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Viking River Elbe Cruise

Viking River Elbe Cruise

Postby baldrick » 22 Jun 2014 21:46

Anybody been on the above cruise and have some handy hints as I an going on the 18th October cruise but have added 2 says in Berlin prior.
Many thanks

Baldrick
Baldrick

PREVIOUS CRUISES
2002 AUGUST SAGA ROSE BALTIC CAPITALS
2009 JUNE SAGA ROSE TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD
2011 JULY SAGA RUBY TO THE NORTH CAPE
2012 SEPTEMBER QUEST FOR ADVENTURE CANADA ST LAWRENCE RIVER
2013 NOVEMBER SAGA RUBY PORTUGAL GIBRALTAR MADEIRA & AZORES
2014 JULY SAGA PEARL 2 ICELAND
2014 OCTOBER VIKING CRUISE THE RIVER ELBE

FUTURE CRUISES
2015 MARCH Saga Sapphire French Reverie
2015 APRIL Saga Pearl 2 Gardens of the Continent
2015 SEPTEMBER Viking St Petersburg to Moscow
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Viking River Elbe Cruise

Postby tomvet » 22 Jun 2014 22:14

baldrick wrote:Anybody been on the above cruise and have some handy hints as I an going on the 18th October cruise but have added 2 says in Berlin prior.
Many thanks

Baldrick


Dave is the man to chat to on this! He has been on this cruise and Viking have used his review as promotional material! Its on the forum - somewhere! :?
October 19 - A-ROSA Luna - Lyon- Viviers - Arles - Avignon - Vienne - Lyon
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Re: Viking River Elbe Cruise

Postby tomvet » 22 Jun 2014 22:16

Actually found it handily enough!

Click to read Dave's Viking Elbe Cruise Review
October 19 - A-ROSA Luna - Lyon- Viviers - Arles - Avignon - Vienne - Lyon
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Viking River Elbe Cruise

Postby Dave » 23 Jun 2014 06:10

baldrick wrote:Anybody been on the above cruise and have some handy hints as I an going on the 18th October cruise but have added 2 says in Berlin prior.
Many thanks

Baldrick


Here's my original review baldrick:

I wrote a daily blog as we did our Berlin to Prague cruise on the Elbe on Viking's Clara Schumann which, if you've not seen it, is HERE.

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As this was our first river cruise I thought I should try to make the review of interest to ocean cruisers who're considering a river cruise by highlighting the differences as I saw them. Of course, our ocean cruising experience is quite limited - half a dozen different ships, and most being of the Fred Olsen variety, so I can only compare it with one river cruise with Viking and my comments will need to be seen in that context.

I have to start by talking about Viking. From the day I phoned to book this cruise to the moment we said goodbye to the rep at Prague Airport they were absolutely superb. There's no other word for them. Before the cruise, the documentation and communication were excellent; and there were several nice touches such as complimentary toiletries, a detailed glossy guide to the cruise, and posh luggage tags.

We were met at Berlin Airport by delightful reps who stayed with us for the whole cruise and the coach ride to the Berlin Hilton was a mini-excursion in itself with a full commentary. Our luggage was delivered to our room and after we'd settled in we were invited to a walk to visit nearby Checkpoint Charlie. I should mention though that dinner at the hotel wasn't provided and so we found a nice restaurant nearby. The location of the hotel is excellent and we had a wonderful view of the Gendarmenmarkt during breakfast (which was included!) the next morning.

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We'd put our cases outside our hotel room in the morning and we next saw them in our cabin. The trip from Berlin to Magdeburg took most of the day and was an excursion in itself. Before setting off we were told that throughout the cruise we'd always be in Coach #1 and this made life so simple. At every stop we found three coaches waiting for us and we always travelled with the same people whom we got to know well. We also had rechargeable radio receivers in our cabin for excursions; they tuned in automatically to our guides and it meant that we could wander off some distance without getting separated - and still hear the commentary (or turn it off if it became boring!).

Unlike on any ocean cruise we've done, excursions were an integral part of the package and, like almost everything else, were included in the price. I can think of only one exception, an optional trip at additional cost to a Czech concentration camp. Otherwise, everyone did the same things with minor variations such as walk or go by coach. This approach certainly won't appeal to everyone, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. I think you have to see the whole river cruise as a guided tour through the culture, sights and sites of a region, with supporting onboard lectures, documentation and talks. One very noticeable difference compared with ocean cruising was the lack of waiting around for tours. We would arrive at a Viking-owned mooring point and be on our coach (number one!) in minutes. I compared this with waiting (very impatiently) an hour in the lounge on Boudicca for an excursion last summer. Also, there were no ports, no security, and no customs to negotiate; it was always straight off and straight on.

