I have cruised with Viking Ocean before, but never at Christmas time. I hope to do it again, because the special activities and the decorations (on ship and at destinations) made this cruise a little special. We were on the Southern Med Discovery cruise - only 8 days, so we flew to Rome a few days early and stayed in Barcelona and Madrid a few days late to make it a two week vacation.
I cruise mostly to see a lot of different destinations, and Viking is fairly port-intensive, so it works well for us. I had been to a couple of the ports before, but others were quite new to me. The cruise went to Italy, Algeria and Spain. When I booked, Tunisia was on the itinerary, but that eventually got replaced with Naples. We booked a deluxe veranda cabin on Viking Sky, and as usual, found the service and cabin to be excellent. Food was quite good, although I didn't see much of the Dining Room, as my husband loves the World Cafe (enhanced buffet/cafeteria style restaurant). While we don't always take the one included excursion in each port, we like having those available, especially in ports that are difficult to cover in a day (Rome?) or not well suited to sightseeing by public transportation, which we like. The Wifi was great, as was the lack of "nickel and diming." I was thrilled to get to Algeria, and the excursion I took there (from the ship; didn't want to pay extra for travel visa) was excellent. All excursions were quite good - worthwhile, very organized, and cheaper than what I'm used to on another similar line. Some people don't like coach trips, but at least Viking tries to limit coach size to 2/3rds full. I only used the spa area once, but appreciated not having to pay to walk in the door. t. Activities and entertainment, while not fantastic, were certainly adequate for me. I didn't miss a casino, and while there were books around, I didn't miss a library. There WERE some nice holiday (New Year's Eve & Day) activities that were quite nice. I know Viking's prices appear high to many, but keep in mind you'll get plenty of space, no lines, no extra charge for specialty restaurants, and beer & wine at lunch and dinner, use of spa area, Wifi plus computers with internet, and self-service laundry on each floor. You also usually get port intensive itineraries, often including some of the lesser-visited ports, a free excursion (for everyone; don't get to pick) in each port except on embarkation/disembarkation days, and a wonderful overall cruise experience. The cruisers themselves, were great, although if you're in your 30s or 40s you may feel the age difference quite a bit! But to me, people are people, regardless of age, so as long as the people I'm cruising with are interested in seeing the world more than getting drunk, their ages don't matter much to me.
Our ports were Rome (ship stayed overnight there), Naples, Trapani Sicily, Cagliari Sardinia, Algiers, Valencia, Barcelona, and one and a half sea days. There were no tender ports. The captain skipped Trapani due to weather, which was a big disappointment to me, but I have to trust his judgement on those matters. We did get another half day in Naples and a free visit to their fabulous archaeological museum. I passed & walked around the city. Loved the artwork in Toledo, Universita, and other metro stations. It was thrilling to be in Algeria (first visit to Africa) and I have to admit it was different and better than I expected. The people were really glad to see us, and the city arranged police escorts so we could get through traffic quicker. The Algerian weekend is Friday and Saturday, and we were there on Friday. There were plenty of people out when we visited a wonderful park with ruins. Our guide was fabulous - including his English fluency and (lack of) accent. The other ports were charming (even gritty Naples in its own way!) including Cagliari, although we only had from 7 AM to 2 PM - tough for me to see all I wanted to see. Viking's free excursions are quite good, but in a big city like Rome or London, you're not going to see everything there is to see. You may want to find a private excursion instead, but of course, even then you won't see everything. Traffic can be a real problem. However, at least Viking's excursions were well organized and executed, and they generally only fill their coaches 2/3rds full on those popular included tours (and optional ones). It was nice in Spain and Italy because Three Kings Day (Jan. 6th) fell while we were there, and it basically is the end of the Christmas season. Therefore, the Christmas spirit and decorations were still in evidence long after Christmas Day is celebrated in the U.S.
Standard, nice, modern, light, well-appointed room with comfy beds and fabulous bathroom. Some people like more closet drawers, but for us what's there is fine.
We just use the shelf in the closet, or the hangers in the closet, if we need for space for clothing. We like the aft (rear) of the ship because on a ship, you're always going to the restaurants, and they're all in the back!
I got up early and took a bus from near the port to the top of the Castello (old part of city). Then I walked down to the terrace at the fortress, seeing things along the way and taking pictures. Then I met my husband near the port and we rented a Smart Car from CarBusTec, a local company nearby. We drove to see the lighthouse down on the peninsula, the flamingos on the way to Poetto Beach, and Poetto Beach. Only had 2/3rds of a day in Cagliari but enjoyed it quite a bit.
Coach trip to see ruins at an archaeological park in or near Tipaza, cookies, mint tea and bathroom break near there, and then on the Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania. Wonderful guide, wonderful excursion and worth every penny. Wonderful first visit to Africa and Algeria.
Excursion to Oceanografic to see marine life plus some birds and other living things.
The tunnel of sharks, fish, etc. was fun. Dolphin show was nothing out of the ordinary if you've seen one of these before. Enjoyed the beautiful building as well as views of the whole City of Arts & Sciences complex designed by Calatrava. Received a short walking tour of some of the buildings in central Valencia as well. There is so much interesting architecture in this city!