Viking runs aground

Viking River Cruises has begun its grand tours between St. Paul and New Orleans aboard the Viking Mississippi, but not without some rookie-season challenges. The all-new ship, which had been expected in St. Paul in July, did not debut here until Sept. 3. Reports have circulated on social media of Viking canceling reservations on short notice (including for the Oct. 15-29 sailing), while some of the ship's 193 staterooms have been unavailable.

In a statement issued to the Star Tribune, Viking confirmed that some of the ship's first scheduled departures were canceled this summer, and that the luxury vessel is temporarily operating below its capacity of 386 guests. The $12,999 full-river itinerary is sold out through 2024, leaving grounded passengers unable to rebook anytime soon.

Customers could give Viking time to work out the new-ship kinks and book a 2023 cruise on its eight-day St. Paul-to-St. Louis itinerary — half the length, a third of the fare (from $4,499) and arguably the more scenic half of the river. The mid-tier American Queen Voyages also sails these routes, and recently announced a 23-day cruise from Pittsburgh to Red Wing on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, starting at around $7,000.

Simon Peter Groebner

Passports going online

After the success of a limited pilot program this summer, the U.S. State Department says it plans to fully launch an online passport-renewal option early next year. The shift, which for many will eliminate the need for piles of paperwork and hours spent waiting in line at passport offices, is meant to offer relief after the pandemic created two years of delays and backlogs for passport seekers. The majority of U.S. passports can be renewed by mail, but the process requires applicants to print and manually fill out multiple documents, and then send them in along with printed photographs and payment.

New York Times

Canada drops restrictions

Americans can travel to Canada without sweating over the COVID-19 entry restrictions that have been in place since the start of the pandemic, according to information from the Public Health Agency of Canada. As of Oct. 1, travelers will not be required to provide proof of vaccination, undergo testing, carry out quarantine or isolation requirements or report any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 upon arriving in Canada. Travelers will also no longer be required to undergo health checks for travel on air and rail, or wear masks on planes and trains.

Tribune News Service

Strib nabs silver

The Star Tribune's travel coverage was declared second-best among newspapers in the Society of American Travel Writers' 2021-22 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition, recently announced in Bogotá, Colombia. "The print product is stunning, with bold design, wonderful typography and lead photos that command attention. The experience is so pleasant that reading is a joy," judges noted of the Strib's entry. "The Iceland and The Dakotas packages are produced with the vision and service that readers seek. Online, the guide to fall colors, using maps, photography and excellent typography, is a great example of how the Star Tribune also serves its readers well online." The New York Times took first place, and the Washington Post claimed bronze.