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5 Europe - Black Sea River Cruise Reviews

What an absolutely fabulous time! River cruises are not for the folks looking for on-board entertainment! One fantastic musician/singer (Valentine!) and an evening with the crews talent show, and 1 Bulgarian folk dancers! The rest of ... Read More
What an absolutely fabulous time! River cruises are not for the folks looking for on-board entertainment! One fantastic musician/singer (Valentine!) and an evening with the crews talent show, and 1 Bulgarian folk dancers! The rest of the time was used to rest for the next day! this tour was non stop once on the boat! Every day we were in port for most of the day except the day going through the Iron gorge. If you haven't exercised in a while, make sure you start walking NOW!!! we averaged about 5 miles a day walking. At 53 I was the youngest passenger out of 81 (ship was only partially full!) - Budapest was AMAZING! We stayed at the lovely InterContinental, 9th floor overlooking Buda - the beauty of the city at night reflected over the Danube and was simply beautiful. Both Buda and Pest sides were fascinating - old in Buda, new in Pest,,,,and they did an excellent job of infusing the old and the new into a gorgeous city. The local food was delicious but be wary of restaurants that have buffets sitting out, even if it's behind a counter! We ate at a Chinese restaurant but as the food was sitting out and then reheated for eating, my companion got very ill. Luckily it passed before we boarded the ship the following day. Take the Hop on Hop Off and jump on the Funicular to head up the mountain to the Castle district. Also visit Margarita Island, but find out exactly where the Hoho boat picks you up!!! there are NO signs anywhere so get exact directions (it's the first boat launch area facing the Pest side) - other than graffiti all over the city, the place is stunning! And visit the Grand market for souveniers, especially Hungarian Paprika! great deals and everyone at home loved them!! The first day of the trip we met with the passengers and cruise director - the 2nd day we had a morning city tour and did our own thing in the afternoon. The following day we did the Hop on Hop off and in the evening boarded the ship. Boarding the ship was very easy. Everyone travelled by bus to the ship where we got on! that simple. Turned in our passports, got our room key, and it was done! Food aboard the ship was delicious - awesome steak, and soups!! terrific!! Salad dressings other than the Ceaser were mediocre, but everything else was great!!! and eating while sailing and so close to the water was a great experience! The Danube is a beautiful river that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime! Serbia city tour was very interesting, as was Vir Lipinski - an ancient civilization excavated on the banks of the Danube - during our travels through Serbia the Captain even let me steer the ship!!! :) Bulgaria - Belgradchik Rocks is a must (included tour) - and the restaurant where we ate lunch was fabulous as well. Lovely views, but again, the graffiti is overwhelming and detracts from the beauty of the city. Most of the folks on the ship gave locals any extra currency they had before leaving the country - and make sure if you like to shop, you get local currency for at least Hungary and Romania. The other countries would prefer their own money but we did use Euros - but the exchange rate isn't the greatest. Romania was very interesting, and a side trip to Transylvania was a interesting as well.. ..the castle Bram was in a lovely part of town but didn't resemble what tourists imagine it to be! well lit, light in color, and housing a bunch of modern day costumes! the views overlooking Transylvania were spectacular. We went with Avanti tours which took us to a 2nd castle which was fully designed as in the day it was used by royalty, and was the highlight of the trip! Plenty of Dracula items to purchase outside of the Castle Bram. Plan on a very busy day, unless you choose to do your own thing. Our normal day on board was wake up at 630, breakfast at 7, done by 8, on the bus at 820 and returned late afternoon, dinner at 7 with everyone, and then bed by 930. then the next day same thing!!! it rained and was chilly most of the time which was perfect for me, but remember to bring an umbrella, a rainproof poncho, and a raincoat if you get tend to get chilly!! we did not find any places to shop except H & M in Bucharest, but it was pouring and the bus stop was too far to walk over !! normally I like to buy clothing from Europe but did not have a chance this trip...just no locations that we visited were in a "city" but more of town visits. Flight home was long, 28 hours total travel time! next time I fly to the western portion of Europe, stay a day or two, and then fly directly home to the US! too many layovers makes for a very long trip!! Everything else was very smooth and well done!! the only disappointment was that I was expecting a presentation on what we would be seeing the following day, but the nightly chats were more of an itinerary for the following day- I was hoping for history lessons of what to see, look for, etc but that did not happen. The ship was small, lovely, clean, no sundry shop so make sure you have everything you need! Crew was excellent! it helps if you learn a little of the languages before you go (simple phrases, often included in the Avalon packet!) - thank you, please, hello, etc. Very much enjoyed this and would highly recommend a river cruise for people who are interested in history and education over beaches and personal activities! both are great vacations!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
