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Old May 30th, 2004, 10:59 AM
Shirley B
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Default Viking River Cruises Grand European on the Pride

We just returned from a wonderful river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest. Viking's Pride had an outstanding crew...the weather was perfect, with sunshine during the day, yet a few rainy nights to keep the rivers at proper levels...the rivers were 100% right...the cruisers were a delightful group.

I can't say enough about the crew! Rocky, the maitre d', greeted everyone by name by the third night aboard; he visited each table in the dining room at each meal. The cabin stewards were excellent, diligent. I'm certain we had the best one--she kept us very organized, though she managed to do that without our ever seeing her except when she introduced herself when we first arrived. The hotel manager, the reception staff, maintenance crew (always, always cleaning and painting and touching up the river boat)--again, I can't say enough about them.

And the ports and sights were amazing! Melk Abbey was as awesome as anyone can imagine, with the Prince-Bishop palace amazing, as well. The riverboat ride along the Rhine was breathtaking...Casey was our excellent cruise director; her narration was delightful and enlightening. And our entry into Budapest at 11:00 p.m. was overwhelmingly magnificent. Other highlights of a highlight-filled cruise: the tour of the State Opera House in Vienna* and the tour of Parliament Buildings in Budapest*; hot chocolate at Demel's in Vienna*, the Ann Frank House* and van Gogh Museum* in Amsterdam (*we did those on our own). Those who got to Keukenhof Gardens called that the absolute piece de resistance...unfortunately Viking did not offer the gardens even as an optional tour!

Lunches and dinners aboard the ship were always excellent; however, a couple of dinners were not up to Viking's usual standards (we like meats medium rare, and they usually arrived well done). But the Captain's Farewell Dinner was worthy of a 5-star restaurant! And our waiter was the best: Attila...from Hungary.

We had one glitch: a major lock on the Rhine was out of commission for three days, but the crew handled matters so well...and we didn't miss a beat! Viking adjusted the itinerary, taking us to Regensburg and Nuremberg by motor coach. We were treated to a couple of lovely regional lunches in those ports (instead of returning to the boat for lunch). And Viking gave us free tickets to what is usually an optional concert in Vienna. The concert was delightful, with string and percussion quintet, ballet, and opera arias. Our 28-year old captain was superb! When he first got word of the malfunctioning lock, he sailed at "full speed ahead" in order to get the Pride to the broken lock ahead of all the other leisure and commercial vessels, so that we would be the first boat through once repaired.

If anyone has any questions, please write to me.

Bon voyage,
Shirley B
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