Our cruise was Oct 20 through Nov 1 and we got back last night at midnight so this is just a quick note for all leaving soon.
No water level problems - great cruise - and (don't hate me) loved Viking. But we had lock problems - 66 of them on this route. We did bus to several towns to avoid locks and make ports on schedule. Not a problem for passengers who loved the changes -they were to our benefit.
We went to all ports except two and Bamberg was substituted. Also went to Frankfurt as a bonus. We spent all nights on boat. We flip flopped boats (from Spirit to Europe) before Passau - avoided lots of locks this way. No long bus rides and two bonus restaurant lunches plus a German party.
We had a full load of 143 passengers and 99% of them were very pleased. Most were prepared to miss all ports and be bussed everywhere.
No rain, chilly though. Bring warm enough clothes for Germany - Vienna was balmy.
I will post longer message in near future.
Continuation - Viking Spirit and Europe boats
We had no water level problems but "lock" problems instead. From Day 3 and on we were plagued by locks. On this route, there are 66 locks to go through (we did about 34). After stopping in Cologne we sailed to Frankfurt as a detour around lock maintenance that took 24 hours longer than scheduled. By the way, Viking has reservations for a day and approximate time on the specific locks so the managment knows who is due to come through and when. The boat encountered broken gates at various locks and we (other boats and barges) sat in canals waiting for hours. When fixed Viking was given priority but we were always behind the sailing schedule. Just when we were 3 hours ahead, another lock put us behind by 3 hours. Thus they had to bus us to several towns so we could visit the ports on the itinerary since we couldn't cruise to them due to time constraints. The longest bus ride was 1 1/2 hours one way from the boat to Nurnberg and that day went from 8 AM to 5 PM including bus trip, tour and free time.
We spent all nights on board the boat.
We omitted Kelheim and Regensburg as we would have been on the bus too long. Instead we went to Bamberg - 1/2 hour from the boat.
Lastly we changed boats before Passau because otherwise we would not have made it to Vienna even if we had sailed continously. Thus we avoided about 1/2 of the locks. We flip flopped boats with the Europe passengers.
The captain and cruise director were outstanding. They had to deal with changes and adjustments throughout. We actually liked the changes because we got extra free time in Rothenberg and Mainz (which prior passengers asked for) and Frankfurt as a bonus. We also got two fun restaurant lunch additions and a German party on board the morning of Bamberg (with music, sausages, beer, pretzels).
We encountered only a solicitious attitude and a desire to please. Everything was very well organized. The atmosphere was upbeat from the moment we boarded in Amsterdam.
Everyone we met rated the cruise and Viking very good.
Things that Helped
1. A Great cruise director who normally trains and supervises other cruise directors.
2. A very experienced captain.
3. Clear (but chilly) weather with no rain.
4. Great city guides - the best we have ever encountered.
5. A group of passengers that weren't really concerned about which ports and were so relieved to be sailing that we would have been thrilled to go anywhere.
Some Practical Info
1. Cabin soap - They supply 2 small bars and the liquid type. Bring some bars.
2. Laundry. Returned within hours and beautifully done. Costs: shirt - 3.50 Euros,
socks - 1.50, pajamas - 4.00, slacks - 6.00.
3. Viking supplied great color city maps - no need to bring any.
4. No mention of shopping or stores ever.
5. We could not find any internet cafes in any German town visited. Nor could Viking tell us of any.
6. Costs 1.50 Euros to send a one page fax to the US from the boat per another passenger.
7. Money exchange. Use the ATMs - too expensive on boat. Viking had a 4 Euros service charge per transaction plus a much less favorable exchange rate (i.e., 78 versus 83-84 Euros to the dollar).
8. No need to participate in any tour or port visit. Usually lots of options given.
9. Smoking. 3 smokers out of 143 passengers. Smoking on top open deck only with ashtrays off to the side. No problems for either smokers or non smokers.
10. To avoid the exchange costs, bring the tip money in dollars and set aside. Viking accepts dollars or Euros. If you put the tip on your credit card (as you can) it will be in Euros.
11. Walking. Those who couldn't or wouldn't had options. No excursions were unavailable to two people who had great difficulty with walking. But you do need to be able to get in and out of a bus (although with assistance is fine).
12. Bring an alarm clock - none in cabins.
13. Closet hanging space and number of hangers is very limited.
14. Two formal nights. Every man wore a jacket - with or without a tie. No suits. Women generally wore slacks or long skirt with a nondressy top but not casual either. for the rest of the evenings people wore either what they had on during the day (no jeans) or changed to less casual attire.
15. Docking in Vienna. Docked on the Danube Canal at the Reichsbrucke, some distance form the city center. The subway station Vorgartenstrasse was a 7 minute walk from the ship. This is the Red Line or U1.
>>To avoid the exchange costs, bring the tip money in dollars and set aside. Viking accepts dollars or Euros. If you put the tip on your credit card (as you can) it will be in Euros.<<
IMHO, it's unfair to nickel-and-dime the crew by making them pay the exchange costs on tips. What's more, tipping in dollars makes the passenger look like a rube. (Can you imagine the reaction a European would get if he tried tipping in euros in New York, Chicago, or Denver?)
I was on a Viking River Criuse recently, and I was amazed by how many passengers tipped even the local guides in dollars (that is, if they remembered to tip at all). Is it that hard to grasp the concept of "When in Rome, tip as the Romans do"?
Would you reacommend tipping in Euros? What about Budapest? I had thought the idea of being prepared in advance with dollars was a great idea but I also see your point. I do imagine the guides and ship personnel often get dollars though and are probably used to it. Many thanks for your thoughts.
I agree that it's better to tip in euros or other local currency, but I think Viking's pre-trip information is what's misleading because it presents most of the tipping guidelines in U.S. dollars. If you tip $10 per day, you're actually tipping closer to 8.50 euros per day. Added up over the course of your cruise and multiplied by x number of passengers that can make a big difference for the crew. Their literature needs to be updated to account for the current rates of exchange. Also just on a practical level, U.S. dollars can't easily be re-used by the guides or crew unless they convert it to the local currency.