Iconic Bergen, Norway.
So I’ll admit it: we are fans of Viking cruises. We think they’re the best deal around for the highest quality cruise experience. And this Viking cruise review reflects that.
Other disclosure: my non-Viking experience involves only a huge Celebrity cruise to Alaska 20 years ago, but Michael has done many, many different cruises over the years. And he agrees about Viking. (We have been on at least four Viking cruises)
We got back in July 9 from two weeks in Norway/Scotland on our first Viking ocean cruise and the experience is fresh. So here’s what you need to know before you book that cruise, along with tips, labeled TIPS. Of course.
All cruise lines are different. Some are more all-inclusive than others. You may find that what looks like a higher-priced cruise actually includes more stuff. Stuff other cheaper lines require you to pay extra for. Which means they aren’t cheaper after all. Make sure you know exactly what you will have to pay extra for so you are comparing like offerings.
Cabin or suite
For our two weeks in Norway and Scotland and in recognition that we were not going to be doing much gathering with people in the lounges, we chose a two-room suite with a veranda (of course, we were cruising fjords!). But Viking cabins are spacious and there are so many wonderful lounges and libraries that you would usually not miss the second room.
It’s very easy to just sign for cocktails every night without noticing how they can add up. Most cruises lines sell a booze package and if you enjoy cocktailing, it will probably save you money. We don’t cocktail that often so we never buy the liquor package, but friends do and have saved a lot of money. Not to mention the shock at the end of the cruise when you have to face the bill.
The suite we booked offered free mini-bar. It was stocked with those tiny liquor bottles, a beer, wine, two small chocolate bars, a small package of peanuts and one of almonds. We could ask for more if we wanted. No charge.
Today’s cruise line menus reflect that passengers enjoy healthy eating. Viking knows its customer! Viking’s international buffet offerings include a huge and varied number of vegan and vegetarian offerings. Fruits, vegetables and salads are plentiful. So is protein of all kinds. Cheeses. Yes, cold cuts. Portions are small–have as much as you want, though. On our recent cruise to Norway sushi was on the menu daily. So was an abundance of Indian and other Asian food. A carving station. It’s an impressive array of options and it’s easy to find foods you like. And so casual. It was our go-to restaurant for most of the two weeks.gThat’s our experience of food on Viking ocean cruises. Look at cruise reviews for your specific cruise to see what passengers are saying about food.
Also on Viking you are not forced to a certain dinner seating time. Restaurants are open certain hours and you can go any time in those periods. Plus there are many two-tops so you are not forced into dining with others. I know I sound anti-social–I’m not, but I really do like my own company and that of my fabulous husband. Plus we are Covid-aware.
Viking offers a whole bunch of “included” excursions—-but some of the better outings cost extra. They aren’t that cheap but they are usually worth it. I say “usually” because I’ve been on cruises where the local guides and historians have been fantastic. On this Norway cruise, not so much. That was the only criticism we had: local guides were sometimes desultory and boring.
Excursions include everything: transportation, local guide, tours and sometimes a snack.
Even though I am a very frequent traveler, at this age I get packing amnesia. I brought twice the clothing I needed, including two nice outfits. Viking is pretty casual except for their stand-alone upscale restaurants. We had reservations there for four nights so I figured two nice outfits would do. Actually, I only needed one. We didn’t like one restaurant so we cancelled our second rez. And there was a week between reservations at the one we liked.
I just didn’t need half of what I brought. Pack frugally!
Laundry service is available on ship, a big help with packing. Unlimited laundry service came with our suite, so we did it twice in the two weeks. I’m always hesitant about letting a hotel or ship wash my good stuf. But. They actually will hang dry or do other special things just like I do at home, so this worked out well. They say it takes two days but each time it was back a day later.
Do not do laundry on the last day–we did this once a few years ago and it came back damp, probably because they were overloaded.
Most cruise lines provide an umbrella in your stateroom so no need to bring one. I like a fanny pack or small crossbody so I can be hands-free for excursions. And Viking’s got books of all kinds all over the place so keep that in mind as you pack.
Viking’s toiletries are very high end. Don’t bother to bring your own. And unless you need a special blow dryer, don’t bring that, either. Qtips and shower caps are provided and replaced daily. High end body lotion, body wash, shampoo, condition. This all saves space.
On all Viking ships, suitcases fit neatly under the bed so you can unpack once and never see them again. Yay for that!
