Viking River Cruise Secrets for First-time Cruisers

by Julie Cohn

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For many, a Viking River cruise is the top of a well-curated travel bucket list…for good reason.  The destination offerings are unique, the luxurious accommodations inviting, and the on-board service is world-class.  But…there are certain travelers (like me) who have never been on a cruise and were hesitant to get on a ship. Guess what?!  Not only did I take the cruise, but I loved it!  These Viking River Cruise Secrets for first-time cruisers will change you from non-cruiser to cruise lover too!

{I was a guest of Viking River Cruise but my opinions + photos are my own. May contain affiliate links}


Viking River Cruise Secrets for First Time Cruisers

Confession time:  Although I love to travel and explore new destinations, I was never particularly interested in traveling by cruise.  Concerns about seasickness, tiny cabins with no space to breath, and hidden port and drink fees kept my feet firmly planted on land.   I had zero interest in being on a huge ship with hundreds of people, dressing up for dinner every night, with short port excursions crowded with people.

Still, with so many interesting cruises and cruise destinations, I warmed up to the idea over the years.  A river cruise was one of the cruises I was most interested in, so when I was invited on a Viking River Cruise this winter, I was excited.

Still, some of those old apprehensions resurfaced, and I didn’t know what to expect.  Oh my goodness, was I pleasantly surprised!  My cruise turned out to be nothing at all like I expected and it was one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had.  I honestly cannot wait to take another Viking trip!

On the Ship

Smaller & More Intimate | Unlike large ocean liners, Viking River Cruise ships are smaller, most with a capacity of 200 passengers.   A smaller ship makes time on the ship cozier, with room for dining, excursions, and finding a seat on the tour bus.  A smaller ship also allows guests to get to know other guests and crew more easily.

But…just because one is on a cruise with 200 people does not mean you have to be with those people all the time.  There are plenty of places on the ship for quiet time, including the Aquavit Lounge for more intimate dining, the rooftop sundeck with lounge chairs and breathtaking views, and private stateroom balconies for peaceful reflection.

Intimate Setting = Fun Activities – I traveled right before the Christmas holiday so my ship was festively decorated with a Christmas tree, gingerbread house, and other holiday decorations.  In addition, the staff prepared fun activities to make the season extra special for guests.  The program director (JP) advised me that Viking River celebrates occasions both large and small to make the voyage even more special for guests.  Imagine celebrating your birthday or anniversary with 200 of your closest friends!

Vking River Cruise ornament


Viking River Cruise German Night

The Demographics | The average age demographic for guests is 35 – 75, but there were guests aged 24 -84 on my particular cruise and everyone had fun interacting. As of August 1, 2018 children under 18 are not permitted on Viking River Cruises.  Most of the cruise activities and tours are geared toward adventurous, active adults, with lots of walking/hiking.

Mobility  | Many of the tours are interactive, with lots of brisk walking, so I recommend guests have a certain level of mobility available.  With that said, there is an easy walking group (more on that below), so people who walk with a cane or walker should have no problem.  There is also an elevator on the ship for people who have trouble with the stairs on the Viking longships. However, the hallways are too narrow for someone who is wheelchair-bound.  Also, getting around the cobblestone-lined streets in the excursion ports might be difficult for wheelchair users.   

Smaller Ship + River Cruising = No Seasickness | One of the best Viking River Cruise secrets of my trip was no seasickness.  I barely even felt the ship move, and when I did, it was a gentle lull.  Even moving through the locks on the Rhine was easy, with just a few little quiet bumps each time.

Safety First | All guests are required to view a safety video on the first day of the cruise and participate in a safety drill with a life jacket for about 15 minutes on the second day.  The drill is a minor inconvenience, and I was impressed with how seriously the crew takes passenger safety, so was not bothered by the drill.

Daily Briefing | Just before dinner each night, the program director hosts a daily briefing for about 45 minutes, highlighting the activities that will take place the following day.  It may not seem important, but the briefing offers valuable information about excursion times, places of interest while in port, and activities that take place throughout the day.  Try not to miss the briefing, it really is helpful in learning more about the destination you are about to see. 

Hint: The briefing takes place in the Observation Lounge, making it easy to meet friends and grab a pre-dinner cocktail while listening to the session.

Tipping | Gratuities are not included in Viking River cruise packages, so be prepared to tip $10-12 per person/per day at the end of the trip to your favorite crew and $2 per day for the program director.  The staff is so accommodating that you will probably want to tip more, so use this guide as a baseline. It is best to tip in cash with the currency most used on the trip.  For example, if you are taking a European river cruise, tip in Euros.

