River cruise lines are bracing for an influx of newbies – cruisers who are seeking a safe haven from viruses and looking for a small ship close to shore that offers culture galore, food, wine and excursions in safety.
Welcome to river cruising – where German cathedrals or Portuguese vineyards roll past your window, but the shore is never far away.
A voyage with Viking is a very different experience from the mega ocean liners of the high seas. With no casinos, no big theatres and an intimate number of people onboard, river cruising offers immersive shore excursions like never before.
You get to watch dramatic operas in private castles, dine at Michelin-starred restaurants or see the wonderful landscapes pass by.
For Sallie Carroll, who had never been on a river cruise before, sailing with Viking on a cruise through the lower Danube through Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary was a revelation.
“What I loved about the itinerary was that it took us to places you could only reach by river cruise. One of the highlight destinations was Serbia,” she said.
“The other thing that we loved about the experience is how modern and spacious the Viking longships are. Looking at the future of cruise, this will be important.”
Viking, which is a premium line sailing on both the oceans and the rivers, promises – no kids, no casinos, no inside staterooms, no crowds and no queues – which is a major attraction for many river cruisers. The service onboard is impeccable, and all of the Viking staff are Swiss-trained. Something which Ms Carroll said was a major point of difference.
Bob Reynolds, a Cruise Passenger reader, said he has been on three Viking river cruises – one in Portugal, one in China and one in France.
Mr Reynolds said he had switched from ocean ships to river cruising and has even planned his next voyage.
“We cruised with ocean lines in Alaska and the Mediterranean. But we thoroughly enjoyed our three river cruises with Viking,” he said.
“The most recent cruise we went on was in Lyon and Provence (Avignon to Lyon). We are very happy with them and see no reason to change. We had planned one from Romania to Holland over June and July this year, which we will be doing in June 2022.
8 reasons why you should pick a Viking River Cruise
Viking’s elegant Longships are known for their sleek Scandinavian design. The wide expansive corridors and public areas give passengers a real sense of space. There are no crowds onboard and guests will easily be able to find a quiet nook to enjoy the view or read a book.
One of the most striking areas of the Longship is the light and airy atrium which is encased by glass ceilings and walls. On a sunny summer’s day, the natural light accents the elegance of Viking’s longship.
The Scandinavian design is also seen in the open al fresco dining area, the Aquavit Terrace. Filled with pine chairs and tables, covered in white cushions, this is the perfect place to have a spot of lunch, while enjoying the scenery roll past you. The line is also known for offering its guests the most al fresco dining on the rivers.
Now, the accommodation onboard is sumptuous and spacious. Mose of the staterooms offer their own private balconies and for extra indulgence, there are also two Explorer Suites which come with their own sitting area. Viking offers the largest suites on the river. The beauty about the ships is that they only cater for 190 people, so you will get that real sense of space.
A Viking River exploration is not confined to the rivers of Europe. The line will take you on an adventure around the world. Whether it’s to the banks of the Nile, sailing past the tombs of Pharaohs, Viking offers cruises along the different rivers around the world.
One of the most exciting announcements from the fleet this year, is that Viking will be venturing to America in 2022. The new Viking Mississippi will be the first ship from the fleet to sail along this enchanting part of America, visiting places like the vibrant Creole city of New Orleans, the crocodile-filled swamps of Baton Rouge as well as the plantation fields of Darrow in Louisiana.
Aside from ship launches, Viking is in the process of developing new shore excursions and itineraries to keep guests enriched.
For example, starting in 2021 and 2022, there will be a 10-day Christmas Along the Elbe from Berlin to Prague, offering a snow-dusted festive holiday.
Discovering the ancient ruins of Egypt, the new Viking Osiris, set to launch in 2022 has special experiences where passengers will have exclusive access to some of the country’s best museums.
In Europe, Viking’s long river legacy means that the line has close relationships with the cities and townships of the region.
The line has priority docking arrangements, meaning that your ship will dock in the centre of town, providing more time to explore the heart of these unique and culturally rich destinations.
