All in all, it was pretty good. Like I said, the first few days were fairly rocky, albeit with some high points, but we were by no means alone in our frustration and anger at shore excursions, food quality, and staff who seemed clueless. Many people we spoke with agreed that it felt like a shakeout cruise, and we were all guinea pigs. But by the fifth or sixth day, things improved dramatically (at least for us -- we heard some people were very upset about a botched schedule with shore excursions in Bergen). I think once Viking gets a little more experience doing ocean cruises, and has done this itinerary more than a couple of times, things will go much more smoothly for future passengers. One thing for sure -- they are willing to learn from mistakes/complaints and fix things on the fly. The assistant restaurant manager even sought us out at lunch one day to thank us for our comments on the food and to assure us that they were taking all comments seriously.
2 out of 5
We got there fairly late, so at least it wasn't crowded. But between the conflicting information from staff at the dock, the Keystone Cops routine with the luggage, and ignorant and officious staff upon boarding (not to mention the complete lack of ID required to be given room keys), we were wondering what the heck was going on. But once we got to the room, all was well.
Food and Dining
4 out of 5
We didn't eat on the ship the first two days, other than breakfast (which was uninspired, but fine), and the first two dinners were pretty awful (criminally overcooked lobster, etc.) However, subsequent meals ranged from good to excellent, despite the desserts (except the ice cream and anything chocolate -- the rest were poor to dreadful). We'd also commented that the vegetables were boring (nothing but plain steamed broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots in both main dinner venues), but things improved in subsequent days, with grilled asparagus, sauteed veggie combos, etc. Our meal in Manfredi's was particularly wonderful. Regarding the wine, we found the included white wine to be fair to good almost all the time, but the red wine was not good about half the time. On the upside, wines by the glass from the wine list are quite inexpensive ($6.50), and are far superior to the included wine.
3 out of 5
The archeologist was marvelous, but the rest of the lecturers were either boring or annoying or both.
3 out of 5
The classical trio was excellent, as were the guitarist and pianist in the atrium/lounge. The big stage shows, however, were, for the most part, completely forgettable. We stopped going after the first week.
I don't think there were any children on the ship.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
Outstanding. The staff was unfailingly polite, the stateroom was always perfectly clean and well-stocked with very nice amenities, and the sommelier is an absolute delight. Restaurant staff is helpful and prompt, with most of the main dining room's wait staff providing menu recommendations when asked.
5 out of 5
Spotless. Everywhere. Beautiful common areas and the best library we've seen on a ship, with a very eclectic collection spread out all over the ship. I'd brought four books with me on board, but found two in the library that I just had to read first.
Cabin / Stateroom
5 out of 5
Fantastic bed with perfect pillows and crisp linens. A little more space on the desk or coffee table (for times when we used room service for meals) might be nice, but overall, the room was excellent.
Expect hiccups along the way, especially departures earlier than advertised (with very little notice). If excursions you want are sold out prior to departure, keep checking back before departure (we got one two weeks before departure) and after embarkation (once aboard, we were able to add two tours that had been sold out prior to departure).
No shore excursions necessary. There is more than enough to do within walking distance, or take a bus to Eltham Palace (including in the London Oyster card). Visit Champagne & Fromage for a beautiful and delicious mid-afternoon meal.
We like Edinburgh a lot (having been there before), but we were VERY VERY unhappy with the way Viking managed this stop. They promise free shuttle transportation to any city that is more than a 15-minute walk, but the port of Rosyth (not where we were supposed to dock originally) is 20 kilometers from Edinburgh, and the only shuttle they provided was from the ship to the dock's terminal (which we could have walked in half the time it took the shuttle bus). Then we had to wait 15 minutes for a taxi to take us to the train station, then wait another 15 minutes for the 40 minute train ride into Edinburgh. (The price on this was about 60 pounds for two people.) So between having to spend 1-1/2 to 2 hours each way getting to Edinburgh, and leaving port an hour earlier than advertised, we had less than three hours in Edinburgh. This was not enough time to do much of anything!!! VERY VERY upset, and when I voiced a complaint, I was told that they did indeed offer a shuttle to ROSYTH. They don't sell Rosyth when they sell the cruise, they sell it as a stop in EDINBURGH. This was totally unacceptable. We talked to a LOT of other people who were just disgusted with Viking's handling of Edinburgh, both people who got into the city on their own, like we did, or took shore excursions.
