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4 Viking River Europe - British Isles & Western Cruise Reviews

We chose this one because we wanted to visit two of the places on the itinerary. We were not disappointed. Unfortunately we had not read the brochure properly and had not realised that the first two and last two nights would be in ... Read More
We chose this one because we wanted to visit two of the places on the itinerary. We were not disappointed. Unfortunately we had not read the brochure properly and had not realised that the first two and last two nights would be in hotels, in Berlin and Prague respectively. However, that was our fault, not Viking's! In the event, we found the experience in Berlin rather dry, but Prague is a lovely city which we will be visiting again. Also unfortunately, our holiday got off to a very poor start due to a strike of air france staff. We finally go to Berlin eight hours late, after being routed round via Zurich. However, we had informed the London office of our difficulties and we were met by a charming Viking courier and driven to the ship. As always, the staterooms are spotlessly clean and blissfully comfortable. The selection of entertainment on the wide screen TV is chosen to suit all tastes. All of the staff are courteous, friendly and helpful. Meals, especially the local specialities, are always delicious and there is always a good choice. The excursions to Meissen, where we were given a demonstration of porcelain making (Meissen is one of my favourite makes!) and Wittenberg, where we had what can only be called a lecture-tour about Martin Luther, were very well thought out and interesting. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
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
Sail Date April 2014
I do not always write reviews for cruises, rather do so only when my evaluation and experience seem to differ from prevailing comments and evaluations by other travelers. I booked "Tulips and Windmills" on Viking Legend before ... Read More
I do not always write reviews for cruises, rather do so only when my evaluation and experience seem to differ from prevailing comments and evaluations by other travelers. I booked "Tulips and Windmills" on Viking Legend before the ship was launched because I'd long yearned to explore that part of Europe in more depth (my paternal ancestors immigrated to the U.S. from Holland in the late 1800's), and because my husband dislikes air travel and the Legend has SINGLE staterooms which were favorably priced on Viking's Early Booking Discount offer. Later on I read negative reports and comments about Viking Legend and about Viking River Cruise company, and had some doubts in the months between booking and boarding my plane for Amsterdam on March 25. However, I knew the ship was going where I wanted to go and that the price was within my budget traveling solo, so I was GOING!! My personal experience was absolutely wonderful. Lovely ship, excellent upbeat and efficient crew, fine dining experiences, good itinerary -- nothing to complain about or really even to criticize. I am happy to give Viking Legend very high marks. A substantial majority of the 177 travelers on board the Legend's March 27 sailing were Viking past passengers, so it seems clear that many other travelers are as happy with Viking as I am. One criticism I had read was that other river cruise lines include wine with dinner, but not Viking; well, so did Viking this year. Wine with dinner had been included as part of the Early Booking package, and apparently the company decided to expand it to include all passengers. The passengers were an interesting, well-traveled, and well-educated group of people. As well as those from the United States, we had travelers from the UK, Australia, and Canada, which added to the interest of shared experiences as folks brought different perspectives to what we were seeing. Although I enjoyed every single part of the journey, highlights for me were Kinderdijk, the Delta Project, and Keukenhof. Europe had had a fierce winter so we were too early for the full tulip bloom, but even so there were some fields of brilliant color, and the pavilions were glorious with the beauty of flowers of all kinds. The Keukenhof grounds are lovely, with statuary as well as ponds and fountains and lovely flora. We were lucky on weather. Several times we heard reports that where we were at the moment was the only place in The Netherlands where it was NOT raining; several days we completed our day's activities and just as we headed back on the bus or were back on board the ship, some rain would start to fall. The two times we did experience rainfall were at the Delta Project and on Easter Sunday at Keukenhof; both of those days it was off-and-on, not ongoing. Overriding "themes" for me were the role of bicycles in this country (human population 16 million, bicycle population over 18 million, automobiles 7 million), and the great energy and cleverness of the Dutch people as they have over time continued to manage their lowlands issues. The Delta Project is amazing, and passing through the locks was both interesting and fun. I took two optional excursions and recommend them both highly: Holland north