Viking Sun May Be Viking Ocean’s Most Mindful Ship Yet

Viking Sun, at anchor off Cienfuegos, Cuba. .Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Hygge. It’s an old Norwegian word that, essentially, has no literal translation. Instead, hygge is a feeling –  a feeling of coziness, or friendliness. It’s warm winter evenings sipping wine with friends, or looking on by candlelight through a pane glass window at an approaching storm. It is safety, security, and warmth.

Viking Cruises’ Viking Sun perfectly embodies the spirit of hygge. The fourth ship in Viking’s oceangoing fleet after Viking Star, Viking Sea and Viking Sky, a week onboard during the ship’s fourth voyage to Cuba showed me that this might be Viking’s most mindful ship yet.

On the surface, she is largely identical to her fleetmates – and why not? Viking struck gold when it launched Viking Star back in 2015, blending equal parts Scandinavian charm with well-thought-out functionality to create a ship that is as beautiful as she is smartly designed.

Viking Sun is the fourth of Viking’s oceangoing ships, and the second to launch this year. Sister-ship Viking Sky is shown here departing Tromso, Norway after her christening in June. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

It took an unusual Caribbean storm and the cancellation of a scheduled port call in Key West, Florida, though, to make me fully appreciate how much Viking has used the art of hygge in the design and outfitting of Viking Sun.

A cancelled port of call is no fun, even when the evidence to support it is in plain sight. En-route to Cuba, heavy rains and winds pounded the Viking Sun in ways that I’ve just never seen in the Caribbean. Swell and wind increased throughout the day. By the evening of Saturday, December 9, it felt like we were crossing the North Atlantic and not the Gulf of Mexico. Swells pushed five metres (16 feet) and winds out of the northwest buffeted our ship at 30 knots (34 miles per hour / 55.56 kilometres per hour).

Inside Viking Sun, the lights burned brightly and the roar of the wind was decreased to a whisper.

As Viking Sun sails into a storm as we bypass Key West…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…things are warm and cozy aboard Viking’s beautiful fourth ship. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Rain lashed the windows as guests picked up books from the ship’s spectacular onboard collection and settled down to cappuccinos in the Explorer’s Lounge. Afternoon tea was served in the Wintergarden, accompanied by Resident Pianist Grego. Lectures were given in the Star Theatre, and newfound friends battled each other over games of Scrabble and cards off Viking Sun’s atrium, decorated festively the night before with Christmas décor.

What makes Viking Sun -and the rest of Viking’s oceangoing fleet – so cozy? It’s all about the Scandinavian art of hygge, and how Viking has employed it at every turn.

Lighting

Lighting plays a huge role in the art of Hygge, and Viking Sun perfectly embodies that. Illuminated Nordic patterns cast shadows over the ship’s aft pool deck. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Lighting plays a huge part of hygge for Scandinavians. In The Little Book of Hygge, author Meik Wiking says that nearly 28 percent of Danes light candles every day, while a further 23 percent light them between four and six times per week – just for the feeling they create.

Candles and oceangoing travel don’t really mix anymore, but Viking has gone to great lengths to recreate the “candlelit” experience aboard Viking Sun.

In the evenings, you won’t find a single table aboard Viking Sun that isn’t lit with an electric LED “candle.” Better and more advanced than those little flickering ones you may have seen, these electronic cubes of light add a warmth and coziness to every single table in the ship’s restaurants.

Soft, soothing light sources are present in every one of Viking Sun’s public rooms. Shown here is Torshavn, on Deck 2 midship. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The art of candlelit hygge can also be found in staterooms and suites aboard Viking Sun. Bedside lamps that once switched on or off on past vessels are now entirely dimmable; just push and hold the button, and let go at your desired intensity. The lamp will remember.

In the evening, most public rooms – like the Living Room on Deck 1 and Torshavn on Deck 2 – are dimly lit, with soft lighting accented by wall sconces or, in the case of Torshavn, a lamp designed to look like a series of brass horns. Hygge is cozy, and these rooms are plenty cozy – especially on a day like today where the seas and skies look dark and angry outside. The worse the weather gets, the better it feels inside the safe confines of the ship’s interior – which, incidentally, makes nary a sound in protest as it is tossed around in the Gulf.

Books

Nearly every public room onboard Viking Sun is filled…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…with specially-curated books, both new and used. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

I’ve always stated that my favorite aspect of Viking’s ships are the amazingly-curated libraries they have onboard. Far from the sad and neglected “libraries” aboard other ships that are barely an afterthought, the entirety of Viking Sun is a floating library.

