River Cruises Are Not Just for Old Folks

As I boarded the plane to Basel, Switzerland to catch my Viking River Cruise, I swore on a stack of Bibles I would be bored to death among all the ‘old’ people on that cruise. I’m ashamed to say that was my perception of what a river cruise offered; no casino, no bars, no shows, no pool all equated to boredom. Well as Gomer Pyle would say, “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”

I walked onto the Viking Kvasir in Basel to smiling faces and helping hands. I was led to my stateroom, which had a lovely balcony and ample room for my two large suitcases (to this day I still don’t know how to travel light). Eager to explore my new surroundings, I freshened up and headed to the main room of the ship. There I found the one and only bar with guests already ensconced. And lo and behold, they were young. I pulled up a stool and became fast and furious friends with the bartender and maitre d’.

So, here is what I found to be one of the many perks of a river cruise- it’s your own floating Cheers. Everyone knows your name. No matter where I went on the ship, I was not only greeted but also engaged in conversation. The staff was always so willing to assist in anyway possible, right down to the pianist who would play well after his time was up. Ok, I bribed him with a drink but he cheerfully stayed.

If you are looking for and expect that big cruise ship feel, don’t book your ticket on Viking because that is not what a cruise like this is about. What it is about is that feeling of being ‘home’, it is small without all the distractions, guests will mingle with each other more and the staff is pretty entertaining. They spend time with you and do the little things that you don’t get on a huge cruise ship. For example, one day after an excursion, we all came down the walkway and some of the staff were on the upper deck with a banner that read “Welcome Home” and singing and clapping. This is the type of thing that makes a river cruise so memorable.

Speaking of mealtime, the food was outstanding. The menu was fabulous each and every day down the Rhine. The service was impeccable and my wine glass was always full.

My cruise took me through four countries and 9 cities. My first port of call was Breisach, Germany where I disembarked to explore the magical Black Forest. Next stop was Strasbourg, France, which made me feel like I had stepped into a fairy tale. I visited Strasbourg Cathedral and rode the carousel that sits in Cathedral Square. Day 4 found me at Heidelberg Castle and enjoying traditional German food and music at a tavern in Rudescheim. Day 5 was spent cruising to Koblenz, Germany where I was completely enthralled by the little towns, castles and ruins that dotted the riverbank. I headed to Marksburg Castle and yet another glimpse into a time gone by. Day 6 was Cologne, Germany where I was awe struck by the gothic cathedral. Day 7 was a drive into the picturesque Dutch countryside to see the nineteen, mid 18th century Kinderdijk Windmills.

The next morning I said goodbye to all my new friends and disembarked for three days in Amsterdam (another story for another time). Drifting off to sleep on the plane back to Miami, there was only one thought on my mind. How could I return to my little floating ‘home’ on the Rhine?

 

Viking Adds The Sky To Its Fleet

 

(article was recently published in USA Today)

TROMSO, Norway — River cruise giant Viking’s move into ocean cruising hit another milestone on Thursday as the company christened its third ocean ship, Viking Sky, along the waterfront of Tromso, Norway.

Marit Barstad, the sister of Viking chairman and founder Torstein Hagen, served as godmother for the 930-passenger vessel during an hour-long christening event that included performances by Norwegian musicians Lisa Stokke, Violet Road, Sara Marielle Gaup Beaska and Jørn Hoel. They were accompanied by Norway’s Arctic Philharmonic orchestra.

Located above the Arctic Circle on Norway’s northwest coast, Tromso is one of the key ports of call on Viking’s Norway-focused Into the Midnight Sun sailings, which take place in the summer when the sun in northern Norway stays up around-the-clock. Norway-born Hagen has made the route and others around Scandinavia and the Baltic region a cornerstone of the company’s schedule.

Speaking at the event in Norwegian, Hagen spoke about how pleased he was to be having the christening in Tromso.

“This is a special time of year in Norway – these are the days of the midnight sun and the perfect backdrop for a celebration,” Hagen was quoted as saying in an English-language statement released later. “All of our ships proudly carry the Norwegian flag, and it is an especially proud day to officially welcome our new ship in Tromsø, the Arctic capital of the world.”

