Although ranked upper premium, Viking Ocean Cruises' beautifully designed ships deliver many amenities more typical to luxury vessels. Can a pampered cruiser -- one who regularly sails lines like Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas or Crystal Cruises -- feel equally happy onboard Viking Ocean? We break down where Viking Ocean checks all the luxury boxes, and where the line fits squarely in the upper premium class.
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How Viking Ocean Feels Luxurious
High-end cruisers will discover much to admire onboard Viking Ocean ships. The modern Scandinavian design, with attractive public spaces, pricy furnishings, spacious cabins and notable art, embraces luxury-level elegance. The comprehensive spa pleases even the most indulged passenger.
Many Viking cruisers are well-heeled and well-traveled. Some will have sailed one or more of the luxury cruise lines on previous vacations. The minimum age to sail is 16, which creates an adult-focused environment onboard.
Any passenger can feel like a luxury cruiser onboard Viking Ocean -- even in an entry-level Veranda stateroom. This cabin (including the veranda) measures 270 square feet, similar in size to some luxury ships' standard suites.
Amenities also impress. Passengers can embark at 11 a.m. (stateroom access time varies according to category booked) -- earlier than some luxury cruise lines. And who doesn't love Viking Ocean's 24-hour unlimited complimentary Wi-Fi?
All cabins feature verandas, and king-sized beds are beautifully dressed with fine linens and soft duvets. There are multiple lighting choices with numerous bedside controls, and ample outlets and USB ports, too. In all cabins except entry-level Verandas, passengers enjoy perks like binoculars, coffeemakers and cashmere blankets.
All bathrooms win kudos for spacious glass-enclosed walk-in showers, anti-fog mirrors and heated floors. While Viking's own toiletries (Freyja) are not a name luxury brand, they come in larger sizes than most designer brands offered on luxury ships and are constantly restocked by cabin attendants, long before refills are necessary.
Luxury cruisers may feel most at home in a Penthouse Junior Suite (405 square feet, including veranda). In this entry suite, benefits match -- or exceed -- nearly all offered on most luxury ships. The impressive list includes 11 a.m. suite access, complimentary laundry and dry cleaning, double sinks in bathrooms, excellent storage space, curtain separating living and sleeping areas and two large flat-screen LCD televisions.
The Restaurant (main dining room) offers numerous tables for two, so you're never pressured to dine with other passengers. Servers pour complimentary beer and wine with refills at lunch and dinnertime. These wines often match the quality offered complimentarily on luxury ships.
Many menu items throughout ships are high-end delicious, from Black Angus Prime beef and silken gravlax to the notable array of wonderfully crusty house-baked breads. At the World Cafe buffet, feast on unlimited crab legs and shrimp at dinnertime.
You won't pay a penny extra to indulge at Manfredi's Italian Restaurant or The Chef's Table, the two fine specialty restaurants onboard. At The Chef's Table, complimentary wines are paired with multicourse menus, although you can pay extra for premium wine pairings. That said, the complimentary pours pair nicely.
Complimentary afternoon tea in the stunning Wintergarden includes freshly made sandwiches, pastries and scones, all accompanied by live classical music performed by a trio or guitarist.
The complimentary 24-hour room service menu ticks many on-trend boxes, including daily smoothies, coconut water, sushi, nine-ounce prime New York strip steak, burger with harissa bearnaise sauce (think tarragon-scented hollandaise with a kick of heat) and artisan cheeses.
Viking Ocean ships exude elegance, showcasing a pale wood Scandinavian design with high-end furnishings, including buttery leather chairs and couches. That same buttery leather also enrobes hall railings and cabin door handles throughout the ships, quite the luxe design gesture.
Space-loving luxury cruisers can appreciate the many intimate seating nooks throughout the ships. These cozy areas offer floor-to-ceiling ocean views, or are surrounded by shelves of books -- from art and travel to fiction -- available to borrow. The three-level Living Room, with a dramatic open atrium, and the Wintergarden, a lovely afternoon tearoom, both offer many chairs and couches to curl up with a good book or even for a peaceful snooze.
