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The Best of Northern Europe


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This was our first Viking Ocean cruising with two amazing weeks on-board the Viking Mars, experiencing Northern Europe in 15 days and 6 countries: Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Germany and Norway.

Viking Ocean Cruises are considered to be “all inclusive” since they include: Shore Excursions: We enjoyed one complimentary shore excursion in every port of call. Wi-Fi: We were able to stay connected with free Wi-Fi (connection speed may vary). Beverages: We had our choice of beer, wine, assorted liquor/cocktails and soft drinks which are all included during onboard lunch and dinner. Specialty Coffees and Teas: We sipped on 24-hour specialty coffees and teas and were offered water bottles at every port. Port Taxes and Fees: These were covered. Ground Transfers: We appreciated these which are available with Viking Air purchase. Enrichment Lectures and Performances: We immerse ourselves in cultural insights and entertainment. Nordic Spa and Fitness Center: We needed to take advantage of the complimentary  access to the gym after enjoying the fabulous meals. Alternative Restaurant Dining: We enjoyed all the diverse culinary experiences at no extra charge. Room Service: which was available 24-hours along with laundry services. 

Visit the Viking website for the most current itineraries and pricing.






What an amazing cruise! Where do I begin? Let’s start from Day 1. Anyone who is familiar with cruising, has heard of Viking Cruises. For m, y wife and myself, this was a new experience with no preset expectations. We knew that Viking has a reputation for being top notch in all categories, but again, we needed to see it for ourselves to really understand what it was all about. The flight over on Scandinavian Airlines to Stockholm from Los Angeles was quite nice. We upgraded our seats for a little extra comfort. We booked our flights with Viking, however you may want to explore other options for booking flights or upgrading seats from a Viking booking or directly with the airline.

As of June 2023, Viking Ocean Cruises operated a fleet of nine modern ocean ships, each designed with understated elegance and Scandinavian flair. These ships are classified as “small ships” with a capacity for 930 passengers on each vessel.

We were met at the airport by a Viking representative and were comfortably whisked away to the awaiting ship, the Viking Mars. Check-in on the ship was a breeze and well-coordinated.

Our Stateroom

Our luggage was taken to our room, so that we could unpack for the 15-day voyage. The room was really quite nice. All the amenities that you might expect on a luxury cruise ship with a wonderful wide balcony to view the magnificent coastlines. Our room was a Deluxe Veranda Stateroom. From the moment we got into our room, the views were captivating. Our room was well appointed and quite nicely laid out. Our bed was comfortable and the pillows and sheets were superior in quality. The bathroom and its’ heated floors were a great surprise. We loved the tiled, roomy shower and appreciated the staff’s attention to details and their pampering of all our desires. There was plenty of room next to the bed and nightstand. It was really helpful having USB ports at bedside. We did bring an electric converter from home which came in handy at the desk for our computer and other accessories. We recommend you familiarized yourself with the room’s TV and all the offerings it has. It also gives you a chance to check on your cruise account, catch up on movies or TV shows, check out the ship’s progress or watch a camera live from top of the ship. We highly recommend you take advantage of the port talks while in your room to learn more about your next destination. Don’t forget to relax and enjoy the refreshing ocean breezes and beautiful sights out your balcony door.

Our Viking Ocean Cruise

One of the great features of Viking’s itineraries is the included shore excursions at each port. Like Viking River Cruises, Viking Ocean Cruises focus on the destinations. With the “small ship” design of their ocean fleet, itineraries feature ports other larger cruise ships can’t offer.

Be sure and stop by the Explorers Desk before the end of the day and pick up a map of the port for the following day. This will help you plan your next day’s adventure and familiarize yourself with the next destination.

Our Viking adventure began in Stockholm, Sweden with a tour of the cobblestone streets of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s 13th-century old town. Spread across 14 islands, interconnected by more than 50 bridges, Stockholm was relatively easy to get around.

From there, it was on to Mariehamn, Åland Islands, Finland. The gorgeous scenery and quaint community had me fantasizing about living there and enjoying the island lifestyle. We continued on the Swedish Coast passing and its archipelago, a cluster of some 3,000 islands.

Next was Gdańsk, Poland, where we toured the old quarter, historic sites, port and vibrant markets. Gdansk is one of the oldest and most charming cities in the Baltic region. Almost entirely destroyed during WWII, the town which was the 1939 flashpoint for the war has rebuilt itself from the consequences of war.  We had the opportunity to visit Stutthof, a Nazi German concentration camp and extermination camp located outside the village of Stutthof (now Sztutowo, Poland), 22 miles east of Gdańsk. First established by the Nazis in 1939 as a camp for civilian Polish war prisoners, Stutthof became a concentration camp in 1942 and then it was converted into an extermination camp where Jews were killed in 1944. It was a solemn visit, but we couldn’t fully appreciate the history of a country without visiting all aspects of its’ history both magnificent and tragic.

Bornholm (Rønne), Denmark was next on the agenda visiting charming Rønne, the medieval center of Bornholm. Founded as a fishing community on the Danish Island of Bornholm around the year 1000, the picturesque village of Rønne has played an important role in the maritime trade of the Baltics.

Berlin (Warnemünde), Germany was our next stop. Here we were able to experience iconic Berlin, from the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate to Checkpoint Charlie. Consider the train to Berlin and then the Historic tour of Berlin. Since Berlin is nowhere near the coast, a train ride from Warnemunde near Rostock, was arranged to take us inland to Berlin. A day in Berlin was a big undertaking, but was well worth it.

Copenhagen, Denmark was even more beautiful than we could have imagined. We toured the Amalienborg Palace, visited with the Little Mermaid statue and so much more. Once a small Viking fishing village, Copenhagen has been an essential Scandinavian port since the 10th Century. Dubbed “the happiest city in the world,” Copenhagen presents a relaxed urban atmosphere with plenty of culture and history.

Ålborg, Denmark is a charming old town, home to the City Hall and Ålborghus Castle. Here we saw the best-preserved Renaissance architecture in Denmark as well as some of Scandinavia’s richest historical sights and a relaxing atmosphere at Aalborg University.  

Our adventure continued to Oslo, Norway with the cultural riches of Norway’s capital, including viewing the amazing artwork of native son, painter Edvard Munch. The Munch Museum is a must stop in Oslo and was walking distance from our ship. We also took a beautiful boat ride in the channel and saw many summer cottages along the shoreline. Be sure and check out Oslo’s many landmarks such as Akershus Fortress.

Stavanger, Norway offered its’ classic cobblestone streets of Old Stavanger. Known for having the highest concentration of 17th and 18th-century wooden buildings in Europe, the southern port town of Stavanger is both beautiful and historic. The heart of Norway’s lucrative offshore oil industry, Stavanger is home to the award-winning Norwegian Petroleum Museum. We also learned about the history of the town’s fisherman and their dependence on the ocean’s tides for their catches. Maybe a local will tell you a tale about the sardines. Quaint boutiques and classic cafes create a welcoming atmosphere throughout the Old Town. Make sure to stop in and have a coffee and pastry. With the abundance of fine restaurants and bars, there is no question that there is a thriving social scene in the port town of Stavanger.

Eidfjord, Norway was breathtaking and a photographer’s dream with its natural beauty and sweeping views of mountains and fjords. Touring Eidfjord on our own was certainly doable. Try stopping at the tourist office and pick up a map that shows two different walks they offer. The yellow walk is more of a nature hike that takes about 90 minutes or more. Don’t forget your camera! The fresh air and outdoors is so refreshing after a ride on the bus. There are also boating and airplane excursions to experience the fjords from adventurous and  different perspectives.

Our adventure ended in beautiful Bergen, Norway. Bergen is an historic city full of colorful architecture and a lively atmosphere. Next time, I would highly suggest spending a few extra days exploring the deep Viking roots of Bergen. Check out the rugged mountains and magnificent fjords around Bergen, the “Capital of Fjords.” Viking berths next to Bryggen Wharf, Bergen’s most iconic landmark. The UNESCO-listed Wharf boasts lovely rows of historic 18th-century wooden buildings. We also took a boat ride to appreciate the history and the new growth of beautiful Bergen.

Let’s Talk About The Food                                                          

The food selection on the ship was excellent. Be sure and experience the private dining room known as the Chef's Table. That is an experience you will not forget. We had the opportunity to go out with a small group of guests along with the Executive Chef and the Hotel Manager and pick out most of the ingredients of our evening’s meal that was prepared in front of us by the Executive Chef and his staff. No exaggeration, this was a highlight of our onboard experience. Check out the World Café where the selections are fresh, endless and bottomless. If you have any food allergies, make sure you have a discussion with one of the dining room Maître D’s.  They take their clients’ special needs very seriously and will taylor meals accordingly.  Their First-Class service was amazing and appreciated. For your daytime excursions, be sure and request a lunch box from Viking Guest Services. They will pack a box for you with a sandwich, apple, and goodies. Manfredi's was well worth the dining experience with no shortage of delectable selections. No Viking Cruise would be complete without an order of a delicious Mamsen’s waffle. Mamsen’s, named after the mother of the owner of Viking Cruses, is located at the starboard entrance to the Explorer’s Lounge. They ‘ve recreated all of Mamsen’s recipes and serve split pea soup, sandwiches, herring dishes and provide other Norwegian food items, including late night service. If you know, you know! At the entrance to the restaurants, there is an interactive screen to see what is on the menu for that day. Room service was always available, however we never wanted to miss an opportunity to dine in one of the dining rooms or outside on the deck to enjoy the beautiful views and fresh air.

If you are big dessert fans like us, Viking will not disappoint. The choices seemed endless and the selections varied from day to day. Afternoon Tea was a tasty and relaxing experience. Served in a very special lovely tea garden, we were greeted with a menu filled with a large variety of tea selections. When ready, our server staff brought us an impressive, tiered array of sandwiches, pastries and other goodies for our afternoon delight.

Consider taking a Galley Tour. Over 100 people work in the food operations on a Viking Ocean Cruise and their workspace is simply amazing to see. Check with Guest Services how you can best tour it.

The Included Tours/Excursions

The included tours in each port ended up being really great. If we managed to book an early morning tour, this left us with plenty of time to sight see on our own or book an additional tour. We highly suggest booking included tours as soon as possible since the tours book up very quickly. When we ended up with a tour that was scheduled later than we wanted, we just checked to see if there was room on one of the earlier tours. That option worked out for us a few times. While these are included tours, they are by no means any less engaging or interesting than the optional paid excursions. Viking does provide umbrellas, so no need to bring your own.

Another terrific on-board tour is of the ship’s bridge, where the captain was the tour guide and shared how his amazing ship keeps afloat and showed us other secrets too!

Onboard Entertainment

Our Viking Ocean Cruise offered a perfect combination of luxury, exploration, and relaxation. Here are some activities you can also enjoy during your Viking Oceans Cruise.

Cultural Enrichment Programs: Attend live lectures by historians, experts, and guest speakers. Dive into topics like art, history, and regional culture. These sessions provide valuable insights into the destinations you visit. We were enthralled with the curated displays available 24/7 which educated us with Scandinavian history, artifacts and selections of artwork, jewelry and clothing.  It was like we had our own private museum on board ship. It was really special.

Take advantage of the ship’s amenities such as its Pool, Fitness Center, Spa, Explorers’ Lounge, a place to unwind, read or hang out with fellow travelers or the Living Room, where you can play board games or listen to live music. They have a wonderful selection of solo singers, duets, or instrumental quartets playing daily. Check out live music, dancing, the Viking singers and dancers in the Main Theater, movies on the pool deck, local musical and cultural performances and late-night entertainment in Torshavn.

Remember, Viking Ocean Cruises cater primarily to adults aged 55 and older, creating an intimate, cultural atmosphere.


