(5:30 p.m. AEST) -- The Vikings have arrived! Viking Ocean Cruises' newest ship, Viking Sun, arrived in Sydney for the first time today, marking the brand's debut down under and its maiden voyage around the world.
The 930-passenger Viking Sun set off from Miami on December 15, 2017, on a 141-day cruise to London, around five continents, 35 countries and 66 ports. Melbourne was the first port of call for the ship's foray into Australian waters on February 8, followed by Sydney this morning, with Brisbane, the Whitsunday Islands, Cairns, Thursday Island and Darwin to follow.
Senior vice president of marketing, Richard Marnell, says the cruise line is extremely proud of the newest edition to the fleet, which he says will play an increasingly important role in the growth of the cruise industry in Australia and New Zealand.
"Viking Sun offers its guests the opportunity to experience the best Australia has to offer to ensure the Australian experience is both authentic and memorable," he said onboard the ship today. "The arrival of Viking Sun also embodies the future of cruising in Australia and New Zealand."
Viking's points of difference include its no-children policy, its destination-focused itineraries and a free shore excursion on offer in every port. But it's that "attention to detail" that Marnell says takes the fleet to the next level in terms of comfort and style.
"What I love about our new ships such as the Viking Sun is the attention to detail. From the reindeer pelts in the Explorer's Lounge to the leather handrails, original Edvard Munch artworks, to the quality of the materials and workmanship, extremely large bathrooms and ergonomic fixtures. The ships are spacious and quiet with an understated elegance that is synonymous with our Scandinavian vessels and the Viking heritage," he says. Marnell says Viking's state-of-the-art, all-veranda ocean ships are fast gaining a reputation for what they don't do: "No casinos, no children under 18, no formal nights, no casinos, no art auctions, no smoking, no charge for beer at lunch or dinner, no charge for unlimited WiFi, no sales pressure in the spa," says Marnell.
"Up until 2015, Viking was renowned for its river cruises. The fact that we only launched our ocean-going vessels in 2015 and were named No. 1 Ocean Cruise Line by Travel + Leisure readers in 2017 and 2016 means we are shaping up to be a formidable competitor," says Marnell.
Viking Sun's sister ships, Viking Star and Viking Sea also received top honours in 10 categories in the Small-Mid-Size class of the Cruise Critic 7th Annual Cruisers' Choice Awards in 2017.
Since its inception in 1997, the company has expanded to include a fleet of 69 river vessels, and, by 2019, will include six ocean ships. Chairman Torstein Hagen says he designed the brand for discerning travellers with an interest in science, history, culture and cuisine.
"The itineraries are designed with fewer sea days and more time in port than any other cruise line," he says.
Viking Sun also features a three-deck atrium, an infinity pool that Is cantilevered off the stern, a sports deck, and spa that includes both a sauna and snow grotto.
In addition, there are 10 onboard dining rooms, a two-storey Explorers' Lounge, main theatre and two movie theatres where TeDX talks are screened.
Viking Ocean Cruises will start home-porting from Australia in December 2018, with the company's next new ship, Viking Orion spending three months of the year cruising between Sydney and Auckland. Orion will be delivered in 2018, and in 2019 Viking will become the world's largest small ship ocean cruise line following completion of Viking Jupiter.
-- By Carla Grossetti, Cruise Critic Contributor