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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2019
We had cruised December last year on Viking Sea to Cuba. Our friends from cold northern US wanted to go to the Caribbean and this cruise had a different island per day with no sea days. We got cabins on 5th floor near the free ... Read More
We had cruised December last year on Viking Sea to Cuba. Our friends from cold northern US wanted to go to the Caribbean and this cruise had a different island per day with no sea days. We got cabins on 5th floor near the free laundry (including soap) as no noise and convenient to wash clothes . I think a laundry room on all cabin floors. Needed as Hot and at itmes muggy and hit the beach several times. Cabins seem like they have little storage but ask for more hangers and you will have plenty of storage. Bathroom floor is heated so if bathroom too hot ask your steward to turn the heat off. We asked for 4 towels a day as needed to wash off after beach and in AM. AC works beautifully. Verandas big enough and if want to lounge in sun, lots of lounge chairs and towels near the aft infinity pool and central pool. Infinity pool bromine I think and the central pool a salt water pool (notice how much more boyant you are.)One end of the pool is shallower than the other so you can stand up (if not too short). Both nicely warm. No fighting over lounge chairs so no need to come early and “stake your property” Neither pool ever have many people in it and usually then only to get wet and back to their lounge chair. We only took the included tours or got a private taxi-van. Most taxis are vans. On some included tours transport was packed tight and others lots of room to spread out. Usually morning tours more packed than afternoon. AC on all except Tortola with was an open tram (nice breeze and cool enough). San Juan: nice walking tour and covers all but the Morro fortress. We were there during the San Sebastian festival so the free tram from fort to fort not running. Tortola: incl tour: open air tram with spacious seating and great views. Pro and Con: 1.5 hr at Cane Beach and no way to bail and go back. Lovely white sugar white sand beach with tourqoiuse gentle water. There are umbrellas and lounge chairs you can rent or sit on some picnic tables in the shade or up in the shaded open deck restaurant for the cost of a drink. Tour gives a free rum punch or punch drink near the picnic tables. Nice restrooms, showers and changing rooms free there. Basseterre: We walked ato the end of the pier and got a $100USD total for van private tour of the island. (Lasted 4 hrs but no time limit) .Just keep walking off pier and prices get cheaper. Romney manor and batik making, black rocks, fort and many scenic view points. Castries: awesome long beach nearby. We took tranport offered by pier. They load you up tight in vans (the drivers get one load a day and 300 vans waiting to take people). About a 5min drive (or 2-3 mi walk) to the beaches- really only one beach with mulitple names. Set fee all transport for $5USD/pp. Again sugar white beach. Multiple establishments with drinks, umbrellas etc. Umbrella and 2-3 chair rental $20. Water gentle, turquoise. Beach fills up so come early. Some of us snorkeled- some fish seen. Shipwreck put for snorkeling you can swim to but many tour boats and many many snorkelers there with glass bottom boat meandering among the snorklers. Showers, restrooms and changing room free. Get back by telling your driver when you want ot come back or just walk out and someones van will be waiting . Bridgetown: inc tour: packed tight van/bus. Views of island Roseau: got a private tour for 4 $45/pp Went to other side of island and saw multiple falls St Johns: had a reservation to go out in a boat to a reef and get into the water and feed and stingrays for 9AM.Make reservation online-no money down and pay when you show up. Need to take a taxi out there. BUT was squalling and raining so cancelled the reservation. Took the incl tour to Shirely point old fort and magnificant views and then to the Nelso shipyards- 1700’s georgian working shipywards- neat old buildings,nice quick museum and awesome awesome yahts moored there. Free rum punch or punch drink. Spit rain on us once in a while but still a great day. Nice bus where we could spread out a bit Philipsburg: I wanted to go out to Cul de Sac bay and kayak and snorkel or take a water taxi out to an island there but I got overruled by my “crew” We instead went on the included tour. Bus big enough we all could spread out. A couple got on our bus instead of an optional tour at the same time- so check carefully what you are getting on. Drove around island and stopped at some scenic sites, stopped a working carosel (adults can ride too- can buy icecream) then on to a bay and craft market. Free rum punch or punch. Charlotte Amalie: My crew off to Coki beach to snorkel then maybe the included tour. I stayed and enjoyed hte salt water pool,only a few couples spread out on the lounge chairs. Pros and cons of boat Pros: -you see lots and lots of differnet islands- some rainforest and some very dry desert like, come with mangoose so no snakes or birds, some still exporting agriculture goods and some just tourist based. -no children -wonderful friendly crew -great food. I was not impressed iwth Mandifredi’s on both of my cruises but the men love it for the rib eye steak. Chef’s reataurant-wanderful if you like the menu. We did not drink either included or optional wine pairing. World buffet great as food same as Restaurant (check the menu to see if any differences ) and usually has the same food. Hamburger I got at the pool once was just so so. -drinks- only had water, hot and cold tea. My husband says the coke is the good real sugar type not the corn syrup variety. -secret- success cake in Mamsons is our favorite -Room and veranda pleasant. -in public areas or tovrasons- Guitarist was great. - Easy on and off boat even when tendering- well organized so no pushy people. -Pools- wonderful. Loved especially the central saltwater pool -record and play on entertainment system all shore talks and enrichment talks done on board -Wifi good for email. I didn’t try streaming Cons: -saltwater pool out of commission while painting for multiple days -entertainment system pauses( I timed at every 3 min), loose audio when restarts. So unpleasant to watch the shows which were actually probably very good. BBC, Ted Talks, Movie selection good but hard to watch. -entertainment limited. Music in public areas; Pianist (good), strings dueo-selections good but one of violinist strings seemed to need tuning, and acoustic guitarist- very good. Live shows in theater were only a few and even though the entertainers were cute my neices’s Boise ID high school productions had better singers. Suggestion: Seems rain is in AM and gone by 11AM. Plan accordingly. But if going to the beaches go early if not raining. Lots of lovely beaches on most islands. Do some internet searching and plan an early attack with a taxi. Feeding the sting rays (www.stingraycity.com) not on tour options and sorry we couldn’t go because of rain. You can reserve on your own but reveiws say after 10AM full from cruise ships. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
