A quick intro. This was our first time on Viking Ocean, my previous cruise experience was western Med on Regent Mariner. Traveled with my mom, who has a lot of cruise experience on a variety of lines. Mom picked the cruise, I was the ... Read More
A quick intro. This was our first time on Viking Ocean, my previous cruise experience was western Med on Regent Mariner. Traveled with my mom, who has a lot of cruise experience on a variety of lines. Mom picked the cruise, I was the lucky travel companion.
Cruise departed from Rome and traveled to Barcelona. This itinerary has the ship traveling in the evening/at night. We were lucky to be on the 2nd cruise on Orion, which is new and beautiful.
Embarkation - we arrived the day before and stayed at the Hilton at the airport. Our TA arranged for us to meet the Viking transport at the airport for our transfer to the ship. We were a bit nervous about this, since most people were coming directly from a flight and we were afraid we might miss the group. Turned out we should not have worried, when we arrived at the airport we immediately found a crowd of travelers wearing the red Viking stickers and made our way to the buses. There was no crowd in the terminal, we were able to process within a few minutes after waiting in a very short line, and then quickly went aboard.
The staff greats you with a glass of champagne as you board, with some staff wearing traditional nordic clothing. The customer service desk is open 24/7, and it is good idea to talk to them when you board, the lines get longer later in the day.
With cabin access at 1pm, we had some time to explore the ship. Orion is a beautiful ship. The public spaces are wide open, she never feels crowded. We went directly to the spa to book some services. The spa is unique and the staff is quite helpful. Mom signed up for a facial and I signed up for a guided experience using the nordic spa. This is an event open to 10 people once per cruise (they did it twice this journey, lots of interest) for a low fee which includes a body brush and various creams and lotions. The gym is next door - clean and really well appointed. When I came down to exercise in the morning each piece of cardio equipment was preloaded with a fresh towel and bottle of water. There were plenty of sanitary wipes and a hand washing station, too. I had everything I needed for a great workout.
After the spa we went upstairs to what I call the "food court". This area,with both indoor and outdoor seating, serves food from various stations. The fresh made gelato every day was a favorite. I love that Viking had no extra sugar added gelato every day (with a new flavor every day!) and no added sugar cookies too. Wine and beer are included with lunch and dinner, and so is soda. The wait staff was quick to bring water and wine, it took a while to get a soda sometimes, and I found it worked better to order two glasses each time. I often ran into other diners who were ordering two sodas at a time - the glass holds half a can.
We had a penthouse veranda cabin. One thing we really liked - our stewed came in and introduced herself and then went over all of the features of the cabin with us. The min fridge was preloaded with an assortment of soda, beer, champagne, mini liquor bottles and 3 tiny toblerone candy bars. We knew what we wanted in the fridge - lots of Diet Coke and wine instead of champagne, so we left a note for the crew member who does the mini fridge refills. There is no place in the fridge for the ice bucket - you can ask for ice each day but half of it does melt while you are out and about. The room featured way more pillows than we knew what to do with, pillows on the beds, pillows on the couch, pillows on the chairs. We had the two bed configuration, the room included a couch and chair as well as two tables. The veranda had two chairs and a table as well. Loved that there was a big window and a regular door to the veranda rather than a slider! The TV is large, with several news channels to choose from as well as BBC documentaries and TED talks as well as some movies.
There are two speciality restaurants on the ship as well as the main dining room and the food court. We tried Manfredis and it was OK. The menus at the Chefs Table were not for us. We found that the main dining room, which was never crowded, was our favorite. The service was excellent, and they can even bring you food from one of the other restaurants if you ask. Tea time is simple - the guitar player plays and sings, and everyone group receives a tray with some tiny sandwiches and 4 treats. The tea is simple. This is one area which was disappointing to me after the sumptuous tea's on Regent and the lively trivia games at tea time. One our ship the tea was never crowded, there was plenty of room for more people.
The entertainment on the ship is very low key. No big broadway style nightly shows on this trip. There is a cast of 4 young singers who did two shows, the cruise director had one show where he sang with the band. They brought in some local entertainers - an opera group in Livorno which was very entertaining and included audience participation - a string group another night, and a wonderful local music group in Barcelona. You can find live music throughout the trip at tea, during the Munch Moments, in the public areas and in the night club. There was a live music dance night on the pool deck as well. Orion has a planetarium style show which was very interesting and there was a stargazing lecture one night with the resident astronomer.
We did a combination of the included shore excursions and some which were for an additional fee. By far our favorite was a trip to Cassis when we were in Marseille. This little French town felt like it was Belle's hometown with it's perfect little store fronts and cafes. There was a beach and the excursion included a lovely boat ride on the crystal clear waters to see the various fjords (they called them something else, but they were fjords). It was market day and there were vendors with fresh fruit and veg, handmade soaps and other crafts and various merchandise. Our other paid shore excursion was Florence by Tuk Tuk. Since the drive from port is so long you don't get nearly enough time to fully explore Florence, but Tomas the Tuk Tuk driver made sure we saw all the main sights and took us to a church above the city with amazing views of Florence. The meet up point for the Florence excursions is a square with both an excellent leather store and jewelry store. The buses for all the trips had great air conditioning, which was cold to American expectations. Points to Viking for this! We visited Pisa on the included excursion, which included a lot of walking from the bus to the square. The tour included too much "time on our own" as there was only one restaurant there and no real shops - and a lot of very aggressive vendors. We took the included walking tour in Monaco, and since the ship was there all day and evening we were able to head back in town to visit the casino. In St Tropez the included tour takes you to a planned community with canals like Venice. The community was built in the 70s. Luckily it was market day there and we were able to shop at the local market for food and gifts. We could have used more time to shop at this local market. Then the tour bus took us to St Tropez for a walking tour of the town. The best part of this port day was sitting in the infinity pool or on deck watching the amazing yachts go by - you can google them by name to see who they belong to. The included tour of Barcelona takes you around the city in the bus - you can see some of the Gaudi buildings from the bus. You tour the cathedral, and then many people departed from the group to spend their day in the city. There is a bus from the city to the port, so you can enjoy your day in town.
That spa is an amazing place. Access to the spa is included in your cruise fare. During my spa experience, the staff lead us through the nordic experience - we started with dry brushing our skin, then into the sauna, then into the snow room - we did that a few times - rubbing snow balls on our skin. When you are done with that there is an ice bucket dumpshower, and also a fabulous shower with many different sprays. The pool in the spa is a hydrotherapy pool, and there is a hot tub as well. There are also heated loungers. If you travel viking ocean do not miss the spa!
The pool has two pools on deck - there is an infinity pool and a regular pool. The infinity pool is deeper and colder. It is amazing to sit in the infinity pool and watch the yachts go past.
The crew on this ship is very eager to please, and we received several surveys during the cruise - and the staff actually followed up on them, calling me to ask questions about my responses. After his show the cruise director asked everyone to make sure they filled out the surveys, he stressed that they would be responsive, and you could see some things changed immediately in response - for example, the dining room switched from room temp water to ice water after the surveys. We were always greeted with a smile, and if it was within their power the staff granted your wish. The customer service desk is open 24/7 and they patiently answered all of our questions. You can find a map of each port in the book case in front of the customer service desks, and also on the dock in the area under the red canopy.
The Viking passengers seemed to be a friendly crowd, and there was a wide age range of passengers, but not too many teen aged kids. Read Less