Viking River Cruises
After launching their first ship in 1997, Viking quickly rose to Big Kahuna status among river cruise lines. The company now has more than 50 ships (at least twice as many as other leading lines), sailing Europe's rivers as well as in Egypt, Asia, and Russia. The line continues to launch new ships as well, most of them 190-passenger longships highlighting an innovative, contemporary design that accomplishes the goal of modernizing river cruising.
What We Love
Smart Design: The high-tech longships, all named for Norse gods and heroes, are sleek and modern, done up in appealing Scandinavian decor and showcasing light-filled atriums, glass elevators, cabins with verandas, two-room suites, and alfresco alternative dining.
Uniformity: The longships are virtually interchangeable, so you can pick a route rather than trying to get on a particular ship.
Best Known For
Easy Exploration: River cruising with Viking is spoon-fed travel at its best. You don't need to bring a guidebook or worry about getting around because local guides meet you at each port. On the ship, you're fed, provided with wine and beer (with lunch and dinner), and well cared for. All you have to do is enjoy river views as your floating hotel takes you from one place to the next.
Local Flair: Viking's crew includes folks from Eastern Europe (even from some of the cities you may be visiting), menus present such local treats as Wiener schnitzel, and entertainment involves regional folkloric troupes.
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Who It's Best For
An Older Crowd: The ships are designed for couples and singles ages 55-plus. Most passengers are well past retirement age.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
You Need to Book in Advance: Viking can't build ships fast enough. Make reservations about a year in advance for popular summertime cruises such as the Rhine or Danube. This ruins the option of spontaneously deciding to do a river cruise.
You Are Part of a Pack: Although you are free to go off on your own in port (as long as you carefully keep track of ship departure times), river cruising Viking-style is very much about traveling as a group.
Fran Golden is a Cleveland-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for USA Today.