UP CLOSE WITH HISTORY
Paint still fresh on 930-passenger Viking Star, Viking Ocean Cruises recently announced four new itineraries and 2017 departures the new ship as well as for under-construction sisters Viking Sea and Viking Sky, now open for booking. The 2017 program includes sailings already proving popular in the Mediterranean, Western Europe, Scandinavia and the Baltic. Good news for cruise travelers: that increased availability means more opportunities for destination-focused cruises in 2016 and 2017 ranging from ancient empires to the towering fjords of Norway and beyond.
“We made a commitment to reinvent ocean cruising, and we are well on our way.” – Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking Cruises.
Far enough along in the construction process and confident enough that Viking Sea and Viking Sky will be delivered on time, not only is Viking adding sailing dates to existing itineraries, but has also created four new enrichment-filled Mediterranean & Holy Land Itineraries. New Viking Ocean itineraries for 2016:
Ancient Empires & Holy Lands (15 days; Rome to Istanbul)—This 15-day itinerary offers the opportunity to explore historic destinations in the Eastern Mediterranean and experience some of the sacred sights of the Middle East while traveling through the heart of the Holy Land. Guests will have the chance to spend three days in Israel, making stops in Jerusalem and Haifa, gateways to Bethlehem and Nazareth, and will also be able to explore the ancient cities of Rome, Athens and Istanbul. Introductory 2-for-1 pricing starts at $4,199 per person with discounted airfares from $695 per person.
Bergen to the Bosphorus (15 days; Bergen to Istanbul)—This epic journey begins in beautiful Bergen before cruising south to the Mediterranean, stopping in Paris and Lisbon along the way. Once in the Mediterranean, travelers visit Tunis, Valletta and Athens before concluding the trip in the ancient cosmopolitan city of Istanbul. Introductory 2-for-1 pricing starts at $3,699 per person with discounted airfares from $895 per person.
In 2017, even more new Viking ocean itineraries will be launched as Viking Ocean Cruises completes the deployment of their initial trio of ships, projected to be on time. “By 2017 we will have two more ships designed to enable our guests to better experience their destination,” said Hagen, adding “We will also have four new itineraries that offer our guests more time in port and enriching, cultural experiences at a better value than our competitors.”
Secrets of the Southern Mediterranean (8 days; Rome to Barcelona)—Guests will set sail through the southern Mediterranean, departing from glorious Rome and continuing on to some of North Africa’s most historically significant destinations, including Tunis, a dazzling city that mixes North African tradition and French colonialism, and Algiers, home of the Notre Dame d’Afrique. The itinerary also stops in Valletta, Sardinia and Valencia before concluding the trip in beautiful Barcelona. Introductory 2-for-1 pricing starts at $1,999 per person with discounted airfares from $595 per person
Barcelona, the Baltic & Beyond (22 days; Barcelona to Stockholm)—This voyage travels through the waterways of Western Europe and the Baltic, giving guests the opportunity to explore iconic world-class cities such as Barcelona, Lisbon, Paris, Amsterdam and St. Petersburg. Introductory 2-for-1 pricing starts at $5,999 per person with discounted airfares from $695 per person.
Come Along As We Explore With Viking
We will be back with Viking Ocean Cruises in November for a full sailing in the Mediterranean. While the Bergen, Norway christening brought a quick look at the inside of 930-passenger all-veranda Viking Star, of far more importance to cruise travelers; what is it like to sail? We’ll find out November 8th on Viking’s Empires Of The Mediterranean itinerary. That experience will give us (and you) a good idea of what sailing on twin sisters Viking Sea and Viking Sky will play out in real life. Already, we have verified and are confident in the ship’s features, including the list of selling points Viking Ocean Cruises promotes as differentiating factors. Let’s take a look at each along with my thoughts as of this moment in time:
- All Veranda Staterooms: Guests can choose from five stateroom categories, starting from a 270 sq. ft. Veranda Stateroom, all with private verandas, king-size beds, large showers and LCD TVs. I had one of these on the short preview cruise before the ship’s christening earlier this year. This entry level stateroom compares to Junior- or Mini-Suite accommodations on Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises, size-wise. Thoughtful features include a lighted makeup mirror hidden in the desk, heated mirror in the restroom that has a generously sized shower and plentiful places to plug things in, among others.
- Explorer Suites: The ships feature 14 Explorer Suites, which are two-room suites ranging from 757 to 1,163 sq. ft. that offer sweeping views from wraparound private verandas as well as the most amenities and privileges of any category on board. The higher up we go in categories, the greater the perks and benefits ranging from boarding time to included extras. We’ll probably have to ask someone what that’s like but we will, on Viking we meet a lot of people from around the world and think that’s one of the best parts of travel, especially with a destination focused cruise line. We saw that on Azamara Club Cruises and will see it on Viking too.
- Two Pool Choices: In addition to the Main Pool with a retractable dome permitting any-season swimming, the ships feature a glass-backed Infinity Pool off the stern, allowing guests to swim surrounded by their destination. This is of particular importance to me these days for a bit of an odd reason, taking time to enjoy the sun in different parts of the world is way different than doing the same in the backyard pool. It was there on our last sailing that I met some of the nicest people who I am now friends on Facebook with. It’s like all of the sudden everyone is on Facebook. (Older) People (like me) who swore they never would be on Facebook are and I suspect a number of them will be around the Viking Star pool.
- The Spa: In keeping with Viking’s Nordic heritage, The Spa on board is designed with the holistic wellness philosophy of Scandinavia in mind—from the centuries-old tradition of the sauna to a Snow Grotto where snowflakes gently descend from the ceiling through chilled air. I saw this but did not have time to really explore the experience during the preview cruise. This time I will tap my (imaginary) Viking roots and be all in for the experience. I suspect there is a bit of Aquavit at the end of the road here.
- Explorers’ Lounge and Wintergarden: Spaces designed to facilitate mingling and storytelling, the two-deck Explorers’ Lounge at the bow is the perfect spot for taking in scenery through double-height windows over a glass of aquavit or pint of local craft beer; and the Wintergarden is a serene environment in which to relax and enjoy afternoon tea service complete with a hand-selected teas. Interestingly, this will make Lisa harder to find. On most ships she can be found in a quiet place conducive to reading and relaxing. Well, that’s the whole ship here so we may need to install a tracking chip on her, like we did with the dog. (There is no way that last sentence could have been written and not compared Lisa to a dog, is there?)
- Dining Choices: Viking’s ships offer multiple restaurant locations and food choices—from The Restaurant and the World Café, serving a variety of global cuisines and regional specialties and Mamsen’s, which serves Norwegian deli-style fare—to intimate dining experiences at The Chef’s Table, Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant and The Kitchen Table, all serving meals prepared with fresh, local ingredients. Furthermore, with multiple choices for outdoor seating during meals, Viking’s ocean ships offer more al fresco dining than any other ships. It did not take more than about 12 seconds in each of these venues to verify the connection they have with Viking passengers. All tables have a good view, all venues offer fare that is unique and thoughtfully prepared to exacting detail, plenty of crew around to take care of business seals the deal. Dining is a winner.
- Enriching Entertainment: Connecting guests to their destinations through authentic experiences is central to Viking Cruises, and onboard venues include a dramatic three-deck atrium where guests can enjoy musicians playing regional and classical music; the Theater, home to enrichment lectures from scholars and experts; an onboard cooking school where guests can learn how to prepare local specialties; and Torshavn, a piano lounge where guests can relax, mingle, and exchange stories after a day of exploring. Again, those who designed these ships had passenger experience in mind over everything else with the possible exception of efficient and safe ship operations. I’m good with that. We want to sail on safe ships and efficient operation insures maximum profitability for the cruise line, something we also want to have happen. That seems to be the magic combination for sustained guest experience in the cruise business. Nail the experience and do it in a way that makes money, then don’t be greedy about it, and we will flock to your cruise line like bees on honey.
- Sustainable Features: Designed with the environment in mind, Viking’s ocean ships feature energy-efficient hybrid engines, hydro-dynamically optimized streamlined hulls and bows for maximum fuel efficiency, onboard solar panels, and equipment that minimizes exhaust pollution and meets the strictest environmental regulations. As one would expect of the newest ship in the ocean, the technology available today has enables the safest, most efficient ship on the planet to be built…if the builder takes advantage of it. From what we can see, Viking has done exactly that.
We’ll have more on Viking Cruises new Viking Star and what it is like to sail in November so be sure to follow along, any number of ways. Begin by following Chris and Lisa on their Viking River Cruise starting on Fridays, right here and any or all of these engaging ways:
- TWITTER- On Twitter follow @OrlandoChris and the tag #VikingLongships
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