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After sailing with Celebrity for many years and reaching Elite Plus in the Captain's Club we decided to look for a new line to sail with. What were we looking for? Smaller ship, better food, less flash and better service. We received a brochure from Viking Ocean and it piqued our interest so we selected the "Into the Midnight Sun" 14-night cruise from Bergen, Norway to London, England in a Penthouse Junior Suite on Deck 7. This review is going to speak to those people looking to try VO, as we did, and what we loved and didn't love about the cruise and the ship offering some comparisons as well. [N.B. I wrote a "Live from..." on the VO CC Board that answered a lot of folks questions which you may find helpful as well.] Embarkation was easy and we were in our cabin in no time. First impressions: the ship is very Scandinavian in feel and looks exactly like all the pictures. Comfortable but not cozy, stylish without being overdone. Our JS was a nice size with plenty of closet and drawer space and the bathroom featured a large walk-in shower and double vanity. We REALLY liked our cabin, but not sure why there are 2 large flat screen TV's. The set up of the buffet, the World Cafe, is linear as opposed to islands on Celebrity which meant there were times when you had to wait in line. Not a big deal. The venue was well staffed with bar servers and Managers constantly circulating to make sure you had everything you needed. This was definitely a step-up from Celebrity. Until we got to Edinburgh the weather prevented us from eating outside, but when we finally could it was lovely. FYI - coffee is available 24 hours and self-serve espresso/cappuchino/latte machines were also available. Our JS also had a coffeemaker with pods, milk and sugar. The LIVnordic Spa and Fitness Center was wonderful, especially the Thermal Suite that is available to all guests complimentary, something that you have to pay for on Celebrity. The services offered are varied and priced somewhat less than Canyon Ranch/Steiner. We purchased the Silver Spirits package, which was significantly cheaper than the Premium Alcohol package on Celebrity. However, on Celebrity in the higher suites the package is usually included as a perk but we didn't mind paying. Bar service was great with the exception of the Pool Area - we usually had to flag down one of the bar servers at the Pool Grill or walk over to the Pool Bar ourselves. In the evening the three ship's entertainers (guitarist, pianist and trio) rotated to the various venues, we chose the Explorer's Lounge every night and enjoyed the music with a cocktail. No loud band banging away in the Atrium or having to deal with the performance at the Martini Bar like on Celebrity. The public spaces were fairly well used and spacious with artwork scattered about (using the Viking Art Guide app was a fun way to spend part of an afternoon). The Wintergarden was a conundrum for us: it was used for tea time every day and was packed, otherwise it sat empty - it's a beautiful space and Viking really needs to figure out how to use it more (trivia games? name that tune?). Again the seating was comfortable and many people enjoyed sitting and reading or just watching the scenery. Unlike Celebrity, where there's stuff going on all over (auctions, dance lessons, zumba, etc.) life on Viking is much more low key. Fellow passengers. Well, this is one area where Celebrity outshines Viking. The demographic on our cruise was 65-75 retirees, 99% caucasian, mostly from the South and Midwest. We were clearly some of the youngest people on the ship by at least 15 years. Why is that important? Well, getting on and off the ship, getting on and off the tour bus, getting around the ship in general sometimes took a great deal of time. The positive side of this is that most people ate dinner early, so getting a table at 8:15/8:30 was never an issue, even in Manfredi's and the Chef's Table. Very different from Celebrity where tables booked up and getting reservations is always a challenge. The food was consistently excellent and offered a wide variety of tastes and flavors. The Restaurant was fantastic and the Chef's Table equally so. While we heard positive comments from others about Manfredi's we thought it was a real letdown. The decor is kitschy and the menu completely uninspired. It was so bad that we cancelled our third night there. On Celebrity you have several places to choose from but they're not always good - in other words more isn't better. I don't need a LOT of different dining options, but the ones available need to be great. Despite our disappointment with Manfredi's Viking wins the food category hands down: everything was fresh, hot, flavorful, well seasoned and beautifully presented. Gluten-free was available as were sugar free desserts. The wine selection was great, with a nice selection of reds and whites to enjoy with dinner by the glass. Four shops (fragrances/cosmetics, sundries, fine jewelry and clothing) were available. We bought a bottle of cologne and probably paid more than we would have at home. Finally, and most importantly, the service on Viking was outstanding. I can think of not one staff member that didn't say hello and ask what they could do for me. Celebrity's service is equally good, quite honestly, but I felt that the staff on this cruise was much warmer and personable learning our names quickly without being pretentious. Members of the Senior staff were always at the gangplank as you left the ship each day. The CD and his assistant were always visible around the ship. The cruise itself was fantastic! If you want to experience Norway you should do it with a cruise line that IS Norway. The ports for the most part were terrific and the scenery is unparalleled. The whole “Midnight Sun” thing did take some getting used to, but with the blackout shades in the cabin it wasn’t a problem sleeping. We did have a couple days of fairly rough seas, but the North Sea in June? That’s what’s to be expected. You'll notice I didn't talk about the shows. We didn't go to a single one. Lectures? They had them. We didn't go. Trivia? Didn't go. Casino? They don't have one, thankfully, and it wasn't missed. Having said all this would I book Viking again? Absolutely: great staff, comfortable, clean and well appointed ship, great food and drink and a compelling itinerary. Would I go back to Celebrity? No. Too much wheeling and dealing, upselling and unnecessary stuff. The smaller ship feel was much more to our liking and time and again I found myself thinking "Viking has thought of everything". We booked a cruise for 2020, again on the Sea and in the exact same JS that we just were in. We're also taking a Viking River cruise in 2019. Stay tuned...

