Viking River Cruise Review – A Respite for Busy Parents

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Photo credit: Viking River Cruises

There are no children aboard Viking River Cruises. That means a European cruise offers a welcome respite for busy parents. A Viking cruise through Europe on the Danube River is a relaxing slow-motion vacation for parents looking to reconnect.

The Viking Hermod - Viking River Cruise Reviews
The Viking Hermod, one of Viking’s 190-guest longships. Photo credit: Viking River Cruises

Disclosure: The writer was given a discount for this trip.

A Danube River Cruise with Viking Cruiseline

There’s something so serene and calming about the slow pace of a European river cruise. For busy parents, it provides the opportunity for much-needed time to reconnect without the distractions of children. In fact, children under age 18 are not welcome aboard a Viking cruise. That means parents don’t even need to worry about being distracted by someone else’s kids!

Yes, I’m a SheBuysTravel. My favorite trips are our family vacations. But it’s also important to carve out time to focus on my relationship with my husband. I’ll take the kids on a ocean cruise to the Caribbean. Having time with just my husband on our Viking River Cruise is a special gift.

Cruising on the Viking Hermod

We spent a dreamy week cruising the Danube River from Passau, Germany, to Budapest, Hungary aboard the Viking Hermod. The Hermod is a Viking longship, a vessel designed to sail exclusively on the rivers.

It was my second European Viking River Cruise. My first river cruise was on the Rhine River in France. The French culture was memorable, but the Viking Cruise was even better on the Danube River. This cruise offered more immersive experiences in destinations that were more cultural and historical.

River cruising has become one of my favorite vacations. River cruising is ideal for first time cruisers. The service is top-notch on river cruises and the tours are led by local guides who are wealth of information.

Arriving in Europe

We flew from New York to Munich overnight and arrived the next day. Viking Cruises arranged our flight, which meant the airfare was much cheaper than if we had booked our own flights to Germany, especially because we arranged the Danube cruise only a few weeks in advance.

We arrived at 6:40 am and were greeted by a friendly young man holding a Viking Cruises sign. He explained he needed to wait a bit for some fellow travelers. We waited just about 30 minutes. I was OK waiting because I am used to group transport protocol. Once they arrived, he escorted our group to a parking deck where we boarded a minivan. The driver was a nice man who told us a bit about Munich. The ride from Munich to Passau is 2 hours. We were all jet lagged and fell asleep on the ride. We arrived at the ship feeling at least a little bit rested.

Boarding the Hermod

When we arrived at the ship, the crew was especially accommodating. We swiped our credit card and started our relaxing European River Cruise. Since we missed the official breakfast meal, the chef whipped up omelets and fruit for us. We dined on the sun deck. The front desk staff was helpful too. They expedited housekeeping to get our stateroom ready so we could get a quick nap that left us ready to tackle the day.

The nighttime lights of Budapest - viking river cruise reviews
Sailing on the Danube, we were welcomed by the glorious lights of Budapest. A once in a lifetime experience. Photo credit: Erica Lamberg

Viking River Cruise Review: The Itinerary

Our 7-night cruise started in Passau before heading to Linz, Austria. The next day we enjoyed scenic cruising in the Wachau Valley in Krems, Austria before arriving in lovely Vienna, Austria. Next, we headed to Bratislava in the Slovak Republic, followed by scenic cruising along the Danube Bend. The highlight of the cruise for me was the evening arrival in Budapest, Hungary. The city is ablaze in lights at night and it’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime event.

The cruise ends in Budapest.

Read More: First Time Cruising? Learn the Unique Cruise Lingo You’ll Need Onboard

Viking River Cruise Review: Excursions

Viking ships sail several different itineraries, so excursions will change. The constant among shore excursions for Viking River Cruises: Each port of call features several shore excursions that are included in the cruise price. All of the tours are led by experienced local guides who reside in the towns they tour. The walking tours demonstrate the tour guide’s first-person, intimate knowledge of local towns and give cruisers unique and immersive experiences.

