Documents, Airfare and My Viking Journey
Today, I’m flying to Bucharest, Romania to embark Viking River Cruises’ Viking Embla as part of the line’s 10-day Passage to Eastern Europe cruisetour itinerary. Because it’s a long day – and because I have just over 16 hours to kill between my departure from Canada and my arrival in Romania – I wanted to talk about a few subjects that rarely get covered: documentation and airfare.
A New Way To Plan Your River Cruise
One of the things I’ve always liked – really liked – about Viking is that the line still believes in printed documentation. To me, this adds an enormous amount to the cruise experience. Getting your cruise documents in the mail a’la the days of old heightens the anticipation. It solidifies that idea that yes, you really are going on a cruise!
In the past, Viking sent out a documentation booklet with need-to-know information, a few generic luggage tags, and a leather luggage tag. It also sends out two gigantic adhesive stickers to slap on your shirt as you exit baggage claim at your arrival airport. Personally, I never do that. I look dorky enough on my own, and don’t need a sticker to add to that.
Viking’s documentation is a real winner – and recently, the line has updated its documentation once again, introducing a very cool, personalized booklet that outlines details about your flights, your hotel stays (if applicable), transfer information (if applicable), itinerary information, shipboard information, deck plans, and available shore excursions.
Viking has also introduced a dedicated section of its website called My Viking Journey. Here, booked guests can personalize their river cruise like never before. You can pre-select all of your excursions ashore, even the complimentary ones that are included with your journey. You can also select your optional excursions and pay for them in advance of your voyage – a truly nice feature for those who, like myself, prefer to budget for trips by booking and paying for certain things in advance so as to avoid a massive bill on the last day of the voyage.
From My Viking Journey, you can also pre-book Viking’s Silver Spirits Beverage Package that, for a small cost, makes all beers, wines, premium wines, spirits, premium spirits and soft drinks complimentary throughout the voyage.
On my journey, this package was going for $150 USD per person. With seven full days onboard the Viking Embla, that works out to about $21 per day – or two and a half drinks per day assuming an average cost of $8 per drink. It’s a great deal, especially considering that purchasing this package unlocks the ability to order, by the bottle, Viking’s premium wine selections at no additional cost.
One other great thing that Viking’s new documentation does is provide you with a clear printout of your entire air itinerary. The old documentation did that, too, but this one seems more comprehensive somehow. It also contains your airline booking confirmation – the most important six-digit-code you’ll need on your entire journey.
To get to Romania, I’m flying with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. I like KLM a lot, and not just because the interior of its airplanes are slathered in shades of blue. Service is good, aircraft are newer, and the crews are friendly and punctual. I rarely take-off late, rarely land late, and the airline has only lost my baggage once.
KLM offers the ability to, for an additional fee, select a better seat long before takeoff. Extra-cost options over regular Economy Class include Economy Comfort (at the head of the economy section, with more legroom), Extra Legroom (for seats next to bulkheads and emergency exit doors), and Preferred Seats (regular Economy seats situated near the front of the Economy cabin, but behind Economy Comfort).
But, if you wait until check-in opens (typically between 24 and 30 hours prior to departure), you can get these extra-pay seats for a fraction of the price.
For example, I wanted to treat myself to Economy Comfort. Okay, I really wanted to treat myself to Business Class, but I also want to pay my bills this month.
Initially, Economy Comfort was going for over $200 CAD per seat. Too rich for my blood. At check-in, however, the price had dropped by nearly $100 CAD, to $135 for a bulkhead, window seat at the front of the Economy Comfort section. Divided by nine hours, that works out to $15 an hour. The VISA card came out, and Seat 10J was mine.
So why spend the extra money when airfare already costs so much? Well, my decision was made by easier when I considered several things:
- By booking an Economy Comfort seat at the head of the cabin, I’d have no one reclining their seat into my face for nine straight hours;
- I’d have increased leg room beyond what Economy Comfort offers, and far beyond standard Economy Class;
- I’d be served meals and drinks first;
- I’d deplane first, which is great for tight connections;
- I’d gain a window view and move myself out of the middle section of airline purgatory;
- I just might have a shot at getting some shut-eye on the way to Amsterdam.
When you fly a lot, you discover that sometimes how you start a trip impacts how much you enjoy a trip. A problematic outbound journey marred by bad seats, rude plane-mates or missed connections can really colour your experience – and often not for the better.
For me, I like to take as much of that uncertainty out of the equation as I can. And considering how easy it was to plan all the details of my own Viking journey, I figure it’s worth my time (and money) to smooth out my airfare arrangements as well.
Now if you’ll excuse me, it looks like it’s time to board. See you all in Bucharest!
Our Voyage Report from onboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Embla in Eastern Europe will begin tomorrow from Bucharest, Romania! Be sure to follow along on twitter @deckchairblog or using the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.