As a leader in the river cruise market, my interest was piqued when Viking announced it would be adding ocean cruises to its list of world class itineraries. I was keen to jump on board.
Viking’s challenge was to reinvent the world of ocean cruising. From new ships, to far-flung destinations, there was a lot to navigate for the world’s most-awarded river cruise line. But in just a few short years, the newcomers have scooped the title of World’s Best Cruise Line (large ships) … twice.
Today, Viking has four luxury ships sailing the world’s oceans with a fifth, Viking Orion, launching in June 2018. By 2023, the cruise line will have a total of 10 ships in service making it the world’s largest small-ship fleet.
Well received by passengers, every ship is state-of-the-art with modern interiors throughout. It’s elegant, yet understated, Scandinavian design.
You won’t find a casino on any Viking ship, nor the obligatory umbrella festooned cocktail. And being an adults-only cruise line, there’s no kids’ club, water slides, nor for that matter, kids.
I was most impressed with Viking’s all-inclusive approach to cruising. You can sail without having to spend a dollar on additions such as drinks, shore tours or Wi-Fi. On other cruise lines, those options can cost almost as much as the fare.
While there was much to love about my Viking ocean cruise, here are my 10 favourites.
1. Food, glorious food!
You have a choice of 10 restaurants with Viking.
The true highlight of the cruise for me was the food, especially at the speciality restaurants like Chef’s Table and Manfredi’s Italian steakhouse. And true to that all-inclusive mantra, I enjoyed the fact that there was no extra charge to dine in any of these exceptional restaurants.
Be sure to book your table ahead of time though. Once your cruise is booked, go to Viking’s website and make your reservations on the My Viking Journey travel planner. Alternatively, you can book on board but I recommend doing this immediately upon embarkation.
Reservations can be made between 60-97 days before your cruise (subject to your stateroom category), and they close seven-days prior to departure. All staterooms are guaranteed at least one seating.
Other dining options include The Restaurant, World Café, Aquavit Terrace, Mamsen’s, Wintergarden, Pool Grill, and The Kitchen Table.
2. Included beverages
During the lunch and dinner service, a selection of premium wines and beer, as well as soft drinks are complimentary. Throughout the cruise, the lobby lounge and dining rooms also include speciality coffees and teas, and each shore excursion includes bottled water.
Your stateroom has fresh filtered water supplied daily and the mini-bar is also replenished daily with soft drinks and snacks.
3. Veranda Dining
The photo above is the sunrise from our private veranda so it’s no surprise we had breakfast delivered to our cabin every morning. Each night, before bed, we filled out our room service breakfast menu and woke to a delicious breakfast in another exciting destination.
Perfect for those days when you just want to relax in your stateroom, or to watch the day drift by from your private veranda, room service is available 24 hours a day.
4. Infinity-edge Pool Sunsets
As beautiful as the sunrises were from our stateroom veranda, it was the sunsets viewed from the ship’s infinity pool that were most impressive.
The cantilevered infinity-edge pool is located at the back of the ship between the Aquavit Terrace restaurant and bar.
While there is a larger, all-weather main pool located mid-ship (this pool can be enclosed with a retractable roof), there is nothing like bobbing in an infinity pool that has views like those above. It was truly one of my favourite spots to relax on the ship.
5. Included Shore Excursions
Viking ocean cruises include a fantastic shore excursion option in each port. Every excursion is designed for maximum cultural immersion with local guides delivering informative commentary.
A selection of additional paid shore excursions are also available, which can be booked pre-cruise or once onboard. The seats on these are often limited but we found them reasonably priced in comparison to other cruise lines.
Quick tip – Shore excursions do book out quickly. Once your cruise is booked, log-in to My Viking Journey, where you can book shore excursions (and restaurants) between 97-60 days before your journey (depending on stateroom category). In order to secure your preferred dates and times, you’ll want to do this as soon as possible. The included excursions typically offer a choice of departure times.
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6. Explorers’ Lounge
Possibly my favourite part of the ship, the Explorers’ Lounge is located at the bow directly above the Bridge. Split over two levels, this front row seat offers uninterrupted ocean views in a comfortable and relaxed setting. The perfect place to enjoy a quiet drink with fellow passengers, or for a quick snack from the casual gourmet deli, Mamsens.
Located on Deck 7, the main bar and lounge area features entertainment daily from a host of talented in-house musicians. Take the sweeping staircase up to Deck 8, and relax in the lounge area, read a book in a quiet corner, or simply gaze out to sea in search of marine life.
7. Veranda Stateroom
With the calming hues of blue and neutral browns, the Scandinavian design of our stateroom was warm and inviting. At 270-square-feet, there was ample room for two people.
The Viking Explorer king-sized bed was very comfortable, the replenished mini-bar was welcomed as were the in-suite binoculars, coffee maker and cashmere throw blanket.
The lounge area was comfortable and the TV was loaded with new release movies and also provided handy information on shore tours and ports. For a standard cabin, this was a very comfortable space.
8. Stateroom Bathroom
It may be unusual to include the cabin bathroom as a favourite place, but I will to highlight how impressive it was, especially for a standard cabin.
The shower was roomy and included a narrow bench and a showerhead with respectable pressure. The vanity area and sink were large and spacious and the toilet seemed larger than those found on other cruise lines.
The pièce de résistance however was the heated floor. Simply flick a switch by the bed and the heated floors activate. If you’re cruising through the Norwegian fjords, this is a real treat!
9. Atrium TV Wall
The three-level atrium is where you’ll find reception, the shore tours desk, a small internet alcove, the Viking Living Room, bar and library. At various times of the day, a vocalist, pianist or string trio can be found performing at the base of the grand staircase.
On the second and third deck of the open atrium are welcoming seating areas and various games areas. You’ll find a large jigsaw puzzle table, some unobtrusive video games, and plenty of chairs to relax with a book, or a snack and drink.
The focal point however has got to be the grand staircase. At the top of the stairs is a plasma screen that stretches two decks high. The screen displays inspirational images from around the world. This impressive feature displays a new image every fifteen minutes or so.
10. The Spa
Not your typical inclusion on cruise ships, Viking ships feature extensive spa facilities. As far as spas go, this was one of the most beautiful spaces I’ve experienced on sea, or on land.
The Spa is open to all passengers, and does not require a booking. Services like massages, beauty treatments and hair styling will require an appointment however, and like shore tours and restaurants, should be booked at your earliest convenience.
Spanning the width of the ship and located in the forward area of Deck 1, you’ll find an oversized hydrotherapy pool, spa, steam room, snow grotto and heated tile benches on which to relax. Change rooms also have a traditional Finnish wooden sauna and cold plunge pool.
It was here I learned the traditional Nordic spa ritual of alternating hot and cold, which washes toxins away, increases circulation and leaves you refreshed and revitalised to face the day.