We recently cruised the Western Caribbean on the Viking Sky, leaving Miami on January 10. This was our first ocean cruise with Viking. We had done two previous river cruises with Viking and liked their product, and we were looking forward ... Read More
We recently cruised the Western Caribbean on the Viking Sky, leaving Miami on January 10. This was our first ocean cruise with Viking. We had done two previous river cruises with Viking and liked their product, and we were looking forward to trying their ocean cruises. Overall, it was our 11th ocean cruise. We had three prior cruises on Star Clippers, two each on Carnival, NCL and Celebrity, and one on Royal Caribbean.
We really enjoyed the ship. With a maximum capacity of 930 passengers, it never felt crowded. There were plenty of areas offering peace and quiet, even on the sea days. The crew kept all areas of the ship very clean. As with Viking's river cruises, the service throughout the ship was excellent. There were plenty of servers and assistants during meal times, and the staff appeared very happy to be working on the ship.
Our veranda cabin had a king-size bed and a separate seating area. It had a desk with a built-in lighted vanity mirror. The balcony had a small table and two chairs. The shower stall had plenty of room. We never ran out of hot water. The bathroom floors were heated, but we had ours turned off on the first day because it made the bathroom too warm. The air conditioning worked fine. The cabin had multiple 110 and 220 volt outlets and many USB charging ports. Our cabin steward did a great job, with service twice a day.
For the most part, the food during the cruise ranged from good to very good. We ate all of our breakfasts in the World Café, the onboard buffet area. The buffet did not have a separate station for made-to-order eggs or omelets, you had to ask the cooks behind the counter for these. Most of our lunches were eaten at the Aquavit Terrace, located directly in front of the outside swimming pool at the rear of the ship. This area featured a daily special on sea days including: ceviche; salad bar with grilled chicken or salmon; and chicken fajitas made to order. The World Cafe also offered lunch daily and the grilled prawns were very good. The pool grill located at the inside pool had great burgers and also hot dogs.
We did eat three dinners in the onboard specialty restaurants, twice at Manfredi's and once at the Chef's Table. Manfredi's features Italian food. The first night we shared a ribeye steak plus Chicken Saltimbocca. As previous reviewers have stated, the ribeye is very tasty. On the second night, I had lasagna and my wife had the fish of the day. The Chef's Table features a fixed five-course menu. Three of the nights featured Chinese/Asian food, while there were two nights each for Mexican and California foods. Because of their smaller size, these restaurants offered a more intimate and quiet dining experience.
All of the dining venues had many tables for two people. Beer and house wines were complimentary during lunch and dinner service.
The onboard entertainment was best of any ship or resort we have experienced. The musical acts were all top-notch. The main shows were held in the Star Theatre. There were four main entertainers (Ashton, Jordan, Star, and Tess) who performed here under the name of "The Viking Vocalists". They were all excellent singers and dancers. Two of the nights featured these four doing a tribute show to ABBA and to The Beatles. Additionally on most nights, two other outstanding singers (Carlo and Elsa), performed in the Torshavn Lounge, playing popular dance music. On two occasions, the six vocalists performed together, once in the Star Theatre doing popular show tunes and once for "Dancing Under the Stars" at the main pool with the retractable roof opened. For all of these musical performances, the singers were backed up by a first-rate four piece band with two guitarists, a drummer and a keyboard player.
I cannot leave out the other vocalist on board, Zeus. He always played solo, accompanied only by his guitar. He performed evenings in the Explorer's Lounge and the early set in the Torshavn Lounge, before the dance music started. He had a very nice voice and a vast repertoire and was so easy to listen to. Also, easy listening classical music was performed each evening in the lobby area, either by a string duo or a pianist.
When Viking first started selling this cruise, it featured stops in Cuba. With the ban on Cuba travel was announced in June, Viking replaced the Cuban stops with the stops offered on this itinerary. We understand that Viking offered refunds to the already booked passengers who did not want to cruise on the modified itinerary. As the sailing date approached, Viking offered reduced fares, cabin upgrades and free airfare to entice more passengers to book. We booked this cruise two months prior to its sailing date, and were able to get a Deluxe Veranda cabin, located mid-ship on deck 5.
The scheduled itinerary was to leave Miami Friday evening, stop in Key West on Saturday, a sea day on Sunday, followed by consecutive stops in Belize, Cozumel and Merida, with a second sea day on Thursday, before returning to Miami Friday morning. However, this cruise featured multiple unexpected itinerary changes. The first change occurred soon after leaving Miami. The captain made an announcement that we would be skipping Key West due to forecasted high winds (the ship was not scheduled to dock in Key West, instead we would go ashore via tenders) and we would have an additional sea day.
