Viking River Cruises Profile

Sail the Rivers of the World

Viking Njord, one of the Longships

Linda Garrison

Viking Cruises is a cruise line which offers both river and ocean cruises. Based in Basel, Switzerland, the Viking River Cruises signature longships offer river cruises ranging from 8 to 23 days, sailing the rivers of Europe as well as Russia’s Volga, Neva and Svir Rivers, Ukraine’s Dnieper, Egypt’s Nile, China’s Yangtze, and Viet Nam's Mekong.

Viking River Cruises Lifestyle

Viking brings a relaxed way of touring Europe, Russia, Egypt, China, and Southeast Asia on its river vessels and tours. Almost all shore excursions are included in the fare, and the pace of river cruising is less hectic than on a mega-liner. The scenic rivers flow through quiet towns and major capitals, and Viking allows passengers to see them all without having to pack and repack like you have to do when touring via bus or car. Since the focus is on the river and the ports of call, onboard activities are minimal. Although some of the cruises travel through more than one country, most provide a more in-depth visit to only one country such as the cruises in Russia, China, Egypt, and Portugal.

Viking River Cruises Ships

Viking River Cruises has rapidly grown its fleet of river ships over the past few years—as of July 2018, Viking operates a fleet of 62 river vessels and 6 ocean ships. Its Longships are the company's most prevalent style of vessel. This fleet sails the rivers of Europe, Russia, and China—in Europe, the Rhine, Main, Moselle, Danube, Douro, Elbe, Seine, Garonne, Dordogne, Gironde and Rhône; in Russia the Volga; in Egypt the Nile; in China the Yangtze; and the Mekong and Irrawaddy of Southeast Asia.

These river ships average in size from less than 75 guests on the Southeast Asia river ships to over 250 on the Yangtze River ship, the Viking Emerald. Most of the European river ships carry about 150–200 guests. The European cruises are the most popular, with most tours running between March and December. The November and December European cruises are especially popular because they visit some of the world's best Christmas markets.

Viking River Cruises has plans to sail the Mississippi River in the US by 2027, with ships sailing itineraries from New Orleans.

Passenger Profile

Although there is a mix of ages on the Viking River ships, most passengers are 60 plus, and many are retired, especially those favoring the longer voyages. Although Viking markets its ships to different countries, English is the primary onboard language and off-ship tour guides are also English-speaking. Viking passengers enjoy exploring small villages or historic sites. Viking's small river ships are not suitable for children or those who need to be constantly entertained.

Accommodations and Cabins

All Viking ships have outside cabins with large windows, French balconies, or full verandas. Cabin size and layout vary by ship, but all have amenities like hair dryers and adequate storage space. Voltage is both 220 and 110, so an adapter may be needed for recharging some batteries or using a curling iron. Cabins have a TV with news and documentary channels and movies.

Cuisine and Dining

All Viking ships have open seating, with tables set for 4 to 8 passengers. Breakfast and lunch include a buffet and/or menu dining, and dinner always includes at least two choices of appetizers, soups, entrees, and desserts. In addition to the menu items, broiled chicken breast, steak, or a Caesar salad are always available at dinner.

Menus are set fleet-wide each month, so all ships sailing the same destinations are serving basically the same foods. On the cruises in China and Southeast Asia, local cuisine is served along with a full Western-style menu. Complimentary beer, wine, and soft drinks are included with both lunch and dinner service on most itineraries.

Onboard Activities and Entertainment

Onboard activities and entertainment on the Viking ships are limited to local talent in the evening, reading, playing games and cards, or just sitting in the observation lounge and watching the river scenery slide by. Local glassblowers, musicians, singers, and even wooden shoe makers come onboard the ship to demonstrate their talents and crafts and enhance travelers' knowledge of the local culture. When the ship is cruising in the daytime, most passengers can be found in the observation lounge or on the outdoor decks enjoying the sights.

Ship Common Areas

The Viking European river ships all have two main indoor common areas—the windowed dining room and an observation lounge and bar. Some ships also have a library and small sunroom/bar in the aft of the ship. The Longships have the Aquavit Terrace, a contemporary indoor/outdoor dining area forward of the Observation Lounge. When the weather is good, the top sun deck has plenty of comfortable seating.

Viking river ships sailing elsewhere in the world have a different layout with more interior common space.

Spa, Gym, and Fitness

The Viking European river ships do not have a spa, gym, or fitness area. Most passengers take long walks when the ship is docked to get their exercise. However, the Yangtze River ship has a small spa and fitness area.


European river cruising has come into its own the last 20 years. Many inland countries in Europe are now accessible to cruise lovers, and you can sail from Amsterdam all the way to the Black Sea with Viking River Cruises. While tips are not included in the fare, Viking offers outstanding quality for the cost, especially when you consider that almost all shore excursions are included.