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Sail Date: April 2019
Having resisted river cruising for many years, we finally capitulated (ran out of excuses for not taking one) and booked a Provence cruise on the Viking Delling. The booking and upfront experience was good. The website was easy to ... Read More
Having resisted river cruising for many years, we finally capitulated (ran out of excuses for not taking one) and booked a Provence cruise on the Viking Delling. The booking and upfront experience was good. The website was easy to navigate and the cruise materials arrived in plenty of time with luggage tags, cruise book and other information. Good first impression. Our package included free air arranged by Viking. As a first timer was not real informed on their customization program that carries an add on cost. Wish I had as that way would have had more controlled over the connecting flights. The outbound flights Viking booked carried high risk of missed connections (via IAD and FRA) and sure enough we missed the flight from FRA to LYS. No problem though as the airline rebooked us. However the real issue is that apparently Viking doesn't monitor their passenger's while in transit (which other companies we have used do and modify transfers without being contacted). Viking's materials say to contact them should we experience a delay and give numbers to call and the ship's email address. When we arrived in Lyon, we were a bit surprised to find no Viking rep and no transfer there. So we tried to call Viking (we don't have an international calling plan and both help centers at the airport were unable to call for us). Sent an email to the address given but no response there. So ended up face timing daughter back in the States who called Viking and was told we could take a taxi and be reimbursed. Had thought of that earlier but in our documents, Viking identified three potential berths for the ship. Equipped with the berthing info, we grabbed a cab and four days later (after three tries), we got our fare refunded. Not a great first impression. But apart from that: Room was good. We booked the least expensive and it was fine. The steward (Peter) did a great job keeping it tidy, replenishing towels). Easy access to the restaurant. Small shower but good water pressure and little fluctuation in temperature. TV reception was ok (only channel that consistently was not available was FOX). Food was ok. Breakfast selections was good, Liked cooked to order eggs. The french toast was a tad bit soggy for me. Oatmeal was good and they do bacon well. Lunch in the restaurant typically had a pasta selection and a daily special. Ate a lot of hot dogs and french fries. Dinner also had a daily special, an alternative and then every day available ones. The quality varied day by day so. The service though was excellent. Front Desk: indifferent at best. Being a bit cold outside, I asked at the front desk if they had blankets we could use outside the Aquafit area. Was told they were up there to which I told them I just came from there and didn't see any. I was dismissed with a 'oh well'. On my way back I did locate them hidden behind a chair. But would have been nice if they had helped me rather than wave me off. Tour Director: was good and worked hard and long hours. Included Tours: very good. Lots of walking though would not recommend this trip for anyone with mobility issues. Busses used were all top notch. Itinerary/Rhone River: would have preferred to spend more time in Avignon and less time in Lyon. Would not recommend this for first time travelers to Europe as there's not a lot of variety in the area (do Rhine or Danube). Hotel Manager: so by now you know I was not too impressed with how he handled my transfer issue (day one - I needed to complete a form but he didn't have one), day two - waited for him to give me the form, day 3 - got a form from the desk, told to come back after 5 when manager would be there, he didn't have the money (it was 'upstairs') come back tomorrow, day 4: got money.). Other staff: everyone else went out of the way to say something. Good job there. Glad we went and experienced river cruising. Will we do it again? Most likely not. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2019
I’ll start by saying that my husband and I did not enjoy our cruise with Viking, this review is really meant to inform and enlighten the traveler before they decide to book a river cruise particularly with Viking. We choose Viking ... Read More
I’ll start by saying that my husband and I did not enjoy our cruise with Viking, this review is really meant to inform and enlighten the traveler before they decide to book a river cruise particularly with Viking. We choose Viking because friends had been on their ocean cruise and found it very enjoyable. We typically cruise Celebrity, which provides a level of luxury we enjoy. We booked everything through Viking and here are the areas we found acceptable: - air fare and transfers Here are the areas lacking: - hotels selected for pre and post stays, Both hotels were off the beaten path so to actually immerse yourself in Lucerne and Amsterdam, you needed to travel by public transportation to really see the towns you were in. Hotel selection was poor. - ship was ok. But the Explorer suite, which is their best room is over the engine and the noise and the vibration/shaking at night was unbearable!!! The room was poorly laid out and not worth the price. The Celebrity