2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015
shipboard accommodations were not viable if one choses the lowest priced cabin: totally made to feel second class from noise coming from theater underneath those priced cabins to the time schedule for any/all excursions whether option type ... Read More
shipboard accommodations were not viable if one choses the lowest priced cabin: totally made to feel second class from noise coming from theater underneath those priced cabins to the time schedule for any/all excursions whether option type or included i.e. always close to last tour of day - higher priced cabins got choice times . same with ship embark and dinning reservations ... just not what I/we expected based on many other cruise's we have taken with Viking: those were all river cruise's not much else . good shore excursions just hard to get on time for what we wanted to do that day . best times are always early in day for us to be able to get back and rest and prepare for evening . hot tub/spa was kind of a joke .. water was tepid not even close to warm/hot - did have good flight reservations to and from . Read Less
Sail Date: April 2015
After taking three Viking River cruises with my sister, I went out on a limb and surprised my husband with a trip on Viking Ocean Star's maiden voyage for our 30th wedding anniversary. Looks like we will be celebrating another 30! :) ... Read More
After taking three Viking River cruises with my sister, I went out on a limb and surprised my husband with a trip on Viking Ocean Star's maiden voyage for our 30th wedding anniversary. Looks like we will be celebrating another 30! :) We began our trip in Istanbul and sailed to Venice, with several stops along the way. Traditional Viking excursion methods were tried, reviewed, changed, and tried again until things were flowing smoothly. Customer feedback was encouraged, considered and new traffic flow was put into practice. Comfort and style surround you all over the ship. So far, too many artist's renderings are all that are available, which is a shame. Those drawings show only a format. The care and attention to decorative pieces, books, a mini-museum, public spaces, dining spaces, now a true living space, enjoyed by many, is award winning. I wish I were eloquent enough to tell you more. I've posted a few photo's on their Facebook page. Our ports of call were stunningly gorgeous and true surprise gems. Athens and Venice were a given, but Montenegro and Croatia's truffle's and hilltops will be in my heart forever. The views from the ship had us all taking hundreds of photos, all so slick! The crew on this maiden ocean voyage bent over backwards to accommodate those with legitimate issues, which a new ship will have, and those with not so legitimate issues. All seemed important to them and were addressed with great respect and speed. The room stewards were, as always with Viking, AmAzInG! From the Explorer Desk to the Bar, friendly and helpful staff all the way. Always so eager to please! Dining choices were all over the board. First and most important, you can get ice cream anytime! There was every type of bread, fruit, cheese, meat and a cook to get the eggs just my picky way, each morning. The coffee maker they have has spoiled me for life. True fan of the World Cafe for lunch, and then included great dinner choices at the the main restaurant, Chef's Table or Italian place kept up a variety. Late night sushi, "Hello!" Ladies can bring the party with fancy attire, but my husband was mad I encouraged him to pack a suit. The spa and pools are what I believe my Viking After Care Therapy will concentrate on. How will I ever find anything, anywhere that great again? I did however, pass on the cold bucket over the head station. No thanks for me, but Steve did it twice so I could get a good photo for the kids. Same beds and comforters we know and love. The room was huge and had so many drawers, I was shocked. Then I found out some of my fellow travelers were on the boat for 50 days. That shocked me too. I thought I had given up Envy for something better. Evidently not. They would need a lot of drawer space, naturally. I can't wait to travel with Viking again, and again. Melanie Read Less
Sail Date: April 2015
After booking this cruise two years ago we were very excited to board the ship in Istanbul. Our air was booked by Viking and was actually very good, Delta flights which we were able to upgrade our seats on with good connections.The ... Read More
