Established in 1997, Viking Cruises is the world’s largest river cruise line, with some 45 river ships sailing the waterways of Europe, Russia and the Ukraine, Egypt, China, Vietnam and Cambodia.
With two lines, one providing river voyages and the other featuring ocean cruises, similarities onboard ships in Viking’s two fleets are numerous.
Viking River’s Longships, the largest and most contemporary class of ships on Europe’s rivers, were created specifically for river cruising. Sleekly Scandinavian in design, these 190-passenger vessels feature all-outside cabins, two-room suites, real balconies and several dining venues whose cuisines range from formal to light-fare. The Aquavit Terrace, a special feature of the Longships design, functions as an indoor/outdoor restaurant and lounge. Alfresco dining is so popular with travelers that Viking has added more dining settings.
Viking’s earlier classes of river ships feature all the comforts of home and then some. Many have French verandahs, lounges with panoramic views, well-furnished sundecks and cozy libraries off the aft. All cabins have windows to the outside, private bathrooms, TVs, telephones and safes.
On all Viking River cruises, on board entertainment is designed to help passengers understand the cultures and regions visited. Expect to find lectures, local musicians and themed dinners with regional specialties.
In its main restaurants, Viking ships offer open seating for all meals. Breakfast is usually a buffet, while lunch is a combo buffet and off-the-menu meal. Dinner is a more formal. Soft drinks, beer and wine are served complimentary at dinner.
Viking offers a range of shore excursions. In every port there’s at least one complimentary choice and a selection of more in-depth outings for extra fees.
Viking River’s fleet is the largest in the river industry. The line has been aggressively introducing new ships almost every year for more than a decade.
The Europe itineraries, are largely focused on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers, along with France’s Rhone and Seine. It also offers cruises on Portugal’s Duoro.
Beyond mainstream Europe, Viking Emerald, which launched in 2011, cruises China’s Yangtze River. The 256-passenger ship has a pair of 840-square-foot presidential suites with separate sitting and sleeping areas, two flat-screen TVs, panoramic windows and a private wrap-around balcony. Standard accommodations aren’t any slouch either — they provide 269 square feet of living space (on river ships most passenger cabins are significantly smaller than on ocean-going vessels) and all have private balconies.
Passengers are generally English-speaking, well-traveled cruise veterans in the 55-plus bracket, although China and Southeast Asia attracts some younger travelers.