With the Viking Sun in Auckland as part of her attempt to set a Guinness Record for the longest World Cruise itinerary, some of the Fine Travel team joined Viking's New Zealand Commercial Manager for an inspection.
Viking Cruises - Identical Ocean Ships
Although this review is based on the Viking Sun, the observations apply to the other ocean going ships in the Viking fleet, as they are identical. This provides comfort to guests who are committed to the Viking Cruises experience and plan to use the cruise line for different itineraries in different regions. Guests can rely on a consistent and familiar experience across the ships.
A Larger Luxury Ship with a Small Ship Feel
The Viking Sun is larger than I was expecting - not a mega ship with climbing walls and bowling alleys, but certainly not a small ship either. Small ships appeal to many Fine Travel clients as the ships feel more exclusive - offering a boutique setting, more attentive staff who get to know you, and the luxury of an attention to detail that is hard to replicate at scale. Larger ships risk leaving guests spending a disproportionate about of time navigating a labyrinth of hallways, restaurants and entertainment areas.
What kept surprising me as we explored the Viking Sun was how Viking has achieved something I don't recall from inspecting competitor ships - the ability to offer the onboard advantages of a small ship that I mentioned above, while still offering a larger ship's selection of facilities. As a simple example, the main restaurant is subtly divided into sections that seat about 30 people on a ship that can welcome 930 guests.
The clever and thoughtful design (which is enhanced by the elegant and contemporary Norwegian styling), will appeal to Fine Travel clients who are looking for the scale and facilities of a larger ship, without being left feeling like "just another number" onboard.
Contemporary Norwegian Styling
The styling of the ship reflects Viking's Norwegian family ownership, proud Viking heritage and, although this may seem axiomatic, that you will be at sea (some cruise ships are so big you can walk for long periods, or sit in restaurants, without enjoying the sea).
The choice of furniture (and its layout) reflects an attention to detail more common on a smaller ship or private yacht. It is clear that you are surrounded by quality, without the need for everything to be dripping with gold.
Staterooms and Suites
In our previous blog, How to Choose Your Stateroom on a Viking Ocean Cruise, we went into detail on the different Staterooms and Suites and the benefits of each. When onboard we had the opportunity to view the best onboard (the Owner's Suite) and the entry level Deluxe Veranda (which you can read more about in our dedicated blog).
A Distinct Absence of Commercialism
During our inspection a $5 fine was applied to anyone who asked whether a surcharge applied to a specialty restaurant or onboard experience. Viking has a very clear philosophy (connected with the "What Viking is Not" section below) of removing commercialism from the cruise holiday experience. There are no art auctions and no booming announcements about flash sales in the mall. Once you pay for your cruise, Viking is there to help you enjoy it, not to try and extract more money from you to boost their margins.
The additional expenses we can foresee are:
- Drinks outside main meals - Although you can buy a drinks package which looks to be good value if you envisage having more than two drinks per day.
- Spa treatments
- Shore Excursions beyond the included ones.
Viking Spa and Snow Grotto
Although a Snow Grotto on a cruise ship may seem like a gimmick for kids, followers of some of the latest trends in longevity and physical recovery (and Scandinavian spa treatments) will be aware of the benefits of temperature extremes and alternating between hot and cold treatments.
If you just need some quiet time to soak in a spa, Viking caters for that too.
What Viking is Not
When I've previously written about Viking Cruises, I've made mention that they are very forthright in explaining what they are not. Some examples I've already mentioned, but others include:
- No children under 18 (the average age of guests is 63)
- No casino
- No formal nights, butlers and white gloves
- No art auctions or photography sales
- No charge for WIFI
Once I was onboard, it was clear that "What Viking Is Not" isn't just a slogan distilled over a long lunch with a Madison Ave advertising agency - it is clear that Viking is committed to this approach of an inclusive experience without commercial pressure.
Booking Viking Ocean Cruises
As an authorised agent for Viking Cruises, we work directly with the Viking Sales Team and Viking's Commercial Manager to arrange and book Viking Ocean and River Cruises for Fine Travel clients. Although our clients use us to book their Viking Cruises for a number of reasons, the most common include:
- Being able to consolidate the cruise, airfares and pre and post cruise accommodation into a single itinerary.
- Validating their research and engaging us to confirm specific questions.
- Outsourcing the research into the latest special offers, appropriate itinerary and choice of cabin.
- Managing the payment process (as the regional office for Viking is based in Australia and the cruises are priced in Australian dollars).
These services come at no additional cost to Fine Travel clients who book their Viking Cruises with us.
Current Viking Cruises Sale
Viking's current promotion runs until 31 March 2020 and includes Ocean and River Cruises. To find out more launch the latest brochure.