Chic Scandinavian Style on the High Seas – Ocean cruises have just got a whole lot cooler with Viking Ocean Cruises taking to the high seas; known for their award-winning river cruises, Viking are now offering ocean cruises with four new “all veranda” ships with many more on order. Their new ships are beautifully designed for comfort, with spacious seating and elegant, understated decor, and every stateroom cabin has a veranda with that ultimate sea view.
A West Indies Explorers Cruise
Viking Ocean Cruises in the Viking Sea
Slip into your comfy clothes and pop your slippers on, as I’m about to take you on a virtual trip in a beautifully designed but cosy cruise ship, where understated elegance, style and comfort are primordial, and where every guest has a sea view from their veranda stateroom cabin…….this is the first post I’ll be sharing about my recent cruise with Viking Ocean Cruises on board the Viking Sea. Regular followers of Lavender and Lovage will know from my social media feeds, that I’ve just come back from a Caribbean cruise, with Viking, on their West Indies Explorer cruise………today’s post is an overview, a taster if you will, of what to expect when you board this ship, where you’ll be sleeping and eating, as well as a brief snapshot of the entertainment and other on board facilities. So, why not do as I did when I was on board the Viking Sea, grab a cup of coffee (or a cocktail!), sit back, relax and sail away with me for a moment or two…….
…….firstly, as someone who regularly cruises, I was hugely impressed on boarding Viking Sea; this was a ship of supreme elegance, with contemporary and yet traditional Scandinavian style and design. Light and space is evident everywhere on the ship, from the Atrium and The Viking Living Room on Deck one, where guest services are located, to the spacious veranda stateroom cabins, the ship is cleverly designed so it never appears to be overcrowded or full, even when it has its full capacity of passengers sailing, which by the way is 930 guests, putting Viking Ocean Cruises into the Small Cruise Ships category, which is JUST the way I like my cruise ships to be. And, by the way, Viking Sea won best overall ship in the small-mid size ship category, best entertainment, best service, best fitness, best public rooms and best shore excursions in the 2017 Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards. Its sister ship Viking Star won for best dining, best cabins, best value and best for first-time cruisers in the same size category, so it appears I am good company for rating this ship so highly.
There is an abundance of easy chairs, sofas, loungers and sun-beds in all of the public areas……..all of them in an array of natural fabrics with muted hues of grey, cream, ochre, blue and white with highlights of burnt orange; knitted cushions, wool throws and furs adorn chairs and the backs of some sofas, and all around the ship, there are curated collections of books which you can read, as well as a selection of board games and puzzles and some quite simply gorgeous art and art installations. It’s like being at home, but without having to make the beds, do the washing up or cooking! The Atrium, with its grand stairway leads up to more seating on the next deck, and it has a discreet public computer area behind the stairs, where you can check your emails and print your destination itineraries etc. And, did I mention, that WiFi is INCLUDED in the cost of your cruise on Viking……..yes, really! For me, this was one of the biggest inclusive features, as well as not paying extra for “alternative dining”, use of the Spa and an included excursion in nearly every port. And, all wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner are included on board, as well as speciality teas and coffees, at any time. And not forgetting that EVERY stateroom cabin has a veranda, there are NO inside cabins on any of the Viking ocean cruise ships.
We’ve talked about the inside, well most of it, I’ll come back to the restaurants, bars and entertainment a little later, but what about outside…..the Viking sea is just as sleek and chic on the outside, as she is on the inside…….with beautiful wooden planking on the outside decks, two pools – one large, main pool and an infinity pool, which I believe is the only one on an ocean-going cruise ship at present, as well as plenty of tables and chairs for “Al Fresco” dining with a view. The Pool Grill and Pool Bar was a favourite with me, for casual but tasty lunchtime dining, and for afternoon cocktails, I usually gravitated to the Aquavit Terrace next to the hot tub and infinity pool. There’s also a Sports Deck on deck nine, with some extra seating away from it all. The deck areas offer more sun-beds and loungers for just that, lounging, with plenty tables for eating outside, or to rest those important poolside cocktails on. Even the outside cushions blend in with the exterior decor of the this sleek ship, again, cool blues and greys add an air of relaxation.
And, when it comes to the Staterooms, there’s plenty of space for living home-away-from-home for two weeks; there are five levels of stateroom, as well as an Owner’s Suite, which is like a large apartment at sea! I stayed in the Penthouse Veranda cabin for the main part of my trip, which is a very comfortable and spacious 338 square feet stateroom, with a sofa, complimentary mini bar with snacks (which is replenished daily), a large desk and integrated vanity unit with lighted mirror, and an en-suite shower and toilet with Freyja® toiletries. A robe and slippers are also provided, and there is a hair dryer, 42″ flat-screen LCD TV which has movies available on demand. My King-size Viking Explorer bed was a dream to sleep in, and I loved the cashmere blanket at the bottom of my bed. Each level of stateroom has 24 hour room service, and that all important WiFi too. For the latter part of my trip, for one night, I slept in a Deluxe Veranda cabin, which was only slightly smaller than the Penthouse Veranda, and had almost exactly the same benefits, with the mini-bar being just soft drinks, although each cabin does have a coffee maker, and a bottle of purified water which is refilled daily.
