We have always enjoyed a good cruise – after a horrific 1 day Seascape our first “real” cruise was with NCL back in the late 80’s on the legendary “SS Norway” (originally the ‘SS France’) a grand ocean liner and we took it on a 7-day Caribbean cruise. While our cabin had a fixed porthole window, our room was so small that we could touch the four walls and bathroom door from our bed. However, the ship was simply majestic as
my original reluctance was “I don’t want to being stuck on a boat for 7 days” turned around quickly in just a few hours on the seas. Awesome food, midnight buffets, music, shows, dancing, shops and a walking the promenade (7 laps = 1 mile) and a ocean liner ship made for ocean.. you could not feel the ship was even moving – I was quickly converted.
Sadly, the SS Norway was sold for scrap and new cruise ships took over the cruise space but they certainly are not the same as a true ocean liner. Since then, we never passed on a good cruise ship with a good itinerary and a good spa.
So here we are years later, we did three Christmas cruises with Princess Cruises, Alaska with NCL, Mediterranean Cruise from Italy to Spain then few other Celebrity, Disney, NCL and Royal Caribbean Cruises all were simply fantastic experiences. I also realize that being near three major seaports here in southeast Florida we have the luxury of being on a Cruise within the hour from home or in the case of Port Canaveral, two hours. With us retiring, and boys off doing work or studies, its the best time to restart cruising and seeing new places. Especially after that pandemic brought cruising to a halt.
So Viking cruises caught my eye one day web surfing – as it proclaimed to be “the Thinking person’s cruise”, small ocean ships that only have 930 guests, reviews stated Viking has the best food in the cruise business, first class service, serene spaces, no casinos, no big Broadway productions, but classical musicians playing in the common areas, a good spa, every cabin has a outside balcony. But the REAL focus of the itinerary is on enrichment, with guest lectures where the ship is traveling to – not shopping lectures mind you…actual history and culture lessons. It sounded perfect. Gina and I would enjoy any ship with food, nice room with a view, learning opportunities and a good spa.
The Viking cruises also prices everything in the fare – room, meals, basic excursions (typically a bus tour) at each port city, spa facilities and Beer/wine with lunch and dinner. You can pay extra for other excursions they offer, or make you own plan with a third party.
There is no nickel or diming the guests with photographers that sell you photo packages, high speed Wifi is included, no upcharge on specialty dinning (they have two specialty dinning venues that get high marks and require a reservation, free laundry machines on each floor to use. Even some upper category rooms the refrigerator is restocked with a couple of liquors/sodas each day at no extra charge. Viking cruises are purely informal, with no formal dinning nights to pack and get dressed for – simply comfortable, enrichment based cruising with first class service flanked in Scandinavian décor. The downside is the booking price for a cabin is higher than what you pay on other cruise lines, but most say that in the end, the total that you pay are comparable to other cruises when you pay for all the extras.
The few other benefits (if you see it that way), the ships are smaller and can access a few ports that the larger ships cannot and no person is under the age of 18.
On top of all that, the awards and internet reviews seems to match the hype – Viking cruises is highly decorated by Travel + Leisure, Conde Nest and Cruisers choice.
So, to mark my retirement, I needed something to truly look forward to. More than a year out, I booked Viking’s “Midnight sun cruise” which we are starting in Oslo with a scenic train ride over to Bergen. Board the ship that sails up the coast stopping at ta few ports, to the extreme northern tip of Europe (above the artic circle) around to Scotland and disembarks in London. We have been looking forward to the trip along time and we are confident that Viking Cruises will deliver. The only thing that we have heard is the weather can be tricky and to follow the the old Norwegian saying – “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes.” but being the highpoint of summer, we are thinking if we had chosen a winter month to see the northern lights, these Floridians would suffer in freezing temps.
So I plan to give an update when we arrive in Norway and tell you if my expectations have been met. Until then, be safe out there.