Our Summer 2017 trip to Europe brought us back to Viking River Cruises for a 15-day Grand European Tour. It had been a while since we sailed with Viking on the river, recently devoting a lot of time to Viking Ocean Cruises, a travel experience that was inspired by, asked for and the logical next step for Viking. Celebrating 20 years in the river cruising business in 2017, the last decade saw phenomenal growth, fueled in part by the unique design of the massive fleet of new Viking Longships. Now coming back to Viking River Cruises for a first full sailing since sailing the sparkling new Viking Ocean experience, I wondered how it would compare. The experience, in a word: flawless. That’s a descriptive term we rarely use here. When we do, an explanation is required.
In the world of travel, it’s really all about the experience and memories we carry forward. At the end of the day, back home sleeping in our own bed, using our own shower, and in our everyday environment, the unasked question is answered: What are the enduring memories from travel? One of the reasons we embrace and promote the world of cruise travel is the packaging and choreography of it. Get it right and great, life-changing moments happen, bringing us back home with an expanded worldview among other personal benefits. Viking longships transport mostly North American travelers on the waterways of Europe. Recently-built versions of those Viking Longships sail in Russia, the Ukraine, Asia, and Egypt as well. As they do, a carefully timed and planned onboard program details just about every part of the experience.
Example: by the book, when a passenger takes a seat in the dining room of a Viking Longship, the staff has 30 seconds to make a glass of water appear on the table. On that table will be a salt and pepper shaker. Of the two, the salt shaker is always closest to the entry point of that dining room. And so it goes, with every possible detail of the experience defined. Impressive? Sure. Is that what makes for a flawless experience? Not by a long shot.
Also on those Viking Longships are a nimble and experienced crew capable of performing multiple positions. The Program Director is a face most often associated with the experience, and rightfully so: he or she is with passengers every step of the way. Where Viking earns the flawless designation is with those crew members. It is their efforts that put the experience over the top. They are entrusted with the well-being of Viking travelers in a unique way few other travel companies have been able to deliver: they are allowed to think on their own and react accordingly to variable situations.
Throughout our journey, we noted situations and events where the human element of the experience made a difference, purposefully not mentioning Viking staff by name for one gigantic reason: It’s not about an individual here or there who might excel at their particular job at any one given time. The human element of the Viking experience starts at the top and goes all the way down to everyone we come in contact with who is associated in any way with the brand. Every single person.
Example: A selling point of Viking River Cruises is the included tour at every port of call. That part of the deal focuses our attention on what we are there for in the first place: the destinations. The 190 travelers on a Viking Longship are divided up into small groups and assigned a high-quality local guide then off they go on tour. We have had everything from college professors to life-long residents of the area. All cover the bullet point highlights of the place and include their own personal take on events that may have happened in that area. Better yet, they pay attention to individual group members, engaging them along the way. Stop there and we have a win. But that’s not the end of the story.
The night before that tour took place, the longship’s Program Director briefs Viking travelers on the day ahead and any unexpected nuances in the itinerary that might be coming their way. Empowered to deliver the best experience, that Program Director might also decide to offer some variations to the plan based on the makeup of that particular mix of traveler onboard. In addition to the regular tours, an “energetic group” might be offered for those who want to buzz right through the destination highlights. A “leisurely” group could be offered for those who want to go a bit slower and linger along the way. On the scene, at one place on our itinerary, a “late bus” was offered for those who wanted more time at a destination requiring the use of a motor coach.
In other words, on a travel experience self-proclaimed as “the thinking man’s cruise”, the crew is also enabled to think themselves.
Below is everything we have published on this flawless experience and we’re not done yet. There is one more significant piece of this interesting puzzle for you and I to think through and complete. After recently sailing both Viking’s ocean and river offerings, we’re seeing some crossover of style, focus, and direction that looks to be the next chapter in this story. Stay tuned: it might be the most exciting yet.
