Tried & tested: Viking Mars

LATTE joins travel advisors on a Viking cruise from Cairns to Darwin

LATTE is just back from five days aboard Viking Mars having cruised from Cairns to Darwin on this still-mint condition, 930-passenger ship that was launched in May 2022.

We joined a group of travel advisors, most of who were travelling with their partners or a friend and were on their first-ever cruise. Our leg of a longer voyage from Sydney to Bali wasn’t a brochured segment, and joining Viking Mars was a breeze in Cairns. The itinerary ventured mostly well offshore of Far North Queensland, navigating the northernmost tip of Australia, with a port call by tender at Thursday Island, appropriately on a Thursday – the only land break on the four-night journey.

Escorting the group was Viking’s Joanne Cullen, Commercial Manager, Victoria and South Australia, who was cruising the oceans with Viking for the first time after dozens of ship inspections with travel partners and advisors this season.

Joanne Cullen, Commercial, Commercial Manager, VIC/SA for Viking

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This was also LATTE’s first time sailing with Viking – be it river, ocean or expedition – and we were quite impressed by the hardware, onboard product, service, dining experiences, inclusions and the sheer volume of spaces available for guests to relax, have a drink, play a board game, read a book, do a puzzle or simply people watch. There was a book exchange in the Living Room and there were multiple other book collections and displays scattered around the ship, in what appeared to be random fixtures, but were actually well-thought-out spots, such as in the Lanais and alongside sun lounges and deck chairs that surround the main pool.

The Book Exchange, within the Living Room aboard Viking Mars

The Nordic influence of the brand’s heritage is rampant, with light, bright and airy spaces throughout, aside from the darkened Torshavn jazz lounge and bar. There is a consistent use of wood furniture and wood accents, and dozens of different shapes, styles, sizes and textures of seating across the public spaces, lounges, sitting areas, bars, restaurants, bars and cafes. We’d need to do the math, but it seems like there’d be enough options to sit in a different style of chair every day on a 79-day Sydney-Vancouver ocean cruise itinerary from Australia to Alaska!

The Living Room, Viking Mars

But it was perhaps the fine attention to detail that was mesmerising, from the braided cotton macramé window coverings in the Living Room, to the colourful fine needlework on the black bar stools also here, wrought iron wall art in the Wintergarden and Lanai, to the sounds of birds chirping in the public restrooms throughout the ship. Yes, who would have thought a visit to the loo would be so serene? And LATTE‘s not one to take photos in the bathroom, but the beautiful wooden motif in the restrooms was also stunning.

Wrought iron wall art in the Wintergarden

LATTE‘s abode for the journey was a Penthouse Veranda stateroom on Deck 6. This is Viking’s highest-rated stateroom and it’s not hard to understand why. At 31 square metres and including a 6 sqm Veranda, there is an abundance of space, with a wide two-seat sofa, an armchair, coffee table, a large desk with a clever pop-up vanity mirror, side tables with extendable platforms (for storing larger devices while you sleep I assume), a large bathroom with a decent sized shower,  heated flooring and very comfortable bedding and pillows. Admittedly, I am travelling solo, but even with a second traveller there would be more than enough shoulder room here. Plus there is lots of closet space and shelving, and the number of draws would keep the longest world cruiser more than content. At 25% larger than Viking’s lead-in Veranda stateroom, it’s a highly recommended upgrade.

Penthouse Veranda #6011

A bit of a rarity these days is finding a high-end ship with a single-level, full wrap-around deck for guests to wander and exercise. Viking Ocean Cruises’ can tick that box, with four laps of the Promenade Deck measuring 1 mile in length.

In the Wintergarden, Samantha Elfenbein, Enhance Travel; Sonya Miller, RAA; Samantha Sly, Travel Avenue; Symonne Shenker, FBI Travel, Jackie van Renen; Rosa Zanin, Travelrite International and Joanne Cullen, Viking.

With so many days at sea, the itinerary gave travel advisors a chance to really immerse themselves in the product, many of who took part in the onboard classes and talks.

The short itinerary included the one port call at Thursday Island. For those travel advisors that took the excursion to land where they had free time for two hours to explore, they returned with some great stories from meeting the locals and larrikins at the local pub – the quintessential pass time up here – and dripping in sweat unaccustomed to the local climate. Jo Cullen captured these great photos of their time on the ground.

LATTE took advantage of Viking’s Silver Spirits beverage package which represents outstanding value if drinking at least three beverages a day. It’s certainly not essential, with standard wines, beers and soft drinks availalble during meals on the base package, but the selection is more diverse and well worth the US$25 per person per day to be upsold to.

Dining in the two speciality restaurants was first rate, with an extensive selection in Manfredi’s, to the point of too many mouthwatering options from which to choose. It must be a common issue and Viking’s solution is offering half serves, offering guests the chance to sample more of the scrumptious dishes. Due to our group size, on our first night, we dined in ‘The Kitchen Table’, a private space used for cooking classes, but was a sensational venue for famil participants to meet for the first time.

Manfredi's Italian Restaurant, Viking Mars

The other specialty restaurant is Chef’s Table which offered degustation menus at dinner. We enjoyed a five-course Cantonese and Huaiyang-inspired experience one night, and a California-themed menu another.

On LATTE’s only morning of downtime, we experienced the beautiful Nordic Spa, challenging our ‘temple’ to the sauna, steam room, ice bath and snow grotto. The outstanding fitness centre nearby also beckoned several times (to no avail).

Weather at this time of year was very warm, as to be expected in the Tropics, with daytime temps in the sun baking hot, but in the low to mid-30s. But onboard and indoors on Viking Mars, it was cool and comfortable sailing, with calm waters and next to no noticeable swell.

Lead image: Symonne Shenker, FBI Travel with parter Andrew (left); Rosa Zanin, Travelrite International and partner Andy; Samantha Sly, Travel Avenue and partner Glenn; Joanne Cullen, Viking; Jackie van Renen, Phil Hoffmann Travel Glenelg and plus one Kirstee; Samantha Elfenbein, Enhance Travel; Sonya Miller, RAA and plus one, Kylie.

LATTE sailed on Viking Mars as a guest of Viking.

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