Several elements of the christening ceremony paid homage to the Norwegian heritage of both the company and godmother. Instead of champagne for the traditional bottle-breaking, Barstad christened Sky with a bottle of Gammel Opland aquavit, which hails from the same county in Norway where Hagen and Hagen’s mother, Ragnhild, were born. In honor of the original Viking explorers, Barstad used a gilded Viking axe to cut the cord for the aquavit christening. The axe was a replica of an artifact discovered near Tromso. The chopping block used for the ceremony was brought from the Rotnes Farm in Nittedal, where Barstad grew up.

Sky is a sister to fast-growing Viking’s first two ships, Viking Star and Viking Sea, which debuted in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Like Star and Sea, Sky is relatively small at 47,800 tons. That’s less than a third the size of the latest megaships from the likes of Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line.

Like the earlier vessels, Sky boasts a modern, Scandinavian-influenced design, and its cabins are large by cruise ship standards. Even the smallest rooms offer 270 square feet of space. In addition, every cabin comes with a balcony.

Since debuting in 2015, Viking has made a mark in the cruise industry by focusing on itineraries that feature more time in ports than is common at many ocean lines. The company also is setting itself apart from many cruise operators with a “no nickel-and-diming” philosophy. In a relatively rare twist, Viking offers a shore excursion in every port that is included in the fare. Also included in the fare is beer and wine with lunch and dinner and unlimited WiFi access — something that can cost up to 75 cents a minute at other lines.

Sky will remain in Europe until the end of summer, when it will cross the Atlantic to the Caribbean.

Sky is just one of two ships that Viking is adding in 2017 as it continues a rapid expansion. Another sister ship, Viking Sun, arrives in the fall. Four more vessels in the same series are on order for delivery in 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022, and the line also has an option for yet two more.

Viking Expands its Culinary Choices

Enjoy wines, cheeses, and other European cuisines while cruising
As river cruising grows and grows in popularity, Viking River Cruises, the giant of the industry and its most award-winning cruise line, has added something new. Its world-wide itineraries now feature culinary tours, wine tastings, and multiple opportunities to sample local cuisine on board and ashore, at virtually every port. We went along for the ride on Viking’s Rhine River Getaway to sample what was on offer. Miraculously, we didn’t gain an ounce, but it wasn’t for lack of trying on Viking’s part. Fortunately, there’s a lot of activity along with a lot of delicious food.

We joined Viking Hlin, one of Viking’s fleet of 60 river ships, in Basel, Switzerland. This itinerary can be taken in either direction from Amsterdam to Basel or vice-versa. While Viking includes a complimentary guided tour at every stop, many of its culinary offerings require an extra fee, ranging from $49 to $199 for a day-long culinary adventure. We’d barely had time to unpack before the first (complimentary) wine and cheese tasting took place in the ship’s airy lounge. Here we sampled the wines we were to drink as our longship traveled through one of the world’s great wine-growing regions. Included in our fare, these were the wines selected to be served at lunch and dinner. Rieslings predominated, given that they account for 80 percent of the grapes grown on the banks of the Rhine. Also on the list were several Rheingau reds. Lighter than their Spanish or French counterparts, these German wines were wonderful complements to lighter items on the chef’s menus. As to the cheeses, every country we passed through was represented, from Swiss comté to German muenster to France’s tomme d’Alsace and tomme de Savoie.

Monte Mathews

Our next culinary treat was presented the next day in Germany’s Black Forest. There, most appropriately, a Black Forest cake was put together before our eyes. Layers of chocolate sponge cake were covered in mounds of whipped cream, while sour cherries occupied a single layer and local Kirschwasser (cherry brandy) moistened the surprisingly light and not-too-sweet cake. The cake, however, was no match for the contemporary version created by the Hlin’s on-board pastry chef and served that night.

Monte Mathews

For a passionate foodie, the next day’s all-day excursion, “Taste the Best of Alsace” was sheer nirvana. The glorious city of Strasbourg was the setting for this remarkable experience. Viking prides itself on the quality of its guides, and here in Strasbourg, ours was a fount of information. The city has a somewhat tortured history. Strasbourg alternated between being part of France and part of Germany, often within the same war, as was the case in World War II. You can see these influences in the city’s culinary heritage. The hearty breads of Germany live side by side the delicacy of French pastries. Blending both food and history in one monumental walk, we took in bakeries and cheese shops, a wine-tasting with cheese pairings, a shop that made nothing but gingerbread, and even a hands-on cooking class. There we made tartes flambées(or Flammekueche in German), a sweet or savory Alsatian version of pizza that gives the real deal a run for its money.