suite on any Celebrity ship is half the price and twice as nice. Get the cheapest room you can because none of the higher rooms with balconies is worth it. The Rhine river is only scenic for about 1/2 day on the 8 day trip, the rest is cargo, factories and weeds. - The dining schedule is ridiculous. Breakfast is from 6-9, then lunch at 12:30 and dinner at 7 pm. The problem with this is that if you plan to take your meals on the ship (and because you paid an arm and leg for the trip, you should), you are limited on what you can do off the ship. If you take an excursion in the morning and come back after the 12:30 lunch, then you have to wait until the next meal at dinner. That’s it! No place on the ship to grab a quick bite if you come back at 2 pm. Or let’s say you eat a late lunch in town and you’re not hungry at 7 pm...if you miss that meal, then you have to wait until morning breakfast. All of this might be acceptable if the food was good, but it’s not. It’s average and reminded me of cafeteria food. Odd since they’re cooking for only 200 passengers so I expected it to be much better than on the Ocean trips. Additionally, very little accommodation for people with diabetes. - The entertain was as people stated which is minimal. That’s ok, because your touring each day so the evening needs to be relaxing. I expected to be able to catch a movie in my room or browse social media or just search the internet, check e-mail, etc... Little to no selection of movies provided and the other channels said “coming soon”. Internet access was poor, weather moving of stationary. Again, that seemed odd since there are fewer passengers than ocean ships. I can stream on ocean ships with 3000 people, but on this couldn’t open CNN!!! - Service was ok. The staff tried to be helpful, but I sometimes felt there was a language barrier. - The ports were ok, lots of Germany. We wanted to see Switzerland and Amsterdam that’s mainly why we selected this trip. I think River cruises are interesting to people that connect to the country - like ancestors from the small towns. I know this is long but I hope it helps someone. I would never take another river cruise and I would never go on Viking again. I think they’re extremely expensive for what they offered. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2019
We have been on 70+ ocean cruises and decided to try a river cruise due to the ports of call and the positive reports we had from friends on their Viking experience. Maybe we didn't do enough homework, but this trip was a total ... Read More
We have been on 70+ ocean cruises and decided to try a river cruise due to the ports of call and the positive reports we had from friends on their Viking experience. Maybe we didn't do enough homework, but this trip was a total disappointment. We booked the Explorer Suite for the Passages to Eastern Europe cruise (It was a special occasion). We also booked our business class air with Viking. Viking did an excellent job communicating before and during the trip. We were impressed with their detail and excellent information. -Transfers: We had private transfers because we were in the Explorer Suite. They were timely and professional. -Budapest Hotel: There were many people checking in at the same time at the Bucharest Intercontinental. It was quite disorganized. We waited in line for a long time and were finally assigned a room. It was in a bad location and even though we offered to pay an upgrade for a "river view" room, we were told there were none available. The hotel was very nice, in a great location, and the breakfast was the best of any during the entire trip. It was a great beginning and then we boarded to boat. -Suite: The Explorer Suite was disappointing in that it was so noisy (it sits above the engines) we couldn't leave the windows open and there was terrible vibration whenever the boat was moving. The amenities were nice including having laundry done within a day and very neatly folded and returned. While room service for breakfast was included, there really is no place to eat except to lean over the little table. We knew the rooms are not comparable to ocean liners, but we thought that 445 square feet would make for a comfortable experience. The suite is long and narrow and not very easy to maneuver.... though I know it is quite large in comparison to the regular cabins on Viking Long Ships. -Food: I don't know if it was because of where we were sailing or the chef, but the food was poor to satisfactory. There was nothing good --not even the local specials. We found the dining room service to be just OK-- nothing special-- nor did they attempt to be accommodating. The bar tenders were great! Excursions: Our bad... we did not expect to have such long bus trips. Several days included being on the bus from 8:30 am until 7:00 pm. The busses were cramped and not comfortable. The local guides were excellent; the Viking guides were not. Most cities were too far away to go and explore on your own. We should have done better research. We included the post-cruise extension to Transylvania. We spent almost the entire 3 days on a bus, arriving late in the evening to the hotels. Enrichment: The local performers and lecturers were mediocre at best. Fellow Passengers: Maybe this was unusual, but this boat was filled with the most unfriendly people we have experienced. There was little laughter or conversation. People were pushy getting to be first on the bus each day (they wanted a