We booked this cruise in November 2016, primarily for the itinerary and small ship and also took the option of the Iceland pre-cruise extension and looked forward to it for 2 years. It was expensive but having cruised before on upper ... Read More
We booked this cruise in November 2016, primarily for the itinerary and small ship and also took the option of the Iceland pre-cruise extension and looked forward to it for 2 years. It was expensive but having cruised before on upper premium and middle market lines we felt that that the inclusions of wifi, included wines and beer and some tours were worth it. Booking from New Zealand meant we had to pay in Australian dollars, unlike other lines, which left the currency risk with us.
At our first touch point with Viking there was no-one to at the notified transfer point at Reykjavik Airport. We were at the place our documents told us to be and after 20 minutes I smelled a rat and took photos of where we were and the airport clock. The only contact phone number we had was for the pre-cruise hotel and they were disinterested. Eventually we were given the number of the local agents who, after a long time on the phone (at 3 bucks a minute), arranged a van to the hotel - had we had to do this ourselves a cab would have been USD150. It later transpired that Viking had not loaded our inbound flights into their system so while they knew we are coming they then virtually ignored us. The local agents went from uninterested to aggressive when we complained and told us we must have been in the wrong place and at the wrong time. Photographic evidence refuted this but to no avail. One female Viking agent turned out to be one of the tour guides and had a face like a dropped pie whenever she saw us. No tip for you!
The hotel provided was the Grand Hotel Reykjavik. The promo information from Viking stated we would be accommodated in a Hilton or Hilton equivalent but this was no Hilton! It was 3 star at best with slow and unfriendly staff. A lot of our fellow passengers had flown in from the US, arrived at 6am and were told that check in opened at 2pm and to leave until then. Considering the cost of this trip, this was unacceptable - several elderly and exhausted passengers were on the verge of tears at being dumped for 6 hours in a hotel lobby after flying all night.
The included Golden Circle tour was interesting with tours of geysers,Thingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss falls, Kerid Crater and many panoramic views of volcanoes and glaciers. Our guide, fortunately, was not the pie lady. The next day we went to the Blue Lagoon which was fun and then on a city tour. An early check out and transfer took us to the airport the next day and we flew Icelandair to Stockholm to board the Viking Star
The arrival staff at Stockholm were efficient and we were swiftly transferred to the Viking Star. Boarding was efficient and a glass of champagne and a cool towel were offered one embarkation - a nice touch. The ship was beautiful on first impression and our deluxe verandah stateroom was spacious and nicely appointed with the best bathroom we have seen at sea (and even in some hotels). Our stateroom attendants were fantastic and we were greeted by name from the first day. The room was always made-up - we came back from breakfast after 45 minus to find it cleaned and made up - witchcraft we assume was involved.
We found some jarring touches though - the terrace behind the buffet had potted rosemary plants on the tables - 50% of these were dead and dried up. We also noted drooping wires in some public spaces secured with electrician’s tape and the pool area smelled bad - chemicals and something else undefined but unpleasant. The included wifi was so slow that we gave up on it and used the wifi available onshore. In Aalborg, Denmark the weather was sunny and the temperature was 25C. With an onboard time of 1pm the restaurants were crowded, so we ate lunch in the very crowded pool deck. The much vaunted opening roof on the pool deck remained closed and temperatures soared - easily into the high 30’s and very uncomfortable. Many people complained to the waiters who tried to do something but to no avail.
In most ports we took advantage of the included tours, which mainly consisted of a bus ride around the city, a bit of a walk around, an hour of free time and a transfer back to the port. These were mostly fine if uninspired. We were trapped in St Petersburg due to high winds and had to cancel the scheduled stop in Gdansk. Because of Russian visa restrictions we had to stay on the ship while it was trapped though Viking organised a couple of paid trips - none of these were interesting and we thought that Viking’s contingency plans should have included what to do if the ship couldn’t leave. Other ships that were due to call into St Petersburg couldn’t get in so there would have been plenty of other tour options available. Other paid tours we went on were high quality and good value compared to some of the other lines we’ve sailed on.
Where Viking lost us as future passengers was the food. The wait staff were disorganised and slow - it was faster to go to the bar to get a drink than wait for a wine waiter to come to our table, though we noticed a marked improvement halfway through the cruise when a new maitre d’ took over the World Cafe. We saw a few sharp comments from him and shall we say motivation looked like it had increased. One wine waiter who had been uninspired before this, appeared with a bottle every time we took a sip - from sublime to ridiculous.
The food in general was not good. The buffet was okay but uninspired.We noted every night that there were overcooked steamed broccoli, carrots and cauliflower as a vegetable option and these appeared in the Restaurant as sides. Salads had nice names, but were often warm and wilted which made the dressings slimy and unappetising. The desserts in the buffet were all cold with no hot option as seen on other lines. The stand out offerings were crab legs and shrimp in the World Cafe though man does not live on seafood alone. The breakfast buffet was acceptable but by the end of the cruise had become very “samey”. Dishes prepared on demand at the buffet, such as steak, Caesar salad or eggs Benedict were very good.
Manfredis Italian restaurant was not a patch on the competition we’ve sailed on, the Restaurant suffered with the same wait staff malady as the buffet and the Chef’s Table was execrable. Not one of our fellow passengers we interacted with had anything good to say about it - it begs the question who Viking are trying to impress with this - their guests or themselves?
A couple of standout fails. In the Restaurant I ordered a dessert of pear clafoutis. This is a golden custardy light dessert - except on Viking it was dark brown, hard and burnt - and sent back. The Chef’s Table degustation was horrible - lightly seared tuna as appetiser and barely cooked steak served on a plate with a smear of grey mushroom sauce that looked like moly grease and had all the visual appeal of that grease on a mechanic’s overalls. Thankfully there was bread on the table so we didn’t go hungry. Other lines do fine dining so much better.
We should point out that the bar staff were fabulous. We had the Silver Spirits beverage package at extra cost and from day one our names and drinks were known and with generous pours. One waiter who knew we were going to be outside on the smoking area on deck on a stormy night gave us two drinks so we didn’t have to walk back while the ship was pitching and rolling.
Guest relations scored a point for investigating the Reykjavik stuff up (prompted by my travel agent at home) and finding that Viking’s Sydney staff had not loaded our inbound flights causing us to be stranded at the airport. They gave us onboard credit in recompense and refunded the not insubstantial cost of making cell phone calls in Iceland. That scored point was promptly lost when we filled out the request for paid transfers from the ship to the airport on disembarkation which was slipped under the door. This form was never processed and our luggage was tagged as “own arrangements”. When we went down to guest relations to enquire a lady shrugged her shoulders and said we were on our own as the arrangements for transfers were closed. A phone call to the manager who resolved the first issue fixed that but why was it a problem in the first place?
Disembarkation was rapid and easy, our bags were taken to the coach and we were swiftly transported to the airport for our own arranged flight to Oslo and London. SAS had technical problems however and virtually all of the Viking Star passengers were milling around the airport trying to find out from SAS and Viking air what was going on, particularly those with connections onto the US. So our trip ended as it started with distressed people milling about with virtually no support from Viking.
We had high hopes for Viking, the itineraries, the inclusions, the beautiful small ship, all were turned to naught by amateurish and clumsy details, indifferent service in some areas and awful food. Viking charges an upper premium price but delivers a less than mid market experience. We’ll cruise again (already booked) - but not with this line. Read Less