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CruiseReportViking Ocean Cruises Viking Sea4A cruise review of Viking Ocean Cruises Viking Sea in Mediterranean
 
 
by C. Dikmen and
R. Richardson
 
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  Viking Sea   Editorial
 
Viking Sea Review
 
April 2017
 
Reviewer Rates This Cruise
 
Itinerary: Barcelona, Barcelona, At Sea, Malaga, Cadiz (at sea), Lisbon, Porto, A Cornuña, At Sea, Cherbourg read cruise blog

We occasionally have the opportunity to experience a brand new cruise ship. But, we rarely have the opportunity to review a brand new cruise brand. Of course, we have sailed on many Viking River cruises, but never on a Viking Ocean cruise. Now, you could argue that since Viking Ocean launched in 2013, it is no longer a new cruise line. However, it is new to us. And, just over three years old is relatively new in the cruise industry. When the opportunity presented itself for us to spend eight nights aboard Viking Sea sailing from Barcelona to Cherbourg, we did not hesitate.



We are familiar with how Viking Cruises dominates the river cruise industry in Europe with their new Viking Longships. And, we have previously reported on the revolutionary design of those Longships. We naturally assumed that Viking would carry some of those design cues into their ocean ships. But, we wondered if a cruise line known for dealing with 150 guests on a riverboat could make the transition to a 900+ guest vessel?

The Ship

Aperturent.com Camera and Lens RentalViking Sea is the second of three identical sister ships, with Viking Sky being a year newer. Viking Sea was launched in 2015, so basically, she has had about two years in service as of the date of our sailing. However, to look at her, you would swear she just sailed out of the shipyard. Everything from exterior paint to carpeting and furnishings has been immaculately maintained and looks brand new. At roughly 48,000 tons, she can carry up to 930 guests with a crew complement of 550. That is one of the highest crew-to-guest ratios in the industry.

Those familiar with Viking River Cruises' Longships will feel right at home with the Scandinavian/Norwegian decor of Viking Sea. Copious use of beige leather, light-colored wood and floor coverings give the entire ship a very luxurious, contemporary feel. The meticulous selection of quality materials is evident on every surface you see. Where most cruise lines use chrome or brass, Viking has opted for luxurious wood surfaces. There is no space on the ship that feels cheap or neglected. In short, this is one of the most beautiful ships on which we have sailed.



As with true Scandinavian design, form follows function. So, while the ship is beautiful, it employs many innovations that cannot go unmentioned. The use of technology throughout the ship is impressive. Interactive touch-screen monitors deliver information to guests in a user-friendly and intuitive manner.


Interactive touch-screens

There is an almost obvious use of technology that evokes thoughts of "why doesn't every cruise line do this?" One example is the display of the disembarkation deck on the monitors near the elevators and stairs.



Including a Gangway button in the elevators is genius! If you don't know where to disembark the vessel, simply press the Gangway button.



There are dozens of other examples of how technology has been integrated into the design of the ship to make the cruise experience unique, and, better. The real takeaway from this is how much thought and care has gone into the design of Viking Sea (and other Viking Ocean ships). It is obvious that the owner has taken a personal interest in every detail of the design and construction of the vessel.

Embarkation

Embarkation times on Viking Ocean vessels are staggered based upon stateroom/suite categories. Guests occupying higher (and more expensive) stateroom categories can embark and occupy their staterooms earlier. Our Deluxe Veranda suite had an embarkation time of noon with the ability to occupy our stateroom at 2:00pm. We saw no reason to rush to the pier in Barcelona and decided to show up at 2:00pm when we could occupy our stateroom. Since most guests had arrived much earlier, there was no line and we literally breezed through security at the port. Check-in took less than 10 minutes.


No crowds when embarking at 2:00pm

The entire embarkation process was very smooth and efficient. As soon as we boarded the ship, we were greeted with glasses of sparkling wine and invited to have lunch at the Pool Grill or in the World Cafe. You can read more about our embarkation here.

Accommodations

There are five categories of staterooms on Viking Cruises' vessels, six if you include the Owner's Suite on Deck 7. The base category is the Veranda, which is a generous (by cruise ship standards) 270 sq. ft. The Deluxe Veranda, which we occupied, is essentially the same stateroom as the Veranda, but with a few extra perks. The other categories range from 338 sq. ft. up to 757 sq. ft. for the Explorer Suite. Since we occupied the Deluxe Veranda, that is what we feel most qualified to talk about.