Viking Ocean's original art collection also impresses, with works by noted Scandinavian artists -- including icons like Edvard Munch -- in diverse media. Each art piece is numbered for self-guided tours.
Spa and Fitness
LivNordic Spa is a game-changer, with many complimentary components available to all passengers, including a large thalassotherapy pool, whirlpools, steam rooms, saunas, hot tub, heated ceramic lounge chairs, cold plunge pool and the first "snow grotto" at sea.
In treatment rooms, heated massage tables covered with silky sheets can be raised and lowered at the head and knees with the therapist's push of a button. (No more pillows and bolsters.) During treatment, the therapist warms your bathrobe.
The large and comprehensive Fitness Center sports state-of-the-art TechnoGym equipment, including treadmill and resistance machines. Expect medicine balls, free weights, benches, TRX equipment and functional kinesis stations, too. Unlimited use is complimentary.
Viking Ocean offers two pools; jump into the heated Infinity Pool on Deck 7 at the bow, and it's like swimming in the sea. The heated main pool has a retractable roof, ensuring use in almost any weather. Pool towels are as thick and soft as those onboard a luxury ship.
Bars and Lounges
The eye-popping two-story Explorers' Lounge, with floor-to-ceiling windows and plush couches draped with reindeer pelts, is deservedly the ship's buzziest. Plus, it has the coolest water vapor fireplace delivering flickering “flames” -- a marvelous mood-setter at cocktail hour.
Each passenger is offered one complimentary excursion in every port. When departing on outings, passengers are offered water bottles and are often greeted with hand towels on return. When possible, a complimentary shuttle bus from port to city is offered for independent adventures.
Should you prefer private tours, Viking Ocean can arrange for cars and drivers in most ports. The line also offers some posh Privileged Access outings on many itineraries, such as cooking in a Tuscan castle or exploring the French Riviera by helicopter.
Viking Ocean's primary entertainment matches those of many small ship luxury lines; a small group of singers and dancers, plus a cruise director who sings or otherwise entertains. On Deck 1 of the three-level Living Room, daily classical music performances by a talented trio are high-brow excellent. An elegantly dressed classical pianist or guitarist also expertly entertains in the Living Room.
Passengers amuse themselves at Deck 2 Living Room touch-screen tables, playing games like poker and chess. Many evenings, passengers use the ship's fine Bose headphones to watch movies on a big screen by the main pool.
The self-service laundry room is free. If you'd rather do something more fun (and who wouldn't?), send dirty clothes out for service. They're returned beautifully folded in tissue paper, tucked inside a handsome box.
How Viking Ocean Feels Ultra-Premium
Service levels are the biggest differential between Viking Ocean and luxury lines. You'll feel the lack of both speedy and personalized service, primarily in bars and restaurants. Few crew make any effort to learn your name, and any custom requests by passengers take time to fulfil. You'll also queue up here and there -- for dinner seating or shore excursion assistance, for example -- more than you would on a comparably sized luxury ship like Crystal Symphony.
Most of the 930 passengers dress more casually than on luxury ships and forgo statement jewelry. They may be more financially conservative about vacations, or place their vacation emphasis on destinations rather than shipboard frills. Overall, they're a happy lot, requiring minimal pampering, and focus on the ships' many attributes.
Although you're graciously offered a glass of sparkling wine at embarkation, no one escorts you to your cabin. You must put your keycard in a slot to power up cabin electricity. While attractive, staterooms and bathrooms lack luxury elements like marble and granite. Forget slippers placed bedside at turndown or nightly chocolates. Sewing kits aren't provided.
