viking-star-launch-2-aQ –  My father-in-law has an agent who is in love with Viking Cruises, which I understand is fairly new. We’re loyal Holland America fans. We’d love to join them on a European capitals sailing but we’re wondering if we will be really disappointed. Do they include as much as Holland America and are they really that great a value?

A – Lots of travel agents seem to be excited about the new Viking Cruise brand. The ships are sleek and have a minimalist Scandinavian vibe. But you  have to dissect this line’s marketing hype to get down to what is really being offered. For instance, yes drinks are “included” but not in the same way they would be, unconditionally” on our top-rated lines. Instead, Viking includes their limited selection of beer, wine, and soft drinks served only with lunch or dinner. They claim shore excursions are “included” but dig down and you will find that only one, rather basic, shore excursion is included in each port. The better tours come at a surcharge. That is still more than Holland America would typically include in their cruise fare. Viking Cruises is a “tween” niche cruise product. They are ideal for those seeking a moderately-priced cruise with a strong itinerary and generally weak shore offerings. We think they will compare quite favorably with your prior cruise experiences and we would suggest that you give them a try. In terms of the specifics of pricing, they will come in at about $442 per day which is fairly close to Holland America in entry-level veranda cabin. Viking is somewhat more inclusive and your stateroom would be larger at 270 sq. feet. If you really don’t want to travel with your father-in-law do let us know and we’ll write a more negative response.