BACKGROUND INFO: We have done many cruises on many different lines, Silversea, Seabourn, Azamara, Celebrity, RCCL, Holland America, Paul Gauguin. We have done majority of our cruises on Silversea and wanted to see what Regent was all ... Read More
BACKGROUND INFO: We have done many cruises on many different lines, Silversea, Seabourn, Azamara, Celebrity, RCCL, Holland America, Paul Gauguin. We have done majority of our cruises on Silversea and wanted to see what Regent was all about since fellow Silversea cruisers spoke highly of Regent. You never know if a cruise line is for you unless you try it for yourself. We live in Florida so we didnt need a hotel or airfare for this cruise, we just drove to the port of Miami and parked across the street from the ship which was very convenient. EMBARKATION: It was a bit slower than usual for a smaller ship but I think that was because we arrived right when 2 buses pulled up filled with passengers from the local hotel. But considering the number of people arriving at the same time, we were process fairly quickly and easily. We stepped on the ship and were immediately greeted with a glass of champagne and were informed that our suites were already available so we made our way to our suite to drop off our hand luggage. CABIN: We had a deluxe veranda, suite 816, slightly forward of mid ship. Room is good size..comparable to the type of room we get on Silversea and Seabourn. This ship was refurbished a couple years ago we were told but there were elements in the room that didnt seem to have been changed. The cabinetry in the bathroom looked kinda old. The room was decorated nicely, but didn’t have a luxurious wow factor. Just nice. The room did lack in storage. There is a nice walk in closet typical of most luxury ships but it lacked storage in the room. Normally in the living area, there are drawers or some type of wall storage , but there was none. No shelving on either side of tv. And below tv, was just a desk, with a fridge on one side and a big cabinet full of glasses which is wasted space. Only 2 tiny drawers in bedside tables. We did like the high and large coffee table in front of sofa as it was perfect both in size and height for room service. Bed was very comfortable, one of the most comfortable on a luxury ship. Water pressure was great and we had fantastic suite attendants who maintained the room. Everything was always perfect. We could hear our neighbors a bit through the walls, which was a first for us. Usually we hear nothing. SHIP: . After unpacking we explored the ship. Its a nice ship and we could notice many of the public areas that had received refurbishment. But there seemed to be a disconnect in terms of style. In some places, it seemed kinda modern luxury, other places sort of French in style...didnt seem to flow well, but was still pretty and ship appeared to be in good condition. We loved the huge pool deck area with lots of chairs. Larger than what we expected but during the cruise we did find it difficult to find a couple chairs together. Pool was always packed and forget about trying to get a lounger in the shade along the sides....folks must get out there early to lay their claim. We also enjoyed that large walking track above the pool and the putting green, shuffleboard , croquet at front of ship. DINING: Food is very subjective but we found the buffets at breakfast and lunch to be lacking in variety compared to Silversea and Seabourn’s buffets. After a couple days we avoided the buffet. Normally for breakfast we ate at Compass Rose which is the main dining room and for lunch we always ate at the pool grill, both were pretty good. Nothing to write home about, but good. They seemed to shine when it came to dinner. Everything we had was very good. I thought the variety on the main dining room menu was better than Silversea and SEabourn. They have one side of the menu of items always available (same every night) and the other side is chefs specials. Food was excellent. It did seem that perhaps they are short handed in the dining room. Service was good, but waiters always seemed worn out and rushed due to the number of tables they were responsible for. The specialty restaurants were Sette Mari, (Italian), Chartreuse ( French)and Prime 7 (steakhouse). We ate all of them and found them all to be excellent! Service was probably the best at Sette Mari. My only complaint is their reservation system for reserving specialty restaurants. You have 2 mos before cruise to reserve a table at Prime 7 and Chartreuse. Once on board the first day, I tried to get a 2nd res at Prime 7 but was told no , that I had to wait until day 3 to ask for a second one. They want to give everyone a chance to eat there at least once. But in my opinion,everyone has had 2 mos to reserve a table, if you fail to plan your cruise, res should open to anyone first come first served once on board. They also are lacking table for 2... mostly big tables and we dont like to share tables. I dont want to meet strangers at dinner. So this was a big negative for us. ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVIITIES: Typical of most luxury cruises, its a mix of the ship’s singer/dancers/performers and then random one man shows. We did all the ship’s performers nights but skipped all the other evenings. Their performers are good, but the productions are obviously not of the quality and wow factor of a bigger ship...so it was par for the course for a luxury cruise...entertaining but again nothing to write home about. The only show we skipped was one that was music from before our time. Same with the one man shows ...the content didnt sound interesting to us (46 and 51). The shows appeal to an older crowd, which is the majority of their clientele ...at least on our cruise, the average age was much older. We were definitely one of the youngest on board. We didnt participate in other activities such as trivia, bridge etc...all the usual ones... SERVICE: Regent truly excels here. Service was excellent across the board. We met a lot of wonderful crew members who treated us like gold....felt like we were good friends right from the beginning ! We had dinner one night with one of the ship’s officers and he couldn’t have been nicer. Sometimes, those dinners can be awkward and tedious trying to find common ground to discuss, but it was super easy and fun with him. EXCURSIONS: Excursions are included in price of cruise. We did excursions at every stop except for Grand Cayman and Key West. Excursions were fine, some better than others. OUr favorite was ATVs in both Cozumel and Costa Maya. Our least favorite was Mayan ruins in Belize...that was mainly because of the terrible old school buses they use ...extremely bumpy ride and it was a lot of driving. Couldn’t wait to be done with it. Harvest Caye Belize’s is a private island owned by Norwegian and its fantastic!!! we would love to go back. This place is beautiful with lots to do fo everyone . There’s a huge beach with hundreds of chairs, restaurants, bars, shopping, zip line, water sports....aviary...its awesome!!!! A must do!!!!! Wish we had skipped our excursion here and spent more time on the private island. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We chose this cruise to give Regent a try. We do about 4-6 cruises a year on premium and luxury lines (Seabourn, SilverSea, Celebrity, Azamara, Paul Gauguin, etc.). We have been watching for a Regent cruise to depart from our local ports ... Read More
We chose this cruise to give Regent a try. We do about 4-6 cruises a year on premium and luxury lines (Seabourn, SilverSea, Celebrity, Azamara, Paul Gauguin, etc.). We have been watching for a Regent cruise to depart from our local ports in FL and this one popped in and worked with our schedule. Boarding the ship at Terminal J in Miami was easy as usual. Boarding the ship was like the rest, champagne and a warm welcome. Suites were ready right away. The public areas on the ship are nicely appointed with a modern update on the aging ship (completed 2003). You can clearly see where the original features exist and where it has been updated in 2016 in its last refurbishment. For example, old marble, brass railings, heavy hard to open sliding veranda doors, plywood painted cabinets in the bathrooms compared to the modern furniture, carpets, linens and serving items. Soft renovation versus a hard one. Walking through the main areas upon entering the ship gave me hope that the ship had a nice modern style throughout, but entering the corridors and staterooms quickly changed that vision. The staterooms felt like stepping back in time to an old French hotel. The carpet we peeling away from the walls, separating at seams and sofa had stains. The bathroom had the original fixtures which were clean, but the cabinets were simply painted plywood, would close and looked very cheap. The wood in the stateroom was high gloss look and has permanent fingerprints all over. I tried to wipe them off. The size and layout is common and decent for a long cruise. The only frustration with layout was the lack of storage in the room. Aside from the walk-in closet with about 6 drawers there is no other usable storage in the stateroom. Under the sink was filled with extra supplies. The desk area is a fridge on one side and glasses and various other items on the other. You have two small tables on either bedside, but the drawers are too small to be practically used. Restaurants were all decent food wise, but not as good as SilverSea or Seabourn. Steaks are all pre-cooked and just re-fired for warmth and sometimes barely warm. Sides and desserts were better than the main courses I tried. Wine and other beverage selections were quite good. The buffet areas at La Veranda and the Pool Grill are very narrow and get quite crowded. The salad area and cold fixings area food were warm, never kept cold and crisp. Other food in both areas were great. Bars were a lot of fun and most times get good crowds for socializing. Music options are all venues were quite good. Entertainment casts were good, but not like you'd find on a big ship. To me that isn't a bad thing per se. Large ships have bigger budgets and venues were smaller ships often have good talent who work within the smaller venues and theaters. No complaints on entertainment, just observational comparison. At the end of the day it was the amazing crew and passengers that made the cruise for us. Crew was very friendly, service attentive and professional. Passengers were a good mix of ages from 40's on up to still living and most were quite social. Ports of call and excursions were good for the places we visited and no complaints there. I would do Regent again, but I would prefer not to go back to Voyager unless the itinerary is unique and bucket list worthy. We did hear multiple staff say that since NCL bought Regent the focus has been primarily on money and not passenger experience. Miami based cruises get a lot of corporate guests from NCL and crew feel the pressure. Some worry that the few years under NCL has made a dent in Regent's luxury offerings and worry it won't make them better in the long run. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We choose Viking to visit Norway in January, as if the weather was going to be inclement, we would have luxury on board, and we were not disappointed! From the first moment we arrived at Tilbury, a porter was waiting to take our luggage ... Read More
