Our ship was the Viking Prestige, which was built in 2011, and we took our cruise that same year in September. The ship was clean, comfortable and well-laid out. We stayed in French balcony staterooms on the middle deck (rooms 238 and 239 – note that 239 is a single.) Each room on the middle and upper decks have French balconies with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors.
The rooms are 170 square feet, but didn’t feel overly-crowded. There was a long desk area at the foot of the beds in the picture below, that offered plenty of electrical outlets, both 115-volt and 220-volt. The bathrooms were decent sized and the shower stall was roomier than I expected. The closet area got pretty packed with clothes for both my mom and I, but it worked out okay. Each room had a flat-panel TV with plenty of channels to choose from as well as movies on demand. I think we only turned it on once during our trip, though. I did make good use of the free wi-fi, however, which worked quite well and was only briefly unavailable a few times.
The staff on board was friendly and helpful. Our cruise director (named Marek) was simply outstanding and you could tell that he really cared about the passengers. He took the time to talk to everyone and participated in most (if not all) of the special presentations done onboard. During shore excursions, he was always there coordinating and making sure things went smoothly. I still fondly remember his voice coming over the speakers every morning saying “A wonderful good morning to you, ladies and gentlemen.” Silly as it sounds, it made me smile every time.
Below is a picture of Marek and another member of the staff that performed a wonderful traditional Hungarian music and dance show. On another day, Marek gave a very moving and informative talk about growing up in Communist Slovakia. If you ever take a cruise and he is the director, you are in for a truly wonderful experience!
The rest of the staff was great, as well. On our first night at dinner, we had a waiter that we immediately fell in love with (Milos) and made sure to sit in his area from then on. He was funny, attentive and very nice.
My aunt started off in room 239, which, as I mentioned above, was a single room. The position of both our rooms was near the engines. When booking our rooms, we were assured that the new hybrid engines were very quiet. While they didn’t bother my mom and I at all, my aunt was unable to sleep due to the noise they (or some other bit of machinery) made. When she complained to the concierge, the hotel manager, Klaus, and the engineer immediately came to her room to see what the problem was. After some discussion, they moved her to another room, which was a double. They also gave her a voucher to use on a future Viking cruise. This high-level of service and customer-focus was what we experienced from the entire staff on Viking (not so with Uniworld).
They were all friendly and fun, as evidenced by Klaus (on the right) and another staff member during a cookout they had one afternoon on the top deck.
Shore excursions were very well-organized and enjoyable. When buses were needed, they were comfortable and never too crowded. While I don’t really love walking around in groups like a bunch of sheep being herded from place to place, following a person holding up a big sign or flag…being on these tours with a knowledgeable guide really gives you more interesting and in-depth information about the place you’re visiting.
The wireless earpieces they provided worked very well and allowed you to wander a bit a way from the group and still hear what the guide was saying. All of the guides were locals and did a great job.
Additional Ship Info
Another thing I enjoyed about Viking is that for each city we stopped in, there would be a table set up in the atrium area with local specialty items to purchase. In Germany, among other things, they had stuffed bears dressed in lederhosen that yodel when you squeeze them (yes, I bought one and I am not ashamed of it). In Austria, there was peach schnapps and peach-scented candles (bought them both). In other places there were things like hand-painted silk scarves and hand-crafted jewelry (okay, okay…I bought those things, too. I just can’t help myself.)
Right outside the lounge, there was coffee, tea and cappuccino available at all times. At the bow of the ship, there was an open-air (but covered) area called the Aquavit Terrace, which was perfect place to have a more casual, buffet-style lunch or to just sit outside with a drink on a nice evening.
There were several hand sanitizer stations set up around the ship and every area was always spotlessly clean.
What Didn’t I Like?
- Limited time: Due to the nature of river cruising, you often don’t have a lot of time in the places you visit. Sometimes that was okay, but other times I really wished we could have stayed longer to explore on our own.
- Group tours: As mentioned previously, when visiting a place, I don’t like being in an organized group that has to follow along and be on someone else’s schedule. That being said, I supposed you actually don’t have to take part in the groups and could go off on your own (which we did have time to do as well in most places), but then you might miss out on some good information or things you might not see otherwise.
- Sitting with people I don’t know at meal times: I realize this makes me sound very anti-social, but I’m not (well, maybe a little). I just don’t like being forced to have conversations with people if I don’t want to. (My mom is the same, but my aunt will talk to anybody. Fortunately, she can carry the conversations for us.) Plus, as you have undoubtedly figured out by now, I love food. When I’m eating, I want to enjoy my meal and not feel like I have to make interesting small talk or listen to other people make (sometimes uninteresting) small talk. On this particular ship, they didn’t have tables in the dining room for less than six people. So no matter how unwelcoming I tried to make myself look, most of the time people would sit at the table with us and want to become our lifelong pals. Although everyone we met was really very nice, I just wanted to relax and eat. Apparently, I either have to work on my mean facial expressions or just learn to be more of a people-lover (I vote for the former).