A European river cruise in December?

The cruise program director on the Viking Vili quipped, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” Temperatures hovered in the 30s and 40s on our December cruise down the Danube, but it was still warmer than back home in suburban Chicago. In Vienna, I lucked out with a 54-degree day and ditched my puffy coat. December can be a cheaper time to travel. Air and cruise fares dip below those in peak summer season …

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Ocean-going Crystal Cruises slides smoothly into the luxury niche on Europe’s rivers

We were new passengers, my wife and I, when we boarded the Crystal Bach, docked at Mainz, Germany, on the River Rhine near Frankfurt. As we walked into the Palm Court lounge, fellow passengers made no secret of their curiosity. Most of them were at the midpoint of a two-week cruise from Amsterdam. Warm and friendly, they acted as if we were new members of their private club. “Welcome.” “You’re new, we haven’t seen you before.” “Just …

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Viking Sky Cruise 17: Children of the Earth share hopes for world peace

ABOARD THE VIKING SKY – Standing like ancient druids, the round stones mark the hopes and dreams of children from different nations. Erected decades ago, the messages are even more important today. “It was meant to be something positive, something that would stand here to remind the world that we all should be friends and live in peace,” tour guide Brenda said. When the Viking Sky docked in Oslo, Norway, I headed off for the North Cape …

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Viking Sky Cruise 16: Chef’s Table offers tastes from around the world

ABOARD THE VIKING SKY – Eating at The Chef’s Table is like taking a culinary trip around the world. The five-course menu is set. That means you don’t order, you just eat what is brought to the table. Although I had never heard of some of the dishes described on the set menu, I must say I enjoyed them all. Some a little more than others. It was quite a tasty education. One of the Viking Sky’s …

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Viking Sky Cruise 15: Ship’s restaurant Manfredi’s named for cruise competitor

ABOARD THE VIKING SKY – In the often-cutthroat world of business, I just heard the nicest thing on my Viking Sky cruise. The wonderful Manfredi’s Italian restaurant on the ship was named for Silversea’s chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio. In return, d’Ovidio named a special spot on Silversea’s cruise ship after Viking Cruise chairman Torstein Hagen. At the very top of the Silversea’s ship, it’s called Tor’s Observation Library. How about that for two competitors who can still …

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Viking Sky Cruise 14: Viking helmets did not have horns, plus Viking link to Bluetooth

ABOARD THE VIKING SKY – Vikings did not have horns on their helmets. With apologies to Minnesota football fans, Jeremy Paterson added with a smile. A wonderful part of a Viking Sky cruise is the guest lectures by experts such as Paterson. As resident historian, Paterson is giving talks in the ship’s Star Theater almost every day. Today he talked about the Vikings, challenging traditional Viking stereotypes as well as examining the Norsemen’s influence and legacy. “Think …

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Viking Sky Cruise: Story of heroic World War II dog

ABOARD THE VIKING SKY – At first, I thought it was a make-believe story.  When I was a child, the neighborhood storyteller Miss Minnie mesmerized me and my siblings with the exploits of an extraordinary dog. As soon as I got a chance to go to the school library, I looked it up.  The story was true. Bamse was a real live World War II hero. Now my Viking Sky cruise will be docking in the Norwegian …

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Viking Sky Cruise 12: Shetland ponies are small but strong and sturdy

ABOARD THE VIKING SKY – Don’t know how he could see with all that long hair in his eyes. But he seemed to gallop along just fine when he spied a hand reaching out to pet him. On this sunny day, the Viking Sky has docked in Lerwick, Scotland, and I have signed up for the Shetland Panoramic and Ponies shore excursion. I couldn’t miss the chance to see these historic little critters. “Shetland ponies date back …

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Viking Sky Cruise 11: Cruise Director a man of many talents

ABOARD THE VIKING SKY – Over the years, I’ve seen cruise directors who sing. A few even dance. But I have never seen a cruise director who sings, dances, does handstands and flips into a hot tub filled with ice. That is our Viking Sky Cruise Director Aaron Syfert. He is a man of many talents. On our cruise, Aaron makes the morning announcement to tell us the ship has been cleared to go ashore. He usually …

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Viking Sky Cruise: Visiting the ship’s surprising Snow Grotto

ABOARD THE VIKING SKY – I should have known better. The sign said very clearly “Cold bucket shower.” But I pulled the chain. And it definitely was cold. Very cold. But not nearly as cold as the Snow Grotto. On a ship, for goodness sake. The first one I’ve ever seen. It is definitely an unusual spot on the Viking Sky. I’ll tell you more about those later. But first, I want to describe the wonderful spa, …

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