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Sail Date: May 2011
We arrived on our own air and stayed three days in Switzerland before the cruise. One day in Zurich where we took city tours and then took the train to the embarkation port of Basel where we stayed two nights. Basel was a wonderful ... Read More
We arrived on our own air and stayed three days in Switzerland before the cruise. One day in Zurich where we took city tours and then took the train to the embarkation port of Basel where we stayed two nights. Basel was a wonderful stop as the hotels provide free Tram and bus tickets for the duration. We then just hoped on and off trams seeing the wonderful city and visiting all the sights. On the day of embarkation we learned that the taxi would be quite expensive (for us Americans) so we elected to take the free tram. Since the cruise could only be boarded in late afternoon after 4, we scoped out the docking point by taking trams in the am and sighting along the river from the bridges until we saw the ship. Then in the afternoon after a late checkout we took a direct tram to the closest stop and walked our wheelie bags three blocks to the ship (we're senior citizens). Of course the cruise line would allow you to stow your luggage early so that you could go off touring the city all day before boarding. We chose the Internet 7 day option at a relatively cheap price (compared to hotels). Since it turned out to be very slow the ship kindly gave it to us for free at the end of the cruise whoopee!! It was hotter than expected so we did have the ship do some laundry for us. Like most river cruises the ports were all walkable directly from the ship. Many tours were included and as such the cruise did provide bus transportation for some that would have been a long walk. As always one port stood out as being the most memorable and that was Rudesheim where the streets were narrow enough in many places to be only suitable for walking. Absolutely the prettiest port of all. The music box museum was the hit of the total tour . The restaurants were so inevitable that some passengers even forgo eating on the ship and ate at one of the local restaurants (pick the ones with the most diners). Took the cable car to the top of the mountain for the views. Some even walked down through the vineyards The dining on the ship was average (exquisitely served) but nothing special. The free wine was really appreciated at diner. The entertainment at night was sparse but the local acts and comedy show were tops (2 out of 6 nights) This can certainly be improved on (more nights). I have been on other river cruises and bringing on local entertainment is something to look forward to. The end port for us was Amsterdam. The ship docked quite locally to the train station and the Movenpick hotel (easy walk even with wheelie baggage). Even the red light district was an easy walk from the ship if you know where the best window viewing is. If I had it to do over we would have passed up the ship booked travel to the airport in Amsterdam and taken the train which stops directly under the airport terminal. For a brief look at the cruise here's a link to a HD video I put up on U-tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGR75ewBhmY 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
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2014
The Viking River Cruise of the Douro that my wife and I took at the end of March did not call at a series of ports according to the planned “cruise”, and the only day of movement on the ship that we all experienced was the last day ... Read More
The Viking River Cruise of the Douro that my wife and I took at the end of March did not call at a series of ports according to the planned “cruise”, and the only day of movement on the ship that we all experienced was the last day when it was able to take advantage of the downstream current and cover over 100km in just over half a day. As happened last year, there was a high water problem on the Douro River. Our new ship, the Viking Hemming, overnighted in Porto, and on Monday there was a tour of the town (in the rain), and after lunch an optional excursion. This joined the ship again (it was a little late) at the deserted mooring of Bitetos. There is nothing in Bitetos except a car park and a cafe. We expected to set sail the next morning, but it was delayed a couple of hours and then later that day, and then indefinitely. The boat remained moored in Bitetos for three days. Regrettably Viking, who may or may not have known that this would happen, did not come clean, and kept promising that we would be moving soon, but that we were at the hands of the Port Authorities (not sure if they meant the river or the drink!). We were eventually offered excursions from Bitetos, but these were a diluted form of what we were expecting, and because of the location and the nature of the roads, necessitated long coach journeys. Whether or not it might have been a good idea to cut everyone’s losses and go back to Porto was never considered or offered. As passengers we were kept pretty much in the dark, being reassured that Viking was doing everything it could to assist passenger needs, but the one thing that was not happening was cruising. We spent 3 days with a great view of the mooring wall from our “state room”. It needs to be noted that the river destinations on the Douro are not the ‘inspiring’ ones promised by Viking literature. Some of the destinations, confirmed by the guidebooks, might only have one attraction, so a two hour journey to Pinhão on a coach was only to see the wonderful railway station with its decorated tile panels. One thing that Viking did was to get in visits to a series of vineyards such as the Quinta do Seixo where Sandeman comes from: this trip was not short of port-tasting opportunities. These helped provide some 'glowing' memories of the cruise, dulling some of the anger and disappointment. Eventually the ship moved (apparently at such short notice that one set of people who were passing the time walking the country roads were abandoned and were brought along subsequently by taxi) whilst most were on another coach trip, to the town of Regua. This is a main transport interchange, but the only thing really worth seeing is the Museum of the Douro. At last we could look out of our stateroom window, but that only lasted 6 hours, as another cruise boat of identical proportions, running the blockade, tied up alongside, and we were plunged into darkness. By this time it was clear that the cruise would never reach its final destination before coming back, and we were given poor choices for excursions on coaches. The choice we did not make was a four hour trip to Salamanca for a four hour stop (of which 1.5hrs was a lunch). Only 4 of 83 passengers chose to do that. So the good points were that the Viking Hemming is a brand new boat ( it was the maiden voyage) which is well kitted out with televisions and wifi in every room. The food was mostly good, being heavily influenced by local cuisine, and there was plenty of wine. In principle this could be a very interesting tour if it happened. The down side was that there was seemingly inadequate contingency planning, and the information given to passengers was of such poor quality that it resulted in excessive speculation and became the dominant topic of conversation of the trip. People started to compare disaster stories rather than enjoy the events. Whether or not Viking knew before departure that the trip would not be completed is debatable, but from hearsay, it seems that some of the crew knew that ships simply would not be moving that month. Towards the end of the trip all passengers received a standard letter indicating that there would be compensation from Viking. Even the Captain (who did not have a great command of English or public speaking) admitted that we had only had half a cruise. Tempers started to fray and a briefing meeting was impressed by some passengers who insisted, in strident tones, that we should have a 100% refund. Other passengers talked of failed river cruises where they had been given 75% off their next cruise. Before we had even completed our return to Porto, where the cruise had started, a letter had been sent out from Viking offices to our homes with a derisory offer of 25% of what we had paid (i.e. not the book price but the final negotiated price(+) against another cruise taken before the end of 2015. I hope this will be improved upon, as the company has done significant damage to its reputation, and came across as an organisation which we felt we might have difficulty in trusting. Whilst the ground part of the holiday worked fine in Lisbon, and we had a floating hotel, board and drink, and some of the excursions, this was not the holiday we signed up for. At the moment, subject to my further negotiation with Viking, it is difficult for me to feel that the company want to make me feel any better about this sad experience. Read Less
