Viking Atla glides along the beautiful Danube, one of river cruising's more iconic itineraries including the highly popular Christmas market sailings that begin after Thanksgiving and call on ports like Budapest, Vienna, and Nuremberg among others.
As one of Viking's signature Longships, it boasts many familiar amenities and coordinated interior layout across three floors that is spacious and fitting for its mature clientele.
Viking's sense of Nordic style is on full display here, especially in its airy, dual-level lobby with glass staircase ascending to the second level. A portrait at the top of the staircase is often the topic of conversation that engages guests from various parts of the world as they sip coffee or tea from the nearby beverage station.
This German-made ship does not claim to be a bastion of new amenities for the Viking line. Instead, it delivers a dependable experience for both newbie and veteran customers including a hands-on, multilingual team of staffers that focuses on name recognition and personalization.
A sense of crisp minimalism and clean Scandinavian design prevails. Directly above reception is a small business center for those not traveling with their own devices. Everyone usually finds themselves in the main lounge, which is bright with earthen overtones and floor-to-ceiling windows. Aquavit Terrace also provides a private place to dine with the ship's aquatic contrails in plain view. Both are the setting for daily briefings and occasional entertainers that come aboard for the day. Spacious hallways and various seating nooks around the space create a relaxed vibe without the ship feeling crowded.
Atla excels in the culinary department with a menu that follows the ship's itinerary. Picky eaters or those with dietary requirements, including vegetarian and gluten-free travelers, have plenty to appease their appetite.
Excursions at each port of call last about two hours and feature handy descriptions based upon the level of physical difficulty required. Those that stay behind can take advantage of the free wireless internet aboard (a huge perk), which is speediest when fewer passengers are using it.
Designers were careful to maximize space in cabins with amenities like full-length mirrors to make them feel bigger, small benches that tuck cozily under desks, wall-mounted flat-screen TVs and bathroom and closet doors that slide open. No need to bring electrical converters as international power outlets and USB ports are conveniently placed. Other notable touches include heated mirrors and floors in bathrooms, bottled water replenished daily and turndown service.
All in all, Atla fits Viking's traditional Longship mold offering dependable accommodations and service, colorful itineraries and delicious cuisine.
As with other Viking itineraries, expect a solid mix of baby boomers and older passengers looking for an upscale, laid-back vacation. The audience skews heavily toward North American and British travelers, but don't be surprised if you hear an Aussie twang thrown into the mix. Families are few and far between, and the minimum age to sail is 18, so you'll never hear the shrill cry of a baby aboard. For those who need nightly entertainment that consists of more than a pianist and a single bar, this may not be the best vacation choice.
Given the clientele profile, most travelers dress in business casual attire during the evenings (often jackets for men) and more comfortable wear during the daytime. While there are no formal evenings aboard the ship, most travelers choose to get spiffed up once the sun sets. Leave the ball gowns and tuxedos at home though.
Viking cruise fare includes wine and beer at lunch and dinner, Wi-Fi and at least one complimentary shore excursion per port (for-fee options are sometimes available). 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.