Those axe-wielding, marauding Norse ancients would be so envious of the comforts on today's ships, writes Catherine Masters.
There's something surreal about swimming in the depths of the North Sea with oil rigs looming out of the dense blue like aliens landing, passing by windmills sunk deep into the ocean floor with their arms stretched out spinning, spinning, spinning in the wind.
Okay, I wasn't actually swimming in the North Sea. But I was pretty close. I was swimming in the infinity pool, aboard the Viking Star, Viking Cruises' new ocean-going ship.
The infinity pool is cantilevered off the stern and here it's as if the pool merges with the sea.
This was the first day on the maiden voyage of the vessel, a refined, elegant Scandinavian cruise liner which is big enough to give all the pleasures of ocean cruising, but small enough to meander into ports that larger mega-liners are excluded from.
That's why I was able to board in London, of all places, halfway up the Thames. The ship had left from Istanbul and was on its way to the idyllic fjord town of Bergen, Norway, its spiritual home if you like, for a grand christening on Norway's annual Constitution Day.
At Greenwich, London, a local said incredulously that you don't see many cruise liners down here. "You lucky thing," she said, gazing at the sleek, shiny new ship berthed in the Thames, the first of three ocean liners Viking - better known for its European river cruises - is launching.
She was right. This ship is primo, and boarding in London, with the Cutty Sark nearby and a backdrop of London's skyline was pretty special.
We cruised away to a commentary from one of the many guest experts the ship hires. This one was Captain William Wells, who happened to be a Kiwi, "a lad from Wellington" who became a successful river pilot.
As the ship squeezed through the narrow Thames barrier gates, which can be closed to prevent flooding, he told many a tale about the river - how over here is a tunnel some still think is haunted, and how 40 years ago the river was ecologically dead but is now one of the cleanest in Europe. Dolphins, seahorses, and once in a while a whale, swim in it.
As you cruise past the new part of London the apartment blocks lose their grip and give way to fields of green, then the ship heads out to the North Sea. What better time, despite the crisp (to say the least) temperatures, for a swim. The infinity pool is heated, as are most of the other pools on board.
There's also a snow room, with temperatures kept at minus 10C so the snow is real. The idea is to get immensely hot in the sauna then cool down in the snow room. You do this over and over because it's apparently great for the immune system and, in fact, it's impossible to do without coming out emerging feeling bathed from the inside out.
This ship has many things in common with other liners, but not, for example, the casinos you will find on larger ships.
That's deliberate. Torstein Hagen, the founder, says Viking's philosophy is not to be all things to all people but instead cater to the discerning traveller who is interested in destinations.
He was on board and told how he had recently come across an article about the CEO of another cruise company who was zipping around a deck on a bumper car.
If you want that sort of thing, he says, go elsewhere.
Viking, Hagen often says, is the thinking person's cruise - not the drinking person's cruise. Having said that, there are plenty of bars and plenty to drink, with wine included at meals, for example, or for an upgrade you can get a package in which every drink is included.
The inclusive approach and longer port stays are turning ocean cruising on its head, says Teresia Fors, the Australian director of Viking, who also was on board.
So much is included in the price, it means where other ships leave port at 6pm to throw open the casino and bars out at sea, here you overnight and you also don't have to worry about the credit card taking a battering with on board extras.
Even room service is included and every cabin (even the smallest is larger than most) has a kingsize bed and a veranda.
While the boat is smaller than mega-liners, there is still plenty to do on it, especially on ocean-going days when there's no port stop.
There's the knit and chat circle, where people do exactly that - knit and chat. This takes place in the Living Room which is designed so guests feel right at home.
You can take in one of the enrichment lectures and learn about the Northern Lights, or discover in a port talk that Bergen was founded in 1070 on the site of an old Viking settlement.
Or, you can listen to the Rat Pack Revisited in a dark, smokeless bar where blankets are handed out along with the drinks, or watch an operatic show in the theatre.
