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Prima (UK) - - Contents - BY DAVID WICK­ERS

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

Dubrovnik’s at­trac­tive har­bour

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