My wife and I were anxious to try the much touted Viking Ocean. We booked a one week Rome to Barcelona cruise with a three-day pre-cruise Umbria extension. We made our own flight arrangements in order to assure only direct flights to and ... Read More
My wife and I were anxious to try the much touted Viking Ocean. We booked a one week Rome to Barcelona cruise with a three-day pre-cruise Umbria extension. We made our own flight arrangements in order to assure only direct flights to and from. We were, however, obligated to arrive on the day our extension began. Would have preferred to arrive a day or two earlier and meet the Viking guides at the airport but we were told this could not be done. I have since found out that there is a way around this by booking private transportation to the extension hotel for the first night there. Another couple in our group did this. The Umbria extension was outstanding. I have reviewed this elsewhere. Transportation from the extension to the ship was flawless though we didn't arrive until 5:00 PM with only a half hour until muster drill.
As for the cruise itself, I must say that I readily understand the high marks given by the vast majority of its guests. The spotless ship, its gracious crew, its many amenities and very comfortable accommodations validate the acclamations. For me, however, there is one very prominent deficiency. This is dining.
Let me hasten to say that the majority will probably disagree with me. I add this note in hopes of dissuading the many Viking defenders from venting. Folks, it's just a matter of some like chocolate while others prefer vanilla.
Dining on Viking tends to be casual, and is meant to be. Of the various venues, The Restaurant (main dining room) is the only one with table linens. All others use plastic place mats. The World Cafe is the “buffet” which is cafeteria style self-service for everything except beverages which are served. This is very popular for a variety of good reasons. Guests who are in a hurry, who prefer to wear more casual clothes than suggested for other venues, who like to fill their plates with a variety of offerings, love this place. The World Cafe is always open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are two “specialty” restaurants, Manfredi's and The Chef's Table. Manfredi's has a very interesting menu with an Italian theme. The offerings are delicious and portions tend to be large. Service is as helter-skelter here as it is in all other service venues. I'll explain later. The Chef's Table offers a set menu which changes every several days. These two alternative restaurants serve dinner only and only by reservation. The remaining three food outlets are the Living Room bar, Mansen's (a Norwegian deli), and the Pool Grill. All with very good but limited menus. Of course, there is always the 24-hour option of room service which arrives promptly, on a tray, and must be consumed from your lap or shagged to the balcony table, unless you have a suite which includes a dining table.
So what's my beef? Service! Everyone, in every mentioned venue and in every other part of the ship, is as gracious, friendly and accommodating as possible. It is the method obviously prescribed for them in the restaurants that troubles me. In all restaurants, one's server will introduce himself, or herself, and state that they will take care of you. That may be the only time you see him or her. Someone else may take your order, another to ask about wine, still another to bring the first course and so on. If you stick to three courses as shown on the menu this is OK. However if you veer from this, confusion and unwarranted delay result. Requesting a salad to be served after the main course, asking for a small serving of a main for a starter, or a large serving of a starter for a main just doesn't work when dealing with multiple servers. Asking one if San Pellegrino is available and being told yes, and later being told no by another, just doesn't work.
This MO was very much more evident in Manfredi's and The Chef's Table than in The Restaurant. For this reason I preferred The Restaurant. We had two reservations in Manfredi's and two in The Chef's Table. We canceled one in each to return to The Restaurant. We would have been delighted to take all three meals every day in The Restaurant. Unfortunately The Restaurant serves lunch only occasionally when at sea, and does not serve breakfast before 8:00 AM which means you must dine elsewhere in order to make a early morning tour.
With that off my chest, let me say that we enjoyed our first Viking cruise and would not be adverse to taking another. I am old but still a pretty fast learner and can work around the dining issues. I do want to offer special kudos to Natalie, the charming young lady who manned the desk at the entrance to The Restaurant, who always greeted me by name and “two chairs” as I preferred any table so long as it had two chairs (no banquet seat); and to Gregory from Armenia who took good care of us at the Living Room bar and saw to it that I had my breakfast oatmeal cookie in the morning and my Maker's Mark in the evening.
I score our Viking cruise a 9 out of 10. Read Less