ABOARD THE VIKING SKY – One aspect about sailing with Viking is that itineraries tend to be very heavy on time in port with most sailing done at night. This is convenient in some ways but it does tend to short-change you on time to appreciate the ship actually being on the water.
Our last two days on board provided us an opportunity to enjoy being at sea. As we sailed from Boston toward New York at 2 p.m., we finally had a chance to be out on deck to enjoy watching dolphins alongside and wind in our faces.
That evening our ship threaded its way through a very narrow manmade waterway called the Cape Cod Canal. It was so narrow that it actually felt like river cruising. The sun was setting and the light kept changing. We passed under three towering bridges and we marveled that the ship could actually fit under them.
Part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, the approximately seven-mile-long canal traverses the narrow neck of land joining Cape Cod to the state’s mainland. Most of its length follows tidal rivers widened to 480 feet and deepened to 32 feet, shaving 135 miles off the journey around the Cape for its approximately 14,000 annual users.
A swift running current changes direction every six hours and can reach 5.2 miles per hour during the receding ebb tide. It was interesting to learn that although being an artificial waterway, the canal is occasionally used by whales and dolphins including endangered North Atlantic right whales which may cause closure of the canal.
The next morning we were able to enjoy breakfast in the main dining room with a window overlooking the rushing water. By mid-morning we were up on deck watching as the ship cruised into the Hudson River on its way to docking in Manhattan. There was narration on the open decks by one of the lecturers.
Of course, the most memorable moment was passing close by the Statue of Liberty. Always a Kodak moment when one feels welcoming home by this classic monument.
Soon after docking around noon, everyone rushed off on afternoon tours but we stayed on board to finish packing and to attend a press event held by Torstein Hagen, the CEO and Owner of Viking Cruises. This was the Viking Sky’s first visit to NYC and Hagen used this occasion to give local journalists tours of the company’s newest vessel and to update everyone on the company’s 20th anniversary statistics.
But although I have often written about the many things that Viking does right in its cruises, Hagen pointed out some little touches that I had not noticed:
- The TV remote control is extremely simple with just the basic commands
- Most handrails on board and levers to staterooms are covered in leather
- The showers are largest at sea in standard cabins and have excellent pressure
- The shower amenities (shampoo, conditioner, body wash and body lotion) are clearly labeled in large, easy-to-read letters and easy to open and close.
- The dishes in Mamsen’s deli (named for his mother) is a copy of his family’s china pattern called Tor Viking II
And he also mentioned what Viking Ocean does not do:
- No casino
- No children under 18
- No formal nights
- No inside rooms
- No butlers
- No nickel-and-diming
Hagen states that he does not believe that the “Everything for everybody” is a good marketing concept. Rather, “What cruising should be all about is to take people to destinations and enrich their lives.” Viking’s target market is the 55+ age group of people interested in exploration rather being entertained.
He points out that the fact that all of the current Viking ships look exactly the same, except for artwork, “Makes our passengers feel right at home as soon as they board. It also is great for the crew as they know where everything is and can begin their work immediately…
“And the shipyards like it too. It makes shipbuilding faster and cheaper for us.”
Viking’s newest ship, the Viking Sun, went into service earlier this month and its 5th ship, the Viking Orion, comes on board in early 2018. Three more ships are on order. Obviously, the Viking formula is working.