Just back from our first trip on a Viking Ocean ship – Viking Sea.
I really liked the boat. So different from the bling you usually see on cruise ships. Lots of pale wood and Scandi design. There always seemed to be plenty of space and you could always find somewhere to sit.
The food was very good. Our dinner in the Chef’s Table restaurant with wine was of a quality that would have cost us £100 per head in a London restaurant, and it was all included! Bread on board was delicious. There were two speciality restaurants. Manfredis was an Italian style place. You had to book for both the speciality restaurants, but there was no charge for this. The main restaurant also had good food, no reservations needed, no fixed dining. No need to dress up for dinner, although you couldn’t walk in wearing jeans, and men needed a collared shirt but no tie. A self service buffet style restaurant was available if you wanted to wear jeans, or just fancied something more casual. Wine was included with lunch and dinner.
The staff were all very friendly and helpful. Chatted to our cabin steward and I think staff get a better deal on Viking compared to other cruise lines, which might be why they were always smiling! When we complained about the noise in our cabin on a mid cruise comment form (creaking walls, noisy minibar and air conditioning) and got a visit from one of the managers to see what the problem was. The minibar got replaced the next day.
The main onboard entertainment was the lecture programme, which we really enjoyed. The visiting lecturers were very good, especially the American who was a long serving senior civil servant with lots of annecdotes about past and current presidents.
Loved the spa. It was very quiet on port days, busier on sea days. I used the steam room quite a few times. The saunas had to be turned on manually and then you had to wait for them to heat up, so I didn’t bother. There was also a gym with treadmills, bikes, weight machines, etc.
The evening shows were song based (Abba, Beatles, guest soloists). If you are fond of the sequins and feathers type evening entertainment, you might be disappointed. We are not fans, so did not miss it! We went to a couple of the film screenings which are scheduled every few days.
This is the smallest cruise ship we have been on, only 900 passengers. All our previous cruises have been on mid sized ships. The ship did roll more noticeably when seas were a bit rough (making the cabins creak a lot!). It also meant that you saw the same faces a bit more often, and got a bit friendlier with your fellow passengers as a result. A real mix of nationalities on board – a lot of North Americans, with Australians, New Zealanders and Brits. All friendly and pleasant. No children, as Viking has a policy of no passengers under 18. Most of the passengers were in their 60’s or 70’s. Only a few in wheelchairs.
The excusions were OK. I was pleased that they used individual headsets (QuietVox) for the passengers so that it was easy to hear what the tour guide was saying. The quality of the tour varied depending on the tour guide, which is normal. I did enjoy the foodie trips and splashed out on the Kitchen Table tour, visiting the local market with the chef to buy food for dinner, then eating it that evening with the small group on the tour. I also did one of the cookery classes they run on sea days. These can only be booked on board, and are not very well advertised. Glad I did it – very enjoyable. Disappointing that we were unable to book the Alhambra excursion. I logged in before the cruise to book as soon as the online booking opened, but it was already fully booked, presumably by people in higher grade cabins who get earlier booking.
There was a free excursion available at each port, but they were usually “panoramic” style trips where you went round the destination in a coach with a couple of photo stops. You needed to be able to get on and off the coach yourself, but wheelchairs could be taken in the baggage compartment. If you booked one of the other excursions, the costs ranged from around £50 to more than £200 for the really special trips, such as flying over the glaciers in a Cessna 4 seater plane.
Viking Ocean cruises are a good choice if you want a trip that feeds the mind and the body! A bit more expensive than companies such as P&O or Fred Olsen, but you do see the difference.