Jump to content

Recommended Posts

Oswald & Kalb in Vienna was fantastic.  We just spent 3 nights in Vienna and that was the best meal.  We also ate at Steirereck, a Michelin 2 star, top 50 restaurant in the world.  To me it’s interesting but overwrought.  If they have fried  ceps at Oswald, then get it.  The chanterelles salad was also amazing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just finished a river boat cruise on Uniworld’s river countess out of Venice.  It is truly all-inclusive, down to tips for the staff, excursions, and all drinks, all times.  It is a delightful experience, with a max of 120 passengers, and affords you up close access to the magic that is Ventice.  On one of the excursions we acccompanied the ship’s chef to the Rialto market and watched him order and sample the food he would be serving that night for lunch and dinner.  Was really cool to listen to him wax poetic about the octopus, and then to see it as part of the Fritto misto on the lunch buffet. I highly recommend Uniworld. First class service,  passengers who are well-traveled and friendly,  food that is good to great, excellent logistics with tours, etc. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the info!  I will definitely look into Oswald & Kalb.

We are traveling with Viking.  Uniworld has basically the same itinerary but for 2x the price.  Plus Viking had a promo of $400 per person airfare (plus $100 to adjust dates and airports).  It worked out to be about the same cost as ocean view on a mass market Adriatic cruise.  Viking doesn't include tip, has less included excursions, and a limited free bar, but the cost savings are hard to beat.  Plus Airbnb in our time frame for Prague and Vienna are around $50 a night for well rated, centrally located studios.  So it seemed like a good time to take the plunge.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, our Viking River Cruise is going to be a coach tour, and based on our latest research, a very bad one full of rushed tours, no free time, early cattle calls for coach rides to nowhere, and Viking intentionally cheaping out with alternate lodgings by locating them 1+ hours from the original port.  Not on the ship yet (and probably won't be, even if we end up taking a total loss on the cruise booking, the reviews of Viking mishandlings of recent trip deviations were that bad), we already experienced stonewalling customer service and intentionally deceptive communications that online reviews have eluded to.  

My river cruise and Viking cruise itches have been well and permanently scratched.  I would tell anyone ever considering a Viking river cruise to read the 1 and 2 point reviews on cruisecritic and see what happens when Viking invokes "acts of God".  I should have sought out those reviews before booking, rather than assume that Viking would naturally care about the comfort and welfare of a seemingly loyal clientele, to keep them loyal.  

So far, we had a couple pretty nice days in Prague (Taste of Prague tour and Milada both excellent).  In Vienna, we have a surprisingly wonderful meal at Restaurant Walter Bauer and a remarkable one at Konstantin Filippou. I was underwhelmed by food at Mraz und Sohn.  So far Oswald's & Kalb is not open when we can go, but we hope to get there. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, astrid said:

Well, our Viking River Cruise is going to be a coach tour, and based on our latest research, a very bad one full of rushed tours, no free time, early cattle calls for coach rides to nowhere, and Viking intentionally cheaping out with alternate lodgings by locating them 1+ hours from the original port.  Not on the ship yet (and probably won't be, even if we end up taking a total loss on the cruise booking, the reviews of Viking mishandlings of recent trip deviations were that bad), we already experienced stonewalling customer service and intentionally deceptive communications that online reviews have eluded to.  

My river cruise and Viking cruise itches have been well and permanently scratched.  I would tell anyone ever considering a Viking river cruise to read the 1 and 2 point reviews on cruisecritic and see what happens when Viking invokes "acts of God".  I should have sought out those reviews before booking, rather than assume that Viking would naturally care about the comfort and welfare of a seemingly loyal clientele, to keep them loyal.  

So far, we had a couple pretty nice days in Prague (Taste of Prague tour and Milada both excellent).  In Vienna, we have a surprisingly wonderful meal at Restaurant Walter Bauer and a remarkable one at Konstantin Filippou. I was underwhelmed by food at Mraz und Sohn.  So far Oswald's & Kalb is not open when we can go, but we hope to get there. 

