On the eve of the christening of Viking Ocean Cruises new Viking Sea, we rejoin the ship for the gala event. It was just a few weeks ago when Whitney and I were on board for the epic 10-day Empires of the Mediterranean itinerary, the new ship’s maiden voyage. Since then, new Viking Sea has continued to deliver an experience cruise travelers on in the water for years would envy or dream of. Before we get into current events at Viking Ocean Cruises, let’s review what we know of Viking Star and the continually evolving Viking Ocean Cruise experience.
Viking Cruises created an incomparable ocean cruising experience with the launch of Viking Star. New twin sister Viking Sea answers the call: cruise travelers like what they see and want more. Not satisfied to simply roll out more of the same, Viking Sea will debut an evolved fleetwide onboard experience bringing additional value. It’s a formula for success that earned Viking a dominant position in the world of river cruising, now sailing more Viking Longships than most other river cruise lines combined. What we see here on Viking Sea should add additional fuel to the fire, propelling Viking higher and faster than ever before.
There’s an old saying I’ve been privileged enough to experience first hand a few times in my life. “When someone offers you a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask where it is, you just get on”. It refers to getting close to the positive energy created when the moon and stars align and out comes some wonderful thing you want to be a part of. That’s the attitude overheard on Viking Sea coming from passengers and crewmembers alike. They like what they see and don’t want to let go.
Intelligent Viking knows this and continues to fuel the fire with new initiatives that make sense for the brand. Let’s dive right in.
Annoying Gratuities: Gone
An occasional complaint I hear on other cruise lines is the automatic __% gratuity added to the price of beverages. On Viking Cruises, beer, wine and soft drinks are included with meals. Ask for one of those some other time, you pay. It’s a part of the deal easily avoided by upgrading to their Silver Spirits plan which brings most all that is included during meals at any time of the day plus upgraded options at no additional charge. Still, for those who just don’t drink all that much, the math works out better to pay as you go for an occasional beverage outside of meal times. Like other lines, Viking added an automatic gratuity to the price of those beverages. Unlike other cruise lines, they just dropped the automatic gratuity; a move that makes total sense.
Silver Spirits Value
As mentioned above, the Silver Spirits Package covers all house pouring wines, beers and liquors including cocktails, well drinks, mixers/long drinks and sodas throughout the day. All but full bottles of wine and specialty drinks in the Torshaven night club are included. That’s good but the reduced price is better, especially compared to other all inclusive drink packages. Per person, that’s
- $209 for 7 nights
- $239 for 8 nights
- $269 for 9 nights
- $329 for 11 nights
- $359 for 12 nights
- $419 for 14 nights
Onboard Viking Guide
There’s an app for that too. The onboard Viking Guide provides insightful commentary from your host, Viking Sea Godmother Karine Hagen, as well as a variety of curators and experts. It’s a walking tour that can be done at a guest’s leisure or all at once using their own smartphone and the ship’s included soon-to-be broadband Internet connection.
Snappy-Fast Included Internet Access
It’s one thing to include Internet access which they do on all Viking ships including Viking River Cruises Viking Longships as well as the growing ocean fleet. New on Viking Sea is 100mb Internet access that will open up a whole new world of exploration for Viking guests. Being finalized as we sail Viking Sea, the system was not in operation. Why? It was not as good as Viking had specified and modems without the capability to deliver a constant 100mb signal were sent back.
I can’t tell you how exciting this is for reasons other than the fact that there is a direct correlation between the speed of internet and the quality of my life on board. Armed with that capability, guests can post huge photos, video and virtually bring along friends every step of the way. After experiencing this sort of system first on Carnival Freedom, I was instantly hooked. The Viking system is a new one, promising to be better than all others out there right now. The way the Viking organization takes that box other companies are happy just to think outside of from time to time, kick it to the curb and explore a new universe; the possibilities here are staggering.
The Met Under The Stars
Called one of Viking’s Privileged Access experiences, Met Under The Stars combines stargazing with a classical opera performance by New York’s famed Metropolitan Opera. Viking guests listen to the triumphant sounds through individual Bose headsets and go beyond an ordinary visit to the opera, watching backstage interviews with the performers, costume and set changes and, in a typically Viking exploration way, the technical details behind the performance.
New Chef’s Table Menus
The Chef’s Table one of the dining venues on Viking ocean ships. All are included in the price without an alternative restaurant surcharge, although they feel like they require payment of a modest fee if on some other cruise line. Like the removal of automatic gratuities noted above, the “it’s included’ element is standard fare here. The Chef’s Table is a tasting menu with small portions. Each course is paired with an appropriate wine and by “appropriate” I mean a vintage that both complements and contrasts with the flavors of each course.
Unique to this venue, the entire menu is explained briefly at the onset. Throughout service, each course is introduced by service people who know the menu item, what went into it and how it was prepared. It’s a gastronomic adventure of sorts that usually includes a visit to the table by the chef. I say “usually” because these are the chefs that actually prepare your meal, taking time from doing just that to visit the table. If the kitchen is slammed with orders, he/she will be back there where they need to be.
Being introduced on Viking Sea, new menus that rotate throughout the sailing, offering real reasons to visit the place more than once. Booked guests can reserve their table in advance via the My Voyage online planner at the Viking website.
Also new, a premium pairing option for $25 per person of not on the Silver Spirits plan. No charge for those who are.
Upgraded Logo Shop
On Viking River Cruises fleet of Viking Longships, little space is wasted. There is a micro sized shop of sorts that offers some Viking memorabilia-style jewelry, a few items of logo wear and some literature. That’s about it. On Viking Star, the selection was similarly limited, even though housed in a separate logo shop space of its own.
Viking Sea is debuting a revamped logo shop with all things Viking ranging from ball caps to polo shirts. Better yet, there is an extensive selection of Viking-themed jewelry, comfy Norwegian-made blankets like we see scattered throughout the public areas of Viking Sea and much more. See Viking Upgrades Logo Shop, Feed Fan Frenzy for details and a gallery of all the products currently being offered for sale.
Extra special significant and featured here:
- Durable skin-soft merino and innovative weather-proof wool sweaters from Dale of Norway
- Viking Jewelry items are historically accurate replicas of pendants, bracelets and brooches found in Viking archeological sites around Scandinavia
New In-Stateroom Programming
As I type this, more content is being added to Viking Sea’s onboard library of video available at any time on stateroom televisions. Of particular interest, in addition to the entire Downton Abbey run (a $74 value, Amazon) season one of the Norwegian TV Comedy/Drama Lilyhammer, a favorite of Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen. Also featured, the History Channel version of Viking history: Vikings.
Also prominently featured, the ship’s Cruise Director’s daily talk, on demand for those who do not wish to attend the event live or want to watch again later.
Viking has an exclusive relationship with the Munch Museum in Norway that features digital images of the Expressionists work. In the central Living Room area of Viking Sea, each afternoon a different masterpiece is profiled. A take-home brochure talks more about the artist and his works, many of which are on display.
Presented during the pre-dinner cocktail hour, the even feels a bit like the pre-dinner cocktail hour we like on the Viking River Cruises experience. Here, the work du jour is presented on the ship’s giant Atrium screen which normally cycles through various scenic landscapes, Viking-themed artifacts and other mood setting digitals.
The Best Part Of This
The interesting part about all of this is actually more than the sum of these individual new elements. That Viking continues to actively look for ways to constantly improve what they do is a solid good reason to sail with the cruise line. At a time when cruise travelers on some other lines are more likely to find a favorite feature missing or reduced, that’s wonderful news.