We went on this cruise on the recommendation of close friends (all of us in our early 70's) that we join them. They had thoroughly enjoyed a previous Viking river cruise (Amsterdam to Budapest) and wanted to take another. My husband and I had never taken a cruise, mostly because we were never enticed by the concept of a-week-at sea-with-4000-of-your-closest-friends. Our trip that started in Zurich for two days, then cruised from Basel to Trier and ended with two days in Paris with 180 very interesting people - and we met most of them - was a singular experience. It seemed that no detail was overlooked or left to chance.
My husband is convinced after our trip that Viking has an extraordinary emphasis on a thorough "systems analysis" of everything about cruise vacations, learning from each trip how to improve all aspects from food, to tours, to staff selection and training, to ship design, to baggage handling, and more. It shows, and the result, which we experienced on our trip, was first rate.
Our meals were excellent, although it took several days before we thought to ask for smaller portions and ate less! Wine selections were well paired with entree choices; our chef was exceptional and willing to share recipes. He even treated us to not-on-the-menu very fresh white asparagus one evening because he found it in a local market.
Our program director was ever so effective, and her descriptions each evening of what to expect the next day were thorough and presented with enthusiasm that encouraged us to participate in the tours. And whoever it is who chooses the tour guides in each town is to be commended; they were all humorous, welcoming, and very informative. We learned, and were reminded of, much history of Germany and France.
The evenings in the lounge after dinner were relaxing, and often exposed us to local culture. Just enough entertainment to fuel camaraderie without being over-whelming, And the serving staff members in the dining room were so charming and helpful that we were not at all offended when they gently suggested that perhaps we could (finally) move to the lounge after dinner and let them prepare the dining room for breakfast!
We were exceptionally impressed by the Hild's captain and his senior staff. A remarkable team, and very personable. Another example of Viking cruises' attention to the details that matter.
Not everything was perfect, though nothing detracted from the overall experience. The ship had no exercise equipment, although we walked a great deal that worked off some of the calories. Our hotel in Paris was just okay (we were really spoiled by then), but close to the Eiffel Tower and some great restaurants. And there were several places where we docked (e.g., Strasbourg) and would have liked to have had more information about the immediate area. In Strasbourg, we were docked in a park, Le Jardin des Deux Rives, which was perfect for an after dinner walk but all the historical signs were in German or French. Alas, we only speak English and no one on board knew the history of this interesting spot. Just a brief printed handout would be enough.
Would we take another Viking cruise? We are already signed up for the Viking Homelands ocean cruise next May, and are eagerly awaiting this different kind of experience.
The cabin was very thoughtfully designed, e.g., the protective cover for the bed on which one could place suitcases for unpacking/packing, plenty of hangers, effective mix of drawers and shelves, etc. - and there was plenty of room for everything. (Although we do travel light). Our cabin steward was superb; a very lovely person and exceptionally thorough. Two small issues were handled expeditiously. We heard very little from neighbors on either side (no voices, just an occasional flush!). The veranda was lovely for an early AM coffee and croissant, and for a very close-up look at the walls of locks.