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15 Istanbul to Europe - All Cruise Reviews

It was the maiden voyage and it was going to many ports we had only dreamed about visiting together. The ship and crew were great to deal with and our cabin attendant went above and beyond taking care of our every need (the cabin was alway ... Read More
It was the maiden voyage and it was going to many ports we had only dreamed about visiting together. The ship and crew were great to deal with and our cabin attendant went above and beyond taking care of our every need (the cabin was alway spotless and refrigerator stocked). Shore excursions and the local guides were very good and entertaing (we visited a couple of wineries and made focaccia, ate local foods, saw historical sites, etc.). Dining on ship was excellent and we tried everything at least once (dress was business casual, didn't need any formal wear) . Wine and beer were free for lunch and dinner. This cruise was mainly for adults as I don't remeber seeing any young children running around or at the pool. The only port where we weren't able to freely walk around without a guide was St. Petersburg. Otherwise, we could enjoy each port on our own after the tours or tour on our own. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
The Viking Ocean Cruise "Nordic Explorer" was in a word fantastic! Every destination tour was very informative and fun. The restaurants on board were delightful with a gourmet dinner with wine every night. The destinations ... Read More
The Viking Ocean Cruise "Nordic Explorer" was in a word fantastic! Every destination tour was very informative and fun. The restaurants on board were delightful with a gourmet dinner with wine every night. The destinations included all the major cities of the continent, all with local guides that where adept with local history and color. The entire staff were very personable and knowledgeable. It seemed they could not do enough to make every day special. The on-board entertainment was exceptional. All performers were very entertaining including the local performances along the way. The spa was excellent including a large pool for relaxing plus steam and snow rooms for the total experience. On board activities educational immersion lectures from experts as well as movies relative to the areas visited. During the 35 days of our cruise I never once felt that the cruise was too long or uninteresting. I would highly recommend this excursion as a cruise of a lifetime! Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
Viking Star Read about it in the brochure and online. Empire cruise was actually 4 legs combined sequentially from Istanbul to Stockholm. What a trip! I can only say WOW! Service and food was exceptional. Staff was most attentive, ... Read More
Viking Star Read about it in the brochure and online. Empire cruise was actually 4 legs combined sequentially from Istanbul to Stockholm. What a trip! I can only say WOW! Service and food was exceptional. Staff was most attentive, friendly, and was hard to say goodbye after getting to know them over the 50 days. Staterooms were great with balconies and nice modern bathrooms. However, nothing is ever perfect. There were a few irritants. 1. The deck three washing machine was out of order for the whole cruise. 2. Some of the excursions left a little to be desired. A partial refund was given for unsatisfaction. 3. The only U.S. news channel was Fox. Which was totally crap for world news and only politically orientated. Needs CNN.....please! 4. Internet was totally disappointing and a universal complaint with everyone. Couldn't upload anything like photos to show back home. You could barely access your email.......sometimes! The onboard computers, for guest use, were in a high traffic area, which made it very annoying and hard to use. They should be in a separate area, free from walk through busy traffic. The onboard facilities were first class. The restaurants, lounges, atrium, spa, outdoor deck, and pool areas were exceptional. Really enjoyed the afternoon teas in the Winter Garden. Everything considered, we were very satisfied, and would recommend Viking Ocean cruising. In fact we have already booked a Caribbean cruise next year on the Viking Sea. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
This was a 50 day Viking cruise that covered 18 countries and 36 ports. I was one that thought 50 days was to long but in the end it was great. Would recommend this to any one that had the time and money to do it. We were not ... Read More
This was a 50 day Viking cruise that covered 18 countries and 36 ports. I was one that thought 50 days was to long but in the end it was great. Would recommend this to any one that had the time and money to do it. We were not nickeled and dine at all everything we could have ask for and more. We booked another cruise for 15 days while on this cruise. The ship was new so everything was in very good condition. The people on the ship we always very helpful. Food was fantastic with lots of choices.You could enjoy a meal at any restaurants with out waiting in a line. The wait staff was great. You could dine alone or with a group it was up to you. The port talks cover every port and was very useful. Each port had a least one tour that was included in the cost of the trip. The Shore excursion staff was as good as it get they worked long day and aways had a smile. The nightly entertainment was very good for a 50 day cruise. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
I have just finished reading several disappointing reviews of Celebrity Equinox European cruises. I must respectfully disagree! My family loved this cruise! My family recently took the seven night cruise from Istanbul to Rome and I must ... Read More
I have just finished reading several disappointing reviews of Celebrity Equinox European cruises. I must respectfully disagree! My family loved this cruise! My family recently took the seven night cruise from Istanbul to Rome and I must say it was fantastic! This was our fourth cruise but the first time with Celebrity. The Equinox was beautiful, impeccably clean, and very comfortable. The crew was generally quite friendly and accommodating. We sailed Aqua class and I believe this was a worthwhile upgrade as we enjoyed the rapid check in, the daily canapés, the access to the spa (where I enjoyed a wonderful massage during the one day at sea), and, especially, the access to Blu where we had dinner every evening. The staff at Blu - particularly Jesue, Sebastiao, and sommelier Nica were wonderful and made us feel like family. I also enjoyed the on-board evening entertainment with my favorites being the shows with the Equinox performers who sang, danced, and entertained like they came straight from Broadway (which I guess they did)! The ports of call on this cruise included Istanbul, Mykonos, Valletta, Catania, and Salerno. They were all wonderful but we particularly enjoyed Mykonos, where we booked a fabulous excursion to the ancient island of Delos (the birthplace of Apollo), and Catania where we visited Mount Etna and quaint Taormina. Our cabins were well appointed and clean. It seemed like every time we left our cabin, not matter for how short a time, the stewards cleaned! The bathroom was fairly spacious for a cruise and the shower was excellent! We also found the staff to be responsive to complaints. We had one small issue with some laundry. Generally, one should try not to do laundry on board a cruise if possible, as it is extremely expensive per item. We did under-pack a little though and had to have some personal item laundered. The clothing did not smell fresh when it was returned and one item was damaged. The staff at the hospitality desk immediately and happily refunded the cost of the laundry and gave additional credit to replace the damaged item. I would certainly expect no less, but it was nice to see that they were completely committed to our satisfaction. If there was any one thing I found a little disappointing, it was the service in the Oceanview Café. The food was OK for a buffet but after the first day (where the wait staff did really push the upgraded beverage package!) we actually had a hard time getting any wait staff to come to our table for beverages. We only used this venue for breakfasts/brunch, so I guess to grab a quick bite before getting off the ship for the day it was OK, but not up to standards Celebrity would probably like to meet. As noted above though, Blu was superb and accounts for my dining rating below! This was the best cruise vacation we have ever taken and I enthusiastically recommend Equinox and this wonderful Mediterranean cruise! Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
Just returned from a cruise ,our third and probably our last ,it just continues downmarket The destinations, general condition of the ship was fine but in our cabin the 3rd person, our daughter, was perched on a mattress on the sofa ... Read More
Just returned from a cruise ,our third and probably our last ,it just continues downmarket The destinations, general condition of the ship was fine but in our cabin the 3rd person, our daughter, was perched on a mattress on the sofa and made the cabin look like a teenage sleepover The food, I am happy to accept that breakfast and lunch buffets are mass catering and was fine, but a bit more effort should go into the main dinner dining room ,poor starters lacked taste quality and imagination the menu changed daily but still consisted in the main of tasteless roast beef and roast pork described in glowing terms ,when it was beef on the main menu the always available menu still had two beef options complete with the ever faithful and cheap salmon!, little other decent fish being available ,the sweets were in keeping with the rest of it.They really are cutting corners and the service was poor as well, finally for the first time on five cruises we didn't have a lobster night To add insult to injury the wine was overpriced 36 dollars for the cheapest plus the usual 15 per cent ,a beer 7.5 dollars plus the usual and cocktails at 14 dollars plus, It really seems that this hitherto excellent product is determined to go down the cheap mass market route ,we will have to look elsewhere Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
The ports on this cruise were amazing. Unfortunately, the ship was not. While the food quality was as good as can be expected, the entertainment was poorly scheduled at 7pm & 9 pm making both dinner and seeing the show difficult. ... Read More
The ports on this cruise were amazing. Unfortunately, the ship was not. While the food quality was as good as can be expected, the entertainment was poorly scheduled at 7pm & 9 pm making both dinner and seeing the show difficult. There were movies on deck but no blankets or hot chocolate were provided. Amenities such as little bottles of lotion and shampoo are gone. (Even the chocolate on the pillow I never ate!) Entertainment venues were few as were activities. There were no enrichment activities. Many cruisers were very happy but I think this had more to do with the free beverage package offered when booking than with the activities themselves. Being boringly sober (and taking the cruise credit instead), there was little to do during the day but play trivia or go to the ever-present art auction. Even my "top tier" event for being at the platinum level was only held at 9:15 am - they couldn't care less if I came. The bed was unusually hard and it took 3 days to get an egg crate despite generously tipping the cabin attendant. This is a smaller, older ship that, while clean, is out-dated. The balcony was unusually small with room only for 2 small upright chairs and a small table. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
Myself, my wife and 3 year old daughter had a wonderful 12 days on the Rhapsody around Turkey and the Greek Islands. The itinerary was great in that there was a nice place to go to everyday except for two sea days. Istanbul, Chania, ... Read More
Myself, my wife and 3 year old daughter had a wonderful 12 days on the Rhapsody around Turkey and the Greek Islands. The itinerary was great in that there was a nice place to go to everyday except for two sea days. Istanbul, Chania, Mykonos and Santorini are must-see's and we loved these places. We didn't get off at Athens as we had been there before so we had a rare chance to just relax by the pool whilst it was quiet and everyone was in Athens. There was a fight for sun beds on the sea days however but we have had this same thing on our other cruises, it's just one of those things. We felt the ship was in great condition for an 18 year old ship and didn't feel dated. I don't understand those who moan that the ship looks tired, they are very wrong. The entertainment was excellent and far better than what we had experienced on Celebrity or Holland America. The cruise director was great and there was always something going on at any time of the ship. Our daughter loved the kids club for 3 to 5 year olds. She didn't want to spend all her time with us in the end as she loved the kids club so much. The staff there do a great job all day entertaining all the kids from 6 months to 17! Our cabin was on the 8th deck and we felt the air con was very loud and there was no way to turn it down. Our stateroom attendant also wasn't the best and would leave unwanted rubbish in the room instead of removing it. Other than that we loved our cruise, the food was amazing, the service was great, and would definitely book RCI again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
My husband and I took 11 Night Aegean Sea Exploration Cruise, from 1 - 12 June 2015 with the ship The Rhapsody of the Seas. Apart of wanting to visit some of the Greek Islands and few Western Turkish Coast towns, our main intention was to ... Read More
My husband and I took 11 Night Aegean Sea Exploration Cruise, from 1 - 12 June 2015 with the ship The Rhapsody of the Seas. Apart of wanting to visit some of the Greek Islands and few Western Turkish Coast towns, our main intention was to see Ephesus, in particular The Library of Celsus. In this respect, we have paid the tour through our travel agent the very same day when we paid the cruise. On the 1 June when we entered to our stateroom which was very small, there were cans of coke and sprite and chips, on the makeup table. The room did not have a fridge. All of a sudden a waiter came with a bottle of champagne. He said it was from the captain of the ship. When I asked do we have to pay for this, he confirmed that the amount will be deducted from our credit card. Then I requested to remove the champagne, and also cans of coke and sprite, and chips because the room was small and we needed to place our cosmetics on the makeup table. I have also requested to have additional cover. In the meantime, we were required to follow the steps to participate at the safety measures presentation. We were guided to a specific deck where we stood in rows and listened to safety measures. Although I am tall, I could not see anything that was presented. What was the purpose to go to the presentation when majority of travelers could not see it? As being advised by our travel agent, I went to the Fitness Centre to book a spa for my husband and I since we had a AUD$100 voucher. There I met Grace, who told me that I could not use my voucher while the ship was on the sea. I could only use it the very same day we came to the ship or some other day in the evening. In other words, having a voucher meant we were less significant customers for Grace. She also told me that my husband and I could have Swedish massage and would have to pay only US$40 in addition. We accepted, but to our surprise it turned that we had to pay US$180.84 in addition. After Swedish massage, we checked our room, the champagne was not taken away, neither cans of coke and sprite, and chips, nor was additional cover available. I had to intervene four times to get what we needed. Finally, the additional cover was there dirty, so were robes. I complained to the customer counter. The additional cover and robes remained dirty all the time while we were on the cruise. In the evening on the 2 June we found our tickets for Ephesus in the room where it said that we were not going to see the Ephesus, but would go to a hill where we could see from distance Ephesus. I went to a Customer Counter for the explanation. I was told that we were going to have tablets. I explained that the main purpose of our cruise was to see Ephesus, in particular The Library of Celsus. I was then advised to take another tour, but since I was canceling the first tour within less than 24 hours I might not get reimbursement. Then we gave up. In this tour we saw on a hill, far away from Ephesus a sculpture of a God Mother that was erected by some wealthy American. Further, they took us to a pond where it was a pillar so called Aphrodite pillar with five-six stones on each other. We had dinners in a restaurant where we were told the very first night that if we wanted fresh and healthy water we have to pay as well as for the better quality of coffee or tea. The menu was the same all 11 nights. The choice was modest. The bread roles that were served with a butter before the dinner were most of the time steal. We realized four days before taking off that there was dinner available on a dock nine and we transferred there. In the Travel Summary it was clearly noted that in Mykonos we were going to have tendering. But the night before arriving to Mykonos we were informed that the ship was going to deck. At the Customer Counter we were told that the only way to reach the Mykonos village from the port was to pay US$15 per person for return ticket, which we did. To our surprise, when we went out of the ship there was a huge announcement that travel (return ticket) to Mykonos village organized by locals was €2 (equivalent to US$2.20). We made clear to the Customer Counter that we did not intend to pay gratuity. They apologized and offer us a letter with 20% off if we take another cruise with the Rhapsody of the Seas within a year. I doubt I will ever cruise again with the Rhapsody of the Seas. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
We experienced the maiden voyage of the Viking star. While each cruise you take will always be different, some have glitches, weather issues etc. the consistent thing you experience with Viking is top notch service and their attitude of ... Read More
