This was our first cruise with Viking Ocean. In general, Viking Ocean provides a very good product. Specific strengths and weaknesses we experienced are noted below.
EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATION - The fastest/smoothest we’ve ever experienced.
STATEROOM: Deluxe Verandah, #5003, quite forward under part of the bridge. Best bathroom we’ve ever experienced, especially the heated floor and mirror to deter fogging. Comfortable bed. Could’ve used some more drawers. The coffee maker was nice to have, but wish it made a standard cup of coffee. A couple issues re: cleanliness. The desk had flip-top mirror with small storage cubbies. This area needed attention (hairs, debris, “crud”). On the day we were leaving, we found an extra bath robe, complete with dust bunnies under the bed. The in-room literature indicated that missing items would be charged to the on-board account. Sure hope a previous occupant didn’t get charged for that robe!
An upside to the location of the stateroom was that we could look forward as well as to starboard. A downside of the location was periodic noise/footsteps at late hours from the bridge.
We aren’t sure if this was a result of the specific location of the stateroom, but when we were in areas with more swell/wind, that cabin SQUEAKED and RATTLED to excessive degree. The ceilings, the walls, the closet doors chattered, such that it interfered with sleep. Oh, and part of a closet door was broken.
SHIP AMBIENCE/SPACE: The ship is beautiful, and easy to navigate. We loved that there were only 900+ passengers. Therefore, there weren’t lines or crowds. No problem ever finding a chaise lounge or a quiet place to sit. This is a huge plus. The two-story forward Explorer Lounge has such a nice ambiance, as does the Wintergarden, and Living Room.
EXCURSIONS: We opted to take the included tours with one exception. We purchased the walking tour of Bruges (Easter Sunday) and were glad we did as getting to Bruges on our own on Easter on a short port shop presented transportation difficulties.
The excursions were well-organized, on-time, and the buses in good shape. The guides were informative. The “Paris on Your Own” excursion was an excellent included value. Two particular exemptions to the value of the included excursions was the stop at Cartagena (not enough substance, somewhat aimless), and the substituted port of Cherbourg, France for Falmouth UK. In the case of Cherbourg, Viking had little time to make arrangements. Our tour took us to a lovely chateau near the city, then there were about 1.5 hours left. The bus driver wanted to take us back to the ship; our guide Claudia was having words with him that the tour wasn’t over. Long story short, we ended up at a square in town and we were to return to the bus at an appointed time. And we found that the bus was gone, not to be seen again. (I can only surmise that the bus driver had had enough and took off). Fortunately, there was a Viking shuttle bus and we were able to make it back to the port.
Two downsides of the excursions: 1) That they can punch an inconvenient hole in the day, so plan carefully. In a few cases, it made it hard, if not impossible, to do any additional exploration in port on our own, as where the ship was docked wasn’t walking distance. When a tour did offer some free time in the city – it ranged from 20 to 45 minutes. This left us with the option of shopping, photography, or trying a local delicacy. In Bruges, we had about 40 minutes and we were on a mission to buy chocolate gifts. That’s all we had time for – no opportunity to have a true Belgian waffle or frites. This pattern was repeated in several cities. 2) Upon boarding, we inquired about a bridge tour. The did offer them, without additional charge (great), but then learned that they were scheduled exactly during the times of the included tours.
Portsmouth was a longer stop and we appreciated the provided shuttle bus from the port to back to the city.
SERVICE: Excellent, pleasant and efficient. Guest services helpful, no lines to speak of. It was a pleasant change to have enough waitstaff circulating in World Café, in stark contrast to buffet venues on other cruises. Waitstaff remembered drink orders and our room number. My husband developed a liking for a particular type of Norwegian beer that wasn’t available at every location and the staff did always try to locate one for him. We only had two notable service lapses, both in Manfredi’s. Manfredi’s started out so well, and then nose-dived. We were seated, were told we were “business class” (?) and shown to one of the few booths. The wine steward appeared annoyed to perform her job (scowling, for example) and we were just completely forgotten during the dessert, even as we tried to wave someone down since there was a problem. The desserts arrived but the coffee we ordered did not. And did not and we couldn’t get any staff attention even with 3 waitstaff in the vicinity. How we finally got the coffee would’ve been comical if it wasn’t such a service lapse.
FOOD: I know food is a touchy subject, and I’m not a “foodie” or a picky eater. Based on previous cruises, this was the most inconsistent aspect of the cruise. Nothing was bad, except as noted below, but food at the buffet (World Café) was in my opinion repetitive and lacking in variety, especially for breakfast. We really would’ve liked some quiches or frittatas, for example. And why was there never sausage links or patties? The Eggs Benedict gets a particular negative review because the English muffin had an approximate 1 inch by 1.5 inch piece of ham on the muffin, leaving a large area without meat, egg, or hollandaise sauce. I really loved the raisin rolls (croissant dough-based) and being able to make a cappuccino in a to-go cup.
