In the interest of full disclosure this was my first cruise...so i have nothing to compare it to.
I had read about illnesses pn another cruise line before I went and my husband had been on a cruise long ago before we were married and told me that his girlfriend had gotten sick. So as a first time cruiser I worried about this.
I have to tell you that they keep this ship immaculate. It's cleaner than any hotel I've ever been in and for that matter any hospital. They are constantly cleaning this ship. Every nook and cranny gets cleaned. There are sinks and hand sanitizers everywhere. Again I have nothing to compare it to, but I can't imagine that there is any ship cleaner and more sanitary anywhere. If you watch them in the food prep areas you can see that someone is there cleaning immediately as food is prepped. So if your a germaphobe, you will be very happy on this ship.
I stayed in a veranda penthouse. It was not claustrophobic at all. I felt very comfortable. I had read that storage in cabins is an issue. I had no problems finding storage. I had packed a converter because I had read that having enough outlets is a problem on cruises. I didn't use it. Having enough electrical outlets was not a problem. I packed an umbrella. I didn't use it because there is a great golf sized umbrella in the cabin. There are also binoculars in the cabin. And again the cabin is spotless. I loved the water pressure in the shower but I did find that it was a challenge to keep the shower head to stay in one place and it sometimes slid around and sprayed on the bathroom floor.
As for dining expect extravagant upscale food. All of the passages thought the food was outstanding. As this was my first cruise I can only compare it to the food I eat when I vacation independently without cruising. I will say that when I travel on my own and eat at restaurants I think I get better food. But I suspect that it would be very hard to find a cruise with better food. We actually preferred the food at the buffet in the World Cafe over the specialty restaurants. Splurge on the sticky rolls for breakfast...in my opinion they are worth the calories. Even if you are watching calories you really need to try them at least once.
One thing that disappointed me is that it was our anniversary and I had been told that if you tell them in advance they do something special for you. I don't consider the 10% off coupon in their over priced shops to be special....so don't expect something special for your special occasion or you'll be disappointed.
For lunch my favorite spot was the Pool Grill. Mainly because with shore excursions some of the other venues where closed when we got back and the Pool Grill had extended hours. The cheese steak sandwich is a must. Its made with actual ribeye steak It is a bit of a challenge to eat because it's messy so make sure the cut in to small enough pieces.
I didn't try the afternoon tea until late in the cruise because I thought it would be formal and I didn't want to dress up for that. However one day we were late for lunch and the Pool Grill area was too hot with the roof open. So we went to the Wintergarden Tea to see how formal it was. It wasn't formal at all and we enjoyed it. The strawberry white tea was delicious.
This brings us to dinner. You get two reservations at The Chefs Table with their upscale tasting menu and two at Manfedis Italian restaurant. I booked these in advance and being a rookie my strategy one to book one at each restaurant at the beginning of the cruise and one at each restaurant at the end of the cruise. If I had it to do again I probably would have booked all four towards the end of the cruise because the restaurants weren't that busy at the beginning and we probably could have gotten in without a reservation. By the end everyone was looking to get into the specialty restaurants. We personally preferred the World Cafe to the specialty restaurants and I missed lobster night in the World Cafe because I didn't want to give up my reservation at the Chefs Table....I slightly regret that decision because I heard the lobster was delicious.
So this brings us to dinner. We preferred the World Cafe buffet. You can't go wrong here. They had Carribean night one night and my husband who was born in Puerto Rico loved it and found it to be very authentic.
With regards to the Chefs Table. I loved it, my husband did not. So here is the scoop to determine if you'll fall into the love it or leave it category. It's a fixed menu, so you don't get to pick and it's small portions with several courses. It comes with complimentary wines for each course or for $25 you can upgrade your wine selection. We are not wine drinkers so we went with the complimentary wines. The menu has a theme which I believe changes every two days. Our themes were sweet and salty one night and a historical theme one night. So I think the best strategy for this restaurant is to book your 2 dinners in advance later in the cruise but when you get on board ask them what the themes are going to be and reschedule as you can to the nights/menus you want.....and if you love lobster don't schedule your reservation during lobster night in the world Cafe.
I personally love letting the chef pick my food and the small portion, many course meal because I see it as a culinary adventure. I like reading why the food was picked for that theme. I like the small portions because I figure it keeps me from overeating and since I'm on a cruise there is plenty of other food available if by some miracle I don't get enough. My husband wants to pick his own food period.....so he wasn't impressed. As for the actual food, i didn't like it all but appreciated the opportunity to try it. For example, reindeer ravioli in broth really didn't work for me, but at least I know that I don't like reindeer meat now. The deserts were decadent and delicious.
