Chef, Surroundings, on the Viking Helgrim

image from Julie Hatfield

  To look at the dinner menus aboard the Viking Helgrim, you would think that Executive Chef Peter Benko is a born and bred Portuguese citizen. “Picanha Com Esmagado de Batata e Espinafres” (seared rump steak with crushed potatoes and spinach)? “Caldeirada de Peixe” (Portuguese fish and seafood stew)? “Quindim de Coco com Ananas” (caramellzed pineapple and coconut cake)? He MUST be Portuguese, we thought. But Benko, who brings out three different meals each day of an …

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Unexpected Pleasures: Sailing the Douro River Aboard Viking Helgrim

image from Judi Cuervo

  In the year 2000, I sailed the Rhone and Saone rivers aboard Viking Burgundy, a vessel operated by Viking River Cruises, a little-known line that, in fact, had just entered the American market. I was bucking the cruise trend of the time, shunning the mega ships that were capturing the headlines in favor of an intimate vessel and a type of sailing that had not yet hit most cruise fans’ radar. What a difference 20 years …

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Fitness/Exercise Aboard the Viking Helgrim

image from Julie Hatfield

  So you’re a fitness buff, booked for an eight-day cruise on a European riverboat – say in Portugal, for example, making your way up the beautiful Douro River to the Spanish border and back to Porto. You’re on the diminutive “Helgrim,” a smaller version of the usual-sized Viking longboats, with no fitness center or running track aboard. What do you do to stay in shape? That’s the situation my husband and I found ourselves in on …

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Douro- Day 7 on Viking Helgrim

image courtesy of Julie Hatfield

  If you have seen its many television commercials, Viking rules the road when it comes to daily excursions.. Even two days before this cruise in Portugal on the Douro River, Viking offered us tours around the city of Lisbon. We hadn’t even laid eyes on our “baby longboat” (they call it that because our 262-foot-long vessel only holds 106 passengers versus the more common ones that hold 190), we had taken three tours of Lisbon. We …

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Douro- Day 6 on Viking Helgrim

image from Julie Hatfiled

  The air was brutally hot yesterday when we left the Helgrim, left the Douro River, left Portugal, and slipped into Spain. In the course of a two-hour bus ride, we changed landscapes, changed customs, changed cuisines and changed languages. Example: For the ritual “Good morning,” we reversed the Portuguese emphasis on the first syllable “(O. .. la) to the Spanish emphasis on the last syllable of the same word, as in “o.. . .LA.” Hello Salamanca! …

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Douro- Day 5 on Viking Helgrim

image courtesy of Julie Hatfield

  An ecumenical cistern in the medieval fortress town of Castelo Rodrigo, just a few hundred yards from the Spanish border, has a message for the political squabblers in the US. Congress. We had trudged up a hill in the hot sun to the center of the little town when our guide pointed the structure out. The cistern, a stone tank now in ruins, contained water used for religious ceremonies by all of the town residents. There …

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Douro- Day 4 on Viking Helgrim

image from Julie Hatfiled

  There’s good money in port wine, evidently. And the top of a mountain is a great place to produce it. We left our Viking riverboat today in a bus that took us for a white-knuckle ride on a narrow road through a series of hairpin turns, up, up, and up. “Don’t look down,” our guide warned (we all looked down, terrified). Our destination was the famous Sandeman winery, perched on the top of a mountain surrounded …

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Douro- Day 3 on Viking Helgrim

image from Julie Hatfield

  Our knowledgeable, erudite tour guide had one more piece of information to impart about Porto, her native city, as the bus headed back to our Viking riverboat for lunch. “You should know that the people of Porto have a nickname that goes back many years,” she said. “We are known in Portugal as ‘the tripe eaters.’” The nickname was given to the city’s residents, she explained, when the good parts of slaughtered animals were given to …

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Viking Celebrates New Ships with Picasso Tour, Dinner and a Rare Concert

  BASEL, Switzerland — As I discussed a week ago, Viking just named seven new river ships  and did a lot of celebrating. There were nearly 20 cruise journalists in attendance and Viking made our Basel visit extra interesting by inviting us to tour their operational headquarters in Basel. This turned out to be quite the treat as it gave us insight into the depth of their operations. Executive VP Tony Hoffman led us from department to …

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Lots of new small ships on order, plus other news from SeaTrade

In March several of us from AllThingsCruise attended SeaTrade, the annual conference of the global cruise industry, which was held in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. The big news all around is that the cruise industry is booming and there are now over 100 ships on the order books extending through 2030. We have already written about the two new cruise lines – Virgin Voyages and the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection – which will begin service in 2020. But here’s …

Read moreLots of new small ships on order, plus other news from SeaTrade

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