Named after a Norse goddess, Viking Var offers a celestial breath of fresh air on the rivers of Europe. Launched in 2013, the vessel is shipshape and modern, from its two-story, light-filled lobby to its streamlined staterooms.
Instead of fussy, faux classic decor, Var has a contemporary feel with comfortable furnishings and an updated look. Like its sister ships in the Longships fleet, Viking Var has 95 staterooms, accommodating 190 passengers.
The Longships' design offers more types of staterooms than other cruisers. Var has two Explorer Suites, seven Veranda Suites, 39 Veranda Staterooms, 22 French Balcony Staterooms and 25 Standard Staterooms. All cabins are outside, so you can watch the castles and villages go by from your stateroom as Var floats down the river. The Explorer Suites are among the largest available on European waterways, and the roomy and efficient veranda suites are true two-room suites. All of Var's suites feature two rooms with a veranda off the living room and a French balcony in the bedroom.
For entertainment, there's a lounge and bar, a small library corner, a sun deck with 360-degree views and a walking track. There's no gym or gym equipment onboard, so active passengers need to get their exercise during stops or on the walking track. Unlike many river cruise lines, bicycles are not available onboard, but you can usually rent them in town.
Viking's fares include all onboard meals; beer and wine with lunch and dinner; Wi-Fi; shore excursions in every port; port charges; and government taxes. Excursions usually take the form of combined walking/coach travel and hit some of the areas' high points. In addition, it's often easy to walk into the towns the ship visits. Optional excursions are also available; these sometimes involve lengthy bus rides into big cities, such as Salzburg, Austria, or Munich, Germany, that are off the river.
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Meals onboard Var can be taken in the main floor restaurant, which has floor-to-ceiling windows for panoramic views, in the mid-level lounge and bar or the lovely Aquavit Terrace, an all-weather indoor/outdoor cafe at the ship's bow that offers al fresco dining. Dinner meals in the restaurant usually offer three entree choices, plus appetizer and dessert choices.
The food is very good, but portions are smaller than those onboard oceangoing cruise ships, a boon to passengers who don't want to overeat. Another plus for them: Food is only available during designated mealtimes -- you won't find endless snacks onboard.
The general age for river cruise passengers is 60 and older, but Var and other Longships, with their contemporary design, were built with an eye toward attracting a slightly younger traveler. Regardless of age, passengers tend to be well-traveled (though many are visiting Europe for the first time).
Casual, comfortable attire is encouraged for both ship and shore on Viking Longships. The must-pack item is, without question, a comfortable pair of walking shoes for shore tours. As the ship sails in Europe, with its lovely and historic landscapes, tours frequently involve cobblestones and other uneven surfaces. Both the staff and the daily program provide ample notice when this is the case.
Generally, passengers "dress up" to varying degrees in the evenings, but never to the level of a big-ship formal night. Most don the kind of attire worn at a country club dinner, but others don't bother to change from their sensible shore excursion gear. Save your best outfits (maybe casual dresses for women and collared shirts and blazers for men) for events like the Captain's Welcome and Farewell Dinners.
Decent 3.5-4-star experience, poor sleep quality, rip-off optional excursions