June 2021 Update: Many of us have been waiting patiently for the news of when Viking Cruises will resume. Well, I have some good news! Viking recently announced that it will be resuming its European river cruises this July. Operations will resume with select itineraries in Portugal, France, and along the Rhine River.
Viking’s announcement was made after the European Union agreed this week to reopen its borders to vaccinated Americans and other travelers. All passengers and crew are required to be vaccinated to sail on Viking’s Welcome Back sailings — both ocean and river.
Why choose a Viking river cruise? How about 52 reasons to take a Viking Cruise?
This article is a little different than most of the “52 reasons articles” because it includes tips and Viking Cruise memories from three of the most important people in my world; my husband, sister, and mother who have each joined me on a Viking River Cruise as well as three bloggers I met while cruising on the Rhine River Christmas Cruise and two additional friends of mine who have sailed with Viking and also happen to be travel writers.
Some of these friends and family have one Viking Cruise under their belt and some have up to nine cruise experiences with Viking. I couldn’t think of a better group of people to share why the Viking experience is so special.
If you are contemplating a Viking River or Ocean cruise, I hope the below tips shed some light on what makes the Viking experience so spectacular. If you are trying to decide which river cruise to take, I’ve got an article for that too: How to Choose the Right Viking Cruise!
My Viking River Experiences
The first Viking River Cruise I took was the Rhine Christmas Market Cruise with my sister. We did the Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands route with stops in Breisach, Heidelberg, Koblenz, Cologne (all in Germany), Strasbourg (France,) and Kinderdijk (Netherlands).
My second Viking Cruise was with my husband, Todd and we sailed on the 8-day Danube Waltz Cruise with stops in Passau (Germany), Linz, Melk, Vienna (Austria), Bratislava (Slovakia), and Budapest (Hungary).
My third cruise was with my mom, Penny and we sailed on the 11 -day Passage to Eastern Europe Viking Danube Cruise. This cruise began in Budapest, Hungary and ended in Bucharest, Romania with visits to Veliko Tarnovo, Arbanasi, Vidin (Bulgaria), Golubac and Belgrade (Serbia), Osijek (Croatia) and Kalocsa (Hungary).
52 reasons to take a Viking Cruise
With three Viking River Cruises under my belt, I thought it was high time to share why this is one of my favorite companies to travel with. To start the list, here are my favorite things about sailing with Viking which will be followed by top things my friends, family, and fellow travel writers love about a Viking Cruise.
1. Sailing with Family (or Friends)
My absolute favorite thing about Viking River Cruises is sharing the experience with my sister, husband, and mom. Each cruise was so different and I have cherished memories from each.
2. Meeting Other Cruisers
Every one of the Viking Cruises I have taken has resulted in meeting new friends. I mean actual new friends that I have stayed in contact with after the cruise was over.
While all the food is great onboard, breakfast is the meal that I absolutely love on the Viking ships. From made-to-order omelets to fresh fruit and especially the lox with cream cheese, onion, capers and lemon it’s scrumptious.
4. Daily Briefing
Every evening before dinner, in the lounge is an overview of the next day that includes an overview of the tours as well as history about the city or town.
5. Visiting New Towns That Weren’t on My Radar
On each of the Viking Cruise routes I took, there was at least one location I had never heard of that took my breath away. My next three favorites (#6-8) I’m sharing one town from each cruise I absolutely loved and didn’t know about prior to the Viking River Cruise. All three of these quaint, small-town European locations are the type many of us dream of experiencing.
6. Colmar, France on the Rhine River Cruise
On the Rhine River Cruise, it was Colmar that stole my heart. The old town has cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered medieval and early Renaissance buildings. Colmar is also considered the Venice of France, because of a canal that runs through the old town with guided gondola rides.
7. Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic
On the Danube Waltz Cruise, it was the medieval UNESCO town of Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic that was shockingly beautiful.
8. Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria
On the Passage to Eastern Europe, it was the medieval town of Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria. It’s a small, picturesque city surrounded by fortified walls and lined with cobbled lanes. It’s one of Bulgaria’s oldest towns, and its centerpiece is the magnificent restored Tsarevets Fortress.
