Editors' Note: Viking Spirit is no longer in service.
Built in 2001, Viking Spirit is one of 13 deluxe river ships in the Viking River Cruises fleet. With a capacity of 150 passengers, its all-inclusive cruise program provides an intimate cruise experience in a casual onboard atmosphere.
All of the Viking River ships are virtually identical, with just minor differences among them. Expect an experience that is very different from a traditional big-ship cruise, where the emphasis is often as much on the ship as a floating resort as it is on the ports of call. Viking Spirit is more like a casual, but comfortable three-star hotel that floats down the river. We ate and slept onboard, but really our main focus was our days in ports, which were chock full of sightseeing adventures, and where we learned about the local history and architecture.
Virtually all shore excursions are included and each day starts with a historical walking tour with local guides who are knowledgeable and quite interesting, who provide an overview and orientation in each city and recommended several alternatives for how you might spend free time. This is a very active cruise with a great deal of walking up and down hills, often on uneven cobblestone and is really for the traveler who wants a port-intensive sightseeing experience, rather than a relaxing, lay-on-the-beach or sit-by-the-pool vacation.
The ship itself is quite small, but laid out in a manner that works well for this type of cruise, fostering an opportunity to meet and get to know many of your fellow passengers. You won't find nightclubs, casinos, spas or coffee bars onboard, and evening entertainment is limited. But, I have to say, it really didn't matter as our days were so full with sightseeing in each port that at night, our multi-course dinner experience was just about all the entertainment we could handle.
Our particular cruise sailed down the Danube in December (though the ship also offers spring, summer and fall European river sailings), with the added bonus of visiting Christmas markets in most of the ports, which you can read about in Virtual Cruise: Christmas Markets.
The ship's captain and officers are German and Austrian; most of the crew members come from Eastern Europe and service was quite good. English is the official onboard language, and all crew speak fluent English as do the local tour folks.
On our Christmas markets cruise, passengers were primarily active couples in their 50's, 60's and early 70's -- retired, well-traveled, well-educated professionals. There were also several pairs of women traveling together, including mothers and daughters and even a few grandmothers along with their mothers and daughters, who were drawn to the shopping aspect of this cruise. The vast majority of passengers onboard were American, with a few Australians, Brits and Canadians in the mix.
Dress on this cruise is for the most part casual, and though the Captain' Dinner and farewell dinner are a bit dressier, they are by no means formal. Most evenings on our Christmas markets cruise, slacks and sweaters were the norm. During the day you will want very comfortable and sturdy walking shoes, as you will be walking quite a bit on uneven cobblestone surfaces. If you're cruising during the Christmas holiday season, you'll also want a very warm jacket or coat, gloves and a hat and scarf as it can get quite cold and most of the walking tours and Christmas markets are outdoors.
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