Our Deluxe Veranda Stateroom (4104) was located aft on Deck 4. The layout of the stateroom is pretty basic. As you enter from the hallway, you walk past the bathroom to the bedroom. At the entrance to the bedroom, you will find a wall unit with several dresser drawers, an electronic safe and an espresso/coffee machine.


Deluxe Veranda Staterooms include espresso machine

The overall decor of the ship is carried through to the stateroom through the use of light tones in the woods, furnishings and carpeting. The king-sized bed is comfortable enough, but not the most comfortable we have slept on. Linens and pillowcases are very high quality. The bed frame is high enough off the floor so that even the largest pieces of luggage can fit underneath. The "living room" has two chairs and a small coffee table.



The coffee table is covered in fabric and leather which looks very elegant, but is not impervious to spilled ketchup stains. Perhaps Viking considers it better to replace leather/cloth than it is to refinish or replace a wooden or marble tabletop? Regardless of the reason why that surface was chosen, it is very nice. There is a small desk/vanity on the opposite wall from the bed and chairs. The desk has a desk lamp that, upon closer inspection, contains five, yes FIVE, USB charging ports on its base! There are two US-style 110 outlets at the desk and a pair of Quietvox receivers in a charging base.



A pitcher of water and two glasses sits on the desk and is replenished daily. A large pull-out refrigerator drawer is stocked with soft drinks which are also replenished daily. The most innovative feature of the desk/vanity is the flip up, lighted vanity mirror with makeup storage area. It is a great idea, but when opened, the mirror part was positioned so low that Rickee had to bend over uncomfortably to see herself. This could be rectified with a lower desk chair perhaps? In addition, the lighted mirror was a little too far away to be practical for anyone whose vision is less than optimal. Nevertheless, this was a very cool and welcomed addition to the stateroom!


Innovative lighted makeup mirror integrated into desk

Each of the two nightstands also have US-style 110 outlets and two USB charging ports. Thank you Viking! Finally, I can keep my cell phone or iPad charged on my nightstand!


Electrical outlets and USB charging ports integrated into each nightstand. Genius.

Above each nightstand are light switches. One controls the bedside lamp while the smaller switch controls a convenient nightlight feature. If one person gets up in the middle of the night to say, go to the restroom, the nightlight provides a soft floor light in the hallway between the bedroom and bathroom, and a soft light in the bathroom as well. There is no need to disturb your sleeping partner in the middle of the night with a harsh light.


Closet lights turn off automatically when doors are closed

The closet is next to the bed and becomes part of the wall between the bedroom and bathroom, providing a small degree of sound insulation. The sliding doors on the closet employ soft-closing dampers to eliminate the annoyance of slamming closet doors. All drawers in the stateroom utilize similar technology to dampen sound. The bathroom is a nice size for a 270 sq. ft. stateroom and has a large sink, a very nice glass-enclosed shower stall and quality amenities.



All Viking ships now provide their own brand (Freyja) of soaps, lotions and shampoos. We found the quality to be very good.



There is ample storage space in the bathroom with two large drawers, three shelves on each end of the vanity and open cabinet space below the sink. But, Rickee's favorite feature of the bathroom was the heated floor, which heated the entire bathroom. You never have to step out of a warm shower and into a cold bathroom again! Very nice.

The veranda is smallish, but very usable with two chairs and a nice-sized table large enough for an al fresco breakfast.



Our only issue with our stateroom was the noisy balcony door. When the ship was underway, there was an annoying rattle coming from what appeared to be the frame of the door, not the door itself. It did not rattle all the time, but in certain sea conditions, it was just loud enough to make it difficult to sleep. We reported the noise to Guest Services and, almost immediately, a technician appeared to repair the door. We returned to our stateroom one night after dinner to find one of the assistant hotel managers in our stateroom with a technician working on the problem. Impressive service.



The stateroom also has a large flat-screen HD television mounted to the wall directly across from the bed with excellent programming choices. However, we did notice intermittent interruptions in the TV signal during our cruise.

Overall, we would rate the Deluxe Veranda Stateroom a 4.5 out of 5 as it is definitely one of the most comfortable staterooms, for its size, of any ship afloat.

