This was our first river cruise, and we've already booked another one for 2018. The ship was immaculately clean; the service was impeccable; the crew was brilliant at reading their guests--very friendly when engaged, yet providing unobtrusive and personalized service when we were involved in conversation/activities with other guests.
It was wonderful to unpack once and have the "hotel" travel with us, enabling us to visit many cities without the hassle of hauling our bags, arranging transportation, settling in to new accommodations or getting our bearings each day.
Having shore excursions planned in advance of the trip put us at our leisure, especially because it was all arranged for us and all we needed to do was disembark at the appointed time! The Activities Director gave a "port talk" every evening before dinner, and there was also a "daily news" left in our cabins each evening--both outlining the onboard activities and tours for the next day. Each of these allowed us to take our cruise one day at a time without having to keep track of multi-day schedules.
There were just under 200 guests on our ship, which was just the right number to get to know fellow travelers. The dining room was mostly furnished with oval tables for 6--just the right size for everyone to be engaged in the conversation, and if someone was a bit shy around strangers, they would easily be included in this intimate setting. The food was excellent, as was expected, but the variety provided at every meal, including the option of a lighter meal served on deck, was an added treat. Getting to know other guests during shared meals made it easy to continue conversations on the tours. With up to four choices of excursions each day, it was likely you would already know some of the people in your tour group.
We went on all of the included tours with few exceptions, and they were each excellent. Each guest had a small, remote listening device and earbuds which enabled us to hear the tour guide no matter where we were within the group. It was possible to wander a good distance from the group (photo shots) and still hear the guide. Our only disappointment on the whole trip were two of our all day, optional excursions, and, unfortunately, these were the most expensive of the trip! The day trip to Salzburg was a very long bus ride for a hurried walking tour through the historic district and what was a nice lunch with actors performing songs from The Sound of Music. That's it. Very expensive. Another optional day tour included Waltzing Vienna (not a pleasant experience) and a difficult tour of the Shonbrunn Palace because it was SO crowded--I was envious of other tourists who were maneuvering through the crowds at their own pace following personal audio tours. The Modern Aristocracy day tour was worth the price. I very much enjoyed the Art/Bunker Tour in Nuremberg while my husband said the same of his Nuremberg Trial Tour. Most of the tour guides were engaging and delightfully entertaining. There was an opportunity to rate each guide, and I'm sorry I didn't do this on a daily basis to ensure the truly excellent guides would continue to be engaged by Viking. By the end of the cruise, I remembered the guide, but without the guide's name or matching it with the city, my review was worthless.
The onboard activities were well planned. During the cruise of the castle district, the activities director provided intermittent commentary on the top deck which added interest to this relaxing afternoon of cruising with cocktails. The glassblower was both informative and entertaining. There was music and dancing and other fun in the lounge every evening after dinner. On demand movies in the cabin provided entertainment for quiet, down time.
I think these cruises are most enjoyable for a couple/two people. We met two groups of 2 couples who were traveling together. They didn't interact much with the other guests, and when we joined one of these groups for dinner, it was obvious they'd known each other for so long that they had no new conversation. I couldn't help wondering if they would have had more fun if they'd been traveling alone. We also met sisters from North Carolina and sisters from Australia who clearly were having a great time, and I know I would enjoy one of these cruises with my sister, as well.
The cabin was small, which is expected on all ships, but it was artfully designed to maximize space. We did enjoy our little balcony which provided a great view of the passing scenery, and it was nice to be able to open the door for fresh air. We spent very little time in our cabin, though, because we were too busy enjoying the cruise, tours, fellow travelers, and planned activities