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Viking Sea review: Our adults-only Caribbean cruise

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Our jaunty open-sided minibus grinds its way up a twisty road on our Viking Sea cruise excursion – a scenic tour of St. Thomas.

A sudden downpour blankets what should be panoramic views at the mountain top 2,100 feet above sea level.

Well, there goes that idea,” moans our fellow guest dressed for safari weather, camera at the ready.

The sun takes pity on us, however, at the Magens Bay viewpoint on the way down.

On our Viking Sea cruise, we get views of Magens Bay on St. Thomas.
On our Viking Sea cruise, we get beautiful views of Magens Bay on St. Thomas

Peeking out, it reveals the come-hither curve of white sand below that’s consistently voted one of the world’s 10 most beautiful beaches.

And what’s this? Waiters from our cruise ship circulate rum punches from a pop-up stand set up by a roadside stop.

How to cheer us up this grey day!

Viking Sea review

Viking Sea review of our Caribbean cruise

We’re on an adults only Caribbean cruise, sailing on the Viking Sea, the second in Viking Ocean Cruises’ fleet of 930-passenger vessels.

It’s also our second Viking ocean cruise. (Our first was in the Baltic on a “Viking Homelands” cruise.)

We're cruising the Caribbean on the Viking Sea
We first sailed on the Viking Star in northern Europe; now we’re cruising the Caribbean on the Viking Sea

Viking Cruises built its reputation on river cruising – it has more than 60 river vessels in Europe, Egypt, China and Vietnam.

Now, ever since branching out into ocean cruising in 2015, it’s also making a name for itself with its affordable-luxury, ocean-going cruises. Viking simply has some of the best new cruise ships out there.

Road Town, Tortola, is one of the island stops on our Viking Ocean Cruises' Caribbean trip
Road Town, Tortola, is one of the island stops on our Viking Ocean Cruises’ Caribbean trip

Our Viking Caribbean cruise itinerary

Our Viking Cruises Caribbean itinerary

New York

Hamilton, Bermuda

St. John’s, Antigua

Roseau, Dominica

St. Kitts (Basseterre)

Philipsburg, St. Martin

Tortola, BVI

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Our Caribbean islands cruise itinerary from New York to San Juan
Our Caribbean islands cruise itinerary from New York to San Juan

Caribbean shore excursions

In St. Thomas, a scenic island tour in this safari-style minibus is one of the free shore excursions
In St. Thomas, a scenic island tour in this safari-style minibus is one of the free shore excursions

Part of the appeal is the one free shore excursion Viking offers in every port (like our St. Thomas tour) – something that all Viking Sea reviews note.

Complimentary shore excursions are rare on ocean cruises, unless they’re expedition-oriented.

In St. Kitts, we toured the Fairview Great House, an 18th century plantation manor
In St. Kitts, we tour the Fairview Great House, an 18th century plantation manor with lovely gardens

On our Caribbean cruise, the complimentary shore excursions also include bus and ferry tickets to explore Bermuda on our own; a visit to a centuries-old plantation manor in St. Kitts; and a guided walking tour of Old San Juan in Puerto Rico.

We’re given bottles of water when leaving the ship and iced facecloths when we return.

Bermuda and Caribbean cruise
We ride Bermuda’s excellent buses to see the island and swim at a beach like this

Some 50 crew members even line up on the dock as we reboard one drizzly afternoon, to shield us with red Viking umbrellas and hand us glasses of bubbly.

A tugboat gives the Viking Sea an assist to get into Bermuda's Hamilton harbor
A tugboat gives the Viking Sea an assist to get into Bermuda’s Hamilton harbor

Viking Ocean Cruise ships

Guests, many repeat, also like the design of the Viking ships.

With the Viking Jupiter’s debut in February, 2019, Viking Ocean Cruises now has six ocean ships, with ten more to sail by 2027.

They’re almost identical, except for the Viking Orion (2018) and Viking Jupiter (2019) which each boast the addition of a high-tech planetarium.

The ships reflect the clean Scandinavian aesthetic favored by Viking’s Norwegian founder, Torstein Hagen.

The soaring atrium has a high-resolution digital screen displaying different paintings

Light streams in through big glass windows, bouncing off blonde wood floors.

Staircase railings are wrapped in ivory leather.

And modernist paintings by Edvard Munch and other Norwegian artists adorn the walls; the Viking Sea showcases more than $3.3 million USD of art.

(You can even download a Viking Art Guide app for a narrated tour.)

The ship pays homage to the Viking longships of old with a mini-museum display of Viking memorabilia
The ship pays homage to the Viking longships of old with a mini-museum display of Viking memorabilia

Viking Sea cabins

Viking Ocean Cruise staterooms (standard size 270 square feet) are particularly well thought out.

Fancy gazing at a kaleidoscope of colorful island scenes from your balcony – cold gin-and-tonic in hand (the complimentary sodas restocked in your mini-fridge daily) – as you sail away each afternoon?

Well, all Viking Sea staterooms have balconies with rattan chairs and glass railings.

Beds are king-size too, dressed with soft white duvets.

We also have a Nespresso-style coffee maker.

And a swack of convenient USB bedside and other plugs means we can recharge our phones, iPad, laptop and cameras all at the same time, without the nuisance of charging first one, then the other.

Most Viking Sea cabins look like this
Most Viking Sea cabins look like this

Oh, and wait till you see the bathrooms!

They come with heated floors – great for warming tootsies if you’re cruising northern Europe. (But we ask our steward to turn off the heat on our tropical cruise.)

And you can easily lather up in the glass walk-in shower without bumping into the sides.

Explorers’ Lounge

Early in our cruise, we spend time in the two-storey Explorers’ Lounge at the bow with its floor-to-ceiling windows.

Sinking into buttery leather sofas draped with reindeer pelts, we thumb through books about Amundsen, Cook and other explorers, then check out the telescopes.

Light and bright, the Explorers' Lounge at the front of the ship is a lovely spot to read
Light and bright, the Explorers’ Lounge at the front of the ship is a lovely spot to read

You can browse scads of intriguing books all over the ship.

We offer our guests the thinking man’s cruise, not the drinking man’s cruise,” Torstein has said.

But only in the Explorers’ Lounge will you find Mamsen’s.

The traditional Norwegian café serves delicacies like gravlax on toast and steak tartare, and best of all, made-to-order waffles with sour cream and berries.

Gravlax on toast, shrimp cocktail and steak tartare are the savory specialties in Mamsen's
Gravlax on toast, shrimp cocktail and steak tartare are the savory specialties in Mamsen’s

The pools

When the weather heats up, we gravitate to the decks outside.

Some guests laze by the central pool, which has a retractable glass roof.

Cushioned loungers and plush seating areas, with overhead shade, invite dozing and reading.

When we're not in port, we like relaxing by the infinity pool at the back of the Viking Sea.
When we’re not in port, we like relaxing by the infinity pool at the back of the Viking Sea

We prefer hanging out by the striking glass infinity pool at the stern though.

Looking out from the pool’s warm water, you feel as if you’re swimming in the sea – why get off the ship!

Afternoon tea

On Viking Ocean Cruises' ships, the Wintergarden is the perfect place for afternoon tea.
On Viking Ocean Cruises’ ships, the Wintergarden is the perfect place for afternoon tea

Indeed, in Sint Maarten, where a behemoth ship also docks, we stick close to “home” – which means we don’t miss afternoon tea.

And so at 4:00 pm in the Wintergarden solarium, we order Earl Grey from a menu of 25 loose-leaf teas, served in a white teapot.

A waiter delivers a three-tiered cake tower with almond tarts and crustless cucumber sandwiches, along with plates of warm scones, clotted cream and jam.

A trio of musicians plays classical melodies in the background.