Monte Mathews
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Viking Adds Historian to Some Cruises

Ready to be schooled in history on your next cruise? Viking Cruises has created a new resident historian program on its ocean ships that goes way beyond the usual on-board lectures.

This team of historians lead refresher courses on the history of European art, music, architecture and other cultural subjects.

Viking describes the program in a statement as providing passengers with “high-level historical and cultural education that is specific to their journey …”

The first three historians sail on Empires of the Mediterranean itineraries and lead roundtable and dinner discussions about subjects such as the Greek sculptures known as the Elgin Marbles, women explorers and Venetian naval power. They lecture in the ships’ theaters and even hold one-on-one “office hours” for passengers who want to know more.

The 10-day Empires cruise starts in Venice and stops in Koper, Slovenia; Zadar and Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; Corfu, Olympia, Santorini and Athens in Greece.

Prices start at $2,999 per person, which includes shore excursions, Wi-Fi, beer and wine, spa and fitness center access, port taxes and fees and airport transfers.

Mark Callaghan, who has a PhD in history and specializes in 20th century European art and culture, will lecture on the Viking Sky. European military historian Lt. Col. Tony Coutts-Britton will sail aboard the Viking Sea. And Fenella Bazin, who specializes in the Vikings era and modern Norway, will appear aboard the Viking Star.

Lectures will be filmed and shown on the ship’s in-room entertainment system. The series will be available to all Viking river and ocean ships next year.

The new program complements other cultural programs introduced last year on Vikings’ ocean cruises. The cruise line brought New York’s Metropolitan Opera to sea by showing the HD video of “La Boheme” and partnered with the Munch Museum in Oslo to provide daily “Munch Moments” about the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch.

Info: Viking Ocean Cruises, (866) 984-5464 or contact a travel agent

 

Viking River Cruises

THE RAIN STOPPED, clouds parted and a glowing sunset bathed the ancient city of Koblenz, Germany, in light. There, at the confluence of the Mosel and Rhine rivers, Viking River Cruises celebrated 20 years and christened its two new Longships for 2017, the Herja and the Hild. The newcomers will sail the Rhine on a new route, Paris to the Swiss Alps. These latest additions mark another year of strong growth for Viking, which now operates 48 Longships. The company launched its third ocean ship, Viking Sky, in February and will add a fourth, Viking Sun, in November, making it the largest small-ship ocean cruise line with the youngest fleet. We sat down with Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen, who announced more news for Viking River Cruises and added that it will be the first foreign company allowed to have a license to operate ships along the Nile River. The new ship named Viking Ra (Hagen decided on the name that day) will begin sailing in March 2018. Hagen eschews the label of “luxury,” saying instead that Viking strives for “understated elegance with great attention to detail” on all the ships. Touting “large bathroom amenity bottles that are easy to open,” he tells the story of the difficulty he once had opening a shampoo bottle in a hotel shower, then goes on to cite the ship’s “heated tile floors and towel racks, and no-fog bathroom mirrors.” The Hild has large, two-door showers and a daylight-lighted bathroom mirror. As for international upheaval around the globe, Hagen’s response is practical. “The Viking motto is ‘Exploring in comfort,’ and we take safety very, very seriously,” he says. “We carry a Norwegian flag when we travel worldwide. At the end of the day, I think it is more interesting to see things than to sit home and be afraid,” he adds. Viking now owns 60 of the docking spaces along the Rhine and its operating destinations include a new river cruise to Ukraine, also scheduled for 2018. “We take great pride in owning and operating our ships. We don’t have partners as we like to be in charge of our own destinations,” Hagen says. Hagen is proud of the design and construction of the Longships as they come with more cabins (95) than other river cruise lines. Additionally, Viking has designed a larger, costlier, asymmetrical ship with stateroom balconies on one side, suites on the other, and a square bow that allows for additional accommodations. “They always put me in the best suite,” says Hagen about the Explorer Suite, which according to him is the largest of any river cruise suites (and the only one to offer room service breakfast). He indicates that the ship’s amenities wouldn’t matter, however, “if our Longships weren’t diesel electric drive, which means the aft of the ship is well-insulated and doesn’t vibrate.” The new Hild doesn’t disappoint. Even though we experienced only a fraction of the 12-day Paris to the Swiss Alps tour, it was enough to get a sense Viking’s dedication to service, cuisine and special extras. The Hild’s 39 Veranda staterooms have full-sized, private balconies and ample storage space that help to keep belongings organized and out of sight. The top Sun Deck has a putting green; an organic herb garden, which the chef uses to garnish and flavor dishes; and ample seating space from which guests can watch mountain

