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Viking river cruises review
Thoughtful, Scandinavian-style voyages through Europe, Asia, the Ukraine and Egypt.
Viking’s fleet of longships captures the essence of sophisticated intercontinental adventuring — without the intimidating 8th century warriors. Seasoned travelers will appreciate the curated onboard library, expert guest lectures and regionally-inspired gourmet food, while resort-seekers may bemoan the lack of late-night parties and umbrella drinks.
Amy Stoltenberg is a staff writer covering all things travel, shopping and lifestyle. After earning a BA at Savannah College of Art and Design, she worked as technical designer in corporate fashion before opting for a career with unlimited travel time. When her laptop's closed, you can find her wandering around Los Angeles looking for hole-in-the-wall eateries and plotting her way to all 50 states (she's currently at 28).
Contrary to many of its luxury river cruising competitors, Viking doesn’t have butlers or white glove service. Instead, it bills itself as “the thinking person’s cruise,” prizing niche cultural experiences over amusement park-style fun.
Onboard, you can attend guest lectures and cooking demonstrations highlighting local cuisine. Classical music replaces over-the-top Broadway shows, and a curated library is meant to enhance your experience with destination-focused reading.
If you can picture yourself relaxing on its minimalist sun deck or sharing a cup of tea with a local family in a quiet village, Viking is a five-star cruise line that won’t disappoint. But if you’re hoping for high-energy activities, late-night gallivanting or simply want to bring your kids along, find a cruise line that better meets your criteria.
Read a Viking river cruise review
Case study: Betsy's experience
CoFounder/Partner of Euro Travel Coach
I am extremely impressed with Viking Cruises. They make every effort to immerse you in the local culture, and help you understand the people you have traveled so far to meet. I was extremely impressed by the in-house experience where we shared refreshments with a woman in Croatia in her home. She described what it was like for her and her family during the war in the ’90s. Then we went to Serbia and got another view of the war. And then a lecturer came on board the ship and described the conflict from a historical perspective to help us try to understand the dynamics that were at play during that time. I would advise a friend to vacation with Viking if they are interested in learning about the destination and traveling the world in comfort with great service. I wish I had known my history better before setting sail. I should have read the books and watched the movies recommended by Viking before we set sail.
About Betsy’s cruise
Ship sailed: Viking Idun
Date of cruise: Oct. 2, 2019
b>Length of cruise: 10 nights
Departure port: Budapest
Destinations visited: Budapest, Hungary. Kalocsa, Hungary. Osijek, Croatia. Belgrade, Serbia. Golubac, Serbia. Vidin, Bulgaria. Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria. Bucharest, Romania
Where do Viking’s river cruises depart from?
Viking doesn’t offer any river cruise itineraries that depart from the US, so you’ll have to hop an ocean if you’re based in the states. Here’s where you can set sail aboard a Viking longship:
Amsterdam, Antwerp, Avignon, Basel, Battle Mountain, Beijing, Berlin, Bordeaux, Bucharest, Budapest, Cairo, Ho Chi Minh City, Kompong Thom, Lisbon, Lyon, Moscow, Nullarbor, Nuremberg, Paris, Passau, Porto, Prague, Santa Fe, Shanghai, St. Petersburg, Zurich
Viking river cruise destinations
Viking has some of the most unique, far-reaching itineraries in the biz, ranging from eight to 23 days. While many river cruise companies only sail on the Danube, Rhine or Elbe in Europe, Viking can take you through the Nile in Egypt, the Moskva in Russia and far beyond.
Here’s where it sails to: Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe
How much do Viking river cruises cost?
The exact price of a Viking river cruise ranges, depending on the itinerary and suite that you choose.
But we know it can help to have a ballpark estimate when you’re shopping around. So here’s an example of Viking River Cruises pricing to help you get the gist:
12-day Viking river cruise from Prague to Paris — November 2021
$3,799 to $3,899
Standard stateroom with a french balcony
$4,399 to $4,599
Standard stateroom with a veranda
$4,799 to $5,099
Suite with a veranda
Prices obtained December 2019 and are based on a per-person double occupancy fare.
Viking’s cruises can feel pricey upfront, compared to ocean cruises from mid-tier competitors. These are tried-and-true ways to save:
Pay via electronic check. You can save 3.3% simply by paying for your fare with an electronic funds transfer.
Snag a 2-for-1 deposit. Save a total of $500 when you reserve a spot for two passengers at once. Viking frequently runs this promotion.
Look for free flights. Sometimes, Vikings offers free air when you book one of its river cruises — especially on river cruises through Russia. Taking advantage of this deal could save you hundreds, as all of its river cruises depart from foreign ports.
Why you should — or shouldn’t — take a Viking river cruise
Viking requires all passengers to be at least 18 years old, effectively making its river cruises an adults-only experience. That could be a pro or con, depending on your personal preference.
Here are some other benefits and drawbacks to consider before booking your cruise:
It’s truly all-inclusive — your fare covers Wi-Fi, shore excursions, and beer and wine with dinner.
Shore excursions highlight local life and behind-the-scenes activities.
The cuisine is known for being gourmet.
Guests can bring alcoholic beverages onboard — plus, there’s no corkage fee.
Fare is more expensive up front than mid-tier cruise lines.
Gratuities are not included, and can get pricey.
Liquor is not included, and you may have to pay extra for wine and beer outside of meal times.
Fewer organized onboard activities than large cruise lines.
How much are gratuities on Viking River Cruises?
Gratuities vary, depending on the location of your cruise. Here’s what you can expect to pay, by region:
Gratuity charge — per person, per day
$17 to $18 for onboard staff
$2 to $3 for local guides
$1 for drivers
China, Egypt, Russia and Ukraine
$10 for days spent on land
$25 for days spent on board
$10 per day for general staff
$10 per day for the program director
You can either choose to prepay onboard gratuities up front through your online account, or an automatic service charge will be added to your account to settle after disembarkation.
Frequently asked questions
Viking river cruises has been independently owned and operated since it was established in 1997. Today, the CEO is Torstein Hagen.
In general, September is the best month to take a European river cruise. In most countries, the climate is temperate and water levels are normal so there are no worries about frozen rivers or other disruptions. It’s also a relatively quiet month for tourism, so fare and accommodations should be decent, and the crowds few — especially if you sail in late September.
Still, consider what you’d most like to see before deciding on the ideal time for your European river cruise. April and May usher in spring flowers and fresh foliage. But European Christmas market river cruises are popular for sparkling lights reflected on the water and traditional Christmas celebrations to wander through.
When you book a river cruise that includes free or discounted flights to and from the port, Viking uses these airlines:
A French balcony on a Viking river cruise ship is basically a large, sliding glass window that gives you an ocean breeze and unhindered view — without the physical perch. Staterooms with French balconies tend to be less expensive than staterooms with verandas, but pricier than staterooms with only windows.
Latest cruise deals
Disney cruises from $705 per person to the Caribbean
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