special seat and there was no seat rotation) and people rushed into the dining room to save their favorite table and pushed and shoved. Rarely did anyone even say hello as you passed in the corridor or greet you with a hello or good morning. Very strange. Poor attention to illness: On day 2 of the cruise many people became ill with a flu/cold virus. People were coughing everywhere and you could see how sick they were. We got the crud on day 3. I was running a fever and literally spent 3 days in bed. Viking did NOTHING to accommodate the ill passengers, even though there were at least 50+ sick passengers. We knew there was no medical center on this little boat, but there wasn't even any cough syrup or cough drops to purchase. One passenger was at the front desk asking for assistance and the answer was, we can arrange to have a taxi take you into the town, but it will be at your own expense. Couldn't they even go to a pharmacy and pick up some cough medicine when the boat and busses were like being in a sanitarium for TB patients? Shame on the Viking crew. Hotel in Bucharest: The Raddison Blu was a nice "convention type" hotel. Some will read this review and assume that because we became ill, our trip was spoiled and we were therefore disappointed. I assure you this was not the case. It was not the illness that spoiled the trip, it was the Viking experience. We acknowledge that perhaps we are not meant to take river cruises and perhaps a different itinerary, other than Eastern Europe would be different. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
This was the trip of a lifetime for us. Viking staff made all of the difference in the success of this trip. We began in Beijing. We flew on United from Tampa via Washington Dulles. IAD to PEK was a whopping 14+ hours. Customs ... Read More
This was the trip of a lifetime for us. Viking staff made all of the difference in the success of this trip. We began in Beijing. We flew on United from Tampa via Washington Dulles. IAD to PEK was a whopping 14+ hours. Customs clearance in Beijing was fairly painless. We were met by Viking guide Peter, who would be our guide for the next two days. We were taken to the Kerry hotel, where we spend 5 nights. Lovely hotel with small but well equipped room. The hotel has an outstanding health club and indoor pool. Their restaurants are all quite good. Kerry's Kitchen serves buffet for B,L & D. Nice array of Chinese and Western fare. Kerry's Pantry was sort of a take-out restaurant with some seating. Great salads, sandwiches and desserts. Centro is a 24 hour bar and restaurant. The bar was a good hiding place....with an excellent cheeseburger, btw!! We bought the Beijing extension, which gave us a tour of the Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace. Weather was a bit cool - 40's to 50's, but nice and sunny. We had our first lunch at a very large Chinese restaurant. It was pretty good. We had the second day free. We stayed close to the hotel, shopping in the two astonishing adjacent malls. Our actual tour then began. Our guide for the remainder of the journey was Roy. He made the trip for us. Expertly knowledgable and responded to every request and problem. We toured the Great Wall in perfect weather - 50's and piercing bright sun. Roy brought us to a location on the Wall which had almost no other people! Fabulous vantage points and lots of time to shoot photos and just marvel at this wonder of the world. The next day was Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Again perfect weather and great commentary from Roy. Next day we flew to Xi'an. Great flight on China Eastern Airlines. Comfortable seating and on-time flight. Getting through security in all of the Chinese airports is arduous....Full pat downs every time. We stayed at the Wyndham South. This was one of the nicest hotels we've stayed in. It is adjacent to a wonderful ourdoor mall with an engaging walk down to a pogoda. The Terra Cotta Warriors exceeded our expectations. Too much to try to describe here. Next, we flew to Chongqing on Hainan Airlines. It's the largest city in the world. We believed it when we rode through it. It was late in the day, so the building lights were coming on. Breathtaking! It was the first day of a holiday, so traffic was at a standstill. We finally got to the ship's boarding area at around 9pm. We had to descend a large, dangerous set of stairs which had no railing. Points off for Viking on this. We had a suite, # 508. It, along with every other aspect of the ship was just average. The ship is only 8 years old, but is quite worn. The service on the ship was excellent. The food was hit or miss. Everything needed salt, and I normally never salt my food. We had bought the Silver Spirits drink package and found that to be a waste, as we drank mostly the free-flow wine in the restaurant. The noise level in the restaurant was very high, probably due in part to the low ceiings on the ship. Very small fitness room with 2 treadmills, 2 bikes and 2 ellipticals....nothing else. The 6 day cruise was the most scenic cruise we've ever taken. Again, too much to try to describe here. Next, we flew on China Eastern to Shanghai. Exciting drive through this metropolis to the Westin Bund Center. Great hotel with good restaurants. Strange room setup, trying to be funky modern, but was rather dysfunctional. We toured the Yu Gardens and the Shanghai Museum. I'm not a museum person, but this one really appealed to me. It was very spacious and easy to get around.....and it was overwhelming! Finally we flew home on United, connecting in Chicago.....with less than two hours to clear customs and get to our connecting flight. Folks, don't let anyone do this to you. You need a minimum of 4 hours to do this. We barely made it, using the Mobile Passport app. In all, we highly recommend this trip, even though the actual ship is less than Viking's standards. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
