We sailed the Passage to Eastern Europe with the added pre-extension in Prague. Overall Viking is very organized in terms of transporting you from place to place. Starting at the airport, there was a Viking Rep waiting for us. We were kept waiting for another couple, who never showed, for an hour and a half. Here’s where some common sense should’ve kicked in. Maybe wait a half hour and then take us to the hotel. We were exhausted from a long flight and wanted to rest at the hotel.
We were booked at the Corinthia, which is a wonderful hotel The room was a good size and very clean. They have three good restaurants and a lounge for late-night coffee or drinks. Breakfast was included and very good. They have a Viking Desk at the hotel which is convenient. They had signed us up for the city tour, which we opted out of, so they arranged transportation for us to join the food tour which we had signed up for. The tour was good with three restaurants and several dishes to try. Very little walking.
We also did the Prague by Night tour which drove us through the city at night with some beautiful stops for amazing views of the city. They also had a complimentary shuttle to the Old Town from the hotel, which we took advantage of to explore on our own.
To get to Budapest was an 8-hour or so bus ride. We stopped a couple of times for bathroom breaks and lunch. It was essentially a lost day. We stayed at the Hilton in the castle district, which is absolutely stunning. Check-in was less smooth with everyone crowding the desk to get a room key. At this point I had pulled a muscle in my calf and was unable to go on one of the tours. Beware: Once Viking has your money, YOU WILL NOT get it back. We were told no refund unless we paid $130 Euros for a doctor’s note. We were looking to get back $180 US. Having traveled several cruise lines, Viking is the only one who wouldn’t refund our money for missing an excursion. We paid $20K for the trip and they have lost a customer forever. I hope the $180 was worth it. Awful service.
Budapest is stunningly gorgeous. We went on a few of the tours, which were part bus, part walking tours. After two nights, Viking takes you on a day tour and then finally to the ship. Getting on board is relatively easy as you just check-in at the front desk and relinquish your passport. They had a light lunch waiting for us and shortly after 3:00 we entered our cabin.
The ship was in good shape, clean, and inviting. It’s color palette is blonde wood with beige furniture and accessories. Because it’s a river boat, the spaces are smaller and fewer. The largest spaces are the lounge, dining room, and top deck. We never had any issues finding a table or seating for lounging. At night there is a pianist/singer in the lounge. That’s about it for entertainment unless they bring in locals for dancing and other activities.
The food is good. Each night they have a tasting menu based on the country you’re docked in. Everything we tried was very tasty. Dining times are rigid for each of the three meals. However, if you do miss a meal, the staff is extremely well trained and accommodating so you can likely get something if you ask.
We traveled through Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Most of the tours are around 4 hours and some combination of bus and walking. All of the guides talked about the wars and Communism, which was really interesting. We had two full-day tours the last two days. On one of the tours we drove out to Veliko Tărnovo for a bathroom break, coffee, and photo op. Then on to Arbanasi for a walking tour and lunch, and then back to the other village for an “hour+ of free time.” Why not just head back to the ship? Instead we arrived back with less than an hour to spare before dinner. It felt like they just wanted us to spend money in town.
The next day we disembarked, en masse, in 100 degree heat to be driven around all day and kept away from the hotel until after 4:00. There were no other options but to be forced on to this tour to get us off the boat. So, it says 11 days, but you’re only on the boat for 7. This means some of your meals are on you in addition to what you’ve already paid for the cruise.
Overall we saw some beautiful places that have not yet been commercialized. We learned a lot about this part of the world. We met some wonderful people and had some great food. There were a few things that did leave a bad impression, most notably the refusal to refund one of the excursions. We expect more for the high cost of the trip. For our next cruise, we’d select a company who understands that fully accommodating its customers means repeat business. Viking, unfortunately, doesn’t get that part.
The veranda suite is well appointed with a small living area and veranda connected to a larger bedroom and bathroom. We were glad we upgraded to a suite for the extra room. We could spend time in the cabin without being on top of each other. There was plenty of room to store our belongings for the week. The bed was quite comfortable. The bathroom and shower were quite large for a ship. We particularly liked the complimentary laundry services which we used nearly every day. It’s well worth the extra cost, especially for longer trips.