Viking River Cruises
Viking have 13 European based riverboats plying the main rivers of the continent. They also have ships cruising the mighty Yangtze in China. The line was only established in 1997 but has seen spectacular growth due to the special service and comfort that they provide. The line has 20 riverboats altogether and is due to launch another six ships in 2012. Besides Europe and China, the line operates cruises in the Ukraine, Egypt, Vietnam and Cambodia. Riverboats tend to moor in the heart of the towns they visit and all guided trips ashore are included in the price of the cruise.
Cabins are very comfortable and well fitted out. They are larger on the Chinese and South East Asian riverboats as they are not restricted by the lock sizes and low bridges of the European river system. Cabins have flat screen TVs and can view international satellite news channels, English language movies, sports and documentary channels. Movies are on-demand so adding a plus to in-cabin entertainment. Cabins have plenty of storage space and even though bathrooms are necessarily compact they are still well equipped and easy to use. Each cabin is also fitted with an (Empty) mini-fridge. Mattresses are of good quality as is the bedding. The line provides single cabins on its newer riverboats and these all have balconies for the staterooms and suites.
As for almost all riverboats, Viking have just one main dining room in which all meals are served. Breakfast is served buffet style and whilst there is a wide range of choices, the menu stays the same each day. Lunch is slightly regimented in that passengers are asked to arrive at specific times in order to fit in with the day’s itinerary. It is still served buffet style and there is a limited range that can be ordered direct from the kitchen. On some riverboats there is an alternative venue which does not have the strict timings for a buffet lunch in the lounge but it is of limited choice. Meals often reflect the cuisine of the area being visited, but not always. If the weather is good, lunch can often be taken on the sundeck.
Dinner is of four courses and served at a set time. The menu offers a wide range of choices. The line serves complimentary wine with dinner and whilst it is good, it doesn’t change. Of course, when cruising the Rhine or Danube past vineyards, the local wines have to be tried and these are often available from the riverboat’s cellar. Viking offer a “Beverages” package where a passenger can drink as much as they want from a limited list for a fixed price. Viking is not really equipped for children and there are no special arrangements for them in the cabins or on the program. It is considered that children would very quickly become bored with what is after all a cultural rather than an entertainment cruise. The average age of Viking cruisers tends to be 55 and over with them usually being well educated and well-travelled.
The main activity on the riverboats is the excursions to visit the towns along the riverbanks. Most of these are include3d in the price but there are some bus tours etc that need to be paid for. There are cooking lessons on some ships demonstrating the preparation of local dishes. On some riverboats on some evenings local singers, dancers or actors will perform a concert of local arts. Experts on the region are carried on board or arrive when the riverboat docks. They give talks on the local region, its customs and history. Some riverboats offer Wi-Fi access to the internet but the technology isn’t perfect yet. For those who must stay in touch with home office, a local internet café in part is probably the best option.