goats navigate steeply set vineyards, and view castle ruins standing high on the hills or set within the river itself. As the Hild sailed leisurely past Lorelei Rock on the narrowest part of the Rhine, a lecturer regaled us with the history of the sea and the stories of the legendary maiden, while a classical duo played “Die Lorelei,” one of Germany’s most famous folk songs. Torstein Hagen calls Viking “the thinking person’s cruise,” with destination exploration being the high point. The rain didn’t stop our walking tour of Mainz, of which there are so many highlights that it’s difficult to single out one. The Chagall windows at St. Stephen’s Church — the only such windows in the country — were glowing despite the cloudy weather. A stop at the Gutenberg Museum is an ode to Mainz’s most famous resident, Johanes Gutenberg, who invented the printing press and moveable type and, in the process, changed the world forever. His Gutenberg Bibles, which now number 49 in the world from the original 180, are distinguished by their rich and unique illustrations. Guests can see the bible that Mainz’s mayor promised citizens he would (and did) bring back from a New York City auction, now valued at $20 million. During a stop at Worms and a tour of its famous cathedral and the statue of Martin Luther, we chanced upon an authentically dressed docent who introduced herself as Eva, the wife of a 16th-century bookseller. Eva delivered a monologue about Luther’s visit and asked us, “Did you see Martin Luther arrive this morning?” She was also “selling” his writings. This surprise, authentic moment that transported passengers back in time was created by Viking and was a highlight of the trip. With its popular Christmas market, the opulent opera house Napoleon built for his wife Josephine, and 342 miles of bicycle lanes, one not-to-miss excursion in Strasbourg is the optional “Taste the Best of Alsace” walking tour. Stops include a boulangerie, boutique wine and cheese shops, and the unforgettable Christian, a chocolatier opened in 1960 and now a second-generation patisserie salon known for the world’s rarest chocolates (more than 60 from around the globe) — especially pastries and chocolate drinks favored by Marie Antoinette. These are all crafted by a team of 24 chocolate chefs. It is even heavenlier and more decadent than it sounds. Back on the Hild, sailing down the Rhine, we watched the ever-changing terrain through floor-to-ceiling windows, chatted with new friends over a glass of Alsace Pinot Noir, nibbled on foie gras the chefs sourced that day at the Strasbourg open-air market, and listened to the ship’s resident composer, pianist, and singer, Cezar. At dinner, soft drinks, wine and beer are complimentary, part of the line’s Viking Inclusive Value that also covers the meals themselves, shore excursions and Wi-Fi. “People don’t want to be nickeled and dimed,” says Hagen. Guests can also opt for the beverage package, which, at $20 a day, opens the door to such indulgences as Brunello wine or Glengoyne 21-year-old Highland single malt scotch.

Viking River Cruises Will Now Sail the Nile River

Viking River Cruises has unveiled a new design for a river ship that will sail the Nile River on a new Egypt cruisetour, Pharaohs & Pyramids, that will launch in March 2018.

During the 12-day, Pharaohs & Pyramids itinerary, guests will experience Egypt’s cultural treasures in seven destinations. The cruisetour begins with a three-night stay at a first-class hotel in Cairo, where guests can visit iconic sites such as the Great Pyramids of Giza, the new Grand Egyptian Museum and the Mosque of Muhammad Ali. Guests will then fly to Luxor, where they will visit the Temples of Luxor and Karnak before boarding Viking Ra for a 8-day roundtrip cruise on the Nile River to Aswan, featuring Privileged Access to the tomb of Nefertari in the Valley of the Queens and excursions to the Temple of Khnum in Esna, the Dendera Temple complex in Qena, and a visit to a colorful Nubian village where guests can experience a traditional elementary school. Finally, the journey concludes with a flight back to Cairo for a final night in the historic city.

The newly rebuilt, all-suite Viking Ra will boast 24 staterooms that will exclusively accommodate 48 Viking guests for an intimate cruising experience. Named in honor the Egyptian sun god Ra, Viking Ra’s name also pays homage to the great Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl and his papyrus-reed boats Ra and Ra II.

