Last month my husband and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary on our third Viking River Cruise—France’s Finest. Some of the experiences I like best about these cruises are the simple things that don’t cost money, that you don’t have to plan for in advance, and that you can enjoy with others or all by yourself.
Mornings on the Sundeck
Every morning I go up on the sundeck in my yoga clothes for a round of physical therapy exercises. Many of them are yoga asanas so the rest of the world watching me would simply think I’m doing yoga. As an early riser, I usually hit the sundeck when the rest of the passengers are still sleeping or are at breakfast.
I climb the stairs to the sundeck—the top deck—and take a towel from the stacks put there for people who use the walking track or who, like me, exercise in other ways. Laying the towel out on the deck, I start stretching.
My Private Yoga Studio
I know other people are around. Crew members occasionally come up to rig equipment and prepare for the day ahead. Cooks pass by with fresh herbs they have cut from the herb garden at the stern. I will get to eat the dishes they flavor later on.
Some Longships have energetic passengers who come up to walk or do calisthenics, but often I am the only person on the deck. I like the solitude — and the fact that no-one is watching me do Downward Dog.
With the sun low on the Eastern horizon, the air feels cool and fresh, particularly if the Longship is moving. Even during June’s European heatwave, I could exercise on the water in comfort. The sundeck becomes my own private yoga studio and, for that 20 minutes, the river and the Longship are mine.
The View from the Sundeck
As I go through my routine, the riverbank passes by. I look out at villages, manor houses, castles, churches, vineyards, farms, and fields. I assume people sometimes look back at me, but I cannot see them. The horses and cattle pay no attention. Infrequently, we pass through a lock. Although European rivers have many locks, we don’t seem to reach them in early morning. Perhaps the crew has taken us through them during the night and I know we will reach more locks later on.
Barges chug past, carrying the river’s commercial traffic. Other river cruise ships slide down the water in the opposite direction. We glide under bridges—something that always gives me a little thrill.
Everyone else in the country is bustling about their day — commuting to work on highways, bicycling along on errands, or walking to the market — but we pass silently beneath spans both large and small. We belong to the river, not the world of routine, work, and chores.
I always have my phone with me to grab pictures of the landscape and its buildings in the clear morning light. Some of my best shots come from my outdoor yoga studio.
Stretching on the sundeck doesn’t always work out, however. Sometimes the captain closes it so your Longship can pass under low bridges. This kept the deck closed for three days on our Grand European cruise. Rain can also prevent my exercise routine, as it did approaching Amsterdam on the Rhine.
On our recent tour, I found Viking Heimdal’s sundeck closed more often than it was open and other passengers also complained about the lack of access. That’s why I have fewer morning photos from that cruise.
The reason given was to prevent noise that would awaken passengers in the third-deck cabins. I agree with the rationale but (A) that restriction can reasonably stop at 9:00 am and (B) it doesn’t justify closing off the bow section of the sundeck, which covers the lounge where there are no cabins.
The crew of Viking Rinda got creative on the Seine River cruise and countered the high temperatures from Europe’s heatwave by spraying water on the sundeck to cool the third-deck cabins. That made the sundeck’s outdoor carpeting soggy. Not a problem. I simply moved forward to the bow where the deck was still dry.
When I have finished, I put my towel in the bin and head down to change and go to the dining room for breakfast. This is my favorite meal of the day and I look forward to Viking breakfasts, which offer a wonderful range of options.
Mornings on a Viking Longship are my favorite time. I know the rest of the day will include amazing excursions, conversations with other passengers, excellent meals, and matchless photo opportunities. But mornings hold a special place for me on my Viking River Cruises.