9. Home Visit Tours
On all three of the river cruises I took, there was at least one tour option for a home visit or home cooking class. On the Passage to Eastern Europe trip, my mom and I visited a home in Bilje. We were served a homemade traditional cake, tea, and local liquor. It’s also a chance to sit with the host and learn about Croatian traditions and customs as well as their experience during the war with Serbia.
10. Day at Sea
Not only is this a relaxing day on board the ship, but it tends to offer some of the most spectacular scenery. On the Rhine River cruise, the day at sea is the most scenic stretch of the Rhine, where turreted castles and fortresses overlook the river. This part of the Middle Rhine Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and absolutely gorgeous.
On the Passage to Eastern Europe route, our scenic cruising day was through one of the most picturesque areas of the Lower Danube. We sailed through the Iron Gate; one of Europe’s most dramatic natural wonders—a spectacular narrow gorge with enormous white limestone cliffs. On this cruise, we also sailed by the rock sculpture of ancient king Decebalus.
All three of my Viking River Cruises Europe trips I took had a series of locks on certain days. On the Danube Waltz and Passage to Eastern Europe trips, we passed through locks during the day. It’s quite spectacular to watch this process both from your room and from the sun deck.
12. Welcome Back after Excursions
One of the many details that make a Viking Cruise special is the welcome back. Not only, are you individually welcomed back by the crew, but there is also a refreshing drink or sweet treat as well.
Below, my sister, Wendy shares her favorite things about our Viking Rhine River cruise.
13. The Booking Process
Viking was amazing with the booking process, coordinating the airfare along with a cruise. A Viking Cruise is a great and easy way to experience Europe. Everything is done for you, all the planning (which can be complicated) is done! All we had to do was explore and enjoy.
14. The Size of the Ship
The river cruise boat/ship was a great size. Our stateroom had plenty of room for two of us to maneuver around and share the space. The general size of the ship was very comfortable and had an intimate feel. The ship had windows everywhere. No matter where we were sitting; enjoying a cocktail after a great day of sightseeing in the lounge or in the dining room, we had amazing views of the passing scenery.
15. The Christmas Markets
The Viking Cruise that we had the pleasure of going on was the Rhine River Christmas Market Cruise. I can not recommend it more highly, the markets were magical! Every Christmas market that we walked through had its own character and special local products being sold. You can’t miss the mulled wine and the personalized cups from each market. They are great to collect from each location and make for a great souvenir.
16. The Viking Staff
The Viking staff could not have been more accommodating. From the moment we approached the River Cruise, the Viking staff made everything so simple and pleasurable. The dining room maître d’ and servers made every meal feel like a five-star experience. They made us feel welcome and went out of their way to get to know everyone for a more personal experience. The bartenders in the lounge also made our experience very fun. They had a great sense of humor and made a point to remember what we liked to drink and would serve us as we walked in.
17. The Rhine Route
We enjoyed the variety of locations we experienced on the Rhine River Cruise. 4 countries, Medieval castles, Christmas Markets, Windmills. So much to see and experience and everything planned out ideally for us. This was the easiest and most enjoyable way to see Europe.
Below, my husband, Todd shares his favorite things about our Viking Danube cruise.
My second Viking Cruise was with my husband, Todd. We celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary with a Danube Waltz Cruise. This is an 8-day itinerary that includes stops in Passau, (Germany), Vienna (Austria), Bratislava (Slovakia), and Budapest (Hungary). Below, are the top five favorite things Todd loved about our Viking Cruise experience.
18. It’s a different experience than any other type of travel
It allows you to see things at a slower pace and really enjoy the experience. You also get to see the countryside and towns that you may not see on a normal adventure via auto or bus.
It’s a higher level of service and lower-key experience. It’s not fancy-schmancy, it’s tastefully done and feels just right as a full trip experience..
