The Most Popular River Cruise Line In The World

Sailing with Viking River Cruises on a Christmas Markets-flavored version of their popular Romantic Danube itinerary, we settled into a nice routine rather early in the voyage. But to say what we do on board and ashore is a totally predictable and scheduled experience would be inaccurate. On a river cruise, like an ocean cruise, there are variables, unknowns and seemingly mysterious events that affect what we experience along the way. To me, how those unexpected happenings are handled by both the cruise line and passengers alike can make all the difference in the world.

12. Propeller Change (13)

On a previous journey with Viking River Cruises a broken propeller caused our itinerary to be modified. We got a bit behind schedule after pausing briefly to replace one of the six propellers on Viking Odin, the Viking River Cruises longship that we were enjoying on the River Danube for their 15-day Grand European Tour. To make up for that lost time we dined, at Viking’s expense, at a lovely restaurant in Vienna while repairs were made. More on how that experience ended in a moment. For now, let’s just say it all ended well.


Approaching a lock on the River Danube on the Viking Social cruise

Sailing this time on Viking Delling, word spread quickly that one of the locks we needed to pass through was broken and might cause a similar disruption to our current itinerary. On our very first night on board, Hotel Director Martijn Kamphius informed us of the situation, in an abundance of caution. “I’d rather they know right up front, just in case this happens,” Kamphius told me, adding “no one likes surprises like that.” Two days later, temporary repairs had been performed on the lock, enabling our passage through it. Khamphius reported the good news at our nightly pre-dinner briefing of the next day, with a caveat. Since the lock had been broken for a period of time, ships had backed up, waiting to pass through. That caused our itinerary to be modified anyway.


With little space to spare in some locks, precision maneuvering is a must.


Instead of stopping in Regensburg after breakfast for a guided walking tour, followed by free time in the Christmas market, the plan was to sail throughout the day. Viking Delling would then stop closer to the previously broken lock, enabling the ship to get in line early for passing through the lock. That move would (hopefully) make up time that would have otherwise been lost in line and result in no missed stops on our itinerary, just a bit of revision.

Now back to that propeller replacement variance on a previous Viking sailing that happened on our 15-day Grand European Tour.

Playing Like Kids On the River Danube - 35

Choosing to make the most of the day, we played like kids on the river while our longship was fixed.

That pause of the intense itinerary for dinner in Vienna caught up most of the time needed to complete repairs and all aboard were happy with the bonus shared experience. Still, the next day, those repairs resulted in a choice for passengers: Stay at Regensburg, the next stop, until 6pm, granting bonus free time or come back to the ship for lunch by bus, rendezvousing with the ship as it made its way up the river.

Timing on such matters, we came to find out, is not a perfect thing what with the ship having to go through multiple locks on the way to meet us. That made Viking Odin a bit late (or our tour bus a bit early, depending how one perceived the situation).

Playing Like Kids On the River Danube - 42

Our Viking longship arrives after having a propeller replaced

The result: A bonus ‘land tour’ on an unspoiled bit of the River Danube where some passengers killed time on the bus, while others dipped their toes in to the river or walked its shores, scouting for signs of the ship approaching or gathering unique photos along the way.

To me, this was one of the golden moments of that voyage. We were travelers in every sense of the word, taking in the day, as it unfolded, not sure what it might bring. But only briefly as Viking Odin soon appeared on the horizon and shortly pulled up alongside where our tour busses had gathered to release us to our friends on board.

The point here is this: Even with the best planning possible; things happen that have the potential cause those plans to change. It might be a broken propeller, a broken lock or any of a number of other unknowns.

How the travel service provider, be it an airline, hotel chain or Viking River Cruises handles such matters is important and worthy of research and analysis. Equally important is the flexibility travelers possess to cope with and overcome those events. This is one huge but unadvertised reason why Viking has effectively become the most popular river cruise line in the world.

Avignon Christening - 085

Visionary Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen at the launch of 18 ships in one day, earlier this year

While changing a propeller or dealing with a lock transit issue was new territory for passengers, Viking deals with such matters on a daily basis and has a plan for every foreseeable issue that might come up. Had we not been able to pass through a lock, one option might have been to transfer us to a different Viking vessel, effectively swapping longships. This is a distinct advantage Viking (with their fleet of 50+ longships) has over other river cruise lines.


While scenic cruising, many passengers take the opportunity to read a good book.

Also a distinct advantage of sailing with the culturally curious, well-traveled passengers of Viking River Cruises: they too were not all that worried about how the experience would turn out. A sigh of disappointment was heard as the potential disruption was first announced. But there were not passengers lined up at a pursers desk looking for compensation, a refund or something to make up for that disruption as we commonly see on an ocean cruise when weather-related events modify itineraries.

Here is where we begin to see some distinct differences between river and ocean cruising, a topic we will explore in greater detail next.


Follow along a number of ways on our Christmas Markets Romantic Danube river cruise, hosted by Viking River Cruises:  

NEW- The social focus of this sailing is bringing you some interesting, different and engaging elements to our normal event coverage.

  • Via Instagram (, look for at least one photo post every half hour during the 8-day Viking River Cruise.
  • Your Questions Answered,  Right Now- Ask us anything on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram or in a comment to a post here at  We’re holding no questions to answer when it’s all over.  Get your answer now.


-Previously Published During This Event-

Pre-Cruise Information

Facebook photo albums-

 Live from Viking Delling-