Viking Ocean is by far the best ocean cruise line we have taken. We have cruised with NCL, Princess and Celebrity and the level of service provided by Viking is a cut above the rest. First of all, we like their itineraries. We took the “Empires of the Mediterranean” tour from Istanbul to Venice and went to some fascinating venues including Santorini and Dubrovnik. Since there had been recent terrorist attacks in Istanbul for safety reasons, Viking Ocean cut short that visit and substituted Troy instead. Luckily, we had a pre-cruise booked for Istanbul and we did find Troy interesting.
Viking Ocean appeals to us because it does not have the Las Vegas strip look of other larger liners. Passengers on our ship the Viking Sea, numbered around 600 because of people cancelling due to fear about terrorism in Istanbul, but the ship only has a capacity of around 940 passengers. Amenities such as elevator service equals that of larger ships. The stateroom we had was DV5 level and had 270 square feet plus a verandah. It was quite roomy and elegant. In fact, elegance of understated Scandinavian style would describe the Viking Sea. Everywhere there are little surprise nooks to sit in and read and art pieces to admire. The tone of superior service was set upon our arrival when we were greeted with champagne and the strains of music played by a classical trio. Our favourite hang out was the 2 level Explorer's Lounge with 180 degree views of the ocean.
Viking Ocean is considered more expensive than other cruise lines, however I like the fact that all the costs except gratuities are pre-paid and you are not nickeled and dimed to death like on other ships. There are no continuous merchandise sales or photography sales pushed upon you. Amenities such as Internet, wine and beer with meals, and two hour free excursions are included in the price of the fare so there are no surprises when you get your bill. As we are not big drinkers we found that the wine veritably flowed!
The food is excellent. The World Café serves buffet style and it included an ice cream and gelato bar, and a latte machine at no additional charge. Other lines charge for these items. Above all the regular coffee is very good. With other cruise lines the coffee was so awful I had to get a specialty coffee card. At night this buffet served excellent sushi, crab legs and other seafood. There is an outside grill plus wonderful specialty restaurants such as Manfredi's which serves Italian fare and the Captain's Table where you can do food sampling and wine pairings. They have a more traditional restaurant plus a buffet or grill when the specialty restaurants get booked. You are allowed 2 bookings of each specialty restaurant and unlike other cruise lines you are not charged extra for these. Another surprise was Mamsen's where you could pop in for a heart-shaped waffle for breakfast. Also, there was the Wintergarden where everyday they served tea time pastries, sandwiches and scones to the strains of the classical trio.
Most of the time we took the more lengthy paid excursions instead of the 2 hour free ones however the level of the free ones that we took were good. There were fascinating enrichment lectures on naval warfare, art and music aboard ship. We attended sessions on naval battles that fit with the territory we passed including Gallipoli. These warfare talks were given by a Rear Admiral of the British Navy.
The entertainment was with one exception of an outside singer, provided by the ship's singers and dancers. They were a small but a mighty talented troupe. We thoroughly enjoyed their performances particularly the way troupe members mingled jovially with passengers, Loads of fun! We especially enjoyed the trio of male singers who put on a tribute to the "Rat Pack" in the Torshaven Lounge. The house band was terrific too!
Since this was the maiden voyage of the Viking Sea there was a glitch with our air conditioning that was resolved to our satisfaction. The gym is small and there are no classes but enough equipment to get the job done.
We loved this voyage so much that we have booked another Viking Ocean trip called "Barcelona, the Baltic and Beyond" for 2017!
Cabin was roomy, elegant and included a verandah. There was a mini-fridge that was free of charge and refilled daily plus a coffee maker at this level of room. Our cabin was a generous 270 square feet.