We experienced the maiden voyage of the Viking star. While each cruise you take will always be different, some have glitches, weather issues etc. the consistent thing you experience with Viking is top notch service and their attitude of giving their guests the best possible experience. In 50 days we always had a wide variety of great food with excellent service. The spa is fabulous with great service and amazing features seen no where else. We always had educational and exciting shore excursions. The ship is beautiful and beautifully designed. It has an intimate feel with unique art and a variety of seating areas for reading, relaxing and enjoying the day. I learned about the Vikings from the tiny museum and the extensive library and models in the explorers lounge. Our cabin was very comfortable and the cabin staff was always available for anything we needed. Because of the modest size of the ship we were able to visit ports other ships must pass by and Viking gave us some special experiences like a private concert in St. Michaels Cave on Gibraltar that was a highlight of our trip. Did things go wrong on the ship, yes, It was after all it's first voyage. However the crew faced each problem and they were overcome or worked around with amazing speed, diligence and creative solutions even the complex problems. We had a wonderful time and yes, we would do it all again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
It was a great 50-day inaugural cruise on Viking Star. We went knowing there could be glitches as it was a new crew learning to work together and there were still operational challenges, especially in the IT areas, and it was ... Read More
It was a great 50-day inaugural cruise on Viking Star. We went knowing there could be glitches as it was a new crew learning to work together and there were still operational challenges, especially in the IT areas, and it was Viking's first foray into ocean itinerary vs river boat venue. It turned out to be a wonderful experience. The ship was just the right size with enough common areas to enjoy and hide out in. Two specialty restaurants plus a formal dining room and an informal café, with off-hours snacks and deserts served in the lounge offered enough dining choices with wine & beer served lunch & dinner included. We visited 19 countries and in every port Viking offered an included highlights tour - almost unheard of on other cruise lines - along with numerous other excursion packages to select from at very reasonable cost. I particularly liked the onboard lectures presented by numerous guest speakers on art, history, astronomy, etc. and the book collection available onboard was outstanding -- the selection included many historical and travel books related to the areas we sailed as well as classics. The entertainment offered in various lounges and theater onboard was well done and Viking often brought locals onboard to perform offering us an enriching cultural experience. I could have stayed onboard another 50 days just to make my way through more volumes. The happiest passengers seemed to be former river-boaters, who were already accustomed to the Viking cruise experience. Looking forward to two more Viking trips - one ocean and one river boat - within the coming year. You'll only be disappointed if you need a casino. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
Viking Cruise Critic Review draft We booked and paid for the Empire Cruise of 50 days two years before the trip began, and before the keel of the ship was even laid. We were lucky to get on the cruise, we almost waited to long, and ... Read More
Viking Cruise Critic Review draft We booked and paid for the Empire Cruise of 50 days two years before the trip began, and before the keel of the ship was even laid. We were lucky to get on the cruise, we almost waited to long, and Barb, the Viking representative was very helpful. In order to get on the cruise we had to take a little more expensive stateroom than we had planned, but I am glad that we did, and probably will never be able to go back to the standard stateroom again. Viking spoiled us on so many levels. We had never been on a Viking River Cruise, but have been on a couple other ocean cruises with two different cruise lines, and the Viking experience was by far the very best. Every cruise we take after this will be measured by this cruise. We talked to several people who have been on Viking's River cruises, and they say Viking has them perfected. It would really take something to be better than this cruise we had on the Viking Star. The wait staff in the World Cafe were terrific, very attentive, courteous, friendly, and “on the ball.” We ate in the several times in the specialty restaurants and “The Restaurant” but didn't find quite the same service there as the World Cafe, even though being a more formal dining experience, a person would expect a higher grade of service. The Chef's Table was an exciting adventure with the same menu served to everyone at the same time and with a different wine complimenting the food in each course. But nine days with the same menu seemed a little long. We did go twice with the same menu and enjoyed them both because there were subtle differences. We especially enjoyed each evening's entertainment in the Atrium with Laura, the resident pianist, and the classical trio consisting of a cello, violin, and flute. They were all terrific, though I never did find out the names of the ladies in the trio. The classical music and Laura's playing, which was beautiful, was a relaxing way to end the day with a drink. We had our favorite seats on the second deck and one of the waitresses watched for us after we finished our dinner in the one of the restaurants and would bring us our regular drinks. She always had a disarming smile and if she had time visited with us to see how our day went, what we had seen, and how we were doing. She made us feel very special, just as she did for all those she served. She definitely deserves a bonus or promotion. And when she was serving drinks on other parts of the ship she always remembered us, and served us in a very elegant, professional, and friendly style. The only complaint I can make of the cruise are about the excursions. Many were not exactly what we were expecting when we signed up. At the beginning many of the excursions classified easy were far from easy, and people with breathing problems or walking problems expecting an easy excursion were stressed beyond their limits. We never complained about any specific excursion, but there were enough people who must have that Viking gave all those on some excursions a credit up to an including the full price. Whoever set these up must not have investigated very closely exactly what was involved. We were urged to book our excursion a couple months before the trip, but ended up with excursions over lapping because the times had been changed. As the cruise progressed the people working the excursions must have become fatigued or overworked or got tired of us all complaining so much because they became less friendly and helpful as time went on, and at times were downright surly when people complained about them not being there when they said they would, or changing the procedures without any notice, or just saying “I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, and theres nothing else I can do, I only have two arms and two legs!” or a group of us in the theater waiting for our tour numbers being told to “Cam down, you are all to spirited, you are on vacation, you are supposed to be enjoying.” Well, that is what we were trying to do. I especially enjoyed the smaller ship which didn't exhaust you walking from one end to the other. The enrichment lectures were a very special treat as well as the Port Talks. The speakers were knowledgeable and intellectually entertaining. They were truly enriching. Much better than the hype other cruise ships put on entertainment. One thing I really appreciated was there were no photographers when we got on or off the ship at the different ports or wondering around the restaurants taking pictures, then trying to get us to buy them. That was one thing I found very annoying on the cruises we have taken with other cruise lines. Overall, this ship and this cruise was much more elegant, and I sincerely hope Viking doesn't change that aspect of their ship or cruising. Being on a 50 day cruise, there was no way we could pack enough clothes without having to do some laundry, and the free laundromat they had on each deck was especially appreciated when we had to wash some clothes. There was a laundry service too, but we never tried that, though I did see them delivering laundered clothes back to some of the rooms. Our room was a Penthouse Veranda and was terrific. Couldn't ask for a better room. We had plenty of room, plenty of storage, and the bathroom with the heated floors, and spacious shower were the best. The TV had problems throughout the 50 days, but it was much better toward the end, showing that Viking was working on it, and they did give us a credit for it not working like it should. Having free internet was a big plus too, even though at times it was extremely slow, especially when we were at sea and evidently there were quite a few using it at the same time. Viking booked our airfare from Chicago to Istanbul and from Stockholm back to Chicago. Both times we had to change planes. I would have preferred a non-stop flight even if I had to pay a little more. We barely had enough time in Frankfurt to go from one end of the airport to the other to catch our next flight. The plane was already boarding by the time we got there and we didn't have time to get water or go the restroom. Meeting us at the airport in Istanbul and taking us to the ship was a good experience, and a taste of the kind of service we were given throughout the cruise. They did a good job getting us to the airport when our cruise sadly ended in Stockholm. Much better experience that getting on and off larger cruise ships. Don't think I could ever go back to a larger ship. I read all the comments made on this website about the Viking Star maiden voyage and wonder if some of those were actually on the same ship I was. I found the whole experience great and far above what I expected, and would definitely like to sail with Viking on the Star again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