My sister selected this 10-day river cruise for us because of the size of the ship (about 170 passengers) and the destinations and excursions (Amsterdam, Hoorn, Arnhem, Kinderdijk, Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Brussels, Keukenhof, Haarlem, ... Read More
My sister selected this 10-day river cruise for us because of the size of the ship (about 170 passengers) and the destinations and excursions (Amsterdam, Hoorn, Arnhem, Kinderdijk, Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Brussels, Keukenhof, Haarlem, and back to Amsterdam). We have family connections to the Netherlands and were very excited to see so many cities and enjoy so many activities (biking, walking, eating [eating!], sight seeing, beer tasting, meeting new people, etc.). We were able to do all these things on this cruise. The excursions were interesting and the local guides were very knowledgable and skilled. The busy touring and dining schedules were maintained by the crew's use of printed daily guides, a daily announcements session before dinner, and overhead PA announcements. The ship's sailing, hotel and dining crews were efficient, friendly, helpful, and put the passengers' safety and pleasure first. The staff were particularly helpful to passengers on this cruise who had mobility or sight limitations or dietary concerns. We had first-hand experience with the crew's and Viking's ability to maintain safety and manage logistics because of an accident we experienced on the river. Shortly after midnight on the seventh day of our cruise our ship and a tanker collided. Thankfully, a very few passengers and crew sustained minor injuries only. On the other hand, the ship was did not come out as well. The bow and kitchen were heavily damaged and there was lots of broken glassware, dishes and serving dishes, and glass tables and some shower doors were also shattered. The crew in all departments handled this emergency quickly, efficiently and professionally. We were kept informed of events and crew members checked on passenger safety several times in the minutes and few hours after the collision. We were towed to a nearby port (Terneuzen). The crew and land-side Viking staff worked overnight to arrange for us to be bussed to a hotel for a lovely breakfast and then on to Bruges for the scheduled walking tour. That evening we stayed on board and the crew again worked all day and night so that the passengers could enjoy breakfast together in the ship's dining room. I have no idea how they did it. After breakfast we continued with scheduled events: a tour of the Delta Works and stops at Veere and the Watersnood Museum. At the end of the day we were delivered to a fabulous hotel in Amsterdam because the ship had to be put in dry dock for repairs. Our excursions from Amsterdam (where we would have been in the ship if the accident hadn't occurred) were held as scheduled. Despite the collision, the only excursion that was cancelled was the Flanders Field visit; everything else was accomplished as originally planned. The Viking Idun crew and Viking corporate staff were available to passengers throughout the rest of our time together. All of them remained calm and kind throughout what must have been a very stressful time for them. Viking extended very generous compensation to passengers. Almost all the passengers completed the tour rather than fly back home early. I have to mention several crew by name because they truly extended themselves pre-, and especially, post-collision: Guest Services Sandra Slankandenac who, with her peers, always remembered our room number, greeted us kindly and answered all our questions. Bartenders Gilbert, George and Yvanna. They were gracious and made a great lemontini! Hospitality Manager Stefka Koleva supported her staff who kept our staterooms lovely. Housekeeper Lillya was always ready with a happy greeting and kept us supplied with everything we needed. Executive Chef Ronald Waarsdrop. I did not really appreciate the quality of his food preparation and presentation, and the skill of his kitchen staff and servers, until we had a typical hotel breakfast on Day 7 of the cruise. Hotel Manager Harry Berislavic and Maitre D' Nenad Dukanovik. Both men have such a great sense of humor and were always in action. Servers Istvan, Daniel, Tihomer, Kin were attentive, friendly, helpful and always wanted us to be happy. Program Director "Joey" Schuijt. I do not know where to begin to list all that Joey did for the passengers and our experience on the Viking Idun. Before the collision he was efficient, funny, professional. After the collision he was those things as well as sensitive, responsive and deeply concerned that our experience be as positive as possible. Captain Zoran Lukic. My sister and I enjoyed a conversation with the Captain one afternoon and found him to be kind and considerate. We learned about his family and his many years of experience as a Captain. We could plainly see his commitment to his profession and, most of all, to our safety. After the collision Captain Zoran, and Joey Schujit, worked without sleep to take care of us, our needs and the ship. Overall, despite the accident, I had a wonderful experience on the Viking Idun and will take another cruise with Viking. Maybe Russia! I wish the Captain and the crew well and hope they are together again on the Idun soon. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2019
