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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2010
Our letter to Viking following the cruise was 2 full pages and was practically ignored. They offered us $500 each credit on a future cruise with them (which will never happen). I will reduce it here for you. My wife has been in the travel ... Read More
Our letter to Viking following the cruise was 2 full pages and was practically ignored. They offered us $500 each credit on a future cruise with them (which will never happen). I will reduce it here for you. My wife has been in the travel business for 30 years and this is the first negative review we have EVER written. Some problems were minor but altogether, this was just bad. By the way, the cruise started in Antwerp and ended in Basel - a nice itinerary. They sent us information prior to the cruise for the wrong cruise. Rather than courier the correct info, they mailed it and we were already on our way to catch the cruise. The food was of the lowest quality, not cooked well and there was little choice. Dining room service was fine as long as you didn't require anything extra or different, such as a second glass of water. The boat was understaffed to the point that staff would not meet your eyes fearing you might ask for something. There was no maitre d', leaving guests to line up prior to dining room opening and rushing for a choice table - like high school. Not once in 14 days were we called by name and this ship had only 200 guests. They skipped one stop on the itinerary because another Viking ship had the dock that day and they would not pay for a second spot. We had a 2nd Viking ship docked alongside us on 4 days, which meant that we could not open our blinds of our rooms or lose all privacy from the room literally 3 feet away on the other ship. Also, that side of the dining room was dark on those days as that ship blocked all light. There was no security to get onto the ship (there was a warning to Americans in Europe the day before we set sail). Almost all excursions were to "the old town" and to "the cathedral". Very little diversity. Tour guides were anywhere from 2 out of 10 to 10 out of 10. The main lounge was too small for everyone to fit in and the design was not condusive for ease of listening to lectures. The staterooms were small but fine. Nothing special but not a problem. There was the occasional smell of fuel at night while the ship travelled. For others, it was every night and their bed was like a massage bed when the engines started up. They advertised that the fares were 2 for 1, which was a total lie. If so, this would have been a $700 per day per person cruise, more than what you can pay on a 6 star cruise today. It seems like Viking is in trouble and cut corners where possible, lower quality food, less staff, cheap tours (places with no entrance fees). Do yourself a favour and book another river cruise line. I'd be concerned with losing your deposit. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
The included tours of the various ports were done by local guides and were, by far, the best part of the cruise. The tours were around 3 hours long, mostly walking, and included historical aspects, local color, humor, and loads of ... Read More
The included tours of the various ports were done by local guides and were, by far, the best part of the cruise. The tours were around 3 hours long, mostly walking, and included historical aspects, local color, humor, and loads of information. The sites we toured were varied--Papal Palace, medieval charity hospital, winery, chocolate store...to name a few. If only I could say as many nice things about the other parts of the tour. The room was quite spacious with lots of storage, but nothing out of the ordinary. The food, although prepared by a chef with lots of skill and personality, was fair, mostly because the provisions were obviously not bought from local markets in France but rather bought in bulk at the beginning of the cruise and probably frozen or at least refrigerated. But the absolute worst part was the customer service provided by Viking, starting with the contacts in the US and ending with the desk crew on the ship. They messed up our air tickets at least three times and it took 5 calls from my TA and myself to get it straightened out. The other couple we were traveling with had an even worse experience with the air booking. Then the Viking concierge on our pre-cruise stay gave us incorrect advice, telling us the only way we could visit the places we wanted to visit was by booking a local private tour for 525 euros. The tourist info in Nice showed us the way to do exactly what we wanted for a total of 72 euros. When we had questions of the personnel at the desk about places in the port, or about our transfer, or about the strikes in France, we were told that we would be given the information later when we needed it. I guess it didn't matter that I wanted to know then; they would decide what I needed to know. The optional tours and the beverage package are outrageously expensive. The "straw that broke the camel's back" was what happened to a couple I didn't even know on a transfer to the airport to return home. We had early flights, 6:30 AM from an airport about an hour away. That meant we had to leave the ship about 3 AM. We had "bitten the bullet" and arranged the expensive transfer before we left the US because we knew the times would be difficult. In the 9 passenger van, there were 4 of us and the driver. When we got to the airport there was another couple from our tour. Viking had made them arrange for a taxi from the city, a VERY EXPENSIVE transfer, because they had waited too late to book the transfer. I don't know how late was too late, but we had plenty of room in our van. I don't know why Viking couldn't have worked something out to help this couple. They just don't care. And that is why I will not be on another Viking cruise--the customer service is simply abysmal. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
My wife and I took the 7-night Portraits of Southern France river cruise departing from Chalon-sur-Saone on Oct. 31 on the Viking Neptune. We both had a wonderful time. The itinerary was a primary reason we chose this cruise and the towns ... Read More
My wife and I took the 7-night Portraits of Southern France river cruise departing from Chalon-sur-Saone on Oct. 31 on the Viking Neptune. We both had a wonderful time. The itinerary was a primary reason we chose this cruise and the towns and tours all met or exceeded our expectations. The local tour guides were excellent and there was always some free time to explore on our own. The one tour which surprised me the most was in the small medieval town of Viviers. Since we were only there after dark, I took the after-dinner tour through the narrow, cobblestone streets, up to the 12th century cathedral. There was just enough light and the tour guide did a terrific job. All the crew who we dealt with were very professional, helpful and friendly. But the chef, Magdolie(sp?) stands out. Each night before dinner, she would give an enthusiastic, 5-10 minute description of the dinner options which made our mouth water, Even better, the meals met our high expectations. And, in almost all cases, the dishes weren't basic recipes but rather her own presentation. We've been on 10 river and ocean cruises and we can't remember having better dinners than we had on this cruise. We made our own pre- and post-cruise arrangements, but the embarkation and disembarkation were both simple and easy. One of the crew took our bags to our rental car on disembarkation even though we had not made arrangements with Viking. Our room was a typical good river cruise room with plenty of storage - we didn't even use some of the shelves. We had taken our first river cruise on Viking last year to Holland and Belgium and enjoyed it so much we decided to take this cruise. We were not disappointed. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
As we had heard from others that traveled with Viking was of the same quality and service as AMA Waterways and they had the itinerary that we wanted, we booked a cruise with them. On 9/3/10 we embarked on Viking MS Maribelle in Lyon on ... Read More
As we had heard from others that traveled with Viking was of the same quality and service as AMA Waterways and they had the itinerary that we wanted, we booked a cruise with them. On 9/3/10 we embarked on Viking MS Maribelle in Lyon on their Southern France Serenade 8 day cruise on the Rhone and Saone Rivers. Our first impression of the ship was that it was an old ship and that it did not have the luxury appearance of their Neptune ship. When we got to our stateroom, we were disappointed to see that it did not have a bed, but had two small couches which turned into separate small twin beds with hard mattresses. This was the same setup throught the ship. My husband who is tall could barely fit and if you turned too quickly, you hit the wall. Next came the very small shower that when you turned on the water, the curtain stuck to your body. The dinning experience can be described as the same level and quality as eating at a Denny's restaurant. The food was without taste and of poor quality. They added so much ice to their orange juice that when it melted, it was more water then orange juice. They served their left over smoked fish from the night before for their breakfast. You got the feeling that they were rationing their food throughout the trip, not that it matter as it was of poor taste that you did not want large portions anyway. They offered wine with dinner at no cost, but it was cheap wine, so you were not too eager to drink much of it. The cruise director though friendly, provided minimal service. He did not go out of his way to provide more service then required. Some of the waiters had a difficult time understanding English and made it hard to get service from them. The maitre'd came across as very rigid and strict with rules that it made you feel uncomfortable asking for service. The stateroom cleaning staff, however, were very good. They service your room efficiently and left your room sparkling clean. The entertainment was very poor. The one musician aboard played the same beat to every song in a Hungarian tone. This was not conducive to wanting to stay and enjoy hearing him play or enjoy dancing to the music. The one thing that was good about this cruise, were the port and shore excursions. We saw some very beautiful areas of France and sites. During the cruise, we heard that Viking leased the ship Ms Maribelle and it's crew as there was a high demand for this itinerary. In my opinion they were more concerned with making money, then providing quality and excellent service. Throughout our trip, we heard the same complains from a number of passengers and it became a joke to talk about the quality and service of the ship. We could not wait to get off the ship. It was very upsetting to feel this way after having travel so far and having spend the money and receive this kind of treatment. In summary, we would not recommend this cruise to anyone and would not recommend Viking as it appears they cared more about making money and little about the service and quality they provide. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
We were aboard the River Beatrice for seven nights from Budapest to Passau and then took Uniworld's extension to Prague. After several ocean cruises, this was our first river cruise and the best cruise ever. The suite was luxurious, ... Read More