Designed by experienced nautical architects and engineers, including the same interior design team responsible for the award-winning fleet of Viking Longships, Viking Ra will be a state-of-the art ship with the clean, elegant Scandinavian design for which Viking is known blended with local influences like traditional geometric Arabic patterns and terrazzo floors.

Viking Ra will help guests immerse themselves in local surroundings and will feature:

  • All Suite Staterooms: The ship features three suite stateroom categories, each of 291 sq. ft., including 20 Veranda Suites with a full-size veranda in the living room and a French balcony in the bedroom. All staterooms include premium amenities such as a hotel-style bed, luxury linens, sofa, private bathroom with shower, air conditioning and flat-screen TVs.
  • Pool and Two Jacuzzis: In addition to two Jacuzzis, the ship features a pool at the back of the ship, allowing guests to swim surrounded by their destination. A sanctuary from the sun is provided by sculptural “sail-shades” inspired by local dhow ships and intricate mashrabiya-influenced screens surrounding the Pool and Sun Deck.
  • Onboard Dining, Bar and Lounge: Dine in The Restaurant, which serves three full meals and a selection of regional and international fare, then head to the clinker-built bar to share a cocktail with friends. During the day, guests can enjoy The Lounge to relax, take in the views through floor-to-ceiling glass doors or hear an informative discussion on the next destination.
  • Spa: Specifically designed for Viking Ra, guests can relax in The Spa offering massage services and a variety of treatments.
  • Enriching Entertainment: Connecting guests to their destinations through authentic experiences is central to Viking’s “thinking person’s cruise.” Instead of casinos and water slides, guests are offered Viking’s Culture Curriculum®, which includes a Nubian evening event on board and a local experience riding a camel. Additionally, Viking’s expert Egyptologist leads all excursions, sharing the archaeological and historical significance of the sites.

Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises, gave the following statement about this new river cruise: “Egypt is one of the most intriguing countries in the world, and it remains a top destination for many of our guests. For two decades, we have led the industry in river cruising with our innovative ship design and itineraries that bring our guests closer to the cultures of the world. We are committed to Egypt, and with the introduction of Viking Ra, we look forward to providing our award-winning service to our guests on the Nile – and to their experiencing this culturally rich region in the Viking way.”

Viking Ocean Cruises Orders Two New Ships

Viking Ocean Cruises is continuing its run of expansion with an order for two new cruise ships, set to be delivered in 2021 and 2022.

The order is part of a memorandum of agreement the cruise line just signed with Fincantieri. The memo also includes an option for two additional cruise ships.

The new ships will be the same size as the current three ships in the line’s ocean fleet: Viking Sea, Viking Star and Viking Sky, which just made its debut in February. The new ships will have a capacity of 930 passengers in 465 all-balcony cabins, and will be the same design as the line’s current ocean ships.

Designed by the same team responsible for Viking’s fleet of river-going Viking Longships, Viking’s ocean ships incorporate details that pay homage to its Nordic heritage. A glass-backed infinity pool cantilevered off the stern offers unobstructed views; indoor-outdoor spaces offer options for al fresco dining; huge windows and skylights let in light; and a wrap-around promenade deck is available for strolling. Dining options range from the World Café, which serves global cuisine with live cooking and open kitchens; to Mamsen’s Norwegian-style deli. The Chef’s Table celebrates cuisines from around the world with multi-course tasting menus and wine parings; and Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant serves Tuscan and Roman cuisine. With the Kitchen Table experience, guests have an opportunity to shop, cook and eat with the Executive Chef.

The announcement follows a run of recent expansion for the cruise line. In addition to the February launch of Viking Sky, Viking Ocean Cruises is set to launch its fourth ship, Viking Sun, this November. On the river side, Viking River Cruises just christened two new Longships, Viking Herja and Viking Hild, in Koblenz, Germany, last month. Also coming up for the river cruise line is new cruises on the Nile set for 2018 onboard the Viking Ra.

In terms of onboard experiences, the line just launched a new Viking Resident Historian program onboard the Viking Star, Viking Sea and Viking Sky, aimed at providing guests with an onboard educational experience tailored to their itinerary.

Viking Debuts Two New Ships

 

(the following article was recently published in USA Today)

KOBLENZ, Germany — At the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers in Germany, near the French border, Viking River Cruises on Tuesday debuted its latest river cruise ships, Viking Herja and Viking Hild, just below an imposing fortress dating to the 12th century.

