I’ve always loved the food on board Viking ocean (take a look here), and their river experience is no exception.
Perhaps the biggest change going from Ocean Cruising to River is the number of food and drink venues. Understandably, due to the size of river ships, space is at a premium so there are only a couple of options in terms of eateries – but it’s really impressive to see what they can despite this.
The main hub of food on the ship is aptly named, The Restaurant. I already spoke about the design of this space in a previous post, but in summary, this is an open and inviting space, with warm wood tones and comfortable seating.
The restaurant is open three times during the day during breakfast (from 0600 – 0900), lunch (1130 – 1400) and dinner (1900 – 2100). The space is set up so that it can act as a full table-service restaurant, or as a buffet.
During breakfast you have a choice of ordering from a menu of freshly made fare, such as eggs benedict and pancakes. As well as this, the buffet has a selection of breads, pastries, fresh fruit and other delicacies. Of this my favourite was the made-to-order omelettes and Eggs. They were by far my favourite part of breakfast on board – so yummy! You can even opt to have a champagne breakfast if you’re feeling glam.
Lunch again is a mixture of both menus and buffet. There was a whole variety of foods served day-to-day including sandwiches, salads and burgers. It wasn’t uncommon for people to have a three-course meal at lunch.
Dinner in The Restaurant draws from the specialities from the region the ship is visiting, featuring local cuisine and ingredients as much as possible. This provides yet another connection with the destinations you are sailing through. Expect a three or four course meal with wine, beer and drinks pairing. Some evenings The Restaurant is fully decked-out and themed around the country you are visiting. For example, on our trip we had an evening where the restaurant became an Austrian Bierhaus complete with a full Austrian cuisine, beer, wine and entertainment. It was honest so much fun, with everyone dancing and singing along and fully embracing the fun.
One thing that struck me, and that I hadn’t appreciated, is that there are no tables for two here. You are encouraged to be social and to interact with your fellow guests. There is a part of me that is filled with dread, but actually, having watched everyone interact over my week on board, it was great to see how people came out of their shells and more importantly wanted to.
The Aquavit Terrace is another venue on board offering a variety of food and drink during the cruise. In many ways it’s an extension of the main restaurant. As an early riser, it was a great space to come to enjoy a cup of tea and some pastries, while you are cruising into a new destination during sunrise. True unadulterated bliss.
I really enjoyed spending time in this space. It has both comfy seating and proper dining tables, as well as tables for two and of course the outdoor terrace.
It’s a slightly more casual space than The Restaurant, with self-service that mirrors most of what’s offered downstairs. During breakfast there is a selection of pastries, breads, yoghurts and other continental offerings. Though if you’re feeling peckish you can still order pretty much everything that’s being served in The Restaurant.
For lunch the Aquavit offers salads, soups and sandwiches. Some days there is also a BBQ from the terrace. For dinner, the aquavit mirrors The Restaurant, serving the same offerings. I found the aquavit to be typically less busy than the restaurant, so a little more relaxed. If you are a couple you can also get tables for two, which aren’t offered in the restaurant.
I love how this space was used to bring people together. For instance, as I’ve highlighted before, when we arrived on board, we were ushered onto the Terrace to enjoy local wines and cheeses. Similarly, during our stay in Vienna, when we returned from a night of Opera and music, we were treated to local Goulash on the terrace.
On Viking cruises, beers, wines and soft drinks are included during lunch and dinner. Outside of this you can buy drinks and cocktails at the bar in the Lounge or through one of the many waiters. I found the prices to be reasonable.
Viking offers, in my opinion, one of the best value drinks packages in the industry. The Silver Spirits drinks package, which covers any drink bar champagne on board, costs $15 a day.
Passengers may also bring alcohol on board during embarkation or during the cruise, and you can freely drink it onboard. There is also no corkage fee.
Coming from ocean to river, I wasn’t really sure what to expect in terms of entertainment on board. With larger ships, guests really are spoilt in terms of the quantity and sheer quality of entertainment, so I was eager to see how entertainment works on river cruising.
I think for one, and this goes for the whole of river cruising, you shouldn’t compare it to ocean. River cruising is all about bringing the destination closer and fully immersing yourself in that.
So, during an evening expect talks around the upcoming destinations, or other enriching activities such as culinary demonstrations. Cruise lines like to bring on board local acts, so during our cruise some very talented and fun local opera singers, the Sound of Salzberg came on board to serenade us with local music. This again anchors us back to the destination we’re travelling in. After dinner, it was really pleasant to be able to just sit and listen to live music cogitating the day’s activities, while thinking about the next.
On top of this there were other fun activities some evenings, with a number of quizzes on board during the cruise. This really had the effect of living things up and guests quite literally threw themselves into the shenanigans that unfolded. This again drew everyone together and built on the community feel on board.
And importantly, because we were in port most evenings, there was the opportunity to sail in and get off the ship and see the places we were visiting. Why not head out and find a local bar or entertainment for an evening before walking along the river back to the ship? I really loved this, and something I hadn’t truly appreciated when thinking about river cruising.
To head back to the beginning of this journey, click below.