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LesSails80435

Viking Sea disappoints long-time ocean cruiser

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We sailed Viking Sea in an Explorer Suite (top category besides the one Owner’s Suite) on Into the Midnight Sun and Baltic Jewels, 28 days back to back, 6-19-16 from Harwich.

This was our first Viking experience of any kind, and it will likely be our last. Let me say that we didn’t expect that our stateroom class meant we were to be pampered, but, where appropriate, should have been acknowledged or attention paid to specific issues. We have sailed more than 25 cruises on 10 different lines, so this review is based on past experiences.

 

We have previously reported pre-sailing issues to Viking, but to summarize here:

* Getting our air payment refunded after booking our own air took more than six weeks; in spite of several calls from our travel agent and ourselves, it wasn’t until the complaint was posted on Cruise Critic that our money was refunded.

* In spite of several calls in advance, we did not receive boarding documents in a timely manner. Friends on the same cruise received theirs 6 weeks in advance (booked direct with Viking) and 4 weeks in advance (booked through same travel agent we used). 14 days ahead of sailing ours had not arrived; a call to Viking resulted in a rushed set (no My Viking Journey booklet—just non-personalized generic luggage tags and a few Xeroxed pages), which arrived less than 24 hours before our bags to be shipped were picked up. Viking explanation: “We have no idea why yours were not sent; we use an outside vendor.”

 

As to the cruise itself:

 

First, the good: as so many have said, the ship is beautiful, with many well-designed public spaces and good, thought-out features in staterooms. Never did the ship feel crowded except on those occasions where it is supposed to beDance night, Blue Nose ceremony, Beatles jam session, etc. The technology was first class—internet available everywhere, video presentations during shows were great, information screens at every turn. There are other great design details: reasonable height furniture, a highly functional opening pool roof, very smooth sailing--little ship motion felt. The Explorer Lounge was a favorite spot; it had an outside forward deck with rail beyond the two-story windows. Books are everywhere; lots of nonfiction. There are electronic game tables in the Atrium on deck 2. The promenade deck is nice to have. Temperature varies widely over the ship's enclosed spaces; Atrium is especially cold, so guests should be prepared. We saw many people wearing fleece layers indoors. Or course, we were in Norway!

 

Without elaborating too much on the small things that could use improvement (see notes at end), there are two areas of major concern--the poor experience booking excursions on line combined with the incompetence and inattentiveness of the excursions staff in planning and executing excursions, and major supervisory lapses in the restaurants.

 

First, let me repeat and emphasize the advice given by others. Do not assume anything about reservations (or excursions) booked online. We booked both our excursions and our dining reservations 90 days in advance. Our restaurant reservations included wrong day, wrong time, and wrong restaurant. Fortunately, since we checked as soon as we boarded, all got straightened out.

 

Food and Drink

 

There are plenty of eating venues with a wide variety of choices; we liked the small portions (true except for Manfredi's); service in general not very fast but acceptable. The food in the Restaurant and World Café seems to totally repeat each two weeks, except for some of the time offering a different three-course selection of regional food (Restaurant) and a few Café specialities. In general, we found Restaurant and Café food fairly bland, without much flavor in sauces; always a roast, and steak is always available. Pasta is unremarkable for the most part.

 

The bigger problem in the restaurants is much of the management staff and systems.

 

World Café: We had many meals in the self-service World Café where the tables were not bussed during the meal between courses. Sometimes the wine pourers stop every few minutes, but no one picks up dirty dishes. World Café staff have not been trained to not stand in the main passageway, nor to try to move out of the way of guests. Management stands around talking to guests or supervisors, blocking traffic, instead of managing the wait staff. It's fine to visit with each table, but there appear to be too many suits and not enough staff. In both here and the Restaurant, staff are not assigned regular stations, so it is difficult to get to know them, and service varied a lot. Specialties in World Café are mussels each week, sausages in Germany, and sushi, sashimi, crab, and shrimp every night, which we thought was terrific.

 

The Restaurant (main dining room): the Maître d' often takes the first persons in line and personally shows them to a table, thus leaving the rest of the line waiting 2-3 minutes for him to return. Why not have a few waiters to show people their table, and keeping the line moving? We did see that on occasion (after we mentioned it on a mid-cruise critique), but not all the time. The Maître’ d always checked our stateroom number, but more than once we were seated in very high service and guest traffic areas when much better tables were available. They do a nice job of personalizing utensils course by course. Tables are very close together, so even dining alone it feels like sharing. We were never asked if we wanted to share a table.

 

Chef’s Table and Manfredi’s: Service varied here as well, but was better than the others. Chef's Table is creative food prep and presentation; we tried four menus (Asian, Gastronomical Journey, Venetian, and Scandinavian), mostly good but wouldn't do twice except the Asian. Manfredi's is all about large portions (too large for us, but perhaps not for others) of mostly hearty meats--with always a fish selection and some nice pastas, but once a week is enough.

Mamsen's. The waffles are terrific; soups rotated every day (same soup as in World Café) and little sandwiches and desserts were the same every day. A nice, light option, if usually crowded.