Food and Dining

When it comes time to eat on Viking Sea, there are a lot of choices. And, all of them are good. The Restaurant on Deck 2 aft is Viking Sea's traditional cruise ship dining venue with a la carté menu service for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don't confuse The Restaurant on Viking Sea with the dining venue of the same name on Viking River's Longships. The Restaurant on Viking Sea (and all Viking Ocean ships) is a full menu-service restaurant with lunch and dinner menus that change daily.


Sample menu at The Restaurant

We only dined at The Restaurant twice: once for lunch and once for dinner. Both times, we were seated at a table for two. There are lots of two-top tables, but you may find yourself sitting between or very close to other two-top tables.


Tables set for two and four in The Restaurant

Service was very good in The Restaurant and we found the food to also be good. The evening menu offers a lot of variety and there is a nice "always available" selection.



Complimentary red and white wine are offered at lunch and dinner in The Restaurant, and in all dining venues for that matter. If you are wondering why we only dined in The Restaurant twice, it is mainly because it was so easy to just pop into World Cafe on Deck 7 aft. The World Cafe is Viking Sea's Lido buffet.



Now, you must understand something right up front. Neither Rickee nor I are big fans of cruise ship buffets. They tend to be overcrowded, and the food is usually bland, cold or both. But World Cafe is different. First, there are a lot of tables for two, and a lot of seating outdoors on the aft deck. And, in good weather, a large sliding glass door/wall can be opened to make the entire restaurant feel like a patio dining experience.


Indoor seating at World Cafe


Outdoor seating at World Cafe

For dining, there is a nice selection of salads, hot entrees, and sandwiches. You can opt for a choice of á la minute dishes prepared in an open-kitchen. On the port side of World Cafe, you will find the nicest selection of cold seafood (boiled shrimp, king crab legs, etc.) and fresh sushi and sashimi of any restaurant at sea. There were evenings when we just wanted a light dinner and would go to World Cafe for sushi and shrimp cocktail.


Fresh sushi every night at World Cafe

On starboard side aft, you will find freshly-made pizza at lunch and dinner. The pizza is quite good, especially when it is fresh out of the oven. Back on the port side aft is the location of the ice cream bar with at least five flavors, some of which change each day.


Good pizza at World Cafe (especially right out of the oven)

Unlike some ships where your dining options are limited to a restaurant and a buffet, Viking Sea offers some other compelling alternatives. The Chef's Table on Deck 1 aft, port side is one option that is well worth a try. The dégustation menu here offers five courses and changes every three days to a new menu. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to try two of the menus on our sailing, and both were exceptional. You can read a full review of The Chef's Table here.


Shu Mai dumpling starter served at The Chef's Table

If you walk directly from The Chef's Table to the other side of Viking Sea (starboard) you will find Manfredi's, Viking Sea's Italian restaurant. Unlike The Chef's Table, Manfredi's is an á la carte restaurant with a very extensive menu. Our mistake is that we only dined here one time -- a mistake we will not repeat on our next Viking Ocean cruise. I think I would go back on Viking Sea just to have the Rib Eye steak again, it was that good. Make sure you read our full review of Manfredi's on our Cruise Ship Dining Reviews blog.


Rickee checks out the extensive menu at Manfredi's

A popular lunch spot on Viking Sea is The Pool Grill on Deck 7 amidship. The Pool Grill is your basic burger, hot dog, sandwich grill. I tried the burger here on two occasions and left both times a little underwhelmed. The bun is way too big and the meat lacks seasoning. The quality of the meat is very good, but it needs a little help in the flavor department. Rickee's hot dog, on the other hand, was delicious and HUGE. The foot-long dog was grilled on a panini press, as was the bun once the dog was assembled. Fries were hot and fresh.



There is a buffet table at The Pool Grill with a variety of salads and a soup. Waitstaff circulate through the pool area taking drink orders. Soft drinks, wine and beer are complimentary at lunchtime throughout the ship. There are lots of tables set up on the pool deck for dining, some of which are protected from the sun and elements.

Viking Sea also offers guests 24-hour complimentary room service. We tried room service one day with mixed results. The hot soup we ordered was cold, and my steak was just so-so. The Italian Club Sandwich, however, was delicious. My recommendation: stick with the sandwiches on the room service menu. The food was delivered promptly, however.

Another interesting dining option on Viking Sea is Mamsen's located in the Explorers Lounge on Deck 7 forward, starboard. Mamsen's is sort of like a snack bar that is open at various times throughout the day. In the morning, guests wait in line for one of the fresh, made-to-order waffles. At lunchtime, you will find a variety of Norwegian specialties including sandwiches, smoked salmon and beef tartare.


Mamsen's

Viking Cruises has revived the traditional Afternoon Tea with one of the nicest presentations you will find anywhere. Each afternoon at 4:00pm, The Wintergarden (Deck 7) is the venue for a quite formal tea service, even though the dress code remains casual. A tiered tray of sweet and savory goodies is brought to each table along with warm scones. A wide variety of teas is offered.



And yes, we have saved the best for last. If you consider yourself to be a true foodie, you will have to reserve a spot at The Kitchen Table. For $199 per person, you can enjoy the ultimate culinary experience. We were extremely fortunate to be included at The Kitchen Table on our cruise (they only offer this once per cruise). You can read all about this incredible experience on our Cruise Ship Dining Reviews Blog.


The Kitchen Table is the ultimate dining experience at sea

Bars & Lounges


Explorers' Lounge Offers expansive ocean views

As with most cruise ships, there is no shortage of places on Viking Sea where guests can quench their thirst. In the Atrium (Decks 1, 2 and 3), you can enjoy your favorite beverage from The Viking Bar (Deck 1) while admiring the huge screen at the top of the grand staircase. The Pool Bar on Deck 7 amidship is the go-to spot for your favorite beverage when lounging poolside.



Our favorite spot was Explorers' Lounge on Deck 7 forward. Not only was it a great place for a pre-dinner cocktail, it was my early morning blog and coffee spot. The Aquavit Bar is located behind World Cafe on Deck 7 aft, and is a great place for a cocktail al fresco. Torshavn located on Deck 2 is open from 9:00pm until whenever and is the place for late night dancing, entertainment and cocktails.

Drink prices are comparable to prices on other cruise lines. The Viking Sparkling Wine is one of our favorite sparkling wines, and is a good value at $5.50. A finger of Crown Royal will set you back $8. Viking Cruises has a very good Silver Spirits package that gives you unlimited cocktails, beer, wine and soft drinks for about $22 per day/per person. So, in my case, three Crown Royals per day would make it a good value. Plus, you get the added benefit of not having to sign a ticket every time you order a drink.


Silver Spirits Package is a good value

Entertainment & Activities


Mezzo-Soprano, Heather Clancy, is Viking Sea's Cruise Director

We expected Viking Ocean to have a nice ship. We expected good food. We expected great shore excursions. What we did not expect was great entertainment. "Blown away" does not even begin to describe our reaction to the entertainment aboard Viking Sea.


Viking Sea Singers and Dancers

The three male and three female singers were all amazing in their own right. And, the production shows integrated technology in some unique and interesting ways. The singers and dancers are also capable actors in addition to their core talents.


Elaborate and well-choreographed production shows

All of the entertainment aboard Viking Sea comes under the purview of Cruise Director, Heather Clancy. An accomplished Mezzo-Soprano in her own right, Ms. Clancy has that rare combination of vocal talent and a sharp wit that make her uniquely qualified to be a top-notch cruise director. When Viking Sea missed a port call in Cadiz, Ms. Clancy had a new entertainment program put together in no time to keep guests entertained during the impromptu day at sea.


Cruise Director, Heather Clancy, greets guests in The Star Theater

In addition to production shows in The Star Theater, we were treated to two shows in Torshavn lounge: one featuring the male singers and the other featuring the female singers. Both shows were great.


Alexandra and Katrina entertain guests in Torshavn

The two ballroom dancers on board performed in
the productions shows, and in the Atrium during some special "pop-up" performances.


Petr and Jade perform in The Atrium
 
Ms. Clancy promised some lagniappes during the cruise, and she delivered. We were treated to several impromptu performances in The Atrium and Torshavn in addition to the well-r
ehearsed production shows.


Guests sit on the staircase in The Atrium to hear Alexandra perform

In addition to the cast of singers and dancers, musicians performed throughout the ship. At various times throughout the day, The Atrium would be filled with the sounds of Olga playing the piano, or the Viking Classical Trio.


