A cruise on Viking Sky includes at least one excursion per passenger in each port. Most of the included excursions involve some type of coach tour into the heart of the port you're visiting, so if you're looking for the highlights, these tours are a solid option. Included tours generally are led by English-speaking guides -- often local to the city or region -- and require light walking. They combine historic, architectural or artistic highlights with stops for photos and some time on your own. A tour in Tunis might start with a trip to the Carthage ruins; visit a village, where passengers have time for some mint tea at a cafe or souvenir shopping; and finish at the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial.
Those looking for more active or in-depth discovery might prefer Viking's additional-fee excursions, which tend to focus on one of the key highlights of an area rather than cover broader ground. For example, you might visit the underground caves in Palma de Mallorca or the village of Sidi Bou Said in Tunisia. Prices for Viking's excursions are surprisingly affordable compared with other cruise line offerings; most of Viking's tours run less than $100 per person. These, too, are led by English-speaking expert guides who know the area well.
* May require additional fees
All tours are scheduled to get passengers back onboard for mealtimes (unless meals are built into them), and the bulk of them are half-day excursions, though a handful of full-day options are available in ports such as Naples and Valencia.
Not surprisingly, the line's for-fee offerings generally are better than the included ones. Group sizes for these excursions are smaller, and some of them get exclusive access to treasured or historic sites. They also are more creative, with fun options like "Pizzas and Piazzas" in Naples or "Canoeing and Paella" in Valencia.
Excursions can -- and should -- be booked before you sail through your travel agent or in Viking's online reservation system. If the tour comes with a fee, you will be charged for it when you book it; if you cancel more than 48 hours ahead of the tour, the fee will be refunded. Because of the destinations Viking Sky visits, where cobblestone streets, for example, are common, not all tours are able to accommodate those with mobility issues, though some coaches are equipped to handle wheelchairs. Check with your travel agent or Viking ahead of your sailing, or speak with the shore excursions team when you board.
Gratuities are not included in excursions, and while they're not required, they're definitely appreciated. If you plan to tip, a good guideline is two euros per person for the guide and another euro or two for the coach driver.
Viking Sky's excursion desk is located on Deck 1, off The Viking Living Room. Concierges here can provide more detail on tours as well as arrange private excursions, like dinner reservations in port. Viking supplies bottles of water for your shore excursions.
Viking Sky tour guides communicate with passengers using a QuietVox system: Guides speak into microphones that are linked to boxes with earpieces provided to each passenger. Passenger receivers are found in each cabin, and passengers are responsible for charging and remembering to bring the devices.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Viking has never called itself an entertainment leader; in fact, those who work for the line call it "the thinking man's cruise, not the drinking man's cruise." As such, much of the focus is on destinations and enrichment, rather than onboard entertainment. (The ship doesn't even have a casino.) Still, Viking Sky offers a decent amount of entertainment, mostly at night, as the ship spends almost every day in port.
The main theater, called the Star Theater, hosts the ship's production shows. While the talent is high, the shows are generally weak. Skip these and instead check out the entertainers in smaller venues, like Torshavn or on the pool deck for the ship's popular "Long & Winding Road" Beatles tribute. The theater itself, located on Deck 3 forward, is a cool space, with seating in deep chairs or banquettes. Decorated in shades of deep blue and light beige, the venue feels like a comfortable living space, thanks to casual touches like throw pillows and flameless candles. At the back of the theater, you'll find two cinemas, one on each side of the entrance. In the cinemas, which can close off to the rest of the theater, passengers can watch destination insights and seminars as well as Ted Talks. Popcorn is served when movies are shown on the cinema screens.
In the evening, you might find live music virtually anywhere on the ship: in the atrium/Living Room, in the bars and lounges and even the pool deck. Music might include a pianist, string quartet, acoustic guitarist or tribute band. Dancing space is available wherever you find music. The main pool deck is transformed into a comfortable outdoor movie theater some nights, and passengers listen along via Bose headphones, provided for use during the show. This is a great touch, as it can be difficult to hear movies played over ship speakers while the vessel is moving. (Or, you can retire to your cabin and watch any of the solid selection of on-demand -- free! -- movies on your TV.) A captain's welcome reception takes place after dinner early in the cruise.