Room Service. The extremely limited menu is a big disappointment. The Explorer Suite has a dining table (two actually, one inside and one outside), but when Room Service was called, they reported nothing except the limited menu was available. We reported this conversation to our room attendant, and through her intervention, we were later told for a special occasion we could order from one of the restaurants as well. We did once, and that service was wonderful. Room Service (also Guest Services and Housekeeping) do not have caller ID; we usually had to repeat room number several times.

 

Excursions

 

But the huge disappointment is the excursions. While the quality was overall quite good, even the included tours, it's the management that is awful. The most grievous problem is the reservation system and the unwillingness of excursion management to communicate with guests the time of excursions until the night before.

 

For example, I had booked a morning excursion and an afternoon excursion in Geiranger. The tickets I received on boarding had no times on them, so I expected the times confirmed on My Viking Journey several months prior would be correct. When the Viking Daily appeared after dinner the night before, both my excursions were departing in the afternoon. I couldn't do both; there was no time to rebook. Viking had to have known when their booking window closed that my morning one had been cancelled. Why not give me the chance to alter my plans? Even worse, the excursion staff really didn't care. On another occasion, a tour reserved for one time was assigned to a much later time, ruining dinner plans. Again, no notice until the night before. If you can stay truly flexible, you may not have a problem with this, but we were traveling with friends, and the uncertainty (until 12 hours before) made it impossible for us to plan our port time effectively.

 

Another time the bridge determined that we would leave a port 5 hours early; we never received an announcement; it’s just chance that we noticed the small sign posted at the gangway. And not everyone made it back in time, so departure did wait for them.

 

On another occasion where the excursion time was moved, necessitating a cancellation, we were told we couldn’t get a refund, as the cancellation deadline was several days earlier. How can they not refund when we did not know there was a conflict until the night before? It took considerable effort to get the credit applied to our shipboard account. Likewise, in Bodó, Viking must have known the included concert (which was great) was to be several hours earlier than promoted--advance notice would be nice for planning.

 

Yet another example: a Tallinn chocolate-making tour at 8:00 am was marked sold out from the first day it appeared on the website. When the excursion booking form was passed out (halfway through the four-week cruise), an 11:30 version of same was listed as available, and I booked it. (It was not on the website in the two months that I checked). Then, the night before, my time was changed from 11:30 am to 8:00 am, posted in the Viking Daily.I made it, but the change should have been personally communicated.

 

Viking also hasn't learned a good way to disembark a lot of passengers at the same time. The space for gathering ready to disembark on either deck is totally inadequate; the gangplanks are poorly designed, too narrow, sometimes steep and downright dangerous for those without very sound footing. When steps are required at the bottom, there are no handrails for the steps. Instead of assigning buses in a gathering place (such as the theater), someone stands at the bottom of the gangplank (or sometimes a little further away), wants to see the ticket, clicks a counter, then directs to a bus, leaving others lined up on the stairs. I will say the interior signage directing people to where the gangway is located was generally excellent.

 

Shore excursion staff seem to have no input to how systems work, yet face the brunt of guest unhappiness/complaints. Petra was an exception to staff who mainly didn't care—or were just tired of hearing complaints.

 

Included excursions ranged from special to typical old town walking tours, and were all acceptable or better. Most optional tours we took were very good; some special experiences were included; prices were not unreasonably high. However, since port lectures were during the dinner hour the night before, it was difficult to attend them. And, of course, useless if you wanted to learn something about the port before planning your day or booking an excursion (which closed several days ahead of the lecture). Since these were canned, and read from a teleprompter or computer, there is no reason they could not be provided in a timely manner.

 

Other observations

 

Clientele. On our cruise, there seemed to be many Viking River customers, with limited ocean experience, or mid-level cruisers (HAL, Princess, NCL, etc.). This seems to be Viking's target: we didn't find much high-end experience. Many people we talked to seem very happy with the experience, especially food and the 'free' wine (mostly very marginal, in our opinion), whereas we are somewhat spoiled in our experiences with better food, more high-end dining, and better wine selection (we were never offered a wine list unless we specifically requested it).

 

Cabin attendant/point of contact. Our attendant was great and took ownership of many of our issues. She was our point of contact for way more than we felt she should be. With the Explorer Suite and its amenities (no literature in room welcoming guest and explaining amenities and whom to contact), there should be a single point of contact to take ownership of issues. We were called several days into the cruise by the Service Desk manager, but no direct phone number was provided. Housekeeping was very responsive; suite was serviced right after we left room almost every time.

 

Stateroom. Explorer Suite 5109. The sound insulation is excellent--both between rooms and with engine. The beautiful bath, with picture window, has lots of extra drawer space. Unfortunately, the bath floor is heated, and requires a special visit by Engineering to turn it off. Viking should allow guests to turn it on or off on future ships. Great location and quantity of all the 110 and USB outlets. Deck furniture is very flexible and nice. There is great storage/closet space in this suite, and the layout is fine.

 

Air conditioning effectiveness varies widely. Had to call for maintenance twice. We were on a northern itinerary—solution to bright sunny days was to close blackout drapes. We wonder if the stateroom would be intolerably warm in warmer climates (e.g., Caribbean).

