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Viking Jupiter's terrace

Viking Jupiter

By Judi Cohen.

I am a small-ship “connoisseur” accustomed to ships under 300 passengers, which is how QuirkyCruise.com defines a small-ship cruise. However, when presented with the opportunity to cruise on Viking’s new 930-passenger Viking Jupiter in the Baltic Sea I immediately said “yes!”

Having never visited Russia, seeing St. Petersburg on the 8-night Baltic itinerary was a major draw. While it wasn’t exactly a “small-ship,” it featured the advantages of larger ships, while also offering some of the intimacy and highly personalized service of a true small-ship. I like to think of it as a “small big-ship.”

Viking Jupiter

The new Viking Jupiter. * Photo: Judi Cohen

The Viking Jupiter took us from Stockholm to Berlin, with stops at the ports of Helsinki, Tallinn and Gdansk. The historical and gilded riches of St. Petersburg, of course, were the big draw for most passengers.

My two-day visit to St. Petersburg provided just a taste of the city’s rich art, architecture and history. I hope to return to do a true small-ship river cruise, on the Volga River, and see more of Russia, including Moscow.

Russia cruise with Viking

Judi and Lawrence at the Church of the Spilled Blood. * Photo: Judi Cohen

In the spirit of Quirky Cruise’s small-ship ethos, Russia’s Volga River cruises are an ideal way to visit both Moscow and St. Petersburg in combination with a Baltic itinerary. Small-ship cruises to this region are offered by various cruise companies including a 13-day Viking cruise on one of their five 200-passenger boats.

Meanwhile, Ponant Cruises and Tauck both operate 12-day small-ship Russia/Baltic Sea cruises using Ponant’s 184-passenger Le Dumont D’Urville with two full days in St. Petersburg. Emerald Waterways does a 12-day river cruise on the 224-passenger MS Rosia with stops in St. Petersburg and Moscow.

6 “Small Ship” Moments on the Viking Jupiter

While the Viking Jupiter has features you would typically find on larger ships including a variety of dining choices, numerous bars with live entertainment, and a luxurious Nordic spa with gym and treatment rooms, the ship felt intimate and uncrowded giving it a small-ship feel.

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#1: Optional Small-group Shore Excursions

In St. Petersburg we chose to pay for two small-group tours in addition to taking the panoramic coach tour of St. Petersburg that was included at no extra cost (Viking offers one free tour option in every port). We did a full-day “Behind Closed Doors” tour of the 18th-century Hermitage Museums and a half-day walking tour of the 1950-era St. Petersburg metro system, museum-like itself.

With only 13 guests on each tour, they were similar to excursions and tours I have done on previous small-ship cruises.

 Winter Palace Hermitage Museum

The gorgeous Winter Palace Hermitage Museum. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Hermitage museum entrance

Entrance staircase in the Hermitage Museum. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Our Hermitage Museum guide was knowledgeable about architecture and art history, and contributed to our learning and enjoyment. Our guide during the metro tour, which was a highlight for me, led us into the system to see some of the oldest stations that were built as “palaces of the people” rich in Soviet history, with their fascinating art and sculpture.

St Petersburg Metro System

Kirovsky Zavod Station, part of the stunning metro system. * Photo; Judi Cohen

St Petersburg metro stations

Avtovo Station light fixtures. * Photo: Judi Cohen

These small-group excursions felt much like the tours I have enjoyed on other small-ship cruises along the Mekong and Irrawaddy with Pandaw and the Brahmaputra River with India-based Adventure River Cruises. As on these smaller ships, on board the Viking Jupiter, there were many opportunities to immerse myself in the artistic and historical presentations offered on board by local experts. There was even a magical performance one evening in the ship’s Star Theatre by the famous Russian Mariinsky Theatre.

Other passengers told me about the small-group premium excursions they took (ranging from about $75 to $300 per person), including a tour of the Stutthof concentration camp in Gdansk, Poland; reindeer feeding in Nuuksio National Park; and a bicycle tour in Helsinki, Finland. Several premium excursions at additional cost were offered in every port.

#2: Private Balcony in our Cabin

Our cabin had a private balcony that provided a quiet and private place to relax, read and reflect. It reminded me of smaller ships I’ve been on that also had private balconies, including the 195-passenger Viking Einar that I cruised on along the Rhine River in 2019.

