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Viking River Cruises

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Reviewer Anne Hanifen from the USA. Cruise Line Viking River Cruises. Ship Viking Lofn. Destination Rhine River. # of Nights ...
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Reviewer: Kristen from Singapore. Cruise Line: Viking River Cruises. Ship: Viking Prestige. Destination: "Danube Waltz" in Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Germany and Czech ...
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QuirkyCruise Review QuirkyCruise Review About Viking (was Viking River Cruises)

Viking River Cruises (now Viking), established by former officials of the old Royal Viking Line, has grown by leaps and bounds, including introducing more ships in one year than has ever occurred before. More than a score of itineraries covers the European waterway network from Portugal’s Douro River that empties into the Atlantic eastward to Russia’s and Ukraine’s canals and rivers, and from the Dutch and Belgian waterways bordering on the North Sea across Europe to the mouth of the Danube as it flows into the Black Sea.

Viking goes most everywhere the other lines go and offers more choices of itineraries, length of cruises and land and air packages. Simply, Viking dominates the European river cruise market because it operates more boats (presently 72) than any other line, by far, and still growing.  In Asia, riverboats explore the Yangtze in China, and the Mekong in Cambodia and Vietnam. Egypt is again offered with cruises on the Upper Nile and Lake Nassar. Viking also operates well-received deep-sea cruise ships to establish Viking Ocean Cruises (now just Viking) but their passenger capacities exceeding 900 are well beyond our small-ship passenger limit. More are under construction and under option along with expedition ships.

Note: In 2020, four 168-passenger Viking Longships (similar features but smaller in size for operations on the Seine) will be delivered and then actively participate on 8-day Paris and the Heart of Normandy cruises. Passengers will embark alongside the Eiffel Tower.

Note: Viking has also long made hints about entering the river cruise market along the Mississippi and its tributaries with a fleet of European-style riverboats. Now, an official announcement was made in April 2020 in New Orleans that the first of a fleet of large riverboats will be built for the Upper and Lower Mississippi. The first five-deck vessel will take up to 386 passengers and appear in August 2022. While the capacity exceeds our 300-passenger limit, all other American Cruise Lines riverboats have been covered by Quirky Cruise, hence this one, the first of several, will be covered too. By law, the vessels must be built in the U.S. to sail along American inland waterways. Stay tuned for the location and progress while construction gets underway.

Note: Without missing a beat, Viking will also enter the expedition market when the VIKING OCTANTIS enters service in January 2022 with a program in Antarctica and the Great Lakes. While the passenger complement of 378 exceeds the QuirkyCruise limit of 300, we will include the most important features on this page.

Viking River Cruises

RELATED:  New Viking Einar Impresses a First Timer … by Judi Cohen.

Passengers

Most passengers are 50+ and American or at least English-speaking who are looking for a relaxed and convenient way to see the regions of Europe. Children under are not permitted.

Price

$ to $$$  Moderate/Expensive/Very Pricey. Huge variations in rates occur, especially when 2 for 1 promotions are offered.

Included Features

Shore excursion in every port; wine, beer, soft drinks at lunch & dinner; bottled water, cappuccino, coffee & tea at a 24-hour beverage bar; Cabin TVs with movies on demand, CNBC, CNN, National Geographic, and other channels, Internet/Wi-Fi (connection speed varies widely); cruise tours include hotel stays and transfers between hotel and ship; airport transfers included when air travel is purchased from Viking.

Itineraries

Europe, Russia, Egypt, Southeast Asia and China, most 8 to 15 days; some cruise tours in Asia extend to 18 days; the granddaddy of all European river journeys stretches from Amsterdam to Bucharest, lasting 23 days. All cruises operate in both directions. See details below when discussing the ships.

Why Go?

Years ago before river cruising took hold in a big way, many travelers desirous of seeing several countries in one trip booked a bus tour and that meant multiple one and two-night hotel stays in a half-dozen, maybe more, cities. With the rivers and canals already in place to move cargo on barges between ocean ports and inland cities, long-distance river travel was a natural outgrowth. Then in 1992 a construction project linked the Rhine and Main to the Danube, and it became possible to embark in a Viking Longship in Amsterdam located just in from the North Sea and sail more less southeast all the way to the Danube Delta on Black Sea coast of Romania.

Riverboats once seen as merely comfy conveyances with mostly picture window cabins, an observation lounge and a windowed dining room, now boast suites, French balconies, true verandas, and alternate dining venues and more activities off the boats than bus and walking tours with such diversions as cycling (independently or in a small group) and hiking.

The bottom line for river cruising is convenience, as in many cases, the riverboat ties up next to the heart of the city and you simply walk ashore. In between, instead of driving along a busy highway, the getting there is via scenic river cruising with some of the intercity travel taking place as you sleep. Sun decks provide 360-degree views while underway.

Opera House, Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. * Photo: Ted Scull

Opera House, Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. * Photo: Ted Scull

When to Go?

Most European itineraries are seasonal with April to October the norm though some cruises begin as early as March and run as late as December for the Christmas markets. Summer months will find many riverboats following roughly the same popular itineraries with busy, and sometime crowded, sites ashore. The fringe seasons have the advantage of fewer boats sharing the same docking facilities and disadvantage, for some, of cooler and less predictable weather. Beyond Europe, the itineraries may be almost year-round, and note that the Yangtze River Valley can feel like a furnace from June through August.

Activities & Entertainment

Applies to all ships. Onboard, the offerings are daytime lectures, demonstrations, cooking classes, wine tasting and light entertainment such as a pianist and/or local musicians in port. Included shore excursions using audio headsets allow participants to hear the guide out-of-doors and inside museums and churches while  speaking in a normal voice. On board, a concierge can arrange ballet and theater tickets, restaurant reservations and help you plan an independent day ashore.

