We had been wanting to try Viking Ocean as an alternative to our previous favorites, Windstar (yachts, not sailing ships) and Regent, so we chose this one week itinerary from Venice to Rome and were joined by long time friends for the ... Read More
We had been wanting to try Viking Ocean as an alternative to our previous favorites, Windstar (yachts, not sailing ships) and Regent, so we chose this one week itinerary from Venice to Rome and were joined by long time friends for the voyage. We were aware that this was only the second sailing for the Orion and that there might be some rough edges still to be worked out. Indeed there were. For starters we got three different versions of when cabins would be ready. The first was in the cruise documents that were mailed indicating that because we were in a Penthouse Veranda stateroom we would have access by 1 PM. The second was at the embarkation desk in the terminal where we were told we could get in by 12. The third was at guest services where we were told no, it would be 2 PM. It finally turned out that a mass PA announcement about 2 PM was the only way we, and presumably all the other guests, knew that all the cabins were ready. To back up a step, the reason we were at guest services right after boarding was because a large portion of the cruise cards that were created at the terminal desk at check-in didn't work! A large group of people had to have their cards re-issued which temporarily overwhelmed the guest services desks. The next, admittedly small, irritant was when our cabin steward oriented us to the stateroom and pointed out that the Nespresso machine would only dispense hot water. Bummer. I had been looking forward to some tasty coffee selections without room service or going out of the cabin. I would simply say don't advertise in your marketing materials that there is a Nespresso machine in each cabin if all they do is spew out hot water for the instant Nescafe provided.
Our biggest ongoing hassle during the entire cruise was in regard to the Silver Spirits drink package. Most of the wait staff were simply not familiar with it. They would try to locate something on their high tech tablets they use and then would say it's not available or "we've run out of it". Had it not been for an extremely competent wine steward, Enea, this might never have been straightened out. Admittedly, things did get better as the week progressed. But this feeling of disorganization and lack of familiarity with things carried over into the main dining room. Every evening we ate there I would characterize the scene as frenzied...waiters rushing around, staring at their hand-held devices. Just not calm and relaxing. That's not a knock on the people themselves. All of them were friendly, helpful, and a delight to talk with. The comment is really directed at management and the prior training of the staff in such things as the drink package.
At sail away time the Explorers Lounge was understaffed, at times near impossible to get a drink. I observed one bartender who was so harried and overwhelmed that he picked up the phone and told his supervisor he needed more help. Then he decided it was time for his dinner break, I guess to escape the confusion.
Many of the shore excursions were good to excellent. However, some comments were heard regarding the difficulty understanding some of the guides. My wife and her friend had the misfortune of being on the worst excursion of the week. It was titled "Alberobello, the Trulli Village". It was so disorganized and provoked so many complaints that Viking later sent a notice to the cabins saying they apologized and were giving a 50% refund. 50%? I'm not sure why if you are admitting the excursion was a bust you don't refund 100%, but anyway that was their decision.
After spending over 600 words on the negatives, here are the positives. The ship is gorgeous! The cabins are generously sized with more than enough drawer and closet room. Bathrooms are relatively large and function well. All the public spaces are extremely attractive and spotless. The spa is first class. Entertainment, including the pianist, the string duo and the guitarist, was excellent. The stage band and the four entertainers who sang and danced were also quite good, especially the night they did the salute to Broadway. There are so many enrichment activities it's impossible to see them all. For example, we never made it to the observatory which was disappointing, but on a seven day cruise who has the time? The lectures were quite good and could be viewed on the TV later if you missed them.
Being high-tech multimedia productions, the port talks were the best and most informative I've ever experienced. One of the attractions of this cruise for us was the more unusual ports we visited. Sibenik was the nicest, calmest Croatian port we've ever seen, probably because of the limited size of vessels that can stop there. Bari and Crotone are somewhat off the beaten track. Messina was okay. Naples was, well...Naples was Naples.
The food was good to very good, but frankly not the best we've ever experienced. Being in a Penthouse Veranda we were offered two nights each in both specialty restaurants, the Chef's Table and Manfredi's Italian. I would not do two nights again at the Chef's Table, but would definitely repeat two dinners in Manfredi's. That was clearly the best food we had.
As for service, again I will say that in general it was excellent. The crew was friendly, courteous, helpful and fun. Even the harried bartender in the Explorers Lounge was pleasant enough to the guests. He did not let his frustration spill over into his customer service.
I would sincerely look forward to another voyage on Viking Ocean, whether the Orion or another of their ships. It might be interesting to see if the rough edges are worked out on the Orion, but whether it's Orion or another vessel next time I'd like at least a couple of days at sea to explore all that we did not get to experience this time. Read Less