Kongo recently completed a 13-day ocean cruise aboard the Viking Star, the newest addition to the Viking fleet. The Viking Star represents the company’s first foray into the world of ocean cruising and the monkey was able to take one of the inaugural cruises known as the Mediterranean Odyssey. This is a review of the cruise. If you’re a fan of the traditional Viking river cruises and are considering a new experience on their ocean cruise segment, please read on.
Kongo’s Mediterranean Odyssey included port calls in Venice (the start of the trip), Split, Croatia, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Naples, Rome, Florence, Monaco, Toulon, and ended in Barcelona. There were two days in Venice and two days in Barcelona. The other ports were one-day visits and there was one whole day spent sailing across the Ionian Sea from Corfu to Naples.
In other blog posts Kongo is writing about the various shore visits so this post concentrates on just the shipboard experience with a brief description of the tours. Each port had several shore excursion options. Included in the price of the cruise are many tours that provide an overview of the city being visited with either a walking tour or a coach ride to the best areas. Additional tours can be purchased and Kongo went to Pompeii in Naples, a trip to the top of some mountains in Corfu, a gondola ride in Venice (you can’t do Venice without getting in a gondola), an excursion to Florence and Pisa across the Tuscan countryside, and a visit to vineyards and villages in Provence in conjunction with the Toulon visit.
The ship is magnificent. It is well appointed throughout, extremely comfortable, and spacious. There are six restaurants on the ship (some require advance reservations) and a number of cozy bars where you can relax with a cocktail or glass of wine. There’s a spa, a gym, sports deck, pools, night clubs, and lounges.
You may have read about some speed bumps Viking had in launching their ocean cruise service such as a breakdown and cancelled cruise when the ship was visiting Latvia, exploding shower doors, and poorly organized shore excursions. While none of these disasters happened to the monkey on his trip, there were a few areas that Viking still needs to improve upon as it works through the bugs of this new line of business. He describes these later in this post.
By the way, beer and wine are included with lunch and dinner meals and the staff is not stingy about keeping your glass full. Unless you purchase a drink package, drinks bought at other times are charged to your room. Drink prices are reasonable and rail drinks or standard wines were $4 each. Room service is available 7/24 free of charge and Kongo had a room breakfast about half the time. The monkey did not purchase a drink package and is glad he didn’t. There was more than enough alcohol to be had and the drinks he did purchase ended up costing a lot less than the drink package.
The staterooms are extremely nice. Kongo reserved a deluxe room on Deck 5 on the starboard side near the aft end of the ship. All staterooms have balconies. Since the monkey planned to spend as much time as possible ashore or sleeping, he didn’t go for one of larger penthouse suites, which would have come close to doubling the cost of the cruise. From what he could see of these upgraded rooms, however, they looked spectacular. All the staterooms have wall mounted flat screen TVs that are integrated into the ship’s computers so that you can view movies, music, get a view looking forward from the bridge, check your account, learn about upcoming port visits, or see the daily calendar of events and activities. Although there is free WIFI on the ship it is VERY SLOW and only appropriate for checking Email. Kongo could not upload pictures or keep his blog updated while on the ship. The heads (that’s a bathroom for landlubbers) are wonderful, the showers are great, and the king size bed is very comfortable with plenty of room to store big suitcases underneath. The housekeeping staff is fantastic and visit your room twice daily. A built in refrigerator is stocked daily with water and sodas. The rooms have plenty of wardrobe space, a built in coffee maker, and safe. Laundry can be sent out daily at extremely reasonable rates and there are self-service washing machines and dryers on each deck.
There are two swimming pools and a jacuzzi on the ship. The main pool has a roof that slides back and forth to open the entire space up to the air or protect loungers from the rain.
The ship offers lots of entertainment options that range from cabaret singers in the nightclub, to movie nights, poolside bands, piano players, guitar serenades, and classical strings.