After booking this cruise two years ago we were very excited to board the ship in Istanbul. Our air was booked by Viking and was actually very good, Delta flights which we were able to upgrade our seats on with good connections.The price we paid for the air from Viking was excellent. We booked a Deluxe Veranda stateroom located on deck 4 . The stateroom was on the port side and toward the rear of the ship. I could smell diesel when we were going slow or at port and the engines were running. The public spaces are really beautiful and the style is danish modern, a lot of open spaces and nice sitting areas. Our cabin was very nice, the bathroom was fabulous. Very roomy, heated floor, nice glass walk in shower, to drawers for storage and a deep ceramic sink. The room it self was lacking in drawer space but had a very large closet against the bathroom wall. We requested extra hangers for the closet. A nice high tech coffee maker. A empty mini fridge, which took me three days to get filled with soft drinks of my choice and snacks (a mars and twix bar).The king bed was very comfortable.Two nice robes. In the desk a light up (not magnified) make up mirror. Very nice large flat screen TV, no channel for watching the ship's location but it didn't matter, the TV didn't work anyway. Our excursion tickets were there with out times, the times are listed in the Viking Daily. Food on board over all was excellent. The main issues are the lack of training of the servers in The Restaurant, the lack of choice in the room service menu and the hours of the World cafe. Many mornings the World Cafe would close at 930 am. One lunch at The Restaurant after one and one half hour my husband was told what he ad ordered was not available! ` A major disappointment for me was not being able to eat at the Che's table. I am a vegetarian and they can make no accommodation to the menu. The excursions also needed some work. The included excursions have way too many people, two walking ones we did had at least 45 people. The first night on board we did an evening excursion which included outside coffee in Istanbul at 930 at night when it was in the 40's, returned to the ship at 1000 pm to find out our morning excursion was to leave at 7am and we had to be at the Star Theater at 645 am. The worst excursion experience was an optional one we had booked in Santorini. The Viking Daily advised to go to The Star Theater at 0945 am for a 1015 am departure. We arrived a few minutes early, waited in line. Our turn to check in came and we were told the excursion had departed early! Never on all the cruises we have gone on has this happened. Waiting in line at the Explorers' Desk At one point during the cruise I received a letter stating that my credit card was not on file. I knew I had added it to my Viking Journey A while ago but with all the computer issues I didn't know if it was on file. I waited of 45 minutes to be told it was on file. This was a typical waiting time for the Explores' Desk or the Excursions Desk. WiFi worked well. Maple syrup issue. The only syrup on board for several days was Smuckers sugar free maple syrup. Tendering: We took the maiden tender in Pula which turned out to be sort of scary. $0 minute ride and the 3 tries to tie up the tender, at least on the way back the ride was only 20 minutes so that goes to show what some practice can do for you. Our room steward and his assistant did a great job. The spa: I had a great massage with Anna D. Not enough lockers in the Women's changing room though. We had a great roll call and met some great people. Viking Oceans is a work in progress. My husband has stated he will not set foot on another Viking ship again. Unfortunately you only get one chance to make a first impression! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2015
I will cut and paste my daily log.VIKING STAR APRIL 2015 For the past two years I have been planning this cruise. I read about Viking River Cruises planning to construct an ocean going cruise ship, and get into the ocean cruise ... Read More
I will cut and paste my daily log.VIKING STAR APRIL 2015 For the past two years I have been planning this cruise. I read about Viking River Cruises planning to construct an ocean going cruise ship, and get into the ocean cruise business. I went on line and booked the maiden voyage of the yet to be built ship, the prices were cheap but we were required to pay for our cruise in full when I booked. It took a leap of faith, but I went for it. I had been on several ships on their final voyage to the scrap yard, but never on a maiden voyage. April 9, Thursday: I booked the Super-Shuttle to pick us up at 4:05 p.m. for our 8:30 flight on Turkish Airlines, business class, non-stop from Houston to Istanbul. The van arrived at 4:30 p.m. and the traffic was heavy, but we made it to the airport at 6:30 and because there were no lines at the ticket counter or at security we were at the United Club lounge by 7 p.m., giving us time to relax before boarding our flight around 8 