ChrisCruises- Posted before, during and after sailing
- Happening Now: My Viking Story
- Getting There To Begin My Viking Story Was A Breeze
- The Value In Visiting Life After Living
- Evolving Viking Itineraries Deliver
- The Seriously Addictive Viking Destination Experience
- Getting To Europe For Our Viking River Cruise
- River Cruise Double Down: Reasons Travelers Repeat
- River Graffiti: Art Collected Along The Way
- Unexpected Customizable Options On Your Viking River Cruise
- Joy-Robbing Travelers Not Really Part Of The Viking Experience
- The Impressive Evolution Of Viking River Cruise Dining
- Accuracy Check: Viking Top Of Cologne Tour
- Our Viking River Cruise: One From Each Place [Photos]
- The Value Of Repeating Your Viking River Cruise
- The Cause And Effect Of Viking River Cruises
- Ten Minutes From The Ship: Easing Into International Travel
- Fresh Back From Europe: Your Viking River Cruise Questions Answered
Flickr Photo Albums- just photos, no words: all the images we capture, unedited and free to share or use as you wish with attribution.
- Budapest On The River Danube– two days in a favorite place to begin a number of river cruise itineraries
- Sailing To Vienna- A day of scenic cruising on the way to the Austrian capital
- Demel Vienna– An excellent use of free time provided after your included Viking tour
- A Full Day In Vienna– Overnight In Austria’s Elegant Capital City
- The Viking Daily– The front page of the ship’s daily newsletter, helpful for planning the day
- Cafe Breakfast- The first place food is available every day on a Viking Longship and where early risers meet
- Budapest Ten Minute Walk- Where we went and what we saw within ten minutes from where our ship was docked- images via iPhone
- Viking Longship Ve Ship shots- Various photos of our ship in no apparent order. If they don’t fit anywhere else, they go here
- Welcome Toast To Guests- Usually held on the first full day of sailing, the ship’s program director introduces key department heads and everyone meets the Captain. Something that can be done on a ship of 190 passengers. Also included, the photo of those same people posted in every Viking ship.
- Viking Crew- One of my favorite albums to compile as we travel with Viking, this one hopes to capture the spirit of one of the most seriously differentiating factors in the overall Viking experience.
- In the Restaurant- As the title would indicate, food photos, tablemates and other scenes captured in the ship’s restaurant
- The Library- Titles on hand for the reference and enjoyment of passengers
- Aquavit Dinner- An alternative to dining in the Restaurant
- In The Lounge- A sampling of onboard events that happen in the ship’s lounge, also the place for nightly briefings before dinner
- Labels- Beverages available at the time we sailed onboard as well as any beverages consumed ashore
- Going Through Locks- This itinerary has 67 of them, I have a sampling
- A Day In Melk– scenic cruising then a tour of Melk Abbey before we get lost on the way back
- Other Viking Ships– seen as we sailed, other Viking Longships
- Sailing The Wachau Valley- images of our day scenic cruising through the UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Bamberg Germany with Viking River Cruises
- Sailing to Wurzburg- Scenic Cruising on the Main river
- Sailing To Nuremberg- Scenic cruising at sunset
- Nuremberg, Germany– Our day at the historic World War II site
- Regensburg, Germany– the sausage capital of the world (or so I think)
- Aquavit Lunch– a favorite on Viking Longships
- Wurzberg Germany with Viking River Cruises
- Wertheim Germany- a favorite place to visit any time of the year
- Wertheim In Ten Minutes– after docking and before tours, what we can see in ten minutes, round trip
- Sailing through Frankfurt At Dawn– The Program Director on our Viking Longship said we would pass by Frankfurt at 3:30 in the morning- it was well worth getting up for.
- Sailing To Koblenz- Scenic cruising through one of the most beautiful parts of the world.
- Sailing To Cologne- Scenic cruising was a big part of our tour- we loved every minute of it.
- Koblenz, Germany- a favorite place any time of the year, Koblenz takes on a unique character of its own in the summer.
- Sailing to Braubach- It’s the place where Viking Travelers get off the ship to see one of the stars of the show: Marksburg Castle.
- Marksburg Castle– one of the few untouched by bombing of World War II
- Castles Lecture– Fun facts about all the castles we have seen along the way.
- Taste Of Germany– A themed night in the dining room and on the Aquavit Terrace where Viking travelers have a grand old German time and the ship’s executive chef features fabulous German cuisine.
- Cologne– The included tour of Cologne Germany
- Top of Cologne- An optional tour that proved to be one of the best ever travel experiences.