That brings us to Manfedi's. Everyone's favorite except mine. Our first meal at Manfedi's I had gnocchi in a tomato sauce with shrimp. I thought the sauce was too sweet. My husband had the steak that everyone says is the best they ever had...his was fatty and grissley. Another passenger we spoke to felt the same. The second time we went my husband tried the steak again and like it.....not the best he ever had, but good. I suspect that typically the steak is quite good but now and then you may get one that isn't up to the same standard in which case you should order another.
I tried room service once and found the food to be not enough and the toast soggy so after that I stuck with the World Cafe for breakfast.
I found the drinks to be weak and not worth the money. I don't just mean alcohol content. For example my strawberry daquari was like pink colored ice with no fruit flavor. And the refrigerator in my room barely chilled the drinks to slightly below room temperature and I was constantly asking for ice. I even considered taking my Banks beer to the snow grotto to chill while I relaxed in the hot tub......but it was out of service. The room steward told me that was as cold as it got.
Many of my shore excursions were cancelled because of hurricane damage so I didn't have many options to replace them as by that time a lot of excursions were filled. At the beginning of the cruise they announced that the shore excursions desk or guest services could help even if it wasn't an excursion they offered. But when we inquired about rental cars or other options they weren't familiar with the Islands and sent us to get computers to solve our own problems.
When I initially booked the excursions there were only a couple that were important to me so I booked those and then booked all of the free excursions and only booked paid excursions if they didn't conflict with my free excursions. This is not the strategy I will use going forward. In fact the inclusion of excursions will not be a factor in my selection of cruises going forward. The included excursions weren't bad per say....but I am not convinced that the are worth the extra price I paid since next time I will probably skip them.
If I had it to do over I would have booked the paid excursions I wanted and only done the free excursions if I had time. The paid excursions often cover the same areas as the free excursions.
We did so many things that I can't cover them all, but here are my top 3 favoorites
1. Do as many catamaran trips as you can. We did 2 of three and they were a blast. I wish we had done the third too....it was a lobster lunch cruise that friends went on and they loved it. We sailed to Ladera Resort It was beautiful. Hunt down the gardener and spend as much time with him as you can. The garden tour was too short and I could have spoken with him all day.. I spent a little extra time with him and learned about the hummingbirds, medicinal plants, and got to try raw cacao. It was like one of those Viking commercials with Karen hanging out with the locals. We also did the St John cruise with lady pirate crew.....they were awesome and the island beach was stunning.
2. Go to the beach by the cruise ship port in St. Maarten. There was almost no one there and we practically had the beach to ourselves because the cruise lines haven't all returned yet. It's a beautiful Sandy Beach within walking distance. Food, restrooms, umbrella. And chair rentals were all open. The only negatives were - we rented a jet sky and it ran out of gas and we were constantly approached by women offering massages or wanting to braid my hair....only one of them became a little rude when I said no.
3. Get out by boat or air at St. Lucia....it is in my opinion the most beautiful island we saw.
I had read prior reviews on the entertainment so this was not a high priority for me. If it had been I would have been disappointed. It was for the most part cheesey.
The embarkment process seemed painfully slow but maybe that's normal for a cruise. We seemed to be standing around at the airport forever waiting for them to get the luggage and passengers on the bus. Disembarkment was much smoother.
The one thing I thought I wouldn't like about cruising - being surround Ed by 900 people every night on a ship...turned out to be the thing I liked the most about cruising. I'm a painfully shy introvert. But I met a lot of really nice, interesting people from all over the world.
I chose Viking for my first cruise because I wanted to sail with the best and see if I liked cruising more than independent travel. I figured out that you can't compare the two. I missed the spontaneous driving adventure s with my husband where we discover hidden treasures. But I loved meeting all the people. I think for me cruising will be a good way to sample a region to select an area to explore in more depth. And despite a few minor picky issues on my part I am glad I picked Viking for my first cruise and suspect I will be disappointed when I try another line to see what it's like
Spacious, plenty of outlets and storage, greatest pressure, robes, slippers, umbrella, binoculars. Wish the fridge was colder
Cruised to Ladera Resort. The crew made it a blast.. the resort was gorgeous. The head gardener was very knowledgeable and personable. I would have liked to have more time with him. If you have extra time find him and ask questions. He knows his stuffView All 87 Catamaran Day Sail Reviews
Nice but there are better caves in Puerto Rico if you can get thereView All 96 Harrison's Cave Reviews
Beautiful, clean island, nice people.View All 303 Scenic Railway Reviews
Spent the day at the beach within walking distance of the ship.. beautiful Sandy Beach and we practically had it to ourselves because the other ships haven't all returned since the hurricane. We were approached several times by women wanting us to buy a massage or braid my hair and one was a but rude. We rented a jet ski which was fun but it ran out of gas early into our time
Went to St John's. We saw stingrays and fish very close to shore. My favorite island. Love the all women crew!View All 177 Catamaran Tour Reviews