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Advice About a Viking Cruise?
Old 04-26-2013, 09:27 AM   #1
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Advice About a Viking Cruise?

Five colleagues and I hope to take the Viking cruise "Danube Waltz" in July, 2014. We will be travelling from Budapest to Passau, Germany, followed by a 3-day extension in Prague. Though I plan to read up on these places, has anyone here taken a similar trip? Do you have some good advice, recommendations of sites to see (or affordable places to eat in Prague, where lunches and dinners will not be provided)?

And re. the cruise itself, do you have any advice for a first-time "river-cruiser"? For most trips, I pack very light (a la Rick Steves, with just one carry-on bag stowed in the overhead bin, to avoid any lost luggage). Will I really need a better wardrobe than that? Will I be required to dress up, or can I get by with the usual "business casual" attire of the lightly packed carry-on?

Thanks to all of you, in advance. The best surprises on any trip seem to come from those who have already been there. Those are the folks who have a gem to share....... I just don't know who you are!

Again, many thanks!
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Old 04-26-2013, 10:51 AM   #2
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DW and I just got back from a trip on Viking's Rhine Getaway. We had never been on a river cruise (or any kind of cruise for that matter) before and had a really great time.

The trip was pretty much "all inclusive". The food was excellent - one couple we met on the cruise had special dietary needs and they were well taken care of, the chef even made them a special dessert that went above and beyond. Viking offers a "silver spirits" upgrade, but we felt no need for it since they served quite nice wine with dinner. (I think this package is for the heavy drinkers ). They had fancy coffee's available 24/7. You pay for drinks at the bar, but a couple of evenings they served cocktails to everyone.

There was a shore excursion included at each stop. They offer a couple of extra ones, but wandering around the towns we stopped at was pretty much just as enjoyable.

We picked up three of the extra excursions, but that was the ONLY thing we paid anything extra for. There was zero pressure to spend more money.

We didn't pack light - kinda medium. We each took one FULL suitcase and that worked out well. It was a one week cruise and we didn't need to wash anything, though that was an option. We unpacked and stuffed our luggage under the bed.

I wore jeans everyday, though DW dressed a bit nicer than I did for dinner sometimes. No need for really dressing up, but don't wear frumpy clothes either. Everyone looked "nice" on board.

We were on board the new Viking Tor. It was christened just a week or so before we took it, so it was their latest design and was sparkling clean.

We actually met the owner of Viking, Torstein Hagen, and his wife. We were killing time waiting to leave the ship (we booked our own Hotel in Amsterdam for a few additional days and so we stay on board until our hotel would be ready for us). Nice folks. They were asking us about what we liked and disliked about the cruise and their new ship.

My advice:

You said you're with a group, so do make an effort to meet and dine with other folks. One of the best aspects of the trip was just sitting down with different people for meals. We met so many nice folks by doing that.

A week was a good time period. Plenty of time to see lots of things, but also enough time to relax and enjoy the river. A longer trip might be nice, but a week as perfect.

Enjoy the excursions, they are a good way to see the sights. Nothing strenuous, but some walking (they had a "slow walkers" group too for the few folks who needed that).

If you any specific questions, ask away...
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Old 04-28-2013, 05:44 PM   #3
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Thanks, mpeirce, for the info. and the advice. Here's another question that has come up since discussing plans with a travel mate.

The other teacher with whom I will be sharing a stateroom is interested in signing up for one of the "standard" rooms that are on the main deck (the rooms with the small 4' x 2' window just above the water line). This would save each of us $500-600 on the cruise cost.

I had been more interested in the "french balcony" with those large wall-size windows, partly because I'm wondering if the standard cabins would seem claustrophobic.

Did you, or other travellers you met, choose the standard cabins? If so, did you hear that they were OK?

Also, I must confess to watching "Titanic" too many times, with nightmares about ship accidents sending flood waters through rooms below deck. Did Viking have any kind of safety drills, or instructions to passengers about what to do/where to go in an emergency? (After the Boston bombings, I'll feel a bit vulnerable as an American abroad.)

So, I guess, overall this question is, "Did you feel like Viking made customer safety a high priority?"

Thanks again for any info. you can provide!
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Old 04-28-2013, 06:11 PM   #4
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If you any specific questions, ask away
Thanks for the info mpeirce. Very good description of the cruise. We have been considering such a cruise via Viking also.

My concern is the cost of flying two folks from Texas to Europe. Considering the distance, it could increase the cost of a week on board considerably. Could it not?
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Old 04-28-2013, 06:19 PM   #5
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The trip was pretty much "all inclusive".
...
A week was a good time period. Plenty of time to see lots of things, but also enough time to relax and enjoy the river. A longer trip might be nice, but a week as perfect.
DW and I always look longingly at the promos on PBS and promise we will do that soon.

Since this was your first cruise, did you get any feedback from people that are regular ocean cruisers that did the river cruise with you? I'm a regular ocean cruiser and wonder how that compares with river cruising on Viking.