Viking Classical Trio perform in The Atrium

When you sail on a ship with 3,000 to 5,000 guests, you expect quality entertainment. You know, the whole "economies of scale" thing. Viking Sea definitely punches way above its weight class in the entertainment department.

Shore Excursions

We expected the shore excursions on Viking Sea to be good. This is one area where all that experience as the largest river cruise company in the world can be easily leveraged. One characteristic of Viking River Cruises that has been brought to their ocean cruises is that every guest is offered an included excursion in every port. Of course, there are optional excursions available at additional cost, but the included excursion feature of Viking Cruises is a huge value.

We found the included excursions to be quite good with competent local guides. The two optional excursions we experienced were also very well executed, and actually, a good value. As is the case with the river cruise product, Viking provides each stateroom with Quietvox audio systems for use on local excursions. We have been singing the praises of these little transceivers for years and can't believe that every cruise line has not adopted them.


Quietvox audio systems are provided in every stateroom

Another huge benefit of a Viking shore excursion operation is the ability to book your excursions to depart at various times of the day. Many excursions are offered both in the morning and the afternoon which is great for those of us who like to sleep in, have lunch, then go on excursion.

Viking also provided complimentary local shuttle service in many of the ports we visited.

Staff and Crew


Senior staff take a moment for a photo op

Quite simply, this was one of the best crews with which we have ever sailed. It does not take long to realize that everyone working on the ship loves their job and really loves working for Viking Cruises. Sujith Mohan, the Hotel General Manager, went out of his way to make everyone feel welcome. I don't think I have ever seen a Hotel Manager so visible on a cruise ship. He seemed to be everywhere.


Hotel General Manager, Sujith Mohan

We put Guest Services to the test a few times during our cruise and, in every instance, they delivered and followed up on our request.




The Viking Sea Experience

A cruise aboard Viking Sea is a casual experience. Gentlemen, leave your tuxedos at home. You can bring a sport coat if you wish, but you probably won't even need that. The entire ship is very relaxed and casual. A collared shirt and dress pants will get you by after 6pm anywhere on the ship. As for demographics, on our cruise the average age was in the 50-60 range.

This is a cruise line for adults. If you want to take the kiddos on a cruise, look elsewhere.

Gratuities will be added to your shipboard account at the end of the cruise ($12 pp/pd), but can be adjusted with a trip to Guest Services. Wine, beer and soft drinks are included at lunch and dinner. Even the soft drinks in the mini-bar in your stateroom are complimentary and replenished once each day.

Complimentary shuttle service and included excursions make a Viking Cruise a considerable value.

Summary

We now have a better understanding of why Viking Cruises is winning so many awards. This is not a good cruise line. This is a GREAT cruise line. We were totally impressed with the accommodations, the quality of the food, the entertainment, the excursions, the technology of the ship and the fantastic crew. We can't wait to go back!

It is common in the travel industry for journalists to be provided with complimentary cruise accommodations, and in some cases, hotel accommodations, for the purpose of a review. While it has not influenced this review, CruiseReport.com adheres to a strict policy of full disclosure to all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, please refer to our Ethics Guidelines
 
 
3 Comments
 
KATHY A
 
Thank you for sharing your review and experience. My husband and I will be on the Sun very soon, our first on Viking.
 
Sunday, October 29, 2017 12:00 AM  
 
 
BRIAN CHANG
 
We sailed on the Viking Sea from Barcelona to Bergen in April 2017. The entertainment was far beyond what we expected. Simply excellent. Sujith Mohan, Hotel General Manager, runs a tight ship and his courtesy and grace can be seen in the ship's staff. The ship's design is a joy. Thought and care went into even the smallest details.
 
Sunday, May 14, 2017 12:00 AM  
 
 
PETE CLAY
 
We too, enjoyed our first Viking voyage last March aboard Viking Star. A wonderful trip from San Juan to Barcelona. My comments mirror yours. This was the fifth cruise line we have enjoyed and is and will continue to be, number one on our list.
 
Friday, May 12, 2017 12:00 AM  
 
 
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https://cruisereport.com/cruisereview.aspx?id=2963   |  5/20/2018 5:01:35 AM