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: 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: 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
Sail Date: May 2011
We went on the Rhine Getaway from Amsterdam to Lucerne, with a 2-day post trip extension in Switzerland in May 2011. The vacation was booked as a birthday trip (I turned 40) and as a once-in-a-lifetime getaway since we hadn't done a ... Read More
We went on the Rhine Getaway from Amsterdam to Lucerne, with a 2-day post trip extension in Switzerland in May 2011. The vacation was booked as a birthday trip (I turned 40) and as a once-in-a-lifetime getaway since we hadn't done a lot of traveling over the past few years and we missed it. We've traveled in Europe and South America, but this was our first river cruise. Viking also arranged our air travel and transfers. With the cruise, air travel and 2-day extension, we dropped about 10k on this trip. To start, we received a lot of information before the cruise, with a cruise packet coming about 2 weeks prior containing our travel documents, itinerary and other general information. Our flight to Amsterdam was fine; however, upon leaving the plane we had to wait about 10 minutes for our bags, as they went to the wrong baggage claim. We then went to the first of two meeting points in the airport for our included transfer to the boat. No one from Viking was there. We decided to go to the second meeting point mentioned in our literature and again, no one from Viking was there. We waited for about 20 minutes and then my husband went back to the first spot while I stayed at the second. Still...no one. We waited another 20 minutes and then dug into our literature to find the "emergency" phone numbers. Well - the first number listed as an emergency contact was a disconnected number. Great! The second number was to Viking and we got a pre-recorded message that we should call back during Viking business hours. After spending another 20 minutes or so going from spot one to spot two and talking to everyone, a driver overheard us and said the Viking representative had been then earlier but was gone. He had a number and called, they dispatched a car for us personally. I was not impressed - they left us because we were 10 minutes late? We got to the boat (morning) and it was quite busy with activity, as the passengers from the last trip were still disembarking and getting rides to other destinations. We knew ahead of time that check-in wasn't until later in the day, so we dropped our bags off and went to explore Amsterdam. It did strike me that there is no security to get on and off the boat. I was a little concerned about leaving our bags there (even with luggage tags). Check-in was fine and we were provided with cookies, coffee and tea while waiting. Our cabin, on the lower deck, was small, but very clean and nicely laid out. Bed was pretty uncomfortable, but we weren't expecting much. We had a small porthole window, which was fine, as we knew we wouldn't spend much time in our room. Decor was fine, and I was provided with extra pillows and extra clothing hangers upon request. More specifics about different aspects of the cruise are listed below. THE SHIP The ship itself was nice, but nothing that screamed "luxury" to either of us, as the trip is marketed as a "luxury cruise" experience. All areas of the ship were clean and neat, and quite efficient in design since it is smaller than an ocean liner. The lobby area, before going out on daily excursions, was much too small to hold everyone just standing around waiting to leave, but otherwise it was not a big deal. There is a beverage station open 24 hours per day, where you can get coffee, tea or water. There are cookies set out after lunch. The dining areas were fine, and had open seating, which was a nice way to meet other cruisers. The beds are pretty uncomfortable and the air in our cabin was extremely dry. I thought I was coming down with a cold by day 3 as I woke up with a really sore throat and was very stuffed up. This lingered the rest of the trip until we got to Lucerne and off the boat, so I never really felt great. We would leave the ship for the day and I'd start feeling better, but as soon as I got to the cabin I would start feeling poorly again. THE EXCURSIONS We had quite a few excursions, and we also signed up for almost all the optional excursions. We were, overall, disappointed in these activities. They are great about keeping on schedule, and we were broken into multiple groups for the actual tours; but I wish they'd had a group for more active people. We knew we'd be the youngest on-board (40 and 36), but there were plenty of others on-board who were active and fit enough to handle faster-paced tours. They had one tour that was for slower folks, it would've been nice to've had one for faster people, too. The majority of the excursion destinations were disappointing. Every place we went, with only a few exceptions, was so packed with other tourists that we could barely get around and see anything. The Viking marketing materials explained things in such a way that we thought we'd have "back stage passes," if you will, to these beautiful castles and churches. That was not the case. The trip to Heidelburg Castle was exceptionally disappointing, as we walked through the grounds, waited in line to get in and saw one big area inside; only to get herded back to our bus and leave. It was an absolute zoo and the castle itself was not worth the trip there. Going to Rudesheim was a complete waste of time. It was a giant tourist trap, obviously built for and around tourists. The walk into town was about a mile from the boat and there was nothing worth seeing. We did take an optional excursion into town that evening for dinner and it was fun, but we had to pay extra, of course. The trip through the Black Forest was likely the worst part of the trip, as we took a long bus ride through the forest (without any stops along the way to enjoy the view) only to arrive at a tiny outpost that was, again, a giant tourist trap (it was a giant shopping village where you could buy cuckoo clocks, blown glass, etc., and that was it). My husband was looking forward to the black forest cake, as we were promised; however, it was not included and came from a cafeteria-type eatery under the shops. He got a piece, it was okay. We wanted to see something authentic, not something thrown together for tourists. We did enjoy some of the excursions; Marksburg Castle was amazing, Strasbourg & Colmar were wonderful and Cologne was interesting. There was a lot of freetime where we could wander around the towns and shop, eat, explore...and we did! But in the end, the excursions, the parts that we were MOST looking forward to, were just so-so. THE FOOD The food on the boat, in our opinion, was just okay. There were normally three options to choose from: a beef/pork option, a fish option and a vegetarian option. The fish dishes were pretty bland and I stopped eating them completely after having one dish where the tiny bones were not properly removed and I got one stuck in my throat. Yep, a fish bone got stuck in my throat. If you don't like any of the proteins offered, you can always get a chicken dish, which I ended up getting one night and it was pretty good. There were lots of fried foods and everything was made with heavy cream sauces. Desserts were okay, but nothing exceptional. My husband normally got a different option than me, and he thought the food was pretty bland, too. Perhaps that's because the cruise itself is skewed to a much older audience? Nothing was outright bad, but most things were pretty mediocre. Lunches and breakfasts were good, normally consisting of a buffet with some good options. Meals were always on time and the dining areas were always clean and efficient. THE STAFF It was pretty hit or miss with the staff; no one was outright rude or uncooperative, but some were definitely better than others. We were constantly asking for water, coffee and wine refills during meals, which was annoying. Our program directors were friendly, helpful and personable and we enjoyed our local tour guides, as well (though we heard varying stories amongst the other groups). Our room was cleaned twice per day and kept in great shape. Reception desk staff was also helpful and nice. OVERALL There were absolutely some positives about this trip; but for the amount of money we paid, we were not "WOWed" by the overall experience and I just can't recommend Viking to others. we're not overly picky people