19. The food and services are the best there are
The food was always top-notch, even down to the smallest detail like the bread baskets. The food was fresh and was from different areas of the country. The menus were interesting and not the normal menus you would have on a cruise. The chef visited with guests and if you needed Gluten-free or dairy-free meals, they were custom made by the chef and staff to your liking.
20. You get to travel to 4 or 5 special locations in one trip
With Viking cruises, you get to see more of the country and from a different perspective than by bus or car. You travel slowly downriver and can truly embrace what life is like in little villages and towns.
21. Cost and upsell: it’s reasonable and the upsell is not a focus
With the Viking cruise price and you figure in the quality of food and services, the locations you visit, it is a great value. Also, the cost of extra day trips is reasonable. You are really getting a better value for your money than leaving the experience up to chance.
22. Staff and people aboard
It’s really easy to make travel friends on Viking cruises and you feel like the staff and servers are your friends after a day or two. You eat, travel and party with people on the river cruise and it’s easy to make friends; everyone is very fun and vibrant, considering the age demographic. You have the opportunity to meet other cruisers at dinner, on day trips, or after hours in the lounge to name a few. It’s also nice that meals aren’t assigned seating because you can sit with new people at each meal if you wish.
Below, my mom, Penny shares her favorite things (and a few of her photos) from our Passage to Eastern Europe cruise on the Danube.
23. Complimentary shore excursions
Thought out shore excursions were complimentary in every port. From comfortable transportation to knowledgeable tour guides this gave a good overview of the city or area we were visiting. Beyond, the daily included tours, there were additional tours available for a fee. One of my favorite tours was the very small artists’ village of Szentendre, Hungary.
This village has the narrowest street in Hungary, the smallest synagogue in Hungary, 26 art galleries and lots of shops selling and telling all about paprika. I do love trivia so this was a perfect tour for me!
On day 9 of the cruise, we were in Russe, Bulgaria which happens to be the largest city in Bulgaria and situated on the Danube River. This included tour gave a wonderful overview of the old city center, high school, historical museum, the opera house and Liberty Square with “their”Statue of Liberty.
24. Crew and staff
The crew and staff, including the captain, were friendly and courteous and went out of their way to accommodate the passengers. And this was done with real smiles and genuine enthusiasm. Arriving back to the ship after an excursion, members of the crew would meet us with a flavored tea or a pastry and always a welcome back.
25. Social Environment
From the lounge to the dining room the ship was made for social interaction: the lounge, a meeting place for cocktails, lectures, performances and after-dinner gatherings and the one dining room large enough to seat everyone in style. The first day onboard there were a lot of smiling but unrecognizable faces to the last day a lot of smiling faces of friends.
26. The lighting in the corridors
Walking to my stateroom the first day, the corridor was so peaceful with the soft lighting and easy and attractive decor. I even took a picture at night showing the lighting from the ceiling. I had that same happy feeling till the last day of my cruise. Speaking of lighting, the bathroom lighting was spectacular.
27. Soft music in the corridors
When leaving my stateroom I was happily surprised by low, soft music in the corridor. The first day I turned around to see which stateroom it was coming from and realized it was provided by Viking.
The next five favorite things are from Howard Blount. We were both on the Rhine Getaway Christmas Market cruise in 2016.
Howard is a fellow travel writer and founder of Backroad Planet; a road, river, and rail travel adventure website. He has sailed with Viking River Cruises three times; on the Rhine Getaway, Grand European, and River of Gold itineraries.
28. World-Class Amenities
The red carpet treatment on Viking river cruises extends far beyond the ruby runner that welcomes travelers aboard their longship. Every Viking amenity from complimentary champagne and chocolates, to luxurious Freyja® bath and body products, to the understated elegance of Scandinavian design pampers guests with the ultimate in creature comforts.
29. Ship Staff
I will go out on a limb and say that I believe Viking crew members are vetted with personality assessments and trained to the highest standards of courtesy and hospitality. You are sure to find Viking staff to be the kindest, most gregarious people you would ever want to meet, making your life on board pure delight.
