Review: VIKING MARS: Transatlantic…and Terrific!

Viking Ocean Cruises’ Viking Mars Brings Comfort to Crossing

The Boeing 777-200 hasn’t even lifted off from Barcelona’s International Airport before my shoulders, neck and back begin to object to the confines of my coach seat. The woman beside me is already fast asleep, her head listing uncomfortably close to mine. Once we’re aloft, lunch is served. I lift the plastic tray’s foil cover to find a trio of unappetizing substances: three lumps of chicken obscured by a gelatinous tomato concoction, a mound of grainy mashed potatoes that I later discover is actually polenta and, seriously, who would ever create a vegetable combo of broccoli and peas?  Entertainment choices suck and I attract glares when I switch on the overhead light to read my book in the dark cabin.

Worst of all, in eight hours when I arrive at New York’s JFK, I can pretty much count on two days of jet lag and a screwed up sleeping pattern.

Fortunately, there is a lavish alternative to air travel when crossing the Pond, specifically, the two-week Viking Mars crossing I disembarked from this morning–a voyage of comfort, superb entertainment and exquisite dining. And, thanks to an hour time change on selected days of the voyage, jet lag is a non-issue.

Yet, even among dedicated cruise enthusiasts, the thought of an Atlantic crossing often invokes considerable apprehension with fear of motion sickness and boredom the greatest triggers.

I’m no stranger to Atlantic crossings but since Viking Mars is less than one-third the size of the other ships I’ve sailed, I’ve come prepared with Bonine, Dramamine and a scopolamine patch. Yet the early March seas never roar. The greatest roars, in fact, come in the form of two rainy mornings, a bit of rolling and the closure of an outdoor walking track for a few hours.  There is less “ocean motion” talk among guests than I’ve heard aboard cruises in the Caribbean or the Med and nobody—absolutely nobody—misses a meal.

On an Atlantic crossing, sea days abound. My 14-day voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona includes only three ports of call (St. Martin, Madeira and Barcelona) and, between Madeira and Barcelona, we sail six uninterrupted sea days. Days, it turns out, we enjoy, not endure, thanks to a round-the-clock schedule of delightful activities. Believe me, there’s something magical about late night dancing or having that extra drink or two knowing that tomorrow’s a sea day and there’s no need to head to the theater at some ungodly hour to join your group for the day’s coach tour.

They say a crossing isn’t for everyone but after sailing the Atlantic aboard Viking Mars, I’m not sure I agree!

The homey deluxe veranda stateroom
Viking Mars’ infinity pool–a dip and a view as you cross the Atlantic!

VIKING MARS: OUT OF THIS WORLD!: 10/10

At 47,842 grt and a capacity of 930 guests (we had 887 on our crossing), Viking Mars is a relatively small ship that debuted in 2022 and is identical to the other ships in the Viking Ocean line.  This uniformity, Viking and its fiercely devoted fans believe, allows guests to board any of the ocean ships and immediately feel at home. (Even Viking Vesta, scheduled to debut in 2025 with a slightly larger 54,300 grt ton configuration and 998-guests, will feature a layout identical to Viking’s current ocean fleet).

But even if you’ve never sailed a Viking Ocean ship, you can expect to quickly find your bearings, with most public rooms located on decks 1, 2 and 7 and a speedy elevator to transport you between them.

Viking Mars, like its sister ships, is a celebration of Scandinavian culture. Blonde woods and clean design predominate while touches like The Viking Heritage Museum (a small exhibit of Norwegian tools, costumes and artifacts) underscores the line’s origins. Even the full-service Nordic Spa/fitness center includes an area where guests may enjoy (at no charge) all the elements of an invigorating Nordic Bathing Ritual with thalassotherapy pool, cold water plunge and the innovative snow grotto, a snow-filled nook where guests chill out—literally–after a visit to the area’s steam room.

