On an overnight aboard Viking River Cruises’ newest Longship — Viking Hemming, just christened on Portugal’s Douro last week – we figured that there’d be no big surprises, having cruised on the 30 odd other nearly identical vessels.
We were wrong. Viking Hemming, along with twin Viking Torgil, also named in Douro, is the line’s first ever “baby” Longship, as dubbed by cruise line CEO Torstein Hagen.
What’s a “baby” Longship? Because of unique length and height challenges ships sailing the Douro face, Viking had to scale back on this pair of ships. Passenger capacity is just 106, compared with the 190 fellow travelers on standard Longships.
But instead of simply making everything smaller, Viking made some significant tweaks, while maintaining the Longships’ signature ambience (spare, Scandinavian décor and lots of light). Most of ‘em we liked., although a few made us miss the regular Longships.
Here’s a rundown of “baby” Longship hits and misses.
Décor. While you’ll still know you’re on a Viking Longship, the “babies” have a more regional feel. Hemming has beautiful and colorful Portuguese tiles throughout, with a navy and red color scheme in the cabins that we love. Decorative items, especially ceramics, added a “we’re-in-Portugal” feel to the ship.
Suite innovations. The verandah suites on all of Viking’s Longships are among the best value-for-more-space options of any river line, yet there’s an occasional glitch — like a closet that’s cramped and doesn’t maximize space. On the Douro ships, the verandah suites all have full walk-in closets! The bathroom’s a bit smaller to make room for the extra hanging space but the trade-off works.
A pool! Perhaps owing to Portugal’s sultry summer temps, these are the first Longships to get an actual plunge pool. It’s up on the sundeck and is just big enough to help you stay cool (and there’s still plenty of room for lounging).
The shop. Mind you, the shop was never open while I was onboard but I loved the merchandise displayed there. In keeping with the regional décor, the shop had gorgeous purses and wallets made from cork, a major Portugal export, and other trinkets that would make great souvenir material.
Downsizing the lobby. While we’d never book a river ship based on its lobby, we do love the soaring, light-infused feel of the standard Longships’ entryway. It’s inspiring, and includes a library nook and Internet stations. Here, there simply isn’t enough room, making the lobby a pleasant but minimal space, which functions as the concierge and purser’s area.
Scaled-down Aquavit Lounge. On the Longship Aquavit Lounges, the outdoor grill and alfresco dining options makes this space best in class,. The lounge on Torgil and Hemming is still an Aquavit, with a lovely terrace containing tables for four, an indoor area with plenty of seating and a well-equipped library nook. But it lacks the capability to offer dining, so there’s no alfresco dining onboard. Except….
Valiant effort. To make up for the lack of an alfresco dining option, two areas in the back of the dining room have been set off in separate rooms with glass walls, with windows that can be lowered. So while you’re not actually dining outside, at least you can still feel a breeze.