Here are the categories of the experience that were important to me:
This trip was a great value. Many companies nickel-and-dime you for everything, especially meals. But, except for our days of arrival and departure, our trip cost included three meals a day. Of course we were always free to eat meals on shore, but that was a choice, not a necessity. Beer and wine were also included with meals.
Our additional expenses included goods and services you would have to pay for on just about every tour: liquor and soft drinks consumed outside of meals, laundry, local postage, optional excursions.
In this area, also, our tour was a great overall value. We had a local guide who spoke English on a free guided tour at every location along the way. All the guides we had discussed the history, culture, art, architecture, and language of their region, and they knew a lot. They also pointed out the major local points of interest for tourists so that we could explore them more on our own during our free time. Discussions with our cruisemates revealed that everyone thought their guides did an outstanding job.
There were also many optional excursions available at additional cost, including the Mozart and Strauss evening concert we attended in Vienna. The variety of these optional activities throughout the cruise allowed people to choose aspects that particularly interested them. The prices of these excursions were reasonable, and the guides were as knowledgeable as those on the free city tours.
When we had to travel by bus, the local buses Viking employed were large, air-conditioned, and comfortable. Drivers were helpful with people who needed a hand getting onto or off of the bus.
I cannot say enough good things about how friendly and capable the Viking staff was. The ship’s hotel manager, concierge, program director, and reception desk staff all went out of their way to interact with passengers and to help in any way they could. The dining and housekeeping staffs were also attentive and professional.
Just about everyone working on the ship—at least those who interacted directly with passengers—spoke English. It is arrogant of us Americans to expect everyone to speak our language, but I appreciated their ability to speak English because it allowed me to talk with some of them a bit about their own countries, which included Serbia, Romania, the Philippines, Austria, and Germany.
The food was outstanding. After just a few days on board, passengers were joking about how we all planned the rest of our day around meals. There were several dining options available: open-seating sit-down dining, with both a buffet and menu, in the restaurant on the middle deck; lighter fare in the lounge and the enclosed terrace on the upper deck.
At dinner each evening the restaurant featured dishes that originated in the area we were visiting, such as goulash during our time in Budapest. Open-seating in the dining room allowed us to sit with lots of different people over the course of the trip.
This is the only area that caused me to give the trip an overall rating of four stars instead of five.
I expected not to have an internet connection when the ship was moving, but I also expected the connection to be more reliable than it was when we were docked. Many times my computer (Apple MacBook Air) indicated that it was connected to the on-board wi-fi network, but Apple Mail could not connect to download my email. I had intended to publish a few blog posts during the trip, but I gave up that intention early on when I discovered how unreliable internet service was.
Overall, this was a wonderful trip. I now recommend Viking Cruises whole-heartedly to anyone who will listen to me rave.