Afternoon tea on the Viking Sea
Our afternoon tea on the Viking Sea

Admittedly, it’s not as if we need tea, what with dinner to look forward to later.

Staying longer on St Martin (Sint Maarten)? You’ll love Hotel L’Esplanade and Le Petit Hotel

Viking Sea restaurants

Viking Ocean Cruises’ dining is very good.

When the weather is fair, we like eating breakfast and lunch outside on the deck on the Viking Sea cruise ship.
When the weather is fair, we like eating breakfast and lunch outside on the deck

Along with the main dining room, two specialty restaurants vie for our tastebuds.

Manfredi’s:

Our favorite, Manfredi’s, is probably the best Italian restaurant at sea.

Black-and-white marble floors and vintage photos of Italian actors on the walls lend it an authentic Italian feel, and it has a lively buzz.

We love dining in the Italian Manfredi's restaurant on Viking Ocean Cruises.
We love dining in the Italian Manfredi’s restaurant

Must try: the Bistecca Fiorentina rib eye steak – rubbed with chili, brown sugar and mushroom powder – perfectly broiled to your liking.

The hand-rolled gnocchi in black truffle cream is a worthy appetizer.

The Chef’s Table:

The Chef's Table is one of two no-charge specialty restaurants on the Viking Sea
The Chef’s Table is one of two no-charge specialty restaurants on the Viking Sea

The Chef’s Table, on the other hand, pushes the culinary boundaries.

Set five-course menus rotate every three days.

The amusing “Sweet and Salty” pairings are especially fun.

Passion fruit with grilled scallops and beets? Grand Marnier Bavarian cream and strawberry sauce with basil jelly and black Hawaiian lava salt? It works.

Viking Ocean Cruises’ entertainment

After dinner, we check out the entertainment.

More classy than glitzy, it caters to the mature tastes of the well-traveled audience from Australia, Britain and North America. A talented ventriloquist one evening, a classical crossover pianist another.

Torshavn reminds you a little of the Hollywood jazz lounges of the 1940s.
Torshavn reminds you a little of the Hollywood jazz lounges of the 1940s

Lectures by a ship historian, BBC producer and marine biologist are pretty enriching too.

Puerto Rico

Our cruise ends in Old San Juan - and what a pleasant surprise it is!
Our cruise ends in Old San Juan – and what a pleasant surprise it is!

In Old San Juan our last day, we’re surprised the colonial buildings, shops and restaurants look in such good shape – here, you’d hardly know Puerto Rico was badly hit by Hurricane Irma in 2017.

We linger on the cobblestone streets, reluctant to start packing.

Pink and lemon parasols strung high above Fortaleza Street – a new art installation – catch our eye. They make us smile as we walk back to the ship.

Viking Sea Review of our Caribbean cruise
Cruise ships docked in the Caribbean

Viking’s recipe for success?

Viking Ocean Cruises has struck a sweet spot with its stylish, adults-only, mid-size vessels.

(All of Viking Ocean Cruises’ ships are adults only cruises; passengers must be 18 or older. Indeed, Viking is one of the best cruise lines for adults.)

The cruise line’s “no nickel-and-diming” philosophy is a hit too.

Along with complimentary shore excursions, you get free unlimited WiFi, self-serve laundry, and wine and beer at lunch and dinner.

There’s no charge either for the specialty restaurants or to use the Nordic Spa (complete with hydrotherapy mineral pools, steam room and “snow grotto”).

Use of the hot and cold pools in the thermal spa is complimentary on Viking Ocean Cruises
Use of the hot and cold pools in the thermal spa is complimentary on Viking Ocean Cruises

All of this has helped Viking garner a slew of awards – from “#1 Ocean Cruise Line” (by Travel + Leisure readers) to “Best Overall Ship” (Cruise Critic annual cruisers’ choice awards).

Where does Viking sail?

Where do you want to go? Do you hanker for Paris?

