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Clay Clayton

Transatlantic Battle Norwegian v. Viking

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I just published a comparative review of 2018 transatlantics - eastward in March on Viking Sky and westward in November aboard Norwegian Star.  Here is a link to the whole post: https://cruisinwithclay.com/2019/02/12/transatlantic-battle/ 

 

 Below are some excerpts in case any of you other Norwegian enthusiasts are considering Viking. I go into a lot (too much?) detail on the actual post including pictures and more examples.  I am happy to answer any questions.

Budget

As with most everything in life, it is difficult to exactly compare apples to apples, but I am going to at least try to make the financial comparison as close as possible.  The "apples to apples" overall cost for 14 days on Viking for us both in a V2 veranda cabin totaled $4,999 while the same number of days on Norwegian in a BB veranda cabin was $3,851- a difference of $1,148 or $41 per person per day.

 

So what did Viking provide for this cost difference? Included excursions in three ports, unlimited internet, larger room with more comfortable seating, better entertainment on a bigger television, significantly better bathroom with a huge shower, dining table on the balcony, better food in the various venues, no charge for alternative dining, no charge for room service, no one under the age of 18 (not really a big deal on a transatlantic on any line), no casino (which didn't make much difference to us either way), free self service laundry (not a big difference to us since as Norwegian Platinum guests we get two free bags of laundry), interesting guest lecturers, daily afternoon tea with scones, free access to their spa and a covered pool. I have bolded those which we used/appreciated most.

 

In addition to the pluses for Viking I note above, I find the decor and attention to detail throughout the ship more appealing - lots of comfortable seating, games and books everywhere, and for those that get chilly, blankets and throws on just about every sofa or chair. Is this worth more of my money, probably not, but when combined with all the other pluses, we reached the conclusion that the extra $41 per person per day was worth it to us.

 

Stateroom

Viking only has verandas and we booked the lowest level of them. We had a similar level of cabin on Norwegian Star. Both are about the same square footage, offer comfy beds, though Viking's blanket was really great for snuggling under during an afternoon nap. We found the two chairs much more comfortable than the armless loveseat/sleeper sofa on Norwegian. Winner Viking

 

Food

This is probably the most subjective category in any cruise review but Viking really wowed us. On Norwegian, we found the main dining room food to be more than acceptable and generally tasty and there were even a few items that were standouts-asparagus risotto comes to mind. On Viking, the food in The Restaurant (their main dining room) was simply a cut above.

 

Viking also wins at the buffet. On Norwegian, the food was rarely hot and never outstanding. On Viking many of the dishes - pasta, fried shrimp, etc. are cooked when you order them. Yes it may take a minute or two longer while you wait, but boy are they tasty....and given you didn't have to wait to reach the front of the line as you would on Norwegian, it was probably wash anyway. Additionally, most of the items in the main dining room were also available in the buffet in a more casual atmosphere. We particularly enjoyed the sushi, crab claws and shrimp on the buffet in the evening. They became our cocktail hour/sunset viewing snack enjoyed most evenings overlooking the wake at the Aquavit Terrace.

 

So while we never went hungry and the food on Norwegian is good (and occasionally great), Viking's is hands down so much better. It is sort of the difference between eating at your weekday restaurant and dining at the fancy place you go for your anniversary or birthday. Winner Viking

 

Entertainment/Enrichment

Norwegian offers higher quality production shows than Viking - more singers, more dancers, bigger sets, etc. But Viking does a great job with having live music everywhere...and not of the sort that keeps you from being able to have a conversation which we found problematic on Norwegian.

 

Both lines offered enrichment lectures. Viking had four speakers aboard for our transatlantic - a naturalist who did a few talks and a twice daily nature watch from the Explorer's Lounge, a lady who had crossed the Atlantic in a rowboat who spoke several times about her adventures, President Reagan's secret service agent who gave talks about presidential history and life and one more that obviously didn't make much of an impression on me. Norwegian had one lecturer aboard, this British lady spoke four times mostly about the royals. I went once and her lecture was mostly her showing pictures taken from People Magazine and giving her opinion on how pretty Princess Kate was.

 

I think it is a tie between Viking and Norwegian on this category....though if you are into production shows, Norwegian is a winner and if into lectures, Viking is your place to be.

 

Conclusion

Gosh knows that I like Norwegian Cruiselines have spent 127 days aboard them but after sailing on Viking, if the prices are anywhere comparable, we will be on Viking. Our issue with Viking and our budget is that on their regular cruises they are waaaay more expensive than on their transatlantic cruises (and other non port intensive itineraries) and therefore we can't rationalize making them our sole cruise line. If you typically cruise in Norwegian's Haven (we don't) then sailing with Viking may be much more like Norwegian that what we typically experience and you are already used to the price point. To give you an idea of the price differential for a regular cruise, I just priced a Caribbean cruise on each for October 2019 - Viking is about $329 per person per day and Norwegian is about $114 per person per day both in a veranda cabin. But next October's Norwegian Star in a balcony is currently $119 per person per day (so not much difference from their Caribbean price) whereas Viking's transatlantic is $199pp/pd. So more than Norwegian but still 60% less than their "regular" cruises.

We like the smaller size, lack of children, better food and overall ambiance so much so that we leave in 42 days on Viking Sea headed from San Juan back to Barcelona. Viking had a "last minute" (in early January) deal for $2,999 per person including airfare both ways in a DV (one category above what we had last year) so works out to be about the same price as what we paid in 2018.  If you can swing it (and/or can find a deal) I highly recommend you give Viking Oceans a try- particularly if you don't have to take kids along and don't need a casino, bingo games, a climbing wall, ropes course or water slide to have an enjoyable cruise!