In addition, Viking cruises offers specialized shore excursions and tours at added costs. These special experiences, such as wine tours and tastings, day-long trips that include a gourmet lunch, or special cruise experiences like concerts.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Book shore excursions online as early as possible. You can use your credit card online. Most shore excursions are limited in capacity. These optional tours are very popular and can sell out quickly. People who regularly sail river ships know this secret to book early.

Veranda Stateroom - viking river cruise reviews
A Veranda Stateroom onboard the Viking Hermod one of Viking’s award-winning longships accommodating just 190 guests. Viking’s longships feature spacious staterooms with full-size verandas and clean streamlined Scandinavian design. Photo credit: Viking River Cruises

Our Cabin Aboard the Hermod

We enjoyed our week-long European escape on Viking Hermod in cabin 317. This well-appointed veranda stateroom offered a floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door to our full-size veranda with chairs and a small table.

Inside, there was a comfortable king-sized, a roomy wardrobe closet, furniture with several drawers, a desk and chair, refrigerator, safe, flat-screen TV with free on-demand movies and music and ample cabin lighting and personal reading lamps. In addition, our stateroom had a large bathroom with more storage, a modern shower and nice vanity.

While our cabin did not have bathrobes and slippers, we asked our cabin steward if they were available. He brought them to us within the hour.

Some cabins have a French balcony which is also nice. A French Balcony is when you have a sliding glass door but it doesn’t open. Instead, there is space in your cabin devoted to enjoying the view from inside.

Viking River Cruse Review: The Ship

The Viking Hermod is beautifully decorated and well-designed. When you enter the lobby, there is a hospitality desk that is staffed 24 hours a day. Across from that desk is small but well-stocked gift shop selling Viking River Cruises gear and some small souvenir items.

The ship’s main lounge is the hub for social interaction of the guests on board. There’s a bar on board and floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides of the lounge offering breathtaking Danube River views. There is comfortable seating and tables ideal for playing board games, chatting with new friends, drinking coffee or enjoying hand-crafted cocktails.

There is also an electronic piano. A talented musician treated us to music and vocals for lunch and after-dinner nightly entertainment.

Beyond the lounge there was a Aquavit Terrace that has outdoor seating near the sun deck. This area was the gorgeous backdrop for a morning breakfast, which was much lighter than the restaurant. There was also limited seating for dinner. The same menu is available, so it’s basically a first come, first served arrangement. We chose to eat breakfast inside because they had cooked-to-order eggs.

I enjoyed a lunch outside while we were docked in Linz, Austria. It was a plentiful offering of soup, salads, a carving station and they had a grill with hamburgers and vegetables. It was nice eating outside.

dinner buffet - viking river cruise reviews
Scenes from a taste of Austria, a dinner buffet offering an extravaganza of Austrian favorites. Photo credit: Erica Lamberg

Viking River Cruise Review: The Food

No cruise review is complete without a discussion of the food. As you would expect, the food aboard the Viking Hermod was delicious and plentiful.

The spot where it all happens, in a culinary way, is the restaurant. Three meals a day are served in the restaurant. Here’s the scoop:

Breakfast

There’s plenty to eat for breakfast. There’s a bountiful buffet, augmented with an la carte menu. I started with a cook-to-order omelet each day. The egg chef was pleasant, helpful and made a delicious custom omelet for me each morning. There was also fruit, hot items like bacon, other meats and potatoes, Fruit, pastries and all types of fresh bread were also offered. My husband ordered pancakes from the menu when we had a late tour.

Juices, hot and cold beverages and anything off the menu was brought to the table by waiters and waitresses who were always kind and efficient.

Lunch

Lunch was always a great meal to enjoy after well-organized morning excursions. There was a buffet in the dining room with a soup, carving station of selections like leg of lamb and beef tenderloin, bountiful salad bar and a hot pasta station. Also, there was a full menu where you could have lunch brought to you by a server. Wine and beer are included at no charge during both lunch and dinner meals.