We choose Viking to visit Norway in January, as if the weather was going to be inclement, we would have luxury on board, and we were not disappointed! From the first moment we arrived at Tilbury, a porter was waiting to take our luggage from the car. We proceeded through check in where there were no queues and was very fast and efficient. We were welcomed on board with a glass of sparkling wine and from that first moment to the very end of our trip, we were made to feel very welcome and at home. We were again welcomed in our stateroom by Shella, who was our attendant. She happily explained how to use all the facilities in the room and other useful information, such as where the self service laundry was, which incidentally is complimentary and even provides the detergent! We were in a normal balcony stateroom on the third deck, but it was very spacious and every small detail has been thought about. There is a hairdryer, shoe horn, clothes brush, minibar which is included, a coffee maker, a dressing table with large mirror, but also part of the top of the dressing table lifts up to reveal a small vanity unit with a light up mirror. The lighting is also excellent, and can be controlled from the bed, including strip lighting for use during the night. The bathroom was also brilliant with underfloor heating, a proper glass door on the shower cubicle, very nice toiletries and as many soft fluffy towels as you could possibly wish for, along with bathrobes and slippers. I must just add that the room was serviced twice a day and there was never even a mark on the chrome taps, spotless! The restaurants are all fabulous, with a great variety of choice. The speciality restaurants you need to book, but this is easily done either on the Viking App which is very easy to use, or at the World Café. I can honestly say that the quality of both the food and service are the best we have ever experienced. We had the silver spirits package, because we have been caught out by other cruise lines, who charge very high rates for their wines and cocktails, but on Viking Sky the prices were very reasonable, approximately $6 per glass of wine or beer. The bars and lounge areas are exceptionally comfortable and nowhere on board ever feels crowded, even on sail days. The spa and gym are also wonderful. Like everywhere on board the changing rooms have all the little extras that make this ship so special. You use your room key to use the lockers and each one is equipped with flip flops for use in the spa, towels, a hanger for your clothes and even a shaving kit! We used and thoroughly enjoyed the steam room, the snow grotto (but not for very long!), pool and hot tub. We do not usually need much in the way of on board ship entertainment, so did not go to any of the shows in the theatre, but we did enjoy the live music supplied in the Viking Bar and Explorers Lounge in the evenings, provided by very proficient musicians and they also covered a wide range of genres. We also enjoyed the electronic games tables and placing the odd piece into a jigsaw. The tours were also to a very high standard and you really do feel that you are being treated as very special visitors, not just another load of tourists. We were very lucky and delighted to get to see the amazing spectacle that is the northern lights, and although it is a quiet ship, announcements are made in all public areas and you can receive them in your room during the night by leaving the TV on the bridge cam channel with the sound turned up. Disembarkation was as fast and efficient and simple as embarkation. When the coach arrived at Bergen airport we were asked to wait in the warm on the coach whilst the baggage was unloaded, which only took a couple of minutes and when we got off our suitcases were already stacked on a trolley ready to go. What can I say to be negative about this holiday, well the only possible thing I can think of is that they have probably spoilt any future holidays with another travel company, as we now know what level of comfort and service can be provided. Huge thanks to all the Viking team, not forgetting the booking staff, for a wonderful all round experience, keep up the fantastic work. Very much looking forward to our next trip, Imperial Jewels of China in April, Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
If you are young, successful and looking for fun over a visit to a funeral director to discuss a whole ship ready for their wills to be read, then this would not be the ship you want. Sadly, they just did an expensive renovation, trying ... Read More
If you are young, successful and looking for fun over a visit to a funeral director to discuss a whole ship ready for their wills to be read, then this would not be the ship you want. Sadly, they just did an expensive renovation, trying to put new lipstick on an old pig. They feel and look of the old part of the ship, shows its sagging age and the Chinese who just bought it, are clearly doing to the passengers, what they have done to our trade deficit over the last 20 years. Taking taking and taking, skimping on the return and clearly showing the cost cutting measures over the expensive lavish experience one expects from a 6 star experience. I am not sure who is giving out 6 stars anymore, but for sure , crystal has paid for such an advertisement with Travel and Leisure magazine, because there is no way they are 6 stars. They are lucky if they pass the 3.5 mark. The staff is lovely, but clearly they cut back on the European quality of staff that they had, for the much less expensive and clearly not AAA diamond or Forbes 5 star trained by any stretch of the imagination. Be sure to use a travel agent and never go directly through Crystal directly, as they will make promises over the phone, and through "off the record" text messages to your personal cell phone, but will deny anything was ever promised, if lord for bid, you ever do not save the text. I saved the text and they still denied that they offered anything more than a room that would have been more luxurious if it was the engine room, versus the old, dilapidated rooms that they put you in, where about 30% of all the items in the room, either broke, failed to work properly, or needed total replacing. The new Chinese owners have been so cheap on their takeover that the staff and former guests have NO PROBLEM, telling you all the things that they cut out, stopped offering without "special ordering" or clearly are sub par, such as the entertainment shows on board, and the age of the rooms, showroom, certain bars and the handles on doors. Most door handles have a metallic base that seems to start becoming very abrasive as the sea water rots them away and they don't want to replace them because they are too cheap. They replace all lighting with fluorescent light bulbs. But they were so cheap, they kept the old dimmers made for incandescent light bulbs and when you try to dim the lights, they flicker and give you a headache. That is if the cheap old dimmers even work at all, both of mine broke within one week after I boarded. My main cabin door had a huge crack in the side, they spent two hours fixing it. They have overcharged for things they never advised they were charging for, and they were almost totally forgetting to pick me up prior to the disembarkation due to schedule problems. It has been such a mess, I would not want you to travel on Crystal if I WAS PAYING FOR YOUR TRIP. I would not want you to sue me because the free cruise was so bad, you wanted all the money back that you never paid. It can be that bad at times. Try a newer ship, a better attitude and not a company that has new owners that are so upset about the cost of ownership, that they cut at every corner and you feel it from the moment you walk on board. Please do your homework, and make sure that you ask lots of questions, because "all inclusive" include lots of FREE HEADACHES AND NIGHTMARES that they do not offer FREE TYLENOL for. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
