The lounge has a baby grand piano, where a pianist plays classical and modern melodies during cocktail hour, after dinner, and often at lunch. The music drifts to and through the Aquavit Terrace -- a nice accompaniment on warm, sunny days.
The cruise director hosts a variety of informal evening entertainment in the lounge; from pub trivia nights to the cruise slideshow-cum-sales pitch, it's all done in a spirit of fun and inclusivity. The lounge is also equipped with large pull-down movie screens and surround-sound for movie nights, and regional performers occasionally come onboard to provide additional entertainment.
Fitting in with the ship's wine- and food-centric itinerary, enrichment lectures ranged from how to bake macaroons to several wine tasting seminars that were more creative than the usual "here's how to hold your glass". Given that many of the line's passengers are highly educated and well-informed, the talks provoked probing questions and stimulating discussion.
* May require additional fees
Most passengers participate in the daily shore excursions included in the cruise fares, and these were generally very good. The highlight on the Bordeaux trip is a ship-wide visit to a gorgeous Chateau in the Medoc for a festive dinner; others included tours of the historic citadel of Blaye and the town of St. Emilion, an evening walking tour of Bordeaux, and a private wine tasting at a chateaux. Where Viking River really excels, however, is in the range of optional, fee-extra tours it also offers on this cruise. These offered insiders' access, such as a trip to Cognac to mix your own blend or a tour showcasing truffle hunting with dogs in which passengers are treated to a multi-course meal, each featuring truffles in some way.
QuietVox headsets with earphones (found in each cabin) are provided for every tour so that everyone can hear what local guides are saying.
As is the case on all riverboats, Viking Longships have only a few public rooms, making it easy to get to know this ship -- not to mention many of your fellow passengers.
The lower level of the light-filled, glass-ceilinged atrium houses the reception and concierge desks, cushioned couches with views, and a small corner shop selling Viking logowear, batteries and a few itinerary-specific souvenirs. Glass doors lead to the main dining room. A staircase leads to cabins on the main deck below. A glass elevator, the first for Viking, also connects the three main passenger decks but does not go up to the top-level sun deck.
Walking up the striking grand staircase from Middle to Upper Deck, topped by a modern-art depiction of a historic Viking ship, takes you to the upper atrium. Public space in this part of the ship consists of an Internet corner with complimentary laptops on two desks and a library corner with wooden bookcases. Kudos for the terrific selection of France-oriented books – ranging from culinary history to armchair travel. There are couches where you can enjoy coffee, tea and sweets from two self-service stations while watching the passing views through large sliding-glass doors. Through the doors, on either side of the upper atrium, you'll find a small balcony to do the same.
The main draw on the upper atrium level is the spacious, windowed lounge, featuring seating areas with couches and plush chairs and a handful of tables for those either dining via the adjacent Aquavit Terrace or just wanting to work on laptops. This room is the social hub of the ship. There's a nice wooden bar with 10 barstools at one end of the lounge, adjacent to a dance floor. Nearly everyone gathers in the lounge for the nightly cocktail hour, which includes details of the next day's program, delivered by the ship's Program Director. At the other end of the lounge, glass doors lead to the Aquavit Terrace cafe.
Up above, the top sun deck -- an expanse that runs the entire length of the vessel -- has the lovely addition of an organic herb garden. There's a shuffleboard court, a pair of putting greens and a giant chess set, too, but views are the main reasons to be up there. Retained from earlier Viking ships are the two wonderful canopy areas, providing lots of shaded space for those who don't want too much sun. Tables, chairs and cushioned loungers are available aplenty.
The ship's bridge lowers and rises to fit under low bridges and is an attraction unto itself.
The ship has no spa, fitness center, pool nor hot tub, but Viking has agreements with luxury hotels in several of the cities the ship visits, allowing passengers to use the hotels' health facilities. Viking does not offer bicycles for use. A relatively new addition to Viking's Longships is a concierge. On our trip, the young and enthusiastic concierge happily recommended restaurants, booked bicycles, and made spa appointments for passengers.
All Viking ships are very much geared toward adults, and there are no facilities or programs at all for kids. The line does not take passengers under 18.