 

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Wow comparing a new Viking ship with the oldest NCL ship afloat seems a bit disingenuous. In an attempt to actually compare apples to apples I think you should be consider overall value.  Since our last transatlantic on the Star in 2016 was in a Family Suite that was slightly less expensive (including service charges for the dining and drink packages) than your Viking Veranda I believe that would be a more accurate comparison.  The NCL suite was larger (409 sf compared to 270 sf).  Our suite came with a butler and concierge and our package included 4 nights of specialty dining and free drinks as well as 250 minutes of wifi.  I'm not trying to say NCL is superior because I don't think that is the case.  We sail on several lines and have found great deals on all of them. 

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I think you may have missed the point of my comparison. While we certainly found Viking a step above we were surprised that it only cost us a little bit more.  We had a great cruise on both lines, but for those instances when Viking prices themselves comparably to Norwegian, we will look to sail them again.

 

and fyi, Star isn't the oldest Norwegian ship afloat and in addition was just recently refurbished.  

Edited by Clay Clayton

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I have sailed on both Viking and NCL (Jewel, Spirit, Sun). You forgot to add that there are no annoying photographers on Viking! Also, that retractable roof over the pool was fantastic. Swimming while it was cold and rainy in Bergen was a treat!

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I was looking at some Viking materials and thought the same thing that you report.  The price may be higher, but you could get comparable value.  Since we have never sailed Viking, I have a couple of questions.

 

Is dining freestyle or assigned and what is the dress code?

 

Is there a drink package?  Is it included or extra?  How are the drink prices?

 

How is the onboard atmosphere?  Is it relaxed or formal?

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I really enjoy the organized daily (on sea days) duplicate bridge programs on NCL transatlantics.  Does Viking offer the same?

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2 minutes ago, FLAHAM said:

I really enjoy the organized daily (on sea days) duplicate bridge programs on NCL transatlantics.  Does Viking offer the same?

I don't recall there being an organized bridge program but since I don't play I am probably not the best resource.  Sorry.

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Thanks for your comparison!! Would eagerly try Viking if could get a reasonable rate. Will keep an eye out for the TAs based on your review to see if I can find one to fit our budget. 

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9 hours ago, davy jones said:

I was looking at some Viking materials and thought the same thing that you report.  The price may be higher, but you could get comparable value.  Since we have never sailed Viking, I have a couple of questions.

 

Is dining freestyle or assigned and what is the dress code?

 

Is there a drink package?  Is it included or extra?  How are the drink prices?

 

How is the onboard atmosphere?  Is it relaxed or formal?

The Viking dining is freestyle. The speciality restaurants are by reservation. Dress code is similar to NCL (we wore almost the same clothes).  There is a drink package. We don't drink so I can't give a comparison. 

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Isn't Viking aimed at a total different demographic?

 

In fact I do like their design but their guests/atmosphere seems to be even less lively than let's say Celebrity or HAL...?

Edited by FreestyleNovice

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19 hours ago, davy jones said:

I was looking at some Viking materials and thought the same thing that you report.  The price may be higher, but you could get comparable value.  Since we have never sailed Viking, I have a couple of questions.

 

Is dining freestyle or assigned and what is the dress code?

 

Is there a drink package?  Is it included or extra?  How are the drink prices?

 

How is the onboard atmosphere?  Is it relaxed or formal?

Dining is whenever you wish. They have a lot of tables for two but at busy times just like on Norwegian if you don’t want to wait, they offer you the option of sharing tables. 

 

Dress code is country club casual. On the TA some gentlemen wore jackets for dinner but most didn’t. Ladies wore nice dresses or slacks. 

 

There is an an extra cost drink package, about $20 per person per day. We had lots of OBC so we bought and enjoyed it last year but this year we don’t intend to purchase it. Instead we will carry on (fully allowed) a bottle of gin and a bottle of vodka and use the complimentary mixers in the refrigerator. With the included beer, wine and sodas at meals plus the low price of drinks($6-8) we think we will come out ahead. All of their drink prices are very reasonable-if you look on the Viking board, there is a thread that includes the drink menu with prices. 

 

Atmosphere on our TA was very relaxed and friendly.

 

I will say a good percentage last year were first timers like us giving Viking a try at a reasonable cost and I know several fromthe roll call have gone on to sail on “regular” cruises. So give them a try if you can!

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2 hours ago, FreestyleNovice said:

Isn't Viking aimed at a total different demographic?

 

In fact I do like their design but their guests/atmosphere seems to be even less lively than let's say Celebrity or HAL...?

I think you are right, it is less lively overall. Viking doesn’t have constant games, tournaments, etc. but on our cruise there were several lively groups which self formed aboard. There was the “we love to dance” group that “met” every night in the nightclub; the LGBT (and friends) group that seemed to get together every few afternoons at the pool for frozen drinks, some scrabble players that had very lively games in the Living Room.  I think Viking can be as lively or as relaxed as you want. 

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2 hours ago, Clay Clayton said:

I think you are right, it is less lively overall. Viking doesn’t have constant games, tournaments, etc. but on our cruise there were several lively groups which self formed aboard. There was the “we love to dance” group that “met” every night in the nightclub; the LGBT (and friends) group that seemed to get together every few afternoons at the pool for frozen drinks, some scrabble players that had very lively games in the Living Room.  I think Viking can be as lively or as relaxed as you want. 

 

Thanks!

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