p.m. April 10, Friday. We flew over Labrador, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Poland while sleeping (more or less) in our lay flat bed seats. Over Romania I looked out to see the mountains of Northern Romania were we visited Vlad’s castle last October on our Viking River Cruise. We landed on time, and spent the next hour and a half going through Immigration and Customs which was slow but painless and got a taxi to take us to our Hotel Sultania which was downtown in the Fatih (old part) section of Istanbul. The taxi over-charged us, but I was too tired to argue and we got to our beautiful hotel before sunset. We had a corner room on the 4th floor with balconies on both sides, the best room in the house. We walked outside to the pedestrian street in front and found a small local restaurant a few blocks down (there were many restaurants on the street but Ines chose this one) and I had a lamb shiskabob and she had a whole fish. It was a good meal, and they even served me a beer in a paper cup because they were not supposed to serve alcoholic beverages there. We returned to our hotel and went to bed, still tired from the trip. April 11, Saturday: We both woke around 2 a.m. because of jet-lag, but managed to stay in bed when we got to sleep around 5 and slept until 9 a.m. We had breakfast in the lobby, and then packed our bags and left them in the lobby while we walked around the old city. I fell down and twisted my left ankle on an uneven sidewalk, but managed to continue our walk. We walked to the Railroad station and then took a taxi, again overcharged (no meters in Istanbul taxis) to the Blue Mosque. It was a beautiful sunny day, fresh but not really cold. We walked past Santa Sophia back to our hotel, got our bags, and took another taxi to our ship, the Viking Star. We were not overcharged for this taxi, it was about a quarter of the price we had paid for the other taxis. There were no lines at the check in when we arrived about 1 p.m. and we were on board for lunch. We were among the first paying passengers to ever board this ship. We walked around the ship and ate at the buffet in the World Cafe. Our room was ready before 3 p.m. Ines booked some spa treatments, and I booked a tour of Ephesus that included a visit to the house where Mary the mother of Jesus was supposed to have lived in her old age. The ship is decorated in a Scandinavian modern décor, not a traditional maritime type of ship with mahogany and brass, but I like it. All the rooms, even ours on deck 3 have balconies. I got the cheapest room, cabin 3023, but it is above the weather deck and three decks below the bridge. There are 8 decks in all. At 5 p.m. we had an abandon ship drill, everyone mustered on deck 2, theater forward or dining room aft. The crew are new as well as the ship, and when Ines showed her room card to a crew member they told her to go to deck 5, not a good sign of proper crew training, since the card was for muster station 5 for lifeboat 5 which was in the theater. She did find the right place anyway. Lifejackets are stored next to the boat embarkation on deck 2, not in the cabins which is permissible under IMO regulations. Only about half the passengers boarded today thanks to delays in air travel due to a strike at Charles de Gaule airport in Paris, a major European hub. There will be another drill tomorrow before sailing for late arrivals. The dining room was not very full for dinner, and we went to bed early since there was no show this evening and we were still tired from jet lag. We were sorry we did not make contact with our friends who were arriving in Istanbul from Buenos Aires today or tomorrow. April 12, Sunday (Sailing Day). Again we woke up in the middle of the night, but were sleeping soundly when our alarm went off at 6 a.m. for our 7 a.m. tour of Istanbul and the Bosporus. We had a cup of coffee and a croissant for breakfast and met in the theater for our tour. The tour is included in the price of the cruise. We were on the first group to leave, and our guide was good. We took a bus around the new and old sections of Istanbul, and stopped by the spice bazaar which was still closed, so we took the boat ride on the Bosporus down through the bridge and past palaces and villas along the shore, down to the second bridge at the narrowest point where Europe and Asia are only 800 meters apart. The boat returned along the Asian shoreline and docked again in the Golden Horn. We spent another 40 minutes at the spice bazaar which was now opened and I bought a kilo of pistachios. We were the first bus to return to the ship, which was good since we were seated and served quickly for lunch, which got crowded later when the other buses returned. After lunch we took a nap until sailing