On Monday, we stopped in Belize City. As with their river cruises, Viking includes a complimentary shore excursion in each port. The included excursion for Belize was the Mayan ruins at Altun Ha. In our opinion, the stop in Belize was not worthwhile. The Altun Ha tour was listed as four hours. However, this did not include the 30 minute tender ride from the ship to the pier and 30 minutes back to the ship. There was also a long wait once ashore for the buses to depart, as it was very disorganized at the pier area. The bus ride to the ruins took almost an hour. Once at the ruins, we had about two hours for the tour and exploring on our own. The stop in Belize did not get any better on the way back to the ship. Once we arrived in Belize City, the tour guide informed us that the "second part" of the tour would now begin. This route took us through the southern part of the city, which was very depressing. The area was very poverty stricken - it is hard to understand why Viking or the tour company would want to feature this section of the city. The narrow streets were ill-equipped to handle a large tour bus. Near the end of the tour, our bus driver sideswiped a parked car. We were forced to sit in the middle of an intersection while the local police were called to investigate and file a report. It was in a rough part of the city and some passengers were concerned for their safety as many locals were milling about, watching the activities. It was after 2:00 until we returned to the ship. Any passengers who had scheduled an optional excursion in the afternoon were forced to miss it. Viking could have improved things by sending another bus to take passengers back to the pier area. This was a very disappointing stop and if Viking needs another stop in the Western Caribbean, they could consider Jamaica or the Cayman Islands.
When we finished lunch after returning to the ship, we passed the ship's Hotel Director in the hallway, and he asked how our day was going. We proceeded to tell him of our impressions of Belize and the trouble with the bus. He invited us into his office to get more details. Although he listened to our concerns and took notes, we got the impression that it he was going through the motions and once we left the office, that would be the end of it.
Shortly after leaving Belize on Monday, the captain made another announcement that due to "technical" issues, we would not be able to arrive to Miami in time for passengers to catch their flights home if we stuck to the remaining itinerary schedule. The maximum cruising speed for the rest of the trip was only 13 knots. While nothing further was said by Viking about the issue, the general consensus was that the ship lost an engine or a generator. As a result of the problem, we would still stop at Cozumel Tuesday morning. However, rather than of leaving Cozumel at 2:00 pm and sailing to Merida, we would stay in Cozumel until 10:00 pm and skip Merida on Wednesday. Instead, we would have a sea day. The revised itinerary now included stopping at Key West on Thursday, rescheduling the stop that was missed on Saturday due to high winds.
In Cozumel, the included tour was The Ruins of San Gervasio, another tour of Mayan ruins. Since we now had an unexpected full day in Cozumel, we decided to skip the tours and spend the day at a beach. We took a taxi ($15 each way) five miles to the Paradise Beach Club. The beach club charges $3 per person admission, with the request that you spend an additional $10 each on food and drink. (There is an all-inclusive option costing $65 per person that includes unlimited food and drink.) We spent $22 for lunch - however no one asked to see receipts as we left to verify that we had spent the minimum. The beach club has a large heated pool and a very nice beach, both with plenty of lounge chairs. There is plenty of shade at each area from the palm trees and umbrellas. The restaurant area and rest rooms were very clean. Use of the floating water park is included in the admission price - although there may be a separate charge for use of the kayaks and the banana boat rides. The day spent here was well worth missing out on the tours.
In Key West, the included tour was a trolley tour through the city, which we decided to skip. Instead, we took the shuttle into town and rented bicycles for $10 for the full day. We rode to the Southernmost Point landmark, followed by a ride onto the Edward B. Knight Pier. We then had lunch at Schooner Wharf Bar, which has live entertainment daily beginning 12:00 noon, great views overlooking the marina and good food. After lunch, we spent the rest of the day at the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park before returning to the ship. The state park charges $2.50 admission for bikers & walkers and has a nice snack bar and rest room facilities.
With all of the changes with the itinerary, Viking sent an email shortly after our return with a $500 credit voucher per person for any future cruise booked within one year. I believe this probably went to all of the passengers on this cruise.
Despite the issues with the shore excursions, we very much enjoyed our week on the Viking Sky. We would cruise with Viking again if attractive fares are offered in the future. Read Less