|Viking Vili moored in Melk|
Advantages of a Viking river cruise over other, more traditional types of travel
- Easy logistics. You only have to choose the itinerary. Viking takes care of everything else down to the very last detail.
- You only have to unpack once.
- Your ship is like a floating boutique hotel.
- You can drink all the wine you want. Someone else is at the helm.
- It’s impossible to get bored.
- You will go as a guest and leave as part of the family.
- High-end amenities combined with smart design and Scandinavian efficiency.
I previously wrote about our Castles and Legends itinerary with Viking River Cruises, but you probably still have lots of questions.
A few months before the trip, we received a package in the mail. It included a personalized booklet highlighting our itinerary as well as information about each destination we were about to visit; two beautiful red leather tags; two stickers to use upon our arrival at the airport; two paper tags so our luggage could be seamlessly delivered to our hotel room or stateroom; and a fabric toiletry bag.
|The Aquavit Terrace at the bow of the ship offers al fresco dining in warm weather|
Airfare and transfers
If you hate planning or simply don’t have time for trivial stuff like booking airfare, Viking River Cruises makes your life easy by taking care of your plane tickets as well. Since we knew we were going to be in Europe at the time anyways, we declined. Nevertheless, we booked the airport transfer with them, which saved us a headache.
As we landed in Munich, we were greeted by one of Viking’s representatives. A taxi was already waiting for us and we enjoyed the quickest transfer to our hotel. Lukas, the tour director for the land section of the trip, was waiting for us in the lobby and briefed us shortly, handing up the schedule for the next few days.
|Viking Vili docked in Durnstein|
Before and after the cruise
For most of their itineraries, Viking offers before and after land extensions or extra hotel nights. Our Castles & Legends itinerary included 4 nights by land and 7 nights on board Viking Vili. A post-extension in Budapest was available, but since it was Christmas, we preferred to spend the holidays with family and friends.
For the land section of our itinerary, we were a group of about 30 people. But once we embarked in Passau, we became a group of 174 people. Some of the guests were taking only the river cruise; others proceeded from itineraries that included different land sections.
Both our Munich and Salzburg hotels were carefully picked. The 4-stars Sheraton Munich was located a few subway stops away from the city center and boasted modern amenities, large rooms, and a pretty amazing breakfast.
|Typical German breakfast at Sheraton Munich|
On the other hand, the 5-star Radisson Blu Altstadt, located in a building dating back to medieval times, was right in the heart of Salzburg. It had exemplary staff that remembered our room number better than we did (true story!), heated bathroom floors, exposed beams, and charming rooms, although not 2 were alike.
Transfer between Munich and Salzburg and later on between Salzburg and Passau was by motor coach, which was comfortable, clean, and quite efficient. Every time we changed location, our luggage was loaded onto the bus, traveled with us to the destination, and later on brought to our new room or stateroom by the staff, due to the little paper tags mentioned earlier. Quite neatly organized and we didn’t have to lift a finger ourselves.
What’s the ship like?
Viking’s longships are floating boutique hotels. We didn’t know what to expect, but we were quite impressed by the cozy and comfortable design of the rooms and common areas. Think clean lines, neutral colors, and sleek surfaces.
Guests embark on the middle deck, right into the reception area. Just like a normal hotel, Viking ships have 24/7 reception. This is where we checked in (you’d be surprised how quick that was!), collected and dropped our boarding passes every time we went out, could book shore excursions, etc.
|Reception area with stairs to the upper deck|
Also on the middle deck, there is the open-seating restaurant where the fancy version of the breakfast, lunch, and dinner is served. The restaurant has large tables for 8 people and floor to ceiling windows. You can seat wherever you want, which means you get to meet lots of people and make many new friends. It also means you end up introducing yourself several times during the week.
A wide staircase leads to the upper deck, which boasts a library with a decent amount of books as well as table games. Towards the bow, there is a large lounge area and a bar where you can order cocktails all day long. At the very front of the ship is the Aquavit Terrace where an early breakfast, as well as a lighter, buffet style lunch and dinner, are served daily.
|Aquavit Terrace. The sliding doors are closed in winter but the views are still amazing|
It’s amazing how smoothly everything seemed to run on the ship. The organization was first-rate, and although there might have been some dramas behind the scenes, we never learned about them. There were 49 crewmembers from 14 nationalities (mostly European and Asian). This means almost 1 crewmember for every 3 passengers. And they all made it work. Which makes you think this world has lots to learn from them.