 

Enrichment. Seemed like there were too many lecturers for an itinerary of 25 out of 28 port days. Many of the talks were scheduled at inconvenient times, such as the dinner hour. Most (but not all) speakers were very good, even those pushing goods in the shops.

 

Entertainment. Entertainment was good for the size of the ship—combination of staff and guest entertainers, and a nice variety of types and times (although staff productions repeated every two weeks). Nice to have multiple venues for entertainment—and some special programs in the Atrium. Guitar player and classical trio were very good. The theater has both benches and chairs—good idea—and lots of legroom. Small wings for cinema were useful, although lighting should be improved; we saw several people stumble and fall while we were sitting there. Good views of stage; good acoustics if sometimes too loud.

 

Other

· Mid-cruise comments never responded to.

· Future cruise desk hours were often posted inaccurately. For a Fall 2018 cruise Viking required full payment in 2016. We passed.

· Several issues around minibar service and what was included. This was eventually resolved.

· No clocks anywhere except TV/video screens—not even in stateroom.

· No public trash disposal except in bathrooms and one small can on deck three of atrium.

· Service desk was generally responsive, although two different people had no clue how to handle luggage to be shipped home via a shipping service. Invoice was incorrect; had to be adjusted to show all shipboard credit used.

 

The good news is that the ship is truly great; if Viking can figure out how to do excursions properly, and work on its restaurant dining issues, we might consider again, but not till we hear things have improved.

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Hi, I think you were kind to Viking Ocean. We were in deluxe veranda and we could hear the people talk next door. I made a list of 19 ways they could improve which include the clocks. Unfortunate I booked two cruises the same day and Had to pay immediately for both. The second one is Sept 13th and expect the same problems as before. On the first they erased all the reservations I made from home both excursions and restaurants and had to re-book them when I came aboard. They did not know how to make a pot of tea. I am a seasoned traveler like you and would never go again on Viking.

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We were in deluxe veranda and we could hear the people talk next door.

 

Wow! You must have had terribly noisy neighbors or else they blared the television all the time. In 14 days on board in a DV cabin, the only time I ever heard the neighbors was one afternoon when they had the television on--and the only reason I could hear it was because it was perfectly quiet in our stateroom.

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I guess it goes to show that some will find fault in every little thing and others will overlook and decide to enjoy themselves.

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I guess it goes to show that some will find fault in every little thing and others will overlook and decide to enjoy themselves.

Yup! Agree wholeheartedly. Only time we heard our neighbours was when we talked to them on the balcony

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We have just returned from a Viking Homelands cruise on Viking Star and I have posted a review of our cruise. I agree with the comments made in the original post. We found that trying to get a table in the restaurant at a time to suit us was impossible and had to compromise and eat far later than we would have preferred. There was only a choice of one white or one red complimentary wine so if you didn't like the grape variety, tough luck. The premium wines in the Chef's Table we were disappointing. At times the ship seemed deserted with the trio playing to six or eight people. Service in all the restaurants was never consistent, sometimes it was good and sometimes mediocre. We were in a Penthouse Junior Suite and could always hear the television in the next cabin. We have cruised since 1993 and prefer the traditional cruising experience but are growing weary of cruising and will probably stick to land based holidays from now on.

 

Pugwash123

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Appreciate your candid review LesSails. Being on the Sea for that long a period offers you a unique perspective in the day-to-day experiences aboard the ship. I am still in the process of deciding which cruise to book ... Viking has a Caribbean cruise which would offer us an opportunity to experience a different way of cruising as opposed to the mainstream lines but with an itinerary where we have been to every port of call on their itinerary before ... whereas we're looking at other cruise lines which offer the mainstream cruise experience but with itineraries/ports we have yet to try.

 

There were a lot of positives in your review ... so any pitfalls that you noticed, such as the irregular dining room service and the shore excursions department, makes it a more "honest" review in my opinion. Thanks.

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We have just returned from a Viking Homelands cruise on Viking Star and I have posted a review of our cruise. I agree with the comments made in the original post. We found that trying to get a table in the restaurant at a time to suit us was impossible and had to compromise and eat far later than we would have preferred. There was only a choice of one white or one red complimentary wine so if you didn't like the grape variety, tough luck. The premium wines in the Chef's Table we were disappointing. At times the ship seemed deserted with the trio playing to six or eight people. Service in all the restaurants was never consistent, sometimes it was good and sometimes mediocre. We were in a Penthouse Junior Suite and could always hear the television in the next cabin. We have cruised since 1993 and prefer the traditional cruising experience but are growing weary of cruising and will probably stick to land based holidays from now on.

 

Pugwash123

 

Do you have a link to your review as tried searching for it ...

 

Our first cruise was our honeymoon cruise aboard the Fair Princess back when it was under the Princess banner ... boy, cruising has come a LOOONNGG way since then - lol. Still love cruising but now we combine a land holiday before and/or after the cruise; like we've done the past three cruises with Disney - usually WDW before and Universal after ... the best of both worlds :) ...

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Here is the link to the review.

 

http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=544020

 

 

There would certainly be a marked difference between Viking Ocean and Fred Olsen.

 

If you could transfer the Fred Olsen experience into the Viking Ocean ships then you would probably have my ideal cruise.