After more than 10 cruises with Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean me and my husband we decided to try something different. “Cruising the Eastern Europe” on board Viking LIF was our first river cruise and our first Viking cruise at ... Read More
After more than 10 cruises with Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean me and my husband we decided to try something different. “Cruising the Eastern Europe” on board Viking LIF was our first river cruise and our first Viking cruise at the same time. What can I say about the entire experience? I already booked another 2 cruises with Viking. Everything was above exceptional: the service, the ship, the excursions and the staff on board. The staff on board Viking Lif was exceptional. Martina and Bart in the restaurant and lounge were perfect, always smiling and with great manners. Our room attendant Maya was a very nice girl with a lovely positive attitude and our cabin was always impeccable. We fall in love with the reception staff (Suzy and Johnny) always helpful and smiling and Capitan Anna was incredible: charming and always available to answer to any questions. Joseph the Hotel Director was one of the best we ever meet, solving any problems or requests we hand, nothing was too much for him. But the most impressive was our Cruise Director Leonard. His encyclopaedical knowledge, sense of humour and dedication made this trip unforgettable. Leonard was everywhere and sometimes we thought that he had 3 or 4 clones on board to be always smiling and ready to assist from 5AM to 1PM, every day. I wish I could record his commentary during the Iron Gate sea day when the amount of historical, geographical and social information mixed with a lot of legends and local traditions plus a fantastic sense of humour reminded me of a National Geographic documentary. He really made this trip unforgettable for us! Can’t wait for our next cruise with Viking Read Less
Sail Date: April 2019
The entire April 3, 2019 Tulips and Windmills cruise on the Viking Mimir was flawless. We were fortunate. The weather was nice: cool but windy. The tulips were in full bloom. Timing for us could not have been better. From the shore ... Read More
The entire April 3, 2019 Tulips and Windmills cruise on the Viking Mimir was flawless. We were fortunate. The weather was nice: cool but windy. The tulips were in full bloom. Timing for us could not have been better. From the shore excursions to the dining, all services were provided with grace and charm. Almost too much to fit into one week, but what wonderful memories. I was particularly charmed by the Belgian and Dutch citizens who were so pleasant. They wanted to share and show the love of their countries. I am Catholic and had the unexpected opportunity to attend daily Mass in Antwerp and Bruges. I didn't miss out on any part of the ship's tours because it so happened that Mass was offered in small chapels adjoining the large cathedrals in the town center at 11:00 A.M in both towns and the times coincided with the "free time" to shop or browse. Have another cruise with Viking already booked. I don't have to research shore excursions options. I need only to show up with good walking shoes on my feet! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
March 31, 2019 on Viking Magni River Cruise Budapest to Passau. First suggestion, do your homework. We booked a French “Balcony” (sliding door) on 3rd Fl. Very small. Just enough room for a double bed. No chairs so reading or TV ... Read More
March 31, 2019 on Viking Magni River Cruise Budapest to Passau. First suggestion, do your homework. We booked a French “Balcony” (sliding door) on 3rd Fl. Very small. Just enough room for a double bed. No chairs so reading or TV is lying on bed. Small bathroom. Very efficient but claustrophobic. Room has fridge but only useful for bringing in shore beverages or food. Hint. Don’t upgrade the liquor package. Buy duty free or in town and save $$ as you can bring this on board and no corkage. Fridge is useless otherwise as no room service and cannot bring any bottles from bar into room (even with their best upgraded liquor package!). WiFi is free as it should be because it was terrible. With modern service I’m sure this could be improved if they wanted to but would increase expenses. Service was impeccable from everyone. As were the excursions, even those included. That is the expectation and the standard for this caliber of cruise. The entrees we had were all good but not exceptional. Superb buffet is always in addition to table menu service. Best meal was grilled sea bass served on last day. Meals are mostly served in main dining room with tables of 6-8+. Great opportunity to build friendships and share conversations with fellow travelers. Still good value and a we hope to go again but equipped with new knowledge to fine tune our experience. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
This was a beautiful trip up the Rhone river from Avignon to Lyon, France. First, the flight from the USA to France. If possible upgrade your seats and connections. We upgraded our seats to United’s economy plus, which was fairly ... Read More
