PHOTO: Viking Ocean Cruises' Viking Sky. (photo by John Roberts)
The newest ship by Viking Ocean Cruises, Viking Sky, recently set sail in the Mediterranean, and I got a chance to check out what everyone has been raving about with this 2-year-old line that has emerged as a force in ocean cruising.
Viking is well known for its river cruise heritage, but its foray into the oceans is making waves in the industry and impressing cruisers who give these ships a try. Viking Ocean Cruises’ fleet also includes Viking Sea, Viking Star and will add Viking Sun in late 2017. The ultimate target is set at 10 ocean vessels, according to the line's chairman Torstein Hagen.
Viking Sky is a 930-passenger ship with a feel of casual luxury. You’ll find several things to love about the ship, but here are my seven best things about a cruise on Viking Sky.
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Manfredi’s Steak – The Bistecca Fiorentina is reason enough to come to this included specialty restaurant, to which cruisers are guaranteed at least one visit per cruise. The thick ribeye, seasoned with garlic oil and spices, is huge, but you’ll find that you somehow managed to put it all away. Manfredi’s also has other fine items on the rustic Italian menu, but this is the star.
LivNordic Spa Thermal Suite – Another included perk, this Scandinavian-style retreat is incredible and not to be missed. Mass-market lines offer such experiences for day passes that will cost you about $40 a day. Those other spa areas give you nothing quite like the LivNordic Spa thermal suite on Viking Sky. The space offers ceramic heated loungers, soft lounge chairs and a thalassotherapy pool and hot tub, steam room, cold bucket (you pull a chain and dump icy water on your head) and a Snow Grotto (the freezing chamber has snow on the floor). In the locker rooms, try the sauna and cold plunge pool. The idea is to go back and forth between hot and cold treatments, and the experience is invigorating -- if a bit startling to dump cold water on your head.
Wintergarden and Pool Areas - Serene. That’s a simple way to describe this space, which is an enclosed area with comfy seats adjacent to the pool (which has a magrodome so it can be covered or open depending on the weather.) The Wintergarden, which offers bar service and is the place for the daily 4 p.m. tea service, has tons of comfy seating and is generally quiet throughout the day. A great place to relax (snooze) and read or surf the Internet (Wi-Fi service is free on all Viking Ocean Cruises ships). Natural light-colored wood encases the columns and climbs to the ceiling to create a forest canopy (without the leaves) and an overall inviting calm in the space. Don’t miss the tea parties. Even if you’re not big on the beverage, you’ll want to snag the tasty pastries, especially the scones and jam, and mini sandwiches.
Silver Spirit Drinks Package – At just $19.95 per person per day, you don’t have to be a big drinker to get great value out of the beverage package on Viking Sky. The package has almost no limitation, covering wine, beer, sodas and cocktails priced up to $15.
Large Cabins and 24-hour Room Service – Each stateroom on Viking Sky is at least 270 square feet and includes a veranda. We found our rooms incredibly spacious and with all sorts of thoughtful touches, like nine USB ports for charging, U.S. and European outlets, heated bathroom floors and a large glassed-in shower. Room service is included, and you can order virtually anything that you would get at the main dining room.
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Pool Grill Burgers – Yes, there is space for one more red meat highlight on this list. The poolside grill’s menu offers four gourmet black Angus burgers, including the Viking Burger with cheddar, red onion marmalade, bacon and barbecue sauce, and the award-winning Pancho Villa Burger with blue cheese, guacamole and spicy habanero mayo. The grill also has veggie burgers, pastrami sandwiches and hot dogs. It’s such a convenient lunch to grab one of these burgers as you relax by the pool. No need to feel guilty; there is a salad bar right there, too.
Exotic Ports – We sailed into Tunis, Tunisia; Palma de Mallorca and Valencia, Spain; and Cagliari, Italy, on the island of Sardinia; and Trapani, Sicily; as well as to Naples after embarking in Rome and ending our cruise in Barcelona. The smaller ship has access to these quaint ports that many of the larger cruise vessels can’t access. We were dropped off right at the edge of town in fishing villages and historic city centers. Viking Sky is one of the few ships to sail to Tunisia, a fascinating country in North Africa, and we were able to tour Carthage and the incredibly well-preserved Roman ruins there. In Naples, we went to explore Pompeii.