Fodor’s Expert Review
Built in late 2022, this 930-passenger ship is the eighth entry in Viking Cruise’s Ocean Class, a sister ship to Jupiter, Mars, Orion, Sea, Sky, Star and Venus, and sports the same light-hued woods and other decorative details as its siblings. The first Ocean Class debuted in 2015 with Star, giving passengers greater access to Europe than the river cruises the line’s best known for. Marketed as an all-inclusive cruise line, and to “the thinking person,” Viking guests like that there’s no nickeling and diming. For example, WiFi is free; drinks are included, with extra fees for premium wines and spirits; and there’s at least one complimentary “Included” shore excursion is in every port, typically a short walking tour or half-day motor-coach excursion. Dining at specialty restaurants on board does not cost extra either. Daily lectures in history and culture provide a deeper immersion into ports where the ship is docked.Read More
Set to embark on a robust itinerary in the coming years, what sets this ship apart is its Mediterranean “sweet spot” during the “quiet season” (November through January) when temperatures are mild and there are few crowds. In spring and summer of 2023 and 2024, Viking Neptune is slated to sail Northern Europe itineraries to Iceland, England and Norway, along with Canada and Greenland; an 18-day Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles through the Panama Canal during the 2023 Christmas holiday; and a 13-day Eastern Seaboard sailing from Montreal to New York City during summer and early fall 2023. In short, there’s a sailing for every cruiser.
Past Viking guests on other Ocean-class ships will recognize the World Café (a very upmarket “buffet,” with a new made-to-order Asian-foods area), afternoon-tea service paired with string music, Manfredi’s (specialty Italian), The Chef’s Table (nightly chef’s menu that rotates) and a spa (The Nordic Spa) embracing Nordic-healing traditions, such as the Snow Grotto and Norwegian-inspired treatments. As with all Viking ships, large-format photography, framed visual art, Scandi design and live classical music set the tone for finer living.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
What to expect on board
Staterooms & Cabins
From the 1,448-square-foot Owner’s Suite, which flaunts a conference room and sauna for meetings and relaxation, to the 270-square-foot Veranda Stateroom, all five cabin categories have private balconies. There are no inside cabins and no single-occupancy cabins. Choose from a king bed or two twins. Around-the-clock room service is included in fares. If you’re looking for room to spread out, the Explorer Suite is a two-room suite with a dining room, although even the second-most affordable category (Deluxe Veranda) features a seating area in the open layout with two armchairs and a coffee table. All rooms have a desk and chair. The pricier your cabin category, the more perks, such as a welcome bottle of Champagne with Penthouse Veranda and the three suite categories, and priority booking of spa treatments and specialty restaurants with all but the Veranda. Shoreline excursions open up first to those in premium cabins, although Veranda guests are given access 60 days prior to departure, which is plenty of time to lock in preferences. Laundry service and dry-cleaning are available with all suites but there are also self-serve laundromats on the ship, particularly helpful on a World Cruise. Mini-bar contents are replenished daily at no cost.
Modifications can be made to cabins to accommodate those with limited mobility, such as a toilet riser, and elevators eliminate any concerns about handling stairs. Ramps to embark and disembark are provided no matter if there is a tender or a pier.
Food & Drink
Every dining experience on board is inclusive. This goes for drinks, too—but only some. Buying the Silver Spirits package includes higher-tier beverage options. World Café’s sushi and fresh seafood are a highlight and The Restaurant’s menu served in a natural-light-filled space changes daily, serving three meals on sea days and just dinner on port days. Pool Café is an ideal spot to eat outside—if it’s a sunny day and the dome is open—although offerings are limited to grill fare, such as a burger or Norwegian-style hot dog. Even so, the two specialty restaurants—Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant and The Chef’s Table—offer more intimacy and artisan fare, such as a bread basket at Manfredi’s that will blow your mind, born out of flour sourced from a French mill; and a tasting menu at The Chef’s Table punctuated by palate cleansers and a global journey. For in-between meal times, Norwegian-style waffles, smoked salmon and other grab-and-go bites are available at Mamsen’s. Pastries that look like they belong in a Paris bakery are always available at The Bar, in the atrium. The Kitchen Table is an interactive cooking demo space requiring reservations. Wintergarden hosts daily afternoon tea with bite-sized sandwiches and pastries, with the ability to just show up and not make a reservation prior.