and we have traveled quite a bit -- but we expected a lot more for the money. What could make it better? More options for dinner, including more regional dishes and less bland food. Smaller excursion groups, more geared towards activity level. Less tourist-based excursion destinations. I know that can be tough in such a place, but some of the choices were outright wastes of time. Convert the totally unused "library" on the boat into a fitness room. Make your staff completely wow the customers (oh, and give them a salary rather than depending on travelers to pay them by tipping, isn't $10k enough to pay?). I didn't want to get waited on hand & foot, nor did we make many special requests, but we only felt that a couple of people went out of their way to make sure we had the trip of a lifetime. More on-board activities such as the German street-food lunch and the flammkuchen demonstration. The lectures were interesting, but the interactive activities were really fun and with so much regional flair, it would've been nice to see/do more with that while we were cruising. So that's what it boils down to for us -- we paid a ton of money and didn't feel we got a ton of a trip! Had I spent half of what I paid, I might not be so hard on Viking, but this wasn't chump-change for us. We enjoyed the time we spent together, and we enjoyed seeing a part of the world we hadn't seen before and we made some great friends on-board; but I wouldn't cruise with them again unless they drastically dropped their prices. 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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Sail Date: December 2010
We returned late Saturday night from our 16 day trip to Germany and Austria which included a cruise from Frankfurt to Vienna on Avalon's Luminary. We were thrilled to have no rain and LOTS of snow and only a few times were the ... Read More
We returned late Saturday night from our 16 day trip to Germany and Austria which included a cruise from Frankfurt to Vienna on Avalon's Luminary. We were thrilled to have no rain and LOTS of snow and only a few times were the conditions icy and/or slushy, making walking unpleasant. The snow covered scenery was magnificent and really added to the ambiance. This was our 4th visit at this exact time of year and the first time we had snow in every city we visited, except for our 4 days in Berlin at the very beginning of our trip. The Luminary is a new ship and she is elegant and understated. The highlight was the outstanding staff who was among the very best we have encountered on any cruise line. Gabriel, the utterly competent Maitre'd, managed a dining staff that was not only professional but also warm and gracious. Stand outs were Charlie (Perdang), Laszlo and Norbett. Our chef, Stefan, had been with us on our Affinity cruise last year and he was delightful, always smiling and very visible at meal times. Timea and Daniel at reception were always helpful and pleasant. Hans lived up to his reputation as an excellent cruise director, handling both the day to day aspects of his position along with the additional issues he faced due to weather challenges. We had about a dozen passengers unable to get to the boat due to weather problems in Frankfurt that disrupted flights and was on the phone constantly working to get them to the boat at the next ports of call. We had 4 in our group delayed and were surprised to learn that even though Avalon had booked their air and transfers as a complete package, Avalon's air department does not track flights at all to let the ship know of any delays. I had to let Hans know what was happening as he was unaware and told me that it is the passenger's responsibility to call him directly with any flight delays. Be aware of this if you expect to have your air issues handled by Avalon. The excellent bar staff of Vladimir, Bibi and Radu made before and after visits to the forward lounge very enjoyable. Rooms were well appointed and beds very comfortable. We had to go to the front desk to request a robe and it would have been nice to have these in the rooms when we checked in. The quality of food was excellent and we enjoyed a galley tour one afternoon with Stefan. The food is freshly prepared and was consistently cooked properly and served hot. There was a special offered each day at breakfast and several menu items that could be ordered at lunch if one did not want the buffet. The variety was very good for a ship of this size. Avalon advertises they offer a variety of low calorie options but this is really not accurate. At both breakfast and lunch, the choices for those choosing to follow a lower fat diet were very limited and the kitchen was not able to accommodate special requests for these meals. Hot soups at lunch were consistently cream based and though there was a small salad bar, there were limited items that were prepared without additional mayonnaise, etc. Veggies were prepared with butter and meats with sauces. This was not an issue at dinner when the two people in our group - including me - that prefer low cal options were well accommodated. Included wines were good. We did want to purchase better wines on a few nights but they were completely out of about 75% of the red wines offered on the wine list, the same situation we had encountered last year on the Affinity. I am not sure why they offer an ala carte list if they are unable to stock for it. We tried to order no less than 7 different reds by the bottle and not a single one was available. We were limited to the German wines and this was disappointing as we would have preferred some variety and were happy to pay the extra. By the next to the last night, they had also run out of vodka and Kahlua, which I found strange as well. There were some negatives on this trip for us: There was lots of sailing time and virtually no in cabin entertainment was available. There were three English channels and this is a cruise line that caters to North American passengers and Aussies so this is something Avalon really needs to address. Often CNN did not even have sound available. Avalon really needs to add some movie options and music channels. One can only watch progress through the locks so many times and after dark which comes very early in winter, there was no scenery to enjoy. Only twice were we docked in any reasonable proximity to the city we were visiting. I consider reasonable a 20 minute walk at a good pace. This mean taxi fares to get us back when we chose not to take the scheduled bus transfer. Walking groups were not grouped by physical ability and this was a hindrance in my opinion. There were most always 4 groups so it would have been easy to designate a group of slow walkers and another for those who wished to walk faster. Internet service was more unavailable than available. I had issues sending but could receive. The people in the cabin next to us to us could send but not receive. On this 11 night cruise, menus were much the same for the second half and more variety would have been welcomed. There was not much in the way of evening entertainment, even for a river cruise. The onboard piano player, Ivan, had a very limited repertoire. We were scheduled to be in port late in Regensburg so looked forward to being off the ship there but the heavy snowfall caused the river to rise very rapidly and instead of leaving at 11pm we had to pull out at 4:30pm. The evening entertainer was unable to get aboard that night. Last year we really enjoyed a Christmas evening put on by the crew but this was missing this year. For a Christmas cruise, there was nothing to distinguish the season in terms of any events or entertainment. A highlight for us was the crew show where about a dozen of the crew put on a series of skits that bordered from amusing to hilarious. Stefan and the gang of Roman bell ringers took top prize judging by passenger reaction. On the night of the 2nd crew show (a repeat of the first) we happened to be docked next to the River Countess and noticed their show taking place at the same times as ours. There was a young lady dressed in traditional Bavarian attire signing which made up the bulk of their entertainment and we noticed a number of their passengers peering over into our lounge where our staff had us bursting out with laughter at some of the antics. We were very happy to be on the Luminary with its very special crew. Overall we enjoyed the cruise but will next year we are booked on AMA for a wine themed cruise since they offer some of the things Avalon is missing, like walking groups organized by capability, bicycles and in room entertainment. The itinerary we chose for 2011 also has 4 of the 7 nights (enough for us we decided on this trip) either as overnight stays or very late in port which will give us the opportunity to spend more time in the cities we visit. 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
