We chose to travel on the Viking Sea (10 day cruise) from San Juan, Puerto Rico to San Juan, Puerto Rico, because we liked the look of the itinerary, and the fact that it has been voted the top cruise line for the last 4 years.
We were amazed by the ship on embarking. It is a stunning, beautiful ship decorated in a Scandinavian style. Our first reaction was that this was going to be a wonderful cruise. Unfortunately, it all went down hill from there.
For an expensive 6* cruise line the cabins are tight and drawer space is at a premium. When comparing the cabins to Azamara for example they do not seem any bigger, although the bathrooms are a significant improvement. I am guessing that they have improved the bathroom size at the expense of draw space in the cabin.
We like to eat on deck under the stars. This facility was not available on board the Viking Sea, unless one ate at the back of the ship adjoining the buffet restaurant. However, in this case there is no waiter service. Guests had to take food from the buffet.
Service around the pool deck was almost non existent until I complained. It was then significantly improved. In addition the service outside at the back of the ship was also poor. Sometimes it was impossible to find a waiter, but at other times it was better.
Most of the sun loungers around the pool deck have no mattresses, and the towels are very small. They cover the upright back of the lounger, and possibly a third of the horizontal part of the seat. They are grossly uncomfortable and I am sure contributed to a back problem I currently have.
The policy on the ship seems to be to close the roof on the sun deck at the merest hint of rain. The temperatures in the Caribbean hover at around 30 c and closing the roof for no very good reason serves to make the conditions on deck almost intolerable. I can only assume that they are scared of getting the deck wet.
In the main the food offering is very good. However, one of the specialist restaurants (Chef’s Table - Asian Fusion), we found very challenging. There is no choice - it is a fixed menu. Although it is changed every three days. We ate there twice, and on both occasions found that there were courses we could not eat.
The entertainment was meagre. There were no outside entertainers. There were just 3 production shows, the cruise director doing an Elvis impersonation, and the Assistant cruise director doing a show (she was superb). Other entertainment was the Super Bowl (not very interesting to non- Americans), and a televised Oscar ceremony. Turandot was shown two days running, and 2 other films. Really, it was all rather poor.
Around the ship was a classical string duo, and a classical pianist. Most of the time the music took on a funereal quality. The result was the lounges were very often empty or near empty. In fact we often said the ship felt a little like a ghost ship.
There was also a guitarist. On him I can make no comment as I never heard him play.
Apart from enrichment lectures, and trivia quizzes held rather bizarrely at 20.15, no other on board activities were offered. There is no card room or organised or disorganised bridge. We asked at guest relations if they could provide us with some playing cards. All they were able to come up with was an old pack held together with a rubber band, and a non matching set of picture cards. We were also told that we would have to sign for these - mind boggling.
The crew were very friendly and smiling. There were simply not sufficient. Viking runs their ship with approx 2 guests to 1 crew member. Other lines with similar reputations have between 1.5 and 1.7 crew per guest. This probably is the main cause for the service difficulties we encountered.
We have travelled on Crystal, Silversea, Seabourn, Azamara, and Oceania. All comparable products. Unfortunately, Viking does not meet the standards of its competitors, and feels like it is being run on the cheap.