Viking Cruises bucks the trend for building ever-bigger, resort-style ships, says Jeannine Williamson
Viking Cruises’ second ocean ship Viking Sea launched in May, following in the same understated wake as its sister, Viking Star’s, debut in 2015. It’s what the 930-passenger ship doesn’t include that will actually provide many of the selling points for clients looking for a sophisticated, upscale experience.
There’s no water park, casino, blaring music, ever-hovering ship’s photographer or children on this adult-only vessel. Above all, according to Viking chairman and CEO Torstein Hagen, there’s “no nickel and diming.” Setting out to replicate the model of the company’s river vessels, prices include wine, beer and soda with lunch and dinner and no gratuity on bar bills. Alternative dining venues don’t carry an additional fee, there’s 24-hour complimentary room service, wi-fi is free and a shore excursion — usually a walking tour — is included at every port of call.
Sailing the Mediterranean and Baltic during its maiden season, destination-centered itineraries feature longer stays, with some overnights, in ports. In addition to taking a complimentary or optional tour, this still leaves plenty of time for clients to sightsee, shop, go to a local restaurant and fully immerse themselves in local culture.
All cabins are ocean-facing and decorated in Viking’s trademark contemporary Scandinavian style. The top-notch amenities include gratifyingly spacious showers, heated bathroom floors and, new to Viking Sea, handy electrical sockets and USB charging points next to the bed.
Public areas are filled with books, stunning artwork, nautical and historic artifacts, plus quirky design details including a live mural of ever-changing photographs in the atrium. The spa reflects Viking’s Nordic heritage with a sauna and snow grotto, plus — for the brave — a suspended pail of cold water that’s released with the pull of chain. At the back of the ship is a stunning infinity pool.
Food is excellent and varied throughout and includes a main buffet with an open kitchen and an a la carte restaurant with plenty of tables for two. Alternative venues include the outstanding Italian dining room Manfredi’s and Mamsen’s cafe, serving delicious Norwegian specialties.
Standard song-and-dance and comedy acts form the mainstay in the theater; elsewhere there are classical musicians, ‘Rat Pack’ crooners and bands to keep passengers adequately entertained.
Cabin size: 270 to 1,163sq ft
Top selling tip: Included daily shore excursion