You’re about to discover the six things
that you really need to know, and watch out for, if you’re thinking of cruising
in Europe with Viking River Cruises. I’m Gary Bembridge and this is another of
my tips for travellers. I’m just back from a European River cruise along the Danube
with Viking on the Viking of Vilhjalm, and I thought it would be a great
opportunity to share with you the things that I wish I’d known, and the things
that I learned, to help you better understand a Viking River cruise in
Europe. And the things to really watch out for and make sure that you’re aware of before you go. It was established back in 1997, and so it’s not
the oldest of the river cruise companies, but it is a large company. It has over
70 ships (at the time of recording) either on the rivers or about to enter the
rivers, and they’re constantly expanding. It operates in the premium end of river
cruising, so not on the ultra-luxury end – it’s in the premium segment. Secondly, in
Europe Viking operate what are known as the Viking longships. These long
ships operate on most of the rivers in Europe. There are a couple of rivers
where the longships are too big to operate on, so they have a scaled-down
version. Let me tell you a little bit about what you can expect on a Viking
Longship. It has a 190 passengers and around about 45
crews. So, a high crew to passenger ratio. When you step on board the longship, the first thing you’ll notice is the decor.
It’s very Scandinavian in look and feel, and that of course links back to the
original heritage and the founders who come from Scandinavia. There are four
different accommodation types on board. There are suites at the rear
of the longships, they have veranda suites which have an actual
balcony which you can go out on and it has a table and two chairs.
They also have veranda cabins which have floor-to-ceiling windows, but these are
Juliet balconies and no actual balcony you can step out on. On the lower
level they have standard cabins which have a small window at the top of the
cabin, and that’s because these cabins are partly below the water level. On the
top deck you have the Sun Deck which is a big open space where you can sit out
and enjoy the weather and the scenery. On the next level down you have the real
heart and hub of the ship, which is the lounge. This is where you
have the bar. It’s also where you will have your daily briefings. It is where
people meet during the day and go for drinks before and after dinner.
It’s where if there’s any entertainment it’ll also be hosted here. In the front
of the lounge is what’s known as Aquavit. It has the early riser
breakfast out here and also a lighter breakfast, a lighter lunch
and in the evening you can dine here and it’s the same menu as in the
main restaurant. To the rear of the lounge you have the 24-hour tea and
coffee making facilities, which are great. There’s also on this level a small
library and a couple of computers if you have not brought your own laptop. On the
level below that you have the Reception area, a small Viking shop, which sells
branded merchandise and other products related to the cruise, and then you have the
dining room. This is a great open space. Everyone can sit here. It’s open seated
dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is buffet, although they do
have eggs cooking station where you can order things like pancakes and Eggs Benedict.
Lunch is a buffet and there will often be a pasta station and again you can order
from a menu. The evening is a full multi-course dinner menu where you’ll
have a regional menu based on where you’re cruising through, and a la carte and
then some standards which are on every single day. What’s as important as what
the ship does have is what it doesn’t have. There’s no medical centre on
board, and that’s true of all river cruising ships because you’re close
enough to the banks and ports to not have medical centres. Also, unlike
some other River cruise companies, it doesn’t have a fitness centre, it doesn’t
have a spa, doesn’t have a hairdresser, doesn’t have an exercise room and it doesn’t
carry bicycles. The focus of the Longship is very much on he hotel
experience, the dining experience and very much around the destinations and
the excursions. The third thing to know about Viking is they offer you an
enormous choice of rivers and also different itineraries on those rivers, because
there’s such a big fleet in operation they have huge permutations.You should
find pretty much any of the rivers in Europe that you want to sail on Viking
are there. For example, they sail on the Danube, the Rhine, the Rhone, the Elbe, the Duoro, Volga, the waters of
Bordeaux, they sail on rivers in Holland and Belgium – and even on those
there’s lots of different itineraries. So, as you look at the rivers that you want
to go on there’s going to be different itineraries. The next key thing to
understand, and watch out for, is what is and isn’t included in a Viking fare.
River cruising generally in Europe is pretty all-inclusive, however, there are
nuances and differences based on the different brands. So, when
you look at the Viking fare understanding what you are going to get is very important
because a lot of people, particularly coming from ocean cruising, take a look
at the river cruising fares and think they’re on the high side. That’s
because there’s a lots of stuff included. What is included? The obvious things
are included like your accommodation and Dining is included. Some
of your drinks are also included. At lunch and dinner wine, beer and soft
drinks are included. You’ll normally find there’ll be a choice of wines,
obviously often a white and a red wine is included. Also excursions are included.
