There are really two parts to this review. The first is about the awful virus that spread unchecked that ruined our trip. The second part is about what the ship is like if I don't factor in how sick so many of us were.
My husband and I both became extremely ill on exactly the same evening about ten days into our trip-- we are both in excellent health and among the very youngest on the ship. We went from feeling fine to minutes later having fever, chills, nauseated, extreme disorientation, dizziness, terrible hacking cough. We were in our room for three days, I literally was so ill I didn't have the energy to order room service. When we finally were well enough to leave our room, we heard that half the ship had the same virus, there were lines at the doctor's office, you could hear the same hacking cough everywhere. I tried twice to see the doctor to see what the virus was and if we needed antibiotics-- the first time office hours were cancelled because "he had been up for 36 hours straight" and the second because during his office hours there was an emergency medical evacuation. It was getting to the end of the cruise and I thought we would be feeling better soon. Everyone we talked to had a story about either being sick themselves or listing all the people onboard who had the same virus, and people in our trivia group dropped out due to the virus. When I found out the virus had been going around the ship the whole time we were there with people onboard from the previous segment, I was so bothered that it had not been communicated sooner and that precautions had not been taken by the ship-- they were shaking hands with passengers regularly! Had I known I would have disinfected the room, never shaken hands, avoided the buffet, taken the immune building supplements I carry for travel whenever there is sickness spreading, etc. After we left the ship, whenever I tried to do anything for the remainder of our trip I became ill all over again, I couldn't eat, etc. Once we returned and I wasn't getting well (I was so dizzy I couldn't drive, could only eat soup and bread, couldn't concentrate on work, etc.) I called my doctor who wanted any background information on the Virus. I contacted Viking who said they didn't have to tell me because there were far fewer than 20 cases reported! Now, I literally spoke with more than 20 people who had had the virus. The customer service person was belligerent and accusatory, implying I wasn't really sick and said in a sarcastic tone that if I was sick he was sure I would have reported it. I told him we told the housekeepers we were too sick to leave the room and he said that didn't count. I also told him about trying to see the doctor twice and being prevented one time because of the emergency medical evacuation-- and he told me in a triumphant tone that there was no emergency medical evacuation during my cruise. I replied that it was pretty frightening that hundreds of people onboard were ill with the same severe virus and there was an emergency medical evacuation that hundreds of people watched since it was by the coast guard in open ocean and lasted hours-- yet Viking had a record of neither. I finally told him that since they have no record of this illness I was reporting it now, and he said that didn't count. After spending a fortune on this cruise, being so ill and trying to get information for my doctor, it was so dispiriting to be treated this way. I contracted this virus about a month and a half ago and not only have only started getting completely well in the last two weeks (after taking powerful antibiotics), but I'm still having all kinds of medical tests because of concerns that it was so severe it might have caused a mini stroke and other permanent damage.
Now, if I had not gotten a horrible virus that I think could have been prevented, and not been treated so dismissively by Viking customer service? On the positive side, I would say the food was the best I've ever had on a cruise ship (and we are foodies used to high end cruises). As one example, they serve a full traditional tea daily, complete with tiered plates of mini sandwiches and sweets, plus scones every afternoon, just like a fancy tea you might pay for. On Oceania, the tea is from teabags with paper napkins with a few things passed around. Most notably, the general restaurant was as good as specialty restaurants on other ships. I'll compare again to Oceania where the general restaurant was so bad we couldn't eat there and you had to fight for reservations in the specialty restaurants. Another Viking plus was that you could get as many reservations in the free specialty restaurants as you wanted. Service overall was the best we've ever experienced on a ship. Loved that there is no corkage fee in the restaurants and they are delighted to open and pour what you bring-- while basic wine was free, we loved to pick up special bottles as we traveled and really appreciated this benefit. The cafe and main restaurant are also really well designed so that you can often get a window seat, and never get the sense of an overwhelming sea of people. They also did a lot of special things that were nice-- bringing local specialty foods aboard, etc. We enjoyed the trivia everyday in port (vs. bingo on some ships), loved not listening to announcements all day and no junky art shows, and the hairdresser was fantastic and very reasonably priced. Generally, a very high quality, lovely experience vs. some of the constant upgrading and rules on other ships-- they seemed super flexible and customer service oriented.
The upgrade to the penthouse balcony was not worth the steep cost, no real advantages except a couple of feet wider.