ABOARD THE VIKING SKY – When I first stepped into the ladies’ room near the atrium of the Viking Sky, I thought a window must be open. I heard birds singing.
But the bathroom has no window. Instead, the music of seabird songs is piped in for the pleasure of passengers.
That is a very small thing, perhaps, but it is all the big and small things together that make Viking such a standard for cruising excellence.
Viking’s attention to detail has not gone unnoticed by travelers. For the third year in a row, Viking has been named “The World’s Best Ocean Cruise Line” by Travel & Leisure readers.
“I want to thank you not only for making it happen but for sailing with us at the time of this announcement,” Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen said in a written letter delivered to my shipboard stateroom celebrating the award.
“In the three years since the launch of Viking’s ocean cruises in 2015, Viking has been named the No. 1 Ocean Cruise Line every consecutive year,” Hagen said. “In addition, our river cruises have once again been named a ‘World’s Best’ every year since 2011 – the first year that river cruising was introduced as a category in Travel & Leisure’s World Best Awards.”
I’m not surprised at the accolades. As a passenger on my way “Into the Midnight Sun,” I can look around and see the reasons why Viking Cruises is so popular – beautiful ship, interesting itinerary, friendly crew, fun entertainment, delicious cuisine, unusual spa and delightful fellow passengers.
Many repeat guests aboard Viking ships
Christened in 2017, Viking Sky has 465 all-veranda staterooms for 930 guests. On my cruise, all staterooms are booked except for two which were the result of cancellations.
“Viking ships usually cruise fully booked,” said Hotel General Manager Sujith Mohan. “That is why we are building more ships because we have loyal guests who want to cruise with Viking. Most guests on this cruise have done either a Viking river cruise or a Viking ocean cruise.”
About 70 percent of the passengers on my cruise are American with the rest from Great Britain, New Zealand, China, Italy, Canada, Australia and elsewhere. There are 472 crewmembers with 37 different nationalities.
The Viking Sky is small enough that it can gain direct access into most ports, places that big ships usually can’t visit.
Guests are mostly 55 years old and up and are more interested in exploring and learning about the world rather than partying, although there is plenty of great entertainment about the Viking Sky.
Warm ‘hygge’ atmosphere
Founded by its current chairman Torstein Hagan, Viking Cruises strongly reflect his Nordic heritage. The ship’s décor features understated elegance and modern Scandinavian design with light woods, clean lines, neutral hued fabrics, leather, high ceilings and plenty of natural light.
Birch tree sculptures and arrangements from nature take the place of potted plants. Mischievous elves hiding in the elevator artwork add a fun Nordic feel.
Cushions and warm blankets seem to be everywhere, even in the Star Theater which has cushions showcasing the faces of famous actors including Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo.
More pillows and blankets are waiting on the pool deck in lounge chairs which face the ocean. Smart move. Why face the pool and other passengers when you can look out at some lovely ocean scenery?
Books also are everywhere and are on a wide variety of subjects. Finding something to read is easy. Just pick up a book. Don’t have to check it out. Just read and return.
All the new Viking ships look exactly the same, except for artwork. That way, Hotel General Manager Sujith Mohan said, passengers feel right at home as soon as they board. And so do crew.
The whole atmosphere aboard Viking Sky reminds me of the Scandinavian concept of hygge – creating a warm space and enjoying the good things in life with good people. Being content and living in the moment.
What Viking ships do not have
So what does Viking Sky not have? No casino. No photographers. No art auctions. No overpriced specialty restaurants. No bar bill for generous wine, beer and soft drinks at lunch and dinner. No fee for enjoying spa facilities. No children. Passengers must be at least age 18.
And no cellphones. Well, actually, I added that part. In fact, Viking Sky offers unlimited complimentary WiFi which could mean that passengers are glued to their electronic gadgets. But it is just the opposite.
Meal time, theater time, almost anytime, I can look around and not see a cellphone in sight. Passengers are talking with each other and with crew members and enjoying the moment. Thanks, Viking. Your awards are well deserved.
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch