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Sail Date: May 2014
We wanted to take my elderly mother on a river cruise as this was something she really wanted to do, so we booked with Viking for a jaunt down the Rhine. At the time of booking we specifically requested assistance at airports and received ... Read More
We wanted to take my elderly mother on a river cruise as this was something she really wanted to do, so we booked with Viking for a jaunt down the Rhine. At the time of booking we specifically requested assistance at airports and received confirmation that we would have suitable help (my mother needs a wheelchair where is a lot of walking involved). It wasn’t until the very end of the booking process that we discovered there was no lift in the ship. Luckily, my mother is able to cope with walking short distances. We were also very specific about my dietary requirements which are not hard to manage and require only a modicum of forethought to ensure my comfort and wellbeing. On arriving at Heathrow, we received no assistance and had to make our own way through with the wheelchair and hand baggage as best we could, which was very frustrating and made the journey more challenging. The same happened when we reached Basel - no assistance at all. We had to make our way through the airport with all of our luggage and my mother in her wheelchair! We were greeted with great enthusiasm by various Viking representatives, however it was only then that we were told we would have to be on a coach for another hour and a half as the water level was too high for the ship to actually reach Basel. They will have known this in advance and it would have been nice to have been told that there was a problem – email is quick and efficient and seems to work when they require payment! The ship was clean and the greeting was efficient and friendly. We were shown our rooms and settled in. We booked cabins on the lower deck, not realising the issues that we would face. We had assumed (based on the blurb) that we wouldn’t be in the cabins much and so didn’t really need a large window or balcony – how wrong we were. The ship travels mainly at night, and the engine noise was deafening, meaning that on many of the nights we had very little sleep and what we did have was disturbed and uncomfortable. This really put a downer on the trip as we had to manage ourselves and ensure my mother was OK. She struggled with all the steps, but seemed fine with negotiating the ship itself. The majority of the staff were very helpful and took tremendously good care of my mother. Especially when she got lost! Unfortunately, some of the plumbing was faulty and by the second day on board we had issues with the shower not draining and the bathroom floor being covered with water. The problem was “fixed”, but happened again the following day – this time there was so much water (some of it coming up from the drain) that it poured into the main room, soaking an area of carpet. Luckily for us there was a spare cabin across the corridor and we were able to move to a dry room. This matter was handled reasonably well, but was not very pleasant and gave cause for concern as we heard that other cabins had had similar problems, although not as severe as ours. In addition, after we moved to the other cabin, we found that our bed was not being made and the room wasn’t being cleaned. We raised this on several occasions over two-three days before the issue was properly dealt with. The food was generally good, the service was reasonable and the chef was a delightful man who kept coming out with freshly prepared goodies for everyone to try. However, no account was taken of my specific food allergy, and I had to keep mentioning it and asking about the ingredients in each dish. Some evenings I had very few options indeed. While on board we met some lovely people, one of whom is vegetarian. She had even more problems than I, as the majority of the meals were meat based, so she had to eat either pasta or salad at most of the evening meals. For the price we paid, this is simply unacceptable, yet no matter what we said, nothing was done to address these issues. My allergies were generally accommodated by simply omitting elements of meals, but I did have to regularly send meals back to be changed, which was annoying and unnecessary. Seating at all meals was haphazard as it was completely open, so sometimes we struggled to find three seats together, or even to be seated at the same table. Breakfast was very early and quite short. If the included excursion had an early departure (which many of them did) it was a bit of a bunfight to get to breakfast and get away in time. Again, the staff did their best to be helpful and friendly and they worked hard to get things done and keep people happy, so it was difficult to have to keep asking for things and not get them. One morning we asked for some tea, but it never arrived, and the staff all vanished into the mist. No idea what happened there. When we had to stay on the ship, on the days the ship was moving and during the evenings, apart from eating there was very little to do. We do not drink and although there was a (very capable) pianist in the bar area, it rapidly became monotonous spending time gazing out of the window with no other activity available. On one evening there was a bizarre dance competition, but other than that, not much. Most of the included excursions were quite short and involved a bit of a coach ride and it rapidly became clear that the included excursions were scheduled early to make room for the “optional” trips, which were clearly geared to getting more money out of the passengers. Most excursions were well organised and efficient, but there was such a lot of sitting around on coaches – granted these were comfortable and air-conditioned - that we eventually felt we were on the wrong trip. Although most of these excursions involved some walking, once back on the ship, we often felt very confined. We also had problems with my mother requiring a wheelchair. Unless my husband, who heroically pushed my mother around on every excursion, specifically asked for guidance (ie, “I can’t