Viking River Cruises Viking Lif River Cruise Ship Tour and Review

Viking Lif in Budapest at the Chain Bridge

Location, location, location. Docked right at the Chain Bridge in Budapest makes for a fantastic evening walk.

On the Viking Lif for a Danube, Main and Rhine European river cruise.

European river cruises are, in my opinion, the best way to visit the heart of Europe.  Sure, I love cruise ships and cruises around Europe. But to explore small towns and port cities and without having to pack and unpack, you need a river cruise. Viking River Cruises is the dominant player throughout Europe, so finding a river cruise that fit my schedule was easy.

My 14-day Viking Lif river cruise in October would meander from Budapest to Amsterdam.  The itinerary began with an overnight and a full day of touring in Budapest.  Along the way, we’d visit and tour the major European capital cities of Bratislava, Vienna, Cologne and Amsterdam.  In addition to the main cities, we’d stop at several smaller towns, cruise past medieval castles and rampart ruins and sample local food, wine and beer.

Inaugurated in 2014, the Viking Lif is currently one of 40 “Viking Longships” in Viking’s fleet of 60 river ships around the world. These ships (and they really are like ships) carry up to 190 passengers on three decks.  There’s an elevator that goes between the Middle and Upper decks where you’ll find most of the action and staterooms.

Tour the Viking Lif

From the moment I stepped onboard the Viking Lif, it was obvious that this was indeed minimalist design.  River ships are inherently small so Viking’s Longships are designed with light colors, simple but elegant furniture and abundant floor-to-ceiling glass panel wiindows. Nothing dark, heavy or overly plush.  Sort of a mélange of Scandinavia meets Italian modern design.  It works.

Viking Lif Atrium

Extensive glass paneling and glass ceiling in the Viking Lif Atrium gives it a light and airy feeling.

 Veranda Stateroom

Roomier than I expected, my veranda stateroom with a full walk-out balcony continued the uncluttered and minimalist approach. The linens were soft and plush, and the comforter wasn’t so heavy that your feet would roast.  Plenty of drawer and countertop space.  Not that I was in my room very much, but when I wanted to watch TV, the 40″ wall-mounted flat panel screen was wonderful.

Viking Lif Veranda stateroom

At 205 sq. ft., the Veranda Stateroom comfortably accommodates two guests, without having to trip over each other to get around.

Unique to me, the television’s Bose speakers were built into the ceiling.  In fact, there were two speakers that created a sort of stereo effect.  Very clever planning.  You don’t hear your neighbor’s TV or worry that yours was too loud.

I wasn’t sure if I’d use a balcony in late October (I was used to the sliding French doors on river ships.)  But I used the balcony rain or sun. I’d step outside and with elbows on the railing, hum the Blue Danube waltz and watch the river flow.  There’s just something about a river cruise.

Veranda stateroom with balcony on Viking Lif.

Perfect in any season, these small balconies are a welcome addition.

And the bathroom.  Plenty of storage space for toiletries, oversized shower with hand-held nozzle.  L’Occitane bath products are featured.

Viking Lif bathroom

Deep sink (good for hand-washables) plus under the counter storage add to the well-designed bathroom. 

If a Suite or Veranda Stateroom aren’t in your budget, there’s the French balcony stateroom category and the 150 sq. ft. Standard stateroom, at the water level.

Dining

The Viking Lif features a main dining room, aptly named The Restaurant, located toward the front of the ship on the Middle Deck. Furnished in all neutral tones like the rest of the ship, and with floor-to-ceiling glass windows on both sides, the room never felt crowded.

Chef de Cuisine, Marius, makes his salutatory goodbye wave around the dining room.

Chef de Cuisine, Marius, makes his salutatory goodbye wave around the dining room.

It’s open seating in the main dining room for all three meals. Beginning at 6am, early risers can get coffee, juice and a pastry in the Lounge.  By the rousing hour of 6:30am, Continental breakfast begins in the Aquavit Terrace on the Upper Deck.  Full sitdown breakfast service plus a huge buffet is served in the Restaurant from 7:00 – 9:30am.  Sometimes until 9:00am if there’s an early tour departure.

Lunch is served at 12:30pm almost every day and ends about 2:00pm.  Unless it’s a lazy day on the river, afternoon tours generally depart at 2:00pm.  A very nice lighter lunch is offered every day in the Aquavit Terrace.  This was my favorite place, even for dinner. On warm days and nights, the retractable ceiling gives way to sunshine and stars.

My favorite place for lunch and an occasional lighter dinner. Quiet and cozy.

My favorite place for lunch and an occasional lighter dinner. Quiet and cozy.

In good weather, or even if you bundle up, take your meal outdoors onto the Terrace.

My favorite place for a steamy hot chocolate or dinner under the stars.

The Aquavit Terrace is my favorite place for a steamy hot chocolate, soup and salad or dinner under the stars.

Entertainment

The Observation Lounge on the Upper Deck is where you’ll find the action.  During the day while cruising the river, it’s where you can plop into a cushy  sofa or chair and watch towns and villages appear out of almost nowhere.  Meet up with new friends or curl up with a book.

The Lounge is also where cooking, craft demonstrations and onboard entertainment take place.  I really enjoyed the Apple Strudel cooking demonstration. Guests got into the act only too willing to participate!

Viking Lif apple strudel cooking demonstration in the Observation Lounge

Fun to watch and fun to participate in the cooking demo. Chef Marius leads the demo. 

The Observation Lounge shares the space with the full-service bar.  No wonder that everyone gathers there for the before-dinner cocktail hour and to listen to the resident keyboard player.  Lee, our Program Director, would recap the day’s tours and explain the scheduled excursions for the next day.