Switching from Celebrity; our first Viking Ocean experience

Viking Sea Cruise Review by russg140

11 people found this helpful
Trip Details
After sailing with Celebrity for many years and reaching Elite Plus in the Captain's Club we decided to look for a new line to sail with. What were we looking for? Smaller ship, better food, less flash and better service. We received a brochure from Viking Ocean and it piqued our interest so we selected the "Into the Midnight Sun" 14-night cruise from Bergen, Norway to London, England in a Penthouse Junior Suite on Deck 7. This review is going to speak to those people looking to try VO, as we did, and what we loved and didn't love about the cruise and the ship offering some comparisons as well.

[N.B. I wrote a "Live from..." on the VO CC Board that answered a lot of folks questions which you may find helpful as well.]

Embarkation was easy and we were in our cabin in no time. First impressions: the ship is very Scandinavian in feel and looks exactly like all the pictures. Comfortable but not cozy, stylish without being overdone. Our JS was a nice size with plenty of closet and drawer space and the bathroom featured a large walk-in shower and double vanity. We REALLY liked our cabin, but not sure why there are 2 large flat screen TV's.

The set up of the buffet, the World Cafe, is linear as opposed to islands on Celebrity which meant there were times when you had to wait in line. Not a big deal. The venue was well staffed with bar servers and Managers constantly circulating to make sure you had everything you needed. This was definitely a step-up from Celebrity. Until we got to Edinburgh the weather prevented us from eating outside, but when we finally could it was lovely. FYI - coffee is available 24 hours and self-serve espresso/cappuchino/latte machines were also available. Our JS also had a coffeemaker with pods, milk and sugar.

The LIVnordic Spa and Fitness Center was wonderful, especially the Thermal Suite that is available to all guests complimentary, something that you have to pay for on Celebrity. The services offered are varied and priced somewhat less than Canyon Ranch/Steiner.

We purchased the Silver Spirits package, which was significantly cheaper than the Premium Alcohol package on Celebrity. However, on Celebrity in the higher suites the package is usually included as a perk but we didn't mind paying. Bar service was great with the exception of the Pool Area - we usually had to flag down one of the bar servers at the Pool Grill or walk over to the Pool Bar ourselves. In the evening the three ship's entertainers (guitarist, pianist and trio) rotated to the various venues, we chose the Explorer's Lounge every night and enjoyed the music with a cocktail. No loud band banging away in the Atrium or having to deal with the performance at the Martini Bar like on Celebrity.