I’ve already mentioned that there is Spa on the Viking Sea, which is available to use by all, and there are a range of spa treatments that can be purchased if you wish, as well as a hairdressing salon too. There is NO casino on the ship, which for me and many others I spoke to, was a blessing, this is a ship what was built for comfort, enjoyment, relaxation, good food and wine as well as the chance to explore new or much-loved destinations, it’s a place to unwind and have a wonderful holiday where the ship takes you to a new port without the need to check in and of hotels and brave the check in and security queues for flights, trains or coaches…….you board, unpack and are taken to numerous exciting destinations whilst having your own space for the length of the voyage. For me, that is the beauty of taking a cruise, whether it be an ocean cruise or a river cruise. One of the most fascinating and intriguing part of the ship, was the Viking Heritage Centre, a small museum of sorts, which told of the story of the seafaring Vikings, told through artefacts, costume, books and photos….
If an army marches on its stomach, than it’s true to say that part of the lure of an ocean cruise is the food and wine; and Viking Sea DID NOT disappoint on that front, the food was exemplary with a choice of casual or more formal dining, although I must stress that Viking Cruises are steering away from the formal aspect of cruise dining, making it more accessible for all, with that elegantly casual and relaxation frame of mind coming into play again. You can dress up if you wish, and many people did on the cruise I was on, but put simply the choice is YOURS and is not part of a formal dining itinerary, which puts many people off. As well as the Pool Bar and Pool Grill that I have already mentioned, Viking Sea offers several other dining options – The World Cafe on the pool deck offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, and it a self-service buffet style dining area with some cooked to order food stations. On many cruises I have been on, these buffet style easy dining restaurants have been little more than a school canteen, not the World Cafe…..the food was exceptional with a wide variety on offer, from sushi to curries and roasts, it was always fresh and appetising. The Restaurant is the other “included” dining area where reservations aren’t required, the menu changes daily and offers a great selection too.
If you fancy eating what you have shopped for and prepared, then The Kitchen Table is for you, which offers a cookery class and the chance to eat in a super sleek private dining area. The other two “alternative” dining areas, are Manfredi’s (and Italian style restaurant) and the The Chef’s Table, which offers an utterly sublime tasting menu with paired wines. Both restaurants offer specialist dining at NO EXTRA COST, you just have to make a booking beforehand. As well as these main dining rooms, you can also grab an authentic Norwegian waffle with all the trimmings from Mamsen’s Deli in the Explorer’s Lounge, as well as some amazing Scandi style open sandwiches and cakes there for lunch, all included and at no extra cost, and the stunning Wintergarden on the Pool deck offers an afternoon cream tea every day between 3pm and 5pm, again, at no extra charge. The Viking Bar on deck one offers breakfast pastries and sandwiches throughout the day, for a “grab and go” breakfast or snack. I will be featuring the food on board the Viking Sea in detail in my next post, so do keep popping back to read all about the amazing meals and wine I enjoyed whilst on my cruise.
Before I end, I’d just like to highlight some of the other areas on the ship; for nightly shows, dancing and music, Torshavn is the place to go, in addition to special outside shows, on the main pool deck. There’s a theatre and two cinemas on board, and some very enticing shops that sell jewellery, watches, perfumes and some beautiful Scandi knits, felted slippers and even some mini globes! There is live music daily in the main Atrium, where there is a very grand Steinway Grand Piano, and whilst I was in board, a fabulous string trio played nightly, as I sipped my aperitif and decided where I was going to eat that night. This a ship of perfect proportions with just enough to entertain you, with excellent dining, comfortable cabins and the chance to explore a new destination every day…….subject to what cruise you choose to go on. I’ve shared all of the prices and a small fact file below, as well as gallery of images of the ship, and I hope that you have enjoyed your virtual cruise with me today, on board the Viking Sea…..look out for my next post, which will be all about the food on board, and then my final post will cover the destinations I visited whilst in the West Indies. I’m also sharing a South African curry recipe tomorrow, so do pop back to see that too, à bientôt, Karen
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Viking Ocean Cruises, and all of my transport, transfers, food, accommodation and excursions were included in this complimentary press trip; all views and opinions remain my own and I was not asked to write a favourable review, nor was I paid to attend this trip.