The demographics of the passengers on this trip seemed to be a bit older that what the monkey was expecting. Most cruisers were in their 70s or 80s and some had difficulty getting around. This brings to mind a comment one of Mrs. Kongo’s friends once made to her where she opined that “You’re not old enough to go on a Viking cruise.” We didn’t know what she meant then. We do now. This is not to say that we were in a retirement home but it was an older group. Kongo wasn’t looking for a bunch of kids to disco the night away with and there were lots of younger couples in their 40s and 50s to meet, its just nice to be able to mingle with a group of new people that have more in common with you. Almost all of the people Kongo met had previously taken Viking River cruises so if you have that in your rear view mirror then the monkey expects you know what you’re going to find on the ocean ships. It seemed that many of these cruisers didn’t go ashore. There were many lounge lizards or pool people who just enjoyed the experience of being on a ship and being waited on hand and foot. Nothing wrong with that. Kongo met some interesting people, however, including a retired chief inspector from Scotland Yard, The majority of passengers were American with a good collection of cruisers from the UK and Canada. Almost everyone was a couple. There were no children except for perhaps the one 30-something young lady who was escorting her grandmother.
The ship holds 900 passengers and this cruise was sold out.
Dress aboard the ship is casual. Shorts and capris and T-shirts are fine during the day. Bathrobes and bathing suits work fine going to the spa or pool. Evening dress is a bit more formal with men wearing slacks, collared shirts, and a sprinkling of sports jackets.
Despite the poor reviews Kongo read about this ship’s shore excursions before arriving on the ship, he found that the tours were generally good. At least they were “okay.” The biggest problem was that the most of the tours had too many people. This made it difficult to interact with your guide although Viking uses a remote listening system that enables you to hear the tour guide while you’re walking about. Many of the tour groups Kongo went on involved lots of walking and climbing 2000 year old steps and walking on cobblestone streets. Many of the passengers simply were not up to these tours and went so slowly that everyone had to move along at a snails pace, limiting the amount you could see ashore. Sometimes Kongo wanted to ask, “Do your children know you’re here?” but he kept his simian lips together and pressed firmly. More than a few took a tumble and one poor lady did a face plant directly in front of Kongo along a cobblestone street in Florence. Fortunately she was OK but we had to slow down and arrange for taxis to take her to the rest of the stops on the walking tour. Another cruiser crashed in Pompeii.
On most tours Kongo ranged within about 100 yards of the group taking pictures he would not otherwise have snapped had he stuck with the guide. The trick here is to keep your eye on your group because in some of the ports there are two or three ships in at any given time and the groups tend to get tangled up. Whenever the voice of the guide began to fade in Kongo’s ear, he would reverse course and go hunting for his group again. Mrs. Kongo knew that at worst case she would stay with the tour and Kongo could figure out how to get back to the ship on his own if he had to. Fortunately, that did not happen. Kongo heard about a couple of tours where the couple didn’t have these agreements and the bus ended up waiting for two hours when someone wandered off and got lost. Please don’t do this.
Except for the visit to Monte Carlo in Monaco, the ship went to the pier in all the ports so you were able to board using the normal brow. In Monte Carlo the ship utilized its tenders to shuttle passengers to and from the shore.
The food in all the restaurants was excellent. The service was terrific, the menus were varied and interesting, and the wine pairings were perfect. The specialty restaurants were over the top with respect to service and preparation. Although you are supposedly limited to only two nights in each specialty restaurant Kongo suspects that if you show up at 8 PM you’re going to get a seat. Breakfasts could either be from a menu or in a buffet style. You also have 24-hour room service available at no charge if you get back from a day of hiking hills in Dubrovnik and don’t feel like taking a shower and changing clothes.
The entire Viking staff and crew were fantastic. They are genuine and professional, intent on catering to your every need. They learn your names and room number and make you feel at home when they see you again. The housekeeping staff was particularly excellent. Tipping is not done on the ship but a 15% gratuity is built into your bill. Of course, cash is always a nice way to thank someone who was especially accommodating and Kongo left an extra 100 Euro for his housekeeper.
Accommodations, including staterooms and common areas, are luxurious and tasteful. This is a brand new ship and it even still had that “new ship” smell. The artwork, decor, and furniture is tasteful and interesting. The electronics (except for WIFI) are state of the art.
Viking did an excellent job in getting luggage on and off the ship promptly. We boarded the ship about noon (which was early) and after a burger and beer at the pool bar made our way to our stateroom. Kongo did not utilize Viking for air travel or shore side hotels. We flew to Venice three days early and stayed in Barcelona an extra three days after we left the ship. Kongo understands that the shoreside hotel chain that Viking uses is the Hilton in Venice. He’s not sure what they use in Barcelona. Passengers not staying over or arriving early are met at the airport on arrival and taken to the ship or they are taken back to the airport when they disembark. Kongo flew Delta from Atlanta to Venice direct and direct back from Barcelona.
