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CruiseReportViking Ocean Cruises Viking Sky5A cruise review of Viking Ocean Cruises Viking Sky in Scandinavia
 
 
by C. Dikmen and
R. Richardson
 
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  Viking Sky   Editorial
 
Viking Sky Review
 
July 2018
 
Reviewer Rates This Cruise
 
Itinerary: Bergen, Bergen, Geiranger, Molde, At Sea, Tromsø, Honningsvag, Lofoten, At Sea, Lerwick, Kirkwall, Edinburgh, At Sea (Owner's Suite), Greenwich, Disembark - read cruise blog

Cruising is kind of like dating. You don't really know the other person until the second or third date. Along those same lines, we don't feel like we really know a cruise line until the second or third cruise. Our first date with Viking Ocean was in 2017 on Viking Sea, and it was a good experience, a very good experience. So, when we had the opportunity to sail on sister ship, Viking Sky, we were anxious to discover if our impression of Viking Sea was justified. It was.



The Ship

When you step aboard a Viking Ocean ship, there is a unique sense of familiarity. That is because every Viking Ocean ship is virtually identical. Other than tweaks and improvements that are integrated into each iteration, the five (soon to be six) Viking ships are indistinguishable from each other. The staterooms are the same, the lounges are the same, the furnishings are the same, the color palette is the same...get the idea? The last cruise line that attempted a "cookie-cutter" strategy was the now defunct Renaissance Cruises back in the late 80s. Remember the R ships?


Explorers' Lounge - Deck 7 Forward

Repeat Viking guests (and, there are many) immediately feel like they are "coming home," regardless of which Viking Ocean ship they choose. The anxiety of getting lost for the first two or three days of the cruise is gone. Everything is exactly where it is supposed to be. And, the back of house benefits, too. Crew members can easily be moved between vessels without a learning curve.


Internet cafe is located on Deck 1 midship (next to Guest Services)

If you plan to build a fleet of identical ships, you have to get the first one right or any problems or shortcoming will be duplicated in subsequent ships. Since the 1980s, Viking Founder and CEO, Torstein Hagen, has been revolutionizing the cruise industry. His leadership made Royal Viking Line one of the most respected upscale cruise lines in history. And, we all know how Viking River Cruises created a paradigm shift in European river cruising. You only have to walk through a Viking Ocean ship once to realize the designers knew exactly what they were doing. The Viking Ocean ships are some of the most logically and elegantly designed ships on which we have sailed.


Comfortable, high-quality furnishings and appointments throughout the ship

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 touchscreen monitors deliver information to guests in a user-friendly and intuitive manner.


Interactive touch screens

We found ourselves asking the question repeatedly, "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. Another monitor outside the theater displays scheduled activities and times for entertainment for that day.



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 Sky (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 (meaning 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. This was not an issue since our flight from Helsinki to Bergen did not arrive until after 5pm. Nevertheless, Viking personnel were at the airport to greet us as soon as we exited Customs. Porters grabbed our luggage and escorted us to a waiting motorcoach for the transfer to Viking Sky.


Rickee checks in before boarding the motorcoach

When we arrived at the Bergen Cruise Terminal, the check-in and embarkation process was very smooth and efficient. As soon as we boarded the ship, we were greeted by General Manager, Sujith Mohan, who welcomed us back to Viking. We sailed with Sujith last year on Viking Sea. We thought it was very special for him to take the time to personally welcome us back. Glasses of champagne are being handed to guests as they step aboard Viking Sky. With champagne in hand, we make our way to Deck 6 and our Deluxe Veranda Stateroom. You can read more about our embarkation here.

The Itinerary - Into the Midnight Sun



Our 14-night cruise started in Bergen, Norway, and ended in Greenwich, England. This is the second time we have cruised in Norway and we found this itinerary to be superior to our previous visit. Viking offers this itinerary on five dates in 2019 and five in 2020. Our July 20th sailing was the last of the season, and, as such, much of the snow had already melted on the mountains so the waterfalls in the fjords were not as impressive as they might have been earlier in the season. On the other hand, the temperatures on our cruise were much warmer than we were expecting and the weather was actually quite pleasant. You can expect beautiful sailing through the Norwegian fjords and the Orkneys. You can read our day-by-day cruise blog here. If you want more information on this itinerary from Viking Cruises, click 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 for twelve of the fourteen nights onboard, that is what we feel most qualified to talk about. That said, we did have an opportunity to spend two nights in the Owner's Suite on Deck 7 Forward. You can read all about our experience in the Owner's Suite here.

