This is a continuation of our 2020 World Cruise Review, which is based on a similar format that I used after our 2015 World Cruise. Volume III of the 2015 Cruise covered the negatives, or areas needing improvement, but after many hours of post cruise reflection, we can only think of 1 negative – missing most of the ports, but this was completely outside the control of the cruise line. Therefore, Vol III will address even more positives:
- Ship – Viking Sun
After about 40 years of sailing with P&O/Princess, we are accustomed to a decor, such as the Wheelhouse Bar, with rich panelling, maritime decor and lots of nostalgic marine and P&O artifacts. Our research indicates the Viking ships have a very clean, bright and modern decor, with a hint of Norwegian in the design, so we did have a little trepidation with respect to whether we would like the different decor.
- Library – on Princess they had a single Library, with all books in locked cupboards, which were only available when a member of the cruise staff was on duty. Viking has well over a thousand books, distributed throughout all of the quiet nooks and crannies, or seating areas. In addition to the public spaces a significant selection of books are provided in each suite. All Viking books contain a label signifying where each book belongs.
Check out this great Viking film clip about the onboard libraries – click here
- Decor – the generally light coloured bulkhead panelling, large deck to deckhead windows in many spaces provides a very bright interior in many spaces. The Wintergarden is amazing with light streaming in through the deckhead panels. The decor is generally clean and understated, with a Norwegian flavour, suck as Viking Longboat replica drawings on the lift doors.
- Air Conditioning – each cabin had a local control that provided a significant range of temperatures. We kept the cabin fairly cool, but after doing laundry, we hung clothes that couldn’t go in the dryer, cranking up the cabin heat while out and about. On return to the cabin, turning down the temperature, quickly returned the cabin to a comfortable temperature. Most of the time, the temperature throughout the ship was very comfortable, except after Sydney, as for a few days the Star Theatre was akin to an ice box. In response, the crew handed out extra blankets.
- Air Ducts – based on the filters in Judi’s breathing machine (CPAP), the air duct system is spotlessly clean, as she changed her filters once in almost 100 days. On the Sea Princess she changed them every 2 weeks.
- Cabin Utilities – everything worked well, no issues with the toilet, plumbing, electrical or lighting. No leaks observed throughout the ship
- Carpets – all in excellent condition, almost like new
- Seating – spectacular variety of seating, which were all in excellent condition and comfortable
- Entertainment Venue Electronics – excellent quality and well maintained, no deficiencies experienced. While the stage is smaller than other cruise ships, the 3 LED screens, lights and smoke machines create an incredible stage presentation, without the need for props. Once we attended the back-stage tour, we had a much greater appreciation of the available technology
- Lifts – all in good working order. The LED screen inside each lift advised the gangway location and all aboard time, when in port. This is an excellent feature
- Decks – all decks were in like new condition
- Hull – well maintained, with deck crew out touching up the paint when in port. Looked like a proper passenger ship, with a gleaming white hull; whereas, the Sea Princess in 2015 resembled a flag of convenience “Tramp Ship”
Food quality and appreciation is one of the most subjective criteria, but during our research for a new cruise line, most opinions indicated Oceania had the best food quality at sea. We haven’t sailed with Oceania, so can’t compare, but after almost 4 months on Viking Sun, it must be darn close. Here are our observations:
Located at the aft end of Deck 2, it has a good selection of 2-tops and larger tables arranged down both sides of the ship and across the stern. The middle of the restaurant is the pantry and top of escalator from the galley, which is on Deck 1. This arrangement provides each table great views of the ocean
- Breakfast – hours were normally 08:00 to 09:30 every day. The menu was extensive, but was identical every day, as no daily specials were available. In almost 4 months, we certainly didn’t get bored with the extensive selections. All cooked breakfasts are made to order, so are delivered hot and freshly cooked. Note – we found the omelets and scrambled egg tended to be made from the liquid eggs. If ordering an omelet or scrambled egg, we always requested fresh eggs, which were cooked per our request.
- Lunch – hours were normally 12:00 to 13:30 every sea day. Closed in port. The left side of the menu was items always available – burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches (changed daily), salad, etc, The right side had about 3 starters, 3 main courses and a couple of desserts. As per breakfast, all meals are cooked to order. They usually got busy right after Daily Trivia, so occasionally we experienced a short delay after ordering. Never an issue, as even if sitting at a 2-top, the adjacent tables are close enough to engage in conversation. Although some dishes were repeated, I don’t recall ever seeing the same menu duplicated.
- Dinner – hours were normally 18:00 to 21:00 daily, with 21:00 being the last entry. Some nights we were there until almost 22:00. Similar to lunch, the menu has always available on the left page, which includes poached salmon, veal, chicken and strip loin steak. The right side has choice of 4 or 5 starters, 4 or 5 main courses, and about 3 desserts. At the bottom of the page were a number of vegetarian options. When a “Destination Menu” was available, it consisted of an additional starter, main course and dessert. A destination menu, relating to the port visited, was included many evenings. A good number of side dishes were included on the menu each evening, which may include – potatoes, baked potato, chips, rice, spinach, green beans, brussel sprouts, steamed vegetables, etc. Similar to lunch, while a few dishes were repeated, I do not recall an entire menu being duplicated. All meals were well cooked, to order and well presented. Steaks were cooked to perfection and incredibly tender.
Summary – the MDR is a bright and open space with almost every table having views of the windows. With the large central pantry/busing area, hardly any busing stations are located among the tables. At breakfast on the 2nd day we met “Spike”, who suggested we come to his section for dinner, which we did. The 3 Waiters – Spike, Andrian & Teyfun were amazing, so we ended up dinning in this section almost the entire cruise, specifically at tables 151 or 153.