 

Pugwash 123

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To say the least, I am floored by your review. The good news is that Viking is one of the few cruise lines that not only monitors Cruise Critic, but actually responds to comments.

 

We are seasoned cruisers and have been on ocean cruise lines that run the gamut including an 89-day world cruise on Crystal. We were very pleased by the Viking river cruise we sailed on last year and were eager to try their ocean cruise line as well.

 

I am hoping that the captain, hotel manager, Maitre' d and cruise director have all been been made aware of these issues. I promise that we will not be silent if we run into similar problems.

 

I usually run a live blog on cruise critic on my cruises; so you will know very quickly if things have or have not improved.

 

Hoping that our experience is much different from yours.

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Why would you feel that you were entitled to better service then other people, just because you paid more? Well nothing posted by Viking states you get anything different other then picking your tours, dinner and spa reservations earlier. Guess its better you stay on other lines to feel entitled because you pay more then others.

You also talked about how important it is to check your reservations when arriving on the ship, which is something everyone needs to do, but you complain that your excursions were still wrong.

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The only thing that is alarming to me is the excursion problems that they are experiencing. Many have complained about it here. The rest doesn't really affect me. I feel food and wine is subjective to one's own palate. I, personally, like the heated floors. I have never encountered staff that is unwilling to help anywhere we go. I sometimes feel it is because we take the time to know the staff and treat them like equals when we are vacationing. We are actually booked once again on Viking because of that very reason. We have become very close with a staff member and she was recently transferred from the river cruise to the Viking Star. We stay in contact with her throughout the year.

 

The reference to mid level cruisers comes across to me as judgmental of those not as fortunate as yourself. Everyone enjoys pampering, good food and a great staff. Food is subjective. Pampering comfort level varies from person to person. Staff can be good or bad anywhere, any cruise line.

 

Many other of your points were new and interesting to read. Thanks!

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I have read this thread with interest since we embark on Viking Sea in 4 weeks. I did find some remarks concerning. However on further investigation I see that the original Poster says he has long experience of high end cruises (unlike me we have only been up to Azamara, Star Clipper and Oceania experience recently). However I do note from his profile that the only other postings are on the Oceania board. I would be interested in a direct comparison.

In regard to the postings from Pugwash, I would say that Fred Olsen has a great reputation for a very friendly 'British' experience. They have many loyal followers including my good friends but if you read their board and reviews there are also many negative comments. I did see a TV program following one of their lengthy cruises part way around the world. Not sure how fair it was, but it certainly ensured I would never consider booking with them.

I am looking forward to the cruise and I would like to thank everyone for their thoughts. They are very useful and entertaining.

I am sure we will enjoy our cruise. We have never had a bad one.

I will say that I hope it lives up to Azamara. We have met so many great people and their crews are fantastic.

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Why would you feel that you were entitled to better service then other people, just because you paid more? Well nothing posted by Viking states you get anything different other then picking your tours, dinner and spa reservations earlier. Guess its better you stay on other lines to feel entitled because you pay more then others.

You also talked about how important it is to check your reservations when arriving on the ship, which is something everyone needs to do, but you complain that your excursions were still wrong.

 

Me thinks you might be a wee bit defensive.

 

Just to be sure, I reread the OP's very thorough and detailed comments. It seems to me that he went out of his way to emphasize that he wasn't expecting special treatment, but was surprised that even someone sailing in one of their most expensive cabins would be treated so poorly.

 

Frankly I am too.

 

Any business, especially a service business, should make sure that they are delivering a top notch product to all their guests, customers, clients or passengers. But they also should recognize that their top paying guests deserve special consideration when it comes to any concerns. That is why many businesses assign a high level person - like a concierge - to deal with such issues. In any case, NO GUEST should have to have to post a just complaint on Cruise Critic in order to get it resolved.

 

While some of the items enumerated by the OP may be preferences, the review was quite detailed and should not be dismissed quite so abruptly. His observations about the staffing, seating procedures, excursions, online booking errors etc. are all items that should be investigated.

 

I realize there are cruise line cheerleaders on this site who are often dismissive of complaints about their favorite cruise line. However, this site is valuable for providing us with concerns and opinions of previous passengers. We should also recognize that any one complaint (or defense) is just that - one person's opinion and should be taken with that perspective.

 

Personally I would prefer if posters would encourage, rather than attack posters' opinions and if they choose to counter it do so with their own experiences and perspective.

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Why would you feel that you were entitled to better service then other people, just because you paid more? Well nothing posted by Viking states you get anything different other then picking your tours, dinner and spa reservations earlier. Guess its better you stay on other lines to feel entitled because you pay more then others.

You also talked about how important it is to check your reservations when arriving on the ship, which is something everyone needs to do, but you complain that your excursions were still wrong.

 

 

We don't feel we deserve better service; just the same good service anyone should expect. What was lacking was attention to the 'amenities' included in our stateroom category. This was a 50th anniversary cruise, and we paid much more per day than any other cruise we have ever taken to celebrate a special occasion.