I have procrastinated in writing this review because I have had difficulty determining a rating for this 50-day Viking Empire cruise. We had a fantastic time seeing so many different ports of call, seeing sights I never thought we’d get ... Read More
I have procrastinated in writing this review because I have had difficulty determining a rating for this 50-day Viking Empire cruise. We had a fantastic time seeing so many different ports of call, seeing sights I never thought we’d get to see, meeting some fabulous people, eating great food, enjoying massages and facials, and experiencing a ice cold grotto after a steam room. On the other hand, this cruise also provided an inordinate amount of unnecessary stress and frustration. Of course we knew this was a maiden cruise and we should expect some amount of glitches and problems, and no I would not call it the “cruise from that-bad-place-we’ve-all-heard-of.” The ship did not sink, we were not set adrift without power, and we were not attacked by pirates. But there was a rather constant drip, drip, drip of daily problems that continued well beyond the first week or two. Some things were never fixed in the whole 50 days we were aboard. I’m listing the good things first and then those items that caused this Viking experience to lose its five star rating: 1 – The Ship and its esthetics are wonderful. The clean lines, uncluttered and calm décor are set off by some small and interesting touches that make the ship a delight. (I particularly liked the huge colorful Murano glass fishes in the first floor Atrium.) Small luxe details like leather railings, doorknobs, and desk tops add an upscale feeling. There are plenty of spaces to sit and relax, join others in conversation, or take in the sun. We never felt crowded, although I’m not sure the ship was ever at full capacity either. Now we were expecting glitches in this category. Our door lock didn’t work – it locked OK, but then it wouldn’t unlock - we couldn’t get back in without hunting down the cabin steward to let us in. I went to the Explorer’s Desk (henceforth called ED) and stood in line with many of my fellow passengers for a half hour to let them know. They wrote this down on a legal pad (no automated system?) Our keycards were replaced twice, but that didn’t solve the problem. On day 3 when the cabin steward’s card didn’t work either they finally sent someone up about 9:30 pm, just as we were ready to retire. They tried to fix the lock, but it was unfixable. Next day they had to replace the whole lock with one they scavenged from another room. (Viking left 55 cabins vacant for the first segment, which was very wise of them.) And of course as you are aware from other reviews, the TVs didn’t work. While the TV part of this didn’t bother us, this also meant you couldn’t see your shore excursions, your dinner reservations, or your ship billing account. Another odd thing was a problem with our phones. When anyone tried to call us and we weren’t there, it was supposed to roll to voice mail, but instead it rolled to Room Service. But we were expecting this sort of thing. At least our toilets flushed (except for one afternoon while they were fixing something else they broke all the toilets on the 8th floor starboard side), the A/C worked (as long as we pulled the drapes shut if the sun was on the starboard side), and the minibar was refreshed (although not everyday, but about every third day). So I’m leaving the rating at 5 stars, as these glitches are expected on a maiden voyage. 2. The Food - We thought the food was outstanding for a cruise ship. Not a Michelin star, but certainly above our expectations. Generally we agree with other posters – Manfredi’s was our favorite, followed by the Restaurant, followed by the World Café, then Mamsen’s, and finally the Pool Grill. We were not fans of the Chef’s Table. For one thing having the same menu for 9 nights in a row means you only would want to eat there once every 9 nights – who wants to eat the same thing twice? Over the 50 days we ate there for 5 different menus. We didn’t think the wines particularly went with the food. And except for a few dishes, we found the food a little contrived. Note: in all our 50 days, we never ordered room service. We tried but never could get them to answer the phone. This might have been a problem with our phone somehow being connected to Room Service in some bizarre fashion. In general though, we thought the food a good step up from the Viking River Cruises. So if you like the Viking River cruise food, you’ll LOVE this food. So the rating is still 5 stars. 3. The Spa – One of my favorite places on the ship. You have free access to the general spa facilities even without a spa treatment service. The locker rooms were clean and well thought out. The thermal suite was a delightful relaxing place. Some areas for improvement would be locker doors that didn’t bang you in the head when the ship is in rough seas and rocking. The magnets that hold unlocked doors closed are not strong enough to hold them closed when the ship is pitching back and forth. I got a nasty bump on the head – so be careful. The other pet peeve I have is that there are no shower curtains on the two shower stalls. Three sides are enclosed but the fourth is wide open. I know this is probably a European cultural thing, but I’ve had a double mastectomy and trust me, no one wants to see me buck-naked. The first time I used the Spa, I made this suggestion to the Spa desk and the ED (remember Explorer’s Desk), but there was still no shower curtain on either shower stall when we departed, even though this would be an easy fix with a tension rod and curtain. I made one other suggestion that was followed up on. Originally there were no weight scales anywhere on board – not in the fitness area, nor in the infirmary. I suggested on Day 2 that they get an inexpensive bathroom scale, and in Venice (Day 12 I think) they went out and bought 3. One’s in the fitness area, and the other two are in the locker rooms. Several other nit-picky things – First, they don’t wash the sandals between users. I watched the locker room attendant take them out of the “used” basket, match rights and lefts, and then put them right back in the lockers. The big fluffy bathrobes are laundered between guests, as are the towels. Second thing is there’s no shampoo or conditioner in the showers so you have to remember to bring them from your room. There are two different kinds of body wash in the locker room showers – one I particularly liked was an exfoliating body scrub. The third thing is that the “Snow Grotto” does not really have snow falling. I really liked this ice cold room, but all the times I used it (a lot), I never experienced snow actually falling. I made good use of the spa treatments – had 5 or 6 massages. Joachim was fantastic. I also had a regular facial (OK, but nothing unusual) and three, yes three, HydaFacials (I think they called them Nordic Facials) that were divine. I also got a hair cut (be careful here, she tends to cut hair really short), and a Nordic Hair & Scalp treatment that was very relaxing, and two manicures. Although the prices are pretty high, even for a cruise ship, they weren’t exorbitant (except for the manicure). I get a ‘gel’ polish, which was $75 at the Spa, but then they charge $30 to take off your old polish for a total of $105 plus tip – I get this same thing at home for $45. My one beef here is with the difference between the “Auto Service Charge” and “Tipping”. They automatically add 15% onto your bill as an Auto Service Charge but this gets split up between all the spa people. If you want to tip the particular person, that’s a separate charge. I got pressure from only one person in the spa to add this on top and that was from the manicure lady. I wasn’t about to tip 30%, so I talked to the guy at the Spa desk and he told me how to delete the Auto Service Charge and then add a Tip, but be warned this is not easy to do and one time I didn’t do it right and I ended up tipping 30% for one of my facials to my horror. Keep in mind too that if you leave it all to the specific person, you aren’t taking care of those spa people behind the scenes. There was no way to do half and half. I’m going to lump the Fitness Room into this section, since it’s right next door and seemed to be managed by the same people. While I’m anything but a gym rat, the equipment seemed to be first rate. Some of the features, such as a TV on the treadmills, were not working, but I rack that up to maiden voyage snafus. For a ship this size, it was well equipped and very seldom crowded. I used the fitness center half a dozen times on sea days and there were usually only 3 to 4 other people there. I more often used the second floor promenade deck to get in my walking as I enjoyed the fresh air. Four laps exactly make a mile. There are some blind spots and some wind baffles to navigate, so fast jogging might be an issue, but walking was great! Despite the couple of beefs I have over locker doors that bang me in the head, lack of shower curtains, and the Tipping issue, I really, really enjoyed the Spa, so the rating is still 5 stars. 