Note:  On my cruise, the crew works 3-4 weeks without a break. Once one group of cruise guests leave, they ready the ship for a new group and set sail.  The staff should be commended (and rewarded) for their friendliness, courtesy, and hard work in making Viking cruises so accommodating for guests.  Be nice to the staff, they are always nice to guests! ♥


  • A Viking River cruise is the perfect opportunity to relax and be social or to have one-on-one time, your choice.
  • Take time to get to know the other guests, as most everyone is friendly, but also allow quiet time to recharge your batteries.
  • Participate in social activities.  They are entertaining, allow you to let your hair down a little, and have fun with the other guests and crew.
  • Get to know the staff.  They are friendly, accommodating, and truly want to make your voyage memorable.


Dining On-Board  | Cruises usually have mixed reviews when it comes to food, but the cuisine on my Viking River cruise was flavorful and appetizing, with a nice variety and beautiful presentation. The chef combines local specialties with traditional Continental flavors to create unique and delectable dishes.  Breakfast was buffet-style (with a wonderful omelet station), but guests can order Eggs Benedict, pancakes, and other specialty items off the menu.  Lunch has three appetizer, entrée, and dessert menu selections, with a pasta and salad buffet.

Dinner is a choice of three appetizers, entrees, and dessert choices, as well as a standard chicken, steak, or fish dish.  Some of the wonderful entrée choices on my cruise included Chateaubriand, grilled prawns saffron, and porcini mushroom ravioli.  For those looking for a more casual dining experience, I recommend the Aquavit Terrace Lounge upstairs, with buffet and casual menu options. Guests with food sensitivities or special diets should advise staff before cruising so the staff can make accommodations.

Note:  There is usually a seafood option for pescetarians, but true vegetarian options are rare without prior arrangement.

Flexible Dining Options | Viking River cruise ships have open seating in the main dining room. This means no reservations are required, no reserved seating, and no dressing up (unless you want to). Honestly, after a full day of shore excursions with lots of walking in the cold, it was nice to go to dinner in a comfy sweater and leggings.  I appreciated not having to go to dinner in formal attire. Goodbye ball gown! (Psst-I even wore slippers to dinner one night and no one was the wiser!)

Breakfast is usually served 7 a.m. – 10 a.m., lunch from 12:30 – 2:00 p.m., and dinner from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. and guests can come any time during those dining hours.  The dining tables seat 6 or 8 people, with a few tables for 12 guests, but with plenty of seating, guests can sit alone or with friends.  My group of six sat together every night in the dining room, but it was nice to sit and visit with other guests at breakfast and lunch.  Seating in the Aquavit Lounge is even more casual, with tables of two and four.

Alcoholic Beverage Options | Beer, house wines, and soft drinks are included with lunch and dinner, but if you want a cocktail or premium wine, you will need to purchase those separately from the bar.  For the price of about 3-4 cocktails/premium wines a day, you may want to order the Silver Spirits package, about $22 a day, per person.  A pricing guide for alcoholic beverages is available here so you can decide which option is right for you.


• Sit at the same table or area each time you dine, as you will likely have the same waitstaff.  This will allow the servers to get to know you and your preferences.  By the third day, your servers will bring drinks without asking, know if you are vegan or gluten-free, or allergic to certain foods.  The wonderful waitstaff added so much to our experience.

• The European butter served on European cruises is ambrosial!  The butter has the consistency of cream cheese and a slightly sweeter, less salty, and creamier taste than American butter.  Give me all the butter!!

• The breakfast yogurt/fruit parfait, sprinkled with a bit of granola is a must.

• Save room for dessert. Delicacies such as Valrhona chocolate tarts, raspberry sorbet, or cream puffs with praline add an elegant finish to a wonderful meal.

The Rooms

Stateroom Variety | Staterooms are available in several sizes and varieties, including staterooms with windows, staterooms French balconies, and veranda, and suite rooms with a separate living room area.  All rooms have standard king-size beds, a large double closet, drawers and desk area, refrigerator, and a separate bathroom with a shower.  The king bed can also be divided into two twin beds with prior notice.

The bed was comfortable, with sparkly clean sheets and plenty of fluffy pillows.  The closet was large enough to fit clothes and a large suitcase, but there was also room under the bed for the suitcase.  The dresser drawers were handy for gloves, hats, and scarves, as well as undies and socks.  Ample storage allowed me to keep my belongings tucked away and have more freedom to move about the room.

Electrical outlets | The staterooms have sockets for both 110 (US) and 220 (European) voltage, which means that if you are from the United States, you can plug your mobile phone, laptop, and other devices in a regular outlet without the need for a European adapter.

Bathrooms | The bathrooms are small, but easy to move around, with a sink, toilet, shower, and storage area for toiletries.  The shower has doors that fold open to expand the bathroom when not in use, yet easily fold closed to seal in the water when the shower is on.  The shower itself is surprisingly roomy, with a shelf for shampoo and soap. The water took seconds to warm up and had good pressure, and the premium toiletries were a lovely touch.

Note: I have received several questions about bringing curling irons on a Viking ship.  Viking did have a policy that prohibited curling irons for safety reasons, but I understand they have changed that policy as of September 2018.  Please check with your travel agent when booking your trip to make certain the policy to allow curling irons is still in place.

