A river cruise ship is essentially a moving luxury hotel. This concise guide provides a great introduction to River Cruising the European waterways. As as certified agent with the major river cruise companies, reach out to me with any of your questions including river cruise options in the US, Asia, Africa, and South America.
I'll be hosting a luxury cruise this year through Distinctive Voyages. The itinerary includes spending 12 nights cruising New Zealand onboard Celebrity Edge. Contact me for more questions about these two itineraries. There are over 300+ itineraries to choose from. Only a select group of travelers will receive the following perks while aboard the ship.
Distinctive Voyages include:
Ask me how you can join me on the cruise to Alaska or about other Distinctive Voyages!
One of my best clients recently returned from a Viking Ocean cruise and wrote up a very thorough review. She agreed to let me share it with all of you. Thank you to CarolCassara.com for detailing your experience.
Enter Carol Cassara....
So I’ll admit it: we are fans of Viking cruises. We think they’re the best deal around for the highest quality cruise experience. And this Viking cruise review reflects that.
Other disclosure: my non-Viking experience involves only a huge Celebrity cruise to Alaska 20 years ago, but Michael has done many, many different cruises over the years. And he agrees about Viking. (We have been on at least four Viking cruises)
We got back in July 9 from two weeks in Norway/Scotland on our first Viking ocean cruise and the experience is fresh. So here’s what you need to know before you book that cruise, along with tips, labeled TIPS. Of course.
All cruise lines are different. Some are more all-inclusive than others. You may find that what looks like a higher-priced cruise actually includes more stuff. Stuff other cheaper lines require you to pay extra for. Which means they aren’t cheaper after all. Make sure you know exactly what you will have to pay extra for so you are comparing like offerings.
Cabin or Suite
For our two weeks in Norway and Scotland and in recognition that we were not going to be doing much gathering with people in the lounges, we chose a two-room suite with a veranda (of course, we were cruising fjords!). But Viking cabins are spacious and there are so many wonderful lounges and libraries that you would usually not miss the second room.
It’s very easy to just sign for cocktails every night without noticing how they can add up. Most cruises lines sell a booze package and if you enjoy cocktailing, it will probably save you money. We don’t cocktail that often so we never buy the liquor package, but friends do and have saved a lot of money. Not to mention the shock at the end of the cruise when you have to face the bill.
The suite we booked offered free mini-bar. It was stocked with those tiny liquor bottles, a beer, wine, two small chocolate bars, a small package of peanuts and one of almonds. We could ask for more if we wanted. No charge.
Today’s cruise line menus reflect that passengers enjoy healthy eating. Viking knows its customer! Viking’s international buffet offerings include a huge and varied number of vegan and vegetarian offerings. Fruits, vegetables and salads are plentiful. So is protein of all kinds. Cheeses. Yes, cold cuts. Portions are small–have as much as you want, though. On our recent cruise to Norway sushi was on the menu daily. So was an abundance of Indian and other Asian food. A carving station. It’s an impressive array of options and it’s easy to find foods you like. And so casual. It was our go-to restaurant for most of the two weeks.gThat’s our experience of food on Viking ocean cruises. Look at cruise reviews for your specific cruise to see what passengers are saying about food.
Also on Viking you are not forced to a certain dinner seating time. Restaurants are open certain hours and you can go any time in those periods. Plus there are many two-tops so you are not forced into dining with others. I know I sound anti-social–I’m not, but I really do like my own company and that of my fabulous husband. Plus we are Covid-aware.
Viking offers a whole bunch of “included” excursions—-but some of the better outings cost extra. They aren’t that cheap but they are usually worth it. I say “usually” because I’ve been on cruises where the local guides and historians have been fantastic. On this Norway cruise, not so much. That was the only criticism we had: local guides were sometimes desultory and boring.
Excursions include everything: transportation, local guide, tours and sometimes a snack.
Even though I am a very frequent traveler, at this age I get packing amnesia. I brought twice the clothing I needed, including two nice outfits. Viking is pretty casual except for their stand-alone upscale restaurants. We had reservations there for four nights so I figured two nice outfits would do. Actually, I only needed one. We didn’t like one restaurant so we cancelled our second rez. And there was a week between reservations at the one we liked.
I just didn’t need half of what I brought. Pack frugally!
Laundry service is available on ship, a big help with packing. Unlimited laundry service came with our suite, so we did it twice in the two weeks. I’m always hesitant about letting a hotel or ship wash my good stuf. But. They actually will hang dry or do other special things just like I do at home, so this worked out well. They say it takes two days but each time it was back a day later.
