My wife Natalie (her website is OhTravelissima.com) and I just disembarked Viking’s new ocean cruise ship, Viking Sea, a few days ago in Le Havre (a two-hour train ride or three-hour drive from Paris). Viking Sea is the second of six ocean cruise ships currently planned for the fleet. I was on the first one, Viking Star, last year. Everyone thinks of Viking for their river cruises but their new ocean ships are amazing—so amazing, in fact, that Viking Star was named Cruise Critic’s Best New Ocean Ship of 2015.
Viking’s Ocean Ships
Viking Star and Viking Sea are pretty much identical except for the artwork and an app so the story I wrote last year—”23 Reasons to Sail on Viking Ocean Cruises: Viking Star“—is still pertinent to Viking Sea. To add to the excitement, Viking just announced that their third and fourth ships, Viking Sky and Viking Sun will be in service next year and the latter one is going to sail a 141-day, around-the-world itinerary! Here’s the story. The two remaining yet-to-be-named ships will be delivered in 2018 and 2020.
Viking Sea has 465 cabins, can accommodate 930 passengers and will spend the summer sailing around Scandinavia and the Baltic. Most of Viking Sea’s Itineraries are 10 or 15 days long but since we were pressed for time (I had to meet my dad at the Kentucky Derby), Natalie and I only spent five nights onboard the ship. It was only the ship’s second sailing so it still had that brand new smell and feel.
We boarded the ship in Lisbon and disembarked in Le Havre but the paying passengers boarded in Barcelona and disembarked in Bergen, Norway. Our itinerary was as follows:
Friday, April 29
Saturday, April 30
8am to 4pm
Sunday, May 1
8am to 6pm
Monday, May 2
Day at sea
Tuesday, May 3
8am to 11pm
Wednesday, May 4
Le Havre (two hours outside of Paris), France
Arrived at 6am
Full Disclosure: Viking invited us along with several other journalists to experience the ship and we were treated just like the regular paying passengers except Viking took care of our transportation, tips, gave us $500 credit to be used towards excursions or spa treatments, upgraded us to their Silver Spirits Beverage Package (it includes complimentary assorted hot teas and specialty coffees anytime, as well as house wines, beers and soft drinks with onboard lunches and dinners) and put us in a middle category cabin (Penthouse Veranda). Viking Sea has five room categories and size, services and amenities differ for each one but you can see their website for full details.
As you can see, the lowest category stateroom are the Verandas at 270 square feet of space. Ours had 338 and the Explorer Suite has 757. All staterooms have balconies, king-size beds with luxury linens, large showers, luxury toiletries, heated bathroom floors and large interactive flat-screen LCD TVs with movies-on-demand.
If you read my post 23 Reasons to Sail on Viking Ocean Cruises then you will see why these ships are such an amazing experience. However, it’s the little things that can make or break a trip and Viking Sea does a fantastic job with the little things. Here are the 10 small but cool things that make Viking sea stand out above the rest (in no particular order).
Plenty of Power Outlets
Usually when you go on a cruise, you have to bring all kinds of electrical adapters and extension cords because the cabin has only one outlet. Not on Viking Sea. Not only do they have multiple outlets but they have them for both U.S. and European style plugs, as well as USB charging ports.
Heated Bathroom Floors
Even when it’s hot outside, although it wasn’t, it’s awfully nice to wake up in the morning and walk into a bathroom with heated floors. They’re so nice that we made sure not to wear our slippers in the bathroom.
Movies Under the Stars with Headphones
There’s nothing new about offering movies under the stars (or sunroof when it’s cold). But I’ve never seen a cruise offer passengers headphones (Bose, at that!) so they can hear every word and not disturb the other passengers who have no interest in watching a film.
Even with the complimentary 24-hour room service it’s nice to know that for those who need their coffee right away (and I mean right away!) there’s an in-suite coffee brewer in four of the five stateroom categories.
Even if you are on a 15- or 29-day itinerary, you don’t have to bring a lot of clothes. That’s because Viking Sea offers launderettes with three washing machines and dryers on each of the three stateroom floors. There’s no charge to use them and you don’t even have to touch the detergent since it’s automatically added.
Onboard Viking Guide
An app-like experience available for smartphone download, the onboard Viking Guide is a walking tour of the ship that can be done at a guest’s leisure. The guide offers insightful commentary from Viking Sea Godmother Karine Hagen, as well as a variety of curators and experts, about the artwork and other features onboard.
Don’t Have to Wait Long for Food
The waiters take orders on iPhones so you don’t have to wait long for your food. As soon as they tap in the order, it’s being worked on in the back so you don’t have to worry about them being a social butterfly at the table next to you.
Shampoo and Conditioner
Since I don’t have a lot of hair it doesn’t really matter if I use top of the line shampoo or an old bar of soap to wash my hair. However, my wife is fortunate not to have that problem and one of her big complaints are hotel conditioners. No complaints here as they use Freyja products. She also appreciated the strong hairdryer, too.
Everyone knows that enclosed environments like cruise ships are a haven for outbreaks of the Norovirus. It amazes me that some cruise lines don’t have more anti-bacterial machines onboard or encourage passengers to use them. Not on Viking Sea. At both entrances to the World Café, friendly greeters make sure everyone uses the hand sanitizers before walking in.
No one likes walking around with a wet swimsuit and you’re going to want to swim in one of Viking Sea’s pools – especially the spa pools. I was curious to see a contraption that was called the Suitmate swimsuit water extractor. You load your suit and close the lid and in 8 seconds it removes 95% of a suit’s water. It’s pretty cool and I see you can buy one on Amazon.com for $1,700.
There weren’t a lot of negatives but these are the ones that got my goat:
-Viking’s policy is no announcements in cabins, which I love, but they made one at 8am to let everyone know we would be delayed by 45 minutes due to the strong winds the night before (it was rough). No one was bothered by this but me since we weren’t planning on going on the Porto tour and my pregnant wife was trying to sleep. They also made another announcement when one of the passengers didn’t show up before returning so they paged her name just in case she was in someone else’s cabin. She wasn’t. She had apparently just lost track of time while shopping.
-Windows in the staterooms should have been a bit larger to allow for more natural sunlight.
-The button to flush the toilet is behind the seat cover so you have to touch the toilet lid every time to flush.
-If you have noisy neighbors you can hear them and their TV. We heard a couple on one side but no one on the other.
-Just like the first ship, the floor in the spa by the men’s locker always seems to be wet. They put one of the plunge pools next to it so it’s difficult to get dressed or undressed without getting your clothes wet.
-The men’s slippers in the spa only come in one size and don’t fit my size 13 feet.
Good to Know
-Viking Ocean doesn’t allow children under 16 (on their river cruises, it’s under 12)
-The ship’s WiFi is free and it’s solid unless you use Gmail. My wife uses Gmail and had problems accessing it but I use Outlook and had no problems.
-Even if you have an international cell phone plan, turn off data while at sea.
-Viking Sea has fresh squeezed orange juice but you have to ask for it in the morning. If you just ask for OJ, they will bring you the regular juice from concentrate.
From now through May 31, 2016, Viking is offering U.S. residents a 2016 Special Savings Discount with free air from 150 cities, plus up to $1,000 off per couple. For more information, visit vikingcruises.com or if you’d rather speak to an agent, we’ve partnered with Cruise Planners—a top-rated travel agency—to help you plan your perfect trip. Contact Mike Gelman (1-800-724-5868 FREE) and tell him Johnny Jet sent you!
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