Fast-growing Viking has one of the most diverse arrays of itineraries of any cruise line.
Not only does the California-based company offer ocean cruises in almost every corner of the world, it also offers river cruises on many of the world’s major rivers.
That’s notably different from most cruise lines. Typically, cruise lines operate either ocean cruises or river cruises but not both. That gives them a smaller range of itineraries.
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Viking has a particularly large footprint when it comes to European river itineraries, with a wide range of sailings on nearly every European river of any note, from the Douro in Portugal to (until recently) the Volga in Russia.
There are 80 river ships in Viking’s fleet — an astounding number. None of its main competitors among river lines catering to North Americans, which include Avalon Waterways, Uniworld and AmaWaterways, have anywhere near that number of vessels.
Among ocean cruise destinations, Viking has a major presence in Scandinavia and Northern Europe, which it considers its home turf. (The company was founded by a Norwegian family.) However, you’ll find Viking’s nine traditional ocean ships everywhere from North America to Asia and Australia.
Last year, the line began cruising to Antarctica with its first expedition ship — a type of vessel built specifically for travel to remote, hard-to-reach places. Viking now has two such vessels.
Among the line’s voyages, there’s everything from eight-day cruises in the Mediterranean to 138-day around-the-world voyages.
Overwhelmed with choices? Here are the five best Viking cruise destinations where the line can truly offer you a memorable vacation.
Scandinavia and Northern Europe
Some of Viking’s most interesting itineraries are around Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea, with many beginning or ending in Norway — the homeland of the company’s founder and chairman, Torstein Hagen.
As Hagen once told me, Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea are what the company considers “Viking country” — a region where it wants to dominate.
During summers, in particular, Viking devotes an unusually large number of its ships to itineraries around Scandinavia, the Baltic Sea and other Northern Europe destinations such as Iceland. Many, notably, use the relatively small but famously scenic Norwegian city of Bergen (population 286,000) as a gateway, something no other line is doing. That allows for unusual variations on the typical Baltic Sea or Norwegian fjords cruise.
The line’s most popular route in the region, “Viking Homelands,” is a two-week-long, one-way trip between Bergen and Stockholm that combines several days of exploring the fjord region of Norway’s west coast with more-typical Baltic cruise destinations such as St. Petersburg, Russia, and Helsinki.
Note that, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Viking has pulled the St. Petersburg stop, as well as stops in Finland and Estonia from the Viking Homelands itinerary; the trips instead feature extra stops in Norway and Denmark. It’s unlikely St. Petersburg will return to the itinerary until the war in Ukraine is resolved.
Viking also offers a 14-night itinerary that includes several stops in the northernmost part of the country above the Arctic Circle. Dubbed “Into the Midnight Sun,” the one-way route between Bergen and London is unique because it combines calls in far-north Honningsvag and Tromso, Norway, with visits to Scotland’s remote Shetland Islands and the Orkney Islands. Though part of the United Kingdom, these archipelagos have ties to Norwegian and Viking history.
Itineraries that will take you from Bergen to Iceland or even as far away as France, Portugal and Spain also are available.
Viking’s Scandinavia and Northern Europe trips range widely in length from just seven nights to a whopping 28 nights.
Among the longest sailings that Viking offers that include calls in Northern Europe are one-way, 28-night voyages between Bergen and New York City. The trips include stops in Norway, Iceland, Greenland and Canada.
In Northern Europe, Viking ships mostly sail out of Bergen, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Copenhagen and London as well as Reykjavik.
Viking has grown into a major player in Mediterranean sailings, with more than 30 distinct itineraries that include stops in the region.
The trips include voyages focused specifically on the Western Mediterranean or Eastern Mediterranean and some that include stops across both areas.
Typical of the latter is the line’s 14-night “Mediterranean Antiquities” routing, a one-way trip between Athens and Barcelona that stops in Greece, Turkey, Italy, Monaco, France and Spain.
More-focused Mediterranean itineraries include the line’s nine-night “Empires of the Mediterranean” voyages between Venice and Athens, which mostly concentrate on stops along the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea in Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro.