We were aboard the River Beatrice for seven nights from Budapest to Passau and then took Uniworld's extension to Prague. After several ocean cruises, this was our first river cruise and the best cruise ever. The suite was luxurious, with lots of room to move around as well as plenty of storage and a nice size bathroom. The food was great, especially at the special events such as the captain's dinners. The level of the food would rival many of the excellent restaurants we have here in the SF Bay Area, and the wine poured with dinner was of good quality. The fact that the wine and excursions were included in the initial price meant that you didn't have to worry about buying a wine package or standing in line to sign up for excursions as we have done on all of our ocean cruises. Each Uniworld employee went out of their way to make our trip enjoyable. The cruise director, Christine, is exceptional in every way - she has an extensive knowledge of the area and is very articulate, patient and warm. And the people we met on the cruise were interesting and fun to be with for a week. Regarding the excursions, the local guides were almost always excellent, and the QuietVox system allowed everyone to hear the entire presentation. On some of the city tours, after we tired of regimentation and buses, we were able to break away and find our way back to the ship on our own. This was especially easy in Vienna especially, where the Metro line can take you within a 10-minute walk to the ship. The Prague extension was enjoyable as well. Getting there was easy because a bus picked us up at the ship and took us to Prague, and Uniworld's guide Jana in Prague was exceptional. She offered a private optional tour of the theatre where Mozart first performed Figaro, conducted by the 85-year-old former symphony conductor, as well as a tour of the beautiful second floor of the Municipal Building. Her included tour of Prague Castle was very well done, and she took very good care of the Uniworld group throughout the stay, including handling everyone's airport transfers. All in all, this was a great trip, and we will definitely use Uniworld in the future. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2010
My husband and I enjoyed our Uniworld cruise, "Castles on the Rhine". This was the third river cruise we have taken, the first being an Avalon cruise from Prague to Budapest and the second a Uniworld "Tulips and ... Read More
My husband and I enjoyed our Uniworld cruise, "Castles on the Rhine". This was the third river cruise we have taken, the first being an Avalon cruise from Prague to Budapest and the second a Uniworld "Tulips and Windmills". We began with a day on our own in Amsterdam, an attractive and interesting city in which to relax and catch our breaths after the flight over, never a favorite part of travel. The River Ambassador, while the smallest and oldest ship we have cruised on, was attractive and well-maintained. While the cabins were the smallest we've ever been assigned to, we ended up spending more time in the comfortable lounge. The crew could not have been better, and the cruise manager and hotel manager were terrific. There were excursions included every day, and the local guides did a good job. We felt that the food was the best we have had, and decent wines were poured freely with dinner. The breakfasts offered good variety and an omelet station. Lunches were very good with a variety of salads, soups, a couple of hot entrees, sandwich-making possibilities and always a tempting dessert table. The itinerary offered by this cruise included a day and a half in the Alsace region of France. We enjoyed a canal cruise in Strasbourg and a full day visiting the charming villages of Riquewihr and Kaisersburg. Speyer, Germany was also a favorite town along the way. Our fellow cruisers included other Americans, many Canadians, and a few from "down under". The average age was, perhaps, 60, and it was a very congenial group. River cruising is a great way to go for a relaxing holiday visiting interesting places while enjoying good food and companionship. Uniworld does an exceptional job of providing a quality experience. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2010
The ship, Viking Neptune, was clean and comfortable and we were very glad to reach it after a very tiring journey from St. Pancras to Chalons-sur-Saone. A change of trains at Paris was organised by a Viking Representative, but at the ... Read More
The ship, Viking Neptune, was clean and comfortable and we were very glad to reach it after a very tiring journey from St. Pancras to Chalons-sur-Saone. A change of trains at Paris was organised by a Viking Representative, but at the second change in Dijon we were left to manage trains, platforms and luggage with no help or inforamtion. At first the food seemed plentiful and good, but we quickly realised that none of it was really fresh. As we stopped at towns with some of the finest food in France, everything we ate came from the freezer. Fruit was unripe and bread was sometimes still frozen at the centre. Tours were organised daily, but half of them were 'optional' and extra fees were charged. Guides were knowdegable, but a great deal of walking was involved, and this prevented many of the older and less able passengers from participating. On-board entertainment was minimal, with little attempt to create an atmmosphere of enjoyment, and lectures were less than gripping - a talk on mustard, for example. TV offerings were minimal and old. The majority of the crew were German, as were most of the pasengers, and announcements in heavily accented English were difficult to understand. Those crew members managing the reception desk were often less than courteous, and quite unhelpful at times. Cabin and waiting staff were very pleasant and efficient. This was our first river cruise, and will be our last with Viking. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2010
My husband and I enjoy traveling usually on a tour, but packing and unpacking and being bused from one city to the next becomes taxing after a while. Now comes the beauty of the "river cruise." Most of the time we didn't ... Read More
My husband and I enjoy traveling usually on a tour, but packing and unpacking and being bused from one city to the next becomes taxing after a while. Now comes the beauty of the "river cruise." Most of the time we didn't know that the ship was actually moving. It was a lovely smooth sail and the sights of passing ships and barges, not to mention the farms, livestock, and vineyards, were picture perfect. How delightful it was to drop our luggage in our room, unpack, and begin a wonderful cruise down the Rhine, beginning in Amsterdam, cruising through the locks to Cologne, Koblenz, Rudesheim, Heidelberg, Speyer, Strasbourg, Breisach, and disembarking in Basel, Switzerland. The price of the cruise is inclusive of all meals, ever flowing wine and beer at dinner, and all morning excursions. The choice of food offered at all meals (breakfast and lunch buffet-style) will satisfy even finicky palates. Afternoon excursions are optional and I would steer clear of the wine-tasting tour. Our group was offered wines that were no longer in production so even though we tasted a 2008 Riesling, we could only purchase a 2009. Then we had to sit through a boring film. Only the scenery while traveling was beautiful. The only bright spot was that when you returned from a tour, the staff was in the lobby with tea and hot towels to refresh you. The ship was spotless and the rear lounge that offers coffee, tea, fresh fruit, and cookies 24/7 was always maintained by staff. Since we were continuing our journey after the cruise we took advantage of the laundry service which was extremely fast.The desk personnel were helpful and accommodating regardless of how many times you asked the same question. Robert, the tour director, reminded me of Billy Crystal's impression of Fernando Lamas. He was funny and charming, but when it came to business, he was knowledgeable and professional. We were transferring after the ship to another excursion and the Avalon staff made the transition effortless. We cannot extol enough accolades on Avalon for making this a great trip (despite the BA strike). I would cruise down any river with Avalon! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2010
I traveled on the River Beatrice with my parents July 2010. We selected Uniworld and the River Beatrice based on what we new about Uniworld's reputation and the newness of the ship and we abolutely loved it! If you are looking for a ... Read More
I traveled on the River Beatrice with my parents July 2010. We selected Uniworld and the River Beatrice based on what we new about Uniworld's reputation and the newness of the ship and we abolutely loved it! If you are looking for a luxurious hotel on the river, this is your trip and ship. We enjoyed two days in Budapest and then spent the day cruising to Vienna. It was a relaxing day that really made us feel like we were on vacation. The itiniery, the food, the included tours all worked so well and exceeded our expectations. The ship's staff couldn't have been more helpful and we felt pampered without feeling like it was a pretentious or uptight environment. Personally I was one of the younger people on the ship which was about 70% retirees but our fellow passengers became friends to us as we enjoyed the sights of Vienna, Salzburg, The Wachau Valley and Passau. While a riverboat cruise is not a cheap vacation, we found it to be a good value. Our money out of pocket was quite modest once on the ship. I would highly recommend Uniworld and I would highly recommend this trip -- particularly starting in Budapest. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2010
We have just returned from our first trip with GCT. This is not a first riverboat cruise, but the first with this com. First of all the River Harmony is a lovely CEAN ship. We chose the prelude deck and it was quite fine. Husband thought ... Read More
We have just returned from our first trip with GCT. This is not a first riverboat cruise, but the first with this com. First of all the River Harmony is a lovely CEAN ship. We chose the prelude deck and it was quite fine. Husband thought one deck higher would have been better. The Captain was next to us so if it is good enough for him it is fine for us. Being at the water level did not create a problem. The only noise was when the barges would pass by and it sounded like water rushing by the boat. When you heard it you then got use to it and knew what it was. It is strange how the boat never rocks with the water motion. Our room was the nices when it comes to storage and though the beds are only 2 twins i think most people know how to handle that. The beds were nice as I liked the idea that you could elevate them, just like a chaise lounge, good for those who do sleep at home with their beds up some. The bathroom was the best size especially the shower of any cabin catagory we have had on a cruise ship. Even if you are large I don't think you will have much trouble with the shower curtain taking a shower with you. The crew and the Captain are just as friendly and nice as you could ever expect. Our captain was always where he could be seen. Even on departure day the first group leaving at 4:30 a.m. he was there to say good bye. Everyone has a bad day but they never show it. They love to talk to you and of course the policy of GCT is for them to call you by name. They do a great job of learning that very fast. program directors are top notch. They are young and I can't figure out how they keep their cool around all the SENIORS. They know their stuff and if they can't answer some question they will let you know they will find out. I do think sometimes people try to test them. Our stops were very nice,you can check out the itinerary for those. Most included tours were of the towns, villages etc. It is nice as the P.D. do give you a good overview. The optional tours which for us was Luxembourg was very good and included a lunch that was very nice. The highlight of this tour is going to the American cemetary,puts tears in your eyes, the sight is just beautiful Other optional was the Delta Works, I did not want to go but was glad I did. Many women think it is a man think, but to see the work and story behind it was worth it to me. Now about food. The presentation is beautiful. Many people think it is good. I would only rate it as fair. I did not starve or go away hungry, but it was not high on my list of best ever food. Plenty choices for breakfast, with lovely fresh fruit. Lunch, salad bar could have had more things to put on the greens. Soup they served and the cold soup was my favorite as it always is on any cruise. Dinner is another story. Two choices for entrees, and all else is the same for everyone. Always on the menu is salmon or grilled chicken. There is a vegeterian choice also. Since at the end of the day dinner should be relaxing I found they rush to clear your courses so everyone is served the same thing at the same time. GCT to to blame for having only a certain amount of servers and believe me they work their tails off. More servers could make for a more relaxing meal. Breakfast and lunch you pretty much wait on yourself so that works out o.k. Evening was nice to be on the sun deck and a few nights they had special entertainment or just a great guy singing and playing the key board on the off nights. After a long day of walking and sightseeing it was good to turn in early for what would be a new adventure on the river the next day. It is a very relaxing way to see Europe along the rivers. Yes I would go again but not ready to sign up for another yet. This was a first for the home visits and that was very interesting. The home we went to the lady went beyond her duty to serve good treats and it was nice to see her home and yard. In fact I have emailed her with a return already. I think they love what they do with the Grand Circle program. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2010
