This Week On Avid Cruiser: From Vikings To Wine Cruises To The Joy Of Big Ships

This week on Avid Cruiser . . .

  • we examine why bigger can sometimes be better
  • we take a look at uncorked wine cruises on the rivers of Europe
  • and to help broaden your cultural understanding when cruising to or from Sweden, we expose the Swedish soul

Wallace Immen kicks things off with a sailing on Carnival Dream, where he discovered that Bigger Can Sometimes Be Better.

Cruise ship Carnival Dream
Carnival Dream is big and sleek

I’m sitting — well all right, slouching — in a honky tonk bar where the piano man is playing on a stage that revolves and customers put dollar bills in his Mason jar when they request a tune. It’s probably not the kind of place I’d be hanging out in after midnight if I was at home.

But here on the Carnival Dream, it seems like just the right place to be, as the pianist drawls out a boozy rendition of Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar.

Maybe it was the tequila or the somewhat surreal scene, but I started reflecting on the advantages of sailing aboard a big ship like this. There was not only this bar, but a whole entertainment district. All I’d have to do was walk out the door to check out an uncensored adult comedy club, a bluesy jazz bar or a disco. Don’t try this at home, or on a small cruise ship, where one auditorium fits all.

Carrying 3,650 passengers — nearly 700 more passengers than Carnival Cruise Lines’ previous ships — the Dream and sister ship Carnival Magic (as well as the coming Carnival Breeze, which will start sailing in June, 2012) are the biggest in the Carnival’s fleet of more than 20 ships.

For years, I’d been drawn more to a smaller ship, believing you can’t get personalized service in a floating city. But in a discussion with Carnival’s master of showy design, Joe Farcus, I discovered wasn’t alone in being pleasantly surprised by the choice and personal service I found aboard Dream.

Read the rest of Carnival Dream: Five Reasons Why Bigger Can Be Better.

Meanwhile, Andreas Lundgren was on a mission to discover the Swedish soul and whether his Viking ancestors had passed anything along to him and his fellow Swedes.

I went to Italy to find my inner Viking. Standing on board Holland America Line’s unfinished Noordam, an Italian lady informed me about the activities of my ancestors in Italy. A thousand years might have passed, but I admit to feeling a bit inconvenient while being informed of some of those doings. It was not her intention, I’m sure.

I have never been able to identify myself with the Vikings. To most Swedes, I would argue, they are almost as distant as an ancient indian tribe in the Amazon jungle. Almost, that is, because the incident on board the Noordam seemed to make it so obvious that, even in the 21st century, there are people who associate Swedes of today with Vikings.

My Viking ancestor?

Of course, there are people who work hard to add fuel to such a perception. Anyone walking the more touristic areas of Stockholm will have noticed the plastic Viking helmets for sale. But the Italy incident, in stark contrast to those helmets, had a strong sense of trueness about it.

I could not say whether visitors to Sweden generally associate the people that they meet on the streets with Vikings. Some probably do. Others, still, will notice some of the peculiarities that set Swedes apart from many other nationalities. Those quirks include fika; an almost abnormal usage of candles during parts of the year; and a tendency to emphasize those things in life that are mysiga.

Fika, something of a Swedish institution, is a combination of a quick break with a social meeting. In other words: a cup of coffee and a cookie in the company of friends. Those who sell candles can rejoice in the period from October to February, when the days are short and Swedes look to other sources of light than the sun. It can be very mysigt, or cozy, as we gather with friends in candle-lit homes.

Read the rest of Soul Deep: An Attempt At Finding The Swedish Soul, a must for all visitors cruising to or from Sweden.

South of Sweden, on the Continent, we explore the joys of cruising Europe in pursuit of wine — during late fall. Too cold to cruise? Read on.

This fall is shaping up to be an exciting time for AmaWaterways. Recognizing the growing demand for river cruising, the line is launching a series of hosted wine theme voyages along some of the most spectacular waterways in Europe.

AmaWaterways sets a course for a series of unique fall Wine-themed voyages. Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways

Dubbed “In Celebration of Wine,” these cruises offered in October and November offer opportunities to immerse yourself in the rich cultural winemaking history of Europe while at the same time revel in exploring some of Europe’s most fascinating cities and towns during the comfort of the off-season.

Dubbed “In Celebration of Wine,” these cruises in October and November boast some amazing opportunities to immerse yourself in the rich cultural winemaking history of Europe while at the same time revel in exploring some of Europe’s most fascinating cities and towns during the comfort of the off-season, plus travel with wine experts from top vineyards.

Read the rest of In Pursuit Of Wine: Cruising The Vineyards Of Europe During The Fall

And finally, our Panama Canal video posted early this week was a big hit. In case you missed it, check it out below.

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