RELATED: Cruising on the new Viking Einar … by Judi Cohen

balcony of Viking Jupiter

Judi’s husband Lawrence on their cabin balcony. * Photo: Judi Cohen

#3:  Intimate Dining Experiences

Mamsen’s is a small take-away café aboard the Jupiter named in honor of Viking founder Torstein Hagen’s mother. Located on Deck 7 in the Explorers Lounge, serving light traditional Scandinavian dishes, snacks and pastries, it was never crowded and became our go-to spot for early breakfast and light bites throughout the day.

With comfortable seating in sofas or at tables with chairs, Mamsen’s felt very warm, welcoming and cozy…and the open face shrimp sandwiches and signature waffles were delicious!

waffels aboard the Viking Jupiter

Mamsen’s signature Scandinavian waffle. * Photo: Judi Cohen

 #4: Afternoon Tea

Like many of the small European river boats, traditional high tea was served every afternoon in the Wintergarden Conservatory on Deck 7. Separated from the pool by floor-to-ceiling glass doors, I found the Wintergarden to be one of the most beautiful areas on the ship. The blonde wood ornamentation looked like trees climbing the pillars and covering the roof and created the feeling of being in a forest!

afternoon tea on the Viking Jupiter

Afternoon Tea in the Wintergarden on Deck 7. * Photo: Judi Cohen

#5: Explorers Lounge

The Jupiter had many comfortable and quiet sitting areas with books neatly organized on library shelves. However, we kept going back to the Explorers Lounge on Deck 7 and the upper level above it, called the Observation Lounge, to read, rest, have a snack or drink, or watch the waves through the expansive windows.

While seated in the sofas, complete with fur throws, we could also enjoy the warmth from the faux fireplaces. I never felt like I was on a large ship in these lounges.

Explorer's Lounge on Jupiter

The lovely ocean-view Explorers Lounge. * Photo: Judi Cohen

#6: Musicians in the Atrium

The multi-level atrium typical of big ships, felt cozy each evening when a pianist or a trio of musicians played sweet music there for hours. The Viking Bar and the surrounding Living Room lounge, that actually felt like our own living room at home, drew us back nightly for pre-dinner cocktails  and again following dinner.

After only one night aboard, the musicians welcomed us back warmly and it felt like they were playing just for us! Very few other passengers were there in the evenings, which made it feel even more intimate.

musicians on Viking Jupiter

Musicians performing nightly on Deck 1. * Photo: Judi Cohen

For anyone who wants to get the best of a larger cruise ship with many of the benefits of a small ship, I would recommend the Viking Jupiter.

The Jupiter’s attentive personal service, small-group shore excursions options, cozy and comfortable lounge areas with music, and casual dining all combined to create a wonderful “small-ship” feeling.

The added bonus was having some “big-ship” features such as a spa, gym and multiple pools, plus 24-hour room service so we could enjoy refreshments on our private balcony. Having been teased with the history and riches of St. Petersburg for only two days, I am ready to go back to experience Russia in depth!

Viking Jupiter's terrace

On the Aquavit Terrace leaving Stockholm. * Photo: Judi Cohen

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Viking Builds Egypt Riverboat

Viking Builds Egypt Riverboat

By Anne Kalosh.

As tourism to Egypt rebounds, Viking Cruises is expanding with a newly built Nile riverboat and a pair of pre-cruise tours in the U.K., both focused on Egyptology. These sound fascinating, with Viking’s signature “Privileged Access” to archives and exhibits in London and Oxford not normally open to the public.

Viking Osiris, under construction, will more than double the company’s owned capacity in Egypt when it debuts in September 2020. Viking claims to be the only Western company to build, own and operate boats on the Nile. Its fully rebuilt 48-passenger, all-suite Viking Ra began sailing in 2018.

Viking Builds Egypt Riverboat

Debuting in September 2020, Viking Osiris will carry 82 passengers. * Rendering: Viking Cruises

Viking Osiris

Carrying 82 passengers in 41 staterooms, Viking Osiris will sport the clean, elegant Scandinavian design of Viking’s European vessels. Public spaces include a shaded sun deck, a shaded pool deck with Aquavit Terrace for indoor/outdoor dining and lounging, a restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows and lounge/bar with floor-to-ceiling glass doors.

Viking Builds Egypt Riverboat

The shaded pool deck on Viking Osiris. * Rendering: Viking Cruises

Accommodations range from a dozen 232-square-foot standard staterooms to a pair of 525-square-foot explorer suites. The most common accommodations are the 21 veranda staterooms of 239 square feet.

