We have cruised Princess, HAL, Celebrity and NCL before. This was our first Viking Ocean cruise.
We arrived in Olso 2 days before the cruise and on our own booked in advance a "Norway in a Nutshell" 12 hour tour to Bergen as recommended by Rick Steves. It involved 3 different train rides, a Fjord boat tour and a bus ride all in one day, all very spectacular. Although unaccompanied, all the connections worked like clockwork and it was substantially less expensive the the Viking pre-cruise tour. If you wish to take this tour, reserve far in advance because it always sells out.
Embarkation in Bergen was very smooth with no lines. The ship opened for boarding of all passenger classes at 11:00 am with all access to the ship but not for staterooms. Access to staterooms depends on class with suites having earlier access. As we were DV we had access at 2 pm.
We found the ship beautiful with a very modern and understated Scandinavian theme. There were multiple reproductions of art throughout the ship and an IPhone app that gave an audio description of each work. The ship was immaculately clean, state-of-the-art, and had many lovely public spaces and deck areas. You could always find a beautiful and quiet nook or deck location on sea days.
Viking has a no children policy with the youngest accepted passenger age 16. There were 1 or 2 young adults on the cruise accompanying their parents. Overall we would say that the demographic on this cruise was the oldest we have ever experienced (we would guess the mean average age was 70-75). Not sure if this was because of the itinerary, 15 day cruise length or a because of the cruise line.
Entertainment-wise Viking had a flute, violin and cello classical trio; a guitarist; and a pianist that played around the ship at various time. All were quite good. There is also a 4 or 5 piece Viking band that plays around the ship, in the night club (Torshavn) and accompanied the 9:15 pm show in the theater (just fair).
Viking does not do big production extravaganza evening shows, Instead they have some on-board singer/performers and bring on occasional guest performers, which on our cruise included a magician, a flutist (very good) and a male singer and comedian (above average), On some nights Viking staff members alone provide the entertainment,. We found the arrangement fine as we are not fans of big production shows, as are the standard on other cruise lines. The Assistant Cruise Director sang one night, and his show was deservedly very well received.
Viking also has multiple enrichment lectures throughout the day and hires specialists for these lectures. The specialists on this cruise were a retired historian, a retired British air force officer, an astronomer and a West End theater producer. We went to many of their talks which were uniformly excellent and well attended. Some of the speakers also had "office hours" were you could speak to them informally.
The inside pool on deck 7 has a small hot tub. The pool has a retracting dome which was open on several warm days and closed on cooler days. It is a beautiful venue that was rarely used. There is an additional hot tub and small infinity pool on the aft of the ship.. Swimming in that pool gives the illusion that you are swimming in the ocean. We used it frequently and it was fantastic. For those who do not swim well, be aware that both pools have a depth of nearly six feet for their entire lengths.
The Wintergarden area next to the pool on Deck 7 was also a beautiful space, but it went largely unused except for one or two private functions and afternoon tea each day.
Viking has a spa which can be used for no additional charge with a co-ed therapy pool, hot tub, steam room, and an ice room with snow, There are separate dressing rooms with lockers for men and women, and inside those are separate dry saunas and cold plunge pools (clothing optional for those). Great facility which we also used a lot. The spa staff provides towels, robes, rubber slippers and modesty underwear, as well as the usual shower amenities. The lockers were activated and locked by waiving your room key, but on the women's side, they often did not work, and at peak times, there were not enough of them.
There is a fitness room but no trainer (we heard that the existing trainer had resigned and they were attempting to fill the position.) We missed the fact that there were no fitness classes as advertised, as we like to participate in them.
Food service was well-prepared and well-served in all venues. Wait staff service was generally excellent. There was always food service available at any hour of the day or night in at least one location. We occasionally ordered from room service for breakfast, and were very satisfied with the food and timeliness of delivery. We found this to be an excellent option when we had to be off the ship early for excursions.
