Viking River cruises review
You’ve seen the ads for Viking River Cruises. Attractive, smiling people gliding past the Parliament building in Budapest as they sip fine wines or check their iPads. It looks serene, elegant and as if it would be nice to be part of one of those groups of interesting, friendly people.
And it is. And it’s a lot more.
After three Viking cruises we like to see ourselves as at least budding experts (not full-fledged because we want to go on more Viking cruises).
You can be as busy or as quiet as you want on a Viking River cruise, but if their shore excursions don’t have you leaving the ship daily you may be taking too much Ambien.
Viking River Cruise Accommodations
On our first cruise the size of the stateroom was a pleasant surprise (we’re used to it now – spoiled). We are small women who require a lot of space. The beds are super comfy, there are lots of drawers, outlets that don’t require adaptors for American electronics, a small refrigerator, a safe, and little balconies or verandahs (depending on your room).
The bathrooms have strong water pressure – and you’ll never believe this – but the water doesn’t end up all over the floor. The lighting is good (although Blonde is now considering a Botox touch-up), the toiletries are theft-worthy and the toilet doesn’t have any weird boat rules.
There is free wi-fi (not always speedy but then who among us is?), a flat screen TV with a lot of options and housekeeping staff that manages to unobtrusively pop in and out and make everything lovely all day long.
Viking River Cruises daily excursions
Every evening prior to dinner the Program Director goes over the next day’s options. There are many, including sitting on your contented duff enjoying the ship.
Viking calls themselves “the thinking person’s cruise line” and they are right about that. They even manage to make learning fun (by fooling you into not knowing you’re doing it).
Before developing any cruise itinerary Viking spends a lot of time sending their team (including the CEO’s adult daughter) to each destination. They focus on getting close-up experiences, a feel for life in the place and often a chance for you to participate in something local. We painted tiles at the Lisbon National Tile Museum and matryoshka dolls in Russia. You think you’ll feel silly but you get caught up in it (which doesn’t mean you don’t look silly)
Viking uses local guides in all destinations and someone does an excellent job of vetting them. They have extensive knowledge, many are humorous (extra credit) and they keep you on schedule without you feeling as if they are doing it.
Also, Viking River Cruises gives you little earbuds connected to a speaker thingy so you can hear everything the guide says. That is great because it means you don’t have to Velcro yourself to the guide or keep asking other people what was just said. In fact, you can easily wander as much as a block away and still be getting the information.
Viking River Cruises – Kindergarten for Adults
Each day you are handed a bottle of water as you leave the ship and a card that you turn in when you come back so they know everyone is on board before sailing away. You get a daily printed guide in your room each evening of the next day’s schedule, some historic or cultural information and suggested places to visit on your own. And someone makes up your room and gives you all of your meals. But you somehow maintain your dignity and don’t realize that you’re being treated like a small child (or at least you don’t care).
Viking offers included-in-the-price tours at every stop and they have been beefing up their offerings of additional-cost tours. We have gone behind the scenes at the Hermitage, to a private concert in Vienna and to a wine tasting in Portugal.
Independent travel has been the norm for us for years but we are finding more and more that having someone else do the research and coordinate the logistics frees us up to just have fun. And although this isn’t news to experienced cruise-goers, the benefit of only unpacking once is very compelling.
Viking River Cruises’ Cuisine
Although buffet options are available at breakfast and lunch you can also order a la carte. The food is representative of the region (hint: consider a French itinerary) of very high quality, well prepared and not served in super-size portions that would have you waddling off the ship at the end of your cruise. If you want two entrees you just ask and they appear. If you’re not a very adventurous eater they have some always-available chicken, salmon and other more basic choices. The meals are also paired with lovely wines from the region.
On some ships they have tables for two but try to be sociable and talk to your fellow travelers. You meet very interesting and friendly people on the cruises who invariably tell you of other Viking River cruises you’ll want to take.
Viking River Cruise tips
Tip # 1: Go on one.
Tip #2: Get a room on the middle floor, not the top if you like things quiet. If you’re right under the sun deck you may hear the crew and other passengers cavorting over your head from time to time.
Tip #3: Don’t bother buying guide books for where you’re going. Viking gives you all the printed, in-person and guided information you could possibly need.
Tip #4: Don’t come back to the boat late unless you’re a very good river swimmer.
Tip #5: Be realistic: Rivers can flood, locks can break, the weather can be lousy but Viking seems to have a contingency plan to gracefully handle any kerfuffle that may arise.
Tip #6: The coffee from the machines in the open-all-the-time little galleys is better than what they serve in the dining room (personal opinion).
Tip #7: Use a river cruise to sample countries that interest you. If you leave wanting more, then you know the places you’d like to return to and perhaps experience in a different way. You will also know the ones that don’t really call out to you.
Tip #8 Plan on tipping about $25 USD total per day to the staff, crew and Program Director and to give a few bucks to tour guides and the bus driver. It does add up so it’s best to plan in advance and set aside the money. You pay the tips (other than the local guides and bus drivers) at the end of the cruise and can charge them to your cabin.
Tip 9: Do whatever you want to have the experience you want to have.
Massive disclaimer so the FCC doesn’t prohibit Blonde from future sponsored trips. We have been on 3 Viking River cruises for free. We were not required to do anything whatsoever in return. This post and everything I write is my opinion. I’m not nice enough to give good coverage to companies I don’t like. I just don’t mention them.