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October 10, 2016

What Makes Viking Cruises Ocean Ships So Special? 
A Fantastic Spa, for Starters!

European Christmas Markets: Singing, Dancing, and Unique, Lovely Holiday Gifts From Open-Air Stalls

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What makes Viking Ocean Cruises so special?

We are home from our two-week Baltic cruise on the new Viking Star and we remain impressed. Here are some of the reasons that we think the folks at Viking are getting it right:

  • They do not have a casino.
  • They do not have photographers nor do they sell photos.
  • They do not have art auctions.
  • They do not have any passengers under the age of 18.
  • The drinking age onboard is 21.
  • They do not charge for passengers to use all of the spa facilities, including the thermal pool and the snow grotto.
  • They do not charge for wine and beer at lunch and dinner.
  • They do not charge for specialty coffees, soft drinks and juices anytime.
  • They provide complimentary bottled water in all cabins and on all excursions.
  • They do not leave towel animals in your cabin, or a turndown chocolate for that matter.
  • They do not charge extra to dine in their two specialty restaurants.
  • They show movies on the pool deck almost every night and the movies are keyed to the itinerary.
  • They offer sufficient live entertainment, but it is not excessive.
  • They do not promote sales in the shops on board.
  • They offer “included” shore excursions in every port at no charge, as well as an array of optional excursions that include evening events like ballet performances, folkloric shows and jazz cruises.
  • The wi-fi internet is free to everyone. Not fast (you won’t be streaming movies), but adequate for browsing the internet and checking email. There are four computers for passenger use on each ship.
  • They offer port-intensive itineraries, with overnights in the most interesting places.
  • They have a crew that are incredibly good – cheerful, helpful, efficient and always welcoming.
  • The ships are comparatively small, carrying only 930 passengers. Many of their recent sailings have been sold out.

The Viking Star was introduced in April 2015 and the Viking Sea was introduced this spring. In 2017, the Viking Sky will come online in early 2017 and the fourth ship, the Viking Sun will begin a world cruise in December of next year. Three more sister ships are on order.

And here is a Viking Star diary for your reading pleasure.

By Cynthia Boal Janssens

(This is an excerpt from Cynthia’s blog, detailing her September 2016 voyage on the Viking Star. For the full story, click here.)

…We have not yet been on the Viking Star for 24 hours but she is such a nice size that we have pretty much explored all her nooks and crannies.

And so far, she rates an A+.

I came to find out why Viking Ocean Cruises received so many rave reviews in its first year of operation and it is quickly becoming apparent why that is. I’ll be discussing the “whys” in detail over the coming days.

There are many features that make the Viking Star distinctive but the one that really caught my attention on my first swing around the decks was the LiV Nordic spa. The spa area luxurious, well-designed and open to everyone. The ladies and men’s locker rooms are separate, each with its own dry sauna and a cold plunge pool. In each locker you will find a robe, slippers, spa underwear (use is optional), a towel and a box for valuables. You lock this unit with your room key card.

In between the locker rooms is a common area with a good-sized thermal pool (96 degrees), with another smaller hot tub adjoining (100 degrees). It has aeration jets for those who want to do some resistance swimming. There is also a large steam room and the “snow grotto”…a chamber where snow actually falls from the ceiling and accumulates in drifts on the floor. If the snow is too much of a shock to your system after your heat soak, there is a shower where you can just dump a bucket of cold water over your head…literally.

I first experienced this Scandinavian tradition of alternating heat and cold in Finland some years ago but I bet a lot of Americans will give it a first try here. According to the spa literature, “alternating hot and cold baths detoxes the body, relaxes tired muscles and boosts circulation.”

Simply, the Nordic bathing ritual involves:

Relax in the sauna

Dip in the cold plunge

Heat up in the sauna (or steam room) again

Step into the snow grotto

Repeat as many times as you like

Trust me, it certainly wakes you up!  In addition, there is a full fitness center, small workout/yoga room and a hair and nail salon. The key for me here is that you do not have to be having a treatment to use these facilities. They are available to everyone at no additional charge. I intend to spend some serious time here.

The décor all over the ship is distinctively Scandinavian. Spare, minimal, light colors. You will not find lush green plants around the pool, but rather stark arrangements of tree limbs. Table decorations are of moss, lichen and ferns rather than florals. The “atrium” spans three levels in the middle of the ship, giving it an airy feel.

I understand that the ship, which carries 930 passengers, is nearly full this week but it doesn’t seem crowded
even when the small theater is full for lectures….


To read the entire story of Cynthia's Sept 2016 Baltic Cruise on the Viking Star, click here.

More about Viking Ocean Cruises:

Viking Ocean Cruises Reviews

Viking Sea
Viking Sky
Viking Star
Viking Sun

About Viking Ocean Cruises (Part of Viking River Cruises) Exploring the World in Comfort®

Whether on river or ocean cruises, Viking Cruises offers cruises that are destination focused and carefully crafted with a mix of cosmopolitan and smaller ports of interest.