 I am so sorry to hear that your vacation is not going nearly as planned.  On my recent Uniworld cruise, a handful of people came to our boat from another tour that had been stalled somewhere else in Europe  (high river or low river levels, I can’t remember). Uniworld offered to fly them immediately to another cruise that had space rather than force them onto a land tour.   Perhaps you could inquire about that as an option?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nada chance.  We called Viking and asked for cancellation in return for a refund, rescheduling, something.  They said that since water level was act of God and they were still running the boat, we had no recourse.  They explicitly told us that they would rather lose us as customers for the next 50 years, plus trips I was contemplating with my parents, then give us anything beyond a laughable 25 percent voucher that is impossible to use because almost everything within the next year is already booked.  Their satisfaction guarantee means in practice, guests who tried to exercise it after a horrible experience got, at very best in the 100+ reviews I read, 25 percent refund and 25 percent voucher that must be used for a cruise sailing in less than a year.  For the rest, typically best offer is $500 to sign a NDA.

In some cases, it's people Viking lulled into believing everything is fine and no foreseeable problems, until they are overseas and/or onboard and no longer with recourse to use their travel insurance to cancel the trip.  Many then found themselves on the bus trip from hell with up to 4 boats for a 7 night itinerary, stays changed from 1.5 days to a few hours, being bussed for hours between boats or between boats docked in remote industrial docks more than an hour from their destination, lining up for buses at 6 AM, understandably surly staff, etc.

I naively thought Viking would realize the real harm that bad behavior would do to their long term prospects and accommodate their guests or at least provide the best possible accommodations under circumstances, but everything I read show that they're betting on short memories and the buck in hand.

  • Sad 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, astrid said:

Nada chance.  We called Viking and asked for cancellation in return for a refund, rescheduling, something.  They said that since water level was act of God and they were still running the boat, we had no recourse.  They explicitly told us that they would rather lose us as customers for the next 50 years, plus trips I was contemplating with my parents, then give us anything beyond a laughable 25 percent voucher that is impossible to use because almost everything within the next year is already booked.  Their satisfaction guarantee means in practice, guests who tried to exercise it after a horrible experience got, at very best in the 100+ reviews I read, 25 percent refund and 25 percent voucher that must be used for a cruise sailing in less than a year.  For the rest, typically best offer is $500 to sign a NDA.

In some cases, it's people Viking lulled into believing everything is fine and no foreseeable problems, until they are overseas and/or onboard and no longer with recourse to use their travel insurance to cancel the trip.  Many then found themselves on the bus trip from hell with up to 4 boats for a 7 night itinerary, stays changed from 1.5 days to a few hours, being bussed for hours between boats or between boats docked in remote industrial docks more than an hour from their destination, lining up for buses at 6 AM, understandably surly staff, etc.

I naively thought Viking would realize the real harm that bad behavior would do to their long term prospects and accommodate their guests or at least provide the best possible accommodations under circumstances, but everything I read show that they're betting on short memories and the buck in hand.

This is where I would blast them with horrific reviews on every large and small review website I could find.  Then I'd find other sites and communities on which I could blast them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We are fortunate compared to many of these people.  We paid a relatively modest fare (though more than we have ever paid for  a week of travel excluding airfare), already enjoyed a week of central Europe on our own, and this wasn't something we had been dreaming about for years.  We are still pondering between salvaging this trip in part or making this stretch into a tour of Swiss Alpine rail lines.

Some of the reviews are heartbreaking, people saving for years to celebrate a major milemarker, went with friends and family, and some knew that this is likely their last chance to live out that dream.  I cannot believe Viking chose current cash flow over families that will remember Viking as the company that crushed grandma's dream.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd write the bad reviews for future travelers.  Think of future travelers that might reflect the people in your last paragraph.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, astrid said:

My river cruise and Viking cruise itches have been well and permanently scratched.

You know what? Based on your past posts, I never, ever thought you'd go on a cruise ship.

Sep 2008 - "Shipping Out" by David Foster Wallace 

Stay the hell away from that Coach tour, and enjoy the decision you'll never regret making!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We haven't taken the trip yet, so our reaction is based on other people's review and our interaction with their customer service.  But they have been savaged on cruisecritic, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other review sites for their lack of transparency, poor contingency planning, and terrible attitude to customers' anger to being sold something much worse than what they thought they bought.  When I checked Viking's ratings earlier this summer on cruisecritic, it was in the 4.5 range, now it's 4.0 and likely to drop further as water level isn't likely to recover for at least another month.  Other companies offered to cancel, rebook for the future, or offer a substantial discount for the inconveniences.  Viking is offering a largely worthless voucher for having its customers endure a very subpar experience.