time, which we watched from our balcony. At 4 p.m. we had a Cruise Critic meet and greet party and met the captain and Viking officials as well as the editor of cruise critic. It was a nice meeting and I saw people who I had communicated with these past two years since booking this cruise. Almost all the passengers were the retired demographic, but a few younger ones. After the meeting Ines went to the spa and I went to listen to the piano and the trio of young women who played the viola, cello, and flute with light classic music. We went to dinner at 7:30 but the service in the dining room was slow, I guess our waiter forgot, the galley was not used to a full load of passengers, or our order was lost in cyberspace, but after a 40 minute wait I complained and they bought out a bunch of food that we did not order as well as what we ordered immediately. We wanted to finish in time to make the 9 p.m. show in the theater, which was a nice musical and the theater was not crowded. We walked around a little after the show, and went to bed by 11 and slept well for the first time since arriving in Europe. Monday, April 13 We awoke around 8 while sailing down the Aegean sea to the port of Kusadasi, Turkey which is a passenger ship port for the Greek ruins of the city of Ephesus where we arrived at 11:30. We were booked onto a premium excursion that included the house of Mary, the mother of Jesus, rather than on the included excursion that only went to Ephesus. Therefore we got to leave earlier than the others. The weather remains beautiful, sunny with temperatures in the 60’s. Our guide was good, and we went directly to the place in the park like hills above Ephesus where it is said that the mother of Jesus spent her last years, having traveled there over 1000 miles from Nazareth. Maybe she went with Paul? Or perhaps it is just a legend, but I was here when a cadet with American Export Lines in October of 1962. Later the pope came to this spot and it got to be more famous because of his visit. Now there is a spring of holy water below the house and souvenir shops at the parking lot, it is more developed than before in a Moslem country that recognizes the value of tourism. After Mary’s house we went to the lower gate of Ephesus and walked around the ruins of this city that dated from 600 B.C. when it was a Greek, then Roman seaport on the Western coast of Turkey. It has been reconstructed over the years, much more impressive than my visit 53 years ago. After visiting the city we returned to a mandatory visit to a carpet factory where we were given a weaving demonstration and sales pitch, and later made to walk through the building, which reminded me of Ikea furniture stores, where we had to pass jewelry and souvenirs on our way back to the bus. It was too much of a hard sell for most of us on the tour, but one man did buy a rug. We returned to the ship and sailed soon afterwards at 6 p.m. After dinner the captain and chief engineer were introduced in the Atrium lobby where the ships musicians were playing. We went to bed early Tuesday, April 14: We both woke up in the middle of the night, still jet-lagged. Ines was worried about her office, and needed to write a letter, so I helped her type a suitable letter and send it to the office to print and mail. We were tired when we awoke when docking in Piraeus, the port of Athens, Greece. It was the same dock where we left our Azamara cruise a couple of years ago. Again we were on a premium tour of the country side, not the standard visit to the Acropolis which we had done on several previous visits. We got on the fist bus with only 11 other passengers and left town towards the southern part of Greece across the Corinth Canal (which is too small for all but yachts and coastal ships) which is dug into a vertical cut across the isthmus between northern and southern Greece. We visited a number of ruins on the eastern part of this peninsula where king Agamemnon had his palace and is buried. Again we had a long bus ride back to Piraeus, and I saw a liberty ship in the harbor just across from our ship. After dinner we sailed at 9 p.m. when we were in a lounge called Torshaven where some great singers entertained us, but it was really overflowing with passengers. We went to bed just after the show and are sailing for Santorini, our next port. Wednesday, April 15: Tax day! I’m glad we sent our tax forms and payments in two weeks ago before leaving on this trip. We slept better last night, and are ready for Santorini. I got Ines up a little before 8 for her Zumba exercise class. I went to the dining room for breakfast, and watched our arrival into the caldera of the volcano that exploded here about 3500 years ago and wiped out the Minoian civilization that existed