Viking Ve -- launched in 2015 and named for one of the two brothers of Norse god Odin -- is one of Viking's fleet of German-built "Longships," which have brought a new level of class, style and comfort to the stodgy old European riverboat scene.
This is not a sit-on-the-sun-deck, forage-at-the-buffet kind of cruise. It is a cruise for the culturally minded, the days filled with tours of European cities, villages and wine regions, the afternoons and evenings with lectures, performances, demonstrations and hands-on workshops highlighting the history, art and cultural offerings of the Old World.
The ship itself is quite elegant without being stuffy. The two-story atrium at the center is airy and filled with light. A sweeping wooden staircase connects the Middle Deck, where the ever-smiling staff and concierge stand ready to assist you with any need, with the atrium's Upper Deck, where little chairs and tables tucked into nooks invite you to enjoy the books and board games from the small library's shelves.
The public spaces spill forward from there through a large indoor bar and lounge -- with live piano music every night -- to the Aquavit Terrace, a lovely open air lounge and and causal dining space at the bow of the ship.
In keeping with the "Viking" theme, the cabins are done in a modern Scandinavian style, all pale wood tones and light grays and long horizontal lines that make everything feel larger. One benefit of the narrow profile: since all passenger quarters open off central corridors, there are no "inside cabins"; everyone gets a window.
Viking Ve spends most of the season on the Amsterdam–Budapest itinerary, cruising along the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers at a relaxed 12 knots past medieval castles and baroque spires, pausing at world capitals like Cologne and Vienna, and passing through 67 locks.
(Occasional Danube Canal closures can mix the itinerary up a bit, skipping the Main and Danube and continuing instead south along the Rhine between the Black Forest of southern Germany and Alsace in France to Basel).
The ship ends its season on a shortened Passau–Budapest route.
The majority of Viking Ve passengers are about 10 years to either side of retirement, mostly in couples -- though some of the couples are friends, siblings or folks traveling with their adult children. There are a handful of couples in lower middle age (late 30s through 40s).
The vast majority (about three-quarters) are Americans, with a few Canadians and Brits thrown in and a smattering of others, particularly from Australia and New Zealand.
The dress code is casual. There are no formal evenings, though some passengers do choose to dress up a little for dinner.
The dress suggestion for the final night's Captain's Farewell drinks is "smart casual."
Since the ship sails through a variety of climates, it's good to take clothes that will layer well, including a few warm sweaters or jackets.
Umbrellas are provided at all shore excursions, but a rain jacket would not be a bad idea, especially in spring and fall.
All onboard meals are included, as are house wine, beer and soft drinks at lunch and dinner. (Sometimes, a local variety of wine or beer will be featured at a meal when sailing through that territory.)
The Silver Spirit beverage package allows you to indulge in premium brands and unlimited drinks by the glass.
The main escorted tour at each port of call is included. The line offers additional shore excursions in some ports for a fee.
Wi-Fi is free throughout the ship.
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.