What do you expect to do on a cruise?

Listening to lectures from the ship's resident astronomer, jumping from a hot sauna to a room full of snow, and learning about famous explorers might not be the first things to come to mind.

In an age where cruise ships are equipped with everything from ziplines and rock climbing walls to surf and skydiving simulators, the serenity on board the latest luxury cruise ship to hit New Zealand waters is a welcome change.

Viking Cruises' newest ship, Viking Orion, visited Wellington today as one of the nine ports in its maiden homeporting season to Australia and New Zealand.


While a Viking cruise ship has visited New Zealand once before on a world tour, this is the first time the high-end cruise line is positioning a ship in the region for a season.

Sunbathed lounges are strewn throughout the ship.
Sunbathed lounges are strewn throughout the ship.

Viking is "different from the typical cruise experience", said managing director for Australia and New Zealand Michelle Black.

Ship announcements are kept to a minimum - just one or two per day.

"You won't hear 'come down to the pool for limbo' or 'come down to bingo'. It's more like a floating hotel," Black said.

Viking Orion, which is identical to the rest of the fleet except for its planetarium, instead oozes serenity.

"The reason that our ships are all the same is not because we're lazy ... the owner of the company believes that you should feel like you're coming home."

An infinity pool at the back of the ship allows for great views while taking a dip.
An infinity pool at the back of the ship allows for great views while taking a dip.

Intimate lounges with stunning sea views are dotted throughout the ship, as well as a specifically curated library and interactive games tables.

Each ship in the Viking fleet has an Explorers Lounge, modelled after an explorer. Orion's lounge is dedicated to astronaut Anna Fisher. The theme is continued with the planetarium and resident astronomer.


A 15-day cruise through Australia and New Zealand on the ship - recently voted best new luxury cruise ship in the 2018 Cruise Critic Editors' Picks Awards - will set travellers back at least $10,600 each, but services on board including the spa, specialty restaurants and alcohol with dinner are included in the fare.

Viking is not focused on maximising the amount of money they can make from guests once they are on board, which is why most services do not carry a surcharge.

The spa encourages the use of the Scandinavian ritual of hot/cold therapy, instructing guests to go from the sauna to a cold pool, back to the sauna, then into a snow grotto.

The ship's theme is based on the cruise line's Nordic roots - a colourful mat underneath the main staircase in made from living lichen from the mountains in Norway, so the ship will always have a bit of Norway with it wherever it goes.

There are plenty of subtle features to the cruise to help passengers feel pampered, including a daily-changing gelato menu and freshly baked bread made from flour shipped in from France.

Guests are encouraged to go straight from the sauna to the
Guests are encouraged to go straight from the sauna to the "snow grotto".

Black said the cruise line focused on "cultural immersion" and enriching people's minds.

Despite not using the word "luxury" in marketing for the line, that is how the newest ship has been described in its award.

"I haven't taken anyone on board this ship that hasn't been blown away," Black said.

New Zealand Cruise Association chief executive Kevin O'Sullivan said it was great to see Viking visiting New Zealand regularly now.

"We look forward to this trend continuing and welcoming more Viking ships in the future," he said.

Viking is set to visit New Zealand six times over the next few years, reflecting the high visitor demand for the country.

Research provided by the New Zealand Cruise Association reveals that in 2017, cruise ships contributed $514 million to the local economy.