We sailed on the River Countess on a Rhine and Main Rivers ("Rhine Discovery") cruise in July 2010, from Basel, Switzerland to Nurenberg, Germany. We arrived on our own in Basel a few days early and toured on our own. The day ... Read More
We sailed on the River Countess on a Rhine and Main Rivers ("Rhine Discovery") cruise in July 2010, from Basel, Switzerland to Nurenberg, Germany. We arrived on our own in Basel a few days early and toured on our own. The day of departure, we took a taxi to the dock around Noon. The crew took charge of our luggage. The Hotel desk staff had us checked in (in) less than one minute and sent us to the lounge to wait for our cabin to be ready. There were sandwiches, pizza and cheese for us to snack upon, with free tea, coffee, iced tea and water. Soft (and hard) drinks were available from the bar. Sodas cost about 2.50 (Euros) while drinks ranged from 4.50 to 6.50. We explored the ship as well. As you can see from the floor plans, it is small. It has: Lounge in the bow; a small library with 2 desks with PC's, two 4 person bridge-style tables and two 4 person easy-chair groupings; reception area with "hotel" and Cruise Director desks; 4 decks of cabins; "shop" (10 x 10 feet) with jewelry and kick-knacks; a coffee station with espresso, teas, hot chocolate and iced teas; a fitness room with 2 x each of treadmills, bikes, ellipticals; (free) passenger laundry with 2 x washers and dryers (soap available for purchase at the Hotel desk); massage room; and restaurant aft. We met a few other couples while we waited. The other passenger groups ranged in size from couples to a group of 8 neighbors from the States. There were two families with teens, but I strongly recommend against bringing kids. The company and tours are not geared toward them at all. The age range of adults seemed to start at 45 and went up to 93, with two couples seemingly in their late 30's (or with much better plastic surgeons). There were 138 passengers on board for our cruise. An aside: One couple, from Australia, told us Uniworld had lost their reservation (yes, they had their confirmation paperwork) and had to scramble to find them a cabin. They were booked in a Cat 4 cabin, but were given a Cat 1 for the first ½ of their cruise (7 days). For the inconvenience, they were invited to the captains table and given a suite for the second ½ of the cruise. We were given our cabin keys at around 1:30. The cabin was a little smaller than most other cruise ship cabins we have had. It had 4 large drawers, 2 half-height and one full-height closets...plenty of space for our clothes and a tall space under both double beds for our luggage. One of the closets had a large safe, able to hold a large camera, wallets and laptop. It also included two fluffy robes and a large umbrella. There was a "makeup" area with mirror and stool with its own light as well. The TV was about 13 - 15 inches seemed to have lower resolution than SD, making it very hard to read the daily announcements, menu's, etc. The ship has satellite service which went in and out as we passed bridges, trees, clouds, etc. It worked fine while we were docked. Channels included CNN International, BBC, Discovery Channel, Cartoon Network. Two different recently released to DVD movies which changed daily played as well. For our cruise, they included Alice in Wonderland, Dear John and Shutter Island. As with our other cruise experiences, the bathroom was just large enough for a sink in a small vanity with mirror and lit magnifying mirror, toilet and shower. The shower was surprisingly large, considering the rest of the bathroom. The crew is simply the most cheerful, helpful group we have had the pleasure to meet. Everybody was smiling and seemed genuinely happy to help in any way possible. The Captain and Hotel Manager (married) were professional and very funny throughout our interactions. The Cruise Director (Claudia for this cruise) was very knowledgeable, helpful and kept close track of all 140 of us through our excursions. Unlike most of our other cruise experiences, the food ranged from very good to excellent. Even the breakfast and lunch buffets were of excellent quality. Lunch and Dinner menus were posted the night before on the TV and before each meal at the Hotel desk. Wait staff were all friendly and attentive, serving and refilling drinks at all meals and helping the mobility-challenged of us. Breakfast included a daily special, like crepes or eggs benedict, eggs/omelets cooked to order, a great selection of breads, juices, smoked salmon, cheeses, cereals and a variety of hot foods: scrambled eggs, bacon (crisp AND soft separately), pancakes. All meals were served in one sitting, without any assigned seating. All passengers fit at once(obviously). Tables held from 2 - 8 (10?), all with views out floor to ceiling windows side and/or aft. You could either sit at a table the size of your party or dine with other groups. Each meal most people either sat at tables with empty spaces or asked to sit in said empty spaces. If you wanted to "reserve" a large table for a large group, you simply got there as early as you could to hold it. The variety of people we met made for the best part of the cruise. We met families from US, UK, Australia and Canada. Most people were happy to meet each other, though there were a few groups more insular. Over the course of the cruise, we met about 16 different couples over meals and found a number of friends with whom we plan on keeping in touch. Lunch changed daily and always included a different carving station entrEe, such as a German version of a Pot Au Feu (the best offering, in our opinion), salmon with a lemon cream sauce and carved beef. There were also different soups each day, all made in-house. Every single one was excellent. There were a variety of cheeses, three different salads (changing each day as well...chicken and Caesar salads were great), two different hot entrees, vegetables and starches. Finally, there were always 2 or 3 desserts created by the in-house pastry chef. Her creations were always beautiful and had excellent flavor. Finally, if you did not like her creations that day, there was an ice cream sundae station. Dinner was served, as opposed to the buffets of the other meals. You were given a menu listing the (4) courses, with a choice of entrEe and occasionally a choice in appetizer. Appetizers included I am not going to discuss the tours at any length. They were a good compromise, given the range of passengers. All guides were friendly and easy for us English speakers to understand. Some thought the guides were long-winded, others thought they gave an excellent level of detail. Our only real complaint: Internet access was as close to useless as I have ever seen. At least dial-up provides you with a consistent connection, slow as it may be. The wifi network was only usable from the lounge and library (and on the rear sundeck, I think). Once you signed in to get access, you were usually unable to get any further to the Internet. There are also two desktop computers to share, which had exactly the same lack of Internet service. While I understand the spotty nature of Satellite Internet service, it should have at least been available while we were docked. The whole week, all of us would stick our heads into the library and ask the current set of frustrated EMailers if the "Internet was working". 75% of the time it was not, 10% of the time it seemed to move at 1 Kbps (Yahoo/G/Hot- mail would take about 5 minutes to load), and 5% of the time it was "normal". Mind you, that 5% of the time, maybe 2% gave us speeds fast enough for ANY media access. One poor woman worked for an hour to view pictures of her grandson and family online. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2010
The Avalon Felicity is a brand new vessel just launched in March 2010. Based upon my observations of other river cruise vessels it's exterior is not stylish or very modern in appearance. However the interior is very clean in ... Read More
The Avalon Felicity is a brand new vessel just launched in March 2010. Based upon my observations of other river cruise vessels it's exterior is not stylish or very modern in appearance. However the interior is very clean in appearance and comfortable. The 138 passengers fit easily into the forward lounge and restaurant. The only time we felt crowded was during the lunch buffet. Avalon boasts that their cabins are the largest for river cruises, at 172 square feet. They feel a little smaller possibly from the lay out. They are adequate though considering the limited time one spends in the cabin. Storage capacity of the cabin in my wife's opinion was wonderful and in fact we did not use it all. The cabin has French doors but we missed having a balcony as on an ocean cruise. The food was hit or miss. Dinners were quite good with free wine. Service was basically good though they confused orders at times and there was a delay serving soft drinks. Breakfast buffet meats and eggs were cold, though my wife told me the omelet station was good. Disembarkation was the easiest I ever had. Was off ship and onto a bus to the airport in minutes. In all the cruise was enjoyable though one should consider carefully the differences between an ocean cruise and a river cruise before committing to a river cruise.   Read Less
Sail Date: May 2010
This was our first River Cruise, and we loved it! Our cabin was very well laid out, and very comfortable, with a large window which could be opened. The bed was very comfortable, which was important to me because I have sciatica. There ... Read More
This was our first River Cruise, and we loved it! Our cabin was very well laid out, and very comfortable, with a large window which could be opened. The bed was very comfortable, which was important to me because I have sciatica. There was only one seating for dinner, and it was free-style with no reserved tables. This meant that we could share mealtimes with new people. The menu was small, but provided a variety of choices for appetizers, first course, main course, and dessert. The food was beautifully presented, and small, perfect portions. Fotr the "meat and potatoes" type, one could always order steak, chicken,or fish in addition to the daily entrees which were offered. The cruise included at least one tour in each port, and when we boarded, we were assigned a number from 1 to 4. This was our tour group number throughout the cruise. Our tours were very well organized. We disembarked the ship as our group was called, and boarded the tour buses which were waiting for us. They use local tour guides, and all but one were excellent. They also offered some tours in addition, for an additional cost. In the evening, on board, we enjoyed lectures about the European Union, or discussions about the history of the next day's port. Unlike the large ocean cruise ships, there are no casinos or theaters on board. Entertainment was a very talented keyboard player/singer who played in the lounge each evening after dinner. We found this quite acceptable, as we were usually tired after the day's activities. The staff on the Viking Sun always had a great attitude, and all spoke excellent English. Many were bilingual, or trilingual. Each afternoon, the chef walked among the tables, asking us if there was anything he could improve upon, or if we had any suggestions for him. The only thing missing from this cruise was sunshine.....it rained the entire cruise, which was very disappointing. (I nicknamed our cruise "Castles of the Rhine in the Rain") Even the locals were complaining. But, one can't control the weather. I'm really looking forward to our next river cruise, and would definitely choos Viking again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2010
Just wanted to make a comment before starting on the review. Avalon includes bottled water in the cabin each day on most ships. The soaps, shampoo, etc., were very nice and definitely an upgrade from our Magnificent Europe of two years ... Read More