country with the vegetable auction the afternoon of our day in Hoorn, and the Kroller-Muller Museum the afternoon of our day in Arnhem. In addition to the specific interest of the places visited, both excursions got us out into beautiful countryside, reassuring us that even this most densely populated of European countries DOES have lovely open countryside, with hilly areas in the eastern areas. Viking Legend's on-board presentations were fine: a most engaging and entertaining performance by a group of folkloric Dutch dancers; a presentation on the European Union; and an excellent educational talk on the windmills the evening before our day at Kinderdijk, presented by the daughter/granddaughter/great-granddaughter of a windmill keeper who had spent much time in her childhood in the family's windmill home. Although my photo album is not ready yet, when it is it will be added to my travel photo site: [url]http://fredasphotos1.shutterfly.com[/url] It'll probably (hopefully) be posted by the end of April. If you have any specific questions, post a question in the River and Canal Cruising section of the message boards, with the title, "Question on Legend for Xoe". I booked my own air (Delta has the only nonstop Seattle to Amsterdam), took the Hotel Shuttle Bus from Schiphol to my Hotel Bellevue, a budget hotel booked on EasyToBook for 69 Euros. The hotel is very near Centraal Station so I was able to walk from the hotel to the ship for boarding the next day. All these plans worked wonderfully well, and as hoped. My Cabin 337 was one of 5 single cabins on Legend; there are 2 on the top deck, 2 on Deck 2, and 1 on Deck 1. My #337 was adjacent to the library at the stern of Deck 3, and I loved the location. At a moment's notice, I could pop into the library and out a door to see or photograph anything on either starboard or port side of the ship. I'd guess that the other single on Deck 3, #309, is an equally good location and would mean less walking to the lounge or dining etc. The cabin design and layout are good. Bed is a couch that converts to a bed, but this was very comfortable and resulted in more floor space, which I appreciate since I do yoga stretches each morning. I loved having the French balcony for fresh air when I opened the slider; I had it open a bit every night. The climate control in the room worked beautifully, including an "off" position for times I wanted the slider open. There are outlets for both U.S. and European plugs, so charging camera batteries was no problem, nor was there a need for a converter. Great room! (NOTE -- CORRECTION: This form asks how many ports we visited. We had NINE ports; the maximum choice given on the form is 6 so that's what I marked -- but it's wrong, should be 9.) Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
We do not do cruises. Going to sea in a floating hotel has absolutely no appeal, and having to dress for dinner while on vacation is definitely not something we want to do. On the other hand there are some trips that make more sense when ... Read More
We do not do cruises. Going to sea in a floating hotel has absolutely no appeal, and having to dress for dinner while on vacation is definitely not something we want to do. On the other hand there are some trips that make more sense when done by ship than by any other means of transport, and St. Petersburg to Moscow (or the other way around) is one of them. We had previously done only one other river cruise and that was on the Nile (not a trip offered by Viking) where the lack of suitable alternative accommodations made the ship essential, at least for Westerners accustomed to a certain level of comfort, health, and safety. While infrastructure in Russia and Egypt are vastly different the waterways make this a good way to travel in this part of Russia. Although Viking offers to arrange for air transport to the port of embarkation we elected to make our own arrangements, but we did take advantage of Viking's airport to ship transfers. Unless you can read Russian words in Cyrillic text it's probably best to take Viking's transfers both to and from the ship because the airports are a long distance from the docks, none of the road signs are in Roman text, and from what we heard, many taxi drivers have limited or no comprehension of English. One thing to consider when meeting a cruise ship or any other organized tour with a scheduled departure, is allowing sufficient time to get to the starting point. This was made obvious to us when our initial flight from LAX was cancelled when the aircraft was found to be not airworthy (after all passengers were aboard with seat belts fastened). Our original itinerary included a change of planes before leaving the US and we would have missed that connection because of the cancelled flight. A second connecting flight likewise became doubtful when weather at the connecting city delayed flights there. Finally, after almost 12 hours at LAX we departed on a non-stop flight to London. Since we had planned a short stay in London there was never any doubt that we would get to St. Petersburg a few days later in time for the ship's departure but had we planned to arrive just in time for embarking on the cruise we may have "missed the boat." Lesson