All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2016 unless otherwise noted.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
Moments after the local bus from Mestre dropped us off at Venice’s convenient Piazzale Roma Station, we were treated to our first views of Viking Ocean Cruises’ spanking new VIKING SEA. Alas, we would have to wait a day before boarding, so we devoted the afternoon to roaming the cobblestone walkways and canals of the City of Water.
It’s a scenic walk along the Canale Giudecca to the Ponte Accademia overlooking the Canale Grande. The shoulder season weather was bliss and the lighting offered up stark contrasts of sunlight and shadow.
At Piazza San Marco, we toured the Basilica (which is free but where no photos are allowed), then opted to wait in the 45-minute queue for a ride to the top of the famed campanile.
Perhaps no symbol of the ancients would be more predominant throughout the upcoming voyage than the striking winged Venetian lion.
Once atop the bell tower, we squeezed through the crowds to enjoy the views in each direction. To the west lay the VIKING SEA and beyond the lagoon, the chimneys and industrial mainland Italian landscape that includes Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard.
Directly below us, the pigeons vied with ebullient visitors and their selfie sticks.
Meanwhile, the self-absorbed throngs in our midst seemed less concerned with the spectacular setting than their pouty poses.
To our southwest, a riverboat glided past the tiny islet of San Giorgio, which boasts an almost equally splendid campanile.
And to the southeast, the Canale Giudecca meandered past the Doges Palace towards the Adriatic Sea.
Once back on the ground, we visited a local pizzeria and then headed back into the labyrinth for the Rialto Bridge.
From the Rialto, we waded through yet more selfie sticks for a view of the Grand Canal’s vaporettos and gondolas.
There were more photo-ops along the Grand Canal as we worked our way back to the Piazzale Roma, for the return bus ride to our hotel in Mestre.
Friday, October 28, 2016
We stepped into the VIKING SEA’s Atrium an hour ahead of embarkation to get photos of the accommodation and public areas before they filled with guests. In all discernible aspects, save for her art collection, the nine deck, 47,800 gt, 930-guest vessel is identical to the VIKING STAR. Located at the bottom/center of the ship, the Atrium is a true “wow” space with its three deck tall recess over the grand staircase and dancefloor.
Discretely located on the port side of the lowest (Deck 1) level of the Atrium, the Guest Services area eschews the typical Purser’s Office format for a less formal trio of desks where receptionists handle guest check in and inquiries on a 24-hour basis.
Two layers of balconies flank the outer edges of the Atrium.
In the Atrium and throughout the ship, there are intimate, inviting corners with high end, comfortable furnishings that have an undeniably Scandinavian MidCentury feel.
We were checked in immediately and then taken to a selection of cabins, beginning with a stunning Explorer Suite on forward/starboard Deck 5. These 458-square-foot apartments have a large living room and dining nook that overlook the bow.
The forward portion of Explorer Suite balconies are protected by a glass screen that helps provide shelter from high winds when the ship is under way.
Explorer Suites have lavish bathrooms with jacuzzi tubs, a television and twin sinks among their perks.
Explorer Suite bedrooms have large picture windows that face an inaccessible terrace that overlooks the bow.
Penthouse Junior Suites measure 336-square-feet and have a similar layout to the narrower Deluxe Veranda Suites with beds inboard and living space towards the outer end of the floor plan.
We would be occupying Deluxe Veranda Stateroom 4052 on port Deck 4.
It has a separate seating area with a small sofa, coffee table, mini-bar (replenished daily with soft drinks and juices), binoculars, quiet vox headsets for shore excursions and a coffee maker.
The balcony is wide enough for two chairs and a small dining table.
The bathroom boasts some nice features like a heated floor, defogging mirror and even a night light setting (switch is by the bed).
Viking supplies high quality Freyja amenities that include moisturizer, soap, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and shower caps.
Public areas are located at the top and bottom of the ship, sandwiching four full decks of all-verandah accommodation. We began our interior coverage with the gorgeous Explorer’s Lounge on forward Deck 7 which offers stunning views from atop the bridge with an arc of forward-facing full length windows that wrap around either side.
The Explorer’s Lounge terrace on Deck 8 is reached from the lower level by staircases on either side. Set back slightly, it features sailing ship models and an eclectic collection of books and objects d’art in its aft shelving.
The terraced Wintergarden is located on midships Deck 7 and opens up to the pool area via folding screens.
The Main Pool area is surrounded with deck chairs and features a waterfall, a stepped down pool and a large hot tub. A large LED screen on the aft bulkhead is used for movie screenings and musical performances and the entire space can be sheltered from inclement weather by a sliding glass and steel Sky Dome.
The World Cafe casual dining venue follows the pool area on Deck 7 with galleries of seating surrounding inboard buffet stations. Its aft portion fuses into the indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace at the stern of the ship.
Cuisine in the aptly named World Cafe ranges from Mediterranean and Asian to fresh sea food and local specialties from the regions the VIKING SEA visits. Almost everything is prepared freshly in the on site open kitchen.
In addition to the galleries overlooking the Atrium on Deck 3, public areas on the VIKING SEA continue at the bottom of the ship on Decks 2 and 1.
Deck 2 is encircled by a 360-degree promenade that can be used as a jogging track (4 times around is a mile). The Viking Theater is the main showroom with wings on either side that can be used as cinemas or meeting rooms.
Named for Viking Cruises’ chairman Torstein Hagen, Torshavn is sandwiched between the shops and the Atrium on Deck 2. It is the go-to for late night live music and cabaret style shows such as the popular Rat Pack revues.
The Restaurant follows the Atrium on Deck 2. The open seating venue offers a multi-course, full service dinner every evening between 6:00 and 9:00 PM. Broken up into numerous smaller alcoves, it opens up onto the Promenade Deck via unfolding screens.
Deck 1 begins with the spectacular Spa and its thermal suite which is available to all guests for no charge.
Men’s and women’s dressing areas on either side access the steam and sauna areas which also feature a snow room.
Manfredi’s is the reservations-required, no-charge Italian Restaurant on the aft/starboard side of Deck 1.
On the port side of Deck 1, across from Manfredi’s, there is the reservations-required, no charge, gourmet wine pairing and dining venue Chef’s Table.
We would spend the rest of the day relishing time on our beautiful ship, unpacking, dining and looking forward to a week full of exciting places, some familiar and others that would be exciting “firsts”. At 11:00 PM, with most of her guests retired after their long commutes, the VIKING SEA quietly cast her lines and motored into the Adriatic.
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."