Sail Date: May 2018
We chose this specific itinerary because it made three stops in Norway, including Stavanger where my wife's great-grandfather grew up. Of course, St Petersburg is a highlight, but less traveled ports such as Gdansk and Tallinn are ... Read More
We chose this specific itinerary because it made three stops in Norway, including Stavanger where my wife's great-grandfather grew up. Of course, St Petersburg is a highlight, but less traveled ports such as Gdansk and Tallinn are wonderful and often better for shopping. Like a river cruise, the ship mostly sails at night, so you wake up every morning at a new destination. We have traveled twice with Viking River cruises, so we anticipated a wonderful journey, and the Viking Sky came through in all areas. The staff and officers of the ship have the friendly smile and helpful attitude that we loved on river cruises. The ship never seems crowded despite 900+ fellow passengers, and disembarkation for shore excursions at each port was precisely organized. The included shore excursions were generally either a panoramic bus tour of the city with photo stops or a walking tour of historic areas. It's a good start, but the optional tours are better for those with specific interests. We supplemented with several optional tours, including the Flam Railway which was expensive, but highly recommended for the incredible scenery. We also enjoyed the tour of Lubeck and Wismar which we chose instead of the included long train ride to Berlin. Both the Flam and Lubeck tours included lunch at very nice local restaurants. Best dining on the ship is at Manfredi's- reservations are required and it was as popular as you would expect. The other specialty restaurant, Chef's Table, offered a series of fixed menus with unusual recipes that rotated every two days- check the menus from your cabin to select one that appeals to you. It was easy to make reservations on the television. Dinner selections were excellent at The Restaurant and the waiters took a personal interest in our dining, but we ended up eating most meals in the World Cafe which is open for all meals and provides most of the Restaurant items in an informal setting. One difference from river cruising is the availability of small tables for two. It was nice to have quiet meals with my spouse, but we didn't end up making as many friends. The Wintergarten is open only for Tea, and is seems to be an inefficient use for one of the nicest public areas. Viking offered a discount on airfare and booked our flights through Reykjavik, Iceland. The afternoon flight times were convenient, however, the airport in Reykjavik is undersized for the summer crowds We deplaned on the tarmac and rode shuttles to the terminal where those without EU passports faced astonishing lines at Passport Control. We didn't relish the looming prospect of an unscheduled stopover in Iceland. Passport Control turned out to be very quick and efficient and the airline did a great job of making sure we made it to our connecting flights. One glitch was that Viking orders meals on each flight, but the airline sent an email suggesting that we pre-purchase meals at a discount. All was well in our case, but there is a risk that travelers could end up paying for extra meals. The air connections ended up being a great value, but it is not as smoothly coordinated as the on-board experience. We enjoyed the piano interludes and the classical trio, but we mostly skipped the Broadway/pop entertainment and used the time for extra rest. This cruise was an expensive splurge for us, but Viking delivers a quality product that ends up being a great value. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2018
The Hermitage was a location that influenced us, but love the Baltic in late Spring. The route (which reverses) was Stockholm to Bergen, with the regular stop-offs but with the addition of Gdansk and Alborg. Gdansk exceeded ... Read More
The Hermitage was a location that influenced us, but love the Baltic in late Spring. The route (which reverses) was Stockholm to Bergen, with the regular stop-offs but with the addition of Gdansk and Alborg. Gdansk exceeded expectations, the old town is bigger than imagined and the restoration / renovations that have taken place since the fall of Communism is staggering. The relaxed ship ambience, no formal dining, open seating, no Captain's table together with more space per passenger the almost any other ship. Generous supply of good books distributed around the ship meant a week-in, we were still finding odd shelves. The free house wine "with meals" is welcomed, but just how long can you stretch the meal? The sauna is excellent, although the snow room was an anticlimax. Do not expect lavish stage shows, the theatre is too small, but enjoy individual musicians and small classical groups. A truly wonderful cruise. Oh and sunshine for 13 days! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2018
Viking is an amazing cruise line - doing almost everything right. Starting from the top, the Captain was visible the entire cruise, he has lunch on the pool deck, dinner in the Aquivit Terrace (along with other officers), and just see him ... Read More
Viking is an amazing cruise line - doing almost everything right. Starting from the top, the Captain was visible the entire cruise, he has lunch on the pool deck, dinner in the Aquivit Terrace (along with other officers), and just see him walking around. Seeing the head chef coming on board with a cart full of fresh groceries. The Cruise director and assistant Cruise Director were both always visible and not just at the evening shows. Always serving local favorites in the restaurant and the buffet. The local tour guides were mostly outstanding. This cruise had something for everybody including, g an outstanding guitar soloist, on board historical lecturers, afternoon tea and (big in my mind) NO CASINOS! The itinerary was almost perfect. (I could have used a little longer time in Stockholm and Copenhagen - Tivoli Gardens would have been spectacular at night but we departed port at 6 PM) I have previously done Viking River and thought it couldn't get better than that. Main difference was that River Cruising is 190 passengers, Ocean cruising is 950. Less intimate but just as well taken care of. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We have previously done river cruises with Viking and was quite impressed by the organisation and the facilities. Viking Sky did not disappoint. The ship is beautiful and the staff were excellent. Very personable and efficient. The food ... Read More
We have previously done river cruises with Viking and was quite impressed by the organisation and the facilities. Viking Sky did not disappoint. The ship is beautiful and the staff were excellent. Very personable and efficient. The food was varied and prepared and presented beautifully. Passengers can ask for small serves or, if wanted, double serves although the standard serve was more than enough. Only addition would be more vegetables. The cabin was well presented with more than enough storage. We were quite impressed by the water pressure has been a problem on previous ocean cruises. The only drawback was the ground tour organisations. We had a couple that were shockers and felt that Viking needed to review their ground partners. It wasn't only ourselves that were disappointed by the tours, a number of passengers were grumbling about the organisation and excution of the tours. The lectures / presentations on the ship were excellent and we highly enjoyed them. Read Less
Viking Cruises, Community Team has responded
Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences aboard Viking Sky with the cruising community, kateh48. We are delighted to learn that you found our onboard service, culinary offerings and enrichment lecturers to be exceptional. Although we regret to hear about your disenchantment with the onshore tour guides, we are grateful for this opportunity to collect feedback about our third-party vendors for review by our executive team. We appreciate this chance to respond, kateh48, however should you like to share more about your Viking experience, we would be happy to collect additional comments at TellUs@vikingcruises.com. Thank you for sailing Viking once more, and have a wonderful day.
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
VIKING SKY HOMELANDS REVIEW APRIL 28, 2018 VOYAGE We were 2 couples (65+) on this wonderful cruise. Having 8 countries and 11 cities to visit was amazing. Previously we had been on 3 Viking River Cruises together, so this was our first ... Read More
VIKING SKY HOMELANDS REVIEW APRIL 28, 2018 VOYAGE We were 2 couples (65+) on this wonderful cruise. Having 8 countries and 11 cities to visit was amazing. Previously we had been on 3 Viking River Cruises together, so this was our first ocean cruise, All agreed it was a great trip. Viking handled everything from beginning to end perfectly. An amazing itinerary. Great ship, excellent dining, an exceptional crew, a rating of 9.5/10!! 1. PRE CRUISE IDEAS Do research using Rick Steves “Northern European Cruise Ports”. Go on line and look at YouTube Videos of all ports and those by Rick Steves. Search past Cruise Critic postings. Many CC posts contain useful information like a complete set of the Viking Daily for a 2016 Homelands cruise. Some menus have been posted as well. Lots of good stuff on CC. 2. STUDYING VIKING MATERIALS Go over the Viking website for information about each port and the various excursions. Reading the first 40 pages of the big Viking Ocean Brochure helps getting a perspective of the ship and may answer many questions you have. Look at the back pages for the “Deck Plans” to get a feel for where places are located. Helps to have a “heads up” advance to the cruise. 3. If you want to explore beyond the Viking Included Excursions, plan ahead. Cities like Helsinki, Copenhagen, Berlin, Stockholm, & St. Petersburg have a lot to see. 4. Some of the day by day things we did. Day Date Description Port Arrival Port Depart FRI APR 27, 2018 Depart Newark, NJ (EWR) – Economy SAT APR 28, 2018 Arrive Bergen, Norway (BGO) SAT @ 11:30 a.m. arrive on Viking Sky Veranda - 3088 SUN APR 29, 2018 Bergen, Norway 07:00 PM If the first day is clear (we had a lot of rain) walk into town and do the funicular ride up Mount Floyen. Spectacular views. Return by 30-40 minute hike down or get the round trip (senior) tickets (one way was $6.50 pp). Day 2, we did the included bus tour, funicular, walk around town. MON APR 30, 2018 Eidfjord, Norway 07:00 AM 07:00 PM Took the pricey “Scenic Flam Railway” excursion. DO IT. It one of best “once in lifetime” excursions. Includes a nice buffet lunch at the STALHEIM hotel. The view out the back was spectacular. TUE MAY 01, 2018 Stavanger, Norway 08:00 AM 02:00 PM A nice walking tour with an amazing museum to visit. WED MAY 02, 2018 Alborg, Denmark 12:30 PM 08:00 PM A nice walking tour. THU MAY 03, 2018 At Sea 01:00 At Sea 11:00 PM Copenhagen, Denmark 08:30 AM 09:00 PM Skipped the included tour. Did our own thing. Left as soon as possible (8 a.m.) and followed the walking tour route into Copenhagen past the Little Mermaid, and various sights, Palace, Castle, etc. Did the Rick Steves recommended 1 hour Netto Boat tour from Nyhavn. Shuttle bus back to boat for lunch. Quick out to shuttle bus back to town. Walked along the famous Stroget, longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe. Got to City Hall and Tivoli. Shuttle bus back to ship by 6 p.m. FRI MAY 04, 2018 Berlin, Germany 06:00 AM 06:30 PM In Berlin we did our own thing. Viking does a great train ride in and out to Berlin. It includes a 1.5 hr or so bus tour. We skipped it having done it another time with Viking. Instead, from the arrival train station we took the S-Bahn metro towards the Reichstag. Walked along the Spree River to get there. Had reservations for a public free audio tour of the Reichstag. (Do reservations online). Picnic lunch in the park. Short walk to the Brandenbugh Gate. Long walk along the Unter Den Linden, then to the return Viking bus located outside the Hilton Hotel by far end of the Gendarmenmarkt. While waiting to load the return buses to the train, at the nearby Dom Curry, try the local Curry Wurst Sausage with a side of excellent sweet potato fries plus a roll (7.40 euros). SAT MAY 05, 2018 Gdansk, Poland 01:00 AM 10:00 PM Did the 3.5 hour walking tour. A total gem and surprise of a city (once known as Danzig). SUN MAY 06, 2018 At Sea MON MAY 07, 2018 Tallinn, Estonia 07:00 AM 03:00 PM A 2 mile 2 hour walking tour. Again a total surprise and gem of a medieval town. The harder walk was really easy. TUE MAY 08, 2018 St. Petersburg, Russia 07:00 AM & WED MAY 09, 2018 St. Petersburg, Russia 06:00 PM Did a 2 day customized private tour with SPB TOURS. Got to see the Impressionists Collection now housed in the new location-General Staff Building. Had a Metro ride and everything else you should see. Great and exciting tour. A+ THU MAY 10, 2018 Helsinki, Finland 07:00 AM 04:00 PM Did the 8a.m. 3 hour bus tour. Got back for shipboard lunch. Took the shuttle back in and walked all around. Up and down the Esplanade and Markets. Shuttle bus back to ship by 3:30 p.m.. FRI MAY 11, 2018 Stockholm, Sweden 09:00 AM Up at 5 a.m. for the entrance into Stockholm. The islands going in are a sight to see. Viewing on deck 3 forward, decks 7 or 8, or your veranda. Wow!! Got the first 2 hour bus tour out. Stayed in town to walk around Gamla Stan (old town). Visited two key places. A tour of the City Hall and then a long walk to the Vasa Museum. Shuttle bus back by 6 p.m. A long day. SAT MAY 12, 2018 Depart Stockholm, Sweden (ARN) SAT MAY 12, 2018 Arrive Newark, NJ (EWR) 5. Some tips-things we learned Being in the lower Veranda Deck cabin meant we had the last choice for selecting Included Excursions. Knowing this I got on-line at 3 a.m. EST when