Overall we had a great time - there were quite a few rough edges but we attribute them to the fact that the ship was brand new and many things needed to be ironed out. Our relative took the same cruise in Sept. and it appears that many of ... Read More
Overall we had a great time - there were quite a few rough edges but we attribute them to the fact that the ship was brand new and many things needed to be ironed out. Our relative took the same cruise in Sept. and it appears that many of the issues have been corrected.
Here were some of the items that warrant improvement on our cruise - extremely long lines for dinner service; spotty cable/internet connections; unilateral changing of shore excursion times without prior notice; confusion at the excursion desk came boarding time for the shore excursions; less-than-robust nightly entertainment offerings; ports of call selection/shore excursions that can be improved. Let us expand on that last point. We'll be blunt - there are more desirable ports to stop in Greece than the one selected (substituting Santorini or Mykonos would be highly desirable); there was little to do at Provence even though it's along the way (We personally would have preferred to skip it, get to Barcelona one day earlier as there's much more to see there).
The coverage of the shore excursions also can be improved. For example, we were left to hang out at the Vatican in Rome for 5+ hours - the lines were very long and there's no way we can get in; we were told about taxis and public transportation to get to the Spanish steps/Trevi fountain but no one told us about the "skip the line" option to get into the Vatican. One member of our cruise watched Rick Steves ahead of time, knew exactly where to go and was able to see the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican. For most of us, we were neither here nor there. We just stood by the tacky souvenir shops around St. Peters Square waiting for the tour bus to come pick us up. Rome ended up being an underwhelming stop because of how the shore excursion was executed. By the way, for some unknown reason, Viking told us to bring our passports on shore in Rome. We checked with friends who went with other cruise lines and heard no such thing. Having your passport on you is not such a good idea - two members of our cruise got pick pocketed and these incidents are hardly rare in Europe.
Barcelona was a fun stop but the city shore excursion was also poorly routed. We spent a ton of time on Mt. Juic whereas some of that time could have been diverted to a quick stop at the famous La Segrada de la Familia. In response to repeated requests by the folks on our bus, the tour guide had to call HQ repeatedly for permission to even do a drive-by. Finally the green light came down and the driver got to "swing by" for us to snap some pictures. Like I said, the Barcelona excursion itinerary could have been tweaked to make it more rewarding. IMHO, La Sagrada would be more deserving of our time than looking at knick knacks and guarding our wallets against pickpockets along the La Rambla. If you want better and more in-depth coverage, you are better off doing the hop-on/hop-off than the "free" Viking city excursion. That's just our opinion.
Like we said, most of the kinks (except for the ports of call) appear to have been ironed out with the passage of time, but there is one thing that irked us the most. We paid extra for business economy and called the airlines to book our seats as soon as the itinerary was released in December 2014. Viking changed the routing without notifying us. We happened to call them on a separate matter and by happenstance, found out in March, with weeks of departure. Obviously the prized side-by-side two-by-the window seats that we reserved in December were gone because we were now on a different flight. We spent an hour on the phone with Viking only to be called to the terms and conditions - that Viking reserves the right to change our flight routing. However the Viking representative admitted that no emails or any other form of notification was sent out. For our troubles, they gave us $100 shipboard credit. You decide for yourself, whether $100 was sufficient compensation for being stuck in undesirable seats across the Atlantic that we just paid $2,000 for.
To make things worse, the routing that Viking switched us to was totally counter to the concept of getting from point A to point B in the most direct fashion. The new route they put us on coming back took us east from Barcelona to Frankfurt where we sat for hours only to head northwest again. Mind you, we really needed to head southwest to get home. Instead we went north the New Jersey and by another stroke of bad luck, equipment problems (not Viking's fault but really more bad luck with this routing) made us sit at the airport for hours before we could board the last south-bound flight to head home. We finally made it to our home city's airport at midnight. We wasted the better part of the day sitting around airports and flying backwards to get home. Even without having to pay extra, it was not a good use of our time. Having paid extra and being stuck in undesirable seats made it doubly worse. Our suggestion - book your own flights; you can do much better and be somewhat in control of your destiny. Our relative did it and it worked out just fine; you can shop for upgraded airline seats yourself and do as well if not better price-wise and time-wise.
We would be remiss if we do not mention the great things about this cruise - the staff was wonderful (housekeeping, restaurant) and everyone truly aimed to please. After all, many of the technical difficulties on board were not their fault. The food and wine (although offerings could be more varied as they start to repeat) served were excellent and befitting of a luxury cruise.
In summary, we did have a good time, having accepted the bad that came with the good. Our fellow passengers, mostly being Viking river cruise veterans, were extremely understanding. Viking's river cruises were excellent as they really have it down pat. Everyone believes that the newness of the ocean cruise concept is to blame for many of our woes. With time, things should improve. They must as the competition is stiff and we get solicitations from Viking's competitors every week. Read Less