Walking the Charles Bridge, Prague. * Photo: Ted Scull

Walking the Charles Bridge, Prague. * Photo: Ted Scull

Ships & Years delivered

The number of passengers; number of passenger decks; layouts; special features; and cabin details will be outlined for each class of riverboat under the cruising regions that begin below.

European Rivers

The Viking Longships class number almost four score at present dating from a building spree that began in 2012 and continues into the present with six new ships added in 2016 and six more in 2018. In spring 2019, another seven were launched on a single day at different shipyards, with seven more under construction. The list of names runs from Viking Aegir to Viking Vili. These spiffy new riverboats carry 190 passengers on four decks in a bright and airy, understated Scandinavian atmosphere using big picture windows, light fabrics and colors, skylights, atriums and indoor/outdoor lounges, restaurants, and bars.

Cabins number 95 of which nine are 2-room suites with veranda & French balconies*; 39 verandas; 22 French balconies*; and 25 standard (located on the lowest deck and with smaller windows). Note here and for some other Viking vessels that *French balconies are not balconies at all but with the cabins having sliding doors that open to a railing.

The Observation Lounge, located behind the indoor/outdoor terrace, has a sit-up bar, for drinks, daytime activities, lectures, and light entertainment. A library corner and Internet access are located just aft of that and share the second level of the atrium, with the reception and shop below. The Sun Deck has covered and open lounge space spanning nearly the vessel’s full length, plus an oval walking track and putting green. An herb garden is located aft. The elevator connects only the Upper and Middle decks, and not cabins on Main Deck nor the Sun Deck.

Viking has upgraded its menus following the introduction of the new ships, and as the line caters to mostly middle American tastes, don’t expect gourmet meals or rich sauces as one would experience on an ocean-going luxury line or a truly upscale river fleet. The Longships have two dining venues, the main restaurant (buffet & served meals) and the indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace (light meals and an alfresco grill). It’s open seating and you dine with whom you wish. Chances are you will be sailing on a Longship in Europe on most all itineraries but the Douro in Portugal and the Elbe in Germany and the Czech Republic where smaller purpose-built ships operate.

RELATED: Viking River Cruise in the Ukraine … by Gene Sloan.

DSC_6134

Viking Longships Deck Plan * Photo: Viking

The following preceded the Viking Longships on European itineraries, plus one trio specifically designed for the confines of the Douro in Portugal and a pair to sail under low bridges for the Elbe.

*Viking Fontaine, *Viking Schumann (older ships/refurbished 2010/2011) carry 112 passengers on three decks with observation lounge forward and restaurant on the deck below. Cabins are all outside with eight having French balconies, while the Upper Deck cabins have picture windows that open while Main Deck windows are fixed.

*Viking Astrild, *Viking Beyla (2015) carry 98 passengers, have three decks and operate the Elbe cruises with low bridge clearances in Germany and the Czech Republic. The observation lounge is forward with the Aquavit Terrace facing over the bow for light meals and refreshments, while the restaurant is on the deck below. Cabins include 2 suites, 19 veranda cabins and 14 with French balconies, all located on the Upper deck. Main Deck cabins have windows.

*Viking Hemming,*Viking Torgil, *Viking Osfrid (2014 & 2016) carry 106 passengers, have four decks and sail exclusively on the Douro Rover in Portugal. The observation lounge is forward with the Aquavit Terrace facing over the bow for light meals and refreshments, while the restaurant is on the Middle Deck below along with an adjacent Al Fresco Restaurant. The Sun Deck has tables for outdoor meals, a small pool, golf putting range, and loungers with covered and open sections. Cabins include 11 veranda suites, 23 verandas, 3 French balcony cabins and 16 window cabins on Main Deck. An elevator connects cabin and public room decks.

Europe note: With such a large fleet, riverboats assigned to specific itineraries are subject to change.

Aquavit Terrace for an outdoor meal. * Photo: Viking River Cruises

Aquavit Terrace for an outdoor meal. * Photo: Viking River Cruises

Below is a healthy sampling of nearly two dozen European itineraries combining hotel stays bracketing a river cruise. If you are a first time river cruiser, good luck deciding which one to take. If a veteran cruise maven, most of Europe is your oyster.