the day arrived for us to book the Included Excursions. In the big cities we wanted the earliest time slots. Many were “Sold Out”. Some we got the first time slots out. Others a little later. Stockholm had no early time slots available. I contacted Viking about my issues. Viking indicated that as we got closer to the cruise, there could be more slots available as well as people canceling. To some extant this did happen. In particular Stockholm, Viking added a whole new list of time slots. TIP- Check every day for included excursion openings and changes. DINNER RESERVATIONS AT SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS. Our cabin V-2 Veranda did not have pre-cruise reservations. On board the first night we did make reservations for Manfredi’s and the Chef’s Table in person at the front desk of the World Café. Better yet, use the on screen capability in your cabin to make reservations. It also gives the daily menus for all dining venues. We had 2 visits to each specialty restaurants. There were a number of tables that never got occupied. Suggest you go directly to the venue you want and see if they will seat you. Dining- You will not go hungry on this cruise. The World Café (deck) is causal and buffet. The wait staff supply drinks and table clearing. Always there. The Restaurant is a fixed menu with a more formal sit down service. The selection of entrees at dinner from the World Café is large. It also has a nice Sushi selection, good size shrimp and crabs legs. You will see all this when you get there. It’s all very good. Recommend Chef’s Table the “Asian Panorama” menu. At Manfredi’s try the bistecca fiorentina-rib eye steak. ENJOY AND HAVE FUN Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
Previous great Viking cruises. The itinerary. Value. Lifetime travel goals, Barcelona, Montserrat, Sagrada Familia, Cartagena, Roman Theater, Granada, Alhambra, Rock of Gibraltar, Porto, Land’s End, St Ives, Salisbury ... Read More
Previous great Viking cruises. The itinerary. Value. Lifetime travel goals, Barcelona, Montserrat, Sagrada Familia, Cartagena, Roman Theater, Granada, Alhambra, Rock of Gibraltar, Porto, Land’s End, St Ives, Salisbury Cathedral, Magna Carta,Stonehenge, Monet’s home & garden, all realized on this incredible journey! The shipboard experience was superb in all aspects, as anticipated. There were some rough seas off the coasts of Spain & Portugal, but we were not ill or uncomfortable; not true for many other guests & crew. Weather was quite good overall, at sea & in port. Tour guides were good, and for Montserrat, Grenada, Monet garden & Stonehenge, simply outstanding. Onboard dining was great & bars & restaurant drinks also. Entertainment was really fun, and entertainers were visible & approachable during the cruise. The cultural enrichment programs are Viking’s strongest point, and wonderful on this journey. Sail-away talks were great, and how special, to sit down for office hours with a high-level former British Ambassador? A fabulous experien, highly recommended. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2018
This was our second Viking Ocean... fantastic! We love the ship, it is port-intensive,love the 2 days in port at the start and the end, the flowing wine at lunch and dinner, the heated bathroom floors, the wonderful staff, the mostly great ... Read More
This was our second Viking Ocean... fantastic! We love the ship, it is port-intensive,love the 2 days in port at the start and the end, the flowing wine at lunch and dinner, the heated bathroom floors, the wonderful staff, the mostly great food. We had a great cruise director and mostly good entertainment-- some even great! We didn't know that this was a repositioning cruise but we believe it was...to take the ship from the Mediterranean up to the Baltic. In 14 days there were 11 great cities with 1 exception- Porto Portugal which we were in just too short a time (6 hours). B ecause it was repositioning (we think) the price was very good. As for the food, we mostly chose the Restaurant which is the formal dining room, but not one of the 2 "specialty" dining options. We loved Manfredi's and were able to get a private room 2 nights as there were 10 in our group. We were not that fond of the Chef's Table so tried it once and did not go back. That menu is limited and "foam" is used in lots of the choices! Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
ABOUT US (for context) We’re in our 50s, and this was our first cruise together. (I went on a cruise once long ago for work, which was a very different sort of experience.) We did it in honor of our 25th anniversary. We’re ... Read More
ABOUT US (for context) We’re in our 50s, and this was our first cruise together. (I went on a cruise once long ago for work, which was a very different sort of experience.) We did it in honor of our 25th anniversary. We’re somewhat introverted. We enjoy meeting new people and chatting, but we’re also quite content to read a good book or do our own thing. We had put off cruising until now because the stereotypical image of cruising – casinos, Vegas-style shows, parties and games, glitzy shopping, crowds, constant socializing – didn’t appeal to us at all. I’d also traveled extensively throughout my 20s, living overseas and spending as much as 6 months at a time backpacking around the world on my own, and the whole packaged tour thing didn’t really appeal. But the more we learned about Viking Ocean, the more it seemed a different sort of animal altogether, and we finally decided to give it a try. We’re so glad we did! It was a world away from the kind of travel I’d done