My first experience on a 4-day cruise was somewhat mixed. I enjoyed the romance of being in the open seas, spectacular sunsets, and unlimited champagne flutes. I could walk to the restaurant, bar, entertainment and my room. It was nice to have everything under one roof.
Cruises are for older people.
But aside from the kids traveling with their families, I felt I was one of the youngest paying passengers (if not, the youngest), on board. The average age on this particular ship was 70+, yet it was fun to see grandmas and grandpas rocking the dance floor in their best gowns and suits each night.
Not a fan of water slides and sun tans.
Though food and drink were plentiful, they were of mediocre quality. There was a big pool, but it was alway full of unruly kids. Crowded casinos, Broadway shows and poker games did not amuse me.
The good news is that not all cruises are like that. In fact, on my recent Viking cruise, I discovered an entire new way of cruising that involves exceptional food, quiet spaces to relax, and educational programs…for adults only!
Viking is a Norwegian family-owned cruise company, with fairly new fleet of ships that are designed in modern Nordic style. Think shiny wood floors, tasteful minimalist decor, locally sourced art, and tons of books written by international authors. You could wander around just looking at the artwork, or cozying up in a comfy couch reading a good book. Though my Viking Jupiter ship (released May 2019, 6th ocean vessel in the Viking family) had around 900 passengers, it never felt crowded!
Being on a ship is so boring.
Viking calls itself the “thinking person’s cruise” and that’s exactly how I felt on this 7-day (portion of Viking Homelands) cruise from Berlin, Germany to Bergen, Norway. This ship offered Ted Talks on history and life, a Planetarium with 3-D shows, Q&A roundtables with resident experts, classical music performances and shore exertions that were insightful.
You never get to see the real destination.
There was at least one free shore exertions offered at every port. The optional ones ranged from city tours and museum visits, to kayaking in the Norwegian fjords and helicopter tours. On two of the tours, I went to private homes and had conversations with them (something very rare for cruise ships to offer). Most days, the ship docked for the entire day, allowing plenty of time to explore the destination.
You can to pay for all the extras.
The best spot on Viking Jupiter for me was their LivNordic Spa, possibly the largest floating spa. Based on the Nordic bathing practice, the facilities include a dry sauna, steam room, icy plunge pool, snow room, ice bucket, and indoor heated pool with a fireplace. The spa is free to all guests (you don’t have to book a service to use the amenities), but it was never crowded either.
The food sucks.
I had the best “cruise ship food” on Viking as well (I have traveled on few different cruise lines before). There were international menu offerings as well as local destination features. At Mamsen’s, I was hooked to their Norwegian waffles with brown cheese and berries, for breakfast everyday (I even returned home and purchased a 5 hearts waffle maker). Not being a fan of buffets, I returned to The World Cafe (their buffet restaurant) several times, especially for the all-you-can-eat sushi bar, that had fresh sushi rolls and gelato counter (also made from scratch). There was also a dedicated Italian restaurant, a chef’s table, afternoon high tea, and several other bars and restaurants. Service was always great with friendly staff greeting us and offering free house drinks (the house wines changed daily and were pretty good). When taking orders, the waiter would already know my dietary restrictions by pulling up my name or room number on his/ her app.
Rooms look outdated.
Because I was on a new ship, staterooms were not stuffy or damp. They were bright, fresh and functional. USB charging ports, coffee makers, desk space, closets and comfortable beds with in room balconies made the stay enjoyable. The bathroom was also decent size with underfloor heating.
I will get sick and spoil my vacation.
Lastly, I am prone to sea sickness and always carry motion sickness patches with me. On this ship, I never once felt sick! The modern technology of the new ship makes it very stable.
Hopefully, this helped you dispel some of the myths about cruising, which Viking did for me, a seasoned traveler. I strongly believe you have to find the ship to match your personality. So, next time you say, “cruising isn’t for me,” think again!