Viking Helgrim Entertainment & Activities
Viking includes at least one excursion per day and offers a number of optional ones, which are always in smaller groups and usually allow you to get a bit "deeper" into the area you are visiting. For example, on an optional shore excursion, you may meet the owners of a vineyard, learn about the history of their quinta (vineyard) and perhaps even have a drink with them, whereas on an included shore excursion, there are likely to be too many people to do much more than a walking tour. Optional shore excursions start at 59 euros (about \$70) for a Porto city hike and go up to as much as 259 euros(about \$290) for a lavish dinner at Graham's Port Winery.
The program director gives a detailed port talk every night, letting you know what to expect the next day and what to bring along. He or she will always accompany the included tour and offer guidance and deadlines for the optional ones. (You do not need to sign up for included tours; you are assigned a bus number at the start of the cruise and you simply turn up if you want to go along.) The program director also starts the cruise with the passengers who have opted for the Lisbon pre-tour, accompanying the buses from Lisbon to Porto.
As you might expect, many of the optional excursions revolve around wine tasting and port. Portuguese call their wineries "quintas." You'll find quintas literally opposite where you are docked in Porto and along almost the entire route to the Spanish border, their names in billboard style, planted in the hill terraces on each side of the river -- Sandeman, Harvey's, Gow's, Fonseca, Gordon's.
Two included tours feature visits to quintas -- one to Sandeman, as part of a daylong trip which includes a visit to Mateus Palace, and one to Quinta da Avessada. By popular consensus, the latter is the standout; the former was effectively a double tour with very little time in each.
If you want to know more about Portugal, you'll have to pay. The standout excursion on our trip was not to a vineyard (though there was wine involved); it is a picnic in olive groves, followed by a visit to a ruined castle. The Marialva Castle & Picnic (139 euros -- about \$160 -- each), an excursion capped at 12, is about as much fun as you can have on the back of an open truck as is legal. Don't miss it.
There are no active excursions on offer, apart from the city hike. However, cycling in this region with its lack of towpaths, let alone bike paths, and the steep terrain would be challenging.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
During the day, almost everyone opts for an excursion (either included or optional), and there is little going on except perhaps the odd cooking demo (we learnt how to make pastel de nata, Portugal's national dessert).
Cocktail hour kicks off most evenings from 5:30 p.m., and at the start of the cruise, the captain will host one. The port talk (a run-through of the following day's events), as well as a short presentation from the chef on the day's regional specialties, almost always takes place before dinner.
After dinner, you'll find a variety of evening entertainment. Examples include the "Taste of Portugal," a flamenco show and a tuna show; all were adequate rather than special. Every other night, you'll find fun trivia, a participatory show or a disco night. There is a piano player/DJ in residence who plays every evening.
Enrichment is somewhat limited, with a couple of lectures and demos per cruise, which will include a talk about Portugal's maritime history, a Q&A with the captain, a cooking class, a Vintage Port Opening Ceremony and a talk about cork.
We expected a little more -- wine tasting classes or food and wine pairing, for example -- but it's probably because most people choose to go on the included excursions to vineyards.
There is no navigation commentary as you might find on a Rhine or Danube river cruise.
Viking Helgrim Bars and Lounges
The Viking Lounge on the top deck is where all nighttime activities take place and is the ship's only bar.
Viking Lounge (Deck 3): All entertainment takes place here. The light, airy lounge has a bar on one end, with a screen that comes down, flanked by a small library and baby grand piano. At the other end, there are doors which lead out onto the lovely open-air Aquavit Terrace. There is waiter service out here, although no food is served (unlike on the Longships).
Trivia, port talks, cocktails, meet and greets, dancing and all entertainment takes place in the Viking Lounge nightly.
Viking Helgrim Outside Recreation
There is a Sun Deck with a small saltwater pool (note that this is a very shallow pool, so do not jump in) with a jet at one end, useful for swimming against. There are plenty of loungers and chairs, and a covered area with solar panels on top and which comes down in locks. Note: There is no mini-golf area; the space is reserved for crew.
Viking Helgrim Services
The reception desk on the third deck doubles as the shore excursions desk. There is a small gift shop just inside the Viking Lounge selling branded goods and a few souvenirs. Directly in front is a small alcove with two computer terminals (Wi-Fi is free onboard).
The Viking Lounge also has a small library on one side of the bar, behind the baby grand piano.
There is no self-serve laundry.