This was a beautiful trip up the Rhone river from Avignon to Lyon, France. First, the flight from the USA to France. If possible upgrade your seats and connections. We upgraded our seats to United’s economy plus, which was fairly comfortable. Wish we had upgraded our connections for a more direct flight both ways. Learned in Brussels that the common practice in Europe seemed to be to post the next connection about twenty minutes prior to the plane door closing. Once in Marseille we were met at baggage claim by Viking staff, and shepherded to the bus for the forty minute ride to the riverboat. Unless you’re a very experienced European traveler, use the Viking transfer service at both ends of your cruise. Another suggestion, especially at the start of your trip, do the trip extension to help with the jet lag. Viking river does not post departure times or arrival times on their website as other ocean cruise lines do. I suspect they must stay as flexible as the rivers are. Check your daily planner each night for the next days timing for everything. For our stop in Arles we moored in Tarascon, and were bussed a half hour south. The light is amazingly special there. No wonder van Gogh painted there. The Roman amphitheater was amazing. Got back to the riverboat in time for lunch. The garlic soup was wonderful! All the food was top notch cruise quality. Each day Chef Alex had a regional recommendation, using local ingredients, and herbs grown on the top deck! One of my standards is a smoked salmon benedict. So good I had it twice. As with most cruise ships, they offered some standards available every day. They even made a hotdog for my wife that looked awesome. On Friday for Lent, They made us her favorite, a peanut butter, lettuce, and mayo sandwich. I was glad we had the first day in Avignon to rest from the trip over the ocean. When we returned Tuesday, we had the first of many long walks in our ports. Spoiler alert, the palace of the popes was neat to see, but had most statuary and church decor removed. Don’t be too concerned about the 200 step warning as there are plenty of stops on the walk to rest. Back for a late lunch, including another standard of mine, bouillabaisse, and it was great. We wanted to walk out onto the Pont d’Avignon bridge, just north of our mooring. Not easy to do. When you get close, you need to go through the city wall, and follow the signs to the left. You’ll see the ticket office eventually. It costs four euros to get in, after a wand search. Yes it is worth it. You’ll see a chapel and have a unique view of your riverboat. My favorite food of the cruise, crepes suzette. It doesn’t get more french, or delicious than chef Alex’s version. Our next stop, Viviers, was the most classic town we visited. It rained hard at times, but was still neat. At the tour end we stayed in town and visited the pottery shop. The couple that owns the shop signs their art before firing it. My wife’s bowl made it home , my cup is being glued. Each evening we were well entertained in the lounge by a great piano player. Big note here, every town had cobblestone streets, as I learned shortly into our first walk in Arles. Be sure to watch your step so you don’t twist your ankle! The included tour in Tournon was a steam train ride that was fun. As we got further north on our trip the weather got cooler. We were ready with layers. The next day we spent most of doing scenic cruising, which we enjoyed. We made an unscheduled stop due to a fallen tree, and arrived late in Vienne. Our next two days we spent in Lyon. The included tour on Friday was a great bus tour of the city with a stop at the Basilica of Notre Dame. (there are several Notre dame cathedrals in France). Our last day was one of our highlights, with a trip to the countryside to visit a Beaujolais vineyard. Wine was great, but the dog stole the show! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
My wife and I chose Viking - and, specifically, their "Imperial Jewels of China" itinerary, for our first trip to China. Overall, we are glad we did so. Though it was not without concerns and drawbacks. To be clear, the ... Read More
My wife and I chose Viking - and, specifically, their "Imperial Jewels of China" itinerary, for our first trip to China. Overall, we are glad we did so. Though it was not without concerns and drawbacks. To be clear, the experience of visiting China for more than two weeks was fabulous. We have been fortunate to travel well. This was probably our most interesting, brain-stimulating adventure. The scope of change and the pace and magnitude of development are astounding. As are the many inherent contradictions. While both my wife and I wrote extensively about our travels and observations, let me limit this to our Viking experience. Much of this review will focus on the shortcomings and concerns. But let me be clear that our experience was very positive in many, many respects. We were perhaps more adventurous than many in our group; but not adventurous enough to tackle two weeks in so foreign a place as China entirely on our own. Viking provided the opportunity and the structure for us to have this experience. A few notes on the positive side of the ledger. - Our guide, Kobe, was first-rate in so many ways. Others in our group who have been on more guided trips remarked that he was the best guide they had had - anywhere. He