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WHAT TO EXPECT ON A EUROPEAN

VIKING RIVER CRUISE

BY

JON FLETCHER

 

Have you ever seem the Viking River Cruise ads on TV and thought I wonder what they are really like?  Well in this article I am hoping to answer this question and give you the inside track on what you can expect.  

 

Viking River Cruises are one of the longest established of the luxury river cruise brands and have been a market leader for over 20 years and have the largest fleet in Europe, with over 50 ships that they call long boats.  The first Viking River Cruise Long boat was launched back in 2012. One of the first things that you notice with Viking River Cruises is that all their longboat ships are identical, with their layout and design.  So if you travel on any of the longboat ships and love it then you are likely to love any of the other longboats in the fleet. 

 

I describe Viking River Cruise Longboats as a 4.5 to 5 star experience.  They are an adult only cruise line with an emphasis on simple luxury.  Viking River Cruises tend to attract guests who are over 50 and from the United Kingdom, United States and Australasia, their key markets.  One of the things that struck me on my first Viking River Cruise on one of the Longboats was the relaxed and informal ambience.  The ships carry around 100 guests so you very soon get to know your fellow guests and I found the crew get to know you, so it often feels more like a friendly house party than a traditional cruise ship.

 

When you first step on board a Viking River Cruise ship you will cross the gang plank and find your self in the Atrium on Deck 2.  You will be struck by the clean lines of the interior, reflecting the Scandinavian heritage of the Viking Line. In the Atrium you will find a 24 hour concierge service and a small shop area where you can buy branded souvenirs and essentials. 

 

To the stern of the ship on Deck 2 you will find the suites, verandah cabins and balcony cabins.  It should be noted that the balcony cabins are Juliet Style Balconies i.e. a French window with a railing, rather than a verandah style balcony. 

 

 

To the bow of the ship on Deck 2 you will find the Dining Room Restaurant where you will be able to enjoy Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.  The restaurant is bright and airy with floor to ceiling windows on both sides of the room. 

 

Breakfast is buffet style with an egg / omelette station so you can enjoy a freshly cooked omelette or ried egg to your taste.  The breakfast buffet is a varied selection of continental, cereals and cooked items.  If you are feeling particularly decadent you can treat yourself to the smoked salmon. 

 

Lunch tends to be a nice varied buffet including a fabulous fresh pasta station.  To accompany your lunch you can enjoy a beer, wine or soft drink. 

 

Dinner is a much grander affair in terms of food, though the dress code is more smart casual than formal.  Dinner usually is a 5 course affair where you will have the daily choice of chicken, fish or meat.  However you will also have the choice of a locally inspired menu with regional dishes from the area you are sailing through or you can also choose ala carte.  One thing you will notice is that the food is of a much higher quality and standard than most ocean cruise ships and a greater attention to detail.  If you are a foodlover then I would highly recommend Viking River Cruises.  One of the great joys of dining on a Viking River Cruise is the freshness and quality of the ingredients which will rival many 5 star restaurants on land.  To emphasise the freshness of the ingredients, you may be lucky enough to join the executive chef on one of his regular market trips or help gather fresh homegrown organic herbs.

Deck 1 comprises of simply window cabins.  These are the lead in cabins and as such are a great option for guests who do not spend much time in their cabin.  Because much of the cabin is below the waterline the window is very small and high up.  To look out of the window you would need to climb up and you would be treated to a water level view so not very inspiring.  However it does provide the cabin with some natural daylight. 

 

Deck 3 is home to the main public areas and there is a glass lift between decks 2 and 3 or you may choose to take the staircase if you are feeling energetic.

 

The first public area that you will come across on this deck is The Library. which is stocked with books relevant to the local area that you are sailing through and a nice selection of board games.  You will also find a couple of computers terminals  here too if you have forgotten to bring your tablet and want to check emails etc.  But for those who do take their tablets and laptops you can enjoy free access to the ships wifi.

On Deck 3 you will also find the tea and coffee station where you can make yourself a nice cuppa.  There is a very nice selection of fine teas and coffees.  But best of all ther are usually some very tasty pastries to go with them. 

 

Deck 3 is mainly occupied by The Lounge / Bar.  This is the main social venue for the ship and is a great place to relax and watch the World go by.  The lounge is bright and airy with floor to ceiling windows offering great views and lots of comfortable seating.  The centrepiece of the lounge is a well stocked bar.  Drinks in the bar are not included in your cruise price however you can buy a drinks package on board from the Concierge and is good value.  The Lounge is also where you can enjoy the evening entertainment.  Evening entertainment tends to be fairly low key and is often a blend of cocktail piano music, singers and local cultural entertainment for example folk dancers or classical musicians from local opera companies and theatres.  There are no big show productions but to be honest you will not miss them.  The emphasis of the entertainment is to reflect the culture of the region you are travelling through and to let guests socialise and enjoy each others company. 

To the fore of the lounge is the Aquavit terrace.  This is a very nice conservatory that in good weather opens up on to the terrace that overlooks the bow of the ship, giving you a fantastic vantage point to view the passing countryside as you cruise along.  You will also find the early riser breakfast buffet  served here as well as healthy options lunch buffet.  You can also on selected days enjoy an afternoon tea there too.

Deck 4 is the Sun Terrace and is accessed by steps from the Aquavit Terrace.  On the Sun Terrace you will find sun loungers to relax on.  To help keep you active there is a putting green and walking track.  You will also find the Herb garden where the chefs grow the organic herbs that help flavour your food.  However one of the things you can do on a Viking River Cruise that you would not normally get to do is to visit the Captain on the Bridge.

 

One of the great things about Viking River Cruises is that generally they moor up in the heart of the towns and cities that they visit.  So you very often find that you will have a choice of walking tours around the town or city with a local knowledgeable guide and you will be able to use a head set to follow the tour and hear your guide's commentary.  In some places you may be able to enjoy a coach tour.  In each port of call you will be able to choose at least one tour everyday included in your cruise price.  Because you are normally moored in a central location this means you can also explore independently too. 

 

Viking River Cruises are quite intensive yet they also relaxing and you can enjoy getting to know the rivers and regions you are sailing through in a more authentic way than you would be able to on many ocean cruises.  So if you are looking for a different style of holiday then I would recommend a Viking River Cruise.