A little background - my DH and myself are 48 and my sister and her DH are 54. We were on the younger end of the age line. There was a few teenagers and 14 was the youngest on board. I was a travel agent in college when we could get 25/day for ocean cruises best cabins available. I have stayed in top cabins and lower $ cabins. I am not a "stay in the cabin" person, so cabins usually matter on the schedule. I was raised by depression parents so I am frugal as I was taught to work hard, save long and spend wisely. So anywhere I can find a savings, I will. Food is not a priority. With 2 daughters in college and most time at home, a meal that I dont have to cook or clean after is a good meal. I went with no great expectations except to have a good time.
I am going to write this as a pros and cons. If you have specific questions let me know as I could write a book. I am a journal writer.
About Viking: some on this board state that Viking is on the low end of river cruise companies. I don't know. I didn't get back on this board until after I booked the cruise and havent had another river cruise to compare. From prices it was about the same as others. As we still work, date and locations were our most important factor choosing a cruise. As many looked the same from first researched and talking to those we knew that went on river cruises before. I can tell you there were 2 couples on board with famous names. One in fiance and one an author. So Viking can't be that low-end.
Pros- we were in cabins 111 and 110. From the schedule I didn't think we would be in our cabin very often. My sister stated to think we should upgrade as she didn't want to be in the bottom of the boat. I called but they were sold-out and we went with it. I am glad we didn't change. It was fine. I laughed as we looked out our water-level window for the first time stating that I am going to wake up with a swan looking in my window. The first morning I woke up, opened the blinds and there were many swans looking in my window. It made my morning. We were only in our cabins to sleep and change for dinner. There are plenty of 110 outlets so you do not need a converter. There is a refrig in the cabin and a fresh bottle of water each morning. It had plenty of room for our 3 full size suitcases. We did have to ask for more hangers as there were only 8. We got them immediately.
The staff made the trip - they had wonderful attitudes, friendly and we wanted for nothing (except once as I will write in my cons). Alvin was our shopper expert. He would tell us at breakfast or dinner the night before a stop where to shop. We always sat at his tables when possible to get the scoop. Cristi never let my wine glass at dinner go empty, or beer at lunch. Aurel had the funniest personality on board. He was a joker and very hard worker. He was all over the boat making sure you didn't need anything. If you see him make sure you compliment his grandmother on her cookies. According to him, his grandmother keeps the herb garden, bakes the cookies and anything else he can think of at the time.
The ports - we enjoyed all the stops. The only tour we didn't enjoy was the Marksburg castle. We only saw the courtyard and there were tons of groups there so we couldn't even walk around good. Most of the guides were college students. Our guide was a math major, another group had a history major. We switched our radios to his channel as he gave much better information. Remember that you can turn you channel to another guide if you do not like yours. We leave at the same time so you wouldn't miss anything.
That is the only time we didn't like our tours or guides. We enjoyed all the complimentary tours that are in the morning. Usually 9-12ish. The optional tours are in the afternoon after lunch. We didn't use any optional tours as we usually wanted to see the towns and have a beer in the sidewalk cafes. We would have loved more time in Strasbourg as we loved this city. We stayed in town after the tour and had lunch there, and took the last shuttle back to the boat. There is a great liquor store off the dock in Kiel (where you dock). Just go behind the water feature and after the steps. The only line of shops by the steps. A little women runs it and even took us to the back room to help us get different biers for the trip. She told us about the local liquors and let us try all of them. Good thing the ship was near.
We took the hike through the Black Forest and that was beautiful. Walk far enough to see the water fall. If you are not able to walk distances, please do not try to be in the lead. The only problem with this hike was that they told us it is a hard hike as you have to go up hills and over rocks. It wasn't horrible, but we had a couple that used canes everyday and they were in front. Most of the hike is single lane so we had to wait and this took many of us from hiking as far with the time restraint.
Sun deck could have been more fun. The weather was perfect. We didn't have one day of rain. I only used my windbreaker one time in the early morning. In the evening we would sit up there with many others and played cards or talk. (We brought the cards) Once we asked if they would bring the lounge snacks upstairs. The waiter stated no that they had to stay in the lounge. So we walked off the boat in Cologne, walked about 1/2block to the first kiosk and bought beer, peanuts, pretzels, cookies, etc. Walked back and continues with our new friends. If they were smart, and we wrote this on our survey, they would provide snacks on the top as they lost a lot of beer sales that evening. We probably asked the wrong person also as some of the staff is brand new with the ship and still on probation. This is the only time they denied a request we had. We also needed music on top. We used our IPODS and had many couples come upstairs and made it our own lounge. Let me tell you Aussies are fun people! They know how to have a good time. Find the Aussies and you will not be in your cabin in the evenings. Might have a hard time getting up in the morning. AROSA boat was tied to us (the only time a boat was tied to us and they had to walk across our boat to deport) They had music on their top deck and we were singing and dancing to their music that night. We enjoyed their company and we talked with them, and exchanged opinions of the trip. They thought it was about the same as our trip.