Is this cruise for you?
If you are a Viking river cruiser keep in mind that this is NOT a river cruise. While the ship is relatively small compared to some big cruise lines there are still 900 people aboard and getting on and off the ship at port calls is more challenging than on a river cruise. The tours are frequently more strenuous and there are not accommodations for those who are slow walkers or who may need assistance in getting around. The historic places you will visit in Europe have not heard of the ADA so you need to be able to walk briskly, climb up and down hills and steps, and generally keep up with your group. Bathroom availability in many places is sporadic so plan accordingly and always have a few Euro in coins in your pocket in case there is a toilet attendant.
Overall, Kongo enjoyed this cruise very much but he wouldn’t do it again. The 900 passengers, a small size by many cruise ship standards, is still too many for the monkey’s liking and he would prefer a younger group although in another ten years or so maybe not. Highlights for the monkey were the time he spent in Venice, Barcelona, Florence, and Rome. Pompeii was great. Croatia was interesting. It was wonderful to spend nearly three weeks relaxing and only worrying about what time to go to dinner. The monkey was NOT ready to come home and could easily have stayed in Europe another week or two or three.
If you do take this cruise, Kongo highly recommends that you arrange your schedule to get there two or three days early and stay a couple of extra days after leaving the ship. This cruise starts and stops in either Barcelona or Venice and these two cities are simply too wonderful to only spend a single day here.
Travel safe. Have fun.
23 thoughts on “Viking Ocean Cruise Review — Viking Star”
Thanks for the detailed description. We’ve had our eye on Viking for a while – and you addressed some of my hesitations. Glad you had fun!
From your picture, Quan, I would say you are not old enough to go on a Viking cruise. LOL 🙂
Hahaha! Thanks that IS one of my concerns! I hear that they give the best insights & history…
The Viking cultural discussions on the ship prior to arriving at a port are excellent.
That cruise looks like just what the monkey needed after a busy year! Beautiful facilities.
Great article. I am not a cruise person but might consider a small m
Mediterranean but based on your article this would be much bigger than I would care for. Lots of great details.
It seemed big for the monkey too, Marie, but actually there was plenty of room on the ship and you didn’t feel crowded. Viking also staggers the tour departure times so there’s not much of a wait to get on and off the ship.
How fast is the wifi? I have yet to be on a ship with speedy wifi.
Ancient Vikings could have sent smoke signals faster than the WIFI on the ship.
We are leaving on our first Viking river cruise is three weeks, The Grand European Tour and I was looking at the Med Ocean itnerary too so thanks for posting this. Hope you are well!
Cindy, you will have a great time. Enjoy!
Brilliant review. Helps a lot for us newbie cruisers.
Thanks, Marcie. I’m glad it was helpful. Good luck on your cruise search!
My husband and I were taking our 50th wedding anniversary trip of a lifetime from Istanbul to Barcelona on October 6, 2015 to October 27, 2015. We are both in great physical shape, and we always were first after the shore excursion person to be sure we got to our bus safely. At Kotor, Montenegro, a fairly new port, we were not led properly from the ship to the port and to the bus, less than 50 feet away. The port authority had poor markings on the steps, and as we only had a small area to walk, I fell over the steps and later found my elbow was shattered. So much for the romantic trip we had looked forward to for many years. My husband had to take care of my basic needs, and I never slept more than a few hours for that time or since. We had taken 4 trips on the River Boats with Viking, and they were safely monitored. This one, the staff was not properly in tune with the passengers, and they did nothing for me except wrap my arm in gauze. 10 days from then, we found the head captain and showed him my arm. He took me to a new medical staff and i was put into a cast. No one checked on me after we came home and I had the operation as it was very difficult and painful and so unnecessary. Viking has only offered a voucher, no money for medical care nor any refund. That is not their policy. So Bad So Sad. Do not trust viking. They are not truthful nor do they have any integrity. I never thought I would have to write this kind of review, but people need to know they are on their on when they take a cruise, and Viking does not care about you or your injury if one happens. If anyone wants to see my 22 pages of notes and pictures, let me know. BEWARE OF VIKING
Amy J. Hopper
Hi, Amy. I’m so sorry that your trip was spoiled by your injury. As I mentioned in my blog post, Viking is still working out several kinks in their ocean cruise shore excursions. While I am sure you and your husband are in great shape, I saw many others on the cruise I was on who frankly had no business venturing out on some of the tours, especially those that involved lots of walking or traversed uneven pavement and thousand year-old steps. The Viking river cruises are well managed as they have been doing those for along time and have a good history of using careful guides and visiting places where accident risk is minimized. They’re clearly not there yet on the ocean cruise with several new itineraries. While I have a great deal of empathy for your plight, I think if you go back and read the small print on your cruise contract you will find that Viking disclaims liability for the type of injury you sustained while on a tour in a foreign country. Many Americans traveling abroad sometimes forget that foreign places do not always maintain the same safety features they would find in the United States. In my opinion, that’s just part of the travel experience. In Barcelona I twisted my ankle while walking and looking up at the same time and walked off an uneven curb. It caused me a great deal of pain for several months and is just now getting back to normal. But I recognize that my clumsiness was my own fault, not Viking’s. (Not suggesting that your accident was caused by any clumsiness, Amy, sometimes events conspire and we find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.)