here. What is left is a ring of islands surrounding the original crater. Perched on the peaks of each of the islands are white houses with blue roofs, all hanging on the sides of cliffs to get good views of the sea. There are some flat lands that are cultivated, especially on the Southern parts of the islands. We did not book a tour here because we have been here before with Azamara and did not want to be with a group. Although we arrived on time the crew seemed to have a bit of trouble getting the tender platforms rigged up, so that we got off about 30 minutes late, but that was not important. Viking gave us tickets for the cable car that takes us up to Thira, the major town of the island. We waited aboard for our tender and talked with the Viking owner’s representative, a guy from Kirkness, Norway who was about my age and knew a lot about ships but most of the last few decades he was working ashore in management. We got the first tender ashore for those without tours, and rode the cable car to the top, although you could ride up on donkeys or even walk up the 1400 feet if you wanted to, like the Grand Canyon trail only paved, but still well covered with animal dung. I got Euros out of the ATM at the top, and we walked through the town and had a nice lunch in a beautiful spot overlooking the ship and harbor as well as the town. After lunch we walked around the town visiting shops, and Ines bought a lot of souvenirs. I had a beer, and finally we returned to the bottom on the cable car and took the tender back to the ship. We picked up the anchor and sailed at 6 p.m., and our next port will be Kotor, Montenegro on the Adriatic sea on Friday morning. April 16, Thursday, our day at sea. I like days at sea to just relax and watch the sea go by, but Ines loves the activities in ports, so our next cruise will probably be a river cruise. This year we have scheduled a trip to Florida with the Brauns on May 15 to 20, and our “camino” trip to Spain in late June and early July, as well as a trip to New York for my 50th reunion for my class at Kings Point. David called us at 3:30 a.m., unaware of the time difference. He said that all was well, so that I told him to call us in the morning his time and that all was well with us. Otherwise we slept well and got up around 8. Ines went to the gym, and I went to hear an enrichment lecture about the Geology of the region, the volcanoes and earthquakes that formed this region. We had lunch in the cafeteria called “World Café” on deck 7 where many people were hanging around the pools. It was a bit cold so not many were in the water but were sunbathing. Ines has a 1 p.m. massage scheduled at the spa. I will take it easy at the lectures and bars around the ship. Later we had tea together, and then I went to an Explorers Society toast with the captain and cruise director. This was a function for past Viking customers where there were free drinks and I got to chat with other customers and the cruise director. Then Ines and I had dinner in the main dining room and attended a song and dance show in the atrium. After that we went to bed. April 17, Friday: We set our clocks back one hour during the night and were told to wake up at 6:30 to see the sailing into our port of Kotor, Montenegro. It is at the end of a fjord that twists and turns through high mountains with small villages hanging onto the hillsides near the water’s edge. It was really spectacular. Kotor is a walled city similar to Dubrovnik, our next port. We booked a tour of the countryside for the morning and a walking tour of the city for the afternoon. Our tour this morning took us down the coast by bus to an overlook of a resort hotel called Stefan, which costs a minimum of 800 Euros per night (breakfast included) and has suites about ten times more expensive. It was on an island connected by a viaduct and on a stony coastline. Maybe Liz Taylor and Sophia Loren stayed there, but if so, they had more money than they had brains. We then returned up the coast to a walled town called Budva and spent an hour or two there walking around the narrow streets and visiting a few churches. We then went back to the ship for lunch and left on our walking tour of the city of Kotor, which was nicer than Budva. We saw a maritime museum as well as a cathedral. Kotor is really not on a fjord, but rather a river valley that was sunken into the ocean by earthquakes or melting glaciers, but since the river valley was surrounded by high mountains, it now looks like a fjord of Norway. It has a lot of twists and turns, and it was impossible for invading navies to enter the harbor without getting sunk by shore batteries or defending warships. The residents of Kotor were probably pirates who attacked trading vessels heading towards