This is my honest (and LONG) review of our first ever cruise. We have traveled extensively on our own. The only organized tours we have done were with the American company Rick Steves. We travel to make connections with other cultures, ... Read More
This is my honest (and LONG) review of our first ever cruise. We have traveled extensively on our own. The only organized tours we have done were with the American company Rick Steves. We travel to make connections with other cultures, to expand our understanding of the world and the issues it faces; and to have fun doing it.
This particular Viking cruise was not a good match for that. Unbeknownst to us, this was the first leg of a World Cruise. That impacted the demographics significantly. There were many, many quite elderly passengers with mobility, hearing and memory challenges. To that end, Viking matched the cruise experience to their demographic well. For us (in our 60's) it seemed too slow-paced and not educational enough. I believe that Viking should make it clear before you book that you are joining a World Cruise. It clearly makes a big difference in their programming, not to mention the overall "feel" of the cruise.
GOOD: The Viking Sun can only be described as luxurious. Every square inch of the ship is sparkling clean, and the cabins are brilliantly designed. If you have concerns about living in such a small space don't worry. There is ample storage in the living area as well as the bathroom. Having an outside veranda for every room is noteworthy. Our cabin steward Muhammad was outstanding in every aspect. He was attentive and intuitive about details of our preferences without ever being intrusive.
BAD: The laundry facilities are inadequate for the number of passengers, and therefore oversubscribed. The included soap does not have a pleasant odor, and the inherent mildew smell associated with front load machines left our clothes with a musty smell. It has taken me several washings at home to get rid of that smell.
UGLY: There is so much competition for the laundry facilities that a couple of men had a fist fight over availability.
GOOD: We ate mostly at the World Table which has the same menu choices as the sit-down Restaurant. We found we preferred to pace our own courses, and the format of the World Table is perfect for that. The food was always varied, delicious and cooked perfectly. Our usual servers of Jorge, Raquel and Andi were super stars. If we ever did another ocean cruise it would be because of their personal and caring service. For the first week we loved seeing supervisor Courtney as well, who always made sure to check in with us. We also enjoyed the Pool Grill and Mamsens, and appreciated the fresh choices available for a quick meal.
BAD: Our meal at Manfredi's was disappointing. After being seated we waited 8 minutes before anyone made contact. Two other groups who came in after us had water, wine and appetizers ordered before anyone even offered to fill our water glasses. Our server spent most of her time talking to a large group near us, which resulted in the our food being served a bit cold. Our steak was overcooked.
UGLY: Several times I witnessed extremely rude (and somewhat racist) passengers. I heard one man say "Why can't you speak English?" I witnessed many passengers at meals being demanding of servers in unreasonable ways.
There was one male supervisor in the World Table who was horrible. I witnessed him demeaning his colleagues on many occasions. I also saw him physically touch female colleagues in inappropriate ways. He was effusively polite to certain passengers; kissing women on the cheek, bowing in deference, etc. It was as if he had studied photos of the "high rollers", and was determined to imbue himself into their good graces. He is a "bad apple" among what is otherwise a stellar staff who are clearly very well-trained.
AMAZING: In each of these situations, the staff members were calm, polite and did their best to satisfy the often unreasonable demands. It must be very difficult for them to tolerate passenger behavior which was so rude and racist. It must also be impossible for them with a supervisor who harasses and belittles them. With the exception of the one male supervisor, every single other staff member we encountered was friendly, helpful and efficient. Given that almost all of these young adults are away from home and family, it is really amazing that they maintain such composure and willingness to serve.
We only did one upcharge excursion (our other one was canceled due to a weather-related itinerary change). The included excursions were mostly sitting on a bus, with a tiny amount of very SLOW walking. Compared to the local guides we have had on Rick Steves tours, it was useless. We were not given any real information about the culture/traditions/politics of the location and there was no opportunity to interact with locals. We never once experienced the sort of interactions you see on the TV commercials.
GOOD: The Port Talks were generally useful. The excursion director had taken the time to study the port, and gave us clear visuals and directions about what would happen.
BAD: The cruise director sometimes seemed unprepared, making lots of mistakes as she simply read from a teleprompter.The two "port performances" offered were mediocre. The Irish singers were amplified so loud it was hard to appreciate them. Instead of having them do traditional Irish music, this was a cheesy, Americanized version of Irish music. The advertised dance troupe was actually a small group of teenagers and two adults. The Scottish group who performed seemed sweet, but there was no education involved such as explaining how bagpipes worked.
UGLY: We missed many performances as they were scheduled after 9:00 pm. That is too late for us, which is our problem not Viking's. :)
AMAZING: Russell Lee's two lectures were riveting. Topical (BREXIT) and historical in nature they were a true highlight of the cruise for us.
We are glad we did our first cruise with Viking. Clearly they provide the best model among competitors. Having said that, this is a very expensive way to travel. That translates into a passenger group that tends to be demanding and less interested in education/cultural exchange. Understanding that this World Cruise may not be representative of all Viking ocean cruises, it honestly felt like a luxury version of a Senior Living Facility.
The focus is not as advertised; there were no local interactions and excursions were very superficial. There should be at least one included excursion for each port that is active and focused on educational and in-depth cultural exchange.
We may try another Viking Ocean cruise at some point, but for now it is probably not the best match for us. Read Less