I had the “sandwich of the day” a couple times at the World Café and I was impressed with how the staff member would assemble it with such detail so it looked as good as the display. Magazine cover quality.
I would’ve liked to try the Norwegian waffle at Mamsen’s, and although I didn’t get to, I did have one of the open-faced sandwiches for lunch and enjoyed it.
We dined once at the specialty Chef’s Table during the Asian Panorama cycle. Really enjoyed it as well as the wine pairings that were chosen with the Silver Spirits beverage package.
Manfredi’s: We each had the rib-eye steak which was excellent as well as the starters and sides. We were advised to save room for dessert. I had ordered the tiramisu and someone must have made a mistake in its preparation. It was served in a deep soup-like bowl. When I spooned into it, I immediately encountered an abundance of whipped cream. I started looking for the ladyfingers. Would you believe that tiramisu had ONE thin layer of ladyfingers approximately in the middle of the dish (which was at least 4” deep)?! I started hunting for more, but no, the bottom was more whipped cream stuff. The overall impression was eating a bowl of white glop. I gave up on it and honestly, if we could’ve gotten the wait staff’s attention without making a big scene I would’ve shown the “tiramisu” to the headwaiter, but unable to get anyone’s attention, we just left and wondered what had happened in that venue.
The Restaurant – We had breakfast, lunch, and dinner several times at The Restaurant. Don’t know how I managed to get a mostly flavorless whole lobster (slightly uncooked from frozen and wasn’t accompanied by any sides, such as rice or potato) and apparently missed the only evening prime rib was offered.
The evening of the Bruges stop, a featured entrée was described as a “regionally inspired” short rib dish. Being familiar with (and having prepared) Belgian and/or Flemish stews of this type, I had a good idea of what the flavor profile would be. It arrived, looked good, had tender chunks of beef and properly cooked vegetables. But it lacked a seasoning profile. Bland. The best way to describe it was that it was a blank slate – if they wanted to go French they could’ve gone with thyme, or rosemary for Italian, for example. I expected to taste dark beer and nutmeg being “regional” but it was absolutely generic – did the person with the herbs and spices forget to do their job? I didn’t finish any more of this dish either after a few bites.
Once, at breakfast at The Restaurant I ordered the Eggs Benedict and asked to have enough ham/Canadian bacon put on the muffins to actually provide coverage on the muffins. This request confused the waiter, so I gestured and repeated my request. What I received was extra pieces of meat on a side plate so that I could construct it myself. OK, but I could go into most any coffee shop (Denny’s, IHOP) and not have this issue. It was strange.
LECTURES/GUEST SPEAKERS/EVENTS – My husband attended (or watched later) more of these than I did, but I did attend 3 lectures presented in the Star Theatre by Dr. Peter Durrans. They were engaging and informative. I really enjoyed learning more about the areas we were to visit and what made them rise (and fall) in prominence.
This cruise coincided with Easter Sunday. The cruise director, Jenna Beaudoin, led a non-denominational worship service that morning in the Star Theatre. Prayer, gospel readings, music and hymns by crew members (and even a volunteer who answered Jenna’s request to lead a hymn she wasn’t comfortable with) accompanied with a leaflet. The service was nicely done and well attended. And the chocolate bunny that arrived in our stateroom was a nice touch too!
SPAS/POOLS: The spa is a beautifully appointed area. I wish the thalassotherapy pool was a bit warmer. Enjoyed the sauna, plunge pool, and the snow grotto. The stone chaises are so comfortable that I could’ve fallen asleep.
Both the main pool and stern Infinity pool always seemed too cool to be enjoyable when I tested the water and other guests in the area noted the same. I really wanted to try out the infinity pool, so that was a disappointment.
One BIG gripe: The hours of the spa! It closes to guests at 8:00 pm. I went down after dinner and a day of a lot of walking, looking forward to enjoying the area only to find that it is closed for staff use only. This is unacceptable to me, as I’m a after dinner soaker. And there are not any actual show performances after dinner to get too, either.
SUMMARY: Based on the awards and recognition that the young Viking Ocean line has been receiving, we had high expectations for the cruise. Our expectations overall were met. If I could I would've scored this review as 4-1/2 stars. Would we cruise Viking Ocean again? Yes. Would we be more mindful of the times a particular itinerary spent in port, and the excursions relative to those times – yes, that would be absolutely critical.
Discussed in main review.