Just wanted to make a comment before starting on the review. Avalon includes bottled water in the cabin each day on most ships. The soaps, shampoo, etc., were very nice and definitely an upgrade from our Magnificent Europe of two years ago. Coffee, tea, juice and water along with fruit and cookies are available 24 hours a day in the back lounge. Each afternoon there is a coffee/tea and cake offering in the main lounge. There is a beauty shop on board. They added head massages to their list of offerings. I had mentioned on last year's survey that it would be nice to have someone who could give manicures on board. This year on the Creativity, Sandra was able to shape my nails and cuticles and then give a hand massage. Again, I mentioned on the survey that further nail service would be nice. We did not use the onboard fitness room as we were walking quite a few miles each day on the tour. The hot tub was on the top deck and was used by quite a few people. We boarded the Creativity after taking an optional trip to the Eifel Tower. It was so nice to see one of our bartenders from last year, Radu. Always nice to have a familiar face to greet us ... This trip had 123 passengers as I recall. The Creativity is a fairly new ship and its layout was familiar to us as we were on the Affinity's maiden voyage last year. I have been asked by several Cruise Critic members to talk about the included and optional tours. On the Paris to Normandy portion of Grand France there were two included tours most every day. You were given the choice of one or the other. Sometimes we made a good choice and sometimes we didn't ... here are the choices that we had for tours and optionals: Paris: There was an included sightseeing tour of Paris. In the afternoon there were two optional tours: Louvre and Versailles. Last year we took the Versailles tour and really enjoyed it. Those who took the Louvre tour said it was good but not much time to just stand and enjoy the artwork. In the evening there was an optional trip to the Moulin Rouge. We didn't go either this year or last year but those who went had a great time. Conflans: The included tours were a trip to the village where Van Gogh spent his last three months or St. Germain to visit the home of Josephine Bonaparte. We did the St. Germain trip and it was OK but wish we had done the other one as we heard good things from those who took it. Vernon: The included tours were a trip to Claude Monet's home and gardens or Chateau de Bizy which is a 'small Versailles' ... we did Monet and loved it. That evening there was onboard entertainment by Valerie and Alexis, which was OK but not a group that I would want to hear again. Rouen: There was a walking tour of the city in the morning and then two optionals in the afternoon: Homfleur and Calvados Distillery or visiting several Abbey's, which is the one we did (I graduated from a Benedictine University and wanted to visit a Benedictine Abbey) and we had a great time. Those who went to Honfleur said it was nice and that they enjoyed the distillery. We stayed in Honfleur while we did our own Normandy trip so I wasn't interested in going there That evening we had onboard entertainment from La Strada, which is a trio of violins and keyboard synthesizer who performed classical music. This was our third time seeing these performers and they just get better each time. We did purchase their CDs so that I can enjoy then here at home. Rouen: This day there were three included trips: Landing Beaches for the American Landing Beaches for UK and a Taste or Normandy which included the Bayeux tapestries. My husband did the American landing beaches while I stayed on the ship and relaxed. Everyone enjoyed their tours. Normally there would just be a trip to the American Landing Beaches but there were 20+ folks from the UK who were there especially to see the UK beaches as many of them had served in the military in World War 2. Les Andelys: The included tours were basically the same. One did a tour of the city and then went up the hill to the ruins of Richard the LionHeart's castle and then walk back to the ship or take the bus up and back from the castle and then tour the city. That afternoon we had a tasting of several French cheeses. We arrived back in Paris and those who only took the Paris/Normandy trip leave to go home and the others of us went on to the start of the second cruise. NOTE: This trip was affected by the Iceland volcano and a little over 100 of the folks had to find alternative ways to get home. Some of them decided to go along on the Burgundy and Provence portion of the trip and then leave the ship to get back to Paris for their flights back to the US. Just a quick word on the Creativity. It was a great ship with good staff. The food wasn't as good as what we have had on our two previous cruises and we were sure that the CD knew about it and also put it on our survey forms. We had a limited number of people on this cruise as the volcano prevented many folks from getting to Paris. I believe that we had just 51 of us on this portion of the trip. Then those who were continuing on the Burgundy and Provence trip were put in a small van and began our journey to Chalon. On our way there we went to Beaune to either do Burgundy Wine Tasting or tour the Hospices of Beaune (we did the wine tasting). There we met the others group who would be joining us on the cruise. Lunch was on our own. We arrived at the ship to find out that one of the waiters was also on the Affinity last year (Lazlo). Chalon: Walking tour of the town and then sail to Tournus where you could walk to St. Philibert Abbey (beautiful place). There was an optional tour to Chateau Cormatin which we did not do. Macon: No tour just cruising on the Saone. The weather was beautiful so we enjoyed Lyon: City tour which includes the painted walls and the Basilica ... can't miss the Basilica ... Lyon is a wonderful place to tour. Lyon: There were two optional tours scheduled but they wound up being put together which is going to the silk mills and then to the market. Afternoon there was an optional to the Beaujolais vineyards ... we didn't take either one but heard great reviews on both of them. Tournon: Walking Tour and then a little free time before going to Viviers where we took a walking tour through the city and then went up the hill to the Church/Convent area and had an organ concert at the church ... for those with problems walking, transportation was provided up and down the hills. My husband took the transportation but I walked. Avignon: Included tour of the town and the Pope's Palace. In the afternoon there was an optional trip to Pone du Gard and Uzes which we again did not take. Arles: City walking tour and then optional to St. Remy, Van Gogh and Nostradamus ... again we did not take the optional. We took the extension and wound up in Nice where we did take the optional trip to Monaco ... which was great!!! The Scenery is a little older than the Creativity and has had some updating. Rooms, service, etc., were great. The food was better than on the Creativity but as with most ships, there was too much salt in the prepared food. This was a fantastic trip. We were so fortunate to have Yvette Laurent as our CD. She is so pleasant, organized, and nothing seems to 'rattle' her. She did such a great job in helping those who were stranded in Paris, both those who booked their air, etc, through Avalon and those who didn't. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2010
A friend and I went on our first river cruise in April 2010. We took Uniworld's "Tulips and Windmills" cruise of Belgium and Holland on the River Dutchess. We did not know what to expect and were totally pleased with our ... Read More
A friend and I went on our first river cruise in April 2010. We took Uniworld's "Tulips and Windmills" cruise of Belgium and Holland on the River Dutchess. We did not know what to expect and were totally pleased with our choice. The only thing wrong was that the weather was a bit colder than usual and prevented us from enjoying the upper deck. Also the tulips were not at their peak, although still lovely. The cabin was not large but adequate with very comfortable beds. The meals were fantastic. Huge buffets for breakfast and lunch with a set menu for dinner with 2 choices of appetizer, soup and dessert and 3 choices of main dish--one meat, one fish and one vegetarian. If none of these suited, you could have steak, chicken or salmon. Meals were at a set time and open seating with tables for 6. Wine was included. At 4 in the afternoon one could have "tea" in the lounge with your choice of type of tea and several little canapes. There was also an area with 24 hour self-service of all types of coffee, tea, iced tea, and ice water. There was entertainment every evening, nothing elaborate but fun. The staff were nearly all Eastern European, spoke excellent English, and were friendly and helpful. The shore excursion were all very interesting with the Keukenhof Gardens near Amsterdam being the highlight. I have mobility problems and was concerned that I would have difficulty with the shore excursions but found them not too difficult and twice our Cruise Manager established a "gentle walking" group. There were actually 8 of us with canes and 2 with walkers. Some excursions were "optional excursions" which required an additional charge, others were included. The places we visited were established along the rivers and so the centers of town were not too far. If you did not want to participate in the organized activity it was easy to go into the town on your own. The Cruise Manager had maps at every port and was happy to give you instructions. Our Cruise Director was Tony and he was absolutely wonderful. There was nothing we did not like about this river cruise and we intend to do another with Uniworld next year. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2010
THE SOUTH OF FRANCE AND PARIS ~ APRIL 12-24, 2010 Friends, I've just returned from two memorable weeks in France, one of my favorite countries, and Paris is definitely my favorite city in the world. I've been ... Read More
THE SOUTH OF FRANCE AND PARIS ~ APRIL 12-24, 2010 Friends, I've just returned from two memorable weeks in France, one of my favorite countries, and Paris is definitely my favorite city in the world. I've been visiting France for 35 (yikes) years, and after this 12th visit, I'd like to share with you some observations and suggestions from this recent experience. PROVENCE (the South of France) The trip began in Nice, glittering capital of the Cote d'Azur, and a delightful and absolutely beautiful town on the French Riviera. Highlight here was the market, held daily, in vieux Nice (old Nice). Wonderful opportunity to shop for local specialties like Provencal soaps, herbs, pottery, textiles and watercolors by local artists at reasonable prices. Walk the town...she's a treasure. Onward to Arles to board our ship for the 7 night river cruise, which proved to be one of my most treasured travel experiences ever. Arles is memorable for its connection to Van Gogh and Cezanne, and the ancient Roman Amphitheater, still in use today. From Arles to my favorite town in Provence, Avignon. On three past occasions I'd sat in the town square, enjoying lunch and a good Provencal rose wine and soaked up the local color. I did it again this trip, and the experience did not disappoint. There is an excellent chain of wine stores all over France, called "Nicholas" and they offer a wide range of French wines (many local) at excellent prices, so stop in for your wine provisions. Also be aware that ATMs are available everywhere, even in the smallest villages, so just get cash with your debit card as needed and don't carry wads of Euros with you. Onward to the tiny town of Viviers, whose Cathedral was magnificent, but quite a trek up a very steep hill, then to Tournon a great example of a medieval city, and Vienne, where we rode a little train to the top of the town with a lovely view of the Rhone River below. Then, to Lyon, the 2nd city of France, and her gastronomic capital, and home of the renowned chef, Paul Bocuse. Thanks to an invitation by our shipmates Carl & Carolyn, we enjoyed a splendid lunch at Paul Bocuse's bistro "Le Sud"; highly recommended and it won't break the bank. This was my 1st visit to Lyon, and I loved this city. A great cathedral on Fourviere Hill with panoramic views of the city below, and then again down to explore "old Lyon" with the "traboules"...small little covered passage-ways from medieval times when the silk traders needed to cross the city and avoid bad weather. This part of Lyon was truly fascinating and well worth a serious visit. The river cruise towns ended with Macon and Chalon sur Saone, nothing too notable here, but then we visited beautiful Beaune, and ooh la la, what a town, and well worth a visit. DO NOT miss the incredible Hotel-Dieu, one of France's architectural highlights, and a joy to explore. This was a charity hospital, founded in 1443. The main part of the hospital is now a fantastic museum, but a portion of the building is still in use today as a retirement home for the impoverished elderly. Fantastic shopping and wonderful cafes and bistros in Beaune. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the Brasserie le Carnot. From here it was on to the incomparable city of light, Paris. Having done (several times) the mainstays of Paris....Arc d' Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Opera, and the Louvre, I wanted to explore some off the beaten path places. So, let me share those that struck a chord, and I think are noteworthy, and worth your time and effort, and in some cases, money! 1st off, for those of you who don't know, the "hot spot" in Paris these past few years is an area called "Le Marais". This is district in Paris that has been gentrified and fluffed of late, and retains an enormous amount of historical significance. Steeped in royal & Revolutionary history, this village in the heart of Paris offers medieval streets, museums-filled mansions, and the city's oldest and most beautiful square. 1) to get there get off at Metro St. Paul. Walk over to the enchanting Place des Vosges, that lovely square, and don't miss Victor Hugo's house and a museum on the southeeast corner of the square. 2) Sadly the Picasso Museum is closed for renovation until 2012. 3) Shopping in the Marais is a dream...to wit: Fun, fun handmade toys at "Tumbleweed" 19 rue du Turenne, Paris 75004 DO NOT miss the olive oil experience of a lifetime at O & Co....this shop specializes in Mediterranean olive oils, soaps, herbs, and vinegars. If you're looking for reasonable gifts to take home to friends and family, here's your spot! 47 rue Vielle du Temple Paris 77005 My absolute favorite shop in Paris is called As' Art...an African import gallery with fantastic objects of every type...the only time I've spent money in Paris the past 3 visits is at this shop. Also, it's in a wonderful little area called "Village St Paul" full of delightful shops of all sorts. As' Art: 35 Rue St Paul, Marais, Paris 75004 Where to eat in the Marais? Some ideas: Le Petit Fer a Cheval 30 Rue Vieille du Temple Paris 75004 Good food, cheap wine and adorable. Cafe des Musees Bistro 49 Rue de Turenne, Paris In the heart of Marais, a good Parisian bistro, reasonable What else in Paris: Do not miss a totally unknown shop opposite the Jardins Luxembourg, the Library/Book Shop of the Senat, located near the entrance to Luxembourg Gardens at 20 Rue de Vaugirard, Paris 75006. This shop has beautiful post cards and very fine gifts in leather (wallets, credit card holders, etc) are remarkably good prices. I always go here and am always rewarded. You must do the Montmartre area and see Sacre Coeur, and do ride the funicular up beside the long, long steps. (You can use a metro ticket for this ride) Speaking of metro tickets, the best value is to buy a "carnet des billets" a group of 10 metro tickets at a reduced price, you can buy with a credit card or Euro cash at the ticket machine in any metro station. I find this a better buy than the "Metro card"... Montmartre is the highest point in Paris, and the view is beautiful from the Sacre Coeur cathedral. This is also the area that attracted many artists in the 19th century. The "Place du Tertre" is a bit touristy, but fun with shops and cafes. I've enjoyed 2 good meals here: A sweet little restaurant at the top of the hill, is Chez Plumeau, the typical outdoor cafe setting, and it's charming inside too. Chez Plumeau 4 Place Du Calvaire 75018 Paris, France . Check out a delightful little street in Montparnasse area, called Rue du Cherche Midi Paris 75006...shops, restaurants galore, and a joy to experience. Another good restaurant bet is a small chain in Paris, called " Chez Clement" with locations all over Paris. I enjoyed 2 very excellent meals here at good prices. I was staying in St Germain area, and I ate at Chez Clement's St. Michel restaurant, not 100 yards from the St. Michel metro stop. Check their website for a location near you... www.chezclement.com. Ok, let's do the Palais Royal, metro Louvre/Palais Royal. A BEAUTIFUL square with whimsical sculptures, fountains, and gorgeous shops along the arcades that line both sides of the square. This is at treat indeed. Keep your pocketbooks closed here, but it's a great place for the French experience of "window licking!" One block away is another exceptional find, the Galerie Vero-Dodat Arcade, linking the Rue du Bouloi to Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau. These are 19th century, renovated shopping galleries, the oldest in Paris, with magnificent, covered glass ceilings and beautiful carved wooden fronts on the shops. In my book, this is a MUST SEE with shops, cafes, art galleries and magnificent architecture. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2010
I do not always write reviews for cruises, rather do so only when my evaluation and experience seem to differ from prevailing comments and evaluations by other travelers. I booked "Tulips and Windmills" on Viking Legend before ... Read More
I do not always write reviews for cruises, rather do so only when my evaluation and experience seem to differ from prevailing comments and evaluations by other travelers. I booked "Tulips and Windmills" on Viking Legend before the ship was launched because I'd long yearned to explore that part of Europe in more depth (my paternal ancestors immigrated to the U.S. from Holland in the late 1800's), and because my husband dislikes air travel and the Legend has SINGLE staterooms which were favorably priced on Viking's Early Booking Discount offer. Later on I read negative reports and comments about Viking Legend and about Viking River Cruise company, and had some doubts in the months between booking and boarding my plane for Amsterdam on March 25. However, I knew the ship was going where I wanted to go and that the price was within my budget traveling solo, so I was GOING!! My personal experience was absolutely wonderful. Lovely ship, excellent upbeat and efficient crew, fine dining experiences, good itinerary -- nothing to complain about or really even to criticize. I am happy to give Viking Legend very high marks. A substantial majority of the 177 travelers on board the Legend's March 27 sailing were Viking past passengers, so it seems clear that many other travelers are as happy with Viking as I am. One criticism I had read was that other river cruise lines include wine with dinner, but not Viking; well, so did Viking this year. Wine with dinner had been included as part of the Early Booking package, and apparently the company decided to expand it to include all passengers. The passengers were an interesting, well-traveled, and well-educated group of people. As well as those from the United States, we had travelers from the UK, Australia, and Canada, which added to the interest of shared experiences as folks brought different perspectives to what we were seeing. Although I enjoyed every single part of the journey, highlights for me were Kinderdijk, the Delta Project, and Keukenhof. Europe had had a fierce winter so we were too early for the full tulip bloom, but even so there were some fields of brilliant color, and the pavilions were glorious with the beauty of flowers of all kinds. The Keukenhof grounds are lovely, with statuary as well as ponds and fountains and lovely flora. We were lucky on weather. Several times we heard reports that where we were at the moment was the only place in The Netherlands where it was NOT raining; several days we completed our day's activities and just as we headed back on the bus or were back on board the ship, some rain would start to fall. The two times we did experience rainfall were at the Delta Project and on Easter Sunday at Keukenhof; both of those days it was off-and-on, not ongoing. Overriding "themes" for me were the role of bicycles in this country (human population 16 million, bicycle population over 18 million, automobiles 7 million), and the great energy and cleverness of the Dutch people as they have over time continued to manage their lowlands issues. The Delta Project is amazing, and passing through the locks was both interesting and fun. I took two optional excursions and recommend them both highly: Holland north country with the vegetable auction the afternoon of our day in Hoorn, and the Kroller-Muller Museum the afternoon of our day in Arnhem. In addition to the specific interest of the places visited, both excursions got us out into beautiful countryside, reassuring us that even this most densely populated of European countries DOES have lovely open countryside, with hilly areas in the eastern areas. Viking Legend's on-board presentations were fine: a most engaging and entertaining performance by a group of folkloric Dutch dancers; a presentation on the European Union; and an excellent educational talk on the windmills the evening before our day at Kinderdijk, presented by the daughter/granddaughter/great-granddaughter of a windmill keeper who had spent much time in her childhood in the family's windmill home. Although my photo album is not ready yet, when it is it will be added to my travel photo site: [url]http://fredasphotos1.shutterfly.com[/url] It'll probably (hopefully) be posted by the end of April. If you have any specific questions, post a question in the River and Canal Cruising section of the message boards, with the title, "Question on Legend for Xoe". I booked my own air (Delta has the only nonstop Seattle to Amsterdam), took the Hotel Shuttle Bus from Schiphol to my Hotel Bellevue, a budget hotel booked on EasyToBook for 69 Euros. The hotel is very near Centraal Station so I was able to walk from the hotel to the ship for boarding the next day. All these plans worked wonderfully well, and as hoped. My Cabin 337 was one of 5 single cabins on Legend; there are 2 on the top deck, 2 on Deck 2, and 1 on Deck 1. My #337 was adjacent to the library at the stern of Deck 3, and I loved the location. At a moment's notice, I could pop into the library and out a door to see or photograph anything on either starboard or port side of the ship. I'd guess that the other single on Deck 3, #309, is an equally good location and would mean less walking to the lounge or dining etc. The cabin design and layout are good. Bed is a couch that converts to a bed, but this was very comfortable and resulted in more floor space, which I appreciate since I do yoga stretches each morning. I loved having the French balcony for fresh air when I opened the slider; I had it open a bit every night. The climate control in the room worked beautifully, including an "off" position for times I wanted the slider open. There are outlets for both U.S. and European plugs, so charging camera batteries was no problem, nor was there a need for a converter. Great room! (NOTE -- CORRECTION: This form asks how many ports we visited. We had NINE ports; the maximum choice given on the form is 6 so that's what I marked -- but it's wrong, should be 9.) Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
I boarded the River Countess in Nuremberg for the 2009 European Holiday Market Cruise. There were 76 passengers on board,the trip was exceptional. The room spacious and clean. Serviced regularly. the quilt and pillows made sleeping easy. ... Read More