Do not do laundry on the last day–we did this once a few years ago and it came back damp, probably because they were overloaded.
Most cruise lines provide an umbrella in your stateroom so no need to bring one. I like a fanny pack or small crossbody so I can be hands-free for excursions. And Viking’s got books of all kinds all over the place so keep that in mind as you pack.
Viking’s toiletries are very high end. Don’t bother to bring your own. And unless you need a special blow dryer, don’t bring that, either. Qtips and shower caps are provided and replaced daily. High end body lotion, body wash, shampoo, condition. This all saves space.
On all Viking ships, suitcases fit neatly under the bed so you can unpack once and never see them again. Yay for that!
Our Viking cruise had a 60+ demographic, although there are plenty of active excursions like hiking and kayaking for those who want more. I did notice a few people who obviously had knee or hip surgery and who didn’t go to excursions. But that didn’t keep them from relaxing at the pool or in one of the lounges. Since this was a fjord cruise, the scenery was everything and if you weren’t mobile, you could still enjoy it.
Active or not, you can make of the cruise what you like.
We masked. I’d say maybe 12% of passengers did. Every time i heard a cough I broke land-speed records getting away from that person because I did not want to get sick on the cruise. And we didn’t. Nor did we get sick afterwards, so we did a good job of staying safe.
Our doc advises to sit as far back as possible on planes or buses, etc and that’s what we do. Last row of any transport. Covid moves forward, she told us.
While we would’ve enjoyed more social interaction with other passengers, we decided against it for safety reasons. Especially once we saw the process of evacuating someone with a medical emergency!
TIP: Travel Insurance and Health Insurance
Yes. Get all that. Yes, expensive. But do it. On our Norway cruise someone had to be helicoptered off in a dramatic evacuation mid-sea and mid-air. It was quite something to see. The helicopter hovered over our ship, which was on the North Sea. No place to land. The doctor was lowered off the helicopter and the passenger was hoisted up–in the middle of the sea. Dramatically scary.
That was a pricey medical evacuation and without insurance you’d be mortgaging the house.
Our ocean cruise offered a small medical center with a doctor and two nurses. The Viking river cruises offer a 24/7 medical hotline staffed by doctors, instead, but then again, they are in port every night. We had four cruising days on the North Sea including two without porting, so it was nice to have medical coverage onboard.
TIP: Airfare Through The Cruise Line
We learned early that buying our flights through Viking saves us a ton of money, so check that out. There is a small fee. Be aware that you might be automatically given a flight in the middle of the night, so be sure to check what they give you and ask them for other options.
Also, airfare through the cruise line gives you airport transfers, which can be hugely expensive to do on your own. This is a big advantage.
It’s not that good if you are in the middle of the ocean, even with Starlink satellite coverage. Don’t expect it to be flawless, although it was sufficient for our needs. Mostly.
WhatsApp allows you to send texts and photos via Wi-Fi, bypassing charges by your cell carrier. So download the app to your phone. We always use it. Get your family and friends to download it so you can communicate with them if you like! We got daily WhatsApp photos of our dogs from their sitter, which was wonderful.
Our ocean cruise offered music all over the ship in the various lounges. There was an amazingly large streaming library and every day, talks by biologists, ecologists, historians on board that you could attend in person or watch in your cabin either in the moment or streaming later. The TV really was a hub for information and entertainment. You could do all of it, part of it or none of it. In person or in cabin. Pretty neat.
Viking provides almost door-to-door service, which proved especially helpful the morning we had to be downstairs at 3:30am to pick up our airport transport. (Ugh: 630am flight from Bergen,Norway to Amsterdam to connect with a flight to SFO–no later options out of Bergen that would connect home)
Pre-coffee bleary eyes and brain, I was in no mood to figure out WTF the Norwegian airport system was. But I didn’t have to. Viking did it for us.
We joined others leaving early down in the atrium of our ship. There, at the appointed time, Viking porters who had taken our luggage the night before reunited us with it and then actually put the suitcases on the bus for us. One Viking rep joined us on the bus for the trip to the airport.
Once there, ANOTHER group of Viking porters helped us get our luggage into the airport, all the way to check in. (I could get used to this!)
The airport was SWARMING with Viking employees who directed us to the correct lines and one even helped us get boarding passes and baggage tags at the kiosk. At that point, we were on our own. But it was A+ service and everyone got it.
Now, I’ve done this kind of thing myself a hundred times, but at this age, on barely any sleep , this standard service for this ocean cruise was really appreciated. One thing Viking does really well is move people around efficiently without them feeling like cattle. Or feeling lost.