4. Laundry – We were in a Penthouse Junior Suite and one of the perks is free laundry; really nice on a 50-day voyage, otherwise I would have had to bring twice as much, or spent time in the laundry room instead of the Spa. If you get your laundry bag out before 9:00 am, you get it back by 7:00 the next night. They did a beautiful job; with shirts, T-shirts, slacks and jeans all coming back on hangers, and the rest folded up neatly in a leather-covered box. I even sent in my Tilly hat one time when a pigeon decided to deposit something on the top of my hat. It came back better than it’s looked in years. Who could ask for more? For those who have to pay for laundry, on the laundry service slip that you fill out, the prices were listed and they seemed pretty reasonable – less than on Princess cruises. I did check out the laundry rooms and these seemed to be very nice with 2 ironing boards and a sofa. Note: the one floor where there isn’t a laundry room is the 8th floor, but most of these rooms are in the same ‘free laundry’ category. So still 5 stars. 5. Staff level crew – We had a great cabin steward, great waiters, great staff in general. They always said a cheerful hello, and went out of their way to make sure you had everything you wanted. I’m deliberately distinguishing between staff level and management here. And I’m also not including the Shore Excursion people and the Explorer’s Desk people. I’ll get to them later. Still 5 stars. 6. Entertainment – I’m neutral on this one. We didn’t attend many of the evening performances because they were mostly scheduled too late for us. A show that doesn’t start until 9:30 or 10:00 pm when we have to get up for an Excursion that leaves at 8:00, is just going to have to be skipped. The Port lectures and other educational lectures seemed to be scheduled around when we typically ate dinner, between 5:30 and 7:00, or while we were in port exploring some new city. I heard some of them were great and some lousy, but can’t comment personally. We did attend one show, “The Rat Pack” and it was Ok but not particularly good. Hard to tell who was trying to be whom from this famous trio. We did attend a performance by two singers from the Mariinsky Theater in St Petersburg. However, as it turned out, the mezzo soprano was an expat from the US and the tenor was an expat from Brazil. Although they sang a couple Russian songs, most were not. Instead we got Carmen, and My Fair Lady instead of the soulful melancholy or upbeat Cossack songs that we were hoping to hear while in Russia. Sort of a miss on the “cultural immersion” Viking prides themselves on. There was a Flamenco performance around the Pool one evening, but we were so far at the back, we couldn’t see a thing, and without seeing this performance, it just missed the mark. We left soon after we arrived. Apparently there was also another Folkloric performance in the Dalmatian Coast area, but we didn’t hear about this until it was over. (see item #10) So at this point one might say the Entertainment was a dud for us, but there was one performance that made up for that – the Montserrat Boys Choir came and sang for us in Barcelona and they were great. I loved this performance, so I’m back to neutral. So still 5 stars. (Without the boys choir, this would have been a slight downgrade.) 7. Technology Failures – This is probably one of the few things even Viking will admit to. As stated earlier, the TVs were black for the first 2 segments and worked occasionally after that. While TVs are not a priority for us, you cannot see your dining reservations, shore excursions, or ship’s billing account without it. Also, any screen around the ship didn’t work; so for example, the screens next to the elevator that are supposed to tell you what’s on each floor were black. The screens next to the various restaurants that are supposed to tell you the menu for the day were black. Any screen anywhere was black. Eventually, and painfully slowly, they got these to work – by Bergen, most everything worked, but for us that was three quarters of the cruise. The bigger problem that we had was with internet. Surprisingly, it worked fairly well from Istanbul to Barcelona. But then in Barcelona, various Press Corps started to arrive. It got really bad in Gibraltar. The trickle of Press and VIPs that started in Barcelona swelled to a multitude by London. I found out by talking to two Press people that they were given free ”Premium Access” upgrades, and had gotten special access codes – they thought the internet was lighting speed. My theory is that the Press and VIPs were using most of the bandwidth and us paying passengers were lucky to get whatever was left over. The internet became virtually unusable for days at a time. I was unable to even obtain an IP address to even connect. At first Viking denied there was any problem, but then finally admitted that they had changed Internet Service Providers in Gibraltar. My theory though is that it had nothing to do with an ISP change. My bet is that the internet is probably pretty good now that the Press and VIPs are probably not aboard. There are two cinemas that can be closed off or opened up to the Star Theater. They were supposed to run first run movies. For the first three quarters of the cruise they did not work at all. For the last segment, they worked, but only ran Karina’s Viking videos that you can see on the Viking website, and the TED lectures which were pretty boring. No first run movies in the Cinemas and no first run movies in your room either, unless you classify Ben Hur, Gone With the Wind and Gigi as first run. So, now we’re down to four and a half stars. 8. Cabin – The Penthouse Junior Suite is very roomy. There’s enough space between the foot of the bed and the desk that both people can walk by each other without turning sideways or taking turns. Or one person can actually be sitting at the desk and the other person pass by without having to ask the desk person to get up. This is really nice. The seating area can fit four people easily with a sofa and 2 chairs, plus a coffee table. Unlike some cabins, there were oodles of drawers. Eleven drawers were in the closet, desk and credenza, plus 2 shelves. Then 2 small drawers in the nightstands, plus cubbies. And 2 drawers in the bathroom, plus cubbies. The outside deck was very large, being about 50% larger than the regular cabins. The bathroom was longer, affording two sinks, and the shower was larger too. The shower head was magnificent and we had plenty of pressure and consistent pleasant warm water, although I heard from other passengers that theirs fluctuated between hot and cold. However, our shower leaked and we had to mop up the floor every time we used the shower. When there were rough seas, the leak turned into a flood. The bottom lip of the shower is only about an inch and a half high. When the ship would roll to starboard, the water would cascade over the lip and a waterfall would flood the bathroom. When the ship would roll to port, the water would overwhelm the drain, causing a further backup, so the next roll to starboard caused another waterfall. Fortunately, there’s also a lip from the door of the bathroom to the rest of the cabin, so we didn’t flood the whole cabin. The constant leak can probably be fixed with better caulking, but the flooding during high seas will be much more difficult to fix. Interestingly, there was only one soap dish, and we only got one bar of soap for the first 24 days and our second bar in Barcelona. Although we never actually ran out, sometimes I had to hunt down our cabin steward to get extra shampoo/body wash so that we wouldn’t run out. He sometimes had to go scrounge enough to give me some. Don’t know whether this was a ship-wide shortage or not. The bathrobes are my favorite waffle weave, so you don’t get too hot in them. The grey slippers I found a bit scratchy and were way too big for my feet, but only come in one size. The bathroom amenities are OK and are easy to distinguish between shampoo and body wash etc, but I wish they would have stuck with L’Occitane. For all I know these private label (Freya) brands are really expensive, but to me seemed the quality I’d get in a Holiday Inn – they just didn’t have the luxurious feel of L’Occitane. Some folks will like them though as they are unscented. The binoculars are small and easily fit in a backpack or big pocket. They were OK, but if you want to watch birds or something, they weren’t that powerful. We were glad we brought our own. The promised cashmere blanket only showed up halfway through our cruise and although it’s wool, it’s not cashmere. Also in our bathroom was a heated floor and a very hot towel rack. In the Mediterranean, our bathroom would get fairly hot with both these going. We asked how to turn them off, but unfortunately an electrician has to be called to turn them off – the passenger