Lasting Impressions

This was our first ever Viking Cruise, and we have no hesitation booking another Ocean or River Cruise with Viking in the years to come. It was crystal clear, that the Viking experience was one to remember. This is how lasting memories are made! They truly understand great customer service.

The Viking staff was attentive, helpful and very professional along with all of our tour guides. Viking suggests to tip the drivers and guides on the tours. We strongly suggest you thank and tip your guides and drivers who provided you with excellent service.

Depending on the time of year, and since we cruised in July, the evening sky is lit up with daylight until 10 to 11 pm. This makes for longer enjoyable days and spectacular sunset photos.

We do recommend travel insurance since you never know what situations you may encounter before and during your cruise. You are making a significant investment and should protect yourself from unknown circumstances that may impede your travel.

It is a great idea to consider extending your stay at either end of your cruise. Allowing yourself the opportunity to settle in after a long flight to Europe is really a great advantage to beginning an often long-awaited cruise. Getting to tour the beginning or ending city is always a great time to prepare for or wind down from your Viking Cruise adventure.

Be sure and visit the Viking website for complete details, updated itineraries and current pricing on Ocean and River Cruises. Check Viking Cruises official site for promotional deals throughout the year, and remember to sign up for email promotions and announcements.

We would like to thank Viking Ocean Cruises for an unforgettable Homelands Cruise through Northern Europe. If you have any questions or comments, please contact us at We would love to share our photos with you!


8 TSA Rules Everyone Should Know 

Everyone hates going through airport security and no one likes being held up because someone forgot to take off their shoes. Help make this process go faster by knowing the rules and regulations beforehand. Chances are, you already know basic TSA regulations, so we're going to focus on some lesser-known rules for air travel. With these tips you'll fly through security and make it to your gate with time to spare.

Undeveloped Film Must Be Inspected
Traditional film cameras have made a huge comeback and you may want to use it to capture your epic vacation. Unfortunately, many travelers have complained about their undeveloped film being ruined during the TSA screening process because officers either opened it or put it through the X-ray machine. To avoid ruining your camera film and losing precious shots, request a physical inspection of the film at the beginning of the screening process. Notify a nearby officer at the security checkpoint (before your bags go on the belt) and they can assist you.

Solid Foods Are Permitted in Carry-Ons

Heading home from vacation with your favorite cookies or a special snack? No problem. The TSA permits solid food in carry-on bags. The administration does state that any non-solid foods must be put in a sealed container and then into a quart-sized bag to follow the liquid requirements. The rules for food in carry-ons have relaxed over the years and now you can bring almost any type of non-perishable food with you. For details on amounts and restrictions, visit the food section on the TSA's website.


Eating Utensils Are Permitted in Carry-Ons

Thanks to the Go Green movement, many people are opting for reusable eating utensils rather than plastic forks, knives, and spoons. Don't worry about taking your travel-friendly utensils with you in your carry-on for hassle-free dining: the TSA permits round-bladed butter knives and forks on the plane. Staying eco-friendly during your flight has never been easier.

Medications and Prescriptions Are Allowed

Have you ever packed your medication and wondered if you needed to pack it in the original bottle? The TSA understands and has made rules specific to bringing medications onboard. You can pack as much as you need in your checked or carry-on luggage as long as it goes through proper screening. For a liquid medication, separate it into a bottle of 3.4 ounces and notify an officer at the checkpoint of your liquid prescription. It's important to note that some states have laws requiring prescription labels on medication, so make sure to check before traveling.

Creams and Lotions Are Considered Liquids

According to the TSA, anything that you can pour, pump, spread, squeeze, smear, spray, or spill is considered to be a liquid and must follow the 3.4 ounces or less rule. Remember this when purchasing souvenirs to take in your carry-on bag. This means that popular items like nut butter, sunscreen, face creams, and perfumes must be under 3.4 ounces even if they are factory-sealed and unopened. If you want to travel a larger amount, place it in a sealed bag in your checked luggage so it isn't confiscated.