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: 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
Sail Date: April 2009
The River Duchess is a nice ship,though I found the room to be a bit small.  We were at the water level with a long small window.  The bathroom is the smallest I have ever seen.  The shower was comfortable for me, but I cannot imagine ... Read More
The River Duchess is a nice ship,though I found the room to be a bit small.  We were at the water level with a long small window.  The bathroom is the smallest I have ever seen.  The shower was comfortable for me, but I cannot imagine how a large person would fit!The ship staff was very pleasant, a mix of European and Indonesian men and women.  I never had a problem with any of the staff.  A person who is not patient may have a problem with communication, but in todays world there are many languages to contend with.The food was good to very bad.  I had what was described as a quiche Lorraine one evening.  It was a quiche with more vegetable than I have ever seen in this type of food.  I could see before I bit into it that it had been overcooked, but thought I might find a palatable portion in the inside, but unfortunately it was dry all the way through.  I could not understand how this could have made it out of the kitchen.I found the wine, red or white and different vintners, included at night with the meal, to be pleasant.  My travel companion was much more critical.  Wine is a very personal thing so cannot comment for others.The breakfast buffet was the best meal of the day.  Lunch was a buffet and alright.We heard from other passengers that there were a number of people sick from stomach problems.  We heard numbers from 5 to 50.  Considering that the cruise had about 90 people that is a large number.  We could not confirm the exact count, depending on the word of two couples.The big plus of a river cruise is that people subject to motion sickness will be very comfortable.  I never had a problem with it on this trip. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
WE arrived atthe ship (which was quite difficult to find) at 11 am. Embarkation was quick and easy, and our cabin was ready. The buffet lunch was laready set out, attractively arragned - soup, a couple of types of sandwich, a hot entree, ... Read More
WE arrived atthe ship (which was quite difficult to find) at 11 am. Embarkation was quick and easy, and our cabin was ready. The buffet lunch was laready set out, attractively arragned - soup, a couple of types of sandwich, a hot entree, salads, and two desserts plus a fruit and cheese tray. Th guies on the thexcursion were really escellent, and the itinerary excursions were very good. Hoorn was very picturesque. In addition to the excursion, we walked into town the night we docked there, and enjoyed the play of the lights on the canal waters.Volendma was a disappointment - no longer quaint, and rather dull. We took the optional battlefield excursion to Arnheim - definitely not worth the euros. Unfortunately, although the museum has a treasure trove of artifacts, they are not well displayed, and there is virtuallyu no signage, or any explanatory placards or maps. We also visited the cemetery, and an overlook of a samll part of the battle area. But overall, we got no feel for how the battle progressed. Antwerp was fascinating. We had a morning tour, then free time in the afternoon, so we visited several of the churches that were open (you can pick up a brochure describing the churches when you visit the Curch of Our Lady during the morning excursion) e original paintings in these hurches are amazing, as is the sculptural work After the Brugges excurtion, you can stay in Brugges or take an afternoon walk in Ghent. We chose to stay in Brugges, and enjoyed the local french fies, a narrated canal boat cruise - fascinating to see the city from the water, and a little shopping for chocolate. Our room steward Ilya did a wonderful job, keeping the room in perfect condition. After the first 3 or 4 days, we made sure we sat at the tables that Jana served - her cheery greeting and smiling face were truly a day brightener!! The team that handled excursions, headed by Verona did a great job. Overall, we enjoyed our cruise very much. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2008
Day 1: Leave Denver on Lufthansa at 5:15 bound for Frankfurt. Two nice meals, drinks with the dinner (2 glasses good white wine), and arrive a bit early at 10:30, local time. Try to avoid the Frankfurt airport! - we landed out in the ... Read More
Day 1: Leave Denver on Lufthansa at 5:15 bound for Frankfurt. Two nice meals, drinks with the dinner (2 glasses good white wine), and arrive a bit early at 10:30, local time. Try to avoid the Frankfurt airport! - we landed out in the outskirts, climbed down the stairs, and boarded a bus for the terminal. Even though its a secure area, we passed through a passport check, a customs check, and another xray security line. About 50% of the passengers got pulled out for individual wanding. I'm 2 for 2 on the inspection, since my carryon has batteries, digital camera, binoculars, and various electronics - all nice suspicious stuff on the xray machine. Watch the signs carefully to find your connecting flight in the airport. Off to Vienna. Customs a breeze (nothing to declare line). Viking rep meets us just outside the customs room, follow the driver to a VW van with 6 other passengers for transfer to ship (20-30 minutes). Onboard (staff handles bags), turn in passport in the European fashion. Ship exchanges euros at same rate as the exchange in the Denver airport, minus the $5 fee. Same rate in Vienna exchanges - figure on a 5% screwing on the exchange. ATMs are always the best bet, but only do that the first time outside a bank that is open, just in case something messes up. If it does, go inside and they will assist you in getting your ATM card back. Next time, call your ATM provider before you leave for Europe, eh? Tea/pastries in ship every day around 4, always good. Light snacks for early arrivals around noon. Meeting 6:15 and every day thereafter on "your schedule tomorrow". This one sells the 3 sidetrips on the voyage, have to buy today for arranging the buses. Dinner excellent pork/fish, shrimp and celery root mousse (good, unusual), clear oxtail soup, pastries. Captain's reception at 9, captain buys a champagne toast. Good musical entertainment with Otto, who has a very good synthesizer and knows a lot of songs. Off to bed, jet lagged. The ship: Viking Europe was built in 2001, and shows a need for some rehab (stained carpets, mostly). The cabins are 150 square feet for the main decks, and 120 square feet for the lower deck. Ample storage space on the main deck, with the suitcases stowed below the beds. Usual small bathroom - just imagine taking your half bath in your house, having the door open outward, then fitting a shower into the leftover space. Lotion and shampoo provided, nice thick towels. "Snot in a bottle" provided, but if you're not into shower gel, bring some soap. Usual confusing shower controls, this one is pretty standard for cruise ships, with the left knob giving the amount of water and the right knob adjusting the mixing temperature. Shower drained somewhat slowly. Ship is VERY UNFRIENDLY for handicapped - you must negotiate stairs for any movement around the ship. Then again - all the cities you're going to visit are also difficult for someone not able to walk a quarter mile and climb a couple of flights. All the streets of Europe feature cobblestones, uneven and inclined and often slippery. Choice of cabins - the center cabins are often blocked by the dock that the ship is moored to, noisy. No clock in cabin, bring your own - the bus will leave on time if you're not there. There are announcements a half hour and 15 minutes prior to bus tours. 