While the 372-passenger Viking Polaris expedition ship, launched in September 2022, falls midway in size between Viking Cruises’ intimate river cruise ships and large-scale ocean ships, it is operated with the same attention to detail and personalized service.
Almost everything Viking devotees love, in fact, is firmly in place: stylish Scandinavian-style cabins with generous storage; on-board boutique stocking high-end Norwegian wool sweaters, souvenirs and outdoor essentials; and fragrant Freya bathroom amenities. The bookshelves in the expansive Deck 5 Living Room are filled with history and science volumes, best-selling novels, coffee table art books, traditional board games and touchscreen video table games. Talented musicians and singers perform classical pieces, Broadway show tunes and old-school pop hits in different lounges at night.
There are several hidden surprises on board the Polaris, however, adding up to a cruising experience that may appeal in particular to Generation X and millennial travelers. The Canadian Discovery itinerary offers several challenging on-shore excursions and onboard activities requiring a certain level of physical fitness. Although spots on slower-paced art and history walking and bus tours fill up, expedition-themed activities like kayaking, hikes and e-bike tours are equally, if not more, popular. Various boats and watercraft used for expeditions are on full display just below a working science lab, where onboard scientists and guests view matter acquired from daily expeditions.
If one were to go solely by descriptions on the Viking website, Zodiac (inflatable motorized rafts) and expedition boat rides led by Polaris’ expedition team members seem fairly tame. While those rides during the August voyage involved plenty of wildlife sightings and sample collecting, highly changeable, late summer weather along the St. Lawrence River revealed the adrenaline-boosting nature of the rides.
Although underwater excursions aboard the ship’s George and Ringo submarines were cancelled because of the weather, the Canadian Discovery itinerary is a “choose your own adventure” proposition. Travelers can mix tours or self-guided jaunts in Toronto, Québec City, Halifax and Charlottetown, with on-shore days fully devoted to nature and epic landscapes. Because a full-on expedition to the Antarctic or the Arctic on a Viking expedition ship is a commitment in terms of time, physical demands and fewer city visits, this type of itinerary can offer a satisfying taste of expedition cruising or a way for one to determine if a rigorous nature and science cruise is for them.
The way a lot of the ship’s space is used also suggests Viking is gradually shifting toward younger luxury travelers’ interests, even as it maintains the plush status quo. Expedition Central on Deck 1 is filled with museum-like displays and a touchscreen panel to keep passengers engaged in science events happening around the ship in real time. The Aula, modeled after a real-life Norwegian university lecture hall, stages discussions about science, history and helpful hints on iPhone usage when not being used for musical performances or updates about the next day’s events.
Much of Deck 2 is dedicated to wellness. A well-equipped fitness center with TechnoGym machines, a weight training/fitness class area and a thermal relaxation suite with heated ceramic loungers are open to all passengers free of charge, as is a circuit of hot and cold therapy areas consisting of a hydrotherapy pool, badestamp (hot tub room), wet and dry saunas and therapy showers. A combination of innovative modalities and equipment (such as the covered sand table used in the Hygge Massage that conforms to and supports the body) and talented practitioners make the specialty massages, body scrubs and facials worth the investment.
Viking’s food and beverage program also reflects a shift toward more adventurous passengers, evidenced by Southeast Asian dishes offered on the buffet, a dinner hour sushi bar and the many healthy options offered at Norwegian-themed café Mamsen’s. The Restaurant and Manfredi’s are on a par with big city restaurants in terms of quality, consistency and presentation, making the necessity of reservations understandable.
Mixology classes, spirit and wine tastings, and private events are staged in The Hide, a stand-alone bar tucked into Deck 1 with sleek, clubby décor similar to big-city terrestrial cocktail lounges — but with the clever added touch of displays paying tribute to Viking Expedition godmothers Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft.
While the service is unfailingly impeccable and personalized, it’s important to note many of the crew and expedition leaders are older millennials or Gen Xers. They are the heartbeat of this specific Viking Cruise experience that makes it a communal, multigenerational uniting of like-minded people interested in science, history and living in the present.
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More than 22 million visitors pour into Bangkok each year, adding to the roughly 11 million residents of the Thai capital famous for its bustling streets. Packed with food carts, markets and cultural spectacles, life in Bangkok is unusually defined by its vibrant street scene, both day and night. That means you don’t necessarily need a solid plan when heading out on any given evening.
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) believes business travel is a fundamental force for good and brings the industry together to connect, innovate and set new standards. With members from across the globe, GBTA engages the many voices of business travel to build a collective future, providing a platform for buyers and suppliers to come together, connect with peers, grow their network and shape the future of the industry.
As first-time restaurateurs, but with plenty of hospitality-related experience, Ria and Kevol (Kev) Graham were not entirely comfortable opening their first restaurant in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, where several upscale restaurants and 5-star hotel dining is just a block away. And to make matters worse, they opened in July 2020, when New York City was in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to intimate settings, smaller staff-to-passenger ratios, and personalized food and beverage options, river cruises have the advantage of providing a deeper dive into a region’s culture, food and history. The Rhine, Rhône and Danube in Europe and the Mississippi River and St. Lawrence in North America have much to offer travelers with their itineraries, tying together beloved cities and lesser-known destinations along their routes.
The Islands of Tahiti offer a range of captivating activities for travelers with diverse interests, from hiking to breathtaking waterfalls, riding horses on secluded beaches; swimming with sharks; or immersing in Polynesian culture through traditional dance, music and art. For watersports enthusiasts, the crystal-clear lagoons offer exhilarating experiences like surfing, kiteboarding and paddleboarding. And if you’re looking to relax, the pristine beaches, overwater bungalows and tropical sun offer the perfect setting. With 118 islands and atolls to explore, island hopping is an excellent way to experience the full diversity of The Islands of Tahiti. With its blend of adventure, culture and relaxation, The Islands of Tahiti offer a truly unique travel experience.
As another phenomenal year of travel comes to an end, it’s time, as always, for Global Traveler to celebrate and award those who do it best as we announce the 2023 winners of the GT Tested Reader Survey awards. But that's not the only cause for celebration here: We've hit another major milestone, as this marks our 20th year honoring the best of the best inn world of travel!
Reconnecting the World: GBTA Convention 2023 Spotlights the Vital Role of Business Travel and In-Person Connection
In an increasingly digital and interconnected world, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Convention remains an indispensable platform for business travel industry professionals seeking to make the most of the power of face-to-face connections. Taking place August 13–15 in Dallas, the 2023 GBTA Convention provides the unique opportunity for professionals and companies to join visionaries, thought leaders and industry experts for meaningful networking, cutting-edge insights and inspiring innovation.