Despite its sleek modern stylings, there's something quite homey about Viking Odin. Whether it's the genuine smiles of the crew, many of whom knew our name (or at least my cabin number) within a day or two, or the fact I could kick off my shoes and curl up on the couch in the "library" and not seem out of place, the atmosphere on the boat feels downright convivial.
It doesn't hurt that most of your fellow passengers are also friendly, eager to chat at dinner or bond over a shared appreciation of a beautiful cathedral you've just toured. It also doesn't hurt that, on our sailing at least, more than half of the passengers were repeat Viking River Cruises cruisers, creating a level of comfort with the boat and the crew that could be felt by everyone.
That family feeling is furthered by the camaraderie the crew feels with each other and with their passengers, and that's not by accident. At the start of every season, crew members (whether new or veteran) are brought onboard 10 days early to undergo intensive training, as well as bonding exercises. Crew members that do not mesh with the group are moved to another boat. In addition, crew member activities occur during every sailing to maintain a high level of team spirit. The result is an authenticity in passenger/crew interactions that is nearly impossible to fake.
Another result of the high level of training: service is superbly attentive. (Usually anyway; we did notice a slowdown in service the last two days of the cruise.) Waiters get to know passenger preferences (red vs. white wine, beer or soda instead of wine) quickly and quietly -- every time the maitre d' spotted us at dinner, a plate of gluten-free bread soon magically appeared without having to ask for it.
Attentive service aside, Viking River Cruises and Viking Odin covers the basics but often doesn't go much beyond that. Excluding suites, cabins are more cramped than on comparable line's river boats, food is OK to good but almost never excellent, and while at least one shore excursion is included in each port, no effort is made to provide (free of charge) alternatives for people who want more than just a walking tour. For most passengers, however, all that was just fine. Viking passengers tend not to be fussy or gourmands; they appreciate the simplicity of the Viking product, accompanied by the superb crew.
Speaking of shore excursions, we must mention how impressed we were by the amount of free time offered in every port in which a tour was provided. This meant we could always feel free to take the tour knowing we'd still have time to hit a museum and grab a bite to eat. (Or, if you're like the vast majority of cruisers on our Christmas time cruise, hit the Christmas markets for gluhwein and shopping.)