It is probably important for you to know my family and I are seasoned cruisers. Over the past 25 years we’ve sailed a total of 31 times on Celebrity, Holland America, Cunard, Princes, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, NCL, and MSC. This was ... Read More
It is probably important for you to know my family and I are seasoned cruisers. Over the past 25 years we’ve sailed a total of 31 times on Celebrity, Holland America, Cunard, Princes, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, NCL, and MSC. This was our first sailing with Viking Ocean. We’ve wanted to try another upscale, luxury line after sailing on Azamara a few years ago, but have never been ready to spend the extra money, which typically cost $400 to $500 a day, per person. We picked this cruise largely because it was a Northern Lights cruise in an area of the world we had never been, the Arctic Circle. The question is was the Viking Sky worth three to four times the cost of mainline cruises? One note of caution: even though we thought were prepared for the cold temperatures that awaited us, we discovered that we had not anticipated the severity of the bitter cold temperatures we would face and the length of time we would be exposed to them. On several days temperatures dropped to -25 F and we spent up to 5 hours on day without a break other than a camp fire. More about this later. Overview The Viking Ocean is a smaller ship than many of those found with the major lines, but not the smallest of the luxury lines, with 930 passengers. One of the more noticeable differences about sailing on some smaller ships is the lack of public areas from which to choose, less entertainment choices, and smaller cabins. Those deficiencies were really not present on the Viking Sky, which is one of the finest ships we have sailed on in terms of style and amenities. I really didn’t feel like I was on a small ship, even though there were fewer common areas. I can’t really say there is any more or less feeling of crowdedness on the smaller ships than with a larger ship. It seems to be all relative to the space per person. Where I did notice a difference was embarking or disembarking the ship. The smaller number of passengers reduced the lines and wait times considerably. Another benefit of sailing on a smaller ship was the nimbleness they have over their larger brethren to alter their itinerary or add a fresh food to the menu. The public rooms are nicely done and have a feel of warmth and elegance. There are four dining options aboard the Viking Sky making it equal to or a step above larger ships. The state rooms are among the most efficient and modern we have encountered. I loved the heated floor in the bath room and linens are a step above what you would expect from the more major cruise lines. Unlike many other lines, Viking Ocean is an oenophile’s heaven as wine is embraced and welcomed. You can bring onboard as much wine as you can carry and there is no corkage fee! All totaled, we noticed very few weaknesses, and there really wasn’t a lack of things to do, especially if you enjoy lectures, which is a feature of Viking. I think what was noticeable is what was missing, no art auctions, pushy promotions, a casino, baked Alaska parades, and much of the other glitzy fluff found on most other lines. Many frequent sailors of Viking Ocean that have tried other luxury lines like Oceania, Azamara, Seaborne, Regent and Crystal, swear that Viking Ocean is the gold standard for luxury cruises. The bottom line question: is Viking Ocean worth four to five times the cost of other upscale lines like Celebrity? I will address that later, but first a few more details. Embarkation The embarkation experience was one of the best in our 31 sailings. It took about ten minutes from start to finish. There were no lines, no customs, no waits, and no hassle. I only wish all our embarkations were this easy (see my 2013 review of the Infinity). Wine lovers will love that, unlike Celebrity who confiscated our wine when we sailed them in 2013, Viking Ocean welcomes bringing as much wine and spirits that you wish on board. While we often bring wine onboard cruises from our cellar, we’ve learned to become very creative in how we bring our wine onboard so as to avoid confiscation. Not so with Viking Ocean that also charges the lowest corkage fee of any line we know, which is zero!! Viking Ocean’s attitude toward wine certainly is one of the benefits that may bring us back again. The Ship The ship was new in 2017 and it really shows. We haven’t taken pictures of a cruise ship in years, but we did of the Viking Sky. The contemporary design coupled with the modern efficiency of the ship were stunning. There were a lot of places to sit and read a book, or write a cruise review, while enjoying a cup of espresso or a drink. One benefit is that the elevators were the fastest I’ve encountered on a ship and almost always available without a long wait. Dining If food is your thing, like it is mine, then you will be very satisfied on the Viking Sky. All of the dining rooms feature “anytime” seating. While the main dining room, The Restaurant, doesn’t accept reservations, we never had to wait more than 2 minutes for a table for two. Every other evening we skipped the main dining room and spent our evening in one of the two specialty restaurants, Manfredi’s or the Chef’s Table. One tip is to book your reservations immediately when you board. These fill up quickly and getting reservations later in the cruise, especially at Manfredi's can be difficult. The food quality and presentation in The Restaurant was certainly above average and what you would expect for an upper end cruise line. All of the waiters and waitresses who served us were extremely personable, helpful, and attentive. However, we enjoyed the service in the