  • Grand European Tour (15-day cruise, April to October) from Amsterdam, Netherlands via the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers and sailing through Germany, Austria, Slovakia to Budapest in Hungary.
  • Romantic Danube (8-day cruise, late March to October) from Nuremburg, Germany via Main-Danube Canal and Danube River through Austria to Budapest, Hungary.
  • Danube Waltz (8-day cruise, late March to October) from Passau, Germany via the Danube through Austria to Budapest.
  • Rhine Getaway (8-day cruise, mid-March to October) from Amsterdam in the Netherlands via the Rhine, calling at Cologne, Koblenz, Heidelberg, Strasbourg, south through to Basel, Switzerland.
  • Tulips & Windmills (10-day cruise, March and April) from Amsterdam including 2.5 days sightseeing via Dutch and Belgian rivers and canals to the Islemeer at Hoorn, Arnhem, Ghent, Rotterdam and more then back to Amsterdam. Additional itineraries include calls at Antwerp and Nijmegen (SE Netherlands)
  • Cities of Light (12-day cruise-tour, April to October) from Paris (2 hotel nights) then coach transfer via Luxembourg (sightseeing) to the riverboat at Trier, then along the Mosel, Rhine and Main rivers to Bamburg, Germany and coach transfer via Nuremburg to Prague, Czech Republic (2 hotel nights).
  • Paris to the Swiss Alps (12-day cruise-tour, March to October) from Paris (2 hotel nights) then coach transfer to Luxembourg (sightseeing) to the riverboat at Trier, then along the Mossel past vineyards to the Rhine and Mainz, Speyer, and Strasbourg to Basel, Switzerland with a transfer to Zurich (2 hotel nights).
  • Passage to Eastern Europe (11-day cruise-tour, late March to late October) from Budapest, Hungary (2 hotel nights) then riverboat down the Danube through Serbia, Bulgaria to Giurgiu and coach transfer to Bucharest, Romania (1 hotel night).
  • European Sojourn (23-day cruise, mid-March to late October) from Amsterdam via the Waal, Rhine, Main-Danube Canal and Danube through the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria to Giurgiu and transfer to Bucharest, Romania (1 hotel night).
  • Elegant Elbe (10-day cruise-tour, mid-March to October) from Berlin (2 hotel nights) then coach transfer to the riverboat at Wittenberg and via the Elbe and Vltava rivers through Germany (Saxon Switzerland) and Czech Republic to Decin and coach transfer to Prague, Czech Republic (2 hotel nights).
  • Portugal’s River of Gold (10-day cruise-tour, late March to October) from Lisbon (2 hotel nights) via coach transfer to Coimbra and the riverboat at Porto, then along the Douro River with a full-day coach excursion to Salamanca, Spain and back along the Douro with port calls for lunch and wine tasting, a castle and religious site to Porto, Portugal.
  • Paris & the Heart of Normandy (8-day cruise, mid-March to October) from Paris via the Seine to Claude Monet’s Giverny, Rouen (for the cathedral and Normandy Beaches) then upstream with port calls to visit chateaux back to Paris. New itineraries along the Seine also include WWII sites and D-Day beaches.
  • Lyon & Provence (8-day cruise, mid-March to October) from Marseille to the Rhone at Arles, then Avignon, Viviers, Tournon, Vienne, Lyon and along the Soane to Macon, Cluny Abbey and Beaujolais wine country, ending at Lyon Airport.
  • Chateaux, Rivers & Wine (8-day cruise, late March to October) from Bordeaux along both the Dordogne and Garonne rivers to Sauternes, St. Emilion, Médoc, and Margaux wine regions, two UNESCO sites and Cadillac, returning to Bordeaux.
Russia & Ukraine
Visiting Moscow's Red Square at the end of Viking River cruise along the Russian waterways.

Visiting Moscow’s Red Square at the end of Viking river cruise along the Russian waterways. * Photo: Ted Scull

Viking Akun, Viking Helgi, Viking Ingvar, Viking Truvor (older ships refurbished 2013/2014) carry 204 passengers on five decks and operate the 13-day St. Petersburg-Moscow Waterways of the Tsars itineraries. The Panorama Bar looks forward on the Upper Deck with a large restaurant aft on the Middle Deck below. A windowless library with Internet is on Main Deck. Cabins include 2 suites, 2 junior suites, 67 verandas, and the remaining with windows that open facing the side wraparound promenade. Elevators link the cabin and public room decks. A similar vessel, Viking Sineus, plies Ukraine’s Dnieper River between the capital at Kiev and Odessa facing the Black Sea, and 11-day cruise tour.

Waterways of the Czars (13-day cruise, early May to mid-October) from St. Petersburg (3-day stay on riverboat) via the Neva and Svir rivers, Lake Onega, Volga-Baltic Waterway, Rybinsk Resevoir, Volga River, and Moscow Canal to Moscow (3-stay stay on the riverboat). Ashore, attend dance and music performances, and aboard the guides share Russian and Soviet history and current affairs, cooking and Russian language classes.

Egypt

Mayfair (150p) and Omar El Kayam (160p) form the 4-night and 3-night cruise portions of a 12-day itinerary that includes Cairo for the Pyramids, Sphinx and Cairo Museum, a cruise along the Upper Nile for Luxor, Karnak, Edfu, and Kom Ombo and another cruise just above the Aswan Dam on Lake Nassar for Abu Simbel and other temples. Viking Ra, Viking-owned and operated (52p), made its debut in 2018 as a completely rebuilt riverboat offering all two-room suites (291 sq. ft.), making it one of the most luxurious vessels on the Nile. To follow in September 2020, Viking will begin operating the 82-passenger Viking Osiris , the first European built, owned and operated Nile cruiser, if that is all important to some seeking an Egyptian cruise.

Southeast & East Asia

Viking Mandalay (2012 & 56p) had operated Irrawaddy Cruises in Myanmar (Burma). However, four-deck Viking Mekong (b. 2012 & 56p) plies the Mekong River in Cambodia and Vietnam. The replica-style riverboats evoke an appealing colonial atmosphere with lots of wood paneling and airy public spaces. The indoor lounge is forward and the Sun Deck lounge and bar is sheltered from the sun by a canvas awning. With floor to ceiling French doors that open during cool weather, the restaurant serves Vietnamese and Western dishes at breakfast and luncheon buffets plus served dishes and a served dinner. All cabins are outside, with two of the three cabin decks offering sliding French doors that open to side promenade equipped with rattan style chairs and decorative potted palms.

Mekong River: Cambodia & Vietnam
A Cambodian food market along the Mekong.

A Cambodian food market along the Mekong. * Photo: Ted Scull

Magnificent Mekong (15-day cruise-tour, early January to March then July to October) from Hanoi, Vietnam (2 hotel nights), fly to Siam Reap, Cambodia (3 hotel nights), coach transfer to riverboat at Kampong Cham then 8 days along the Mekong in Cambodia and Vietnam to My Tho and coach transfer to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam for 2 hotel nights. Viking Mekong.

Irrawaddy River: Myanmar (Burma) 

*This itinerary is not now operating. However, details are included for reference in case these trips resume.

Myanmar Explorer (15-day cruise-tour, September to December) from Bangkok, Thailand (3 hotel nights) then fly to Yangon, Myanmar (4 nights) and fly to Mandalay embark in the riverboat for 8 nights along the Irrawaddy back to Mandalay and fly to Bangkok (1 night). Viking Mandalay.

