Because Viking Buri and its fellow Longship itineraries are so destination-intensive, most activities take place in port. Note: Tours are not required; you're more than welcome to stay onboard and recharge. When the riverboat's in transit, however, enrichment activities abound. A cocktail hour and 15-minute daily briefing, which offers insight into the following day's events, precede dinner every night.
At least one complimentary shore excursion is offered each day. These range from walking tours of the town to more niche activities like a cooking workshop and span half the day (roughly four hours). Those who wish to explore the port on their own are free to do so. When the riverboat is docked farther away from the port of call, shuttle buses are available at specified times throughout the day.
For a more intimate and culturally immersive experience, passengers should consider one of the riverboat's optional tours, which cost an additional fee. These half- and full-day shore excursions tend to focus on a specific theme and venture further outside the port city -- sometimes even an hour or so bus ride away. Despite the distance, the optional tours are almost always worth the longer trek. On our Lyon and Provence itinerary, passengers enjoyed tours such as a local food tasting in Avignon, a visit to the medieval stone village of Perouges from Lyon, and a wine, cheese and truffle tasting in the remote countryside of Burgundy.
Tours are ranked by the level of activity; most include only some light walking, while others require a bit more stamina. The program director recaps what to expect in the daily briefings. Wheelchairs are available upon request, but limited. There are no tours that specifically cater to cruisers with a disability.
We did notice that some tour descriptions seemed a bit off. One of our included excursions was a little underwhelming (i.e. not spending enough time in places that were listed as highlights, feeling rushed and missing out on free time at the end). On the flip side, our optional tour (not complimentary) included a few pleasant surprises and exceeded expectations.
Tip: Be prepared for longer-than-anticipated bus rides, in the event that the riverboat cannot reach its scheduled destination due to high or low water levels, which are a common occurrence on Europe's rivers. We ended up on the road for an hour and a half after one of our port stops got canceled. Viking worked around the last-minute change, allowing us to leave early so the tour was not cut short.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Daytime entertainment is seemingly nonexistent, except on days when the riverboat is moving.
Activities are arranged in between enrichment programs. On our cruise, passengers enjoyed a nautical-themed Q&A with the riverboat's staff and French teatime, complete with macaroons, scones and tea sandwiches. The afternoon tea was a big hit, and we wish Viking would offer it on more than one day.
At night, the low-key vibe continues with subdued piano music in the Viking Lounge. A DJ is on staff, but he rarely spun tunes on our cruise, as most passengers headed to bed shortly after dinner. On select nights, Viking Buri welcomes local performers to the lounge after dinner. These draw more of a crowd, and even inspire some dancing.
As previously mentioned, most enrichment is offered during transit, though at least one activity is held on some port days. Activities, which take place in the lounge, might include a chocolate fondant cooking demonstration, French lessons and presentation on a specific port or region's food and culture.
Occasionally, the riverboat will invite an outside expert to host the activity. On our sailing, a staffer from L'Atelier de Soierie, a highly acclaimed fashion boutique in Lyon, came onboard to offer a glimpse of their silk art. Both the Viking Buri staff-hosted and local expert-led activities were intriguing and provoked a lot of questions. Activities scheduled after dinner weren't as popular.
Viking Lounge (Upper Deck): Viking Lounge is the only place onboard dedicated to sipping and socializing. The spacious venue offers a bar and number of seating arrangements (plush chairs and cocktail tables) -- some in the center of the room and others in more reserved nooks against the wall and in the corners. It's lined with floor-to-ceiling windows, while a glass wall with a sliding door separates the lounge from the Aquavit Terrace. There's a small dance floor in front of the bar, as well as a piano for soft, soothing renditions of mostly 50s and 60s classics. Bartenders are quite knowledgeable about the local wines as well as a wide range of cocktails -- and can craft a mighty concoction, to boot.
The sun deck is a popular retreat, regardless of whether the riverboat is docked or moseying along the river. Passengers can be found kicking back in the lounge chairs, playing a game of shuffleboard or swinging wrenches on the putting green. The majority of chairs are shaded under a canopy; others offer a chance to soak up some rays. There are also a handful of chairs and tables with umbrellas, where passengers can enjoy a glass of wine and city views. Waiters frequent the sun deck to take orders. A jogging track lines the perimeter of the sun deck, though we never saw it being used.
Guest services and the reception desk are located in the center of the riverboat, on the Middle Deck. One level above (Upper Deck), you'll find the concierge desk, where passengers can learn more about what's available to do ashore as well as purchase optional tours.
Across from the reception desk is a small, unenclosed boutique shop, which sells Viking-logo attire, accessories, itinerary-specific souvenirs such cookbooks and other keepsake items. On the Upper Deck, there's a mini-library with a seating area, board games such as Scrabble and chess, and playing-card decks. Across the room are two computer stations. Wi-Fi is ship-wide and complimentary.
Viking Buri has one elevator, accessible from the lobby, that operates between the Middle and Upper Decks only. Additional seating is also located in this area. Laundry service is available for a small fee. Smoking is prohibited in all public spaces, as well as cabins and private balconies. Passengers who wish to smoke can do so on the sun deck and outdoor spaces off the main decks.
Viking Buri and its sisters have neither a spa, fitness center, pool nor hot tub onboard. Instead, the line offers these types of health and wellness services upon request, through partnerships with luxury hotels in the cities it visits.
Viking's fleet markets to adults, and therefore offers no dedicated kids' clubs or programs. Viking does not allow passengers under 18 to sail.