 

While, as I said, our tickets had the right excursions on them, which we checked on arrival, there were no times; the times were not released until the night before. I will admit that if we had reviewed every excursion personally with the excursions staff when we received the tickets, perhaps they would have told us times, and conflicts would have surfaced. But we had never had this kind of problem on any other cruise, so assumed that what we reserved was what we got. All Viking has to do is figure out how to finalize times in the days before the excursion, before the change/cancel deadline, and notify the guest. Last-minute emergency changes can be handled on a case-by-case basis.

 

We were just trying to point out what future guests might want to pay attention to, and didn't mean to offend anyone.

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Just off the Sea ( and OP of the link referenced above). I hear what this poster has said, but found our experience to be almost completely satisfactory. Yes, Viking is having some 'startup' difficulties in the area of excursion management and the translation their river cruise procedures to the ocean format, but I have confidence they will get the kinks worked out. I am impressed that they are not trying to operate 'just like' the others.

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To say the least, I am floored by your review. The good news is that Viking is one of the few cruise lines that not only monitors Cruise Critic, but actually responds to comments.

 

We are seasoned cruisers and have been on ocean cruise lines that run the gamut including an 89-day world cruise on Crystal. We were very pleased by the Viking river cruise we sailed on last year and were eager to try their ocean cruise line as well.

 

I am hoping that the captain, hotel manager, Maitre' d and cruise director have all been been made aware of these issues. I promise that we will not be silent if we run into similar problems.

 

I usually run a live blog on cruise critic on my cruises; so you will know very quickly if things have or have not improved.

 

Hoping that our experience is much different from yours.

 

 

We hope so too! These problems shouldn't be hard to fix, and we think you will love the ship.

 

We did report issues (as well as praise) on mid-cruise and end-of-cruise surveys, without a response. And we shared our review with our travel agent a little while before we posted. Interestingly, Viking called her to ask how we enjoyed our cruise; she suggested they contact us directly, which they have not done.

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Dear LesSails80435,

 

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughtful review – and for choosing Viking to celebrate your 50th Wedding Anniversary!

 

Your praise of the ship and your stateroom attendant is much appreciated. We are happy to hear you enjoyed the design and details aboard Viking Sea.

 

We would also like to thank you for your constructive comments. Each suggestion posted here, discussed onboard and written on your survey, has been carefully documented and will be considered as we continue to grow the Viking Ocean Cruises line.

 

Although you’ve provided us with a fair amount of detail here, we remain interested discussing the details of your experience further. Please contact us directly at TellUs@vikingcruises.com so that we can connect you with a Viking representative.

 

LesSails80435, we appreciate the opportunity to respond and look forward to hearing from you.

 

Kind regards,

Viking Cruises

 

We sailed Viking Sea in an Explorer Suite (top category besides the one Owner’s Suite) on Into the Midnight Sun and Baltic Jewels, 28 days back to back, 6-19-16 from Harwich.

This was our first Viking experience of any kind, and it will likely be our last. Let me say that we didn’t expect that our stateroom class meant we were to be pampered, but, where appropriate, should have been acknowledged or attention paid to specific issues. We have sailed more than 25 cruises on 10 different lines, so this review is based on past experiences.

 

We have previously reported pre-sailing issues to Viking, but to summarize here:

* Getting our air payment refunded after booking our own air took more than six weeks; in spite of several calls from our travel agent and ourselves, it wasn’t until the complaint was posted on Cruise Critic that our money was refunded.

* In spite of several calls in advance, we did not receive boarding documents in a timely manner. Friends on the same cruise received theirs 6 weeks in advance (booked direct with Viking) and 4 weeks in advance (booked through same travel agent we used). 14 days ahead of sailing ours had not arrived; a call to Viking resulted in a rushed set (no My Viking Journey booklet—just non-personalized generic luggage tags and a few Xeroxed pages), which arrived less than 24 hours before our bags to be shipped were picked up. Viking explanation: “We have no idea why yours were not sent; we use an outside vendor.”

 

As to the cruise itself:

 

First, the good: as so many have said, the ship is beautiful, with many well-designed public spaces and good, thought-out features in staterooms. Never did the ship feel crowded except on those occasions where it is supposed to beDance night, Blue Nose ceremony, Beatles jam session, etc. The technology was first class—internet available everywhere, video presentations during shows were great, information screens at every turn. There are other great design details: reasonable height furniture, a highly functional opening pool roof, very smooth sailing--little ship motion felt. The Explorer Lounge was a favorite spot; it had an outside forward deck with rail beyond the two-story windows. Books are everywhere; lots of nonfiction. There are electronic game tables in the Atrium on deck 2. The promenade deck is nice to have. Temperature varies widely over the ship's enclosed spaces; Atrium is especially cold, so guests should be prepared. We saw many people wearing fleece layers indoors. Or course, we were in Norway!

 

Without elaborating too much on the small things that could use improvement (see notes at end), there are two areas of major concern--the poor experience booking excursions on line combined with the incompetence and inattentiveness of the excursions staff in planning and executing excursions, and major supervisory lapses in the restaurants.

 

First, let me repeat and emphasize the advice given by others. Do not assume anything about reservations (or excursions) booked online. We booked both our excursions and our dining reservations 90 days in advance. Our restaurant reservations included wrong day, wrong time, and wrong restaurant. Fortunately, since we checked as soon as we boarded, all got straightened out.