You might be lucky enough to catch what they call an "unexpected moment", when dancers Eric and Erica might suddenly appear in the Living Room, dance a tango, then depart, or when another crew member might turn up at the Explorers Lounge wearing a hat with a feather, recite some Shakespeare, then disappear.
Viking has been in the river cruising business for many years, apparently revolutionising it with vessels they call longships. These travel the Danube or the Rhine stopping at gorgeous little and big towns along the way, with walking tours at every stop and other optional excursions.
The Viking Star is a bit like a river cruise, but on the ocean, so each port has an included tour with some of those optional extras, which you do have to pay for.
But even if you stick to the included tours, you will get a guide who will reveal snippets and insights about their homeland.
In Bergen, for example, with its deep Viking roots, we learned the picture postcard little houses on the harbour are Unesco-listed and were once the domain of the Hanseatics, German merchants who came here and took over the dried fish trade for centuries.
Bergen was, and still is, famous for its dried cod and you can see ancient varieties of these crusty, dried specimens hanging from the ceiling in the Hanseatic Museum, which is surprisingly interesting.
What a miserable life, I couldn't help thinking, for the young apprentice boys who came here and had to work extra long hours because in summer in Bergen there are more than 20 hours of sunlight a day. These boys were expected to work them, but when they did sleep they had to do so sitting up, two to a little cot bed. The boss had secret stairs to his own cubbyhole and a painting of his "girlfriend" on the cupboard door - an early pin-up girl, joked the guide.
No women were allowed at Bryggen Wharf, the Hanseatic hang-out, which was described as a town within a town, but apparently the men did make good use of the red light district in Upper St nearby, one of the oldest streets in Norway.
We were lucky on our cruise to arrive for the national day of christening. Norwegians are extremely patriotic and there seemed an almost endless parade on the streets crowded with onlookers in their national dress waving Norwegian flags.
The day was unmarred by the rain that fell. Bergen is a rainy place; it's said it once rained for 80 days straight - so the streets became a sea of umbrellas, but the party went on.
The christening was pretty amazing, as well, with the tweenies screaming for Ylvis, a Norwegian comedy duo responsible for a viral YouTube hit, The Fox, which they sang dressed in fox outfits.
There was also a visit to Edvard Grieg's house and a piano recital of the famous Norwegian's compositions, played on his Steinway grand piano. Grieg lived in a house called Troldhaugen, roughly translated as Hill of Trolls. The diminutive pianist was fascinated by trolls, said to live in the forests and caves, and even composed music about them.
In Oslo, there was an after hours' visit to the Munch Museum, just for Viking passengers, and we were lucky enough to catch an exhibition paralleling the lives of Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh, so there was the unexpected pleasure of standing before Starry Night and wanting to dive into the thick blue-black brushstrokes.
Despite it being the Munch Museum, this was the one I wanted to take home.
Someone did once break in and take away Munch's most famous work, The Scream, but it was recovered some years later.
That one was in the basement the day we visited, but another version, in crayon on cardboard, was there with its mesmerising scream seeming to reverberate through the landscape.
In Aalborg, Denmark, there was a visit to a Viking ring fortress, and the next day a tour of beautiful Copenhagen, where bicycles rule the streets, and, in Germany, a bus trip took us into Berlin where the lovely Wolfgang Ziegler led us on a tour of the remnants of the Wall.
There were two walls, actually, with the space between them known as the death area. To escape you had to climb over the two walls, avoid mines on top of pillars, and avoid barbed wire and soldiers patrolling with dogs and weapons.
Wolfgang also told how we were now standing in a place they called the "topography of terror". Here, the Nazis' Gestapo and SS had their headquarters.
This was where they invented the concentration camp system, he said.
Wolfgang was a wealth of information and held his orange fold-up umbrella aloft like a beacon as he navigated the busy streets of Berlin, a maestro leading his Viking audience to safety.
Unfortunately, I had to leave the ship in Berlin, but for those heading back on board, the tours and pampering continued.
Details: Viking will have three ocean-going ships in operation in the UK and Europe next year, offering different itineraries.
The writer travelled courtesy of Viking Cruises.