Wanted to visit Budapest and Vienna on a land tour so with the extra ports, seemed to make sense (we are not interested in organized bus tours, but having the same room every night is appealing). While the tours and tour guides were good, the onboard experience was lacking.
We are frequent travellers (every two to three months since retiring six years ago) and experienced cruisers (50+,including one Viking river cruise on Elbe). On first trip with a travel provider, I always choose lowest pricing/category to gauge the experience/service offered to these guests. Theory being, if experience at this level is wonderful, higher levels should be WOW! Then we know if we want to travel with them again.
Unfortunately, while the crew members were polite, general service and their response to requests was non existent (not really sure if Suite guests got better service/response).
1) Bike requests- we reserved before sailing but no need to reserve, always seemed to have some available. We used them twice. First time in Vienna and had to go through several before we found some that were usable — inflated tires, functioning keys, helmets with proper straps, etc. The second time we requested them and had to wait quite awhile for them to be brought outside and they were quite dirty —we cleaned them.
2) Outside areas— unfortunately, this cruise sails through 66 locks and multiple bridges. Everything on the sundeck has to be put down so no one was allowed up there. That left the front, enclosed sitting area which is small, hot and always full and the very small back area outside the Captain’s Club which was not pleasant due to exhaust. We had the cabin with non opening windows but this ship has no cabins with balconies, only French balconies which are just floor to ceiling windows; I asked people in these rooms and they said the views (and air) were limited. In any case, there was no outside area to relax in.
3) Entertainment onboard- there was no regular entertainment, the evenings we were sailing so there was nothing to do. One reason we thought this river cruise would be fun/interesting was that we would be docked in the evenings and go off the ship (we did this on Viking) but this particular cruise schedule was such that this was Impossible. There was entertainment three times: a dancing couple trying to get a party going (we left after about 20 minutes), a German singing group (great fun and enjoyable) and a solo songstress (good voice but kind of an odd act). The onboard lectures were quite interesting.
4) Dining— this was the most disappointing aspect of this trip. I am not sure why people rate the dining well. While the kitchen did seem to concern itself with presentation (always pleasant looking dishes),
- ingredients for the most part were lower quality and sparse (thin, grisly steak, a shrimp appetizer consisted of baby (canned?) shrimp, tiny serving of salmon (maybe two bites?), steamed vegetables consisted of one small broccoli piece, one tiny cauliflower florets and one SLICE of carrot. —all cold, etc.
-service was limited and extremely slow (we had to wait 30-40 minutes between courses, one time 45 minutes between soup and main course — only four of us at the table)
-nothing was hot, even soup sometimes was only lukewarm, had to send lasagne back to be microwaved(?— quality kitchens do not microwave to heat up, they ensure just in time preparation, even for large groups), butter did not melt on potatoes or veggies and, once, our table companions requested coffee, the server said it was cold and brought it anyway — didn’t even offer to make a new pot. The guest went to the coffee machine in the lounge and brought back two coffees(service??). The buffet food was never hot, not even warm. We rarely ate lunch on the ship because of this, if we did, we made sandwiches and we got into the habit of making just toast for breakfast;however, they did have one person making eggs to order which we did do a couple of times with our toast.
— special requests/substitutions weren’t honoured, I.e. I asked to hold potatoes but give me double vegetables (not done), my husband asked for a piece of salmon to be added to his beef plate (not done), I asked that a dish be served without the risotto advertised with it - no substitution, just not give me the risotto (not done)
After the first meal, we spoke to the maître d’ and asked each server when we placed our orders to ensure that our food be served hot (we changed tables regularly to see if the new server could respond to our requests —did not happen).
We started to eat dinner in the Captain’s Club because the grilled foods were literally hot off the grill but, again, limited servings. Frankly, the best meal we had was off the ship at the German bbq lunch that was included (this was the most fun experience provided by the ship).
This trip was very disappointing and with so many options available, I will not travel with them again.