Are You a Thinking Cruiser?

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.

Zodiac for passengers at Eidfjord, Norway

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.

The 2019 ocean cruise ship Viking Jupiter

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!

Explorers Lounge

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.

Home visit in Stavanger, Norway

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.

LivNordic Spa

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.

Breakfast at Mamsen’s

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.

Sushi bar at The World Cafe

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!

The Airline That Makes Sense

New York City to Oslo for only $150 round trip! If your first reaction to that is, “Great price, but I’m sure I’ll get what I pay for” you think like me. For years, I have frowned upon discount airlines for fear of the unknown. I would rather pay a few extra bucks to know that my flight will arrive on time, in one piece, my luggage will get there safely, and the ride would be somewhat uneventful.

FAST AND AFFORDABLE

Little did I know that Norwegian Air is not only cheap, it is even better than many of the well known brands in the airline industry. I flew the brand new 787-9 Dreamliner from New York to London in only 5 hours earlier this month! The flight was so quite and smooth that I didn’t even realize when it took off. Normally, I have to wear ear plugs on the plane because of the loud noise, but not on the 787 Dreamliner. The 787-9 Dreamliner is a faster airplane that consumes less fuel. The best part is, Norwegian decided to pass the fuel cost savings to their consumers.

norwegianSTRETCH YOUR LEGS

There are only two classes in Norwegian – economy and premium. The main difference between the two is the number of seats per row, allowing for extra room, as well as superior meal service. The Premium seat (there are only 5 rows) I was in, reclined enough to stretch my legs and each seat had its own charging area with USB and electric outlets. There was also a lot more room in overhead for carry on bags, so there’s no hassle of shoving your bags under the seat.

norwegian airlines

SAY NO TO JET LAGS

The interior of plane is designed to reduce jet lag and keep the air well circulated. Clever cabin lighting system changes with the time zone. Electro chromatic window system allows each passenger to control how much light they want to come in. If you wish to take a nap, you can block the sun out completely and make the window appear dark. The viewing area is also 65% more than other planes.

FLAT AND TOUCH SCREENS

Norwegian claims to have state of the art entertainment system, which is somewhat true. Flat screen televisions are touch screen enabled, though the selection of movies and games is very limited. Most other airlines now offer hundreds of hours of inflight entertainment, which also includes many foreign features.

norwegian airlines

HEALTHY MEALS

Food on the flight was decent. I had the vegetarian section which included salad, fruit, rice cracker, and pasta with vegetables. Fresh and healthy, unlike most airplane food that is overloaded with carbs and cheese. Why do you need so many calories when you are not moving about?

There was red and white wine as well, though only one kind each. You need to pre order your food in short haul economy. Snacks were also available for purchase (Visa and MasterCard only) and could be ordered through the tv monitor. norwegian airline

The duty free selection was very limited, offering a few cosmetics and alcohol. The items were displayed on the entertainment system for a short duration of the flight.

FREE WIFI

Perhaps the biggest perk for 21st century travelers. The Norwegian flights within Europe offer free wifi to ALL passengers. I used it on the London-Helsinki leg and had no issues connecting with my iPhone and laptop.

NO FRILLS

Do you feel left out when you pass by the elite business section and trail your way into the back of the plane? Those who normally travel business or first class and look for ultra luxury may be a bit disappointed. There is no champagne on arrival or TUMI amenity kits. You can expect to get a cozy blanket and headphones – thats it. Equality (mostly) for everyone!

CARE FOR THE PLANET
Norwegian Air started in 1993 and is voted the best value environment friendly airline. They are the third largest low-cost carrier in Europe with 5,500 employees and operate over 400 routes to more than 130 destinations across Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Thailand, the Caribbean and the US. Norwegian is remarkably dedicated to the environment and focuses on how airlines can contribute to less pollution and emissions by flying new and fuel efficient aircrafts.
Would I fly Norwegian again? In a heartbeat! I believe in 2016, we must support businesses that care about sustaining the planet foremost. On top of that, if you can get there faster, cheaper, safer and without jet lag, then thats the best way to travel.
To learn more or make a reservation on Norwegian Air, click here.

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