This is the first river cruise we have ever experienced - a bit of a risk since it was to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We neither of us liked the prospect of an ocean cruise and thought this might be a good alternative. We set off with no clear expectations.
We need not have worried. Our programme director, Kieran, was excellent. Very funny, knowledgeable and customer oriented. The Viking Beyla is a lovely ship with a truly wonderful, hardworking and dedicated crew, and our excursions were very enjoyable with some first class guides. The ship is small and so, of course, was our stateroom but there was a place for everything and it was very comfortable.
Food on the ship was plentiful and of high quality. The ship is well appointed with many quiet corners if you are in need of some peace. The entire crew was first rate and nothing was too much trouble for them. They worked tirelessly to ensure an excellent experience.
Our only disappointment was the trip to Meissen. Due to our dates, we were there on a Sunday so after the trip to the porcelain factory there was nothing to do in Meissen itself if you did not want to do the guided tour as the shops were all closed It's a very small town so there is little to see and it was raining - hey ho!
Given the size of the ship, there was no gym, fitness area or spa so we have only listed this element as average. The sundeck did have a little games area - quoits perhaps and one other. There were plenty of seats and umbrellas to accommodate all on board. There was a very small library opposite the reception area.
Embarkation and disembarkation were smooth and faultless.
Given the very hot weather in Europe, the Elbe was very low and we were therefore unable to embark from the intended first point and had to coach to Ban Schandau - a bit of a long journey from Prague but otherwise fine. The Captain used his knowledge of the river and contacts along the way to 'have a wave sent down to us from Decin' - yes, you read that correctly! The wave duly arrived which gave the Elbe enough depth to enable the rest of our journey.
The hotels used in Prague and Berlin were the Hilton. They are rated 5*. The one in Prague was fine but we were disappointed in the Berlin Hilton. Whilst its location is excellent - right on the Gendarmemarkt and therefore an easy walk to Check Point Charlie, the Branderburg Gate and other sites - we found some of the staff quite arrogant and they charged for bottle water in the room (that did not happen in Prague). Apparently, charging for water is the norm in German hotels but this is an international chain and their standards should be the same, whatever the country. We felt the Hiltons are not to the standard they once were.
So, in sum, this was a highly memorable holiday and we would certainly recommend Viking.
Our stateroom was small unsurprisingly since the Beyla is a small ship. However, it was very comfortably appointed, there was a place for everything and the shower room, again small, was absolutely fit for purpose. The bed was large and comfortable. We never used the TV but it was large flatscreen LG so no doubt of good quality.
We had bottled water on tap (yes, this is a joke), it did come in bottles, and there was a small fridge if you wanted to access that. There were plenty of sockets. We did not have a verandah which is an extra cost and to be frank, we felt it unnecessary. We had floor to ceiling windows one of which opened fully so we could enjoy the scenery and the fresh air. It's all you need.