Yangtze River: China
Mother and child pass during a village stop along the Yangtze.

Mother and child pass during a village stop along the Yangtze. * Photo: Ted Scull

Viking Emerald (2011) carries 256 passengers on five decks while operating the Yangtze River cruises. The Sun Deck houses the Emerald Bar with high-up views, a reading room, massage room, sauna, gym and outdoor deck space aft. The observation Lounge with a bar is on the deck below and the restaurant resides on Main Deck aft. The menus include Chinese and Western dishes. Cabin accommodations include 2 suites, 14 partitioned suites, 4 junior (one-room) suites and the rest, 108 with verandas. An elevator serves all decks.

Imperial Jewels of China (14-day cruise-tour, February to October) from Shanghai (2 nights) then fly to Wuhan to join the riverboat for a 7-day cruise along the Yangtze River via the Three Gorges and Three Gorges Dam to Chongqing then fly to Xian (2 hotel nights) and fly to Beijing (3 hotel nights).

Roof of the World (17-day cruise-tour, March to October) from Beijing (3 hotel nights), fly to Xian (2 hotel nights), fly to Lhasa (3 hotel nights), fly to Chongqing , join riverboat for a 7-day cruise down the Yangtze via Three Gorges and Three Gorges Dam to Wuhan and fly to Shanghai (2 hotel nights).

Undiscovered China  (19-day cruise-tour, March to October) from Beijing (3 hotel nights), fly to Xian (2 hotel nights), Chengdu (2 hotel nights}, Lijiang (2 nights) and Chongqing to join the riverboat for 7 days along the Yangtze via the Three Gorges, Three Gorges Dam to Wuhan and fly to Shanghai (2 hotel nights).

Special Notes

Water levels along European rivers rise and fall with the seasons and/or heavy rain falls and long dry periods. Occasionally, if the waters rise to flood stage, the riverboats may not be able to pass under low bridges, or the reverse, insufficient water to proceed without possible grounding. In that case, you may be bused to another vessel on the far side of the blockage and/or put up in hotels.

Along the Same Lines

The stable of river cruise lines is ever expanding, and Viking happens offer the largest fleet.

Contact Info

Viking, 5700 Canoga Avenue, Suite 200, Woodland Hills, CA 91367;  www.viking.com; 877-668-4546

— TWS

Adventure Canada

Adventure Canada

Founded in 1987 and based near Toronto, the family line of ownership continues with the second generation expanding the firm’s reaches in Arctic Canada, its more temperate regions and eastward to Greenland, Iceland, Ireland and Scotland. In winter, there are a few warm weather options in Costa Rica and Panama, Ecuador and Galapagos.   

Here’s an expedition outfit, based in Canada, that concentrates on what it knows best — the country’s vast landscape and seascape explored and ideally, explored by expedition ship.

Adventure Canada

Adventure Canada’s Ocean Endeavour. * Photo: Ocean Endeavour

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

Ocean Endeavour is the firm’s primary ship for expeditions in the Northern Hemisphere. (Built 1982; last refitted 2016; 198 passengers). Ice class 1-B permits summer cruising in the Arctic region

Passenger Decks

Six decks and one elevator serves the lowest three decks.

Passenger Profile

Mostly Canadians and Americans.

Price

$$-$$$

Itineraries

A sampling of itineraries has the Ocean Endeavour begin the season in early June. Have a look at blog.adventurecanada.com.

➢Circumnavigating Ireland (11 days) for Irish history and culture, archeology, rugged coastline and sea birds.

➢Cruising Scotland (11 days) for Neolithic ruins, St. Kilda for the largest sea bird colony in the UK, and Scotch Whiskey and Harris Tweeds.

➢Circumnavigating Iceland (9 days), the land of sea and fire best seen from a ship, active volcanoes, lava fields, emerging islands, geysers, glaciers, fishing villages and birding.

➢Iceland and Greenland (11 days) see previous entry for Iceland, while Greenland for its Viking ruins, fjords, glaciers and massive ice cap, whales, sea birds and hiking.

➢Into the Northwest Passage (17 days) for polar bears and sea  birds, crossing Davis Strait to Baffin Island, Zodiacs to the graves of the Inuit doomed Franklin Expedition; colorful Inuit villages.

➢Greenland and Labrador-Newfoundland (15 days) for Greenland as described above and the rugged Labrador Coast, fjords, port villages and across the Strait of Belle Isle to Newfoundland.

➢Circumnavigating Newfoundland and St. Pierre et Miquelon (10 days) for a former whaling station and an UNESCO World Heritage Site, First Nation settlement and culture, Viking history and on St. Pierre, a true French island outpost.

➢The Mighty St. Lawrence (10 days) for the Red sandstone cliffs off the Magdalen Islands, First Nation settlements, Scottish culture, birds galore- gannets, puffins, razorbills, common murres, Percé Rock, Saguenay fjord, and whales.

Adsventure Canada

In the Northwest Passage. *Photo: Adventure Canada

Included Features

Ocean Endeavour only: All sightseeing and shore trips; port fees; 24-hour coffee, tea, snacks; expedition jacket to keep; rubber boots. Extra cost: Some expedition itineraries require charter flights.

Why Go?

From Scotland to the Northwest Passage, see nature at its most dramatic — fjords, glaciers, rugged topography, archeology, Viking history, remote Inuit villages and ways of life, sea animals and birds galore — while traveling with a smallish group of people many of whom will share your interests and enthusiasm.

Adventure Canada

The view from deck. * Photo: Adventure Canada

When to Go?

The departures begin in late spring and last until the autumn.