We won't review until we have been through the trip, though we plan to skip the first two days to miss the first hurdle (busing from Budapest to Vienna) and plan our side trip to Salzburg and Berchtesgaden.  We may also leave early if things go badly, but we're going to give this a shot and at least have some stories to tell.  But I would be extremely reluctant to book another cruise with them based on what I now know.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, astrid said:

We haven't taken the trip yet, so our reaction is based on other people's review and our interaction with their customer service.  But they have been savaged on cruisecritic, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other review sites for their lack of transparency, poor contingency planning, and terrible attitude to customers' anger to being sold something much worse than what they thought they bought.  When I checked Viking's ratings earlier this summer on cruisecritic, it was in the 4.5 range, now it's 4.0 and likely to drop further as water level isn't likely to recover for at least another month.  Other companies offered to cancel, rebook for the future, or offer a substantial discount for the inconveniences.  Viking is offering a largely worthless voucher for having its customers endure a very subpar experience.

We won't review until we have been through the trip, though we plan to skip the first two days to miss the first hurdle (busing from Budapest to Vienna) and plan our side trip to Salzburg and Berchtesgaden.  We may also leave early if things go badly, but we're going to give this a shot and at least have some stories to tell.  But I would be extremely reluctant to book another cruise with them based on what I now know.

You'll love the chess board in Salzburg. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I went to Salzburg on a business trip and spent the day walking around that magical city alone. I spent the last night in a castle and had dinner in its restaurant. I also took a dip in the heated pool while the outside air was about 50. A truly magical 24 hours. (the conference part was good and in some ways magical too).

https://www.monchstein.at/en/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, Salzburg is a confectionary fantasy of a city.  Every angle is gorgeous.  Definitely worth a full day or two to savor.  We stayed at H+ hotel right next to the train station.  I highly recommend it as a budget option because it's clean and quiet, very nice and professional staff, and incredibly convenient.

Our train tickets allowed a free layover in Linz, so we walked around Linz yesterday on our way to Salzburg.  It's a nice City with lots of nice museums and completely empty yet lovely churches.

One thing I will say, be wary of smoking in Austrian restaurants.  We tried to have dinner at a highly rated Salzburg tavern, we knew it was smoking but we were seated in an isolated area and the smoke level was fine when we went in.  Then we ordered and waited almost an hour for carpaccio and steak tartare to not arrive.  All the while everyone in the front room decided to light up, until my eyes watered and my sinuses burned and we finally had to cancel our order because I can't bear it anymore.  I didn't feel bad leaving, there was no excuse for taking so long to prepare uncooked items when the couple next to us came in later and finished their hot dishes before we got our cold dishes, and just completely ignoring us for at least 30 minutes.  We had to take decontamination showers after we got back to the hotel and I am grateful to not wake up with a sinus infection this morning.  We have seen more smokers in Austria than in France, Italy, or Spain.  In retrospect, it's just as well that we didn't make it to Oswald & Kalb as it's a smoking only establishment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Reporting back on our Viking River cruise.  Even with two boat changes (3 boats total but we missed the more onerous one by skipping the first 2 days), it sounds like we got off rather easy compared to other recent Danube sailings.  We saw everything that days 3-7 itinerary promised, albeit with some inconvenient dockings, bussings, extra packing, and a few cancelled excursions.  We lucked into staying at 2 of the better ships and the service was fine, albeit nothing exceptional.  There was rafting (tying river boats together as to render the perk of a balcony room useless) on the first few days, but no rafting on the latter part.  That didn't affect us as we were in a cheap balcony-less cabin.

Would we do it again?  No!  We realized that the restrictions of the river cruise itinerary doesn't give us the flexibility to explore as we would like.  And while the tours were pretty well run, it's not nearly as nice as when we were traveling independently.  And the passengers are not quite our crowd as vast majority are much older, travelling in groups, and seem more keyed for this type of travel.

I missed certain aspects of the bigger boats more than I would have thought.  The additional dining and entertainment options of ocean cruises were not available, and the river cruise schedule seemed much too busy after the lazier port schedule of ocean cruises.  The food was pretty consistently good, never great, and lacking in variety and flexibility.

  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×