I boarded the River Countess in Nuremberg for the 2009 European Holiday Market Cruise. There were 76 passengers on board,the trip was exceptional. The room spacious and clean. Serviced regularly. the quilt and pillows made sleeping easy. All of the crew from the Captain Jorg Zwaal and his wife the hotel manager, where friendly, thoughtful and helpful. Meals where well presented and plentiful, I especially enjoyed the breakfast and lunch selections. Evening dining was always relaxing. Wine and other beverages where plentiful throughout dinner. A highlight of the trip was being selected to dine at the Captains farewell dinner. The average age of cruisers would have been in the neighborhood of 65, but there where several younger people on board, and many interesting people to meet and visit with. The cruise was relaxing and the sights plentiful. The guided tours in our ports where very well done with the except I felt of Linz, where our particular guide seemed more in a hurry to have us off on our own. She did know the information and history but her presentation was a tad off. Highlights of the trip was the time in Passau, the beauty of the interiors of the baroque churches, the Wachau Valley was lovely, watching the sailors of the boat make a snowman, watching the snow fall gave it a festive air. Vienna at the completion of the trip was another highlight, the beauty of the city and ease of getting around, make it an interesting experience. The extra excusion to the Schoonbrunn Summer Palace was excellent and well worth the time and dollars spent. All the Christmas markets where different with different things to see and eat.Nuremberg sausages, the chai tea at the market in Vienna, Hot Chocolate at the market in Regensburg. The tour guide Woulter went out of his way to ensure that the passengers had the opportunity to see and do the things they wanted to. The evening entertainment on board provided a diversion from a busy day, and a relaxing way to settle down prior to bedtime. My cabin was on the second level,close to the coffee station, I would recommend requesting a cabin farther down the the hallway, activity could be regularly heard from the coffee station. Prior to embarking on the ship I overnighted two nights in Frankfurt, to help with the Jetlag. On disembarkation I spend an additional two nights in Vienna. I would recommend taking a cruise on the River Countess at any time of the year, the staff will make you feel as if your at home and a part of their family. I hope to be able to cruise again on the River Countess. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2009
This was on Uniworld's River Ambassador "Castles Along the Rhine" cruise, September 27 to October 4, 2009. The itinerary was "up the river" from Amsterdam to Basel. I had Trafalgar/Uniworld book my flights to ... Read More
This was on Uniworld's River Ambassador "Castles Along the Rhine" cruise, September 27 to October 4, 2009. The itinerary was "up the river" from Amsterdam to Basel. I had Trafalgar/Uniworld book my flights to Amsterdam and handle my airport/boat transfers. Both were flawless. Cruise check in was very quick, no waiting. My bag was quickly carried to my cabin. Cabins were on two decks, first and second. All were window cabins with a common corridor down the center of the boat. Mine was on the first deck, one flight of stairs down from the reception area. The cabin was very clean, bright and cheerful, but small. Closet space was somewhat limited but sufficient. The bathroom was in very good condition, but the shower was small. All bed linens and bath towels were monogrammed with "uw," Uniworld's logo, giving a nice classy touch. Bath towels were thick but a little rough because fabric softener apparently was not used. Bathroom amenities featured quality body lotion and shampoo, both could be purchased in the gift shop. The bed was very comfortable. A flat screen TV was mounted on the wall at the end of the bed. I'm a single male senior citizen, and I was traveling alone. I chose this river cruise specifically because Uniworld had dropped their single supplement on many cruises to help fill their boats due to the bad worldwide economy. I think the maximum passengers on the boat is about 128. There were 103 on this cruise of which 21 were singles. I can imagine how many cabins would have been vacant without singles. The dining room was on the first deck at the front of the boat. The lounge and bar were on the second deck immediately above it. Breakfast and lunch were buffets. The breads were all baked on the ship, typically German and European types, and I found the whole grain loaves to be exceptional. At lunch there were two entrEe offerings plus a daily pasta. A dessert table often featured regional specialties, and a good selection of cheeses was offered as well. Dinner was served from 7 pm to 9 pm. There was only one seating, and it was open seating. You could sit with someone different every night, or sit with the same persons. This was a great way to meet and create friendships. Waiters were efficient and helpful. Red and white wines were always complimentary with dinner. All courses covered a spectrum of cuisines and were presented in creative ways. Dinner was usually preceded with a presentation of the next day's activities by the Program Director in the lounge. And dinner was followed by keyboard entertainment and dancing there, as well. On our second night in port at Strasbourg, France, we were treated on board to local talent of a very humorous accordionist and a very talented female vocalist, presenting predominately French music. Much was lively and fun. Outside the lounge entrance was a small coffee and beverage area open 24/7. Complimentary coffee, cappuccino, hot chocolate and several teas could be freshly brewed by the cup on demand. Usually fresh fruit was available, too. In the morning there were pastries and in the afternoon dessert pastries and small sandwiches. Two small tables with eight chairs provided a comfortable place for a relaxed snack or casual conversation. The top deck was open air with seating for viewing and relaxing. A roofed area with all glass sides and an open end was situated near the front just behind the bridge for protection from the weather. The bridge was glass on all sides, and one could view the activities of the captain and his assistants as they monitored radar of the river, river depth and traffic, and navigated the boat accordingly. The Rhine River was suffering from low water depth (9/2009), a two year problem from insufficient rainfall. Numerous river boats of other lines were stranded, unable to complete their voyages due to shallow water. But because of the unique design of Uniworld boat's underside, we were able to complete our journey from Amsterdam to Basel without a problem. Of interest to some is the fact that the boat passes through 14 locks between Amsterdam and Basel. At each port an included walking tour with a local guide was provided to orient passengers with city history, famous sites, etc. Detailed maps of the areas were provided. Uniworld also provides receiver sets and headphones for all passengers and a mike and transmitter for guides to use so everyone can clearly hear the guide's commentary, even if one lags behind the group taking photos. This is a nice feature, not always offered by other companies. At some ports optional tours were offered for purchase. The only optional tour I did was to Heidelberg with a visit to the castle ruins and included a set German lunch in town, plus free time to explore and shop. The tour was worth doing. NOTE: Climbing some of the inclines from bus parking to the castle can be a little challenging for some. On the morning we cruised through the Rhine castle region most everyone was on the top deck with their camera. Over 40 castles are along the river. At 10:30 am the deck was turned into a German party with oom-pha music courtesy of the resident keyboardist. The kitchen staff set up a buffet with German sausages, kraut, mustard, and freshly baked soft pretzels and beers. At Rudesheim an included tour transported us to Schloss Vollrads' centuries' old palace and winery. Wine production dates from 1211 AD. Their vineyards grow only Riesling grapes from which quality wines are produced. Only a limited amount is exported to the USA. A resident guide informed us of Schloss Vollrads' history and wine production, and treated us to three wine samplings as we toured various areas of the palace. Strasbourg was an interesting port. Bordering on the west bank of the Rhine in the Alsace province of France, it's in close proximity to the Black Forest region of Germany, on the east bank. Strasbourg has changed national ownership six times in history between Germany and France. We were here two days. On our arrival we had an included canal boat cruise around the city, and then a walking tour to the cathedral. We also had free time to shop. One could tell they were in France from the abundance of pastry shops and the beautiful pastries and breads in their windows. The following day we had a full day excursion via motor coach along the Alsatian wine road with 27 thousand acres of vineyards and several wineries. Grape harvest was in progress. We visited a small town having a wine harvest festival. One could smell grapes being crushed at the town's winery. Local organizations were selling local food specialties, pastries and "neu vin" (lightly fermented grape juice. The cafes were busy serving lunch to attendees on their outdoor terraces. In the afternoon we journeyed to Colmar for more historical sightseeing, and then joined up with our cruise boat. The following morning we woke up in Basel, Switzerland where we said our good-byes to our new friends and the Rhine. Ship personnel efficiently handled transfers via coach to airlines and railroads. In conclusion, Uniworld did a great job with service, room keeping, food and sightseeing. The program director was exceptional and very thorough, plus being a lot of fun. Ages of cruisers ranged from 40 and up. Because there are no elevators on this boat, I would not recommend it for handicapped cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
We cruised on the Avalon Creativity in late September. We got really lucky and had fantastic weather. I absolutely fell in love with river cruising. It was awesome that any time you looked out the window or over the rail, there was ... Read More
We cruised on the Avalon Creativity in late September. We got really lucky and had fantastic weather. I absolutely fell in love with river cruising. It was awesome that any time you looked out the window or over the rail, there was something to see. You were always within yards of the nearest shore. All of the rooms on the ship were large compared with most of the ocean going ships. The bathrooms even had a decent size shower. We were a group of 4, so we had two rooms. We had a Jr. Suite, but the other couple had a standard room. The food was absolutely fantastic. One person in our group had some allergy considerations, and the kitchen always made sure that they had appropriate food that was just as good. One thing we really appreciated, was that the price of the drinks on board was reasonable. They also had happy hour each evening, where drinks were two for one. With all dinners, wine beer and soda were included. They only had one sitting for dinner, and it tended to take 2 hours... or longer if you liked. During this time the wine and beer were flowing freely. They were almost insulted if you declined a refill. Since we ultimately did not spend all that much money on drinks, and all the excursions are included in the price of the cruise, this is actually a pretty affordable vacation. Do be warned though, if you are into partying all night, and then sleeping till noon the next day, stick to the big ocean ships. They don't offer much in the way of entertainment, and by 11:00 it is pretty much down to sitting in the lounge for drinks. Most of the excursions are also quite early in the morning, and you do need to be at breakfast by 7:00 most days, if you were planning to participate. Due to the small size of the ship, however, by about day 3, people begin to know each other, and the evenings in the lounge and the happy hours start to turn into parties. I loved the intimacy of being in this environment. I do have to say though, that being in our early 40's, we did get labeled as the young people. That being said, the so called "older" crowd were no couch potatoes. Just try and keep up! I definitely did not feel out of place, and would go sailing with this group again in a heart beat. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2009
My Wife and I took Avalon Waterways Romantic Rhine cruise to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversery, cruising down the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel this August. It was not only our first cruise it was the ships first cruise too. Well it ... Read More