Cabins

One of the vessel’s attractions are cabins for three and four that can be booked singly on a share basis (same sex). This feature considerably reduces travel costs for the less well-heeled. Other cabins are both inside (also lower in price) and outside (portholes or windows) with two lower berths or matrimonial bed, and private facilities. A few cabins offer a fridge.  A limited selection of no supplement singles in lower and mid-range  price cabins (categories 3-7) are available, while when they are sold,  it’s 1.5 times the berth cost. This does not apply to the highest grade cabins. Those aged 30 and bow save 30% of the berth rate.

A cabin on Ocean Endeavour. * Photo: Adventure Canada

Public Rooms

Shared amenities are three lounges; swimming pool, two saunas and a hot tub.

Adventure Canada

The decks of Ocean Endeavour. * Photo: Adventure Canada

Dining

Restaurant with buffet and menu items at breakfast and lunch and served dinner.

Activities & Entertainment

On board: talks and presentations; workshops; photography tips; concerts; singalongs, dancing.

Off the ship: excursions in Zodiacs to see wildlife, explore inlets, fjords, sail up to glaciers, cruise to small islands, go ashore to meet the locals and see their lifestyle and culture, remains of Viking settlements, geysers, volcanoes, landscapes.

Adventure Canada

Expert lectures are a bit part of the appeal of an Ocean Endeavour expedition. * Photo: Adventure Canada

Special Notes

In addition, briefly noted, Adventure Canada offers one-off (sometimes two) itineraries as follows:

➢Island Solitude, 12-passenger motor sailor, built in 2017,  offers a couple of cruises in Haida Gawii, British Columbia, and known as Queen Charlotte Islands for its native culture, including totems, vast temperature rain forest, provincial park.

➢La Pinta, reconstructed and refitted in 2007, a 46-passenger motor ship for 9 days in the Galapagos, plus Ecuador

➢Variety Voyager, built 2012, a 72-passenger motor ship for 11 days in Costa Rica and Panama (including canal transit)

➢Hebridean Sky, built in 1991, refitted in 2016, a 108-passenger motor ship for 11 days to the Antarctic Peninsula.

Along the Same Lines

One Ocean Expeditions, and Quark Expeditions have the most overlapping coverage of the Northern latitudes.

Contact

Adventure Canada, 14 Front Street South, Mississauga, Ontario L5H 2C4 Canada; 800-363-7566,  adventurecanada.com; blog.adventurecanada.com.

 

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QuirkyCruise Review QuirkyCruise Review of Scenic Cruises

The river cruise line was founded in Australia in 1986, then expanded in 2007 to the UK and Canada, and to the US in 2008. Most recently the line has expanded from its main focus in Europe, including Russia, to Southeast Asia cruises. Expedition cruising will began in fall 2019. Lots of important features are included. The parent firm also operates the moderately-priced Emerald Waterways. A partnership with National Geographic sees an expert and photographer on board all European cruises.

Scenic prides itself on not taking your credit card details at embarkation because the fare is so inclusive, there’s little chance of spending more on board for anything else. *N.B. Scenic Eclipse entered service in August 2019 with a first cruise from  Reykjavik, Iceland via Greenland, Eastern Canada to Quebec . For a press releases describing the ship’s features, scroll down to the bottom of this review.

Scenic

Scenic cruises the great rivers of Europe. * Photo: Scenic

Ships, Years Delivered & Passengers

There are 11 riverboats referred to as “Space-Ships.” The following European riverboats are remarkably similar: SCENIC JASPER, OPAL & AMBER (built 2015/2016 & 169 passengers); SCENIC CRYSTAL, JEWEL & JADE (b. 2012, 2013, 2014 & 169 p); SCENIC GEM (b. 2014 & 128 p); and SCENIC SAPPHIRE, EMERALD, DIAMOND, RUBY & PEARL (2008-2011/remodeled 2013 & 167 p).

For Russia, SCENIC TSAR (b.2012 & 112 p) and SCENIC AZURE (b.2016 & 96 p).

For Mekong River in Southeast Asia, SCENIC SPIRIT (b. 2016 & 68 p); Irrawaddy in Myanmar, SCENIC AURA (B. 2016 & 44 p).

Scenic

Embarking the Scenic Spirit in Cambodia. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

For Egypt & the Nile, SANCTUARY SUN BOAT III (b.1993, refitted 2009 & 36p), including 4 large suites).

Expedition ship SCENIC ECLIPSE (b. 2019 & 228 p). A second expedition ship is due 2020.

Scenic Spirit seen in the early evening on the Mekong River. * Photo: Gillies and Zeiser

Scenic Spirit seen in the early evening on the Mekong River. * Photo: Gillies and Zaiser

Passenger Profile

Seniors from 60s on up hailing from Australia and Britain primarily, followed by US and Canada.

Passenger Decks

Most of the riverboats have elevators that serve the two principal cabin and public room decks, and none reach the Sun Deck. SCENIC TSAR’s elevator connects the three cabin and public room decks.

Price

$$ Expensive

Included Features

Shore excursions, GPS devices for self-guided tours, all drinks including stocked mini-bar, tips, WiFi, use of e-bicycles (in Europe), 24-hour cabin service including services of a butler, wellness facilities, laundry, all meals in multiple dining venues, transfers between airports and the ship. Newly added is travel insurance that covers cancellations, delays, weather-related incidents, natural disasters, mechanical breakdowns, and strikes.

Itineraries

With such a large fleet, Scenic offers many itineraries, some simply a cruise and others adding hotel stays in major cities, plus extended 10- to 15-day land tours throughout Europe – Britain and Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, Eastern Europe, Balkans, Baltic States, and Scandinavia,

➢The Europe rivers covered are the Rhine, Moselle, Main, Danube, Rhone and Soane, Seine, Douro in Portugal and the Gironde, Dordogne and Garonne in the Bordeaux region, plus Dutch and waterways  as far south as Antwerp.

