As a retired 35 year History teacher traveling alone, I was searching for a cruise that would be more appropriate to the classroom experiences I had with my students. The Viking SEA cruise "In the Wake of the Vikings" filled that bill and more for me.
The cruise began in Bergen, Norway, and crossed the Atlantic to Montreal. I took advantage of pre and post extensions in Oslo and Montreal for two days each and was not disappointed. Bergen was also a joy, and the fact that this pro cycling fan was there during one day of the week long UCI World Championships was a pleasure that was unexpected when I booked the cruise.
To get to the ship, I traveled by train from Oslo to Bergen. The views were amazing, and definitely a harbinger of things to come on the cruise itself.
The Viking SEA was easy to get around, and the staff was the best part of the entire experience! Whether it was my Steward, Tito, the food staff, or the security and boarding staff for the three tendering situations, they couldn't have been more patient or professional.
The food was outstanding! When I arrived on the first night, I went to the Buffet ("World Cafe") expecting to pick up a burger and fries. Imagine my surprise when the offerings included Duck a L'Orange and Lamb Shoulder...the excellence and variety of the food was unchanged for the next two weeks. I got my first taste of Venison, and Caviar as well.
Breakfast and luncheon offerings were equally as good. The 'reservation restaurants,' Manfredi's Italian, and the Chef's Table, were above and beyond expectations.
A cautionary note: If you intend to hit the Casino, buy art, rock climb, or see extravagant Broadway type shows with large casts; this cruise is not for you. The stage time is taken with lectures on the History, Geography, and politics of the area served. We had four lecturers who touched mainly on the Viking legacy (it was the theme, after all), but also included climate concerns, political policy issues regarding whaling, oil, and other natural resources, and more recent Historical events. There were also "Port Talks," led by the Cruise Director. If you missed any of the lectures, you could watch them later on your cabin television.
Entertainment was controlled by an eight person troupe, who brought a different show each night to the theatre. Despite the small size of the troupe, they handled their assignments very well. They, like the rest of the staff, were also very gregarious and thoughtful to the passengers off the boat.
The Spa and exercise areas were excellent! The Deck 2 walking area was a quarter of a mile around, which surprised me, because I have been on much larger Carnival and Disney ships where the walking distance was identical. How did Viking do it?
The Shore Excursion opportunities brought unexpected visual experiences. The beauty of the Shetlands, the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, and Quebec were the highlights here. The local guides were all knowledgeable and easy to converse with. The views from the ship were also amazing, especially going through the fjords in all of these locations. Prince Christian Sound in Greenland was at least equal, if not superior, to the views in Alaska's Inland Passage. Three glaciers, icebergs, and mountains around every corner kept the camera busy!
The included tours usually were of the "Panorama" variety, where we took buses to various areas as an orientation of the location, with opportunities for stops for photo opportunities. I was most disappointed with the included tour of Reykjavik, Iceland, because we spent an inordinate amount of time driving through residential areas and were not allowed to stop at key locations because "we do not have time." I was also a bit frustrated with one of the onboard consultants informing me that the 'excursions in Saguenay, Quebec, were very helpful, because there isn't much to see in the town.'
Two opportunities to walk proved to me that this was a very charming town, and there was much that we weren't able to see otherwise. Perhaps a reevaluation of the opportunities in this region for excursion purposes would be helpful.
The optional tours were tremendous! In my case, a walk through the Shetlands' capital of Lerwick, a ride around the Faroes, a visit to a fur house in Qaqortoq, Greenland, a walk around the L'Anse Aux Meadows Viking settlement in Newfoundland,and walking and carriage tours in Quebec City were stunning!
On three occasions, we had to "Tender" from the ship to the shore. The crew was excellent in getting us on and off board, but suffice it to say, the term "Tender" is now an oxymoron in my book...remember that the North Atlantic in mid September is not easy on good days. We also had to miss the Nanortalik, Greenland port due to treacherous wind and waves. Kudos to the Security and Boarding crew who had to deal with disembarking so many in limited time in all of the ports.
The cruise was exceptional, and, despite a few minor issues, I would go again...In fact, while onboard, I signed up for a future Viking Ocean Cruise.
A most adequate layout. King size bed, desk, sitting area and television...though the channel choices were limited, there were a plethora of movie choices, past lectures, and TED Talks available.
The bathroom and storage areas were excellent. There were many amenities as well, which I appreciated greatly. My only criticism--and it's on me--was that most of the "action" from the balcony was on the starboard side, and I was on the port side. Luckily, getting around the ship was easy enough to see everything.