This was our first ocean cruise and we booked with Viking because we had loved their river cruise.
We expected a lot of Viking Ocean as the river cruise had been of such a high standard and were not disappointed.
Ship: The whole ship is light and airy and more like a floating hotel. It was very quiet as well and there was so much space that you often found you were alone. It was very easy to find a quiet space to sit and read, or in the evening to just sit and listen to the playing of the resident pianist wafting up through the Atrium.
The gym is good and does not seem to be used a great deal. The swimming pool is very small, as is the infinity pool on the back of the boat.
Food: We had breakfast and lunch in the World Cafe which is self service and has many choices of food. It is light and airy and open to the deck when weather permits. We ate in the dining room every evening. Someone has commented on this site that the service was slow. I disagree - they have many staff serving and cope well with the influx of almost the entire ship after the daily Port Talk. The food was delicious - what I call 'posh' food, so not huge portions but you can order as many of each course as you like. One man had 4 main courses so that he could try several dishes. The menu changes daily, often with fresh fish loaded from whichever port we had been in - eg lobster. There is always a classic menu of steak, salmon, chicken, salad etc available as well.
When you enter the dinning room you are asked whether you want to sit alone or to have company. If the latter, then they seat you at a table for 6. We had some interesting conversations with other people by doing this although even if you sit on a twosome, you usually end up talking to the next couple.
Staff: The staff on this ship proved a true 'service' and the cabin stewards are excellent. They service the room twice a day and change the bedding daily!!! I do feel this is a little unnecessary, but who doesn't like clean sheets. All the staff greet you as you go about the ship and do seem genuinely to like working for Viking.
Clothes: It really is just smart casual in the evening, so no need to take anything 'dressy'.
Passengers: We found that the majority were American with a few from Australia, New Zealand and England.
Entertainment: We went to the daily Port Talks but not much else in the way of entertainment as after dinner we liked to sit in the Explorers Lounge with a drink. Sometimes the pianist would be playing or the guitarist. There is not a huge amount of entertainment, it is low key: lectures, occasional films, trivia quizes and some of the staff put on a show. There is a lot of information on the TV in your room and you need to explore this. The Port Talks are there, as is a map showing you where the ship is at any given time, plus up-to-date films.
Excursions: We did not book may extra excursions, but did do every included one. These varied between coach and walking tours.
Bergen: We enjoyed the included tour and it gave a good oversight of the whole town, not just the tourist bits. Then in the afternoon we took the funicular to the top of the mountain for spectacular views (there are long queues in the morning but these disappear from lunch time onwards) and walked back down. It’s an easy walk to follow and a good surface – we passed families with buggies and also a lady on a motorised mobility scooter making their way up. Its hard on the knees though as it’s about an hour all down hill.
Eidfjord: The included tour took us up the valley for 15 minutes to a natural history centre where they showed a spectacular film of the whole area. There were multiple screens so you felt you were flying in the helicopter. Eidjford is very small and there is little to do in the village. We took the trip to the fruit farm just for the journey along the fjord. You only spend about 20 minutes at the farm.
Stavanger: The town is compact and you dock right beside it. The included tour round the old town was interesting and we ended up at the Oil museum, which we spent a short time at. Beware of the cobbles in the old town if you are unsteady on your feet.
Aalborg: The included walking tour was interesting. There are a few old streets to see.
Copenhagen: Oh, the traffic. We were stuck for a lot of the time. Also they are building another metro so there is a lot of upheaval, and areas boarded up where the stations are being put in. Viking should reorganise this tour and make part of it a walking tour. It is easy to walk along to the Little Mermaid and on to the Palace. We walked back from Nyhavn. It is flat and straight along the river and took about 20 minutes.
Rostock and Warnemunde: We did not go to Berlin as it is a 2.5 hour train journey each way, setting off early in the morning. We did the included walking tour of Rostock (in the rain). There are not many old buildings to see but there is a lot of history. Again, beware of cobbles if you are unsteady on your feet. One lady tried to do the tour with a mobility push along which of course just stuck on the cobbles and over balanced.
