Hi Mark --
I took this tour in June 2018. It was an excellent tour in many ways. I learned a ton; it was eye opening to talk to many people (including our guide) who had lived under Communism and then experienced the fall of that regime and the building of a new way of life. I found myself thinking more than on past travels, if that makes any sense....and am still thinking about and processing what I've learned. I love history, but had never come face to face with so much recent history.
Our guide was amazing, and from what I've read it seems like most of the guides are quite good on this tour. Navigating so many different countries, languages, and currencies in such a short amount of time is challenging, and would be somewhat overwhelming without a very good guide. I really loved every place we visited.
My biggest complaint (and one that you will see reflected over and over again in the trip reviews) is that I feel the trip tries to do too much in too little time. I am really glad they are adding an extra day in Krakow next year (Krakow is wonderful and we were only able to see such a little bit!!) but I can't tell from the new itinerary whether the extra day will mean more time at Auschwitz (we had "enough" time there, but an extra couple of hours would have been excellent) or more time in Krakow itself. If Auschwitz is now a day trip and you return to Krakow in time for dinner, you really aren't gaining a lot of time in which to experience Krakow. I would have loved an entire extra day in Krakow, and an extra day in Budapest. There are so many things to see and do in Budapest, and we just didn't have enough free time....we had to pick a couple of things and forego everything else.
The structure of the tour has you visiting major urban areas pretty much back to back (with a short break in Eger), which is definitely exhausting. Then the end of the tour is much more relaxed. It was a lovely way to wind down (most of us absolutely adored Plitvice Lakes National Park, Rovinj, Ljubljana, and Lake Bled) and makes sense geographically to travel that way....but it does make for a pretty intense first 2/3 of the tour.
Our hotels were all pretty nice. The urban hotels were centrally located, and the places we stayed in Prague and Budapest both had a/c (which we needed, because we had temperatures in the high 80s in early June!). The hotels in Rovinj and Lake Bled were definitely on the luxury side of RS travel. My least favorite hotel was the one in Budapest, but I understand group hotel space is more difficult to come by there because so many river cruises originate in Budapest.
We had 3 very long bus days (one of which occurred because a major accident closed a road and we were forced to wait over an hour until it was cleared; also there is tons of road construction). There were breaks and our guide told many great stories and provided a lot of historical context on the rides. We did not have wi fi or a way to charge devices on our bus.
Definitely plan to spend several days in Prague at the start of the tour, because what you will see of the city on the tour is limited by time. We actually spent 5 days in Vienna, a day in Cesky Krumlov, and 3 days in Prague before the tour began. If you are interested in such things, I would highly recommend a day tour to Terezin (I can recommend an amazing guide). We stayed in the Lesser Quarter during our solo travel time in Prague and moved to Old Town for the start of the tour; I'd recommend that as well, as it gives you a different perspective on the city.
Hope this is helpful. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have!