Our cabin steward Carla was efficient and very pleasant. We appreciated the fact that there are self-serve laundries on the ship, with free detergent that is automatically dispensed into the washing machines. This allows those who wish to do so to pack lighter.
We found staff in general excellent. There were many more female waiters and department heads then we have seen on any other cruise line, which we thought was a very good thing,
The ports were very interesting and we were blessed with amazing weather. Ordinarily, most of the ports on this itinerary are rainy and chilly, so prepare accordingly. This is a very port-intensive cruise.
The only minor problems we had were with excursions. Viking allows one free excursion per port (generally a panoramic bus ride past the main attractions with one or two photo stops) and also offers a free shuttle to town. It also allows pre-booking of excursions on a rolling basis with higher cabin categories having earlier access. The problem with this system is that Viking constantly changed the times of pre-booked excursions and did not notify us of the time changes in advance. This made coordinating timings with other activities problematic.
We did a combination of ship tours, privately booked tours and independent touring on our own. In those ports where there were few independent or private touring options, we used the tours provided by Viking. In London, we used the public transportation, which was very convenient. The ship is moored a five-minute tender ride from the Greenwich pier. If you walk up the street, keeping the Cutty Sark to your left, you will find the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station on the right, just a two-minute walk from the pier. This will connect you to any other place you need to go by Underground in London. You can also wait at the pier for a very scenic water taxi to the Embankment, which is just a 15 minute walk to Trafalgar Square and many other points of interest. The water taxis also stop at Westminster Pier, which is next to the Houses of Parliament and very close to Westminster Abbey. Please bear in mind that the public transportation option in London is NOT for those with mobility issues. For those without mobility issues, we also recommend using London Walks for inexpensive walking tours of the major attractions (10 Pounds). You can explore their website for touring ideas, and do not need advance reservations - just show up at the designated meeting point with cash, if the weather permits.
The free shuttles from the ship to the various port towns were a problem. They did not run frequently enough and their location was sometimes not marked correctly or at all on the port maps provided by Viking. The pick up location in Edinburgh was particularly poor, in a hard to find location in the New Town far from the Royal Mile, which is the main tourist area. Anyone traveling independently in Edinburgh should pay particular attention to this issue. Because the city has steep hills, we do not recommend walking to/from the Royal Mile to/from the shuttle location (which was on Charlotte Square), unless you intend to have a vigorous workout. We took the free included bus tour, then left the tour at the royal palace (Holyroode House) because we had been to Edinburgh before, and wanted to continue on our own. We toured the palace on our own, then walked up the Royal Mile to its terminus at Edinburgh Castle, and took a taxi from there down the very steep incline to the shuttle location. If you do not wish to do any uphill walking, but wish to tour independently, an alternative plan would be to take a taxi from the shuttle location to Edinburgh Castle at the very top of the Royal Mile, then walk the Royal Mile downhill to the palace, tour the palace if you want, and take a taxi back to the shuttle location.
Disembarkation in Greenwich required a tender, so note that this additional step adds to the time required. Collection of the luggage at the pier was very smooth. We purchased airport transfers and were initially given a 2:30 am time (this is not a typo) for an 11:30 am flight from Heathrow. It took us many requests to get this changed to a more reasonable 5:45 am departure but we were then assigned to a bus which would have taken us to the wrong Heathrow departure terminal. We were able to fix this on the pier before boarding the bus. However, we advise those with outbound flights from Heathrow to carefully check the terminal number for your flight, your disembarkation time and then the terminal number actually marked on the transfer bus to which you are assigned at the pier.
DV Cabin is a relatively small cabin compared to other non-suite cabins we have sailed in. There were only 3 drawers and one shelf available, plus a high shelf over the closet, so it really had a lack of storage space for two travelers. Unlike other cruise lines, Viking has no overhead storage compartments above the bed. The vanity table pull up on the desk was impractical and wasted the already very limited counter space in the room. There were no hooks whatsoever in the room (other than in the bathroom) so consider bringing some of your own - the walls are metal, so magnets will work.