Customer service is unparalleled. Viking knows their customer and their offering and it is usually standard across all cruises. Except for Portugal and if you want to cruise the River Douro, you should email me about that. Because it was not the usual five-star Viking experience.
Why We Like Cruises
We do our share of independent trips, especially if we know a place well. We’re heading back to London and the Scottish Highlands on our own next year. But many times we really want someone else to do the heavy lifting. Maybe it’s our age. But you can show up for a cruise and never have to worry about how you are going to get from Point A to B in ports. Unpack once and be done with it. Get access to an amazing variety of foods and some nice activities.
Hope this Viking cruise review was helpful. Message me if you have any questions about this or their river cruises–we are always glad to share what we know!
Oh, and if you haven’t visited my shop, come on over, right HERE!
With the wealth of travel information available on the internet, what is the advantage of working with a travel advisor? The great thing about the internet is the amount of information it provides. Unfortunately, the bad thing about the internet is the amount of information it provides. An effective travel advisor sorts through it all to help you make brilliant travel decisions whether you are traveling solo, as a couple, a family or with a group. Here are three ways I can make planning your next trip a breeze.
Personalized Planning and Expert Guidance
I have clout in the travel industry
Most importantly, I care
As a travel advisor, I am here to take the hassle and guesswork out of your vacation and ensure you make the most of your time away from home. The service I provide helps to makes sure my clients travel investment creates wonderful experiences and lasting memories. This is just the start of my philosophy in crafting meaningful journeys.
Often times, we get stuck in the busy game of life. A whole year passes by and we barely even notice. At some point, we have all felt burned out, whether it’s a stressful career, hectic family life or you simply need a break from reality. My solution? Travel! It's important to take time away from the day-to-day to indulge in a vacation, reflect, and most importantly, have some fun!
You don't have to go far if long-distance travel makes you anxious. If Italy or Japan are too far for comfort, California Wine Country and Las Vegas are great places to explore near the west coast. If you're on the east coast and love whiskey, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail might be right up your alley! If you love food as much as I do, check out this BBQ road-trip. You may also want to consider a river cruise on the Mississippi or even a Caribbean cruise out of Florida.
Your travel options are limitless!
I've helped travelers plan hundreds of trips and vacations throughout the years as a certified travel advisor. I love helping my clients create long-lasting memories from all around the world! Click here for some of my favorite travel itineraries. I hope it inspires you to enrich your life with experiences this year and for years to come. Now,
let’s get traveling!
Are you a planner or do you prefer spontaneity? Do you make to-do lists to tackle each day or do you take things as they come? Does having a color-coded calendar system bring you joy or make you anxious? Many of us rely on itineraries and plans to bring order to our daily lives. Others see planning as too much work and not enough fun.
When it comes to travel, a little planning goes a long way. That’s why the professional expertise and experience of a Travel Advisor is a must.
I’ve worked with both types of clients, the planners and the spontaneous types. They both want a vacation that checks all of their boxes, and it usually starts with what’s on their bucket list.
Speaking of which, when was the last time you revisited your travel bucket list? If it’s been a while or you don’t yet have a bucket list, ask yourself these questions to get started:
Your bucket list can be as long as you want. Once you’ve put all your ideas down, go back and star or circle the top three to five items on it that are your top priorities. Then, set a goal for when you’d like to cross off that experience!
Click here for a handy worksheet to help you create your bucket list!
I’d love to see what you come up with. Maybe you’ve always wanted to do a sunset horseback ride along the beach in Puerto Vallarta. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to take a river cruise through Burgundy & Provence and taste local wines. The options are endless and as a certified travel advisor, I’m here to help make them happen.
Let’s start planning now, so you can make it a reality in the future! I’m currently planning trips for 2022 and 2023! Not sure which of your bucket list items are doable right now, or when you want to travel? I can help you understand your options so that you can feel safe, comfortable and prepared with your future travel plans.
Here’s to shortening your bucket list so you can add even more to it later!
I love creating new traditions, so when I first started traveling, I came up with three ways to create lasting memories from my traveling endeavors.
Travel Tradition No. 1: Save a Bill
Whenever I am traveling, I always keep the lowest denomination paper currency and take it home with me. One day, I found a double-sided clear frame and decided to get crafty. I laid the bills I had collected throughout my travels inside the frame and hung it on my wall. If you visit my home, you can take it off the wall and check out the backside of the bills too! It’s a super simple and fun way to remember your trip.
