First, this was NOT a one-week cruise. It was three one-week cruises strung together. Viking sold it as a single cruise from Athens to Barcelona. So this is my review of a 21 night cruise on Viking Sky.
It was interesting to me that when we got our post-cruise survey from Viking, they had everything listed by expectations. For instance, a question might say, "Food in the main dining room: A) Exceeded expectations B) Met expectations C) Did not meet expectations." When I thought back on it, that was my problem with Viking. After listening to friends talk about how much they love Viking, reading a FaceBook group of Viking fans, and knowing that Viking clients are incredibly loyal, I was expecting an almost perfect experience. That was my problem and not Vikings. (Viking—do your surveys online. You are doing yourself a disservice because I truly believe you get more info that way. When I only have a tiny, multiple-choice survey with little space for comments, that's all I give you.)
I also realized in retrospect that so much of what I knew I would love about Viking (I did a blog post about why we were moving to Viking, and you can read it here.) is things it does not have: kids, smoking (Ok, there is a tiny area outside, on deck 7 but Viking says "No Smoking" in their marketing), casino, ship's photographers, art auctions and more. As little things went wrong along the way, I was thinking about those things, not the things that weren't there that I loved them for. All those things were great; I just didn't think about them because they weren't there. But they really improved our cruise experience.
Our stateroom. We had what Viking calls a Penthouse Verandah . It was the largest non-suite stateroom we have ever had. 338 beautiful square feet. With so much storage. How much storage? So much so that we had an empty drawer and a junk drawer—on a ship.
We did a private tour with George of Tours By Locals. We were beyond lucky to get the incredible George C. as our guide. He took us to all the usual spots including the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Museum of Antiquities, the original Olympic stadium and the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknowns but the best place he took us was for lunch. One of the most amazing meals we have ever had. And it was at what George called, "A momma place" because they cook like your Greek momma. They brought us some of everything and we loved every bit of it. So much food and so many courses plus lots of excellent Greek wine. We ate outdoors on a shady patio next to a farmer's market. What an outstanding Greek experience. I even got a chance to do some street photography in the farmer's market.
Then it was off on our tour. We had chosen to go beyond the included tour to do one called, "Syrtaki, Greek Food & Ancient Olympia." What we got were two tours. One half was the included tour of hell (oops, I meant Olympia) and the other was absolutely wonderful food and dance experience at Syrtaki. Let me explain.
The included tour was just to the ruins of Olympia. Don't get me wrong, Olympia is fine. But to me, it's basically another big pile of rocks. I go on vacation for two reasons. To meet people in new places and to take pictures. I am a travel photographer. For this first half of this tour, there wasn't much I could take pictures of. Rock are rocks. Seen one (like on the Acropolis yesterday), and you have kind of seen them all.
When I said that our tour of Olympia was "hell" it was because of something Viking could not control—the temperature. It was well over 90 in the shade and probably well over 100 in the sun. My lovely bride does not react well to heat so she stayed at the entrance under a shady tree while I did the Bataan Death March of ancient Greek ruins.
After that we got to experience one of our least favorite things on "luxury coach" tours with a lot of people, we got to wait almost 40 minutes for one couple who was late arriving back to the bus. In fact, our driver drove around trying to find them, thinking they were in another parking lot. Our guide walked all the way back to the ruins (quite a ways) but couldn't find them. Turns out they had tired out coming back and taken a taxi to our next stop by had neglected to tell the guide or the bus driver. So much fun.
Our next stop was the Greek food cooking and tasting part of the excursion. The place we went was beautiful and they jumped right in pouring water and wine and getting food demos started with six from our group making tzatziki. Then another group made zucchini fritters (deep fried) to go with the tzatziki. Finally, the last group rolled out some phyllo dough to make Greek cheese pies (also deep fried). As soon as they had those done they invited everyone to not only eat those but an entire buffet spread. It all looked incredible but since we were going to Manfreddis that night we decided to eat light. We tried a few things and loved them all.
At this point (realize it is now 5:15 pm and the ship wants everyone back by 6:00) and a troupe of Greek dancers starts to entertain. We thought, OK, they will do two dances and we will be out of here in plenty of time to get back by 6:00 (the ship was about 35 minutes away). But no, they danced right up until 5:45 and the big problem was...they were GREAT! Hilarious. I have to say that everyone had a wonderful time with them. They dragged a bunch of people onto the dance floor and even had some people dancing on the tables. They were outstanding.