Just returned from a Viking river Cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam.
This was first river cruise and we must say that we were glad that we booked with Viking. We have done all kinds of big ship cruising which we have thoroughly enjoyed but we have now found a new experience that is even better.
Although the price of a river cruise surpasses the cost of liner cruising it is a totally different experience and worth the difference in price. The biggest difference is that you are experiencing amazing scenery each and every day. There are no "sea days" where you only see water everywhere you look. Even though there are a couple of days(out of 15) where you don't dock, you are always seeing vistas of the lands that you are passing through.
To begin with, the Viking crew was amazing. We sailed on the Skadi and every crew member was pleasant and helpful.
Each and every one of them was pleasant and helpful and it made you feel totally comfortable and safe.
The fact that you are mingling with only appprox 190 guests, makes the experience much more personal. After a few days, you almost know everyone on the ship and interact with them all on a personnel and collegial basis.
The only regret that we had was that we did this trip a bit late in the season. We sailed on Oct 1st and as an afterthought it probably would have been better around the first part of September as the weather was a little cool and wet. However, we got through all that and still managed to enjoy ourselves.
As for the cruise itself, the one nice thing is that Viking provides a tour at each stop which is included in your fees. There are also optional tours that are offered at an extra cost. The Viking provided tours had excellent guides that were very knowledgeable of the cities that we visited.
The food that was presented was both plentiful and delicious and again, the wait staff in the dining room were exceptional.
The ship itself was absolutely immaculate. The staff were continuously cleaning every aspect of the ship, from the hall ways, the open areas, to the top open deck area. We have never seen such attention to cleanliness throughout the ship.
One of the things that impressed us was that every Viking staff member went out of their way to make the cruise enjoyable.
One day stood out in our minds as to how they take care of their passengers. We were on a tour of a city and there was going to be a delay when the ship was available to pick us up(due to backups in the lock system) for about an hour. So, the cruise director arranged for us all 180 of us to go to a pub while we waited. As we arrived, several members of the crew were there to greet us and then we were provided free refreshments while we waited to re-board. A nice touch!
We also tacked on a couple of days in Amsterdam after our cruise and again we experienced the attention that Viking pays to its passengers. To begin with, your bags are brought from your room directly to the transportation that will take you to your post stay hotel. (No looking and claiming your bags in a huge warehouse like a cruise ship). Once we arrived at the hotel, there was a Viking rep to greet us and to answer any questions that we had. They were there every day of our post cruise stay to provide assistance. Then of the final morning, they were then again present to make sure that everyone got off to the airport. Once we arrived at the airport, there was another Viking rep to greet us and make sure that we got to the proper check-in location for our flight home. To say the least, the service was amazing.
Of course, there are pros and cons to each style of cruising. The setbacks to this type of ship is that there are no amenities to enjoy as on the bigger ships such as fitness rooms, saunas, spas, pools. However, these are intended to be more site seeing experiences.
Another nice thing about these ships is that you don't have to go through the screening that you see on the big ships. You don't have to have your bags scanned and you are allowed to bring whatever you want to enjoy on your cruise. In fact, you are allowed to bring local wines on the ship and they will serve them to you without a corkage fee.
In summary, we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and are planning our next one.
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