Daily Service | Rooms receive twice-daily maid service.  In the morning, the bed is made, the room cleaned, and fresh towels stocked.  In the evening, attendants turn down the bed, layout the next day’s itinerary, and dim the lights for the evening.


• Lower level rooms are water level, so have smaller windows that do not open.  I recommend a room on the main or upper level to get the best views and add more “room” to your room. A veranda stateroom is definitely worth the extra cost –  I had a veranda stateroom and loved having the veranda balcony to step outside to take photos and take in the scenery.

• Two words:  Heated Floors.  The bathrooms have heated floors to keep toes warm. It does not sound like a big deal, but on a cold winter night, heated floors are a healthy slice of heaven on earth. The room attendants turn the warmers on in the evening so guests have warm tootsies at bedtime, but the heated floors can be turned on at any time.

• If you are doing a pre or post-trip land excursion, you may still need that European electrical outlet adapter.  Bring one just in case.

• The onboard boutique sells clothing (with a Viking logo) but does not sell toiletries, medications, or other supplies.  Be sure to bring your own over-the-counter and prescription medications as a pharmacy may be difficult to find while in port.  Also bring enough toothpaste, razors, etc., although these are easier to find in port.

• Make sure the announcement speaker is turned up in your stateroom so you can hear announcements.  The speaker volume is located on the wall near the television in standard staterooms.  A couple on my cruise inadvertently turned down the volume and missed a morning departure announcement, missing a tour. Oops!

Port Excursions

Included Excursions | One of the best Viking River Cruise secrets is that a daily excursion/guided tour is included as part of the cruise package, while most large ocean cruises do not include any excursions. On my cruise, guided tours included a trip to the Black Forest, with a visit to a cuckoo clock factory and black forest cake demonstration, walking tours to five UNESCO World Heritage sites (including cathedrals, castles, and windmills), and walking tours in the Christmas markets in almost every city.

Optional Excursions | Guests can purchase optional excursions when booking their trip, or book optional excursions while on the cruise (if available).  Optional excursions on my trip included winery visits, museum tours, a private tour to the top of a Cathedral, a visit with a Dutch cheesemaker, and a beer dinner.  The optional cruises offer another way to get a taste of the destination you are visiting, so I definitely recommend signing up for a few optional excursions.  My beer dinner in Cologne was a ball!

  • Flexibility – Book every excursion available or plan your own adventure, it’s up to you!  The ship is at each port of call for several hours, so guests may have the flexibility to venture out on their own if they chose.  Also, because many of the docks are located in the center of a city, getting around town is fairly easy.  Guests can even take a guided tour, then venture on their own at the end, and in some cities, shuttle service may be available several times a day back to the ship.  Check with your travel agent or concierge to see if you will have time to venture on your own, and to help arrange transportation and activities.  Note:  Some Viking River Cruises may not be as flexible while in port, depending on the destination, so work with your booking specialist to plan independent touring.


• Many guided tours offer an “easy walkers” tour for guests with slower mobility.  I have lupus and the cold was not kind to my joints, so I signed up for the “easy walkers” tour bus after the first day.  The tours are the same, but the pace is slower and more relaxed.  A bonus in taking this tour option is that it allowed me more time to take photographs at each location.

• Don’t necessarily sign up for every guided tour available, especially if you want a little downtime.  Most of the tours are pretty fast-paced (even the easy walker’s tour), and with some of the tour times 4-5 hours long, it can get exhausting if you are on the go every day.  It’s your vacation time, after all, don’t overdo it!  Keep an afternoon or two open during the trip, so you can relax and enjoy the scenery from the sundeck, read a book, take a nap, or visit with other guests.

• Keep some Dramamine and a water bottle in your day pack for tour bus trips.  The tour buses tend to be warm and some of the routes are winding mountain roads…not a great combination for motion sickness.

• Use the free handheld headphone systems provided in your room for tours.  I forgot mine on a tour and missed half of what the tour guide said.  The headphones are a must!

• For winter travel, wear layers and keep gloves and hats handy.  Weather conditions can change at a moment’s notice, and you may want to shed a layer or two on warm tour buses. Layering is probably a good idea for summer travel too, when moving between an air-conditioned tour bus and warmer outside temperatures.

• Wear flat comfortable walking shoes on the guided tours.  Some of the tours include a lot of walking (even for the slower-paced walkers) and many of the pathways in Europe have uneven cobblestone streets.  Leave the heels for nighttime entertaining.

• Pickpockets can be a problem in Europe, so ladies should wear a small cross-body handbag that sets close to the body, and men should use a neck or waist wallet.  Do not put your phone or wallet in your back pocket. Use an RFID blocking sleeve or wallet for credit cards to block credit card skimmers from getting your personal information.