Our Deluxe Veranda Stateroom (6068) was located aft on Deck 6. The layout of the stateroom is straightforward. 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.


Coffeemaker

The overall decor of the ship is carried through to the stateroom with 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 with 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 unique and welcomed addition to the stateroom!


Lighted makeup mirror integrated into the desk

Each of the two nightstands also has 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

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 bathroom, 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 lighting is automatically turned on/off when doors open/close

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 a soft-closing mechanism 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. A unique feature of the Viking bathroom is the heated floor, which is warm enough to heat the entire bathroom. You never have to step out of a warm shower into a cold bathroom again! However, a temperature control dial would be a nice feature. Currently, if the floor heat needs adjustment, you have to request it from your room steward.

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



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, a pretty common issue with satellite communications on a ship.


Live TV choices

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 Sky (or any Viking Ocean ship), there are a lot of choices. And, all of them are good. The Restaurant on Deck 2 aft is Viking Sky's traditional cruise ship dining venue with a la carté menu service for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Restaurant is a full menu-service restaurant with lunch and dinner offerings that change daily.



We never failed to get a table for two in The Restaurant. We found that if you arrive early, you have a better chance of getting a window seat. In the evening, The Restaurant can fill up quickly, so it is a good idea to arrive a few minutes before the posted opening time.


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. One standout dish was the excellent traditional Beef Wellington, but there were other exceptional dishes as well.


Beef Wellington

Complimentary red and white wines are offered at lunch and dinner in The Restaurant, and in all dining venues for that matter. We tend to like sweeter wines than are offered, so we preferred their house red wines, which were all good. Typically, The Restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch on sea days.

The World Cafe is Viking Sky's Lido buffet.


Hand-washing station at World Cafe entrance

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, with 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.



As for food, 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 is handmade 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 very popular ice cream bar featuring at least five flavors, some of which change each day.


Very good pizza at World Cafe

The Chef's Table on Deck 1 aft, port side is one of two reservation required alternate restaurants. The
Chef's Table offers a variety of fixed "tasting" menus, each with a different ethnic or regional theme. The five-course menus change every two or three days. We visited the Chef's Table twice on this cruise, trying two different menus. You can read a full review of The Chef's Table here.



If you walk directly from The Chef's Table to the other side of Viking Sky (starboard) you will find Manfredi's, Viking Sky's Italian restaurant. Unlike The Chef's Table, Manfredi's is an á la carte restaurant with a very extensive menu. On our last Viking cruise, we made the mistake of only dining in Manfredi's once. We rectified that mistake by dining here three times on this sailing! Make sure you read our full review of Manfredi's on our Cruise Ship Dining Reviews blog.


Bistecca Fiorintina (spice rubbed Rib Eye) at Manfredi's is the best steak at sea

A popular lunch spot on Viking Sky is The Pool Grill on Deck 7 amidship. The Pool Grill is your basic burger, hot dog, sandwich grill. I found the burgers to be better than I remembered on our last Viking cruise. In fact, the burger is quite good. However, the Pool Grill concept could use some tweaking.



Guests line up at the serving line to place orders, and the line eventually backs up into the salad bar area creating a real traffic jam. Mustard, ketchup and mayo are in small bowls at the end of the serving line where you pick up your order. On one visit, they ran out of ketchup and it took several minutes to get someone to fill the bowl causing a "pile up" of guests who had received their burger and fries, but were waiting for ketchup. It is the only place on the ship where I saw any traffic issues. On sea days, it was easier to just go to The Restaurant and order a burger, which was just as good as the one at the Pool Grill.

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 Sky also offers guests 24-hour complimentary room service. We had room service a couple of times and everything we ordered was delivered in a timely manner, and arrived hot.

Another interesting dining option on Viking Sky is Mamsen's located in the Explorers' Lounge on Deck 7 forward, starboard. Mamsen's is sort of like a snack bar and 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. Most afternoons 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 with traditional toppings. A wide variety of teas is offered.




Bars & Lounges


The Viking Bar on Deck 1

As with most cruise ships, there is no shortage of places on Viking Sky where guests can quench their thirst. In the Atrium (Decks 1, 2 and 3), you can enjoy your favorite beverage from The Viking Bar while admiring the art displayed on 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.



