Viking has tweaked its shore excursion offerings to showcase a fresh new balance between traditional walking and city tours and more active recreational and cultural pursuits, along with culinary-themed outings. On Viking Sun, there's at least one complimentary tour offered in every port, along with a handful of options that are aimed at specific interests and come with an extra price tag. These tend to cost in the $100-plus range.
On a Caribbean cruise call to Antigua, for instance, the included tour is a three-hour overview of its historic sites by bus. Extra-fee opportunities range from riding a Segway through an ancient fort to a beach retreat at a resort and a visit to a local farm and artisan studio to learn about local culture. Most tours are of the half-day variety, allowing you to return to the ship for lunch. All-day options typically include meals.
We encourage you to book excursions ahead of time to ensure you get your top choices. You can do this via Viking's website or through your travel agent; do know that you will pay for the excursions at the time of booking.
If you have mobility issues, please check with your agent or Viking about which tours can accommodate you.
Gratuities for local guides and bus drivers are not included in the price; it's generally appreciated when you give a couple of dollars or euros to the guide and driver on a half-day tour. For a more intensive tour, plan to give double.
Once onboard, Viking Sky's excursion desk is on Deck 1. Here you can cancel and book available tours, and get waitlisted if one that you're interested in is already filled.
While on tour, guides use a QuietVox headphone system to ensure that all participants can hear the commentary. These are given to each passenger in his cabin; they need to be recharged each night.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Because Viking is such a destination-oriented line, both daytime and evening entertainment has typically taken a back seat as travelers are tired from exploring in port.
During sea days, the line schedules a few activities -- though for the most part passengers seem content to read books, play board games or socialize with others rather than attend structured events. There's shuffleboard, movie matinees in the cinema off the Star Theater, wine tastings, dance classes and team trivia.
At night, the Star Theater on Viking Sun is one spot for entertainment; the occasional production show, a musical and/or dance performance loosely inspired by Broadway is featured here. The entertainment staff also uses the theater's big screen to screen movies or video performances of the Metropolitan Opera.
Where the ship particularly shines is in smaller, more intimate productions in other venues. We love Torshavn, the ship's dark and cozy bar, for musical performances by the ship's talented crew of singers or for the opportunity to simply dance to combo music. Don't miss "The Long & Winding Road," a Beatles tribute that takes place at the main pool area. (The macrodome roof is usually closed to keep it warm.) You'll find live music everywhere, such as classical performances by Viking Sun's chamber music trio, easy-to-listen-to torch songs and Munch Moments (an ode to Norway's most famous artist with visuals of his pieces appearing as a classical pianist performs).
Viking's founder, Torstein Hagen, is fond of saying "Viking is a thinking man's cruise, not a drinking man's cruise," and one of the line's most significant investments has been in upgrading its enrichment activities. The Resident Historian Program brings onboard experts in the culture and history of the region in which the ship is sailing. The program goes beyond impersonal lectures, with smaller group round tables for passengers who want to delve more deeply into lecture topics in a more intimate session. All Resident Historians (typically there are three onboard each sailing) also have open-door office hours for passengers who want to ask questions.
On Viking Sun, the only ship in the fleet to offer a round-the-world cruise, sailings have ramped up enrichment activities for the 141-day trip. There are more varied Resident Historian programs and first-in-fleet workshops in the arts, writing and journaling, and music.
On a ship whose Nordic art collection is thoughtfully curated, you'd be missing out if you didn't take a tour. Via the Viking Art Guide, a mobile app, you can check out the collection at your own pace.
Viking Sun has a nice range of bars and lounges that suit every mood, from the observation space atop the ship in the Explorers' Lounge to the romantic Torshavn. Prices for drinks are more reasonable than on many other lines; Viking's alcohol-inclusive package is a tremendous value at $19.95 a day. Bar servers are attentive.
Viking Bar (Deck 1): The ship's all-day-all-night bar is a central hub for socializing on Viking Sun, whether your tipple is tea or tequila. Its location just outside of Manfredi's (and close to Chef's Table) makes it a popular spot for pre- or post-dinner cocktails. We love the small tables scattered throughout the area (great for catching up on email). Grab a drink and listen to some piano music or a classical trio performing nearby. The Viking Bar serves the ship's expansive Living Room. Designed with book-lined cozy nooks and crannies, it consists of intimate spaces where passengers chat, read quietly and enjoy live music.
