Life on board a Viking ship

December 30, 2014

Even after poring over the beautiful color brochures we received, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we booked our Viking cruise.  You’ve probably wondered the same thing. So let me give you a glimpse of our life on board ship earlier this month.
wheelhouseThis is the wheelhouse on the Viking Longship, Idun. It’s the nerve center, where the captain –or his pilot—hangs out and drives the ship. Pilots it.

at the wheelShh…he’s napping.  Naah, not really. I just caught him blinking.

capt epauletHe’s a captain in training. The real captain was talking to us while this guy was piloting.

wheelhouse2 wheelhouse3It’s all very high tech. At that time were were traveling at about 14 kilometers per hour. The boat can do about 20-22 kph. By the way, it’s called a wheelhouse, but there is no wheel. All very much autopilot.

But some things haven’t changed in centuries. Just to be sure we are safe:

icon in wheelhouseI saw this Madonna just below the windshield of the wheel house.  Because safety is really important.

life vest drillAttending the safety drill was mandatory for all passengers.

life vest groupWe all looked ridiculous, sort of like Star Wars creatures. But we all learned how to put our life vests on. It was way LESS complicated than the airline vest.

Our instructions: “In the unlikely event you have to jump in the water, cross your arms over your chest, jump and don’t forget to look.”  My chest was at least 60 inches in that vest and crossing my arms was a challenge.

But to tell you the truth, we could have waded to shore a lot of the time. It was a river.

life vests at the barI don’t know why seeing passengers sitting at the bar in life jackets made me laugh, but it did. Yeah, I’d want a drink, too, before jumping into the drink.  (Did I mention there was a ship paramedic on board? Since we were cruising past lots of towns, there was easy access to doctors, etc if needed, so a paramedic sufficed.)  Oh, heck here he is, he’s the one on that little boat: he was also our ship’s “sailor.”

ship offloads bags garbj

life vest bartenderThe guy on the left is the head bartender, busy working in his black crew safety vest, which he can inflate by pulling on tubes. But for drills, the vest’s lower profile means he can keep working. And keep making money for Viking. He was charming, though.

While I’m talking about the bar I should tell you that each cabin’s television set features a Lounge Cam. That’s right. From the comfort of our cabin, we could tune in and see what was happening in the bar.  We had dinner a few times with a couple who loved to cocktail, and come evening, we’d tune in and see them at their usual seats at the bar, right in camera range, which was our cue to head down to the bar and join them for a drink or two.

2014-12-13 19.11.38These were our charming bartenders. Their precise movements showed us exactly how a cocktail should be made.  And they were fun. Not to mention super-cute.  Most of the crew were from Eastern Europe or the Philippines. One of the food service workers would sing as he dished out eggs each morning. That was his little gig and it endeared him to passengers, and probably got him some tips he might not have gotten as an anonymous spooner of scrambled eggs.

Each cabin on the ship has a huge sliding glass window. If your stateroom didn’t have a veranda, which is a tiny deck with a couple of chairs, you could still open your window and stand at the railing to watch cities slowly pass.  Of course, it was winter and most people didn’t do much window opening or veranda sitting. Unless they were smokers.

Viking idunWe had a veranda suite, which meant that we had a small living room with low profile, contemporary furniture: a sofa and chair, both tremendously uncomfortable. Outside the living room slider we had a little veranda that would’ve been handier in better weather. Still, it was nice to have a second room, because the bedroom was almost entirely filled by the bed.  The pictures on Viking’s website made the ship exteriors look beautiful–however, my first impression was that the ship looked like a floating motel. But inside is a different story. It was lovely. Not plush, but lovely, making good use of limited space. Suitcases, for example, fit under the bed.

The cabins were well-designed, with all sorts of cute storage cubbies, as well as traditional drawers and a closet.

ship storage3

I took these cubbies. Wish I had them at home!

Ship storage

ship storage2

This was below our nightstand.

I love how every inch of space was well-planned. We entirely missed seeing a cabinet of shelves in the living room, which would’ve been great storage for those shirts.

About the bed: eh.

Well, really, let’s talk about the pillows.  I sleep on a whole bunch of pillows at home to elevate my head. That’s how I’m comfortable.

The pillows on board looked big and plump, but once we laid our heads down they went flat as a pancake. Even doubled up, they were flat. Flat, flat, flat. Flatter than a prepubescent girl. So we started using the tiny living room pillows under them. Our maid noticed and brought more pillows. But it didn’t matter how many pillows she brought, they flattened down to nothing. So sleep was elusive for me and I used that insomnia to fantasize about packing an entire suitcase with pillows on my next cruise.

Other than that, we loved our suite, which featured a surprisingly good-sized bathroom with a standard-sized shower that was almost as big as ours at home. Unexpected.


disinfect stnThe hand-sanitizing queen, me, loved seeing these in front of every restaurant and at the ship entrance and exit. This dispenser misted sanitizer and I’m sure it’s how Viking tries to avoid the noro-viruses that plague cruise ships. I loved the positioning in front of the dining room.

Dinner was a group affair if you wanted it to be. There were no two-tops, you had to sit with others.  I’m not always social (are you shocked?) but managed at meals.  So let me talk about the food: it was exceptional.  The main dining room featured a choice of at least three entrees and the same number of appetizers and desserts. Or we could head to another deck where a light buffet spread was available, always including the freshest lettuce and vegetables for salads and various sandwiches. One day it was grilled cheese, another it was club sandwiches and burgers another day.  The food was surprisingly yummy – and we’re picky. Portion sizes were small so we never felt over-stuffed. Wine came with dinner and cocktails were extra.

