A New Ship For A New Year
Shawn J. Dake
The new VIKING SUN at Berth 46 in the outer harbor of Los Angeles on January 4, 2018. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2018.
The latest addition to Viking Ocean Cruises rapidly expanding fleet of ships, the new VIKING SUN kicked off the new year in grand fashion with the first cruise around-the-world for the line. In doing so a number of other firsts were accomplished including the first time one of the company’s ships transited the Panama Canal and the first call to the U.S. West Coast. The visit on January 4th and 5th to the Port Of Los Angeles marked the second embarkation point for the World Cruise. The full 141-day epic itinerary visiting 64 ports in 35 countries, touching on five continents began in Miami on December 15, 2017. From Los Angeles the ship continued the journey for 120-days which will end in London on May 5th. En Route the ship will receive her formal christening ceremony in Shanghai, China on March 8, 2018. The inaugural World Cruise departed fully booked to capacity.
Looking aft from atop Deck 9. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2018.
The 47,842 gross ton ship is virtually identical to her three earlier sister ships. The VIKING SUN was built at the Ancona, Italy facility of the diverse Fincantieri shipyards as yard number 6246. The launch took place exactly one year to the day before commencement of the World Cruise on December 15, 2016. Final outfitting continued throughout 2017 with delivery to Viking Ocean Cruises on September 25th. The ship has 465 staterooms to accommodate 930 guests. The passenger complement is made up of a target audience of adults only with a median age of 55+ with an interest in science, history, culture and cuisine focused on destination cruising. The line’s Chairman Torstein Hagen often repeats that Viking offers guests “the thinking person’s cruise” as opposed to much of the mainstream cruise industry. At Viking generating on-board revenue is not a factor; the philosophy is no nickel-and-diming of passengers. Fares include a shore excursion in each port, all port charges and taxes, free Wi-Fi, free self-service laundry, access to the Thermal Spa facilities in the LivNordic Spa, 24-hour room service and wine and beer included with lunch and dinner. All staterooms have a private veranda.
The Grand Staircase and photo wall make a memorable first impression. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2018.
The VIKING SUN contains nine decks of passenger cabins, open space and public rooms. Guests enter the ship into a three-deck-height atrium lined with lounge areas, tastefully decorated in modern Scandinavian furnishings. Artworks plays a huge role on this ship and an ever-changing backdrop of exquisite photography dominates the forward wall of this lobby. A grand staircase connects level two with a hub of activity on Deck 1. Wanting passengers to feel at home, the area to starboard is called The Living Room and somehow successfully recreates that personalized space aboard. There is no formal purser’s desk on the ship but inquiries can be made with very accommodating staff available in this area. A grand piano at the base of the atrium provides quiet background music while the Viking Bar on the port side serves up a variety of coffees along with alcoholic libations throughout the day.
Tasteful furnishings are found on all three levels of the Atrium, such as this view facing forward from the Viking Bar. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2018.
The Kitchen Table. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2018.
Continuing that “at home” feeling while on vacation, The Kitchen Table is centered among the specialty restaurants a bit further aft on Deck 1. During cruises at most destinations guests can join in with the chef in preparing meals made from items freshly purchased ashore. Or they can simply watch and indulge as the culinary crew prepare their delights in the open kitchen. There are two adjoining specialty dining areas, Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant on the port side and The Chef’s Table featuring a multi-course tasting menu complete with wine pairings to starboard. Each also has a small private dining room attached.
Fire & Water. A vapor flame fireplace above the thermal pool in The Spa. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2018.
(Chilly) Air & Ice in the nearby Snow Grotto. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2018
The entire forward portion of Deck 1 is given over to The Spa. A large thermal pool flanked by loungers compliments the hot sauna or the chilling Snow Grotto. There is even a niche where a pull on the chain releases a wooden bucket of ice water for an invigorating shower. Optional spa treatments are also available but there is never any pressure to buy extra products as there are on many other ships.
The Theater on Deck 2. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2018.
Torshavn Nightclub mid-ship on Deck 2, facing aft. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2018.
Returning to Deck 2, this level is given over completely to the main restaurant and a variety of public spaces. The Theater anchors the forward section. It is a proper theater ideal for movies, lectures and entertainment. Specially designed throw pillows feature the faces of famous Scandinavian film stars. Two smaller cinemas are very cleverly designed to be used on their own or joined with the larger theater. Moving aft the requisite shopping arcade offers the usual array of goods along with Northern European specialties. Torshavn is the elegant nightclub and bar.
Macrame “rigging” shades the windows from the glare of the promenade deck. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, © 2018.
Looking across the Atrium toward the port side. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, © 2018.
The mid-level of the atrium features more comfortable seating with decorative window coverings of macramé invoking images of the rigging on sailing ships. The Restaurant dominates the aft third of the deck, but feels much smaller than it actually is by dividing it up into several small, attractive sections. Like the rest of the ship it is a beautiful space presented in a subtle way. Perhaps one of the most welcome elements encompasses all of Deck 2. That is the traditional 360 degree, wrap-around promenade, where four circuits equals one mile.