I hope that you recover quickly and that your future trips are accident free.
It would still be a good report to place on Facebook. I looked today to see if this had been placed on Facebook, and it was not. Yes, they always says things like this just happens. This was a preventable accident as the shore excursion person led us through a hazardous area 25 feet from the ship to the bus. Then they neglected to cast my crushed elbow and did not call after that to check on my condition. They let me languish on the high seas until the next part of the cruise brought a new medical crew in which could see my the compromised condition of my arm and elbow. The Viking Ocean Cruise Department is lacking in management and leadership. I was not on my own, and had I fallen off the docking area, it definitely would have been my fault!!!!
Thanks for your advice.
Amy J. Hopper
We are going in March on their newest ship so this is especially relevant. Hope you are well!
Hey, Cindy. All is well here. Hope you have a great cruise!
I went on a Viking Mediterranean cruise in December 2017, the Rome to Barcelona cruise, which is supposed to call at Trapani, Tunis, Cagliari, Algiers, and Valencia. I had chosen this cruise specifically because it called at Tunis and Algiers, two places I had not been to before, Algiers in particular being not an easy place to get to. The cruise was a disaster, with two ports, Trapani and Algiers being missed, essentially because the boat was travelling too slowly. Some of the distances between ports are quite considerable, eg Cagliari to Algiers, and Algiers to Valencia, and can only be covered in the scheduled time by travelling at top speed all the way, which consumes a lot of fuel. Instead, the boat travelled quite slowly, presumably to save fuel. Particularly after leaving Cagliari the boat travelled very slowly, and by the evening many passengers were predicting that at the speed we were travelling there was no way we could reach Algiers by 9:00 the next day. They were proved right; by 9:00 we were nowhere near Algiers, and the captain announced that we would bypass that port and head straight for Valencia, which took us all that day and the following night to reach. We concluded that the captain never had any intention of going to Algiers. My belief is that Viking management made a mistake in designing this cruise, in that they did not allow enough time to cover the whole itinerary, except under absolutely ideal conditions, and they realised that the only way Barcelona could be reached by the last day was to omit at least one scheduled port of call. I would not be surprised if the captain was so instructed. The on-board service was very good, but that did not make up for missing one of the ports I most wanted to visit; after all, the purpose of going on a cruise is to visit interesting places. I would advise not trusting Viking; they promise a lot but do not deliver. The bottom line is; ignore the Monkey and listen to the Organ-grinder.
Hi, Michael. Thanks for the detailed feedback on your recent trip with Viking and I’m sorry your adventure didn’t measure up to your expectations. It’s always a bummer when a big trip that you’ve been waiting and saving for falls far short of expectations. Hopefully, Viking is compensating you in some way for the missed port visit. I suspect there are a variety of reasons why a ship might skip a port of call other than poor planning. Engineering difficulties, adverse weather predictions (this happened to Kongo on a recent Polynesia cruise), security concerns, and so forth. As you suspect, the real reason is not something the company wanted to share with its passengers and that leaves a bad taste. While skipping a port is frustrating, it’s all there in the fine print of your ticket. Hope you have a better adventure next time.
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