My sailing onboard Viking Radgrid was beyond my wildest dreams. From wonderful meals and service to comfortable and stylish accommodations, Viking continued to surpass my expectations throughout the week I spent with them on the Seine.
Viking is the most well-known river cruise company in the world – so much so that its name has become almost synonymous with river cruising. Sometimes, because of this, the company isn’t taken as seriously as some of its competitors.
“They sometimes call us the IKEA of the rivers,” one of the members of the crew said to me. I couldn’t help but laugh at the comparison of the two Scandinavian companies – IKEA being a Swedish company and Viking founded by Torstein Hagen, a Norwegian. I think that, in some ways, I can see how Viking is like IKEA: innovative, modern, stylish, minimal, technical, and budget friendly (whatever that means).
Because of its well-known name and “affordable” price point, Viking is, by far, the most accessible river cruise company for those looking to sail the waterways of Europe. So, why weren’t my expectations going into the sailing higher than average? Well, for starters, I thought Viking was for old people.
Those of us familiar with river cruising know that this mode of transport tends to draw out an older crowd than others. At 26 years-old I am far from the river cruising demographic, which now seems to be made up of travelers between ages 50 and 70 on average. Years ago this demographic consisted of older travelers, but the addition of differently styled itineraries and excursions have filled the gaps once left by the industry and allowed travelers of all ages to explore the beauty of the rivers of the world. I thought that Viking had shied away from these changes. Sure, Viking has expanded its reach globally with new expedition and Mississippi River cruise experiences but, from the outside, it didn’t seem as though the company cared as much about expanding its reach on the rivers of Europe.
How wrong I was.
Viking’s strength comes in its consistency and ability to continually deliver a quality experience. During an entire week on the Seine, there was not a single meal, excursion, glass of wine, crew member, you name it, that strayed from the precedent set at the beginning of the sailing. This is the same thing that Viking has been doing since its start in 1997 and, by delivering a quality experience time and time again, it has allowed them to grow tremendously through repeat clients and word of mouth alone. (But even without word of mouth, those PBS ads sure are doing the trick.)
Most of the cruise companies hate when I ask about demographics, stating that river cruising is for a multitude of travelers of varying ages and abilities. Chairman Hagen is almost the exact opposite when speaking about Viking passengers. He has a very clear idea of who his passengers are: well educated, English speaking and over 55, to name a few. Viking isn’t grasping for demographics that it doesn’t have, going as far as to ban travelers under 18 from its sailings, it’s continuing to deliver what the current demographic desires.
Even though Viking knows its demographic clearly, I would still argue that sailing with the company is a wonderful experience for passengers of all ages (those over 18, that is). Excursions were moderately paced, with active excursions like bike rides offered in select ports. And for those who prefer a quicker pace, there is always the option to explore on your own. I ventured into Paris with a group of friends one day and we hustled, as much as one can in the crowded city streets, through town to see as many sites as we could manage.
So, there is definitely fun to be had for those other than seniors.
The most special part of the sailing was undoubtedly the crew. It seems that every time I get off a ship I find myself saying, “That was my favorite crew I’ve ever had.” In fact, I said it about the crew on Viking Jupiter, one of Viking’s ocean ships. So, will I make that statement again and swear that it’s true? Absolutely.
This was one of the best crews I’ve sailed with. They were extremely professional, quickly learning to anticipate the group’s needs and preferences. The thing that struck me, though, is that they seemed so relaxed. Most of the crew members picked up quickly on my sarcasm and sense of humor. They remained casual with me, which they knew I desired, but continued to deliver some of the best service I have ever received. Again, consistently.
The final piece of the puzzle, and what really set this trip apart from others for me, is what I am going to call the “Viking magic”. There were carefully curated experiences and surprises that kept me smiling throughout my journey. For example, after biking through Giverny we ended up along the river bank, met by a guide for a small snack of macaroons and a camembert and apple pastry from a local bakery and an award winning apple cider from a nearby orchard. This magic moment was topped only by a Camus cognac tasting, which was then overshadowed by a nighttime sailing through The City of Light on a small, open air boat. The most spectacular (and magic) moment, however, was a cheese tasting in the lounge of Viking Radgrid.
Cheese is always magical, let’s just get that out of the way. However, a cheese tasting lead by “cheese guru”, Bernard Antony, is just about as magical as it gets. Antony joined us for an evening to show us some of his most famous cheeses; cheeses he delivers to Michelin star restaurants all throughout France. Just days before joining us onboard Viking Radgrid, Antony shared his cheeses with the President of France. He imparted some of his cheese knowledge onto us with the help of his translator, Viking Radgrid’s chef, and led us through a tasting.
While I say that Viking’s strong suit is its dependability, the company leaves plenty of room for surprises on its sailings. I don’t want to ruin any more of those surprises for you, but I will encourage you to check them out yourself. One thing that will never be a surprise, though, is Viking’s commitment to delivering an unforgettable experience for each and every traveler onboard any of its ships. Consistently.