The public spaces were fairly well used and spacious with artwork scattered about (using the Viking Art Guide app was a fun way to spend part of an afternoon). The Wintergarden was a conundrum for us: it was used for tea time every day and was packed, otherwise it sat empty - it's a beautiful space and Viking really needs to figure out how to use it more (trivia games? name that tune?). Again the seating was comfortable and many people enjoyed sitting and reading or just watching the scenery. Unlike Celebrity, where there's stuff going on all over (auctions, dance lessons, zumba, etc.) life on Viking is much more low key.

Fellow passengers. Well, this is one area where Celebrity outshines Viking. The demographic on our cruise was 65-75 retirees, 99% caucasian, mostly from the South and Midwest. We were clearly some of the youngest people on the ship by at least 15 years. Why is that important? Well, getting on and off the ship, getting on and off the tour bus, getting around the ship in general sometimes took a great deal of time. The positive side of this is that most people ate dinner early, so getting a table at 8:15/8:30 was never an issue, even in Manfredi's and the Chef's Table. Very different from Celebrity where tables booked up and getting reservations is always a challenge.

The food was consistently excellent and offered a wide variety of tastes and flavors. The Restaurant was fantastic and the Chef's Table equally so. While we heard positive comments from others about Manfredi's we thought it was a real letdown. The decor is kitschy and the menu completely uninspired. It was so bad that we cancelled our third night there. On Celebrity you have several places to choose from but they're not always good - in other words more isn't better. I don't need a LOT of different dining options, but the ones available need to be great. Despite our disappointment with Manfredi's Viking wins the food category hands down: everything was fresh, hot, flavorful, well seasoned and beautifully presented. Gluten-free was available as were sugar free desserts. The wine selection was great, with a nice selection of reds and whites to enjoy with dinner by the glass.

Four shops (fragrances/cosmetics, sundries, fine jewelry and clothing) were available. We bought a bottle of cologne and probably paid more than we would have at home.

Finally, and most importantly, the service on Viking was outstanding. I can think of not one staff member that didn't say hello and ask what they could do for me. Celebrity's service is equally good, quite honestly, but I felt that the staff on this cruise was much warmer and personable learning our names quickly without being pretentious. Members of the Senior staff were always at the gangplank as you left the ship each day. The CD and his assistant were always visible around the ship.

The cruise itself was fantastic! If you want to experience Norway you should do it with a cruise line that IS Norway. The ports for the most part were terrific and the scenery is unparalleled. The whole “Midnight Sun” thing did take some getting used to, but with the blackout shades in the cabin it wasn’t a problem sleeping. We did have a couple days of fairly rough seas, but the North Sea in June? That’s what’s to be expected.

You'll notice I didn't talk about the shows. We didn't go to a single one. Lectures? They had them. We didn't go. Trivia? Didn't go. Casino? They don't have one, thankfully, and it wasn't missed.

Having said all this would I book Viking again? Absolutely: great staff, comfortable, clean and well appointed ship, great food and drink and a compelling itinerary. Would I go back to Celebrity? No. Too much wheeling and dealing, upselling and unnecessary stuff. The smaller ship feel was much more to our liking and time and again I found myself thinking "Viking has thought of everything". We booked a cruise for 2020, again on the Sea and in the exact same JS that we just were in. We're also taking a Viking River cruise in 2019. Stay tuned...
russg140’s Full Rating Summary
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
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Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
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Cabin Review

Cabin 7008
We loved this Suite. It had everything we needed and was comfortable and spacious. The bathroom featured a double sink and a very large walk-in shower. Not sure why but there were two large flat screen TV's in the room. Two chairs and a sofa were really comfortable as well. USB ports were welcome as were US outlets; glad we brought our charging cables. The veranda provided two chairs and a table, but on this cruise we were only able to use it towards the end when the weather got warmer. Definitely worth the price for the extra space.

