A few years ago, Jonathan and I took a two-week river cruise with Viking from Budapest to Amsterdam, and we loved it. So, when Viking very kindly invited me on an ocean cruise onboard the Viking Sky from Barcelona to Rome – well, I wasn’t going to say no, even though I confess the thought of being on the ocean does absolutely terrify me. (I’ve seen the movie Titanic, I know what can happen!)
Living as I do by the Grand Harbour in Malta, I see cruise ships coming into the harbour all the time, and I’ve often wondered what life on board would be like.
Now was my chance to find out. Admittedly, I was pleased I would be on a Viking Cruise Ship and not one of those giant mega-ships.
But is a Viking Ocean Cruise right for you? Let’s see.
So What Makes Viking Ocean Cruises Different From The Other Cruise Ships Out There
Well, for a start, the ships are a lot smaller – just a maximum of 930 guests, allowing Viking ships to dock where larger vessels cannot.
Viking Cruise Staterooms
Every passenger room on a Viking ocean cruise ship has its own verandah/ balcony. There are NO inside cabins.
The cabins are large by cruise ship standards, starting at 270 square feet /25 square metres for the Veranda and Deluxe Veranda Staterooms and up to 1,500 square feet/ 140 square metres for the largest suite.
Each room is tastefully designed with very modern, practical and elegant, Scandinavian-influenced furnishings. Plenty of storage, lots of coat hangers, many USB ports and US/EU outlets, and a safe that works!!! Also, an easy-to-use coffee machine (I’m extremely technologically challenged and appreciate simplicity) and the coffee from the coffee machine in the room actually tasted much better than the coffee served at breakfast!
There is plenty of counter space in the bathroom to lay out your toiletries. The showers are large with strong water pressure and straightforward controls; the mirrors don’t fog up, and the bathroom floor is heated. Luxury toiletries by Freya are replenished daily.
The rooms are cleaned twice a day but sadly no chocolates on the pillow. Every evening a copy of the Viking Daily would be placed on your bed with details and information about the following day.
What’s Included On A Viking Ocean Cruise
There is no charge for Wi-Fi on board. I was quite impressed by how fast and reliable it was most of the time – I wasn’t expecting that. If you don’t bring your own device, computers are on board with internet access available for passengers to use.
Beer, wine and soft drinks are included with lunch and dinner.
All tea, coffee and bottled water are complimentary. A bottle of water is always offered to you as you leave the ship, and a cool refreshing towel as you reboard.
Alternative dining is available at no extra charge, nor does the 24-hour room service come with an additional cost.
Free access to use the spa facilities onboard and no spa sales pressure!
One free shore excursion is included in every port.
There are free self-service launderettes. I get weirdly excited about being able to do laundry when I travel. Funnily enough, I’m not quite as enthusiastic when I’m at home.
If you book your air tickets through Viking, transfers from airport to ship and back are included. At Rome Airport, on the return, for those with long waiting times for their flights, such as myself, we were dropped off at the Hilton Hotel, where we had access to coffee, light refreshments and sandwiches.
All port taxes and fees.
Silver Spirits Drink Package
Viking offers a Silver Spirits beverage package if you want to enjoy unlimited beverages. It works out at $19.95 per night per guest in USD and must be purchased for the entire length of the cruise. Note that both guests sharing a stateroom must purchase the package, not just one, and must be over 21 years of age.
The Silver Spirits beverage package includes premium local wines by the glass, beers, cocktails, speciality coffee drinks, and soft drinks and juices.
I didn’t get the package. The included wine offered at lunch and dinner is actually rather nice, although admittedly, I did sneak a glass of the premium wine one night, which was very nice.
My pre-dinner gin and tonic I treated myself cost $5,50.
Bars and Restaurants On A Viking Ocean Cruise
The Restaurant on Deck 2.
The Restaurant was one of my favourite places to eat on board. The ship’s main dining venue is open daily for breakfast and dinner. I never had breakfast there, but I did enjoy a couple of excellent dinners here.
It’s a large restaurant divided into smaller areas, making for a nicer ambience. Tables are available in all sizes, so if you’re sociable and have made new friends, they can accommodate you. If you’re an anti-social solo passenger like moi, they can happily accommodate you too.
