Despite its sleek modern stylings, there's something quite homey about Viking Odin. Whether it's the genuine smiles of the crew, many of whom knew our name (or at least my cabin number) within a day or two, the atmosphere on the boat feels downright convivial.
It doesn't hurt that most of your fellow passengers are also friendly, eager to chat at dinner or bond over a shared appreciation of a beautiful cathedral you've just toured. It also doesn't hurt that, on our sailing at least, more than half of the passengers were repeat Viking River Cruises cruisers, creating a level of comfort with the boat and the crew that could be felt by everyone.
That family feeling is furthered by the camaraderie the crew feels with each other and with their passengers, and that's not by accident. At the start of every season, crew members (whether new or veteran) are brought onboard 10 days early to undergo intensive training, as well as bonding exercises. Crew members that do not mesh with the group are moved to another boat. In addition, crew member activities occur during every sailing to maintain a high level of team spirit. The result is an authenticity in passenger/crew interactions that is nearly impossible to fake.
Another result of the high level of training: service is superbly attentive. (Usually anyway; we did notice a slowdown in service the last two days of the cruise.) Waiters get to know passenger preferences (red vs. white wine, beer or soda instead of wine) quickly and quietly -- every time the maitre d' spotted us at dinner, a plate of gluten-free bread soon magically appeared without having to ask for it.
Attentive service aside, Viking River Cruises and Viking Odin covers the basics but often doesn't go much beyond that. Excluding suites, cabins are more cramped than on comparable line's river boats, food is OK to good but almost never excellent, and while at least one shore excursion is included in each port, no effort is made to provide (free of charge) alternatives for people who want more than just a walking tour. For most passengers, however, all that was just fine. Viking passengers tend not to be fussy or gourmands; they appreciate the simplicity of the Viking product, accompanied by the superb crew.
Speaking of shore excursions, we must mention how impressed we were by the amount of free time offered in every port in which a tour was provided. This meant we could always feel free to take the tour knowing we'd still have time to hit a museum and grab a bite to eat. (Or, if you're like the vast majority of cruisers on our Christmas time cruise, hit the Christmas markets for gluhwein and shopping.)
Passengers on Viking Odin are well-traveled and social, with the vast majority coming from North America (mostly the United States) and a smattering of folks from the United Kingdom, and, much less frequently, Australia and New Zealand. The average age is 60-something. You'll also find adult children traveling with their older parents throughout the season. About half of the passengers on a typical Viking Odin sailing have been on a Viking river cruise before.
There's not much of a dress code on Viking Odin. Though the recommended code at dinner is "elegant casual," few people dress up -- you definitely don't need to bring a formal dress or suit jacket. Jeans and trousers are common for both men and women, with men in button-up shirts and women in short-sleeved blouses in the summer and both in sweaters in the colder months. Women who prefer to don a shirt and blouse or even simple dress (especially in the summer) will not feel out of place.
Viking river cruise fares are semi-inclusive with beer, wine and soft drinks included at lunch and dinner, as well as one half- or full-day tour included each day. Complimentary Wi-Fi is also provided. Tips are not included in the cruise fare, except for passengers from Australia and New Zealand. Gratuities are paid at the end of the cruise in cash or by credit card. (Euros are the onboard currency, but dollars are also accepted for gratuities.) The recommended amount on Viking's Europe cruises is 12 euros per passenger, per day, which is divided up among the crew.
Viking Prestige, which debuted in 2011, was Viking River Cruises' last new-build before it introduced its revolutionary Longship series in 2012. It has a lounge, dining room, library, a sun deck and cabins on three decks.
One of the original "Longships," Viking Aegir and its sister ships represent a new take on river hospitality, one in which a sleek, Scandinavian ambience is the antithesis of river's traditionally fusty vessels.