Cruises on Viking Sea include at least one excursion in every port. Included excursions tend to be fairly basic in nature -- mostly general bus tours of the city, with stops at highlights and some free time along the way. Local guides who speak English and know an impressive amount about the area's history, culture and demographics lead excursions. Group sizes are manageable, around 20 to 25 depending on the trip, though several busses might be deployed on the same journey and therefore you'll run into other passengers going to the same stops. This can lead to some crowding, and you'll definitely stand out as a tourist. Guides use an Audiovox system, speaking into a microphone, while passengers have earpieces so they can hear the guides even when they're not close by.
Viking Sea also offers several "premium excursions" in each port, which will cost extra but can be really special. You might take a hot-air balloon ride over Cherbourg, visit the fish market in Greenwich or spend the day exploring the famous beaches in Normandy. Groups generally are smaller for the premium excursions, and therefore, they can fill up quickly. Book your excursions online before you board to ensure you get the tours you want. You can also add your name to waiting lists for tours; a surprising number of passengers cancel, and spots do open. Pricing varies widely, depending on the excursion: Some run less than $100 per person, while others cost several hundred dollars.
* May require additional fees
One cool feature worth noting: You can book excursions from your TV using the interactive remote system. Cancellation, though, requires a call or visit to the shore excursion desk.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Because the ship spends so much time in ports, the daily offerings are appropriately limited. Trivia is a big draw -- come early to get a seat for this, held in the Explorers' Lounge -- and uber-competitive.
The main theater is located all the way at the front of the ship, on Deck 2. This is home to the ship's production shows, as well as various lectures, movies and Ted Talk broadcasts. The space itself is simple, comfortable and modern, with benches and padded chairs for seating around the main stage. (A bar is positioned just outside the theater, and you can get popcorn there when movies are shown.)
The Viking Sea Singers and Dancers are the ship's primary entertainers, and they'll put on several productions in the theater during the cruise. While the performers are talented, some of the shows themselves are cheesy. (One spy-themed show, "La Peregrina," left the audience a bit confused with its blend of bad bawdy humor and odd integration with a movie screen.) The performances work much better in smaller, more casual venues such as Torshavn, where "The Rat Pack" was a hit, and poolside, where a Beatles tribute had people dancing and singing along.
Movies are shown on a big screen some nights in the Wintergarden. Passengers can lounge on padded chairs under soft blankets while wearing Bose headphones, which makes it easier to hear the movie than it would be if the ship used a speaker system.
Much of the entertainment onboard falls into the enrichment category. A number of lectures are offered every day, and most are well attended. Enrichment lectures cover a huge -- and fascinating -- swath of topics. These lectures aren't necessarily pegged to the region to which Viking Sea is sailing; instead, they might just cover topics such as climate change, KGB spies or the unpopularity of lawyers. Lecturers are historians and experts in their fields who know how to hold an audience's attention.
Port lectures focus on upcoming ports and their history and culture. These make for a great tune-up for actual visits to the ports.
Most lectures take place in the Star Theater, so there's plenty of seating no matter the topic.
The lounges on Viking Sea are cool, casual and relaxed. You'll never have a problem chatting with new friends while being entertained by the ship's singers, dancers and musicians because most of the venues are designed for both. Because Viking Sea is a ship focused on destinations, and therefore pulls into ports early, many of the bars and lounges empty out early, and most of them close before midnight. You'll rarely have to deal with crowds.
Viking Bar (Deck 1): The bar itself is fairly small, but it serves The Living Room, a two-deck lounge, which feels a lot like, well, a living room. The centerpiece of The Living Room is the expansive central staircase, which climbs over a colorful geometric art piece, made from lichen and stone to replicate the moss that grows in Norway. At the top of the staircase is a huge digital screen, which displays photos of the destination to which the ship is heading. For example, a visit to Rome might show a photo of the Coliseum; later in the day, it might change to Trevi Fountain. The Living Room is one of the most comfortable spots onboard, and people gather here casually all day and into the night.
Square-backed chairs, with plenty of throw pillows and blankets, fill both the upper and lower levels of The Living Room, and side tables -- with outlets for charging devices, which we love -- are plentiful. During the day, it's a great place to relax and chat or read a book. (Books are plentiful in The Living Room.) At night, it's a great place to meet for a pre- or post-dinner drink. Ahead of dinner, you might catch a classical trio; after dinner, a guitarist might perform.
