We are in our mid fifties, very active, and chose this 23 day cruise because of the itinerary. It is a repositioning cruise, with 9 sea days. I was a bit nervous that I'd be bored during the sea days. In fact, I wish we'd had ... Read More
We are in our mid fifties, very active, and chose this 23 day cruise because of the itinerary. It is a repositioning cruise, with 9 sea days. I was a bit nervous that I'd be bored during the sea days. In fact, I wish we'd had more of them!
The ship is beautiful. There are relaxing places to hide away, yet plenty of activities if you wish to be social. Make sure to do your research about the ship's facilities so you don't miss out on the many pleasures. So many people I spoke to had no idea the Nordic spa facilities existed - such a fabulous place and totally free of charge.
Viking Orion caters for people who are intellectually curious, prefer reading books to gambling, and like a relaxed ambiance. The 7 lecturers on this cruise gave stimulating insights into geopolitics, nature, history, astronomy, art, and space travel. They made our sea days special. We particularly enjoyed Dr Jeffrey Hoffman, an ex NASA astronaut, who gave awe inspiring talks on his role with NASA, Hubble telescope, Mars exploration, and effects of space travel on the human body. Given that we were travelling the Pacific Ring of Fire, it might have been interesting to have had some talks about local Volcanoes, geology etc. Other daytime activities include Trivia ( great way to meet other people, we had several Trivia team Dinners), Bridge lessons, Dancing lessons, bean bag challenge, craft group, plus usual mini golf, shuffle board etc. The gym was well patronised.
All the dining venues on the ship are excellent. The World Cafe is the buffet. It was occasionally crowded, but not like other ships. Sushi and crab legs are served in the evenings, but not on both sides of the buffet. Lots of variety, with some of the main restaurant items also turning up in the buffet ( not as prettily presented tho'). Breakfast was similar most days, but plenty of choice.
Both speciality restaurants are free of charge. Although we were only able to make one reservation for each restaurant prior to the cruise, once you are on board you can basically go as many times as you wish, depending on availability. Booking through the cabin TV system is easy. Manfred's is Italian, with generous portions. Nobody minds if you have 2 starters, half portions of main courses ( steaks are large), or 3 desserts! Just ask.
The Chefs table offers a 5 course degustation. The set menus change every 3 days. Portions are smaller, but still filling. We initially found the frequent details given by staff about the food and wine a bit fussy. Once you work out this restaurant is all about trying different flavours, textures, and seeing what works for you, then it becomes a food adventure. We went 5 times.
The Restaurant offers plenty of choice, and is a great way to control food intake (unlike the buffet where you can easily scoff too much). Lots of tables for 2, or option to share with others. On sea days there were often themed lunches on the pool deck.
My only complaint is that there is no food service between 2.30 - 4pm except for the Pool grill (or room service). This caused some lengthy waits at the pool grill when tours ended just after 2.30pm. Viking could consider opening Mamsens between these hours.
We used the Fitness centre every other day. Its clean and spacious, with up to date equipment. The Pilates classes were very beneficial. Lily, our instructor, pushed us hard, and everyone kept coming back for more! Each Pilates session cost $10 . There are also Yoga and Aqua aerobics classes. The Nordic Spa was the quietest, most relaxing part of the ship. Incredible facilities - Steam room, snow grotto, Thalassotherapy pool, heated tile beds etc. Even a spin dryer to wring out your swimming costume. The Spa manager can give you a tour and show you how to use the facilities. You pay a fortune on other ships for this - here its free.
Evening entertainment was varied. Our Cruise Director David, was extremely professional, with a great sense of humour. At least 6 guest entertainers were brought on board, each doing 2 shows. Ventriloquist, Don Bryan was a standout. The 4 Viking singers did 3 Musical Shows ( Abba, Beatle, and Motown). These shows are a medley of themed songs, and though very enthusiastically performed by the 4 talented singers, were not particularly entertaining ( however, lots of other guests loved the shows). The Viking Band were excellent, and when joined in Torshavn by vocalists Speedy and Kristelle, the party definitely started! The group assessed the demographic carefully, so a lot of 60's and 70s hits were played, along with some disco. The most modern hit was 'Uptown Funk'. The band really made a huge effort to please everybody - Thanks guys! The Pool Deck dance party was also well attended and fun.
We purchased the Silver Spirits beverage package which was good value, especially with all the sea days. Bar staff were prompt, friendly, and willing to go the extra mile to get favourite drinks. Special mention to Ivan, for his wicked Gin cocktails. The staff have great customer service skills, even with those occasional guests who don't know how to say 'please' and 'Thank you'. Quality of service during the cruise was excellent.
We did a mixture of included and optional tour excursions. The excursion Director gave realistic descriptions of the tours after the Port talks (these can also be watched on the room TV). Russia was more basic because of the remoteness of the area and because tourism is underdeveloped in the region visited. Everyone was given realistic expectations for remoter parts of Alaska and Russia ( and still some people whinged!) . The optional tour standouts for us were the "Alaskan Glaciers by helicopter' in Valdez, and Zip Lining in Ketchikan. Dutch Harbour had no organised tours, but turned out to be a hidden treasure. There were shuttle buses to town, stopping at a couple of small but fascinating museums. We learned about the Japanese bombing of Dutch harbour, and the terrible displacement of the Aleut people of the region. We then climbed Mt Ballyhoo and found the ruins of the WW2 defences, along with spectacular views. I would recommend Viking start grading their larger tours into fast, medium or slow walking groups. This works well on the river cruises, and allows for less able-bodied folks to mobilise safely, and for energetic passengers to see and do more.
The cruise was excellent - look forward to sailing with Viking again, and would recommend this itinerary to those wanting a mixture of relaxation, education, and amazing scenery. Read Less