REVIEW: They say it’s the little things that can make a big difference in a person’s vacation experience, and cruising on the new Viking Sky serves as proof of the popular adage – for both the ship’s soothing design and decor, as well as the super-attentive service. When it comes to small details, they add up to a big first impression.
Passengers on the Viking Sky rave about little things such as heated floors in the bathrooms, oversized showers with ledges, tray pullouts in bedside tables, lighted makeup vanities in the desks, blankets in the theatre, leather-wrapped door handles, pool loungers with retractable footrests, and pillows wherever there’s seating.
Adding to the subtle charm is that the Sky is not too big and not too small, but just the right size at 930 passengers and 47,800 tonnes. There are no lineups or crowds due to the pleasing space ratios.
The signature feature that showcases just how much a simple design element can make a big impact is the infinity pool that’s cantilevered off the stern. The way the glass edge blurs the lines between where the pool ends and sea starts makes the aft the heart of the ship, mesmerizes passengers and is a hallmark of Viking’s roll-out of more ocean vessels.
All-inclusive pricing contributes to the positive vibe on board. Rather than nickel-and-diming customers for every drink and activity, the price includes wine, beer and soft drinks at lunch and dinner; a shore excursion bus tour in every port; dining at the specialty restaurants; Wi-Fi; access to special spa areas and ship transfers to and from the airport. This is the kind of VIP-like offering usually attributed to more expensive cruise lines and when you do the math based on your personal pleasures, it wins many over.
The 465 Scandinavian decor cabins range from 270 to 1,448 square feet and all have balconies. The 14 large Explorer Suites at 757 square feet also have deep bathtubs, double vanities, huge walk-in closets, separate bedroom, and combined living/dining room.
The decor throughout the Sky is neither too fancy, nor too plain, and plays just the right note of nautical elegance and casual comfort. Long couches, sectional sofas, chaise lounges, and deep cushioned chairs are designed for relaxing, reading and watching the world go by. And a blanket or pillow is always within reach.The furnishings are complemented by carefully curated artwork that gives a nod to the line’s Nordic heritage. A small museum also showcases interesting artifacts and memorabilia of the Viking era.
The mid-ship atrium — labelled on deck plans as the Living Room in keeping with the relaxing atmosphere — soars three storeys, has a wide staircase of dark hardwood, an enormous photo wall and grand piano. Yet the space still conveys warmth due to clever furniture choices and placement that creates conversational nooks.
The two-storey Explorers’ Lounge serves as the ship’s family room. Its leather couches and chairs are graced by fur pelts, a realistic fireplace, piano, ancient maps, nautical tools, bookcases, bar and deli, as well as panoramic views.
When you’re in the mood for afternoon tea, the Wintergarden is the spot to be, where sandwiches and sweets are served. The space features tree-like pillars, wooden trellis work on the ceiling, soft seating, and a realistic fireplace. A huge copper espresso machine glistens at the bar — and those who don’t drink coffee, stop to take photos of it.
Dining options include the Restaurant, which has the widest choice of culinary options with a menu changing every night; World Café for international fare; Chef’s Table for a multi-course tasting menu with wine parings; and Manfredi’s for Italian favourites. For those who enjoy a cooking lesson with their meal, the Kitchen Table focuses on regional dishes. The Pool Grill offers hamburger fare and Mamsen’s has deli and dessert choices. The food is sensibly delicious overall, with more unusual culinary tastes offered at the Chef’s Table and Kitchen Table. And a kitchen galley tour has you appreciating all the behind-the-scenes work involved.
For entertainment, the Stardust Theatre features simple shows with high-quality comedians, musicians and vocalists, the latter performing tribute music of bands like Abba and the Beatles. Two cinemas in this area can be closed off for movies and destination talks. The Torshavn bar is a lively, smaller venue for music and dancing, and musicians also perform in the atrium and Explorers’ Lounge. With the vision of being the “thinking person’s” cruise line, the entertainment is more pleasing than powerful. There are also daily enrichment seminars, cooking and dancing lessons, places to play cards and board games, as well as interactive game tables to play backgammon or blackjack. There is no casino. The entire ship is also like a floating library with well-stocked bookcases in many lounges.
The main pool, which has a retractable roof for windy or rainy days, also serves as an outdoor movie theatre. Popcorn and Bose headphones are small details that are appreciated.
The LivNordic spa emphasizes the invigorating treatments of combining hot and cold experiences for the ultimate therapeutic treat. Enjoy the sauna, steam room, hot tub and salt water pool, and cool off in the cold pool, Snow Grotto or under an ice bucket shower — if you dare.
The 550 crew (putting the Sky high on the list of crew to passenger ratios) are carefully chosen for their engaging personalities.Their genuine friendliness and attention to detail such as remembering your name, favourite drink and asking about your day, is noticeable. If your napkin falls off your lap, there’s a good chance a waiter would catch it before it landed. On hot days by the pool,waiters are always offering water, cold facecloths, lemon champagne sorbet, or trimming your drinking straw to just the right length.
With such thoughtful soothing ship design and attentive crew, Viking won #1 Ocean Line in the World Best Awards from Travel + Leisure again this year, and many other awards from Berlitz to Fodor’s.
Even with the accolades and five-star service, Viking prefers not be considered a luxury line. Instead, they like to be seen as comfortable and conservative — which is part of the reason why there isn’t a formal night. That would be too glamorous for the Sky’s modest tastes and mission to provide a tranquil and relaxing cruise experience.
Viking Sky sails seven- to 28-night sailings around the Baltic, Mediterranean and Caribbean. Visit vikingcruises.com or call 866-984-5464.