West Indies Explorer Cruise:
West Indies Explorer
From £2,490 | 11 Days | 9 Guided Tours |
Prices start at £2,490 per person for a Veranda Stateroom San Juan to San Juan
Included in the price:
Return flights from the UK
One complimentary shore excursion in every port of call
Unlimited free Wi-Fi
Alternative restaurant dining at no extra charge
24-hour room service
Beer, wine & soft drinks with on board lunch & dinner
24-hour speciality coffees, teas & bottled water
Access to top-rated spa & state-of-the-art fitness centre
Port taxes & fees
Ground transfers with Viking Air purchase
YOUR STATEROOM INCLUDES:
King-size Viking Explorer Bed with luxury linens & pillows
Separate seating area
42″ flat-screen LCD TV with intuitive remote & complimentary Movies On Demand
110/220 volt outlets & USB ports
Spacious closet & drawers
Mini-bar; security safe; hair dryer
Spacious glass-enclosed shower
Heated bathroom floor & anti-fog mirror
Premium Freyja® toiletries; plush robes & slippers
Stateroom steward & twice-daily housekeeping
West Indies Explorer
0800 298 9700
On All Ocean Cruise
Offer expires 31 May 2018
Day 1 — San Juan, Puerto Rico
Arrive in San Juan to embark your ship today. You will stay aboard your ship overnight, giving you ample time to explore El Viejo San Juan, or Old San Juan, with its seductive colonial charms, easy island tempo and authentic culture. Wander its narrow lanes, literally paved with history, laid with blue adoquín stone once used to ballast Spanish galleons. This evening, stroll the Old Town’s azure byways romantically illuminated by street lamps.
Day 2 — San Juan, Puerto Rico
You have another day to take in the history and architectural beauty of San Juan, from its fanciful Condado district to the magnificent 16th-century Fort San Felipe del Morro, set on a promontory at the entrance to San Juan Bay. Or visit the lush woodland of El Yunque national rainforest. Later today, you will sail away into the Caribbean’s blue waters. With Viking’s destination-focused itinerary, you will call on a new port daily, with not a single day spent at sea.
Day 3 — Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Witness the lush beauty that once lured the pirates Blackbeard and Captain Kidd to Tortola, part of the British Virgin Islands. You will traverse Tortola, ascending to its greatest heights to admire spectacular Caribbean vistas. Experience some of its British flavor, pass through charming fishing villages and cast your eyes on magnificent blue-green seascapes. Alternately, take to the waters to explore the grottoes of Virgin Gorda.
Day 4 — St. John’s, Antigua
Visit Antigua today, once Britain’s “Gateway to the Caribbean.” On an island tour from our berth in St. John’s, you will admire lush green beauty all around and visit English Harbor. Its restored Georgian dockyard, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is named for Admiral Horatio Nelson, who commanded the Crown’s fleet here in the 18th century. Today, yachts line the quays. But the island’s stunning scenery hasn’t changed since Nelson’s day, blanketed with tropical forests and punctuated by sheer cliffs dropping into blue waters.
Day 5 — Castries, St. Lucia
Call on the lush and mountainous island of St. Lucia, with its sheltered harbors, quiet byways and Creole-inspired cuisine. A short drive from our berth in Castries, admire breathtaking views of azure waters and hillsides shrouded in tropical green. Witness the art of batik making here and glimpse prolific banana plantations. Or, venture across the island to view the spectacular Pitons, towering twin peaks draped in forests.
Day 6 — Bridgetown, Barbados
Relish the intense Caribbean beauty of Barbados today when you call on its capital, Bridgetown, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will discover ample evidence of British rule here, from cricket matches and afternoon tea to the Commonwealth’s third oldest Parliament. You will marvel at spectacular vistas from the heights of Farley Hill, descending to sea level and the roiling waves of Bathsheba’s Soup Bowl, popular with surfers. Or head underground to explore the stalactites and stalagmites of Harrison’s Cave.
Day 7 — Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe
Experience the colorful culture and breathtaking natural beauty of French Guadeloupe, often called the “Butterfly Island” because its two main islands are joined with bridges. See both sides from our berth in Pointe-à-Pitre. The national parks of the west island attract adventurers to mountainous, lush rainforests. The flatter east island boasts a rich culture, fine Caribbean cuisine and craft villages awash in island flavors, from pungent spices to fresh tropical fruits. Experience both, or hike in Guadeloupe National Park to marvel at the towering Carbet Falls.
Day 8 — St. Kitts (Basseterre), St. Kitts & Nevis
Call on St. Kitts today, Britain’s first Caribbean settlement that grew into a sugar-producing powerhouse; 68 plantations operated at the height of the boom. You will learn about this lucrative colonial era at St. Kitts’s Fairview Great House & Botanical Garden, a fascinating repository of relics and beautifully preserved rooms that provide a glimpse of the lives of sugar barons. Or visit the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 9 — Philipsburg, St. Martin
Explore two countries on one island today when you call on St. Martin. You will dock on the Dutch side, in Philipsburg, and have the chance to contrast the two cultures. See the great salt pond on the Dutch side, the charming old village of Quartier-d’Orleans and the French capital, Marigot, called the “Caribbean Paris.” Or, choose to simply relax on the island’s famous Orient Beach, one and a half miles of gorgeous white sand.
Day 10 — Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
Explore one of the Caribbean’s most beloved islands today, St. Thomas. You will dock within walking distance of its capital, Charlotte Amalie, set on one of the most picturesque harbors in the region. Get acquainted with the beauty of St. Thomas during a scenic drive along a spectacular route, stopping at the famous Mountain Top for breathtaking views of the sea and surrounding islands. Alternately, you might cross the emerald-green island to Magens Bay, home to one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
Day 11 — San Juan, Puerto Rico
Disembark this morning and return home, or continue your exploration of the Puerto Rican capital with our extension here.