Viking Builds Egypt Riverboat

The most common type of accommodation aboard Viking Osiris is this 239-square-foot veranda stateroom. * Rendering: Viking Cruises

U.K. Pre-cruise Extensions

Building on the success of the “Oxford & Highclere Castle” program — Viking’s highest-rated extension that visits “The Real Downton Abbey” — the company created two new tours that retrace the steps of famed Egyptologist Howard Carter and his benefactor, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon.

Participants in the five-day “British Collections of Ancient Egypt” extension will meet their Viking tour director, an expert Egyptologist, in London for “Privileged Access” to two museums. They’ll get to see the Egyptian Collection at the British Museum before it opens to the general public, then the home and museum of world-renowned late 18th-century architect Sir John Soane. There, the tour will be illuminated by candlelight, reenacting how Soane showed his Egyptian antiquities, including a 3,000-year-old sarcophagus.

Travelers will also visit London’s Petrie Museum, which houses more than 80,000 artifacts from ancient Egypt and Sudan. In Oxford, the itinerary features the Ashmolean Museum, one of the oldest in the world, and home to a varied collection of Egyptian mummies and art. A behind-the-scenes visit to Oxford University’s Griffith Institute will reveal Carter’s archives detailing the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Viking Builds Egypt Riverboat

Tutankhamen’s Throne. * Photo: Viking Cruises

Participants also have the chance to visit Highclere Castle, home to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, to view the earl’s collection of Egyptian artifacts.

Through April 2020, travelers can opt for the new five-day “King Tut & the U.K.’s Egyptian Collections” extension, which includes everything on the other extension plus “Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh,” a special exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery that is presented by Viking.

Prices for the pre-cruise extensions start at $3,599 USD for “British Collections of Ancient Egypt” and at $3,699 USD for “King Tut & the U.K.’s Egyptian Collections.” Both include airfare from London to Cairo.

Pharaohs & Pyramids

The 12-day “Pharaohs & Pyramids” cruise-tour begins with a three-night stay at a first-class hotel in Cairo for guided tours to the Great Pyramids of Giza, the necropolis of Sakkara and the Mosque of Muhammad Ali.

The Giza Pyramids. * Photo: Viking Cruises

Travelers then fly to Luxor to visit the Temples of Luxor and Karnak before embarking a Viking vessel for an eight-day round-trip Nile cruise.

The Pharaohs & Pyramids itinerary. * Credit: Viking Cruises

Highlights include “Privileged Access” to Nefertari’s tomb in the Valley of the Queens and excursions to the Temple of Khnum in Esna, the Dendera Temple complex in Qena, the temples at Abu Simbel and the High Dam in Aswan. A Nubian village visit includes a stop at an elementary school. The journey ends with a flight back to Cairo for a final night in the city.

Prices for the cruise-tour vary by date and currently start at $4,899 USD, according to Viking’s U.S. website.

Viking Builds Egypt Riverboat

The Karnak statues of Luxor. * Photo: Viking Cruises

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New Viking Einar Impresses

New Viking Einar Impresses A First Timer

By Judi Cohen.

This was my first ever Europe river cruise, and I was awed the moment I stepped into the spacious and bright two-story atrium of Viking Cruises’ 190-passenger Viking Einar.

The natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows and the reflection of the water danced with the light woods, the beige and blue carpeting, the woven fabric on the walls, and the large artworks to create a warm, yet dramatic, environment.

I was aboard Viking Einar last month for the boat’s naming festivities and afterwards, a four-night mini Rhine cruise. Click here for the Naming story.

Judi on Sun deck of the Einar. * Photo: Judi Cohen

 Pretty Public Spaces

The Viking Einar is typical of Viking’s fleet of 72 longships, though Richard Riviere, the architect and veteran designer of the fleet, explained to me that each vessel has minor design differences, from the color of bathroom tiles and fabrics, to the type of wood flooring.

Judi and Viking Cruises Designer Richard Riveire in the Einar’s Lounge.

The Atrium

As on many boats and ships, large and small, the Einar’s atrium was the hub of activity. The reception, gift shop, concierge and blond Scandinavian wood and fabric chairs were all found here. Looking up to the second level above was a small library with sofas, two computer workstations, and a 24-hour refreshment nook with coffee, tea and cookies.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Upper level of atrium looking down. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Aquavit Terrace

The Einar was designed with a rounded bow to create an indoor/outdoor lounge and viewing area called the Aquavit Terrace at the stern, where I spent much of my time. Some days I enjoyed dining alfresco on the Aquavit Terrace at breakfast and lunch, and then returning in the evening for a glass of wine to watch our transit through the Rhine’s many locks.

