Saturday, 31 March 2018

Viking Sea's West Indies Explorer Cruise

Viking Sea Outdoor Seating Area by The World Café

Launched in 2016 by the thriving Viking Cruises company, Viking Sea has spent its spring season exploring the West Indies on an eleven day round trip from San Juan in Puerto Rico. I was invited by the UK team to experience part of this destination-focused cruise, starting midway in beautiful Barbados.


After conquering the river cruise market the company has gone from strength to strength on the open seas snagging a string of awards and expanding to 10 ships by 2023.

WHAT'S CRUISING WITH VIKING LIKE?
Viking Sea has totally transformed the way I look at cruising, I think they've taken what works well on the rivers and developed it rather than imitating established cruise lines.

Beautiful Atrium area onboard Viking Sea Ocean Cruise Ship
The Living Room on Viking Sea
The Viking Sea docked in Antigua

The atmosphere was more relaxed than I imagined with no formal evenings or strict timings for dinner, everything was to your own pace and the price you pay covers all restaurants, beer/wine/soft drinks with lunch and dinner, an excursion in each port, the spa and even wifi.

Sunset over the Caribbean onboard Viking Sea, at the back of the ship is an infinity pool
The Living Room onboard the Viking Sea is Scandi chic with comfortable seating and a book selection
Viking Cruises Captains Bridge

In fact it was so relaxed I rarely heard the cruise director and even though activities and events were happening nothing was pushed or sold to you. It's a totally different vibe to a family-orientated cruise ship, there's no rushing for a table in their self service restaurant, the World Café, or Las Vegas style casino for a late night gamble.

Breakfast in The World Café on Viking Cruises
Freshly made Waffle, Breakfast selection on Viking Cruises

Further reading: What to expect on an Eastern Mediterranean Cruise 

That's not to say it's totally lacking on entertainment, there's the Star Theatre, 3D cinema and themed parties with live music at Torshavn bar, but the general onboard vibe makes you want to unwind and indulge in a lot of 'me-time' with a cocktail or two. The ships size also means it's able to navigate smaller ports and Viking intentionally stay longer at the dockside so you've more time to enjoy destinations like St. Marteen, Antigua, Guadeloupe and St. Thomas.

Cocktails at sundown on The Viking Sea
Shirley Heights shore excursion in Antigua with Viking Cruises

DESIGNED FOR COMPLETE COMFORT | Viking Cruise Guide 
The chic Scandinavian furnishings balance spaciousness with comfort and even though this is the smallest cruise ship I've been on (50,000 tonnes with 930 guests) I was so surprised how roomy and quiet the ship felt at times, particularly the dining rooms and pool areas.

Winter Garden Afternoon Tea on Viking Cruises
Viking Sea outdoor smoking area

"We provide a thoughtful, authentic and well-designed small ship experience that brings you closer to the world’s cultures." - Viking Cruises 

I stayed in a Penthouse Veranda that had all the amenities you could ask for including access to a free laundrette, vanity unit, mini binoculars, hair dryer, iron, robes and toiletries in the equally stylish (and underfloor heated) restroom.
Another advantage of Viking cruise ships is that all rooms have their own veranda giving every guest a private outdoor space to enjoy round the clock room service.

Penthouse Veranda Cabin onboard the Viking Sea cruise ship
Viking Sea Penthouse Veranda desk and vanity unit
Shower room with underfloor heating on Viking Cruise Ship

I think this is key to why the ship feels so relaxed,  there's never a rush to leave your room for sail away or meal time.

THE 'LIVNORDIC' SPA
The award winning Nordic spa is equipped with a sauna, plunge pool, hot beds and even a snow grotto! There's a Nordic ritual you can follow to make the most of this facility that involves moving between the hot and cold spaces, it really does help recharge and refocus those with a busy life or mind.

Breakfast on your private veranda, Viking Cruise Room Service

ALL INCLUSIVE QUALITY DINING | Viking Cruises Guide
The quality of food and drink onboard was sublime, a galley tour revealed that everything I ate onboard was freshly made each day, even down to the pastries and gelato. The room service dishes were beautifully presented and the World Cafe options came with extras like specially prepared waffles, eggs benedict and omelettes at breakfast.

Lamb Shank Main Dining Room Viking Cruises
Cheesecake with berries from 'The Restaurant' onboard Viking Sea
Dinner in 'The Restaurant' (Main Dining Room)

The two alternative dining rooms are 'Manfredi's', an elegant Italian restaurant with an irresistible menu and 'The Chef's Table', a fine dining experience of five courses sourcing inspiration from across the globe.

Cured meat platter from Manfredi's Italian Restaurant menu onboard Viking Sea
Oysters Manfredi's Italian Restaurant Menu
Selection of dishes at Manfredi's Italian 

Further reading: Cruise bloggers share their must-try dining experiences at sea

The Chef's Table fine dining experience onboard Viking Cruises
The Chef's Table Menu onboard Viking Sea
Selection of dishes at The Chef's Table paired with four wines 

I had a couple of my lunches at The Pool Bar, a spot for made-to-order burgers, hot dogs and chicken alongside a fresh fruit and salad bar. I highly recommend The Viking Burger, it was consistently top notch.

The Viking Burger from the pool bar on Viking Sea

Viking Cruises Afternoon Tea is served daily at 4pm in the Winter Garden, a gorgeous air conditioned room overlooking the pool where floaty music plays over the relaxing trickle of the fountains. The traditional cake stand is presented, along with a selection of freshly brewed teas and scones.

VIking Winter Garden Afternoon Tea
The Viking Winter Garden with comfortable seating and light airy wood design

An optional excursion that's worth considering if you're a foodie is The Kitchen Table, a private space to rustle up some scrumptious dishes with the aid of an onboard chef. You begin by exploring local markets to source ingredients and inspiration before returning to the ship to learn, create and eat!

The Kitchen Table private cooking class and excursion on Viking Cruise Ships
Viking Cruises Kitchen Table Cooking Class

*Disclosure* Yes my trip was kindly paid by Viking Cruises UK, but I'd have no hesitation in cruising with the company again myself. If you love great food, relaxation and sightseeing, this really is the ultimate experience.
I was so surprised by the colours and character of the Caribbean islands we visited, if you'd be interested in blogs about some of my shore excursions on this cruise let me know!

Sunset over the Caribbean Sea onboard a Viking Cruise

Prices for the West Indies Explorer cruise start from £2490 per person, for more information visit their website.
Photos marked "NP" by Nutty Pear / Miss Nicklin
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© Explore With Ed | Wales based Food, Travel and Cruise Blog

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