On the relatively few frigid days of my crossing, Viking Mars’ large midship swimming pool area was filled, thanks to the protection of its retractable roof. A smaller pool with an infinity design is located on deck 7 aft, and from it or the large hot tub that hovers a deck above, guests may enjoy spectacular unobstructed views. The ship, which is adults 18+ only, features no casino and no formal library although books—everything from coffee table volumes to travel tomes to the latest James Patterson paperback—are everywhere, incorporated into the very design of the shelving found throughout the ship. A bank of five Dell computers is tucked in a corner of the Atrium for guests’ use and a launderette is located on each deck.

Viking Ocean’s roots trace back to Viking River Cruises, established in 1997, and the ocean product has adapted many signatures of the line’s river operation. Viking Mars and her sisters might be true cruise ships, but wine is complimentary with lunch and dinner, at least one no-cost shore excursion is offered at every port and internet—excellent Starlink internet—is included in fares. For those who’d like a tipple between meals, the Silver Spirits beverage package that includes cocktails, fine wines, beer and champagne is available at an ever-so-reasonable cost of $25 per person per day. Compare that to the per-person cost of beverage packages on other ships!

GOING SOLO: 8*/10

When it comes to sailing solo aboard Viking Mars, I quickly realize I’m not alone. The ship organizes a meet and mingle so that the group of 40 or so women and men may meet up and, the following day, schedules solo sailor lunches, hosted by officers and other ship personnel.

Yet it is the ship’s design and activities that best bring people together. I am drafted into a trivia team that meets daily at 12:15 at the Star Theater…and never wins. The intimate Living Room bar encourages conversation and I quickly learn that I’ll find Marsha, Lani and Chris in its near corner each night before dinner. The Explorer’s Lounge is the day and night haunt of Sherry, Ricky, Dan, Kurt, Patty, Rachel and Vincent, and at 10:00 p.m., I’ll head to Torshavn to dance my butt off with Kathy, Gary and those fabulous Scottish people whose names I never recall.

Sailing solo? Not aboard Viking Mars’ Atlantic crossing. In fact, on the final night of the crossing, I find myself at a lavish dinner at Kip and Brent’s swanky 1,448 square foot multi-room Owner’s Suite, their butler and staff serving a lavish dinner for our little group of eight who, until boarding, had never laid eyes on each other.

*Unfortunately, Viking Mars does not offer single occupancy staterooms. Occasional specials are offered, however, and such promotions may be found on the “Special Offers” section of the line’s website.

DIGS WITH DETAILS: 10/10

My 270 square-foot deluxe veranda stateroom is a vision of blue and beige. A king-sized bed with padded striped headboard is dressed with luxury 100% cotton Debella linens, and an ample closet is tucked into the far corner. I may view movies, live TV, the ship’s restaurant menus and my personal daily schedule on the 42” flat screen TV while sipping a beverage from the mini bar stocked with snacks and soft drinks or a coffee from my Nespresso machine. Two side chairs lead the way to a spacious veranda and my bathroom features a glass-enclosed shower with a powerful Bossini shower head, mirrored vanity with storage drawers and shelves and a supply of generously sized Freya toiletries.

But it’s the attention to detail here that really wows me. I return to my stateroom on the first evening to find a Viking bookmark has been inserted in the paperback I’d placed on my bed’s end table. I lift the desk’s lid to reveal a pair of binoculars and—voila!—a lighted make-up mirror. The bathroom’s tile floor is actually heated which, even during the Caribbean leg of my crossing, feels unexpectedly pleasant (and, when covered with a hand towel, comes in handy later in the sailing to dry the bit of handwashing I’ve done in the bathroom sink).

A TASTE OF VIKING MARS: 10/10

The smoky sweetness of Manfredi’s Viking Bistecca. The delectable soft shell crab sushi which, along with other sushi varieties and a vast hot and cold buffet, is available nightly at World Café. The rich split pea soup and delightful Scandinavian open-faced sandwiches of Mamsen’s. The Chef’s Table’s delicate seared halibut in a pool of California olive and herb vinaigrette resting atop crumbled roasted cauliflower and buttered panko. The tender and cheesy oysters Rockefeller and crispy wiener schnitzel at The Restaurant. Afternoon tea, each table bearing a tiered tray heavy with the sweet and the savory, and The  Pool Grill’s salads, grilled selections and those heavenly chicken wings. Viking Mars may not have over 40 restaurants like one newly launched megaship boasts, but with choices as outstanding and varied as Viking Mars’, who cares?

