ABOARD THE VIKING KARA – First impressions can be so important. They can start a trip off on the right foot or the wrong one. Viking Kara certainly knows how to do it right.
Getting to Basel, Switzerland, for my cruise on the Viking Kara was unusually easy. I know that was probably just the winds of fortune but Viking did book my flights and I was blessed every step of the way.
First I took a two-hour flight from Indianapolis to JFK airport in New York. I was bumped up to first class which was an unexpected treat. First boarding, more legroom, better snacks and complimentary cocktails made that flight a pleasure.
On my seven-and-a-half-hour flight from New York to Amsterdam, the empty seat next to me in my two-seat economy row meant I had room to stretch out and nap. Again, the winds were in our favor and the flight arrived an hour earlier than expected. Amsterdam is one of my favorite airports. It is clean, modern and makes sense.
The flight from Amsterdam to Basel took a little over an hour and a Viking representative was at the Basel airport waiting to guide me to the big bus that would take me to the ship. Preliminary information from Viking had alerted us to exit out of the Swiss side of the airport instead of the French side. It’s an easy mistake to make but Viking made sure we didn’t.
It is obvious that Viking has paid attention to all details so now all I have to do is relax, let the Kara staff take over and have a great week.
Boarding the ship
A short ride through Basel and we arrived at our ship. Although it was still too early for our cabins to be ready – like many other ships, Kara does a quick turnaround with passengers disembarking in the morning and new passengers embarking in the afternoon – we were guided to the lovely lounge where a light lunch was waiting. My cabin was ready before I even finished lunch.
Some passengers had booked tours of Basel. I took a long walk instead and then did a bit of computer catch up. Kara has free ship wide WiFi which is a wonderful perk. The ship also has a small business office with two computers for passenger use. Cruise manager René Van Loon was bustling around, introducing himself and seeing if anyone needed anything.
Launched in 2014, the Kara has four decks and a capacity of 190 passengers. The Kara has 95 staterooms, all of them outside which is wonderful. No inside staterooms at all.
A large painting in the ship’s lobby features the legend behind the ship’s name.
In Norse mythology, Kara is one of the Valkyries who are also known as swan maidens or wish maidens. Legend says that if you can capture and hold a swan maiden or her feathered cloak, you can extract a wish from her.
I had seen photos of my cabin in the Viking brochure but it is even better than it looked in print. My stateroom has a full-size bed, flat screen TV (which I will probably never turn on), refrigerator, plenty of dresser drawers, shelves and roomy closet, plus private bath with a walk-in-shower. Two large bottles of mineral water were lined up on my dresser, along with a bottle of sparkling wine and some Christmas cookies. The water is a very welcome plus.
One of my pet peeves is hotels and ships that don’t provide complimentary bottled water. Sure, they might have a big bottle of water in my room on those other ships but it also has a big price tag. I am told the two free bottles of mineral water will be replaced every day. Little things like that mean a lot.
On our first day aboard, we are invited to a cocktail hour, welcome briefing from the ship’s crew and dinner. Aboard the Kara, dining is at one open seating – usually at 7 p.m. – in the window-filled restaurant or at the Aquavit Terrace for a more casual meal.
I don’t speak German or French so I was pleased when René said the official language onboard is English. All staff, crew and local guides speak English and all announcements and programs are presented in English. René also said that he keeps in-room announcements to a minimum, three a day at the most. And an intercom system in our stateroom allows us to turn off those announcements, if we wish.
I’ll share more about the ship, the crew and the cuisine later. Right now, I’m just happy to be aboard and am finding more and more things I love about the Kara. And it’s only the first day. Wonder what other happy discoveries are still to come.
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch