As with most river cruises, the primary entertainment takes place off the ship, via the series of complimentary and extra-fee shore excursions that are offered on this port-intensive itinerary. The excursions, featured in every port of call, revolve around motorcoach tours around the big cities and walking expeditions in smaller towns.
Guides were generally good and spoke excellent English. Viking River uses Quietvox audio systems, and all passengers are provided with a unit; these make it really easy to hear your guide, even if you're in the back of the pack.
One positive thing to keep in mind: Viking makes an effort to divide its passengers into smaller groups. If you're traveling with friends, you'll want to make sure you're on the same bus or in the same group of walkers.
Viking is careful to identify tours as being active or "gentle" (and will offer variations on each outing), but for the most part, none was terribly strenuous.
We heard raves, however, from passengers on the extra-fee tours, offered in addition (in most cases) to the standard fare so that you could try both in a day's visit. The evening concert in Vienna was a highlight for many, and the World War II tour in Nuremberg was one of the most interesting tours we took. Other tours included a trip to a monastery famed for its beer; we visited the cathedral, sipped some beer and then returned to the ship via a small boat that cruised through a gorgeous Danube gorge.
Also appreciated was the occasional impromptu outing. In Passau, for instance, one of the entertainment staffers led passengers on a walk to a biergarten.
With all the activity off the ship, you may be surprised at how much there is to do onboard when sailing. Viking's entertainment team did an outstanding job with enrichment, from a chef's demo on apple strudel to a compelling talk on the European Union. A Mozart lecture, in which the ship's program director donned costumes and acted his way through the famed composer's life story, was great fun -- and illuminating, to boot.
Often, experts and musicians were brought onboard in towns along the way. Big hits included a glass-blowing demonstration (and you could purchase the artist's creations) and a frankly fabulous trio that performed classical and sentimental hits.
I was disappointed that the ship neither offered bicycles, as some other lines do, nor featured any recreational tours. However, it didn't seem as if the rest of the passengers noticed.
While ship-sponsored tours ran seamlessly, the ship's concierge and front desk staffers weren't as knowledgeable about the ports of call as they could have been -- despite the fact that the ship generally visits the same ports each week. Our suggestion: If you want to know where to find the best bratwurst, an Internet-capable coffeehouse or a bookstore with English-language material, do your homework before you leave home.
Viking Prestige offers free wireless Internet, which sounds fantastic. (If you don't pack your own laptop, you can borrow one.) But, unfortunately, it doesn't work well. If you need to stay in touch, plan to familiarize yourself with coffeehouses in ports of call that offer access.
Viking Prestige is, by no stretch of the imagination, a night owl's ship. While there's a pianist who plays in the lounge before and after dinner, there's no dance floor, and passengers did not tend to congregate after activities were over. One tip: Evenings on the sun deck were blissfully beautiful, especially with clear skies. We'd take a glass of wine up there and have great conversations with fellow passengers.
Typically (it depends on the tide), passengers enter Viking Prestige via the central atrium on the Middle Deck. There, you'll find the shore excursion desk, purser's desk and a small (very small -- in fact, just a couple of shelves) shop. Speaking of shopping, each day, staffers would display local items for sale that you meant to pick up in port but didn't (like bags of paprika after we'd left Budapest or jars of local mustard in Passau). Very nice touch!
The Viking Lounge is the main place to congregate. Bordered on three sides by windows, there are loveseat/armchair configurations scattered throughout with small cocktail tables. There's a three-sided bar that was oddly staffed during our cruise. (On some afternoons, there'd be no bartender at all, and even during busier times, the area was short-staffed). Forward is the Aquavit lounge. It's just an extension of the main venue, but it's got wicker-like chairs, tables at dining height and open-air glass walls. There's also a buffet station there that was a popular spot for quick lunches.
The other gathering room is the library, all the way aft. It's sparsely furnished with just a few chairs and tables and not terribly cozy or welcoming. There are also a couple of chairs on the small balcony that's adjacent, though it's a noisy spot when the ship's moving. On the plus side, the library had the most interesting collection of itinerary-related books we'd ever seen on a cruise ship, big or small. Simply superb.
In good weather, the sun deck is a popular place. It's simply furnished with square black tables -- perfect for dining -- and black mesh chairs that, while comfortable, have really high backs that interrupt the view. Poor choice there. Otherwise, there are numerous sun loungers. Most are tucked under canopies, so there was plenty of shade.
There is no spa. There is no gym. About the only organized activity onboard was a daily Qi Gong exercise class (no charge). Passengers used the sun deck as a de facto running and walking track.
As noted, the ship does not supply bicycles in port and had little information for those of us who wanted to find a place to rent them. There was no kayaking, cycling or any other type of soft recreational tour offered through the shore excursion department.
Viking Prestige is not kitted out to accommodate families, and the line does not allow passengers under 18. Aside from its suites, which have pull-out couches in the living rooms, there are no cabins for more than two passengers.
There are also no dedicated kids' facilities or any other accommodations.