We have traveled with Viking 3 times before, but all were river cruises. We wanted to try an ocean cruse for something different. We chose the Trade Routes because the itinerary was new to us. We also have wanted to see Barcelona and the wonderful Gaudi masterpiece La Sagrada Familia. Our tour went from Bergen to Barcelona. We had the Barcelona extension which was an advantage because there were some political problems in Barcelona requiring the ship to divert to Valencia.
The shore excursions were all very well planned. They were informative and in some cases very, very entertaining. We enjoyed all of the excursions, but particularly liked our visit to the farm in Bergen. We also loved our canal cruise in Bruges. It is a great way to view the city. The Endless Bounty of Andalusia in Granada was quite different. The orchard was beautiful. We got to learn about some unusual fruits and got to sample them all while being entertained by the farmer and his well trained dog. Although Valencia was not a planned stop, this was a very interesting visit. The contrasts between the old and new parts of the city are truly amazing. A very beautiful city. We were not at all sorry that we made this stop. Really, our only disappointing stop was in Porto Portugal. The guide was not good. She showed little regard for the needs or whereabouts of some of the people in the group. She took off right at the start before everyone was even off the bus. This was the way she conducted the entire tour. She was never really aware of the group enough to know if everyone was there. We actually ended up leaving some folks behind to find there own way back to the ship. Her attitude once she realized that everyone wasn't there left a lot to be desired. I believe her statement was "Oh well they have until 5 o'clock to get back to the ship." Our group was not the only group complaining about the guides on this stop. They were not Viking Guides from the ship like we have had on some other trips for example in Russia and China. We expressed our concerns to the cruise director. She was already aware of what happened and assured us that they situation was being looked at very carefully. All made it back to the ship on time but the incident could have been avoided had the guide not been in such a rush to "get it done".
There was plenty to do on the days at sea. I took 3 different cooking classes with Chef Charles who was great! We had a blast cooking, meeting great people and eating great food. My husband took advantage of some of the lectures and found them to be very interesting.
There were so many choices for great food on board. We enjoyed the food in all the venues. Really good! We ate at the World Cafe` most nights because it was really good and provided so many choices to sample plus it was very casual. After touring mornings and afternoons somedays it was nice to not have to change before dinner. It took us a few days to realize that in the World Cafe` the line was slightly different on each side. For example one side typically had king crab claws while the other side had boiled shrimp. One side had sushi and the other side did not. One side had Gelato, the other did not. There was no problem going form one side to the other to be sure to get what you wanted. We ate at Mamsems one morning for Norwegian waffles. Loved them. We only had the opportunity to go there once. The regular dinning room was very good (ate there twice), but preferred the variety of choices at the World Cafe`
The specialty restaurants for dinner were both outstanding. We would have liked to go back to the Italian restaurant a second time but couldn't get in. The Mexican night at the Chef's Table was most unusual and the best Mexican we have ever had. Also couldn't get back there to try one of the other ethnic nights. Service was always cordial and efficient in all areas.
The evening entertainment was the absolute best of any of the Viking Ships we have been on. The Cruise Director (Heather Clancy) is a very talented opera singer herself. She put on a one women show turning those who never thought that they liked opera into believers. It seems as though she has set very high standards for the other entertainers both vocal and instrumental and has put together an excellent team. It is well worth staying to listen to this fine group of entertainers. In the lounges and all throughout the ship including the Atrium where the young violinist played we were entertained by top notch performers. Loved it!
When it was time to leave the ship everyone met in the Atrium and were guided by staff to follow a color coded grouping that allowed for orderly departure to the airport or hotel. This process was quick and efficient. When our color was called, it was easy to get off the ship and go through the terminal to find our luggage (which was tagged with matching color coded tags). The luggage was grouped into areas that were easy to locate because of the color coding. We boarded our busses and those staying for the extension were driven to the hotels. Don't miss La Sagrada Familia when in Barcelona. It is a must see for sure.
Cabin was very comfortable. Lots of closet space and plenty of room to store luggage under the bed. Roomy shower. The room steward was very friendly and always wanted to do more to please. It would have been nice to have a couple of pegs or hooks on the wall to hang jackets etc. when they were damp instead of having to put them in the closet or hang over a chair to dry.