Torshavn (Deck 2): The only bar onboard with absolutely no views to the outside, Torshavn is an intimate, dusky space that's the most romantic onboard. Some shows are performed here; we love "The Rat Pack," which relives the days of Sammy Davis, Jr. and his pals. Every night a combo band plays for dancing. It's the designated "late owl" spot onboard, though not too many Viking passengers stretch the definition. New to Viking Sun is the addition of iPad beverage menus; the club is rather dark and it's hard to read the traditional paper variety. As well, while most of the other Torshavns in the fleet have huge Armagnac menus, on Viking Sun the bar decreased the selection to incorporate more choice of bourbon, gin and vodka.
Theater Bar (Deck 2): Primarily intended to service events that take place in the Star Theater (where there is waiter service), the Theater Bar morphs depending on the time of day and the event. In the morning, during enrichment programs, it's primarily a coffee/tea bar. Later in the day, cocktails are available. During movies in the theater, popcorn is freshly popped. There is no seating here and the Theater Bar is open only when activities are planned.
Aquavit Bar (Deck 7): One of the nicest spaces onboard, the Aquavit Bar, tucked away at the back of the World Cafe, is an indoor/outdoor establishment. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls open up in good weather, and the bar extends onto the aft pool deck. Open from early to late in the day, it's a smoothie bar in the morning until it transforms into a full bar setup for lunch, dinner and beyond. It can be the quietest bar onboard, and you'll always find a seat.
Explorers' Lounge (Decks 7 and 8): The glorious two-deck Explorer's Lounge, the ship's observation perch, is one of the most beautiful at sea. On its first level, it's got a vapor-fueled fireplace that makes the space cozy on the chilliest of days. There are tables scattered throughout, and plenty of deep and comfortable chairs and sofas. On sea days, the combination of its cozy confines and its floor-to-ceiling windows (offering the best forward-facing views onboard) make it a popular place. Don't miss its upper tier, which will please ship-lovers with ship models and memorabilia and a fantastic marine-inspired library selection. At night, the Explorers' Lounge shakes off its sleepy vibe and becomes a lively nightspot, with music provided by solo performers on guitar or piano. Look up to see the constellations that are projected onto the ceiling.
Pool Bar (Deck 7): Offering bar-to-chaise-lounge service, the Pool Bar has a small area with barstools and a few high-top tables but most patrons enjoy tipples from perches by the pool. The Pool Bar typically closes down as passengers head to dinner but will open again for special evening events held around the pool.
Wintergarden Conservatory (Deck 7): Better known as the home for afternoon tea, the Wintergarden is at its best during the day. It's a bright white room with a glass ceiling that lets in daylight, and it's decorated with a beautiful, custom-for-Viking canopy of wood tree sculptures. Typically, there's no bar service, though its adjacent position to the main pool means that servers will keep an eye out for you. The space is typically not used at night, unless there's overflow from evening entertainment by the pool.
Viking Sun has two pools. Its largest, the main pool, is located midship and has a retractable roof, so it can convert from a fully enclosed to an alfresco space. It's got a rare rectangular, rather than round, spa whirlpool. For a main pool, it's quite serene and quiet; it's decorated with pretty mosaics and a lot of greenery. One quibble: The lounge chairs are rather low to the ground and can be hard to get out of. We love that the ship supplies not only plentiful towels but also cozy blankets when days are nippy.
On Viking Sun's aft is its beautiful infinity pool, which looks like its funneling water right off the back of the ship. Its hot tub is adjacent. There is a smattering of padded chaise lounges around the pool but it's important to note that it's located adjacent to the Aquavit Terrace bar and also serves as the alfresco area for diners at the World Cafe. It can feel a bit crowded at high noon.
Additional sunbeds are located on Deck 8, along with couches and chairs. There are no shaded spots there, however.
A smoking area is available on Deck 8, starboard.