Aquavit Terrace on the Einar. * Photo: Judi Cohen

From the Aquavit Terrace, I could easily go up to the sundeck for a 360-degree view and check out the boat’s well-manicured organic herb garden (used for cooking on the ship), walking track, putting green, and shuffleboard.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Sundeck with Organic Herb Garden. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Lounge and Bar

Before dinner, passengers gathered for cocktails and a catch-up on the day’s activities in the spacious lounge and bar on the upper deck. Many made the most of their time while aboard the ship at the bar with its signature “clinker” overlapping wood-plank-on-wood-plank design harkening back to early Viking boat-building techniques.

With the aid of a large video screen, the cruise director briefed us on the following day’s schedule and shore excursion options.

The lounge, with floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides, was also a lovely space to work and gaze at the scenery as the ship made its way along the river.

On our final night, a four-piece orchestra played Bach and the Hungarian Czarda, and everyone seemed to enjoy it very much.

New Viking Einar Impresses

The Lounge. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Delightful Dining

Located on the middle deck, the restaurant offered one dinner sitting for all guests. Open for breakfast and dinner daily, the restaurant was bright with large floor-to-ceiling windows and comfortable blond wood tables and chairs. There was plenty of space between tables for circulation and service.

The buffet area in the centre of the restaurant featured white granites and steel, and was approachable from all sides, with space in the middle for the chefs. This is where I ordered my omelettes every morning. The service was wonderful, and by the second day I didn’t even have to say how I wanted my omelette made! There were loads of fresh fruit, plus yogurts, nuts, smoked salmon, bacon, open-face Danish sandwiches, and all sorts of breads and pastries.

The dinner menu offered “classics” that were always available including a rib eye steak, poached Norwegian salmon, and roast chicken with a Caesar salad. Dessert choices included creme brûlée, cheese, seasonal fruit, and ice cream. Beer, wine and soft drinks at lunch and dinner are included in cruise fares.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Norwegian salmon dinner. * Photo: Judi Cohen

There were also options that changed daily, and I typically ordered from the three-course tasting menu with recommended wine pairing. The honey and rosemary rack of lamb with a potato gratin was outstanding as was the three-onion soup prepared Lyonnais style with punchy provolone and gruyere cheeses.

The Surf and Turf, with lobster-au-gratin and slow cooked beef, was paired with the sommelier’s recommendation of Valleta Barbera d’Alba Schloss, a full-bodied red wine — they were perfectly matched.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Surf and Turf dinner in the Restaurant of the Viking Einar. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Being a dessert fan, I could not resist trying the specialty every night. From the mango lassi cake with chia passion fruit sauce, to the Heisse Liebe, a vanilla parfait with crunchy nougat and raspberry sauce, I enjoyed each burst of unique flavour.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Mango cake with ice cream. * Photo: Judi Cohen

The Cabins

The Viking Einar’s 95 outside cabins were located on the first three of the boat’s four decks, comprising 25 standard cabins, 22 French balcony cabins, 39 veranda cabins, seven veranda suites and two explorer suites. There are no inside cabins aboard the Viking longships.

Most cabins have floor-to-ceiling windows or doors, while the water-level cabins on the main deck have smaller windows at the top of the outside wall.

My cabin (309) was a Category B, 205-square-foot Veranda cabin located mid-ship on the upper deck, making it very easy to get to the atrium and central staircase. I found the closet and drawer space generous and loved the heated bathroom floor, mirror, and flat-screen TV.

The light wood counters above the dresser drawers and desk provided ample space to work along with a comfortable chair. When I wanted a break, I could sit on my private balcony and watch the world slowly float by.

The white fluffy towels and crisp linens made me feel like I was in a fancy hotel. In fact, my daughter Face-timed me, and I showed her my cabin. She could not believe I was on a river boat and not in a Four Seasons Hotel!

Judi’s Balcony Cabin 309. * Photo: Judi Cohen

The Ports

While the ship was a beauty, the food excellent, and my cabin very comfortable, the highlights of the mini-cruise were the ports and shore excursions. There were tours offered in each port, but it was also easy to walk along the short gangway from the ship directly onto a sidewalk. With temperatures between 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit during the day with sunny skies, all I needed was a light down jacket.

Rhine cruises typically start in early April and for me, it was a perfect time to go.  Ahh…springtime in Europe!!

Flower Garden in Old City of Mainz, Germany

Flower Garden in the old quarter of Mainz, Germany. * Photo: Judi Cohen

On this four-day mini-cruise, we sampled some of the ports visited on a full cruise including Basel in Switzerland and Strasbourg, France, along with Heidelberg and Mainz in Germany.