Travel Tradition No. 2: Discover New Music
When I travel, I appreciate listening to local music, so when I hear a song I like, I purchase one of the musician’s albums. I try to find contemporary, classic and traditional folk music. When friends visit me, we'll talk about my travels, eat some traditional foods from the place I visited and play music from the area to set the mood. Collecting music is a fantastic travel tradition!
Travel Tradition No. 3: Buy Art
I'm not looking for anything fancy. In fact, I typically prefer something sold by local street artists. I've purchased small sculptures, ceramics, freshly created paintings and wooden carvings during my travels. Whenever I look at a piece of art I've brought back home, it reminds me of where I was, the person who created it and how I felt at the time.
Consider implementing these three travel traditions or start your own traditions the next time you travel. Creating traditions is a terrific way to build long-lasting memories and makes it easier to take a trip down memory lane.
2023 is here and with it we say, “out with the old and in with the blue” as we excitedly look forward to many new cruise ships embarking on blue seas this year. On the sea is really the place to be!
Here are ten new ships setting sail this year:
Celebrity Ascent: This fourth ship in the Edge class has the widest range of staterooms and suites of the entire fleet and will feature more than 30 options for dining and beverages. Sail with me on her sister ship from Australia and around New Zealand. Click here for details.
Norwegian Cruise Line Viva: The sister ship to Prima is nearly identical, but features the largest 3 level racetrack at sea, two infinity pools, and 44,000 square feet of outdoor space. Sail with me on Viva through the Mediterranean. Click here for details.
Virgin Voyages Resilient Lady / Brilliant Lady: The adult-only cruise line debuts two ships in 2023, and 90% of the staterooms feature balconies. I've sailed on her sister ships during the summer and for New Year's. If you're looking for a fun vibe, consider Virgin Voyages.
Carnival Jubilee: Named after an early ship in the fleet and raising the bar on family fun, the ship has six fun zones, Bolt! Ultimate Sea Coaster, and Family Feud at Sea.
Royal Caribbean Icon of the Seas: Now the largest cruise ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, Icon of the Seas will debut two new neighborhoods, the largest waterpark at sea, and the largest pool at sea.
Oceania Cruises Vista: Small, intimate dining experiences include Ember and Aquamar Kitchen. A new category of concierge level staterooms designed for solo travelers is an addition to this ship as well.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises Seven Seas Grandeur: This new cruise ship boasts one of the highest space and crew to passenger ratios across the industry. The famed luxury of the brand stretches to this addition to the fleet.
Silversea Silver Nova: As the first ship in the new Nova class, the Silver Nova features new suite categories, a wellness program, comfort food on the in-room menu, and is one of the most spacious cruise ships in the world.
Seabourn Pursuit: Designed to lead passengers to the most diverse environments around the world, the Pursuit is designed for expeditions, and employs a team of 26 expedition experts to educate and assist passengers through their adventures at sea. Northern itineraries that include Greenland, Iceland, and Norway are highlighted.
Viking Saturn: The adults-only Saturn may be identical to the other ships in the Viking fleet, but fans will appreciate the adults-only atmosphere, a tasteful and refined décor, and three new Nordic itineraries.
I love discovering ways to do things more efficiently. In fact, in another lifetime, I was a business analyst where part of my job was to help my co-workers work smarter. Read on to learn about my two favorite travel apps that help me travel with ease.
For those who want organized photos, but don't want to spend the time actually organizing them, this is the travel app for you. It automatically sorts your photos by time and location. It also includes a map view! Simply explore the map as your photos pop into view. Not only can you search for photos by date and location, but you can also search by color. Plus, it includes a feature that allows you to hide an album from prying eyes. If you love to take photos when traveling, this app will become your new best friend.
Learn more about this incredible travel app here.
With airfare constantly fluctuating, it's hard to know when to buy your ticket to get the best rate. You can check one moment and by the next moment, the rate has already increased. Hopper has a data science team mining through trillions of archived flight records to spot trends and predict when you should book your flight to get the best rate possible. It also has a 95 percent accuracy rate! If you are traveling while on a budget, this travel app is perfect for you!
Download it here.
How do you take a good vacation and make it great? It’s all about the upgrades!
Whether you’re planning a budget-friendly break or a luxurious getaway, know that adding a few special touches can drastically improve the overall travel experience. Which travel upgrades are worth the splurge?
Which travel upgrades will you choose for your next vacation experience? Matt Travel is happy to share tips and unique ideas for your getaway.
Sharing my travel experiences and insights