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I am afraid that it is unlikely that I will consider Viking for another ocean trip after my experience here. Whilst the experience was not awful by any stretch of the imagination, it was not anywhere near as good as the overhyped advertising that we saw. DINING The dining experience was reasonable and the waiting staff were good apart from one senior member of crew in the restaurant who thought his role in life was to be a joker rather than to actually provide a service. There was a curry on the menu and I asked what type it was as the menu did not specify. He told me that it was Indian and contained meat! I tried to pin him down to be more specific and he then gave me a totally incorrect answer - only coming back to give me the correct information when I had already decided to go for the curry based upon an incorrect description, so I had to start from scratch with my food order. Fortunately the lower graded waiters and waitresses were far better than their superior! As well as the main (table service) restaurant at dinner time, you can opt for a buffet dinner in the World Café (where buffet breakfast and buffet lunch is also served). I did not eat dinner in the world café but the lunches and breakfasts were reasonable - albeit on occasion the queues could get very long. On one occasion the queue for ice cream was quite literally out of the door. There are two speciality restaurants available in the evening. These are both more intimate affairs and must be pre-booked. Manfredi's is a very popular Italian style restaurant. The food was excellent and the menu choice reasonable. It was perhaps surprising however that there was no pizza offering (but Pizzas were available in the World Café). The choice of bread handed to you at the start of the meal was broad, tasty and of a very high quality. The other specialty restaurant was the "Chef's Table". There are two sittings for this. The first was at 6pm and the second at 8.30pm. The second sitting can be very quiet and indeed on one date that we had booked we were asked if we would mind cancelling as we had the only reservation for that night! Fortunately we had already decided to change our plans in any event. The concept of this restaurant is very interesting. There is a fixed menu with no choices. You are served a five course meal and with four of these courses are given a wine to complement that course - i.e. four different wines during the meal. I was highly impressed with the service and the food. Of course, you will end up eating food that you may not have otherwise opted for but this is a very good way of broadening your culinary horizons. The main problem with this restaurant is that it only changes menu every nine days. Given that most people do not want a fixed menu this is ridiculous as potentially people on a one week cruise would not see any change of menu at all. This is typical of the Viking Star Experience - somebody had a good idea but failed to think out the details properly. There are other dining options available - for example room service is free of charge. EXCURSIONS The trips include one free excursion at each port of call, but you can opt for other paid for excursions. The latter seem quite expensive given that the company would have had to pay for the "free" excursions anyway - you appear to be charged for these excursions at a very full rate without any deduction for the amount that you would otherwise have had to pay for the "free" excursions. The standard of the excursions was on the whole reasonable. The one exception to this was our guide in Helsinki, who was in fact Estonian and told us that she usually guided Spanish groups. She would stop speaking mid sentence because she could not think of words and would often never carry on! Fortunately this guide was the exception rather than the rule and the others were of good or excellent quality. The included excursions generally were simply walking tours or coach tours of the city centres. The coach tours varied - in Stockholm you were on the coach all of the time (bar one short photo stop). This was very frustrating as you did not feel that you were getting to experience the city. In contrast, the included St Petersburg tour included several photo stops. The walking tours were far better but on some of them the pace was very fast and not suited to people with walking difficulties. On Viking's river cruises they often have one group assigned to go at a slower pace for those with walking difficulties. If they can do that with a boat containing under 200 people I do not understand why this is not possible with a boat containing 930. Fortunately this did not impact upon me but for some it was a serious problem. In Flam, there were two free excursions to choose from, whereas at other destinations there was only the one option. As the ship spent two nights in St Petersburg, this did mean that you would have to pay for at least one additional excursion unless you wished to spend a day and a half of those two days on board. One of the ports of call is Warnemunde. The included trip from here is a coach journey to Berlin, a journey of several hours. We instead opted for a tour of Schwerin castle and town, which I can highly recommend. Warnemunde itself was also a very lively port (we were there on a Sunday and it was heaving with locals) so if you have been to Berlin before I would recommend that you give this free trip a miss. THE SPA This was highly publicised but a very huge disappointment. If everything worked, this would be a good facility. However in my four visits to the spa at least one thing was out of order every time and on the last day most things were out of order: -The gents sauna was working but the plunge pool was not, so you could not get the full sauna experience - The locker did not work owing to a technical issue. I had to aske for a spare key card -The steam room was not working -The snow room, whilst cold, was not generating snow. The floor was therefore sheet ice. Given that this is a new boat, I cannot see how so many things were out of action. The spa is only open 12 hours per day, so there is plenty of time for maintenance to be carried out in the hours in between. ENTERTAINMENT I did not partake of the entertainment or use the cinemas/theatre/bars, as the cabin was very pleasant (see separate cabin review) however people were enthusing about a number of the lectures that they saw here. EXTENSION We took a one day extension by train to Oslo. The journey itself ran smoothly but upon arrival in Oslo, the process of checking into the hotel was a shambles. Also, we were told that luggage would be in our rooms - it was not. The luggage van turned up an hour or so after us and then the hotel refused to help unload it so I had to unload my own bags and take them to the room. This wasted valuable time in Oslo. At least I had most of the following day in town, but some couples had 4am departures so this poor service was a big issue to them. If Viking is to offer extensions to their cruises they really must get their act together! Overall them this was an entirely underwhelming experience. The Viking River Cruises are more cost effective and far better organised. I will not be using their Ocean Cruises again (the prices for 2016 and 2017 are considerably more than the already expensive 2015 prices) and to be honest I am now more likely to consider their competitors for river cruises as my opinion of the company has taken a severe battering.

