Viking River Cruises appeal to travelers of all ages and interests. Different destinations, itineraries, crew members, special occasions, and fellow passengers make each journey unique. The one thing we think all Viking River Cruise travelers have in common is an interest in delicious cuisine both on and off the ship. With several different dining options, you may not know which to choose.
We have some thoughts about how to get the most from both the meals offered on the ship and opportunities to enjoy the tastes of travel when you’re ashore. Here are our top tips for enjoying the best cuisine on and off the ship during a Viking River Cruise.
We were guests of Viking River Cruises for one of their itineraries. All opinions expressed are our own based on our experiences.
1. Plan Ahead
The first thing you’ll want to do is know when you’ll have the chance to try local cuisine off the ship and when you’ll need to eat onboard. Sometimes you have your option of both. If you’re concerned about additional cost for meals in destinations, plan for main meals on the ship and go try a snack, share a dish with a companion or fellow passenger, or have drinks or dessert at the stop. There will usually be at least one themed meal that highlights local flavors, so plan to enjoy that one onboard. Check to see what excursions are available and if there’s nothing that includes a food or market tour or tasting that you’d like, try to book one on your own for the time you’ll be at that destination. Some Viking offerings do include lunch ashore, so be in the know on what is included in each of your planned activities.
2. Meet Others At Mealtimes
Sometimes the ship is moving during mealtime and you don’t have the option to go to a local spot to eat. Take advantage of this time to meet some of your fellow travelers. If you have special dietary needs, you can stay in the dining room and eat at the same table with the same servers who will get to know you and your needs. The same fellow travelers may come and sit with you regularly or you may meet others who join you for a time. We enjoy meeting a variety of people by eating at different tables and even at different venues on the ship. The Aquavit Terrace offers indoor and outdoor dining, so if weather permits, you can get a delicious dose of alfresco dining, too. It’s fun to share experiences, conversations, and ideas with a wide variety of people throughout the trip.
3. Ask For Recommendations
The Viking brand has strong loyalty among its passengers, so several people on your trip will have traveled with them before-- some even taking the same itinerary. They are a wealth of information about where you might go to grab a bit of local flavor. The crew are also knowledgeable and can help you with their own recommendations for what to explore. Spend some time before you go researching where you will be docking so you can find interesting places nearby. If you get off and don’t know where to go, ask some locals. We’ve found that people love to talk about food and are usually delighted to share their favorites with visitors.
4. Decide About Drinking
Beverages are part of the pleasure of dining. With Viking River Cruises you have a few options and you should think about which makes the most sense for you before you come aboard. Your standard package will come with complimentary house wines, beers, and soft drinks during lunch and dinner onboard. There are also two coffee stations with tea and coffee available at all hours. You’ll need to pay for cocktails and beverages beyond the house offerings separately. If you’re not likely to drink much else, you can pay as you go. If you prefer to have unlimited access to premium local wines, beers, spirits, specialty coffees, soft drinks, and juices throughout the day and an open bar during operating hours, consider the flat fee Silver Spirits Beverage Package. The package price is based on the length of your cruise, so once you buy it you don’t have to think about it again. One other option is to bring your favorite drinks with you or purchase local beverages at your favorite stops. Most ship staterooms come with a refrigerator. Find that out in advance so you can store cold drinks if you like.
5. Inform Them Of Dietary Concerns In Advance
The culinary teams and crew go out of their way to ensure that every guest has the best experience possible. Meals usually have seafood or vegetarian options. If you’re allergic or sensitive to certain foods or ingredients, tell them 90 days in advance of your departure so they can do their best to accommodate you. Introduce yourself to the maitre d' when you board so they can get to know you too. Viking will make every effort to address your dietary concerns.
6. Make The Most Of Time Ashore
A certain number of shore activities come with your itinerary. There are also special excursion or extension packages you can purchase separately. When you do, be sure to include a culinary stop during your adventure. Some excursions include overnight stays where you can explore a destination’s food scene in depth. Others, including those that come with your package, can explore a specific attraction or area. Whenever you have free time in the destination, visit the local restaurants, bars, bakeries, markets, and street food vendors. If you’ve discovered through your research that the area has special cuisine, find a place to give it a try. For example, we took Viking’s Romantic Danube itinerary, with stops in Germany, Austria, and Hungary. We tried sausages, schnitzel, Sacher torte, Langos, goulash, and other delicacies paired with regional beverages at our stops. This enabled us to enjoy authentic cuisine while also exploring venues and meeting locals.
7. Get Some Culinary Snacks And Food Gifts To Take Home
When you go ashore, look for interesting snacks to try while you wander around. Stop in a souvenir shop or market and search the shelves for something you’ve heard about or seen others eat in the destination. When we were in Vienna, for example, we kept encountering these small round chocolates wrapped in foil. When we looked closer, we saw they had the image of Mozart right on the wrapping. We visited a local candy shop to buy some and learned that these Mozartkugel have a long history filled with Austrian pride. Bakeries, markets, convenience stores, and souvenir shops all usually have favorite treats on display. You can also purchase nibbles to take with you and enjoy during your journey or take home as gifts for your family and friends. The coffee stations on each ship often have pastries and cookies to go with your beverages, and sometimes those are local to the region. We enjoyed fresh lebkuchen -- German iced, soft gingerbread cookies -- with our tea.
8. Be Flexible When You Explore
Even though you’ll do lots of planning in advance for your trip, don’t forget to leave room for last-minute changes. Some of these changes may be the result of events beyond anyone’s control, like the weather and such. Viking may make alternative arrangements if it interrupts a planned excursion. Other times, you just may discover a super cute cafe with people enjoying food that looks delicious and decide you want to give it a try. Or, you might hear about a special food, event, or vendor that strikes your fancy while you’re chatting with some locals. However you run into new ideas, don’t be afraid to give them a try. Some of our very favorite meals and memories come from totally unexpected places.
9. Enjoy The Viking Demos And Recipes
Viking River Cruises does a great job of providing fun, regional culinary experiences for passengers onboard. For example, we had one dinner that featured local dishes and included live performances by musicians from the area. There was also a breakfast that included a special dish prepared by members of the staff who came from the region we were visiting. There may also be culinary demonstrations and classes on the ship where you can learn to make a local specialty. We learned to make linzer cookies and had a fun class decorating gingerbread houses. Many of Viking’s wonderful recipes are available online. If you’re interested, ask if you can meet the chef and get a tour of the galley. It’s a fun experience and great to see how the world-class kitchen staff work culinary wonders in such a small space. You might even learn a trick or two to use in your kitchen at home.
Viking River Cruises offer a world of culinary discovery, local flavors, and delicious experiences. With a little planning, some flexibility, a dose of curiosity, and our favorite tips, we’re sure you can enjoy the best cuisine on and off the ship.