The full 7-night “Rhine Getaway” cruise would also visit Breisach, Cologne and Koblenz in Germany, and Kinderdijk and Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

In each port, the fare includes one two- to six-hour shore excursion, usually a walking tours and sometimes via bus. Optional excursions are available including “Privileged Access” tours at an additional charge, such as “The Hermitage Behind Closed Doors” ($129 USD pp) in St. Petersburg. It starts with a private tour of the museum’s public collection followed by a transfer to an off-site location with an art historian to learn something about the millions of pieces of art, furniture, gifts to Russian royalty and imperial carriages that are held in secured vaults.

In Prague, a half-day “Privileged Access” excursion visits the “Lobkowicz Palace” ($119 USD pp), the residence of one of the region’s most avid patrons of the arts. Learn about the 400-year Lobkowicz family history and enjoy lunch in the family’s original living quarters and then a private concert in the Baroque concert hall.

Basel, Switzerland

This was our embarkation point with the vessel docked only a 15-minute walk from the city centre. Shuttles ran regularly as well. During the walking tour in Basel I loved seeing the blend of old and new buildings with colourful trams running in all directions from the centre.

Basel, Switzerland’s Old Quarter. * Photo: Judi Cohen

The large red sandstone 15th-century Basel Minster cathedral dominates the old town, and the streets are full of small shops selling unique Swiss trinkets like cow bells, cuckoo clocks, swiss flags, and other handicrafts.

Many fine jewelry stores, including the iconic Patek Philippe watch store, were located throughout the old city.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Basel, Switzerland. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Strasbourg, France

Leaving the ship around 9am allowed a full day to enjoy this historic and colourful city. The morning excursion began with a short scenic bus ride from the port to Strasbourg’s historic old town. The bus took us along streets of well-pruned trees where storks sat in giant nests.

We passed university areas, parks and churches, as we made our way to Petite France, a historic quarter on Strasbourg’s tiny “Grande Ile” island, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

We meandered along Petite France’s canals, admiring the half-timbered houses and cobblestone roads lined with tiny shops and buildings.

Being a foodie, I was thrilled that the afternoon optional “Taste the Best of the Alsace” excursion ($189 USD pp) started with lunch in a charming French restaurant, and included eating opportunities as we strolled through Petite France. We visited gingerbread bakeries, macaron and chocolate shops, high-end fromageries (one with the largest cheese bell in the world!), and wine stores.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Judi’s all day “Taste of Alsace in Strasbourg” * Collage: Judi Cohen

Our taste tour culminated with our group seated at a long wooden table in one of the quaint Alsace wine shops, feasting on everything we had bought along the way.

The afternoon tour concluded with a wonderful “behind the scenes” private organ concert in the 13th-century Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral; a visit to the cathedral is included on many tours but rarely an actual concert. WOW! Imagine being one of only 30 people in this majestic space to hear the organist play for almost an hour. It was truly magical. Listen to Judi’s video below!

 

Heidelberg, Germany

We had a full day in one of Germany’s oldest, and in my opinion, most romantic cities: Heidelberg. Following a short 20-minute bus ride from the port in Mannheim up a winding road to the 12th-century Heidelberg Castle, we enjoyed a walking tour around the red-sandstone ruins of the Renaissance-style complex high above the old town.

New Viking Einar Impresses

The ruins of Heidelberg’s impressive hilltop castle. Some sections date back to the 12th century. * Photo: Judi Cohen

We then drove down to the old town to see the 14th-century Heidelberg University (Germany’s oldest university, with some 56 Nobel Prize winners as alumni) to walk around the Baroque-style old quarter with its narrow cobbled streets.

In the town there are several memorials to the Holocaust, one that caught my attention were the stumbling stones (Stolpersteine in German) placed in front of buildings where the Nazis removed residents for transport to the death camps. Each concrete block bears a brass plate inscribed with the name of a victim persecuted and killed by the Nazis, and the date and place of death.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Heidelberg’s moving “Stumbling Stones” (Stolperstein) * Photo: Judi Cohen

During our bus ride along the Neckar River back to the Einar we saw well-manicured private homes and many old vaulted bridges.

The Einar was now docked in Worms, Germany, for our onward short sail to Mainz, Germany.

