We chose Viking because we have cousins who reported very favorably on the River Cruises, but also because we wanted to go to Istanbul. So it was a big disappointment that we had to cross off both of the Turkish ports of call. But the stops along the Adriatic were little-known and excellent in their own way.
We did feel a bit let down at the embarkation process in Venice, where we arrived in pouring rain and were told to wait for a bus that never arrived. We also discovered too late that it was actually harder than necessary to get from our hotel in Venice to the Maritime Terminal, and that we therefore had to pay a lot for a water taxi that we could have avoided if we'd stayed in a better located hotel. But those turned out to be minor troubles.
The first thing that impressed us was the ship itself. We were astonished at the attention to detail and at the helpfulness of the staff. When baggage handlers broke the "foot" off my suitcase, the Viking Sea's carpenter picked it up at my stateroom and fixed it quickly and perfectly. We got great advice, too, from Guest Services on the ship. We had feared that in Athens we would get stuck with an expensive ride into Athens (where we were going to stay a couple of extra days), but both Jojo and Bruna were exceedingly helpful in advising us about how to get things done much more cheaply. The ship was also exceedingly quiet, with only the faintest throbbing from the engines rather than the louder and more dramatic pulsing that we were used to.
In our stateroom we were instantly impressed by the style and attention to detail in every small item, from toothbrush holders to showers, from pillows to the wonderful bed. Our cabin steward was also great: efficient, friendly, unobtrusive, and very good at cleaning up even the smallest mess.
The Nordic theme was evident throughout the ship from the Bayeux tapestry in the stairwells to the wonderful Mamsen's Cafe, which nearly brought me to tears of joy at the authentic Norwegian cuisine available for breakfast and lunch (I'm a Norwegian American). We did not avail ourselves of much of the official entertainment on the ship, but we loved the quiet corners scattered here and there, where one could choose a book from the carefully curated collection or read aloud to each other from a book that we'd brought with us. No crowds, no noise, just calm. The restaurants were also great. On our first night the food and service were great in Manfredi's, but the raucous guests made it hard for us to hear ourselves talking. When we mentioned this to the Maitre d'h of Manfredi's, he said, "Let me make it up to you," and he did. When we returned, we had a window table of perfect calm. That was our experience in the other restaurants, too. We should also praise the care we got from the marvelous Chef's Table -- a quiet table with amazing menus. We never felt rushed or crowded, and the food was fantastic.
We went on many of the "included" tours (the ones that were free) because we had never been in these ports before, and so it did not seem to make sense to us to go off into the interior when we had not even seen the port city itself. We were impressed that hundreds of guests (tourists) could be sorted out so efficiently onto the waiting buses, all of us outfitted with the "Silent Vox" speaker system that allowed us to stray a little bit away from the guide and still hear what he or she was telling us. The local guides were terrific -- they were locals with good English and a truly excellent knowledge of the locale. Usually these tours were a good choice, but a couple of times we felt that so many other guests were more interested in photo ops and taking selfies that we felt we had chosen badly and would have been better served if we had gone off to a historically or archeologically more demanding destination, such as the archeological site at the south end of Santorini. We wished we had toured that. I would especially single out the tours of Koper, Zadar, Olympia, and Athens as excellent. The popular tourist traps of Dubrovnik and Santorini were less enjoyable for us just because there were so many thousands of others there, just like us. We had hoped that going in September would reduce the crush of tourists, but those two places are so small that crowds can easily become oppressive.
Over all, we just loved our cruise, the ship, the food, the ports of call, and the attention to detail and our comfort.
We thought our steward was extremely helpful and that the cabin was exquisitely appointed. The bed was wonderfully comfortable, and the coffee maker and shower were high tech and great.