What are the staterooms like?
Our stateroom was located on the upper floor. It had a balcony (unfortunately, it was too cold to use it for anything other than snapping a quick picture every now and then) and floor to ceiling windows.
The bed was super comfortable and the 40″ flat-screen TV had complimentary movies on demand, including The Sound of Music and Amadeus, which were perfectly in sync with the theme of the trip.
|How cute is that towel animal?|
There was also a hair-dryer (so you don’t need to bring yours from home), a mini-fridge, a generous laptop size safe, several American and European outlets, as well as plenty of storage space (drawers, hangers, shelves).
A gold star needs to be given for the incredibly space-efficient bathroom. Although small, it didn’t feel cramped at all and it had heated floors, which is always a plus, especially if you travel in winter. A second gold star goes to the fog-free mirror.
|Super space-efficient bathroom|
As we embarked, a bottle of champagne was already waiting for us in the room. Additionally, we received complimentary water and a plate of fresh fruits (think strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries among other seasonal fruits) every single day.
|Daily plate of fruits in our room|
However, while our room was certainly impressive by any hotel standards, let alone a floating one, the pinnacle of perfection was Razvan, the steward who made up our room. If you think towel animals are impressive, wait until you have someone folding your clothes for you. Twice a day!
Our stateroom always looked perfect, the bathroom was always clean, and our personal items carefully organized. Seriously, this guy was so amazing I wanted to take him home with me. We’ve stayed in many 5-star and even 5-star deluxe hotels, but nowhere else was so much attention paid to every little detail. You can understand why I didn’t want this cruise to end, right?
What’s the average age of the Viking River Cruises guests?
While you might still hold on to the misconception that river cruise are for the elderly, let me stop you right there. River cruises in general start from the premises that you wake up in a different location every day. There is at least one shore excursion that you can join in each port, and they usually involve either a few hours of walking or a walking/bus combo.
The Viking river cruises are tailored for active adults interested in the cultural aspects of the destinations they visit.
Let me put it this way. My husband and I took it pretty slow compared with other trips. This means many days we preferred to return to the ship as soon as the guided tour was over because…
- We really loved spending time in our stateroom and in the lounge and we wanted to take advantage of our time on board as much as possible.
- We had previously visited some of the places, some more than once.
- It was December and there were some pretty cold days, although we also had beautiful sunny days that felt like spring.
Regardless, our Fitbit still counted an average of 15k steps per day each.
Of course, no one says you have to join any of the trips. You can spend the whole day in your stateroom watching Downton Abbey if so you please and nobody will tell you otherwise.
To answer the question, there were plenty of people in their 30s. Probably just a few in their 20s. There were no kids on board, and to be honest, I don’t think the Viking river cruises are tailored for kids anyways. And as a punchline, some of the people in their 60s were fitter than me.
Most guests were from the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK, but we were all friends on board.
|The bar and lounge area|
|The lounge area|
What’s included in the cruise?
That’s a very good question and it’s something I’ve been asked quite often. And my answer is… a whole lot! Almost everything on board and most shore excursions is included. But let’s break it down.
- Your stateroom
- Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including beer, wine, and soft drinks with the main meals
- On board entertainment, including live music, quiz nights, workshops, etc.
- Onboard Wifi
- 10 shore excursions including local guides, transportation, headsets and in some cases sampling local delicacies
- Cookies, tea, coffee and hot chocolate available round the clock at the two coffee stations by the lounge
- Daily bottle of water and a plate of fruits in your room
- Top-notch twice-daily housekeeping service
- Lot’s of smiles and an amazing crew
- The drinks at the bar and anything other than draft beer, house wine and soft drinks with the main meals.
- Optional excursions
Viking has something called the Silver Spirits Package that can be purchased separately, and it includes unlimited drinks any time of the day, plus you can take bottles to your room.
Another great thing about Viking River Cruises is that you can buy wine (or anything else) ashore, bring it on board where they will open it for you and provide you glasses to use with no corkage fee.
|Scenic cruise along Wachau Valley, Austria|
Is there a dress code on board?
How much free time do you have to explore each stop?
That being said, you are always given a certain hour to be back on the ship. That is because river cruise ships have a schedule to go through locks. If the captain doesn’t set sail before a certain time, there is the risk of being late and the whole cruise schedule is turned upside down.
How does the dining work?
|Loved these pancakes!|
What about entertainment on board?
Disclaimer: We were guests of Viking River Cruises, but all options are our own.