My Wife and I took Avalon Waterways Romantic Rhine cruise to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversery, cruising down the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel this August. It was not only our first cruise it was the ships first cruise too. Well it was my first cruise if you don't count the trip across Lake Erie from Cleveland to Detroit that I took with my family in 1955 on the SS Aquarama. I had visited the Rhine before form the land side and wanted to share that experience with my wife during our river cruise. We were a little apprehensive about the maiden voyage but it turned out not to be a problem at all. The only thing that went wrong was our room safe did not have its battery installed so we could not lock up our valuables. That was quickly remedied by the ship's engineer. The first night's dinner service was a little slow but that just gave us more time to spend getting to know our dinner companions. It is a small ship with only 138 passengers and with open seating at every meal it is possible to get to know more than half the people on board if you don't dine with the same folks twice. With free wine at dinner and great companions it was tempting to linger over a meal. Meal service improved each night as the Maitre d' whipped his staff into shape. The wait staff was from Easern Europe, Indonesia, and China. Some of them started out clueless and managed to stay that way throughout the cruise despite Attila (his real name) the Hungarian's best direction. Just like on my sailboat, you have some crew that works out and some that doesn't. The food was very good and matched the region we were in. The only thing I got hungry for was simpler fare which we had the opportunity to sample when off the ship. Portions were not overly large like in the USA but you were well fed. The highlight of the meals were the salad dressings which were very light and always interesting. The only thing I would change is to lose the cake at 4:00 routine in favor of some extra time at happy hour or bigger glasses for the iced tea served when returing from a shore excursion. Iced Tea is the official (non alcoholic) drink of my home state of Texas and I have to commend the ship for doing a credible job with their brew, although not quite robust enough to stand up to a good piece of smoked brisket. The ship itself was very comfortable. We had a room on the bottom floor near the back. You would think it would be noisy but this ship has very little engine noise. The first day we pulled away from the dock and were moving before I realized it. Several passages are made at night and it was no trouble at all to sleep while underway. I found the top deck layout awkward. They had a hot tub in the forward section in front of the bridge. This meant anyone using that had to walk throught he lobby and past nearly everyone to get to it. This could have been better relocated aft with a seperate stairway near the back of the ship. I would also move the smoking section to aft of the bridge. I don't smoke. If you put the smokers at the front of the ship then the non smokers are downwind from them all the time. We ended going to the foremast part of the ship to try to get fresh air. We had the smallest stateroom on the ship and it had pleanty of space. We had more than enough room for our clothes, our empty suitcases slid easily under the bed. I loved being able to unpack only once during the trip. Beds were very comfortable. The room air conditioninig worked quietly. Our flat screen TV was good and offered a view from a foreward facing camera as well as a GPS display of the ships position and speed. Quite handy if you want to keep an eye on the helmsman's activiites. Our cruise was populated by many travel writers who were invited aboard to review the ship on its maiden voyage. I talked to many of them and they seemed to be enjoying their trip. I had a slightly different perspective from them because I paid to take this trip and I had no prior cruise experience. I have to say it was one of the best vacations I ever had. The pace was liesurley yet not boring. The people were interesting, the sites were lovely the service was good but not intrusive and I felt this Avalon cruise offered a great value for the money. Strasbourg - How the Germans would build a French town. Eat lots of pastry, have a french eclair for one hand and a pretzel for the other. Go to the cathedral and ask what time it is. Beware of beggars. Koln - Big Cathedral, interesting shops. Good place to take a stroll and find a sidewalk cafe to sit down and drink beer or wine. Koblens - Charming town. Take a walk down to the German corner to see big William  Heidleburg - Monster castle, great town to walk around. Only eat in restaurants with flags, sign of simple fare and low prices. Take the Philosopher's walk up the hill on the other side of the river. Rudesheim - Go to the Drosselgasse and dance the polka with the locals. Seigfreid's museum is unique. Try not to buy a cuckoo clock here. Get a hat instead. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2009
My wife and I have taken nineteen ocean cruises. It was time for something different. We were eager to explore central Europe. We decided to take a Viking River Cruise.  We were amazed at how many river cruise ships are plying German ... Read More
My wife and I have taken nineteen ocean cruises. It was time for something different. We were eager to explore central Europe. We decided to take a Viking River Cruise.  We were amazed at how many river cruise ships are plying German waters!  We took advantage of a 2 for 1 offer and had a 12 day vacation for around $2200 per person. The first two days were based on land. We stayed at the Novotel Paris Tour Eiffel. It was a four star rated facility. It was fine for the most part but the AC struggled to keep us cool in the humid Paris summertime. The two days in Paris included a half day excursion to see the city highlights. The rest was free time. From Paris we traveled to Trier, Germany. Enroute we visited the American Cemetery in Luxembourg and had a half day tour of Luxembourg City. We boarded our ship in Trier.  A big advantage with this river cruise line was that all excursions are included in your price. On bigger ships there is a wide range of excursions offered that are mostly overpriced and similar to "cattle cars" in the amount of personal attention one receives. The excursions on the Viking Sky were mainly overviews of the places we visited and would have cost over $1000 per person on an ocean ship.  River cruises are a great value. Another big difference with ocean ships is with the food. On the big boats you get lots of food at just about all hours of the day. On the river cruise you get your three meals and that is it.  Within each meal there were a few choices but not many. That is fine as we tend to gorge on the bigger ships. The food was of good quality and often reflected the region that the ship was in at the time. Another difference was that the river cruise was a bit more sedate. Music was provided by a man with a synthesizer and was adequate. There were very few additional programs on the ship. Mostly a lecture or demonstration after dinner. That was fine for the most part and resulted in a relaxing time.   There was a port per day. The tours mostly took place in the morning. They provided us with "audiovox" listening units so we could hear the tour guide clearly even while lingering behind to explore something of interest. I think that you will see more and more tours using this new device.  After the seven day cruise we spent two days at a five star hotel in Prague.  This was a nice way to end the vacation. We also had a general tour of Prague included by the cruise line with plenty of time to visit on one's own.  If you are looking for a cruise experience that is more location intensive and less ship focused a river cruise could be something for you. The clientele skews a bit older and slower but this is a wonderful way to see the world.  Trier- very interesting Roman ruins. This used to be a capital of the Roman Empire in the Rhine area.   Bernkastel- quaint town and wine tasting like you have never experienced (as much as you wanted as you do your own pouring). Cochen- interesting restored castle. Another quaint town. Koblenz- Not much here. Rhine Cruise- a highlight of the trip.  Amazing beauty. Rudesheim- highlight is a tram ride to the top of the hill to view a monument and the Rhine valley. Heidelberg- full day excusion including delicious lunch in the old town area. Wurnberg- beautiful Residenz of the bishops worth the trip alone. Bamberg- not the best of the stops. Fun but ok. Nurnberg- the emotional highlight of the cruise when viewing the former stomping grounds of the Nazi party during their heyday. Sobering. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2009
Wow, the maiden voyage.  We were hoping that all the bugs would be worked out before we boarded.  Actually we booked our cruise so that the ship would be sailing for two months before we sailed, but alas no such luck.Amsterdam started ... Read More
Wow, the maiden voyage.  We were hoping that all the bugs would be worked out before we boarded.  Actually we booked our cruise so that the ship would be sailing for two months before we sailed, but alas no such luck.Amsterdam started out with a bang.  We were mooned by a passing boat as we sat down for our first dinner aboard the ship.  It started the cruise off with laughter and goodwill among the passengers who were lucky enough to witness the event.  We had an excellent tour of Amsterdam before we set sail for Budapest.  The first set of locks we went through to reach the Rhine river were quite tame in comparison to the locks that we encountered later on in the cruise. The countryside was peaceful, aromatic and we actually saw some real windmills.  Our first port of call was Cologne.  If you have been before, they offer a short version of the city tour.  I would definitely take this version the next time as I have seen the cathedral enough times now and would rather enjoy its quiet beauty on my own without having to listen to a tour guide wax on about their interpretation of the stained glass windows.  It was the next day when we realized the problems of being on the maiden cruise of a yet untested ship design.  We had heard the tale of Loreley when all of a sudden bang, a huge black cloud was to be seen at the stern of the ship.  The Captain and crew were unaware of the smoke until they suddenly noticed that the passengers on deck were trying to get their attention and looked.  Viking set a new legend.  The first time an anchor had been lowered on a Viking ship and the first time a Viking ship lost its power in the Loreley channel.  We waited for 2 1/2 hours for the tug boats to come and two us to safety where the Cumins engineers arrived to try to repair the engines.  At his point none of them were working.  We never did make it to Rudesheim.  They managed to get two of the three engines up and running about 4 am and we arrived in Mainz late.  We got off the ship and had our city tour, but the ship had to leave right away so that it could make up for lost time.  They put us on a bus where we had to travel a distance down the river to meet the ship.  We arrived before the ship did to the agreed meeting place.  We made it to Wertheim but due to the loss of time due to the ship breakdown ended up waiting forever to be picked up.  The ship was suppose to pick us up at 12:30 , then they said 1:30 and then the ship finally showed up at 2:15.  It was a fascinating town to be stuck in and they had good local bakeries which was a good thing as lunch was more than a little late that day. The next day we made it to Wurzburg and Rothenburg.  The tour this day was great and the Residenz palace is well worth a visit.  The lunch provided in Rothenburg was delicious and the town was fascinating.  Do make sure you visit the Christmas store while here.  We had to get off the ship early and take a bus to Nuremberg as the ship was still behind schedule.  I wish we had arrived in this city on a day other than Sunday as it basically was shut down as there are no stores, etc open on a Sunday.  They had a few ice cream and pizza restaurants open.  Regensburg wsa interesting.  Passau had an incredible local guide and just listening to her made the day very pleasant.  The organ concert was excellent.  I wish we had more time in Melk as it would have been nice not to have to rush to get back to the ship.  Durnstein I could have skipped without regret.  Vienna, what can I say.  I wish we could have more time.  The optional music concert was fabulous even though it was extremely hot in Vienna.  We enjoyed our time in a Vienna coffee house and the tour guide here was excellent.  