cannot. I think there should be a switch or dial so that you can regulate these two items yourself. One of the reasons we were excited about this cruise is the promised King Sized beds that were advertised. Alas, these are not American King Sized beds! These beds were 66 inches across and an American regular King is 76 inches across – that’s a whopping 10 inch difference. We had thought, finally an ocean cruise ship with real king sized beds, but NOPE! I realize some other parts of the world have different measurements for King sized beds, but I’m talking about their American advertising. Viking still continues to advertise in America that they have King sized beds, and I happen to think this is misleading at best and false advertising at worst. A bigger disappointment with our cabin, and the main reason we booked this higher category was the ability to somewhat separate the sleeping area from the seating area. My DH happens to be a morning person and I’m a night owl. So we thought this would be a perfect solution. (No way we could afford the Explorer’s Suite.) Not so! Unfortunately, there’s only one light switch and it controls all the lights in the cabin. So either all the lights are on or all the lights are off. (There is a little reading light by each bed, but that doesn’t give you a two-room feel.) So much for one of us being awake in the seating area while the other person sleeps. There was a pretty significant bump up in cost to get this feature, which turned out impossible to use. A floor lamp with a separate switch was eventually installed in the seating area somewhere around Day 22, but this didn’t really solve the problem. Although installed in the seating area, they installed it right next to the bedroom area. The drapes, which are supposed to separate one room from another, are rather thin, so the light from the floor lamp illuminates the bedroom area as well. So the sleeping person either wore an eye-mask, or the awake person left the cabin or read in the bathroom. Not at all what we had envisioned. So although these cabins are roomy and spacious, they are not Suites, which usually implies two rooms. And although the beds are quite comfortable, they are not King. And these are not glitches that can be fixed – these are design flaws and misleading expectations. So for these two reasons and extra money we paid for the upgrade, I’m downgrading Viking another half star to 4 stars. 9. Management Staff – These folks were nice and friendly too as long as you were being nice and friendly. But if you had a problem or were frustrated and trying desperately to get someone’s attention to get a problem solved, some of them became not so friendly. Either they became condescending, patronizing, or in one case what I would consider to be rude. I will cite one example. I had gotten off the ship in Dubrovnik after lunch to catch the free shuttle back into town. In the Viking Daily it had said the shuttle ran “continuously”. Once outside the ship I joined a guy who was also waiting and said he had been so about 10 minutes. We waited a bit longer, another several people joined us waiting, and the shuttle finally came. We boarded and the bus driver turned off the engine and pulled out his paper and told us he wouldn’t be leaving for half an hour. I got off and looked for a Viking person to inquire. I found a guy. I asked (pleasantly I thought) “I thought these busses were supposed to run continuously, but the bus driver says he’s not leaving for half an hour?” I told him we’d already been waiting for close to 15 minutes. The Viking guy said “Well, you can’t expect to walk off the ship and be whisked right into town.” Perhaps he thought he was being funny…I was not amused. I found out later he was the head guy in charge of Shore Excursions. I got a similar snippy response when after 20 days of trying to get unsweet iced tea, I hunted down the head of Food & Beverage. He told me that Americans drank too much iced tea, or if I insisted on iced tea that I should order hot tea and a glass of ice. (I had already being doing this, duh.) I know other passengers thought these guys were fantastic, but my experience with them was totally different. Other times I was totally ignored. I had tried to set up a birthday party in one of the private dining rooms for another Cruise Critic poster who would be joining the cruise in Barcelona. I asked the guy at the ED (twice); I asked a senior guy at the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet in Istanbul; I even asked the top guy on the ship, the Owner’s Representative. No one knew how to go about reserving a private dining room, which I totally get as it’s the first couple of days on the maiden voyage, but they all promised to get back to me and took my room number. Never heard back from any of them. Our room had several problem which included a slamming exterior door to the Sun Deck and a not so private balcony because of the staircase going up to the Sports Deck. I reported both these problems immediately and several times to the ED, but did not get a response until Day 49 when an “engineer” came to look at the problem. This engineer did not come on his own but was brought there by another passenger. This passenger had issues of his own and after the engineer was finished with him, knowing of my problems, had drug the engineer up to our cabin. The engineer agreed that the slamming door could easily be fixed with a simple adjustment, and that the problem with the stairwell might take a little longer but he could see how to remedy that too. Now we’re talking Day 49 here. I wonder if these problems are fixed by now. After asking our cabin steward (who I found much more responsive that the ED) to see if he could get the electrician to turn off our heated floor and towel rack, the electrician did indeed come and turned off the floor, but not the towel rack. Cabin steward said he could do no more and asked me to go to the ED to complain, which I did, but got no further response, so we lived with a hot towel rack for the whole voyage. I also found a lot of finger pointing from one department to another. I needed to call Housekeeping to get a bucket of ice; no, instead I needed to call Room Service for a bucket of ice. Neither I might mention would answer the phone. And forget getting the ED, or Shore Excursion Desk or the Restaurants to answer the phone. Instead you had to go personally down to the desk and stand in line. For restaurant reservations, there was a restaurant fellow in the lounge area outside the ED who would take reservations in person, but his hours were erratic and not posted. We found the best way to make reservations was to go to the restaurant in question around dinner time. If you had a Shore Excursion simple question, like what am I booked for tomorrow, the ED desk could not help you. They were working on having the ED desk computers be able to access your Shore Excursion reservations, but as of our departure, this was still not happening. And the ED was woefully undermanned for the inaugural trip. Two people for 900 or so passengers was way too few. On the initial segment, when things were going wrong with cabins, reservations, etc and only two people to write down your complaints on a legal pad, this led to tremendous lines. The Shore Excursion Desk needs to be open longer. The hours, although posted, were short and not at a time when you might normally need help. The Viking Daily listed the times of shore excursions for the next day. These usually came out around 7:00 pm. Often we would find our reservation times were different than the Viking Daily said. For example, we usually had reservations for the earliest shore excursions, but the code number and the time on the Daily would have us on the last excursion. But the ShoreEx desk was closed after 5:00. Towards the end of the 50 day cruise, I found the ShoreEx people to be rather dismissive and condescending, and generally not helpful. When you can show them your emailed reservation for an early excursion departure and they just shrug their shoulders at you, it’s rather frustrating. So now I’m down to three and a half stars. 