My entire cruise career has seen me sailing on cruise ships of all sizes. From the largest ships at sea to the classics that are tiny by today’s standards, so I was intrigued and admittedly nervous about trying out my very first river ship with Viking River. The Viking Lif, which spans a total of four decks and has a tonnage of just a few thousand, would be my very first experience with a ship of this size and on a river. And wow, did I fall in love with her.
When my car pulled up to the dock, I was expecting a smaller ship, but I was blown away by how long she was in person. I mean, seriously, this was a long ship! So I quickly boarded and soon found that my notion of being “trapped” on some tiny little river boat was thrown overboard. Stepping aboard the Viking Lif, I was impressed at how spacious and open she felt, with a lobby spanning the two main decks, topped with a skylight, flooding the ship with natural light. The Viking Lif’s bright and airy architecture spread this light throughout her main areas, leaving only the engine room dark. Floor to ceiling windows flooded the Viking Lounge and Restaurant with bright light, illuminating the Scandinavian inspired design of the ship’s interior. Thank to a brilliant design incorporating an open floor plan and tons of natural light, this “small” ship felt truly spacious and comfortable.
While smaller in size compared to cruise ships nowadays, the Viking Longships don’t fall short on offering guests enough to do. The main deck is home to the atrium, where guests can check on their low bill (thanks to Viking including many aspects of the cruise such as wifi, wine and beer during meals, and shore excursions), arrange a special dinner ashore with help from the concierge, buy a warm Viking coat for those chilly days in the Netherlands, and finally, enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner in the Restaurant while rolling hills and castles sail past your table just out the panoramic windows.
Moving one deck higher, you’ll find the busiest deck, home to the social hub of the Viking Longships, the Viking Lounge. The Viking Lounge serves as the main meeting space of the ship, bringing guests together for the Daily Briefing, where your Program Director will give you a glimpse of the next day’s port of call and activities. Plus, you won’t want to miss out on the fun little moments planned for those celebrating special occasions. During our first Daily Briefing, I found myself being serenaded by Leonard our Program Director and the entire Viking Lif family to celebrate my 20th birthday.
By day, the Viking Lounge serves as a quiet retreat to grab a good book and get lost in another world as you sail through the Rhine Valley. The Viking Lounge also plays host to cooking demonstrations, evening recitals by local musicians, fun post dinner games, and even a massive and exciting going away party. You won’t realize how big the Viking Lounge is until you join in on the conga line and find yourself singing along to The Beatles’ Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da!
Just behind the Viking Lounge you’ll find the famous Aquavit Terrace, where you’ll be able to grab a continental breakfast before running off to your morning excursion, a lunch buffet in the afternoon, and a casual dinner in the evening. This unique space offers the opportunity to dine under the glass roof or al fresco out on the bow of the ship. If you’re looking for a table with a view, you really can’t beat this!
Moving back through the Viking Lounge towards the stern, you’ll find my favorite spot – the coffee corner. With a self serve coffee machine, pastries and breakfast breads in the morning and the world famous Viking cookies throughout the rest of the day, you’ll find yourself here more than you would think. Overlooking the airy atrium, you’ll find a small library, featuring an impressive collection of books with ties to the ports of call you’ll be sailing too – a nice touch in my opinion. And just in case you don’t have a device capable of connecting to Viking’s free wifi, two computers are available for use throughout the day.
Soaking Up The Sun On The Sun Deck
A guest favorite, the sun deck is the place to be during the day. Extending the entire length of the ship, the sun deck offers plenty of shaded and unshaded lounge chairs, perfect for getting a European tan or watching the incredible landscape slip by. Aboard the Viking Lif, Leonard our Program Director, invited the entire ship to the sun deck as we sailed through the Rhine Valley, narrating the journey for us, pointing out all of the castles, towns, and sharing the history of this truly magnificent region. But if you’re not into lounging, the sun deck also features a nice walking track, a shuffleboard court, and two putting greens to keep your game on par. And nestled between the shuffleboard and putting greens is a herb garden, used by the ship’s kitchen to prepare and garnish the meals you’ll enjoy in the Restaurant. I mean, how cool is that?!
Truly, I loved the experience of sailing on a Viking Longship. While I was initially nervous I would find the ship too small, I quickly grew to love the ship’s size. She felt spacious and comfy to me, but I grew to love the ship’s size for one reason: her size brought the crew and guests together. I’ve never left a cruise and felt like I was leaving my family until I disembarked the Viking Lif in Budapest. Over the two weeks I spent aboard Viking Lif, I met and bonded with almost every guest and crew member. I formed relationships that continue to grow today through emails, texts, and Facebook messages. We saw each other every day, heading out on shore excursions together in the morning, grabbing lunch in the afternoon, laughing at Leonard’s jokes during the Daily Briefing, dining together over Chef Slavi’s amazing dinners, and taking in Daniel’s music in the evening while Ivan kept the drinks coming. We are family and it’s because of the Viking Lif. Viking isn’t about building huge ships that make you feel like one guest of one million, Viking is about bringing amazing people together to amazing destinations on truly amazing ships.