Cruise ships aren't just about discovering exciting new destinations. In fact, if you're on a Viking Ocean Cruises ship, you don't need to wait until you arrive portside to try out some exciting, unique and unexpected activities.
While Viking Cruises offers over 350 excursions to destinations across Europe (including the Baltics, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean) and the Caribbean, what's onboard - from the free Wi-Fi to the 125 varieties of wine on the ship - is also sure to float your boat.
Here are some things that you might not expect to find on a cruise holiday, available with Viking Cruises.
Save £500pp and take advantage of the free gratuities if you book before 30/06/2016 at www.vikingoceancruises.co.uk/oceans or on 0800 014 7541.
1. An onboard cultural enrichment program
World renowned scientists, astronauts, explorers, Ivy League professors, and colourful local performers are all part of the Viking Cruises experience. Guests have the chance to listen and participate in talks and presentations with speakers from all walks of life.
With each ship built for discovery and designed with its destination in mind, you'll find a completely immersive experience on board - with regional menus featuring local cuisine, music and dance performances and history lessons about your destination woven into your journey - before you even step off the boat. Shore excursions beautifully complement this onboard cultural enrichment program.
At each port of call, you get one complimentary excursion. These are made up of orientation tours, then free time to enjoy the ports. Each stateroom is equipped with set of QuiteVox headphones that allow you to follow a guide's commentary, so you never miss a thing on a guided tour.
Scott Kinney, shore excursions manager, says: "In each port we visit we work with the best local tour guides who really know each port inside out. We challenge ourselves to come up with the best possible in-port experiences for all of our guests. We regularly pull out all the stops to ensure that each guest is fully immersed into local culture.
"For example, my favourite tour involved having exclusive access to a 14th century family winery in Torre de Cenaia, Italy. Here we made and baked our own Focaccia and Biscotti and tried all of the beautiful wines that they produced. It was a unique and amazing experience for our guests."
Whether you want to charter a luxury yacht and sail around the French Riviera for the day or perhaps have the Vatican to yourself after hours, Viking Cruises have got activities that suit everyone.
2. A snow grotto
Ice, ice baby. Viking Cruises is the first cruise line to offer a snow grotto at sea: a frosty room set at -10 degrees Celsius in the award-winning spa, where snow flakes fall from the ceiling.
The snow grotto allows guests to partake in the Scandinavian ritual of going from hot to cold temperature extremes (also known as contrast bathing). Nordic bathing traditions dictate that you sit in the sauna for as long as possible before rolling around in the snow or pouring a bucket of ice-cold water over yourself, all in the name of giving your circulatory system a boost. Ice bucket "plunges," which hang from the ceiling, are also available. Like the rest of the onboard spa, use of the snow grotto is included in your cruise, with Jacuzzi and sauna options for those not feeling the chill.
3. A Scandi smörgåsbord
With multiple restaurants and cafés on board, there's plenty of opportunity to eat whatever your heart desires, from Italian meals to sushi to a classic steak. There's even a Scandinavian deli, Mamsen's, serving up traditional Norwegian fare. Think open-faced smørbørd sandwiches with gravlax and mustard sauce, sweet rolls with cloudberry jam and a daily "Waffle Hour," which you can top with sweet or savoury add-ons.
Fun fact: Mamsen's deli is named after the mother of Viking's chairman Torstein Hagen. The waffles follow her original recipe and are served on the same design of crockery that Hagen ate from in his childhood home.
4. A truly alfresco lifestyle
Boasting more alfresco dining experiences than any ship at sea, there are so many opportunities for guests to enjoy the great outdoors. Take in a dinner under the stars on the Aquavit Terrace or a sea-breeze filled meal in The Restaurant, whose glass doors can be opened when the weather is right.
Since all rooms come equipped with their own veranda, you can also take in the sea air - and sample the complimentary 24-hour room service - in the comfort of your PJs, at any time of day or night.
Those keen to keep fit at sea can also benefit from exercising outside, thanks to top deck yoga classes, exercise machines, mini-golf and a running track (four laps = a mile!). The main pool's retractable domed roof caters for all-weather swim sessions.
5. An infinity pool
Fun fact: the first of its kind at sea, the infinity pool aboard Viking Cruises requires 8,468 litres of water to get filled. You only require a bathing suit. The glass-backed design is cantilevered off the stern for the ultimate luxury swimming experience.
6. A chic Scandi 'forest'
The Wintergarden - covered by a magrodome roof - is a stylish example of Scandinavian interiors at their best, with its nature-inspired, blond-wood "tree" setting. The relaxing canopy environment is the perfect spot to sip some complimentary afternoon tea with scones, finger sandwiches and a favourite book.
7. Quality time with the chef
Sometimes a cruise is so much more than a holiday: it can be a chance to discover new interests and acquire new skills - like cooking.
Guests can take advantage of the optional excursion in their destination of choice and go shopping with the chef to source the best quality local ingredients, then prepare a dish onboard and enjoy it in a private dining room. Bon appétit!
8. A lichen garden
We don't expect cruise ships to have the latest in topiary trends, but not all cruise ships are created equal. As a nod to Nordic heritage, you'll find a geometric garden full of unusual textures and colours in the Viking Living Room, inspired by the wild lichen of Norway's Finse Mountain Plateau. With over 1,000 books to choose from, it's also the ideal spot to relax and unwind with an entirely new cast of characters.
Everything you need to enjoy yourself is included:
- Private veranda stateroom
- All meals on board in a variety of dining venues
- Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch
and dinner on board
- Complimentary speciality teas and coffees 24/7
- Free 24-hour room service
- Included excursion in every port of call
- Free use of spa facilities
- Free Wi-Fi*
- Evening entertainment, lectures and port talks
- Return scheduled flights from the UK