Again, we left an hour earlier than originally scheduled, and the included tour wasted an hour taking us to Stromness (a tiny village with literally nothing to do and nothing to see). And the tour bus took us back to the ship, rather than drop us off in town, so we had to waste even more time getting back into town on a second bus (even though we drove RIGHT THROUGH the middle of downtown Kirkwall on the way back to the ship), so once again, we had inadequate time. Kirkwall is an interesting, pretty town, but we had inadequate time to see or do much. We would have loved to take the shore excursion of Stone Age Orkney, but it was sold out.
Once again, we took the included tour in the morning, then were on our own afterwards. And once again, they wasted our time by insisting on taking us back to the ship, then we had to wait for a shuttle to take us right back into town, WHICH WE HAD DRIVEN THROUGH TO GET BACK TO THE SHIP. They need to fix this ridiculous policy and allow people on the bus tours to get off in town, rather than having to go back to the ship before heading back into town. After the bus tour, we headed out on our own again. We were not able to book the tour to Mousa Island through Viking since it was sold out (despite the ferry captain telling us that their ferry was nowhere near sold out), so after the included tour (which did not go to the south part of the island), we rented a car and went to Mousa Island on our own (we literally had the ferry to ourselves, heading to Mousa five minutes after the Viking tour got back), then further south to Jarlshof and the Sumburgh LIghthouse (with loads of puffins and other seabirds). Fantastic way to spend the afternoon and early evening. It was lovely to have a late port departure (7:30) for a change.
We took the excursion to hike up to Mardal waterfall, which was sold as an easy walk, but was fairly demanding. But absolutely worth it. The guide, however, as another story, and got us back quite late (too late for the included tour to Romsdal Open Air museum). Fortunately, Viking learned from their many complaints, and had arranged a bus to take those of us who were too late for the regular tour to take us to Romsdal. So we got to see some of it, even though we were too late for the dance program, and even had time to walk around downtown (because we convinced the bus driver to drop us off in town rather than taking us back to the ship to take a shuttle back to downtown) before taking the shuttle back to the bus.
By far the most spectacular arrival/departure -- definitely worth getting up early to see the fjord in detail on the way into port, and to go late to dinner on the way out of the fjord. We took the fjords and glaciers shore excursion, which was very nice (five-foot deep snowbanks along the road, and snow fell on us when we got off the bus). It also included a nice lunch. It would have been even better if it hadn't been so foggy when we got to the glacier -- we really couldn't see much. But the scenery along the way, and the stops for short walks alongside waterfalls, etc., were just amazing. We also thoroughly enjoyed our tour guide, who provided a lot of interesting information (including music) along the way.
Bergen is a very pretty city, and there is a lot to see. We did the included tour (best tour guide, by far), and the visit to the Stave Church and Grieg house/recital hall. The concert at the Grieg house far exceeded expectations. We stayed in Bergen for two days after disembarking. Do not eat the fish market -- the food is mediocre at insanely high prices. Anne Madam is just across the street and is far, far superior.
3 out of 5
Very smooth and quick, with one exception. It took a while to figure out why they couldn't settle our bill, and the person at guest services kept insisting it was a problem with my credit card. I knew that wasn't possible, so asked to see what he was doing on the computer. He insisted I call my issuer, and they assured me there were no blocks on the card. So I kept asking to see what information they had for me in the computer. After my fifth request to see it, the person at guest services finally allowed me to see what they had entered under my name, and I immediately spotted the error. They had incorrectly entered my zip code. I corrected that error, and voila - the charge was instantly processed. Ten minutes later, our passports were being stamped on our final entry into Norway.
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