specialty restaurants a bit better than in the main dining room. The specialty restaurants, Manfredi’s and Chef’s Table, have no cover charge. They offer passengers a break from the main dining room with a quality of fare a slight step above. Manfredi’s features a wonderful Italian menu while Chef’s Table offers a set menu that changes every three days. One experience we’ve come to enjoy on other ships that would be fitting to an upscale ship like the Viking Sky would be an automated wine bar where guests can enjoy an assortment of wine available in 1oz, 2.5oz, and 5oz pours. This allows you to inexpensively sample a broad variety of wines you might not otherwise have the courage to try. One thing we appreciate about Viking Ocean is the fact that juice and espresso coffee drinks are available anytime during the day at no charge. Some lines make free juice available only in the mornings and charge for all espresso drinks. Wine As we mentioned earlier, we were especially pleased with how Viking Ocean embraces and welcomes wine lovers who want to bring their wines on board to enjoy. One of my perennial complaints on other lines, like Celebrity, is the high price of their onboard wines, which are priced about 4x’s retail, they also have the highest corkage fee of any line at $25 a bottle. Of course, since Celebrity will confiscate all but two bottles of wine you bring on board to enjoy, what’s the point of having a corkage fee at all? We found the Viking Sky was unequaled in being the most wine friendly cruise line we’ve sailed. The per bottle charges were reasonable and there are no corkage fees. One deviation from other lines is that the Viking Sky had noticeably fewer wine events than other lines. They had a few whiskey, vodka, and aquavit tastings, but no wine tastings that I recall. Fitness and Spa This is an area in which the Viking Sky is slightly above average. While they don’t have a lot of cardiovascular machines (three stationary bikes, two elliptical machines, six treadmills, and two stair-steppers) I never only had to wait for a machine once in 12 days. Notably, and unusual for most lines, every cardio machine was working for length of the cruise. Another abnormality, the men’s locker’s worked perfectly and there were a sufficient number of lockers which were all keyed to your stateroom key. The men’s locker room featured a dry sauna and plunge pool. The sauna was perfectly hot and in working order for the cruise. On many other cruise lines the saunas just don’t get hot enough to break much of a sweat, but this is not the case on the Viking Sky. There was also an area with hot tubs, cool rooms, and a steam sauna. One unique feature was an individual dryer for your swim suit that was really helpful. An extra bonus was the spa did not have a daily charge, which can cost up to $20 a day on other lines. Entertainment We thought the entertainment was surprisingly good for a smaller ship. The Cruise Director, Drew, and his assistant, Courtney, had amazing voices and both did their own shows which were very enjoyable. This is more probably due to the lack of a theater than anything else. It was refreshing that the Viking Sky had a live band rather than rely on sound tracks, which is becoming common on other cruise lines. The theater is quite expansive and comfortable. We never had a problem finding a seat in or near the front row. The onboard entertainment found in the lounges was very good. There wasn’t a disappointing instrumentalist or singer in the lineup, which is certainly unusual on a small ship. In contrast was our experience on Azamara where there wasn’t a lounge entertainer that rose above substandard. The enrichment talks were really outstanding, again in contrast with our experience on Azamara where they were consistently disappointing. We had four lecturers on board who were all phenomenal in their field. We were especially treated by having Dr. Ed Kopp from the Griffin Observatory in Los Angeles who was outstanding. Internet I run a small business and being connected to my staff is imperative, even on vacation. I depend on having a functioning Internet while on board any ship. The Internet on the ship was as good as or better than any I’ve had at sea. I got access 95% of the times I attempted to get online. And the fact the Internet was free was an experience I’ve never had with another line. On Azamara I paid $0.43 a minute for their lease expensive package. Having access to the internet on all my devices whenever I wanted it without having to pay attention to my usage was a game changer for me. For that reason alone Viking Ocean will be at the top of my list for future cruise consideration. Shopping The shopping experience is on par with most every other cruise line, boring! There is nothing exceptional to highlight here, except that they did not bombard you with specials and promotions which was refreshing. Afternoon Tea I have never reviewed an afternoon tea experience on a ship as most are not worth mentioning. However, the afternoon tea on the Viking Sky was the best we have had at sea. Not only are you served a three tier plate of sandwiches and desserts, they will also bring you proper sconces with jam and Devonshire cream. Yes, real clotted cream not the standard whipped cream. I don’t recall Cunard Line served clotted cream, but I can tell you no other ship I’ve been on has. This was a real treat! Ports of Call, Port Talks and Shore Excursions Our 12 day cruise started in London, England and went up the west coast of Norway, stopping at Stavanger, Bodo, Tromso, Alta, Narvik, and Bergen where we disembarked. The specific theme for this cruise was chasing the Northern Lights. And “chasing” is the right term. I was unprepared for how difficult it would be to see the Northern Lights. I assumed we would see them often or every night from the ship. I was wrong! The guides will tell you there are four things necessary to see the Northern Lights, but I say there are five: solar activity, cold weather, darkness, a clear sky, and luck. If any one of those is absent you will not be successful. The hardest one of these was a clear sky, which thwarted our efforts to see the lights continuously. While there was one really good sighting from the ship, it came and went very quickly. To see the lights really necessitated booking a Northern Lights tour that attempted to find a clear sky within a few hours’ drive of the ship. Even then spotting the lights was still a crap shot. We did have one night where we got to