2018 promises many exciting new cruise ships. Here are our top picks:
Seabourn introduce Ovation in 2018. Sister to the stunning Encore, this new ships offers the same pleasing design and first-class service, along with some new developments. Read our full preview here.
In December 2018 the latest Pinnacle-class ship, Nieuw Statendam, is due to embark upon its inaugural voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Key West and Half Moon Cay, Holland America’s private island in the Bahamas. Read our full preview here.
MS Roald Amundsen, launching in 2018,is one of two hybrid cruise ships on order from leading exploration cruise line, Hurtigruten. Read our full preview here.
Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas
Debuting in spring next year, Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is set to be the ‘world’s largest cruise ship’. Read our full review here
Norwegian Bliss, due to launch in April 2018, will be one of the largest cruise ships in the world. As the third in the successful Breakaway-Plus class, this 4000 passenger ship will debut in Alaska before moving to the Caribbean for winter. Read our full preview here.
Billed as ‘The World’s First Discovery Yacht’ the Scenic Eclipse promises to bring something very unique to the ocean cruising experience when it launches in August 2018. Read our full preview here.
Viking’s newest cruise ship Orion, set to debut in July 2018, will be the fifth 930-passenger ship for this world-leading ocean cruise line. Previously referred to as the Spirit, the Orion was re-named in honour of the ship’s Godmother and former NASA astronaut, Dr. Anna Fisher, along with the legendary constellation we all recognise so well in our starry skies.
The all-veranda accommodation follows the same elegant Scandinavian design as its four siblings with almost identical features; giving continuity to the brand and maintaining a formula that clearly works but perhaps lacks excitement and innovation for discerning clientele seeking new onboard experiences.
Of course, the carefully curated itineraries will appeal to the high expectations of well-travelled Viking customers. Shore excursions are included in all ports; absorbing the classical heritage of the Mediterranean as well as the vibrant cultures of Asia and stunning Alaskan landscapes.
Dining is of the highest calibre, with favourites like Manfredi’s and The Chef’s Table firmly regarded as standouts in the Viking experience.
Accommodation is equally fine; with veranda, deluxe veranda and suites offering a range of first-class amenities and benefits. The Explorer Suites have bathtubs, sweeping balconies and a host of fabulous perks.
The main pool area is surrounded by lounge chairs with an overhead, retractable roof for inclement weather. A second infinity pool is located at the back of the ship.
As with all Viking cruise ships the Nordic-inspired Spa has a complementary thermal suite, snow grotto and treatment rooms.
As excitement builds for the launch of Viking’s fifth ship, Orion, it’s clear Viking are basing their expansion on the solid foundations of success they have forged over recent years. But does this safe play risk losing customers who have become accustomed to the Viking cruise ship features and are seeking something more? Only time will tell. In the meantime we relish another addition to the Viking stable and celebrate the cruise line’s formidable growth.
Viking Star berthed today in Lerwick Port Authority’s new £16.5 million multi-purpose jetty at Mair’s Pier .
Viking Star’s passengers are the first to use a new meet-and-greet station and information point accommodating the harbour’s welcoming team. The mobile unit will also be used elsewhere in the port which expects 75 vessels and a 21% increase in passengers to a record of almost 62,000 this season.
Victor Sandison, Senior Commercial Executive, Lerwick Port Authority, said: “The additional berthing and improved visitor arrival experience are part of our ongoing programme to attract and service the cruise industry which makes an important contribution to the Shetland economy.”
The Viking Ocean Cruise line is a world-leader in luxury voyages focusing on cultural enrichment and authentic experiences. The Trade Routes of the Middle Ages itinerary traces medieval commercial trade routes and includes overnight stays in some of Europe’s most picturesque cities
In 2018, the 15-day cruise, from Apr 14 – Apr 28, starts in Barcelona and ends in Bergen. En-route there are visits to Cartagena, Malaga, Porto, Paris, Falmouth, Portsmouth, Zeebrugge and Amsterdam.