 

Food and Drink

 

There are plenty of eating venues with a wide variety of choices; we liked the small portions (true except for Manfredi's); service in general not very fast but acceptable. The food in the Restaurant and World Café seems to totally repeat each two weeks, except for some of the time offering a different three-course selection of regional food (Restaurant) and a few Café specialities. In general, we found Restaurant and Café food fairly bland, without much flavor in sauces; always a roast, and steak is always available. Pasta is unremarkable for the most part.

 

The bigger problem in the restaurants is much of the management staff and systems.

 

World Café: We had many meals in the self-service World Café where the tables were not bussed during the meal between courses. Sometimes the wine pourers stop every few minutes, but no one picks up dirty dishes. World Café staff have not been trained to not stand in the main passageway, nor to try to move out of the way of guests. Management stands around talking to guests or supervisors, blocking traffic, instead of managing the wait staff. It's fine to visit with each table, but there appear to be too many suits and not enough staff. In both here and the Restaurant, staff are not assigned regular stations, so it is difficult to get to know them, and service varied a lot. Specialties in World Café are mussels each week, sausages in Germany, and sushi, sashimi, crab, and shrimp every night, which we thought was terrific.

 

The Restaurant (main dining room): the Maître d' often takes the first persons in line and personally shows them to a table, thus leaving the rest of the line waiting 2-3 minutes for him to return. Why not have a few waiters to show people their table, and keeping the line moving? We did see that on occasion (after we mentioned it on a mid-cruise critique), but not all the time. The Maître’ d always checked our stateroom number, but more than once we were seated in very high service and guest traffic areas when much better tables were available. They do a nice job of personalizing utensils course by course. Tables are very close together, so even dining alone it feels like sharing. We were never asked if we wanted to share a table.

 

Chef’s Table and Manfredi’s: Service varied here as well, but was better than the others. Chef's Table is creative food prep and presentation; we tried four menus (Asian, Gastronomical Journey, Venetian, and Scandinavian), mostly good but wouldn't do twice except the Asian. Manfredi's is all about large portions (too large for us, but perhaps not for others) of mostly hearty meats--with always a fish selection and some nice pastas, but once a week is enough.

Mamsen's. The waffles are terrific; soups rotated every day (same soup as in World Café) and little sandwiches and desserts were the same every day. A nice, light option, if usually crowded.

Room Service. The extremely limited menu is a big disappointment. The Explorer Suite has a dining table (two actually, one inside and one outside), but when Room Service was called, they reported nothing except the limited menu was available. We reported this conversation to our room attendant, and through her intervention, we were later told for a special occasion we could order from one of the restaurants as well. We did once, and that service was wonderful. Room Service (also Guest Services and Housekeeping) do not have caller ID; we usually had to repeat room number several times.

 

Excursions

 

But the huge disappointment is the excursions. While the quality was overall quite good, even the included tours, it's the management that is awful. The most grievous problem is the reservation system and the unwillingness of excursion management to communicate with guests the time of excursions until the night before.

 

For example, I had booked a morning excursion and an afternoon excursion in Geiranger. The tickets I received on boarding had no times on them, so I expected the times confirmed on My Viking Journey several months prior would be correct. When the Viking Daily appeared after dinner the night before, both my excursions were departing in the afternoon. I couldn't do both; there was no time to rebook. Viking had to have known when their booking window closed that my morning one had been cancelled. Why not give me the chance to alter my plans? Even worse, the excursion staff really didn't care. On another occasion, a tour reserved for one time was assigned to a much later time, ruining dinner plans. Again, no notice until the night before. If you can stay truly flexible, you may not have a problem with this, but we were traveling with friends, and the uncertainty (until 12 hours before) made it impossible for us to plan our port time effectively.

 

Another time the bridge determined that we would leave a port 5 hours early; we never received an announcement; it’s just chance that we noticed the small sign posted at the gangway. And not everyone made it back in time, so departure did wait for them.

 

On another occasion where the excursion time was moved, necessitating a cancellation, we were told we couldn’t get a refund, as the cancellation deadline was several days earlier. How can they not refund when we did not know there was a conflict until the night before? It took considerable effort to get the credit applied to our shipboard account. Likewise, in Bodó, Viking must have known the included concert (which was great) was to be several hours earlier than promoted--advance notice would be nice for planning.

 

Yet another example: a Tallinn chocolate-making tour at 8:00 am was marked sold out from the first day it appeared on the website. When the excursion booking form was passed out (halfway through the four-week cruise), an 11:30 version of same was listed as available, and I booked it. (It was not on the website in the two months that I checked). Then, the night before, my time was changed from 11:30 am to 8:00 am, posted in the Viking Daily.I made it, but the change should have been personally communicated.

 

Viking also hasn't learned a good way to disembark a lot of passengers at the same time. The space for gathering ready to disembark on either deck is totally inadequate; the gangplanks are poorly designed, too narrow, sometimes steep and downright dangerous for those without very sound footing. When steps are required at the bottom, there are no handrails for the steps. Instead of assigning buses in a gathering place (such as the theater), someone stands at the bottom of the gangplank (or sometimes a little further away), wants to see the ticket, clicks a counter, then directs to a bus, leaving others lined up on the stairs. I will say the interior signage directing people to where the gangway is located was generally excellent.