Mainz, Germany

Mainz was our last port of call. Docked right in front of City Hall and the major shopping area of Mainz, we were met by our guides and taken for a brief walking tour in the city centre to see the flower gardens and the thousand-year-old St. Martin’s Cathedral and under renovation. The town square was packed with restaurants and crowds enjoying the sunset with drinks and food.

New Viking Einar Impresses

The city center of Mainz, Germany. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Our tour continued to the Gutenberg Museum with a private visit to see two of the famous 15th-century Gutenberg Bibles kept in a security vault. We were also given a demonstration of how early printing was done during the time of Johannes Gutenberg and saw some of the historic printing presses. Fascinating!

As our mini-cruise was, sadly, over, the following morning I headed to the Frankfurt Airport, (a short 45-minute drive) for my flight home to Toronto.

New Viking Einar Impresses

New Viking Einar. * Photo: Judi Cohen

It was a whirlwind of a week immersing myself in the Viking brand of river cruising aboard the newly christened Viking Einar.

I must admit I am hooked on “The Viking Way” and I look forward to another Viking river cruise one day soon.

New Viking Einar Impresses

Until next time! 🥂

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European River Cruises for Single Travelers

European River Cruises for Single Travelers

By Ted Scull.

To begin with the hard reality, there’s far greater demand for single accommodations aboard cruise ships than there is an adequate supply to meet it. Then comes the task of landing a fair fare that equals or gets close to the per person double occupancy rate.

There’s no question, some Europe river cruise lines cater to single travelers more than others.

If you didn’t know, by the way, cruise boats and ships of all sizes (unlike hotels), base their cabin fares on a per person rate for two people in a cabin.

For most single travelers, without deep pockets, the general paucity of single rates is a barrier to cruising as often as one would like, and for some, a dead end.

This dilemma comes as no news to veteran travelers, including my own experience for many years. Sometimes I would find a friend to join me, and otherwise, it was go it alone and pay the freight, or not sail at all.

European River Cruises for Single Travelers

Ted on a solo Danube River cruise. * Photo: New Friend

Why are there so few single cabins?

Let’s discuss the reason for the paucity before we get onto some good news.

Quite simply, cruise lines can make more moolah building and selling cabins for two than for one.

It is nearly as expensive to design, build and equip a single cabin as it is to build a cabin for two, as both require roughly the same amenities. Further, a double cabin means two people share the same bathroom facilities, which, with their complex piping and wiring, are fairly expensive to build.

At one time, many city hotels were built with single rooms for business travelers. These days, in many countries, that has gone with the wind.

Few river ships today even bother to build any single cabins, and if they do, it’s usually less than the number of fingers on one hand. And if they have a few, they may be on the lowest deck with a view through a small window or porthole.

So, what improves the likelihood of getting a single’s fare?

No river cruise line (or any cruise line or hotel for that matter) wants empty cabins at sailing time. There’s no revenue in that. And this fact is a silver lining for solo cruisers.

From past experience, river cruise lines may sense that some upcoming off-season sailings in spring or fall aren’t selling as well and so may offer discounts and deals for single travelers. That said, there can also be special offers for solo cruisers at other times of the year when demand is down.

Of course, there are pros and cons to cruising at different times. Going in July and August means putting up with the summer tourist crush in the more popular ports. River cruising  in the off-season months means the weather may not be ideal — too cool or too rainy.

And remember, taking a river cruise at the last minute to avail of a good deal, means you will have to get your act together relatively quickly to travel (ie, book the dog kennel, get someone to water your plants, purchase airfare etc etc).

Personally, if I have a choice for when to take a European river cruise, I like late spring and autumn, but not too deep into the November chill.

European River Cruises for Single Travelers

Ted in Bratislava, Slovakia, on one of his solo European river cruises. * Photo: Fellow Passenger

Just what is the single supplement?

If you get lucky, the  single rate could be the same as the per person double rate, and that means there is no supplement and the cabin is yours.

Or a single rate could mean there’s an added surcharge of maybe 20 to 50 percent.

Either way, if it’s the itinerary you want, it’s a good deal because you’re not paying the standard double occupancy fare.

Veteran river cruisers who keep coming back know there are roughly a dozen very different Europe river itineraries that often have little or no overlap at all. So, be flexible with your choice of itineraries and take the better fare deal.

It is difficult to rate the lines by their single-fare policies as they do change with supply and demand. Therefore, this round-up is based on a sampling of what I could find on the websites of popular river cruise lines at the time of writing.

Keep in mind, the terms for single fares are all over the map, with some more welcoming than others. And remember, good offers can be long range (ie on a cruise next year)  or last minute (ie, a cruise next month).

