My wife and I selected this cruise because of the itinerary and Viking Cruises, having been with Viking for four previous river cruises and one ocean cruise. This cruise was on the Viking Sea, the sister ship of the Viking Star, our other Viking ocean cruise. Viking established a standard of excellence on river cruising and that has carried over to the ocean cruises but not without some small issues that I'm sure will be remedied in future sailings. Several of the issues have been mentioned in other reviews. There were computer problems with scheduling excursions and there were delays in use of tenders to get into the ports but when all was said and done, Viking performed extremely well and they will learn from the experience.
Computer problems caused some previous excursion arrangements to drop from the system and Viking had to make adjustments to satisfy everyone. I experienced part of that issue but by the time the excursion was to take place, Viking made the proper adjustments and I took the tour as scheduled. Regarding the tenders, I was told by a crew member that they had to keep a certain number of tenders at the ship for emergency use (makes perfect sense) so could not just simply use all of them to get people from the ship to shore. I suspect that in the future, Viking may have to have transportation from the port to help with the requirements but I don't know all the details so will resist offering other suggestions. In one case, Viking just scheduled too many things to happen at the same time and when the anchorage was further distant from the dock, time issues ensued quickly. Individuals who were not on scheduled tours and wanted to simply go ashore had issues of tender availability also.
Having mentioned those two concerns, let me now turn to all the great things of the cruise, of which there were many and the reason why I did not downgrade the rating from 5 stars.
The itinerary was fantastic. We actually started in Oslo (pre-cruise extension from Viking) and after one night there, took the Bergen Express train from Oslo to Bergen (almost 500 kilometers). The views of the countryside were incredible as we climbed to around 4000 feet in Finse and then back down as we approached Bergen. Track maintenance required us to leave the train in Voss but Viking had bus transportation immediately available to get us the rest of the way. Arrival in Bergen was on schedule but the hotel staff had not gotten our luggage to our rooms by the time we arrived. They took our luggage from the hotel in Oslo the night before so they had plenty of time to get the bags to the rooms. I fault the hotel staff and the Viking representative on scene for that problem. The representative at the hotel was apparently a contracted person who didn't understand her responsibilities and really let the ball drop on that one. The problem was solved and the luggage was delivered albeit a bit late.
After a night in Bergen in the hotel (part of the pre-cruise extension), we were able to board the ship and begin the cruise. The sights to be seen as we made our way from Bergen to the North Cape and then back down the coast before crossing the sea to the UK were breath-taking and provided a daily opportunity to explore and photograph (my real interest) the wonders of the world around us. Spectacular on the list of stops was Geirangerfjord where our tour took us to multiple viewing locations that offered panoramas of the local fjord that were very special. Our port call in Tromsø provided yet another spectacular panorama from the top of the cable car lift to Mount Storsteinen. As much of Norway, Tromsø is made up of a series of islands and you could see all of them from the 1,378-foot summit of Mount Storsteinen. Crossing the Arctic Circle was greeted with appropriate pomp and circumstance and all on board were issued a certificate providing proof that the bearer had crossed that north latitude. The port call of Honningsvåg provided the opportunity to take a tour to Nordkapp or North Cape, the northern most point of Norway where cliffs rise more than 1000 feet from the water below and the Norwegian and Barents Seas meet.
Other port calls provided similar opportunities to see uniquely Norwegian landscapes and other buildings such as the stave churches which are increasingly rare.
Ålesund was our last port call in Norway and like the others, it is a fascinating blend of the new and old. Like many Norwegian towns, the city has had to deal with devastating fires but has rebuilt itself with new life and different architecture. Ålesund provided another opportunity to view the landscape from a mountain (really big hill).
Crossing from Norway to the UK, we visited the Shetland and Orkney islands before cruising to Edinburgh. While good weather greeted us in most of Norway, we were not as fortunate in Scotland. The rain made for more difficult tours but that is just something you have to plan for under the best of circumstances.
Even though this cruise was in June, you need to be prepared for a wide range of temperatures and conditions. Temperatures ranged from mid-80s in Oslo to the high 30s in the North Cape. Layers are the way to go and you will be comfortable. As I mentioned, rain is always a possibility so be prepared for that also.
The crew was exceptional. Clearly, Viking trains their crew members to take care of the passengers. They anticipate your desires and make every effort to satisfy them, sometime even before you know them. We ate in the specialty restaurants twice and thoroughly enjoyed each experience. The main restaurant competes very favorably with the specialty restaurants and provides excellent food.
The ship is a work of art with open spaces and fresh uncluttered decor. The Viking Sea and the Viking Star are essentially the same in layout and design. Having been on one, you are immediately familiar with the other, making for immediate recognition of where things are located on the ship.
A number of the crew on the Viking Sea had been on the Viking Star and became the "launch team" for the new ship. Familiarity from one ship to the other eased transition and made for a very enjoyable experience on the newly launched Viking Sea.
Viking provides great value for your money. They cater to older travelers. They do not have activities for younger people.
The bottom line is that I have enjoyed each and every cruise I have taken with Viking and plan to continue cruising with them. If fact, I have two future cruises already booked, one ocean and one river. I have cruised with other cruise lines and will in the future, depending on itineraries. My recommendation is to consider the itineraries and the style of cruise provided by Viking and weigh it against any other available offering. You can depend on Viking to provide a fantastic cruise at a reasonable price point without much of the "extras" found on less expensive cruises.
Plenty of room and storage. Very comfortable.
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