Viking Ra Unveils Its Egyptian Design and Itinerary

Viking Ra Unveils Its Egyptian Design and Itinerary

PHOTOS: Viking River Cruises’ Viking Ra renderings. (photos courtesy of Viking Cruises)

Taking its cues from Viking River Cruises’ award-winning Viking Longships design, the line’s newest Viking Ra is coming to Egypt’s Nile River during March 2018.

Viking is completely gutting the recently acquired vessel and redesigning it in Scandinavian style as an intimate 48-guest, all-suite riverboat to sail a Pharaohs & Pyramids cruise-tour.

“Egypt is one of the most intriguing countries in the world, and it remains a top destination for many of our guests,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises, in a press release.

“For two decades, we have led the industry in river cruising with our innovative ship design and itineraries that bring our guests closer to the cultures of the world. We are committed to Egypt, and with the introduction of Viking Ra, we look forward to providing our award-winning service to our guests on the Nile – and to their experiencing this culturally rich region in the Viking way.”

The 12-day Pharaohs & Pyramids itinerary will feature many points of interest, starting with a three-night first-class hotel stay in Cairo. Highlights there will include the Great Pyramids of Giza, the new Grand Egyptian Museum and the Mosque of Muhammad Ali. Then guests will fly to Luxor to explore the temples of Luxor and Karnak prior to boarding the Viking Ra for an 8-day roundtrip Nile River cruise.

The sailing will highlight Aswan and privileged access to the tomb of Nefertari in the Valley of the Queens, along with tours of the Temple of Khnum in Esna, the Dendera Temple complex in Qena and a Nubian village.

The entire journey ends with a return flight to Cairo and an additional night stay.

Like the Viking Longships’ heavenly nomenclature, Viking Ra is named after the Egyptian sun god. It also references Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl and his Ra and Ra II papyrus-reed boats. The riverboat is being designed by the same interior team behind the Scandinavian-styled Viking Longships, but it will also incorporate regional Arabic patterns as well.

24 suites will encompass three categories, each measuring in at 291 sq. ft. There will be 20 Veranda Suites, for example, with a full-size veranda off the living room and a French balcony off the bedroom. All private accommodations will include a hotel-style bed, luxurious linens, sofa, bathroom with shower, air conditioning and flat-screen televisions.

Onboard dining will extend to The Restaurant for three full daily meals of international and regional cuisine, as well as The Lounge and bar for drinks. Entertainment will focus on the destination in lieu of a casino, while Viking’s Culture Curriculum will feature an onboard Nubian evening event and even the chance to ride a camel. An expert Egyptologist will also lead all excursions ashore.

Unique to the Viking Ra from the Viking Longships are its pool and two jacuzzis as well as a spa.

The pool will be located at the back of the ship, while the pool and sun decks will also have plenty of shade under sails reminiscent of regional dhow ships and mashrabiya-like screens. Meanwhile, The Spa will offer massage services and other treatments.

River cruising still riding high

Image result for river cruise ships

After the challenges the river cruise industry faced in 2016, it was hard to tell whether the once-booming travel style had lost its momentum entirely or was merely suffering a temporary setback.

Towards the end of last year, however, it appeared river cruising was on the rebound, with the lines reporting a robust return of Europe bookings – a trend that appears to have continued into early 2017.

But one indicator that river cruising really never lost its groove is an annual Travel Leaders Group survey ranking European river cruises as the top international luxury “destination” outside North America being booked by affluent travelers for 2017.

Indeed, river cruises beat out Italy, Mediterranean cruises, Australia, France, England, Baltic cruises, Ireland and Bora Bora for the top spot. River cruises also ranked No. 1 for lead luxury travel destination in this same survey last year. So despite a “challenging” 2016, river cruising doesn’t appear to have slipped in comparison to other vacation options.

Not only that, but according to the 1,689 U.S.-based travel agents who responded to the Travel Leaders Group survey, their upscale river cruise business wasn’t hit all that hard in 2016. Some 36% of Travel Leaders agents reported an increase in luxury river cruise bookings in 2016 compared to 2015, and 46% said their luxe river business was on par with 2015.

So, for those wondering if the river cruise boom is still on, there is some evidence suggesting that it never really was off.

River cruising across continents — the same, but different

By Michelle Baran
InsightWhenever anyone would ask me about the similarities between river cruising in Europe and river cruising in other parts of the world, I used to answer one of two ways.

Half the time, I responded with something along the lines of, “No matter where you are in the world, river cruising is basically the same.” The other half, I said something like, “Aside from the fact that it’s a river cruise, that’s where the similarities end. Totally different experience depending on where you are.”

In truth, both are correct. (And I’ve started responding with a combination of the two, for the record. Apologies to those I misled prior to this new policy.)

As the river cruising industry shifts its focus from a busy launch season in Europe this spring, toward a slew of newbuilds coming out in Southeast Asia this fall, the change in destination backdrop begs for some comparisons between river cruising in Europe and elsewhere in the world.MichelleBaran

Indeed, Europe has set the standard for river cruising in the world. It’s where the market is most developed, it’s the product that is marketed the heaviest, and it’s usually the destination where people often first learn about and experience river cruising.

It sets the bar, so to speak. And then, passengers get the river cruise line’s brochure and see that they might have a ship that sails the Mekong in Vietnam and Cambodia, or that they offer an itinerary on the Peruvian Amazon. That’s when things start getting interesting.

Maybe they find out from some friends they can even river cruise right here at home on the Mississippi or Columbia rivers. Who knew?

The question is, will they like these other river cruises if they liked river cruising in Europe? Well, first off, let’s address what will be the same or similar between European river cruising and its numerous cousins scattered about the globe.

For one, the floating-hotel notion is similar. During the river cruise portion of their itinerary, regardless of the destination, passengers will pack and unpack once and their river cruise ship/floating hotel will carry them from one destination to the next, often to small ports from which they can walk into the nearby town.

Additionally, floating on down the river offers a very similar sensation regardless of whether that river is the Mississippi, the Nile, the Irrawaddy or the Danube. Of course the scenery along the river will vary greatly, but that peaceful, gliding feeling is almost universal.

As for what’s different, the ships themselves, for one. There are vastly different types of river cruise vessels suitable for different rivers. European river cruisers might be surprised to find how large the river cruise ships in the U.S. and China are, or how small those in Southeast Asia and Peru are.

And of course, the destinations themselves are where many of the differences are. The bustling river life in Vietnam and Cambodia is nothing like the more reserved rivers of Europe. Floating past Egyptian desert landscapes is quite different from sailing past quaint American towns.

But despite all the differences, I could totally see how someone could love river cruising across continents. Because really, it’s the same. But different.