4 Out of 5 Stars to Viking River Cruises

I give Viking River Cruises four out of five stars for our Grand European Tour. The only thing that kept me from giving the experience a five-star rating was the unreliable internet access.

Here are the categories of the experience that were important to me:

Value

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.

Educational Opportunities

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.

Staff

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.

Food

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.

Internet Access

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.

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Overall, this was a wonderful trip. I now recommend Viking Cruises whole-heartedly to anyone who will listen to me rave.

Viking River Cruise: Grand European Tour

If you’ve watched Downton Abbey or any other Masterpiece! presentation, you’ve seen the commercials showing Viking’s longships cruising the world’s rivers.

My husband F. and I are setting out on the Viking River Cruises Grand European Tour. We had a 10-hour direct Delta flight from Sea-Tac (Seattle-Tacoma) International Airport to Amsterdam. After a layover of just under two hours in Amsterdam, we caught a one hour and 40 minute flight to Budapest, where we were met by representatives from Viking and taken to our ship, Vidar. We left Sea-Tac in the early afternoon of May 31 and arrived in Europe in the early afternoon of June 1.

Map of Viking River Cruises: Grand European Tour
Viking River Cruises: Grand European Tour

Neither F. nor I was able to sleep at all on the plane, so we were pretty exhausted by the time we arrived on board. Fortunately, our stateroom was ready as soon as we arrived. The ship’s personnel urged us to use our free time until dinner to walk around Budapest on our own, but we opted to take a nap instead. At dinner we discovered that just about everyone we talked to had done the same. We had no trouble falling right back to sleep after dinner.

This morning we had a tour of Budapest. We had a local Hungarian guide, who told us that the Hungarian pronunciation is Budapesht. The city comprises two formerly separate cities, Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube River. Buda is the older city, high on a hill, while the newer Pest is on lower ground across the river.

Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest
Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest
Ceramic tile roof on Matthias Church, Budapest
Ceramic tile roof on Matthias Church, Budapest
Portion of Heroes' Square, Budapest
Portion of Heroes’ Square, Budapest

Hungary is famous for its paprika. The capsicum pepper plant used to make this popular seasoning was introduced to Hungary by the Turks in the 16th century. The spice’s pungency ranges from sweet to very hot. The brighter red the paprika, the hotter the spice. We made sure that the tins we bought to bring home were labeled “mild.”

Peppers used to make paprika
Peppers used to make paprika