Sailing from Australia
Setting sail from Sydney
One or our favourite cities in the world, we love pretty much everything about Sydney. Offering outdoor living at its best, the city is known for the excellent beaches but offers so much more, including a thriving and varied food scene inspired by Asian and European flavours. Walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens and admire the amazing views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House from Mrs Macquarie's Chair, enjoy the cafés and bars in The Rocks district, walk across the top of the Harbour Bridge (or enjoy the easier option of a view from the top of one of the stone towers) or just relax on the beach.
The Harbour Bridge is our favourite site in the city, whether you do the Bridge Climb Experience or tour the Pylon Lookout. It's best viewed late afternoon from the east side of Circular Quay.
Australia: Newcastle (New South Wales)
The port of Newcastle, just to the north of Sydney, is the second oldest city in Australia. Historically associated with convicts and coal mining, Newcastle is reinventing itself as a hip post-industrial city, with plenty of cool bars, restaurants and cultural attractions. It’s also the gateway to the Hunter Valley, one of Australia’s most famous wine regions.
Brisbane has plenty of shopping malls and, with great weather, a fantastic café culture. Amongst the steel and glass skyscrapers are some interesting historic buildings, and with plenty surrounding the city there’s enough on offer to make for an interesting short stay.
Australia: Airlie Beach
The lively town of Airlie Beach is backpacker central, and serves as a transport hub for the many offshore attractions of the east coast. From here you can take a trip out to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef, or visit the stunning tropical beaches of the nearby Whitsunday Islands.
Sunny Townsville is a great introduction that everything that Queensland has to offer, sandwiched between palm-fringed beach and rugged outback. It’s a friendly and walkable city, with a fascinating museum and an aquarium that gives you a taste of the Great Barrier Reef.
Cairns is a buzzing tourist hub, gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. A snorkelling trip out to the reef is the most obvious excursion to take here, but other options include riding the Skyrail cableway over the rainforest canopy or swimming in the croc-free saltwater lagoon.
Australia: Thursday Island
Thursday Island is one of the Torres Strait Islands, situated to the north of Cape York. Proximity to Papua New Guinea makes for an interesting cultural mix, and the island has a fascinating military history. Be aware that swimming off the beautiful beaches is not recommended due to the presence of crocodiles and marine stingers.
More of a large town than a city, Darwin is less about what’s contained within the city limits and more about the huge expanse of wild landscape that’s outside it. Closer to Jakarta than Sydney, the city really does feel remote in its tropical perch.
Indonesia: Komodo Island
Komodo Island is situated within an area of spectacular natural beauty, home to the famous Komodo dragon. The stunning beaches are tinged with pink thanks to the high concentration of red coral just offshore, and the waters draw intrepid divers from all over the world.
Quieter and less developed than neighbouring Bali, the island of Lombok is an appealing alternative. To the north, the landscape is dominated by the huge crater of Gunung Rinjani, while the south and west coasts are home to some stunning beaches.
Indonesia: Benoa (Bali)
The beaches, spectacular volcanic scenery and lush green rice terraces lend Bali a natural beauty that seems to dovetail perfectly with the island’s distinct Hindu culture, which adorns the landscape with stunning temples.
Indonesia: Surabaya (Java)
Surabaya, situated on the northeast coast of Java, is Indonesia’s second largest city and the place where the country’s struggle for independence began. The warren-like Arab Quarter is worth exploring, though many visitors use the city as a base for visiting nearby Mount Bromo.
The sweltering city of Semarang, on the north coast of Java, is an intriguing mish-mash of Chinese, Islamic and Dutch colonial influences. We recommend escaping the heat with a trip up into the mountains to visit a coffee plantation, or joining an excursion to the extraordinary temple complex at Borobudur.
Indonesia’s capital is noisy, chaotic and choked with some of the worst traffic in Asia, a sprawling megacity that’s home to over 10 million people. If you can get past all of that then Jakarta has plenty to offer, with the country’s best museums and restaurants, an atmospheric old harbour and a rich mix of cultures from all over the Indonesian archipelago.