An overnight stay in Barcelona allows time to discover this vibrant city; stroll down Las Ramblas boulevard, admire the architecture of Antoni Gaudí, watch a performance of flamenco, dine late over delicious traditional tapas.
Next, visit the historical city of Cartagena, rich with remarkable architecture spanning the ages. Highlights include the Roman Theatre and Roman Forum. Further afield there are trips to Murcia’s stunning Mar Menor, an inland sea formed by an accumulation of coastal sediment.
In Andalusia, the stunning city of Granada is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, and easily reached from Malaga. The Alhambra Palace is a renowned example of Moorish architecture and one of Spain’s most significant historical sights.
A day on the Atlantic Ocean, sailing through the famed Strait of Gibraltar into the Alboran Sea, is a scenic treat. It’s also a chance to sample the many onboard facilities, like the fabulous infinity pool.
Porto, famous for exquisite wine, also has a beautiful historic quarter to explore.
The second sea day gives invaluable time to relax. The Spa, Sauna and Snow Grotto are unique aspects of the Scandinavian Viking Cruise experience.
Port calls in England include Falmouth, gateway to the dramatic county of Cornwall and famous as a backdrop of many films. Henry VIII built his Pendennis Castle here to defend his country from France and the Holy Roman Empire. Portsmouth is equally picturesque. Enjoy sailing between Napoleonic forts in the Solent Strait and passing stunning citadels at the harbor’s entrance. Then discover the city’s prestigious maritime past. This historic naval port houses such historic vessels as Henry VIII’s Tudor battleship Mary Rose and Lord Nelson’s HMS Victory.
Le Havre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the starting point for excursions to Paris. After a scenic drive through the Normandy countryside, the sights of the French capital await, whether that be a trip up the Eiffel Tower or a tour of Notre Dame Cathedral. If you already know Paris well, you might choose to visit the D-Day beaches or the pretty artists’ town of Honfleur instead.
Visit the medieval city of Bruge. Walk the cobblestone streets, climb the towering belfry in the Market Square to see the guild houses and tree-shaded squares, and shop for lace and chocolate. Then onto Amsterdam, the celebrated city of canals and great works of art. You can see Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, in the excellent Rijksmuseum.
Cruising the North Sea gives the chance to sit for a while in the lovely Wintergarden.
Bergen, with its beautiful 18th-century wooden houses, is a delightful final destination. Visit the Hanseatic Museum or Troldhaugen, the home of Norway’s famous composer, Edvard Grieg. For a great view over the city, take the funicular railway to the top of Mt. Ulriken.
‘Pre’ and ‘post’ cruise extensions are certainly worth considering, allowing you to gain a deeper insight into either Barcelona or Bergen, as well as Iceland. The latter choice offers four days in this fascinating country after docking in Bergen. Visit the capital city, Reykjavík, the hot springs and waterfalls of Thingvellir National Park and the legendary Blue Lagoon, a natural geothermal spa. All hotels, breakfasts and transfers are included.
Viking Star is a 930 guest, all-veranda, adult-only ship. The all-inclusive experience includes shore excursions, wi-fi, all onboard meals as well as beer and wine with lunch and dinner, speciality restaurants, complimentary self-service laundry and 24-hour room service.
The Mediterranean is one of the most established and enduringly popular cruise destinations in the world. This beautiful and diverse region stretches along the shorelines of Europe, Africa and Asia – bringing together many cultures and stunning scenery.
Cerulean sky, turquoise sea, superb beaches, Unesco World Heritage Sites, glittering casinos, lavender scented hillsides, pristine forests and of course … the food … enticed 220 million tourists here last year
But such ambrosia comes at a cost – the peak summer months draw huge crowds with most Europeans vacationing during July/August and families on school holidays travelling at that time too. Ports are congested and attractions swamped. Add stifling temperatures to the most expensive rates of the year and a summer Mediterranean cruise can start to lose its appeal. Instead, consider taking an autumn sailing. It’s a great alternative for those seeking a calmer experience, more comfortable weather and cheaper prices.
Viking Ocean’s Cities of Antiquity & the Holy Land voyage sets sail in October 2017 on the brand new Viking Sky. This ‘grown-up’ cruise takes passengers on a 15-day journey from Athens to Rome, visiting many ancient and intriguing sites, especially in the culturally rich Eastern Mediterranean. Naples, gateway to Pompeii, and Crete, home of the legendary Minotaur are particular highlights, as well as stops in Israel and an overnight in Haifa which puts the holiest sites within reach: Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth.
Also this Autumn, Silversea sends the intimate and yacht-like Silver Wind on a 10-day voyage from Monte Carlo to Venice. This gold-standard Mediterranean cruise visits key sites with plenty of glamour, cultural gems and European romance. Helicopter tours from Monaco swoop over the dazzling Cote d’Azure, Livorno offers truffle hunting in the Tuscan countryside, private tours of The Vatican City can be booked in Rome, the ancient city of Pompeii is easily reached from Sorrento, Mount Etna beckons when stopping over in Sicily, Dubrovnik opens up the beautiful Elaphite Archipelago for exploration and a gondola serenade in Venice is the perfect ending to a wonderful Mediterranean experience.
The Regent Seven Seas Explorer raised the bar for new cruise ships when it launched in 2016. Offering ultimate luxury, impeccable service, ultra-modern technology and superb cuisine it’s a shame sea days are so few and far between when cruising the Mediterranean on this vessel. This year it travels on a Western Mediterranean odyssey from Rome to Barcelona later in the season. The 14-day trip calls at the classic cruise ports of Rome, Pisa, Monte Carlo, Sorrento and Palermo as well as visiting the gorgeous Balearic Islands, Sardinia, Corsica and the fabulous Spanish cities of Valencia and Barcelona.
Seabourn’s Autumn Isles is perhaps the ultimate late season Mediterranean cruise. 20-days of blissful travel on the brand new and totally stunning, Seabourn Encore. Leaving from Barcelona, the trip journeys at a gentle pace to the idyllic Balearics, Corsica and Sardinia taking in ultra-glamorous stopovers in legendary St.Tropez and Monaco. Cultural visits to Rome, Florence and Amalfi add interest and the chance to tick off those ‘bucket-list’ destinations. There’s even a whole day of scenic cruising – an unexpected and rare treat on a Mediterranean cruise.
For a taste of the exotic, Azamara’s 17-night Route of the Frankincense follows the ancient spice traders from Europe’s oldest city, Piraeus in Greece, all the way to the futuristic Dubai. The archaeological wonders of Athens including the Acropolis, Parthenon, and Temple of Olympian Zeus are early stops before traversing the Suez Canal for an overnight in Luxor. Sailing the legendary Red Sea leads to Jordan and the chance to visit Petra, an ancient city carved into the side of the Nabateans mountain. Oman and Dubai bring the trip up to the modern day.
If the Dalmatian Coast is on your ‘must-see’ list then Crystal’s Adriatic Adventure this September may prove irresistible. The 7-day round-trip on Crystal Serenity from Venice takes in Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia and Corfu for one dazzlingly beautiful day after another. Medieval towns, serene beaches, ancient ruins and, of course, the romance of grand Italian canals offer a truly unforgettable Autumnal cruise.
The Orkney archipelago is a place of magic and mystery; a stunning coastal landscape steeped in ancient history.
The chain of 70 islands, separated from Scotland’s rugged north coast by the formidable Pentland Firth, are grassy-green and flat-topped. Rich in marine life and seabird colonies, the islands are also home to a wealth of prehistoric sites, standing stones, Viking relics and sunken warships.
The majority of Orcadians live on the ‘Mainland’ which is the largest island, centred around the bustling town of Kirkwall where most cruise ships arrive. Others have homes on a few outlying islands, with enchanting names like Sanday and Papa Westray, accessible by ferry or small plane, although most islands are uninhabited.
Cruise ships generally drop anchor in Kirkwall harbour, bringing guests ashore by tender, or berth at nearby Hatston Pier, a short 2.5 miles from town, accessible by complimentary shuttle bus.
The St. Magnus Cathedral is Kirkwall’s most significant landmark. Built in 1137 and dedicated to the martyred Magnus Erlendsson, Earl of Orkney, this is the most northerly cathedral in the UK and owned by the people of Orkney themselves. The Highland Park Distillery is located on the outskirts of Kirkwall. The superb visitor centre has fascinating and fun tours showing how this famous Orcadian whisky is made – and offers a welcome nip of the amber nectar too.
Orkney is world-renowned for the number and quality of ancient sites it hosts and cruise ship passengers can easily see several of them in one day. Local guides offer comprehensive tours and car rental is readily available for visitors who prefer the independence of self-discovery. The most prominent site, and an absolute must-see, is Skara Brae on the western side of the main island. This Neolithic site, uncovered by a fierce storm in 1850, is one of the best-preserved in Western Europe and transports visitors back 5000 years.
The Ring of Brodgar, The Standing Stones of Stenness and Maeshowe are a trio of established historical sites clustered near to Kirkwall and easily enjoyed on a return journey from Skara Brae. Ness of Brodgar, a current archaeological dig, is ongoing beside these sites and visitors are welcome to view the excavations from a platform overlooking the site.
The Ring of Brodgar stone circle, with 36 megaliths and over a dozen burial mounds, is older than Stonehenge and dates back to the 3rd Millennium BC.
The chambered tomb of Maeshowe, dating back around 5000 years, is one of the finest examples in Europe. A narrow passageway, lined with huge slabs of Orcadian stone, leads to a large chamber perfectly aligned with the winter solstice which illuminates the tomb at the setting sun. In the 12th century, Viking raiders broke into Maeshowe and their runic graffiti is easily seen on the walls.
Nearby, the Standing Stones of Stenness, again dating back 5000 years, encircle a large hearth and are mystically beautiful.
Another Neolithic chambered tomb, The Tomb of the Eagles, was discovered on South Ronaldsay by a local farmer in the 1950s. Thousands of human bones were found inside, along with the remains of white-tailed sea eagles and artefacts of the time. Walking tours describe this interesting story in depth, taking visitors along the cliff path to the tomb and then showing some of the items recovered in the visitor centre.
Orkney played an important strategic role in WWII and visitors to the islands can see the impressive Churchill Barriers, built to protect the British fleet while anchored in Scapa Flow.
The causeways link several small islands and lead to the intricate and beautiful Italian Chapel. Italian POWs, who were in Orkney constructing the Churchill Barriers, adapted a plain prion hut into an intimate chapel complete with stunning Italian artwork.
Stromness,on the West Mainland, is Orkney’s second largest town and a popular port for smaller vessels. The quaint cobbled streets lead visitors to the excellent Pier Arts Centre, famous writer George Mackay Brown’s Memorial Garden and another poignant memorial, this time in honour of Orcadian explorer John Rae who is credited with finding the final portion of the North West Passage.
Two new sister ships, Viking Sky and Viking Sun are expected in 2017 from this fast-growing luxury small cruise line. Identical to the two existing vessels in the fleet, Viking Star and Viking Sea, the 47,800 ton ships will carry 930 passengers in supreme comfort to exciting destinations around the globe.
The rich Nordic heritage, central to the ethos of the cruise line itself, is reflected in the clean and fresh Scandinavian design.
Woven textiles, lights woods and spacious interiors are found throughout the ship, connecting guests to the natural world with a carefully curated collection of antiques and art.
