Settled into one of the comfortable white sofas in the elegant Explorers’ Lounge on the Viking Sky, we gazed through the panoramic floor-to-sky windows, hypnotized by the deep-blue ocean waves. Casper, a handsome young South African—and, as we’d learned at breakfast, a former underwater diver—approached us with a three-tiered tray of petit fours and tea sandwiches and poured us more mango tea. Normally restless and ready to jump up to tackle our next project, we’d been sitting in the lounge for two hours, soaking in those sea views and the rare pleasure of just enjoying each other’s company. As we were reminded throughout our “Turquoise Caribbean Seas” cruise, great travel really is about the journey as much as the destination.
Launched in 1997, the Viking line is known for its popular river cruises, which have collected awards from Condé Nast Traveler, USA Today, and many others. In 2015, it launched ocean cruises; the Viking Sky, christened in 2017, is its third ocean-going ship and the company plans to have eight by 2022. The ocean ships are quickly collecting awards, too, and last year Viking was named the No. 1 ocean cruise line by Travel + Leisure.
The ships are big enough to offer lots of places to sit and explore—a couple we met onboard told us they’d gone stir-crazy on a 300-passenger ship that had only one lounge—but small enough, with about 1,000 passengers, that you never feel crowded and soon begin to recognize people.
Company chairman Torstein Hagen bills Viking as “the thinking-man’s cruise,” with “no casino, no children, no umbrella drinks and no nickel-and-diming,” and I’d have to agree. Our cruise attracted an older, NPR-type crowd. At dinner the first night, the conversation at the next table included a spirited discussion of the virtues of titanium hips, a comparison of Key West and Central American coral reefs, and tasting notes on the excellent wines. In many ways, the passenger list reminded us of Sarasota, with a cross-section of interesting people from all over, including an intrepid old lady who climbed steep stone Mayan stairs while leaning on her cane, and corporate executives who had visited every continent. True to its promise of “destination-focused” travel, Viking presented daily presentations about our next stop. Like most of the other passengers, we enjoyed the lectures—but let’s face it, the luxury is what we loved.
That luxury began with our stateroom, as beautifully designed as the public spaces throughout the ship. The Viking Sky features understated, Scandinavian elegance, mixing clean lines and light woods with natural textures and fabrics. There’s also a collection of art, photography and textiles that Forbes magazine calls “magnificent.” Each stateroom has a private veranda; I spent a happy afternoon reading on ours, and some guests chose to have daily room-service breakfasts on theirs.
The staterooms are spacious, but even better, they have an amazing array of storage. As usual, we had brought more clothes than we needed, yet there were still empty drawers and shelves when we finished unpacking. Other lovely touches: cool little reading lights built into the wall behind the king-sized bed, a makeup mirror that pops up from the desk; and—my personal favorite—heated bathroom floors.
Also included in your fare: Wi-Fi, a full complement of movies and entertainment on your in-room TV, spa visits, and one shore excursion at every stop. (There are lots of other excursions, from water adventures to history-focused trips, most running from $39 to $179 per person; we found the included Viking tours to be a good way to get an overview of a destination, but a seven-hour tour of Mexico’s “White and Gold Cities” of Merida and Izamal, which included an excellent Mexican lunch, was well worth the $69 cost.)
The Viking Sky gets rave reviews for its food, and they’re well deserved. The ship has 10 restaurants, from the buffet-style World Café and Manfredi’s, an excellent Italian restaurant, to a Scandinavian deli. Along with all the expected indulgences, there are lots of healthy options. After working out in the spa—which includes a space dedicated to the Nordic bathing ritual, with sauna, whirlpool, a saltwater pool and an icy “snow room”—we loved to head to the pool bar for seared ahi tuna and fresh salads.
Rain and rough seas hit towards the end of the trip, and an excursion into Cozumel had to be canceled. Northerners seeking Caribbean sunshine were disappointed, but we two Floridians didn’t mind a bit. The slight rocking of the boat helped soothe us to sleep, and it didn’t keep us from dancing to the terrific Viking band. And when we clicked on our TV that morning to see “The Viking Daily” schedule, I thrilled to the heading: “Day Six: At Sea.” I jumped out of our cozy bed, savored the heated bathroom floor and rejoiced at the thought of another day when one lovely hour would slip into the next as we sailed through those mesmerizing blue seas.