This was our sixth trip with Vantage, thirds on the Navigator......and all in the same cabin!!! We started in Prague with the pre-trip extension and it was a highlight of the trip! Prague and Bratislava are both beautiful and our group of ... Read More
This was our sixth trip with Vantage, thirds on the Navigator......and all in the same cabin!!! We started in Prague with the pre-trip extension and it was a highlight of the trip! Prague and Bratislava are both beautiful and our group of 24 really bonded in the first 24 hours or so. Navigator has been remodeled since our last trip on her, and she looks beautiful, although I hate the new name of the Lounge......Rat Pack Lounge? Really???? But it seemed a lot more spacious than before and there was ample room for the on board entertainment, which there didn't use to be. Our cabin was comfortable as usual and the walk-in shower was a big relief after 5 nights struggling in and out of deep bathtubs in hotels. Plenty of storage space, especially now that I have a Vera Bradley hanging vanity case......what a find THAT was. Our cabin steward was excellent and fearless.....he came right away the afternoon I found a spider as big as my fist on the outside of the door for our french balcony.....and he didn't even laugh at me for standing on the bed pointing at the door! We were divided into 3 groups and I love the way they did it: Blue group were people who did the pre-trip extension; Green group those who were doing the Danube from Bonn to Constanta and the Yellow group those who boarded in Budapest and did not do the pre-trip. Only negative to that is that all three groups tended to stick together and not mingle a lot. The ports we visited ranged from wonderful to okay, but only because in some of them there just wasn't a lot to see and do. We did one optional on the cruise and that was the puszta tour to see the Hungarian cowboys. I know I read reviews of this tour from people who said the horses were thin and seemed mal-treated. While we saw absolutely no evidence of abuse or mal-nourishment, I would not book it again because it just wasn't worth the money. Those who went to Tito's Palace met the Prince and Princess of Bulgaria! As for the food, I thought it was great. I read previous review from vegan who had trouble finding food to eat. What a shame, because our trip had one of the best vegetarian cooks on the planet!!! I had no trouble finding many choices for breakfast from cold Muesli to yogurt and fruit and for lunch the salad bar and cold fruit soups were to die for. Dinner always had a vegetarian menu and there was only one I didn't care for and that was nobody's fault....sometimes you just don't care for a recipe and this was one of those times.....and the chef made me something else!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
Sailed from Bucharest to Budapest; visited former Communist controlled countries. Many of these countries are struggling, still, due to corruption in governments, unemployment, little to no infrastructure, etc. However, found people were ... Read More
Sailed from Bucharest to Budapest; visited former Communist controlled countries. Many of these countries are struggling, still, due to corruption in governments, unemployment, little to no infrastructure, etc. However, found people were wonderful. It was depressing to see so many "left-overs" from the Communist regime, i.e., falling-down buildings, little to no new construction or housing, etc. Cruise ship, Elba, is one of the new long ships. She was beautiful. But, we have been cruising with Viking since 2005; this was our 9th cruise, and we have found, that over the years, Viking has changed, some to to better, some not so much so. In the beginning, there were smaller ships, much FEWER ships on the rivers, and we felt like a part of the Viking family. Staff, in the beginning, interacted more with passengers, and it was more fun. There were fun activities on-board with the crew. In fact, we have since sailed with some crew more than twice. We have seen a definite difference in how the crew and staff are allowed to interact with passengers. One instance, one of the staff wanted to show us a picture on the cell phone, but he said he had to be careful not be seen doing this by his "boss." This would not have happened in the beginning. When we docked in Budapest, I personally counted 17-different cruise ships docked. In the first few years, we were lucky to see one or two ships docked at our same location, and more often, they were Vikings. I understand that Viking needs to catch up, but in so doing, Viking has also lost the intimacy of the cruise that first attracted us. We have scheduled one more trip, Tulips and Windmills, a repeat of our very first cruise with Viking. But, I fear this will be our last. We like the smaller ships, more interaction with staff and crew, and also with Captain and his staff. I remember one cruise where the Captain actually came into the lounge and sat with us for quite a long time. Never happen on the long ships...   Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
