ABOARD THE VIKING SKY — Let’s talk again about this company, Viking Ocean Cruises. This new cruise line…brought to you by the folks who run Viking River Cruises…began sailing in April of 2015 and has been receiving rave reviews since.
Most notably Viking was named the #1 Ocean Cruise Line (mid-size ships) by Travel & Leisure readers in its 2016 and 2017 World’s Best Awards, knocking out luxury-line Crystal Cruises from its 20-year run in that position.
Viking River Cruises was founded by its current chairman, Torstein Hagen, and strongly reflects Scandinavian design and traditions. He was foresighted in seeing that while competition in river cruising was steadily increasing, there were opportunities for mid-sized cruise ships. After all, big ships were getting bigger and small ships were steadily getting more luxurious and more expensive.
So he set out to create something distinctive that would appeal to his river-cruising base. He did so by incorporating many of the hallmarks of river cruising. Viking offers an included tour in every port, complimentary wi-fi for everyone, verandas on all staterooms, free self-service laundry, premium dining venues at no extra charge and beer and wine with lunch and dinner. That is a hefty amenities package so while prices may seem a big high for a mid-level cruise line, the value is considerable.
But Viking Ocean Cruises is not for everyone. Its itineraries are very port-intensive, usually one every day, with few sea days. There is no casino, no passengers under age 18, no art auctions, no photographers.
Viking now has four ocean ships (and is introducing more). As their itineraries become more creative, I have noticed that there are more sea days involved which means that Viking has been ramping up their programming.
For example, yesterday many passengers were content to occupy themselves with reading, games and napping while others attended lectures, watched feature films, took in an amusing cook-off between teams of managers, or attended dance lessons, martini tastings and jeweler talks. Some headed for the small cinemas on deck 2, one which featured TED talks on the arts and the other a BBC film on the Northern Lights. Many got some exercise by walking around the promenade on Deck 2.
Entertainment is also a bit simpler. There is a four-piece house band fronted by a male/female singing duo. There is a classical trio (cello, flute, flute), a solo acoustic guitarist and a piano player which rotate around various venues. And there is a singing/dance troupe of three men and three women which perform basic production shows and cabaret sets. A highlight of this week, and something that was not on our cruise last year, was cruise director Aaron Seyfert performing a dynamic singing show that was excellent and certainly showcased his vocal range.
It is obvious that entertainment is evolving right along with on-board programming.
Which is all to the good as Viking prepares for its first world cruise on the brand new Viking Sun. Departing December 15, this trip spans 141 days and visits five continents, 35 countries and 66 ports, with 12 port overnights. Rates began at $45,000 per person and the ship is entirely sold out for the entire cruise. So expectations will be high!
Yesterday and this morning we were in Boston. After a basic city tour, we enjoyed visiting with our daughter and grandchildren who live here. Was great seeing them, even for a short time. We sail for New York this afternoon. Tomorrow the owner of Viking, Tor Hagen, will be on board for some special events and we look forward to meeting him.