Having been on Viking's River Cruises, this ocean trip was very disappointing

Viking Star Cruise Review by hockley1

1 person found this helpful
Trip Details
I am afraid that it is unlikely that I will consider Viking for another ocean trip after my experience here. Whilst the experience was not awful by any stretch of the imagination, it was not anywhere near as good as the overhyped advertising that we saw.

DINING

The dining experience was reasonable and the waiting staff were good apart from one senior member of crew in the restaurant who thought his role in life was to be a joker rather than to actually provide a service. There was a curry on the menu and I asked what type it was as the menu did not specify. He told me that it was Indian and contained meat! I tried to pin him down to be more specific and he then gave me a totally incorrect answer - only coming back to give me the correct information when I had already decided to go for the curry based upon an incorrect description, so I had to start from scratch with my food order. Fortunately the lower graded waiters and waitresses were far better than their superior!

As well as the main (table service) restaurant at dinner time, you can opt for a buffet dinner in the World Café (where buffet breakfast and buffet lunch is also served). I did not eat dinner in the world café but the lunches and breakfasts were reasonable - albeit on occasion the queues could get very long. On one occasion the queue for ice cream was quite literally out of the door.

There are two speciality restaurants available in the evening. These are both more intimate affairs and must be pre-booked. Manfredi's is a very popular Italian style restaurant. The food was excellent and the menu choice reasonable. It was perhaps surprising however that there was no pizza offering (but Pizzas were available in the World Café). The choice of bread handed to you at the start of the meal was broad, tasty and of a very high quality.

The other specialty restaurant was the "Chef's Table". There are two sittings for this. The first was at 6pm and the second at 8.30pm. The second sitting can be very quiet and indeed on one date that we had booked we were asked if we would mind cancelling as we had the only reservation for that night! Fortunately we had already decided to change our plans in any event. The concept of this restaurant is very interesting. There is a fixed menu with no choices. You are served a five course meal and with four of these courses are given a wine to complement that course - i.e. four different wines during the meal. I was highly impressed with the service and the food. Of course, you will end up eating food that you may not have otherwise opted for but this is a very good way of broadening your culinary horizons. The main problem with this restaurant is that it only changes menu every nine days. Given that most people do not want a fixed menu this is ridiculous as potentially people on a one week cruise would not see any change of menu at all. This is typical of the Viking Star Experience - somebody had a good idea but failed to think out the details properly.

There are other dining options available - for example room service is free of charge.

