Viking Sky Cruise Review by Captain Povey
- Sail Date: January 2019
- Destination: Baltic Sea
Obviously our ship – Viking Sky – was very new and we were looking forward to seeing it. Our first impression was good. It’s sleek, airy and well designed, with some nice touches such as a lift button for the Gangway, heated bathroom floors and large showers.
Viking is still relatively new to ocean cruising so inevitably there were some things that were not as good as others. So, here is my list of the good, the bad and the bizarre, in no particular order.
A lot of effort has been put into sourcing an interesting range of artworks around the ship (a reminder of Celebrity many years ago) with a useful audio guide accessible on one’s smartphone using the Viking App.
The ship makes very good use of technology for the benefit of passengers. There is excellent free Wi-Fi and their App provides instant real time access to one’s on-board account, restaurant and excursion bookings, and much more.
Staff in the bars and restaurants carry smartphones which are used to record menu choices, order drinks etc. One only has to give the room number and a photo of the passenger pops up on the server’s screen. No more handing over cards or signing for drinks.
On the subject of drinks, there is complimentary beer and wine at meals which is both ample and very reasonable quality. Other drinks can be purchased at reasonable prices and - a long overdue touch - service is included in the headline price – no more aggravating extras, and no staff hassling you to buy.
We were impressed with the organisation and content of the complimentary tours, and the local tour guides. And, a particularly welcome feature was the mulled wine offered to passengers on their return from tours!
Our cabin was a deluxe veranda (4101). I was particularly impressed with the generous layout and the size of the bathroom, the full-size WC and the good quality toilet paper. I know this may sound trivial but how often have you squeezed yourself onto a tiny WC placed at an uncomfortable angle and with almost transparent toilet paper? There was also ample wardrobe space for heavy coats and body warmers as well as the more usual apparel. Plenty of wardrobe hangers, including a few padded ones – a nice touch. The large interactive TV was good but it was rather difficult to navigate the options.
One can cancel pre-booked shore excursions up to 48 hours ahead and receive a full refund. This is exceptional service.
The ship was spacious and on sea days not over-crowded even allowing for the fact that almost nobody ventured outside due to the cold (but see comment below about the Pool deck).
The enrichment lectures (and lecturers) were good but there seems to have been no attempt to guide the content and as a result there was a lot of overlap, particularly about the Northern Lights and the Vikings!
Our cabin attendants were great!
We enjoyed Manfredi’s Restaurant, though it would be better if there were more daily specials. Service overall was fine but not consistent – sometimes, for example, the waiter would explain the various breads, other times not.
The quality of the breads on the ship was very good with one exception – the morning breakfast sliced loaf for toasting, which was very poor (this seems to be a general problem on cruise lines and may lie in the flour being different from that used in the UK). The croissants were excellent – probably the best I have had on a cruise.
I made a number of comments in the mid-cruise review and we were tracked down by a manager in the restaurant who discussed my concerns with me. Extra points for this.
The Captain was excellent – he was frequently to be seen about the ship, friendly and approachable and he was on the gangway to say goodbye at disembarkation – a first for us, and a very nice touch. Other senior officers were also friendly and often to be seen.
The cruise director was pretty underwhelming - lacking in charisma or sparkle. His Assistant Cruise Director put on an excellent show of singing and dancing, better in fact than the ship’s singing quartet who weren’t bad.
Overall the ship has a problem with under-trained staff who are unable (or is it not allowed?) to take responsibility for resolving issues, and such response as there is sometimes is very slow. There was poor service in World Café, nobody appeared to be in charge and there was no active supervision of the catering staff or servers.
I reported to a member of staff that the only hand sanitizer in Mamsen’s was not working – it was still unfixed when we left 90 minutes later.
Mamsen’s Deli must be the most peculiar eatery on the high seas. Its rationale is that it serves a selection of snacks from the owner’s daughter’s family recipe book. The result is that it serves EXACTLY the same limited selection of snacks and cakes EVERY day – a staggering lack of imagination. This is both bizarre and certainly very unsatisfactory from the point of view of the passengers. Viking can either continue to pander to this family vanity or serve passengers’ desire for at least limited variety.
The World Café selection was sometimes limited and very inflexible. There was a particularly poor choice of pizzas and pasta dishes and no option for made to order variety. There was little attempt to create coherent meals. For example, a curry might be on offer but without appropriate side dishes; or roast duck without suitable accompaniments. The British bacon at breakfast was not cooked properly – undercooked and swimming in a liquid – and the “Banger” sausage unlike anything one might normally expect. The afternoon teas were good except the scones were served with good thick double cream instead of the proper clotted cream – not a show stopper of course, but if you are imitating a British tradition it pays to get things right.
Given that we were in Norway the fish dishes on offer were very disappointing. Why wasn’t fresh fish sourced locally en route? And why was there so much pushing on almost every menu of “the Chairman’s recommendation” which was always salmon. Does he eat nothing else? And while we are on the subject of the Chairman: there are lots of pictures of him fishing and enjoying the outdoor life. As a customer I would be more encouraged to see examples of him engaging with passengers and striving to put their wishes at the forefront of his business.
The Pool Deck was freezing cold for a large part of the cruise. At first I thought this might be an unavoidable factor given the outside temperature but for the last couple of days the temperature improved markedly. Why wasn’t this fixed earlier?
There seemed at times to be a worrying attitude to staff - some were left in very inhospitable - ie cold - roles for much too long. Does this play out in a tendency to simply go through the motions instead of offering outstanding service? On other cruise lines staff seem to have a greater sense of pride in the service they and their colleagues provide.
Finally, I think Viking must use biological washing powder because the sheets seemed to aggravate my latent eczema.
The bird song in public washrooms. What is this about?
And, the owner’s suite is squeezed between the Explorer’s Lounge and the Mens’ washroom – surely a less than premium location. Not that it is an issue ever likely to trouble us.
We enjoyed the cruise, and we did see the Northern Lights, but we aren’t convinced the overall level of service justifies Viking’s prices
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