Itineraries focus on shore time rather than boat time. Onboard activities during the day or evening are not daily happenings. Daytime events occur when the riverboat is cruising between ports. Special evening entertainment, on the other hand, takes place when docked for the evening as a group of entertainers can be brought aboard for a few hours' time.
A complimentary guided shore excursion is offered in each port. Most last two to four hours and may be walking tours through smaller, historic towns. Others include coaches to transport you to castles, palaces or cathedrals. Guides change from day to day, are local residents and speak excellent English. The hotel manager divides passengers into groups of about 30 for each tour using small cards with a particular letter printed on them. The groups (and your letter) vary each day, except for one group opting for less or easier walking.
One or more optional excursions may be purchased for each port. They range from a beer brew house dinner in Cologne to an evening concert in Vienna to soaking in Budapest's thermal baths.
Every cabin is supplied with two QuietVox headsets to be used on paid and free excursions. Once switched on, the headset allows you to hear your guide clearly without having to stand close to him or her. Reservations for all excursions can be made online before the cruise.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
With the exception of one Dutch tea during our cruise, daytime entertainment tends to fall into the enrichment category. On most evenings, the entertainment is music played on the grand piano for dancing or listening, though many passengers opt for an early night. Occasionally, it's a game such as liars club with the program director. When a professional group does come aboard from port, shows include an orchestra playing classical music or opera singers performing selections from Mozart.
Talks and educational demonstrations feature the local culture, economics or cuisine and are sometimes given by a local resident who is invited onboard to enlighten passengers. These take place in the lounge where screens can be lowered for photo shows, films or Power Point presentations. Favorite topics involve regional food, such as the demonstration of making Rudesheim coffee, a drink similar to Irish coffee, but with local brandy. Samples are handed out to be enjoyed by all. A highlight is the glass-blowing demonstration by a sixth-generation German glass artist. Everyone is invited to attend at no charge.
The riverboat has one lounge/bar, although there are a few nooks and crannies for sitting or reading such as the lobby, library and a small deck area with a bench just outside on either side of the Deck 3 midship doors.
Lounge (Deck #3): The aptly named Lounge is the social hub for all gatherings -- talks, cocktail hour with live piano music or entertainment. It is located forward and has floor-to-ceiling views on three sides. The furniture is either tables and chairs or soft loveseats also with tables. A wooden, horseshoe-shaped bar stands at the non-view end and is surrounded by bar stools. The room gets crowded, and extra chairs are needed for the program director's nightly pre-dinner briefing on the following day's activities.
The top sun deck extends the full length of the riverboat. The forward area has mesh chairs and tables, sometimes with umbrellas, for socializing and watching the scenery. The retractable wheelhouse comes next. The larger aft section has a shaded section with mesh loungers, two putting greens, an oversize chess set, shuffleboard and the chef's herb garden. There is no pool or whirlpool. Smoking is allowed at the far aft. Everything on the top deck folds flat, including railings, chairs and tables in order to slip under Europe's low bridges. When necessary, the top deck is declared off limits to passengers.
The Deck 2 reception desk in the atrium is the center of guest services. This is where you can check your onboard account or sign up for extra charge excursions. The concierge has a dedicated desk here. He's the one to see for restaurant reservations in port, taxis and museum or special event tickets. A cabinet filled with logo items and souvenirs serves as the gift shop. Directly up the stairs on Deck 3 is the library, an open space with three walls rather than a room. There are a few chairs and tables plus two computers for free passenger use. WiFi is complimentary throughout, however, it works better in some cabins than others. There is no self-service laundry.
The top deck has a walking path. Cruisers are asked not to use it after 8 p.m. or before 8 a.m. so as not to disturb those sleeping in cabins directly below. There is no spa or gym.
Viking is an adults-only cruise line; passengers must be 18 to sail.