It wasn’t until I met Peggy that I was introduced to the idea of cruising for a vacation. Together, we’ve sailed on four ocean cruises. The idea of taking a river cruise in Europe sounded appealing and I’m glad we ended up taking one.
We were originally supposed to board the Viking Njord and were told that they substituted the Baldur due to mechanical issues with the Njord. Boarding the Baldur, everything was bright, shiny and without chips or nicks; it seemed like a brand new ship. I later learned that it was two years old.
These “Longships” are specifically designed for Viking and made for cruising rivers with low bridges and river locks. All rooms are outward facing and have a floor to ceiling view. Due to their design, each room can only accommodate a maximum of two individuals. Consequently, we had to purchase an additional cabin for Kari and told her that she can invite a friend. She ended up inviting Mikaela.
Viking’s target market appears to be Americans as everything is written in English, the staff will converse with you in English and the on-board TV has English speaking channels (including BBC News). The girls loved the nice size of the LCD screen and that they had a good selection of movies to watch.
Breakfast in the dining room was one of our favorite things to do. The food was delicious and it was enjoyable to converse with the staff. Probably the most popular choice was the made-to-order omelette. The breakfast buffet consisted of hot dishes like scrambled eggs and bacon. Muffins, toast, oatmeal, muesli and fruit were available for those seeking healthier options. Mikaela and I enjoyed the lox & cream cheese creations.
While the breakfasts didn’t vary that much, I appreciated the dinner options. They even featured a German / Austrian traditional dinner. Non-adventurous diners could eat a steak or broiled salmon each day.
The food on the Viking was very good. Considering the size of the kitchen staff, they can’t afford to take a lot of time doing kitchen prep. Yet, I was amazed that they offered items like pork knuckle and braised ribs. My favorite dish of the trip was the lobster risotto.
I think Viking’s beverage offering is quite reasonable. Complimentary bottle water is available in the cabin and you can request more, if needed. Unless you are on a beverage package, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages have a fee and are charged to your room. Fees for these drinks are waived while you eat during their meal service.
On the Germany / Austria night, they allowed us to tour the kitchen. It was hard to believe that they did not much in the way of “burners”. I use quotations because they are not allowed to use gas and they use an induction range instead.
WiFi is available free on-board, but realistically you can’t get a decent signal until you come out to the common areas. Because the ship is moving constantly, Internet service is provided via a satellite service.
If you ever wonder where you are, all you need to do is to flip on your TV and select “My Journey”. It will display a version of Google Maps and you can toggle between street vs imagery.
Viking did an outstanding job hiring local tour guides. They were all extremely knowledgable about their local area. Most of the had a good sense of humor and were actually quite interesting. My favorite tour guide was the student, Patrick, in Nuremberg because he was both knowledgable about the town and its history and extremely funny.
Viking also broke up the day by providing on-board events: Making Christmas cookies, Staff Sing-Along, Christmas Caroling and German Tea Time. In fact, the Hotel Manager, Michael did an amazing impression of Louis Armstrong and sung “It’s a Wonderful World.”
Peggy signed up for a Captain’s tour of the wheelhouse. There she learned the intracacies of piloting a riverboat. Because some of the bridges are very low, the wheelhouse is retractable so that only a small portion is above deck.
If you’re an avid ocean cruiser and wonder what’s missing? Here are some that come to mind – Viking doesn’t offering the following: casino, spa, pool, gym, large theater for shows.
What I did like was the fact that you weren’t bombarded with requests to have your picture taken. I usually try to avoid the photographer when I see him or her.
I’ve been wanting to experience a river cruise for a number of years. Now that I’ve been on one, I can’t wait for my next one.