I recently took a look at my calendar and realized something that I think is fairly unusual, at least for me. Before the end of year I am going on two more trips and will be away from home for nearly three weeks, and of that time nearly all of it will be spent on the water. I have always enjoyed cruising, although my preferences have certainly changed over the years but I am particularly excited for two very different sailing experiences with Viking: one sailing around the Eastern Mediterranean and the other sailing along the Rhine River in Europe.
Viking Ocean Cruise
Earlier this year, the company that many of us know for their PBS commercials and laid-back Scandinavian vibes celebrated the maiden voyage of something completely different for the company, the sailing of their first ocean-going vessel the Viking Star. Having sailed with Viking River Cruises before, I was immediately intrigued by the concept of the new ocean cruises which promise to be completely unique from any other cruise I’ve taken. The Viking Star is very much a reflection of the company; it’s classified as a small ship cruise that can accommodate 900 passengers – a far cry from the mega vessels out there. Each room has its own veranda and from the photos I’ve seen, that refined Scandinavian design I’ve enjoyed on their river cruises is found throughout this new ship as well. The cruise line also has a focus on the destinations and not necessarily the ship, which means there is no casino (thank goodness) or any other of the many ways in which the mainstream cruise lines try to nickel and dime their passengers. No, from all appearances Viking Ocean Cruises looks like a great way to get to know the places the ship visits and to do so in a way that is relaxing and luxurious. At least that’s what I’m hoping.
Next week I join the Viking Star on her next sailing leaving from Venice and traveling to Istanbul. Along the way the ports of call include: Venice, Pula (Croatia), Dubrovnik, Kotor (Montenegro), Santorini, Athens, Ephesus (Turkey) and finally Istanbul. While the destinations do sound great, they are not the main reason why I’m really going. No, I’ve visited most of these places and while they’ll be great to experience again, I’m sailing the Viking Star in order to see if she lives up to everything I’ve read about her so far.
I mentioned that I like cruising, and I do, but I’m picky about the style of cruising I experience. My days of enjoying a Caribbean sailing on a budget 4,000-person ship are long gone. Sorry, it’s just not something I enjoy. Instead, like so many other travelers, the destination is of cardinal value to me as well as being relaxed and comfortable while on ship. I can’t wait to explore the Star and see what she has to offer but I’m most curious to see if this newcomer in the cruising world really is the best alternative for those who feel the same way I do.
Christmas Market Cruise
For several years, my partner and I have spent the week before Christmas in Europe, exploring new regions and experiencing Christmas markets in cities everywhere from Venice to Nuremburg and even Amsterdam. Personally, I love being in Europe in December and while the weather isn’t usually the best, the atmosphere and the markets themselves more than make up for some grey skies. Last year we did something a little different; we went on a Viking River Cruise trip along the Danube, seeing many Christmas markets along the way. We had such an amazing experience, honestly one of our best trips, that we decided to do it again this year, although on a different river.
We’re flying into Brussels, one of my favorite cities, to spend a couple of days eating our way around the Winter Wonders Festival before heading up to Amsterdam to start our Viking Christmas Market Cruise on the Rhine River. I’m excited for this cruise not just to once again experience many great Christmas markets, but to also visit some cities and regions I haven’t before been to and of course to enjoy the Viking river cruise ship itself. Our stops include: Amsterdam & Kinderdijlk (The Netherlands), Cologne, Kobelnz, Rüdesheim, Heidelberg, Speyer & Breisach (Germany) and Strasbourg in France before the cruise ends in Basel, Switzerland. This cruise was booked a long time ago and I’ve personally been looking forward to it for months and frankly can’t wait to get started.
So for the rest of the year be on the lookout for my social media updates as I sail with Viking in two very different ways, experiencing destinations that are all very different from one another. I’ll also be sharing my thoughts and impressions of the ships, the service and what the overall experiences are like sailing with Viking around Europe. If you have any questions about either of my sailings please let me know; otherwise, be prepared for a lot of European coverage over the next few months.