We booked back to back Mediterranean cruises, Dec 30 2018, and Jan 6 2019. We were attracted by the itinerary, and the wonderful reviews of Viking. The itinerary turned out to be misleading, and Viking appeared to suffer from institutional ... Read More
We booked back to back Mediterranean cruises, Dec 30 2018, and Jan 6 2019. We were attracted by the itinerary, and the wonderful reviews of Viking. The itinerary turned out to be misleading, and Viking appeared to suffer from institutional disorganization and generally poor food and service..
Ports - After paying in full soon after booking, which is a Viking requirement, we discovered that the ship dropped anchor in our ports of interest, but didn't actually remain in port long enough to actually see anything. All-aboard was 1:30 PM in Cagliari, Vigo and Portsmouth. As a result, it was impossible to reach Santiago de Compostela from Vigo, and impossible to reach the Sardinian interior from Cagliari. Viking offered no excursion to Stonehenge from Portsmouth, but we arranged for a private tour which got us back to the ship in time. In Malaga, Viking offered full day tours to Granada, none of which included the Alhambra. They offered no explanation for this. We arranged a private tour.for this port also, and purchased our own Alhambra tickets. Whoever designed this itinerary doesn't understand that cruisers might actually want to see something in the ports.
Viking decided that the port call in Tunisia should be canceled for safety reasons, and substituted Naples. Unfortunately, this occurred on Jan 1, and all museums and archaeological sites were closed. The following day we were to have visited Trapani, Sicily, but this too was canceled because of high winds. Instead, we stayed until 1:30 PM in Naples, and were given a bus ride to the museum. The announcement of this new tour stated that buses would leave on Jan 2 at 7:30-10:30, every half hour. We could pick up tickets on Jan 2 between 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM. This was minor, and laughable, but so typical of communications from Viking.
Enrichment lecturers - excellent. Unfortunately, they covered topics like the Alhambra, and Santiago de Compostela, places unreachable because of our short port stays. Apparently, this was another example of Viking's disorganization. Even the cruise director was unaware that our schedule would not permit visiting many sites that would have been expected to be on the excursion list.
Ship - The Viking Sky is a lovely, well-designed ship. Furnishings are Scandinavian. Public spaces are comfortable and roomy. There are sufficient elevators and laundromats. We could not enjoy the outdoor spaces because of the cold weather. The pool roof was kept closed, adding a strong smell of chlorine to any meal we attempted to enjoy at the pool grill.
Cabin - of average size, and lacking in adequate storage space. Three small drawers under the safe - that's it. The thermostat in the cabin seemed to have little control over the cabin temperature. Soundproofing was very good - we never heard noise from the hall, or cabin doors slamming.
Bathroom - large shower, wonderful heated floor, and generous storage space. We ended up storing some of our clothes in the bathroom. Bathroom materials were linoleum and Formica rather than granite or marble.
Food - ranged from okay to awful. I don't remember a single dish that I would describe as wonderful. The two specialty restaurants, requiring reservations, are Manfredi's and the Chef's Table. Our restaurant reservations regularly disappeared from the computer system (no explanation given). Manfredi's has a large Italian menu. Several of our dishes were bad enough that we decided grappling with the reservation system again was not worth it, and we skipped a return visit. The Chef's Table has a fixed menu that changes every three days. Our first visit was so bad, we decided that there must have been some calamity in the kitchen, and we tried again. This was just as bad. For example - Peking Duck turned out to be a small, soggy crepe wrapped around dry, flavorless, diced duck meat. Across the top of the crepe were arranged thin, dry, slices of duck. Around the perimeter of this creation was a circle of brown gravy, completely devoid of Asian flavors or seasonings. This was typical of our experiences at the Chef's Table. The Restaurant offered an extensive menu which looked good, but dishes were usually often poorly executed. One good thing is that Viking offers dinner as early as 6 PM for those who prefer to eat early.
Service - Phone calls to the home office prior to sailing were a waste of time. Customer service was completely clueless - either could not answer questions, or provided misinformation. On board, service was invariably friendly and helpful. Our cabin steward was capable and knew how to perform his job. This was not the case with the restaurant and bar staffs. They gave the impression of being inexperienced, and stretched thin. It was not unusual to sit for 10 minutes waiting for someone to take a drink order in a bar. One night, in the Restaurant, our waiter gave another waiter a lesson on deboning fish, using my entree as the teaching tool. I didn't mind that - but should they really put a waiter on the floor who doesn't know how to debone a sole?
Liquor - Cocktail prices were reasonable, on average $6-$8, as were the premium wines by the glass. We had read reviews that reported that the complimentary wine was pretty awful, so we took the Silver Spirits Liquor Package, which allowed us to have the "premium" wines at dinner. These were not great, coming from bottles that sell for $10 or less in the US, but better than the complimentary wines. Liquor service in the restaurants was slow, again because of thin staffing, and getting a refill was sometimes difficult. Finally, we requested to be seated with the same wine steward every night, and he took care of us.
Entertainment - I can't comment, as we didn't see any shows. The resident guitarist named Matthew, however, was excellent.
The bottom line is that Viking has many good ideas of what the cruise experience should offer - medium sized ships, comfortable surroundings, no photographers or casino, good value. But - . I believe they have expanded too quickly, and cannot begin to staff the ships with a sufficient number of experienced personnel. Itinerary, food, and service are the most important parts of the cruising experience for me. Unless Viking can get these things straightened out, this will remain my first and last Viking cruise. , Read Less