Forget surcharges, like so many perks of a Viking Ocean sailing, dining venues aboard are entirely complimentary. Specialty restaurants—the Italian Manfredi’s and the Chef’s Table with its rotating five-course themed menus—require reservations but don’t hesitate to drop by even without them. If space is available, you’re in!

THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT!: 10/10

There certainly is life on Mars! One look at each day’s Viking Daily and you’ll agree!

While there’s no question that many of my shipmates opt to relax all day in the lamp-lit comfort of Viking Mars’ Living Room reading the latest bestseller or while away their time playing backgammon, mahjong, checkers and more on one of the interactive game tables that line the Atrium’s second level, the ship’s entertainment staff doesn’t count on it.

Instead, they’ve managed to fill our 14 days—mostly sea days—with entertainment, education and sometimes just mindless fun. Guest lecturers on my sailing include history, science, aviation, archaeology, astronomy and maritime experts who enlightened us to everything from the Kon-Tiki to the history of wine, beer and spirits. Want to learn even more about a subject? Visit your favorite lecturer during his or her “office hours” for a one-on-one opportunity to delve deeper into their topic.

On some days, Viking Mars’ Star Theater is transformed into a movie theater (complete with popcorn), and the Wintergarden into an embroidery workshop. Special wine or spirits tastings (charge of $30) provide an entertaining and informative introduction to some premium libations while port talks outline what we might expect at our next port of call. There’s even a hilarious daily Baggo competition, often between crew and guests, with players hurling beanbags into the board hole from increasingly higher levels of the ship’s sweeping Atrium staircase. Want to go behind the scenes aboard Viking Mars? Unadvertised tours of the bridge, the engine room, the galley, the laundry and the provisioning operation are available—simply go to guest services and request participation. But go early, as space is very limited!

Evenings aboard Viking Mars mean music, from the tinkling of a Steinway and the melodic sounds of classical to the strum of the ship’s resident singer/guitarist who performs popular acoustic favorites. And in Barcelona, guests are treated to an onboard performance by La Rumba Catalana, local musicians who transport us to the neighborhoods of Gracia and Poble Sec. Theater shows tend to lean towards vocal performances with talented singers covering genres that range from pop hits to “The Sound of the 70s,” Broadway and more, and with the exception of that unfortunate attempt to turn “American Pie” into a country song, the productions are decidedly impressive.  At 10:30 p.m. the fun really begins at the intimate Torshavn nightclub when The Viking Band rocks the boat with outstanding rock, pop, and ballads that fill the dance floor.  Alas, though, the band rarely performs beyond midnight.

Aboard Viking Mars, crossing the Atlantic is a holiday in itself! And, trust me, the ship’s design,  ambiance, dining and entertainment beats anything you’ll ever find in the air.

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On March 27, 2025, Viking Mars offers a 14-day crossing from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona with calls at Madeira and Barcelona – see cruises here

13 Night – Atlantic Ocean Passage : Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Barcelona
Starting in Fort Lauderdale, Sail the Caribbean Sea, Sail the Caribbean Sea, Philipsburg, Sail the Atlantic Ocean, Sail the Atlantic Ocean, Sail the Atlantic Ocean, Sail the Atlantic Ocean, Sail the Atlantic Ocean, Sail the Atlantic Ocean, Funchal, Sail the Atlantic Ocean, Sail the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona

2025 Sails: Mar 27, 2026: Feb 24
photos credit Judi Cuervo

 

2 thoughts on “Review: VIKING MARS: Transatlantic…and Terrific!”

  1. Can’t wait to enjoy my first ocean cruise with Viking, now that I’m an official Viking stockholder, and we’ve recently come back from our first Viking river cruise in Europe. Then it on to their Expedition class ship, the Polaris, where I can enjoy their Yellow submarine!

    Reply

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