see a nice display of the lights for less than five minutes returning from an outing where we waited in -25 degree weather for 3 hours with nothing but a campfire to cut the bitter cold. This leads me to the most unexpected aspect of this trip, campfires and frozen food. We returned home with our clothes smelling of smoke because of the many campfires we encountered on our excursions. Whether it was dog sledding, reindeer sleighs, Sami camps, or Northern Light tours there was a campfire present in everyone to help with the bitter cold. There were very few heated buildings or shelters expect for a few tepees with campfires. At times the temperatures were so brutal that even the bread offered us was frozen. Which leads me to another unexpected aspect, the extreme bitter cold and the randomness of the tour vendors providing thermal suits, boots, head gear, and gloves. About ½ of our tours provided such apparel, and believe me we needed it even though I was wearing 5 layers of clothing, three pairs of socks, winter boots, two pairs of pants, a balaclava, knitted wool beanie, and a hoodie, a down vest, an outer coat, and gloves inside mittens. Which meant that the other ½ of the time the vendors provided no additional clothing. And in -25 degree weather, where you are outside for up to 5 hours at a time with only a campfire, this is a problem. My hands and toes were perpetually cold, even with hand warmers stuffed in my boots and gloves. Many people on our tours were simply unprepared for this and suffered because of it. I cannot stress enough how critical it is you don’t underestimate the cold. Here is the crazy thing, the tours we booked off ship provided thermal gear while those booked on the ship did not. The tours provided by the ship were significantly over priced and under delivered. Which leads me to this very important tip: don’t book tours with Viking Sky. Instead book only off-ship local tour providers. For example, with a local tour provider of dog sliding we were provided thermal gear and able to drive our own team of dogs. The tour provided by the ship offered no thermal gear, you could not drive the team, and was very poorly organized. Many in our party waited up to two hours in 15 F degree weather with no shelter and no campfire before getting a 30 minute ride. There was no food offered except for some frozen cake midway into the trip. The bus was so late arriving back at the ship that many missed their second tour. And for this, we paid $430 per person. Our request for even a partial refund fell on deaf ears, which really disappointed us given Viking Ocean’s stellar reputation for providing a top quality experience. We were told other tours that had similar misfortunes did remit refunds to passengers. Typically we save 25 to 75% off the ship’s prices by making our own arrangements prior to departure or using the Internet onboard the ship to contact several tour companies that are highly rated by TripAdvisor.com. Another great place to book private tours prior to departure is by looking under “Tours” and on the chat boards on CruiseCritic.com. We’ve never been disappointed following the advice of previous travelers. Our favorite ports were Stavanger, Bodo, and Tromso where the ship docked in the middle of town. However, even though in Alta and Narvik the ship docks some distance from the center of town the ship did provide shuttle buses. Quite frankly, there was really nothing to see in the town of Alta, where the emphasis is on booking tours to see the Northern Lights and staying warm. In Summary So, back to the question I posed earlier. Is the Viking Ocean experience worth three to four times the cost of other lines like Celebrity or twice the cost of Azamara? Certainly Viking Ocean has Azamara beat for value. Celebrity is often a good value for what you get, but Viking Ocean is in a whole different category and price range, so it’s a hard question to answer. However, if price is no factor, Viking Ocean is the only way to go! The service, stateroom amenities, ship amenities, free inclusions like wine and Internet, and dining room experience are undoubtedly among the best at sea. So is the ability for a smaller ship to get into, or nearer, ports the large ships can’t. For many people, this may be reason enough to pay the extra fare. For me, I will certainly sail with Viking Ocean again when I find an itinerary that is highly unique (like this cruise to the Arctic Circle) or heavily discounted. But I will be absolutely certain not to book any of their shore excursions!! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2019
Viking does a nice job but did not think thru their excursion offerings of this cruise. First, it was mostly in the dark, which was to be expected on a cruise above the Arctic Circle in January. but, many of the museums, shops and ... Read More
Viking does a nice job but did not think thru their excursion offerings of this cruise. First, it was mostly in the dark, which was to be expected on a cruise above the Arctic Circle in January. but, many of the museums, shops and excursions sites were closed or inappropriate for January. We did an independent tour which stayed out at night for over 8 hours to see the lights and were given a meal, heavy snow suits, boots and head lamps and a fire. Then we did Viking’s tour in Alta. Vikings night tour offered a few fires, no heavy clothes, and brownies. The venue was too small for the over three bus loads of people. No way to keep warm so we gave up and went back to ship. Take your own warm clothes. Also, included excursions were many times lead by unqualified guides. Could not answer questions like, who is the king, what are the salaries, what is the education system. On the ship’s third floor, three shower drains froze and people were moved. The wait staff had to wear coats because the dembarking door was by the Atrium. Viking did not consider the environment when they took this ship to the Arctic in winter. If you are prepared, maybe this is the cruise for you. FYI, we did not see the Northern Lights. Way too cloudy and lots of snow. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2019
Chose for Northern Lights/Arctic Circle Itinerary. Ship was beautiful and was very impressed at first. We selected a Deluxe Balcony Stateroom and it was quite small. There was not enough hanging space. Fortunately we knew enough to ... Read More