Venice. There is a wall all around the city and up to the top of a mountain in the background, and stairs lead past monastaries and churches to the very peak of the mountain, about a 1500 foot climb. We returned to the ship about 6 and had a dinner at 8:30 at Manfredi’s Italian restaurant aboard the ship. The food was good and portions were large, much larger than the main dining room. The service was better as well, but reservations are hard to get unless you book one of the premium priced rooms on the upper decks, and we bought the cheapest cabins. We sailed about 10 p.m. for Dubrovnik, our next port, and we went to bed. Saturday, April 18, During the night you could, for the first time, feel the ship move in a swell, it was gentle but it woke up Ines. I woke up just after 6 a.m. and watched our arrival in Dubrovnik, which I had visited when captain of the Letitia Lykes back in 1992. It was during a war between Serbia and Croatia, and the Serbs were on a mountain top overlooking the city and lobbing mortars down on the ancient walled city. There were no tourists at that time in a town famous for tourism, and was called the “pearl of the Adriatic”. We docked early on a cloudy, hazy day, but it did not rain. Our Dubrovnik by land and sea tour was cancelled due to weather, so we booked the all day tour that included a walking tour of the port and then a bus trip into the mountains to a restaurant along a river with a restored water wheel and grist mill. It was a very nice trip, and we had the best guide of our cruise, his English and his humor were very good. We missed the bridge tour, but the captain and his wife met me in the lounge and offered me a private tour and we chatted a while about ships. There were free drinks on a farewell party by the pool and most of the crew attended, including the entertainers and the captain. The weather improved all day, but there was a cool breeze. We sailed at 6 p.m. for Ploce, which is near Venice at the head of the Adriatic. Sunday, April 19 we were in a moderate sea last night, and some people complained about the motion, which was not really very much, nothing fell down or broke, but you could tell we were moving. The stabilizer fins were out so we only rolled a few degrees. We arrived in Ploce about 8 a.m. but there were some delays, and we didn’t get into the tender until 9:30 and then had about a 50 minute ride in the lifeboat from our anchorage into the port. The boat handling wasn’t really very good, the Philippino boat crew had not much boat handling experience in my opinion. We had a 2 hour walking tour of the port, which had many Roman ruins, including the stadium which was in pretty good shape. Most of the stores were closed because it was Sunday, so after the tour we took the tender back to the ship and started packing up for our disembarkation tomorrow morning in Venice. Ines saw the ship’s doctor and is trying to arrange an MRI for her knee and using our trip insurance for it when we get to Venice. We will see what happens. Monday, April 20 Arrival in Venice. I awoke very early, around 4 and saw our entrance into Venice from our balcony door. As always it was beautiful, even at night passing the Lido and the Grand Canal heading for the cruise terminal on the Western end of the island. It was too bad that this arrival was not scheduled for daylight hours. We got up at 7 because they had to make the room available to the next passengers who were arriving at noon and we had to vacate by 8 a.m. It’s a hard life for the crew of cruise ships. We had our two big suitcases sent down last night to unload on arrival, so we only had our two carry-on bags to take with us when we left the room and ate breakfast in the cafeteria. Disembarkation was a breeze, they told us we could leave at any time so after breakfast we left the ship, picked up our bags in the terminal, and got a taxi to Plaza de Roma, the closest cars can get to the city. Our hotel is near the railroad station, but getting there was not easy. Rolling luggage is not really useful in Venice because of the many bridges, all have many steps to climb and descend. We finally gave up and got a porter to take them on a cart designed to handle the bridges. It cost us 20 euros but it was worth it. Just one bridge wore us out. The hotel Grand Canal is beautiful but expensive, the room was not ready on arrival but they took our luggage into storage and told us we could come back in an hour. It seems that there are many African immigrants, all selling the same thing, selfie sticks. We walked to Rialto bridge, where we bought two day passes on the vaporetti taxi boats, a good investment. We went to Saint Mark’s square where we had a couple of capuccinos and some biscotti in front of an orchestra