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jeremybe

Viking General Question/Observation

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I just returned from a 7 day Rhine cruise on Viking- I'm 49 so obviously on the much lower end of the age scale - To put it mildly I was very underwhelmed with Viking - Not bashing here at all, but speaking to the other passengers around my age (all 6 of them) the observations were generally the same.  While I had a terrific time I felt there were many things that could have been done much better, especially for the price they charge.  I've been on 30+ cruises including higher end lines like Azamara and Windstar along with the typical Celebrity, RCCL, NCL etc.

 

The positives:

  1. Phenomenal crew - They really go out of their way for you
  2. Great destinations and excursions - I have never had such great tour guides in my life
  3. Incredibly relaxing - Basically read a book , play a game - There isn't much else to do
  4. Food quality is good - Not great but good 
  5. Heated floor in the bathroom - Nice touch

 

What I see as negatives:

  1. Luxury - Viking is in no way luxurious - I'd say its more like being "comfortable at home" - You are not pampered - The cabins look straight our of IKEA
  2. See above - The beds are hard as a rock - No plush Duvets, no flowers in room - Nothing really special
  3. Food - Aside from the set schedule for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner if you want a snack you can have a cookie - Thats it - After 8:30 there is nothing at all - Want some cheese with your late night drink- Forget it - Want to eat after dinner has formally ended by 8:30 or so - Forget it  - We wound up buying snacks in port and bringing them on board
  4. Coffee - They call that coffee???
  5. Staff - Not enough of them - They work really hard but plates/cups were always around - Things were dirty
  6. The outdoor tables/chairs - On an Ocean cruise ship tables are dried off after rain - On this ship everything stayed soaked until you dried it with whatever napkins you could find
  7. Bikes - There aren't any - Viking claims they have no space for them - Thats a lie - We saw many other ships with a handful of bikes that were kept on the top deck

 

I'm very mixed - I had a great time but see so many things lacking for this price - Maybe I'm not a river cruiser? Or did I choose the wrong line? 

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Interesting to get your feedback. We've all got different tastes, Viking is not to yours, no problem there's plenty of competition.

 

My view is different.

1) I have spent time  in self catering apartments 100% furnished by IKEA and I didn't make that comparison  with Viking.

2) I spent very little time in the cabin and it gave me all I wanted. I found the beds very comfortable and enjoyed a good nights sound sleep. I didn't miss or want flowers.

3) There was so much food available at meal times I couldn't envisage having a snack, I've never had one of their cookies, and I refuse the canapes offered on the various functions they have.

4) I drink my coffee black with no sugar. It was fine for me and a zillion times better than Starbucks.

5) I haven't encountered that

6) Not noticed

7) There are cruises that advertise bikes. Not something I want or would use.

 

I certainly wouldn't want to pay extra for flowers in a room I'm barely in, or bikes...

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I think Viking winds up being a common first timer experience, certainly for those of us in the US - they advertise quite heavily here. When we decided to take our April 2019 cruise in February 2018, we didn't do much comparison shopping. In the time since, I've been surprised at how many cruise lines operate along European rivers. 

 

I don't think any of @jeremybe's cons are necessarily out of line - but despite (or perhaps because of) the heavy advertising by Viking, I never expected them on my cruise. That is, Viking is pretty clear about what they offer and that does not include true open dining or bikes, etc. 

 

There are other river cruise lines that have multiple dining options, fewer passengers per ship, bikes, butler service, etc. - but you're going to pay more for them than what you did on Viking and you may find fewer sailings to pick from. For example, you could leave on May 20, 2020 from Amsterdam to Basel on Scenic and pay $4200 for the cheapest room - or depart on Viking and pay $3500. It's not the best comparison since Scenic includes airfare; there's also a sale price for Viking that brings it down to $3000 (not including airfare). Still, if you want some of those extras as noted above, they are out there. 

 

An old co-worker of mine is a big fan of ocean cruising. She was shocked at the price we paid for our river cruise compared to what she typically pays for her family of 4. But that's just it - ocean and river cruising are very different and it's difficult to compare the two. I think Viking delivers quite a bit for the cost when compared to other river cruise lines. 

 

Comfortable is a good word to describe the trip - and not anything I would think of as a negative. It was very easy for us to completely unplug from our lives and enjoy the experience. I didn't love the rigid dining times but I knew that going into it. Same with some of the bus rides from a dock into town - not great, but I knew what to expect. The current payment requirements are absurd but I still wouldn't think twice about taking another Viking cruise if/when the right opportunity presents itself. 

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My wife and I will be on our very first European River Cruise next month aboard Viking and I sure hope we have a somewhat more positive experience onboard the ship.  I do appreciate your comments, both pro and con.  We have been on a Viking Ocean Cruise and it was spectacular, but our expectations for the Viking River Cruise are not the same.

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Posted (edited)

Although I have never sailed with Viking, I would say you chose the wrong cruise line.  No river cruise is as affordable as an ocean cruise, mainly on the basis that the passenger number is that much smaller.  They don't have much evening entertainment as they are set up to have passengers out and touring around both morning and afternoon, and usually by the time dinner is finished, most passengers just prefer to have a quiet drink and talk while listening to the musician or going back to their cabins to get caught up on e-mail, and prepare for the next day.

 

Luxury is very much a personal taste, and I would much rather be comfortable than in somewhere so fancy that you feel like in a museum.  I believe there are some lines that will have food available more often (thinking Crystal, but not sure), I know some have afternoon "tea" and also late night snacks.  Coffee is also a personal thing, like pontac, I also drink mine black, and I prefer the more European type we got on board our Avalon ship to that we get here.  As for bikes, a number or lines do carry them, some even now have special tours set up where they bring in extra bikes so you can drive along the rivers. 

 

Maybe next time you consider a cruise you should look at other lines out there and do lots of research to see what suits you better.  I know when I was looking into our first cruise,  I had lots of questions I asked here, and did a lot of YouTube viewing and looking at the ships online to see what would suit us best.  I hope you give it another shot, it's a great way to see places you wouldn't normally see unless you do your own touring....and as you said, the guides you get are (usually) fantastic!

Edited by Daisi

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35 minutes ago, slewis7 said:

My wife and I will be on our very first European River Cruise next month aboard Viking and I sure hope we have a somewhat more positive experience onboard the ship.  I do appreciate your comments, both pro and con.  We have been on a Viking Ocean Cruise and it was spectacular, but our expectations for the Viking River Cruise are not the same.

 

I wouldn't say I had a negative experience - On the contrary I really did enjoy it - Its just not what I had expected 

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35 minutes ago, Daisi said:

Although I have never sailed with Viking, I would say you chose the wrong cruise line.  No river cruise is as affordable as an ocean cruise, mainly on the basis that the passenger number is that much smaller.  They don't have much evening entertainment as they are set up to have passengers out and touring around both morning and afternoon, and usually by the time dinner is finished, most passengers just prefer to have a quiet drink and talk while listening to the musician or going back to their cabins to get caught up on e-mail, and prepare for the next day.

 

Luxury is very much a personal taste, and I would much rather be comfortable than in somewhere so fancy that you feel like in a museum.  I believe there are some lines that will have food available more often (thinking Crystal, but not sure), I know some have afternoon "tea" and also late night snacks.  Coffee is also a personal thing, like pontac, I also drink mine black, and I prefer the more European type we got on board our Avalon ship to that we get here.  As for bikes, a number or lines do carry them, some even now have special tours set up where they bring in extra bikes so you can drive along the rivers. 

 

Maybe next time you consider a cruise you should look at other lines out there and do lots of research to see what suits you better.  I know when I was looking into our first cruise,  I had lots of questions I asked here, and did a lot of YouTube viewing and looking at the ships online to see what would suit us best.  I hope you give it another shot, it's a great way to see places you wouldn't normally see unless you do your own touring....and as you said, the guides you get are (usually) fantastic!

 

I agree with you on all points here - I had done lots of research  - We had actually booked an alternate line - Viking was not our first choice - Due to circumstances out of our control we wound up rebooked on Viking -  Regarding the coffee - I prefer mine Black as well - The machine on Viking is horrible - The Bar area had an espresso machine hidden away - Once I discovered it on the 5th day I could at least get a decent cup- But the standard coffee offered is some of the worst I have ever had - Couldn't wait to get off and find a cafe

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Posted (edited)

I’m pretty sure you answered your own question. We were lucky enough to choose one that suited us first off and it wasn’t Viking. It will cost you but try try try again, horses for courses. Enjoy choosing. CA

Edited by Canal archive
Clarity

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I agree you chose the wrong cruise line for a river cruise. We did two Viking River cruises - China and Russia, but those are different animals than the longship cruises in Europe. For our two European river cruises - Tulip Time and the Danube we chose AMA Waterways and Avalon. The main reason were the fitness rooms on those lines, as well as bikes and biking excursions. Granted the fitness rooms were small, but they served the purpose. I have asked Viking about why they did not include a fitness room or have bike tours and their answer was "that is not the demographic we are marketing too". So Viking tends to trend upwards in the age demographic. This was also a personal observation on our cruises. We just completed a Viking Ocean cruise and the Nordic spa and fitness center is the most impressive we've ever seen - on sea or land. We have already booked a second ocean cruise with Viking! 

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42 minutes ago, NanciEA said:

 I have asked Viking about why they did not include a fitness room or have bike tours and their answer was "that is not the demographic we are marketing too". 

 

So older people don't exercise?  What a stupid answer to your question.  

 

Roz

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I appreciate this post although it is a little late for us.  We take our first Viking river cruise in 50 days.  Before we booked, we were seriously considering booking a second  Mediterranean cruise on HAL.  Then we got a Viking brochure in the mail with pricing we had never seen before for one of our bucket list cruises - the Grand European.  I did a ton of research comparing ocean to river cruises and we felt we could accept those differences but I have to say I never really considered comparing the river cruise lines.  I guess we watch too much Masterpiece Mystery on PBS and have seen too many ads.   I was not really aware there were so many options. 

 

That said, I a still happy with our choice.  Bikes would have been nice but we have located a few possibilities for rentals along the way.   We plan to buy local snacks and wines in Amsterdam to fill the fridge for those times food is not offered.   We rarely use exercise rooms on cruises as we focus on walking when traveling.  We will miss a hot tub though.  

 

So I don't consider this post "Viking bashing" as much as useful information to those who are trying to decide among options and to be aware that there are other river cruise lines - they just don't advertise as much on American  TV.   Thanks to the OP

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I go to a gym regularly at home but don’t miss it on a river cruise. We seem to walk at least 5 and sometimes more than 8 miles daily. 

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I appreciate the thoughtful review.  I am not a Viking cheerleader by any means but I think you were under a major misconception.  Among river  cruise lines, Viking is not considered luxury.  It’s a premium line but it doesn’t offer the amenities of a true luxury line Uniworld, Crystal or Scenic. The longships carry about 40 passengers more.  Hence the lower price point. Many of the Con’s you pointed out...limited meal times and offerings, bikes etc would have been included on a luxury line and shouldn’t be a negative for Viking as its not promised.  By all means critique the food quality and the beds...food ranged from average to very good and our beds were lumpy. 

 

We did a Viking River cruise and decided, like you, that we would like a higher end experience.  But for the price point, Viking offers a good option for river cruisers. 

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Same demographic as the original poster, and have the same 'as a whole it was a good trip but..' feeling about our cruise. 

 

1) I'll disagree on the IKEA vibe. (Part of our self-booked pre-cruise trip involved Motel One- now that's a hotel chain that takes it's cues from IKEA)  I'd call it more Scandinavian modern, and as someone who hates overly fussy decor, I like the cabin style and hoe they made good use of the space

 

2) Agree with you on the beds.  Of the four different places we stayed on our trip, the Viking bed provided the worst sleep quality.