- River Sunrise- Not as dominant in a day on the river as on an ocean cruise, but a wonderful time of the day nonetheless
- Sailing To Kinderdjik– Scenic cruising on the Rhine
- Kinderdjik 2017– a favorite place in Holland, revisited
Facebook Photo Albums- much like Flickr Photo Albums, the Facebook version features a story and select photos that illustrate the topic, tour or onboard event.
- Budapest, Hungary
- Sailing To Vienna
- Vienna By Any Other Name
- Sailing Through Austria With Viking River Cruises
- To Passau And Beyond With Viking River Cruises
- Wurzburg, Germany for a day
- Bamberg Germany with Viking River Cruises
- Regensburg Germany with Viking River Cruises
- A Lovely Day In Wertheim
- Privileged Access Tour: Top Of Cologne
- More Lovely Scenic Cruising
- Favorite Memories Of Our Viking River Cruise
Instagram Photos– A recap of our daily postings on Instagram
We’re on our way to travel with Viking River Cruises on a 15-day Grand European Tour. From Charlotte we fly across the pond to London then on to Budapest. Significant here, the distinct difference between “traveling” with Viking and “sailing” with someone else. Don’t get me wrong, ‘sailing’, by river or ocean, is a safe, secure way to see much of the world that commonly stacks up nicely compared to land vacations. We get that. This is different. This is travel with a spirit of adventure and exploration ,albeit without the backpack, in comfort. I don’t think we have fully profiled that element of what Viking does yet and it’s about time. As Vikings celebrate their 20th year of exploring the world, this is their time and we’re hoping to bring you more of a feel for what to expect than ever before. In the morning as we are crossing the Atlantic a new post will publish on our website charting a course for our journey. Stick around, this will be best.
It’s interesting to me, the reasons we do what we do. In any given situation, people react in ways unique to them and only them or go with the flow of the crowd. Filtered by our beliefs, the paths our lives have taken, dreams realized or alignment with the thoughts of others, paths can go in and many directions. How very unique then when like minded travelers come together to experience something perhaps predetermined by the itinerary of their lives. Such was the scene last night when Viking River Cruises showcased the stunningly beautiful splendor of Budapest. The first place visited on a two-week travel event, we’re looking forward to what is yet to come. I hope you’ll come along with us as we share #MyVikingStory
Arriving in Vienna in the afternoon after a lovely day of scenic cruising along the Danube with Viking River Cruises, the stage was set for a perfect first day in Austria….actually, let me explain: in the afternoon we also sailed through the history of how the European Union was created with a Viking short film. Stop right there and we would have been briefed on how the Euro works, border control and more. But the topic continued throughout the day as we discussed a number of related topics with other passengers of similar backgrounds to ours and crew who are from many of the member nations. I think that I advertised element of the Viking experience is one of our favorite parts. Later the ships program director briefed us on the life of Mozart, appropriately just before most passengers left the ship for a wonderful concert we have enjoyed on previous travels with Viking. That was just before dinner which featured Austrian personal favorite Wiener Schnitzel. End it with a lovely sunset, reflective of our full day in Vienna tomorrow. Man, this is traveling
After a guided tour of Vienna, we had the rest of the day to spend as we pleased in the Austrian capital city. While I had stopped in at the iconic Demel bakery before, this was a first visit to for Lisa so we hurried there before the crowds. When asked what we would like to have I simply told them “She’s never been here before- dazzle her!”. I don’t imagine they get many requests of that sort. The face of the nice lady who was helping us lit up with child-like excitement on Christmas morning as she proudly shared her favorites from the world-famous menu. I think we need more of that sort of thing to happen in the world and plan on creating as many moments like that as I possibly can with the time I have here. I hope you will too. Many thanks to Viking Cruises for the time to make this small moment happen.
After half of a day scenic cruising through the Wachau Valley we stopped to see the beautiful Melk Abbey. We lost our way walking back to our Viking Longship but ran into some of our new friends, crew from the ship who knew the way. Actually, I have been here before, remembered the charming town of Melk and also remember getting lost before. Twice. Still, this less traveled road turned into one of the most enjoyable walks we’ve had on this trip. It’s interesting where we end up when traveling when the unexpected can turn into a highlight of the day. Thanks Nicole and Denislav
Scenic cruising through the peaceful countryside in Germany, it has become remarkably easy to relax when traveling with Viking River Cruises. Another plus: repeating an itinerary multiple times. Doing so brings an air of familiarity with that particular part of the world that feels a lot like coming home, something we feel every time we travel with Viking, this trip no exception. The more we travel, the more we see what a wonderful world it is we live in. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that. We just can’t.
