So why did we choose Viking?
Previously, we had cruised with Cunard, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Holland America. Our best ever cabin – a “verandah suite” on the Zuiderdam. We had no experience with any Viking product though had heard positive reviews about their River cruises.
Our destination goal was the Baltic with at least one overnight in St Petersburg. We wanted a smaller ship with a spring sailing. The itinerary and timing with Viking were perfect. The ship looked great and, at 930 guests, met our size requirement. We liked that there was no smoking, no casino, no photographer but, that “payment in full” so far in advance was surprising as was the cost in comparison to other lines. The question – Is it worth it? Having completed our trip, I’d say yes. We will cruise with Viking again.
Our cabin was a great surprise as we received an upgrade to a junior suite. (7008). Definitely spoiled for future cruising. The cabin was spacious, with a separate sitting area that could be closed off, allowing those with sleepless nights to read. The bathroom with large shower, 2 sinks and towel warmer were fantastic. Our only issue was the heated floor which was far too hot and could not be turned down. We requested that it be turned off by the electrician
Viking Sea is a new ship and very well maintained. The crew was friendly, always smiling. There were many quiet areas to sit and read or view the ocean. There was no dedicated library but books and games could be found throughout the ship. Lots of live music at various venues. The free wi-fi was nice too!
Viking hosted a very nice Cruise Critic cocktail party in the Wintergardern. I was told that 27 were invited and most of us were there. It was fun putting names to faces. Several Viking officers were present and they were quite interested in our various reasons for choosing Viking.
All daily menus were available via your in-room TV, including several days worth of the Chef’s Table menus.
For us, breakfasts and quick lunches were in The World Café, the buffet restaurant. Though busy, we never had any problem getting a table. At breakfast, we were happy with a fruit, yogurt, pastries, cheeses, fresh made omelettes or waffles and the coffee machine with a steady supply of lattes and cappuccinos. We were often ashore during lunch, but for those days onboard, it was nice to have a ceasar salad made to order followed by a treat from the ice cream bar to replace those calories you walked off in port. We never managed to have dinner in the Café – too many other options.
While we enjoyed The Restaurant for dinner, we often booked the specialty restaurants, which are included in your fare. We especially enjoyed The Chef’s Table which served a set menu and wine pairing that changed every 2 nights. We had some wonderful meals and wines there. Though many preferred Manfredi’s and said “you must try the steak”, I did not enjoy it and preferred The Chef’s Table and The Restaurant. We did order room service one evening -- the food arrived as ordered, hot and on time.
We purchased the Silver Spirits on the first evening and enjoyed the wine and meal pairings in both The Restaurant and The Chef’s Table. The sommeliers in both locations were knowledgeable, friendly and very helpful.
A comment about The Chef’s Table: Viking needs to do a better job of explaining the concept to guests. We saw diners arrive not realizing that it was a set menu and the menu not to their liking due to food dislikes or dietary needs. The staff did a great job of accommodating these guests, substituting items when possible, though some left, disappointed, to eat at The Restaurant.
The gym was not busy late afternoons but I imagine it could get crowded on sea days. The main pool area was bursting with people reading and relaxing on the loungers though the pool was never crowded. The spa is small, but was never that busy.
There were many entertainment options. The nightly movies at the pool – with provided wireless headsets and blankets– were a must for many. For us, it was the music found throughout the ship. The guitarist, the classic trio and pianist rotated through the venues and it was wonderful to sit before or after dinner with a glass of wine and enjoy the music. There were also evening shows in the theatre and lectures.
Embarkation & disembarkation were a breeze. We were independent travelers so cannot speak to Viking transfers. In Stockholm, our taxi dropped us off mid morning and we were whisked through check-in, no wait. We then walked back into the Old Town for the day. In Bergen, at 9:30 we were off the ship and rolling our luggage down the street to our home for the next week. No line-ups!
Viking includes an excursion in each port, and in general these were quite well done. They also provided a shuttle service in most ports. Their VOX system works well and is used for all walking tours. It should be available on the panoramic tours as well as some bus sound systems are not great.
Most days we took the included excursion (either a walking or panoramic bus tour) as a way to get a port overview before heading off on our own to explore for the day. In all cases but one, the guides were knowledgeable, friendly and spoke excellent English.
I will note that there were many stops near a shop or café, not necessarily for the shopping but to use the “free facilities”. Otherwise, payment was required. In the larger centres, tapping your credit cards worked just fine!
Stockholm (pre-cruise and included tour)
We booked an AirBnB in Sodermalm for 4 nights pre-cruise. We walked, toured and found local places to eat -- including one with the sign “Yes we take Visa and MasterCard. No we do not take cash or Amex”. Credit/debit is quite common in Scandinavia. . The Hop-on-Hop off bus and boat give a great overview and is an easy way to hit the highlights of the city. Stockholm is well suited to self-touring with great bus and subway services. The locals will make sure you are never lost. What a great city to visit. In four days we still did not see all the tourist spots.