115/220 dual switchable outlets in cabin, it works because I charged my camera and IPOD successfully. Day 2: Vienna Breakfast 7-9, early starter at 6 (pastries, good). Coffee and tea available 24/7, fruit on the table usually. Tea is not too good, bring your own if you're picky. I don't do Lipton or hisbiscus... Breakfast is typical cold cuts, muesli, oatmeal, granola, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and bacon always, some other meat and side. Excellent rolls, whole grain breads, orange juice, tomato juice, something called vitamin juice that tastes like V8 Fusion in the States, and champagne if you want to add a little to your juice. You can also order omelets to order, eggs, french toast. Bus leaves at 9 for city tour, ends at 10:15 at Stephan Platz in the center of Vienna for free time. Go down street for shopping at Billa, buy candy for kids and wine for cabin (bring a corkscrew in your checked luggage), then to Kleiml on Graben Strasse for gourmet candy. Bus arrives at 12, back to ship for lunch. Pumpkin soup(very good), salad bar (good), spaghetti or lamb roast, brownie with pistachio ice cream for dessert. Afternoon shuttle to Xmas market at Rathaus, spend 2 hours. Best drink is with schnapps for 2.50 euros for the cup, 3.50 euros for the drink. Nice cup, keep it for collection. Very good for pictures, see it in late afternoon for lights. Good selection, but didn't buy much. Lot of Lebkeuchen (gingerbread). Side note on shopping: I had hoped to buy some Swarovski binoculars here, but with the exchange rate, the 2% credit card fee, the 20% VAT refund - would save a grand total of $12 on a $1900 pair of binoculars! Not worth the trouble... If you spend more than $100 in a store, remember to show your passport and demand the freedom from the VAT - you have to ask for this! Back to ship for tea time, then the briefing, then dinner. Dinner is cream of herb soup, salad, wiener schnitzel or trout, apple pancake with ice cream. Waiters in Mozart wigs for atmosphere. My wife attended the Mozart concert ($55) and liked it, but hall was overheated. Some Goulash soup for a late night snack when the concert goers return. Ship leaves at 11. Day 3: Budapest Awake to cruising on the Danube. Breakfast features Nurnberger sausages today. I opt for the usual smoked salmon, muesli, and fruit. Wheelhouse tour at 9:30 - fun, and remember to ask about the wheelhouse collapsing to get under bridges in times of high water - that's interesting. Passing large cathedrals, and a ruined castle on the Danube, but I forgot the names. A guidebook on the sights would be handy, but I didn't buy one - I did get Baedecker guides to Austria and Budapest used on Amazon, and a pretty much worthless copy of Fodor's for Czech Republic and Slovakia. Use the Virtual Tourist website instead for city guides. Lunch has cream of vegetable soup, salad bar, Goulasch and spatzle, tiramisu for dessert. Arrive at 1:00, be on top deck portside for best views of Budapest. Usual city tour from 2-6. The Hero Monument is really good, read the history beforehand. 45 minutes of free time in the Christmas Market, not enough time - all handmade crafts, good prices. Budapest freely takes euros, US$ maybe - but the ATMs give forints only. Vendors I dealt with gave an honest exchange. Any forints left over can be given out as tips, or the coins make nice souvenirs for grandchildren. Hungary is switching to the euro on January 1, so this comment is soon outdated. St. Mathias cathedral is good, the view from the Fisherman Bastion is very good at night, but the spotlights are distracting and you really have to work to take a picture. Dinner is shrimp cocktail, celery soup with mussels and barley, turkey roll or butterfish, pumpkin cake or rum ice cream (Chef made some changes to celebrate American Thanksgiving) Developing an appreciation for Chef Ronny's work with soups and fish dishes, and the bread is nice and crunchy. Sailaway at 8:30, nice to watch with the city lit up. Day 4: Bratislava Up early to birdwatch from the lounge. Lock into the Danube Canal east of Bratislava. Breakfast of the usual, except the fruit today is mandarin oranges and the bonus meat is sausages. At 10:30, cold cuts and free wine spritzer (not that good) in the lounge. Lunch of cheese soup, pork roast or fried fish, good chocolate mousse. City tour 1:30 - 3. Free time - prices in Bratislava very good, selection of wood items and porcelains a specialty. A lot of grilled foods. Jewelry store near the inner market has impressive amber - necklaces with pieces the size of eggs, all kind of tacky looking costume jewelry type (I think they're fake ones). Warning: 15 steps up and 15 down getting through the customs house to the ship. Liquor store in the customs house, try the apricot brandy. Christmas mart is about a 1 km walk from the ship, and a map would be handy. Viking has city maps on the reception desk for all the cities, generally good. Dinner is artichoke soup or borscht, pike-perch or good beef, hummus or salad nicoise, mousse for dessert. At 9:00, talk on 2009 cruises, $1100/cabin savings with down payment now, date to be selected later. Free drink and egg roll as a reward for listening, but we don't bite on the deal. Day 5: Durnstein/Melk Breakfast today adds turkey sausage (weird tasting) and hash browns to the buffet, and pears to the fruit. Arrive Durnstein at 9:00, walking tour at 9:30. 1 Km walk, mild incline over cobblestones. Great overdecorated church, gilded like crazy. Nice town - half open in the off season. Lots of old walls, surrounded by vineyards. 2 hours total, with a 20 minute organ concert tossed in. Organist good, organ ordinary. Not quite enough time for serious shopper, but we buy some artisan chocolate and excellent Marille Apricot brandy. The one in the round squat clear bottle. Back on ship, leave at 11 for the cruise through the Wachau gorge. Narrative is good on the ship, but Baedecker has more details to follow along. Lunch of cream of broccoli soup, rice and pork, baked apple (very good, I had a religious experience and ordered a second). Arrived at Melk at 2:30, bus to abbey. Abbey tour - museum pretty ordinary, but the abbey is on my top church list, right up there with San Maria Maggiore in Rome and St Marks/St Lawrence in Venice. Choice is bus back or walk into town down hill and back to the ship (a bit less than 2 Km). Christmas market is small, nothing of great impact, run mostly by town non-profits (hospice, soccer, volleyball, etc). Most stores open, interesting and inviting. There's a good artist coop store with a woodcarver who is very good. Hungarian dinner of marinated veggies, cabbage soup, sauteed pike perch, some kind of crepe for dessert. Talk at 9 - questions to captain, hotel manager, chef, etc. Day 6: Linz/Salzburg Breakfast features McDonald style hash browns this morning. For me, it's day #5 of the smoked salmon. Chili sauce is good on the scrambled eggs, assertively hot, peaches for fruit today. Off to Salzburg - 1 ½ hours bus ride, one potty stop on the way near the MondSee for good views. The WCs are downstairs, exit through the giftshop with a long line. It's possible to squeeze thru the turnstile at the entrance backwards if you're skinny. Continue on the Salzburg, 1 ½ hour walking tour. Group 1 goes in back of the cathedral and see St Peter's cemetery, we get a guide that loves Mozart and shows us everyplace where Mozart had his diaper changed, etc. Go to the cemetery if you get a chance, it is really something. Lunch at St Peter's restaurant - oldest in town - near the cathedral. Warning: this takes over an hour! If you're a serious shopper, skip the dessert like we did or the entire thing and get some street wurst for a snack. Big Christmas mart around the cathedral, and others scattered around town to find on your own. Loden clothes in the mart, 20% less than the stores. Steiff animals in the mart also. Selection is really nice, prices decent. Hats, scarves, lot of candy/cookies, wooden ornaments, toys, nutcrackers and smokers. It's open on Sunday, because we were there on Sunday, but most stores in town are closed. Bought a bottle of apricot brandy in a violin shaped bottle. Remember the rule about "buy no wine in a bottle shaped like a fish"? Add the violin bottles to that rule. Town and tour very unfriendly to handicapped. ! ½ hour bus ride back to ship. If you opted out of the Salzburg tour, you got a walking tour of Linz during the morning and free time in the afternoon. You could with some research, take the train from Linz to Salzburg cheaper and faster if you're comfortable in Europe. If you took the side tour to Salzburg, you have no time to see Linz - the ship leaves a half hour after the buses return. Day 7: Cesky Krumlov Don't remember what the special breakfast addition was and didn't write it down. Smoked salmon, again and the mandarin oranges are back. Bus to Cesky Krumlov leaves at 9:30, 1 ½ hour trip on winding narrow two lane roads. Most beautiful town, with views down every alley. Avoid gypsy stores - easy to tell, ask your tour guide. Avoid exchange booths with the best prices, they cheat you too. Most of the amber in town is fake - if you want some, study up beforehand (helpful hint: look for bubbles). Just enjoy the plentiful sights, and skip most of the shopping. The toy stores in town were good. Lunch at Tornado restaurant beside the river - good, slow. No Christmas mart in town. The ATMs give korunas again. The castle tour only accepts korunas, so you're stuck. Another hour and a half to meet the ship in