I've always felt that the stops on Caribean cruises are too rushed; by the time you set foot on, say, Grand Cayman (must use a tender to get ashore), you might have 6 or 8 hours. Since the penalty for being late is getting left, you have to plan to be back in 5 hours. That's just not enough time. That's why I've never taken a Mediterranean cruise; I want to linger in each place longer if I fly over the pond. That's a long lead-in to the question: did you feel you were "leaving a lot on the table" in each stop?

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Old 04-28-2013, 06:44 PM   #6
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Thanks, mpeirce, for the info. and the advice. Here's another question that has come up since discussing plans with a travel mate.

The other teacher with whom I will be sharing a stateroom is interested in signing up for one of the "standard" rooms that are on the main deck (the rooms with the small 4' x 2' window just above the water line). This would save each of us $500-600 on the cruise cost.

I had been more interested in the "french balcony" with those large wall-size windows, partly because I'm wondering if the standard cabins would seem claustrophobic.

Did you, or other travellers you met, choose the standard cabins? If so, did you hear that they were OK?
One of the other couples we met was staying in a standard room and we peaked in on it just to see the difference. It was fine and they had no problems with it. We had a balcony room and it had a bit more room. We thought that the full length windows were nice to have.

My take is that the standard rooms are perfectly fine. Same bed, same bathroom, a tad less room and certainly less of a view. But everything else on the cruise is exactly the same. Most of your "viewing the scenery" time will be spent up on the sun deck, or in the lounge anyway.

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Also, I must confess to watching "Titanic" too many times, with nightmares about ship accidents sending flood waters through rooms below deck. Did Viking have any kind of safety drills, or instructions to passengers about what to do/where to go in an emergency? (After the Boston bombings, I'll feel a bit vulnerable as an American abroad.)

So, I guess, overall this question is, "Did you feel like Viking made customer safety a high priority?"
There was a safety drill. Seemed adequate, but then it was our first cruise. Regardless, it's a ship on a river, so the shore is right there. We never felt unsafe.
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Old 04-28-2013, 06:53 PM   #7
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My concern is the cost of flying two folks from Texas to Europe. Considering the distance, it could increase the cost of a week on board considerably. Could it not?
Viking offers an airfare option, which is worth getting a quote on from them.

We choose to book our own flight. We had Viking pick us up at the Basel airport - which went well, but you pay them to do this. On the other end, we were staying in Amsterdam on our own, so we just walked over to the main train station and took a tram to our hotel.

Cost will depend on where your endpoints are.

We ended up flying CMH -> ORD -> MUC -> BSL
then AMS -> EWR -> CMH

Our airfare was about $2500 for two from Columbus, which will vary depending on when you book.
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Old 04-28-2013, 06:58 PM   #8
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Columbus
Georgia?
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Old 04-28-2013, 07:08 PM   #9
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Georgia?
I'd wager Ohio.
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Old 04-28-2013, 07:18 PM   #10
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DW and I always look longingly at the promos on PBS and promise we will do that soon.
When we were talking with Mr. Hagen, another couple mentioned that they had heard of Viking from the PBS promos. He said that they had been well worth it and had brought in lots of business.

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Since this was your first cruise, did you get any feedback from people that are regular ocean cruisers that did the river cruise with you? I'm a regular ocean cruiser and wonder how that compares with river cruising on Viking.

I've always felt that the stops on Caribean cruises are too rushed; by the time you set foot on, say, Grand Cayman (must use a tender to get ashore), you might have 6 or 8 hours. Since the penalty for being late is getting left, you have to plan to be back in 5 hours. That's just not enough time. That's why I've never taken a Mediterranean cruise; I want to linger in each place longer if I fly over the pond. That's a long lead-in to the question: did you feel you were "leaving a lot on the table" in each stop?
The time ashore felt adequate. I certainly could have made use of more time in any of the stops really, but then it would have been a different kind of trip - and certainly longer.

I think it helps that going ashore is so simple. Certainly no tenders, just a few feet to the shore. In Cologne, Rüdesheim and Coblenz we docked *in* the central city. It made it easy to get on and off a couple of times for lunch or resting in our room. Some folks skipped meals on the ship and had dinner in town which gave them more local flavor. We did this in Cologne and enjoyed the local beer and oma's schnitzel.

That being said, if you really want to get local I'm not sure a river cruise would be my first choice. It was a very comfortable way to get introduced to a place and to see lots of sights in a week, but wasn't being immersed in the local culture.