There are books placed strategically on shelves in The Living Room on Decks 1 and 2; the Wintergarden on Deck 7; the Explorers’ Lounge on Decks 7 and 8; and in staterooms, all of which feature Viking-produced brochures highlighting the ship’s magnificent onboard art collection.

It is worth noting that these books aren’t all brand new. Some are old, out of print, and rare editions. Some crack when you open then, while others are old and well-loved, with slightly torn dust jackets or faded covers.

Books line the walls of The Living Room on Deck 1. The entire idea, according to Viking, is to get guests interested in books on subjects they would normally not gravitate to. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The commonality they have is in their subject matter. Forget John Grisham and Diane Steele; these books are all on the history of Norwegian explorers; polar exploration; early maritime voyages; maritime history; biographies of famous people; important memoirs; tomes on art and architecture; volumes on travel around the world; and portraits of world history.

When I take a cruise, I bring along between two and four books – unless I sail with Viking. I don’t bother bringing books on Viking’s ocean ships anymore, because I always return to my stateroom with a stack that I’ve collected around the ship (as we enter my first 28 hours onboard, I’ve found three that I want to read…in a week).

This is the best collection of books and stories at sea, second only to perhaps Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 and her two-thousand-title-strong onboard library.

Texture

Texture plays a huge role in every space aboard Viking’s oceangoing ships. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Everything about Viking Sun is tactile. The same can be said of her fleetmates, which all boast an intriguing collection of textures and tactile materials throughout the ship. From the lightly-patterned navy blue inner walls in the stateroom corridors to the Nordic wool blankets that are draped over almost every piece of furniture, Viking Sun reaches out and encourages guests to touch and feel nearly every surface onboard.

Even the pen and paper holder in guest staterooms invites touch. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Texture is also a huge part of hygge. It’s not just how things look, but how they feel, that contributes to the cozy feeling of ‘home’ aboard Viking Sun. Count all the different patterns you see, or the different materials used onboard, and prepare to be amazed. As I write this in the Explorers’ Lounge, I can identify seven: wood, marble, leather, steel, fur, suede, and glass – and that’s just what is in the vicinity of my table.

A Feeling of Coziness

A Feeling of Coziness: the Wintergarden on Deck 7, in the early morning hours. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The Germans would say this is gemütlichkeit. My Dutch friends would call Viking Sun very gezellig. The words are different, but the meaning is the same: a feeling of coziness; a warm embrace.

Strange as it may sound, Viking Sun is like a big, maritime hug. This ship exudes warmth and friendliness at every turn. It was designed – you can tell – by people who care. I’m talking about Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen, his daughter Karine Hagen, and every other member of the Viking team.

Soft throws of various materials adorn nearly every public space. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The Hagens have woven their personal family history into Viking Sun and her sisters, from the menus at Mamsen’s that honour family matriarch Ragnhild “Mamsen” Hagen, to the Explorers’ Bar that pays tribute to Torstein’s hard-working, cycling father, affectionately known as Paps.

In an age where cruise lines are tempted to name restaurants after celebrity chefs or pull out all the stops to have well-known brands aboard, Viking’s resistance to this is precisely what gives its oceangoing ships such appeal. You feel less like a passenger aboard Viking Sun and more like a family friend, invited to cruise on Uncle Tor’s floating palace.

A Space to Call Your Own: the quiet Deck 3 overlook adjacent to the ship’s Living Room atrium would be a ‘revenue space’ on other vessels. Here, it is an oasis of calm. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

I’ve met Torstein Hagen on several occasions. I have enormous respect for the man, and how he has changed the cruise industry. If you’ve sailed with Viking before, you’ll understand: this is one of the few ships in the world that resists the urge to turn every last ounce of open deck into “revenue space”. This is a ship that transports guests back to how cruising “used to be.” This is a ship, and a line, that refuses to be pigeonholed into pre-existing cruising “classes”, preferring instead to stand alone.

Viking Sun and her sisters, Viking Star, Viking Sea and Viking Sky perfectly embody the feeling of hygge. Together, Viking keeps best aspects of classic oceanic travel alive for a new generation to enjoy.

Viking Sun, at anchor in the Cuban evening. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Viking Cruises' Cuba

PARTDESCRIPTION
Part 1Why Viking Sun Embraces the Art of Hygge
Part 2Cienfuegos & Trinidad, Cuba
Part 3A Day (Or More) In Havana
 

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