in the past, and I did find it hard to spend such a short time in each place we visited. But we both enjoyed the pampering and the ease involved in this kind of trip, and we definitely hope to do it again. ABOUT THE SHIP (VIKING SKY) Our room We had a penthouse veranda (PV) room on the 4th level (4019), which was actually a bit larger than I thought it would be based on the photos. Pros: The room was pretty quiet. We only occasionally heard our neighbors. The couch was full size, not a loveseat, and quite comfortable. There was plenty of storage for our stuff, with room to spare. (We brought two carry-ons and one regular suitcase, all of which fit easily under the bed.) The room has a thermostat, though it’s a little cryptic. We turned ours all the way down at night and found it comfortable. The bathroom is roomy for a cruise ship, roughly the size of a regular hotel bathroom. The heated floors and anti-fog mirror are very nice. With drawers and shelves, there was loads of storage here, too. The décor is understated and reflects the ocean vibe throughout the ship. We liked it very much. Cons: The bed was not quite as comfortable as we would have liked. It seemed to barrel in the center, so we rolled toward each other somewhat. The mattress and pillows were quite firm. We slept fine, however. The shower was possessed. It would swing from scalding to freezing with no intervention on our part and very little notice. A plumber came and worked on it (Viking is very responsive to complaints!) and there was some improvement initially, but within a couple days it reverted to its original state. The plumber came again but was unable to fix it. Fortunately, the shower is large enough that we were able to jump out of the stream of water when needed and wait until the temperature swung back to bearable. A couple of crew members mentioned that their showers did the same thing. There are two configurations of the Penthouse Veranda, and we had the one with the sliding glass door. The other configuration, with the hinged door and separate window (as appears in the marketing materials) looks like it would allow you to sit on the couch and look outside. Ours did not. I minded that more than I thought I would. Next time, I would try to get that other configuration. Public spaces on the ship As everyone says, it’s a lovely ship. In fact, it grew on us as the cruise went on. We loved the openness to the sea throughout much of the ship, with the exception of the Living Room with its atrium (ostensibly the heart of the ship). While the Living Room is quite lovely, it has sheers covering all the windows, which means it doesn’t offer any view. We much preferred to see outside during daylight hours, which extended until late evening on our cruise, so we ended up hardly using the Living Room at all. Our favorite indoor spot was probably the Explorer’s Lounge, a glass-fronted area in the front of the ship, which turned out to be an excellent place for a view when the ship entered and exited ports. The lounge is split into two levels, with a bar on the first floor and live music in the evening (which varied between a pianist, a guitarist, and a classical trio, all excellent) Like much of the rest of the ship, it featured lots of interesting books along the walls. One section had wonderfully comfortable chairs and couches alongside a very authentic-looking “fire” (there are no real fires on the ship due to safety concerns). We also liked the seating areas by the windows alongside the Wintergarden (very quiet most of the time) and the chaise loungers along the windows on both sides of the pool (piped-in music). The latter seats were very popular and difficult to get. The Wintergarden is the quietest interior public space on the ship when not hosting afternoon tea or other events. No piped-in music! The space is gorgeous, with bright skylight ceiling and intricate Nordic touches. (Look for the ravens.) But again, we used it less than we thought we would because it lacked those close-up sea views. It does offer views through other seating areas that flank it. The artwork throughout is interesting and engaging. I kept meaning to do the audio art tour and never got around to it, one of my regrets. And yes, the public bathrooms are delightful with their Scandinavian decor and piped-in birdsong. The elevator shaft near the Living Room is also fun, with its glass wall allowing you to glimpse trolls hidden among birch trees as you ascend to your room. Onboard activities and entertainment As I mentioned, we’re not the most social creatures on the planet, and planned activities aren’t really our thing. That said, we inadvertently ended up in the middle of a trivia game in the Explorer Lounge that ended up being a lot of fun. While DH didn’t care to repeat the experience, I did participate in another one later on. I also went to a scarf-tying “class,” which was really a way to get you into the Nordic shop but was both fun and informative. DH made good use of the spa and enjoyed its hot/cold Nordic routine. He also swam in the infinity pool and main pool using a tether, which gave him a good workout, and he used the gym as well. He says the massage he got was excellent (though expensive). We both used the walking track on sea days, which was enjoyable. There’s a sitting area off the track that was practically unused during our trip, probably because of the cool weather. It was the perfect spot to bundle up and ponder the world as you watch the sea go by. As for the entertainment, we absolutely loved the two local shows we saw at the beginning and end of the trip. In Barcelona, a