Expensive Jewelry Must Stay On

For travelers who like to dress up, we have good news – the TSA actually prefers you leave your diamonds and other expensive jewelry on at the security checkpoint. This prevents costly items from being stolen from the bin or lost during the screening process. Doing this will save the TSA some time and it will keep your valuables safe. If your jewelry item is exceptionally large or contains a lot of metal, you might be asked to take it off, but in most instances, you'll be fine to wear it through.

You Can Bring Plants on the Plane

If you're a plant enthusiast or traveling with one as a gift, there's no need to mail it and pay for shipping — the TSA permits plants on planes. As long as your plant fits neatly into the overhead bin or underneath your seat, you can fly with it. So yes, you can buy that adorable cactus at the airport gift shop in Arizona. However, before you fly, check your state regulations to make sure you aren't bringing a prohibited plant across state borders. There can occasionally be restrictions due to specific insects or plant diseases.


Drones Are Permitted

Drones are popular for frequent travelers who want aerial photos and videos of their latest adventure. The good news is that the TSA does allow drones to pass through security screenings. However, it's essential to check with your airline before bringing your drone on board. Some airlines do not allow drones on their planes even though the TSA allows them through the security. Visit Dronethusiast for detailed explanations of major airlines' drone policies.


Why Choose A Cruise Vacation?

There are dozens of reasons why millions of people choose a cruise vacation.  Sure, people need a vacation, they like the almost-all-inclusive aspect and the unpack once routine.  But what’s the real motivation to book a cruise vacation? I wanted more detail.  I polled several of my friends and their friends and learned some of the real reasons.  I asked them why they chose a cruise vacation.  Here’s what I learned.

1. Party Time

With an “all you can drink” booze package and not having to drive home, guests hoped to drink their way through the entire cruise, onboard and ashore.

2. Family Togetherness

These with kids said that this was the easiest way to take a family vacation. Their kids usually loved the youth programs and the parents needed a little down time by themselves without having to entertain their kids.  They all planned to take the kids on active, short shore excursions, not all-day events.

3. No Housekeeping

When I mentioned cleaning (and this sounds so 1950’s), it was the women who spoke up the most.  They said their reason for a cruise vacation (both with and without travel companions) was no housekeeping

or child care for a week. No beds to make, cooking, cleaning etc.

4. Dining And Trying New Foods

“The food!” was a frequent answer.  While many said they looked forward to the buffets and unlimited lobster, some people were going for the specialty dining options and had no plans to set foot in the main dining room.

5. Get Unplugged For A Week

There are a few brave souls who can truly power-down and unplug while on vacation. Now there was the opportunity to read a good book or catch up on a stack of magazines.  Some even said they left their mobile phones in their stateroom safes and left the laptop at home.

6.  Gambling and On-Board Entertainment

Despite the fact that gambling on cruise ships is on the decrease, there were a few who looked forward to hanging out in the casino trying their luck at the slot machines or blackjack tables. For some, it was their nightly entertainment. For others, enjoying the quality entertainment on-board was a big highlight.

7.  History

This can be on an anywhere-in-the-world cruise.  The opportunity to learn about locations they have never been to was truly appealing.


8.  Get Back In Shape

It sounds odd to go on a food-crazed, sit-by-the-pool vacation and try get in shape, too. Taking classes in the gym, enjoying long brisk walks on the deck or walking all day on a land excursion was for many a big plus. At the fitness center you could sign up for daily spinning, yoga, pilates and dancercize classes.  

9.  New Or Adventure Experiences

While there wasn’t one particular repeat item, a lot people booked a cruise vacation to visit new places (islands), try new adrenaline-rush experiences like zip lining high above a rainforest canopy, parasailing, and off-road ATVs.   

10.  See The World Without Flying!

For those not a fan of flying, waking up at sea, sipping coffee on their balcony, no dogs/cats/kids to contend with, hours of uninterrupted writing time, plus exotic and historic ports around the world just waiting to be explored was the premise for a great relaxing vacation.


In an industry with the highest repeat guest rate, there is something about cruising that gets you hooked early on and makes just about everyone want to return again and again.  

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