Joining 112-passenger Elbe-class vessels Viking Schumann and Viking Fontane in 2015, Viking Astrild and Viking Beyla became the most modern ships sailing the Elbe River. Each newcomer, which accommodates just 98 guests in 49 staterooms, is inspired by but smaller than Viking River Cruises' popular Longships, with customized hulls and engines specially designed to navigate the more shallow waters of the Elbe in Germany and the Czech Republic. Viking's Elbe-class vessels are now evenly split between streamlined, state-of-the-art interpretations of Longships, with staterooms and suites ranging from 140 to 250 square feet, and older ships (renovated in 2010 and 2011) with stateroom options measuring 135 and 205 square feet.
What We Love
The New Vessels Channel Longship Mojo: After sailing a number of times on standard Viking Longships, we found the smaller Viking Astrild and Viking Beyla to offer a similar experience. A special bonus: The ship's intimate size and tight-knit crew made it seem like they were a family who had invited us into their home.
Sleek Design: Viking didn't veer away from its revolutionary Scandinavian design and ample floor-to-ceiling windows for Viking Astrild and Viking Beyla. And renovations to Viking Fontane and Viking Schumann gave each of the older ships cleaner lines — although they're nowhere near as chic as Longships — and added a French Balcony Stateroom category.
Best Known For
Immersive Itineraries: Viking is no slouch when it comes to providing guests with professionally guided tours that offer insight into regional history and culture. On the Elbe that means a visit to Wittenberg and the home of Martin Luther, the opulent palaces and gardens of the Saxon monarchs, the sandstone cliffs of Germany’s Saxon Switzerland National Park, the baroque splendor of Dresden, and the opportunity to see how Meissen porcelain is produced.
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Who It's Best For
Longship Lovers Seeking a More Intimate Cruise Experience: Sailing the 10-day Elegant Elbe itinerary, Viking Astrild and Viking Beyla will please Longship fans who prefer an even more intimate onboard ambience. Both ships carry about half as many guests as standard Longships — just 98 compared to 190.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
The Elbe Can Be Persnickety: Elbe-class vessels are specially designed to meet the challenges of cruising this notoriously shallow river. On our sailing, the water level was so low that no ships could cruise. Nevertheless, using Viking Astrild and Viking Beyla, positioned about one-third and two-thirds of the way on the planned itinerary, we saw and experienced more than we bargained for. And docked multiple nights in Wittenberg and Dresden, we enjoyed many of the destination immersion benefits typically reserved for land vacations.
Chris Owen is a Florida-based travel writer and photographer.
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Elbe Class at a Glance
- Line: Viking River Cruises
- Class: Elbe Class
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