get the wheelchair up those steps, is there an alternative route?”) allowance was very seldom made for our specific issues. Of particular note was the Strasbourg excursion, where we kept being left behind. There was a photo opportunity which involved climbing up three flights of stairs, which of course we could not do. We found a wheelchair-friendly lift and managed to explain to the (very helpful) attendant (with the assistance of another passenger who spoke very good French) that we wanted to go up to see the view. No Viking personnel were on hand to assist us in any way. Another lady who walked with a stick was also having difficulty and she came with us in the lift. Once at the top, we stayed long enough to take some photos and gaze at the view, then came down again only to find that the party had moved on. At this point, my mother asked to use the nearby restroom, so we helped her into there and waited. The program director, whose prior demeanour had been rather jolly, came thundering in and told us with enormous impatience that we needed to keep up with the group. On explaining that my mother needed the loo, he became even grumpier and told us we would have to rely on the radios (used by the guides for the ongoing commentary) to find where everybody was, My husband pointed out that the range of the radios was quite short, which nearly resulted in an argument about the quality of the radios, until my husband pointed out he could still see the guide crossing a bridge and the audio commentary was already breaking up quite badly. The program director showed a distinct lack of consideration and from that point on we were acutely aware that his air of jollity was entirely artificial. He did not help us at all. However, in spite of his churlish conduct, we managed to catch up with the group. The guide seemed blissfully unaware that we had been missing. What would have happened if we hadn’t been able to catch up, I wonder? We paid for only one excursion and it was a nightmare. We were taken to the venue on a “choo-choo” train which was really a tractor. This was not pleasant over cobble stones!! The restaurant was noisy and although the promise was “a meal and a show”, it was clear that the show was just the resident band doing their thing. The meal was a fixed menu (not made clear before we signed up) and consisted mainly of things we could not or did not want to eat. The food was slopped down in front of us and when I pointed out I could not eat the food it was simply taken a way and an alternative provided. I was not asked what I wanted – none of us were. It was awful. The restaurant menu was available but not provided and it became clear later that we could have obtained a better meal from the same restaurant with a short walk into town – and for half the price! We felt utterly ripped off and misled and we were not alone. It was supposed to be a fun night out, but it was anything but fun! Ironically the following night’s meal was also a German food night, which was immeasurably better. If this had been the paid excursion, it would have been good value. Also, if we had known that the on-board German food night would be the following evening, we wouldn’t have wasted our money on the excursion. The TV commercials that persuaded us to sign up, depict the ships sailing along during the day with glorious views, but we had only one day like that, the rest of the time we travelled either early or late in the day, or at night and were docked during the day, so (as mentioned) sleeping was a problem. On departure, we again received no help at the airport at either end, although it was clear other (more mobile) passengers whom we had seen on the same ship, were being ferried from one area to another. Bearing in mind that the airport at Amsterdam is enormous, we walked for a long time with everything in tow and were tired and fed up by the time we reached the terminal. Not a great way to end a holiday. Unfortunately, we had previously booked a Christmas trip with Viking for just my husband and me at the end of this year. However on the strength of our holiday experience, we have cancelled. It will be of interest to others that Viking do not refund the deposit, even though we cancelled more than seven months out! Clearly they are only interested in making as much money as possible and are not interested in customer satisfaction. We will never travel with Viking again and, should we book another river cruise (which at this juncture is unlikely) we will go out of our way to ensure we receive the level of service we believed we had paid for with this company. Overall it was a disappointing and frustrating experience. We raised some of these issues when cancelling our Christmas trip, but Viking clearly do not care, so this review will be posted in as many places as possible as a warning to the unwary. If you have dietary issues, or need any help with your journey to or from the ship, do not travel with Viking as they will not keep their end of the bargain. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
We have cruised a ton - mostly on SeaDream - but we didn't realize how spoiled we were until we traveled on the River Beatrice. We sort of got a taste upon arrival when we pulled up in our cab and 2 staff came to get our bags. No ... Read More