gypsy musical group gave a wonderfully energetic performance with some mild humor thrown in, and in Bergen we got to listen to a very stirring violinist. We also attended a “sampler” performance at the beginning of the cruise, which featured numbers by the in-house entertainment crew, and we quickly realized this really wouldn’t be our cup of tea so didn’t attend any of the other shows. We also didn’t go to hear the band in Torshavn, the ship’s night club and can’t comment on the dancing there. In the evenings, various musicians played instrumental music in different public spaces on the ship (guitarist, pianist, classical trio) and they were very good. A real highlight for us were the enrichment lectures. We had three British historians on board, all professors who obviously loved their subjects (roughly, the natural world, nautical history, and art) and loved to teach. It showed. They were a wonderful combination of enlightening and entertaining. I’m not sure I could pick a favorite. The naturalist gave nighttime stargazing talks up on the top deck; two lecturers gave a wonderful historical tour of the port at Portsmouth from within the Explorer’s Lounge as we left the port. One of the gentlemen had a delivery that put me to sleep every single time, in spite of how interesting he was. Something about that soothing Scots voice just conked me out. In the end, I only watched his lectures later on the TV in our stateroom so I wouldn’t embarrass myself. The port talks, which we also primarily watched in our stateroom, were also reasonably well done and informative, a nice intro to where we were docking the next day. The food We ate twice at the two specialty restaurants, Manfredi’s and the Chef’s Table, and I’d have to say we ended up preferring the Chef’s Table. It really depends on the menu. We changed one of our reservations there to a day with a menu that looked more interesting to us and were glad we did. We tend to like creative dishes, and that’s what they had. Manfredi’s was fine, no complaints, but it didn’t feel as memorable to us as the Chef’s Table. The main dining room was also fine, and we ate there several times. It’s the spot where we were most likely to chat with other diners. Viking has cleverly set things up so that you can have your table for 2, but they’re close enough together that it’s easy to engage with folks around you. We had waffles twice at Mamsen’s, the Norwegian restaurant in the Explorer’s Lounge, and they were outstanding. Who would’ve thought of putting coriander in waffles?? The Norwegians did, obviously, and what a great thing it is. This was our farewell meal on disembarkment day. We also had open-face sandwiches there once, which were good, and “success cake,” which was outstanding. The only negative about Mamsen’s was the difficulty we had finding someone to serve us, especially in the evenings. The counter was frequently unmanned during open hours, and we would wait around for a while to see if someone would show up. Several times we just gave up. By far, we ate most of our meals in the World Cafe. The food changed daily and was far better than we expected for what’s basically a buffet. We took our meals outside when possible, which was lovely. We liked the casual atmosphere and the ability to see everything that was on offer. Dressing up and being served in a more formal atmosphere is fun once in a while but not, for us, something we’d want to do every day. The crew After the lovely aesthetics, I’d say the best part about the ship was the crew. They were friendly without being obsequious, and they were on top of everything. Our room stewards were helpful and excellent without ever intruding, though we did learn to put a “do not disturb” sign on our door if we didn’t want people knocking and walking in. (That was startling the first couple of times.) We usually got room service for breakfast due to our early morning excursions, and it always — every single time — arrived a few minutes earlier than we requested, and piping hot. The bartenders were great fun, and one of them up in the Explorer’s Lounge made the best Negronis I’ve ever had. He added a little soda to them, he said, and an extra twist of orange peel. We probably had our best discussions with them. Basically, everything was beautifully run. They simply do an excellent job. ABOUT THE PORTS Itinerary: Trade Routes of the Middle Ages Day 0: Pre-cruise private extension: An extra day in Barcelona Day 1-2: Barcelona, Spain Day 3: Cartagena, Spain Day 4: Malaga (Granada), Spain Day 5: Sea Day 6: Porto, Portugal Day 7: Sea Day 8: Falmouth (Cornwall), UK Day 9: Portsmouth, UK Day 10: LeHavre, France Day 11: Bruges, Belgium Day 12: Amsterdam, Netherlands Day 13: Sea Day 14-15: Bergen, Norway Day 16-17: Bergen to Oslo train ride extension and our own extra day in Oslo Day 18: Fly home Barcelona: We did the included tour, which was somewhat truncated because of a Catalan demonstration going on. (We hit demonstrations both days in Barcelona.) It was just OK. We ended up leaving the tour and going off on our own in the Gothic Quarter. Prior to the official start of the cruise, we bought tickets ourselves for the magnificent Palau de la Musica Catalana, which I highly recommend. We also walked the Barcelonetta, the local city beach, and had lunch there at one of the beachside cafes. Cartagena: We did the Wine and Tapas walking tour, which was probably our least favorite of the optional excursions on this cruise. Cartagena is a lovely town with pastel buildings and marble pedestrian streets, but our (sweet) Finnish guide was far too taciturn; we had to pull