Viking’s Latest Oceangoing Ship Showcases The Best of Cruising
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
I’ve been sitting in the Viking Bar on Deck 1 aboard Viking Cruises’ Viking Sea now for over an hour. I’ve already finished Cappuccino No. 1 and I’m disturbingly close to finishing Cappuccino No. 2. And I have very little to show for all that caffeinated power.
See, I’m trying to put into words why this ship just checks all the boxes for me – and why it should check all the boxes for you, too. It seems like such an easy task, because this ship embodies the best traditions of both classic and modern cruising. It should appeal to a wide segment of the population, from first-time cruisers to experienced aficionados who bemoan the death of the way “cruising used to be.”
And yet I sit here, watching the cursor in Microsoft Word blink at me. Mocking me. I’m getting annoyed with myself. Writer’s block is on the verge of taking over my body, and I fear seeing my writer colleagues pass the coffee bar. I’ve already thought of my reply: “Yep!”, I’ll say. “Really crankin’ it out today!” I won’t mention the four deadlines I’m on the verge of blowing because my fingers have somehow stopped pressing keys.
And then, it hits me. I have no idea what to write because Viking Sea has lulled me into its relaxing embrace. I’m actually allowing myself to do something I normally don’t on most ships: relax. I’m sitting in the atrium, people watching. I’m sipping my coffee. I’m feeling the ship vibrate gently as we cross the North Sea, bound for Bergen, Norway.
I am in my happy place.
Viking Sea is a ship that is devoid of distractions. I don’t mean that disparagingly against big, busy, mainstream ships, because they have their place. I’ll happily book a big-ship cruise, content in what it offers. But those ships are full of ways to blow through your time onboard: mini-golf courses, loud shows, ringing casinos. It’s less about you and more about the activity.
Viking Sea, however, will have you relaxing before you know it – and before you even realize it’s happening.
Here’s my list of ten reasons Viking Sea is sabotaging my productivity – and ten reasons it will have you in vacation mode in no time.
It’s Your Own Personal Library
Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 may officially have the largest library at sea, but Viking Sea might just best her in terms of sheer number of titles onboard. Every public room aboard Viking Sea is crammed full of amazing books on all subjects – so much so that I blew through an hour in the Explorer’s Lounge yesterday, admiring the massive collection of books on polar exploration.
Save yourself a few kilos on your luggage and leave the books at home; Viking Sea is the greatest floating library you could ever ask for.
The LivNordic Spa Is One Of The Best at Sea – And It’s Free.
Okay, so a 50-minute Swedish Massage is going to run you $139. But the LivNordic Spa’s impressive Nordic Bathing Ritual complex is provided completely free of charge.
This is how I spent nearly 90 minutes this morning: working my way through the traditional Nordic bathing ritual. I started with a relaxing warm-up in the steam room before transitioning to the large hydrotherapy pool. I then relaxed on the heated thermal loungers before running into the steam room once again. Finally, I ended my ritual with a few minutes in the Snow Room – featuring real, honest-to-gosh-Snow.
The Snow Room was more enjoyable than I thought it would be. After that, it was time for another refreshing plunge in the hydrotherapy pool before repeating the process all over again. Expect to spend some serious time here – and if you’ve never tried this before, what are you waiting for? This would run you hundreds of dollars on other cruise ships. Viking gives it to guests for absolutely nothing.
The High Tea Is Fantastic
Don’t miss High Tea in the Wintergarden at 4:00 p.m; not only is the tea selection fantastic, but the wonderful surroundings of the Wintergarden make this the best high tea I’ve experienced on the high seas outside of the one offered aboard Queen Mary 2.
I Splurged On the Armagnac…And Loved It
Viking Sea has, regrettably, introduced me to fine vintage Armagnac. A distinctive brandy produced in the southwest part of France, Viking Sea and her sister, Viking Star, have the largest selection of vintage Armagnacs at sea. I had one from 1965 for a cool $79, and here’s the verdict: this 4cl drink went down smooth-as-butter. Sure, each sip I took was probably worth $5.50, but for a treat, head to the Torshavn Lounge and try one of these beauties, or take in the Armagnac Tasting in Torshavn for $30.
I Got Caught Up in Scrabble
Head on up to Deck 2 of the Living Room, surrounding the three-story atrium, and indulge in a game of Scrabble. Scrabble sets, along with chess, checkers, and other games are available up on Deck 2. Gone are the dark, dank shipboard card rooms of days gone by; Viking wants to encourage guests to socialise and be out among their fellow guests – even if they have their heads down trying to come up with that perfect word combination to use the letter ‘Q’ and snag some major points.
Dining Is A Real Event
The food aboard Viking Sea is better than I would have expected. In fact, I didn’t have a meal I didn’t like. Onboard cuisine comes very, very close to the luxury line I just stepped off last week. Even better, the food onboard reflects European and Scandinavian tastes. Rather than being huge and heavy, as most cruise ship meals are, I felt refreshed after a meal onboard – like I’d indulged in something that wasn’t all that bad for me.
Of course, I can’t get enough of the split pea soup served up in Mamsen’s after 10:00 p.m. each evening. What a winner!
I Worked Off The Food On The Promenade Deck
One of my favorite pastimes at sea is to stroll purposefully around the Promenade Deck, listening to my iPod. It’s relaxing, and it’s great exercise. Trouble is, a disturbing number of ships these days have done away with the Promenade Deck, preferring to transform it into “revenue space.” Shame on some lines for totally bastardizing their existing promenade decks in the never-ending quest to wring a few more cents out of their guests.
Viking doesn’t subscribe to that theory. Viking Sea and her sister, Viking Star, have spacious, wide promenade decks that encourage guests to stroll and take in the fresh ocean air. And why not? Isn’t that what a cruise is all about?
Subtract another hour of my day for the wonderful evening stroll I had. It was an hour well spent!
The Live Music Is Too Good To Miss
One of cruising’s best traditions that was in danger of dying out aboard many cruise ships is live music. Viking Sea features dozens of musical opportunities every day, from jazz and pop hits to classical concerts and exquisite solo artists. If books and art are a part of Viking Sea’s travel experience, so too is music. Kudos to Viking for making high-quality onboard musical entertainment a real priority on its oceangoing vessels.
The Ship Is A Moving Art Gallery
Seriously – make sure you spend some time admiring Viking Sea’s onboard art collection, featuring works by artists and photographers like Fin Serck-Hanssen, Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway, Inger Sitter, and Edvard Munch. A guided audio tour of these works, narrated by Viking’s own Karine Hagen, is a wonderful accompaniment to enjoying this special collection.
You’ll Want To Watch A Movie Under The Stars
Princess Cruises invented the whole “Movies Under the Stars” thing back in 2004 aboard Caribbean Princess. Credit where credit is due. But Viking adds to that experience substantially by providing guests with wireless Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones to enjoy the show. No more noisy pool decks for those who want to relax, and fabulous-quality sound for those who want to indulge in a movie. It’s an amazing combination, and Viking is the first line to offer it.
Those are just a few of the reasons why I’m finding it so hard to write while onboard – and why you’ll love sailing on this truly soothing vessel.