviews indicate at least in the past 12 months, this has been how they operate and is no way to get repeat business. For our 'trouble' they offered a 30% off what we paid for this trip to be used as a credit for another cruise within 12 months. That doesn't come close to being the right thing for them to do under the circumstances. A partial refund for this part of the trip is the right thing to do. Do your homework before booking a cruise with Viking as you can't count on them being honest with you about your trip. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
This started out just wonderfully with being met at the airport in Budapest, taken to the Hotel Sofitel, where we were greeted by the lovely and charming Pili, our cruise director. She has a way of getting along with everyone, and I know ... Read More
This started out just wonderfully with being met at the airport in Budapest, taken to the Hotel Sofitel, where we were greeted by the lovely and charming Pili, our cruise director. She has a way of getting along with everyone, and I know she had some challenges on this trip. We had a lovely suite because there was not another room available when we arrived. The hotel is in a great location on the river at the beautiful Chain Bridge. Breakfast at the hotel was a buffet with everything one could want, except--the coffee left a lot to be desired. When the afternoon to board the Amalyra came, we were taken across the river to the boat and welcomed aboard and shown our rooms. We were quite happy with the size, especially the bathroom, for such a small ship. After we boarded we had the usual lifeboat drill, and Pili gave a talk on procedures on the boat and introduced the captain, hotel manager, and restaurant manager. As we left Budapest that night, the captain took the boat down the river a bit and turned around to head north. What breathtaking sights and photo-ops we all had. We had all breakfasts and lunches on the boat in the lounge area, because we learned the first night that the dining room was a helter-skelter rushed and loud affair--more later on this. All of the stops were most interesting, and we had terrific guides. They set up walking groups for active, medium and slow. The active suited us, and was not rushed--we just didn't take as long at each place so we could have time to revisit those we were really interested in. The active groups started out small, but as more people learned that they were hearing more than they needed, they joined the active group. By the end of the trip, the active group was really too large. We ould have used another day in Vienna. We took the optional side trip to Salzburg, and were so glad we did. On the way we visited the little town of Monsdee--quite charming with an ultra baroque cathedral. We had one day of just cruising the river. This was fun and relaxing, with everyone upstairs and listening to Pili give the history of the places we went by. Whenever we met another river cruise boat everyone waved in a happy shared experience mood. When we got to Nuremburg, we had our interesting tour, and it was the only town we visited that we didn't think was impressively clean. The next morning we boarded buses for the long (about 5 hours) trip to Prague--but it was a beautiful trip, with a stop in the resort spa of Karlovy Vary. We had lunch and beer there--our first experience with how much the Czechs love beer--good stuff. The Olde Town Hilton was our hotel. It was in a very good location with lots of nearby restaurants, and was within walking distance to the castle, the Charles Bridge, and all the good things to see in Prague. Now as to the Dreaded Dinners: First, the boat was at full capacity. Secondly everyone eats at the same time. This means a busy dining room. It is small with a low ceiling and tables are close together. There was a group of about thirty traveling together who were extremely and I mean extremely noisy. Wine is complimentary at dinner so as the meal progressed, their noise level progressed--upward. We learned quickly to sit at the back away from where they congregated for dinner. this put us by the kitchen doors which were constantly banging open and shut with the manager RUNNING--not walking--in and out of there. It just plain was not relaxing at all. The food was ok at best, and sometimes it took a long time even for the menu to arrive. I think a more spread out dining situation--timewise--would help this situation. Why can't they set dining seating from 6:30 until 8? I asked someone this question, and was told that the crew would have to work too much. We did meet some travelers from another AMA boat in PRAGUE. They told us that their dining was wonderful...so I just don't know what to think. Was it the manager not being able to handle things, or was it the noise and demands of the passengers? Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
The ship was everything it was advertised to be. We had a 300 sq ft Royal suite and it was very well designed. Breakfast and lunch was very good, but the dinners were so-so. The quality of the wine and beer with dinner was of good ... Read More
The ship was everything it was advertised to be. We had a 300 sq ft Royal suite and it was very well designed. Breakfast and lunch was very good, but the dinners were so-so. The quality of the wine and beer with dinner was of good quality. Personnel at the customer service desk were outstanding, as was the housekeeping lady. The waiters in the dining room were pleasant and helpful, except for a couple who acted like they were doing you a favor waiting on you. The Cruise Director (CD) was at times rude and arrogant. During the cruise we met some delightful gentlemen from California, and we were appalled when we told by them that the ship's Captain referred to them as queers. After 10 days into the cruise , the ship had engine problems, and we told at our daily 6:45 briefing to pack our bags and board buses in the morning. From a Royal suite to a bus and substandard accommodations, we felt like we were being herded around like a bunch of cattle. A good example of our Royal treatment was the Hotel in Amsterdam. There were no robes, no safe, an empty mini- bar, and the rugs were worn and stained. After one night we moved on our own to the Intercontinental Amstel Hotel. At least then we had some time in pleasant surroundings to erase the miserable times since we left the ship. Another unpleasant event was the baggage arrangement at the hotel in Cologne. When we arrived all the bags were placed in a room off the main lobby.We had to rummage through all the bags, find ours, and then get them to our room as best we could. After we found our bags we then were all jammed in the main lobby trying to hear if our name was being for our room assignment. This was an episode we will always remember. When we were getting ready to leave the ship we were told that our accommodations we be equivalent to what we had on the ship. Obviously, they weren't.After we left the ship, the Cruise Director acted like everything he did to accommodate the passengers was a big deal. It is interesting to note that the Cruise Director didn't seem to know much about anything until his daily 6:45 briefing in the cocktail lounge. So you were forced to go to the briefing to keep up on what's happening. I am sure the extra income Avalon made during the briefings was not a consideration in setting up the briefings. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011

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