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For many people, the small size of a river ship will be off-putting. With Boudicca and Black Watch being my favourite ocean ships, and Ventura being my least favourite, I'm obviously biased towards smaller ships (which will be made blatantly obvious in what follows!). For us, the ship has never been 'the destination'. We really don't care if there's a lawn on top, or a climbing wall, or a casino, or a shopping mall with a Starbucks. We didn't even miss having a show lounge or (as on Ventura) a theatre. We go cruising to see the world so all we need from a ship is a nice cabin, a lounge where there's always a comfy seat by a window, a restaurant with open seating and good food, and plenty of deck space. We certainly didn't miss having to arrive somewhere early in order to secure a seat because on Clara Schumann everyone could be accommodated anywhere should they all decide to do the same thing at the same time. On Ventura we managed to see just one show in two weeks despite her having possibly the largest theatre afloat. I think Ventura's theatre can seat around 700 people, but with more than 3000 passengers and two performances per evening another way to look at it might be to say that around 1600 people can never be accommodated. And we've found a similar problem on every ship - a lack of space or availability has applied not only to show time, but to lectures, port talks, our preferred lounge, and finding sun loungers. So although the small size of Clara Schumann meant having a limited range of facilities, those facilities were only needed for 100 people and so the ship always felt spacious.

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The limited choices available on board also applied to dining, although to us dining isn't a major factor when cruising. Breakfast and lunch could be taken either in the restaurant where there was a wide choice of buffet and menu options, or in the lounge where the choice was more limited - especially at breakfast. At dinner there were three or four options for the main course and there was always one vegetarian dish. The food and its presentation, and the service were easily the best we've experienced on a cruise. Beer, wine and soft drinks were included in the price so although I'm not much of a drinker I always had a beer with dinner. I could choose from a range of beers and there seemed no limit to the number of refills! There were no dress requirements so everyone dressed for dinner as they saw fit and, dare I say it, the age and type of passenger meant that everyone dressed smart-casual and the experience was refreshingly relaxed. I'm all for dress codes when they force people out of their jeans and vests into something more appropriate, but on this ship that didn't apply!

The staff and crew were absolutely delightful. Although there was a wide range of nationalities the majority of the 'higher ranks' were from the Czech Republic and all of the staff were European. Unusually (I was told) the great majority of passengers were from the UK. The small number of passengers combined with open dining meant that we got to know more people better than we usually do on a bigger ship. One evening we sat with a lovely American couple at dinner who run a small travel agency in the US. They've travelled widely in Europe and with every river cruising line, and they thought that Viking were the best of the lot. One thing that came across when talking to people was that they were overwhelmingly travellers - in the broadest sense of the word.

Our cabin was on the upper of the two inside decks and was identical to all of the other standard cabins except for having a larger window than those below. There were also eight much larger deluxe cabins on our deck. Our cabin was one of the smallest we've ever had but it was exceptionally well-designed, modern and comfortable. We like to 'pop out for a fag' from time to time so we've taken to choosing balcony cabins on ocean cruises, but since the sun deck (and everywhere else on board) was no more than 30 seconds away, the cabin suited us perfectly.

It's only my impression, but I'd think that river cruising would be of interest to anyone with limited mobility. Clara Schumann has no lifts, but there are chair-lifts fitted to all of the main stairways making everywhere easily accessible. Getting on and off the ship is always done from the main (upper) deck, the gangplank(!) is short and almost horizontal, and the coaches park just yards away.

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We may have been the exceptions, but we spent nothing at all on board. I mentioned that we're not really drinkers and so we didn't use the bar. We found a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine in the cabin that we still hadn't finished by the end of the cruise (the stewardess refilled the bucket with ice daily!), and other drinks such as mulled wine were offered at times such as when we arrived back from a chilly tour. Bottled water was also 'no charge'. We're big coffee drinkers and loved the choice of decent coffee available free in the lounge. Had we wanted to, bringing alcohol on board wouldn't have been a problem.

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Another thing we approved of greatly was the low-key approach to gratuities. There was none of the 'we'll add it to your account for your convenience' nonsense or awkward handing of envelopes to your stewardess and waiter, or surcharges for pouring you a drink. Instead, an envelope was left in the cabin and a box appeared at reception. Give or don't give, the choice is yours - very civilised.

I described the itinerary at length in my 'blog' so I won't repeat the description here except to say that although the weather wasn't kind it didn't spoil our pleasure. The places were visited were hugely interesting and the guides were professional and certainly knew their stuff. Sometimes we stopped somewhere for just a few hours, while at several stops we stayed overnight and continued on the next morning. We found this approach to cruising very different. Ocean cruising tends to have a routine of: arrive in the morning, depart late afternoon, and the occasional four-hour stop is often considered too brief. On a river cruise you might do an excursion at 9am, then have lunch on board while sailing to the next stop, and do another tour in the afternoon or evening. There's no fixed routine because the scenery you pass is equally as important as the excursions. I should also mention that the ship was extremely quiet and on a river there's no feeling of movement at all, which should appeal to anyone who can suffer from seasickness!

