Overnight port calls, onboard historians, and abundant off-season itineraries set Viking’s ocean cruises apart from the crowd.
Gaudí's eclectic buildings energize Barcelona. Modern Roman life encircles the ancient Colosseum. Greek temple ruins maintain their appeal centuries later. While calling on sights like these throughout the Mediterranean, Viking does ocean cruising differently.
“Viking is perfect for curious travelers who want to explore beyond the surface and are intrigued by the culture, history, and architecture of the Mediterranean,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Andre Xavier. Here’s how the line approaches the beloved region.
Spend an extra night in some familiar favorites.
Viking sailings slow down to savor the ocean-cruising experience, including popular ports. The line’s seven-night Barcelona-to-Rome itinerary (with 21 departures this year), for example, bookends cruising the Italian and French rivieras with two overnight stays – in Florence and Barcelona – while calling on Tuscany, jet-set favorite Monte-Carlo, and multicultural Marseille.
“The line couldn’t have picked better cities to linger in,” says Xavier. He recommends sampling Spanish tapas, such as grilled squid at Barcelona’s Bar Ramón, late into the evening or taking an afternoon passeggiata (stroll) along the Arno River in Florence, stopping at La Strega Nocciola for a scoop of gelato.
Travel advisors applaud the extra time in ports: “In Florence, you have to see David in the Accademia Gallery and visit the Uffizi Gallery, but you also get an extra day to spend in the Tuscan countryside drinking wine,” says Alexandra Khoshaba, a Virtuoso advisor. Cruisers can check out Michelangelo’s sculptural masterpiece and explore the Duomo, and then get some rest before sampling organic sangioveses while nibbling on bruschetta at the fifteenth-century Torre a Cenaia wine estate the next day. In Barcelona, those extra hours mean not having to choose between an architectural tour of Gaudí’s iconic La Sagrada Família cathedral or a market run with a Catalonian chef to select seasonal ingredients for dinner.
Soak up all the archaeology.
Viking’s eastern Mediterranean sailings play up the line’s appeal to history buffs. An onboard historian adds context to excursions through the remains of ancient Roman, Greek, Ottoman, and Venetian empires during a seven-night Istanbul-to-Athens journey on the 930-passenger Viking Neptune or Viking Sky. Keep your camera handy to capture the storied city of Troy (the setting for the Greek myth of the Trojan War, featured in Homer’s Iliad) and the 25,000-person theater at Ephesus – both in present-day Turkey – and Crete’s Palace of Knossos, where garnet-hued columns tower over excavated foundations beside frescoes of blue dolphins and mythical griffins.
“You get to see ports you can’t access with a lot of larger cruise lines,” Khoshaba notes. “These are places that weren’t available five years ago. A new port, Troy, really builds on what you see at Ephesus, including the remains of the Temple of Artemis, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It doesn’t get more historic than that.”
Overnight stays in Istanbul and Athens, included on each end of this itinerary, provide time to sweat it out in an authentic Turkish hammam inside a sixteenth-century spa near the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. In Athens, travelers can hang around the Acropolis long enough to catch the Parthenon dramatically lit after sundown, then venture to the lively Plaka district’s cafés and tavernas for lamb kebabs and glasses of licorice-y ouzo – all without having to worry about getting back to the ship on time.
Skip the summer for quieter seasons.
When most cruise lines haul in their anchors and set sail for the Caribbean, Viking sticks around to offer more off-season sailings than many other lines. In the Med’s relatively mild seasons of fall, winter, and early spring, this brings more-unfettered access to the region’s crowd-drawing locales.
Anyone who has been to Santorini in recent years will appreciate the breathing room on a ten-night round-trip-from-Athens sailing in February, April, November, or December. The narrow streets of cliffside Oia lead to wine-making caves and tastings of mezedes (Greek tapas) such as stuffed grape leaves on a culinary tour through town. On the Peloponnese peninsula, travelers can race around a silent stadium at Nemea, one of four sites to host ancient Greece’s Panhellenic Games, before toasting to their group’s gold medalist with a glass of full-bodied, fruit-forward agiorgitiko red wine.
On Viking’s nine-night Venice-to-Athens voyages in October 2023 and February, March, and April 2024, cruisers find more space to walk atop the walls that encircle Dubrovnik, Croatia, overlooking the twelfth-century Old Town’s cobblestoned streets and stone houses. At Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, off-season visits mean fewer people jostling to admire the golden, medieval- to Renaissance-era mosaics.
Most of Viking’s quiet-season itineraries, including seven-night Rome-to-Athens sailings and 14-night voyages between Istanbul and Rome, stick to the Mediterranean’s sunniest climates for comfortable cruising, even in winter. Says Xavier: “The one thing you can’t control is the weather, but you can be strategic about where you go.”