It seems many of you have been anxious to receive my thoughts on Viking Cruise line. So with the caveat that I may pretend that this is a travel blog, but it really isn’t, here goes.
When I stepped on the Viking Sky (which is the same as their other ships) the Fabulosity Meter immediately began ringing. There is no doubt that visually Viking has knocked the ball out of the park. Gone is the stuffy clubhouse look, the ornate decor, the heavy colors, the Hilton at Sea look. It has been replaced by refinement and sleek good looks. Designed with a distinct Scandinavian eye, it is cool, light and airy with sleek furniture, fabulous lighting, great art and the most incredible electronics.They have reinvented how a cruise ship should look .
Every cruise ship has a fabulous over the top staircase with an enormous chandelier as the centre piece, often looking like something out of a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie. Viking’s staircase is simple but elegant with a remarkable huge bright screen as it’s centre piece on which giant photos appear and change every so often. They also feature artshows on the screen with a 15 minute “slide show” of a famous artists work.
Not content with one staircase, Viking has added two all glass staircases in their observation lounge which are stunning
There are lounges, cafes and bars throughout the ship each featuring different Scandinavian furniture: Sofas
and stylish chairs
My favorite place is the “wintergarden” with its amazing wooden columns and ceiling
with chairs to match
And then there is the spa. There is nothing like this on any ship, anywhere. Clearly based on the Scandinavian version of a spa, it is all completely free. First there is the Thalassotherapy Pool, swirling warm water with salts and vitamins with an underwater stainless steel sofa on which you can recline as the rejuvenating water bubbles up around you. And as you all know by now, I love bubbles! Behind it, a flickering gas fire to create the perfect ambiance .
From there you can go to the sauna , steam room or jacuzzi
To cool off there is the ice room, which is just that – a glass room full of snow and ice, lighted with a blue light and with ice cold seats on which to recline ….. if you dare.
Or if that is too cold you can just stand under a bucket of cold water and tip it over your head
Finally you can relax on heated tiled beds
or on your basic chaise with 6 inch cushions
Both I and the Fabulosity Meter love it.
But the good news basically ends there.
The food is maybe above average, but certainly doesn’t match the surroundings. The breakfast buffet is pedestrian at best with plastic mugs and glasses for your drinks. The selection never varies from day to day. Lunch follows the same dull format, although there are hotdogs, fries and salads served by the pool.
Dinner is a step up, but not a giant step. Fortunately the glasses are now glass. The dinnerware is obviously Scandinavian and stylish but looks cheap.
Wine or beer at dinner is included and they are good at refilling your glass (a much needed service for me!) but there is just one white wine and one red and they are definitely not quality wines. If you want to upgrade to better wines you can at a cost. You can then pick from a wine list but after one week (the cruise was two weeks) several of the most popular wines had sold out …………. and were not replaced.
We are all used to the wonderful service that cruise ships provide and the delightfully friendly staff. The Viking staff (with some exceptions) were not wonderfully friendly. They seemed rushed and overworked. Getting a drink at the bar often took 5 minutes or more. We also heard from some of them that the party atmosphere and fun bar that usually goes on below decks was missing on Viking. They work so hard for such incredibly long hours that they need to let off steam, and on this ship they can’t, and it shows.
Finally and by no means least, there are the customers that this cruise line attracts. It is one of the leading river cruise lines and has an avid and loyal following and most of them are now happily ocean cruising with Viking. They are not the usual cruise passengers. They look as if they have wandered in from a long hike, with plaid shirts and knapsacks on their backs (and that is just the women). There is a dress code on board which is very relaxed but clearly stated. Men must wear a collared shirt and slacks to dinner, not jeans and not shorts. Very relaxed and one would think easy to follow. But sadly this is not a crowd that wants to dress up. A noticeable number of men wear jeans or shorts in the evening and top it off with a T shirt, and the women are no better. It is very sad that such a beautiful and elegant ship is brought down by its passengers, and even sadder that the staff don’t care and never stop anyone from walking into the restaurant in shorts and a T shirt. And if you don’t believe me here is my passenger of the week, lounging at the main bar at 7pm for a pre dinner drink.
And you can see from the passengers around him the general standard of dress at dinner
Viking sent round a very detailed questionnaire asking us to comment on all aspects of the cruise. The final question was how likely am I to take a Viking Cruise again. They gave a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very likely. I gave it a 4.
None of this has been helped by a disastrous final few days which were supposed to include stops at Montego Bay Jamaica, and The Caymans, neither of which I have been to before, both of which I am looking forward to
We wake on Wednesday morning expecting to see us pulling into Montego Bay. How exotic does that sound. But all we see is grey skies and a choppy sea. Out on the balcony I look back and see Jamaica slowly disappearing behind us. We can’t have slept through an entire day.
At 8am the Captain comes on the the P.A, and announces that due to rough seas we were unable to dock in Jamaica. We can’t believe it. The winds are strong and the sea is definitely not calm but it doesn’t seem bad to us. Nor does it seem bad to anyone else on board as everyone is milling around the breakfast buffet questioning what is going on. It is not until the next morning that we read of 6 tourists being shot in Montego Bay and the Canadian, American and British State Departments are advising all tourists to stay away from Jamaica and especially Montego Bay, and those tourists who are already there are advised not to leave their rooms. It is not the rough seas that prevented us from docking, it is the rough inhabitants of the island.
But meanwhile we have the Cayman Islands to visit. Or not.
Later that same day the Captain advises us that we will not be going to the Cayman Islands. The sea, which has definitely got worse, will be too rough for us to tender in to Georgetown. This we can believe.
The Captain then announces that Viking head office has desperately been working on plan B and they are pleased to announce we will be sailing to Nassau in the Bahamas
They might be pleased to announce it, but we are not pleased to hear it. We have been to Nassau three times already and found it to be cheap, tacky and full of tourists.
I want that Viking questionnaire back!