While not all river lines are covered, the following hopefully gives an understanding of the wide-ranging policies.

European River Cruises for Single Travelers

Ted in Berlin on an Elbe River cruise. * Photo: A new friend

River Lines Genuinely Catering to Solo Travelers

As some river cruise lines see single travelers as an important part of their revenue stream, they actively cater to them.

Riviera River Cruises

This UK-based river line loves solo travelers enough that they have scheduled eight solo-friendly Europe river cruises for fall 2019, including two departures on the Danube and Douro rivers. On these sailings, singles will not pay a single supplement. Riviera debuted its series of solo cruises in 2018 and they’re very popular. A 7-night Danube River cruise for solos starts at $2,189 USD per person on Oct. 28, Nov. 1 and 4th departures. They have a dedicated section on their website called “River Cruises for Solo Travelers.”

Grand Circle Cruise Line

Grand Circle Cruise Line promotes “The Solo Experience” front and center on its website’s homepage, boasting: “We offer the best value for solo travelers in the industry, guaranteed.”

Uniworld

When you click on Uniworld’s “Offers” button at the top of the homepage, the “2019 Solo Traveler Savings” comes right up. You can see the dates that are open for single fare discounts. Then you are asked to call Uniworld for the actual price.

Vantage Deluxe World Travel

Vantage Deluxe World Travel has a prominent “Solo Travel” button on the home page that outlines fares, discounts, teaming up with another single traveler in a double cabin, and lots of good information about traveling solo.

Tauck

Avalon shows selected departures with single rates, with five cabins initially offered. They show how many are left and the deadline for booking.

European River Cruises for Single Travelers

Ted on another Europe river cruise enjoying the sights. * Photo: Fellow passenger

CroisiEurope

The line’s 2 to 4 Single-Specific cabins on more than half the riverboat fleet are slightly smaller than a standard cabin. During promotions, the single supplement may be waved for a few weeks or a month and more, and when there is a single supplement for a double cabin, it usually runs between 25 and 35% and seldom higher.

Crystal River Cruises

Meanwhile, Crystal River Cruises’ site reads, “Solo Fares on Request.”

AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways does not tout single travelers, rather indicates that if a discount sailing is offered, the single supplement, if not waived, is added to the already established discounted or original base fare.

Viking River Cruises

When you go to Viking’s Help/FAQs and look for “What is your single supplement?” it starts off — “On occasion, Viking Cruises will make special solo traveler fares available. Please check back for pricing updates.”

While perhaps not the first line to look for attractive single fares, Viking does operate by far the largest fleet of European river boats and, therefore, offers the most departures.

Scenic

The Scenic river cruises website has a “Special Offers” notice, but recently that led to solo fares buried under the offer for a third passenger occupying a suite. It says, unless the single supplement for that sailing is waived, the passenger will pay the supplement (percentage) before applying that to the discounted fare.

Keep checking back if you don’t see what you want and can afford, and if a lead appears, and requires a phone call, do it. If the line wants you to book a single, the offer may improve.

Bottom Line:

River Cruising is Ideal for Single Travelers

Taking from less just than 100 to perhaps 200 passengers, riverboats are definitely small ships and they’re great options for solo travelers. On Europe’s waterways and other parts of the world as well.

  • Singles on river boats don’t face multiple lounge choices as on the big ships when searching for the right atmosphere. Upon entering the riverboat’s lounge bar, take a quick scan and then choose a seat to aim for.
  • If you want to meet others, ask those seated if they are saving the seat(s) first, and if the answer is “no, please join us,” you have an invitation. The ensuing conversation may lead to, “Would you like to join us for dinner?”
  • If you don’t find much of a rapport, sooner rather than later, excuse yourself and head for the restaurant. The maître d’ might ask your preference and suggest a table with others who were just seated.
  • At the outset, it’s best not to get too tied to the same people, as you the may miss chances to widen your repertoire.
  • Shore excursions give you additional opportunities to meet others with easy topics at hand to discuss.

Good hunting, and hopefully Bon Voyage!

Ted making new friends on an Amazon River cruise. * Photo: New Friend!

 

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Viking Cruises Names 7 New Riverboats

Viking Cruises Names 7 New Riverboats

By Judi Cohen.

I am in the beautiful city of Basel, Switzerland, the headquarters of Viking Cruises, for the naming celebration for seven new river boats on March 19. The sweet sounds from a trio of alpenhorn players surrounded by red and white balloons and flowers summoned the commencement of formalities on the top decks of two connected new vessels, Viking Sigrun and Viking Einar.

