Viking River Ships
OnboardCreated specifically for river cruising, Viking's 13 Europe-based ships feature panoramic windows, sun decks and promenades to watch passing scenery, and public rooms like inviting bars, cozy libraries and charming restaurants. All cabins feature outside views -- and many have French balconies -- and include telephone, television, radio, hairdryer, private bathroom, hotel-style beds and individually controlled air conditioning.
Ships sailing along China's Yangtze, which don't have the same special limitations as river vessels in Europe (no low-slung bridges or tight locks), offer more space and amenities. Viking Emerald, the line's new Yangtze-base ship that launched in 2011, offers even more amenities. Most notable are the colossal suites and all-balcony cabin configuration. The ship offers gym, sauna and massage services, a beauty salon and Internet cafe.
The six new Viking Longships, launching in 2012, will be the first in a new class. In addition to following the "green" theme of Viking Legend and Prestige, the new ships will also have larger suites -- two Explorer suites will offer 445 square feet of space and feature 270-degree views with a private wraparound balcony, while the Veranda suites feature two full rooms with a balcony off the living room and a French balcony in the bedroom. They will all show off a brand new lounge, the Aquafit Terrace, where a portion of the floor-to-ceiling windows can be rolled aside to create an indoor/outdoor seating area.
Onboard entertainment is designed to help passengers understand the cultures and regions visited. Expect to find lectures, local musicians and themed dinners with regional specialties.
Viking ships offer open seating for all meals, which means you can sit where you like. Breakfast is usually a buffet, while lunch can be ordered from the menu, and passengers can choose to eat in areas such as the lounge or sun deck. Dinner is served in the restaurant. All meals include teas and coffees. Starting in 2012, passengers can enjoy complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with any lunch and diner taken onboard.
About Viking CruisesEstablished in 1997, Viking River Cruises is the world's largest river cruise line, with 20 ships sailing the waterways of Europe, Russia and the Ukraine, Egypt, China, Vietnam and Cambodia. Viking River Cruises' ships average just 150 passengers, and often dock right in the heart of town, providing "walk off your ship" access into Europe. An enticing bonus is that all guided shore excursions in each port of call are included in passengers' cruise fares.
More important: Viking is on the most aggressive new-build kick in the industry, starting with the introduction of two new ships, Viking Prestige (Europe) and Viking Emerald (China), in 2011. This will be followed by a whopping six new-builds added to the European fleet in 2012 and another four to be built by 2014, bringing the fleet to 30.
Viking Cruises FleetViking River's fleet is the largest in the river industry -- it boasts 20 ships and, as noted above, is rapidly expanding. All of the vessels are geared to the English-speaking market.
The line has been introducing new ships almost every year for the last decade. 2011 is no exception. Building on the launch of the eco-friendly Viking Legend in 2009, the 188-passenger Viking Prestige debuts in July 2011 with the same energy-efficient hybrid engines, using less fuel and offering a smoother and quieter ride. With French balconies (floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors) on the top two decks and some suites as large as 340 square feet, the ship reflects Viking's commitment to combining a pleasurable river cruise experience with an environmentally responsible future.
Prestige's itineraries focus on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers.
The other new-for-2011 ship, Viking Emerald, cruises China's Yangtze River. The 256-passenger ship has a pair of 840-square-foot presidential suites with separate sitting and sleeping areas, two flat-screen televisions, panoramic windows and a private wrap-around balcony. Standard accommodations aren't any slouch either -- they provide 269 square feet of living space (on river ships most passenger cabins are significantly smaller than on ocean-going vessels), and all have private balconies.
Looking further afield, Viking will introduce an unprecedented six new-builds in 2012 with a further six to be launched in 2013 as part of its ongoing $400 million expansion and upgrade program. The six new boats -- Viking Freya, Viking Idun, Viking Njord, Viking Odin, Viking Embla and Viking Aegir, all named after Norse gods -- will launch in spring and summer 2012. They'll inaugurate the line's Longship class of vessels, designed by maritime architects Yran & Storbraaten (known for creating interiors for Disney Dream and Seabourn's Odyssey-class ships).
The company has also invested considerable money into regularly refurbishing its older ships. Two ships were glammed-up for the 2011 season. For the Volga River-based Viking Pakhomov, the line added three new promenade decks, expanded the restaurant and redesigned staterooms throughout.
Viking Schumann, which cruises on the Elbe and Mosel, some of Europe's most picturesque rivers, completed a makeover in early 2011.
Viking also charters a number of ships for itineraries in Egypt and Southeast Asia. These include Royal Lily and Royal Lotus (the Nile), Prince Abbas (Egypt's Lake Nasser) and RV Tonle (Mekong River).
Fellow PassengersPassengers are generally well-traveled cruise veterans in the 55-plus bracket, although China and Southeast Asia attracts some younger travelers.
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