Boasting one of the largest armagnac selections at sea, Torshavn hosts live music and a dance club. Just like it sounds, Aquavit specializes in the distilled Scandinavian spirit and is at the back of World Café, at the ship’s stearn, pairing drinks with an ocean view. Guests who spring for the Silver Spirits package have access to nearly every glass of wine, beer, or spirits on board; however, the included package also features solid selections. Explorers’ Lounge—specializing in martinis, whiskies and bourbons—is a two-story space on the back of the ship where walls of windows frame the wide, open sea, with art books lining built-in shelves. Drinks are always available in The Atrium and The Living Room, served by astute wait staff at The Bar.
As this is an adults-only cruise line, entertainment is not geared for all ages but it’s also not cheesy. Events include a magic show, musical-style revue and comedians in the theater, as well as live string music nightly in The Atrium and spilling into other bars and lounges throughout the evening. Live music—whether its singer-guitarist Zeus in Explorers Lounge, violinists accompanying afternoon tea in Winter Garden or a “dance club” vibe while sipping armagnac in Torshavn—is of the highest quality and sure to satisfy season-ticket holders of their local symphonies. What the ship does lack is variety so if you’d rather hop around half a dozen bars or dance all night in a disco, this is not your utopian cruise line.
Spa & Fitness
Separate from The Nordic Spa, the ship has two other pools—an outdoor infinity-edge pool cantilevered off the stearn and an indoor pool (a retractable dome making it accessible no matter the weather). The spa uses fire, water, and ice elements as its guide and encourages guests to travel through a series of small rooms, such as a sauna, Snow Grotto (literal piles of snow: a definite thrill for those who don’t live in a wintry climate) and even a wooden bucket shower that, by pulling the chain, dispenses cold water. There is no cost to work out in the fitness facility and everything is DIY, unlike other lines that might host a cycling class or training sessions. Spa treatments range from massages to facials, and salon-style services (nails and hair) are offered in the Hair Salon. A quarter-mile Promenade Deck entices joggers and walkers and sports like bocce ball, table tennis, and miniature golf are on the ship’s roof.
Key cruising tips
Health & Safety
Upon boarding, guests are not sequestered by groups into a muster drill. Instead, there’s a quick demo for each group in the theater or another public area concerning how to wear a life jacket and exit the ship safely in the event of an emergency, followed by a requirement to view the safety video in one’s cabin. In 2022 Viking Cruises removed its pre-testing protocol and vaccine requirement. Masks are no longer required in public spaces although many guests continue to practice safety by wearing them indoors and social distancing.
Unlike some other cruise lines, there are no formal nights requiring black-tie attire, although as the clientele tends to be 50+, you won’t see flip-flops, sandals or cover-ups—or other casualwear—in abundance. For the dining room, there are certain nights where dressing up is required and jeans not permitted.
As Viking Cruises’ minimum age for passengers is 18 you won’t find a kids’ club or other kid-friendly amenities on board.
On top of the passenger-to-crew ratio of 2-to-1, Viking’s staff goes above and beyond, not just fulfilling their roles—whether it’s a barista or cabin steward—but genuinely appear happy to be a part of the cruise line and serving guests. No, those smiles aren’t fake: they’re real. There’s a sense that you’re among friends—as opposed to a fussy, privileged environment—while interacting with staff.
One of Viking’s claim to fame is that they are a no-tipping cruise line. In other words, you don’t need to have five-dollar bills on hand every time a crew member assists you. Automatic service gratuity of $15 per day is added to each passenger’s bill. If you wish to tip your cabin steward for exceptional service ($15-$20 per passenger per day is suggestion), place cash in the provided envelope at the end of your sailing and leave in the cabin. For incredible dining service by a waiter, $10-$15 is the recommended tip. A 20 percent tip is suggested for all spa services.