➢Most Europe itins are offered from late March to October last from 8 to 14 days, and a few ambitious itineraries may start such as this one does in Amsterdam and sail via the Rhine, Main and Danube to Budapest or onto the mouth of the Danube as it enters the Black Sea, with an extension to Gallipoli and Istanbul.

➢Christmas Market cruises operate in November and December mostly along the Rhine and Danube, bracketed by Paris and Prague.

➢Newly added programs offer a Portuguese river cruise, cycling trips in Austria and southern France, and culinary classes in France that include sourcing the ingredients.

➢Newly added to the Russia program — St. Petersburg-Moscow — will be an unusual and intriguing 15-day itinerary from Volgograd (Stalingrad) to Moscow via the Volga River.

Scenic

Eiffel Tower from Pont Alexandre III, Paris. * Photo: Gillies and Zaiser

➢The Moscow-St. Petersburg waterway cruise uses the riverboat as the hotel for multiple nights in both cities. In both cases, the boats tend to be moored well out of the city center with longish bus rides for sightseeing excursions.

➢The Wonder of Egypt is an 12-day itinerary with Cairo and Southern Egypt, including a Nile cruise. A 20-day Egypt with Jordan extension visits Amman, Petra, Dead Sea, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba on the Red Sea. An escorted 8-day Israel tour can be added.

➢The 11-day Mekong River cruise tours with a stay in Siem Reap may be combined with land extensions for 18 days that take in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam including a 2-night Halong Bay cruise.

➢11 and 18-day y cruise tours on the Irrawaddy in Myanmar see the river portion operating between Bagan, and to the South and Bagan to the north to Mandalay, and beyond. The longer itinerary has more hotel nights in Yangon and Inle Lake. Cruises operate October 2019 to March 2020.

Scenic

Angkor Wat, Cambodia, a pre- or post-Mekong River cruise stopover. * Photo: Gillies and Zaiser

*Note — Beginning in August 2019, the delayed SCENIC ECLIPSE, a brand-new luxury Discovery Yacht,began operating largely in the polar regions with season-changing repositioning voyages and offering 114 veranda suites that begin at 345 sq. ft. with private verandahs and lounges, nine dining experiences at no extra charge, extra powerful stabilizers that operate at zero speed, a submarine for underwater exploration, and two twin-engine helicopters for exploring away from the ship. Antarctica cruises will begin in fall 2019. Additional year-round itineraries include the Arctic, Western Mediterranean, Norwegian Fjords, Baltic, Cuba & Caribbean, Panama, Colombia, Chilean Fjords and the Falklands, Argentina and Brazil.  Even more recently, Scenic announced the construction of a second Discovery Yacht for delivery in May 2020. Itineraries will expand even further to include the Northwest Passage, Russia’s White Sea and the North American East Coast.

For examples of SCENIC ECLIPSE’S  Arctic itineraries, what follows applies to 2020. 13-day circumnavigation of Svalbard; 15-day voyage from Svalbard to Greenland’s east coast and Iceland; 12 days beginning in Iceland then proceeding to southern Greenland’s east and west coasts. Later in the season an unusual 15-day Alaska voyage embarking in Nome and south to the Aleutian Islands, south-central Alaska, then into the Inside Passage and on south to Vancouver.

Then for 2021, two Arctic expedition cruises include a 9-day circumnavigation of Iceland, followed late in the summer season by an ambitious 19-day voyage commencing in Dublin, Ireland then north to Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, Canada’s maritime provinces, ending in Boston.

For examples of SCENIC ECLIPSE’S Antarctica itineraries, a 13-day voyage includes six days along the Antarctic Peninsula, two sea days each way across the Drake Passage and two in Buenos Aires, and a longer 19-day venture spends two days in the Falkland Islands, five days in South Georgia, and five days on the Antarctic Peninsula, plus sea days and Buenos Aires. A 16-member discovery team provides the enrichment program ashore and aboard.

SCENIC

2019-2020 routes of the SCENIC ECLIPSE

Why Go?

The passengers are truly an English-speaking union coming as they do primarily from Australia, Britain, Canada and the U.S.

When to Go?

The departures coincide with the better expected weather conditions with the busiest tourist season mid-June to September. Off-season allows you to share the trips ashore with fewer people  descending on the main attractions, and some of these sailings may be less expensive and/or offer single rates without a supplement.

Cabins

A whopping 82 per cent have balconies. On the two principal cabin decks, the generously proportioned accommodations have large view windows and on the lowest (Jewel) deck, a shallow rectangular double pane of glass high in the cabin bulkhead. The Royal One-Bedroom Suites are two rooms with a separate lounge and balcony. SCENIC TSAR in Russia has two decks of balcony cabins and just four that are standard grade with windows. SCENIC SPIRIT in SE Asia has all balcony suites (344 to 867 sq. ft.) with separate lounge. SCENIC AURA, with four decks, has all two-room suites, plus a small pool on the Sun Deck.

Scenic

The sitting room of suite #211. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Public Rooms

On all the riverboats (except SCENIC TSAR), the forward Panorama Deck lounge (covered and open to the sides) connects aft to Portobellos Restaurant, the River Café and the main lounge with bar. The main Crystal Dining venue is one deck below shared with the Table La Rive specialty dining section. The Riverview Terrace with umbrellas occupies Sun Deck forward of the navigation bridge, and the rest of this deck has canvas awning coverings or is open with a surrounding circular walking track. SCENIC TSAR has a midships lounge with bar and an aft dining room on the same lower deck and a second aft-facing lounge with bar two decks above.

Dining

Multiple venues starting with the Crystal Dining Room, the big-window main restaurant with tables from 2 to eight; River Café, casual with buffet dining for breakfast and a light lunch; Portobellos, 5-course Italian for 32 passengers; and Table La Rive, a 6-course degustation menu for 10 at a time and reserved for Diamond Deck passengers and located in a curtained off section of the main restaurant. More effort than the norm is spent providing memorable meals in a variety of settings. SCENIC TSAR has no alternate dining other than light food selections in the second lounge.

