It’s no secret that river cruises are one of the best ways to explore Europe – where every bend in the winding waterway reveals another remarkable country and culture. So when the opportunity came up to sail the Danube with VIVA Cruises on their new ship, VIVA TWO, I didn’t hesitate.
Why You’ll Love VIVA Cruises
Not only did I look forward to seeing what this relatively new line could offer, it would also be my very first European river cruise. Of course I had an incredible time! Here are my five reasons you’ll love VIVA Cruises, too.
If you’ve sailed on one river ship, it may feel like you’ve sailed on them all. That’s because all river ships sailing the Danube have similar length, height, and width requirements in order to safely navigate through locks, under bridges, and around the twists and turns of the river. Generally, the layout of most ships looks similar as well since space is so limited.
What sets VIVA TWO apart from other ships is the inviting open-concept design throughout the main public spaces. This lends itself to a brighter, more airy space for guests, and creates a seamless and elegant transition between the comfortable Panorama Lounge, the ship’s dining room, RIVERSIDE Restaurant, and the lively bar.
Across the ship, the stylish and modern interiors blend function and form using a variety of textures plus a warm color scheme of blues, browns, and beiges. This palette makes for a cozy and sophisticated boutique hotel-like aesthetic.
The VIVA Cruises experience is truly all-inclusive. This means all meals, snacks, all-day selection of alcohol, tea, coffee, juice, and soda, a speciality high tea event, cabin minibar, self-service coffee and water stations, wifi, and gratuities are all included in your fare. It was so nice not to worry about a surprise charge showing up later on my folio.
Your fare also includes access to a steam room, sauna, and shower. This space is open to walk-ins but can also be reserved for private use through the reception desk.
On good-weather days, guests can reserve a bicycle for use while in port. Due to the limited number available, it’s a good idea to get your request in early. I lucked out and picked a beautiful morning to bike the picturesque Wachau Valley from Krems to Dürnstein.
Voyages include one excursion per port. Outings typically consisted of a half-day walking tour through a city center with a knowledgeable local guide, followed by free time to explore.
Three Flexible Restaurant Options
While most river ships offer a main dining room and one alternative dining venue, VIVA Cruises premiered a third restaurant, MOMENTS, with VIVA TWO.
MOMENTS serves a small buffet breakfast offering various hot foods, pastries, meats, cheeses, fruits, cereals, juices, and yogurts. Made-to-order omelets and specialty coffees can also be ordered tableside. This was my favorite spot for breakfast because it was quieter than the main restaurant. I was able to sit down, grab a plate, enjoy my meal, and head out without any fuss. For lunch and dinner, MOMENTS offers a mediterranean-inspired menu. Dinner is an exceptional event offering five courses with wine pairings. Reservations are required.
RIVERSIDE Restaurant, VIVA TWO’s main dining room, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with an a la carte menu. It can seat up to 130 guests and highlights local cuisine when possible. Seating is open and dining times are flexible – so it’s up to you when you dine and who you sit with. Don’t be shy, make a friend! The end-of-cruise farewell Gala dinner is also hosted here and offers a pre-set multi-course gourmet meal.
VIVA’s Bistro, the nautical themed restaurant at the aft of the ship, offers the best mealtime views with its large panoramic windows. Open for lunch and dinner, the Bistro menu has a fish and seafood focus. Due to its limited capacity of 30 guests, reservations for dinner are a must. Self-serve coffee and cookies can also be found here beginning in the afternoon.
VIVA’s flexible approach to dining means guests can enjoy meals in all three restaurants as many times as they want. However, dinner menus in MOMENTS and VIVA’s Bistro will stay the same during your sailing (with changes occurring every few months), so one reservation in each restaurant may be enough.
The Amazing Food
One thing’s for certain, you won’t go hungry sailing on VIVA TWO. I was continually impressed with the variety of dishes offered onboard – everything from gourmet burgers and fried chicken to perfectly cooked steaks and seafood. The highlight at dinner each night in the RIVERSIDE Restaurant was perusing the menu for that day’s regional dish. Themed options included Austrian Kaasnockerl, Wienerschnitzel, and Beef Goulash – all were big hits with guests.
Portions were just right and ingredients were fresh and flavorful. No course was overlooked – even the desserts dazzled with noteworthy flavor combinations. Impressive presentation and plating made for daily oohs and aahs around the table. Favorite plates included the Chocolate Ice Cup dessert, the Silky Egg and Prosciutto Ham appetizer, any of the soups (seriously!), and the MOMENTS burger topped with a warm focaccia bun and a side of truffle oil fries.
If you’re a night owl, head to the bar at the bow of the ship for late-night snacks such as sausages, sauerkraut, and other European comfort foods.
Part of the fun of traveling abroad is meeting others from around the world. With VIVA Cruises, you won’t even have to leave the ship to do so. As a brand based in Germany, a large proportion of guests hail from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. On VIVA TWO, all ship announcements and enrichment talks were delivered in both German and English.
However, as the line grows, VIVA Cruises is intentional about building an international brand. In 2023, VIVA Cruises hosted guests from Israel, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Spain, and the company expects an even larger proportion from other parts of Europe and the Middle East in 2024. The line is also actively focused on expanding to North American clientele.
For a relatively young company (currently in its fifth year of operations), VIVA Cruises’ pursuit of guest diversity is exciting and progressive.