ShipsFirst Impressions of a Viking River Cruise

First Impressions of a Viking River Cruise

We are currently on our fourth day of our river cruise on Viking Atla, a seven night journey up the Danube River from Budapest, Hungary to Nuremburg, Germany. As we visit the many Christmas markets on our trip, here are my first impressions of our river cruise with Viking River Cruises.

I want to point out before I begin that his is my first river cruise.  I normally take 5-8 ocean cruises a year and while I had a decent idea of what to expect on a river cruise, here are the areas of the cruise that have made the biggest impression on me.

Staff – If there was one thing that has impressed me the most, the level of service the staff has provided has been incredible from the moment we stepped on board.  Our cabin steward not only showed us to our room, but took several minutes to show us all the features of our stateroom.

From the front desk staff to our servers at each meal, their attention to detail has really impressed me.  The crew plays such a vital role in each cruise and they have gone above and beyond so far. To put it simply, they’ve been awesome.

Ship – One of the nicest things about a river cruise is that I can walk to anywhere on the ship from my cabin within 30 seconds.  With only 190 passengers, the ship never feels crowded and is always filled with natural light thanks to the abundance of floor to ceiling windows. Since pictures are worth a thousand words, click here to take a photo tour of our ship, Viking Atla.

Cabin – Our cabin is a balcony cabin on deck 3.  The cabin and balcony are similar in size to what you would find on an ocean cruise ship.  The bathroom has a heated floor (awesome) and has a roomy (for a cruise ship) shower with glass doors. There is also a nice 40″ flat screen TV (that faces the bed) and 4 power outlets (along with 1 USB). A chair, small desk, and plenty of closet space provide everything you need in a cruise stateroom.

Fruit and a fresh pitcher of water are placed in our cabin each day. It is little touches like this that you really learn to appreciate over the course of the cruise.

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Excursions – One excursion in each port is included with your cruise. The excursions are normally a tour of the city and we have had really knowledgeable guides on each one so far. I was a little leary at first due to the fact that excursions come at no extra cost, but quickly found out that the tours are of excellent quality. Tomorrow we will do our first optional tour.

Food/The Restaurant – Since food can be so subjective, I don’t normally don’t go into much detail about what I liked and didn’t like.  Taste in food can widely differ from one person to the next.  However, all of my table mates (they have changed with each meal) have really enjoyed everything from the Restaurant.

The food is always fresh on board.  The ship never goes more than 5 days without restocking, guaranteeing that everything stays fresh in the kitchen.

It did take a few days to get used to set meal times that are a lot different from ocean cruising when you can generally eat whenever you want. Breakfast is very similar to ocean cruising being open for several hours, with a menu that you can order off of and also a buffet.  Lunch and dinner both start at a set time each day and can change from one day to the next.  Since excursions times can be different in each port, the meal times change so excursions don’t overlap with meals.

Seating is open (tables seat 6 to 10) so you can sit with different passengers each meal. Sitting with different passengers each meal seems to be the norm. I have sat with different table mates each night so far on the cruise and have met some wonderful people.

I will be covering more about this Viking River Cruise Christmas markets trip in the next few days. I will be going into more detail about the differences and similarities in river and ocean cruises.  I will also talk about our itinerary and the Christmas markets we have visited in each city. However, I will say that it has been a trip of lifetime and a trip to the Christmas markets in Europe should be on everyone’s bucket list.

So far, it has been a fantastic first river cruise for me and it definitely won’t be my last. To see my first post, a photo tour of Viking Atla, you can read that here.

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Ben Souza
Ben Souza
Ben is a world traveler who has visited 40+ countries, taken over 70 cruises. He is one of USA TODAY's experts for their 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. His writings have appeared and been cited in various media outlets such as Yahoo News, MSN, NPR, CNN, Fox, and ABC News. Ben currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. Follow Ben on Instagram. Visit Ben Souza on Linkedin. You may email Ben at [email protected].
ShipsFirst Impressions of a Viking River Cruise


  1. I’m looking forward to hearing more about this cruise as my wife and I are looking at a Viking river cruise on the Rhine next fall!

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