What are some of your Viking River Cruise secrets? A river cruise is a wonderful way to get your feet wet for cruising (pun intended), especially when cruising on an award-winning river cruise line.  I think you will find, just as I did, that you can’t wait to experience another Viking River cruise. I may even be ready to try an ocean cruise, and thankfully there are Viking ocean cruises as well!  My cruise was a Christmas Markets cruise, be sure to read some of the highlights of cruising during the holidays!  

I hope these cruise secrets were a help, but if you have other questions about my Viking River cruise experience, please leave a message in the comments area below, I would be happy to answer your questions, and if I do not know the answer, I will find it for you.  If you have questions from a travel writers perspective, please email me at jules @ 

Travel Advisor Information

I have over 35+ years as a travel advisor. It is more important than ever to have an experienced advisor assist with your travel plans. If you are looking for a travel advisor to help you with a new Viking cruise, please reach out, I am an experienced luxury travel advisor and would love to work with you. Please reach out to me at julie @ or visit my Viking page.

***Note: Please only contact me at julie @ if you would like to work with me as your travel advisor. I am not permitted to advise on a cruise you booked with another travel advisor or with Viking cruises directly.  Thanks!

Wander & Bloom Travel 

Viking River Cruise Wander & Bloom Travel















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Denise Cobden 01/22/2017 at 9:36 pm

I loved your review. I found it interesting to read someone else’s opinion of our favourite holiday company. Almost all of which I agreed with. This year we are taking an ocean cruise with Viking (something my husband said he would never do until Viking started them.

Julie Cohn 01/25/2017 at 12:56 am

Denise, Thank you so much! I would love to try a Vikings Ocean cruise as well and would never have considered it, if it were not for such a wonderful experience in the river cruise!

Debra Schroeder 02/02/2017 at 8:58 pm

Loved your river cruise tips. Interesting that the daily briefing is audio vs a printed itinerary. I’ve been on many (100+) regular cruises but have yet to take a river cruise. One day…

Julie Cohn 02/02/2017 at 9:01 pm

Debra – You do receive a printed itinerary in your room, the daily briefing is more to highlight certain places in each city, what each tour covers, etc.

Sheena 02/02/2017 at 10:38 pm

I haven’t done a cruise for about 10 years, I think it’s about time I got my feet wet again! Viking River Cruises look like something I enjoy it, I prefer smaller & more intimate spaces. Would you recommend going in summer or winter or shoulder season?

Julie Cohn 02/02/2017 at 10:43 pm

Sheena: I went on a winter cruise and other than the temperatures, the trip was lovely, especially since we were able to enjoy the Christmas markets. I have heard from others that summer is a great time to go as well and the sundeck is nice to lounge on. For the best prices, shoulder season is always good but I know Viking has some good specials right now for all year!

melody pittman 02/03/2017 at 6:41 am

I am going on my second river cruise in April. I wish I had read your article long before taking my first one. (I am sharing because it is THAT good!!). I think that sometimes people compare river and ocean cruising so they are in total shock when they arrive for a river cruise. I had ocean cruised 25+ times at that point and I was still blown away by the differences. My stateroom was so small that my roommate and I honestly thought they were Candid Camera’ing us before pulling down the “shelf” that made a bed. We were so close at night we could have held hands across the 6″ that separated us. LOL Anyway, well done, loved the photos, all the facts, and this was amazing!

Julie Cohn 02/03/2017 at 6:06 pm

Thank you so much Melody! For a first cruise experience, I don’t think it could get any better than a Viking cruise!

Tara 02/03/2017 at 9:16 pm

What a great comprehensive guide. Like you, I’m not a huge fan of cruising, but I tell myself that if I’m going to do one, it’s going to be a Viking Cruise. I love the focus on culture and history. Your tips are great!

Julie Cohn 02/03/2017 at 10:15 pm

Thank you so much Tara, the history and cultural of the areas we visited were one of my favorite parts of the trip!

Shobha 02/03/2017 at 10:44 pm

I’ve never considered a Viking Cruise because I knew about the kids needing to be 12+. I’m now thinking I want to do the cruise for my 50th birthday! That would be so much fun – our kids would be old enough. and the European butter would make me so very happy :-))

Julie Cohn 02/04/2017 at 2:48 am

You will love it!!

Lynne Rosa 09/03/2017 at 12:20 am

Very nice review. My husband and I have traveled quite a lot, generally independently, but have booked our first Viking Cruise next month and are very excited. Tips and suggestions are very welcome indeed!

Julie Cohn 09/03/2017 at 12:23 am

Enjoy your trip, you will love the Viking service!

Tom Waldron 01/05/2018 at 7:59 am

Wonderful information! Is it best to tip as you go so the staff knows you are taking care of them, or just at the end?

Julie Cohn 01/05/2018 at 7:42 pm

It is recommended to tip at the end, but you could probably do extra as you go too.

Tracy 01/23/2018 at 2:58 pm

Hi! Thank you so much for the info! My husband and I just booked our first river cruise for next year…I’m a planner
We are so excited! Your tips really helped…can’t wait!

