We chose this cruise based on the itinerary and our desire to get out of the Northeast in the late winter. It was also a plus to have a short flight to Florida and to stay in the same time zone. One of the things Viking does best is to get their passengers and luggage to the ship easily (assuming you purchase air through Viking). This was the case for this cruise. However, there was a huge back-up at the cruise terminal because the Sea was delayed getting back to port due to bad weather, and there was a delay getting passengers off the ship. The situation also delayed the crew's being able to start prepping the ship for new passengers. Our cruise passengers stood around in the terminal for several hours without chairs or benches to sit on nor were there any updates about when we would be able to get on board. So much for having a cabin category with early access to it!
This was our seventh cruise with Viking....four ocean, three river. The room and ship amenities are at a very high level. The staff is friendly and professional. Many options for snacking, relaxing and general hanging out on the ship. Each ship (either ocean or river) is laid out similarly so unless it's your first Viking cruise, you know where to find things. Two pools, several bars and quiet areas offer choices for things to do. Programs during the daytime and at night offer interesting options. Movies, variety shows, talks and overviews of upcoming stops/tours are some of the activities offered. There is a nightclub and also a library so a wide selection of activity is available. Windows everywhere to enjoy the view!
Both the included tours as well as those tours booked at an additional cost are done well. This is especially true with the guide and (included) tour we had in Cozumel. The two extra tours we booked - both were spend-a-day-at-the-beach events - one was outstanding (sail to Van Jost), and the other just okay (Barbados). The included tours on the other islands were mostly just okay. Not all was the fault of the tour guides; the islands were (and are) still recovering from hurricane damage, particularly from Hurricane Maria. Damage of infrastructure and island daily living is apparent and widespread. A couple of the tours were designed for tour participants to buy, buy, buy. This is not the fault of Viking but perhaps of the individual island tour companies. As always, spend what you want and where you want.
One thing we've learned during our Viking cruising is that it's okay to stay on board the ship; don't feel intimidated to go out. The ship is a lovely place to spend time. We had already been to several of the islands so we chose to take the included tours only and stay on board. If this is your first time at any one of the islands, it is a good thing to take advantage of the included tours to get an overview of the island and it's culture.
As to the restaurants, all are excellent. Note that with the exception of Manfredi's and the Chef's Table, no reservations are taken. Tables can seat as few as two or as many as eight, perhaps more. If you have that many, the maitre d' would appreciate hearing about it in advance. The menus are all interesting, but if something doesn't interest you, the chef will make something special. The restaurant servers are so nice and professional, and you may see them in other capacities around the ship!
Saving the best comments to last. What we like best is the lesser number of passengers on Viking ships. The ocean ships generally have only 900+ passengers (the rivers with 150 passengers or so depending on the river/itinerary). It is an intimate atmosphere that encourages cruisers to get to know one another (or not). Docking next to one of the multiple-thousand cruise ships is a shock. Seems like there is little freedom to "ad lib" your time on board or off board. The crew on Viking gets to know you (calls you by name) early on. It's like traveling with family.
We can't wait to travel with Viking again!
PS The reason for the four star instead of a five star review....the wait at the outset was not pleasant. The island tours were not up to Viking standards but this was not Viking's fault. Viking should take the lead to preview/update the independent tour offerings.
Nicely laid out. Roomy enough for the two of us. Bathroom has heated floors - great! Lovely to have a veranda to enjoy a beverage, read a book or just enjoy the view.