 

Shore excursion staff seem to have no input to how systems work, yet face the brunt of guest unhappiness/complaints. Petra was an exception to staff who mainly didn't care—or were just tired of hearing complaints.

 

Included excursions ranged from special to typical old town walking tours, and were all acceptable or better. Most optional tours we took were very good; some special experiences were included; prices were not unreasonably high. However, since port lectures were during the dinner hour the night before, it was difficult to attend them. And, of course, useless if you wanted to learn something about the port before planning your day or booking an excursion (which closed several days ahead of the lecture). Since these were canned, and read from a teleprompter or computer, there is no reason they could not be provided in a timely manner.

 

Other observations

 

Clientele. On our cruise, there seemed to be many Viking River customers, with limited ocean experience, or mid-level cruisers (HAL, Princess, NCL, etc.). This seems to be Viking's target: we didn't find much high-end experience. Many people we talked to seem very happy with the experience, especially food and the 'free' wine (mostly very marginal, in our opinion), whereas we are somewhat spoiled in our experiences with better food, more high-end dining, and better wine selection (we were never offered a wine list unless we specifically requested it).

 

Cabin attendant/point of contact. Our attendant was great and took ownership of many of our issues. She was our point of contact for way more than we felt she should be. With the Explorer Suite and its amenities (no literature in room welcoming guest and explaining amenities and whom to contact), there should be a single point of contact to take ownership of issues. We were called several days into the cruise by the Service Desk manager, but no direct phone number was provided. Housekeeping was very responsive; suite was serviced right after we left room almost every time.

 

Stateroom. Explorer Suite 5109. The sound insulation is excellent--both between rooms and with engine. The beautiful bath, with picture window, has lots of extra drawer space. Unfortunately, the bath floor is heated, and requires a special visit by Engineering to turn it off. Viking should allow guests to turn it on or off on future ships. Great location and quantity of all the 110 and USB outlets. Deck furniture is very flexible and nice. There is great storage/closet space in this suite, and the layout is fine.

 

Air conditioning effectiveness varies widely. Had to call for maintenance twice. We were on a northern itinerary—solution to bright sunny days was to close blackout drapes. We wonder if the stateroom would be intolerably warm in warmer climates (e.g., Caribbean).

 

Enrichment. Seemed like there were too many lecturers for an itinerary of 25 out of 28 port days. Many of the talks were scheduled at inconvenient times, such as the dinner hour. Most (but not all) speakers were very good, even those pushing goods in the shops.

 

Entertainment. Entertainment was good for the size of the ship—combination of staff and guest entertainers, and a nice variety of types and times (although staff productions repeated every two weeks). Nice to have multiple venues for entertainment—and some special programs in the Atrium. Guitar player and classical trio were very good. The theater has both benches and chairs—good idea—and lots of legroom. Small wings for cinema were useful, although lighting should be improved; we saw several people stumble and fall while we were sitting there. Good views of stage; good acoustics if sometimes too loud.

 

Other

· Mid-cruise comments never responded to.

· Future cruise desk hours were often posted inaccurately. For a Fall 2018 cruise Viking required full payment in 2016. We passed.

· Several issues around minibar service and what was included. This was eventually resolved.

· No clocks anywhere except TV/video screens—not even in stateroom.

· No public trash disposal except in bathrooms and one small can on deck three of atrium.

· Service desk was generally responsive, although two different people had no clue how to handle luggage to be shipped home via a shipping service. Invoice was incorrect; had to be adjusted to show all shipboard credit used.

 

The good news is that the ship is truly great; if Viking can figure out how to do excursions properly, and work on its restaurant dining issues, we might consider again, but not till we hear things have improved.

 

We hope so too! These problems shouldn't be hard to fix, and we think you will love the ship.

 

We did report issues (as well as praise) on mid-cruise and end-of-cruise surveys, without a response. And we shared our review with our travel agent a little while before we posted. Interestingly, Viking called her to ask how we enjoyed our cruise; she suggested they contact us directly, which they have not done.

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Dear Pugwash123,

 

We’ve noticed that, like LesSails80435, you also experienced a degree of disappointment with your Viking Ocean Cruise. The integrity of your experience is important to us and we would appreciate the opportunity to have a conversation to review your concerns. Please contact at TellUs@vikingcruises.com so that we can connect you with a Viking representative.

 

Looking forward to hearing from you!

 

Kind regards,

Viking Cruises

 

We have just returned from a Viking Homelands cruise on Viking Star and I have posted a review of our cruise. I agree with the comments made in the original post. We found that trying to get a table in the restaurant at a time to suit us was impossible and had to compromise and eat far later than we would have preferred. There was only a choice of one white or one red complimentary wine so if you didn't like the grape variety, tough luck. The premium wines in the Chef's Table we were disappointing. At times the ship seemed deserted with the trio playing to six or eight people. Service in all the restaurants was never consistent, sometimes it was good and sometimes mediocre. We were in a Penthouse Junior Suite and could always hear the television in the next cabin. We have cruised since 1993 and prefer the traditional cruising experience but are growing weary of cruising and will probably stick to land based holidays from now on.

