We booked this cruise not long after we did our first Viking river cruise in August of 2016. We loved that whole experience so much, we knew we wanted more Viking. We also wanted something different from what mainstream cruise lines offer. We like the smaller ship with only 930 passengers.
The itinerary for this cruise was originally: San Juan, Tortola, St Kitts, St Lucia, Barbados, Guadeloupe, Antigua, St Martin/Maarten, St Thomas, then back to San Juan. The back to back hurricanes last fall, did a a lot of damage on quite a few of the ports, so we finally ended up with: San Juan, St Croix, St Kitts, St Lucia, Barbados, Guadeloupe, Antigua, St Martin/Maarten, St Thomas, then back to San Juan. Tortola was off the list, replaced by St Croix.
Like the previous reviewer, Azulann, I loved the look of the Viking ships from the very first brochure I received - both river and ocean. The Viking Sea did not disappoint. The clean modern decor feels warm and inviting - never cold and unwelcoming. The public areas are spacious with lots of comfy seating, and the ship never felt crowded. Viking pays a lot of attention to details - interesting artwork, small plants and succulent arrangements, interesting sculptures and Viking themed artifacts, electronic games, traditional game boards, and lots of books. This is true through all aspects of the cruise.
The crew were fantastic - all friendly and accommodating. You rarely ever hear the word, "no," unless it's part of the phrase, "no, problem!" They quickly learned our preferences and often anticipated our needs. I have to say, I honestly don't know why Viking is considered Premium by some and not Luxury. Sure felt like Luxury to us.
Embarkation in San Juan was a easy-peasy. We had flown in the night before, but did not do a Viking extension. Getting from the hotel to the ship was no problem. We were whisked aboard with no lines, no waiting. Short walk along Viking's Red Carpet and we were onboard with a glass of bubbly in our hands!
Everyone can board after 11:00am (at least in San Juan - other ports may vary), but rooms are available on a sliding basis according to room category with the Explorer Suite rooms first, down to the Standard Veranda. We had booked a Deluxe Veranda (DV4), starboard side, deck 4, but about a week before, we got an offer to upgrade to a Penthouse Veranda (PV1) for $199 each. We were extremely pleased that we did. The room was wonderful! By the way ALL Viking Ocean rooms have a veranda. There are no inside or ocean view rooms.
Until your room is ready, you are free to have lunch, and the included wine and beer in the World Cafe, or out on the Aquavit Terrace (our preferred spot). And after lunch, you can explore the ship - which we did.
As on the river cruise, we found that Viking does a lot of small things right. They have washing stations with sinks, soap and cloth towels by some restaurants in addition to sanitizing stations (which give you a light mist, not glob of goop in your hand). Restrooms are plentiful, always clean and quite lovely with birdsong background sounds. Booths have full doors. There are cloth towels by the sink, and a paper towel dispenser as you leave, so you can use a towel to open the door. There is a disposal bin right under it.
At the World Cafe buffet there is no need to juggle your drinks and a plate. Get your food, have a seat, and they will bring you whatever beverage you want. If they see you headed out and they are going that way, they will carry your plate to the table.
You can request a warmed plate at the carving station (which is the made to order egg station in the morning) - even if you are not getting food from there. They had pieces of bread in the bottom of the bacon and sausage trays to absorb the grease. And everything on the buffet is in small trays so it's not sitting getting yucky forever. Want something you don't see - just ask. Likely they will get it for you.
Viking Ocean seemed a world apart from the mainstream cruise lines we've been on. There are no towels in your room that must be accounted for. Towels can be found on every lounge chair by the pool, and by the towel stations. They are left in your room if you have a swim or snorkel on your excursion. There are also towels next to the ship exit as you leave just in case you forgot one.
Bottled water is available each time you leave the ship. They hand out cool towels when you return, and sometimes a glass of bubbly. Once we had a full reception committee with music and dancing!
The food at all the venues ranged from good to fabulous. Everything we had was delicious. Food arrived hot, and plates were brought out individually, not on big trays with covers. We were told that each meal in the restaurants is prepared to order - and I think it's true. We ate breakfast and lunch in the World Cafe and dinner in the Restaurant. We also ate at Manfredi's and did the Sweet and Salty menu at the Chef's Table. Everything was really wonderful. Service was friendly, quick and attentive.
We went for the Silver Spirits package, which we did not have on our river cruise. On an ocean cruise, we tend to do more mixed drinks, so we found it worth the $20 per person, per day. Drink prices are reasonable, if you decide not to go that route. And Viking allows you to bring wine, beer, soft drinks, liquor with no problem.
And then there are the things Viking does not have - crowds, lines, children running around, art auctions, gold by the inch, 2 for 1 tee shirt sales, multiple announcements every hour about bingo or slots tournaments or hairy chest contests. Viking does not charge for room service, WiFi, beer, wine or soft drinks (at lunch and dinner), specialty coffees (unless there is booze in them). There is no charge to use the spa unless you get a treatment, nor any extra charge for the specialty restaurants.
The only time we saw a crowd was at muster drill (which was held in the restaurant and the theater) and on the last day while people were waiting for their group to be called to leave ship. Leaving was as easy as boarding, but not nearly as exciting!
The only line you might find is perhaps 2 or 3 people ahead of you at the Gelato (so tasty!) station. Even in the buffet - there might be 2,3 maybe 4 people in each section - cold, hot, breads and dessert. You don't have to wait. People take what they want and move on. If you forget something, just go back and get it. You might have a person or 2 ahead of you at the made to order stations throughout the buffet, but the staff will tell you how long the food will be so you can go get other food and come back and pick up your order.