A section of the main dining room on Deck 2. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, © 2018.
Making the turn at the aft end of the wrap-around Promenade deck. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, © 2018.
With the ship being completely sold out, no staterooms or suites were available for inspection. The majority of these are situated on Decks 3 through 6. They range in size from Veranda staterooms of 270 square feet to several Explorer Suites as large as 1,163 square feet. In addition to the balcony, all room categories feature a mini-bar stocked with soft drinks and snacks in the staterooms with alcoholic beverages added in the suites. There is also an Owner’s Suite high on Deck 7 that is described as a 1,448 square foot home away from home.
The two-deck high windows of the forward Explorer’s Lounge. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, © 2018.
Mamsen’s is attached to the Explorer’s Lounge on the starboard side. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, © 2018.
A sampling of the delicious Norwegian “deli” fare available at Mamsen’s. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, © 2018.
The highest three Decks, 7 through 9, carefully blend the outdoors with interior public spaces in a way unsurpassed by other ships. A curved two-story wall of glass forms the forward structure above the bridge containing the dual-level Explorer’s Lounge. Part observation lounge, part library, part bar and part casual dining venue it fulfills all these functions seamlessly. There is Mamsen’s where a vapor flame fireplace wall adds to the warm atmosphere of cozy, comfortable chairs and delicious, casual light meals. A day can start with waffles smothered in berries and cream or a sample of famous Norwegian brown cheese. Throughout the day all sorts of open-faced sandwiches including shrimp and marinated herring form a virtual smorgasbord of good eating. Perhaps best illustrating the family touches that are found aboard Viking ships, the Chinaware in Mamsen’s is of the same pattern that Torstein Hagen’s mother Ragnhild used in her kitchen. After she passed away his daughter Karine discovered that the name of this dishware was stamped on the bottom “Tor Viking,” as fortuitous, or one might say prescient, occurrence as one can have.
The main pool deck facing aft. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, © 2018.
Light and shadows play in the superb Wintergarden which is flanked by equally lovely lanais on either side. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, © 2018.
A corner of the Wintergarden showing Odin and his crows. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, © 2018.
Mid-ship on Deck 7 the main swimming pool can be open-air or covered by a sliding glass dome depending on the weather. It adjoins the Wintergarden, a stunningly beautiful room with overhead trellises and furnishings of pale Norwegian wood and corner metal sculptures of famous places around the world watched over by black crows that report their findings to the mythical god Odin. A nautical touch is provided by the oversized punkah louvres that ventilate the room. High tea is held here daily with a menu selection of loose-leaf teas, multi-tiered sandwich trays and generous helpings of scones with clotted cream and jam.
The Aquavit Terrace on Deck 7 aft. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, © 2018.
The Infinity Pool provides a nice vantage point to watch the wake disappear behind the ship. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, © 2018.
More food is available further along this deck in the World Café, the ship’s causal dining venue. Beyond that is the indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace for drinks or alfresco dining. The beautiful Infinity Pool and hot tub overlook the stern.
A portion of the Library on the upper level of the Explorer’s Lounge. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, © 2018.
Deck 8 contains the upper level of the Explorer’s Lounge with a library and some fine Viking ship models in a nautical setting. This is the highest level of passenger accommodations with several Penthouse Jr. Suites and four Deluxe Veranda staterooms. There is even more outdoor walking space above the pools and around the base of the funnel. The Sports Deck on level nine has putting greens and more outside activity areas.
A product of Ancona, Italy. The Fincantieri builder’s plate of the VIKING SUN. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, © 2018.
The builder’s plate of the ship is located at the base of the short mast containing coins significant to the histories of the Hagen family and that of Yi Lou, a vice-president at China Merchant Bank Financial Leasing and godmother of the VIKING SUN.
Another view of the Atrium and its ever-changing photographic backdrop. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, © 2018.
Very few cruise lines these days remain privately owned. In the larger scheme of things and down to the most minute details there is a huge difference between a corporate structure answering to shareholders and a single person putting a personal touch on his ships and being involved in a hands-on way. That is one of the distinguishing characteristics that make Viking Ocean cruises unique. As Torstein Hagen stated in his press conference, “All our ships are identical… Why change a perfect design.” On this momentous day in Los Angeles harbor it was also revealed that following the VIKING ORION in 2018, the next new ship will be named VIKING JUPITER when it arrives in early 2019.
The VIKING SUN shines brightly in the setting sun of California. Photo by Shawn J. Dake, © 2018.
Looking to the near-future, another World Cruise is being offered in 2019 with a slightly shorter duration of 128-days from Miami to London, also aboard the VIKING SUN. For size, amenities, comfort and cuisine and it would be difficult to find a better choice for the job.
Thanks to Peter Knego, Chad Grossman, Torstein Hagen and Martin Cox.
Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years. A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary. A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs. Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America. With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
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