Luxury Elbe River Cruises on Viking Boats

The Viking Schumann and Fontane are the most luxurious riverboats on the Elbe River, while the Swiss Ruby is used for European travelers.

Schiff-Clara-Schumann / MS Viking Schumann
Viking Schumann (prior to refit) – Photo:Kolossos / Wikimedia Commons

Viking River Cruises use the Viking Schumann and Viking Fontane for luxury river cruises on the Elbe for vacations sold internationally. In the German market, the Swiss Ruby is used for cruising between Berlin / Potsdam and Prague. Viking boats offer the largest cabins of all riverboats on the Elbe with many featuring French balconies. International Viking Elbe River cruise vacations usually add hotel stays in Berlin and Prague at each end of the cruise.

Viking River Cruises on the Elbe River

Viking River Cruises currently operate two systems on the Elbe River. Cruises sold internationally are on the luxurious Viking Schumann and Viking Fontane, while on the German market cruises are offered on the Swiss Ruby.

Due to the shallow Elbe, riverboats used here are smaller and not as grand as the newest longboats used by Viking on the Danube and Rhine. Elbe boats have cabins on two decks with a third sun or panorama deck, which may have to be vacated when passing under low bridges.

Cruises sold by Viking in the international market are generally all-inclusive package deals, which includes excursions, drinks, and wifi on board. Currently, these Elbe River cruise packages are ten-day vacations that involved a weeklong cruise on the Elbe from Magdeburg in Germany to Melnik in the Czech Republic with a few nights stay in Berlin and Prague with bus transfers at each end of the cruise.

Cruises on the Swiss Ruby are generally week-long cruises from Potsdam / Berlin to Prague, or v.v. Swiss Ruby cruises are cheaper but generally exclude excursions and many other items included in the Schumann and Fontane cruises sold on the international markets.

Viking Riverboats on the Elbe and Vltava Rivers

The Viking Schumann and Viking Fontane are the most luxurious and by far the largest riverboats on the Elbe but smaller and not as well equipped as Viking’s new longboats sailing on the Rhine and Danube. Theses two boats are basically identical and were refursbished in 2010 or 2011.

Standard cabin sizes are over 12m² (135 sq ft) with the largest suites close to 19m² (200 sq ft) – easily the largest available on the Elbe River at the moment. These boats can accommodate up to 112 passengers per cruise. English is the first language on these cruises with American television programs available in all cabins. Free wifi is usually included too.

The Viking Schumann is named after Clara Schumann, the wife of composer Robert Schumann and herself a distinguished pianist and influential musician. The Viking Fontane is named after Theodor Fontane, an important nineteenth century German realist novelist.

Swiss Ruby (ship, 2002) 001
Swiss Ruby (here sailing on the Rhine!)

The Swiss Ruby, which Viking charters from Scylla, is a smaller, less luxurious vessel. The boat can accommodate 88 passengers.

Cabins on the Swiss Ruby are around 12m², which is more or less standard on European riverboats. Deluxe cabins have French balconies and double beds that fold away during the day. German is the main language used on the Swiss Ruby with English not necessarily available on all cruises.

The Swiss Ruby is less luxurious than the Viking-owned boats and probably slightly less posh than the boats operated by Nicko Tours on the Elbe.

Booking Elbe Riverboat Cruise Vacations

Special deals are often available on European riverboat cruise vacations. A specialized travel agent can save cruisers vast amounts with knowledge of when to book and which discounts to aim for.

Children are not particularly welcome on Viking River Cruises’ boats – while most international agencies point out that facilities are non-existent for children, others state pointblank that children under 12 are not allowed on the boats. Children no longer receive discounts when cruising on Viking Riverboats and any child under 18 must be in a cabin with someone older than 21.

Viking River Cruises booked internationally will probably do best with early-reservations discounts as Viking cruises have sold very well of late. According to Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen, of the 50,000 cabins Viking offered for sale on European rivers in 2013, only 500 were still available mid-March. Viking River Cruises can be booked almost two years in advance with early-discounts closing as early as September of the preceding year. (Cruise vacation cancellation insurance is a good idea!) Last-minute bargains are more common on river cruises aimed primarily at the European holiday market.

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About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance travel writer with over 20 years of experience writing online. He is particularly interested in history, art, and culture. He has lived most of his adult life in Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark. In addition to European-Traveler.com, he also owns a travel website on the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland and maintains statistical websites on car sales and classic car auction prices. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Development Finance from the University of London.