The included tour for Stockholm was a two hour bus tour on the departure morning. It was a city overview ending at the Royal Palace where you had the option of staying in Old Town for an hour and then taking the last shuttle back to the ship.
Helsinki (included tour)
We started in dense fog. On the ride in to the city centre, the guide provided information on the history of Finland, current initiatives, key points in Helsinki and, most importantly, showed us where to get the return shuttle for those who decided to stay and wander. Helsinki is a very comfortable city for wandering but the centre is busy and crowded. For the adventurous, and on a nice day, the ship is within walking distance of the city.
St Petersburg (TJ Tours)
What a wonderful city to visit. We booked a custom 2 day tour with TJ Tours and we can’t say enough about how great they were in helping us plan our time. I had been to Leningrad on a university trip in the late 70s and there were places I wanted to re-visit and share with my husband and of course there were so many “new” places to tour. Our driver, Renat, often commented on the surroundings and traffic changes over the years, and was careful and considerate while whisking us around the city. Our guide, Irina, a former English professor, was fabulous. She answered our many questions and guided us efficiently through all locations. When I mentioned that my husband would love a local Russian lunch, we walked from the Hermitage to one of her favourite local restaurants. Tiny place, in the basement of a building. We had homemade bread and soup and of course the restaurants own flavoured vodka of the week! We highly recommend TJs, Irina and Renat.
Tallinn (included walking tour).
It was a beautiful sunny Sunday in Tallinn and the city centre was alive with activities and the patios were crowded. We started our day with a walking tour of the upper and lower Old Town. We then enjoyed a light lunch (and pitcher of sangria) on a hidden patio before continuing our wander back to the ship.
Gdansk (included tour)
Gdansk was a short day as we only had the morning in the port. Perfect for the panoramic tour and then a relaxing time at sea. Gdansk is a lovely city and I wish we had taken more time there.
Berlin (included tour of Rostock)
Berlin was a hard decision for us – take the train into Berlin or treat it as a sea day? Well, the need for a new hard drive to store our photos made the decision easy --- off to Rostock on the included tour. Our guide was a grad student and though not from Rostock, was very knowledgeable. On the bus into Rostock, we heard about the history of the area and future plans. The town itself has some historic points but most importantly, a good tech store with familiar tech names and pricing! Of course, we all stopped for ice cream on the way back to the bus after our “free exploration” time.
Early that evening, the ships’ staff began heading out to the dock to welcome back the very tired Berlin travelers with singing, dancing and cool drinks and warm welcome cloths.
Copenhagen (included walking tour)
It was a holiday in Denmark and the city was crowded. Thank heavens the ship docked so close and that Copenhagen is an easy city to wander. This was our only bad included tour. The guide might have been knowledgeable but talked more about the places he had visited than focusing on our tour. At each place he stopped, group members dropped off, either joining other groups or striking out on their own, as did we. We had a wonderful day wandering the city, finding a little café off the beaten track for a snack before tracking down the shuttle and returning to the ship.
In the evening we took one of our four “purchased” Viking tours – the canal jazz cruise. A great way to see another part of the city. The only disappointment – Dixieland jazz in a city known for its great Euro-jazz.
We treated Alborg as a rest day in preparation for our busy Norway stops. The sail in and out was lovely and it was nice to have the ship mostly to ourselves!
Stravanger (Pulpit Rock tour and included town tour)
We had an interesting trip into the fjord, viewing Pulpit Rock and various waterfalls and of course a stop for waffles. The tour boat was crowded and the sound system of poor quality. Wish we’d remembered to take our VOX system so we could have better heard the guide.
Upon our return we had an excellent walking tour of the old town and the Oil Museum was a great place to visit.
Eidfjord (Flam tour)
What a beautiful, tiny port and one of our best days. We debated about taking the tour to Flam from this port, especially as we would be spending several days in Bergen and could possibly do the Flambosa on our way to Oslo. So glad we opted for this tour. We saw parts of Norway that were so beautiful. And those tunnels and round-abouts in tunnels, amazing! We may not have done the complete Flambosa but we saw some fabulous scenery. The train ride almost seemed like an afterthought.
Bergen – included tour (panoramic bus) & Grieg excursion
If we had known that the Grerig excursion included a pretty good panoramic tour, we may have opted out of the morning included tour and enjoyed our last day on the ship. This tour does give a good overview of the city and worthwhile if you are not taking other excursions. The Greig excursion was great and I recommend it for music lovers. You also see a different part of the city.