There are no casinos - sorry, if you need one of those, you need to look elsewhere. There are shows in the evening, but not big production shows like some cruise lines have. I know some people look for those, but we were quite happy with the Viking Band that played in Torshaven (lounge) and also with the guitarist, piano player and the classical trio that played throughout the ship. They did bring on a fantastic steel drum band in St Lucia!
There was a fairly wide age range from people in their 30s to people in their 80s. You often hear that Viking attracts an older crowd, but I think that's changing - at least on Viking Ocean.
It was a wonderful cruise that exceeded the expectations we had from our river cruise. We have another ocean cruise and another river cruise booked with Viking. Oh and Viking does a fabulous Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle - there was shrimp!
I mentioned earlier that we got an upgrade. The Penthouse Veranda (PV1) was outstanding! I've seen suites on other lines that weren't as nice or as roomy. There is a king-sized bed with a very comfortable mattress, and a nightstand on each side with shelf, small drawer and both regular plug and USB plug.
The PV rooms are also considerably wider than the DV rooms - the width of a credenza wider. The closet is roomy with real hangers - not the attached kind. There is a shelf with a coffee maker and 3 drawers under it. One is a door for the safe. The big flat screen TV is interactive and has a credenza underneath with lots of drawers and 2 shelves. We had tons of storage space.
The PV category room includes 2 robes, 2 pairs of slippers, an umbrella, their own brand toiletries (bar soap, body wash, shampoo, creme rinse and lotion), lots of plugs & USB ports (check the lamp on the desk), awesome hair dryer that works like a real one, nice big safe, mini bar with soft drinks, a selection of liquor, sparkling wine, beer, bottled water & snacks (replenished daily - no charge), carafe of purified water, binoculars and a coffee maker with coffee. There is also a lift up mirror in the desk top that has a place for cosemetics or hair care items.
Bathrooms have glass enclosed showers with a seat/shelf and heated floors! Large sink with drawers on each side and the waste basket in the cabinet under the sink. Shelves on each side of a large no fog mirror, also 2 nice plastic cups, soap dish and a tooth brush holder.
We booked this same cabin for our next Viking Ocean cruise.
The guide was good and we saw a lot. Disappointed that we went to San Cristobal instead of El Morrow. We did San Cristobal the day before, anticipating that we would go to El Morrow. But over all a nice tourView All 182 Walking Tour of Old San Juan Reviews
It was nice - we had seen much already on the tour before the Railway, but we enjoyed the stop at Fairview House and it was the included tourView All 293 Island tour Reviews
This was great fun and a fantastic way to see the island. The guides were good. We enjoyed the local a Capella group that entertained us. Rum drinks were tasty. It was a great dayView All 303 Scenic Railway Reviews
This was absolutely wonderful - one of our favorites. Crew on the boat were lively, fun and friendly. The scenery, especially Marigot Bay and the Pitons were breathtaking. We thoroughly enjoyed the stop at Morne Coubaril estate. Lots to see, very interesting tour and the Creole lunch in their open air restaurant was very tasty. Sail back to the ship was just out and out fun. Rum drinks, singing, dancing. GREAT!View All 87 Catamaran Day Sail Reviews
Love a photography tours. Local photographers know all the best places to visit - even if you are not into photography. The scenery was fantastic and no crowds. Small group in a van, instead of a mob on a bus. Ronnie Carrington was a great guide and gave us some valuable photo advice. We went to the Atlantis Hotel for their special Rum Punch and had an all around great day. Highly recommended!View All 13 Photography Tour Reviews
We booked the Carbet Falls and Distillery Tour, but it was cancelled so we switched to this one. The real issue was the guide. He was a lovely man, and seemed knowledgeable, but he had a heavy French accent and lapsed into French from time to time.
The boat was fun, but we didn't see a lot of fish. People that went snorkeling (we didn't) enjoyed it. We enjoyed the scenery. Bus ride back - not so much fun. This one needs some work.View All 2 Glass-Bottom Catamaran Tour Reviews
This was the included tour. It was nice. We didn't expect much because of the hurricane damage, but our tour guide was really fantastic. He just had a great personality and he was very knowledgeable. We stopped at a small town that had a market with local vendors, a place with a carousel that had gelato and ... you guessed it - rum drinks, and a scenic overlook.
It was good choice all things considered.View All 437 Island Tour Reviews
This was another very enjoyable excursion. The tour of Nelson's Dockyard and Shirley Heights was very nice. Lots of great scenery. Good tour guide and a stop at a little multi-media presentation about the history of the island.
After the tour we boarded the catamaran for a nice sail out to a reef where people went snorkeling. We didn't - we just like the boat rides. The crew were great and made us a fabulous barbecue lunch and the ever present rum punch. We had a great sail back to the ship.View All 123 Catamaran Sail Reviews
This was a great way to end the cruise. Started with an exciting ride on St Thomas' open air multi person taxi. Over hill, over dale! Whee!
We boarded the catamaran and headed off to St John with a little narrative about the surrounding islands. The crew - like the ones on the other tours - were friendly, helpful - just all around great. We anchored off of Honeymoon Beach and we had a choice of swimming ashore or taking the Zodiac - we took the Zodiac. They landed us on the beach and we had about 2 hours to swim and hang out. Again, you could swim or take the Zodiac back.
Back on the boat, we had a leisurely sail back under sail. They served cheese, crackers, bread, fruit and chocolate with a choice of rum drinks or champagne - some people did both - in the same glass.
Another fun day!View All 206 St. John Snorkel/Sail Reviews