Julie Cohn 01/24/2018 at 1:03 am

Thank you Tracy– I truly loved my Viking cruise and hope you do too!

Sherri Killam 03/29/2018 at 3:19 am

We are going on our first Viking River Cruise in October along the Rhine, from Amsterdam to Basel. What kind of outer layers would you recommend for the fall in Europe. I have never been to Europe and am so excited! Also, are there any must-do optional or included excursions? Thanks for the great read!

Julie Cohn 03/30/2018 at 10:18 pm

Sherrie– You will love the trip! I have not been on a Viking Rhine trip in October, but have been to Amsterdam at that time, and the temperatures average about 55-60 degrees. I think long pants and a light jacket will be fine. You should have the same excursions I had on the longship Eir–definitely do all the daily included excursions, including the windmills, Cologne Cathedral, etc. For optional tours, the Top of Cologne Cathedral is a must (unless you are afraid of heights), the beer dinner, the cheese tasting in Kinderdijk, and the military museum near Strasbourg.

Sharon 04/10/2018 at 3:40 am

Thank you for great information! Getting ready for our first cruise in July (Amsterdam to Budapest and adding Prague) and sooo excited! Just a couple of questions… regarding tipping, can you estimate how many “favorite crew” you tipped? Seems like we’d be interacting with several. I had read another post where it said tips were shared. Just want to be prepared. Also, is there a retractable clothsline in the bathroom?

Julie Cohn 04/10/2018 at 4:31 am

Sharon: Hi and welcome! Your trip sounds wonderful! I believe I tipped about 4-5 people — our main waiter, the housekeeping staff (which was shared I believe), the program director (which is tipped less–about 3 Euros a day). We may or may not have slipped our waiter a little extra because we know they share the tips. 😉 Also, I tipped the tour guides for each excursion, 1-2 Euros per. There was a retractable clothesline in the shower on my ship–I know because I washed some linens in the sink and hung them on the line to dry. I just checked with a friend who has been a Danube river cruise (the cruise you are taking) and she said there is clotheslines in the bathrooms on those cruises too!

Judith Beyer 09/21/2018 at 2:51 pm

Thank you for all your wonderful tips. My sister-in-law and I (widows) are going on our first Viking River Cruise – Romantic Danube in a few weeks. We are both turning 80 and this is our Birthday gift to us from us!! We are very excited, as we love anything that is educational, historical, and restful!! All that you have indicated certainly fits the bill, perfectly.
It was recommended to us, by a friend who is a Viking Cruiser…….that we bring along walking sticks for stability on the cobblestone streets. We are healthy and very capable of walking and we don’t need canes, but what are your thoughts about the walking sticks??
My only concern about this trip…… is that they do not allow curling irons and my hair will be horrible and unmanageable without a curling iron. Have you any suggestions regarding that dilemma??

Julie Cohn 09/21/2018 at 5:14 pm


Hi! I am so excited for you, you will truly have such a wonderful time! The cobblestone streets are definitely uneven, so if your friend recommended a walking stick, I agree that it might be a good idea for balance. Amazon sells collapsible walking sticks, so you could always bring one and just keep it in your purse, just in case. As far as the curling iron, yes, they did not allow them for safety reasons, but I just heard that Viking changed their policy and allows them now. To be sure, please check with the travel agent that booked your trip or call Viking directly to confirm that this is true. Have a great trip!

E Drasser 03/16/2019 at 10:32 pm

Great review and tips. I am going on the Danube cruise from Passau to Budapest. We are traveling in October and can’t wait. We are extending in Prague and Budapest. If anyone has any thoughts on this cruise – would love to hear them.

Julie Cohn 03/16/2019 at 10:47 pm

That is great, have fun!

Lisa 04/28/2019 at 1:47 pm

Julie, my spouse and I take a cruise every year (not loyal to any one cruise line at this point), however, we are going back to Viking for our second cruise (first, being the Grand European, which we absolutely loved). Our second cruise with Viking will be Waterways of the Tsars (Russia). We will be the absolute first to say that the staff/crew on all the ships we have been on work their tail feathers off and we are grateful for that. We were taken aback a bit by the suggested daily gratuity for this trip ($25 per day per passenger). While we know that this can be adjusted, just thought it a bit high (considering we also tip on the side as well). Thoughts?

Julie Cohn 04/28/2019 at 6:02 pm

The daily gratuity is usually divided among the staff including the people you don’t see, including the cooks, dishwashers, etc, however, I am not familiar with $25 per day, we were told $10-15 per day. Perhaps because your cruise is a longer cruise? Ocean cruise tipping is similar.

Gretchen P N Needham 05/02/2019 at 7:14 pm

Thank you for the tips! Most recently I have travelled on a Cunard ship, ergo, was wondering about how casual Viking is. Last Cunard had 3 formal nights! Should I bring long skirts or will I be safe with linen trousers and shirts?

