We have been on 70+ ocean cruises and decided to try a river cruise due to the ports of call and the positive reports we had from friends on their Viking experience. Maybe we didn't do enough homework, but this trip was a total disappointment.
We booked the Explorer Suite for the Passages to Eastern Europe cruise (It was a special occasion). We also booked our business class air with Viking. Viking did an excellent job communicating before and during the trip. We were impressed with their detail and excellent information.
-Transfers: We had private transfers because we were in the Explorer Suite. They were timely and professional.
-Budapest Hotel: There were many people checking in at the same time at the Bucharest Intercontinental. It was quite disorganized. We waited in line for a long time and were finally assigned a room. It was in a bad location and even though we offered to pay an upgrade for a "river view" room, we were told there were none available. The hotel was very nice, in a great location, and the breakfast was the best of any during the entire trip. It was a great beginning and then we boarded to boat.
-Suite: The Explorer Suite was disappointing in that it was so noisy (it sits above the engines) we couldn't leave the windows open and there was terrible vibration whenever the boat was moving. The amenities were nice including having laundry done within a day and very neatly folded and returned. While room service for breakfast was included, there really is no place to eat except to lean over the little table. We knew the rooms are not comparable to ocean liners, but we thought that 445 square feet would make for a comfortable experience. The suite is long and narrow and not very easy to maneuver.... though I know it is quite large in comparison to the regular cabins on Viking Long Ships.
-Food: I don't know if it was because of where we were sailing or the chef, but the food was poor to satisfactory. There was nothing good --not even the local specials. We found the dining room service to be just OK-- nothing special-- nor did they attempt to be accommodating. The bar tenders were great!
Excursions: Our bad... we did not expect to have such long bus trips. Several days included being on the bus from 8:30 am until 7:00 pm. The busses were cramped and not comfortable. The local guides were excellent; the Viking guides were not. Most cities were too far away to go and explore on your own. We should have done better research.
We included the post-cruise extension to Transylvania. We spent almost the entire 3 days on a bus, arriving late in the evening to the hotels.
Enrichment: The local performers and lecturers were mediocre at best.
Fellow Passengers: Maybe this was unusual, but this boat was filled with the most unfriendly people we have experienced. There was little laughter or conversation. People were pushy getting to be first on the bus each day (they wanted a special seat and there was no seat rotation) and people rushed into the dining room to save their favorite table and pushed and shoved. Rarely did anyone even say hello as you passed in the corridor or greet you with a hello or good morning. Very strange.
Poor attention to illness: On day 2 of the cruise many people became ill with a flu/cold virus. People were coughing everywhere and you could see how sick they were. We got the crud on day 3. I was running a fever and literally spent 3 days in bed. Viking did NOTHING to accommodate the ill passengers, even though there were at least 50+ sick passengers. We knew there was no medical center on this little boat, but there wasn't even any cough syrup or cough drops to purchase. One passenger was at the front desk asking for assistance and the answer was, we can arrange to have a taxi take you into the town, but it will be at your own expense. Couldn't they even go to a pharmacy and pick up some cough medicine when the boat and busses were like being in a sanitarium for TB patients? Shame on the Viking crew.
Hotel in Bucharest: The Raddison Blu was a nice "convention type" hotel.
Some will read this review and assume that because we became ill, our trip was spoiled and we were therefore disappointed. I assure you this was not the case. It was not the illness that spoiled the trip, it was the Viking experience. We acknowledge that perhaps we are not meant to take river cruises and perhaps a different itinerary, other than Eastern Europe would be different.