This cruise was a little different from all the other ones that I've been to. It is more relaxing, and more intellectual. The ship is newly commissioned, mid size but spacious for the number of guests. Except in the main theatre, ... Read More
This cruise was a little different from all the other ones that I've been to. It is more relaxing, and more intellectual. The ship is newly commissioned, mid size but spacious for the number of guests. Except in the main theatre, and in the World Cafe where breakfast and more casual meals are served, I was able to find a spot all to myself. The ship has all the amenities that are expected, including a fitness centre, (free) Nordic hot and cold spa and whirl pool experience, and a mini planetarium. In room entertainment is excellent, consisting of many live TV stations, a wide variety of movies, TV series, recorded TED talks, and of course all kinds of music stations. The main shipwide entertainment include shows performed in the theater by a 4 members band and a 4 members singing and dancing group. On some nights local artists performed traditional dances. The ship also has a resident pianist, a guitarist, and two classical string instrumentalists. The planetarium provides three 3D shows, but unfortunately, after the first show, the 3D equipment did not work. What I enjoyed most was the lectures given by various speakers, some of whom are very knowledgeable, and spoke with lots of energy and passion. One of them spoke about the Vietnam war, which changed my perspective of what I used to believe - that the war was a struggle between communism and democracy. The performances in the theatre usually lasted about an hour, leaving me with enough time in the evening to finish watching all 10 episodes of the National Geographic series on Albert Einstein.
The food was good, with the usual choices, and wine and beer and specialty coffee were included with every meal. I like the large selection of fruits, and the generous but not overwhelming portions of the sit down meals. There are two alternative restaurants which required booking. One of them pretended to offer oriental cuisine but I wasn't impressed. The menu consisted of a four course meal, each with a different choice of wine.
The on board staff was efficient, very courteous, and eager to please. Service desk is open 24-7. Services were offered with smiles and humor. All my request for information and change of land excursions were resolved promptly.
The itinerary includes a free excursion for each port visited, with a reasonably good selection of alternatives for additional fees. The ship stayed more than one day in most ports, which means that you will have plenty of time to explore on your own, if you do not sign up with the offered alternative excursions. However, some of the excursions were "sold out" as soon as booking became available. Many of the excursions lived up to expectation; the scenic boat tours of the beautiful Ha Long Bay were memorable. For some excursions, the descriptions on Viking's web site were more enticing than the actual trip, e.g., the "Ream National Park" trip in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, was no more than a long boat ride on a river. It was a relaxing ride, but I failed to see the flora and fauna mentioned in the Viking brochure, neither did the local guide point out any interesting features. Some of the land excursions took more than 2 hours to reach the destinations, because the ports were far from any interesting sites. I wish the long traveling time was clearly stated in the trip description. One of the excursions that I signed up was modified one day before the trip, without a clear explanation of the reason for the change.
One of the places I really looked forward to visiting was Haikou, China, but this was taken out of the itinerary a month before the cruise started. The stated reason was "poor feedback from past guests" which I doubt was the true reason. My email to Viking requesting further explanation was never returned. Another feature which attracted me to this cruise was the advertised $600 deduction for air fare. Before I joined, Viking assured me that I could choose any airline, but in the end, they could not book me on the airline of my choice, and I had to forgo the $600 deduction.
If you are looking for a relaxing cruise, with high quality enrichment programs and lots of free time, and don't mind paying a little more for the services, this cruise is for you. Read Less