Julie Cohn 05/02/2019 at 9:07 pm

Hi Gretchen! Viking is so much more casual! Yes, you can wear linen pants and shirts, no fancy long skirts/dresses necessary. If you do want to dress up a little for the cocktail lounge, a short little black dress would be fine, but you don’t have to wear formal gowns. If truth be told, I wore black leggings, a tunic, and my bedroom slippers to dinner one night. My slippers were under the table so nobody saw them during dinner. Shhh. 😉

matt 06/04/2019 at 2:05 pm

Julie ,, what tid bits can you offer for photo / video taking ,, we are taking a cruise in July ( Budapest to Munich ) ,,,

Thanks Matt ,, Texas

Julie Cohn 06/04/2019 at 11:18 pm

Matt: Can you be more specific in your question? What exactly are you looking for? I have not taken the Budapest to Munich cruise, so am unable to offer any tips on the routing. You can bring a digital camera and equipment with you, there is a safe in the room. Most of the time I used my cell phone to take photos as my camera equipment was heavy to lug around on the cobblestone streets. Thanks.

Kathy Rood 06/12/2019 at 6:39 am

I read in a post concerning curling irons on Viking river cruise ships that they may have reconsider allowing them. My Viking travel agent states that is not so. However when I call Viking direct a person there stated they would allow battery operated curling irons. I am very confused as what to do!

Julie Cohn 06/12/2019 at 11:26 am

Last I heard, they allowed curling irons, but you have to abide by what Viking said directly to you.

Donna Beckner 06/20/2019 at 3:50 am

Hi Julie
My husband and I are going on the NOV 2019 8 day river cruise. Loved your insight we think it may help a ton. Our friend’s went a couple of times before us and even told us which cabin to request. My husband needs special water as he has to use a C PAP at night, they have told us that this will be no problem they will have it waiting. Do you know if the Christmas shops are open that early in the year?
Thanks again for all the information
Donna B

Julie Cohn 06/20/2019 at 1:20 pm

Donna, I am so excited for you, have a great trip. You did not indicate what date in November you are going, but the Christmas markets usually open the Friday before Advent starts, which is four Sundays before Christmas. I hope you get to enjoy them! Here is more information about the Christmas markets.

Lilly 11/08/2021 at 8:11 am

Thanks for writing this! I’m heading to the same cruise you took in June 22 w my mom. I have arthritis, fibro, and hypermobile joints. I expressed a LOT of concern to my mom about my disabilities and mobility issues but…. she might be more optimistic than I. I’m looking into the possibility of renting an electric mobility scooter in the towns we dock in, for a day rental. But if they take you via bus….then it sounds like that is not going to help me, as I’m sure they wouldn’t allow even a portable/travel scooter on the tour bus.

I don’t think I can handle 4 hours of being on my feet, so I’m very very nervous about this trip :/

Did many people, that you were aware of, make their own excursions? Being on a hot bus crammed with other people could potentially be really bad for me, as I also have a mast cell disorder and two big triggers are fragrances and heat.

Of the stops, which did you think was the one most skippable? I want to see as much as I can but also need to be realistic and plan it out. I’d hate to not plan and end up missing one of the prettiest towns, you know?

Julie Cohn 11/08/2021 at 10:53 am


I would reach out to your travel agent or Viking direct about your concerns.

I don’t believe any of the stops should be avoided, they are all truly wonderful. You would not be on the tour bus for long periods of time–the most time I spent on the bus was going to the Black Forest, it was about a 40 minute drive. The rest of the stops is about a 20-30 minute ride on the tour bus. Also, you would not be on your feet for four hours, the most time spent walking at one time was about one hour–there is plenty of opportunities to rest. I would talk to the concierge on your cruise, they can put you in the “slower” walking group as I did. The pace was slower and more relaxing, with more rest stops.

Good luck, I know this trip will be amazing for you!

Darlene 05/03/2022 at 6:56 am

we are doing the grand european tour and were going to book a french balcony on the middle deck. Is there a particular room that would be best for us? Also, before we book, does it matter what side the the boat we are on. Will we miss sights because we are across from the Veranda balcony rooms?

Julie Cohn 05/03/2022 at 8:46 am


If you are able to upgrade your room to a full balcony on the top level, I would do that for the best views. The middle level is fine but you will not have the eye level for views as you would on the top level. Also, when in port, the ships often dock against other ships so you will likely only have a view of the other ship’s windows. If your budget only allows a french balcony, you are better to get a room closer to the back of the ship, on the left side facing the front. Something else to note: Depending on the time of year you are traveling, you will still have the best views from the top deck, so room location is not necessarily a concern. In the winter months the top deck can get chilly but the views are worth it!

In addition to being a travel writer, I am a travel advisor with over 34 years of experience. If you would like assistance booking your Viking trip, it would be my pleasure to assist you. Please reach out to me at


Jayne Managan 07/29/2022 at 8:44 pm

Just a quick note, Viking now has a gratuity package for their River cruises so you can opt to pay their suggested tips ahead of time if you’d like.

