With its own Viking Heritage Museum and decor that intertwines ancient Viking lore with sleek Scandinavian design, Viking Sky felt like the perfect ship for exploring the Baltic and Scandinavia. The 15-day Stockholm-Bergen itinerary, aptly dubbed Viking Homelands, calls at 11 ports in Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Poland, Germany, Denmark and Norway. But as I learned at the small onboard museum, the ancient Vikings ventured as far afield as North America and Asia, so wherever this ship sails, it embodies the ancient Vikings’ spirit of discovery. In fact, one of the delights of the cruise was using the onboard art app and honing in on the subtle art and design references to Viking history and Norse mythology sprinkled throughout the ship, like the mischievous trolls lurking in the birch tree images behind the elevators.
“Our guests are explorers—curious travelers who want to learn,” says Karine Hagen, senior v.p. of Viking Cruises, who leads its enrichment efforts. True to brand, Viking Sky meals featured authentic regional cuisine as well as classic American dishes. Lectures about the Hanseatic League, the Romanovs and other topics were well attended; lectures and port talks could also be watched on demand on our in-cabin TV, which also provided programming from Masterpiece, National Geographic, BBC, TED talks, movies and several cable channels. Live classical music was performed at afternoon tea and at other times every day; I especially loved the Munch Moments, where traditional Norwegian music accompanied slide shows of the artist’s works. But my perfect Viking moment was when fellow passengers and I were in the hot tub discussing the previous day’s talk about the historic and geological forces shaping the Baltic and the presenter, geologist Richard Munroe, slid in and joined the discussion.
Viking Ocean Cruises’ newest ocean vessel, the 930-passenger/465 all-veranda stateroom Viking Sky is almost identical to the line’s two existing ocean ships; it has a slightly enlarged fitness center, and of course, different original art. A fourth identical ocean vessel ship will take to the seas later this year and four more are slated to join the fleet by 2022. The contemporary decor, with its light woods accented by splashes of blue and orange, will feel familiar to Viking River passengers. Indeed, Viking’s target demographic is the same for river and ocean guests—experienced travelers, 55 and older, with an interest in history, art, culture and exploration—and it seemed almost everyone my husband and I met on board had already sailed with Viking River.
“Viking Ocean has strong appeal to those who have sailed on Viking River cruises. They appreciate the line’s destination and educational focus and (extended) time spent in each port,” says Don Walker, co-president, iCruise. “The understated elegance and luxury are well suited to the upper premium cruiser, often in the balcony suite category. Viking Ocean gets some of our highest client reviews, an impressive 98/100.” He said the spa, which incorporates many Nordic traditions, also sets Viking Ocean apart. “It’s so cool to hang out, moving between the sauna, steam, hot tub and thalassotherapy pool into a chilly snow grotto, with snowflakes drifting in the air.”
Another favorite spot for many—myself included—was the Explorer’s Lounge, with its 2-story window wall, navigational artifacts, couches with blankets and reindeer skin throws, and a cozy fireplace, safely “burning” on hot vapor. Passengers also gathered at the ship’s two swimming pools—one where I could actually swim laps. Come evening, there was a wonderful cabaret-style lounge and a larger showroom featuring production numbers where singers and dancers seamlessly interacted with a recorded digital backdrop. Viking Sky would be a poor match for clients hoping for party-hearty, club-hopping nightlife, spin classes or dueling waterslides, but it does a great job of catering to its clientele. It also is a terrific value, dollar-for-dollar.
“There is at least one included shore excursion at every port-of-call and clients often come back saying Viking Sky looks more like a beautiful resort than a ship. They talk about how they can enjoy the thermal spa and the seven wonderful restaurants at no extra charge…and often mention the attention to detail, like the heated bathroom floor and friendly staff that remembers their likes and dislikes,” says Angela Johnson, Exotic World Travel LLC, an independent agency in the Avoya Network.
The most basic cabin, a 270-sq.-ft. verandah stateroom, includes a king-size bed and seating area, a luxe bathroom with a spacious shower and double sinks, and posh robes and bedding. Viking estimates that the amenities it includes as part of the fare, such as beer and wine with lunch and dinner, premium reserved dining, WiFi, self-service laundry, access to the spa’s Thermal Suite and 24-hour room service add up to more than $200 pp per day for an average cruise.
The Viking Sky will sail itineraries in the Americas and the Caribbean this fall and then head back to Europe in the spring.
Viking Cruises: vikingcruises.com