Christmas markets cruises are popular on Rhine and Danube river itineraries. * Photo: Gillies and Zaiser.

Christmas markets cruises are popular on Rhine and Danube river itineraries. * Photo: Gillies and Zaiser.

Activities & Entertainment

There are three types of shore excursions: Enrich, Free Choice, and Tailormade. The last-named excursions are designed for you to go ashore on your own and at your own pace by foot or bicycle with a GPS locator providing the commentary and an interactive map. Subjects covered may be art, architecture, and history, and they are available in 140 locations. You can also use these tools on board while ensconced in a lounge chair on the Sun Deck or in the Panorama Lounge. Free Choice allows you to concentrate on your interests and whether you want an active, moderate or relaxed pace. Active might involve a hike or cycling outing; moderate, a city walking tour, and relaxed a museum visit or a canal cruise. Favorite hiking routes are the Danube Path through Austria’s Wachau Valley and a coastal path near Bordeaux along Arcachon Bay. Enrich excursions are led by an expert in history or local culture to get beneath the surface. On board cooking school, Scenic Culinaire, operates on the French waterways and that includes going to local markets to buy the ingredients for the onboard cooking component. Partnership with National Geographic for all European cruises sees an NG expert giving talks and leading excursions ashore and an NG photography provided tips and classes.

Scenic riverboats in Europe carry a fleet of e-bikes that help you propel your way into villages and vineyards so you become part of life ashore and not just a spectator. A Bike and River Cruise program is operated by Trek Travel, specialists in high-end bicycle tours. Nine departures between May and September will come under the titles Gems of the Danube sailing between Budapest and Nuremburg and Rhine Highlights between Amsterdam and Basel. During the former, specialists in guiding bicycle tours of 15 to 60 miles will take passengers to breweries for beer tasting, along paths in the Wachau Valley, Austrian grape wine-growing country, into Vienna Woods and the hills of Buda in Budapest. The latter will visit the Alsace Wine Route, the Rhine Gorge, Cologne’s network of cycling paths, and cheese tasting in the village outside Amsterdam. Non-cycling activities will also be offered.

Biking & Beer on the Danube River

The boat’s bikers stop to see the ship. * Photo: John Roberts

Special Notes

SCENIC draws English-speaking passengers from around the world, something that may appeal to the international-minded.

➢➢Single travelers pay no single supplements on selected departures in March, April and October to December. 50% of the single supplement is available on selected sailings May to September.

Along the Same Lines

Scenic is among the top lines to offer in-depth river cruising with lots of choices for sightseeing and enjoying meals aboard.

Contacts

USA —  One Financial Center, Suite 400, Boston, MA 02111; scenicusa.com. 855-517-1200; scenicusa.com

CANADA — Suite 1025, 401 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 5A1; Scenic.ca, 866-689-8611; scenic.ca

UK — 13th Floor, 111 Piccadilly, Manchester M1 2HY; Scenic.co.uk,  0161 236 2444; scenic.co.uk

AUSTRALIA — Level 15, 56 Pitt Street, Sydney, NSW 2000; Scenic.co.au, info@scenic.com.au; scenic.com.au

Pont du Gard, South of France

Pont du Gard, a Roman masterpiece built in the first half of the 1st century, South of France

 

Scenic’s Scenic Eclipse; a wondrous 228-passenger expedition ship.

After Scenic Eclipse’s christening in New York City by Godmother Dame Helen Mirren, the long-awaited and highly innovative expedition vessel makes it way to South America and the inaugural Antarctica season.
Some attributes are zero-speed stabilizer fins, 50% larger than the standard style to reduce the ship’s roll by more than 85%; Polar Class 6 ice rating, the highest available for a passenger vessel; redundancy features for the propulsion, navigation, and safety systems, and food refrigeration; and a GPS dynamic positioning system that maintains its position without dropping at anchor onto a potentially fragile seabed.

Passengers can choose from ten included dining options that range from the Yacht Club’s alfresco meals, the Azure Bar & Cafés casual fare, Lumiere’s French haute cuisine and the Chefs Table degustation.
The ship’s 114 all-verandah suites range in size from 345 square feet up to the super roomy 2,645 square-foot two-bedroom Owners Penthouse Suite with a separate sleep, lounge and dining areas, spa bathroom and a large private terrace with jacuzzi. The ship’s Senses Spa offers a wide range of treatments, infra-red and Finnish sauna, and spa and plunge pools.

Excursions offered include two six-passenger helicopters and a six-passenger submarine, capable of diving to nearly 1,000 feet. For land exploration, the discovery team and guides escorts guests on nature and cultural outings visiting historic cities, ancient monuments, and natural wonders.

Worldwide 2020-2022 itineraries take in Antarctica, the Northwest Passage, North and South America’s coastal cities and landscapes, Europe’s northern reaches, the Mediterranean and Greek Islands. A digital brochure of the complete Scenic cruise coverage can be downloaded or for a printed version go to: Canada: www.scenic.ca/request-a-brochure, and for the USA: www.scenicusa.com/brochures.

 

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LE BOREAL in the Elbe WJM IMG_0678

Snapshot: Tauck was founded in 1925 by Arthur Tauck, Sr. ,and the firm is still family-owned with Arthur Tauck Jr. as chairman and son-in- law Dan Mahar CEO. The vast enterprise operates in 70 countries, and for purposes of Quirky Cruise, we’re highlighting their extensive choice of river and small ship cruises.

What’s Included: Quite a lot. On small ship cruises, shore excursions planned for Tauck-only passengers; all gratuities to Tauck guides, ship staff, local guides and drivers, bar and restaurant beverages, port charges, luggage handling, transfers, hotel accommodations and airport transfers upon arrival and departure when noted.

River Cruises:

Tauck riverboat sails into Budapest. * Photo: Tauck

Tauck riverboat sails into Budapest. * Photo: Tauck

-Europe: River itineraries, offered from April through October, include waterways in Belgium and Holland; Rhine and Moselle; Main and Danube; Rhone and Soane, and the Seine. N.B. The Douro will be added in 2020 – see below. In fact, string together cruises and sail from Amsterdam to Budapest (15 days) and even continue on another week to the Danube to the Black Sea.

N.B. Selected cruises aboard the score of riverboats cater to families with activities ashore such as hiking and cycling, riding a cog railway and how about this, a scavenger hunt in the Louvre! On board, kids hear about the legends of the Lorelei and participate in cooking demonstrations and chocolate tasting. Riverboats EMERALD and SAPPHIRE will each have 14 cabins converted to handle a family of four. See the firm’s website for the Tauck Bridges ebrochure for kids that describes the destinations and activities for a family vacation.

Two riverboats carrying just 130 passengers each entered service in 2016 – the GRACE in April and JOY in June, then in 2018 ESPRIT and TREASURES with 118 passengers.

Riverboat Inspire moored at Koblenz on the Rhine. * Photo: Tauck

Riverboat Inspire moored at Koblenz on the Rhine. * Photo: Tauck

Cruise tours include hotel stays and land extensions, such as adding London and Paris to a Seine River cruise, Switzerland to the Rhine, Prague and Nurnberg to a Danube itinerary and the French Riviera to the Rhone and Soane. The Jewel class ships take up to just 118 passengers with alternate dining in the Bistro and on the Sun Deck, weather permitting. The Inspiration class carries up to 130 with alternate dining at Arthur’s and on the Sun Deck, again, weather permitting. Inclusive features include unlimited beverages include beer, wine, spirits; Internet (reception varies); use of bicycles; shore excursions and all gratuities to staff aboard and guides ashore.

-*Myanmar (Burma): 11-day cruise tours, scattered throughout the year, include a three-night cruise on the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River between Bagan and Mandalay aboard the 4-deck, 82-passenger BELMOND ROAD to Mandalay. *N.B. This cruise is currently not operating.

-China: 16- & 17-day cruise tours spend 3 days (downstream) or 4-days (upstream) aboard the 124-passenger YANGZI EXPLORER between Chongqing and Yichang, including passage through the Three Gorges. Tauck reserves 23 cabins, all with balconies, on sailings operating between April and October.

Small Ship Cruises: As Tauck uses a variety of ships, inclusive features vary.

-Europe: A wide variety, and most cruises last 7 days, a few 8 and 9, plus land extensions with hotels, sightseeing and transfers. Spain & Portugal, Aegean Sea, Venice, Croatia & Greece with Windstar ships sail and motor vessels; British Isles & Ireland; Norwegian Fjords, Iceland, Baltic & St. Petersburg; Italy, Sicily, Malta, Corsica & Monte Carlo with Ponant ships LE SOLEAL and LE PONANT. The new purpose-built 84-passenger riverboat ANDORINHA will arrive on Portugal Douro River in spring 2020. May to October itineraries will be 7-night cruise only, 7 nights for families, and 12 nights with 7-night cruise and 2-night hotel stays each in Madrid and Lisbon. Andorinha is a migratory sparrow that returns to Portugal every spring and occupies the same nest with the same mate year after year.

-Cuba: THESE CRUISES HAVE BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO A US GOVERNMENT ORDER FORBIDDING CRUISES TO CUBA. HOWEVER, LAND TOUR ARE AVAILABLE THOUGH TAUCK. 11-day Cuba cruise tours begin and end with flight from and back to Miami using the motor-sail ship LE PONANT (60 passengers) for a six-day cruise between Havana and Santiago de Cuba and calling as three intermediate south coast ports. Dates are December and January.

-Central America: An 11-day cruise-tour, January, February, and March, to Panama and Costa Rica spends 7 nights aboard the 148-passenger WIND STAR passing through the canal and calling at island and coastal ports between Colon, Panama and Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica.

A Cuna boy from the San Blas Islands, Panama comes among side. * Photo: Ted Scull

A Panamanian boy comes among side. * Photo: Ted Scull

-Galapagos: A 8-day cruise tour, March, April, June to August and December, combine a Peruvian tour including Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu with a 4-night Galapagos cruise aboard the 90-passenger, 5-deck SANTA CRUZ II (Tauck passengers only). Cabins are all outside with twin or double beds. December is a family departure.

-Antarctica: 13-day Antarctica cruise tours, January and December 2017, include 2 nights in Buenos Aires and 10 nights aboard Ponant Cruises’ LE SOLEAL or LE BOREAL (224-264 passengers). These 6-deck ships, built since 2010, have all outside cabins, (most with balconies), twin beds or queen-size, some cabins with bathtubs, two restaurants and two panorama lounges, two viewing terraces, open-air bar, and elevators to all but the highest Deck 7.

-New Zealand: A 9-day cruise of the North and South Islands aboard LE LAPEROUSE (184 passengers) with an Australian component to Melbourne, Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef. adding up to 20 days.

L'Austral. * Photo: Tauck

L’Austral cruises to Antarctica. * Photo: Tauck

-Japan: A week’s cruise aboard Ponant’s L’AUSTRAL (264 passengers) or LE SOLEOL (244 passengers)  makes a loop around southern Japan with a call at Busan, South Korea as part of a 14-day cruise tour with April departures.

Japanese gardens are a major feature of a cruise tour.

Contact: TAUCK, 10 Westport Road, Wilton, CT 06897-4548. www.tauck.com; 800-468-2825

TWS