In the Mediterranean, the line’s main hubs are Barcelona; Civitavecchia (the port for Rome) and Venice, Italy; Piraeus (the port for Athens), Greece; and Istanbul.
Viking is, quite simply, the giant of river cruising in Europe — at least among lines that cater to English speakers. The company operates around 70 river ships on a broad swath of the continent’s rivers — far more than any other river line catering to North Americans.
In all, the line accounts for about half of all river cruises taken by North Americans in the region. The next biggest player in Europe river cruises for North Americans, AmaWaterways, is less than half the size.
Among the rivers in Europe where Viking has a major presence are the Rhine, Main and Danube in Central Europe; the Seine, Rhone, Dordogne, Garonne and Gironde in France; the Douro in Portugal; and the Moselle and Elbe in Germany. Until recently, Viking also offered cruises on the Dnieper River in Ukraine. The voyages have been suspended since Russia invaded the country in early 2022.
On nearly all of the rivers, the line offers multiple itineraries with lengths ranging from seven nights to as many as 22 nights.
Among 10 different itineraries on the Rhine River alone, offerings range from a seven-night “Rhine Getaway” from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland, to a 22-night “European Sojourn” from Amsterdam to Bucharest, Romania. The latter adds travel on the Main and Danube rivers to days on the Rhine.
Viking offers some of the most intimate and elegant cruises on the Nile, with three ships including the recently unveiled, 82-passenger Viking Osiris — one of our favorite vessels on the river.
All three of Viking’s Nile ships operate the same seven-night Nile cruise itinerary that Viking pairs with a four-night stay at a hotel in Cairo (three nights before the cruise and one night after) to create an 11-night “Pharaohs and Pyramids” tour of Egypt.
The cruise portion of the tour includes visits to the historic temples of Luxor, Karnak, Esna, Dendera and Abu Simbel as well as a visit to the iconic Valley of the Kings. The stay in Cairo brings a visit to the pyramids of Giza, the Egyptian Museum and other sites.
Viking Osiris is the first of four sister ships that Viking plans to launch on the Nile by 2025 as it doubles its footprint in Egypt. The vessels offer a clean-lined, Scandinavian-influenced design that mimics the look of Viking’s Europe-based vessels.
Notably, the ship features an entire deck of sprawling suites that rival anything else found on the Nile for luxury and comfort. Each comes with two full-size rooms — a large living room with a residential feel and an adjacent bedroom with a walk-in closet and bathroom. Each suite also has an outdoor balcony with seating for two — something you don’t always see on Nile ships.
Viking is a newcomer to cruises to Antarctica, but the destination is a big growth area for the line. Viking recently added two new, 378-passenger expedition cruise vessels specifically built to travel to the White Continent.
Dubbed Viking Octantis, the first of these vessels began sailings to Antarctica in February 2022. The second ship in the series, Viking Polaris, has just joined its sister in Antarctica this year. Together, the two ships are already making waves in the market for Antarctica cruises, in part because they have several new and unusual features.
Most notable is The Hangar, an enclosed marina that allows passengers to transfer to two of each ship’s exploratory vessels while still in the protected interior of the ship. A first for an expedition ship, it’s something that is significantly improving the experience for passengers heading out on Antarctica exploration.
In another first for polar expedition cruise vessels, every cabin on both Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris has floor-to-ceiling glass walls that slide partially open from the top to create a balcony-like feel.
Viking offers several Antarctic itineraries, with the typical trip starting with a night at a hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina, before a flight to Ushuaia, Argentina, to board one of the two expedition ships for an 11-night cruise to Antarctica and back. A longer version of the trip features 13 nights on board one of the ships and extra days in Antarctica.
Viking also offers Antarctica sailings that combine a visit to the White Continent with stops in the Falkland Islands, Uruguay and Brazil.
Viking Octantis, notably, also operated Viking’s first sailings around the Great Lakes this year. In 2023, both Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris will spend their summers in the Great Lakes.
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