information out of her. And the 3 places we stopped for tapas weren’t that great. It’s very easy to walk off the ship and into town; I’d do this place on our own next time. Malaga (Granada): We took the optional excursion to the Alhambra, which was excellent. We had two guides, a fascinating German woman for the (long) bus ride and an equally fascinating Dutch man for the Alhambra itself. From the bus guide, a longtime resident of that area, we learned about the region and what it’s like to live there. The Alhambra guide directed our attention to details I would’ve certainly missed as he told us about the history of the place and herded us through the other hundreds of tourists in the place. I would love to go back and stay overnight or something when the place is less crowded. (This excursion was listed by Viking as the most demanding, probably because of the amount of walking and the uneven ground. I was a little apprehensive beforehand because I’m just an average walker, but it turned out I had no difficulty. I did hold my DH’s arm a few times on the rougher spots.) The included lunch at the Alhambra Hotel was easily the best Spanish food we’ve had, a touristy buffet that still managed to be excellent. Porto: A somewhat gritty city that looks like it has struggled economically. DH loved it and wants to return. We took the included tour, which included a nice amount of walking and left us free time in the historic district along the river. We stopped at a sidewalk cafe and had a fabulous drink made of white sherry and soda as we watched the Douro float past the famous sherry houses across the way. Falmouth (Cornwall): We took the optional tour of Cornwall that included Land’s End and the surreally picturesque artist town of St. Ives. When you think “British seaside holiday,” this is the place you picture. The tour featured probably our favorite guide (very fun as well as informative) and included the best fish and chips lunch I’ve ever had (massive pieces of perfectly fried cod, not greasy, very flavorful) at a cute little restaurant. It also allowed us plenty of free time in St. Ives, which we made good use of by wandering the windy streets and having an outstanding cream tea (tea with scones slathered with Cornwall cream) at an unassuming little place. Portsmouth: This is one of those ports most people get out of to view other areas. Unless you’re a big fan of British nautical history, you’ll probably want to take an optional excursion. London is the usual tour people take, but a marathon made it off limits during our trip. We took the tour of Stonehenge and Salisbury, which was reasonably good, though I think I’d have preferred more time in Salisbury and less at Stonehenge. The cathedral was interesting enough, and we were lucky to get to hear the choir rehearse. The tour also featured another wonderful lunch at the lovely White Hart Inn. LeHavre: If you don’t mind a long bus ride and a “panoramic” tour that doesn’t let you get out of the bus much, you can go to Paris from this port, but most people who did seemed to regret it. We took the optional tour to Giverny to see Monet’s Gardens, which were in spectacular bloom in late April and were a major highlight of our trip. Just wow. After the gardens we ate at an extremely picturesque restaurant in the countryside that used to be a mill; the meal was probably the best of our cruise. Another wow. Then we went on to the medieval city of Rouen, which was more interesting than I thought it would be. I broke off while the others went to see a cathedral, and I very much enjoyed wandering around the main square area. There are some nice perfume shops here, so I did some sniffing, which is something I enjoy. Bruges: What a city! We decided to do our own thing here. You have to take some sort of transportation to get from the ship into Bruges (about 30 minutes), so we booked a seat on a shuttle ahead of time. But it turns out you don’t need to do that; you can just show up and get a seat. Basically, you take a free shuttle from the ship to the gate of the port. Then you walk out the gates of the port, turn right, walk about 3 minutes, and you’ll see a place to get tickets for Bruges. The shuttle ran every half hour and was perfectly fine. Bruges itself is simply splendid. It has retained its historic architecture due to benign commercial neglect (it was once a port town but the coastline silted up) and a blind eye from the Nazis, and it’s like walking around in a storybook. We had the famous Belgian fries for lunch in one of the main squares, did a little shopping (chocolates and soap), and just walked around. We definitely want to return to this beautiful city. Amsterdam: And now for our least favorite port on this trip. We did the included tour, which was fine and included a canal ride (though our fellow cruisers became inexplicably rude and talked right over the tour guide the entire time, something that thankfully didn’t happen anywhere else on our trip). Then we spent the rest of the day wandering around Amsterdam and continually stumbling into pot shops, tacky tourist stores, and women stripping in windows. We checked our map and no, we weren’t in the red light district, but it appears the zeitgeist of that district has spread a bit in central Amsterdam. We found it depressing, especially seeing all the stoned kids outside the head shops and all these women from Eastern Europe and various developing countries having to make a living like this. I suspect there are much more pleasant places in Amsterdam, but after walking about 5 miles we finally gave up and returned to the ship. If we were to