It is easy to extend your trip on either end of the cruise. Viking offers two day extensions at both ends. We choose to spend a few extra days in Amsterdam on our own, which worked out well for us.
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Old 04-28-2013, 07:21 PM   #11
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I'd wager Ohio.
Yup. CMH is the Columbus, Ohio airport. "Port Columbus"
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Old 04-29-2013, 10:40 PM   #12
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We use cruising to determine where we want to come back and visit for an extended stay. We've ruled out many Caribbean islands and ruled in surprisingly Estonia and Russia. So for us a quick day in each port is just about right.
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Old 04-30-2013, 07:57 AM   #13
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I have been on 3 river cruises in Europe and they are my all time favorite trips. The last one I did was Passau to Budapest with 3 days in Prague. I was on a different boat as my trip was a bike and barge where we went cycling every day. Here are my suggestions: Budapest is lovely and if you can swing it stay an extra day. If you are flying overnight and don't have any extra time you will arrive exhausted but you can see a lot of the town in a short time on the hop on hop off bus tour which is not expensive. You can buy the tickets at any of the well marked bus stops. If it was me, I would opt for the less expensive room. I spent virtually zero time in my room because I would hang out with my family and friends up on deck where the view is better. Take the extra $500 and use it to stop in town at little cafes and restaurants. The down side of these trips is there is not really enough time to do justice at the towns when you stop so be ready to be the first one off and the last one back on. There is time to rest when you get home. The food is supposed to be very good on Viking but if the choice is to go back to the ship for your excellent paid meal or stay in town and try some random little cafe with a view, opt for staying in town. That is what the $500 you saved can pay for and you won't waste precious time by going back to the ship just for food. Prague is my favorite city in Europe and I would buy a guide book to plan your days. I like the book Top 10 Prague which is widely available at book stores. I also highly recommend taking a day trip to Chesky Krumlov as it is incredible. Is is a couple of hours away but there are lots of tours from Prague. Do a Google search for images to see what I mean. I am ready to go again and am sure you will have a wonderful time.
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Thank you, everyone!
Old 05-06-2013, 07:14 AM   #14
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Thank you, everyone!

Wow-- great advice, not only for the river cruises but for other types as well. Since I've never been on a cruise before, you have all truly helped me to get better oriented.
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Old 05-07-2013, 12:13 PM   #15
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I was going to do this cruise with my daughter but just could not justify the cost. I was able to get a 21 day deal thru Go-Ahead travel (Cambridge Boston) for half the price and it included airfare!

Viking is an amazing line and I may go someday with my Wife but it most likely will be in a place with bad roads/infrastructure. Because we chose a land based trip we will be seeing a lot of Germany/Austria/Switzerland/Poland/Hungary and not just the port cities.

Its all good and we were excited to do the cruise but the price seemed - very high.

Good luck!
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Old 05-07-2013, 12:44 PM   #16
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It Won't Happen This Time

Well, you all have given great advice. Then we got the full cost break-down from Viking and, with the insurance on going to Prague (plus meals there, plus tips etc.), it is now prohibitive.

(Two of us who wanted to go are retired from a private school, code for "We can't afford this!") Either we need to save more for another year, spend more time at our little part-time retirement jobs (she subs and I mentor new teachers), or we need to find a cheaper way to go.

So, special thanks to "In Control" for the referral to Go Ahead Travel. I really don't need many luxuries; would be just as happy to get there in a more budget-friendly fashion.

And Jackson D., would you mind telling me where you found the biking/barge combo? That looks VERY intriguing. I'd like to find out more about that.

Personally, I prefer more trips to luxury trips.

Thanks again to all.

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Old 05-07-2013, 12:57 PM   #17
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Looks like you had the same sticker shock that I got......

I have traveled with go-ahead several times and it is not budget - just a great value! They only have small groups ~12 people in small couches and bring in local experts on and off the couch. In Dublin we had a walking tour with the only guide that had the key to the dungeons below town hall - creepy. In Edinburgh Scotland a expert joined the tour when we entered the city and got off before we hit the hotel.

Lots of walking tours and getting to know the locals with or without the guides.
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Old 05-07-2013, 06:40 PM   #18
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Thanks for the opinions. Dw and I have been looking to do a European river cruise and were wondering. We were specifically looking at Viking. Hardest part about early retirement is finding time to do things.. Har Har...
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We'll let you know...
Old 05-08-2013, 03:00 AM   #19
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We'll let you know...

We're taking "Danube Waltz" from Passau to Budapest in August 2013 - leaving Passau on the 18th. Should be able to comment post-cruise in early September.

Our only pre-cruise comment is that if you go through Viking to book everything, life will probably be a little calmer. We booked through a highly-referred travel company, and they have frankly been a complicating factor. We're arriving in Prague 3 days' ahead of time, and found out after we'd booked our own travel that if you do not use Viking's pre-cruise package, they will NOT transfer you to the embarkation point. Under any circumstances. Which, frankly is d-u-m-b. We're ready to pay the freight for Prague-Passau transfers, but Viking will only move you if you've bought their entire pre-cruise package or can be met at the airport on the day of the cruise (Sunday for us). Just doesn't make sense, but it's their cruise line.

Hope to offer more when we return; we're really looking forward to the trip. Our first river cruise after 2 HAL adventures (Alaska & Panama Canal).
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Old 05-08-2013, 05:44 AM   #20
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Here are the "Cruise Critic Forums". Really good source of information.
Cruise Critic Message Board Forums

In the top search bar on that site do a search on "Viking", etc. I did "Viking", and there's a lot of posts. Some posts on your route and the ship.
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