30. Exclusive Excursions
Viking offers both included and optional river port excursions. Every day and at each destination, guests have the option to choose from free or paid land activities. Occasionally limited excursion opportunities and Privileged Access® experiences are offered. Such was the case with my favorite Viking excursion to date. The “Top of Cologne” tour led my group through the hidden recesses of the Kölner Dom and sent us soaring to the top of the gothic cathedral at sunset.
31. Quality Clientele
Viking has been called a “thinking persons” cruise line because it caters to a mature well-read clientele with interests in history, the arts, and scenic destinations. These are the cultured people I enjoy traveling with, and some of my cruisemates have become friends for life. If you are seeking a party boat, you won’t find it with Viking.
32. Exotic Destinations
Viking’s European river cruises on the Rhine, Main, and the Danube are legendary, offering the ideal way to visit multiple countries by way of a sailing hotel. Viking also offers cruises along even more exotic rivers through Russia, Egypt, China, and Southeast Asia. You can’t go wrong with destination options like these, and my insider tips will help you plan your journey of a lifetime on the world’s leading river cruise line.
The next five favorite things are from Alison Abbott. She was also on the same Rhine Getaway Christmas Market cruise in 2016.
Alison Abbott is the founder of Green With Renvy, a travel and lifestyle with a focus on sustainable shades of green living. She has taken two trips with Viking River Cruises, including The Rhine Getaway and the 14 -day Imperial Jewels of China.
When I took my first Viking River Cruise, I wasn’t sure if this was a method of travel for me. It didn’t take long for me to be convinced. I was traveling with my husband on the Rhine from Basel to Amsterdam and we have two very different styles of travel. Viking solved all of the normal challenges we have on a trip. There are many reasons I love to travel with Viking, but here are my top five.
33. Unpack Once
Like most cruisers, you can’t beat the concept of unpacking once and having a mobile hotel that floats you from city to city (or even country to country). This is a big winner for us.
34. Water Travel
Both my husband and I adore being on the water no matter what time of year. As the main highway for cruise transport, the rivers represent our Happy Place. The selection of side excursions in each port is extensive and if we wanted to see different parts of a city on our own, the choices made that easy and we didn’t have to arrange getting separate guides.
35. Excellent Variety Food
Viking has excellent food and offers such variety that all food concerns can easily be met. One consult with the chef and staff and my delicious choices and requirements were never forgotten. Visiting the Christmas markets along the Rhine was festive and the crew on Viking brought the holiday spirit right back onto the ship (including local tastes) without being overbearing.
36. Viking Takes Care of all the Details
My second cruise to China was a bit more complicated. The logistics of booking a trip that included an extensive itinerary that Viking covers would have been impossible to do on my own. The language barriers are real and the country is vast. Viking took care of all the details. We saw all of the major sites, including the Great Wall, the Terra Cotta Warriors and a sail on the Yangtze to the Three Gorges Dam. For anyone who has China on their bucket list, Viking offers a great way to see many of the major sites in one trip.
37. The Tour Guides
The guides are excellent. Although there were close to 200 people on board, we were divided into groups we called families. It brought a group of strangers together with the common bond of a love for travel and by the end of the trip all of our family was exchanging contact information. There is a friendly competition among the guides to be the best head of the household and it shines through in their delivery.
The next five favorite things are from Julie Cohn. She was also on the same Rhine Getaway Christmas Market cruise in 2016.
38. The Crew
The entire crew is so friendly and accommodating, especially the dining room and bar staff. If you sit in the same area of the dining room each meal, the waitstaff get to know your preferences, likes and dislikes.
39. European Christmas Markets
I cannot imagine any other way to see the European Christmas Markets during the holidays than a Viking River Cruise. The Rhine River cruise I traveled with visited Strasbourg, Heidelberg, Cologne, Colmar, and other magical Christmas markets.
40. Affordable Luxury Travel
Viking River Cruises is affordable luxury travel. Special amenities such as wine and beer with lunch and dinner, heated floors and Freyja® toiletries in the bathroom, included shore excursions, and fresh fruit delivered to the room daily add luxurious touches as well as value to a trip.