return to Amsterdam, we would focus on the museums and probably find a way to get out of the coarse and gritty center. I especially wish we had gotten out into the Dutch countryside. Bergen: We were surprised by how much we loved Bergen. I think we were expecting another Reykjavik, which we had visited the previous fall and enjoyed but wouldn’t necessarily revisit. Bergen has a much more established and historic feel — and, frankly, more money. Both Bergen and Oslo felt rich to us, and not just because of the high prices of everything. We did two back-to-back optional tours here: in the morning we visited a tiny Norwegian farm, and in the afternoon we visited Grieg’s house and the (remade) Stave church. Both were good tours. I wanted to see the farm because my great-grandparents grew up on farms in Norway. The gentleman who owns this farm is really what made this excursion special: he’s an entertaining speaker and guide, and he creates a lovely experience for you, which includes a glass of excellent juice in his cellar, some wonderful pastries (he’s also a baker) in a quaint farmhouse, and a song or two on the piano. He also talks about what it’s like to farm in Norway, which I found very interesting. In the afternoon, the visit to Grieg’s house was fine but what I really enjoyed was the piano concert in the small, beautiful concert hall next door. Absolutely marvelous. The Stave church was a bit of a letdown; it was off season so we weren’t allowed inside. And it’s not original. But it was nice to see. Bergen to Oslo post-cruise: We also did this post-cruise excursion, which included a tour of Bergen itself; a highlight for me was a visit to the open-air folk museum, much like our Colonial Williamsburg. There was another marathon happening, which turned out to be more fun than problematic. At one point I saw a male runner in wearing nothing but some tattoos and a neon green G-string that didn’t actually do much toward hiding the family jewels. Hello, Norway! The hotel selected by Viking (Radisson Blu) was unremarkable and somewhat dark, but it’s in a fantastic location right on the wharf. We had an internal-facing room, which was a bummer; not sure how one gets an external room, but I would try to find out next time. The next day we took the 7-hour train trip to Oslo, which is nothing short of spectacular. While views are excellent on both sides, I would suggest sitting on the left if you want to take pictures out the window. We were on the right, and the sun created reflections that made picture-taking difficult. Also, I think there were more views out the right side, but the views out of the left side were more stunning, especially early on. You really can’t go wrong on either side, frankly. The extension included a quick tour of Oslo after the train ride followed by dinner along the harbor. We had a wonderful guide on the train (Viking rents out an entire car for its cruisers) and another guide once we got to Oslo. I highly recommend adding another day to Oslo if you can. We did, and it made everything more relaxing. Oslo is also a lovely city, and the hotel that Viking picked for us — the Hotel Bristol — is a wonderfully atmospheric historic place with loads of books and dark wood. (Though we once again had an internal room.) We had a nice dinner there. FINAL THOUGHTS (because this isn’t long enough already!) So that’s our first cruise. Would we do another? Yes, we’d like to. We both still work, and these trips aren’t cheap, so I don’t think we’ll become serial cruisers at this point like so many people we met. We also did find it a bit unsatisfying to spend so little time at so many places. I think we’d ideally like to mix it up a bit between doing whiplash tourism like cruising and following the more sedate approach of renting a place for a week or two to really get to know it and doing day trips. Both have their attractions. But as far as ocean cruising goes, with very few exceptions I don’t know how you’d improve on our Viking experience. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2018
The Viking experience covered everything! Our early morning flight to Barcelona arrived early and there was our welcoming Viking Red waiting for us at the baggage claim. Private car transfer to precruise Renaissance hotel and into our ... Read More
The Viking experience covered everything! Our early morning flight to Barcelona arrived early and there was our welcoming Viking Red waiting for us at the baggage claim. Private car transfer to precruise Renaissance hotel and into our room by 9:00 a.m. Talked with the Viking rep about the area and got great local recommendations. Transfer to ship, panoramic bus trip allowed the Sky and the hotel time to prepare for the next round of guests. Embarkation process was relatively quick and we were onboard by lunchtime. Room access was timely and met our stateroom stewards for a overview. These guys, worked hard and were always willing to get us what we needed. Dining - really looked forward to the alternative dining. Loved the ability to check the menus using the Viking Voyager app and make adjustments and additional reservations. The Chef’s Table was wonderfully imaginative, but we are the adventurous types. Manifredi’s indeed served enormous portions, asparagus become my favorite side. The dining room was good, but we found the World Cafe served the same food and ended up there more than we expected. We didn’t have the Silver Spirits package but enjoyed the included wines, paying for an occasional cocktail. Activities-cooking demonstrations, bridge tour, galley tour, movies under the stars, live