We just returned from our third Viking cruise last evening, and it was excellent in all aspects: ship, itinerary, service, excursions, dining, fellow passengers. I'd be happy to answer your questions:
--Do you have to stay with your tour group for shore excursions? Is it possible to tell them it's too boring and agree to get back to the ship at a certain time?
No, all excursions are optional. In addition, you can ride into the city center with your group but leave the group whenever you wish and rejoin them in time to return to the ship or make arrangements to get back to the ship on your own. In some cases, though, you get off the ship at one port and reboard at another. Be sure to check carefully about where and when to be back at the ship. Viking often offers alternative tours--that is, a choice between two offerings.
--Is it boring? Are the shore excursions interesting with the guide and do they provide interesting information or just some sort of canned presentation?
I have yet to get stuck with a boring guide on a Viking tour. In all cases, you will be guided by licensed guides, highly educated people who have pride in their country. Our experience has been with guides that are personable, knowledgeable--no canned presentations at all. They handle questions beautifully, too.
--Am I too young for these cruises? My BF and I are in our late 30s ...
On river cruising, as on ocean cruising, the average age is probably in the 50-65 range. However, the age range is from mid 20's to early 90's. However, if you are looking for a party ship, Viking is not the answer. There are no discos, no casinos. Entertainment is low-key. The emphasis is on seeing Europe from a whole new perspective--up close and personal.
--Viking is arranging our flights. (It's taking them FOREVER.) Should I lower my expectations about where we will be sitting and flight times? For instance should I expect to be as close to the baggage storage without being in it and taking the most unfavorable flights with 100s of connections?
While Viking makes the reservations for you, you call the airlines to pick your own seats and special meals, if desired. Our flight from Los Angeles to Vienna involved one connection at Dulles in Washington, DC. When we went to Marseilles for the Provence cruise, we flew from LA to Paris non-stop; then a short flight from Paris to Marseilles. When we started our Viking cruise in Amsterdam, we flew from LA to Frankfurt non-stop and then a short flight from Frankfurt to Amsterdam. Most Viking guests leave the west coast on mid-afternoon flights; they leave the east coast on early evening flights. The return flights for most guests depart from Europe between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Viking uses only major airlines, such as Lufthansa, SAS, United, American, Delta, Air France, KLM, and their partners.
I spoke with two reservationists at Viking today and they must have taken lessons in "How to Run Off Customers" first thing this morning. So I'm thinking I've made a huge mistake even booking this cruise. (Sorry $2500 is a LOT of money to me for vacation - so I expect to work with "Can Do" people.)
If you find working with the Viking res agents trying, call a travel agent. (In the name of full disclosure, I am a travel agent.) It won't cost you a penny more, and you'll have a "middle person" to smooth over the rough spots!