41. Cuisine on a Viking River Cruise
The menu choices and cuisine on a Viking River Cruise are excellent, with variety to accommodate everyone’s tastes, including those with special diets. Secret tip: The muesli and European yogurt on the breakfast menu are to die for.
42. Viking River Cruise shore excursions
The Viking River Cruise shore excursions are fun and informative, with unique things to do in every port. Be sure to step outside of your comfort zone a bit, such as the daring Top of Cologne tour!
The next five favorite things are from Katherine Belarmino. She is a fellow San Diego based travel blogger.
Katherine Belarmino is the founder of Travel the World, a travel website for people with careers and limited vacation time. She has traveled with Viking Cruises twice, on their Magnificent Mekong cruise through Vietnam and Cambodia and on their Romantic Danube Christmas Markets cruise and has written about what it’s like to cruise with Viking River Cruises. She’s also toured their ocean cruise ship, the Viking Star.
I’m not a fan of big crowds, so Viking River Cruises’ small ships and small groups fit me perfectly. On the smaller river cruises, the tour sizes are comfortable and you can build relationships with your fellow travelers. The small ships also come with cozy staterooms with special features like balconies and heated bathroom floors.
I went from never having been on a cruise in my life to being a big fan of Viking River Cruises. My top five favorite things about Viking River Cruises are:
43. Their small ships with small groups of people.
44. The beautiful, cozy staterooms.
45. The variety of travel options.
46. The amount of time spent at each port.
47. Viking offers the best way to experience Europe’s Christmas markets.
The final favorite things come from a fellow travel blogger, Cacinda Maloney, whom I met on a media trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Dr. Cacinda Maloney is the founder of PointsandTravel.com, a travel website focused on adventure, culture, and smart luxury travel experiences. She has taken 9 Viking Cruises including many of the main routes along the Danube, Rhine, and Rhône, as well as their ocean liners.
Viking River Cruises offers a lot of European river cruising options that visit multiple countries like Germany, Austria, Hungary, The Netherlands, France, and more. They also offer river cruises beyond Europe, including river cruises in China, Vietnam, and Cambodia, which take place on ships that fit the destination.
A river cruise with Viking River Cruises also means passengers get to spend more time at each destination, sometimes even spending an overnight at a port so the city can be explored for even longer independently. This is especially welcome on their famous Christmas market cruises since many Christmas markets are best experienced at night. Viking River Cruises are the best way to experience Europe’s Christmas markets because they take passengers to multiple towns’ Christmas markets in one trip.
My top five reasons you will love sailing with Viking Cruises, including a memorable excursion experience I had on Viking Cruises.
48. The Quality of the Ships
The ships themselves are in great condition and well taken care of. You will enjoy the amenities in the room that you book, as there is plenty of space for two and lots of “hiding” places for things to be put away.
49. The Fabulous Crew!
There is so much to say how the crew and the cruise directors make such a difference in your travel experience! From the bartenders to the maintenance crew and the people who service your room, their helpfulness and smile make such a big difference. And that is just how Viking is, they train their staff to take good care of you!
50. The Delicious Food
And you can pretty much guarantee the food onboard a Viking Cruise is going to be good! From theme nights to food-related to the areas you are visiting, they do their best to enhance your travel experience. Plus, you always make new friends each night as you enjoy dinner with different groups of people!
51. The Ship Experience
And with all the awesome things to see and do in each port city, sometimes you just want to enjoy and relax on the ship itself. The top deck, with its walking track and plenty of seating, you can make sure you get plenty of exercises or you can just sit and float down the river or ocean enjoying the wonderful views!
52. Memorable Excursions on One of My Viking Cruises
You will have plenty of memorable excursions, but I remember, on one of my Daube River Viking Cruise excursions, a cool crisp morning of riding a bicycle through the vineyards of Austria! What an exhilarating ride we had as we rode through tiny villages and then out to the countryside to experience a gorgeous morning!
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Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.