I have cruised with Viking Ocean before, but never at Christmas time. I hope to do it again, because the special activities and the decorations (on ship and at destinations) made this cruise a little special. We were on the Southern Med ... Read More
I have cruised with Viking Ocean before, but never at Christmas time. I hope to do it again, because the special activities and the decorations (on ship and at destinations) made this cruise a little special. We were on the Southern Med Discovery cruise - only 8 days, so we flew to Rome a few days early and stayed in Barcelona and Madrid a few days late to make it a two week vacation.
I cruise mostly to see a lot of different destinations, and Viking is fairly port-intensive, so it works well for us. I had been to a couple of the ports before, but others were quite new to me. The cruise went to Italy, Algeria and Spain. When I booked, Tunisia was on the itinerary, but that eventually got replaced with Naples. We booked a deluxe veranda cabin on Viking Sky, and as usual, found the service and cabin to be excellent. Food was quite good, although I didn't see much of the Dining Room, as my husband loves the World Cafe (enhanced buffet/cafeteria style restaurant). While we don't always take the one included excursion in each port, we like having those available, especially in ports that are difficult to cover in a day (Rome?) or not well suited to sightseeing by public transportation, which we like. The Wifi was great, as was the lack of "nickel and diming." I was thrilled to get to Algeria, and the excursion I took there (from the ship; didn't want to pay extra for travel visa) was excellent. All excursions were quite good - worthwhile, very organized, and cheaper than what I'm used to on another similar line. Some people don't like coach trips, but at least Viking tries to limit coach size to 2/3rds full. I only used the spa area once, but appreciated not having to pay to walk in the door. t. Activities and entertainment, while not fantastic, were certainly adequate for me. I didn't miss a casino, and while there were books around, I didn't miss a library. There WERE some nice holiday (New Year's Eve & Day) activities that were quite nice. I know Viking's prices appear high to many, but keep in mind you'll get plenty of space, no lines, no extra charge for specialty restaurants, and beer & wine at lunch and dinner, use of spa area, Wifi plus computers with internet, and self-service laundry on each floor. You also usually get port intensive itineraries, often including some of the lesser-visited ports, a free excursion (for everyone; don't get to pick) in each port except on embarkation/disembarkation days, and a wonderful overall cruise experience. The cruisers themselves, were great, although if you're in your 30s or 40s you may feel the age difference quite a bit! But to me, people are people, regardless of age, so as long as the people I'm cruising with are interested in seeing the world more than getting drunk, their ages don't matter much to me.
Our ports were Rome (ship stayed overnight there), Naples, Trapani Sicily, Cagliari Sardinia, Algiers, Valencia, Barcelona, and one and a half sea days. There were no tender ports. The captain skipped Trapani due to weather, which was a big disappointment to me, but I have to trust his judgement on those matters. We did get another half day in Naples and a free visit to their fabulous archaeological museum. I passed & walked around the city. Loved the artwork in Toledo, Universita, and other metro stations. It was thrilling to be in Algeria (first visit to Africa) and I have to admit it was different and better than I expected. The people were really glad to see us, and the city arranged police escorts so we could get through traffic quicker. The Algerian weekend is Friday and Saturday, and we were there on Friday. There were plenty of people out when we visited a wonderful park with ruins. Our guide was fabulous - including his English fluency and (lack of) accent. The other ports were charming (even gritty Naples in its own way!) including Cagliari, although we only had from 7 AM to 2 PM - tough for me to see all I wanted to see. Viking's free excursions are quite good, but in a big city like Rome or London, you're not going to see everything there is to see. You may want to find a private excursion instead, but of course, even then you won't see everything. Traffic can be a real problem. However, at least Viking's excursions were well organized and executed, and they generally only fill their coaches 2/3rds full on those popular included tours (and optional ones). It was nice in Spain and Italy because Three Kings Day (Jan. 6th) fell while we were there, and it basically is the end of the Christmas season. Therefore, the Christmas spirit and decorations were still in evidence long after Christmas Day is celebrated in the U.S.
Tips for Viking:
If you're thinking of booking another cruise with them, do it while on the ship, or the following week. They offered us a great price on board and for a week or so after we got home. However, we weren't ready to commit, and ended up paying quite a bit more for the cruises we ultimately selected.
On occasion, an excursion will sell out. Just let the onboard staff know and they'll do their best to get you on the excursion.
Book your specialty restaurant reservations and your excursions right away when you can online to get best days/times.
While I didn't notice this on our cruise in late December, I understand that Viking is now offering some of their included tours as a slower, gentler experience.
To make on-ship navigating easier, look for the wall phone when you get off the elevator. That will help you know which side your cabin is on! And that phone is not just for staff. Use it if you want to call to your or another person's cabin.
Take a lanyard for your key card if you have no pants pockets and don't like carrying a purse, even a small one. You'll be using that card a lot.
Make sure you know which electrical sockets are "live" all the time and which go out when you leave and take your key out of the slot by the door. If your electronics don't charge while you're gone, that may be why.
Make sure you visit World Cafe at least once - upscale buffet experience. Also check it for special "on the deck" days - fish fry/bake, Mexican night, etc.
If you want to change or add specialty restaurant rezzies, go to the podium right inside the World Cafe to ask about that.
If you fly into Frankfurt from the U.S., connect to another flight, and need a wheelchair, be aware that Frankfurt has two scenarios for those who request a wheelchair online. When you land, a wheelchair and pusher are provided. However, you are asked whether you can walk. If you say "a little" you're likely to be taken only to the front of the gate and you'll wait for a cart to go to your connecting gate. We waited a long time, although it WAS Christmas week, so perhaps things aren't as bad other times. Then the connecting flight left from the tarmac, which required walking from the gate down stairs, to the plane and then up a metal flight of steps with carryons. On the way back, we requested wheelchair assistance all the way, and fared much better. If you're totally mobile, however, a connection may be fairly easy. That's because often the connection from non-EU area (e.g. from U.S) to secure EU area requires only taking an elevator down or up within the same terminal. Then you walk to your gate (although that may be a long way, and can still include passport control, x-rays, airport or metal stairs, etc. But at least there's no waiting for assistance involved.
Remember in booking any cruise that unless there are overnights in the cities used for embarkation and disembarkation, you probably won't have time to see much of those cities unless you do early and stay late. I highly recommend doing this, and it will also give you some "what if?" time in case flights are very delayed, plus give you a little time to get your body over jetlag (if flying long distances). Also, use a travel agent and ask for goodies.
Would I do this cruise again? No. However, I WOULD do a similar Viking Ocean cruise with an itinerary consisting of more cities I had not visited. I also hope to do more holiday cruising, as I found there was magic in the air while cruising after Christmas. Read Less