Torshavn (Deck 2): Where the rest of Viking Sea is all about playing with natural light and bright, lofty space, Torshavn stands in stark contrast. With no windows, Torshavn is designed to feel a bit like a speakeasy. Wood here is dark, as is the bar and some of the fabrics on the banquets and chairs. The bar hosts the ship's cabaret-style shows, such as "The Rat Pack" and "Les Artistes," but because of the small size of the venue, tickets are required. (They're free, but you must visit guest services to get them.) The house band plays here every night. Torshavn serves high-end wines and Armagnac, a brandy, in addition to cocktails and spirits. Once a cruise, the space hosts an Armagnac and chocolate tasting ($25 to $35 per person, depending on whether you opt to try the 1960 Armagnac, which otherwise costs $75 per pour). This is the late-night spot onboard, generally staying open longer than all other lounges, and is the only spot for dancing.
Theater Bar (Deck 2): Adjacent to the theater, this bar is only open during events such as performances and lectures. It serves beverages -- and popcorn during movies.
Aquavit Bar (Deck 7): A carryover from the line's river ships, the Aquavit Bar is tucked away behind The World Cafe. It's much busier when the weather is nice and the doors are opened to the outdoors. It's open from early in the morning to around 10 p.m. and is especially busy at mealtimes.
Explorers' Lounge (Decks 7 and 8): The lounge, which spans two decks at the front of Viking Sea, is full of light -- and life -- all day long. It's one of the premier spots on the ship and for good reason. You could spend hours perusing the book titles that line the navy blue shelving units or looking at photos and paintings. The loft space upstairs feels a bit like a library or museum, with comfortable cushioned leather or fabric chairs, and wood and glass tables. Passengers often sit here reading, napping or just watching the waves. Take some time to look at the display on Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.
The larger space downstairs feels more like a cafe and bar. This is where you'll find Mamsen's, so a half-dozen tables are set for dining. There's also plenty of seating; marble, wood and glass tables; a reading nook; faux fireplace; and large bar. During the day, the Explorers' Lounge hosts events like trivia. At night, a pianist performs.
Pool Bar (Deck 7): The main pool bar serves passengers sitting poolside or eating at the Pool Grill. The pool gets quiet once everyone heads to dinner, and service stops about then, except on nights when there is poolside entertainment, such as a movie or cabaret-style show.
Wintergarden Conservatory (Deck 7): One of the most beautiful areas onboard Viking Sea, the Wintergarden is bright and airy, with floor-to-ceiling glass doors that separate it from the adjacent pool. When the weather is nice, the doors are opened wide, creating a fantastic indoor-outdoor space. Columns are covered in light wood, which extends to the ceiling to cover the mechanics of the retractable pool roof. For those sitting in the couches and armchairs, it feels like trees are growing overhead.
Tea is served every day at 4 p.m., and it's a fun, traditional affair. Viking Sea has more than a dozen tea options from which to choose, and waiters and waitresses bring passengers three-tiered trays filled with finger sandwiches and pastries. Scones, too, are served -- hot and fresh -- with clotted cream and jam.
Viking Sea has a main pool, located in the center of the ship on Deck 7. The pool area is serene, with plenty of lounge chairs and seating nooks in the sun or shade. We love that there are small tables nearly everywhere, so you don't have to battle for a spot for your drink or book. Towels as well as full-length blankets are abundant to use while poolside. Service is excellent here; you won't sit long before being approached for a drink order. The pool is flanked by a long, narrow hot tub. The entire area can be covered by a retractable roof, which is closed during inclement weather and at night.
A second, smaller pool and hot tub are located at the very back of the ship on Deck 7 -- literally, the very back; this infinity pool almost hangs from the ship. Though seldom used, perhaps because it is so close to diners at the Aquavit Terrace, the pool is excellent. It's heated, and the views are unbeatable. While it's designed as an infinity pool, it was rarely filled to the top on our cruise. There's no shade here, and surrounding loungers are usually in full sun.
The whole of Deck 8 pretty much serves as a sun deck, with loungers located all the way around the deck. At the back of the ship, you'll find seating areas with couches, chairs and sunbeds. You won't get much shade, but you won't fight for seating, either. A small portion of Deck 8 is open to smokers.
There's also a small seating area on Deck 9, where you'll also find shuffleboard, a putting green and bocce ball green. Competitive Baggo, a beanbag toss game, is offered during pleasant weather.
Viking Sea's excursion desk and guest services space are located on Deck 1, in The Living Room, and future cruises can be booked with a consultant on Deck 2. A medical center is located on the lowest deck (Deck A).
Viking has a small Internet cafe, also located on Deck 1, but Wi-Fi is available -- and free -- throughout the ship. You can find electronic game tables -- play air hockey or blackjack (for fun, not cash) -- on Deck 2. These tables can be covered with padded tabletops and used for a real game of cards; bridge games break out regularly here. This is also where you'll find board games, such as Scrabble or chess.
The Viking Heritage Museum, located on Deck 2, provides a small glimpse into Norwegian history along with replicas of clothing and jewelry.