Singapore’s heritage as an important trading post means that there is a real cultural mix, with four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. Step away from the gleaming towers and you’ll find yourself transported into another world amongst the intoxicating streets of Chinatown and Little India.
Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur (Port Kelang)
Malaysia’s capital is a hot and humid cultural melting pot, defined by its distinctive Malay, Chinese and Indian communities. The dazzling Petronas Towers are KL’s most recognisable landmark, while at street level you’ll find temples and mosques, elegant colonial buildings and bustling markets.
Thailand: Bangkok (Laem Chabang)
Thailand’s sprawling capital is an assault on the senses, an invigorating blend of tradition and modernity. Soaring skyscrapers, air-conditioned shopping malls and an efficient public transport system combine with shimmering golden temples, ancient palaces, floating markets and at times gridlocked rush hour traffic.
Thailand: Koh Samui
Attracting everyone from budget backpackers to ostentatious oligarchs, Koh Samui is one of Thailand’s most popular islands. It’s no surprise, given the truly stunning beaches, but the more developed areas such as Chaweng have lost a lot of their charm, so head for the quieter south and west if you can.
Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City
Saigon, as it was known then, was the capital of the South during the Vietnam War, and American-style capitalism has been embraced more enthusiastically here than in the North, with a clutch of shining skyscrapers standing as testament to Vietnam’s surging economic growth.
Vietnam: Chan May
Vietnam: Ha Long Bay
Almost 2,000 limestone islands and karst formations are scattered across the remarkable World Heritage Site of Ha Long Bay, said to have been created when a dragon fell to earth. A cruise on a small junk boat is the best way to see the many islands and caves, and it's also a great place to explore by sea kayak.
Hong Kong SAR China: Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a striking mix of ancient and modern, Chinese and British, and there is a lot more to the city than just skyscrapers and high finance. It's also a fantastic destination for foodies, a melting pot of culinary influences from around Asia and beyond.
Taiwan: Keelung (Taipei)
Keelung is a fairly unremarkable port city close to Taiwan’s capital, Taipei. The city is best known for its night market, where a mouthwatering array of food is on offer in an atmospheric setting. Otherwise, you are best off heading for Taipei if you want to prolong your stay on the island.
Three days after Hiroshima was flattened by an atomic bomb, Nagasaki suffered the same horrifying fate. The reconstruction of both cities has been quite extraordinary; Nagasaki today is a vibrant, cosmopolitan place, with a fascinating history that goes back a lot further than 1945.
The friendly southern Japanese city of Kagoshima enjoys a balmy climate, and sits just across the bay from the very active Sakurajima volcano, which erupts so regularly that an ‘ash forecast’ is included in local weather reports.
Steam rises over the spa town of Beppu, home to numerous onsen (hot springs) and the surreal red waters of the macabre-sounding ‘blood pond hell’. Beppu is also close to Mount Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan, and the ancient temples of the Kunisaki Peninsula.
On 6 August 1945 the world witnessed the terrifying power of nuclear weapons for the first time, unleashed on the unsuspecting Japanese city of Hiroshima. The modern city's sobering Peace Memorial Park commemorates that fateful day, which left more than 140,000 dead.
Osaka, Japan’s third largest city, is a pulsating commercial hub, famous for its food, and the cityscape rivals Tokyo for neon-lit futurism. If you need respite from the urban sprawl seek out Osaka Castle and the surrounding Nishinomaru Garden, a particularly pretty spot during the cherry blossom season.
Shimizu is one of the most spectacular ports in Japan, a sweeping bay in the shadow of the iconic Mount Fuji. You can spend some time admiring the views and wandering through peaceful pine groves, or visit the unique Shimizu Sushi Museum at the S-Pulse Dream Plaza shopping mall.
In a state of constant renewal and forever looking to the future, densely populated Tokyo is a dazzling introduction to Japan and its utterly unique culture. With more neon than Las Vegas and more Michelin stars than Paris, it’s a real assault on the senses.
