Over the years we have cruised on many different cruise ships, some big, some medium and some small. We have done both the sailing ships and the powered ships. While we have enjoyed them all, none of them matched up to our recent cruise on the Viking Sea. As a matter of fact, we had taken only 10 day or less cruises before and we weren’t sure we would be able to stay on a ship for 15 days. Usually, we were ready to get back to land by the end of the cruise, not so with Viking.
From the minute we arrived at the embarkation port, we knew this would be different. The boarding process was quick and painless. As we boarded the beautiful ship we were greeted with champagne and a beautifully designed central staircase with colorful backdrops that changed regularly, and soothing music playing by talented musicians. And these entertainers continued throughout the cruise.
One of my pet peeves on ships is the hidden costs. You plunk down your cruise fare and figure all is paid for until you are on the ship and find out many of the things you want to do have an additional cost, not so with Viking. Included with the cruise fare was wifi, unlimited water, soft drinks, wine and beer with lunch and dinner, use of the laundry with detergent included, use of the spa and exercise room, access to all the restaurants, towels for the pool, and, an included tour in every port. About the only extra was gratuities at the end of the cruise., which was seamlessly taken from our account with permission.
The ship takes 930 passengers and about 400 crew. The ship is large and spacious and you never feel crowded. We had no difficulties eating in whatever venues we wanted. There was always space to sit in any of the public areas or lounges and we never encountered long waits. If you wanted privacy, your cabin has a sitting area AND a balcony. The balcony was so nice to have as the cruise we were on called “In the Wake of the Vikings” sailed through some spectacular scenery. Two of the areas I particularly liked to visit was the Explorers Lounge and the Wintergarden. The Explorers Lounge at the bow of the ship had a great 180-degree view with a library, great for both sightseeing and relaxing. The Wintergarden was open for high tea everyday.
Remember balconies are on every cabin. In addition, your cabin is stocked with a mini fridge with soft drinks, water and snacks everyday. The room has wifi so you can get on the internet and check in with the rest of the world when you want. There were a few areas at sea when the internet vanished but for the most part, we had it at some time everyday. We went to some pretty remote areas so we thought it performed well under the circumstances We also loved the lay out of the bathrooms with heated floors and a large shower, by ship standards. There was also ample room for 2 people to get ready simultaneously. The flat screen TV in the room had a number of viewing options including everything you need to know on the ship. All enrichment programs and port talks were recorded if you were unable to attend them in person so you could view them later in your cabin. All of the restaurants’ menus were updated daily so you could select your choice of venue everyday. And a coffee machine is standard in the room and restocked daily. The desk in the room with the mirror above it provided an additional make up area if you needed it. We had storage under the bed for luggage, a large lighted closet with a shelf, and a set of drawers provided the room for our clothes.
As mentioned earlier, there is a tour included in every port at no charge. Additional tours are available at a charge if you want something different. If you are visiting the port for the first time the included tours do a great job of giving you an interesting option to see some of the sights. The optional tours were very good for offering some special interest experiences. When you book your tour you get access to the tour info for each port and you are able to book them before you board. If you check out “my viking experience” on the website, it will tell you when the tours are available for booking. One of the other experiences I loved on this cruise was the easy access to the cities or towns we called in. If the ship did not dock or tender directly to the town, there was a courtesy bus always available to take us there. This made exploring on your own totally painless.
Eating is a highlight on cruises and Viking does not disappoint. There were three areas for breakfast, two of them are casual and self-serve. and one is sit down. This makes it easy if you have an early tour. Lunch also had dual venues, and dinner had 2 special restaurants, the main dining and the casual cafe. The food at all venues was tasty and provided great choices of meat, poultry, seafood and vegetarian. The specialty restaurants were more intimate and provided some unique options such as the Bistecca Steak in the Italian restaurant and great wine pairings with the 4-course menu at the Captain’s Table. And if you just can’t get to a dining room, there’s always room service. All the desserts were divine, and if you wanted something light, there was a gelato stand in the cafe with different flavors every night, yum!
The enrichment program was well thought out and tailored to the theme of the cruise. In our case, Viking life and civilization was central to following the path of Lief Erikkson to North America. During the cruise, we got acquainted with Viking explorations, their lifestyle, their philosophies of life and their spiritual beliefs. Other talks focused on the history of each port and how it figured into Viking history. In addition to these insights, we also heard talks on timely issues related to the areas we were visiting and how these issues can affect the world. The speakers were excellent and well qualified to discuss their topics.
And the spa has a Nordic bathing ritual with a relax in the sauna, then dip in a cold plunge, heat up in the sauna again, then step into the refreshing snow grotto. Wow, what an experience!
Entertainment was on hand every night and at various locations around the ship throughout the day. Night time entertainment included a scheduled show as well as lounge music for drinks and dancing. The shows were varied from pop to opera with interesting sets, quality music and dancing.
I found the crew immensely helpful. One of the loose ends I had when we started the cruise was storing our luggage on the last port. We arrived early in the morning in Montreal and didn’t fly out till evening. We really wanted to spend the day in the city but I couldn’t find anything on the internet indicating where I could store luggage for the day conveniently. The crew came through, letting me know a spot in the new terminal where they would store my luggage free of charge, incredible! Sure beat going out to the airport and cabbing back in for sightseeing. And after sightseeing that day, there was a crew member back at the port who called us a cab. All in all, Viking provided a relaxing 15 days with all our needs tended to painlessly. We are definitely ready to take them to another destination soon.