Viking Cruises Names 7 New Riverboats

The naming preparations begin! * Photo: Judi Cohen

The Viking Tir and Viking Vali were named in Brusbuttel, Germany, while Viking Sigyn and Viking Ullur were named in Rostock, Germany — all six carry 190 passengers and are referred to as “Viking Longships.” The smaller 106-passenger Viking Helgrim was named in Porto, Portugal.

With vessels in Switzerland, Germany and Portugal, the naming ceremony was done by connecting the boats via satellite across four European cities. We watched on large video screens near the main stage up on deck.

Viking Cruises Names 7 New Riverboats

Chairman Hagen and officials and crew of the new Viking vessels. * Photos: Judi Cohen

Attending the naming were Viking cruise staff and crew from around the world, many in uniform, joined by journalists, travel industry representatives and invited guests. Six of the women honored to be the boats’ godmothers were all distinguished Viking employees; the seventh was the wife of a Viking executive.

One by one they stepped forward for the naming of their ship, to say with great pride, “May your passengers and crew always be safe and may you always have a hand’s width of water beneath your keel.”

With the push of button, a bottle of Norwegian Gammel Opland aquavit was released and broken on the bow of each new vessel.

Viking Cruises Names 7 New Riverboats

Chairman Hagen and the 7 godmothers of the new vessels. * Photo: Judi Cohen

The festivities continued at a gala reception and dinner nearby at the renowned Swiss art museum, the Beyeler Foundation, where we eagerly viewed the celebrated exhibition “The Young Picasso – Blue and Rose Periods.”

Viking Cruises Names 7 New Riverboats

Picasso’s Arelquin Asis (1901) in the Beyeler Foundation in Basel, Switzerland. * Image: Beyeler Foundation

There were presentations and a brilliant performance by Alma Deutschmark, the 14-year-old composer, violinist, pianist and child prodigy, who is a favourite of Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen.

At a press conference earlier in the day, Chairman Hagen smiled and said, “We don’t have a lot of news, we’re a little boring with no new bells or whistles.”

However, in the next breath he affirmed Viking Cruises’ astounding growth.

The river fleet is expected to continue to grow from 72, with yet another seven river cruise vessels under construction. Plus, six more oceangoing ships are under construction, to join the current six, with four more under option.

Hagen said, “this does not include the expedition vessels that are under construction in Norway … and we won’t say a lot about them; at some stage we will.”

Stay tuned!

Viking Cruises Names 7 New Riverboats

The pair of new Viking Longships in Basel, Switzerland, awaiting the naming. * Photo: Judi Cohen

During his presentation Hagen reflected on the word luxury.

“I have outlawed the use of the word luxury. When you are on a river vessel, and you compare it to others, make your own judgement and look at all the details. I think we are elegant; we are hopefully understated and hopefully timeless.”

He went on to say, “we don’t take great pride in having various designers for various ships. We believe that when we get it right, just repeat it.”

Hagan then gave a shout-out to Richard Reveire, Viking’s long-time designer.

In a conversation following the naming ceremony with Ms. Karine Hagen, Viking’s EVP of product, Viking Cruises board member, and daughter of Chairman Hagen, she beamed with passion and warmth as we talked about how impactful travel can be.
Viking Cruises Names 7 New Riverboats

Viking’s Karine Hagen with Charlie, the puppy of her beloved lab Finse who is the subject of Hagen’s series of travel books for children, “The World of Finse.” * Photo: Judi Cohen

Ms. Hagen explained about how coming aboard a Viking cruise provides opportunities for education and immersion. Guests can take in local life experiences , learn how local economies work, and enjoy exclusive privileged access at venues such as Downton Abbey, Oxford and Highclere Castle, Lowenstein Castle and the Hermitage to name just a few.
“Our industry can do a lot of good. Travel has the power to make the world a better place,” she said.
With Viking’s head office in Basel, the next morning we also had the opportunity to visit the headquarters. Designed to look like the Viking fleet, with the Scandinavian light woods, Klinker furniture, and open glassed-in rooms and offices, the work environment is in keeping with the brand. We also visited the staff restaurant to see how new recipes are “auditioned” before introduction on the various ships.
All in all, I enjoyed a most appetizing first-taste of Viking’s newest river vessels.

 

➢➢Watch this space for a longer feature on Judi’s mini Rhine cruise aboard the Viking Einar.

Viking Cruises Names 7 New Riverboats

Writer Judi Cohen aboard the new 190-passenger Viking Einar.

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© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.