2020 World Wonders – Viking Sun – 4th January to 2nd May (119 days)
Welcome to Volume 1 of our 2nd World Cruise review, which will be in a similar format to the 2015 WC Review Vol I. This is primarily a record of our travels, for Judi & I to review at a future date and reflects our personal opinions and experiences, as paying passengers. We have no prior or current connection with Viking Cruises and this was the 2nd cruise in 40 years, where I did not know the Captain, an officer or crew member before boarding.
For those interested in a Viking cruise, or even a Viking World Cruise, I encourage you to research other passenger blogs, to gain a wider and possibly more balanced review of the cruise. The other blogs that I know of are:
- Lowes Travels by Steve and Mona Liza Lowe
- The Forty Something Traveller by Wendy Addinsall, the Cruise Director’s wife.
- Cruising with Clay by Clay Clayton
- An extensive thread was maintained on Cruise Critic.
In addition, to discussing our experience, I will also provide comparisons between this and out 2015 World Cruise on a different company.
Similar to our first World Cruise, I will complete the summary in 3 volumes, trying to align as closely as possible to the 2015 version.
Planning, Planning and Even More Planning
As longer term readers of our blog probably know, I am a little bit of a planner, or as Judi describes it, a compulsive planner. Based on my career as a mariner, she is probably correct.
So when did we start planning this World Cruise? To be completely honest, probably shortly after we returned from Australia in 2015, so about 4 years ago. The initial discussions revolved around the 2015 WC, which was meant to be our holiday of a lifetime, but it was mostly a bust. We asked ourselves 2 questions:
- Is a 2nd World Cruise of interest? – Yes, most definitely
- Do we stay with Princess? – Not only NO, but “H_LL NO”
We started with some low key discussions and brain storming, creating a list of must haves and nice to haves, as we researched extensively for another cruise line. First up were HAL, Celebrity and Cunard, which are a step above Princess, but not at Premium or Luxury standards. Each were discounted, as they didn’t meet many of our must haves, and they are all owned by Mega ship owners, who specialise in cutting standards. Next up for consideration were the luxury/premium cruise lines, with us considering Azamara, Crystal, Oceania, Regent, Silversea, Seabourn and Viking. Many were eliminated as being too formal or the ships too small, as we really want a ship about 750 to 1,250 pax. We short listed to Viking and Oceania, with Viking obviously our preference, and we have no regrets with the decision.
Viking Ocean Cruises
In selecting Viking Ocean, as our new preferred cruise line, these are the factors that appealed to us:
- Small/medium ship with 930 pax, which was about the mid-point of our preferred range of 750 to 1,250.
- Excellent pax/space ratio of 51.44, which is Gross Tonnage/# passengers. Some of the Luxury lines are around 60, but Oceania R-class ships are only 44. Mega ships are often in the low 30’s, especially when factoring in the 3rd & 4th beds in cabins
- No children, as minimum age is 18
- No casino, which for us, if they are present, is such a waste of space
- Quality, age appropriate entertainment – no mindless game shows, wacky pool games, ice rinks, surfing, water slides, etc
- No Nickle & Diming – shops don’t venture into the Atrium with tables flogging watches, inches of gold chain, no shopping host, etc.
- Quality port lectures, with focus on the attractions, not on the cruise line’s preferred shops
- No photogs shoving cameras in your face multiple times a day
- No art auctions, serving ultra cheap bubbly
- Treated like adults, as you can bring aboard any alcoholic or soft drinks. They even serve your wine in the restaurants without corkage charges
- Alternative restaurants have No extra charges and no restrictions on number of visits
- No formal nights, every night is smart casual
- Great music from easy listening to 50’s/60’s/70’s
- Quiet seating areas throughout, most with small libraries, housing the hundreds of library books available 24/7, on the honour system
- Complimentary beer/wine/soft drinks at every lunch/dinner, with complimentary drinks included 24/7 for World Cruise
- Complimentary 24/7 room service
- Twice daily filtered water provided in cabin + unlimited additional bottles of water
- Bottles of water provided when going ashore in port
- Complimentary spa – therapy pool, hot-tub, steam room, ice room, heated beds, etc
- Amazing technology, so cruise card only used to access the cabin
- Resident historian
- Extensive complimentary films on cabin TV’s
Having settled on Viking, we now had to decide on when. We considered the 2018 WC, which was Viking’s inaugural WC, but it was too early and didn’t coincide with a major event. So we elected to consider the 2020 WC, when published, as this coincides with our 40th anniversary.
We started researching the itinerary in March/April 2018, shortly after it was published, contacting Viking to make a tentative booking at the end of April 2018. This locked in the price and a cabin, giving us 3 weeks to confirm and pay the deposit. Within a couple of weeks, we visited our local travel agent, meeting Paula, who has been brilliant. She contacted Viking, took over the booking, confirmed it and we paid the deposit in early May. That provided about 600 days before the cruise for planning and I used every second of that time to create a 200+ page spiral bound book, comprising:
- Port notes – when visiting > 50 ports, this was a valuable lesson from the first WC. By about 1/2 through our first WC, we couldn’t remember much about the ports being visited, or tours booked. I made detailed notes of attractions, berthing location, exchange rate, tour operators, pubs, restaurants, etc. A separate file was created for each port, which was included in our book.
- History – I researched the history of the ports and countries, creating another separate file for each country and port.
- Tours – I researched numerous ship and private tours, before selecting the ones we wanted. For all tours we booked, I created a separate file with a description of the tour, which were also included in the book.
We found this an invaluable resource, as the day before each port, we reviewed all the information on that port and tour, to re-familiarise ourselves with the next day’s tour. From our 1st WC, we recall preparing for our tour in Rome trying to remember the itinerary – nope, complete blank.
Pre-Cruise Information from Viking
After booking, we received a number of cruise updates:
- Changed ports – during the 600 day wait after booking, we received 4 itinerary changes
- World cruise desk opening – on 5th April 2019, we received an email introducing the Viking WC Desk, providing email and phone contact details. This is a specialised customer service department dedicated entirely to the World Cruise, with hours of service Mon-Friday 06:00 to 18:00 Pacific.
- WC jacket orders – one of the perks is an amazing wind/rain jacket. We received a sizing guide and link to the vendor to order our jackets
- Luggage forwarding – included in the fare was shipping 1 case (50 lbs) directly to the ship. Picked up from the house, it was shipped to San Pedro and delivered to the cabin
- Visas – Viking contracted with GenVisa to procure all Visas, so we received the Visa package and contact details for GenVisa
- Tours – we received the entire list of tours in Mar 2019 and booked our tours at end of August
About 6 weeks prior to departure, we received a phone call from the WC Desk to confirm Visas were complete, WC jackets were ordered, flight were booked and to determine our personal preferences:
- type of pillow & number required – yes, they have different types of pillows available,
- robes & slippers sizes,
- meal preferences,
- mini bar preferences,
- special requests, etc. I ordered a welcoming bottle of Champagne and chocolate strawberries, and a bottle of Rum & Grand Marnier for the cabin. Everything was per our request upon boarding.
From about 3 weeks before the cruise, we had a personal World Cruise desk agent contacting us a couple of times per week, confirming arrangements, and offering/arranging hotel pick-up to the ship, which is a service we lost by arriving in San Pedro a couple of days early.
Pre-Cruise Comparison – Viking v’s Princess
With Princess, the booking experience and all inter-action pre-cruise was one of the positives, but Viking just went over the top with the World Cruise Desk and the personal calls to confirm preferences, with multiple follow ups. While Princess provided a good pre-cruise impression, Viking just blew us away with a phenomenal pre-cruise experience.
Winner – Viking