 

Pugwash123

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I didn't think I'd ever take another ocean cruise, but Viking's Oceans appeal to us since it's a small intimate ship with understated elegance. We've been on two Viking River Cruises, with the third one coming up next year. Needless to say, we were very happy with our cruises.

 

I've been seriously considering booking Viking Homelands, but I am now having doubts after reading all these posts. This will be the longest cruise we've ever taken, not to mention the most expensive.

 

I don't necessarily care for the stratified class system. If our treatment is based on our cabin number...there's going to be a problem. On our first river cruise, we had a lower level cabin and we were treated like royalty. We arrived on the ship early about 1030-11am. We were invited to have lunch. Our cabin wasn't ready (we didn't expect it to be). We stowed our luggage and went back out to explore. When we returned, we found a bottle of champagne in our cabin with a note apologizing that our room was not ready.

 

We are not unreasonable people and we realize that "things" happen, but it's how they're handled that make the difference.

 

Am I wrong in expecting the same type of product from Viking Oceans?

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We were on the Viking Sea - Viking Homelands cruise from 7/4/16 sailing from Bergen, Norway.

 

We had a different experience than the OP.

 

We had no problems with the excursions. We booked online as soon as we were allowed. We opted for a mix of included and optional tours. I checked online prior to leaving home and the tours were exactly what was booked. When we arrived onboard I checked the tickets and they were all correct. Instructions were included in the daily newsletter as to the time and place to start the tours.

 

We were in a Deluxe Veranda cabin on deck 5. Every request we made of our cabin attendant was handled properly and timely. We never heard any sounds from either of our neighboring cabins. If I hadn't met up with the neighbors in the hallway or on the balcony, I would have thought the cabins were vacant.

 

Service throughout the ship was mostly outstanding. The barista who made cappuccinos, the service desk personnel who answered questions, the spa receptionist who booked my hair appointment - they were all absolutely professional and polite.

 

The only exception I found was in the dining areas. I think some of the waitstaff need additional training in English language skills. They understand the basics, but had trouble with anything beyond that.

 

Some of the waitstaff did not fully understand the menus and should be more thoroughly trained. There were a couple of times that I asked about the ingredients of a menu item and the waiter had no idea. He had to go and get a supervisor, and then she had to go somewhere (presumably to the kitchen) to get an answer.

 

Overall, we had a fabulous cruise and will certainly sail with Viking again.

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I didn't think I'd ever take another ocean cruise, but Viking's Oceans appeal to us since it's a small intimate ship with understated elegance. We've been on two Viking River Cruises, with the third one coming up next year. Needless to say, we were very happy with our cruises.

 

I've been seriously considering booking Viking Homelands, but I am now having doubts after reading all these posts. This will be the longest cruise we've ever taken, not to mention the most expensive.

 

I don't necessarily care for the stratified class system. If our treatment is based on our cabin number...there's going to be a problem. On our first river cruise, we had a lower level cabin and we were treated like royalty. We arrived on the ship early about 1030-11am. We were invited to have lunch. Our cabin wasn't ready (we didn't expect it to be). We stowed our luggage and went back out to explore. When we returned, we found a bottle of champagne in our cabin with a note apologizing that our room was not ready.

 

We are not unreasonable people and we realize that "things" happen, but it's how they're handled that make the difference.

 

Am I wrong in expecting the same type of product from Viking Oceans?

 

Why are a handful of negative comments giving you second thoughts? Remember that you can't please all of the people all of the time and this thread is just that--a few people who were not pleased for one reason or another. However, they are entitled to their opinions and I find that Cruise Critic forums can be a magnet for complaints and negativity.

 

After 7 years without even considering an ocean voyage, we took our first Viking Oceans cruise just a few months ago and while it was not perfect--because very little in life is perfect-- I found it to be very similar in ambience to what I had found on the river cruises--perhaps because many people who have sailed Viking River are now enjoying Viking Ocean. Except for some variety of room perks by category, everyone is treated the same--the company's chief of operations stands in line and waits to be seated at dinner just like everyone else on the ship-- first come, first served. No one walks around with a badge declaring their room category and each guest is treated in the same friendly manner. What I experienced on our river cruises (China, Ukraine and Eastern Europe) is exactly what we experienced on Viking Ocean.

 

We are sailing again at New Year and I! can't! wait!!

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Peregrina651 makes excellent points. Will we find issues on any vacation, the answer is yes. Viking ocean has approximately 920 guests on every sailing. That's a lot of people with many different issues, will you please everyone, hell no . So if a problem is not that big a deal, don't let it spoil your vacation. If it's a larger issue then yes handle it respectfully. Remember you get more with honey than you do with arsenic. Make sure you bring copies of all your reservations, and check them with what you are given on the ship. If you don't make a dinner reservation then be prepared to wait, if the staff seats everyone individual, understand that they will give you the same honor and courtesy. You can spend time writing down every negative issue or you can make this vacation the vacation of a lifetime.

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