Viking Vili is one of Viking Cruises' ever-expanding fleet of Longships that ply the rivers of Europe. One of 10 identical vessels launched in 2015, Vili sports the characteristic Scandinavian style that reflects the Norwegian heritage of the line's founder.
Don't be put off by the fact that Viking vessels carry more passengers than many of their competitors. Due to clever reworking of the standard model for European vessels -- which are strictly limited in length, width and height in order to navigate locks and sail under bridges -- the Longships designers used normally redundant space and rejigged the interior layout to come up with some innovative signature details. As a result, the ships never feel overcrowded.
Viking also shuns amenities such as spas, pools and fitness centers, which in turn means more room for passenger cabins.
A standout feature is the Aquavit Terrace, an attractive indoor/outdoor cafe and sitting area at the front of the ship. Instead of the normal pointed bow carrying nautical equipment, designers "blunted" the nose of the ship to create the terrace. In another nifty move, they repositioned the corridors on the passenger decks to be off-center, allowing room for the creation of full balcony cabins; a rarity before the Longships first debuted in 2012. Similarly, suites are two-room cabins with a bedroom and living room; not swankily named staterooms that are simply big cabins.
Streamlined simplicity is a theme running throughout the vessel, with decor that is easy on the eye rather than in your face.
Although Viking is the world's largest river cruise line, it remains family owned and run -- with founder and chairman Torstein Hagen at the helm -- and you're never made to feel like a small cog in a big corporate wheel. Staff are all employed and trained by the company, as opposed to being hired through different manning centers, and this shows with attentive, personal service and attention to detail.
Marketed solely to English-speaking countries, the majority of Viking's passengers are North Americans, with a smattering of Brits, Canadians, Aussies and a few other nationalities added to the mix. Most passengers are 55 plus -- many of them retired -- and well traveled, although often on their first visit to Europe. As the popularity of river cruises continues to boom, and with greater consumer awareness (much of it down to Viking's high-profile marketing campaigns!), you are starting to see younger couples and groups of friends onboard.
River cruises are much more casual affairs than their oceangoing counterparts. The onboard atmosphere is relaxed and there is no formal dress code during the day or evening. However, the one essential item that everyone needs to bring is a comfortable pair of shoes for the walking tours, which can involve negotiating historic cobbled streets and uneven surfaces. Layers are also a good idea as European weather can be unpredictable, even in summer, and there is always a stock of onboard umbrellas.
In the evening some passengers opt to change into something a little smarter, but nobody will mind if you turn up in the restaurant in jeans and sneakers. The most "dressy" evenings are the captain's welcome and farewell dinners, when some women break out dresses and heels and men don jackets and collared shirts.
Daily shore excursions and complimentary shuttles into town, on certain itineraries where the town is not within walking distance, are included in the fare. Wine, beer and soda are included with lunch and dinner. Complimentary tea, coffee, still and sparkling water are available from the coffee station around the clock, and during the day there is a selection of sweet treats such as cookies and muffins. Still bottled water in the cabin is replenished daily. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship. U.S. passengers have the option of booking itineraries as cruise-only or including air travel, and airfares are included in the price for passengers from the U.K.
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.