EXCURSIONS

The trips include one free excursion at each port of call, but you can opt for other paid for excursions. The latter seem quite expensive given that the company would have had to pay for the "free" excursions anyway - you appear to be charged for these excursions at a very full rate without any deduction for the amount that you would otherwise have had to pay for the "free" excursions.

The standard of the excursions was on the whole reasonable. The one exception to this was our guide in Helsinki, who was in fact Estonian and told us that she usually guided Spanish groups. She would stop speaking mid sentence because she could not think of words and would often never carry on! Fortunately this guide was the exception rather than the rule and the others were of good or excellent quality.

The included excursions generally were simply walking tours or coach tours of the city centres. The coach tours varied - in Stockholm you were on the coach all of the time (bar one short photo stop). This was very frustrating as you did not feel that you were getting to experience the city. In contrast, the included St Petersburg tour included several photo stops. The walking tours were far better but on some of them the pace was very fast and not suited to people with walking difficulties. On Viking's river cruises they often have one group assigned to go at a slower pace for those with walking difficulties. If they can do that with a boat containing under 200 people I do not understand why this is not possible with a boat containing 930. Fortunately this did not impact upon me but for some it was a serious problem.

In Flam, there were two free excursions to choose from, whereas at other destinations there was only the one option. As the ship spent two nights in St Petersburg, this did mean that you would have to pay for at least one additional excursion unless you wished to spend a day and a half of those two days on board.

One of the ports of call is Warnemunde. The included trip from here is a coach journey to Berlin, a journey of several hours. We instead opted for a tour of Schwerin castle and town, which I can highly recommend. Warnemunde itself was also a very lively port (we were there on a Sunday and it was heaving with locals) so if you have been to Berlin before I would recommend that you give this free trip a miss.

THE SPA

This was highly publicised but a very huge disappointment. If everything worked, this would be a good facility. However in my four visits to the spa at least one thing was out of order every time and on the last day most things were out of order:

-The gents sauna was working but the plunge pool was not, so you could not get the full sauna experience

- The locker did not work owing to a technical issue. I had to aske for a spare key card

-The steam room was not working

-The snow room, whilst cold, was not generating snow. The floor was therefore sheet ice.

Given that this is a new boat, I cannot see how so many things were out of action. The spa is only open 12 hours per day, so there is plenty of time for maintenance to be carried out in the hours in between.

ENTERTAINMENT

I did not partake of the entertainment or use the cinemas/theatre/bars, as the cabin was very pleasant (see separate cabin review) however people were enthusing about a number of the lectures that they saw here.

EXTENSION

We took a one day extension by train to Oslo. The journey itself ran smoothly but upon arrival in Oslo, the process of checking into the hotel was a shambles. Also, we were told that luggage would be in our rooms - it was not. The luggage van turned up an hour or so after us and then the hotel refused to help unload it so I had to unload my own bags and take them to the room. This wasted valuable time in Oslo. At least I had most of the following day in town, but some couples had 4am departures so this poor service was a big issue to them.

If Viking is to offer extensions to their cruises they really must get their act together!

Overall them this was an entirely underwhelming experience. The Viking River Cruises are more cost effective and far better organised. I will not be using their Ocean Cruises again (the prices for 2016 and 2017 are considerably more than the already expensive 2015 prices) and to be honest I am now more likely to consider their competitors for river cruises as my opinion of the company has taken a severe battering.
hockley1’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
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Cabin Review

Cabin
My biggest criticism is the COLD. It is not possible to turn the air conditioning off. We did ask as, even on its warmest setting I was cold and if watching TV in the cabin had to lie under the covers - yet when we were off the boat in temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius I was happily wearing just a jumper and no coat. The air conditioning also aims directly at the bed so by the end of the holiday I had a very painful throat. This eased as soon as I spent one night of the boat. We did ask housekeeping whether there was anything that could be done to turn of the air conditioning or make the room warmer but was told that this was not possible. Why can you not turn off the air conditioning? This one point spoilt what was otherwise a very nice room

The cabin included a kingsize double bed and a seating area with armchair and large sofa. There was also ample storage for clothes - but the cabin grade below ours I feel would have been far more challenging in terms of storage.