Passau. The Passau Christmas mart is ordinary and small, but has some different things to look over. Try the Apfeltrum (cider) with a shot of Calvados in it, I had two and was buzzed quite nicely. St Stephan's Dom was nice, excellent painted ceilings, molded/carved column tops. Photographing and filming is forbidden, I think, and I don't want to go into "How to cheat the system and still take pictures". Since it was sprinkling light rain, my wife stayed in the cabin and read. "Bavarian Entertainment" in the lounge at 9 - only poor thing on the trip, proves to be a bunch of young girls (12-16?) playing traditional tunes, mostly not that well. Day 8: Passau Early breakfast available at 3 AM in the lounge, since some passengers are getting transfers at that time. Breakfast is somewhat extended in the restaurant, since transfers are continuously leaving. This morning features weird tasting vienna sausages and that old American breakfast favorite, baked beans (in the English style, a lot of tomato sauce). My last day of smoked salmon, celebrate with a double helping. Leave the bags outside the door and go off to see the sights of Passau. Walk around, visit St Peters church (nice dark wood altars, carved), walk the river borders to see some birds (swans and gulls a feature), and go to the Christmas mart again. Buy nothing, but its the idea.... Back in the ship, settle up the bill in the usual fashion. Tips on Viking are split among the crew, which is nice for the dishwashers. We were introduced to the dishwashers during one of the dinners, which is a nice feature. All the crew pitches in for luggage transfer - I saw the head chef out there hustling luggage to the bus, the hotel manager, etc. Bus to Munich airport takes a couple of hours, we get checked through with a minimum of hassle, except for one thing! Once again, we pass through the regular security/xray, the passport check, then enter the airport. Suffering from the lack of some peasant food, we have some roasted wurst at AirBrau (very good). Passing the duty free shop, my wife pops in a buys a bottle of water for the plane. When we get to the overseas gates, there is another security line/xray, and that 1.20 euro bottle of water gets confiscated. She's still fuming over that - thankfully, I had passed up the purchase of a liter of Grand Marnier. Once again, down two flights of stairs to board a bus, then up a lengthy flight of stairs to board the plane - what are these airports like in the summer rush? Two meals on Lufthansa again, wine and beer to go with them, and the meals are wurst again - I sacrifice and eat it gratefully. I guess the bottom line for flying into Germany is to take Lufthansa and avoid the German airports. Good luck on that one. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
Loved the Cruise,the ship and the itinerary. Liked the layout of this ship better then the others on the princess line, Food was good but Coffee still needs help.We used all Princess bookings. Let me just say I don't like to shop ... Read More
Loved the Cruise,the ship and the itinerary. Liked the layout of this ship better then the others on the princess line, Food was good but Coffee still needs help.We used all Princess bookings. Let me just say I don't like to shop high end so any shopping I was looking for was homegrown. We used all Princess bookings. Stayed at Grosvenor House London pre-cruise. Nice location but under new management and re-construction occurring. Rooms were lovely. Would we do this hotel again?-no. All transfers to and from the ship were handled great.We flew into Heathrow. Ship was awesome, we liked the Royal Princess ship better then the Carribbean princess. Better Layout of Public areas. Ports and Shore excursions- St Peters port was a tender,Highlights of Guernsey tour by the bus was boring. If the weather is good walk the town. Cobh- Train to Cork was good, shopping is really just a mall. Cobh has great pubs and music in the afternoon. Liverpool- Highly recommend North Wales Highlights tour -Chirk Castle tour was , my favorite. Beautiful Castle , great grounds , the 1/2 hour train ride was OK, but the little village you get time to shop in was adorable. Dublin- Glendalough tour was boring , had a better time in the city of Dublin in the pubs and window shopping. Greenook- nothing to do in this port, it is used for the Tattoo so don't bother wandering around. Tattoo was great fun-transportation and direction in and out of the venue from staff was great. invergordon- Great port town to wander, very friendly. We did Cawdor Castle tour which was just ok not great, Outside of castle was interesting but inside was to modern for a castle. I would go to inverness next time. South Queensferry- Tendered and good souvenir shops at the port. We loved the area of Edinburgh so much when walking to the tattoo we took the public shuttle back to the castle and walked the Royal mile. The public shuttle from South Queensferry, drops you off near Prince street in Edinburgh,which is the high end shopping district. You can walk to the castle within 15 minutes. This was our favorite town. It had everything, cute shops, pubs, cafes, and the buildings were spectacular. LeHavre- we took the Paris city drive and Seine River cruise tour. Tour did provided as offered but you really needed to walk the city more to appreciate. Bus seating was very tight. A boring 3 hour ride to and from Paris, a drive by the attractions and the river cruise was not worth our time. Although the lunch cruise was a lovely boat I would have wanted more time wandering the city. Would not recommend to see Paris this way. All things considered , great cruise. Food and entertainment better then on Princess cruises in the Caribbean region. and entertainment better then on Princess cruises in the Caribbean region. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
BACKGROUND INFORMATION This was an unusual cruise – 8 nights away, but never getting more than 175 miles from the home port, with overnight stays at all three of the ports visited and spending a significant amount of time sailing up and ... Read More
BACKGROUND INFORMATION This was an unusual cruise – 8 nights away, but never getting more than 175 miles from the home port, with overnight stays at all three of the ports visited and spending a significant amount of time sailing up and down rivers on a sea-going ship. Our main reason for choosing it was that we have never visited Amsterdam, Antwerp or Rouen and thought that a travelling hotel would be a good way of seeing them, and it achieved our objectives very well indeed. We found it a bit odd that excursions from Antwerp to Brussels and from Rouen to Paris were featured quite strongly, when Brussels and Paris are so easy to get to from the UK by Eurostar, and Antwerp and Rouen are such worthwhile destinations in their own right, but we’re all different, aren’t we? SHIP INFORMATION Braemar is a modest ship. It lacks many of the attractions of larger and newer ships, but suits people who like a more relaxed, low-key cruising experience We had travelled on it before it was stretched, and found that very good use has been made of the extra 32 metres, including an additional swimming pool, a very attractive observation lounge and a pleasant new restaurant as well as several new cabins. Being an older, screw-driven ship, there is quite a bit of mechanical noise and vibration, especially on the lower decks aft. Some forward cabins are also uncomfortably close to the bow thruster units which can lead to early awakenings, so midships cabins may be advisable if you are sensitive to such things. Braemar is also not the steadiest of ships, so open-water cruises on it are best avoided by people prone to seasickness. Internally, furnishings are pleasing and interiors are light, bright and airy. Braemar does not have a proper theatre, though, and the main Neptune Lounge is far from ideal as a venue for shows, with inadequate tiering, poorly arranged seating and some columns restricting views of what is going on on the stage. Talking about tiering, the tiered stern is magnificent, fully accessible to all passengers rather than just to those with aft-facing balconies as on most modern cruise ships. There is also plenty of sunbathing space on the upper decks, a full wrap-round promenade deck and access to the tip of the bow for Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio impressions – just don’t stand on the rail to do them. EMBARKATION We parked our car on the pier at Dover, which was a very easy process with a short walk (or courtesy minibus ride) to the cruise terminal. The terminal does not have many facilities but the cafeteria is adequate and there is plenty of comfortable seating. Check-in was painless, with no noticeable