Fast-growing Viking to have six ocean ships by 2020

AMSTERDAM — River cruise giant Viking’s move into ocean cruising is poised to accelerate with the line operating six vessels at sea as early as September 2020.

A company executive on Tuesday revealed an official timetable for the arrival of its fifth and sixth ocean ships: June 2018 and September 2020, respectively. As previously announced, three other ships on order will debut by late 2017.

All of the ships will be sisters to the company’s first ocean ship, the 930-passengerViking Star, which debuted in April 2015.

The disclosure of a firm timetable for the arrival of the company’s fifth and sixth ocean ships came during a press conference preceding the christening of six Viking river ships along the Amsterdam waterfront.

Offering an updated outlook for Viking’s expansion into ocean cruising, Viking executive Jeff Dash said the company would take delivery of its second ocean ship, Viking Sea, on March 24 from the shipyard in Italy where it has been under construction for more than a year. The next two vessels in the series, Viking Sky and Viking Sun, are now scheduled for delivery on Feb. 15, 2017 and Oct. 31, 2017, respectively, Dash said.

Dash then went on to list the months for the debut of Viking’s fifth and sixth ships, which he called “unnamed one” and “to-be-named two,” apparently forgetting that such specifics had yet to be publicly announced.

“But I don’t think we’ve announced all of them yet, have we,” he said, turning to other Viking executives at the press conference.

“No, we haven’t,” said a company spokesperson sitting in the back, who then added, laughing, “we just did.”

Viking’s rollout of new ships is on track to be one of the fastest on record for a new ocean line. Assuming the timetable holds, Viking will surpass one of its closet competitors, Azamara Club Cruises, in passenger capacity later this month, and it’ll be bigger than rival Oceania Cruises by 2020. Including a new ship starting service in April, Oceania’s vessels now have a capacity for 5,236 passengers at double occupancy. Viking’s planned rollout of ships will give it a capacity of 5,580 passengers by 2020. Oceania has no new ships on the way after April.

Viking is competing closely with Azamara and Oceania with similarly upscale, destination-focused voyages on ships in the 650 to 1,250 passenger range.

Viking also soon will have more capacity than luxury lines Seabourn Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Crystal Cruises, which also operate small- to medium-size ships. Viking is poised to surpass all three lines in passenger capacity by early next year.

Speaking at a dinner Tuesday night following the river ship christening, Viking chairman Torstein Hagen once again said the company is aiming for at least 10 ocean ships in addition to 100 river ships — numbers he has thrown out at company events several times over the past two years. The company currently operates 56 river ships in Europe and markets several more river vessels in Asia.

Hagen said bookings for Viking’s new ocean cruises are strong. The company has made waves in the ocean cruise industry the past year with its emphasis on a “no nickel-and-diming” philosophy that is relatively rare even on upscale lines. It offers complimentary Internet access to all passengers and an included tour in every port. Both are hallmarks of river cruising that have never caught on with ocean lines. Beer and wine also is complimentary with lunch and dinner on Viking ships, and even little things like movies on the interactive televisions in rooms and the ship’s self-serve laundry machines are available at no extra charge.

For a peek inside the Viking Star, click through our ‘first look’ photo tour in the carousel at the top of this story. For a look inside the Viking Star’s cabins, click through the carousel below.

Interested? Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on line at www.vipleisuretravel.com

New Holland America ship takes to the sea.

Holland America's newest ship, the 2,650-passenger

What will Holland America’s next ship look like under way? Our new photo tour, in the carousel above, offers a sneak peek at the 2,650-passenger Koningsdam undergoing sea trials in recent days off the coast of Italy.

The tour also includes recent shots of the Koningsdam under construction and artist drawings of interior spaces planned for the vessel.

Scheduled to debut in April, the 99,500-ton Koningsdam is the first of a new class of vessel at Holland America that will be larger than previous ships and have a more contemporary design. The line tapped noted resort and restaurant designer Adam Tihany to create interior spaces in partnership with Bjørn Storbraaten, who worked on two earlier Holland America vessels. Tihany also has created spaces for Celebrity and Seabourn ships.

