Wonder what the word "Gullveig" means? A mythological Norse figure, this golden goddess survived trial by fire three times and gained powers to enchant. River cruisers today find her namesake equally captivating.
Nonetheless, Viking didn't break the mold with Gullveig, one of dozens of sleek, modern Longships from the Norwegian firm Yran & Storbraaten that ply the rivers of Europe. In fact, when Danube waters are low, the cruise line may direct passengers to switch ships before or during a cruise. In port, they board an identical vessel and keep the same cabin number, making for a seamless transition.
Like the entire Longship fleet, Gullveig is bright and airy. Panoramic windows invite in natural light and the pale wood and neutral palette of the decor enable the scenery to take center stage.
A wide central staircase dominates midship. One elevator travels between the middle and upper deck; the sun deck is accessed via stairways on the port and starboard sides.
Depending on when you board, head to your cabin if it's ready (your suitcase won't be far behind, thanks to the crew's efficiency) or make yourself comfortable in the lounge, where you can suss out fellow passengers and have a light lunch. There's also a coffee machine and tasty oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies (careful; they're addictive and available throughout the cruise).
Prepared for both sunny and rainy weather, the ship's Aquavit Terrace has floor-to-ceiling glass doors that retract to allow guests to take in unobstructed views and fresh air while dining al fresco on balmy days.
Daily meals are served in the Main Dining Room, where chefs produce menus conceived by the home office that offer both regional and Western cuisine. Open seating at tables of six and eight allow passengers to meet new people or gather with friends.
Gullveig holds 95 staterooms with a capacity of 190 passengers. A majority of cabins feature a full balcony with two chairs and a small table. Staterooms that instead have a French balcony or transom picture window are available at a lower fare. On the high end, two stern-side Explorer suites feature a wraparound veranda and provide the most space (445 square feet). Veranda Suites also have separate sleeping and living spaces. Heated bathroom floors are a luxury throughout.
Daily shore excursions are included in the price of the cruise, although some optional extras, such as live evening performances on land, are offered.
Gullveig's hybrid diesel-electric engines keep the ship quieter than other river cruisers and deliver a smooth ride with fewer emissions. Onboard solar panels and the chef's organic herb gardens add to the line's commitment to sustainability.
River cruise passengers are typically 60-plus. Gullveig draws Americans, Canadians, and British and Australian residents who, regardless of age, embody an intrepid spirit and the enthusiasm to explore ports. Many are well-traveled and well-educated, making them engaging fellow travelers.
Thanks to the ship's affordable and efficient laundry service, travelers can pack nearly half as much as they need. On ship and shore, casual attire prevails during the day (but don't expect to see many passengers in jeans).
Depending on the month when you sail, early tours may start out chilly, so consider dressing in layers on days when a Viking tour bus delivers you to a destination. As the morning warms, it's safe to leave sweaters and jackets, hats and scarves on the coach.
Along with broken-in walking shoes for shore excursions, pack a more stylish pair for evenings onboard. When it's time for cocktails and dinner, most passengers emerge in country-club casual wear.
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.