I travel a lot. Sometimes Lisa, my girlfriend of 37 years comes along for the ride. In real life, Lisa works in an office with walls and computers and stuff like that. Every once in a while I’ll catch her in a really relaxed moment. It’s then and only then that I remember the filter she sees all these wonderful places through and am so very happy I was able to bring her along to experience these amazing places I often take for granted. Wait. What am I talking about? Amazing places are amazing no matter how often we visit them. Travel is like that. In this photo, taken riverside in Wurzburg, Lisa is enjoying the view, taking in the scene on a lovely summer day. Yep, we’re traveling with Viking alright!
Stopping for the day in Wertheim, we spent pretty much all our time enjoying the day from the Stadt Cafe, a favorite place with a great view of the local scene. We watched as tour groups walked by, happy that seeing places on our own is also an option with Viking River Cruises. Highly recommended: anything on the menu. Really. Bonus: 60 minutes free T-mobile high speed wifi (thus the tagging of so many travelers)
Dining is a big part of travel, no matter what company we do it with. On our Viking River Cruise it was hard to choose where to dine…which may be a commonly difficult decision cruise lines with a multitude of options. Viking River Cruises has two and we still felt guilty when enjoying either over the other. I think that says a lot.
It’s official, we have had nothing but great weather for the entire 15 days of our Grand European Tour with Viking River Cruises. Still, even if it rained every day we would have had a wonderful time. So many new friends on our Viking Longship Ve. Interestingly, we will probably see them again. We’ve seen what it is like to live and work at the places we explored along the way too. As we sailed from Budapest to our last full day of the tour here in Holland, the dining options have changed along the way, Those carefully curated recipes were supported by flexible onboard programming. That focused effort proved to be a nice supplement to the preparation we did in advance. Many thanks to the crew of our Viking Longship for a flawless travel experience.
It always comes down to the people. We’ve covered a thousand miles and centuries of time on our Grand European Tour with Viking. All along the way we have been in exactly the right place to do so. In the company of open minded travelers who have seen the world, we know there’s not all that much difference between us when it comes down to things that matter. Love. Family. Work. Life. We all share so many parts of living. It’s a reality showcased by the people who work the ships of Viking with one very clear objective in mind: to be sure we have an enjoyable time. More importantly, they define it. Thanks so much Viking River Cruises.
It’s one of our favorite parts of river cruising and we got plenty of it on Viking River Cruises Grand European Tour last week. Scenic cruising from one place to another reminds us of what a beautiful part of the world Europe can be. We pass farms and little towns not all that different from where we grew up in the Midwest United States. While other river cruise lines may sail more at night as travelers sleep, Viking mixes it up, staying late or overnight in places of particular interest that have a particularly interesting nightlife. Need to be one place at high Noon for the best experience? That happens. Sundown a stellar time to be at another place? That’s the plan on that particular day as well. Add it al up? a flawless travel experience.
Budapest was where we started our Viking River Cruise, ending in Amsterdam. This week, our Viking Longship makes its way back to Budapest in the opposite direction. Our Grand European Tour was our best travel experience ever, in no small part due to the dedicated crew who just couldn’t do enough to make that flawless experience happen. Interestingly, that stellar performance a quality we see fleet wide. Many thanks. Safe travels friends.
Culinary offerings that changed as we sailed along on our Viking Longship added to the destination-focused travel experience. Plentiful free time before and after included tours of iconic landmarks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites often included time at a local restaurant or cafe as well. Unexpected bonus: a number of late nights in port enabled full scale dining at local eateries as well.
Thinking about our travel with Viking River Cruises, I remember a few trips by motor coach when our Viking Longship stopped in the center of town but the iconic landmark and/or UNESCO World Heritage Site was beyond walking distance. Even going and coming back from those interesting places was an event as we passed through the countryside of Germany, passing working life that included farms and vineyards along the way.
On Tumblr: TheWorldAsLisaSeesIt– One Post Every Day From Lisa’s Point Of View
As we sailed, locals turned out or stopped what they were doing to see our elegant Viking Longship pass by. One could not help but wonder what it would be like to live in these places and what those people who watched us sail thought of us.
“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
― Pat Conroy