When Viking Ocean Cruises resumed cruising in May, the line had a powerful edge over all the other cruise lines to make passengers feel safe.
Not only does everyone on this adults-only cruise line need to be fully vaccinated, but everyone is tested for COVID-19 every single day.
Even better, you or your clients don’t even have to get out of bed to provide a saliva sample. A test tube is left in your cabin to spit in and you’re free to go about your day. Your cabin steward takes the sample to the onboard laboratory after they tidy your suite.
At considerable expense, Viking installed full-scale labs on all their ocean ships to do these daily PCR tests. Just carry a contact tracing medallion in your pocket and consider “no news is good news” for the rest of the day.
“We believe this is the only way to safely operate. In our view, continuous PCR testing, along with our extensive onboard hygiene protocols, will lead to making Viking ships a safe place to get away and explore the world,” said Matt Grimes, vice-president of maritime operations at Viking Cruises.
Viking’s ships carry 930 passengers but are currently cruising at about half capacity to allow for social distancing, so there have only been about 400 passengers on board and 450 crew.
That reverse ratio makes for stellar customer service and crew learn your name and your preferences quickly.
Viking Orion first ship back to North America
While a few Viking ships resumed sailing in the Mediterranean, these early cruises weren’t available to Canadians.
However, the Viking Orion was the first Viking ship to return to North America – and offered voyages that circumnavigated Bermuda.
All of Viking’s ships are identical except for a few subtle highlights. Orion (and sister Jupiter) differs from the others with a 26-seat planetarium that has 3D movies. Enjoy virtually swimming with whales and dolphins, seeing the Northern Lights, studying the stars and more.
The fact that most ships are beautiful carbon copies has contributed to the line’s loyal customers for their consistency.
Here are many other reasons why Viking is so popular.
All-inclusive features include free wine, beer and soft drinks during meals, coffee, tea, bottled water, suite mini bar, specialty restaurant dining, room service, Wi-Fi, spa and gym access, PCR COVID-19 testing (convenient for the flight home) and basic shore excursions in each port.
Expert guest speakers, from authors to astronauts, are also on board.
Viking estimates this is worth more than $200 per guest, per day.
What Viking doesn’t have (which passengers appreciate) is no casino, art auction, photography sales, formal night or razzle-dazzle shows (just high-quality performers).
Soothing minimalistic decor
Viking passengers take great comfort knowing they’ll be surrounded in soothing and simple upscale Scandinavian decor with exceptionally interesting artwork befitting of a boutique hotel.
Decor tones include creamy beiges and clean whites, punctuated with pleasantly calm orange and blue hues to add a few pops of colour.
Glass, brass and marble add subtle shine, plus light woods, teak and greenery bring a healthy vibe.
Simply walking around Orion creates a soothing spa-like effect that inspires you to exhale and relax.
The iconic favourite feature of the Orion, as with all Viking’s ships, is the gorgeous infinity pool that hangs over the stern. This area is called the Aquavit Terrace and the view of the wake is mesmerizing and draws you in.
The main pool is another popular place. Since the ship has a retractable dome, the area can be enjoyed in any weather. Large couches offer plenty of comfortable seating and padded double loungers face the floor-to-ceiling glass walls for sea views.
The top deck has similar cozy seating areas, as well as a putting green, lawn bowling, shuffleboard and ping pong.
The heart of the ship is the atrium where a grand staircase is graced at the top by an enormous digital screen featuring a changing array of destination and art photos. At the bottom is a grand piano where musicians entertain.
The surrounding seating area is simply called the Livingroom. There are upscale couches and chairs, a bar, library corner, tables for playing games, guest services (with desks rather than counters) and an interesting display of Viking artifacts.
The two-storey Explorers Lounge at the bow is a prime location for its beauty – floor-to-ceiling glass windows present panoramic views of the ocean ahead.
Leather couches and chairs are graced with fur throws and a modern gas fireplace features lovely flickering flames. Wall shelves showcase intriguing nautical art and books.
The Wintergarden Lounge is another iconic Viking space known for its wooden trellis work on the ceiling and pillars.
It’s also where of one of the best afternoon teas at sea is served to soothing piano music.
Restaurants and bars
Viking has consistently delicious cuisine across the fleet at their eight dining venues.
The Restaurant is the main dining room and offers a range of international tastes. World Café is the buffet area (served by crew) for indoor and outdoor dining. The Pool Grill offers gourmet burgers and salad bar. Mamsen’s is famous for its waffles and deli-style offerings.
There are two free specialty restaurants: Manfredi’s is the Italian restaurant and the Chef’s Table features a multi-course set menu of cuisines from Pan Asian to Mexican with wine pairings. There are many bars throughout the ship, so drinks flow freely.
The Star Theatre features simple shows of musicians, singers and dancers – but not in glitzy Las Vegas style. Torshavn is a popular entertainment venue nearby where bands play in a more intimate setting and there’s a dance floor.
Spa and Fitness Centre
The LivNordic Spa highlights the Nordic tradition of hot and cold to stimulate circulation and detoxify.
Enjoy a large, heated hydro pool, hot tub, steam room, sauna and heated loungers, and alternate with an ice-bucket shower and snow grotto to cool off.
Spa treatments are plentiful including an unusual Cranberry Scrub and Blueberry Body Wrap if you don’t mind being rubbed with fruit. The gym is fully equipped and rarely used.
All the suites have balconies and range from about 270 to 1,300 square feet.
The desk with built-in drawers and mini fridge also features an ingenious hidden vanity. Lift the lid to reveal a lighted mirror and compartments for cosmetics. This detail gets rave reviews.
There’s plenty of closet space (lights turn on when you slide open the doors) and drawers. Bathrooms have heated floors, mirrors that don’t fog up, and spacious showers with glass doors. The leather-wrapped door handles give a luxe feel.
Viking’s bookings for 2022 are at record levels – up 42 per cent over 2019 which was their top year.
The cruise line continues to offer a calm, relaxing, upscale experience wrapped in safety that provides passengers with confidence.
Diane Tierney has been on 72 cruises to 45 countries and is former cruise columnist for the Toronto Star. You can follow her on Instagram at Cruiseguru where she has more than 18,400 followers.