As one of Viking's many Longships, Viking Hild -- which launched in 2017 -- features the line's signature attributes that have grown the company into the most recognizable on Europe's rivers.
Sleek wood and natural colors? Check. Glass-covered atrium and Aquavit Terrace? Check. Well-designed lounge, a homey atmosphere and plentiful pours of complimentary wine and beer at lunch and dinner? Check, check, check.
Look a little closer, though, and you see ways that Viking Hild and the entire Viking experience has improved over the years. Passengers can plan much of their trip ahead of time, now that the line has imported the My Viking Journey computer interface from its ocean cruise line to the rivers. While passengers are still guaranteed at least one included shore excursion every day -- usually a walking tour -- Viking now offers a host of optional for-fee ones as well -- and some of them are really fabulous (we particularly enjoyed the Taste of Alsace walking tour through Strasbourg).
Dining, too, has received an upgrade, as some of the Viking Ocean chefs import favorite dishes to the river menus. Poached salmon with dill sauce, a favorite of Viking's Chairman Torstein Hagen, is now available anytime, and other items from Manfredi's and Mamsen's on Viking's ocean ships will also start showing up during the 2017 season. The Aquavit Terrace, which has always offered light alternative meals, now has more choices beyond soup, salad and sandwiches, and Viking is looking to improve alternative dining in 2018. Overall, we found more choice and more flavor on Viking Hild's menus than we did on a similar Longship cruise five years earlier.
The cabins on Viking do have some kinks. If the beds are configured as twins, for example, one person accidentally turns the lights on and off when they lean back. Cabins below suite level can feel cramped; we'd like to see the extra chair stuck in the veranda stateroom removed entirely (we put ours out on our balcony to get a little more room).
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That being said, Viking Hild has plenty of electrical outlets, both European and American, including two by the bed on each side -- much appreciated in these technology-based times -- and a 40- or 42-inch flat-screen TV with movies on demand. We also appreciated ample drawer and closet space, as well as Viking's much-praised heated floors and no-fog mirrors in the bathroom. Passengers who are looking for suites will find that Viking honors their word: Both the Veranda Suite and Explorer Suite have two separate rooms (as well as a host of perks).
All in all, Viking Hild shows that even an industry leader finds room for improvement; although Longships may all look alike, Viking has continued to iterate and respond to its passengers, making them one of the better values in river cruising.
With the most name recognition in river cruising among North Americans, Viking river cruises are dominated by Americans and Canadians, as well as passengers from other English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia. The average age is between 65 and 70, although more passengers in their late 50s have been drawn to the line.
Viking Hild is casual, with most passengers wearing casual touring clothes during the day -- jeans and T-shirts, or sweaters when the weather is chilly. Dinner dress is also casual. Men wear collared shirts, with khakis or nice jeans, while women wear blouses and pants, or a simple dress. On Christmas Market sailings, as well as the shoulder months of March, April, October and November, pack warmer gear.
Viking includes Wi-Fi (which is fast and reliable, although not suitable for streaming); beer, wine and soda at lunch and dinner and at least one shore excursion per day, either for a full or half day, in its fare. Bottled water is included in your cabin and for shore excursions.
Tips are not included in the cruise fare, except for passengers from Australia and New Zealand. Gratuities are paid at the end of the cruise in cash or by credit card. (Euros are the onboard currency, but dollars are also accepted for gratuities.) The recommended amount on Viking's Europe cruises is 12 euros per passenger, per day, which is divided up among the crew.