We have cruised a ton - mostly on SeaDream - but we didn't realize how spoiled we were until we traveled on the River Beatrice. We sort of got a taste upon arrival when we pulled up in our cab and 2 staff came to get our bags. No smiles from them or "welcome to the ship". The ship itself is lovely. No complaints there. We are 60 and 65 years old, but it seemed that most other passengers were much older than we are and mostly American. We were traveling with friends so were a party of 4. Dinner is supposed to be open seating between 7-9 pm. We had been in Europe for several weeks before the cruise and had been eating dinner between 8 and 8:30pm. So the 1st night we are enjoying a drink in the lounge about 8:15pm and the maitre d' came up to ask if we were eating dinner. He said that if we came down late he wasn't sure he could seat us together. The dining room is poorly laid out. Mostly long tables for 6-8 or round tables for 8. No one is organizing the seating when you arrive in the dining room so you have to wander around and find a place to sit. Since everyone on the ship appeared for dinner at 7pm - when we arrived in the dining room we were always joining other people half way through their dinner - so we felt pressured to eat at 7pm. Ship was pretty full I should point out. Can't imagine going on this cruise as a twosome as there are no tables for 2 and no room service or in room dining - so you would be dining with other people every night. Not as high a staff ratio as SeaDream, but staff was always working hard, but not as friendly as I would like. We felt very regimented and that never works for us. It wasn't what we expected and we would not do it again. Also the Danube River was surprisingly uninteresting compared to the Med cruises we have done. Maybe it was just the part we saw - Budapest to Passau. Best part of the cruise was the 1 day bike ride we did on our own along the Danube from Durnstein to Melk!! Also liked the self service washing machines (2) and dryers (2). Overall an average experience! Read Less
Sail Date: 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: 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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2009
My husband and I recently returned from a two week Rhine and Moselle River Cruise on the Affinity from Amsterdam to Basel. While most of the ports were good or excellent, the ship and services were disappointing and need much improvement, ... Read More
My husband and I recently returned from a two week Rhine and Moselle River Cruise on the Affinity from Amsterdam to Basel. While most of the ports were good or excellent, the ship and services were disappointing and need much improvement, especially for a cruise that "targets upscale North American passengers". I preface this review with the fact that we are experienced travelers and have taken other river boats before, being very pleased with the experience.             THE SHIP- Room size. At 172 square feet, the impression is that the room is larger than the regular room on other river boats. While we did not measure the room, it did not appear to be any larger than other boats. You should not have any illusions of spaciousness.             Beds- What a disappointment. While the ship(and beds) were new, the mattresses were soft and the bedding (quilts and pillows) so small, making sleeping uncomfortable. Be aware that there is a split in the middle of the two beds and could be somewhat improved if full size bedding and mattress covers were used.              Computers - There were only two computers located in the lobby for up to 138 passengers. This is way too low considering that in many ports internet cafes are not available and there are few activities and entertainment on board, increasing the demand and frustration of passengers.                  Coffee and tea service all day - Yes, but it is located in a remote area of the top of the third deck, which is not easily accessible.             FOOD AND DINING - Breakfast buffet was good, however often food or drinks were not replaced on a timely basis. Cooked-to-order omelets available and good. Lunch buffet had better selections than dinner, however very often the touring schedule was such that getting back to the ship in order to eat lunch was not only inconvenient, but also wasted valuable touring time. In several ports, we chose to stay in town and eat lunch. The ship finally provided tour buses to shuttle guests back to town after lunch as well, but it took two weeks to get that service provided! Dinner - several things. Most distressing was open seating as it made it difficult to get a large table for a group of six or eight. Food - limited selection. Boring -little food of high quality. Everything was very salty. Difficult to get coffee or tea during or after meal (procedure was no coffee until after dessert) and no sweetener on table. Waiters very nice but "busboy" quality with no personality and little common sense. Did not seem to understand North American preferences as per "upscale" tours.. Very interested in constantly filling wine glasses.             ENTERTAINMENT - Only two nights of outside entertainment for two weeks, one of which was very poor. Keyboard player available every night for dancing.             CRUISE DIRECTOR AND TOURS - For the most part, our local guides were very good or excellent. The Cruise Director on board did not give adequate information. There were several errors and miscommunication made prior to docking. She did not seem to know about local holidays and closings until too late to make alternate arrangements. Her information on local ports very limited.  Insufficient information concerning levels of difficulty for limited mobility guests. There were many incidents where the Cruise Director's poor information or lack of communication was detrimental. She was also very defensive when approached with recommendations for improvement.             TIPPING POLICY - The printed guidelines of Avalon suggest a gratuity of $18 per person per day for the cruise staff plus $4.50 per person per day for the Cruise Director (which would be over $7,000 in tips for two weeks!). This is outrageous and almost double the tipping guidelines of both big ship cruises and other river cruises. Obviously, with our dissatisfaction, we tipped accordingly. Unfortunately, many others may have been scammed in to believing Avalon's policy is the norm. This was an indication of Avalon's attitude towards its guests, where form over substance was important.             In summary, we enjoyed the cruise because of the great ports and our ability to independently tour them when necessary, as well as meeting some lovely and congenial people, who shared our feelings. Given the cost of the cruise at more than $700 per couple per day (without airfare), next time we will think about using five star hotels and land based tours so that we can have more control over our travel experience. Read Less

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