TravelPulse On Board: Viking Sea Review
All photos by Jason Leppert
Viking Ocean Cruises
At a Glance
By the Numbers
Take a Bow (What to Like)
Pain in the Aft (What to Dislike)
When Viking Ocean Cruises launched its first Viking Star it already hit a home run, so its second – the sleek Viking Sea – repeats the winning formula as an effortlessly comfortable ship. It's no wonder why the atrium is called The Viking Living Room because it sets the homey tone for the rest of the ship, wherein seating is cozy and a vast library of books is discovered throughout.
Viking is not concerned with crafting a ship full of elaborate onboard attractions. Instead it is pleasantly focused on accentuating the destination, and it does so in a number of ways, not the least of which are an abundance of floor-to-ceiling windows and a two-deck Explorers' Lounge observation venue at the forward top of the ship. The observation lounge is hands down the best at sea, especially with its included bar and cafe.
Even though the ship doesn't have rock climbing walls or surfing simulators, it does innovate with a true zero-edge infinity pool cantilevered high above the stern that has a fully transparent side for looking at the passing scenery even underwater. Other fun features are steam fire-pit illusions found in the spa and observation lounge, and for the curious, windows from the forward promenade deck let guests view the mooring deck and all of its mechanical equipment and activity.
Private accommodations shine onboard Viking Sea with spacious staterooms and suites that thankfully extend to the bathrooms and showers, staying true to Viking chairman and CEO Torstein Hagen's promise of ones you can actually turn around in. Cabins are above average in size, and all feature verandas. The decor continues the modern Scandinavian motifs found elsewhere onboard with bright and cheery colors and surfaces.
Particularly helpful to travelers with lots of mobile devices and cameras is a plethora of USB charging ports. Penthouse veranda rooms have an impressive nine, including two on each side of the bed plus a lamp base with another five. Women will appreciate the bonus vanity mirror that hinges up from the desk, and leather accents and soft-close drawers are other premium touches. Perhaps the only faults are in the bathroom where a torso-level soap shelf is missing and the heated floor makes the space a little too toasty.
Activities are fewer and focus primarily on the destination as lectures speak to the region and the atrium's dramatic tapestry-like jumbo screen displays local scenes. Even a Viking Heritage exhibit makes for a great museum space to enjoy, and a new smartphone audio guide culturally emphasizes the shipboard art. There are even interactive touch-screen tables that feature a new set of games to play beside the usual board varieties. It's also worth noting that there is no casino onboard, as the ship is not intent on gathering extra revenue from guests.
Instead, Viking adds value around every corner with included unlimited Wi-Fi, all dining, house alcoholic and soft drinks at lunch and dinner and, remarkably for the line's price point, a free shore excursion in every port. Plus, the ship's wonderful spa facilities are also entirely complimentary, save for treatments, including Nordic bathing between various forms of hot and cold. The signature variety, of course, is to go from the steam room to the snow room, an invigorating experience, before taking a dip in the relaxing jetted pool.
The food onboard the Viking Sea is also really quite exceptional, from room service to its pair of specialty restaurants, all of which are free. Manfredi's and the Chef's Table just require reservations to be made. Otherwise, only The Kitchen Table experience costs extra, but at $199, the local market excursion, cooking demo and final dinner are well worth it. The traditional main dining room and lido buffet serve excellent fare too, and the World Cafe even showcases premium sushi and shellfish nightly.
Alternatively, Manfredi's prepares Italian cuisine that is exquisite, including a melt-in-your-mouth Bistecca Fiorentina and other traditional dishes with occasional twists. Creative flair is most prevalent at the Chef's Table, where seven fixed-course menus rotate every three days, with themes ranging from Asian cuisine to Salty and Sweet. Also not to be missed is Mamsen's, the cafe located in the observation lounge for snacks during the day and tea time for a wide selection of loose teas, sandwiches and scones, as well as the pool grill for great pizza and burgers.
If there is one shortcoming onboard, it's the ship's entertainment. The theater itself is a nice modern space with black-and-white portraits of Norwegian stars featured on pillows, and while lectures are very good, production shows just lack a bit of pizazz. The sound system is also underwhelming, with frequent microphone crackle and little drive. But with the destination coming first and foremost, the lineup here is easily forgiven.
Really, the live music throughout the ship is the best entertainment onboard. Even the singers from the theater sound better in the Torshavn jazz club where the acoustics are much better for performances like "The Rat Pack Revisited." Individual and ensemble instrumentalists are also talented, and the ship's piped music also features a fine mix of international songs. Film screenings are also scheduled both in the theater and around the pool, and several can be enjoyed on-demand for free in the staterooms.
Viking Ocean Cruises quite honestly approaches luxury line levels of quality, and the attentive service greatly contributes to that fact. Crew members are genuinely friendly and never pretentious. The atmosphere is casual and jovial, and it shows from the top down. The family-run company has set an excellent example for the officers and staff onboard and off.
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