learned. To call Viking's "Waterways of the Csars" a cruise is a bit of a misnomer because the ship is small (106 staterooms) compared to the behemoths usually associated with the word "cruise" and dress is always on the casual side, even at the "Captain's Dinner." Many men and women (there were no children on board) did "dress for dinner" but "business casual" was more the rule; nary a tux wax seen. Viking claims to "operate our ships according to the highest standards of Swiss hotel management" and they live up to that claim. The main purpose of the ship is transportation not entertainment although there was certainly no lack of things to do while underway. More on that later. The Viking Surkov has very recently been "extensively" renovated according to Viking, and it shows. The good news is that the interior of the ship is all new, and very well done at that. Everything that Viking says about the cruise was true - these folks know how to provide an excellent travel experience. The bad news is that the ship was apparently put into service before the renovations were complete. Our cruise was the third sailing since the ship left the yard and according to the staff there had been no shakedown cruise before the first revenue cruise. Two problems persisted for the entire cruise - staterooms were either cold (as was ours, which was consistently less than 20 deg C for all but a few hours) or hot, that is, some were hot and some cold, but we heard no complaints from passengers that any staterooms were alternately cold and hot, and there was an occasional odor of sewage in various locations throughout the ship but fortunately for us not in our stateroom. The sewage smell was the lesser problem for most of us (judging by the scuttlebutt) since it was generally neither severe nor persistent, though we know of one of the single cabins that remained somewhat smelly (and HOT) for the duration. Except for the problems with temperature control the staterooms were quite nice. (See Cabin Guru, below) On board, all expenses not included in the tour package (optional tours, adult beverages, laundry service, internet access, etc.) are billed in "units" which are at parity with Euros but apparently Viking is not permitted to call it that. A few days prior to the end of the cruise a final statement was issued and henceforth all purchases were cash (rubles) or credit card. Viking cannot exchange currencies on board but on most shore excursions there was an opportunity to convert US dollars. UK pounds, or Euros to rubles. In the big cities ATMs are easy to find. We (the two of us) brought the ruble equivalent of about US$500 with us and had rubles left over. We don't spend much on drinks or souvenirs so your mileage may vary. Ah, yes. Drinks. With wine by the glass typically priced at 6 units (almost US$10 at the ship's Euro-dollar exchange rate) if you want wine with most meals it would probably make sense to sign up for the beverage package when you book. I don't recall the details but I think it gets you unlimited drinks for a fixed price. I saw plenty of wine served at meals but got the definite impression from one passenger at least that the wines served were not of the quality we Californians expect to get at home at very modest prices. The ship's crew is all Russian, as is the dining room staff (mostly waitresses and a few waiters) but the on-board management apparently consists only of German nationals. The tour guides for the shore excursions are all Russians with excellent command of English and superior knowledge of their subject. Unlike the tour guides, the dining room staff had limited ability to converse with us in English. There was never any difficulty communicating about menu choices, but questions such as "What is this item on the menu?" never got a satisfactory answer. The menu had a definite international flavor with familiar items from the Continent and some unfamiliar Russian dishes. Even when choosing a menu item with an unfamiliar name and without a description, nothing truly bizarre appeared at the table. Overall we ate quite well on board and all meals were included. With almost the same number of crew as passengers, the overall level of service throughout the cruise was excellent. The passengers were mostly from the US, UK, and the antipodes, including more than thirty Australians travelling as a group. This being a rather pricey boat ride, the passengers were of course rather well off and for the most part were beyond retirement age, some way beyond. Several folks used wheelchairs or canes and even with these required appliances most (but not all) of the shore excursions were well within their capabilities. That is not to say that the shore excursions involved little walking because walk we did. However, the pace was set to accommodate those with less than youthful mobility. For each shore excursion the routine was similar. Prior to leaving the ship all passengers exchange the magnetic card key to the stateroom for a small card that shows the port location (in Russian) so in the unlikely event of getting separated from the group the card can be presented to any taxi driver (presumably they are all literate in Russian) to arrange transport back to the ship. This