Stepping aboard Viking Skadi, you would never suspect it was one of the first in the company's series of Longships. Built in 2012, it still looks fresh and new. It is spotless--all the time--thanks to the attentive, caring crew.
Best of all is the immediate feeling of peace and tranquility. Frustrating, long lines are totally out of the picture. The decor is understated Scandinavian with earth tones, not brash colors or modern artwork that leaves you guessing. Instead, there are small pots of flowering plants in the atrium at the foot of the central staircase. Then there's the light streaming into the atrium lobby from two decks of floor-to-ceiling windows and the overhead skylight. Being able to look outside from all these angles is refreshing.
Anticipating your cruise should be a pleasure, and Viking excels here. It's one of the few lines that still mails out a welcome package containing a printed booklet about your trip and your destinations, leather luggage tags and a toiletry bag.
Onboard, the attention to detail and northern European efficiency continue. Little, unexpected treats might take the form of a talk on Dutch artists combined with a tasting of Dutch cheeses. When you return from your smoothly running shore tour, you may be greeted with a bite of a local sausage or warming beverage.
The Viking Skadi's seven- to 18-night journeys travel on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers stopping at ports in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Hungary. Itineraries such as the 14-night Amsterdam to Budapest Grand European Tour pass through 68 locks and under countless bridges. Here's where water levels of the river factor into your cruise. In Germany, for example, the route between Koblenz and Regensburg entails so many low bridges, the upper sun deck may be closed to passengers for a period of five or six days. At such times, the Aquavit Terrace and private balconies become prime outdoor areas for enjoying the views and fresh air.