Just-right cruising with Viking
By Ann Metcalf
Large ocean liners can accommodate up to 7,000 people, and a new one is currently under construction that will accept 9,500 passengers – and that doesn’t include the crew. They’re like floating cities that off er everything from pools, spas, casinos, entertainment, restaurants and more. When you want to disembark at a desired location, it can be a very long process. And because of their size, these ocean liners often port in areas that are a fair distance from a city centre or tourist attraction.
Founded in 1997, Viking has grown from four ships to more than 60 river cruise vessels. The size of their fleet has afforded them the opportunity to negotiate prime docking rights in European cities. If you’ve never been on one of their river cruises, you owe it to yourself to book one. Unlike the huge ocean liners, you dock in major cities and have the freedom to walk off , and on, at your leisure. Most river cruise ships accommodate less than 200 passengers.
In 2015, Viking applied their award-winning philosophy, along with their exceptional attention to detail, with the christening of their first ocean ship – the Viking Star. The fleet now includes five ships, with a sixth launching next year, and four more scheduled to set sail by 2023.
These small ships accommodate just over 900 passengers, and all suites have a veranda. Add approximately 450 crew, and you’re getting first-rate service. And, because of their size, they can navigate rivers and oceans. While itineraries are available for the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Asia, Alaska, and North and South America, a Scandinavian journey reflects the company’s heritage.
INTO THE MIDNIGHT SUN
This popular cruise departs from the UK in late June. From the Greenwich port, you make stops in Edinburgh, the Orkney and Shetland Islands, and then travel to six ports in Norway. It’s the perfect time of year, and as you get nearer to the Arctic Circle, round the- clock sunshine lights up your experience.
Viking includes a tour in each port for on-board passengers. Optional tours are also offered for those with specific interests. On the ‘Into the Midnight Sun’ cruise, you may opt to go sea fishing in Lofoten, harvest king crabs on safari in Honningsvag, or break bread with a local family in Tromo. Sea kayaking, wildlife hikes, Husky treks, and visits to maritime museums, are just some of the available tours – all rated by activity level. Bergen, Norway
When you have a day at sea, or if you choose to stay put and enjoy the amenities on the ship, the relaxed luxury will have you rejuvenated in no time. Try a Swedish massage, followed by the spa circuit, which includes a hot tub, a steam room, a snow grotto, and a salt-water pool that provides a lounging area, with jets coming at you from all directions.
DINING OUT – OR IN
Because each state room includes a veranda, sometimes just staying put while you traverse through the fjords, marvel at the mountains, enjoy a glorious sunset (or the all-night sun), is simply perfect. You have a birds-eye view of some the most spectacular landscape you’ll ever see, so order in room service – it’s all included.
But don’t deny yourself a broader gastronomic experience at the four on-board restaurants, including Italian (try the ribeye), and The Chef’s Table, which alternates themed menus every two nights.
When it’s done right, you just know it – and Viking does it right.