was knowledgeable, personable, able to relate to many unique and different people, focused on the details when he had to be, and someone whom it was always a pleasure to be around. - Viking gets very high marks for meticulous and detailed organization. There were roughly 200 people (almost all Americans, Canadians or Brits) on this journey, divided into eight groups of about 25 people each. This is no small undertaking and everything seemed to work seamlessly from our perspective. - The hotels at which we stayed in Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai were all first-rate in all respects. - Through no fault of Viking, we had missed our day in Wuhan (called "the Chicago of the Orient") due to heavy fog on the Yangtze which forced all river traffic to hold in place for nearly 18 hours. Viking unexpectedly decided to make it up to everyone a day later by chartering a boat for a nighttime cruise of the Huangpu River through Shanghai. Seeing the Bund at night from the water was a real treat. Booking this for 200 people was a class move on Viking's part. I could go on with positives and compliments. But let me turn to the downsides which I hope will be more instructive for Viking. - Only six days of this 15-day trip involved the Yangtze cruise. Yet nearly all of the communications from Viking following our booking focused exclusively on the cruise. There was virtually no mention of the equally or more interesting land portion of the itinerary before and after. So much so that my wife and I checked into our Beijing hotel without really knowing where to meet or whom to contact. Viking would be advised to treat this as a unified, 15-day expedition instead of putting virtually all of the emphasis on the river piece. - We decided to fly into Beijing one day early to have 24 hours to explore on our own (as well as to sleep off a bit of jet lag). For this privilege, Viking charged us a $200 "deviation fee" ($100 per person). Yet Viking provided absolutely no services related to this "deviation". In fact, we had to book our own transport from the airport to the hotel at a price of roughly another $100. When I inquired of Viking's main office as to the rationale for the deviation charge, they really had no answer. - Of most annoyance to us and many others in our group, on four separate occasions Viking paired a buffet lunch (usually very average and nondescript) with some kind of factory showroom tour and controlled shopping opportunity. These were respectively for jade, tea, silk and terra cotta figurines. Clearly, this is a case of Viking getting reduced-cost or free lunches in return for bringing a captive audience to a showroom. From talking with others, Viking is apparently renown for this practice in many locales. That doesn't make it right or advisable or anything that I and others liked. - It would have been nice to have at least one or two unscheduled evenings and the chance to find dinner on our own. Especially in Beijing which is famous for its cuisine. On the whole, the food on this trip was decent and certainly plentiful but undistinguished. - The ship (the Emerald) was quite adequate, but past its prime and not up to Viking standards elsewhere. The dining room is ill-placed on the second level instead of up top with a view. The ceiling in the dining room is quite low which makes it very noisy and hot (with somewhat variable air conditioning). Our cabin was fine, but nothing more than that. Corridors are narrow and floors are somewhat uneven. There is really only one outside deck. A number of nooks and crannies which could make for nice sitting areas are instead given over to onboard merchants selling the usual Chinese fare at vastly inflated prices. I understand that much of this is a function of Viking being required to use Chinese ships. And that a new ship is under construction. Nonetheless... - I am familiar with the usual tipping procedure on cruises whether with Viking or other lines. But the process here was needlessly confusing. We try to be generous tippers, but the number that they added to our onboard bill was exorbitant. Also, there was an ambiguity as to whether this sum also included our guide for the full 15 days. We opted to reduce what we did for the ship's crew and to deal separately and privately with our excellent guide. - Lastly, this is a tricky one, but it needs to be said that our group (and seemingly each group) included people of widely varying physical abilities. Three of the 25 people in our group used wheelchairs or walkers. In no way am I suggesting that folks with such disabilities shouldn't be included in such trips. In fact, I admire their courage and tenacity in continuing such adventurous travel. (And I come with three joint replacements of my own.) But Viking should be more transparent with prospective guests as to the limitations this will cause for others. Why not attempt some selective grouping so that those who are more fit and adventurous can undertake and explore a bit more? That's more than enough. Again, let me make clear that the positive far outweighed the negative with respect to Viking and this trip. Despite the number of words I gave to each in this review. But there are plenty of each. Final word of advice: If you haven't been to China, go. Whether with Viking or some other group or on your own. It is a fascinating place and much of the future is taking shape there. Read Less
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