CRUISE THE PLANET
Sailing with Viking Cruises aboard new Viking Sea it would be easy to dismiss this second ship in the rapidly growing fleet as #2 and move along from there. Checking off the boxes, we would present answers to commonly-asked questions about ship’s layout and design, onboard programming, embarkation, staterooms, service and more. As mentioned frequently in all things Viking Sea up to this point, the sister ships are nearly identical. Still, by the time we reached our first port of call, one gigantic element has presented itself as supremely dominant, much like the iconic landmark that draws visitors to that destination.
If the modern day name of Canakkale does not jog your elementary school history class memory, the ancient city name of Troy and the iconic Trojan horse probably does. This is where legend has it that the ancient Greeks slipped into town during the Trojan War. It was something that had never been done before. Once done, it could never be repeated as the element of surprise surely would not be to anyone’s advantage. In a very real way, today’s Viking Ocean Cruises have made a similar move rolling out Viking Sea as a carbon copy of Viking Star. But what we are seeing is not like the debut of any other new ship we have experienced.
Finely Tuned, From The Beginning
As mentioned, I am traveling with daughter Whitney on this trip. Back home, Lisa is quite familiar with what we are experiencing as she and I sailed sister ship Viking Star last year. Communicating long distance via live text messaging, I tend to summarize what happens along the way, especially at a time that I know she is working. We will celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary this year and there is no one on the planet that knows me better than Lisa. We don’t mince words chatting in person. Via text, the conversation is similarly concise and to the point. When asked what I thought of new Viking Sea, she too kept it brief, asking “So, how’s the ship?”.
Without hesitation, I replied “It’s as though this ship has been in the water a year.”
Chatting with crew members I remember from Viking Star, they too feel the same way. When I mention “This has to be easier for you too, not having to learn your way around a different ship”, every single one has agreed, adding interesting and unsolicited commentary indicating their happiness.
Did you catch that? I said ‘indicating their happiness’ At best, this is not a time of happiness for crew members on a brand new ship. But it is what it is and this is wonderful. As wonderful as fluffy pillows provided in each and every stateroom aboard Viking Sea. That’s something we’ll get into shortly.
Supremely significant here is that, however it came to be, this is a brand new ship yet it is as though this ship has been sailing for quite some time, operating smoothly AND the crew members are happy AND we passengers are enjoying the best of both worlds. That’s a story as big as the Trojan horse in an industry where, in many cases, hospitality has taken a back seat to growth and profits. Different than the story of the Trojan horse, Vikings did not sneak their way in. Chairman Torstein Hagen announced their plan to the world, far in advance. Frankly, I don’t think the other guys believed him, writing off Hagen’s promises as more of the same marketing and promotional stuff they also cling to. In one ear, out the other. A critical underestimation.
“There is a hole in the market somebody should fill,’ observed plainspoken Hagen as we reported several years ago, promising “I feel we invented modern river cruising. Now I hope we can revive the destination part of ocean cruising.” And so it was. When Viking Star was launched that promise was fulfilled, bringing to the world of cruise travel a unique experience like no other.
A bit of proof for you? Here is a photo of one of our favorite crew from Viking Star, taken last year as Lisa and I sailed. Typical of so many Viking crew, Roland always wears a smile on his face and just can’t do enough for passengers.
Below is another photo of the same guy, captured last night in the ship’s World Cafe. Does this man look stressed out to you as he might understandably be on a new ship, on the first day of sailing, with a boatload of new passengers?
Viking continues to define its own world of cruise travel in oceans as it has in rivers, making a comparison of the Viking cruise travel experience to other cruise lines inappropriate. Still, comparisons are bound to come about so let’s head that one off at the pass.
This would be like comparing ripe, succulent Strawberries bursting with flavor you can taste from the aroma in the air to…well…some other delicious thing. The Strawberries being Viking Ocean Cruises at any moment in time and the other delicious thing being some other cruise line on their best day.
That is absolutely not an exaggeration.
We’ll be back with more on Troy, our tour, the uber-focused company Viking uses on the scene in Turkey and more later.