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  • Writer's pictureJason Leppert

Live Cruise Review: Viking Embla, Grand European Tour 2013 – The Viking Embla Herself

Viking River Cruises has several winners on its hands with the line’s 16 longships – the newest designs in the fleet – and 12 more are on the way. If the Viking Embla were an iPod, it would be a generation two. A few improvements were made from the first vessels like the Viking Odin and Viking Freya that we had the pleasure to previously sail on. For instance, the decorative chandelier in the central atrium has been omitted here to make the space even more open and airy.

The Airy Atrium

In fact, the iPod analogy is rather appropriate because the design of the Viking longships is very similar to that of Apple products – clean and minimal with light colors. Offset with handsome woods and rich earthen tones, the effect is always harmonious and welcoming and extends to the restaurant and observation lounge where large windows draw the surrounding scenery in.

The Restaurant

Observation Lounge and Bar

The Aquavit Terrace – named after the unique Scandinavian liquor – remains one of the longships’ most impressive features. This patio setting at the bow brings the outdoors in to enjoy al fresco breakfasts, lunches and dinners as an alternative option to the main dining room. Also, during cooler weather the terrace can be closed in with sliding glass doors, but for the time being, we’re enjoying the summer climate outside. The upper sun deck is equally a treat in this weather.

Aquavit Terrace

Sun Deck

Staterooms and Suites

Another change that was made for Longships 2.0 is in the staterooms. Gone are the switchable opaque-transparent glass-enclosed bathrooms we experienced on the Viking Freya. While stylish and technologically intriguing, the bathrooms would light up the rest of the room even when in the frosted opaque mode which made it difficult to use at night without waking up your traveling companion.

Veranda Suite #308

On our Grand European Tour, we are loving our veranda suite, room number 308. Another innovation on the Viking longships is an offset stateroom corridor that allows for longer single-wide veranda staterooms on one side of the riverboat and double-wide suites, like ours, on the other. Opposite two said veranda staterooms, our suite is composed of two square-proportioned spaces – a living room with a full balcony and a bedroom with a french balcony and spacious bathroom. The extra space and two verandas are fantastic luxuries.

The Living Room Space

Each room conveniently has its own large mirrors and flat panel Sony televisions with on-demand selections such as the excellent Downton Abbey (Viking River Cruises is the primary sponsor of the PBS program and offers tours to the historic castle used in filming – definitely on the bucket list.) The suite is furnished with a plush couch, chair, glass coffee table, mini-fridge, desk area and heavenly beds. The closet is plenty for hanging up many clothes items and the remaining storage is sufficient for the rest of your wardrobe if split between the bedroom and living room. There are limited shelves and drawers in the bedroom alone.

The (Teddy Bear-Approved) Bedroom Space

An abundance of usable lighting frames the suite with a glowing circular fixture in the bedroom that cleverly conceals the air conditioning system and nifty puck reading lights over the beds that illuminate upon angling and swiveling into the desired position. With lots of lights come lots of switches, and determining the right ones to control each is a bit of a fun challenge. The bathroom is nicely designed with beautiful white tiles and cool mosaic accents, and the Villeroy and Boch sink basin is a perfect fit. While the walls are solid, the fogged glass door still allows a bit too much light into the bedroom at night.

The Bathroom

The bathroom highlight is the shower with its square footprint allowing you to turn around without hitting the sidewalls and its delightful rain and handheld shower heads. The lemon-scented L’Occitane bath products are always refreshing and my personal favorite on any river or ocean cruise ship. The included bottled water, fresh fruit and floral accents are always nice extras too. In other words, we are beyond comfortable in our grand veranda suite.

The Shower

Onboard Eats

The food onboard has been very good with some offerings better than others. For breakfast, the chocolate-topped donuts have always been a hit with us, and lunch buffets at the Aquavit Terrace are nicely varied from day to day, offering fine salads, soups, a carving station, side dishes, desserts and unique homemade lemonades – like a tasty mango lemonade or plum lemonade. One day, we even enjoyed yummy pizza instead of the usual carving station, and today we just enjoyed a great hamburger lunch.

Turkey-Wrapped Risotto

For dinner, the caesar salad onboard is excellent and creative appetizers like a turkey-wrapped risotto (pictured above) are artfully plated. Entrees have included a veal schnitzel topped with fried parsley and lemon. The aforementioned appetizer and entree were both good but a tad underwhelming in flavor. On the other hand, a porcini mushroom ravioli later on was excellent – perfectly creamy and savory. My mom has also greatly enjoyed the optional grilled salmon entree available every night.

Veal Schnitzel

Porcini Mushroom Ravioli

In line with the other tasty pastries, donuts and cookies most notably, desserts have also been very good onboard. A deconstructed souffle was akin to a lovely bread pudding with a side of pear sauce. I also supplemented mine with a scoop of cinnamon-plum ice cream that was also on the menu. The total a la mode concoction was a perfect sendoff.

Deconstructed Souffle

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