A major milestone in the construction of a cruise ship, sea trials involve days of maneuvers to test propulsion, steering and navigational equipment, and Holland America says the Koningsdam passed with flying colors. It’s now back at theFincantieri shipyard near Venice, Italy where it has been under construction for more than a year.

With sea trials completed, only final finishing work remains before the Koningsdam is delivered to Holland America by the shipyard. With its addition, the line will have 14 ships at sea.

Koningsdam will operate a diverse range of seven- to 26-day sailings around the Mediterranean and Baltic through the fall starting at $999 per person followed by Caribbean and Bahamas sailings.

Call us to book your next cruise at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

Norwegian Cruise Line to expand in Europe

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Make that five ships in Europe for Norwegian Cruise Line.

The Miami-based cruise operator on Tuesday announced it would send five vessels to Europe for the summer of 2017 — one more than this year and the most in its 50-year history.

Norwegian said one of its newest ships, the 3,969-passenger Norwegian Getaway, would reposition to the Baltic for the summer from its current home in Miami, operating eight- and nine-night voyages out of Copenhagen.

The Getaway’s new itineraries will feature calls in Tallinn, Estonia; Helsinki, Finland;Stockholm, Sweden; and St. Petersburg, Russia.

Norwegian in 2017 also will offer its first complete season of cruises out of Hamburg, Germany as the Norwegian Jade moves to the city. The ship will operate seven- and nine-day Western Europe cruises; nine- and ten-day Norwegian Fjords cruises; 12-day Norway and North Cape sailings; as well as a 14-day Norway, Iceland and UK cruise.

In addition to Hamburg, passengers sailing the Norwegian Jade during the summer of 2017 also will be able to embark the vessel in the UK and Amsterdam.

Norwegian Jade sailings that include stops in the UK will mark the first time since 2010 that the line has operated from one of the country’s ports.

Other Norwegian ships operating in Europe for the summer of 2017 will include the Norwegian Epic, which once again will offer seven-night sailings out of Barcelona; Civitavecchia, Italy (near Rome); and Marseille, France.

Norwegian Spirit will sail alternating 10- and 11-night Grand Mediterranean cruises between Barcelona and Venice; and Norwegian Star will spend the summer cruising from Venice to the Greek Isles as well as the Adriatic, Greece & Turkey.

Ready to book you next cruise? Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

 

Reasons to book you next trip with a travel agent.

1. A Trip Tailored to YOU: Travel agents not only handle booking travel, but can help find the best cruise for every traveler. A travel agent can create a perfect travel experience based on preferences, tastes and travel hopes. A great agent can also help find unexpected activities and destinations that fit travel styles to create a once-in-a-lifetime cruise experience. For example, are you a Francophile with a penchant for finding the best local cuisines wherever you go? Your agent can help book a perfect Parisian cruise and maybe even provide tips for finding the best crepes and macaroons during shore excursions.

2. An Expert at the Ready: Travel agents are a wealth of travel information with plenty of real-world travel experience. Cruise-focused agents go through extensive training as well as visit ships regularly to provide incredible travel advice. Agents work with a variety a cruise lines so they make a great resource for any questions regarding differences in cruise ships or destinations. Agents can also provide counsel to travelers thinking about everything from travel insurance to dining times to cabin location.

3. Discounts & Deals: In most cases, travel agents have access to deals and discounts that aren’t available to consumers booking directly. Agents sometimes have the ability to book-in-bulk so clients are privy to lower pricing for booking through an agent. As a bonus, the majority of agents are paid through commission so there isn’t an out-of-pocket expense for their services.

4. Perks & Personalized Travel: Travel agents want travelers to be happy and what is one way to make that happen? Perks! Most agents can offer clients incredible perks, like complimentary bottles of wine, prepaid gratuities and onboard spending money. In addition to fun extras, agents can also arrange personalized travel details for your cruise like gluten-free dining or post-cruise transportation home.

5. A Stress-Free Travel Experience: For a stress-free travel experience, identify a credentialed cruise specialist. Many agents become accredited cruise counselors through CLIA’s Seascape Academy or take courses through the different cruise lines to elevate their expertise in cruise vacation experiences. These travel agents are committed to providing the best travel experience for every client every time. This leaves the logistics to a professional, giving travelers someone in their corner if things go wrong. If a flight is missed or excursion is cancelled, an agent can handle refunds and logistics to take the stress out of traveling.

Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008 to plan you next trip.

Follow us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

 

Five myths about Europe cruises

Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain

There are advantages to doing an ocean or river cruise in Europe this summer, particularly the strong US dollar – meaning more money in your pocket to buy European goods and to try local restaurants while in port.

Here we dispel five myths that shouldn’t be holding you back from cruising in Europe.

1. Europe cruises are all about the Mediterranean

First, the truth is that the Mediterranean is the most popular cruising region. Western Mediterranean cruises from places including Barcelona and Civitavecchia (the port city for Rome) take you to Italy, Spain and France with access to such must-see places as the Colosseum in Rome, Michelangelo’s David in Florence and the Leaning Tower of Pisa; eastern Mediterranean cruises get you to the Acropolis and other ancient historic sites and scenic islands of Greece and Turkey, and may include the wonders of Venice and Croatia. But these are hardly the only cruise itineraries in Europe. Baltic cruises, embarking from Copenhagen, Amsterdam and ports in the UK, get you to the Old World wonders and cutting edge design of Scandinavia and include St. Petersburg, Russia, where you can visit palaces of the Czars and see a Russian ballet performance. Costal Norway cruises bring you to fairytale landscapes and breathtaking fjords. Cruise the British Isles to explore Scottish history, visit pubs and kiss the Blarney Stone. Or explore high culture along the French Riviera. River cruises bring you to inland destinations including the world-class sights of Vienna or the Bordeaux wine region.

2. All Europe cruises are long

While you cover more ground on cruises of two weeks or more, there is a large variety of one-week itineraries. On Princess Cruises, you can explore in a week the western Mediterranean, Greece and Turkey or the Baltics – a sailing from Barcelona to Rome in June on Emerald Princess bargain-priced from $598 per person. Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean, among others, also have a variety of one-week itineraries this summer. Luxury line Seabourn’s seven-day sailings include the Baltics; sailing and motor yacht line Windstar has one-week cruises to the Greek Isles and Italian and French Riviera (including Monte Carlo). You can explore the Norwegian Fjords on a six-day cruise on Hurtigruten between Bergen and Kirkenes. River cruise lines such as Viking River Cruises and Avalon Waterways do weeklong cruises in France and on the Danube and Rhine.

3. All Europe cruises are for grownups

Depending on the cruise line, there are likely to be many families onboard. Your kids will find activities galore and have opportunity to meet youngsters from various countries in programs operated by lines including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Princess, MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises. Disney Cruise line, on its European cruises – in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean – gears much of the experience toward families. This year’s cruises on Disney Magic in Norway include appearances by Anna and Elsa and other characters from the movie “Frozen.” River cruises have mostly been the realm of adults, but lines inluding Tauck and Uniworld have specific kid-friendly sailings, and Adventures by Disney is doing family river cruises next year on a ship chartered by AmaWaterways.

A benefit of a cruise in Europe is that you visit several countries without having to hassle with going through several airports, taking trains or checking into a bunch of hotels – your floating hotel takes you comfortably on to the next destination, often several countries each week. Cruise lines have gotten more savvy of late in terms of understanding that some travelers want more time in port, so you may find an itinerary that spends 12 or more hours or even overnights in key ports, affording you more time to explore and experience the local nightlife. If you’re a DIY type it behooves you to check itineraries carefully in terms of time in port, especially if you plan to explore on your own any distance from the ship.

5. All you do is visit churches and museums

Shore excursions bring the benefit of targeting specific must-see attractions from ancient Pompeii to the Hermitage to the Vatican, getting you there with a guide in a hassle-free way, where you don’t have to exchange money or even speak the local language. But there are cultural tours and active tours and even, on some itineraries, beach excursions that have nothing to do with history or religious sites. Those who consider themselves “travelers” or who just don’t like organized tours are also free to take off on their own, mingling with locals at a market, discovering the perfect croissant at a bakery, visiting artist studios, dancing on tables at a taverna. The cruise is your transportation, but you can create your own exploration scenario. There is opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and rhythm of the places you’ll visit – albeit only for a day or two. Those who want to linger can also take advantage of pre- and post-cruise opportunities.

Now is the time to book your cruise. Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

Cruising in 2015? Trends We Love!

6 Trends We Love About Cruising in 2015

(Photo: PrincessCruises/Facebook)

Here at VIP Leisure Travel, cruise expert Lori has been sharing the inside track on trends and updates to help readers plan the perfect vacation at sea.  Here are six of her favorites:

1. More deals, better prices

We all love a good deal, and happily we’re seeing more chances to save money on a cruise. It used to be that the cruise lines waited until “wave season” — typically the first quarter of a new year — to roll out discounts and perks aimed at jumpstarting advance bookings. But now we’re seeing many more discounted cruises and lots of free amenities being offered throughout the year, especially on Caribbean and Europe voyages. For examples from the past year,Princess Cruises launched a suite and balcony cabin sale in July, while Royal Caribbean held two of its signature Wow sales in late summer and early fall. In October, MSC Cruisesoffered weeklong Caribbean voyages for an eye-popping $299 per person. One note: These deals always have a short booking window, so be ready to put down your deposit when a great discount, an onboard credit, or other valuable offer comes along.

2. Multi-generational cruising

(Photo: Thinkstock)

Big family groups are embracing vacations at sea like never before. Grandparents splashing in the pool with the grandkids and Baby Boomers on shore excursions with their parents are common sights on cruise vacations today. With meals and entertainment included in the cruise fare, family group cruising has already been seen as an affordable travel option with plenty of activities for all ages. But the trend is gaining even more steam as cruise lines go all out with special accommodations choices, free or reduced fares for children, and more supervised activities for tots and toddlers. And families can now stay close — but not too close — in multi-room staterooms and adjoining cabins that offer both privacy and proximity for multi-generational families. Some family suites, as on Royal Caribbean Internationalships, are configured with two bedrooms and two baths, plus larger balconies for outside enjoyment.

3. Catering to solos

There was a time when cruising solo was only for the well-to-do, because cruise lines charge a single supplement fee when just one person books a double cabin. The fee usually is at least 100 percent of the single fare, meaning you’ll pay the equivalent of two cruise fares. This policy is slowly but surely going the way of the dinosaur. Today, we’re seeing more cruise lines, of all sizes, waiving these single supplements at various times during the year as well as building ships that have specially designed solo cabins. Carnival Cruise Lines, for instance, waived all single supplements on upward of 60 cruises between April and June of 2014, and Norwegian Cruise Line was first out of the shipyard with single staterooms a few years back. We’re expecting more lines to join in kind — so if you’re a solo traveler, read this guide to solo cruising, then start packing.

Ready to book your next cruise vacation? Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

Cruise Deals for Less Than $75 a Night.

April and May could be the best months to cruise this year. Besides the usual seasonal bargains at both major and regional ports, there are some fantastic re-positioning cruises at lower-than-expected rates. Throughout most of the year, cruises under $100 a night are considered good deals, but Yahoo Travel found a number of spring cruises — for under $75 a night!

Keep in mind that the best rates are for inside cabins, but there are also bargains to be found among the outside and balcony class cabins, as well.

Here are some of the best bets for the season.

Houston and Galveston — Worth a Serious Look

Spring Cruise Deals for Less Than $75 a Night. Seriously!

Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas is headed for the Western Caribbean out of Galveston, Texas. (Photo: Carolyn Poirot/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)

Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), and Royal Caribbeansail seven-nighters from here — and the competition this spring is heating up. The ships travel to ports like Cozumel and Playa del Carmen in Mexico; Roatan; Belize; Grand Cayman; and Jamaica.

Carnival’s Freedom and Magic have seven-night trips from Galveston with spring rates starting at only $419 per person. That divides down to a mere $59.86 per night per person. On some dates, even the ocean-facing outside cabins fall below $75 per night.

