Daily shore excursions are included in the fare and these well-organized trips are led by well-informed, and often very entertaining, local guides. Each evening, in his or her daily briefing, the cruise director provides an overview of forthcoming tours, which usually combine walking with a motor coach ride and typically last half a day, leaving after breakfast or after lunch. The cruise director will advise of the suitability of the tours for any passengers with mobility concerns. Each cabin contains two QuietVox personal headsets and earpieces. These are used for shore excursions and enable everyone to easily hear what the guide is saying without having to cluster around.
There are also optional for-fee excursions, such as an evening at the ballet or specialist in-depth history tour, which start at around €30 per person. These are booked on the ship.
* May require additional fees
Viking prides itself on culture-rich itineraries, and this philosophy is reflected in the program of insightful onboard lectures, which are free of charge. Expert guest speakers board the ship at various stops along the way to talk about a range of topics, such as local architecture, geography and history. They are invariably well versed in their subject and able to answer a diverse range of questions posed by the audience at the end. Two large pulldown screens are used to illustrate these talks.
Throughout the week there are fun events, usually hosted by the cruise director, and themed around the surrounding area. On my sailing this included a Dutch afternoon tea, cheese tasting and hands-on art class based around the work of van Gogh. You can also expect cooking demonstrations, live commentary when sailing through areas of particular interest and after-dinner entertainment provided by local dancers, singers and musicians.
Lounge and Bar: Located forward on the upper deck, and accessed through automatic sliding doors, is the combined lounge and bar which is the main hub for watching the world float past and mingling with other passengers, as well as being the center for onboard entertainment.
Directly inside the entrance to the lounge is the rectangular bar, with stools around the edge, where drinks are served with bowls of snacks, including peanuts and fiery wasabi nuts. Cocktails range from €6.50 to €8 (non-alcoholic versions from €4), mixed drinks range from €5.50 to €7 and wine starts from €4.50 a glass for the house red or white. Passengers celebrating a birthday or special occasion, or who simply want to push the boat out, can splash out €65 for a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne; otherwise sparkling wine is €20. If you don't spot your favorite cocktail on the list, just ask one of the bartenders and they will mix the tipple of your choice. Although most passengers are not night owls, you can usually find a handful of stalwarts who want to (quietly) party into the small hours, and the bar typically remains open until 1 a.m.
The main lounge is tastefully decorated in muted shades of fawn and pale grey and amply furnished with couches, armchairs and tables. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide an unobstructed outlook onto the riverscape. The opposite end of the lounge, at the front of the vessel, leads to the 44-seat Aquavit Terrace. A grand piano is located halfway down the lounge, next to a small dance floor, and the ship has a resident pianist and vocalist who play classic and pop melodies every evening during cocktail hour and most lunchtimes.
The sun deck, which has a floor covering designed to resemble wooden decking and a lawn area, runs the entire length of the vessel and there are plenty of chairs, tables and loungers, including areas shaded by two canopies for those who prefer to keep out of the sun. In addition to a walking track, there is a miniature putting green, shuffleboard and novel organic herb garden, with labeled plants. The sun deck also includes a designated smoking area, the only place on the ship where smoking is permitted.
When the ship is navigating low bridges, the sun deck is closed to passengers. At other times, when the ship is cruising, there is an open-bridge policy and passengers can visit the bridge to chat with the captain and officers.
The entrance to the ship is on the middle deck, via the bright and airy two-deck atrium, which is topped by a glass roof set into the sun deck. The main lobby area houses the reception desk, which is manned 24 hours a day, and the concierge desk that is open during the daytime. The latter is a free service, and the concierge can help with all kinds of requests such as making restaurant reservations, organizing theater tickets, booking spa appointments at nearby hotels and making recommendations for sightseeing tours and experiences for passengers who want to go it alone and skip the included tours. Also in the lobby is a small shop selling a selection of souvenirs, jewelry and Viking logowear, along with the entrance to the dining room.
A wide central staircase, with stylish leather-topped bannister rails, leads to the upper atrium area. At the top of the staircase is a dramatic piece of artwork depicting Vili, the Norse god that inspired the name of the ship. One corner of the upper atrium is taken up with a small library, featuring a selection of fiction and non-fiction; predominantly guides and books on the history, geography, food and other topics relating to the cruising area. Passengers can sit and browse at the table and chairs next to the bookshelves, and from here they can also pick up free copies of daily newspapers; with U.S., U.K., Canadian and Australian editions. There are also a small selection of jigsaws and games, such as Scrabble, to borrow. Opposite is the Internet corner with two complimentary computers available for passengers. The two 24/7 tea and coffee stations can also be found on this level, along with comfortable chairs, with tables, for reading or watching the passing scenery. Panoramic glass doors on each side open to a small open-air viewing deck and stairs leading to the sun deck. There are also double doors to the lounge, which in turn leads to the Aquavit Terrace and more stairs to the sun deck.
The ship's public areas are adorned with a diverse and often quirky selection of art, ornaments and displays, including old sepia Norse photographs and live moss growing in "flower beds" in the lobby.
Self-serve ice machines are located on all three passenger decks. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship, although connection can be slow, patchy or non-existent at times due to potential interruption in satellite signals caused by terrain, weather, bridges and locks.
The ship has a 24-hour laundry and pressing service (50 percent surcharge for express three-hour service), with items collected from, and returned to, the cabin. Washing and pressing prices range from €1 for a handkerchief (people must still use them!) to €6 for a sweater or pants, and pressing only is around one-third of the price of the full laundry service.
An elevator links the middle and upper decks, but the sun deck and lower passenger deck can only be accessed by stairs.
There is no spa, gym or pool, and Vili does not carry any onboard bicycles. Fitness fans have to get their daily fix by walking or jogging along the riverbanks or embarking on daily shore excursions that involve walking (which many passengers find ample for their cardio needs). There is a walking track on the sun deck, but for the sake of people in the cabins below passengers are asked not to use it early in the morning or at night. The Viking concierge can arrange spa treatments at top hotels along the way, such as the Four Seasons Gresham Palace in Budapest.
There are no facilities for children on Vili, or other Longships, and cruises are aimed at mature and retired passengers. The line has an age minimum of 18.