Here is a sample of some of the amazing dishes we were served
World Cafe (aka Buffet)
Located at the aft end of Deck 7, it has tables down both sides of the ship, with a central galley. Similar to the MDR, each table has good views of the windows. The galley has 3 serving areas on each side – cold service, hot service and breads/desserts. In addition, the Stbd side has pizza and the Port side has ice cream.
We only visited the World Cafe for a few breakfasts, lunches and dinners, but every time we found the staff amazing and the food selections mostly fresh and reasonably hot. Definitely better than the average ship’s buffet. The Chef stationed at each serving area was available to make anything fresh.
Located on Deck 7 Port side, just aft of the main pool. It has both a grill area and chilled salad bar. The grill has an extensive selection of burgers, hot dogs, chips and toppings. The burgers are a good size, which we found was way too much for lunch, so I believe we only tried the Pool Grill once.
Although we never tried it, some evenings the Pool Grill transformed into a Noodle House.
Located fwd on Deck 7 in Explorers, it is open for breakfast, lunch and late night snacks. I only visited a couple of times for lunch, which includes a daily soup and fresh open faced sandwiches. Great place for a light lunch, with the tables again having great ocean views. I really enjoyed the salmon, prawn and roast beef sandwiches. Didn’t really try the desserts, but many pax reported they were the best on the ship.
Atrium (Living Room Bar)
Located on Deck 1, the Living Room Bar had a chilled display case. At breakfast they provided a selection of fresh pastries, then at lunch they have the same sandwiches as Mamsens. At other times they have biscuits and fresh muffins, until about 16:00, when they deliver savoury treats.
Located on the Stbd side of Deck 1, it is an Italian themed restaurant, which also has a private room seating up to 14. They have a fixed menu, with the exception of daily fish and pasta specials. On the World Cruise, no advance reservations were required, as most days you can book that day or even turn up and get a table. As I can’t eat cheese, the menu is rather limited, but with 24 hrs notice they will make any dish for you. The Rib-eye steak or daily fish special were my favourites.
We visited Manfredis about 4 times and were invited to the private room about an additional 4 times. Every dinner was incredible, with great service.
Located on the Port side of Deck 1, it is a multi-course fixed menu with wine pairings. On the World Cruise, the menu changed every 3-days. Most menus didn’t appeal to either of us and we won’t go and insult the Chef by requesting changes, so the only menu we tried was the British menu # 1 and # 2. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience, meals and service.
The Chef’s Table has a similar private room to Manfredis.
This is a service we had never tried before, as with early tours, we normally ran up to the buffet for a quick breakfast. The night before one of the first ports, Willy left a room service order sheet on the bed, so we thought, why not give it a try. Wow! it was amazing, delivered right on time and piping hot.
Room service was available 24/7, so we enjoyed a couple of other breakfasts and lunches.
Afternoon Tea is served at 16:00 on sea-days. With excellent service and a great selection of teas enjoyed with easy listening music, this was a most enjoyable experience. Of course, the scones, cream, jam, sandwiches and cakes didn’t hurt either.
In addition to the extensive dining options always available, most days they had at least 1 and sometimes 2 or 3 special meals available:
- Aquavit Bar – at the aft end of the World Cafe, most mornings had waffles or muesli available from the bar. Although we never tried it, I watched them setting it up when out for my walk. The entire Aquavit Bar was filled with Muesli options or waffle irons, with a variety of toppings. This again highlighted a significant difference between Viking and Princess, as most mornings I observed the Executive Chef up checking the quality and presentation, but with Princess the only time you saw the Chef was in port as one of the first ashore.
- Aquavit Terrace – Grills were set up many nights for special dinners with a variety of meats or fish. One evening we also had a dessert extravaganza.
- Pool – A tent and grills were set up on the pool stage for special lunches, with very varied themes, such as Dim Sum to Lobster Burgers.
- Pool Grill – we thoroughly enjoyed the Tomahawk Steak night in the pool grill. Lots of tables were set up around the pool, with waiters taking orders and delivering the cooked steaks and side dishes.
- Brunch – Similar to Princess, Viking arranged a special brunch and it was over the top, as the entire pool deck and Wintergarden had a variety of stations – shellfish, sushi, pasta, salads, omelets, steaks, fresh fruit, desserts, bakery, multiple cheese tables, etc
Just a few of the Brunch Stations
- Theme Nights – These were scheduled in the World Cafe and were incredible opportunities for the crew to showcase their customs, dress and culinary dishes. With many crew from Indonesia and Philippines, these were 2 of the theme nights we enjoyed.
- Farewell Lunch – On March 24th in Dubai, with only about 90 pax remaining aboard when Emirates stopped flying, the ship arranged a “Farewell Lunch” in the MDR.
As we entered the MDR we walked through an “Honour Guard” of applauding crew members and were escorted to tables. Tables were assigned, so we were at our usual table #151 with Ron/Alison, Munro/Deb and the Captain. Yes, each table was assigned a Senior Officer.
When taking our orders, Erald (Waiter) advised that each starter and dessert will be served, so all we need to order is the Main Course. Surely, we heard wrong and we aren’t getting 3 starters, a main course and 3 desserts.
Nothing wrong with the hearing, as we received – lobster tempura, soup & caviar before the main course. What an amazing meal, especially to have the Captain or a senior officer dining with us – just like the good old days.
Had we finished lunch and disembarked, it would have been an incredible ending to a most unusual cruise. However, we still had about another 3 weeks to go.