Jo Ann Buening
Viking Ocean Cruising – the Best of Both Worlds!
My opportunity to experience a Viking Ocean ship came recently, from December 7-17, 2016 as I sailed the beautiful 930-passenger ship, Viking Star, round trip from San Juan. This was my 25th cruise and once I stepped aboard, I could already tell this was going to be a great experience. The service level is definitely the same, company-wide. Whether sailing a Viking riverboat or a small ocean ship such as the Viking Star, you immediately can feel the sincerity of the staff with their greetings, as well as knowing your requests will be taken care of immediately.
Viking Ocean ships (Viking Star, Sea and Sky) sail in Europe during the summer months with itineraries including Scandinavia, the Baltics, Russia, London and other interesting ports of call; other times of the year they sail in the Caribbean, Canada and New England. My itinerary (West Indies Explorer) included stops in St. Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, Barbados, Guadeloupe, Antigua, Tortola, St. Maarten and St. Thomas. What a wonderful time to be in a warm, tropical area as the Midwest was experiencing significant snow and frigid temperatures. With the timing of this trip, it forced me to prepare early for the holidays; however it also was a nice opportunity to do some Christmas shopping.
On this ocean cruise, like with Viking’s river cruises, daily tours are included at no additional charge, plus additional, more in-depth tours are available at an extra cost; there is something for all activity levels. These tours are all best booked in advance of your trip; adjustments can be made while onboard, based upon availability.
One day, rather than going on tour, I signed up for the Viking Culinary School. The added cost was $59 for this three-hour class. What a wonderful decision! Chef Romain Boulloud (one of the 101 chefs onboard) conducted our class - limited in size to 12 participants. After a tour of the galley, we did a ‘hands-on’ cooking class, preparing Wild Mushroom Risotto, Saltimbocca Romana-style (veal and pasta) and Tiramisu. Once everything was prepared, we were able to enjoy our meal with wines to pair – and have conversation with the chef. These types of events are offered in Viking’s (onboard) Daily Newsletter. Other culinary-type classes offered included both whiskey and wine-tastings.
While dining onboard Viking Ocean ships is considered ‘open’ … no need for advance reservations … they do also offer a themed menu restaurant, the “Chef’s Table,” as well as the Italian-themed “Manfredi’s.” Reservations are required at these two restaurants and can be made prior to arrival, based on your cabin type selected, or once on board. The “Chef’s Table” menu is rotated every three days, with each menu vastly different. I recommend that once on board, you check with the staff to review the menus and rotation schedule to ensure what is being served on the night(s) you have selected is to your liking. Confirming a table for two, if that is your preference, is never a problem as most tables are for two, no matter where you choose to dine; however, should you wish to meet or dine with others, there are also larger tables.
Viking’s attention to detail is evident in making sure the Scandinavian heritage and theme are always present - one only needs to look around. Some of the things I noticed: furniture was very simple, but comfortable; bread is served in wooden bread bowls and condiments on wooden plates; Norwegian snacks and light fare are served in Mamsen’s from early morning to late at night, with many of the items being recipes from the mother of Viking Cruises’ owner. Scandinavian artwork is everywhere and headsets are provided to hear the story of each piece. Electrical current in the cabin was both 220 and 110. When entering your cabin, insert your room key into a slot (just like in Europe) to activate the lights. This is an energy-saving feature.
There is a minimum age requirement of 18 to sail on a Viking Ocean cruise; onboard entertainment is reflective of this. We enjoyed a pianist, guitar soloist and trio nightly, as well as movies, music and dancing under the stars. Not to be forgotten – the Nordic-inspired spa which includes a plunge pool, sauna, and the Snow Grotto Room. The spa staff will teach you the order in which these should be experienced in order to best ‘nourish’ yourself. And finally, but very important … unlike river cruising, on Viking Ocean ships, one will find a fully-staffed medical center.
Please give me a call; I’d love to tell you more about my West Indies cruise aboard the lovely Viking Star. You can reach me at 608-791-8358 or at [email protected]