9 tips for enjoying the best food on and off the ship
Viking River Cruises attracts travelers of all ages and interests. Different destinations, routes, crew members, special occasions and other passengers make every trip 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 might not know which one to choose.
We have some thoughts on how to make the most of the meals on offer on the ship and the opportunities to savor the flavors of travel while ashore. Here are our top tips for enjoying the best cuisine on and off the ship while cruising the Viking River.
We were invited by 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 find out when you’ll have the chance to try the local cuisine on board the ship and when you’ll need to eat on board. Sometimes you have the choice between the two. If you’re concerned about the extra cost of meals at destinations, plan for main meals on the ship and go try a snack, share a dish with a companion or fellow passenger, or grab a drink or dessert while at the stop. There will usually be at least one themed meal showcasing local flavors, so plan to take advantage of this one on board. Check what excursions are available and if there is nothing that includes a food or market tour or tasting that you would like, try to book one on your own for the time you will be at that destination. Some Viking offers include lunch ashore, so be aware of what’s included with each of your planned activities.
2. Meet others at mealtimes
Sometimes the ship moves during meals and you don’t have the option to eat at a local place. 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 other people who join you for a while. We like to meet a variety of people by eating at different tables and even at different places on the ship. The Aquavit Terrace offers indoor and outdoor dining, so weather permitting, you can also get a delicious dose of al fresco dining. It’s fun to share experiences, conversations and ideas with a wide variety of people along the journey.
3. Ask for recommendations
The Viking brand has a strong loyalty among its passengers, so several people on your trip will have traveled with them before – some even traveling the same route. They are a wealth of information on where you could go to grab some local flavor. The crew is also knowledgeable and can help you with their own recommendations on what to explore. Spend some time before you set out to research where you’ll be docking so you can find interesting spots nearby. If you go down and don’t know where to go, ask locals. We’ve found that people like to talk about food and are generally happy to share their favorite dishes with visitors.
4. Decide to drink
Drinks are part of the pleasure of eating. With Viking River Cruises you have several options and you should think about which one is best for you before boarding. Your standard package will include complimentary house wines, beers and soft drinks during lunch and dinner on board. There are also two coffee stations with tea and coffee available around the clock. You will have to pay separately for cocktails and drinks in addition to the house offers. 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 business hours, consider the Beverage Package Silver Spirits at a flat rate. The price of the package is based on the duration of your cruise, so once you buy it, you don’t have to think about it. Another option is to bring your favorite drinks with you or buy local drinks at your favorite stops. Most ship cabins are equipped with a refrigerator. Ask ahead so you can stock up on cold drinks if you want.
5. Let them know about your dietary concerns ahead of time
The culinary teams and crew go out of their way to ensure that each guest has the best experience possible. Meals usually have seafood or vegetarian dishes. If you are allergic or sensitive to certain foods or ingredients, let them know 90 days prior to your departure so they can do their best to accommodate you. Introduce yourself to the maitre d’ when boarding so he can get to know you as well. Viking will make every effort to accommodate your dietary concerns.
6. Make the most of time ashore
A number of shore activities accompany your itinerary. There are also special excursion or extension packages that you can purchase separately. When you do, be sure to include a culinary stop during your adventure. Some tours include overnight stays where you can explore a destination’s food scene in depth. Others, including those that come with your package, may explore a specific attraction or region. Whenever you have free time in the destination, visit local restaurants, bars, bakeries, markets and street vendors. If you’ve discovered through your research that the area has special cuisine, find a place to try it. For example, we took Viking’s romantic Danube route, with stops in Germany, Austria and Hungary. We tried sausages, schnitzel, Sacher pie, Languages, goulash and other delicacies accompanied by regional drinks at our stops. This allowed us to enjoy authentic cuisine while exploring places and meeting locals.
7. Get culinary snacks and food gifts to take home
When you disembark, look for interesting snacks to try as you walk around. Stop at a souvenir shop or market and search the shelves for something you’ve heard of or seen others eating in the destination. When we were in Vienna, for example, we kept coming across these little round chocolates wrapped in foil. When we looked closer we saw that they had Mozart’s image right on the packaging. We visited a local candy store to buy some and learned that these Mozartkugel have a long history filled with Austrian pride. Bakeries, markets, convenience stores, and gift shops all typically carry favorite treats. You can also buy snacks to take with you to enjoy on your trip or to take home as gifts for family and friends. Each ship’s coffee stations often offer pastries and cookies to accompany your drinks, and sometimes these are local to the area. We enjoyed fresh lebkuchen – German glazed gingerbread cookies – with our tea.
8. Be flexible when exploring
Even though you’ll be doing a lot of planning ahead for your trip, remember to leave room for last-minute changes. Some of these changes may be the result of events beyond anyone’s control, such as weather, etc. Viking may make alternative arrangements if it interrupts a planned excursion. Other times you may discover a super cute cafe with people enjoying the food that looks delicious and decide you want to try it. Or, you might hear about a special food, event, or vendor you like while chatting with locals. However you come across new ideas, don’t be afraid to try them. Some of our favorite foods and memories come from totally unexpected places.
9. Take Advantage of Viking Demos and Recipes
Viking River Cruises does a great job of providing fun, regional dining experiences for passengers on board. For example, we had a dinner of local dishes and live performances from local musicians. There was also a breakfast which included a special dish prepared by staff from the area we were visiting. There may also be cooking demonstrations and classes on the ship where you can learn how to prepare a local specialty. We learned how to make linzer cookies and had a fun gingerbread house decorating class. Many wonderful Viking recipes are available online. If interested, ask if you can meet the chef and take a tour of the kitchen. It’s a fun and great experience to see how the world class kitchen staff do 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 offers a world of culinary discoveries, local flavors and delicious experiences. With a little planning, a little flexibility, a dose of curiosity and our favorite tips, we’re sure you can enjoy the best cuisine on board and off the ship.