Sign Up for Our Monthly Cruise Newsletter
After Viking launched four world-renowned ocean ships, one might ask how the line could possibly top itself. Remarkably, Viking Orion — the company’s fifth and newest ship — does just that.
I’ve had the pleasure of sailing on Viking Star, Viking Sea and Viking Sky, as well as witnessing the christening of Viking Sun, and Orion follows the same fantastic formula established by its nearly identical predecessors. But the ship has a few surprises to keep things interesting.
Eagle-eyed observers will note that Orion is the first Viking ocean ship to feature an adjustable thermostat for the heated floors of the cabin bathrooms, a la the brand’s Viking Longships river vessels. Though the ocean ships launched with the warmers, they are now expected to be retrofitted with a temperature override, according to Karl Eckl, director of hotel operations for Viking. What’s more, Orion’s staterooms have spring-toggle lamp switches; guests press and hold the control to dim the lights to the desired level before releasing.
Dining has been elevated thanks to a menu revision at Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant — dishes now include gnocchi with black truffle sauce and a pork belly roulade — and new rotating tasting menus at The Chef’s Table.
The ship’s entertainment program has been greatly revitalized, too, which was previously one of the line’s only shortcomings. Replacing production shows’ kitschy narratives and canned music are a paired-down company of talented singers and dancers performing revues with live-band backing.
The result is now the best of intimate cabaret and grand staging wrapped into one, courtesy of a new vendor that is rolling back the shows to the existing fleet, as well. All ships now showcase “The Fabba Four” in tribute to The Beatles and ABBA, with a second performance unique to each vessel. Orion’s is “Musicality,” a fun celebration of Broadway and West End musicals.
The most notable change that Orion touts in comparison to previous ocean vessels is the Explorers Dome, a planetarium on the upper deck of the observation lounge that presents panoramic film screenings with 3D projection. The only downside of the new addition is that it displaces some of the scenic relaxation room in the Explorers Lounge.
The planetarium helps showcase an Explorations in Space collection of photos and documents from retired astronaut and Orion godmother Anna Fisher. The ship also features a Viking resident astronomer onboard: Howard Parkin, a Royal Astronomical Society fellow and founding member of the Isle of Man Astronomical Society. Parkin points out that Orion’s namesake is a new manned spacecraft in development by NASA for deployment in the not-too-distant future.
With so much happening in the Viking universe, is it getting easier or harder for Viking to launch new ships in the fleet? Easier, Eckl says.
“We still have 95 percent of the crew from Star with us,” he said. “And most of the crew from Sea remained with us; therefore, you already have all the crew trained. When we opened Orion, we had about 65 percent crew from the sister fleet and 35 percent new crew. And the Viking old-timers — even though we are young — take the initiative and automatically train the new people. That definitely makes our life easier.”
Suffice it to say, the staff’s hard work is paying off.
The DetailsViking www.vikingcruises.com