Chose for Northern Lights/Arctic Circle Itinerary. Ship was beautiful and was very impressed at first. We selected a Deluxe Balcony Stateroom and it was quite small. There was not enough hanging space. Fortunately we knew enough to bring magnetic hooks or it would have been a worse mess. The food was average and the service was average at best. Some people were great, like our room steward. The reason we didn't rate guest services and the shore excursion staff well was the following: they played the blame game. They had many, many excursion difficulties to the point of having to fully refund, or partially refund, the money back to passengers. Never once did anyone say "I'm sorry". No, they blamed the tour operators or used the excuse "this is the first time we have been to this port" or (best one!) "it wasn't listed online". Bear in mind that the tour operators complained of how difficult it was to even REACH the Viking Sky staff, much less, that Viking did not listen to the tour operators when they made suggestions and believe me, they should have listened. It was a bucket list trip for me and I refused to let anything ruin it, but the disorganized, poorly planned, not properly vetted, pricey excursions were very disappointing. And the attitude of the Viking staff really added insult to injury. I spoke to many people who were long time cruisers but first time Viking Ocean cruisers and the consensus was the same...one and done. Back to Regent. Back to Azamara. Back to Celebrity...you get the drift. I wanted to love it...I love Viking River Cruises. But it was just too disappointing. The ship was gorgeous, the itinerary was amazing, and I did see the Northern Lights. But the rest was not great, except for embarkation, which was the best I've experienced out of 25 ocean cruises. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Let me start with the entertainment. First Rate. 12 Person very high end team dancers and Singers. Great shows. We saw three different shows in ten days. So well produced and choreographed. Beautiful costumes with many changes. And ... Read More
Let me start with the entertainment. First Rate. 12 Person very high end team dancers and Singers. Great shows. We saw three different shows in ten days. So well produced and choreographed. Beautiful costumes with many changes. And excellent recorded music. Sets and background video images on screens. Of the forty cruises we have been on, on Cunard, HA, Seabourn, Silversea, Regent and Celebrity, and Oceania, this is the best set of shows we have ever seen and the most talented entertainers. We have sat through some real snooze cruise shows over the years and honestly we were so impressed with this team and the shows themselves. Handsome young men and beautiful girls, all well choreographed, talented and produced.I cannot enough. The pool deck chairs, while packed in like sardines, are very comfortable. Very thick chair pads and towel covers. Unlike some competitors, who provide no chair pads. Oh my aching back. Food on board Oceania is said to be the best at sea, and the 4 specialty restaurants of Asian (Red Ginger), Jacques the signature French of Jacques Pepin, the Italian Toscana and the grill Polo Lounge all provide really knockout and authentic meals. High end ingredients used and great chefs that produce truly fine dining experiences. The MDR itself is also very good, and service superb throughout the ship's restaurants. Very attentive and competent waiting staff. Buffet in the Terrace is so dull and boring, although many onboard could not wait to fill their plates and stomachs. Speaking of which, many oversize anatomies on board. Growing worse we have observed over the years. The cabins are very nice. We had any A class cabin, and while the bathroom is small, the size of the cabin and balcony was fine for a ten day cruise of the Caribbean. Anything longer we would have opted for a more spacious P cabin with a walk in closet and more interior space.. Officer staff removed and not very passenger interactive or friendly. Not a good mark for Oceania. Captain made his daily announcements but was a ghost. The ship itself is only 5 or 6 years old and very modern. Very open with lots of public space and bars. Martinis is the place for cocktails. Ship sails well, but the Caribbean seas were calm throughout the ten days. The drinks packages offered were fair priced, and the wines included drinkable if not great. All typical of what passes for wine lists on all cruise lines today. Bottle a la carte prices exorbitant for the product available. Horrendous boarding experience in Miami. Oceania should be ashamed, even though some of it was caused by the unfortunate death of a crew person and ship's late arrival.. But no command presence on the ground to handle the huge backed up crowd waiting to board, and very poor communications. It almost got out of control. Not a bright spot on this cruise, but fortunately it was not a harbinger of bad things to come as many feared. All in all Oceania continues to do a very good job, even under NCL ownership. Many fears have been allayed. The product is the same as it first was for us ten years ago when we first sailed with Oceania, which is very good indeed .And the ships size of 1250 passengers while large for us was not too problematic, except for sea days when the sardine factory on the pool deck was overactive. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Large ship with little going on. The rooms were small. No toiletries or robes supplied. Nothing to do most of the time. Art sales were mostly prints. Pizza spot was the only food available after 12. Drinks were not wrong. Shops were ... Read More
Large ship with little going on. The rooms were small. No toiletries or robes supplied. Nothing to do most of the time. Art sales were mostly prints. Pizza spot was the only food available after 12. Drinks were not wrong. Shops were expensive. Pictures were expensive. Lot of walking to get anywhere. Champagne handed out but only for an hour. Very cheap champagne. Water was only available for purchase. Everyone accepted cash as tips. 45$ a person for gratuities a day. Internet for cost. No cable or shows on tv, shows booked in full early, no view, alcohol package = watered down drinks, water on slides dirty, same food daily, children shows and daily happenings was all that was available on tv, everything was expensive. Meet the captain for a fee. See the captain for a fee. Elevators slow and crowded. Depressing nightlife. Many stores but little shops offering necessities or liquor. Read Less

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