queues, but embarkation did not start until 2pm which meant that most people had a significant wait in the departure lounge. ACTIVITIES There was only one “proper” sea day on this cruise, which limited the need to resort to activities as such. We normally go to series of talks, but only went to one talk on this cruise, which was all right but not outstanding, trying to cover eight centuries of Anglo-French history in one hour. A second day of cruising was spent navigating down the River Seine, which was delightfully scenic, so we had no need of organised activities. SERVICE Staff and crew were friendly and helpful. People who cruise regularly with Fred noticed cutbacks in staff, notably in the elimination of wine waiters, but we found the level of service in all areas to be at least adequate and often better than that. CABIN Although most cabins are small by modern standards, they do not seem cramped or claustrophobic. Ours only had portholes but was still light and airy. There is plenty of hanging space, but not much drawer or shelf space. Equipment is good, with a flat-screen television, a safe and an adequate supply of toiletries – oh, and the essential (for Brits) tea and coffee facilities. Everything worked, after we had tightened up light bulbs that had been shaken loose. The design of shower curtain made it very difficult to avoid flooding the bathroom when showering. There are no British-style sockets, so plug adapters are vital. DINING No for-fee speciality restaurants here, just the MDRs and the buffet restaurant and fish-and-chips-type meals from the open deck Marquee Bar in fine weather. We used the buffet for breakfast and lunch and our assigned MDR for dinner and were happy with the quality and choice in both locations. Our table companions disappeared off to the buffet for the Asian theme evening and pronounced it to be very good. There was a late-night chocoholics’ buffet on one evening, which looked good but not as lavish as we have seen on previous cruises. ENTERTAINMENT The song-and-dance performances by the Braemar Show Company were good, especially the singers who were definitely better than most in this kind of company. Other entertainment by hired-in performers was not brilliant, but the crew shows were excellent. PORTS OF CALL I will put more details into individual port reviews, but it was the itinerary that sold this cruise to us and we were not disappointed. We do not like the way that Fred describes times in port in advance publicity, just referring to early or late am or pm rather than giving times. This caught out several people who were expecting one and a half days in Rouen and elected to visit Paris on the first day in the expectation of a couple of hours in Rouen the next morning, but the “late am” departure turned out to be 10.15, too early for a look round the city when it is two miles from the cruise terminal. Our departures from Amsterdam and Antwerp were at 16.00 and 17.00 respectively, giving us almost two days in each of those cities. The cruise terminals in Amsterdam and Antwerp are close to the city centres and no shuttle buses were laid on, though in Amsterdam we resorted to a couple of short tram rides to get to the heart of the city because we knew we had a hard day’s walking ahead of us exploring the city’s canal rings. One of the canal bus routes stops very close to the cruise terminal. In Antwerp the ship docked within a few yards of the cathedral and the historic core of this fine city. In Rouen a shuttle bus service was provided for the first day, at a modest £5 for unlimited journeys. It was originally stated that it would finish at 7pm, but this was revised to 1am when the management were made aware of the late night son-et-lumiere at the cathedral. There were some major hiccups with the shuttle arrangements, but we were still glad we went to this fantastic free show. DISEMBARKATION We had a cabin on one of the lower decks and were travelling independently so we were some of the last to leave the ship, but we were still back at our car for 9am after a smooth disembarkation process. SUMMARY We enjoyed our cruise very much. Braemar has some shortcomings, but also some nice features that you don’t find on newer and larger ships, and made a perfectly adequate base for what was effectively three city breaks stuck together with no packing and unpacking to do between them.   Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
Despite a glich at the airport, everything after that was wonderful!!! Unfortunately as I had expressly requested a wheelchair to collect me at the plane, the man at that door who had a wheelchair, had no identification as being from ... Read More
Despite a glich at the airport, everything after that was wonderful!!! Unfortunately as I had expressly requested a wheelchair to collect me at the plane, the man at that door who had a wheelchair, had no identification as being from Viking (was in blue cover alls) and made no acknowledgement of my Viking name tag hanging around my neck. It was for me, dragging my overhead bag behind me to try and locate the baggage claim area. Again, unfortunately, I was directed to the wrong set of baggage conveyor belt areas. I had to throw myself at the mercy of a KLM woman who made phone calls to find the correct area AND got me a wheelchair. Finally I joined with the Red-Jacketed Viking rep., my traveling companion and my luggage. We rushed over to the boat, however not in time for more than coffee and dessert....an entire day wasted. However, after all of that, the rest of the cruise was a pleasure. The meals, the service, the engine we never heard while cruising, the stateroom was very impressive. Although the weather was not always the best, the staff made the best of it and kept the good humor going. Special groups aimed for the somewhat slower were enormously helpful, as at the age of 71yrs. with bad knees and bad back, it was at times hard to keep up with the younger and healthier. We loved the entire (barring the airport fiasco) adventure and plan to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary in May 2015 with you again. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2013
During this review I will try to clarify some of the questions that have been asked on several Cruise Critic sites. On April 3rd we left England from a regional airport flying KLM to Amsterdam, we were met by a Scenic representative and ... Read More
During this review I will try to clarify some of the questions that have been asked on several Cruise Critic sites. On April 3rd we left England from a regional airport flying KLM to Amsterdam, we were met by a Scenic representative and waited a short time for another couple flying from another UK regional airport and we traveled to our ship in a very smart people carrier arriving in time for a warm welcome and time to meet our butler and room steward, we unpacked, changed and went to the welcome reception and an excellent glass of champagne. When traveling before with Scenic we had a Danube deck (top deck) cabin mid-ship this time we opted for a Rhine ( middle deck) deck cabin again mid-ship. Now the ship has been upgraded and the changes are all to the good, still clean uncluttered decor and furnishings plus the raise and lower screen on the balcony plus all ship butler service, the Scenic brochure is very clear on what is included and what is not, the people at the Scenic office are usually pretty good at answering your questions. We arrived in what has proved to be about the coldest spring on record. Our fellow passengers are mostly Australian. A few Canadians and British (last time it was equal numbers of Australians and Canadians then us Brits). Next day we opted for the Amsterdam canal trip with a short walking tour of Amsterdam which included tasting herring and a visit to a cheese shop to taste their on site made cheese. All walking tours were split into groups of which one was always for gentle walkers, our guide was excellent I don't think we had a duff one during the entire cruise some put more into their job than others for instance one distributed liquor chocolates on our way back to the ship. Thinking about it the whole trip kept coming up with little extras which were a surprise and unexpected, in fact by the end of the cruise at the port briefing each evening it became a standing joke ( these were carried out by our excellent cruise director Evonne and were not obligatory ) The food was excellent and we have eaten in some of the best restaurants in the country, the choice is very varied, we had a visit to the galley, how do they do it? Our chef was a young man from the former East Germany, nothing was to much effort he was very visible and always ready to talk I asked for and got the recipe for an