The modern, yet contemporary design found throughout Viking Embla -- one of the original Longships, launched in 2012 -- is both welcoming and bright, with its floor-to-ceiling windows allowing bursts of natural sunlight, its outdoor dining deck offering panoramic views and open two-story atrium featuring statement artwork.
You can feel the Scandinavian influence all throughout the ship, from the oversize Viking painting welcoming you upstairs to the symmetrical white couches adorned with pattered throw pillows to the simple, albeit cozy, staterooms. When the ship launched, its Aquavit Terrace quickly became the Longships' signature. Created to maximize the space allowed for river cruising, this outdoor eatery boasts 270-degree views of the breathtaking scenery with comfortable chairs and dining tables that beckon a bite outside.
Another new feature aboard Embla are the two Explorer Suites, among the few "true suites" on European rivers. In these expansive staterooms, you'll find a separate living room and bedroom, a large bathroom, a French balcony and a wraparound veranda porch. Although the square footage is slightly smaller in Embla than her sister ships, these suites still offer plenty of space to relax and unwind.
The size of the ship is also no accident. To navigate Europe's complex river system, Embla was built without a centimeter or inch to spare so it can fit through the series of locks that monitor and oversea the water levels of Europe's inland rivers and squeeze beneath the mid-century bridges. To offer as much space as possible and ensure comfort and privacy, the upstairs deck is outfitted with chairs and tables (but is off-limits when cruising below bridges or through locks for safety).
Embla's public areas are her crowning glory, with comfortable pattered couches and pillows arranged dutifully around a piano and dance floor in the lounge, plush loveseats adjacent to the library and a family-style dining room decorated with simple, yet beautiful wine racks, centerpieces and simplistic flowers.
One thing you'll note as you sail along the Danube, through the Wachau Valley or down the Rhine, is how quiet and unimposing Viking Embla is. Unlike neighboring ships that are heard miles away, Embla quietly navigates along -- providing you with a more uninterrupted view of the spectacular scenery.
Not as visible but just as revolutionary is Embla's dedication to sustainability. Heated towel racks make it easier to reuse towels and minimize laundry, electric engines burn less fuel and produce more than 20 percent less emissions and solar panels on the sun deck help fuel the engines. Plus, an organic garden sits on Embla's upper deck during growing season, offering a natural, lush respite during warmer months.
The general age for river cruise passengers is 60 and older, but Embla and other Longships, with their contemporary design, were built with an eye toward attracting a slightly younger traveler. Regardless of age, passengers tend to be well-traveled (though many are visiting Europe for the first time).
Casual, comfortable attire is encouraged for both ship and shore on Viking Longships. The must-pack item is, without question, a comfortable pair of walking shoes for shore tours. As the ship sails in Europe, with its lovely and historic landscapes, tours frequently involve cobblestones and other uneven surfaces. Both the staff and the daily program provide ample notice when this is the case.
Generally, passengers "dress up" to varying degrees in the evenings, but never to the level of a big-ship formal night. Most don the kind of attire worn at a country club dinner, but others don't bother to change from their sensible shore excursion gear. Save your best outfits (maybe casual dresses for women and collared shirts and blazers for men) for events like the Captain's Welcome and Farewell Dinners
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.