Lounge entertainment - most were in their cabins by 930p. We stayed up (with the Aussies), and about 7 other couples so maybe 30-40 people and turned the lounge into a karaoke bar. The boat is set up perfect for low noise. All staterooms are on one-side, and gathering rooms are on the other. We didn't keep anyone up but we had to make our own entertainment. And it wasn't an age thing. We had an 86 year young couple with us each night. They also thought the entertainment lacked youth as they stated. By the way, this was that finance person that you would know. They were a hoot and knew how to have a good time.
The passengers that were critics the entire time- we heard many that seem to complain about everything. Why are you on vacation? You are making yourself not have a good time and the rest of us really don't want to hear you. If you think it makes you seem more important, it doesn't. They seemed to want to find the crowd to do the most complaining. We didn't care that your beer wasn't cold enough, or cheese wasn't melted enough, or the wi-fi wasn't fast enough.
Dress - because it was so hot in the day, many didn't not care to dress in long sleeves in the evening. Most wore shorts, short skirts in day and long pants and polos in the evening. There were some in shorts in the dining room as many came from walking in port to dinner. All were dressed nice and no one seemed to judge. We were enjoying each others company then worrying about what others were wearing. The dining room had tables for 6. Plenty of room as some would eat in the towns. We had a window table most nights even though we were never waiting for the doors to open, and there was 4 of us. You can sit where you want. We find a waiter we loved and always tried to sit at his tables. The captains dinner was the one evening that everyone was dressed but not formal. More like long-sleeved shirts, and dresses. Remember it was still hot at 7p so there were only a handful of jackets and ties.
Food - food is food and I can get a great meal even in Tulsa. My opinion of the food is probably not very helpful as I stated earlier, if I am not cooking it or cleaning it, its a good meal. The choices were okay. I am not a seafood eater so that limited my choice. They had a different fish every night. The sirloin that they offer everyday was so tender. It was one of the best steaks I have had. The soups were good. Breakfast did include the same thing for the most part, but there was enough variety that I had a different breakfast each morning. I am not a big breakfast eater anyway. The french toast was very good. They made omelets to order, lots of breads, oatmeal, cereals, fruit, yogurt, sausages, potatoes, eggs, and some order items. I usually did the buffet except the french toast which was an order item. The potatoes were great. Lunch is lunch. They usually had a sandwich choice, one day they had hamburgers, it was a menu that you could chose from. Just remember it is not USA so their grilled cheese may not be your grilled cheese. Don't complain, just try it. It was very good as all their cheese selection was very good. I did fall in love with the cheeses on this trip.
The captain is 25, yes 25. Very friendly, cute, and answered any questions you had. You must be up deck when you go through a lock. From Basel your first lock will be in the dinning room your first night. It is a bit of surprising as everything starts turning dark outside. But after dinner you go through another lock and it is amazing to see. After you just a little wet from the lock gate as you go under but it was fun and everyone laughed and the crew got a good laugh also. It is just drops nothing major.
Internet - is slow. some ports you get a fast connection and some you do not. Sometimes you get internet in your room, sometimes you do not. If you are going for the internet, stay in the third level. This level is where the public computers are located. Someone complained that there were only 2 public computers. They stated in the opening briefing that they had laptops to borrow if anyone wanted one from the reception desk. My Ipad and Iphone worked enough to keep up with emails, facebook and Imessage. I don't go on vacation to worry about the internet so I am probably no help here either. When it is time to print your boarding passes to go home have the concierge desk do this for you.
Boarding and Deboarding-
You can board around noon. We boarded at 1245p. My sisters room was ready and they took their luggage immediately to the room. They radioed for my room to be next and took our luggage. We went upstairs to the buffet for lunch. We were served drinks with everyone else still on board. We went up to the Sun desk to watch people board after lunch. We met quite a few that were done with the trip and waiting to leave. The couple from Norway didn't have a transfer to the airport until 330p. So leaving if not a rush if you want to stay. When we went down to our room, the luggage was in there and it was ready. It was about 2p.
Disembarking is about as easy. They ask for you to be out of your room by 9ish so they can start cleaning rooms. They give you tags for your luggage and ask for them to be outside your door an hour before you depart. Not the night before! They will arrange a taxi for you and our taxi was waiting right on time. We did not purchase transfers through Viking. We did have to carry our own luggage off the boat as it was the Program Director that was moving the bags in the morning and they had a 545 transfer bus taking a bunch to the airport (purchased transferred). Cristi saw us and took our bags for us. I am not sure where the miscommunication happened that there were not crew to help but that was the only hiccup we saw. I hope that got fixed right away. They really need luggage carts as there has to be a better way then taking 2 bags at a time.
Leave your Ocean cruise experience behind. Some said on CC that they would not like the long boats has it had to many people. There was plenty of crew to passenger ratio. I met so many wonderful people and we knew almost everyone by time the trip was over. We have places to stay in the UK, parts of US and Australia anytime we want. These as well as the beautiful places we saw are the memories I wanted to take back with me.
Would I go back on another Viking, sure. Would I try another line, sure. Would I do another river cruise, yes!
(if there are grammar or spelling errors, I apologize now. Still a little jet lagged)