Viking: The Voyage Continues

Depending upon your age and how you prefer to spend your leisure time, most people have a top-five bucket list of fantasy destinations. 

Conjuring visions of Machu Picchu, a thrilling African safari, the mystery of the Galapagos, or the famed Taj Mahal, a visit to any one of these mystical places can be a mind-altering, life-changing experience. And the means by which you travel to those iconic spots can either detract or enhance that experience. 

Well, search no further. I’m sure you’ve seen those enticing Viking commercials and thought, “Wow, wouldn’t that be amazing,” considering Viking was voted #1 for all three of their ship types (Rivers, Oceans, and Expeditions) by Conde Nast and Travel + Leisure, it’s an enticing trip to contemplate. 

Viking cruise line's Saturn ship
Image Credit: Richard Atkins

But some may think the cost of such an enterprise is unattainable, yet Viking’s prices are quite reasonable, taking into account what you receive in return; plus, they’re constantly running specials, so do take the plunge, so to speak.

My wife and I recently traveled on Viking’s newest offering, the Viking Saturn, part of Viking’s fleet of sister ships, sporting nine decks with a capacity of just 930 passengers and an overall length of 745 feet. 

When you compare the Saturn to other well known cruise lines that accommodate more than 7,000, Saturn looks relatively small; nevertheless, when you’re on the ship, you get a sense of openness and uncluttered space. In fact, at times, you feel you’re the only one on the ship, which is just what the doctor ordered. Rest and relaxation, far from the madding crowd.

atrium on Viking cruise ship
Image Credit: Richard Atkins

Taking uncluttered a bit further, the ship’s décor has a definite Scandinavian, minimalist feng shui, exhibiting soft-colored woods, organic materials, and clean lines to create an atmosphere of understated yet luxurious zen. 

The ship’s attention to detail is quite impressive, whether it’s a new painting here, an interesting vase there, an intriguing macramé window treatment paying homage to old Viking ships, or a series of serene, black and white photographs highlighting the idyllic Norwegian countryside, the key here is exploration and discovery, providing the ultimate in comfort and calm. 

Even though the Saturn is modest in size, you’ll never run out of things to see and do. Consequently, taking the offered guided tour of the ship on your first day onboard is a good idea to familiarize yourself with its copious amenities.


With eight very different dining venues, you’ll always find something appealing and delicious. The Restaurant is the more formal, grand dining showcase with an endless array of cuisine, including regional specialties and breathtaking coastline views. 

If you’re running late for an offshore excursion, the World Cafe is perfect as it features a variety of wide-ranging dishes in an expedient, buffet-style setting. Manfredi’s offers delectable Italian fare, while the Chef’s Table provides a multi-course tasting menu with extensive wine pairings. 

What’s most pleasing are the fresh, local ingredients Viking’s chefs utilize to create unique culinary dishes that reflect the different ports of call the ship encounters. For more casual dining, the Pool Grill serves up gourmet burgers and afternoon tea is executed flawlessly at the fabulous Wintergarden

Don’t forget Mamsen’s, a traditional Scandinavian delicatessen that features such Norwegian fare as heart-shaped waffles with berries and cream, a favorite recipe from chairman Torstein Hagen’s mother. And don’t forget Room Service, any time of day or night, which is part of Viking’s included value.                                                                


la sagrada basilica in barcelona spain
Image Credit: Richard Atkins

Besides the ship itself, the most exciting part of your trip will be your offshore excursions. As a rule, book your passage many months in advance of your actual sailing date, as the most desirable excursions (even though there are many) sell out quickly. 

Some basic tours that are included with your general fare are adequate for the lay of the land, but the “wow factor” on some might be missing. So do look for those special, obscure, off-the-beaten-path offerings to truly stimulate the mind and body, yet up the cost a bit. 

Speaking of the body, most tours cover many hours of walking and standing, so keep that in mind and come prepared with the proper clothing, a cane, a walking stick, or other gear to help you along. 

Finally, the Viking guides for your excursions are experienced locals to the area, incredibly knowledgeable and personable, but most of all, entertaining!

The Mediterranean Itinerary

view of monaco marina
Image Credit: Richard Atkins

This magnificent journey takes you to Venice, Split, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Naples, Rome, Florence, Pisa, Monte Carlo, Marseilles and Barcelona.  

