It’s “River Week” here on the Lido Deck. We’re taking a look at some of the most popular river cruise lines, so you can decide which one is best for your next vacation. Today: Viking River Cruises.
Viking is the largest river cruise line, with a fleet of 50 vessels. In the U.S., it has the most name recognition, thanks to extensive advertising on NPR radio and Masterpiece on PBS (where the promotions ran before the wildly popular show Downton Abbey). Although the line focuses on Europe, with cruises on the popular Rhine, Main and Danube among others, it also sails in China, Burma, Vietnam and Egypt (and will be coming to the Mississippi River in 2017).
A Viking river cruise will float your boat if you like…
Scandinavian style: Reflecting the heritage of Viking’s Norwegian-born founder, Torstein Hagen, the line’s popular “longships” are sleek, minimalist and functional, with tasteful, muted decor throughout the public rooms and cabins. Bling is definitely not a Viking thing.
Ship: Viking Ocean Cruises’ brand spanking new Viking Star
Where: Istanbul, the Greek islands, the Adriatic coast and Venice
Who: Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief
Why There? Viking Ocean Cruises, a new, ocean-going cruise line spawned from Viking River Cruises, launches its first ship, the 930-passenger Viking Star, on its first-ever passenger cruise. Viking Oceans is the first cruise line to debut with all-new, purpose-designed and built cruise ships since Disney launched Disney Magic in 1998.
We Can’t Wait: While Viking’s philosophy for its new ocean line emphasizes destinations, such as longer days in ports of call and a nice mix of marquee ports (like Venice, Istanbul and Dubrovnik) with offbeat places (like Montenegro’s Kotor and Croatia’s Pula), we’re also excited to check out its innovative newbuild.
The ship has some nifty contemporary features, like a firepit, Nordic spa with Finnish sauna and snow room, and an Armagnac bar (not sure we’ve ever tried this brandy, distilled in France’s Pyrenees region, but open to the possibility!). Having cruised on Viking’s distinctive river-based Longships, we’re excited about the carryover of features on this ocean ship, such as the indoor/outdoor Aquavit lounge, a complimentary array of shore excursions, and free Wi-Fi, along with wine and beer at lunch and dinner. And we also look forward to the ships’ retro touches, including a wrap-around promenade deck (you don’t see that much on today’s newest big ships) and a lofty, two-deck-high Explorers Lounge observatory. Last but by no means least, we’re excited to share our discoveries in ports of call with you.
Follow along with Carolyn on Cruise Critic Live, where she’s sending updates all week long.
Cruise Critic staffers set sail every week, traveling the globe to bring you the latest cruise ship trends, port sneak peeks and onboard observations.
(Got questions about any of the ships we’re boarding or ports we are visiting? Ask us in the comments!)
Return readers may remember the legendary John Siggins, who built a replica of the Titanic’s dining room in his back garden shed using artifacts from its sister ship, Olympic.
It seems that John is not alone in his passion for recreating old ships. Meet Peter Knego, ship historian, who has incorporated some of his favorite cruise ship details into his own home.
They might be cheesy, but I’m rather fond of cruise ship traditions such as the Baked Alaska parade, waiter-led happy birthday chorus surrounding a cake topped with a sparkler and sailaway party set against a soaring song. To me, they’re harmless fun.
So I was interested to read about another tradition raised, quite literally, in the Cruise Critic forums by member B17, who asks why Celebrity has seemingly said goodbye to synchronised napkin waving.
“One thing I really used to enjoy at the end of the cruise was the parade of chefs, the clapping, the napkin waving, the dancing with the waiters and a general good feeling for the end of a great cruise,” she writes. “Last year, we noticed there was nothing going on in the MDR (main dining room). We had new virgin cruisers with us and I know they would have loved this and given it a special ending to their holiday. So why did they stop this? From the noise everyone used to make and the way everyone joined in, it seems the majority loved it.”
Not so. The post prompted other members to say they were glad to see the back of it, and put forward theories about its demise.
Many of the world’s major cities are cruise embarkation ports, ideal places to explore before or after a sailing. After all, if you’re already spending the money to fly there, doesn’t it make sense to extend your stay for a few days?
If you’re like me, however, you’ve got a finite number of vacation days and dollars in your bank account, which means cramming everything you want to see and do into a small amount of time. There’s so much to experience that you might not know where to start, but never fear! It is possible to hit all of the highlights during a brief stay if you spend your time wisely.
1. Make a list
Compile a rundown of all the places you want to visit and activities you want to do. Don’t forget to factor in time for meals, particularly if certain local foods are on your must-try list. If you wait until you’re there to figure out what’s available to you, you’ll waste more of your time planning than sightseeing.
One of the long-standing perks of cruising has been the ability to have food magically appear at your cabin, at any hour of the day.
I remember the delight my sister and I felt on our first cruise, a Western Caribbean voyage on Carnival Fantasy, when we realized that we could order a cheese plate delivered to our room — every day, for free. To a couple of college kids, it felt so decadent, a small luxury that existed only on the high seas.
If we took that cruise today, our daily nosh would cost $6; cheese and crackers is part of a new room service menu that carries a fee. Carnival is testing the concept; there are still items on the menu, including the line’s famous chocolate cake, that passengers can order for free.
Tip: Book within 60 to 90 days before departure. This is most cruise lines’ last call for passengers to cancel existing reservations without penalty. If a lot of spaces open up, you most likely will see major price drops as they try to sell out the ship.
Full Article: Read eight more tips about getting a deal on a last minute cruise.
Want More?: Check out our related links below for more info, tips and advice.
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