Wife and I have been cruising over 25 years. These days we prefer suites on longer cruises so we upgraded to the Explorer Suite. Well worth the money. Great room and largest balcony we’ve ever had. Viking Sea is only two years old so we were definitely spoiled. Ship is in great shape and many things on board are fascinating like the shower in the suite. It’s walk-in with no ledge. Great drainage via great design. Heated towel racks etc. were all as one would expect in the top-rated suites. Room came with lots of extras and as the brochures say, all is included. Room service was great for early breakfast when shore excursions were leaving early. Service was impeccable. Food was great. Entertainment was so-so. The night club was fun. The house band playing in the night club was probably the best musicians on the trip. Had a great couple singing just about anything you could name and they hit it out of the park. Bar tenders do the flippy thing with bottles which is fun to watch as well. Pools, gym, etc. was all new and great.
This trip was Barcelona and Beyond, a three-week cruise I understand they will no longer offer. Itinerary hit the Baltic region where we’ve never been. I’ll be brief and say this was the best cruise we’ve ever been on in over 25 years, but there are a few things that surprised us.
1. Shore excursions: The literature says shore excursions are included. Wrong. One shore excursion is included at no additional charge at each stop, but that excursion usually consists of a 3-hour bus ride with the tour guide talking about a site as you drive by. These are also what you get if you take the transfers onto the ship and off. They use the 3 hours to kill while the ship gets ready for boarding or the hotel is ready for check-in. I’d probably take a taxi in the future. Plan on paying for excursions the old-fashioned way if booking through the cruise. You can book your own through somebody like Viator.com but if they don’t get you back in time you’re screwed and the boat leaves without you. One thing about Viking, they stick to a schedule as far as departures.
2. Tips: The literature states a daily rate is charged per person that goes to handle all tips. Not really. At the end of the cruise we wanted to help out the crew and give more money by charging it to our room account and directing that to be split between members of the crew. After I already made the payment, I was talking to members of the crew. Each individual told me the same story. They get the same amount in their checks regardless of how full the ship is with guests. They never see any variance in the amount which strikes me as unusual since I’m sure other guests probably had the same idea of adding more to the account. So, if you want to add to the base amount go old-school and get envelopes from the passenger service desk and stuff your cash in them for tips at the end for those you believe deserve the additional amounts.
3. Hotels for before and after: Viking did an excellent job picking hotels. At least 4 stars for each.
4. Before and after excursions: You’re on your own for these. Viking only books those that occur during the cruise. At least they did on this one. We arranged our own.
5. Web site: Very useful. Fill out all the information for express check-in in the My Journey site. Site also had good info and videos of stops etc. Study it well in advance of your departure.
6. Travel insurance: Viking offers insurance that is good for the trip, but could use more for medical. You might want to augment this coverage with a medical that offers additional coverage. For instance, in states I had to be airlifted after an accident which cost over $40,000. In Europe and other parts of the globe, should the unthinkable happen, anything that flies costs 4 or 5 times that, plus the additional cost to repatriate back to the states. Just something to think about
Summary ….. it will spoil you taking other cruises.
Excellent in all areas. See their web site. It's all true.
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