Bratislava, quite honestly they could cut out the "choo choo train" and everyone would be quite happy.  By the time the tour guide described what you were seeing you were already past the building and could not see it anyhow. The town is interesting but it would have been nice to have a little more free time to explore on your own.  Sailing into Budapest at night was a magical experience.  I would say that this was the highlight of the entire cruise.  We did the next afternoon have the mother of all storms come in the afternoon, and people were quite happy to sit on board the ship and avoid going out in the rain and wind.  I wish the storm had not arrived as I would have liked to have seen more of the city.The local tour guides have been hand picked by Viking and it shows.  They were knowledgeable and entertaining.  With the exception of the tour guide in Cologne waxing on a little too long about the stained glass windows, I would say all of the tour guides did an excellent job.  I did feel gypped in Nuremberg as the ship arrived too late for us to have the city tour included with our WWII optional tour.The ship has some major safety concerns that need to be addressed immediately.  They have a hatch without railings  around it on the front deck that if someone was not watching could take a very nasty tumble down steep metal steps.  These steps lead from the galley to the lounge for the serving of food.  They do not have lighted exit signs on the doors leading to the staircases for emergency purposes.  They need to do something about the spacing in between the steel plates on the first deck.  If someone wasn't watching, they could easily catch a high heel in the hole and give themselves a nasty twist.I felt that the ship should have had better communication with the passengers.  With all the technical glitches, their term not ours, we should have been told what happened to the engine and that the ship was safe.  When the ship was late in arriving at some of the ports for passenger pick up there was no cruise staff to be fund until the time the ship was actually supposed to be there and then they disappeared again until the next supposed arrival time.  Quite a few of the staff members were brand new to Viking and it showed.The dining room staff bent over backwards.  I honestly felt that they could do with 2 more staff members  to speed up the process..  The ratio was 43 staff to 189 passengers.  Simply not enough staff.  They were still bringing equipment on board at the end of the cruise that should have been there before the ship set sail.  I think it would have been beneficial for the Captain and crew to have sailed the entire cruise at least once before they took a load of passengers.  The bumps in the night might not have been as noticeable if they had had a practice run of entering the locks.All said and done, I think we will be looking at another river cruise line the next time we do Europe.  We were disappointed after the service Viking had provided on the Yangtze River in China the year before. 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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2009
My husband and I took the Paris to Normandy cruise on the Baroness in late July 2009. We have been on many ocean cruises but this was our first European River Boat cruise. There is another detailed review of this cruise on Cruise Critic. I ... Read More
My husband and I took the Paris to Normandy cruise on the Baroness in late July 2009. We have been on many ocean cruises but this was our first European River Boat cruise. There is another detailed review of this cruise on Cruise Critic. I will only report some additional things: • Odd room numbers have better views while docked • Our room was at the very back of the lower deck and on the evenings when the boat was moving there was a significant amount of engine noise. To be fair, people in the very front on the top floor complained about loud talking in the lobby while they were trying to sleep at night. • I loved the self serve coffee/cappuccino/tea/hot chocolate machine. I bought some cinnamon at a grocery store at our first stop and this added a nice touch to the cappuccino. • Bring a travel mug with a lid. When I got the cappuccino, I could fit two of them into my mug and walk around with the top on. I like big mugs of hot drinks, not the smallish mug size that they provide. • Bring a cork screw. They do not care if you buy bottles of wine for consumption in your cabin but you will need a cork screw. If they open the bottle for you, you will be charged a corkage fee. I called Uniworld in advance and asked about carrying on wine and drinking it in my cabin. They said "No Problem". At our first stop we bought 2 bottles of wine for 3 and 4 Euros. It was very good even at that low price. • The house wine at dinner was very good. I think we had around 4 glasses each night. They were there filling your glasses as quickly as you could drink it. There was no skimping on the included wine. • The food was VERY good. Ocean cruises are more about quantity and less about quality. The food on this cruise was the opposite - more quality, less quantity. The only legitimate complaint that I heard on the trip was about the small portions at dinner. To be fair, no one asked for seconds. I asked our waiter if anyone ever asks for seconds and he said that passengers usually don't ask for 2nds or for 2 entrees, etc. By the end of the cruise, we were asking for a 2nd roll or an additional appetizer, etc. The meat portions are about the size of a deck of cards which is the correct portion size. The problem is that Americans eat way too much and restaurants serve enough for at least 2 people when you order one entrEe. So if you're hungry, ask for a 2nd entrEe. On the night we had lamb, after the fact, my husband was sorry he didn't ask for 2nds. He loves lamb and doesn't get it often and was disappointed with the serving size of his lamb that night. • If you want to use one of the bikes, you have to reserve them well in advance. We asked to use them at the first stop and were told that they were reserved for the entire day, but the bikes sat outside the ship unused almost all day. Turns out, that they are big and heavy and most people had trouble maneuvering them and brought them back early. So if you are told they are spoken for, I would go back and ask during the day. The best day to ride the bikes is at the first stop in Les Andyles. This is a quiet typical French village. • To my surprise, Paris was so nice! It was clean, easy to get around. I've always heard that Parisians don't like Americans and won't talk to you unless you speak perfect French. This couldn't be further from the truth. We wandered around a lot and everyone was so friendly and very willing to assist us. I was amazed at how much there is to see in Paris. I definitely plan to return to Paris and finish seeing the sights (hopefully on another river boat cruised). • Optional Excursions: a. Versailles - a must do, you won't be sorry. b. Cider Farm - I don't think anyone thought this was worth the money. No one in our party liked the food and since it wasn't apple picking season (which is the Fall), there was nothing to see. They just talked about what goes on. I think it was a waste of money. Overall, the trip was wonderful. We met many wonderful people, ate great food and drink, saw wonderful sites and learned a lot. There are 4 - 6 itineraries I've picked out and can't wait to go on another one. My only regret is that more Cruise Critic members are not taking these cruises or not writing about them. I've learned so much from the members and enjoy sharing my knowledge. If anyone has a specific question, please don't hesitate to ask. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
After many failed attempts to book small to large groups on European River Cruises, we finally managed to reserve 5 cabins on the Viking Pride.  The 7 night trip sailed from Nuremberg to Budapest over the Main-Danube Canal and Danube ... Read More
After many failed attempts to book small to large groups on European River Cruises, we finally managed to reserve 5 cabins on the Viking Pride.  The 7 night trip sailed from Nuremberg to Budapest over the Main-Danube Canal and Danube River.  The group was composed of mostly experienced cruisers, although none of us had tried river cruising before this trip.  Boarding was efficient with very pleasant and helpful staff.  Early boarders were provided with a bus trip into Nuremberg for some bonus touring - a nice touch.  Rooms were spacious, clean, and well organized with ample storage and comfortable beds.  Free WiFi service (generally available in port only) was a bonus that made staying in touch with family at home both easy and inexpensive.  The ship offers a couple of "all-inclusive" options that provide semi-unlimited alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks while onboard.  More convenience than cost savings, the unlimited alcoholic drinks were priced at 300 euro per cabin and included all you care to drink house wines(six decent choices) or draft beer (one choice) and two cocktails per day.  Cocktails were stingy with one carefully measured shot of alcohol per drink.  Bar service was spotty with one server very friendly and accommodating while the other server was frequently absent from post and provided the minimum service required.  Included tours at each port were quite good with well-informed local tour guides, wireless headsets, and easy walking.  Usually just one or two hours in length, the tours allowed time for independent exploration, lunch, and shopping.  Optional tours were reasonably priced.  The ship was spotless and well appointed.  We were disappointed, though, to learn that the top deck would not be available for the first half of the trip.  Low bridges require that all furniture, umbrellas, and railings are taken down until reaching the town of Passau.  Scenery along the Main/Danube Canal was pretty mundane with factories, a few small towns, and occasional fishermen and sunbathers; nothing brochure worthy.  Passing through the first few locks, which can raise and lower the ship more than 80 feet, was interesting.  The next twenty or so locks were less so.   No scenes here to make the next Viking brochure.  Once in the Danube, though, scenery improved a bit with the hoped for villages and castles standing guard over the river.  Dining room food and service were quite disappointing.  The food was generally bland and unseasoned, and the menus were mostly uninspired.  Soups were salty, but with little flavor.  Most seemed to be made from the same tasteless cream soup base with a few vegetables thrown in.  Breakfast was a combination buffet and made-to-order served by a wait staff whose inattentiveness bordered on rude.  When one guest asked for a couple sausages on her made-to-order eggs benedict, she was told "You can get them from the buffet."  Wait staff serving coffee would frequently refuse to take food orders.  Wait staff taking food orders would generally refuse to pour coffee ("The other server will be here shortly with coffee.")  Airing our concerns directly to the Head Chef brought a look of surprise and disbelief.  Chef Claimed that it was necessary to cook this way to please everyone on the ship and insisted that he had never heard a complaint before.  His solution was to bring a plate of spices to our tables.  The spices he provided were completely in appropriate for that evening's meal, but he tried.  Having been on several ships with as many as ten times the number of passengers, the food on the Viking Pride ranks well below any of the others. NurembergMostly destroyed during the war, but rebuilt consistent with historical architecture, Nuremberg contains the tattered remains of the Third Reich.  Some interesting, if not spectacular, buildings and churches.  RegensbergMore impressive, architecturally, than Nuremberg.  In the midst of a downpour, we enjoyed excellent hand-tossed pizza and wine.  PassauGood shopping in local bakeries, wurstmarts, and chocolate shops.  MelkWonderful village with beautiful Benedictine monastery at the top of the hill.  Only disappointment was lack of time to spend in the village. ViennaBustling city with wonderful pastry shops and restaurants.  Much to see.  So little time.  Easy travel by underground trains. BudapestHighlight of the trip.  Must see the old city, the Market, the river, the bridges, Parliament, churches, funicular Read Less

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