Photo by Jason Leppert
At first glance it would appear that the modern cruise industry is only concerned with building ever more elaborate mega ships that serve as destinations themselves, but another less obvious trend is moving towards smaller ocean vessels and riverboats. And Viking Cruises is a leader in both with its Viking Ocean Cruises and Viking River Cruises brands.
In fact, as I write this, I’m aboard the ocean line’s newest, Viking Sea, sitting in its beautiful double-decker observation lounge — the appropriately titled Explorers’ Lounge, where there is a welcome shift in focus back to the destination itself. Floor-to-ceiling windows, and even glass stairs, offer expansive wraparound views of Cadiz, Spain today and an increasingly international collection of port cities tomorrow and farther into the future.
While Viking Ocean Cruises frequents the Baltic and Mediterranean with its two ships for now, the Viking Star is set to head across to the United States and the Caribbean in the fall. Plus, the fleet will expand to at least six ships through 2020 and surely deploy to worldwide regions beyond as it grows. In the meantime, the template Viking presents is one that places the priority on the destination, and everything else follows.
Remarkably, the ocean line comes very close to a luxury product at a fraction of the cost, and, like on the river brand, its sea fares even include one shore excursion in every port, usually an overview tour for first-time visitors. Other excursion options provide a deeper dive at reasonable costs. For instance, I enjoyed