Our Viking cruise had a 60+ demographic, although there are plenty of active excursions like hiking and kayaking for those who want more. I did notice a few people who obviously had knee or hip surgery and who didn’t go to excursions. But that didn’t keep them from relaxing at the pool or in one of the lounges. Since this was a fjord cruise, the scenery was everything and if you weren’t mobile, you could still enjoy it.
Active or not, you can make of the cruise what you like.
We masked. I’d say maybe 12% of passengers did. Every time i heard a cough I broke land-speed records getting away from that person because I did not want to get sick on the cruise. And we didn’t. Nor did we get sick afterwards, so we did a good job of staying safe.
Our doc advises to sit as far back as possible on planes or buses, etc and that’s what we do. Last row of any transport. Covid moves forward, she told us.
While we would’ve enjoyed more social interaction with other passengers, we decided against it for safety reasons. Especially once we saw the process of evacuating someone with a medical emergency!
TIP: Travel Insurance and Health Insurance
Yes. Get all that. Yes, expensive. But do it. On our Norway cruise someone had to be helicoptered off in a dramatic evacuation mid-sea and mid-air. It was quite something to see. The helicopter hovered over our ship, which was on the North Sea. No place to land. The doctor was lowered off the helicopter and the passenger was hoisted up–in the middle of the sea. Dramatically scary.
That was a pricey medical evacuation and without insurance you’d be mortgaging the house.
Our ocean cruise offered a small medical center with a doctor and two nurses. The Viking river cruises offer a 24/7 medical hotline staffed by doctors, instead, but then again, they are in port every night. We had four cruising days on the North Sea including two without porting, so it was nice to have medical coverage onboard.
TIP: Airfare through the cruise line
We learned early that buying our flights through Viking saves us a ton of money, so check that out. There is a small fee. Be aware that you might be automatically given a flight in the middle of the night, so be sure to check what they give you and ask them for other options.
Also, airfare through the cruise line gives you airport transfers, which can be hugely expensive to do on your own. This is a big advantage.
It’s not that good if you are in the middle of the ocean, even with Starlink satellite coverage. Don’t expect it to be flawless, although it was sufficient for our needs. Mostly.
WhatsApp allows you to send texts and photos via Wi-Fi, bypassing charges by your cell carrier. So download the app to your phone. We always use it. Get your family and friends to download it so you can communicate with them if you like! We got daily WhatsApp photos of our dogs from their sitter, which was wonderful.
Our ocean cruise offered music all over the ship in the various lounges. There was an amazingly large streaming library and every day, talks by biologists, ecologists, historians on board that you could attend in person or watch in your cabin either in the moment or streaming later. The TV really was a hub for information and entertainment. You could do all of it, part of it or none of it. In person or in cabin. Pretty neat.
Viking provides almost door-to-door service, which proved especially helpful the morning we had to be downstairs at 3:30am to pick up our airport transport. (Ugh: 630am flight from Bergen,Norway to Amsterdam to connect with a flight to SFO–no later options out of Bergen that would connect home)
Pre-coffee bleary eyes and brain, I was in no mood to figure out WTF the Norwegian airport system was. But I didn’t have to. Viking did it for us.
We joined others leaving early down in the atrium of our ship. There, at the appointed time, Viking porters who had taken our luggage the night before reunited us with it and then actually put the suitcases on the bus for us. One Viking rep joined us on the bus for the trip to the airport.
Once there, ANOTHER group of Viking porters helped us get our luggage into the airport, all the way to check in. (I could get used to this!)
The airport was SWARMING with Viking employees who directed us to the correct lines and one even helped us get boarding passes and baggage tags at the kiosk. At that point, we were on our own. But it was A+ service and everyone got it.
Now, I’ve done this kind of thing myself a hundred times, but at this age, on barely any sleep , this standard service for this ocean cruise was really appreciated. One thing Viking does really well is move people around efficiently without them feeling like cattle. Or feeling lost.
Customer service is unparalleled. Viking knows their customer and their offering and it is usually standard across all cruises. Except for Portugal and if you want to cruise the River Douro, you should email me about that. Because it was not the usual five-star Viking experience.
Why we like cruises
We do our share of independent trips, especially if we know a place well. We’re heading back to London and the Scottish Highlands on our own next year. But many times we really want someone else to do the heavy lifting. Maybe it’s our age. But you can show up for a cruise and never have to worry about how you are going to get from Point A to B in ports. Unpack once and be done with it. Get access to an amazing variety of foods and some nice activities.
Hope this Viking cruise review was helpful. Message me if you have any questions about this or their river cruises–we are always glad to share what we know!
Oh, and if you haven’t visited my shop, cone on over, right HERE!