Shining a light on the spacious new Viking Aton

Fans of Viking’s river ships now have more opportunities to sail Egypt’s Nile River, thanks to the addition of the Viking Aton to its growing fleet there.

The ship recently joined three other Viking vessels on the river: the Antares, the Viking Ra and the Viking Osiris.

I was onboard for a press trip in August, an abbreviated version of Viking’s 12-day Pharaohs & Pyramids itinerary.

The Aton is a sister ship to the Osiris, which launched in August 2022, accommodating 82 guests in 41 cabins. It has all of the same features as the Osiris, making for a familiar experience for guests who have sailed the Nile with Viking.

The ship's atrium library.

Learning experience

As with any Viking ship, education is featured prominently on the Aton. There’s a library on Deck 4 with numerous books about Egypt. The library also includes several desktop computers so that passengers can connect to the outside world or get a few things done “at the office.”

Travelers who want to brush up on their readings about Egyptian history and culture can also do so from the privacy of their cabins. Books ranging from photography captured at famous archaeological digs to Agatha Christie novels set in Egypt are available to passengers. 

Cabins are also equipped with binoculars, which guests can use on excursions or to get a closer look at daily life along the Nile while sailing.

“This ship is about exploration,” said Richard Riviere, the architect behind most of Viking’s ocean, expedition and river cruise ships, including the Viking Aton. Riviere also served as the godfather of the Aton.

The signature Scandinavian design central to all Viking ships is evident everywhere onboard the Aton.

There are airy, naturally lit settings throughout the ship, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows in the atrium and the large windows in other areas of the ship.

The immense amount of light piercing the Aton was probably my favorite aspect of the ship. Mixed with Viking’s minimalist design, you could appreciate the feeling of spaciousness that Riviere set out to design with these ships.

The ship is shorter than the signature Longships that Viking employs in Europe, which can accommodate twice as many passengers. But what the Aton lacks in length it makes up for in height and with larger cabins. It was that added height that provides more light to the ship, especially in the atrium and public areas, making me feel as if I was on a much bigger ship.

“We try very hard to make the inside of the ship feel larger than the outside with expansiveness and light,” Riviere said. “We have five big ideas for all Viking ships everywhere: residential modernism, Scandinavian heritage, craft, nature and exploration. It’s a brand concept that gives us structure.”

The guest services area is below the lobby atrium aboard the Viking Aton.

Right at home

Riviere said Viking’s river cruise ships always focus heavily on residential comfort.

The “unpack once” concept common to river cruising, Riviere said, is one of the reasons behind the spacious, apartment-like design of some of the cabins onboard the Viking Aton.

I found that my Deck 3 Veranda Suite, one of six on the ship, exemplified that design: a one-bedroom apartment where each room and space served its own purpose. It is the second-largest cabin category, after the two Explorer Suites. Most of the cabins, 21 of them, are Veranda Staterooms with full-size balconies. 

The living room could make a big impression on those experiencing a river cruise outside of Europe for the first time. Here, there’s space to spread out, unpack and organize clothing. After all belongings have been put away, travelers have plenty of space to invite others into their cabins and entertain in a space separate from the bedroom. 

The living room of suite on the ship.

Beating the heat

Another feature of the Viking Aton worth noting is the signature Aquavit Terrace Lounge and the adjacent pool area.

After spending a day under the hot desert sun visiting the Great Pyramid of Giza or the temples of Karnak and Luxor, you’d think the last thing passengers would want to do is head to a bright, sunny space onboard. But dining in the air-conditioned, glass-enclosed Aquavit Terrace quickly makes you forget about the heat. Aquavit also has an outdoor dining area alongside the pool.

The elongated plunge pool at the stern of the ship is only about three feet deep. It has tiled bench seating around the edge and glass walls to ensure guests won’t miss a thing on the Nile while cooling off.

Viking served a variety of Egyptian fare in both Aquavit and its main restaurant, including one evening where we were treated to classic Egyptian and Mediterranean dishes. But what made the greatest impression with me were the ship’s healthy choices. There were a number of salads and power bowls with superfoods, an array of vegetables, quinoa and grilled chicken that were especially refreshing after an afternoon touring the antiquities. 

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