The ship docks at Warnemunder and it is an easy walk (turn right from the ship and through a tunnel under the railway) to the village. This is very much a popular sea side resort with sandy beaches, a harbour and one or two pretty streets. We enjoyed just pottering about on our own here for the afternoon and a walk to the light house.
Gdansk: It was very hot, a weekend and a holiday with lots of festivities so very crowded. I found it very interesting to see the photos from 1945 of all the destruction and to see it now. The town has been rebuilt beautifully, exactly as it was.
Tallinn: We did the included tour starting in the upper town. Again, all cobbles, so hard on the feet. It is lovely but very crowded with five cruise ships in port.
St Petersburg: We did the included tour. I found it disappointing and it needs to be revamped. I was there in 1969 and I felt that this time we did not get a feel of all the islands and bridges which make it such a lovely city. We just went to a few touristy places and statues, and were not taken to the main square outside the Hermitage which is very significant in Russian history. The traffic is awful so we queued a lot. I felt some of this tour could have been done by walking through some parks. Also, they need to rethink the toilet stop. It was a converted single decker bus! OK, yes it was funny as there were a row of ‘stalls’ along each side inside the bus with partitions about 5 feet high so when you stood up to readjust your clothes, you could talk to the next person. We all laughed – what else can you do. But really, Viking need to find somewhere better.
My other half did the optional Leisurely Hermitage tour which he enjoyed but of course one morning is never going to be nearly enough at the Hermitage.
We did the Summer Palace/Peterhof trip. Absolutely stunning. The sun shone on us so we saw the fountains to their full advantage. Again, I had been there in 1969 and it was exactly as awesome as I remembered. We were up and out by 7 am for this but it was worth it just to be at the front of the queue to get in to the palace, which is opulent and more. The kiosks in the garden only take cash in roubles – no other currency or Visa - but to the right of the Palace, in the gardens is a larger ‘café’ that does take Visa and it opens at 10, whereas others seem to open at 11. Having arrived early, we were desperate for a drink.
I really enjoyed the journey (about an hour) to the Palace so that we could see the countryside and the dachas (summer houses).
Helsinki: Torrential rain so everyone just got soaked, which impacted on the included tour. The ship’s journey in and out of Helsinki is lovely with lots of rocky islands.
Stockholm: We did the included 2 hour tour. Again, I have been before and felt, like St Petersburg, that this tour did not give much impression of all the water, bridges and islands that make up this city. We just went round the touristy bits. I think this would benefit by being 3 hours and going further out into the suburbs to give a better overview. In the afternoon we took ourselves on the public transport boat from Gamla Stan over to the Vasa Museum. This is very easy and cheap.
Overall, I felt we could have done with some free time on some of the included tours for a coffee and just a chance to sit and watch the world go by to absorb the atmosphere.
Money: Do not bother to take any currency of the countries you visit. We took a small amount in Norwegian and Danish kroners and returned them to the bank when we got home. Everywhere takes Visa (not American Express though) and in Sweden evidently they hardly use cash at all these days.
We absolutely loved every aspect of this ship and did not want to get off. We will go again.
Cabin: We booked the cheapest grade cabin which was more than adequate, with a lovely bathroom and powerful shower. Comments have been made about lack of storage, and yes, they could do with a few more drawers, but really, it was fine and there is loads of space under the bed for cases etc. and also some drawers in the bathroom, which I only discovered just before we left. The only addition I would have liked is a magnified mirror/shaving mirror in the bathroom. I can't see any advantage in paying more as the rooms are the same size unless you upgrade substantially. The more expensive rooms seem to have 'perks' such as earlier booking of excursions, booking of speciality restaurants, but I booked our excursions as soon as we were able and got everyone I wanted. It was often possible to change these once on board and also to book speciality restaurants.
We were on the lowest deck and used the stairs as much as possible in an attempt to keep fit and not gain too much weight. It was really useful to have the launderette along the corridor, which I used twice, which cut down on the number of clothes I needed to take.