After dinner, local entertainers board the ship and perform in the Lounge.  Sometimes it’s a classical trio, a skilled violinist or even a folkloric dance troupe.  And of course, the bar is open until past midnight.

If weather permits, or if (as I recommend for early and late season travel) you’ve packed a hat, scarf and gloves, head up to the Sun Deck.  Running the full length of the river ship, there’s a walking track, deck chairs and canopy shade.

Lee and staff hand out complimentary hot coffee plus a shot of regional liquer if desired.

Up on the Sundeck, Program Director Lee and staff hand out complimentary hot coffee plus a shot of liqueur if desired.

There’s even an herb garden.  Note: there will be stretches on the river when the Sun Deck is closed due to low clearance under the bridges. You can see in the photo above that the deck chairs were folded in anticipation of approaching the bridges.

What to wear on a Viking river cruise

The dress code on a Viking river cruise is casual.  Not flip-flops and undershirt casual, but nicely dressed comfortable clothing.  In the evenings, men can wear a sport coat or just a nice collared shirt or turtleneck.  Most women I’ve seen bring a couple of pair of black pants for the evenings, sometimes worn with a sparkly blouse or sweater on the Welcome Aboard or Captain’s Gala night dinner.  No ties, tuxedos or fancy dresses needed.  Don’t forget to pack comfortable walking shoes, already broken in!

Wrap-up

The Viking Lif, one of the newer Longships in the fleet, met and exceeded my expectations.  The Viking Lif was almost full to capacity with 182 passengers, yet by the end of the cruise I had met almost everyone.  The entire staff, from galley and food service to housekeeping and on up to the officers, were always friendly and knowledgeable and fluent in English. That’s a good thing since nearly all of the guests were Americans, Canadians and Australians.

Viking Lif Fast Facts

  • There are 95 outside staterooms including 2 Explorer Suites, 7 Veranda Suites, 39 Veranda Staterooms, 22 French Balcony Staterooms, 25 Standard Staterooms.
  • Full-length Sun deck also includes a putting green and walking track.
  • For souvenirs or forgotten toiletries, there’s a small gift shop
  • Free shipwide wireless Internet service
  • Laundry service is available for a fee.
  • All staterooms feature a 40″ flat-panel Sony TV, a safe, hair dryer, refrigerator and complimentary bottled water.

Insider Tips

  • Be considerate of fellow passengers.  If you must do a pre-dawn speed walk on the Sun Deck, please change your routine while onboard. Your pounding footsteps could easily awaken the passengers just below, on the Upper Deck.  And it’s a walking track…not a jogging track.  If you simply must jog or run, stay onboard and pound feet when everyone else has left for a shore excursion.
  • Solo traveler questions about dinnertime dining? Here’s my tip.  Arrive when the doors first open and sit at the largest table possible.  That way, you don’t have to roam through the dining room after everyone else has been seated, in search of that one empty chair.
  • While it isn’t free, the onboard laundry service can clean and press your clothes within 24-hours.  All totaled, using the laundry service (and/or doing hand-washables in the sink) is less expensive than the extra weight or baggage fee that the airlines charge.
  • Mobility challenged guests should know that the elevator doesn’t connect to the Sun Deck or the lowest (Main) deck where the water-level staterooms are located.

In full disclosure, I was an invited guest aboard the Viking Lif.  This has not influenced my review in any way.  While I do not dwell on the negative, if something is not up my standards or what I think my readers would like to know, I will mention it.

All photo are my own.

Here’s more about my Viking Lif Grand European Tour from Budapest to Amsterdam:
Boarding Day in Budapest for the Viking Lif
Top 10 Things to Do in Budapest


By |February 19th, 2017|Rivers, Viking River|

5 Comments

  1. lisa March 24, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    I absolutely love every piece you write! You’re awesome

  2. Jean June 28, 2015 at 1:34 am

    I’ve been dreaming to go on this cruise for a long time and I’m glad I found your review. I plan to travel with a couple (or solo) and would like to have a room for myself like you did. Would this mean that as a single guest I would have to pay double for a stateroom?

  3. Sherry Kennedy
    Sherry Kennedy July 1, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    Hi Jean,

    Not necessarily. It’s starting to look like this fall (October through mid-December) there might be river cruises in Europe that aren’t charging the single supplement. Check with your travel agent and the websites for Viking River, AmaWaterways, Uniworld and Avalon. CroisiEurope might have some good discounts, too. Have a wonderful vacation!

  4. Judy February 18, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    I have booked the exact cruise on Viking that you just reviewed. I’m excited to go, but to address Jean’s question: I am a single traveler, and Viking charged me a single supplement that amounted to the same amount that I paid as a single. In other words I am paying DOUBLE for the cruise even though I am eating for one, drinking for one, and going on shore excursions for one. Other cruises that I’ve been on do have a single supplement, but it isn’t DOUBLE. I’m not happy and won’t go on Viking again.

    Judy F.

  5. Sherry Kennedy
    Sherry Kennedy February 19, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Hi Judy,
    Sorry to hear that you feel duped after you did the math. It’s my experience that it’s not always easy to predict when and even if the single supplement will be reduced. So, yes, it is possible to actually pay double. Usually off-season pricing will offer reduced or no single supplements. For the cruise line, whether ocean or river, it’s about the lost revenue if they sold a double occupancy cabin to a solo traveler and took that cabin off the market. There are times when you can find a good deal on Viking, so don’t write them off. Also, a handful of river cruise companies have a solo stateroom, but you might be better off watching for a no-single-supplement sailing. Thanks for sharing your experience. Sherry

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