10. Misinformation, or lack of communication – These instances become almost too numerous to mention. From little things like what floor is disembarkation – first one ShoreEx person says Deck A forward, so we go to Deck A forward and nope that’s not right, the folks there tell us Deck 2 aft. Back up the stairs and down the ship only to find out no, it’s Deck 1 midships. My DH has arthritis and all this walking before we even get off is not helpful. Then there’s what times the World Café will be open. The Viking Daily says one thing but then you go there only to find it closed, and are told by wait staff it doesn’t open for another half hour or it closed a half hour ago. Now what. These were the little things. Then there were the medium class miscommunications. If you didn’t pay really close attention to the Viking Daily, you could miss performances and lectures. Even if you studied the Dailies carefully, you would only hear about performances the night before, when the next day’s Viking Daily would be delivered to your room, somewhere around 7:00 pm. Maybe Viking was trying to surprise us with wonderful new events, but it also meant it was impossible to plan around them. In my opinion there should have been a board or sheet of paper that was handed to us at the beginning of each segment that would detail the lectures, special events, performances etc, so that you could plan around them accordingly. Otherwise, it was a bit hit and miss. Another example is the Christening Day. Up until the night before, it was impossible to get any details from Viking about when the day’s events would take place. Even when we did find out, it was only a schedule of the actual Viking Christening, and nothing about what time or where the Norwegian National Day parades were being held. Given that Viking had altered our itinerary so that the Christening would coincide with the National Day, you’d think they would have given us parade maps and schedules instead of us having to find them for ourselves wandering about town. Then there were the big ones. Our first day aboard in Istanbul was a fiasco. Our Penthouse Junior Suite cabin entitled us to access our room at 11:00. We boarded at 11:00 but were ushered up to the World Café and told that our rooms were not yet ready (thought we were the first passengers, but OK). We waited, and waited and were still told our rooms were not ready by smiling faces and apologies everywhere. The World Café finally opened at 12:00 and we could get something to eat. By 1:30, we were all totally frustrated. The Star was really only in Istanbul for the half day of embarkation and then until 2:00 pm the following day, so I thought if we can’t get into our cabin until later for some reason, let’s leave our carry-on bags somewhere and we’ll come back later. So I went in search of someone who could tell me when we would be able to get into our cabins and where we could leave our carry-ons in the meantime. This was not easy as there’s no “front desk”. I finally found the ED (Explorer’s Desk) and asked the fellow there, when would be able to get into our cabins. He said that depended on our cabin category. I told him we were in a PS 1 and he said “Oh Madam, your cabin has been ready since 11:00 am.” You can imagine my response! I informed him that the World Café was full of Full Suite and Junior Suite passengers that were being told their cabins weren’t ready yet. I went back upstairs and let everyone at our table (some were Full Suite passengers) know our rooms had been ready since 11:00 and the keys were in our room. About 5 minutes later an announcement came on letting people know this. So basically we wasted two and a half hours in Istanbul hanging out in the World Café because one Viking hand didn’t know what the other Viking hand was up to. Speaking of wasted time in port… Why were the Viking tours delayed two and a half hours (8:30 to 11:00 am) from disembarking in London? We never got an answer to this question. One Viking person would say that the British officials held up our shore clearance. This one was hard to swallow because the British authorities came on board the day before, and all passengers had to present themselves with their passports to these authorities in order to speed up the disembarkation process. One Viking fellow I talked with later that afternoon said that all had gone well and we were cleared for the next day. (Except that other British authorities would be boarding the next day to inspect all the kitchen facilities, but seriously doubt that’s what delayed us.) Another Viking person would say that there was difficulty in docking since this was the largest vessel to navigate up this far into the Thames. This was a bit more believable, but didn’t quite ring true when I spoke with two different Press Corps passengers who had boarded that morning between 8:30 and 9:00, just when our tour group was supposed to be leaving. One of these people said that they had had to wait for other Press Corps to disembark before they could embark. So, if we weren’t securely tied up, how did these people with all their camera gear safely board? Also, boarding in London were a great many VIPs. Don’t know when these VIPs boarded, but wouldn’t be surprised if it were in the morning. Now, IF the reason we were stuck in the Star Theater and Torshavn Lounge waiting for 2 ½ hours for our tour to depart was because the Press Corps and VIPs took priority over us paying passengers, then I can understand why Viking didn’t tell us – there would have been mutiny. I doubt that this particular situation will happen again, but it does illustrate Viking’s lack of communication and their inclination to tell you what they think will satisfy you, be it not entirely accurate. And if you’ve been following the posts from the maiden voyage, you will have heard about the 50-day and 29-day passengers having been invited to a special dinner off the ship for the Christening, only to be disinvited once we were assembled in the Star Theater, all dolled-up for a night out, and then being asked to leave. Talk about miscommunication! If you want to read the details, there’s a thread called “Viking insults it’s most valued guests.” They did “compensate” us for the mistake, and the Owner, Mr Hagen did apologize, but even the apology had misinformation. When Mr. Hagen said that the Star had the best internet on any cruise ship and better than most hotels, about a third of the audience shouted “No.” We got to the point in this cruise that when Viking told us a reason for a delay, change of itinerary, malfunction, problem, etc, we were pretty sure that the reason they were giving us was absolutely NOT the real reason. This is not a good place to be. So now we’re down to 3 stars. 11. Shore Excursions – This is where we had the most problems. Not that the destinations were not good – in fact with a few exceptions, the destinations were great. And we enjoyed the sights we saw. And the tour descriptions for the most part did in fact cover what we saw, just without all the glowing adjectives. Sometimes “strolling through quaint alleyways” turned into a forced march back to the bus through not so attractive areas. But this is normal for any tour or cruise. We try to ignore the adjectives in a description and realize the pictures you see on the Viking website with no crowds are not reality. We also realized this is the first time Viking would be in many of these ports and would be to some extent at the mercy of local tour companies. However, when a Brewery Tour turns into having two beers at a restaurant in Gdansk, and the Winery in Cartagena turns into a large hall; sometimes things did not work out as advertised. The real problem here we felt was the organization and logistics surrounding the tours which resulted in huge amounts of wasted time. Some of the tours we had were great, some were so-so, and some were really awful. It was clear that Viking had not vetted these tours by actually sending someone on any of the tours, as they would have realized some of those tours marked “easy” were in fact over cobblestones straight uphill for a quarter mile. One “easy” tour we took netted 4 miles of walking on my pedometer. And some tours were virtually impossible to do in the time allotted. Part of the ShorEx drill was that you got a paper ticket with a tour number on it when you first get into your cabin. You then looked up the tour number in the Viking Daily that you got the night before and saw what time you were supposed to meet in either the Star Theater or the Torshavn Lounge. You went there at the designated time. You were then handed a number on a plastic card (paper in the beginning). You then took a seat in the Theater and waited until your tour number was called. Sometime it would be 10 to 15 minutes of waiting but other times it could be 45 minutes. This was AFTER the ship was cleared by the port authorities and you could be out seeing sights, but no, you were stuck in the Theater waiting for your number. Wasted time, with no explanation. For many of the tours, particularly the included tours which were heavily attended, Viking tended to send one group of passengers right after another group of passengers, all in the same direction so that everyone ended up jammed into the same sight. For the walking tour in Split, Croatia it was so bad that in the Cellars of Diocletian’s Palace (our first stop), there was barely standing room it was so crowded with Viking tour passengers. We finally dumped this tour and went on our own. It would have been very easy for the different groups to have taken a different path through the city and seen all the sights, just in a different order, thereby avoiding this crazy crowding. But this would have necessitated some planning and organization, which was not Viking’s strong suite we found out. This applied to Optional Tours as well. For Herculaneum, we got to the Theater at the appointed assembly time. We waited only about 10 minutes and our number was called. Yipee I thought. We all boarded the bus and then just sat there. Everyone was aboard the bus and accounted for, we had a driver and a guide. I asked what we were waiting for, because I happened to be sitting in the seat right behind the guide. She said she was told not to leave until she was told to by the Viking guy and she pointed to the same guy who told me in Dubrovnik that continuously running shuttle busses didn’t mean “all the time”. (sigh) So we waited until all three busses that were going to Herculaneum were full and then all the busses departed together about half an hour later. You are probably not surprised when I tell you that Herculaneum