Viking River Cruises: Our First Impressions
If you haven’t heard the news, river cruising is the red hot trend in the travel industry. In fact, the most popular itineraries tend to sell out a year in advance, and the river cruise companies can’t seem to build ships fast enough to keep up with the demand. Further, with the dollar’s strong performance in early 2015, the coming year looks to be another record-breaking year for the river cruise industry.
Carol and I were privileged to sail the river Danube with Viking River Cruises in December, and we’re very excited to share our experience with you.
If you’re not familiar with Viking River Cruises, you might check out our article: Viking River Cruises: 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know. You might also enjoy: How to Choose the Right Stateroom on a Viking River Cruise.
Impressions from our First Sailing With Viking River Cruises
First Impressions in Budapest
Ours was a Christmas Markets Cruise with Viking River Cruises. I shot this photograph from our hotel window the night before our cruise. As you can see, Budapest is a very beautiful city.
But, I also want to draw your attention to the three cruise ships docked just under Budapest’s famous Chain Bridge. All three of them are Viking River Cruises ships. As we taught you in our article above, Viking River Cruises owns some of the best docking locations in Europe’s great cities, and certainly this was evident in Budapest. Further, for what it’s worth, Viking had three ships present in Budapest while we only saw one other cruise ship company present during our stay.
First Impressions Boarding the Ship
Intelligently, Viking River Cruises works very hard to make your first impressions on the ship one of pure awe and expectation.
As you approach the ship, there are red Viking streamers gently blowing in the breeze with a digital message board on the ship announcing the name of the ship, and welcoming you aboard. Walking down the gang plank you’re greeted by a member of the Viking team with refreshments, a big smile, and directions to the lobby’s front desk for check-in. Thankfully, our greeter also took our luggage.
The staff at the front desk were all smiles, very welcoming, and, in less than two-minutes, our check-in process was complete and another team member was walking us to our stateroom. Inside our stateroom, she made us familiar with its features, left to greet another boarding passenger, and before we could finish gawking at our room, there was a knock at the door with our luggage.
Impressive first impressions indeed!
First impressions of our Stateroom
We were sailing on one of Viking’s new longships, the Alsvin, and enjoyed one of their Veranda Staterooms.
There are 39 of these on a Viking longship, and the first thing we noticed, and appreciated, was the extra space in the room versus a comparable style room we enjoyed with another river cruise line earlier in the year.
Here’s the features of a Viking Veranda Stateroom:
- Stateroom size: 205 sq. ft.
- Hotel-style beds 79 inches x 63 inches (with optional twin-bed configuration)
Floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors open to a full-size veranda
- Private bathroom with shower and premium bath products
- Telephone, refrigerator, safe, hair dryer & bottled water replenished daily
- Bathrobe and slippers available upon request
- Individual climate control
- Space under bed for storing suitcases
- Roomy wardrobe with wooden hangers
- Voltage: 220V and 110V in stateroom
- Sony 40-inch flat-panel TV with premium entertainment package including: BBC News, CNBC, CNN, National Geographic, TNT Series, Sky Sports, videos on demand and “View From the Bridge”
There’s no getting around it, veranda-type staterooms on river cruise ships are small. However, we had ample storage space for our suitcases (under the bed) and clothing. And there was enough space for both of us to be comfortable each night, after a day of exploration.
The bathroom is small, only one person at a time, and the shower takes a little practice to get in and out. However, the heated floors were a treat, as were the premium bath products.
If I had one beef with our stateroom, it was that the mattress was good, not great. And we really didn’t care for the pillows at all. Although, we should have inquired about different pillows. I suspect Viking had a solution for that.
Would I sail with Viking in another Veranda stateroom? Absolutely! In fact, we’re soon sailing on Viking in the wine country of South France in another Veranda Stateroom.
Here’s our stateroom recommendations:
- If your budget can swing it, get at least a Veranda Stateroom. Preferably mid-ship on the highest deck. You’ll appreciate the extra room space over the two entry-level staterooms.
- While they sell out quickly, there are seven (7) Veranda Suites on each of Viking’s Longships. These are 275 sq. ft., and feature a separate living room to enjoy. You are certain to enjoy the extra space for lounging.