Unless you're in a Penthouse Veranda or higher, the complimentary mini-bar excludes alcohol. In accommodations including complimentary alcohol, the mini-bar is stocked with hotel-size (50 ml), not full-size, bottles, but is replenished daily and can be customized. In a Penthouse Veranda or higher, a welcome bottle of Champagne awaits, but it's stored with chilled glasses inside the mini-bar, rather than waiting in a stateroom ice bucket upon embarkation.
Viking Ocean doesn't employ butlers. Cheery stewards are skilled and accommodating, but you may need to ask for luxury-level amenities, such as extra bath towels or an extra bottle of filtered water.
In the bathroom, the one soap bar is not replaced during the cruise. The shower soap is a gel. Cotton swabs and cotton makeup remover pads are in a tiny box, rather than plentifully stored in a bathroom container. Bathrobes, while primarily cotton (70 percent), feel somewhat polyester-ish. Two, not four, bath towels are standard (ask for more and you will get them) and could be softer and thicker.
You might sometimes have to wait for both seating and service in The Restaurant. Although servers try, custom orders that deviate from menus (for example, an omelet made with half yolks and half whites, or plain lobster rather than with Thermidor sauce) might be difficult to procure.
The Restaurant dinner menus emphasize three, rather than the four courses typical on luxury ships. Costly ingredients, such as caviar, lobster and pate, are offered sparingly. A choice of one white and one red wine is presented per meal. (Luxury ships quickly offer backup bottles should you dislike the evening selection; Viking does not.)
In the World Cafe, you might wait for table service, such as a server pouring juice or removing dirty dishes. Lines can also occur at busy times for omelets or other cooked-to-order dishes. Servers don't offer to procure food or carry plates to your table. (Although if you ask, they assist.)
If you haven't booked a specialty restaurant in advance, you might have difficulty obtaining reservations. (You can get on a waitlist.) Lead time to book advance specialty restaurant reservations depends on stateroom category; the lower your cabin level, the harder it can be to secure a table.
Servers deliver dishes on trays and leave them that way. They don't set tables, uncover plates, remove plastic wrap from glasses or offer to pour a cup of coffee or tea. They certainly won't serve you course by course.
You won't find the sparkling, grandiose crystal chandeliers and highly polished marble and granite so abundantly lavished upon luxury ships. While there is fine art, there's also an emphasis on photographs and high-tech visuals displayed on state-of-the-art screens. The lighting stays bright, even in the evenings, which does little to make public spaces feel more romantic at night.
Spa and Fitness
Lead time for advance spa treatment reservations depends on stateroom category. Should you book an entry-level cabin, you may find it difficult to secure a treatment at a preferred date and time. At the fitness center, yoga and Pilates classes cost extra. No headsets are provided for workout machines.
Bars and Lounges
You pay for all alcoholic beverages ordered at a bar. Service can occasionally be slow when bars are busy. Servers offer wasabi or cheese-flavored nuts, but no canapes. (Some basic puff pastry canapes are displayed at the Viking Bar, but they're usually not served unless requested.) Any special wine or cocktail tasting event costs extra.
The lead time to book shore excursions before sailing is based on stateroom category. If you're booked in an entry-level cabin, you might have difficulty securing preferred tours.
Ships lack casinos and special guest shows, such as a comic or magician. Daytime onboard activities are mostly limited to guest lectures and port talks. Lessons in photography, art or languages, for example, aren't offered.
The rooms lack dryer sheets.
Would a Luxury Cruiser Be Happy Onboard Viking Ocean?
Consider the answer a definite yes for luxury cruisers who prioritize itineraries over onboard pampering. The beautifully designed, spacious ships provide enough complimentary posh attributes -- including that sensational spa -- to amply satisfy. And, passengers can congratulate themselves for paying upper premium, rather than luxury, cruise prices.
Those who require coddling service, complimentary cocktails and canapes, and lengthier, more lavish, meals might find Viking Ocean lacking. If seriously considering Viking Ocean, luxury cruisers should opt for a Penthouse Veranda -- or even better, a Penthouse Junior Suite -- for accommodations and amenities comparable to a luxury ship.