We were on the 12 day BKK > Bali leg.
a) The Ship
We should say up front we were wowed by the ship : immaculate and beautiful, and kept pristine by a dedicated staff. Although at 930 guests is one of the larger ships we have been on , it never felt crowded . There are loads of nooks and crannies to curl up with a book in peace and quiet.The child-free policy is another huge bonus. The Atrium is a lovely space , and we very much appreciated the “classical duo” who play there before dinner.
The pool roof is “interesting”. On our cruise it was closed a lot of the time.Why? OK if its raining , but even when sunny they kept it 2/3rd closed. Maybe it provided some extra shade , but it felt a bit steamy and claustrophobic. However , there are plenty of loungers on the open deck space if thats your preference..
The stateroom is also spacious , loads of storage space , with a good bathroom.
b) The staff
We would praise the individual waiting and stateroom staff : always ready to help and say hello. But we wonder if there is something lacking in the overall “personal focus/ touch”. Guest relations staff were often a bit “off hand”. I handed in some detailed feedback , but it was never acknowledged. Given our issues with vegetarian food , no one person took ownership of this matter.On final disembarkation , no senior staff were there to “say goodbye & thankyou”.
The “world cafe” buffet is huge so there is never any issue with overcrowding or lines. And there is excellent outdoor space on the rear deck, some in shade , some in full sun. Plenty of staff around to top up your wine or water. It is still a buffet in the evening , but we enjoyed eating outside in the warm night rather than the A/C dining room.
Of the “formal” restaurants , the main dining area is also huge. We appreciate the “free seating” policy : turn up and ask for whatever table you want. They also offer “sharing tables” : some folk like the opportunity to mix with fellow guests. The “Chefs Table” offers rather odd set menus only , and as we are vegetarian , there was nothing for us there. It did not look anything special anyway. The 3rd restaurant is Manfredi’s Italian. This by far the best , a more intimate dining experience, not quite so brightly lit as the main restaurant. It gets booked up very quickly , and repeat guests seem to book up every night as soon as they board the ship!.
Regarding food quality , I’d say it was very good, if not “fine dining”, and sometimes a little pedestrian (especially the lunchtime buffet). And its a standard 3 courses , without the extra bits & pieces/ 4 courses you get on other upmarket ships. As vegetarians , there was always one item on the menu each night , (though often boring pasta based). The Exec chef was very accommodating , and on several occasions made us bespoke “specials” . The restaurant staff made great efforts to ensure we were happy with the food, following us around the various venues with any “special order”. The pool bar , we discovered does an excellent veggie-burger and chips!.
Our only niggle was breakfast. We just want a simple spread : fruit , yogurt, bread & marmalade, but supplies were a bit erratic. Sometimes for example no bananas , or no blueberries. But then if you asked they’d sometimes materialise. (sometimes not.). Bread was limited to “supermarket sliced” or rather dry rolls. I note other reviews mention this bizarre lack of fruit (esp in the tropics!). It was never clear why this was. No-one seemed in overall charge.
The other area I felt underwhelmed by were the pre-dinner “snacks” at the bar. On Seabourn this is a real highlight : a wide choice and a real celebratory start to the evening with a sense of occasion. The Viking offering is frankly pathetic : and for us , useless (just a dry biscuit). Maybe its not a priority for the mainly American guests.
Viking offer free house wine/beer with lunch and dinner. This is perfectly drinkable. The “silver package” gives you a huge choice of better wines plus cocktails/spirits 24x7. (Incl a very drinkable Prosecco but not champagne). It was included in our “deal” , and I think that is common. If you have to pay the extra $20 pppday (every day, both guests) , I’d probably do it. Its penny pinching by Viking in my opinion to work that way but as drinks/ cocktails are $7.50+ , who wants to feel they going to be out of pocket if they have more than 3 drinks?
d) Entertainment . We didnt go to the shows , but they seemed typical cruise fare and very popular : Abba , Beatles, Broadway musicals.. The band in the nightclub were fantastic and got a real vibe going. Just a pity it all winds down at 10.30 pm! . The lectures were pretty good : the ship obviously prides itself in its “scientific” output. (the ships “godmother” is a USA astronaut , and the wall photos are all from the moon landings etc).
e) Tours : we don't really do group tours , so cannot comment, but we did hear grumbles from other guests : poorly run /over priced..
f) Fellow guests :
Almost all the guests we spoke to came to Viking Sea from Viking river, or after trying Holland America or other large ships, so although they were very happy with the Orion, in all honesty they had little other small / luxury ship experiences to compare with. Many guests were lifelong repeat “Viking only” fans. A good age demographic : 50s/60s/70s , and (almost) everyone was happy to engage in conversation from the next table at dinner.
The cruise was Bangkok to Bali via KL , Singapore and 3 ports on Java, including JAKARTA. Why on earth did they stop there? and for 2 days ! A horrible city with absolutely nothing worth getting off the ship for. I note from cruise-mapper they barely get one cruise ship a month ... says it all!
It is interesting to look up the bio of the owner Tor Hagen (on Forbes website for example) . He has a clear vision for his cruise line I much applaud. He wants to offer a high quality experience , but without the “excesses?” of butlers and 24x7 champagne and caviar. I’d say he very nearly succeeds, just a shame about some “penny pinching” and it perhaps needs a little more attention to detail.
very spacious and comfortable.