Viking Embla Entertainment
The lounge has a baby grand piano, where a pianist plays classical and modern melodies during cocktail hour and sometimes at lunch. The music drifts to and through the Aquavit Terrace -- a nice accompaniment on warm, sunny days.
The cruise director hosts a variety of informal evening entertainment in the lounge; from pub trivia nights to the cruise slideshow cum sales pitch, it's all done in a spirit of fun and inclusivity. The lounge is also equipped with large pull-down movie screens and surround-sound for movie nights, and regional performers occasionally come onboard to provide additional entertainment.
Professors from European universities give onboard lectures, which range across a variety of subjects. And, given that many of the line's passengers are highly educated and well-informed, the talks can provoke probing questions and stimulating discussion.
Hands-on crafting demonstrations and cooking courses are often available, and they'll be tailored to the culture and traditions of the ship's itinerary.
Most passengers participate in the daily shore excursions included in the cruise fares, and a fair number also opt for the fee-added alternative trips provided by the line. Shore excursions are typically of the basic bus or walking tour variety, but paid-for excursions also include events like wine-tastings and off-ship dinner outings. Prices for these range between 30 and 60 Euros per person. QuietVox headsets with earphones (found in each cabin) are provided for every tour so that everyone can hear what local guides are saying.
Viking Embla Public Rooms
As is the case on all riverboats, Viking Longships have only a few public rooms, making it easy to get to know this ship -- not to mention many of your fellow passengers.
The lower level of the light-filled, glass-ceilinged atrium houses the reception and concierge desks, cushioned couches with views, and a small corner shop selling Viking logowear, batteries and a few itinerary-specific souvenirs. Glass doors lead to the main dining room. A staircase leads to cabins on the main deck below. A glass elevator, the first for Viking, also connects the three main passenger decks but does not go up to the top-level sun deck.
Walking up the striking grand staircase from Middle to Upper Deck, topped by a modern-art depiction of a historic Viking ship, takes you to the upper atrium. Public space in this part of the ship consists of an Internet corner with complimentary laptops on two desks and a library corner with wooden bookcases. There are couches where you can enjoy coffee, tea and sweets from two self-service stations while watching the passing views through large sliding-glass doors. Through the doors, on either side of the upper atrium, you'll find a small balcony to do the same.
The main draw on the upper atrium level is the spacious, windowed lounge, done up with pale gray and orange couches and plush chairs. This room is the social hub of the ship. There's a nice wooden bar with 10 barstools at one end of the lounge, adjacent to a dance floor. Nearly everyone gathers in the lounge for the nightly cocktail hour, which includes details of the next day's program, delivered by the ship's Program Director. At the other end of the lounge, glass doors lead to the Aquavit Terrace cafe.
Up above, the top sun deck -- an expanse that runs the entire length of the vessel -- has the lovely and unusual addition of an organic herb garden. There's a shuffleboard court, a pair of putting greens and a giant chess set, too, but views are the main reasons to be up there. Retained from earlier Viking ships are the two wonderful canopy areas, providing lots of shaded space for those who don't want too much sun. Tables, chairs and cushioned loungers are available aplenty.
The ship's bridge lowers and rises to fit under low bridges and is an attraction unto itself. There's an open-bridge policy, allowing passengers to schmooze with the officers, except when they are navigating the tight locks.
Viking Embla Spa & Fitness
The ship has no spa, fitness center, pool nor hot tub, but Viking has agreements with luxury hotels in several of the cities the ship visits, allowing passengers to use the hotels' health facilities. Viking does not offer bicycles for use. As on most river cruises, though, most passengers opt for exercising via daily shore tours that involve walking or cycling.