So this is our (my wife who posts as BellKat) and I are first-time Viking Cruisers. We have a very close friend who has been telling us to try them for years. We are long-time cruisers with more than 30+ cruises behind us. Most were on Celebrity,, HAL, Azamara and RCL (with the kids). We are traveling with my brother, his wife, her sister and her husband. My usual practice is to do posts as I am sailing so here goes.
We did the Viking pre-cruise in Athens. Two days at the Athens Marriott. The hotel was just fine but the location left a lot to be desired. I am a walker and a photographer. On most of our trips, when we are on land, I like to get out pre-dawn and shoot photos. But the Marriott is nowhere near the center of historical Athens. I tried and walked four miles and got to nothing I really wanted to take photos of as it is a very industrial area.
When we arrived at the Athens airport (we had flown down from Amsterdam) we didn’t even have to put on our Viking stickers, their rep saw us and walked over and introduced himself before we even had our luggage. He helped us load up and then got us to the coach which was a full-size bus just for six of us and we were off to the hotel. The pre-extension we had reserved included two nights at the hotel (which has the GREATEST water pressure ever), breakfast but no tours so we arranged our own through a company called Tours By Locals.
We were beyond lucky to get the incredible George C. as our guide. He took us to all the usual spots including the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Museum of Antiquities, the original Olympic stadium and the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknowns but the best place he took us was for lunch. One of the most amazing meals we have ever had. And it was at what George called, “A momma place” because they cook like your Greek momma. They brought us some of everything and we loved every bit of it. So much food and so many courses plus lots of excellent Greek wine. We ate outdoors on a shady patio next to a farmer’s market. What an outstanding Greek experience. I even got a chance to do some street photography in the farmer’s market. We did have reservations at a restaurant recommended by Rick Steves in the Plaka district but decided to cancel them after this HUGE lunch. We don’t feel like we missed anything. You can see all my pics in the gallery right here. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…
The next morning (Saturday) was our embarkation day on the Sky. We had to have our bags outside the hotel rooms by 7:00 am. We got them out and went down to an excellent breakfast. Lots of choices and great service. We were on bus four of four to go to the ship. Each one left about 15 minutes apart. The Viking machine at the hotel was incredibly well run. Got us on, took 15 minutes to the port, off and onboard within another 10. Total time hotel lobby to Viking Sky living room was 30 minutes max. I do want to mention that due to a strange Greek rule, we had to take a COVID test the day before (between 7:00 and 8:00 am) in order to LEAVE Greece. Not sure why they care who is sick when they leave. Viking has no testing scheduled at all. Viking took care of our tests and I was told that not a single person had a positive test.
Once onboard we were greeted with champagne and told that we could go up to the World Cafe (buffet) for lunch. When we had checked in on the pier we were told our staterooms would be ready by 2:00 pm. The rest of our party who were on the deck below us were told 3:00 pm. Needless to say, we were a little upset (i said a little—we were on a cruise 😜) because we thought our staterooms (based on our stateroom class) would be ready by 1:00 pm. But in a surprise under promise/over deliver situation, as we were finishing an excellent lunch, the announcement was made that ALL staterooms were open before 1:00 pm.
We are incredibly pleased with our stateroom. It is huge by cruise ship standards, a full 338 square feet (our Celebrity stateroom was about 230 square feet). The only part of the stateroom we don’t like is the bed. We have frequently found European beds ot be harder than US beds. At home, we sleep on a Tempurpedic and we love it. Sleeping on the bed here was like sleeping on the floor. My brother had the same problem and mentioned it to his cabin attendant who said he had a foam mattress topper he could add to it. We are. having the same done to ours for tonight so hopefully, things will improve and I will get a better night’s sleep. I was going to include a video or photographic tour of the stateroom but I found one online that is much more professional that you can see by clicking here.
The rest of the ship is beautiful, the crew has been outstanding so far. The food at lunch was superb…but let’s not talk about dinner. Well, let’s talk about dinner. We decided to have dinner in The Restaurant (the ship’s main dining room) around 7:00. We went for a drink in the living room first and then we headed to The Restaurant at around 7:05. No one was waiting in line and we were seated (our party of six) at a table for eight right near the door. Here’s our timetable for dinner. We got to the dining room and were seated by 7:10. We had bread and water on the table by 7:20. Our order was not taken until at least 7:40. In fact after we got the bread and water, we didn’t see anyone else for almost 20 minutes. Our server came by and asked if we wanted wine. She had a German red and a German white. She said, “Sorry, I don’t have time to do the winelist with you tonight but I will go over it with you tomorrow.” Really?
So there we were at 7:45 with six glasses of German wine when our server took our orders. That took almost 10 minutes while the server attempted to enter the orders on a very small screen iPhone or iPod. Once the orders were taken, appetizers showed up about 10 minutes later, followed by our entrées about 20 minutes after we had finished the appetizers. Dessert was at least 20 minutes after finishing our entrées. The wine was refilled twice but we had to ask for it. Same with water. We were finally done with dinner and left The Restaurant at 9:15. Sorry, but that’s two full hours to eat a meal. That’s too long.
And to be honest, the meal was not that good. I ordered the Chef’s Regional Menu which was a Greek-themed menu including a lentil soup, moussaka and baklava for dessert. I can make all three better at home. I have made all three better at home. That’s just sad. My lovely bride ordered the chorizo-coated sea bass. She ate about half and just didn’t want anymore. My brother had the same thing but about 10 minutes after the rest of us. They forgot his order so we all waited while they got him a new one. It was just sad. We had such high hopes for The Restaurant after all the videos we have seen but last night did NOT live up to them. But we are very willing to give them a second chance. The food in the buffet this morning and yesterday at lunch was excellent so we know they can make the food we love. And tonight we are eating at Manfredi’s, which is Sky’s Italian restaurant so I will share our experiences there tomorrow.
To sum up…love the ship, love the crew, love the buffet and only had two experiences we didn’t like: dinner in The Restaurant and our very HARD bed. We will let you know if either get better…or I hope not…worse.
Greece was a muse. It inspired creativity in magical ways that I can’t even begin to understand or explain. —Joe Bonamassa