We normally cruise with Silversea, but with all the positive hype surrounding Viking Ocean and River cruising we decided it would be worth further investigation and financial commitment to cruise with this line. We joined this cruise on Viking Orion in Tokyo Bay, Japan.
Embarkation went fairly smoothly although there was a snaking embarkation line, which is something we are not used to. Furthermore, despite adding our credit card details prior to embarkation we were asked to produce the card. The staff then proceeded to try and add it to our shipboard account which was already populated with our credit card detail. So much for the statement in the ‘My Viking” Cruise app, ‘Registering your credit card details will save time at embarkation’ Clearly it doesn’t.
We eventually made it to our stateroom, PV1 category, which to be fair was a pleasant enough environment, but we couldn’t help but compare to our previous Silversea staterooms, a No contest decision was made in favour of Silversea. Never the less we settled in, with the expectation that it would be a fabulous cruise.
Let’s start with Food and drink. With the exception of one meal in a 14 day voyage it was the worst food we have ever encountered on any cruise line. (P&O ,Cunard, Silversea) There seems to be a problem in terms of variety in the World Cafe or main restaurant , but the most annoying trait was that no matter at what time you dined, breakfast, lunch, dinner, the food was NEVER hot. It was always luke warm, tasteless and totally uninteresting. In the World Cafe, it didn’t help that the plates were stored underneath the counter and not warmed prior to use, that together with the ships A/C ensured luke warm food, rapidly transitioning to cold, unless you were prepared to eat quickly and risk indigestion.
We did discuss the issue with a staff member who said that he would raise it with management. No management came forward although the staff member concerned asked every time we saw him ‘is everything okay today?’
I agree with another subscribers post who describes the meals as fit for ‘homes-for-the-aged’, however, it is only fit if you want to upset the residence!
Whilst cruising though the ports in Japan and Taiwan, I was trying to find a way to sum up the ship, and the only thing I could say is Viking Orion has ‘No Heart’. There is absolutely no vibe/atmosphere to Viking Orion . This in my view has got be due to a number of restaurants and bars closing at at around 9pm. There is no central point to which guest naturally gravitate towards. There is however 24hr room service available to all.
As part of our pre-cruise arrangements we booked a table for two at Manfredi’s 70 days before departure. We presented ourselves to the maitre d’ , at the appointed time/date only to be told that there was only a table for 6 available. It just so happened that there were another group of four waiting for their table. We all told him that it was unacceptable, he promptly told us that there had been an ‘ upsurge’ in guests presenting without a booking. So, from my perspective what’s the point in booking a stateroom with early restaurant and tour booking privileges only to be told there was no availability at the times previously booked. Our displeasure was clear, and he surprisingly found us a nice table for 2 by the window, and a table for 4 for the other guests, sorted.!!
Then there was my birthday. Two days after boarding, my good lady had ordered a cake ( at no cost) at guest services, asking for it to be presented at the conclusion of the meal at Manfredi’s restaurant, some 10 days later. No cake appeared, we waited and waited and we could still be waiting now. Perhaps we should have asked you are thinking, it was a surprise says I. In any event on any other cruise line if guests have requested cakes etc they are usually delivered at the conclusion of the meal and then sent to the stateroom together with cutlery/plates/napkins , just in case the requesting guests were full from the meal. You guessed it, no cake or any enquiry from staff as to if we wanted it.
Where there any positives coming out from this cruise? Yes, it taught us not to believe the hype from self proclaimed experts or cruise awards. The proof of the pudding is etc etc, except this pudding is rather an expensive disaster.
The waiting staff did their best, but are clearly in need of refresher or new training as the service message isn’t getting home. At some of the bars, the bar staff had difficulty preparing the advertised cocktail Pina Colda,. In one instance, I have no idea what was presented but it wasn’t Pina Colada, and it also depended on which bar you went too. Some bars had neither the ingredients or equipment or as I strongly suspect the staff don’t possess the skill base to prepare it. To be fair, when this did occur the staff did offer to go to another bar to collect the drink.
Our stateroom steward was however well trained and hard working, and provided excellent service, I have no complaints there.
The included tours around the destination ports were well run and gave just a flavour of the ports visited.
Viking Orion is a nicely deigned ship with tasteful furnishings, but the layout and restaurant/bar opening / closing timetables do not in my view facilitate social interactions.
And just to add one more issue, as I am sure you, the reader will becoming bored of this post, but please stick with me as it serves as a warning to those who disembark on private arrangements and aren’t able bodied.
We had decided months before we even set foot on the ship that we were going to disembark a day early when the ship docked in our favourite port Hong Kong. We had been there many times before and didn’t want to take advantage of any of the included excursions. We had always had a desire to stay at the Peninsula on our bucket list so decided to use the opportunity to stay just for one night.
I wrote to Viking in London to advise of this fact, they told me that it wouldn’t be a problem and they would advise the ship in due course so that disembarkation matters could be dealt with appropriately. We also told the ships customer relations a week prior to disembarkation, again no problem. Unfortunately, I had hurt my back about 3 days prior to leaving the ship, so I was in no fit state to move/lift luggage, which included 6 cases, comprising of 2 large, 2 medium and 2 airline carry-on. The staff at guest services were aware of this issue.
As Viking knew we were disembarking early, I mistakenly believed that the ships land agent would be arranging porterage....wrong again. The ships crew informed us that they were only allowed to take the cases as far as the ship side gang plank and we would have to do the rest! I am not going to labour the point here, but 4 able bodied staff watched as my good lady struggled with two cases off the ship; only for the help of passengers returning to the ship were we able to disembark with the remaining 4 cases with any dignity or further injury.
It will be pretty obvious to you reader, that we will never cruise with Viking again, and will be sticking with Silversea, our next cruise being on Silver Moon in October 2020.
I note that Viking Cruises, Community Team right to reply has been busy on a recent posting asking the contributor (Rileyprime) to speak to management during an ongoing cruise. The point here is that guests should not have to go to management complaining of fundamental housekeeping / food /drink requirements on a cruise. It’s managements job to know what’s going on, that’s one of their role requirements, not to mention that cruising is a service based industry and should be customer focused at all times.
For the record, I rarely complain about anything, however this cruise has really pushed the wrong buttons.
I am sure that there are a lot of positive comments surrounding Vikings service delivery, but you are only as good as your last goal, and from our perspective Viking Ocean has failed across so many areas of customer care.
Shame on you Viking.