PHOTO: Viking Ocean Cruises’ Explorers’ Lounge as seen on the Viking Sea. (photo by Jason Leppert)

Viking Ocean Cruises is as unique for everything that it includes as much as everything that it excludes.

The new brand and its swiftly growing fleet is equally proud of its deliberate omissions, as it should be.

The concept of negative space is a simple one, but very few artists nor designers implement it as effectively as possible. If you think of a blank canvas, the notion goes that what you don’t place on it is as important as what you do.

Eyes need room to rest when scanning a masterpiece, and the same is true of guests aboard a cruise ship.

The greatest antithesis of Viking Ocean Cruises would have to be the bulk of Joe Farcus’ designs for Carnival Cruise Line. Those ships are undeniably fun, but its classic fleet is outrageously busy. Every last inch of interior space is filled with endlessly repetitive patterns and copied fixtures—negative space need not apply it would seem.

Thankfully, the brand has finally decided to part ways with its kitschy past for its latest ships, including the much refined Carnival Breeze.

Alternatively, Viking is all about harmonious space. One might even find the contemporary Scandinavian decor of the Viking Star and its sister-ships stark by contrast. But it is definitely still warm and inviting.

It takes its cues more from nature, bringing the destination to the forefront more than most other ships—for that, the fleet is praiseworthy. Just consider the brilliant double-decker Explorers’ Lounge observation venue that looks out upon the sights forward and to the sides of the bow.

This is but one of many spaces dedicated to the ship’s surroundings.

READ MORE: Viking Ocean Cruises Expands Fleet

What the Viking ocean ships don’t have any of, however, are a casino, art and photo galleries, kids facilities or an abundance of retail shops.

In fact, children are not permitted onboard. This is not meant to be exclusionary but rather to keep a certain degree of decorum in line with relaxed exploration. (Besides, without youth, there is also a pleasant lack of screaming babies.)

Without the rest, there are no art auctions nor professional photographers eager to snap your photo, (which quite frankly are distractions from the destination anyhow). There is no nickel and dime approach anywhere on Viking, and so there are no programs intent primarily on making a profit. It is not missed either.

Nowadays, everyone has their own camera too. Plus, no one really wants a photo of themselves sitting individually around a dinner table. Photo galleries are indeed passe.

READ MORE: TravelPulse On Board: Viking Sea Review

Gone with the noise of children is thankfully also the noise of the casino as well as the vast majority of secondhand smoke onboard. There is a small dedicated smoking area up on deck, but the remainder of the ship is filled with pristine air.

No racket coming from slot machines and table games is a welcome change of pace, but the elimination of drifting smoke fumes beyond the casino makes the removal of its source one of the greatest cruise ship innovations ever.

I was recently writing a piece about the shopping mall experience at sea—complete with its land-based brands featured on cruise ships—when I fully realized how few shops Viking actually has compared to its contemporaries.

However, the line does have a bit of a brand partner with Helly Hansen, a Norwegian clothier that I must admit I was not aware of prior to sailing onboard. Just a handful of shops is refreshing, but so too has been discovering the excellent jacket manufacturer.

Hopefully, the rest of the cruise industry will take note as Viking grows bigger with its smaller ships not intent on filling every venue to the brim with content.

Negative space goes a long way towards a positive experience.

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