Overall grade: B-
It was a rocky start. Two months before the start of the river cruise, we received in the mail a personalized brochure from Viking, giving us a day-by-day breakdown of the schedule, excursions, ship information, etc. It noted that at the start of the cruise in Basel, the ship could be departing from any of three different locations. Seeing as how there still were two months before the cruise, this wasn’t a huge concern.
About two weeks before we were scheduled to leave, Viking sent us our cruise documents in a digital format. We printed everything, and again the departure information in Basel was the same. I assumed that eventually, Viking would let us know where to find the ship. Bad assumption on my part.
For those cruise customers who are part of Viking’s pre-cruise extension, this is of no concern because you get on a bus at the hotel and it takes you to the ship. However, for those who make their own travel arrangements, you’re on your own. I suspect this probably isn’t a major problem in most cities where ships dock at the same area, but in this case, where there were three choices, it can be an arduous way to start a vacation.
Luckily for my wife and I, there was a Viking desk in the hotel we stayed at the night before the start of the cruise and a Viking rep gave us the departure location. Others didn’t have it so easy. At dinner on our first night aboard, we met a couple who simply hailed a cab and told the driver to go to each of the locations, figuring they’d hit the right one eventually.
So I wasn’t even on board yet and I was ready to give Viking an F.
All in all, things went smoothly.
Excursions: Pretty good, though we had one hiccup on one day when the ship had to go in for repairs after hitting another vessel in a lock two days earlier and sustaining a 4-foot gash in front. Cruisers had two options: stay on the ship while it went for repairs, or take a two-hour tour and then spend four hours on your own until the ship returned. Viking gave everyone a $25 onboard credit for the inconvenience.
Excursions ran on time and were well planned with plenty of buses and organized procedures.
Food: It’s not as good as the chef would have you believe.
He spoke to passengers one night early in the week and said that evening’s special, a filet with a Roquefort sauce, was “amazing.” It was, IMHO, quite average.
He used the same word, “amazing,” one day to describe the potato soup. In Cologne, we had the chance to have lunch in town; we tried the potato soup at a pub and THAT was fabulous – a gazillion times better than what we had onboard.
For dinner on the final evening, the chef recommended a brisket entrée; that turned out to be a horrible choice; mine was undercooked by two hours and not even close to being done correctly.
At the end of the week, there wasn’t anything we had that made us think, “Wish we had a chance to have that again.”
Food grade: C-
Overall service: Mostly good.
Room attendants refreshed the room quickly.
Service in the lounge was inconsistent. The bartender was outstanding; I gave him my room number once on the first day and that was the last time he asked for it. I have no idea how he did that with nearly 190 customers.
Table service in the lounge was spotty. Sometimes there were more servers than customers; at other times, you had to go to the bar to get a drink because there were no servers.
Dining room servers were pleasant.
Room: Nicely appointed, though small. Plenty of storage space, though it’s not possible for more than one person to walk in the cabin unless the other person is in the bathroom or in bed. A French balcony room doesn’t have a balcony; it’s simply a sliding glass door. The shower was as small as I’ve ever experienced.