A couple people have asked for tips regarding the Viking Cruise. Here are my thoughts…Keep in mind that Jerry and I have NEVER traveled to Europe. Our travel has consisted in a week at the beach with our kids when they were young and now, trips west to see kids and grandkids and trips north to see parents and siblings. So, this was all totally new to us. And if you’re a seasoned traveler, a lot of what I say will be “Duh…well, of course!”
Amsterdam If you’re going to go to Amsterdam and want to go to the Anne Frank House or Van Gogh Museum, get your tickets WAY ahead of time…like months ahead of time. Otherwise, you may find them sold out and find lines of 300 people for the tickets they give out each day.
Extra Days Viking offers extensions on both ends of their trip. They’ll pick you up at the airport and get you to the hotel, give you a walking tour of the city and get you to the ship on the day of sailing. It was quite expensive. If I were to do it again, I’d do the extension on my own. Friends told us they paid half of what we paid for a much better room.
Travel Insurance We bought travel insurance with Viking. A good friend says you can get it from something called “Insure My Trip” and it’s much less expensive. We’ll do that next time.
Internet Yes they have WiFi but it’s pretty unpredictable. Still it’s nice to have. We brought three extra adapters. The rooms have three “USA plugs” and three European ones. We had lots of toys (iPad, iPhones, iPods) so we used lots of plugs. Speaking of iPhones, a friends told me to turn off Cellular as I left the country. You don’t want to get data charges out of the US.
Water Level…Water level can be a concern. Unless they get some rain, they’re going to have trouble. We ran into some trouble but not as much as others we heard about who had to pack up, get off the ship, get bused to another location and go on another ship. What I do know, if you do run into trouble, Viking will make up for any inconvenience with all sorts of freebies. They bend over backwards to make sure they have happy customers and they’ll work really hard to make sure you’re happy…even if it means a free concert, picking up the tab for meals in town, etc.
Money—We brought 500 euros that we got from Bank of America in the US. People said this was the best way to do it…get them here. They did charge a service fee (we had heard that they didn’t) Wells Fargo might not change a service fee…seems to me I heard that, anyway. 500 was plenty for us. (Depending on how much shopping you do and whether you use master card a lot you’ll probably need less) We had about 150 left over and applied it to our tips before we left the ship.
Budapest uses a different currency…florins. I don’t think you need any …they’ll accept euros BUT give you change in florins. If you want to use the trams, you’ll need florins. We walked to see the shoes (you may dock next to them) because we didn’t have any florins left ( we had some from my sister’s trip) Make sure you have coins for the bathrooms…It wasn’t a huge problem but it could be rough if you needed them and didn’t have them. Most places took Master Card or Visa (preferably with a chip) We called our credit card people…partly to tell them we were traveling and partly to find out if they charged a transaction fee. Our Master Card did but our Visa didn’t. (Obviously we used the Visa)
Passport…everyone told us to make copies of our passport and put them in assorted places. We did but never needed them except once when I bought something and they asked for an ID. The real one stayed in our room safe while we were traveling.
Things I Wish I Had Done I wish I had brought an extra tote or nylon bag or something. I don’t think we bought too much but it didn’t fit in our luggage and I didn’t have an extra bag to put it in. Ended up using the Viking laundry bag for extras.
I wish I had done more research on the places we were visiting. I did a ton of research on Amsterdam because we were on our own there for a couple days but I figured once I was on board the ship, they’d take over. And they did to a point. But there was some free time (often entire afternoons) and I think if I had done “Yelp” or “Trip Advisor” we might have used our time more productively. Because Internet was so “iffy” I couldn’t research places the night before we arrived. We did meet people who had been some places before and gave us some guidance. And the concierge and the guides in the town often had great suggestions.
Things I’m Glad We Did They do offer you umbrellas whenever you leave the ship but I was glad to have my little, compact one to throw in the backpack.
I’m so glad I had a backpack. On “iffy” days, it was perfect for carrying a rain poncho, umbrella and water bottle. On other days, it could hold shopping items. I didn’t bring it for every shore excursion but definitely if we were going to be gone more than half a day or the weather was “iffy”
I’m glad we skipped lunch on the ship and had lunch in town often. It’s hard for me to pass up a “free” lunch (on the ship) to buy lunch in town but I really wanted to sample authentic food. We binged on sausage, saurkraut, German potato salad and beer in every town in Germany…delish.
I’m glad we spoke up and got reassigned to a different touring group with friends. You’re assigned to a group and our group was fine. But the people we connected with the most were in a different group. I checked and it was easy to move to their group…
I’m glad we had sturdy comfortable shoes…walking sandals and tennis shoes..
Budapest…Whatever you do, do not miss the nighttime arrival into Budapest. It is absolutely dazzling. No matter how late it is, go. You can sleep when you get home.
Friends said not to miss the Central Market..It was great and there was a place to eat (had goulash and something called stacked potatoes) They also said to get to the Torture Museum (chronicles the Holocaust in Hungary) We didn’t get there…wish we did . We did see the shoes and it was quite moving. Friends also recommended the Hospital museum and the Synogogue…guess we need to go back.
Vienna One of the extra trips was the symphony in Vienna….it was pricey but we loved it. Warning…it was NOT air conditioned and was REALLY hot. Not sure if I would have enjoyed it if it were any hotter than it was that evening. We didn’t see enough of Vienna. We need to go back there too.
Nuremburg Another extra trip is the WW II tour in Nuremburg. We were glad we had gone.
Guess that’s it for now. If I think of anything else, I’ll send you another email. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to write me. We were lucky. Friends of ours, Trevina and Paul, had just come back from the same Viking trip a few weeks before we left. We had them to dinner and pelted them with questions