I shall start by saying we were not on the Sea, but the Sun. This option doesn't appear in the list of choices! This was our first journey on Viking Ocean, cruising on Sun over Christmas, from Lisbon to Miami. We had previously been on one of their river cruises, some years ago, in China and on the Yangtze, so hoped it would be as good, and we were interested to see how it would compare with our favourite cruiseline, Azamara. Check in was fast, and we were soon on board. First impressions were good - lovely ship, and very modern. We were greeted with bubbly, and then went for lunch, in bright sunshine, on the aft deck - a good start to the holiday. Our stateroom was ready for us at 2pm, ahead of the allocated 3pm, so we just deposited our luggage and went ashore to explore Lisbon - then it was back to the ship, to unpack and prepare for dinner. Overall, it was a great cruise, and we thoroughly enjoyed it, but as expected there were lots of positives, and also some negatives. We thought it would be hard to match the crew on Azamara, but this crew were every bit as good - friendly, happy, helpful and attentive, mainly from the Far East and Eastern Europe. Many of them got to know us, and were always welcoming. Food, throughout the trip was excellent, particularly the Filet Mignon on the first evening, and it was a treat to dine in the two speciality restaurants without an extra charge. They were more intimate, with a good ambience, and interesting menus. We didn't feel the main dining room had the same elegance as the more traditional ships. The pool area was very impressive, with a sliding glass roof, enabling it to be used at all times, with no shortage of beds at any time. The bar and restaurant area, attached was also really nice, but unfortunately, burgers, chicken wings etc. are not to our taste, so we didn't eat there, but frequently enjoyed a glass of wine or a cocktail. I will say, there were lots of very different areas to sit and relax, and always plenty of space - you never had to hunt for a seat. Quality books were also placed in a variety of locations, so you never had to go far to find something new to read. Afternoon Tea was a popular event every day, when one of the musicians would play, but we only went once, as we found that if we had eaten lunch, and were looking forward to our evening meal, we really couldn't manage anything else to eat. Our stateroom was perfectly adequate, with a veranda, and always kept beautifully clean. I loved the en-suite shower room - spacious, well fitted, with a good, enclosed shower, and a huge improvement on the Azamara one (unless of course, you can afford a suite!). The storage however let the room down, with an inconvenient and difficult sliding door wardrobe, where the hanging space was barely adequate for two people for a week, and we were on for 11 days. Perhaps the higher category staterooms had better storage? Public restrooms were always immaculate and kept spotlessly clean - always someone in there, cleaning and restocking. Wi-fi was a useful bonus, which was free of charge, and we had no problems with it. Also a row of about six terminals, available for everyone, in reception. There was help on hand for printing etc., or for anyone unsure. We were able to check in for our flight home, and print boarding passes. The theatre was a good size, and on most nights it was full, with a few people standing, but on the whole, entertainment was of a good standard. There were some interesting lectures along the way, from a variety of speakers, and there was continuous, tasteful music, in the atrium, during the evenings from either a pianist, a classical duo, or a guitarist. We only had two ports of call, in the Azores and Bermuda, and it was a treat to have excursions included, which is the case with all Viking cruises. We took the included tours, but other options were available at quite reasonable prices. Unfortunately, the weather was not good in either port, particularly in Ponta Delgada, where it was misty, and rained all day, so we couldn't see the best of it at all. There was not the emphasis on using the sanitisers, that we are used to - they tended to be hidden in the wall, rather than freestanding, and there was no encouragement to use them either on entering restaurants, or rejoining the ship after excursions etc. We were also surprised to be serving ourselves on the first day, in the buffet restaurant. Also very surprised to observe officers and crew shaking hands with anyone and everyone, rather than using the fist bump to avoid, or minimise, the transferrence of germs. You don't get the little niceties with Viking, like flowers, fresh fruit or a chocolate in your cabin - or the band playing on the quayside, and drinks, to welcome you back from a trip, but that wouldn't be a deciding factor for us, when choosing a cruiseline. The ship was tastefully decorated for Christmas, but Christmas Day was a bit of a non-event, and the only indication that it was Christmas Day, was a well attended gathering for Carols in the afternoon - no other celebrations, events, or even a traditional Christmas meal, but I guess that must have been deliberate. Disembarkation was completely disorganised, and despite being called in groups, the queues just didn't progress off the ship for a long, long time, and people were getting very frustrated, and anxious too, if they had morning flights. To be fair, we didn't know if the problem was on board, or on the quayside. Incidentally, we were advised during the week, that we would enjoy complimentary tours on the Hop-on, Hop-off bus in Miami, as our flights were not until early evening - this was a nice touch, and appreciated. Would we travel with Viking again? Yes, I certainly would, and feel the positives outweigh any negatives, but my husband still favours Azamara, with smaller ships, and more traditional styling, so we have now booked our next cruise with them, to Alaska in June.
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