The charming port town of Otaru has a notable history, playing an important role in the herring trade during the 19th century, and this is reflected in the stone warehouses alongside the picturesque canal.
Petropavlovsk is the main city on Russia’s remote Kamchatka peninsula, a hardy place where bleak Soviet tower blocks stand in the shadow of giant volcanoes. It’s a spectacular setting, and the city serves as the main gateway for exploring Kamchatka’s otherworldly landscapes and incredible wildlife.
United States: Dutch Harbor
Dutch Harbor is the port that serves the city of Unalaska, and is known for the hardy fishermen who brave the turbulent, icy seas off the Aleutian Islands. Points of interest include the remains of defensive fortifications built during the Second World War and the striking Russian Orthodox church.
United States: Kodiak
Kodiak is known as Alaska’s ‘Emerald Isle’ thanks to the lush green countryside, a landscape crisscrossed by gushing salmon-filled streams that provides a home to around 3,000 Kodiak bears, the world’s largest. Ships dock in Kodiak city, an important fishing port with a fascinating Russian heritage.
United States: Seward
The tiny city of Seward, home to just 3,000 people, enjoys a spectacular setting on the edge of Resurrection Bay, on Alaska’s southern coast. Surrounded by the mountains and forests of the Kenai Fjords National Park, it’s a great base for exploring the Harding Ice Field and the stunning scenery of the Kenai Peninsula.
United States: Valdez
United States: Sitka
Sitka was founded by Russian fur traders in 1799 as the city of New Archangel, and there is still a discernible Russian influence here, including the distinctive St Michael’s Orthodox Cathedral. The town also enjoys spectacular natural surroundings, facing the Pacific Ocean and dramatic Mount Edgecumbe.
United States: Ketchikan
Ketchikan is a great introduction to Alaska’s natural attractions, situated at the foot of towering Deer Mountain and within easy reach of the Misty Fjords. The colourful wooden buildings of Creek Street, the old red light district, are a reminder of Ketchikan’s former status as a rough and ready frontier town; these days, things are rather more civilised!
Arriving in Vancouver
Cosmopolitan Vancouver is a city that rewards exploration, an eminently liveable place and an easy gateway to the natural beauty of British Columbia. The culinary scene here is a particular draw, with seafood galore and some fantastic Asian restaurants, and the city has also been at the forefront of the craft beer movement. Verdant Stanley Park is a favourite of locals and visitors alike, while Kitsilano's beaches and wooden houses are wonderfully picturesque. Cultural attractions tend to be on a smaller scale than you'd expect from a city of this size, but the thrill of stumbling across one of Vancouver's quirky little galleries is all part of the city's appeal.
Canadians call their one-dollar coins “loonies” (because it bears the image of a loon) and their two-dollar coins “toonies” so sort out your vocabulary and talk like a local!
Your home from home
Viking’s hugely successful river cruise operation is now expanded with contemporary 930-guest ocean ships – six lovely sisters to start with – featuring attractive inclusive pricing and interesting itineraries.
What we love
The airy contemporary style of the ships, with fresh Nordic décor, is most appealing. Add to that the huge choices in dining and other facilities, and veranda staterooms throughout, not to mention included shore excursions and an excellent spa, and you have a winner.
|Crew||602 International Staff|
On Viking it is all about the destination. Back on board, expect to socialise with like-minded travellers, in an easy, spacious and understated hotel style environment.
Tailor-make your trip
Our favourite hotel in Sydney
So many to choose from, but we love the Park Hyatt – make sure you upgrade to a room with a view.
The Blue Mountains is a beautiful area of hikes, waterfalls and unusual rock formations, and a place to learn about the Aboriginal dreamtime.
Our favourite hotel in Vancouver
If you’re not committed to the waterfront where the ships come in, we love the Rosewood Hotel Georgia.
Stay a little longer in Canada
If you’ve time, set aside a couple of days to travel to Knight Inlet Lodge for bear viewing.