and again it was expensive (40 euros with the cover charge) but really a pleasant way to spend an hour. We took the vaporetti back to the train station and walked back to our hotel, where our room was ready, a beautiful corner room overlooking the canal and railroad station across the canal. In the afternoon we took the train to Mestre, the city on the mainland where Ines wanted to visit the hospital d’ella Angeli, and ask about her knee pain. We got off at the wrong stop and had to take a taxi, but we got to the hospital and after a 90 minute wait she was seen by an orthopedic doctor who could not do an MRI scan but she was satisfied. The charge for this visit was only 25 euros, but the machine that collects the fee could not take our American credit cards. We will have to go to another place here in Venice to pay. We took the train back to Venice and went out to dinner at a nice restaurant in the area. After dinner we took a series of vaporetti that after a few changes of boats got us to Saint Marks square via the East end of the island and even the Lido. The square which was packed with tourists, mostly Americans taking advantage of the strong dollar-euro exchange, was after dark not very crowded. We walked around awhile and took another boat back to the hotel. 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Sail Date: April 2015
On board from Istanbul to Venice for the first leg of the 'maiden', there was no particular fanfare or sense that we were part of something special. Too bad, since the ship itself is beautiful. The technical glitches of a maiden ... Read More
On board from Istanbul to Venice for the first leg of the 'maiden', there was no particular fanfare or sense that we were part of something special. Too bad, since the ship itself is beautiful. The technical glitches of a maiden were understandable, albeit annoying, such as non-working TVs, a cabin safe locked open for two days, plumbing issues, etc. We were often in the dark as to what was going on, as the Viking Daily provided limited info and no way to issue updates on any changes in schedule, anything on menu details, etc. But, there is no excuse nor explanation for the poor communication and inconsistent service. We sought information, which proved to be a huge source of frustration, given the very spotty response, if any, at the Explorer Desk, Housekeeping, or Room Service. Or the fact that Viking totally dismissed our anniversary, despite alerting the rep through whom we booked, and also Ana, the maîtresse d' in the main restaurant three days prior. Or the unexpected and unnecessary delays disembarking for the many private excursions I had booked. Or the inconsistencies restocking the fridge, fulfilling a request for fresh fruit (4 day wait, really?), or the bizarre practice of providing one tiny bar of soap for the entire bathroom. Or change in format for restaurant seating with no clarification. Or running out of food at afternoon tea. Or changing the price of spa treatments, with no explanation, that were already booked. Or vapid port talks, which amounted to presenting tired snippets from the website in an attempt to fill unsold Viking tours. Those who lament the poor communication, or worse yet, the deception in some cases, are spot on and not necessarily high maintenance. When Viking repeatedly tells me I'll be blown away, I look forward to stellar service and a little pampering, especially on a maiden voyage. Good thing we are independent travelers and happy to map out our own itinerary, so we chose not to rely on Viking for much of anything and had a great time on a lovely vessel. (Our trip was enhanced by three days in Istanbul beforehand and three days in Venice at the end.) It's unfortunate that the company's level of service doesn't match the charm or comfort of the Viking Star itself. The shortcomings appear to come from the top, from corporate, and certainly not from most of the hardworking individuals who work onboard. Viking's lack of attentiveness, the sense that they will only go so far to ensure your comfort, leaves me a bit puzzled. How much does it cost to place a piece of chocolate on the pillow at night? 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
7 Helpful Votes
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
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
2 Helpful Votes
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
Viking Star Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 0.0
Dining 5.0 0.0
Entertainment 3.0 0.0
Public Rooms 5.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 5.0 0.0
Family 1.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 4.0 0.0
Service 5.0 0.0
Value For Money 5.0 0.0

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