You’ll find at every place you stop there’s normally at least one included
excursion within your fare. Sometimes there will also be a choice of
excursions and you might have a choice of two or three excursions that are
included. The excursions do tend to focus on the historical, the cultural and the
arts side of a destination. You will find in some places there are optional
excursions, which you do have to pay for. For example, in Vienna there was the
opportunity to go to a classical concert in the evening. Entertainment is also
included within the fare. Entertainment is not on the scale of
an ocean cruise ship. Every evening there will normally be one activity which could be local singers, dancers or musicians. It could be a quiz. There’s also a pianist who will play
often around lunchtime, before dinner and after dinner. What is not
included? First of all, gratuities are not included within the fare. At the time
of recording, the gratuities recommended were two euros per person per day for
the program director and 12 euros per person per day for the rest of the crew.
Drinks outside of lunch and dinner you also have to pay for and you can pay for those ad hoc or they do sell what’s known as a Silver
Spirits drinks package, which will then cover you for the entire time. Bear in
mind of course, your 24-hour teas and coffees are always available and that is
included within the fare. If you want to do things like send stuff to the
laundry or, of course, buy things in the shop that is not included within
the fare. The next important thing to understand is the passenger mix and what
sort of passengers you likely to find on board. Viking River Cruises and also
their ocean cruises are an adults-only experience.You have to be over 18
before you can go on a Viking River cruise. River cruising generally still is
the slightly older traveler experience, and you are more likely to find people in
their 50s, 60s, 70s and even above on river cruises, particularly in Europe. Of
course you are or going to get a range. You’re going to find it’s mostly
people from the USA, UK and often a lot of Australians. It’s an
English language experience and the whole program is done in English. What I also
found on river cruising, and I did find this very true on Viking, is you find a
lot of groups of people travelling together. Some groups of friends or
multi-generational people travelling together. So, although there’s lots of
couples they are often on board with friends and family.
What about solo travellers? If you are a solo traveller and you want to travel on
Viking, the best thing to do is to sign up for their email newsletters or work
very closely with Viking or your travel agent as what they do is certain
cruises during the year will have either no single supplement or anywhere
up to 50% surcharge if you’re travelling in a cabin by yourself. They
tend to be cruises at the beginning and end of the season, so less
peak times. If you plan to go on a Viking River cruise, or any river cruise, do you
think about your degree of mobility and how active you are. The Longships do
have some cabins for people with mobility issues, however in my personal
opinion, river cruises are really best enjoyed by people who are a little bit
more mobile. This is because it can be quite a challenge getting on and off the Longships because the nature of where you’re docking and the ramps, and in the
places calling on are old traditional places so you find lots
of cobblestones, lots of stairs and not necessarily lots
of mobility friendly ways of getting around. One thing I would say about
Viking is they do go out of their way to make sure if you do have a mobility
issues that they help you and work really hard to make sure you have a
great cruise. There is an elevator on the Longships, but it does only go
between two floors, so between the floor of the lounge and the
floor that has dining room on. Another key watch out and thing to understand is
the dress code. The dress code on a Viking River cruise is pretty casual and
relaxed. In fact the only real rule that you need to bear in mind when thinking
about packing and what to bring, is you are not supposed to wear denim jeans or shorts
in the dining room in the evening. The rest of dress code is pretty relaxed.
Some people do make more of an effort to dress up for the Captain’s
Welcome Party and the Captain’s Farewell Party, then some people dress up a bit smarter.
It’s more important to think about things like good walking shoes, layers if
it gets cold or if it gets hot you have layers that you can layer up or down,
things to protect you against rain if there are showers. These are much more important
to think about that when it comes to thinking about a Viking River cruise than which of your “Glad rags” and smart clothes to wear. Viking River Cruises is probably
the best known river cruising company in the world, and certainly within Europe
they have a large fleet on lots of different rivers. They really
do focus very much on the hotel, the dining and the food experience and
immersing you in the places that you go to. If you’re interested in Viking or
you’re interested in river cruising in Europe, watch many more of my Tips For Travellers videos. I have lots of videos with lots of tips about river cruising
in Europe.