We started for Venice in a water taxi, departing from where the Viking Saturn was docked. Approaching Venice from the sea is breathtaking and so much more rewarding than by car or bus as you really get to see the immense scope of the city from a nautical perspective as you travel via the Venetian Lagoon, the enclosed bay of the Adriatic. 

From the beautiful canals, gondolas, and glass blowing to visiting St. Marks Square and the Doge’s Palace, there’s enough to keep you busy 24/7. 

Next up was the magnificent seaside town of Split, one of the oldest cities in Croatia, and a tour of the ancient Diocletian Palace dating back to the 3rd Century AD. We then took a 45-minute cruise down the Cetina River in the country town of Omiš, which ended at a local restaurant to sample local delicacies, drink some wine, and listen to a lively accordion and guitar duo. 

The following day, we opted for a specialty tour of small villages in the Dubrovnik area. The town of Cavtat was charming and very old, having been settled around 228 BC. It sits on the serenely still waters of Zupa Bay. We then went to the village of Ljuta and learned about the inner workings of a water mill and how it produces flour. 

Afterward, we sampled a local libation of the area along with a delicious, locally sourced meal. Later in the day, we took a bus to the Stari Grad, Dubrovnik’s Old Town, which is encircled by timeworn walls dating back to the 13th Century. Today, the fort-like structure is chock full of interesting retail shops, markets on the square, cathedrals, and places to eat. 

Next up was Corfu and a drive through the surrounding area, including Kanoni, the Vlacherna Monastery, and then passing the villa where Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, was born. We took an informative walking tour of the lively Old Town to the Esplanade, one of Europe’s largest public squares, and walked through the extraordinary Old Fortress.  

In Naples, we spent the better part of the day at the lost city of Pompeii. We had visited decades ago, but since then, the archaeologists have uncovered such a mammoth area of new findings that it’s become a vast, unearthed city of wonder you don’t want to miss. 

ruins in Pompeii
Image Credit: Richard Atkins

Unfortunately, due to a large storm, the port of Rome was closed. Consequently, we sailed for Florence and Pisa. Since there are a variety of excursions, you’ll have to decide carefully what your favorite day trip will be as it’s only possible to do one tour a day. 

We opted for Florence, where we saw the incredible Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, purchased gold jewelry and other souvenirs around the square, and then partook in an authentic Italian lunch at a cozy eatery. 

Monte Carlo in Monaco was one of our favorite spots. It’s simply a magical place with a stunning port, the chapel where Grace Kelly was married, and the Prince’s Palace, where she and Prince Rainier III presided. 

We also visited the ornate Grand Casino, one of the locations for Bond films Never Say Never Again and GoldenEye, while a few feet away stands a portion of where the famed Grand Prix Race zooms by. We then took an amazing coastline drive to enchanting Nice, had a delicious al fresco lunch amidst the crowds, and finished with the medieval town of Èze. 

Marseilles was next on our agenda and was definitely the most memorable. We chose the phenomenal In the Footsteps of Van Gogh tour, where we roamed around the alluring town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and were privileged to visit the surrounding environs Van Gogh chose to depict in some of his paintings. 

We then visited the St. Paul de Mausole Monastery and saw the wheat field Van Gogh painted during a year of self-admitted detention at this sanitarium. 

If that weren’t enough, we were treated to a delectable Provençal lunch at Le Mas d’Aigret, a divine hotel-restaurant in an authentic 17th-century farmhouse with astounding views of the Alpilles mountains. C’est Magnifique!

Barcelona was our final stop as we began with the awe-inspiring Gothic Quarter, the walled settlement founded by the Romans, as well as the Romanesque Church of Santa Maria del Pi, and then a visit to the History Museum of Barcelona, housing archaeo-logical remnants of Roman times and artifacts from the old Jewish district. 

But, the pièce de résistance was seeing the mind-boggling Sagrada Família, justifiably the largest, unfinished Catholic church in the world, created ingeniously by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. Combining Gothic and Art Nouveau forms, Gaudi spent his life working on the project, which is still in its final stage of construction yet is a marvel to look at.

FYI: The offshore excursions above were our individual choice, but just a sampling of the many tours available. Some are strenuous, and some are not; from cooking in a Tuscan castle to climbing the Tower of Pisa, you always have a choice!