 

3) We did our research about food and drink onboard and hit a grocery store for about 60 CHF of snacks and soft drinks on the way to the ship, and it worked out well. 

 

4) I thought the coffee was, call it adequate. Not as good as you could get in port, but it worked well enough as a caffeine delivery device.

 

5) Breakfast drove me nuts- slow to clear breakfast plates and replace coffee service at breakfast so if you weren't there right when breakfast service opened, you had to kind of hunt down the least awful table option. I'm not a big breakfast person and would rather sleep an extra half hour and then do a quick meal of some coffee and croissants and they made this harder than it should have been. 

 

6) we didn't really get rain, so can't compare in that regard, but the only time I seemed to see staff on the top deck was when they were having a smoke in their small off duty patio in the back

 

7) now that you mention this, bikes would have been nice, especially in those ports when we didn't want to do the bus tour. 

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7 hours ago, badtwin said:

 

So I don't consider this post "Viking bashing" as much as useful information to those who are trying to decide among options and to be aware that there are other river cruise lines - they just don't advertise as much on American  TV.   Thanks to the OP

 

Whenever I mention that we are going on another river cruise, everyone assumes it's Viking.  Our first three river cruises were with Uniworld and very few people ever heard of Uniworld.  Uniworld has an excellent product but doesn't do TV ads like Viking if any at all.  We just returned last week from our second Viking river cruise this year and had another wonderful time.  I'm sure you will have a great time on the Grand European adventure.  Happy cruising. 😎

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10 hours ago, I like vacation said:

 

Whenever I mention that we are going on another river cruise, everyone assumes it's Viking.  Our first three river cruises were with Uniworld and very few people ever heard of Uniworld.  Uniworld has an excellent product but doesn't do TV ads like Viking if any at all.  We just returned last week from our second Viking river cruise this year and had another wonderful time.  I'm sure you will have a great time on the Grand European adventure.  Happy cruising. 😎

 

I've had the same experience.  When I mention to people I've been on a river cruise, they assume it was Viking.  In fact, some people think they're the only river cruise line.  I recently suggested Uniworld or AMA to a couple for their first river cruise.  They ended up booking Viking, because the wife was afraid Uniworld and AMA were "fly by night" because she had never heard of them.  Knowing this couple, I don't know that Viking is going to be a good fit for them.  We'll see.  That's where Cruise Critic is so valuable, IMO.  I've explored lines I normally wouldn't have had I not read about other's experiences in this forum.

 

Roz

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Posted (edited)

Wish Viking had bikes, but don't know when I'd find the time to use them but I would like the option.

Taste is subjective but the only meal where I found Uniworld decidedly superior was lunch.  It was epic. I confess that on Viking I just do the Aquavit buffet for lunch but U restaurant lunch beats V restaurant lunch.
Never snack and especially on cruises I'm so full that I have no interest in snack availability, even on ocean.
Greatly prefer V decor. Found U lounge dark vs very light open floor to ceiling V arrangement.
Don't care about included booze.
Still, I would sail again with Uniworld, et. al. anytime depending on itinerary. 

 

Edited by philw1776

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Uniworld (French rococo) and Viking (Scandinavian minimalist) are at opposite ends of the decor spectrum among river cruise lines.  Everybody else aims for the classy middle ground.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Roz said:

 

I've had the same experience.  When I mention to people I've been on a river cruise, they assume it was Viking.  In fact, some people think they're the only river cruise line.  I recently suggested Uniworld or AMA to a couple for their first river cruise.  They ended up booking Viking, because the wife was afraid Uniworld and AMA were "fly by night" because she had never heard of them.  Knowing this couple, I don't know that Viking is going to be a good fit for them.  We'll see.  That's where Cruise Critic is so valuable, IMO.  I've explored lines I normally wouldn't have had I not read about other's experiences in this forum.

