A rare inclusion on ships today, accessing spa facilities can be one of the costliest charges on a cruise. But if you’re the type to spend quality time soaking up the luxuriant therapies onboard, then Viking Cruises has a treat for you.
Walking into the reception area for The Spa on Viking ocean cruises striking new ship, Viking Sky, the fragrant scents and earthy hues instantly convey a sense of warmth and relaxation.
Located next to the hair salon and large fitness centre, The Spa menu was extensive, and enticing.
Best of all, the Scandinavian style facilities on Viking are completely free. While there is a cost for things like massages, beauty treatments and haircuts, there is no need to pay for the privilege of accessing Viking’s spa facilities.
Taking up the entire width of the ship forward of Deck 1, this was one of the most beautiful and relaxing spaces I’ve seen on any ship – or on land for that matter.
“Have you had a traditional Nordic spa experience before?” the receptionist asked.
The short answer was ‘no’.
Intrigued by this Scandinavian tradition, I discovered this ritual originated in Finland with a cycle that starts with heat, followed by a cold plunge, and ending with another dose of heat.
It sounded daunting at first. I’m the sort of person who inches and winces his way into an unheated swimming pool, but, always keen to sample a time-honoured ritual, I soon began to appreciate the numerous benefits of this practice.
There is a precise order to the Nordic spa cycle; choose your heat – dry sauna, steam room or hot spa; then choose your cold plunge, whether it be a cold bucket splash that’s tipped over your body, a dunk into a cold plunge-pool, or a visit to the sub-zero environs of the Viking exclusive Snow Grotto; and back to the embrace of the heat.
Then, simply repeat the replenishing cycle before relaxing in the comfortable seating area.
But what exactly are the benefits? While the warmth opens your skin pores, the refreshing blast of cold closes them, raises your heartbeat as it increases circulation, and flushes the toxins from the body.
The Spa facilities include an oversized mineral rich hydrotherapy pool, a spa, Snow Grotto, steam room and heated tile lounges.
The separate men’s and women’s changing rooms each feature lockers, showers, a traditional Finnish sauna and cold plunge pool, as well as a quiet lounge area with sweeping ocean views. Towels and bath robes are plentiful, with filtered water available at room temperature, cold or sparkling.
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The ultimate in relaxation, this oversized jacuzzi pool is rich in minerals. Large enough for 15+ people to comfortably enjoy with the deepest part of the pool being 5-feet (1.5m).
There are two spa sections within the pool – a large contoured seating area under the faux fire place, and a submerged bench to one side.
Lightly scented with essential oils, steam rises from vents at floor level. It takes only a few minutes to fully heat the body, so moderation is the key here. But if you can take the heat, then a good 10-15 minutes is sure to draw all those toxins to the skin’s surface.
Quick tip – if you have a sore back or shoulder, push your back gently against the tiled wall and let your body draw the heat of the walls into your muscles. This gives deep heat penetration to sooth tired and aching muscles. A warning though, although the temperature is controlled by thermostat to avoid overheating, test the wall temperature first.
The smallest area in The Spa, the heated jacuzzi spa can accommodate five to six people. The Space seems undersized in comparison, and more comfortable with just a few people, but, like all good spas, it’s warm and relaxing jets sooth and massage the muscles.
Heated Tile Beds
A lovely benefit found at the rear of The Spa, are a group of heated tile beds. With the provided soft pillow and towel to lie on, the heated surface of the contoured lounge bed keeps the body warm and in a reclined position. Although the chances of falling asleep here are rather high!
One of the most fascinating additions is the snowy atmosphere of the Snow Grotto. This wintry room is kept at a sub-freezing temperatures for a rejuvenating and rapid cool down.
Quick tip – Use the Snow Grotto as part of the traditional Nordic spa cycle, but wear slippers or flip-flops to protect sensitive feet from the icy cold. If sitting on the benches, take a towel to rest on.
Cold Splash Bucket
A Finnish wooden bucket with chain stands unassumingly in a small alcove of The Spa. As part of the Nordic spa cycle, get warm in the steam room, walk to the cold splash bucket and brace yourself! Yank the chain for a cold splash-down to wash away the body’s toxins.
Finnish Sauna & Cold Plunge Pool
In the change rooms is a traditional Finnish, dry wood sauna. With two-tiered bench seats inside, a small ladle is available to pour over heated scented rocks, filling the wood-panelled sauna with therapeutic dry, hot air.
Next to the sauna is a cold plunge pool.
From Swedish massage treatments, to facials, manicures, pedicures, hair salon treatments, waxing and scrubs, the extensive spa menu offers a wide range of services.
Packages combining multiple treatments provide value, and are a great way to sample a range of services.
The Viking Restart package ($209USD – one of multiple packages available) is 80-minutes of bliss, and, in my view, worth every dollar. This invigorating treatment begins with a full body cranberry scrub. Small salt crystals, combined with dried crushed cranberries and essential oils are brushed over your body, removing dead skin cells, increasing blood circulation and moisturising the skin.
A quick rinse off in the shower and it was back to the comfortable massage table for a fifty-minute, full body massage. The treatment ended with an extended head and face massage with warm oil. A relaxing end to one amazing treatment.
As each Viking ocean cruise ship is identical, the same spa facilities can found at the Forward section, on Deck 1. By far, this is one of the best spas I’ve experienced anywhere.
My main tip – find a cruise with plenty of sea days to enjoy the space!
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