Viking has several small shops on decks 1 and 2, where you can buy jewelry, snacks, Viking logo items and necessities. One shop specializes in Norwegian brands, selling high-end wool sweaters, toys, books, ornaments and jewelry.
Each passenger deck has a self-service launderette; machines include laundry detergent. Sea days, particularly those near the end of a journey, are the busiest days, and the dryer cycles are long. If you'd prefer not to wait, do your laundry when others are ashore or first thing in the morning.
Viking Sea has no true library, but there are books aplenty throughout the ship: in the Living Room, Explorers' Lounge, even the Wintergarden. No need to check them out. Just grab and go (and remember to return them before you head home).
Viking Sea's LivNordic Spa is one of the most inclusive we've seen on a cruise ship. The highlight is the thermal suite, which is open -- and complimentary -- to all passengers regardless of whether they've booked a spa treatment. The suite is beautiful, and all elements in it are based on the Nordic bathing concept of alternating hot and cold treatments. The unique feature is the snow grotto, a small, glass-enclosed room that is filled with ice shavings (that really do replicate snow). Go in the morning if you want to take advantage of the fresh "snowfall." As the day goes on, and more people use the facility, the floor can get slippery, so wear the spa-provided slippers. Benches are available for seating, but bring along a towel to serve as a buffer between your skin and the cold surfaces (and to prevent your bathing suit from sticking). Visit the snow room after spending time in the steam sauna for an experience that is surprisingly refreshing and invigorating.
The thermal suite also includes two therapy showers. (Note the shower with the bucket on a chain is filled with ice-cold water; we watched as several passengers tried it out and were surprised by the chill.) A thalassotherapy pool, where passengers can relax in warm, bubbly water, gets pretty busy on sea days but is never full. There's also an adjacent hot tub. Padded lounge chairs surround the pool, while four ceramic heated loungers are available as well. The thermal suite, including the steam room and snow grotto, is unisex.
If you'd rather not use the unisex facilities, the men's and women's changing room each have their own hot/cold options: a dry sauna and a cold-plunge pool. The changing rooms are small but well designed. The lockers, which can be open and closed using your keycard, are stocked with robe, slippers and towel, and they also have a large tray that can be used to store smaller items that otherwise could be easily misplaced, such as watches, rings and cell phones. An attendant is almost always on hand to make sure lockers are cleaned out and restocked. The changing room also serves as the pickup point for those having spa treatments.
Spa treatments include a variety of massages, such as detox, Swedish or deep tissue, as well as facials. The space includes a salon for haircuts and styling as well as manicures and pedicures. A small barbershop is tucked between the salon and the fitness center, offering men beard trims and haircuts. Treatments are priced at about what you'd pay on land at a high-end spa. Fifty-minute massages start at $139, and 80-minute treatments begin at $189. Manicures start at $59 for a 50-minute session. Hairstyling starts at $55 for a wash and blow dry for short hair. A beard trim is $29.
The spa is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The fitness center on Viking Sea is located adjacent to the spa. It's a long, relatively narrow space that offers a variety of cardiovascular equipment such as treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bicycles as well as TechnoGym weight machines and free weights. It also has a small fitness studio for classes such as TRX and yoga. Classes are $10 each (or five for $40) and offered once a day. Personal training also is available for $79 per 50-minute session for one-on-one time, or $129 for two people.
It's a fairly small fitness complex, and during peak times, it feels tight; passengers have to find creative ways to work around one another, particularly in the free-weight area, where weight benches are close together. It leads to some polite frustration. You also might have to wait to use a cardio machine. To avoid the crowds, skip the gym early in the morning before the ship is in port, right after lunch or any time in the morning on sea days. Passengers onboard our sailing were active, no matter their age, and the space couldn't adequately handle the volume, which is a shame in an otherwise stellar spa and fitness complex.
The equipment itself offers a decent variety. Dumbbells go up to 20 kilograms. (Worth noting: All weights and weight machines are measured in kilograms and all cardio equipment measures distances in kilometers.) Weight machines target the major muscle groups (legs, chest and back), and you'll find a number of fitness balls, yoga mats and BOSU balls, too.
The gym is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The ship has a jogging track on Deck 2, which wraps the entire ship. Four laps around equals a mile. While the track is wide along the sides of the ship, it narrows at the front as it passes between the theater and mechanical space and the back, where you'll have to navigate outdoor tables from the restaurant. It has some slopes and odd angles, and you'll share the space with walkers. Still, the views are hard to beat. Plus, its location -- lower on the ship -- makes it less prone to rocking. You can also get your weight workout in outdoors; Viking Sea offers body-weight and cardio equipment by The Great Outdoor Gym Company on Deck 9. It's seldom used, and provides a decent body-weight workout (and even better scenery).
Viking Sea is geared toward adults; as such, it features no facilities or programming for children. The minimum age to sail is 18.