Although ranked upper premium, Viking Ocean Cruises' beautifully designed, modern Scandinavian ships deliver many amenities more typical to luxury vessels, like a sumptuous spa, fine art and high-end furnishings. 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've got the scoop for you.
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Updated February 5, 2018
Like luxury cruisers, many of the 930 passengers onboard Viking Ocean are well-heeled and well-traveled. Some will have sailed one or more luxury cruise lines on previous vacations, but also might be upgrading from premium lines like Holland America or Princess, or switching over from Viking's river cruises. Viking Ocean passengers might be more financially conservative about cruising, or place their vacation emphasis on destinations rather than shipboard frills. Many also dress more casually and forgo statement jewelry, making packing easier. The minimum age to sail is 18, which creates a serene adult-focused environment onboard.
You won't be escorted to your accommodations, but you'll still feel like a luxury cruiser -- 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-size 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 cozy cashmere blankets. It's only little things -- slippers placed bedside at turndown or nightly chocolates -- that you may or may not notice are missing. Only Penthouse Veranda and higher categories feature an in-room mini-bar with complimentary alcohol.
Bathrooms may not be awash in granite and marble, but they earn kudos for spacious glass-enclosed walk-in showers, anti-fog mirrors (a real plus; rare on luxe ships) and heated floors. While Viking's own toiletries (Freyja) are not a name luxury brand (and you get shower gel rather than soap), 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. Expect two, rather than four, bath towels, as standard (and they are a tad thinner than luxury line offerings), but ask your cabin attendant for more towels just once, and extra ones will be provided daily. You might not have a butler like on Silversea, but cabin attendants are accommodating and housekeeping is twice-daily. Just remember to pack your own sewing kit for emergencies.
Luxury cruisers will feel most at home in a comfortable, spacious 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 service 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, just like on luxury lines. Servers pour complimentary beer and wine with refills at lunch and dinnertime. These wines often match the quality offered complimentarily on luxury ships.
Menus recommend three, rather than the four courses typically seen on luxury ships. (But think of the calories you're saving.) And costly ingredients, such as caviar, pate or lobster, are offered sparingly, but that's the norm on upper-premium 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. The biggest difference from luxury line dining in The Restaurant and World Cave is service; you may wait longer on a line or for a server. 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.
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. Book specialty restaurants in advance to secure reservations. (You can also get on a waitlist once onboard.) Lead time to book advance specialty restaurant reservations depends on stateroom category; expect a longer lead time with a higher cabin level.
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. And did we mention that all specialty coffees and teas throughout the ship are always complimentary?
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. You will uncover plates and remove plastic wrap from glasses yourself; food trays are left for passengers to sort out. And no one serves you course by course. But it's just a little work for high-end cuisine that's cost-included around the clock.
Viking Ocean ships exude elegance, showcasing a pale wood Scandinavian design with fine 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. The design doesn't call for grandiose crystal chandeliers, or the marble or granite so typical to luxury ships -- so you won't miss it.
Space-loving luxury cruisers can appreciate the many intimate seating nooks throughout the ships. (Although lighting is bright; it would be nice to find some softer, more romantically lit, corners.) The 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.
Lead time for advance spa treatment reservations depends on stateroom category, so book ahead as soon as possible. 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. The only fee you'll pay is for yoga and Pilates classes. Be sure to bring your own headset for workout machines.
Viking Ocean offers two pools; jump into the heated Infinity Pool on Deck 7 at the stern, 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.
You pay for all alcoholic beverages at all bars and any special wine or cocktail tasting event costs extra -- again, an upper-premium ship norm. Service can be slow when bars are busy. Bar nibbles are mostly limited to wasabi or cheese-flavored nuts, but if you ask for plain nuts, a bartender often promises to provide them the following evening and delivers.
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. Book shore excursions as far in advance as allowable; the lead time before sailing is based on stateroom category.
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 and 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 also amuse themselves at Deck 2 Living Room touch-screen tables, playing games like poker and chess. Many evenings, passengers use the ship's primo Bose headphones to watch movies on a big screen by the main pool.
Ships do lack casinos and special guest shows, such as a comic or magician (but not every luxury cruise ship offers these either). Daytime onboard activities are mostly limited to guest lectures and port talks. Lessons in photography, art or languages, for example, aren't offered. But most passengers are out exploring, as Viking Ocean's itineraries are port-intensive.
The spic-and-span self-service laundry room (with an iron and board) 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. The only element fussy luxury cruisers might possibly miss is dryer sheets, which aren't provided.
Cruising on upper-premium ships generally costs less than on luxury vessels. Comparing exact pricing can be tricky; costs can fluctuate depending upon booking time, popularity of itinerary, inclusions and amenities, cabin or suite type and other such factors. Plus, cruise lines sometimes add (or delete) incentives, such as complimentary or discounted economy or business class airfare, beverage packages and shore excursions, making long-term accurate comparisons difficult.
The best way to compare Viking Ocean's pricing to a luxury line is to find an appealing cruise on your favorite luxury line and find a Viking Ocean match. Look for the same or similar ports, itinerary length, accommodation size and month of the year. Make sure to consider the costs of extra inclusions (such as all alcohol or airfare) in luxury fares -- and any special offers from Viking Ocean for that cruise -- to fairly compare. Don't just glance at the price online and make a snap judgment. Understand what each fare includes and does not, as well as the financial value of those inclusions and how important they are to you.
Would a Luxury Cruiser Be Happy Onboard Viking Ocean?
Consider the answer a definite yes for luxury cruisers who prioritize itineraries over onboard pampering, who drink alcohol sparingly and are not into nightly fancy dining. The beautifully designed, spacious ships provide enough complimentary posh attributes -- including that unforgettable sensational spa -- to amply satisfy.
Those who require coddling and speedy service, complimentary cocktails and canapes, and lengthier, more lavish, meals might find a true luxury line a better match. 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.