The sky is cloudless, the temperature on deck is hovering at around 26°C and I’m wearing rubber galoshes and swimming trunks, wading through a carpet of snow with fluffy flakes gently falling on my head.
I’m in the Snow Grotto on board the
Viking Star, taking a five-minute snow immersion in a temperature of -10°C after roasting in the sauna.
Although I’m sailing in the Med, south from Venice along the Adriatic, the style of the ship is ever-so Baltic, with pale woods, muted colours and natural light. It’s so understated that there isn’t even a casino (usually considered essential to most of the world’s cruising fleet), and there’s no dressing up in posh frocks and suits for dinner.
Many of the 900-odd passengers are Viking groupies. Although this ship was the company’s first ocean-going vessel, Viking has long been big on rivers. On board, small talk is peppered with anecdotes about times on the Rhine and the Rhône, the waterways of the tsars and the magnificent Mekong.
Viking excels in looking after its passengers. Too well, perhaps. After a couple of days of super-attentive service, I step into one of the lifts and just stand there, forgetting that I needed to press a button to make it go anywhere! How odd to recall that the last lot of sea-going Vikings were marauding bands whose prime activity was pillaging rather than pampering.
On-board pleasures include classical music, operatic performances and enrichment talks. The excellent food is particularly hard to resist, hence the Captain’s warning that ‘there is no truth in the idea that the sea air and humidity will shrink your clothes’.
From Venice, our first stop is Pula on the Istrian peninsula, a Roman walled town with one of the world’s best-preserved amphitheatres. Still in Croatia, we visit Dubrovnik, a medieval masterpiece that plays a starring role in Game Of Thrones. Easing further south, we stop at Kotor, a town in Montenegro that sits on the banks of a fjord in the cleavage of limestone mountains. Then to Greece, first to Santorini, where we anchor in the arms of the volcanic caldera, then to the port of Piraeus, our final stop.
A 10-day Empires of the Mediterranean cruise starts at £3,040pp, including flights and transfers, beer and wine with meals, wi-fi and eight guided tours. Visit vikingcruises.co.uk/oceans.
Dubrovnik’s attractive harbour