VIKING RIVER CRUISES has become familiar to millions of TV viewers, chiefly through its sponsorship of the hit PBS series Downton Abbey. Those beguiling ads paint a picture of a premium cruise line delivering unforgettable experiences on the legendary riverways of northern Europe — the Danube, the Rhine, the Seine — and the picture is accurate. Passengers can expect a grand river tour filled with spectacles and special experiences, rendered in sophisticated style. Founded in 1997 by Torstein Hagen, who often appears in the Viking ads, the line grew especially rapidly, adding 40 of its signature 190-passenger Longships between 2012 and 2016 to become the largest river cruise line in the world.
Viking River Cruises has long catered to the North American market, its all-inclusive sailings replete with free unlimited WiFi; complimentary beer, wine and soft drinks with onboard lunch and dinner; one shore excursion in every port at no charge; and cultural enrichment programs galore. The hallmark of a Viking cruise is luxury without pretense on a sleek, modern, Scandinavian-style vessel, delivering what chairman Torstein Hagen dubs “the thinking person’s cruise.” Hagen explains, “Our guests are experienced travelers who appreciate immersive cultural experiences, while also exploring the world in comfort.”
While several river cruise lines are even more upscale than Viking, no line comes close to Viking’s vast choice of European riverways, ports, itineraries and cruising dates. Moreover, Viking is set to introduce seven new river ships in 2019. And while North Americans remain the main focus for Viking, the Chinese gain market share. This year, Viking River Cruises added 100 sailings on the Rhine and Danube for Chinese travelers, with Mandarin the onboard language.
Viking River Cruises is also bolstering its presence on riverways worldwide. It already sails in the Dnieper River in Ukraine, the Volga River in Russia, the Yangtze in China, the Irrawaddy in Myanmar and the Mekong in Cambodia and Vietnam. With a rebuilt and redesigned 48-passenger ship, the Viking Ra, Viking now offers 12-day cruises of the Nile in Egypt. It even has its eye on the Mississippi, where Viking hopes to discover America by launching a fleet of 300-passenger expanded Longships as early as the 2019 season.
Meanwhile, Viking’s latest innovation is to combine the two main types of cruising into one, seamlessly linking a river cruise with an ocean cruise, entirely on Viking vessels. In 2019 it offers two such itineraries, one joining a Longship on the Rhine with a journey to the fjords of Norway (15 nights) and another combining a Danube and Rhine sailing with an ocean cruise ending in Bergen, Norway (22 nights). As chairman Hagen says, a Viking combo cruise “marries the river and sea into a single, unified journey.”
This summer, The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles began highly-anticipated enhancements. The property celebrates its 10th birthday next year and the renovations are the largest changes the property has ever seen. They impact the hotel lobby, all 123 guestrooms and suites, corridors and Club Lounge.
United Airlines announces a number of new routes.
Welcome to Rhodes, a medieval treasure beautifully preserved throughout the centuries. Rhodes is the capital of the Dodecanese, an island ideal not only for those who want to relax, but also for those looking for an action-packed holiday! With its bright green hills, rich green valleys and uninterrupted line of golden beaches, Rhodes is truly a blessed place. “The sun island” has more sunshiny days and milder temperatures throughout the year than any other location in Greece. It is, after all, one of the country’s easternmost places and among the first to welcome summer on its impressive beaches. Add in the excellent facilities for tourism, the island’s special blend of cosmopolitan and traditional, and numerous cultural and archaeological sites, the most important being the Medieval (Old) Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you’ve got the perfect holiday destination. While on Rhodes, don’t miss a daytrip to nearby Sými. An island of sponge divers and seamen, Sými used to have 30,000 inhabitants before the Second World War and was the richest island in the Dodecanese, despite its small size. Today, Sými attracts many visitors thanks to its beautifully preserved Neo-Classical buildings and the famous Archangel Michael monastery at Panormitis.
Seats on new JetBlue flights between New York City (JFK) and Georgetown (GEO), Guyana, are now available for purchase. The route takes off April 2, 2020, on the new Airbus A321neo aircraft. With a flight time of five hours from New York City, the route delivers intrepid travelers to what JetBlue calls “a playground for adventurists and modern-day explorers.” The route also serves the largest Guyanese American community in the United States, located in New York City.
Hawaiian Airlines will relaunch its service between the island of Maui (OGG) and Las Vegas (LAS) with flights set to begin in December.
British Airways launched a new in-flight entertainment channel in honor of its year-long centenary celebration. The new channel, christened Celebrate BA100, highlights the best of British in-flight entertainment.
An industry-first update to the award-winning Four Seasons app allows guests to plan travel more seamlessly. The app, completely overhauled, now includes a new trip planning itinerary feature that allows guests to easily customize their stay.