Dinner

Dinner is served promptly at 7 pm, so if you’re planning on extending your time in a port and miss the dinner hour, prepare to eat before you return to the ship.

If you eat aboard the river boat, plan to be sociable. There are no two-top tables. Seating is communal. On the plus side, that means you have the opportunity to meet your fellow passengers. On the downside, you and your partner won’t have the chance to hold hands and enjoy a quiet dinner for two. Sometimes the level of chatter is so loud in the restaurant that it’s hard to hear. But, the service and attention to detail of the restaurant staff makes up for the other things.

Dinner is completely sit-down service in the dining room. The menu offers stand-by favorites like steak, salmon and roast chicken nightly as well as a Caesar salad and a few other familiar favorites. Each night also brings a changing menu with selections inspired by your ports of call. For example, in Budapest we enjoyed chicken paprikash. During our time in Austria, we feasted on a hearty Austrian buffet with live performers and authentic cuisine.

There is limited seating in the Aquavit Terrace beyond the lounge. This is on a first, come first, served basis. We didn’t get to dine there as the same parties traveling together monopolized the seating each evening. The crew knew it was unfair, but couldn’t do much to prevent this.  They would leave a sweater or wine glass on the table and instead of squabbling or letting it upset us, we opted to dine in the restaurant.

There is also a 24-hour coffee and tea machine available on demand. Most of the time there are cookies out as well.

There is also Wi-Fi throughout the Viking longship. Do understand that Wi-Fi speeds can vary on a European River Cruise.

my husband and I - viking river cruise reviews
My husband David and I getting ready for a morning excursion in Passau, Germany. Photo credit: Erica Lamberg

What to Pack for a Viking River Cruise

Smart casual is the way to go on Viking River Cruises. For daytime, I dressed in layers as the morning was a bit chilly and by the afternoon temperatures reached the low 70s during our October 2019 cruise. The nighttime temps for our walking tours ashore dipped enough that we needed a light coat.

Make sure you have comfortable walking shoes and a light jacket that can be packed easily. There’s no need for sport coats or ties and leave the fancy dresses at home.

Your Fellow Travelers

Although there were a percentage of travelers in their 80s, I’d say the average Viking passenger was in their 60s. My husband and I were the youngest couple on board. We are both 50. There were some adult children traveling with a parent or parents.

What I will say is that everyone on our Viking River Cruise was incredibly nice. We sat (purposely) with different passengers every night and met some great people from all over the U.S., Canada, UK and Australia.

The Bottom Line

If you are looking for 24-hour access to food, bars and excitement, then a Viking River Cruise won’t be a good fit. You may want a typical cruise ship in the Caribbean. The entertainment on board is sleepy: There’s a talented resident piano player on board who plays some catchy tunes and Viking brought singers on board to brighten up the scene, but the nights end very early. Of the 190 passengers, my husband and I and about 8 other passengers were the only ones left in the lounge at 10 pm.

By the end of the cruise, I was sad it was ending. I loved my Danube River cruise and especially the hospitality of the Viking River Cruise crew.

When I returned home from the trip, I missed the calm, peaceful vibe of the cruise and the flawless service. I hope to sail again with Viking Cruises next year. My bucket list includes seeing the windmills in Holland and exploring Amsterdam, trying one of Viking Cruises’ Christmas Market river cruises.

There are many other river cruise lines that shine in specific markets like Venice or Russia. I am also interested in sailing Viking Ocean Cruises. Many passengers on board my Danube Cruise raved about Viking Ocean Cruises.

Read more:

  • Viking River Cruise – The Next Generation

About the author

Erica Lamberg is married and the proud mom of a son and a daughter, both who are in college. Erica writes for media outlets including USA Today, NBC News, Reader’s Digest and is a cruise writer for Expedia. She lives outside Philadelphia.


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