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I've been lavish in my praise for river cruising but for us it won't replace ocean cruising. It's just a different way to see the world from the comfort of a ship and for us it's opened up a whole new world of destinations at a time when we've been struggling to find new ocean cruising itineraries (we don't do repeat cruises!). On the face of it river cruising looks expensive, and you won't find the price-slashing and last minute deals that are available for many ocean cruises - we've found that several river cruises we'd considered for next year are fully booked already. Whether river cruising is expensive or not depends on what you want from your holiday. We found the genuinely all-inclusive, fully-escorted cruise experience with stays in the Berlin and Prague Hiltons very much to our liking!
Dave

Booked cruise 2019: December - Caribbean on Marella Explorer 2
Remaining land-based holidays 2019: July - Peak District, August - Harris and Highlands, October - Brecon Beacons
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Re: Viking River Elbe Cruise

Postby baldrick » 29 Jun 2014 21:01

Thanks Dave I enjoyed reading your blog.
Looking foreward even more to this cruise
Baldrick
Baldrick

PREVIOUS CRUISES
2002 AUGUST SAGA ROSE BALTIC CAPITALS
2009 JUNE SAGA ROSE TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD
2011 JULY SAGA RUBY TO THE NORTH CAPE
2012 SEPTEMBER QUEST FOR ADVENTURE CANADA ST LAWRENCE RIVER
2013 NOVEMBER SAGA RUBY PORTUGAL GIBRALTAR MADEIRA & AZORES
2014 JULY SAGA PEARL 2 ICELAND
2014 OCTOBER VIKING CRUISE THE RIVER ELBE

FUTURE CRUISES
2015 MARCH Saga Sapphire French Reverie
2015 APRIL Saga Pearl 2 Gardens of the Continent
2015 SEPTEMBER Viking St Petersburg to Moscow
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Re: Viking River Elbe Cruise

Postby tomvet » 29 Jun 2014 21:16

baldrick wrote:Thanks Dave I enjoyed reading your blog.
Looking foreward even more to this cruise
Baldrick


Hope you get some rain in the meantime! I understand a number of Elbe cruises have been cancelled in recent times.
October 19 - A-ROSA Luna - Lyon- Viviers - Arles - Avignon - Vienne - Lyon
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Re: Viking River Elbe Cruise

Postby Dave » 30 Jun 2014 07:32

baldrick wrote:Thanks Dave I enjoyed reading your blog.
Looking foreward even more to this cruise
Baldrick

We went at Easter and the weather wasn't good. We had a lot of damp, overcast days and even snow in Prague! I expect the weather will be better for you..

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...it certainly couldn't be much worse!
Dave

Booked cruise 2019: December - Caribbean on Marella Explorer 2
Remaining land-based holidays 2019: July - Peak District, August - Harris and Highlands, October - Brecon Beacons
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Viking River Elbe Cruise

Postby Denisec » 10 Jul 2014 18:25

We have done the Elbe cruise (2007) and are repeating it next year as we enjoyed it so much the places that are visited are all , obviously, eastern Germany which in its self was interesting. As Dave says the boats are not huge but that is what makes them enjoyable I swear by the end of the trip you have had a conversation with everyone at least once and probably sat with a lot of them in dinner or the bar. The boats on the Elbe are slightly smaller than the others, but that is because of the low level of the river. I am sure you will enjoy it. Let us all know how it goes. For interest (or not) we are off to Bordeaux with Viking in 10 days time for our latest cruise with them
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Viking River Elbe Cruise

Postby tomvet » 10 Jul 2014 23:40

Denisec wrote:We have done the Elbe cruise (2007) and are repeating it next year as we enjoyed it so much the places that are visited are all , obviously, eastern Germany which in its self was interesting. As Dave says the boats are not huge but that is what makes them enjoyable I swear by the end of the trip you have had a conversation with everyone at least once and probably sat with a lot of them in dinner or the bar. The boats on the Elbe are slightly smaller than the others, but that is because of the low level of the river. I am sure you will enjoy it. Let us all know how it goes. For interest (or not) we are off to Bordeaux with Viking in 10 days time for our latest cruise with them


Indeed Denisec we are dead interested in your forthcoming cruise. Do have a great time but don't forget to return to here and post a review of the ship, cabin and ports and if possible with lots of photos!
October 19 - A-ROSA Luna - Lyon- Viviers - Arles - Avignon - Vienne - Lyon
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Re: Viking River Elbe Cruise

Postby baldrick » 29 Oct 2014 23:37

Returned safely if a little cold after a wonderful cruise.
Will try to give a fuller report in the next few weeks
Baldrick

PREVIOUS CRUISES
2002 AUGUST SAGA ROSE BALTIC CAPITALS
2009 JUNE SAGA ROSE TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD
2011 JULY SAGA RUBY TO THE NORTH CAPE
2012 SEPTEMBER QUEST FOR ADVENTURE CANADA ST LAWRENCE RIVER
2013 NOVEMBER SAGA RUBY PORTUGAL GIBRALTAR MADEIRA & AZORES
2014 JULY SAGA PEARL 2 ICELAND
2014 OCTOBER VIKING CRUISE THE RIVER ELBE

FUTURE CRUISES
2015 MARCH Saga Sapphire French Reverie
2015 APRIL Saga Pearl 2 Gardens of the Continent
2015 SEPTEMBER Viking St Petersburg to Moscow
User avatar
baldrick
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Posts: 53
Joined: 25 Aug 2013 22:29
Location: BIRMINGHAM
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