With three sister ocean going ships now on order, Viking developed its ocean cruises by leveraging extensive feedback and input from Viking River Cruises® passengers, and with experienced travelers in mind. Itineraries are designed for maximum time in port, often with late evenings or overnights, so guests can experience local nightlife or evening performances. Ports include both cosmopolitan cities and "collector ports," and appeal to those with an interest in history, art and culture. In addition, Viking Inclusive Cruising provides unparalleled value-with every cruise fare including a veranda stateroom, shore excursions in each port of call, all onboard meals, and all port charges and government taxes. Guests also enjoy many complimentary amenities as part of their fare, including: beer and wine with lunch and dinner service; Wi-Fi; self-service laundry and 24-hour room service-a value of more than $2,400 per couple for an average cruise.

Viking Ocean Cruises is best for:

Those who love a new ship, couples who have cruised on Viking River and at this time we believe all types of travelers will like this new experience.

Those interested in a destination immersion.

Those who prefer a more all-inclusive experience.

Viking Star, Viking Sea and Viking Sky will sail in Scandinavia & the Baltic and the Western & Eastern Mediterranean.

Considering a Cruise at the Holidays this year?

Why not consider a cruise that incorporates the European Christmas markets?

The history of Christmas markets goes back to the late middle ages in the German-speaking parts of Europe. The Vienna “December Market” was a forerunner of the Christmas market and dates back to 1294.

In many of the charming towns and villages in Germany and Austria, Advent is usually ushered in with the opening of the Christmas markets. Medieval in appearance, they are held in the town square and sell food, drink and lovely handmade gifts from open-air stalls. There is usually a generous amount of singing and dancing. Wikipedia has the best description and list of the Christmas markets we have found.

The Christmas market sailings on river cruise lines generally begin in mid-November and continue through the end of the year. These sailings are typically held on the Main, Rhine, Danube and Seine rivers. They are perfect for those wanting to experience the quintessential magic of the holidays while shopping for one-of-a-kind treasures

However, Christmas market cruises are not the only available option, regardless of where you decide to cruise, (In the cold months, perhaps a Bahamas cruise sounds best to you?) here are some great reasons to consider a voyage during the holiday season.

1. Truly festive atmosphere– After Thanksgiving, the cruise lines get in the holiday spirit by decorating their ships from bow to stern. Some cruise lines spend in excess of $100,000 annually on holiday decorations. Christmas trees, lights, garlands and even artificial snow bring the festive season alive at sea. Hanukkah customs and celebrations also are observed. Religious services of all types are often held aboard.

2. Special guests– Christmas-time cruises would not be complete without guest appearances from Santa, Mrs. Claus and their elf friends. They make appearances on many ships during the holiday season in the spirit of fun and relaxation leading up to Christmas Day. As expected, Santa’s bag of goodies is full for the kids on board.

3. New Year’s fun– Ringing in the New Year is a splash aboard a cruise ship. Elaborate parties take place at sea for people of all ages and tastes. Special food, entertainment, toasts, party favors and more make the night memorable. For sports fans, many of the cruise lines offer special all-day tailgate parties to watch New Year’s Day football.

4. True relaxation– Leave the hustle and bustle (and accompanying stress) of the holidays behind and enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere with the family on a cruise vacation. There is no better way to spend an afternoon in December than lying poolside while sailing across the ocean, or snorkeling through a secluded reef on a cruise line private island.

5. Unique gifts– A cruise vacation is one holiday gift that will be truly appreciated. Plus, there is interesting shopping onboard the ship and in various ports. Special shipping arrangements can be made to get the gifts home. If Santa is going to visit the kids, the cruise lines recommend small token gifts that are easy to hide and transport. Leave big gifts at home to open before or after the trip.

6. No snow– A holiday cruise is ideal for people looking for a change of scenery as colder weather moves in at home. With Caribbean temperatures in the low 80s during this time of year, the closest you’ll come to cold weather on a cruise ship is the air conditioning. (Some ships do feature snow falling in the ship’s atrium, but it is manmade- and wonderfully designed to melt before hitting the floor.)

7. Great food– Nobody goes hungry on a cruise vacation, especially during the holidays. A variety of eats are available 24/7. Cruise menus fit the season, with world-class chefs preparing traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, plus special kosher foods during Hanukkah. There are no shortages of gingerbread, cookies, pies and other deserts.  Even better… you don’t do the cooking!

a private invitation for Oceania Cruises

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Expedia: $229
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Thank you once again for choosing CruiseCompete.



Bob Levinstein
CEO Ventures, LLC.


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2016 Family Friendly Cruise Travel Planner [PDF] or Online book

While there is a perfect cruise vacation for everyone, not every cruise line is the ideal match for every family. Some lines have minimum age requirements for children (and pregnancy policies for expectant parents!), and others don't permit children to sail at all. In addition, while a line may allow children to sail, it’s not a given that the line has specially designed children’s programs in place. 

With these things in mind, determining the best cruise line for your family takes careful research, preparation and planning. The travel experts at CruiseCompete have composed the “2016 Family-Friendly Cruise Travel Planner,” which details every aspect of the family cruise vacation experience.

The “2016 Family-Friendly Cruise Travel Planner” is designed to kick-start your cruise vacation planning, and covers the entire spectrum of options with information on mainstream lines like Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line, as well as unique alternatives like luxury, river and small ship excursion companies.

All information has been compiled in an easy-to-read format, with brief “at-a-glance” summaries to see if the cruise line fits your basic requirements, followed by more detailed information about the atmosphere on board, the destinations you can travel to and the specific programs available for children.

Take a look!  2016 Family Friendly Cruise Travel Planner [PDF] or Online book

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