In the Wintergarden, a canopy of Scandinavian trellised wood reflects the Norse mythology of Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life.
Elsewhere, in the Viking Living Room, the wild lichen of Norway’s Finse Mountain Plateau inspires a geometric garden.
Multiple dining options replicate current Viking Ocean ships; including the main Restaurant, The World Cafe, The Chef’s Table and the immersive all-day experience of The Kitchen Table. Other casual eateries complement room-service with plenty of al fresco options throughout.
Staterooms vary from entry-level Veranda cabins to the ultra-luxurious Owner’s Suite, with a range of sizes and benefits in between.
Fitness and Wellness are a feature of Viking Ocean cruises, with a full promenade deck delighting traditional cruisers, a well-equipped gym and glass-backed infinity pool cantilevered off the stern. The gym on Viking Sun is extended in size and facilities.
The LivNordic Spa is typically and wonderfully Scandinavian with a complimentary thermal suite hosting alternative hot and cold treatments in true Nordic style. Saunas and steam areas combine with a thalassotherapy pool, hot tub, therapy showers and unique snow grotto.
A casual and relaxed atmosphere is a signature of Viking Ocean cruises, and fully expected to extend to the new vessels due this year. There are no formal nights or casinos, and in keeping with company policy, children under 16 years are not allowed on board. Alternatively, guests lean more towards enrichment and port immersion, enjoying free excursions at every port. Both new ships have exciting and diverse itineraries on offer, with Viking Sun’s maiden season sailing the line’s first world cruise, a 141-day itinerary visiting five continents.
Launched in 2013, the Viking Ocean Cruise brand is building on the success of the company’s outstanding river cruises; offering the same immaculate vessels, first-class service and destination rich itineraries. The current fleet has two small-scale ships, the Viking Star and Viking Sea, with a further two planned for 2017. All-veranda staterooms, tasteful Scandinavian design, a fast-gaining reputation for excellent service, enjoyable food, upscale atmosphere and thoughtful touches are propelling this new ocean cruise line towards great success. The company was founded in 1997 by Chairman Torstein Hagen, who previously served as CEO of Royal Viking Line and as a member of the board of directors of Holland America Line and Kloster Cruise Ltd.
There are currently two vessels: Viking Star and Viking Sea with Viking Sky and Viking Sun launching in 2017.
47,800 tonnes, 930 guests, 465 crew
47,800 tonnes, 930 guests, 465 crew
The cruise line has expanded on its popular itineraries in Europe and the Mediterranean to include further sailings to North America and the Caribbean.
All staterooms come with balconies and range from standard verandas to the grand Explorer’s Suite, which comes with a separate living room, wraparound balcony, and deep soaking tub. Decor is bright and tasteful with quality linens and furnishings, ceramic stone bathrooms, Freyja products and free Wi-Fi.
Food and Drink
Cruise fares include dining at all venues, including the many al fresco eateries. Wine, soft drinks and beer are complimentary when dining along with 24-hour room service.
The beautiful Spa is a haven of luxury and top-class treatments with a distinctively Nordic edge; the sauna, snow grotto, steam room and pool are calm spaces open to all guests regardless of whether they have a Spa appointment. Two on-deck pools, including a spectacular cantilevered infinity pool, are grown-up places (no children under 16 are allowed on Viking Ocean Cruises) where tans are nurtured and Mojitos enjoyed.
Free Wi-Fi keeps guests connected to the outside world if they choose and the very well-stocked library in The Explorer’s Lounge is a quiet place to spend an hour with a good book and delicious coffee.
There is no casino on board, which is considered a plus by the mainstay of Viking customers, and entertainment is generally restrained. One shore excursion is included in the cruise fare with other more immersive experiences offered as optional extras.
The Viking Explorer’s Society is the guest loyalty programme offering travel credits, on board recognition and gifts. A referral reward scheme also earns travel credits for each friend introduced to Viking.