NCL sails the Norwegian Jewel from the Port of Houston with April itineraries starting at $479 per person. That’s $68.43 per night.

Royal Caribbean sails the Navigator of the Seas with rates starting at $499 per person ($71.29 per night) on April 5 and 19, as well as on May 3.

Even Florida Ports are Playing the Spring Bargain Game

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Miami is a popular port for cruises with many springtime deals available. (Photo: Yanni Georgoulakis / Alamy)

Florida is where most of us start our Caribbean cruises. Abundant and affordable flights into and out of most Florida port cities make planning the entire trip easier. But note that prices begin to rise just before Memorial weekend and don’t return to the bargain basement again until Labor Day.

You can sail the Caribbean for 10 nights out of Miami on the Norwegian Pearl for only $649 per person. Think $64.90 per person per night.

Carnival’s Splendor, Glory, and Breeze are all bargains out of Miami with six- and seven-night sailings starting at $67.83 per person per night.

Holland America’s Noordam offers either a 10- or 11-night Caribbean itinerary for the rest of March with prices as low as $699 for an ocean-view cabin.

Short Cruises are Perfect for Last-Minute Escapes

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Take a long weekend and set sail for Cozumel! (Photo: Grand Tour/Corbis)

Look at short runs from the Bahamas, Miami, and Los Angeles on the West Coast.

Carnival’s Ecstasy makes four-night Caribbean runs out of Miami for as low as $219 this spring ($54.75 a night). The trip that really caught our eye was on April 20 with Smokey Robinson live in concert onboard. Tickets to the concert are an additional $35 per guest.

For a West Coast cruise, Carnival’s Inspiration and Imagination make three- and four-night trips to Catalina and Ensenada, with even the ocean-view cabins charging below $75 per night.

This spring the Norwegian Pearl re-positions itself from the Caribbean to Alaska, and the last leg is a five-night West Coast journey (Los Angeles to Vancouver via San Francisco and Victoria), with prices starting at $59.80 per person per night.

Don’t Rule Out Alaska

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Alaska can be a beautiful cruise destination any time of year. (Photo: Norwegian Cruises)

Your friends may be telling you that May is too early to enjoy an Alaskan cruise. Just wave bon voyage to the naysayers while you save big bucks.

The best Alaskan bargain of the year may be on NCL’s Norwegian Pearl, where a 10-night cruise starting on May 7 is as low as $59.90 per person per night.

Princess offers what it calls an Alaska Sampler: four nights on the Ruby Princess starting at $74.75 per night. The catch? The only Alaskan port is Ketchikan.

Aloha, Hawaii!

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Royal Caribbean stops at five Hawaiian ports, including Kauai. (Photo: Thinkstock)

If a cruise to Hawaii is something you have always dreamed of but thought you could never afford, you may be wrong. Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas sails on May 14, with inside cabins on this 10-night sailing for only $64.90 per person per night. Ocean view cabins start at $77.90 per person. You can’t spend a week at a LaQuinta hotel for that!

Re-position Your Attitude by Sailing These Ships on the Cheap

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The Serenade of the Seas allows plenty of aquatic adventures — like snorkeling with the friendly stingrays of Grand Cayman. (Photo: Getty Images)

As long as you are good with lots of days at sea, a re-positioning cruise can be a fun way to get some serious downtime — and some great deals.

On April 11, Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas moves from New Orleans to Boston to prepare for a summer in northern Europe. Hitch a 13-night ride from NOLA to Beantown for a mere $929 per person ($71.46 a night) for an outside cabin. Ports of call include Grand Cayman, Aruba, Bonaire, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. Talk about taking the long way around!

On April 19, NCL’s Norwegian Epic moves from Miami to Barcelona. Jump on board and enjoy a balcony cabin on an 11-night voyage for the ridiculously low price of $54.45 per person per night.

Also on April 19, the Emerald Princess moves from Houston to the Mediterranean on an epic 20-night trip that will only set you back $1,199 per person for an outside cabin ($59.95 a night). Stops include Rome and Monte Carlo. Think about this: in the summer, it can be hard to find a 10-night cruise for that price.

Call us today to book your next cruise at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

Vacation & Cruise Insights