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Bergen
    After a 30 minute bus ride from the port we arrived at the little dock to take us on a little boat over to Lysoen Island, whose claim to fame is the summer home of Ole Bull, a prominent Norwegian musician. The tour featured a visit to the home and a lecture by a local historian. It was somewhat interesting but very mechanical. Next we went back to the bus for a ride back to the outskirts of Bergen to see a recreated Stave Church (the original burned down). Again interesting. Our guide was very knowledgable and told us a little of Norwegian life and the history of the area. We were back to the ship after about 4 1/2 hours.
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  • Edinburgh (South Queensferry)
    A brief bus ride brings you to...a shopping mall (no kidding!) where the Britannia is docked. The guide brings you to the entrance and the rest is an audio tour. Lots of fun and great to be able to see where the Queen, her family and the officers and crew of the ship lived. The tour took about 1 1/2 hours. Next we went for lunch (which was excellent) at a hotel then on to Edinburgh Castle. Due to a ship's schedule change the tour was shortened by 2 hours, but we felt we still had enough time to see what we wanted although some people were disappointed that they didn't get a chance to go shopping. Our guide was American, but - out of all the guides we had on the entire cruise - she was incredibly knowledgable about historic dates and important events in Scottish history. Thanks to her this tour was one of the best of our cruise!
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  • Geiranger
    Booked two tours with this company and saved $150US. The bus only held 14 people, which was great as no having to wait for people to return to move to the next site. There was no guide but a pre-recorded message was played from time to time. Saw the big three sites in Geiranger - beautiful scenery and natural beauty (even on a cold, rainy and windy day!). After lunch we too GFS's 7 Sisters RIB, which offered great views of the fjord from water level and outstanding up close photo-ops of the waterfalls. Our guide was knowledgable and told us some of the history of the area and the folklore of the falls. Overall two great excursions!
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  • Honningsvag (North Cape)
    We took Viking's "King Crab Safari" tour. It was a small group of 11 of us booked with Destination 71 Nord. The tour was a lot of fun. We started by getting our warm floating suits on and hopping on a RIB. Zooming out of the marina we headed to one of the company's crab traps and the two guys pulled it up - there were tons of crabs in it. Our guide told us about the fishing industry in the area and about king crabs specifically. He picked out 4 crabs and we headed to their dock. We were able to see how the crab is traditionally cooked and then feasted on crab until we were all full. The excursion was pretty pricey but a one time experience to splurge on.
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  • Kirkwall
    We took Viking's "Yesnara to Skara Brae: A Coastal Walk" excursion. It was excellent; really a cross between a walk and a hike. After a 25 minute bus ride to Yesnara we began our trek along the cliffsides catching dramatic scenery and plentiful birdlife. We stopped at a couple of Neolithic sites to hear about archeologists' discoveries and theories of when the buildings were erected and who lived there. After 2 hours we arrived at Skara Brae, one of the oldest historic sites in Scotland dating back to 2500 B.C.E. The site was very interesting and included a recreation of one of the houses. We hopped back on the bus and heard a lot about life in the Orkney Islands and the people of Kirkwall.
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  • London (Greenwich, Tower Bridge, Tilbury)
    We were picked up at the ship at 7:00 p.m. by a London "Ferry Bus" and whisked off to the London Eye. There was a little glitch with the microphone so the guide couldn't provide a commentary on the way there - didn't bother us but some people were upset. Once at the Eye we had to wait a short while to "board". One rotation takes about 30 minutes and each capsule had its own "Blue Badge" guide who pointed out the sites. Great vantage point get a 360 degree birds eye view of London. After we got back on the "bus". While we opted to sit outside inside one of the guides volunteered to offer a commentary on the ride back (over the roar of the engines). We were back by 9. While it was a short outing it was a lot of fun and a definite "must see/do" when in London.
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  • Molde
    Nothing offered by Viking appealed to us so we opted to walk around Molde, which took about 20 minutes. Clearly this was a re-stocking port.
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  • Tromso
    An amazing and exhilarating 2 hours spent on the fjord. After getting outfitted with our floating suits (very warm) we headed to the marina. Our guide, PT, zoomed us around stopping at important sites and talking not only about the history of the area but current life in Tromso. A 20 minute stop at a small floating fishing dock gave the 7 of us the opportunity to stretch our legs and enjoy a snack of hot chocolate and piece of cake. We zoomed back to the marina in no time. A totally fun and exciting way to spend the morning. Highly recommended! [N.B. Tromso is pretty much closed on Sunday, with the exception of cafes]
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