entertainment, port talks were all included. Additional charges for wine tasting, cooking class in the Kitchen Table, and spa treatments. The service was wonderful, the staff doesn’t seem to know the word ‘No’, except ‘no problem’. They seem genuinely happy working for Viking. Viking doesn’t nickel and dime their employees or their guests, the staff doesn’t have to pay for their uniforms, their WiFi, or their flight home. The ports weren’t congested, probably due to the April sailing. Only occasionally, did we share the port with othe cruise ships, including the RCCL’s newest behemoth. Boy, was I happy with the 930 passengers size! Probably the reason the Sky was moved to the prime docking location near the Columbus monument instead of terminal 3 in Barcelona. The shore excursions were staggered, but even so, that’s where the congestion happened as the gangway opened and the staffed filled the tours and headed the groups out to the waiting buses. Included Shore excursions generally included bus tours with stops. The value of these was greatly affected by the individual guide. Optional excursions were as described, read the description and listen to the port talk to set expectations. The MyVikingJourney reservation process was cumbersome at times, with Sold Out tours and late additions. Mixed or inaccurate responses from the 800 customer help line added to the confusion. But overall, apprehension was wasted effort, Viking knows their successful business model. (Tellus@vikingcruises.com was much better than the 800 number.) After just a few days, we were talking to the onboard cruise consultant to take advantage of promotions to book our next Viking adventure. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
After our amazing Viking River cruise in 2011, we swore we'd never do an ocean cruise again! We eventually did do an Alaska cruise which was great, but the whole time we said, "It's not Viking!" So when Viking started their ... Read More
After our amazing Viking River cruise in 2011, we swore we'd never do an ocean cruise again! We eventually did do an Alaska cruise which was great, but the whole time we said, "It's not Viking!" So when Viking started their ocean cruises we began looking for the best opportunity to sail with them again. We wanted to sail over spring break which narrowed down our dates and ended up on the Italian Sojourn cruise. We had always wanted to see more of Italy and the dates worked. Our first impression of the Sky was one of awe. This was a five-star floating hotel! Our cabin (5034 - PV2 cat) was beautiful and spacious beyond our expectations. The finishes on this ship are gorgeous - the wood, furnishings, and even the handrails are beautiful! We toured the ship and settled into the Explorer Lounge to await the arrival of our friends. It is the most special place on the entire ship -- chairs and sofas of the softest leather, a gas fireplace, a bar, and the most spectacular views. Our friends were next door to us in 5036 (DV2 cat) - noticeably smaller but spacious enough. The service on the Sky was nothing less than spectacular. Our cabin steward saw to our every need, usually before we asked. Every waiter, bartender, tour guide, and entertainer we came across was friendly, spoke perfect English, and anticipated our needs. The entertainment was just right for this ship - mostly soft, acoustic music in the common areas and restaurants (the piano, flute, violin, and cello players were amazing) and the shows like the Broadway review and Beatles shows were excellent as well. The food! Most cruises I've been on (with the exception of the Viking River cruise) have food that looks better than it tastes. The meals we had on board are equal to any luxury restaurant on land. How they manage to feed 900 passengers and make each meal more special than the last one is beyond me. The breakfast buffet in the World Cafe was plentiful. Snacks were available throughout the day, as was bottled water. Our meal in Manfredi's will go down as an all-time travel favorite. Our meals in The Restaurant were likewise memorable and anticipated. The itinerary was a great overview of southern Italy. I was shocked to see how industrial the port of Naples is and was glad we had taken the excursion to Herculaneum. We debated between that excursion and the one to Pompeii. Several on the Herculaneum trip had been to Pompeii before and thought Herculaneum was far superior. It was astounding! We took the excursion to Taormina in Sicily and that was delightful as well. We did not book an excursion in Crotone as the ones we wanted were sold out so we did the walking tour on our own (the bus takes you into the town and brings you back). This was the only port I was disappointed in and would highly encourage you to book an excursion on this day. Bari was stunning -- another included walking tour, but this one was amazing! I'm glad we stayed in the city for that one. In Croatia, we took a bus from Šbenik to Split to Diocletian's Palace. Highly recommended! And finally, we just did the Doge's Palace walking tour in Venice which gave us plenty of time to explore on our own. From door to door, our trip was perfect (even the predicted rainy weather held off!) and I am already looking forward to cruising with Viking again. Read Less
Viking Sky Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 4.7
Dining 5.0 4.6
Entertainment 3.5 4.3
Public Rooms 5.0 4.9
Fitness Recreation 5.0 4.4
Family 1.0 4.4
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.1
Enrichment 4.5 4.4
Service 5.0 4.8
Value For Money 5.0 4.5

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