My husband and I have traveled with Viking on 6 of their riverboats. Three years ago, we decided to see if their approach to river travel could be successfully translated into ocean cruising and we booked a cruise from Venice to Athens on the Viking Sea just a few months after her maiden voyage. We were absolutely delighted with our experience at the time and were really excited about sailing on her again.
We chose this itinerary because it stopped at several islands we have never visited before and because we were looking for a quick mini warm weather vacation. I was particularly interested in spending more time on the ship as our first cruise on her was in Europe and we much busier exploring the Mediterranean ports of call.
We booked a deluxe veranda cabin. I love the staterooms on the Viking ocean ships. They all have king sized beds with the most luxurious linens and pillows, a large flat screen television and more electric outlets and USB ports than you will ever see on older vessels. The bathrooms have heated tile floors and heated mirrors that never fog up. The shower is one of the most spacious we have ever enjoyed at sea and has a glass enclosure rather than a curtain. I also appreciate the indirect night lighting that is available in the bathroom. Our mini-bar was restocked with complimentary snacks, juice, sodas and water by our room steward every day. He asked our preferences when we boarded the ship. We also enjoyed the free WIFI. We found it a bit slow a few times but mostly it worked just fine - so nice to easily keep in touch with home.
Much to our surprise, we were upgraded a few days prior to sailing and we enjoyed cabin 5098 which was 25% larger than the stateroom we originally reserved. It also came with a few perks like an extra included evening in the specialty restaurants ( which we didn't use) and complimentary alcohol restocked daily (which we did). There are two specialty restaurants on board. Everyone can reserve a dinner in each one once during the course of the cruise. This first reservation is included in the fare.
Our upgraded cabin also came with more storage space. It was lovely to have the extra room. I really liked the full size sofa in the sitting area.
The ship is elegant and the ambiance is relaxing. If you want Broadway shows and large production entertainment, this is not the cruise for you. W loved the soft music in the atrium and around the pool. The chairs in the Explorer's lounge almost begged you to relax, sit back and put your feet up. One of my favorite spots on the ship was the Thermal Suite. I enjoyed several visits to this area, moving from warm pools to hot tubs and from steam room to snow grotto. There is no fee for enjoying this part of the ship as there is on other cruise lines. I also appreciated the fitness facilities which are first rate.
One of the nicest features of a Viking ocean cruise is that there is no "nickle and dime" approach. Complimentary water is restocked in your room and is handed out freely every time you exit the ship. If you want to take a towel to a beach on shore, it is assumed that you are grown up enough to bring it back. There was never a line up for anything. There was never a problem finding a seat or a lounge when you wanted one. This is a cruise for grownups.
There was an included tour at every port of call and also a selection of optional tours that appealed to people with varying interests. We took all of the included tours (and none of the optional ones). The included tours lasted anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. That was plenty long enough for us as we are not used to the heat and humidity. The guides were universally excellent. We were always back on board for lunch and then were free to explore the port on our own or else just enjoy every minute of pampering on board.
The staff on Viking was, without exception, wonderful. I don't know where they find these people. Everyone from the maintenance staff to the ship's officers, made us feel like we were valued guests. It is the main reason my husband and I keep coming back to Viking.
The only negative I can find is that the Viking experience is probably more appreciated on the European itineraries. The ports of call in Europe are more interesting - at least to us. I also used to outdoor exercise facilities more in Europe as the heat and humidity in the Caribbean made walking for long distances more uncomfortable for me.
I heard some passengers say that the food on the Oceania cruise line was better than on Viking but otherwise they compared the Viking experience favourably. I don't know as we have not traveled on Oceania yet. We are booked to do that in the next year.
The ship is spotless. I have no idea how they keep all those vast expanses of glass and chrome so free of a single fingerprint. It's a trick I would love to learn! The public spaces are comfortable and never crowded.
We are already booked on two more Viking cruises.
Embarkation and disembarkation were handled smoothly.