Post Cruise: Bergen and Oslo
We left the ship early on the last day and took up residence in the Clarion Havnekontoret for 4 nights. Our hotel was a 5 minute walk from the ship near the Hanseatic museum and the rate included a very nice breakfast, mid-afternoon waffles and a light supper -- soup, salad, veg and fish or meat of the day – which was a very good deal. Bergen is a beautiful city, wonderful scenery and a great history as part of the Hanseatic league. We walked everywhere – no need for the hop-on bus or local transit.
May 17th was an exciting time to be in Norway -- their National Day. Amazing to see the variety of regional dress, the parades, festivities and fireworks. Quite the party in Bergen as many Norwegians came into the city to celebrate. Everyone was so friendly and eager to share their stories.
Oslo: We had booked the train to Oslo only to find out, at boarding time, that the tracks were closed due to a freight train accident. For an otherwise efficient country, the train station was disorganized. No real directions to passengers as to what to do as we searched for the buses that were to take us to another train station. Very glad that we had used the Norway Porter service to take our luggage to Oslo so we didn’t have to drag it on and off the buses. Of course, we got on a slow bus and thus missed the train connection to Oslo so the bus continued on. There are pluses and minuses to everything. The big plus with the bus – we travelled the tops of the mountains in Norway and saw cross-country skiers and snowmobilers in late May and some fabulous scenery.
We were tired as walked from the “train station” to our hotel for our final 4 days in fabulous Norway. Oslo is another fine city to explore. We purchased a 2 day Hop-On-Hop-Off bus ticket and used this as a means to get to the various sites our first 2 days. Even took a boat shuttle to get back across the bay from the KonTiki museum. Again, we hit a holiday in Norway and all the locals were out enjoying the sun.
If taking this cruise, I would highly recommend a few extra days, pre and post cruise, to explore Stockholm and Bergen. They are great cities, with friendly residents and lots to see. Leave your cash at home – credit everywhere.
We had a fabulous 2 day customized tour with TJ travel. Terrific guide and driver. Highly recommend TJ, Irina and Renat.View All 378 City Tour Reviews
A good introduction to the city with the included walking tour. We then stayed in the city and explored, catching the last shuttle back to the ship.View All 193 City Tour Reviews
We booked an AirBnB in Sodermalm for 4 nights pre-cruise. Stockholm is well suited to self-touring with great bus and subway services. The locals will make sure you are never lost. What a great city to visit.The Hop-on-Hop off bus and boat give a great overview and is an easy way to hit the highlights of the city.
A walking tour of the upper and lower Old Town. We then enjoyed a light lunch (and pitcher of sangria) on a hidden patio before continuing our wander back to the ship.View All 189 Old Town of Tallinn Reviews
This was a short port stop and we had initially thought we'd stay on the ship. Glad we took the opportunity to tour Gdansk Old Town.View All 60 Gdansk Old Town Reviews
Another day where we had planned to stay onboard and relax before our heavy Norway schedule. However, a trip to a "tech store" was needed so we joined the included Rostock tour. The tour and tour guide were great but we had other things on our mind -- a new storage disk for photos. There is a great tech store in the large mall -- good pricing and excellent service.View All 41 Rostock City Tour Reviews
The guides for your included tours, with any cruise line and in any port, are "the luck of the draw". Well, we "lost" on this one. Terrible guide but Copenhagen is a very walkable city so we took off on our own. We had a wonderful day wandering, finding a little café off the beaten track for a snack before tracking down the shuttle and returning to the ship.View All 201 City Tour Reviews
An interesting trip into the fjord, viewing Pulpit Rock and various waterfalls and of course a stop for waffles. The tour boat was crowded and the sound system of poor quality -- could have used our Vox sets that day.View All 76 Pulpit Rock Reviews
Excellent walking tour. Make sure to visit the Oil museum.View All 57 The Old Town Reviews
We finally got our pre-Norway "rest day". We stay onboard and took advantage of the quiet ship.
We did the tour to Flam and saw parts of Norway that were so beautiful. Those tunnels and round-abouts in tunnels, amazing! We may not have done the complete Flambosa but we saw some fabulous scenery. The train ride almost seemed like an afterthought
A good introduction to Bergen in preparation for our longer stay.View All 136 City Tour Reviews
The Greig excursion was great and I recommend it for music lovers. Viking was the only ship in that day so it was quiet at the site. You also see a different part of Bergen.View All 28 Troldhaugen Concert Reviews
We did a post cruise stay in Norway and had a wonderful time exploring Bergen (3 days) and participating in the May 17th celebrations. The train trip to Oslo became a bus trip which turned out to be great -- driving over the tops of those mountains -- wow! We spent 4 days exploring Oslo,another walkable city, taking in the museums and gardens, before heading home.