Dining is open seating style, with no set times and no reservations needed.
The World Cafe on Deck 7.
The World Cafe On deck 7 is the ship’s buffet. Well, you can’t have a cruise ship without a buffet, can you?
The cafe is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. The World Cafe was my usual breakfast venue, as my cabin was just one floor down, and a buffet was more convenient as my days were filled with early morning tours and adventures.
It is the most popular breakfast place; some mornings, it was packed, but finding a table was never a problem. The smoothie of the day was delicious!
I also came here in the evening a couple of times, well, maybe more than a couple, because they had a really excellent sushi bar. And endless plates of sushi and wine go so well together.
Mamsen’s on Deck 7
Mamsen’s, also located on deck 7, is just a tiny area within the Explorers’ Lounge. It’s lovely and quiet there in the morning, and they serve the most fantastic breakfast waffles.
Manfredi’s on Deck 1
Manfredi’s is an Italian fine dining restaurant located on deck one, and you do need to make reservations to eat here as it’s very popular, and it’s not hard to see why. From the appetisers through to the desserts, the food is excellent.
Reservations can be made two months in advance through the My Viking Journey app. But don’t worry; if you are unable to make a reservation online in advance (I couldn’t), just speak with Guest Services onboard, and they will be able to help you.
The fresh caprese salad was terrific; I loved the soups and the fresh pasta that was made onboard. Remember to leave room for dessert.
There is no extra charge for dining at Manfredi’s.
The Chef’s Table on Deck 1
The Chef’s Table is also on deck one; you will need reservations to dine here. I didn’t eat here, as I ran out of days! I heard mixed reviews from ‘just average, Manfredi’s is better’ to ‘wow, best meal of the cruise!’
The menus are set and include five courses – all paired with wines. Sounds fantastic to me; how did I run out of days? I blame the sushi bar!
There is no extra charge for dining at the Chef’s Table.
Wintergarden on Deck 7
Afternoon tea is served between 4-5 pm in the Wintergarden. It’s a nice spot to relax after a day of sightseeing.
The Pool Grill and Bar on Deck 7
The Pool Grill, as the name suggests, is by the pool. Open every day for lunch; this place serves delicious burgers.
Room service is available 24 hours a day if you suddenly get the munchies in the middle of the night.
Explorers’ Bar on Deck 7
The Explorer’s Bar was my go-to bar for my pre-dinner gin and tonic while listening to King the guitarist.
Aquavit Bar on Deck 7
The Aquavit Bar was a nice place to enjoy a drink outside, located behind the World Cafe near the infinity pool.
As you can probably tell, I didn’t really move much from Deck 7. Apparently, there are bars on decks one and two too!
Apart from spa treatments, the sauna, pool, and fitness centre are all free for guests to use. I treated myself to a massage which was USD$ 139 for 50 minutes. More than I would usually pay, but I felt fabulous afterwards and floated back up to my cabin.
Entertainment On Board Viking Ocean Cruises
The entertainment on Viking ocean cruises is very low-key. If you are hoping for casinos, glitzy nightclubs, theme nights, and formal nights, then Viking is NOT for you.
Viking is more background piano or guitar music in the bars. There are guest lectures, port talks, quiz nights, and chats with the Viking Resident Historian.
The week I was onboard, there were two performances in the Star Theatre by Lee Bradley, an operatic tenor singer with a fun sense of humour (well, he was British), and he sang well, too.
On the last night, a guest magician Michael Halvarson who has worked with Cirque du Soleil, but for me, his performance was pretty tame. Seeing he worked with Cirque du Soleil, I was expecting something a little more exciting, but the other passengers seemed to enjoy the show.
Tours and Excursions
One complimentary shore excursion is included at every port on a Viking ocean cruise and there is also an option to take other tours at an additional cost.
The included tour would vary from two to four hours, depending on the destination. Usually a walking tour, but for somewhere like Barcelona, the tour would be partly by bus and partly on foot.
On a day tour, you use your Quietvox audio headset found in your stateroom, so the guide doesn’t have to yell. The included tours, not surprisingly, were very popular, so the group size at times could be large – around 30-40 people, all following a guide carrying a red sign with your group number on it.
