The water levels were so low that Viking should have cancelled this cruise and they know it based on them giving us a 50% voucher of what we paid towards a future cruise. We changed ships 3 times, lost 1/2 day in Vienna and 3/4 of a day in Budapest. We also got none of the scenic cruising experience, sadly. While I went in with expectations of the possibility of changing ships in the event of water levels, I absolutely did not expect the poor customer experience we had. I am appalled at the behavior of the Program Director and yet at the same time feel sorry for what he had to put up with and all the arrangements he had to make. His attitude and disgust with Viking Corporate was apparent every time he had to tell us something. So on to our first ship - the Viking Tor:
The Tor is a beautiful ship and on embarkation day it was magical. We were treated like kings and queens as we boarded. The staff was outgoing and friendly. The rooms were well laid out with plenty of storage and counter space. The bathroom was extremely small (including the shower). Very large people would have a hard time turning around in the shower. The heated floors in the bathroom were a big asset, especially after a rainy morning in Vienna to dry out our shoes. The soaps, moisturizer and shampoo and conditioner are really nice and an upgrade from the usual stuff you get on other ships or in hotels.
I never felt crowded in the open areas, but dining outside was a bit cramped. The upper level sun deck was closed most of the time, but I was able to get up there one day and walk the track.
Food and Drinks - the food was average, the included wine was horrible (and I am not a wine snob). The breakfast was the highlight of most meals on board. Most of the food was over salted, bland and not exciting. Presentation was pretty though. One guest with us has celiacs disease and is gluten free, they handle him well and he did not go hungry, but did have to repeat some meals at dinner time. They always had gluten free bread for him. The beer was good and free flowing at lunch and dinner. I was expecting to be wow'd at dinner, given the smaller guest count (if comparing to an ocean cruise). They did give us a tour of the galley and that was really cool to see what all they accomplish in such a small space.
Entertainment - it was average. We always had a piano player each night. One evening they brought in a lecturer, one evening a musical trio. Nothing really to write home about.
Staff - the staff was lovely, with the exception of the Program Director who was haggard, short with people and frustrated with corporate (or the big guys as he referred to them). The PD and some of the customer service desk folks did not take the time to listen to you and often rushed you through what you were trying to say (and I am a straight forward get to the point kind of gal).
Information flow - the information flow (since we had to change ships) was always spotty and communication poor.
Transferring ships - they handled this well and our luggage always showed up in our cabins and was not misplaced.
Excursions - the included excursions were really good and we had some great guides. Organization of the busses and where you had to be next was well done. They always kept our group of 12 together. Many of our additional or optional excursions were cancelled due to the fact that we had to change ships or take busses to our next location/ship.
Our next ship was the Viking Hermod - it was laid out identical to the Tor - lovely ship. The crew stayed with the ship, with the exception of the program director - he came with us on each ship. The crew on the Hermod was not as friendly or nice as they were on the Tor. We never met our cabin steward, customer service was not that great, and the dining room staff horrible. The maitre'd argued with the gluten free guest and a waitress rolled her eyes at another guest. TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR! The food was average, nothing to write home about.
The transfer to this new ship went well, no complaints.
Our last ship the Viking Var was the same as the last two ships. Customer service was not that great, the food average and the staff ok. Nothing to write home about. HOWEVER, we were bussed to this ship which was 1.5 hours away from Budapest (thus resulting in losing 1/2 day in Budapest and our optional excursions) and we arrived in the dark and had to walk on a rocky, unlit path quite a distance to the ship. The crew provided no flashlights and most of the guests were using their cell phones to light the way. The straw that broke the camel's back here was the fact that it was our last night and folks who had early morning flights had to get back on the bus at 2am to make their flights, when Viking could have put folks in a hotel (or at least those with early flights) closer to the airport.
Post Cruise Extension in Budapest - Viking's hotel was amazing, the onsite staff was great. We did our own thing here, so can't report back on it other than the great hotel. Excellent location, amazing staff and a fantastic breakfast buffet.
Again, I went into this cruise, eyes wide open, knowing we may have to change ships, but after historical low water levels all summer and the amount of other cruisers we met on our excursions, Viking really should have cancelled this cruise and I believe they know they messed up since they offered a large sum for a future cruise voucher.
I expected so much more for the price paid for this cruise, including excellent customer service, awesome food and consistent levels of the customer service experience across the three different ships. Extremely unhappy with this cruise experience. Will I sail Viking again - probably not. I am requesting a refund in lieu of the voucher because you only have a year to use it and I can't afford another expensive cruise in the next 12 months.