The most popular spot in the evenings is 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, and it is a small finger. Viking Cruises has a very good Silver Spirits package that gives you unlimited cocktails, beer, wine and soft drinks for about $30 per day/per person. So, in my case, three Crown Royals per day would make it a good value. A comparable beverage package on Princess Cruises is $69 per person/per day!


Silver Spirits beverage package is a good value

Entertainment & Activities

We were completely blown away with the entertainment on our last Viking cruise. And, Cruise Director, Aaron Syfert, did not disappoint on this cruise.


Cruise Director, Aaron Syfert

The three male and three female singers were all very talented. And, the production shows integrated technology in some unique and interesting ways. However, we did recognize some of the productions as being the same as we saw on last year's Viking Sea cruise.



In addition to production shows in The Star Theater, we really enjoyed the singing duo, Vincent and Jennifer, who performed in Torshavn.


Vincent and Jennifer

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 Laslo playing the classical guitar, or the Viking Classical Trio.


Viking Classical Trio performs in The Atrium

We continue to be impressed with the quality and variety of entertainment provided by Viking.

The Spa



The spa, located on Deck 1 Forward, is one of the nicest spas you will find on any cruise ship. Use of the spa facilities and adjacent fitness center is complimentary for all guests. The fitness center is very well equipped with the latest cardio equipment and weight training machines.



You don't need to "check in" to use the spa, simply go to the locker room and use your stateroom key to obtain a locker for your valuables and/or clothing. Spa slippers, towels and a bathrobe are all provided. There is a dry sauna in the locker room and an adjacent cold plunge pool. The coed "wet area" consists of a large thallasotherapy pool with warm, soothing jets. A more aggressive hot tub has more powerful water jets and 102 degree water.



Luxurious cushioned loungers surround the pools and are a great place to relax and cool down. A powerful steam room is just steps from the pool area. No visit to the steam room is complete without a stop in the snow grotto. That's right, a small room filled with snow! No pun intended, it is very cool.


Snow Grotto

If the snow is too cold for you, you can always cool off with a bucket of cold water being dumped on your head. Just pull the rope! The Spa on Viking Ocean ships has everything you could want. It is the nicest spa I have seen on a cruise ship, and nicer than most you will find on land.

The LivNordic Spa and the adjacent salon offer a full range of services (additional costs apply), including various types of massages, manicure/pedicure, waxing, body scrubs, facials, hair-cutting and styling services. There is a small barber shop where men can get a haircut.



Shore Excursions

We expected the shore excursions on Viking Sky to be good. This is one area where all Viking's experience as the largest river cruise company in the world can be easily leveraged. 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. Included and optional excursions can be booked in advance through the MyVikingJourney website. Upon embarkation, you find your excursion tickets waiting in your stateroom.


Excursions can be pre-booked online

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. My favorite was the "Hike the Arctic Hills with Huskies".



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 receivers

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. Of course, this also allows you to enjoy multiple excursions in each port, one in the morning and another in the afternoon.

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

Staff and Crew

We said it last year on Viking Sea, and our opinion has not changed. Quite simply, this is 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, is the most visible hotel manager we have ever seen on a ship. Sujith is just one example of how Viking has managed to assemble the very best people in the cruise industry to make the Viking experience a memorable one.


Sujith Mohan, Hotel General Manager

We cannot fail to mention our excellent stateroom attendants, Arvin and Kevin. They never failed to greet us in the hallway and always asked if there was anything we needed. Our stateroom was maintained perfectly. When we were offered the opportunity to spend two nights in the Owner's Suite, Arvin even called the Owner's Suite stateroom attendant to inform her that we preferred a top sheet on the bed!


Kevin and Arvin, our stateroom attendants

All of the restaurant waiters and waitresses we encountered were friendly and delivered excellent service. We dined in Manfredi's on three different occasions, and each evening were taken care of by Hector, our new favorite waiter.




The Viking Sky Experience

A cruise aboard Viking Sky 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 a nice pair of slacks 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

If cruising truly is like dating, it is no wonder why so many Viking faithful are now in a committed relationship with this rapidly expanding cruise line. Viking claims that 80% of its guests are repeat guests, a number that any cruise line would be proud of. State-of-the-hardware, a happy and enthusiastic crew, and, destination experiences that are second-to-none combine to make this one of the very best cruise lines operating today.

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
 
 
 
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https://cruisereport.com/cruisereview.aspx?id=3003   |  11/17/2018 8:16:00 PM