March 2016 - Viking Freya to River Cruises - Europe
We recently took the Viking Romantic Danube cruise – it was the maiden voyage from Nuremburg to Budapest. We were picked up at the airport and delivered to the ship hassle free. I would like to start by warning there were several “issues” they blamed for being the maiden voyage, I would suggest not taking the 1st cruise of the season. There were no issues with the water level this time of year; however, I would have liked to sit more on the sun deck to enjoy the scenery. The temperatures got to the high 50’s – 60’s, but at 9am it was still only in the 30’s – which is too cold to enjoy the sundeck, also very cold for the included morning tours. Most of the trees & foliage were not budded out yet – still seemed like winter. We have taken quite a few ocean cruises so my comparison is based on a larger cruise ship. As far as the Ship - the crew was excellent & the Program Director gave nightly “briefings” for the next day’s tours. However, the WiFi did not work for 2 days; there is a bar, but for non-drinkers there was no place where our group could sit at a table to play card games - as the only entertainment after dinner was piano music. On a few occasions they brought aboard some locals, and had a “game night” that lasted about 45 minutes. The Program Director gave a “narration” while we cruised thru the wine country - this could only be heard on the sundeck, once again too cold to be up there, even in the afternoons. As for the food – even though there are only 200 guests, dinner still took 2+ hours & didn’t start until 7pm. I would like to suggest that they have 2 dinner seating’s. The food is “European style” – meaning my meat was served “very rare”, not to my taste; there seemed to be an issue to get it cooked well done, also not like an ocean cruise ship where you could order several appetizers - this confused our waiter who brought only soup OR salad. Breakfast had a good selection of items (eggs, cereal, fruits & breads); lunch was usually something characteristic to the area we were traveling. My review of our stateroom is below. Lastly the “included tours” – it was very nice to have tours at every port included – but because we did a few “paid” tours we could see the difference in the quality of tour guides. (the optional tour guides were much better). There was never enough “free” time to shop or explore on our own & our biggest complaint was in Vienna, the ship docks 30+ minutes by bus from the old town & center for shopping. Our morning tour took us to old town and back to the ship – there were no shuttles to go back into Vienna in the afternoon, we were on our own by either subway or taxi. Their "suggested" gratuities seemed to be pressured to add when closing our account. The last day we had to get up at 2:45am to get to the airport for our return flight to the US - we had trouble at the airport finding our flight as we were dropped at the door and not informed as what airline we were using. (we booked our flights thru Viking). All in all, it was a very unique cruise in comparison to the large ocean ships – we got to know a lot of the crew and the passengers. I don’t know how to plan the right time for a river cruise as in the warmer months it seems to be an issue with the water levels, this is something we don’t have to be concerned with on an ocean cruise. We also noticed that this type of cruise was adult oriented - definitely not for children. Mostly the retired age.