 

Roz

Same here. I recommended Crystal (which was around the same price) to friends. My friends were looking into it but their friends thought "Viking was best" and they booked Viking (traveling with friends).

 

When I told people I was going on a river cruise - they all said "Viking?"....

Edited by Coral

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We did our one and only river cruise with Viking five years ago.    At the time, Viking had the most visibility and other river boat lines were somewhat unknown.  I didn’t care for the river boat regimentation as compared to ocean cruises. Viking had set dining times and everyone went on excursions at the same time.  

We picked up a last minute pricing deal that included a nice air itinerary and well organized  transfers. 

 

The biggest weakness was food, limited choices and very small portions at dinner.  We didn’t have to worry about weight gain. The always available menu included chicken and a cheap steak, both had a freezer to microwave consistency.  But one night they had a superb German buffet with the best roast beef I’ve ever eaten.  

Lunch was soup, pasta, salad every day.   A chef made the pasta to order. Quality was decent.  They also had a handful of menu items. 

Breakfast buffet was decent. 

A few evenings they served a late night dessert or soup but otherwise no food options after dinner.  The previously mentioned cookies were quickly snatched up.  They usually had apples out.

For lunch, on a couple days they had tasty burgers or shish kabob at the Aquavit Terrace.  

 

Tours were generally excellent, quite varied in content.  Nothing cheap about the included tours offered.  We upgraded a couple and went to a memorable concert in Vienna. Local entertainers and lecturers came onboard a few times. 

 

Service was adequate. 

 

There are are too many passengers on board for the size of the ship, 190.  They brought in folding chairs for the evening meetings or lectures.   Seating on the sun deck was not comfortable, cheap mesh and metal loungers. 

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2 hours ago, sammiedawg said:

We did our one and only river cruise with Viking five years ago.    At the time, Viking had the most visibility and other river boat lines were somewhat unknown.  I didn’t care for the river boat regimentation as compared to ocean cruises. Viking had set dining times and everyone went on excursions at the same time.  

We picked up a last minute pricing deal that included a nice air itinerary and well organized  transfers. 

 

I think you have widened your horizons.

 

To most, Viking still has the most visibility and most can't name another line.

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Sammiedawg wrote- "There are are too many passengers on board for the size of the ship, 190.  They brought in folding chairs for the evening meetings or lectures."

 

That really is amazing to me, and I know you are correct.  We tried sitting forward of the lounge and have the CD turn on the sound up in the Aquavit lounge, and he wasn't able to make it happen.  Especially in July, way too many people for that room, and we were just looking for some space.

 

Regarding bikes, I did get a chance to ride twice on our last Vantage cruise, and it was really enjoyable.  On their 14 day Rhine/Moselle sailing they have a free day, docked in historic Schweich, having a bike made it easy to return to Trier and explore. 

 

  

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On 8/11/2019 at 12:23 AM, sammiedawg said:

There are are too many passengers on board for the size of the ship, 190.  They brought in folding chairs for the evening meetings or lectures.

 

We don't go to the nightly ' port talk' any more; everything necessary is in the Viking Daily paper that's put on ones bed during dinner. But we  do tune the TV in our cabin to the 'Lounge Cam' so we can listen to the chat while we are getting ready for dinner.

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part of the issue is that given the money spent on a river cruise (compared to ocean) there is an expectation of very high standards on board.  Like all ocean cruise lines, there are big differences in what the experience is on a river and if you will like it.  It is almost impossible to know that beforehand unless you know someone who has taken a cruise and knows your tastes

 

There are people I know that love NCL - wouldn't be my cup of tea.  Obviously, many people like and sail on Viking

 

Viking does a great job advertising in the USA and you wouldn't even know there was another choice.  We went on Crystal last year (and another this Xmas) and loved it.  Fit our style, food was great, great staff.  Crystal had roughly half the passenger count on the same size ship.  Viking was considered, but after all was added in, Crystal was within the price range and just looked better

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