Back to the Ship – Entertainment

The main Star Theater on Deck Two features shows by the Viking singers, a talented quartet of two female and two male vocalists who could grace any Broadway stage with their amazing voices, backed up by an awesome quartet of musicians to round out the musical talent. 

During our 13 days, there was a host of other shows, including “Harry the Piano,” a UK piano virtuoso who was a combination of Liberace and Victor Borge, and a delightful variety show headlined by singer and cruise director Matt Morgan. 

The main theater is also home to educational lectures led by Viking’s Resident Historian, guest lecturers, cooking classes, and wine tastings, while passengers are encouraged to indulge in the vast onboard library. 

Flanking the main theater are two more intimate theaters showing films and documentaries to while away your time. Entertainment bars include the Viking Living Room for live classical music and the Explorers’ Lounge

Torshavn is the Saturn’s jazz club, featuring some of the ship’s liveliest entertainment! Don’t forget the lounge spaces, filled with puzzles and electronic table games such as Solitaire and Mah Jongg, where you can always hear live piano music in the background. What more could you ask of a luxurious, floating city?!  

The Nordic Spa and Recreation

view of pool and hot tub on viking ship in the mediterranean
Image Credit: Richard Atkins

A wonderful Viking perk is that all guests receive complimentary access to the spa’s Thermal Suite facilities. Hot and cold therapy has been a Nordic tradition for centuries. Consequently, the spa includes a sauna, steam room, hydrotherapy pool, the Snow Grotto (real snow and chilled air), and a cool pool, giving a holistic approach to physical and emotional well-being. 

For an additional price, the spa also hosts specialty facials and all types of massages. It is the perfect way to soothe sore muscles from a long day of offshore excursions. 

For recreational pursuits, an infinity and main pool overlook the aft of the ship and a sports deck which includes a putting green, shuffleboard, and an outdoor fitness area for yoga. 

On the Promenade Deck, a track-like area goes completely around the ship that begs health-conscious passengers to get their steps in as four laps equal one mile. Jogging, on the other hand, is only permitted at the designated track on Deck 9. For those missing their gym workout, there is an extensive fitness center flanked by the spa and salon.   


Quality service is one of the keystones to an enjoyable vacation, and Viking hits it out of the park. That old lyric from “Cheers” where “Everybody knows your Name” is apropos here. From the Maitre’d and servers in fine dining to housekeeping, everyone called us by our names without hesitation! 

In addition, in the mornings, at the end of the gangplank every day, our cruise director and management team lined up on the dock to greet us with smiles and “good morning” as we left the ship for our offshore excursions, making us feel that much more special.

Guest Services is located in the Atrium with multiple representatives to help with your every need, plus adjacent computer stations for your online browsing and printing of boarding passes. 

In addition, passengers receive the Viking Daily, an informative newsletter featuring the weather forecast, all the excursions for the day, what deck to disembark from, what specific group you are in, and all the onboard activities and entertainment for the day. 

Boutique and Sundries

If you want to bring home a souvenir, the onboard Nordic shop sells duty-free clothing, artwork, and all types of Nordic bric-a-brac. Another boutique a few steps away features high-end, exotic jewelry for all your premiere nights out. For a soda or chocolate to take to your stateroom before bed, there is a nook, right off the Nordic shop to purchase those snacks. 

In Conclusion

There you have it, folks! A comprehensive picture of the Viking’s Saturn and its featured Mediterranean Odyssey. A once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the world in style with exceptional service, outstanding cuisine, varied entertainment, cultural enrichment, and dynamic destinations. Of course, Viking travels to all parts of the globe, from Asia to Australia, Copenhagen to Cairo, or Malta to Mumbai. Viking keeps you smiling long after your cruise has ended! 

Check out this slideshow from my Mediterranean Odyssey onboard Viking’s Saturn.

If You Go

Viking Cruises – – 1.855.338.4546

Viking’s Mediterranean Odyssey Cruise –

Richard Atkins is a travel writer, photographer, playwright, screenwriter, actor, and pianist. He can be reached at:

All photos by Richard Atkins



Richard Atkins is a travel photo-journalist, playwright, screenwriter, actor and pianist. He can be reached at: