Viking River Cruises.
By now, you've probably heard all about them. The line has been going all out with its commercials and other marketing efforts. It's apparent the push has worked to raise awareness. I was on two of Viking's river cruises last year -- on the Rhine and the Danube -- and they each are spectacular itineraries.
I'm a curious sort, and I always ask my fellow travelers how they were drawn to a certain cruise. A large portion of the people I met on the rivers last year told me they were on their first river cruise -- a number after having been lifelong ocean cruisers. Many of those I talked to said they were never going back to the oceans.
It was very enlightening to learn what people liked so much about the river experience that they were not getting from the big ocean ships. Many cited the size of the ocean ships (too big, too crowded) and level of intimacy (diminished personal service from crew) as the main reasons they were shifting from how they previously cruised in favor of the rivers.
Personally, I enjoy both types of cruising immensely. Each have great aspects, and it's nice to change it up so you can have a variety of travel experiences.
What if you could get the best of both the oceans and rivers on the same cruise voyage?
Viking Cruises will hit that sweet spot with its brand-new Viking Star, the line's first ocean ship, which debuts in April.
The 930-passenger Viking Star will combine the great features of Viking's river ships (excellent meals and excursions, outstanding service and shining vessels) with additional amenities that are right up the alley of the active traveler who loves the ocean-going journey.
Here are four reasons to love the new Viking Star.
1. All-inclusive goodies: Viking's river cruises thrilled passengers with their daily included excursions (at each port), complimentary beer and wine at lunch and dinner, and free Internet access. Viking Star will have all this and more. The ship features specialty restaurants in addition to its main dining rooms, and you won't have to pay extra to eat in them if you book in any cabin above the lowest category.
2. A fitness center: The line's river ships have no space for a gym. Viking Star offers a fitness center (open 24 hours with a range of strength and cardio equipment) and a sports deck with outdoor gym. The sports deck also will be the spot for organized fitness classes, such as yoga.
3. Swimming pools and hot tubs: No pools or hot tubs on the river ships. But Viking Star boasts two pools and four hot tubs. A main pool can be enjoyed in any weather because the space it outfitted with a sliding glass dome that can be opened or closed depending on weather conditions. I'm especially excited to try the infinity pool at the back of the ship on Aquavit Terrace. The pool is designed out to a cantilevered ledge with a clear glass vista, allowing swimmers to look out upon the ship's wake endlessly into the distance. Two hot tubs sit adjacent to the main pool, and you'll find one coupled with the infinity pool. A fourth hot tub is available in the spa area -- along with a cold-plunge pool as part of the Nordic-inspired hot/cold bathing cycle.
Viking Star is set for its inaugural voyage in less than two months and will sail itineraries in the Mediterranean, the Baltics and Northern Europe. With these highlights and so many other attractions and amenities onboard, along with only space for 930 people to enjoy this ship, I expect Viking Star will be the most consistently sold-out vessel on the oceans until its sister ships, Viking Sky and Viking Sea, arrive in 2016.
Thanks for reading, and always travel happy!