For our 5th cruise with Viking (2 river cruises + 2 ocean cruises) we decided to take the 3 weeks trip from Amsterdam to Budapest on Viking Lif.
We absolutely love the ship and we were lucky enough to don’t have any problems with the water levels.
Viking is for sure the best choice if you like river cruises: the level of hospitality, attention to details, organisation and the wide range of options are only couple of reason why Viking is always our first choice.
In Budapest some of the crew change, and this is the main reason why I decided to post this review. Maybe Viking should pay more attention to consistency, especially when you think about the staff on board. After 3 weeks on board Viking LIF and 2 different staff we had the feeling that we travelled with two different companies. And that was more obvious at the level of the “key players” on board. And here are couple of reasons why we had this feeling
From Amsterdam we had Johnny a young Romanian with a lot of passion and dedication for his job. Nothing was to much for him and he was always there to assist passengers and his own colleagues. Always smiling and knowledgeable Johnny was a very pleasant presence for our first two weeks on board. Unfortunately for us in Budapest his place was taken by Joseph who, maybe because he is working in this business for too long (and he didn’t miss the opportunity to remind us every time) he was pretty bored, not at all approachable and quite arrogant. We missed Johnny so much in the last week of our cruise.
For the first two weeks we hand a young Capitan and I must apologise for not remembering his name. The only time when we saw him was late in the evening, in the bar when he was drinking with one of his colleagues or a younger female passenger. We never had the chance to speak with him, which surprise us a lot thinking about our previous experience with Viking. In Budapest an amazing Dutch Skipper, Anna, join the ship and the story was completely different: he was always very polite and ready to answer all our questions. His presentation about the ship with the Cruise Director was very interesting and entertaining at the same time. When we had the chance to visit the bridge for the second time it was a completely different experience than in the previous week as he made us feeling welcome and accommodating all our questions and requests.
Martina was our first restaurant manager and she was very sweet despite the fact that she wasn’t very efficient. She was trying hard but couple of times she confused our diets and she was getting very stressed time to time. But we loved her. In Budapest her place was taken by Christian who was obviously that had more experience than Martina. His manners were at the level of a 5* restaurant, his solving problems abilities were amazing, and he always seemed to be calm and in control. Even if the restaurant was busy he always found time for a little chat.
This was, maybe, the biggest surprise. For the first two weeks we had as a Cruise Director Sonya, a very pleasant girl from Serbia who was trying her best to be in line with our expectations. The only issue was her big personality, her inability to listen and her quite messy organizational skills. Especially in days with a lot of excursions and tours she got very agitated, getting in a very defensive mood with everybody around. We stopped asking her question after couple of abrupt answers! Sonya seemed to know her job but she always gave us the feeling that she just wanted to tick a box and run “behind the scenes” away from passengers and questions. In Budapest Leonard took over…literally took over. His personality, his knowledge, his energy and passion and his ability to be everywhere, anytime with the same smile and willingness to help made up for the entire trip. We never meet such an approachable, kind, genuine and hard-working Cruise Director in any of our cruises, both on the river and on the ocean. We wished to have Leonard for the entire 3 weeks: he created in 7 days memories for an entire lifetime.
Maybe Viking will look for the future in to how different personalities fit the job profile and try to eliminate this differences which can impact the entire experience of a cruise.
For sure we will be back. But can we have Anna, Christian, Johnny and Leonard with us?
Our cabin had a nice balcony and the weather was excellent giving us the chance to enjoy 3 weeks travelling across Europe.