excellent soup. In fact the food service was always of the best from breakfast in your cabin (Danube deck ) or early or late (River Cafe starboard of the lounge) or normal in the Crystal dinning room through lunch, what a choice! To dinner with the choice of eating in Portobello's, Italian you book this with the restaurant manager available depending on length of cruise once or twice, start with a glass of top class bubbly and continue with fine Italian wines. It is true that all but the very top of the range drinks are free that is all soft drinks, a good range of teas and coffees, all cabin mini bar drinks and bottles of water to good single malts, good gin and vodka labels plus very good wines at lunch and dinner and from the bar. The bar staff were very good and I mean very good they mixed their drinks well they cleared tables and took orders through the lounge and up on the to deck. Every day there was a different cocktail special plus a special martini on offer, my husband does enjoy a dry martini and the young man behind the bar got to know that he liked a very dry martini, it was almost waiting when he went to the bar, now that's service, my husband is sure it is the best martini he has ever had seeing as he has had them all over the globe that's saying something. The entire crew are so good it is difficult to know where to start, when required they all pitch in we were on Diamond we were supposed to have been on Pearl but her refit was not completed on time well obviously there was still some tweaking needed on Diamond (not that any of the passengers noticed) at one port while we were on a tour ashore, according to a few passengers who did not join the tour (you can do that) they changed all the beds and the cabin chairs plus other bits and pieces with all the crew even the hairdressers joining in. Wifi is free not easy to get on line sometimes one of the reasons evidently is so many passengers skipping etc. There are nifty little gadgets that are GPS enabled use them on your shore excursions or on board for info about the area you are traveling through we had a few hiccups but we got over them. Everyday there are maps and information sheets on the reception desk for the port and area you are visiting as well as the daily port briefing. Excursions there are so many to choose from sometimes it is difficult to decide all that we went on were very good. Bruges was so cold I was there as a teenager and I still recognised it its a timeless city, wonderful hot chocolate, we needed it, in the evening a display of Flemish dancing, straight out of an old master. The amazing Delta works what a fantastic example of modern engineering. Arnhem and the airborne museum followed by a visit to the airborne cemetery very moving. This evening a demonstration of Apple Strudel making. Tour of Venlo plus a towel folding demonstration it became quite interesting to return to our cabin to discover what towel animal or flower awaited us, tonight a disco with our ever present music man (who also joined the crew when required) some people let their hair down but it was not intrusive. Cruise down the Moselle, guided tour of Cochem and Reichsburg Castle then on to Bernkastel our tour choice was to travel to Luxembourg that was a bit of an eye opener. Cruise through the Rhine gorge to Rudesheim, onto a land train to the very interesting mechanical music museum. Next day Heidelberg we went to Hockenheim it was a Saturday and it was a motor bike day slight drizzle so interesting, to the museum up in the main stand on to the pits stand on the winners podium wave a pretend chequered flag finished off with watching the drift racing altogether a really good day ending with dinner, guided tour and concert at the Rastatt Palace, the dinner was a little long winded but the tour and especially the concert were very good. Our next choice was to the Alsace wine region I have never met such an enthusiastic wine grower and the wines we tasted were very nice indeed. Next stop the Black Forest the open air museum (a bit like Singleton in the UK) very interesting, lunch there and a demonstration of Black Forest cake making, the worlds largest cuckoo clock and the best water fall in Germany, busy day. Basel guided tour and Captains farewell dinner. Altogether a very good cruise of course there were one or two and I mean that few who were a bit annoying but the joy of cruising with Australians is that they don't hold back when people go beyond the pale it is also very interesting cruising with our commonwealth friends. We had several themed dinners, a couple of local music evenings plus a couple who played cow bells absolutely amazing and a zither player. We even met a couple who we met on our previous Scenic Cruise. All of this and more that I am sure I have left out without spending an extra penny, unless you want any laundry done. We will be cruising with Scenic again.Don't forget on our return from every excursion we were welcomed back on board by the Captain and Hotel Manager and offered a hot or cold drink and hot towel if the weather was warm, there was also hand sanitizer at strategic places around the ship. Happy cruising all. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2012
When we looked into this cruise I looked for reviews, and found 3, so thought I would add another one, should people want to go into the wilds of Scotland. We started at Inverness train Station-where we met Brian. A very very helpful hotel ... Read More
When we looked into this cruise I looked for reviews, and found 3, so thought I would add another one, should people want to go into the wilds of Scotland. We started at Inverness train Station-where we met Brian. A very very helpful hotel manager. As the coach is not allowed to park near the train station, for the first of many occasions he had to think on his feet. He soon collected us all up though and we were on our way.The boat is small ,but perfectly formed. Our cabin-302 ,was right next to reception ,but we never heard any noise. The cabins are small-very small...but what surprised us was how every nook and cranny is utilised. the cabin ate up the contents of 2 large cases and their contents with ease. cases go under the beds-very large space here, and there is a large drawer, a double wardrobe, and 8 sets of drawers,plus a hidey hole in the dressing table. (not sure if the cabins lower down have this hidey hole) the bathroom is tiny tiny-think canal boat/caravan,with a small shower-with curtain, toilet, and small basin. Again there was storage here for toiletries-two large wire cages, more than enough for all of our things. The rest of the ship is equally very nice, and cosy, well decorated. On the top deck are 2 lounges ,with comfy seating....can you guess what secret the large curved seat in the front holds, most things have more than one use. The dining rooms holds everyone at one seating. you can sit where you like but for lunch and dinner everyone has all of their courses served at the same time. 1st course-that is cleared away, then 2nd course etc. the evening meal usually took up to 2hrs for this reason. All the food is fresh and was really really lovely....very well done. The cruise was down the Caledonian Canal and around some of the inner Hebrides at the end. Due to the weather (windy and wet) when we were in the open seas, Brian had to do a lot of thinking on his feet. We went everywhere we were supposed to, but maybe not in the order we should have done. I think if you consider doing one of these cruises ,and they involve the open sea you have to be prepared for a lot of changes...On one island we were about to disembark ,when it was decided we would not be staying there due to an approaching storm, and it appears running out of food-could not have that could we? We set of for more sheltered berthing, and somewhere where more fresh food could be purchased. I feel a word should also be put in here for the barman Gordon-by the 2nd night he knew what we drank and our cabin number. He was always very friendly, and it was not his fault that the two times the contents of the bar took a tumble in rough seas ,he was not around!!!! Would we go on here again.Yes we would-we saw some lovely lovely places that we would not otherwise have had the chance of seeing. The whole thing was most enjoyable. If anything lets things down I would say it is the bathrooms,but how can they alter them. If they cut down on the cabins, less people, so more expensive cruises... Ages on our cruise I would say low 50's upwards, with most at the higher end. You do need to be able to use stairs on this boat as they are quite steep. Go and learn some wonderful things and see some wonderful parts of Scotland Read Less

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