- If your budget tends towards the lavish, there are two (2) Explorer Suites on each longship, and these are quite lovely indeed. We got one of these for friends who joined us on our journey, and the suite was very comfortable for four of us to visit. On a side note, these suites are on the very back of the ship, and our friends felt more vibration from the propulsion system of the boat, where we felt none of that mid-ship.
To learn more about Viking River Cruises staterooms, click here.
Impressions of the Cuisine Aboard Viking River Cruises
When considering Viking River Cruises, you need to remember that the cruise line has purposely built their ships to be what you might call a four-star experience. This allows them to appeal to a wider market, and offer entry level staterooms for only 1800 smackeroos/person on some of their sailings.
Some folks call the Berlitz River Cruise Guide the bible of the river cruise industry. They tend to rate the cuisine on Viking’s ships in the 76 out of 100 range. I don’t agree with that. While some river cruise lines really excel in the level of their cuisine, I think Viking merits something more in the 85 out of 100 range.
As we tell our clients, you’re going to walk out of your evening meal telling yourself, that was really nice. But, you’re not likely to stand on your chair and break out into an aria in praise of the chef. The food is very nice, but not totally unbelievable and out of this world. Four-star, remember?
Viking’s chefs offer local cuisines from each port, use fine ingredients, and we found the staff very accommodating. Complimentary wine and beer are flowing for lunch and dinner, there’s plenty of room in the dining room to accommodate all of the ship’s guests, and you’re going to totally enjoy your dinner after a day of exploring the region.
Here’s my gastronomical rating system:
- 3-star – eh, nothing special
- 4-star – very nice. I’d come back, and I’ll tell people nice things about the food.
- 5-star – I’m standing on my chair singing an aria in praise of the chef. Absolutely fabulous.
Viking’s cuisine is a solid 4-star, and a few of the meals were a 4-star+. So, to make a long story short, you’re going to enjoy the cuisine on Viking River Cruises.
Shore Excursions With Viking River Cruises
One of the things we really like about Viking River Cruises is that they completely own their fleet of ships. Some companies will lease a ship, the staff, the chef, and don’t really have any skin in the game.
Viking, on the other hand, owns the ships, the staff are employees of the company, and they also have a fleet of Mercedes Benz buses in each of the ports. Plus, they very likely own the dock, while other river cruise companies are forced to dock outside of your Viking ship, or a ways downriver.
In smaller ports, we simply walked off the ship into town with a locally hired Viking guide. In the larger towns, or when there was a distance to travel, Viking had a small fleet of shiny Mercedes Benz buses waiting for us on the shore. Comfy, clean, and very nice.
We found Viking’s guides knowledgeable and entertaining, but one thing we really liked was the fact that not only were the excursions complimentary, but also only a half day. This gave Carol and I time to explore each of the ports on our own. And if that doesn’t suit your fancy, Viking also has other guided tours that you can purchase beyond each day’s complimentary tour.
For those of you who might fear too much walking, it was pretty reasonable. Plus, in those places where there might be steep inclines to reach a particular destination, Viking provided, where possible, vans to move folks up the hill.
We really enjoyed our complimentary Viking shore excursions. Below, we learned about Germany’s oldest gingerbread recipe from a family of bakers who’ve been making gingerbread for five generations. YUM!
Nutcrackers in Vienna…
Christmas in Bratislava, Slovakia…
Our Viking River Cruises longship docked along the shore in Dürnstein, Austria, just outside the famous Wachau Valley…
I have many more photographs to share, but I’ll do that in separate posts over the coming weeks. Be sure to click on all of the photographs for larger views.
Summing up our Viking River Cruise Experience
Would we cruise with Viking River Cruises again? Absolutely! Would we recommend Viking River Cruises to our travel agency clients? Absolutely, we do, and with no reservations!
This is our second river cruise experience, and Carol and I have become BIG fans. No large crowds, no constant packing and unpacking, smooth calm waters, stunningly beautiful, peaceful scenery, wonderful dining, informative shore excursions. In our opinion, river cruising is a fabulous way to see a new destination, and we can certainly understand why the river cruise industry has become so popular.
We loved our Viking River Cruise experience, and look forward to sharing another Viking experience with you soon.
Big thumbs up from The Roaming Boomers®
To book your own Viking River Cruise experience, or to get more information, call our travel agency at (480) 550-1235, or use our convenient information request form by clicking here.
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