Julie Cohn 08/27/2022 at 1:41 pm

Thank you for letting me know.

D W 09/26/2022 at 3:04 pm

For those who WANT to do the excursions but are afraid of the amount of walking, it might help to do what I did on a previous river cruise: take along a folding 3-legged seat/cane. My problem is more the standing still while the guides give their spiel, and often you are in a place where there is no seating. It is really nice to be able to rest up while they talk. I added a strap so that when walking I could sling it over my shoulder. I had no problem taking it onboard the ship nor the airlines.

Julie Cohn 09/26/2022 at 6:23 pm

Great tip, thank you!

Heather 10/21/2022 at 6:48 pm

Thanks for your article, we are booked for the Grand River Tour with Viking for next year !Your writing is really informative – thanks agin .

Julie Cohn 10/22/2022 at 10:33 pm

Wonderful, have fun!

Linda 11/04/2022 at 5:44 am

Thanks for this information. We are going on our first Viking European Tour the first two weeks of September. What would you suggest for clothing at that time of year? Is it necessary to bring rain gear? Thanks.

Julie Cohn 11/06/2022 at 8:13 am

I don’t believe you will need to bring rain gear in September, it is a beautful time of year to travel! If you do have rain, it will be minor.

Peggy Zipperer 11/08/2022 at 1:47 pm

My mom and I are leaving next week on the Amsterdam to Basel Rhine Christmas cruise. I’m sure she will be glad to hear about the “easy walkers” option. I’m very excited hear that you liked the Cologne Beer Dinner – I’m doing that one solo and am really looking forward to it. Great tips!

Julie Cohn 11/15/2022 at 6:02 pm

Thank you so much. I loved the Cologne beer dinner, so much fun. Enjoy your trip!

Rich B 11/27/2022 at 3:37 pm

Hi Julie. Thanks for the comprehensive and very informative information regarding a Viking River Cruise. We will be taking our first Viking River Cruise on the Danube and have a question regarding the timing specified for excursions. If an excursion states ending at 6:00pm and another excursion starts at 6:30pm is their sufficient time between the end of one and the beginning of the other (since they are specified as only 30 minutes apart) to take both excursions. Thank you in advance.

Julie Cohn 11/30/2022 at 5:47 pm

Hi Rich! It really depends on the tour, some are near enough that it wouldn’t be a problem and others need to factor in transportation time. I would check with your travel advisor or Viking representative that you booked your trip with to make certain you will be able to do both tours.

Beene 03/08/2023 at 11:42 am

who knew so many people had issues with curling irons- another reason Im happy to be bald. care to elaborate on booking trips before the trip or once your on the ship/boat.

Julie Cohn 03/08/2023 at 12:08 pm

By trips do you mean shore excursions? There are approximately 190 people on the ship but each tour can only take about 20-40 people, so it is best to book the excursions in advance as some may book up/sell out before the cruise. If there are excursions available when you are on the ship, absolutely sign up for them but have a few must-have excursions booked in advance.

John 05/01/2023 at 3:10 pm

Thanks for the great information.
Two questions 1. What are the normal cruising times daytime or overnight or both? 2. If I purchase something at local can items be shipped to US easily?

Julie Cohn 05/01/2023 at 3:37 pm


The cruising time really depends on the time of year and the cruise. Summer cruises tend to cruise during the day while you are touring; late fall/winter cruises tend to cruise overnight while you are sleeping. Check your cruise itinerary for more information or ask your travel advisor.

Regarding purchases while on the trip: Many local vendors will assist in shipping items back to the United States and I am quite certain Viking concierge staff on the ship can assist with this as well.


Colleen P 05/07/2023 at 5:09 pm

We have not booked yet but are possibly trying to work our trip around a wedding in Germany. Therefore we feel we would have to begin or end our trip with flexible days and flight in order to reach our destination and fly . We are wanting to know about the flight portion of the trip. Do you both directions with a Viking set schedule? Ir could you do one direction in your own?

Julie Cohn 05/07/2023 at 6:48 pm

I am not sure I understand your question but I will try…

You are not locked into booking air with Viking so if you have a wedding, you can do a Viking Cruise before or after the wedding. If you do air with Viking, they can work with you on getting the flights you need but you may not have ground transportation to the cruise location if you come in early or depart late. One of my Viking trips I came in a few days early and I had to arrange my own transportation to get to the cruise ship. Does this answer your question? Your best bet is to talk to an experienced travel advisor (I happen to be one!). Please reach out to me at if you need assistance with booking your cruise! Thanks.

Colleen 05/09/2023 at 1:45 am

Thank you very much. You did answer my question!! It sounds as though you are able to personalize within reason with Viking! Now to sort it out! Thanks

PAULETTE MARTIN 08/25/2023 at 11:16 pm

I am looking to cruise as a single…are most people in pairs? Will I feel like a 3rd wheel?