Viking Sun's sports deck is located on Deck 9 and features a putting green and shuffleboard court. It's also got some clusters of cushy sofas and other patio furniture and is a great place for serenity and/or large gatherings.
All of Viking Sun's major services, such as reception and shore excursions, are tucked along the port-facing side of the ship's Living Room area on Deck 1. Though many passengers bring along their own internet devices, a half-dozen computer terminals with Wi-Fi connections are located in a nook underneath the grand staircase. All Wi-Fi is complimentary onboard.
Shops are located on Decks 1 and 2. Adjacent to the Living Room is a boutique that sells perfumes, makeup, soaps and shampoos. On Deck 2 is a boutique, opposite Torshavn, selling watches and jewelry. The most intriguing shop onboard is also on Deck 2, selling Nordic-produced clothing and gifts, including logowear, clothing and sunglasses. There's a tiny nook here that is stocked with necessities like toiletries, snacks and candy.
Viking's concept of a library is one of the most unique in cruising. Instead of housing its impeccable collection in one book-lined room, tomes are shelved in nooks and crannies throughout the Living Room and beyond. In fact, you can find an ample selection in the corridors around the Wintergarden, on the Explorers' Lounge's top level, and in cabins, too.
A similarly eclectic approach applies to the ship's facilities for games. Most are located on Deck 2, where tables, some interactive, are lined along the balcony that overlooks the Living Room. Also on Deck 2 is the Viking Heritage Museum, a small nook that celebrates artifacts of Nordic life.
Complimentary self-serve laundries can be found on Decks 3 through 6. Detergent is provided. A small medical center is located on the ship's A deck.
Private conference rooms are located off of Manfredi's and Chef's Table (and serve as private dining rooms during mealtimes). They're outfitted with video teleconferencing equipment. The pair of small cinemas off the Star Theater are also set up for videoconferencing.
LivNordic, the Swedish-based spa operator, has created one of the industry's most beautiful and distinctive spas aboard Viking Sun and its sisters. Focused on treatments in the Nordic tradition, using organic materials produced regionally, the spa offers a simple but comprehensive menu of treatments, including massage and body wraps.
Its thermal suite, which lies between the mens' and womens' locker rooms, is centered around the Nordic tradition of balancing hot and cold. There's a thalassotherapy pool and a hot tub, a retro-style shower with a bucket that dumps water on your head, a steam room and, the piece de resistance, a snow grotto (the snow is replaced daily). There are padded chaises and, as well, heated, ceramic recliners.
No detail has been overlooked in the locker rooms, either. There's a pretty relaxation area for passengers waiting for treatments. There's also a sauna and a small, cold water pool, along with showers and lockers that are opened using your cabin keycards rather than keys.
Once a cruise, the spa hosts a Nordic Bathing ritual, a great introduction to the Nordic philosophy of well-being. Available to intimate groups (no more than eight), and co-ed, it's held in the evening when the spa is quiet as most passengers are at dinner, the experience is unique. You're presented with a birch bucket of supplies. To start, you use the exfoliant brush over your own skin. Then the exposure to the Nordic wellness tradition that balances hot and cold begins, starting with a trip to the steam room and then to the snow room, a turn under the bucket shower and some time in the pool.
You also can purchase a bathing kit, which includes a face exfoliant, body brush and face mask along with instructions on when to use each item in relation to the hot and cold treatments.
The spa also has a salon; it's a bit smaller than those on some of Viking Sun's other fleetmates to make room to expand the fitness center. Hair treatments, including cuts, are offered, as are nail services.
In the fitness center, tucked between the spa and salon, you'll find cardiovascular fitness machines, such as treadmills, elliptical and stationary bikes. Technogym provides weight machines. You'll also find ancillary equipment, including dumbbells, fitness balls and yoga mats. The spa also has a studio for classes that range from stretching to yoga; an additional fee is levied on some classes.
The spa is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The fitness center is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
A jogging track extends around the ship on Deck 2. Four laps around is equivalent to 1 mile. Its one downside is that it circles past The Restaurant; if you're running or speed walking during mealtimes, you may have an audience.
Children must be at least 18 years old to sail on Viking Sun.