During the day, you might find tastings for martinis, wine or Armagnac; expect to pay an extra fee for each. There was a dearth of trivia -- a cruise ship staple -- on our sailing, but board games, cards and a community puzzle got some use.
Viking Sky's enrichment offerings generally are tied to the destinations the ship visits, so expect port discussions that focus on history and culture. Titles might include things like "Island-hopping with the Hero Odysseus" and "Mediterranean Wetlands at Risk." Lectures tend to be timed to the day before a ship visits a port, if it's port specific, and they take place after the daily excursions, so attendance is moderate. Quality of the lectures vary, depending on who's speaking. Viking Sky also hosts Ted Talks at its cinemas -- or you can watch them in-cabin on-demand. Most lectures take place in the Star Theater.
The ship also offers a self-guided art tour; just hook up your smartphone or tablet to some headphones and the ship's Wi-Fi to learn about the beautiful pieces that adorn the ship.
Because a cruise on Viking Sky means lots of early mornings in port, nightlife onboard tends to shut down pretty early. But that doesn't mean there isn't any. Bars and lounges host live music and dancing, as well as quieter pursuits. There's enough variety to suit most tastes, and the ship's beer, wine and spirits lists are expansive. For the most part, you'll find ample seating and terrific service from bartenders and wait staff.
Viking Bar (Deck 1): Located adjacent to The Viking Living Room, the Viking Bar is quiet during the day but heats up at night, when live music and dancing are going on. It's also a great spot for a pre-meal drink, thanks in part to its proximity to four restaurants. There's not a lot of seating, but it's not needed; people tend to grab drinks and sit on couches or chairs around tables in The Viking Living Room.
Torshavn (Deck 2): The liveliest bar onboard, Torshavn is dark and hip, with seating arranged around a stage using comfortable chairs and deep booths. You'll catch some of the better entertainment onboard here, and dancing is common. If you're trying to see "The Rat Pack," for example, you'll need a ticket -- free at guest services. This ensures the space doesn't get overcrowded. Torshavn serves high-end wines, Armagnac and cocktails. It opens in the evening and stays open later than the other bars on the ship.
Theater Bar (Deck 2): This bar is located outside the theater. You can grab a beverage -- and for movies, popcorn -- on the way in. It offers no seating and is open only immediately before and during events in the theater.
Aquavit Bar (Deck 7): Aquavit Bar is located at the back of The World Cafe. It primarily serves as a spot for waiters to pick up drinks for passengers at lunchtime. While it stays open in the evening after dinner, it is quiet.
Explorers' Lounge (Decks 7 and 8): Our favorite space, the Explorers' Lounge is a beautiful spot at the bow of the ship that spans two decks and has floor-to-ceiling windows. (Two sweeping glass staircases divide the decks.) The lounge is decorated in serene blues, with knickknacks befitting explorers -- telescopes, maps, leather-bound books and replicas of axes and spearheads. You actually will want to spend time exploring here, discovering the hidden treasures among the shelves, tables and displays. During the day, it's a spot to flop down, eat waffles, drink coffee, read a book and watch the horizon. Passengers stretch out in the cushy couches, with faux fur blankets in front of the water-mist "fire." At night, though, it transforms from light, airy lounge to celestial-themed haven. (We adore the constellations projected on the walls between decks 7 and 8 as well as the galaxies that light up the entryway.) The half-circle bar features limited seating -- bar chairs here tend to fill up fast -- but waiters provide service to the lounge so you aren't stuck standing. Most nights a pianist entertains, and there's a small dance floor that is sporadically used.
Pool Bar (Deck 7): The Pool Bar serves passengers on the pool deck. For the most part, passengers choose to sit on loungers and be waited on rather than walk over to the bar itself. Once people head to dinner, the bar shuts down, except when there are late-night events around the pool.
