The newest ship from Viking Cruises is another triumph – with an intriguing twist, says Cruise International Editor Liz Jarvis
Viking Cruises has hit on an award-winning formula with its sleek, Scandi-inspired fleet of ocean vessels. But while Viking Orion has the same clean design and good looks as its sister ships, including Viking Sky and Viking Sea, there’s one big difference. On the top deck there’s an intriguing large white dome. Go downstairs into the library, and there’s a mysterious door, which, once opened, reveals a small but perfectly formed planetarium, the first purpose-built planetarium at sea.
Viking Orion was named in Italy by former NASA astronaut Dr Anna Fisher, and there are subtle touches throughout the ship reminding you of its links to space exploration and discovery. There are vintage photographs of astronauts lining the corridor outside the Explorers’ Lounge, while the new planetarium shows 3-D documentaries (glasses provided), and there are some excellent themed onboard lectures.
All the most successful elements of Viking ocean ships are here, too: the light-filled atrium with its impressive staircase, a grand piano and a constantly changing gallery of exquisite photography showcasing the cruise line’s destinations.
There are also plenty of open spaces, including the Living Room and Explorers’ Lounge, with their designer chairs, books, soft furnishings and reindeer hides; an elegant main swimming pool, and Aquavit Terrace with its infinity pool – the perfect spot for an al fresco lunch on a balmy Mediterranean afternoon; and The Spa, an elegant retreat. Staterooms exude boutique chic with a Nordic twist, all blonde wood, grey, blue and orange cashmere accents and power showers with heated floors; and all have balconies, flat-screen TVs, coffee machines and minibars with complimentary soft drinks and snacks provided daily.
Menus in the restaurants (no supplementary charge, even for speciality dining) have been updated, although it’s still worth heading to the World Café buffet for seafood and sushi night. Manfredi’s continues to be one of the best Italian restaurants at sea (with one of the most moreish bread baskets we’ve ever sampled), and the Chef’s Table is extraordinarily good, with a regularly changing menu of destination-inspired gastronomy and sommelier recommendations to accompany every course.
There’s a new show in the Star Theatre, a Beatles and Abba fusion of crowd-pleasers performed by an enthusiastic quartet of British singers; and Torshavn, the nightclub named after Viking’s chairman, Torstein Hagen, continues to be a salubrious hangout for after dinner drinks and brilliant live music.
As ever, though, it’s the subtle touches that continue to enchant: the disappearing trolls in one of the lifts; the birdsong playing in the public bathrooms; and the carefully curated art and photography on display throughout the ship.
Viking has always been light years ahead when it comes to included things like wifi, a choice of wine and beer at dinner, and an excursion in every port. Viking Orion and new ship Viking Jupiter, which will start sailing next February, consolidate its position as one of the world’s best cruise lines.