was then crowded with Viking passengers. I still cannot figure out why they didn’t gladly let the first bus go and then the second and so on. On another optional tour there were two busloads. This time they kept us waiting in the Theater about half hour and then called both numbers. Both busses then left together. After about an hour’s bus ride we got to our first stop. Our guide informed us that we should use the “facilities” here, as there weren’t any until lunch and we had another stop after this one where there weren’t any facilities – lunch was about an hour and a half away. So, of course, both busloads got in line. Problem: there was ONE toilet in the women’s room and ONE in the men’s room. For two busloads. Had they staggered these, it might not have been as much of a problem – but still a problem if you ask me. And to pile onto this theme, in Gibraltar, they switched the included tour from a Museum (which was closed) to a Cable Car ride up to the Rock. Sounded good. The problem is once again, they dumped everyone at the cable car at the same time. We waited in line in the hot sun for close to an hour in order to get up the cable car. If they had staggered these groups this would not have happened. For our evening tour of the London Eye, all 5 totally full busses left at exactly the same time. Another very long wait to get onto the giant Ferris Wheel (which was a great experience once we got on). At the beginning of our cruise there were Viking Escorts who accompanied each tour, but as time went on, many of the optional tours had no Viking Escort. Then things really fell apart. We had two optional tours with about 40 some people in our group and both guides flatly refused to use the QuietVox system. On another one with no Viking Escort, the guide claimed she had not been given a QuietVox so that’s why she wasn’t using it. All these tours were way too big to hear anything the guide said once we got out of the bus. Which bring me in general to the size of the groups. Many of these were just way too big for the sights we were going to be seeing. Many of the included walking tours averaged 40 to 44 people. On one of our tours there were 49 people – there are only 49 seats on the bus. On the first segment of this cruise, we did a lot of private small group tours put together with fellow Cruise Critic members on our Roll Call. Even though there were many more problems of a mechanical and technical nature, this first segment was definitely the best and the least frustrating. In retrospect, I wish we had done even more of these private small group tours. I’ve also noticed on other passenger reviews that those that had the most fun were doing many DIY tours or small group tours, and I think this would have made a huge difference in our experience. So I encourage all future travelers of Viking Oceans to get together with others on your Cruise Critic Roll Call and organize some small group private tours. You’ll be glad you did! We had been counting on Viking to be pretty good at the Shore Excursion thing as we had been most impressed by our Viking River Cruise experiences. After all, to quote Viking, this cruise was supposed to be a “new era of ocean cruising by taking the innovative thinking behind our award-winning river cruises and bringing it to the epic setting of the sea.” They were supposed to have “crafted the ultimate kind of cruise: one focused on destinations.” As travelers, we too are mostly focused on the destinations and experiencing the culture of the places we visit. Not wasting time while in port sitting around waiting for the ShoreEx folks to get their act together, nor seeing the sights with busload after busload of passengers crammed together. We are more dedicated to seeing the sights than experiencing the ambiance of the ship. While we want the ship to be comfortable and the food to be good, we are more concerned with our experiences while we are on shore. After all, we will probably never be this way again. Viking’s destinations were supposed to be different than the mega cruise ships – they were not - as a matter of fact in some ways worse. So here I have to say is a full star deduction, which bring it down to 2-stars. In summary, the ship is beautiful, the food is great, the service level staff is wonderful, but the management team, lack of honest communication and the Shore Excursions need a lot of work. No doubt this will be a wonderful cruise line in a couple of years, but not unless they get these three areas sorted out. Did we have a fabulous time? Yes we did, but it was DESPITE Viking, not because of them. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
On April 11 my husband and I boarded the Viking ocean cruise ship, the Viking Star, for the trip of a lifetime--50 days of cruising from Istanbul to Stockholm. We were taken to our room, 8003, which proved to be a jewel-- a sleeping area ... Read More
On April 11 my husband and I boarded the Viking ocean cruise ship, the Viking Star, for the trip of a lifetime--50 days of cruising from Istanbul to Stockholm. We were taken to our room, 8003, which proved to be a jewel-- a sleeping area along with a sitting area, TV, large bathroom with shower, and a wonderful balcony. There was plenty of space for our clothes. This room was on the upper part of the ship so our view was fantastic. This was the maiden voyage for the Viking Star so we were aware that there would be glitches, as there were. The big complaint was that the television didn't work very well. Pretty weak complaint as far as my husband and I were concerned. As the trip proceeded the glitches seemed to be getting smaller. The staff in every area were determined that this was what was expected of them, and they worked their hearts out so that every complaint was met. The restaurants were very good, some better than others, according to your tastes. There was always a buffet that you could go to if you did not want to use a menu. This was especially nice in the evening, as it was unnecessary to dress up for the meal in the buffet restaurant. The dress was country club casual in the other restaurants and a reservation is required, Some dressed up more but it was not necessary. The ship was designed absolutely beautiful--very subdued and yet elegant. It was very easy to move around the ship, with the elevators strategically located. The wait was not long at all. I believe the trip was divided into 4 distinct sections, so there were people coming and going at each of those stops. Each port was wonderfully chosen by Viking. It was a masterpiece of stops, with the ports that one has always dreamed of seeing. The ports each had an included shore excursion. These were so well planned, with knowledgeable guides, and the history of the town, city, etc., of utmost importance. Additional tours were available for a charge. Some did many extra while my husband and I only added approximately 4 extras. This left lots of time in the afternoon, early evening, for us to socialize with the locals. Wonderful. The team that handled the excursions, organizing us all to leave the boat, etc., were very efficient. Their goal was to make this as smooth as possible for the guest, and this was very evident!!! The entertainment was a delight--what a fun and talented bunch of performers. At the end of our 50 days we added 2 more days in Stockholm before we headed home. What was our favorite part of the journey---unable to answer that. Would we go again for 50 days---give us two days and we will be on the plane ready to see our friends on the Viking Star again. Do we like Viking---we have signed up for two river cruises this June-July. They are a very caring, exact company who cares only to make your journey a trip of a lifetime. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
We choose this cruise since it was the maiden voyage of Viking's first cruise ship. The moment we entered the stateroom I felt it was smaller than their advertised size. We have been on more than 15 cruises and I had a feel for the ... Read More
We choose this cruise since it was the maiden voyage of Viking's first cruise ship. The moment we entered the stateroom I felt it was smaller than their advertised size. We have been on more than 15 cruises and I had a feel for the sizes based of stated square footage. In our stateroom, 3020, two people could not pass between the wall and the bed at the same time and you had to move the table in order to sit in the chair at the desk. There were only 3 drawers in the stateroom and we were here for 50 days. I was convinced that the stateroom was not as large as advertised so first chance I got I bought a carpenter's rule in port and measured our stateroom. The total area including the balcony is 248 square feet versus their advertised area of 270 square feet. I submit that this is a significant difference. The word approximate cannot be used to justify this difference. After returning from the cruise I wrote to Viking and included a drawing showing the actual dimensions of the cabin. I expected some compensation for their miss representation. After 3 more letters they finally called me and stated that they measured the cabin in accordance with industries standards. This is a load of bull since industry standards are to lie to passengers. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015

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