scheme also allows for "taking attendance" prior to the ship's departure thus assuring that no one gets left behind. Something like that could ruin your whole day. The Viking website covers the details of the shore excursions, but this is a review of the cruise so I'll limit my comments about the shore excursions. Viking offered either as part of the package or as options, excursions that covered the key places in Russia that are listed in "1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler's Life List" by Patricia Schultz (the book, not the barely watchable hokey home video shown on the Travel Channel) and that was one of the reasons we took this cruise. One of the tradeoffs involved in group travel is that word "group." Being part of a group imposes some limits on how to spend time; for example, in museums we got to see a lot of art but which particular art and how long we could view it was not up to the individual. And let there be no doubt, there is a lot of art to see! Our guides did schedule some "free time" at several locations so we sometimes had the opportunity to choose how to spend our time. The Russian guides (as mentioned earlier) were very knowledgeable. We had guides that live on board, and at some locations we had a local guide with the specialized knowledge appropriate to that location or museum. For those of us who were primarily interested in the cultural aspects of the cruise, these are the people that made the trip truly worthwhile. For the first shore excursion we picked a guide and a bus and that guide became "our" guide for the duration of the cruise. We had the good fortune to select the oldest of the group and she turned out to be an exceptional guide with experience as a guide beginning in 1960. The crew and guides sign on for six months of cruising, and as the captain explained during our visit to the bridge, the ship's crew works for six months without a day off. The officers and crew demonstrated excellent seamanship throughout the voyage and the weather cooperated to the extent that no one seemed to get seasick. Even on the larger bodies of water (lakes and reservoirs) the surface was relatively calm so most of the time there was little evidence of motion while underway. The on board activities included vodka tasting, caviar tasting (we skipped both), an amateur night where the passengers presented a modestly produced variety show, and several sessions on Russian history. Near the end of the trip we were offered a question and answer session with the guides. As for the history sessions, this was conducted in the large lounge/bar set up like a meeting room with the guides at the front of the room facing an audience of passengers. With a standing room only crowd the guides bravely fielded questions about all aspects of Russian life, both present and in Soviet times. One of the guides is old enough to have remembered life during the Nazi invasion and the aftermath of what the Russians call The Great Patriotic War (that's WWII to most of us). While all of the questions from passengers were politely phrased and considerate of our hosts, we got into some rather blunt political discussions, for example. It quickly became obvious that Russia is no longer the Evil Empire of Soviet times. Also obvious from what we heard during this Q&A was that the Russian population is a tough bunch of people who have endured some really terrible times. The Romanovs were truly awful rulers, Stalin was even worse, the subsequent Communist rulers were incompetent at best (so far no surprises), and a real surprise (to me at least) was the Russians' opinion of Gorbachev and Putin. Gorby got a mere 1% of the vote the last time he ran for office (it seems that he is universally disliked for causing incredible hardship during the unplanned transition to a free economy), and they finally have a ruler in Putin that has brought them both stability and a functioning economy. Putin may be trying to control his domestic media (and perhaps crown himself emperor) but there is apparently no restriction on what Russians may read or access from beyond the borders of Russia. These people have access to the same sources of news that we have and they clearly take advantage of the opportunity to learn from those sources. All expressed their opinions, apparently without reservation, and not all opinions were flattering to the state. Debarkation was uneventful and as well organized as the other aspects of our journey. It wasn't Viking's fault that our early morning flight from Moscow required a 1:15 am wake up call. I went to Russia expecting to visit a more or less third world country (albeit one with a big army and some nukes) but came home with the realization that Russia has changed a lot in the past ten years or so. St. Petersburg and Moscow are both rapidly becoming truly modern European cities and in both cities the amount of construction and infrastructure restoration activity is impressive. The people living in the small cities and towns we visited don't seem to be any more isolated than folks living in America's heartland (and we know that they are not isolated). Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
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