An extensive review on the first Viking cruise for 14 months out of the UK. The new Viking Venus departed Portsmouth on May 22, 2021, on the first of five roundtrip domestic sailings that will continue through June 2021. Find out how was the experience onboard with new health protocols in place.
At last, after fourteen very long months we are back onboard a cruise ship, and whilst we are cruise veterans, we are Viking Virgins, and we were particularly excited to board the beautiful Viking Venus, a brand-new ship.
Of course, because of Covid, things are a little bit different now. We are aware that various cruise lines will have their own protocols, but in response to requests from many people across social media, we would like to start by talking about how Viking Cruises have tackled this.
There are now daily saliva tests, temperature checks and the completion of a short daily health questionnaire, tracking monitors, and face masks to be worn in all inside public areas whilst standing or walking, except when eating or drinking obviously.
The ship has improved ventilation systems and two robot sanitisers that roam around the ship and are nicknamed Batman and Robin. There are sinks and soap at the entrances to the World Café (buffet) and you are expected to wash your hands when you enter, it is not optional as it may have been in the past. There are also modern sanitisers that give you just the right amount on your hands located all around the ship.
Given that this is a new experience for everyone, the embarkation process was very smooth. We were given the option to choose our boarding time and chose 9 am. When we arrived in the terminal at Portsmouth our temperature was taken and we completed a brief health questionnaire, also confirming that we had been vaccinated.
It was then onto check in and through security where our hand luggage was sanitised, a brief socially distanced bus ride and onto the ship. Check in to entering our cabin only took 35 minutes, and our luggage was already waiting for us.
On the way to our cabin we were asked to attend a short safety demonstration in the theatre in a socially distanced small group, and then had to watch a video in our cabin clicking confirm at the end to show we had watched it. Life jackets are no longer kept in cabins since covid either.
An interesting point to note is all staff have been vaccinated and when they join the ship they are quarantined initially in an additional safety measure.
We know some of the covid restrictions may seem tiresome, but we are happy to abide by them as it means we are finally able to cruise.
Rightly people who had previously cruised with Viking were given priority booking, so our cabin choice was limited, nevertheless, we were happy with our deluxe veranda cabin, even though it was on deck three.
The cabin was impeccably clean and spacious with adequate storage space, and the bathroom was bright and bigger than average. We love the heated floor in the bathroom, but find the wardrobes at the side of the bed a tad cumbersome.
There was a large TV screen, armchairs and a comfortable bed. There was also a fridge with soft drinks that are replenished once per day, and a welcome bottle of fizz.
OK to start, probably the only positive change brought about by Covid is that we no longer have to attend interminable muster drills, as we mentioned earlier, when we embarked the ship we had a five minute demonstration of the new life jackets at our muster station, and then the video in our cabin – a much better system in our view.
Something that has pleasantly surprised us is that Viking not only allow you to bring your own alcohol on board, you can also even take it with you to public areas.
It´s difficult to assess how spacious this ship would be because Viking have been ultra-cautious about how many passengers it has allowed on board for this maiden cruise, around 230. We understand at full capacity the beautiful Viking Venus would hold 930 passengers.
We are reminded every day that we are cruising in Covid times, as we give our daily saliva samples, fill in a daily health questionnaire and have our temperatures taken, and wearing our masks, but it certainly is a small price to pay for being safe whilst back at sea in our opinion.
All food and all restaurants are included without having to pay any supplements. This is a wonderful bonus, particularly when it comes to the Chef´s Table with its exquisite food and service.
Its pairing menu with chef´s speciality nights from around the world – (on our cruise, it was British, Asian and Scandinavian) is some of the best food we have tasted in a long time. Their flexibility in accommodating with notice different dietary requirements such as a vegetarian diet, and allergies was outstanding. On many other ships the supplement would be high for eating in such a place.
There is also The main Restaurant again a good standard and with no need to reserve a table. The World Café (buffet) at the back of the ship on Deck 7, where the food is now served to you at the counter, but again a cut above the similar offerings on other ships. There is also an Italian – Manfredi´s with an outstanding reputation, and the Pool café.
A silver drinks package is available to purchase at a cost of twenty dollars per day, with all in the cabin needing to do so, allowing access to all drinks up to fifteen dollars – great value. Of course if you do not wish to do so, wine, beer and soft drinks are served free of charge with lunch and dinner.
Gym and Spa
Obviously because of Covid restrictions the gym and spa experience is very different, I can´t say too much about the Spa, because the one thing that hasn´t changed is the ridiculous amount of money they charge. Also, the massages on offer were all full body, without other options apart from foot massages.
However, we were able to make use of the thermal pool, the hot tub and the lovely heated fixed loungers many ships have these days. There was also a sauna and cold area which we chose not to use.
We did spend a lot of time in the gym which only allowed six people at any one time, and you could only use by appointment which were 45-minute slots. The gym was well-equipped, and the equipment was brand new. It was split into three sections which made it difficult to assess how spacious it would be in normal circumstances, but overall, we really liked the way it was layed out.
The staff in the spa were excellent and it was a pleasant change not to be sold at constantly as you are on other ships.
Entertainment and Enrichment
The entertainment on the ship was good, but there were only three live shows as the cruise line has decided to concentrate on enrichment, even to the extent of having lectures at 9.15 at night in the main theatre.
Now we acknowledge that everyone has different tastes, but found this to be a little excessive. We were disappointed not to be able to hear the Cruise Director Heather perform as had seen much about her wonderful singing on the various social media groups.
The Viking Band with singers Harry and Marilyn was always good value, and there were also other lounge entertainers – a pianist, a guitarist, and a classical duo.
We had one included shore excursion at every stop we made, all of which designed to give you an overview of the area- Liverpool, The Scilly Isles, Falmouth and Portland.
We were unable to anchor at the Scilly Isles due to poor weather conditions, but used the option in the other stops. There were also a number of optional tours you could purchase in addition to the included ones.
This was a little more of a challenge with the onboard Viking Voyager app etc, and the temperature machines not always behaving as would have been hoped, and the tv stations often not working when the ship was in port, however, on a brighter note the free internet was very reliable with a good bandwidth and only rare drops in speed, as were the touch screen information screens around the ship.
This was our 50th cruise but our first with Viking. As well under-taking back-to-back cruises at present, we have already booked another with the company in September.
The Viking Venus is a brand new very stylish ship with plenty of outdoor space, particularly at the stern. We love the Explorers Lounge on two levels at the front of the ship, the pool area with its retractable roof, and the thermal spa area.
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The touch screens around the ship including outside the restaurants is an excellent concept. And the large space in the atrium used for projecting pictures is a lovely touch.
It is also nice that the guest services staff greet you in an open area with chairs and a table where you can talk to them as though being greeted in a luxury hotel, rather than across a counter.
It has been a pleasure being on a ship where you are not constantly being sold to, something that is totally against the ethos of the company. It has also been lovely to be made to feel as much part of the Viking family as those who have cruised with them previously.
The staff and officers on the ship right up the captain, are always there, with outstanding attention to detail and a huge amount of friendliness and good humour.
Well done Viking and thank you for a lovely cruise.
Tony and Angie Russell