Viking Ocean Cruises itineraries:

While Viking Ocean Cruises specializes in two-week Baltic and Scandinavian cruises, itineraries run the gamut from “quiet season Mediterranean” to the Caribbean, Australia and Asia.

Or maybe you want to transit the Panama Canal?

Viking river and ocean cruises:

Want the best of both river and ocean cruising?

You can do both on the same trip.

Viking’s combination cruises allow you to seamlessly tack on, for example, a northern Europe ocean cruise to a Viking river cruise on the Danube or Rhine.

For more information

See the Viking Cruises’ website.

Have you sailed on Viking Ocean Cruises?

What do you think of our Viking Sea cruise review? You can let us know in the Comments section below.

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Photo credits: 3 to 11, 13 to 15, 17 to 20, 22, 23 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 12, 16, 21, 24 to 26 Viking Ocean Cruises


We sailed as media guests on the Viking Sea. But as always, all opinions are our own.


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews and information, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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Ed

Tuesday 13th of July 2021

We are leaving Viking Orion in an hr to fly home from Bermuda. We experienced a relaxing first class one week Bermuda cruise around the archipelago. The staff were cheerful, accommodating and very prompt.

We had the penthouse veranda suite which was a well proportioned 320 or so sq. feet.

The food was very good, with the exception of "The Chef's Table". Our first dinner there was a Mexican theme which was ok, but portions are tiny. The second time it was a California theme which was flat out bad. One potato chip, one, with garnish for the appetizer! A crab cake which was nothing but tasteless filler, no lump crab meat to be found. The third course was an ice version of a "Moscow Mule" vodka drink. We refused that and they brought us a sorbet. The main course was seabass, which was a substitute for Haddock. It was ok, but lacked taste and seasoning. Sadly the desert was the best course with this dinner.

The premium wine pairings were baffling also, Riesling? From California for the appetizer? A Sauvignon Blanc would've been more appropriate.

The portions were tiny, the choices didn't match any California cuisine we have ever experienced, and most wine pairings weren't California wine standards.

Viking needs to rebrand this restaurant and make it a more high end offering with better dishes.

With that said, Manfredi's was very good, The Restaurant was also and the World Cafe also had a good quality buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The clientele were on average in their 70's in our view, but that was fine.

No screaming kids at the pool or drunk millenials at the bars. We rank Viking up there with Silversea, different in some ways, but high end and very enjoyable.

We will be back!

Janice and George

Tuesday 13th of July 2021

Hi Ed, Thanks for the excellent write-up of your recent experience on the Viking Orion! (Too bad you found the Chef's Table disappointing though...) It's nice to hear that, overall, you enjoyed the Viking cruise experience -- and will cruise with Viking again :-). Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts...

Gary Graff

Sunday 20th of June 2021

Agree with your positive comments after our first Viking cruise from Bergen to London featuring UK & Ireland. We're booked for Viking Sea in January 2022 in the Caribbean and on the Orion for Alaska. The bucket list includes the Great Lanes and Norway.

Prior to Viking, we had 28 cruises with another line, ranging from Hawaii to the Baltic, Iceland and many in the Caribbean.

Viking is a welcome change from schlock art auctions, psuedo tv shows, casinos and bingo, and cruise directors characterized as buffoons. Viking is definitely for the mature traveller who loves to wander, but is never lost.

Janice and George

Sunday 20th of June 2021

Thanks for sharing! Your last paragraph nails the Viking experience spot-on :-). Enjoy your Viking cruises in the Caribbean and Alaska next year...

Michael Thornal

Wednesday 19th of May 2021

What are mask requirements for covid?

Janice and George

Wednesday 19th of May 2021

Hi Michael,

See Viking's Health & Safety program and Health and Safety FAQs.

The Viking Cruises website says: "Face masks may be required for all guests and crew while moving about the ship, depending on conditions at time of sailing." It also says: "Viking may require guests and staff to wear a face mask while ashore, depending on local requirements."

This the current policy for when Viking Ocean Cruises resumes sailing.

Hope this answers your question!