After hearing several favorable reports on Viking River cruises we signed up for the Odessa to Kiev cruise on the ship Lomonosov, now being refitted to look like the Viking Rurik, but with the same staff. Our disappointment cannot be ... Read More
After hearing several favorable reports on Viking River cruises we signed up for the Odessa to Kiev cruise on the ship Lomonosov, now being refitted to look like the Viking Rurik, but with the same staff. Our disappointment cannot be overstated. We knew, of course, that the ship has no elevator. But who would dream that it has no telephones either? Every question means a separate trip down the stairs to the reception desk. This was not among the features mentioned in Viking's literature! And there are no smoke detectors, an amazing omission! Our upscale large stateroom was hard to heat and harder to cool. The lack of heat was solved by the ship's maintenance staff by bolting the three large windows permanently shut. This did nothing for cooling. The food is alright if somewhat bland. But the din in the two dining rooms comes close to defeating conversation. No sound absorbing materials are anywhere in view. Service is slow and limited to one item at a time (do not ask for desert and a beverage ... they do mean one at a time). Refills of wine or coffee or tea were infrequent in the larger dining room. Diet soda ran out on the fifth day of the voyage but was restocked later on. Although it was on the bar list, there was never any port, and the supply of gin ran out. There is very little on board entertainment. Two lectures - one an hour, one a half hour - are the total history and culture offered onboard the ship. A folk music show was the only cultural event. How did having the waitresses dress as pirates one evening help? The daily movie on TV ran at times other than scheduled and was sometimes not the announced film. At the end of the first half-day city tour we realized that our assigned guide would not work out for us ... her walking pace and content were both problems. We asked to be reassigned but the tour and activities director told us that would be impossible because all bus seats were taken. In actual fact one of the five tour busses was only half full. Since our assigned guide also presented the two history lectures, our entire perspective on Ukraine was through her eyes and she was a cynical, biased person who ignored questions she didn't like. "Jewish Odessa” tour was inexplicably switched from Friday to Saturday, which made it impossible to visit any synagogues. Our Viking guide urtes all of us to cancel the "Jewish Kiev” trip, which she assured us would be "depressing.” One last insult: two preliminary bills didn't show the cost of our extra tours, although we signed up for them on the first day. Only the final bill picked up the charges. We were prepared for a three-star ship about to be retired, but Viking's promised five-star personal service was nowhere in sight. What a disappointment.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
This is a beautiful boat. Tastefully decorated. Wonderful staff. Really wonderful. Barely enough Wifi to get emails. Very irritating! The breakfast was great but it was hard being a vegan . Like pulling teeth to get something to eat. ... Read More
This is a beautiful boat. Tastefully decorated. Wonderful staff. Really wonderful. Barely enough Wifi to get emails. Very irritating! The breakfast was great but it was hard being a vegan . Like pulling teeth to get something to eat. The staff however tried to be helpful. We did not starve! I think if you write down what you cannot have it should be easy to follow. It was not. One other irritating thing was that we had to stock up on water! Drinking water should be free. At least put a water filter in every stateroom. Nickel and dimeing on the water is not attractive. Our remote didn't work. Had a guy to fix it but it didn't really work. These are all minor things but it would have improved things. Our stateroom was really nice. It would have been nice to go straight to he ship upon landing . I will probably do another cruise with Vantage if they bone up on my suggestions. Your staff is definitely your strength ! Read Less
Sail Date July 2013

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