Onshore, the excursions on Viking’s extensive list of activities offers passengers unique and behind-the-scenes opportunities to see renowned museums and notable landmarks. The line’s Privileged Access experience takes you to places which are difficult to visit if you were travelling on your own.
The lines’ Local Life program offers fascinating insights into the communities of the destinations you visit. If you’re sailing on the Volga, you can visit a Russian home in the quaint town of Uglich, or, take a culinary tour of the stunning city of Budapest.
Viking is known as ‘the thinking person’s cruise’, not the drinking person’s cruise.
Their voyages are destination focused, culturally enriching and carefully curated. You’ll find yourself travelling with no more than 190 other likeminded guests with similar interests in history, culture and the arts.
The libraries onboard Viking’s longships are rich with literature, non-fiction and coffee books. The libraries, which are a popular nook for passengers, have been carefully curated by Heywood Hill – the official booksellers to Her Majesty the Queen. Here you can spend hours immersing yourself in the tales of Charles Dickens or Emily Bronte.
After your shore excursions, Viking has an extensive lecture program onboard which is designed to shed light on the destination’s art, architecture, music, geopolitics, natural world and more.
Each itinerary includes one or more Destination Performances. Whether it be Portuguese Fado with its melancholy melodies and poignant lyrics; Viennese opera, a centuries-old storytelling art form; or world-renowned Mariinsky Theatre singers from St. Petersburg.
Boasting the largest river suites, Viking has a distinctive feature onboard its Longships: a special corridor configuration. Viking’s fleet has no inside cabins and every stateroom has a balcony or window.
A guest would never think, but by shifting the corridor one metre and reorienting the staterooms, Viking’s patented design of an asymmetrical corridor configuration creates additional space and a variety of stateroom choices.
The result is the largest suites in Europe—featuring separate sleeping and living rooms in each of its Explorer Suites and Veranda Suites—as well as more full-size rooms and full-size verandas than other European river cruise vessels. Plus, three-quarters of staterooms feature a veranda, French balcony or both.
Every part of Viking’s staterooms has been carefully curated – everything from the type of fabric used on the seating to the bathroom products. Torstein Hagen, the founder and Chairman of Viking, has spent a lifetime staying in hotels. With his eye for detail, guests will find small things like heated flooring, large showers and more are just some of the little things that will create a memorable holiday experience.
Whether you’re perusing the shores of the Yangtze River or countryside France, the cuisine onboard Viking will reflect the region you’re travelling through.
There are two main dining areas on the Longships – The Restaurant and the Aquavit Terrace.
The Restaurant offers gracious service, included wine and beer, and streamlined Scandinavian design. The menu includes regional cuisine and always available classics enhanced with locally sourced ingredients, so you can explore new cultures through food.
The Aquavit Terrace, which is a favourite among of many Viking regulars, has the best seats in the house. Offering al fresco dining, guests can have breakfast and lunch in this relaxing space. Every meal can be paired with a wide selection of regional wines, and you’ll be pleased to know that some of the herbs in your meal are grown right on the roof of your Viking Longship.
From free Wi-Fi, to alcoholic beverages, to shore excursions, to enrichment lectures and destination performances.
The beauty about a Viking River cruise is that there are no nasty surprises and definitely no nickel and diming.
Also included in the fare are gratuities, port fees, all main meals, 24-hour specialty tea, coffee and bottled water and ground transfers with Viking Air purchases.
It’s one price, and nothing extra. Viking makes your river cruise experience seamless.
Viking’s Risk Free Guarantee is the most flexible policy of any cruise line. Book before 30 June 2020 and you’ll have the freedom to change your plans up to 24 hours before departure for any reason – and Viking will waive any fees.
Plus: Viking has opened up advance departures in 2021, 22 and 23, to provide additional peace of mind so you are able to plan for the future.
For a limited time, Viking are offering 2022 river cruises, at 2020 prices.