The bathroom was well stocked and the shower was a good size. The room was kept clean by housekeeping however on three occasions over the two weeks the complimentary minibar was not properly restocked. On two occasions they failed to do this at all (despite us telling reception the first time still nothing was done) and on the third occasion they forgot to replace the crisps that we had used. Whilst this is a minor point, you should expect more for the price paid.

Internet was free but horrendously slow, even when docked in major urban centres. One surprise is that the television sets have a fraction of the facilities that the TVs on the Viking longships have - if a river boat can incorporate internet access on its TV screens, I cannot see why the Ocean going vessels cannot do likewise.

All cabins have a private balcony. We had gone for a high floor in the expectation that we could get better photos but in fact would have been better off going for a cabin on a (cheaper) lower level, as the overhand from the World Café above severely impeded the possibility of taking decent photos. The first time we used the balcony I was hit on the shoulder by the partition with the adjoining cabin, as it had not been locked into position. Notwithstanding these niggles, it is a nice touch for everybody to have their own personal outside area even if they are staying in the cheapest stateroom.

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • City Tour
    This could have been far better. Again there was too much time spent on a coach and not enough time on foot. The little mermaid was to be honest a disappointment (especially when you hear the history or replacement parts over the years). The area of the old Carlsberg Brewery was far more interesting.
    View All 177 City Tour Reviews
  • Gdansk Old Town
    The ship actually docked in Gdynia, about half an hour away by coach. Once in the city centre we had a very enjoyable tour of the old town, which was far more beautiful than I could have hoped. There was free time also (I enjoyed a beer in the town square). My one criticism is that I would have liked to have seen more of the shipyard given the importance that this had in the history of the Solidarity movement which led to subsequent political changes in eastern Europe.
    View All 53 Gdansk Old Town Reviews
  • City Tour
    Guide was incompetent and did not speak very good English. We gave up on the tour and instead explored independently before walking back to the boat. We did during our independent walking go on the Finnair Skywheel which gives an interesting perspective of the city. So the town came to life only after we dumped the guide!
    View All 179 City Tour Reviews
  • Schwerin Castle
    Whilst most people headed for the included Berlin tour, Schwerin was fantastic. The castle has a fairy tale look and was approached by boat. inside, you were allowed to take photos (subject to purchase of a camera licence for three euro). The town is also very pretty, but more free time here would have been nice.
    Our ship was actually docked in Warnemunde. We were there on a Sunday when there was lots going on - outdoor eateries and entertainment and locals promenading. This was highly atmospheric and I would recommend that you do look around Warnemunde before boarding your vessel again.
    View All 23 Schwerin Castle Reviews
  • Palaces of St Petersburg
    This tour took us to three palaces. We went inside the two we had not previously seen and went into the grounds only of Peterhof, which we had visited on a previous cruise. The palaces were in stark contrast to one another in terms of size, layout and how grand they were. The tour included a reasonable set lunch and finished with a hydrofoil trip from Peterhof back to the centre of St Petersburg.
    View All 13,608 Palaces of St Petersburg Reviews
  • City Tour
    A city coach tour but with photographic breaks. Each break (other than the first) lasted about 15 minutes so you had time to wander around the immediate area and to enjoy the atmosphere of the city
    View All 346 City Tour Reviews
  • The Old Town
    This is an interesting town - but too long was spent in the Canning Museum. As so many groups descended into the museum at once it became far too crowded. It would have been better to have a shorter period of time here in order to minimise the crowds. The rest of the tour was well conducted.
    View All 48 The Old Town Reviews
  • City Tour
    The tour was a comprehensive coach tour but there were insufficient opportunities to get off the coach.
    View All 131 City Tour Reviews
  • Old Town of Tallinn
    An excellent and highly enjoyable walking tour with a knowledgeable guide. There was also free time at the end to wander at leisure
    View All 175 Old Town of Tallinn Reviews