Sometimes we docked in the center of a city and other times we were further out and had to be bussed to city-center. Every day offered an opportunity to do a walking tour of whatever port city we were in, as well as some optional activities for which we paid a healthy fee.  Gladly, because the tours were worth it. The pace was relaxed, but walking tours could mean stairs and a few mild hills. Just so you know, the age group was mostly 55 and above and there were people with mobility problems. If a walking tour had too many stairs or palaces didn’t have elevators, Viking took care to offer a “leisure” option, which is a nice way of saying that mobility-challenged people could still participate in most of the things we did.

“I heard those cruises were for the blue-hairs,” someone said to me the other day. Umm…just how old did they think WE are? We’re not exactly blue hairs, ourselves, but I count a few among my closest friends. Because talking to people 20 years old than I am is an opportunity I never pass up.  One night I sat next to a fascinating British woman at dinner–she was 85 years old and had been an officer in the Royal Air Force.  In fact, she  met her husband in the Air Force and he had been one of her subordinates. What fascinating table talk!

Avid exercisers could circle the top deck or take an early morning walk or run in port most days before our activities began.  But make no mistake: this is a restful style of vacationing, more sedentary than not and if you’re under 55  and hyperactive, it’s not the vacation for you.

Viking Idun rearWe were sad to bid our ship farewell at the end of the week. Viking gave us more than we expected and we’ll be repeat customers, already talking about doing another in 2016.  We’re also talking about doing an actual Christmas in Vienna, which sounds like a lot of fun. A lot of the German cities are within easy driving distance so we could visit Christmas markets to our hearts’ content.  And maybe a spring in Budapest, because it’s a beautiful walking city.

That’s really the value of these overview trips–we were able to look around and decide where we’d like to spend more time.

These cruises are a big “recommend.”

19 comments on “Life on board a Viking ship
  1. Zippy says:

    I was on just 3 weeks ago and had a FABULOUS time doing the Christmas Markets as well. I’ll be back on a Viking ship as soon as possible. What a wonderful way to travel.

  2. pia says:

    I like the overview way of thinking as I always wonder why people go on cruises in Europe. All they seem to do is rush from one place to another

    • My husband hates to unpack and pack all the time, so cruises are his favorite way to travel. On the heels of our Sept/Oct trip to Sicily in which we packed and unpacked every few days, I came to appreciate his view. He has done ocean cruises during which they docked in cities for 3-4 days at a time, affording more time to explore. This trip for us was an efficient way to see Christmas markets. I’ve been to Germany/Austria two other times, once for almost two weeks, but it was this trip that made me love it. We now know what our next plans for this area will be.

  3. Carolann says:

    Funny, we were just talking about this cruise the other day! I think I’m going to be planning one for sure now. Glad you had an amazing time of it. Great pics too!

  4. Although it’s obviously necessary to be prepared, the life vest lesson would have made me a bit nervous. But all in all, worth it, your description of the veranda suite sounds perfect.

  5. Hi Carol! I’ll bet most of the women who are on the Women of Midlife FB page get these brochures just like me so this was so good to read AND see all your great photos. I’ve also had a number of other friends take them but none offered such a great perspective. I didn’t see for sure what route you were on….maybe you mentioned that in another post? Except for the FLAT pillows it sounds like a wonderful experience. Meanwhile, Feliz Ano Nuevo from Baja Mexico! ~Kathy

    • Kathy, yes, I did at least 6-7 posts on all the ports of call, beginning in Budapest and ending in Nuremberg. It was a Christmas markets cruise and so much fun! if you want to see them all, go to my home page section called Trippin’ where they can be found.

  6. I’m not a big fan of cruises but you may have just changed my mind.

  7. Roz Warren says:

    Fascinating. I love all the detail, and, as always, your sense of fun. I’ve never even been tempted to cruise, which is probably good since the man in my life refuses to go near a boat. So the only cruising I’ll be doing is vicariously, through your blog. I’ve been enjoying the ride.

  8. A Viking river cruise tops my bucket list, for sure. I appreciate all the details you gave here, especially about the meals. I, like you, am surprisingly not always social! We’ve been on lots of ocean cruises but I can’t wait to do one of these and experience the Christmas markets in real life.

  9. One day I’ll be on that ship! It sounds like you had an amazing trip. I’ll just have to remember to pack my own 8 pillows on my bed haha!

  10. Lana says:

    Very interesting – thanks for sharing your trip. I’ve been trying to talk my husband into a cruise. He’s not too keen on the massive ships, but maybe something like this would be nice. I’m with you on the pillows – I’ve been known to wad up my own clothes underneath to get a little volume!

  11. I’ve never been on a cruise. Will have to try it sometime during my life after 50.

  12. Kirsten says:

    Oh, I’ve always wanted to go on these trips, but wondered what they would be like. I have never been on a cruise, but you did a marvelous job of describing it. Did you enjoy all the cities you visited and which was your favorite?

    • As a short answer, on the home page of my site is a category called Trippin’. In it I write about every port–it’ll give you way more info! I loved all of them, though.

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