Julie Cohn 08/26/2023 at 4:16 pm


You should not feel like a third-wheel at all! The people who attend Viking cruises are generally friendly and outgoing. Many of the tables for dinner are for larger groups so you will be able to mingle and sit with others during the cruise and get to know people easily and there is after-dinner activities designed to get people socializing. When booking your cruise, see if Viking is offering a single-suppliment special, otherwise you will pay a higher price for a single person in the stateroom.

Kathy Soderholm 11/27/2023 at 10:26 am

Our friends and my husband and I are looking at doing a Vikings cruise in the fall. We are interested . In Italy and Croatia. But any other countries are welcome. Looking at pamphlets is quite overwhelming so any help you can give would be greatly appreciated

Julie Cohn 11/27/2023 at 10:32 am


I am going to reach out to you via your email address to see if I can assist you further through my travel agency.

Thank you!

David 12/11/2023 at 9:35 am

Hi Julie,

Thanks for the wonderfully accurate description of the Viking cruises. My wife and I are heading out for our 6th cruise in a few days, and I would echo everything you wrote about your experience. I didn’t see these tidbits in your article, or in the comments.

1. You mentioned the printed itinerary we receive each night for the following days activities, but one of the best tips we got from our cruise director on our first sailing from Basel to Trier was to take a photo of the itinerary on your cell phone. No need to carry any paper with you on the excursions, but it also makes remembering where all the photos were taken on the trip.
2. My wife and I both enjoy nice wine, and one of our favorite perks about Viking River Cruises is that you can bring as much of your own wine and liquor on the ship as you like. Apparently a major departure from other cruise lines. On a trip from Amsterdam to Basel with two of our adult children, we carried a case of wine for the trip that we purchased in Amsterdam before sailing.

Thanks again for the well-written description. I’ll recommend it when people ask us why we are so “sold” on Viking.

Julie Cohn 12/13/2023 at 9:16 am

Thank you for the additional tips, wonderful!

Joanna 12/13/2023 at 10:56 pm

Hi Julie,
Where exactly in Cologne is your photo above taken with that church in the background? we leave for our Viking Cruise in early January and want to see where you were. Thank you!

Julie Cohn 12/13/2023 at 11:26 pm

This photo was taken in COlogne right by the Viking port at the Reingarten Park. Thanks, Joanna!

Jean 12/29/2023 at 4:29 pm

I was told that river cruise is accessible for wheelchairs. Is this not the case?! My husband can walk short distances but would need wheelchair to go entire length of ship.

Julie Cohn 12/29/2023 at 8:40 pm


My comment was based on my individual cruise and a wheelchair would be difficult to use on some river cruises based on the reasons I listed in my article. However, river cruise companies have several different ship sizes so I would reach out to the cruise line directly with any questions regarding wheelchair size.


Kristina 01/08/2024 at 6:02 pm

What time does the ship shut down for the night? Like how late can one get a drink at the bar/hang out on the decks?

Julie Cohn 01/08/2024 at 9:25 pm

I think it really depends on the ship, the route, and the time of year. For the cruise I was on, the bar was still open until at least 12 midnight.

Rhonda 03/15/2024 at 9:20 pm

There are many others excursions available in many cities other than the ones offered by Viking. Are those excursion offices close to the ports so we can book when getting off the ship? Or must we book them prior to our trip?
Your article was very informative. Thanks so much.

Julie Cohn 03/30/2024 at 1:26 pm

You should try to book them prior to your trip but it really depends on the time of year and where you are going. You can also ask on the ship with the ship concierge, they can assist with excursions and dinner reservations, etc. For ocean cruises I definitely recommend booking excursions outside of the cruise company but for river cruises, their excursions are always better, in my opinion.

Madeline 03/30/2024 at 1:37 am

I`m in my early 70s, and single. I plan on going on the Danube cruise in October. Will I have to pay for a double occupancy stateroom? I can“t seem to get any of my girlfriends interested in going, so it will be solo for me! Thank you.

Julie Cohn 03/30/2024 at 1:24 pm

Madeline: Each cruise company has their own policy when it comes to single or double occupancy and I believe Viking always charges for double, unless they have a special promotion. Be sure to check Amawaterways, they sometimes have single occupancy specials. If you need assistance with your trip, I am also a veteran travel advisor, please email me at Thanks!

Chris Palmer 05/13/2024 at 2:54 pm

My hubby and I are booked on the Grand European Tour for June 2024. Im recently recovering from achilles tendon surgery (Jan. 2024),and Physical Therapy and may bring a cane. Thanks for info on asking about the “easy walking” tours. My main question is: are there restrooms on bus in case of emergencies? I have Crohn’s disease and very anxious about traveling in general. Thanks!

Julie Cohn 05/13/2024 at 9:05 pm

Hi Chris! I do not recall if they had restrooms on the coach buses but I do not believe they do. Please check with your travel advisor or Viking to be sure. Thanks.


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