Tom Hall says
I agree 100% that Viking river and ocean cruises are above and beyond. We have been on 4 or 5 Viking trips both river and ocean and were very impressed. However I recently lost my spouse she asked me to not stop cruising. Well now that I’m single there is not much Viking is willing to do for me. They prefer doubles for sailing. I have a large credit due to the virus and my wife’s illness. They don’t seem to want to be compassionate or caring other than they will reimburse me our money after the expiration date. That’s the thanks you get when you loose your spouse.
Aylene Nicol says
I feel so sad for you, your loss must.be unbearable at times.
I imagine the only consolation is you had some beautiful times together.
It really does put Viking in another light.
I too am single and have found the same barriers with many companies, only interested in couples, or huge surcharges if solo is even available. Not just double the price! No idea why that is.
I hope Viking help you, as surely your previous loyalty, can’t just be ignored now you are so sadly alone, & wanting to carry out your late wife’s wishes to continue to have happy times cruising in memory of her.
Beat regards, sending best wishes to you, may something be offered to you.
Solo wannabe cruiser!
Joel Cerasuolo says
I have over 50 ocean cruises all over the globe including Antarctica. My first Viking river cruises took place September 2022. Amsterdam to Basel then bus tour to Oberammergau Passion Play. We were a family group of 7. I have given up a high status perk level with my former cruise line. Have 2 more Viking ones for 2023 so far. You don’t need any status awards on Viking. Everyone is treated the same with fantastic results. Whished I was 21 again. I would love to do more Viking River and Ocean trips.
Allison P Miller says
Adult only, no casino, no sales on board, why would you sail with anyone else? The customer service is second to none. We have done 2 river cruises and 1 ocean with Viking and loved every minute. Have our 3rd river this Christmas.
Robin Pickett says
We are driving home from the airport after a wonderful Viking River Cruise on the Rhine, Mein, canal, and Danube. It was wonderful! I so agree that Viking’s best asset is the crew. They were all amazing. And most learned our names which was really a nice touch. Extremely professional while remaining personable. What a combination!
The food was wonderful and the excursions varied and interesting. It truly was a dream come true.
Our first Viking Cruise was helps to Paris fantastic; our second, Mississippi from St Louis to Minneapolis St Paul was a disaster!!! 2 days before the cruise Departed Viking canceled the cruise WTF
Joel Cerasuolo says
Simple answer. Boat can’t go when waters too low. Did the Rhine in Sept. 22 with same issues. Viking handled it well.
Lori May says
My sister & I just returned from an 8 day Romantic Danube cruise on the Viking Jarl. It was our first river cruise & yes we fit the demographic. It was wonderful in every respect. We also spent 2 addnl days in Budapest prior to our cruise. The food, tours, hotel accommodations & staff were beyond our expectations. We met numerous guests who’ve been sailing with Viking for years & we will definitely be in this group. If you cannot find an itinerary & activities to suit your taste I would be surprised. Don’t hesitate to sail with Viking.
Terri Bailey says
My sister-in-law and brother want to go on this river cruise that you went on and they are a bit concerned of their safety, being said it’s so close to Ukraine. My husband and I have no problem going. Did you feel a bit nervous at all?
Richard Nowacki says
Your writer is telling a story which I believe is misleading. They talk of optional tours on the river cruise ones which are extras. I agree Vikings strength is the crew. However I have just come back from their Grand European River Cruise and it was the worse holiday I have ever had. I’ve been on 14 plus Viking River Cruises . This one was terrible.
Why was it the worse?
Why was it terrible?
Elizabeth Pascual says
Please elaborate on your comments why you had this negative experience.
Until the daily testing stops we will not cruise VIKING. The daily possibility of being tested and removed from the ship is Not I repeat Not a Luxury vacation experience.
FYI – fully Vaxed with two boosters and more than willing to PCR test to board ship.
With all due respect, why would you want to stay close to people if you are infected with Covid?
The daily testing protected people from getting sick and possibly from dying.
We cruised last year (Dec, 2021), on the Viking from Paris to Normandy. Yes, we tested everyday. God, man, the world was mad, but after being shuttered for a year, we were now able to get out on a cruise and enjoy life again. Our longboat had no positive tests throughout the whole cruise.
You capture the essence of a Viking Cruise extremely well.
We we’re blessed to know an early Viking cruiser back in 1995 and did our first cruise. We have now done 7 River and 3 Ocean cruises with Viking, and have 4 more currently booked (the Covid pile-up)! All have been excellent and memorable. Zero regrets.
My elevator pitch to interested friends is “Perfectly Paced”. We are the ‘Senior Demographic’ but average 4-6 miles an outing on our land time. Alaska is our next!!
Becky Parrish says
Do you have to wear a mask?
I enjoyed my Viking river cruise from the Swiss Alps to Paris in 2019. I’m curious about the surprises you mentioned such as the cheese tasting. I wonder if this was offered because you were on an inaugural sailing after the ship’s christening, or are these types of experiences expected to be offered on subsequent trips?
Joseph Clemons says
Biking? Biking? There’s no biking on Viking! 😉
We could have taken an optional biking excursion 3 years ago on our Rhine River cruise. It may have been e-bikes.
Joel Cerasuolo says
Just finished in September 2022 Amsterdam to Basel then Oberammergau. There definitely was a bike tour. We left people in one port and picked them up down river.
Excellent report. You captured the essence of the Viking experience perfectly.