Wintergarden Conservatory (Deck 7): Decorated in bright whites with light shades of wood, including an extravagant ceiling design meant to mimic a forest canopy, the Wintergarden is a space that will take your breath away the first time you see it. It's flat-out beautiful. It features folding glass doors that are opened when weather cooperates, expanding the space into the pool area. Our biggest gripe about the Wintergarden is it's underutilized. Beyond the daily afternoon tea service held here, it's virtually a ghost town. There's no bar service, nor are there other events during the day or into the evening.
Viking Sky features two pools. The main pool -- the largest -- is located on Deck 7, under a sliding-glass magrodome that opens when weather is pleasant and quietly closes when it's not. A large, rectangular hot tub sits at the end of the pool. The pool area is simply gorgeous, with light tiles and mosaic work, green plants, wood accents and an intricate metal screen that sets it off from the buffet restaurant, providing privacy and peace. The main pool is surrounded by an adequate number of mesh-covered lounge chairs, and crew members make sure towels are replaced regularly. White, padded lounge chairs and small sofas and chairs flank the windows on each side of the ship, and these are filled with passengers reading or quietly chatting. At night and in cool weather, blankets are provided. (We also love the lighting effect over the padded chairs; lights are designed to look like stars shining from above.)
You'll find more casual seating -- on couches as well as wicker chairs -- near the Pool Grill and Pool Bar, and adjacent to the Wintergarden, which features floor-to-ceiling glass doors that occasionally are folded open to create one continuous space.
The second pool is a heated infinity pool that sits at the very back of the ship on Deck 7. The pool and the adjacent hot tub, which feature mosaic tiles, are part of the Aquavit Terrace, an outdoor spot where many passengers sit to eat lunch or dinner when weather is good. It does mean that if you are going to be using the pool, you might have a bit of an audience. That said, we gave it a try on our sailing and it didn't feel awkward (though most passengers were in port when we swam). The pool blends well with the chill vibe of the Aquavit Terrace, and passengers can lounge on the mesh chairs that flank the pool. The infinity pool tends to see significantly less use than the main pool, perhaps in part because there is no relief from the sun here. If you want shade, head to the main pool.
If you want sun but don't care about pools, head up to Deck 8, which features numerous lounge chairs, couches and sunbeds. Smoking is permitted on a small spot on Deck 8.
Deck 9 also features additional seating, as well as a putting green, shuffleboard court and bowling green.
Viking Sky's Living Room on Deck 1 is designed to look and feel like a comfortable Scandinavian living room, and it succeeds, with lots of bookshelves, couches and chairs with beautiful throw blankets, desks and books. (One bit we love: Lots of outlets and USB ports are built into the furniture, so you can read and charge your tablet at the same time.) The Viking Living Room is so comfy, you might not notice it's actually the primary guest services spot. This is where you'll find the reception desk as well as the shore excursion desk. A discreet internet cafe also is located here, but because Viking offers decent -- free! -- Wi-Fi throughout the ship, it's not often used. The cafe sees the most action the day before disembarkation, when passengers are checking into their post-cruise flights.
The Viking Living Room vibe extends to Deck 2, which has an open atrium with views of the wide, sweeping staircase that separates the levels. Deck 2 also serves as a game area, with electronic game tables so passengers can play games like backgammon and blackjack. Padded covers allow passengers to play card or board games here as well. Passengers can spend time on Deck 2 in the small Viking Heritage Museum, a compact-but-clever homage to the Viking era, with replicas of traditional clothing and tools. While the ship doesn't have a true library, you will find plenty of spaces to plop down and read, and books are found everywhere, including The Viking Living Room, the Wintergarden and the Explorers' Lounge. Just replace them when you're finished.
A variety of shops are located on decks 1 and 2. Here, passengers can buy Viking logo items, snacks and toiletries, along with gorgeous high-end sweaters, ornaments, watches and jewelry. Looking for a gift for the kids? We love the cute educational books about Finse, the traveling pooch, written by Karine Hagen (Viking's senior vice president).