On each tour, the guide gave free time to allow time to take photos, grab a coffee, and shop.
I admit I did often sneak away from the groups and set off exploring by myself. But if you do this, do let the guide know as a courtesy. The guides were all excellent; I’m just more used to exploring by myself.
On the paid tours, the groups are much smaller. On my trip to Lucca and Pisa, there were only ten of us in total. There was usually at least an hour of free time in each place visited, which was good and would usually include a local lunch in a winery or local restaurant.
The Other Passengers
Passengers on Viking ocean cruises are predominately Americans, although on this cruise there were several Australians and a couple of British – mainly couples and repeat Viking guests.
Very few solo travellers; there were just seven on this cruise. The ages of the passengers were very mixed -younger than you would find on a river cruise, I would say average 50 years upwards. Although, there were some mothers with daughters of 18/19 years.
No Children Allowed On Viking Ocean Cruises
Viking Cruises do not accept children under 18 on board a Viking Ocean Cruise Ship.
Activities And Opportunities For Solo Travellers To Meet
On my cruise from Barcelona to Rome, there were seven solo travellers. The Cruise Director organised two dinners for us singles – one in The Restaurant and the other at Manfredi’s. Only four showed up.
All of us had recently lost a partner, so by dessert, we were all weeping into our crème brûlées. Not sure if the encounter was therapeutic or traumatic or a combination of the two but the food and wine were excellent.
The single supplement is a killer, as is often the way, sadly. The price for one person is almost the same as two people sharing, but it’s not all bad news – on occasion, Viking cruises do offer special solo traveller deals. So keep checking here for offers.
Dress Code On Viking Ocean Cruises
During the day, the dress code is very casual.
Do bring comfortable walking shoes for the tours.
Viking Cruises do state that swimwear, short shorts, cover-ups and exercise wear should be reserved for the Fitness Centre, around the pools and on the Sports Deck. But you did see the occasional person walking around the ship in a bikini, and no one said anything.
There are no “formal nights”, so there is no need to bring extremely posh frocks or tuxedos.
In the evenings, especially if you are dining at Manfredi’s or the Chef’s Table, most people smartened up a little – no jeans allowed.
Some shore excursions visit churches or cathedrals that require one to dress modestly. I was denied entry into the cathedral in Monaco as my shoulders were exposed! So, carry a scarf or wrap with you just in case.
But don’t worry if you’re feeling too lazy to dress up in the evening after a long day of touring; casual wear is always welcome in the World Cafe.
The Staff On The Viking Ocean Cruise
Every single member of staff that I met on board the ship was absolutely great. You cannot fault the service, spot on every time.
Tipping Policy On Board Viking Ocean Cruises
Obviously, how much you choose to tip on board is personal and entirely at your discretion.
However, to make it easier, especially for those that don’t come from a tipping culture, a discretionary hotel and dining charge of $15.00 per guest per day is added to your shipboard account. This payment is shared amongst all the onboard staff. It will appear on your final invoice at the end of your cruise.
Please note that this charge does not include bar gratuity; a 15% gratuity is automatically added to all drinks purchased.
If you want to change the gratuity amount or pay cash, just visit Guest Services and let them know.
Viking Cruises suggest offering a cash tip at the end of each of the day tours for the local guides and drivers.
Book A Few Extra Days Before Boarding Your Viking Ocean Cruise
I’d highly recommend booking a few extra days before boarding your cruise. Especially for travellers coming from the US or Australia, it would also help you recover from the jet lag.
Would I Recommend Viking Ocean Cruises?
Yes, I loved it. I didn’t think I would be a cruise person, but it was lovely falling asleep in one place and waking up somewhere new. The food and wine were great, and I was extremely pleased and relieved that there were no formal nights, theme nights, or screaming kids on board.
My only regret, as I loved exploring all the areas we stopped in, was that I didn’t allow myself enough time to fully chillax and enjoy more of the ship’s facilities. Now, I understand why cruise people say they love and appreciate those at sea days too.
If you have any questions about travelling with Viking Ocean Cruises that I didn’t cover in this post, please ask; I’d be happy to try and answer your questions.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Viking Ocean Cruises, but all opinions expressed here are my own. A big thank you to Viking for this fantastic opportunity.