The two vessels, patterned from the same mold that the line introduced in 2012, were christened by a pair of godmothers for the occasion.

Rainy skies gave way to a brief bout of late afternoon sunshine as the event started, just long enough for award-winning British composer and conductor Debbie Wiseman to let loose a ceremonial bottle of Veuve Cliquot Champagne on Viking Herja. It crashed efficiently against the bow of the ship.

Viking Hild’s godmother, Princess Stephanie Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg, cut the cord to a bottle poised to smash against that vessel, but not a drop was spilled on the first try. A crew member climbed outside the railing to hoist the bottle again, and on the second try the bubbly splashed on cue.

The 190-passenger Viking Herja and Viking Hild are of the “longship” design that Viking unveiled in 2012. The longships feature some of the largest suites on river ships in Europe, as well as cabins with balconies, made possible by offsetting the main corridors. In just six years, 48 Viking longships have been built — an unprecedented number in the history of river cruising (scroll through the carousel below for a deck-by-deck look at a Viking longship).

Viking Hild will begin sailing the Rhine River this spring on a new Paris-to-the-Swiss Alps itinerary. Later this year both new ships will sail Viking’s Danube Waltz and Rhine Getaway itineraries.

This year also marks Viking River Cruises’ 20th anniversary. While best known for its European river cruises, in 2015 the company started a line of ocean cruise ships. The third ship for that line, Viking Sky, launched just last month and an identical fourth ship, Viking Sun, arrives in November. Two more ocean-going ships are on order and will arrive in 2018 and 2019.

“By 2020 we will be the largest small-ship ocean cruise line and we will have the youngest fleet,” Viking’s founder and chairman Torstein Hagen said at a press conference Tuesday aboard Viking Hild. “That is a claim we will be able to make for many years.”

However, no new orders for river ships were announced on Tuesday.

“Our growth has continued, but we’re slowing down on the rivers,” Hagen said.

Hagen did reveal that Viking has acquired an existing river ship in Egypt — the ink was still drying on the deal, he said. Hagen said the ship would be extensively refurbished and will “feel at home” to Viking regulars. The ship was tentatively named Viking Ra, after the ancient Egyptian sun god.

“One thing the Vikings have in common with Egyptians is that we have many gods,” added Hagen. “Maybe we’ll have several ships in Egypt.”

Cruise Critic Top Awards

For the fifth consecutive year, Disney Cruise Line has taken top honors in Cruise Critic’s annual Cruisers’ Choice Awards, with Cruise Critic reviewers choosing Disney Dream as the “Best Overall” large cruise ship for the third year in a row.

Meanwhile, sister ship Disney Magic earned the same honor in the Mid-Size ship category, accounting for the second of Disney’s eight awards, which also include “Best Cabins” and “Best Service” in the Large ship category and “Best for Families” overall.

Did your favorite make the list? See the full list of the 2017 Cruisers’ Choice Award winners.

Cruise Critic’s annual Cruisers’ Choice Awards are based solely on the ratings from everyday cruisers’ reviews. This year’s awards include reviews submitted for cruises taken during 2016, and they’re given in four categories: Large (2,000 passengers and more), Mid-Size (1,200-1,999), Small-Mid (400- 1,199) and Small (fewer than 400).

Celebrity had winners on both ends of the size spectrum, commandeering an impressive eight awards. Celebrity Xpedition, the line’s expedition vessel, came away with six accolades in the Small category, including “Best Overall.” Add two more — “Best Dining” and “Best Embarkation” — for Celebrity Reflection in the Large category.

Also of note is Viking Ocean, which nearly swept the Small-Mid category, winning nine of 10 possible awards that include bests in dining, service and entertainment, as well as “Best Overall” for new ship Viking Sea, which debuted in 2016. Additionally, Viking won “Best for First-Timers.”

Equally impressive is Oceania, which gets the nod for “Best Dining” in the Mid-Size category for the sixth year in a row. This year, Marina got the honor. The ship also took “Best Cabins,” “Best for Fitness” and “Best for Service.”

A newcomer to the awards this year is Celestyal Crystal, which offers Cuba sailings year-round. It took home four awards in the Mid-Size ship category, including “Best Value” and “Best Shore Excursions.”

Finally, with its commitment to all-inclusive beverages, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sky snagged recognition among large ships for “Best Value.”

–By Ashley Kosciolek, Editor