Self-service launderettes are located on decks 3 through 6, and the machines are free to use. Soap is included, but pack some dryer sheets if you'd like a fluffy load. A medical center is located on the ship's Deck A.
Passengers who need private conference space will find it in the private dining rooms off Manfredi's and The Chef's Table. In each space, a large piece of artwork masks a large screen that can be hooked up to computers. There's also a camera for video conferencing. Meeting rooms are complimentary during non-restaurant hours. Larger groups can reserve Cinema 1 and Cinema 2, which also have private screens. Reservations for all spaces can be made via Guest Services once onboard the ship.
Viking Sky's LivNordic spa is unquestionably one of the best at sea. The main attraction is the gorgeous thermal suite, a serene space created to highlight the Nordic bath ritual, which combines cold and hot treatments in a cycle designed, proponents say, to relax, detoxify and invigorate. The thermal suite includes a large, wonderfully warm, deep thalassotherapy pool, which features various benches, spouts and jets to soothe muscles. You'll also find a steam sauna and jetted hot tub. Cold therapy options include a "bucket dump" shower, which (you guessed it!) dumps a large bucket of icy water on you when you masochistically pull the attached chain, and a snow grotto. Viking Sky's snow grotto, a small, glass-enclosed room, features real snow, created fresh each morning (the best time of day to go if you want the fluffy stuff). The grotto includes two benches, which are covered in snow (so bring a towel for sitting -- seriously), and a little space for standing. The room, which gets slippery especially later in the day after more people have tamped down the snow, also has several grab bars for keeping everyone upright. Passengers who just want to hang out and relax can melt into one of the thermal suite's heated ceramic or padded loungers. The thermal suite is unisex.
Worth noting are the spa's thoughtfully designed men's and women's changing rooms, each of which includes a dry sauna and cold pool. Changing rooms include lockers, which are locked by your key card and include a tray for small, easily lost items like jewelry. The room also includes amenities for post-treatment pampering (lotions, hair gel and the like) and a swimsuit dryer, that spins out excess water from your wet clothes.
The spa is run by Sweden-based company LivNordic, and offers a variety of treatments, from basic Swedish massage to LED body contouring and hydrafacial. The spa's mostly Swedish team also are specialists in Nordic treatments, so sign up for the ship's Sauna Night, offered once a cruise, for a guided bathing ritual. You also can purchase a bathing kit, which includes a face exfoliant, body brush and face mask along with instructions on when to use each item in relation to the hot and cold treatments.
The spa features blissfully quiet treatment rooms as well as a salon, where you can have your hair done or get a mani/pedi. Men can get shaves, haircuts and even waxing.
Across the board, treatments are fairly expensive -- expect to pay about what you'd pay at a high-end resort on land -- but we were impressed by the quality of our deep-tissue massage. Deals are offered every day; you can get the discount by booking that day, even if you don't undergo the treatment until a later date. Tipping is discretionary; it's not built into the price, but you can add a gratuity, charged to your onboard account, after your treatment.
The ship's fitness center is located right next to the salon and is well-incorporated into the spa complex. Sky's fitness center, the largest in the Viking fleet, is excellent. It includes a variety of cardiovascular fitness machines, such as treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bikes, as well as a sizable selection of TechnoGym weight machines. Sky offers a surprisingly large amount of equipment, too, including dumbbells up to 25 kilograms, fitness balls, yoga mats, Pilates accessories and BOSU balls. There's a small studio space where a limited number of classes, such as TRX and yoga, take place; it doubles as a stretching area. Classes carry an additional fee. Sky offers roughly one class a day. Passengers can also hire onboard personal trainers at a rate of $79 for a 60-minute, one-on-one session, or $129 for a two-person session.
Passengers who want to take their workout outdoors can hit the jogging track, which wraps around the entirety of Deck 2. Each lap is about a quarter-mile, and you'll run in shade -- a real treat when the summer sun is blazing.
Children must be at least 18 years old to sail on Viking Sky. The ship offers no programming or exclusive spaces for teens.