I am going to be much more critical than is warranted because I want to point out the limited downfalls of Viking. Overall, we would rate this trip an 8-9 out of 10 so we liked it and would do another. I think it important to research what ... Read More
I am going to be much more critical than is warranted because I want to point out the limited downfalls of Viking. Overall, we would rate this trip an 8-9 out of 10 so we liked it and would do another. I think it important to research what type of cruise you want to do. Viking does a much focused type of cruise with a very set schedule. It’s kind of like going on vacation where the first day, you just relax and say "I am on vacation" and don't fight it. Viking can be very very set in their ways and for the most part, they do all they can to make this a good experience. However, if you want something out of the ordinary, like upgrade your room, schedule a airport transfer or if you want to tip with anything other than Euro or US$, then they are not flexible and it can be irritating. They could work on that a bit. Our cruise was a Christmas Market Cruise and we did everything and more than we had hoped to. We booked our own airfare only because we did not know better. Viking works best if you use all of their services and if you confine your trip to what they offer. If you book airfare with them or extended stay, then they will make sure they meet you at the airport and take you back. One caution however is that you must remember that there is no such thing as a $199 air fare that they tout once in a while. It is simply that Viking is subsidizing part of that cost so they do not discount their room, which they very very very seldom do. When you book your air fare through Viking make sure you look at the flight times and layovers. That $199 airfare will most likely get you stuck in an airport for a few hours or a longer flight home so just check the details. We ended our trip in Passau, Germany so for 95% of the group, the trip was over and they needed to go to Munich airport for their flight back home. While I suspect not normal, one couple had to get up at 2 am to catch their bus. Let me explain. The drive to Munich is 2 hours so they allow 3. They schedule pickup 1/2 hr prior to that and then you need to be at the airport to 2-3 hrs ahead of time. If you have a 7 am flight, booked for you by Viking (can you say $199 air fare?), then you get the idea. On our trip, we booked our own airfares and were able to screw up our own schedule by allowing a 4 hr layover in Amsterdam so you need to get involved. You have to remember that you are in the middle of the night when you get to your first layover so my advice is to pick a flight to minimize layovers and look closely at departure times and where the airport is. Doing this will greatly improve your experience. The other somewhat irritating issue is tipping. Viking being an American/Swiss company asks you to partially subsidize their costs and tip at the end of the trip. Its the American way. It was interesting watching the Tour Director and others encourage tipping in Europe where there is no tipping. This is completely up to you but they do lay on the guilt trip for you. Something I felt amusing is that they will only accept tips in euro or US$. If you are to tip, a great way to get rid of the misc currency, from Hungary for example which is not euro, is to leave that as part of the tip. NOPE, we only accept euro and US$. I never had anyone tell me before when I was giving money away that they wanted it only in certain form. Viking could work on this.
Now the good part. There are only 170 or so people so this is not a 3,000 person Princess Cruise so you need to rethink this. With only 170, they can plan pretty well. I liked the single dining experience. We had time for Happy Hour and usually a brief talk about what was going on the next day in the Lounge and then you had 1/2 hr or so to make your way to the dining room. I would rate the food overall 7 out of 10 which I think is pretty good. If you are a picky eater, look closely at the menu and you will find a César salad always available with Salmon or chicken on it or some other dish so look and ask. We purchased the unlimited bar which probably was not worth it $150 euro or $200US each but it did boost the level of the trip. We ordered a bottle of wine off the separate list each evening and had a few cocktails before or after the meal. It was nice not putting yourself in a position of wondering how much it was. On the other hand, if you can eliminate worrying about the cost, then I think you could drink as much as you want for less than the $200 per person. A bottle of wine was about $30. A typical day started with a pretty good breakfast that started at 6 and went to 9AM. You can get a European breakfast of cold cuts and cheese of a Texas breakfast of eggs, bacon, ham, sausage etc. You get the idea. Following breakfast 6 days out of 7 is the tour of the day that is usually included in your booking fee. They do have a couple of side trips like an opera (that only 50% thought was good enough to warrant going). Most tours have a guide who wears a microphone and broadcasts a monologue as they walk. Each room and person is provided a devise to listen (make sure you charge it every night) This works very well. The walks are not that difficult and normally Viking, after the first day, formulates a special tour group for those that do not want to or cannot keep up and they do it gracefully. Given that this was the Christmas Market Trip, we usually had a tour of town and then back to the boat which was almost always close to the market or you could easily walk. Trying to figure out where to spend your time was never a problem. It was a bit cold so we always looked forward to getting back about 4 for happy hour and talk to other guests about their experience. Always about 5 or 6 the tour director would come in and have a presentation about the next day’s trip (always something you want to do) Following was open seating dinner but within a couple of days you started to know people and which ones to sit with and which ones to avoid if you know what I mean. .Not very often did we need to avoid anyone but we did form a little group that sat together each evening so the conversation was not ever strained. Especially with two of the ladies that loved to shop. At one point, one of the ladies had to buy luggage in town just to bring back to the ship what she bought.
Let me summarize my suggestions for booking with Viking. If you can do all of the booking with them, do it however make sure you look at the times and discuss when you need to be off the boat. Consider arriving a day or two ahead to get used to the time change. If you arrange your own air travel or decide to extend your trip without Viking I highly suggest you make your own arrangements. We wanted to go to Munich to meet some friends and booked a Transfer from the ship to the airport. Viking wanted $150 euro each for this but we bought it. We only had one day in Munich so we wanted and early transfer and were told by Viking a number of times that their guests are first and they will take us when they have time. We canceled with a $30 fee each and rented a car for $100 euro and had a wonderful drive. Viking takes care of its own and after that you are better working it out yourself.
Bottom line we would and will take another Viking Cruise but will not leave the travel details to them as it should be. You need to watch out for yourself