Applause to travel companies that have gone the extra mile during the pandemic by creatively developing free virtual entertainment. One of the best and brightest roll-outs to build community and share positive experiences comes from Viking Cruises, which launched, in April 2020, a new digital platform called Viking.TV, available online. Now approaching its one year anniversary, Viking.TV has amassed an impressive collection of engaging original cultural content and live-stream video adventures. “Right now, we are all staying at home instead of traveling together,” says Viking Executive Vice President Karine Hagen (photo below). “My father, Torstein Hagen [CEO, who founded the multi-award-winning cruise line], and I felt that if we cannot for the time being bring our guests to the world, let’s bring the world to our guests. Viking.TV is a way for us to continue exploring the world in comfort — from the comfort of our homes. And as soon as actual travel is less complicated again, we are ready to welcome you onboard.”

Every day at 11 a.m. (PT), Conversations with Karine and Friends — short videos on the homepage of Viking.TV — showcase in-the-moment chats, interesting fun facts and virtual tours, during which viewers are able to engage Karine by typing questions in real time. These videos are then archived, able to be watched at a later date, a nicety for those unable to tune into live displays.

On Sundays, the line-up for each upcoming week is posted online, organized in themes. Museum Mondays strolls through top art galleries, for example, in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s Hermitage State Museum and London’s British Museum. Resident Historian Tuesdays delves into accounts of colorful change-makers and key yesteryear events. Wednesdays with Music orchestrates note-worthy composers, conductors and performers. Guest Speaker Thursdays books appearances of such luminaries as Norwegian explorer Liv Arnesen (the first woman to ski solo and unassisted to the South Pole) and the Mariinsky Theatre’s principal ballet dancer Xander Parish. Fridays at Highclere Castle (favorite haven of Downton Abbey fans) unveils an extraordinary estate. And Wellness Weekends offers meditation, yoga and spa tips.

Among the fascinating experts spotlit are accomplished actors, artists, astronauts, authors, chefs, dancers, explorers, filmmakers, gardeners, health professionals, journalists, musicians, scientists, singers and even royalty. Together with her husband Geordie (the 8th Earl of Carnarvon), the Countess of Carnarvon welcomes viewers inside her Highclere castle (photo above). Her close friendship with Karine Hagen makes such access possible. “I am delighted to open our castle doors and lives to the extended Viking family to give a little virtual insight…. I hope you’ll join me on Fridays as we go behind-the-scenes with stories about royal visits, entertaining and heritage,” says Lady Carnarvon.

The videos’ cordial vibe and outreach can feel like sustenance at times, like freshly baked bread that is savored during a period of food scarcity. In other words, although we cannot travel now, delicious far-flung horizons can be invited into the intimacy of our homes, feeding our wanderlust via Viking. It is inspiring to be able to sample such virtual portals, gleefully at no cost.

Viking is branded as the “thinking person’s cruise,” explains Torstein Hagen. The ships are adults-only — with no casinos, major theatrical productions, climbing walls, race tracks or poolside hoopla popular with many other major cruise lines. Viking itineraries are crafted for travelers who are particularly appreciative of cultural enrichment. So its plethora of rousing educational programming on Viking.TV mesh with its mission.

Absorb virtual recommendations galore about favored films, books and recipes heartened by travel. Enjoy learning about dozens of dreamy destination highlights. Take quick language lessons; meander impressionist painter Claude Monet’s gardens in Giverny, France; be introduced to the art of calligraphy; marvel at the restoration of Michelangelo’s David statue in Florence; behold the iconic Viennese waltz; watch ecstatic footsteps of flamenco dancers; eye Antoni Gaudí’s fantastical architecture in Barcelona; gaze at exhilarating Shanghai acrobats; harken the voices of the Vienna Boys Choir; view Venice’s unusual bookstore and meet Viking crew members. All videos are well-done; some are magical and capture the transcendence of travel’s power. Charismatic, quirky, passionate, introspective, seductive, captivating, comforting, pleasing, congenial, lively, reassuring, brilliant, funny — the personalities presented on video remind us that we travel to see new places, but what lingers most in our happiest vacation memories is often the people we meet along the way.

Eager to quench your thirst for travel, linking up with fellow travelers? Lift your glass to toast, for now, this well-positioned virtual anchors aweigh.

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