The Viking River Experience – Design & Feel

I grew up on ocean cruising, so I tend to be used to large ships with sprawling sundecks, eateries and bars.  But what struck me the most when boarding a river ship is that while they are small, they are really cleverly designed to maximise space so it never felt enclosed in the slightest.  On top of this, I truly love the design of the Viking Longships, which echo their ocean cousins.  Radiating scandi-style, the whole ship is spacious and elegant, with large windows that let light pour into every space.

Another benefit of river ships is that they can dock right in the middle of destinations.  Again, something I hadn’t truly appreciated before being on one.  Budapest is a great example of this, where you literally dock next to the famous Chain Bridge right in the middle of all the sights and sounds of the city.  Why not nip out after dinner for a walk along the Danube and grab a drink in a local bar and enjoy the nightlife on offer?

The Atrium

As you walk onto the ship you find yourself in the Atrium.  This has to be one of my favourite spaces on the whole ship.  It is a chic space to greet you when get on board with floor to ceiling windows and a huge sky light letting in loads of natural light. There’s also a generous use of wood, marble and other grounding materials that all radiate hygge.  Like the rest of the ship it’s a warm and welcoming space.

This isn’t just a showy space with no purpose, it’s actually very practical.  Here you’ll find guest services, a library, the on-board shop, computers, plenty of comfortable seating to cosy-up with a good book and a tea/coffee station.  Throughout the day pastries, cookies and other goodies will make an appearance at the coffee station – I know this for a fact having eaten far too many.  For me, a particular highlight of this tea point is that you can get sparkling water from a tap.

The Restaurant

I’ll cover the restaurant (and of course food, a subject close to my stomach) more fully in one of the next blogs, but ahead of reception you will find The Restaurant.  This is the only restaurant and is broadly speaking the focus of meals on board.  Like the rest of the ship, this is an inviting space.  There are more panoramic windows that look out each side of the ship, a buffet space, and plenty of seating to seat everyone on board.  The tables and the setting change subtly throughout the day.  At lunch you’ll find fresh potted herbs as a centrepiece for the table, while at dinner the overall feel changes again to something a little more formal (but not overly so).

The Lounge

Heading back to the Atrium, and up and forward from beautiful stairs that act as its centrepiece, you will find yourself in The Lounge.

This is the main entertainment space on board the Viking Vilhjalm.  With large sofas and seating that overlooks the river, a large bar and a dance floor, it’s a great space to grab a cocktail after dinner and socialise with your fellow passengers.  All major events take place here throughout the cruise, whether that be mustering, port talks, cooking demonstrations, quizzes and evening entertainment.

River cruising is known for its enrichment and I wasn’t disappointed.  There are daily talks on upcoming destinations in The Lounge, highlighting the local history, culture and some of the must-do things.  Equally, on our first afternoon of scenic cruising there was an interactive food demonstration on how to make strudel. Yum.

Aquavit Terrace

Heading further forward you’ll come to the Aquavit Terrace.  For me, this is what makes the Viking Longships unique.  This wintergarden space serves a multitude of roles throughout the day and cruise.  In the morning I found it the perfect place to grab some of the comfortable seating and watch the sunrise with a pastry and a cup of tea.  True bliss.

When I said The Restaurant is the only true restaurant on board, it’s not exactly true.  The Aquavit also has a lot of space to eat in, whether it be inside or outside overlooking the bow of the ship. It acts as a more informal space to grab some food and snacks (… again more on that later).   Some days there’s even a BBQ on the Terrace.

I also found it to be a truly fun space.  On our first day (or hour!) on board we were encouraged to head straight to the sunny Terrace for wine and cheese tasting. We were immediately thrown into the local culture of the Danube by sampling local wines, cheese and delicacies.  It was a great way to relax you into your holiday, give you a taster as to what’s to come and of course to start to get to know your fellow passengers and the staff.


At the top of the deck you’ll find the sundeck.  This encompasses almost the whole length of the ship and features a variety of seating and loungers both in direct sunlight and under shade.  Unsurprisingly this space is busy most of the time during warm weather and particularly when you’re heading through a lock or scenic cruising.  At the rear of the ship you’ll also find a small jogging track, shuffleboard, mini-golf and a cute herb garden that’s used in all the cooking on board.  There’s also towels and blankets readily available.

You’ll also find the bridge up here and the captain was always friendly and eager to welcome guests into the bridge to watch him navigate the Danube.  Honestly, It’s not something to be missed as It was really fascinating to watch him control the ship through the locks on our journey.


The overall feel of a Viking Longship

Now just imagine.  You’ve docked in the middle of a world-famous European City. You’ve spent all day exploring this fascinating place and you’re coming back to your longship.  Upon arriving back on board, you genuinely feel like you’re coming home.  A comfortable and relaxing environment engulfs you and there is a true family feel between both your fellow guests and the friendly staff on board.   You come together with guests over dinner and drinks and share your different experiences from the day.  It’s not at all stuffy, in fact quite the opposite.  Overall, it is such an enriching experience.

That’s what river cruising is about.

This blog series will continue to explore the overall Viking River experience, from the design of the Longships, to food and entertainment.  It will also look at the destinations we visited and the beautiful Danube River. To head back to the beginning of this journey, click below.

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