Is Viking Ocean in the Same Class as Seabourn, Silversea, and Regent? | Travel Research Online


Is Viking Ocean in the Same Class as Seabourn, Silversea, and Regent?

Viking Ocean has burst on the nautical luxury scene with unbridled enthusiasm. With 10 cruise ships and 64 riverboats, some say they’re dominating the market already. No other cruise line visits so many ports each day. Their river craft are positioned close to the high-end of the market, but probably below AMA and Tauck in price and quality.

Viking Ocean is playing things differently. The oldest of their 10 vessels was launched in 2015 and the designs are about the same: All are 930-passenger vessels with verandas for every stateroom. Until you reach the penthouse price level, all staterooms are small at only 270 square feet. The least expensive veranda cabins on Seabourn, Silversea, and Regent are about 30% larger. The bathrooms are smaller, the vanity areas are built into the desk, and there is no divider between the sitting/TV viewing area and the bed. On the other hand, everyone has a veranda which is not the case on the older ships of the “Big Three.”


Dinner dining is a category in which Viking excels. The meals and selections in the main dining room (The Restaurant) are markedly better than their Big Three competitors on which I’ve sailed more than 20 times. Their specialty restaurant, Manfredi’s, is on par with the finest Italian restaurants in the United States. The menu, service, and food seem to be lifted from the famed Valentino’s Restaurant in Santa Monica (now closed) which for a time lent its menu and support to Crystal Cruises. Although Manfredi’s is free, it’s easily the quality of specialty restaurants charging $50-150 on some other ships.

For breakfasts and lunches, most cruisers—on any line—head to the buffet. Here, the picture is is somewhat different. Wait staff are mainly concerned with serving beverages and bussing tables. There is no effort to help guests to their tables.


I’m presently on the Viking Mars, going from Sydney to Bali. I’d estimate that over 90% of the guests are of a retirement age and at least 20% of the guests are probably top 75 years. As with other top-tier cruise lines, this is seldom acknowledged in ads or in the ways the vessels are equipped.

The lack of assistance in the buffet lines is only one example. Another, while all cabins include radio devices for use on guided tours, these are equipped with in-the-ear speakers that can’t be used with many hearing aids. The option of using over-the-ear headphones should be added. Similarly, soap dispensers in showers sit on a narrow bench only 16” high. They need to be provided on a shelf the same height as the grab bar if seniors are to use easily them.

The Ships

With some exceptions, most of which I’ve already mentioned, the 10 Viking Ocean ships are a testament to thoughtful design. The large dining rooms, the theater, and guest services are all located on the bottom two decks. This is an unusual location; not shared with any Big Three ships that I remember. However, it minimizes rock ‘n rolling better than any other strategy of I’m aware. The only downside is the dining rooms have very low ceilings that raise hell with hearing aids. However, this can usually be remedied with acoustical panels or devices if Viking decides to remedy the situation.

The stabilization is the best I’ve seen on any other ship, since it does its work smoothly without any abrupt, jerky motions that often identify legacy systems.


The entire ship is kept in superb shape 24 hours a day. The rooms are thoroughly cleaned twice daily. While towel elephants or chocolates aren’t provided at night, fruits can be provided as part of the nightly turndown service. In all respects that matter, housekeeping is on par with the Big Three ships.

Customer Service

Comments about air destination services provided by the offshore center heard around ship range from “dissatisfied” to “abysmal.” One set of complaints centered around not providing Premium Economy reservations. When a couple is paying more than $1,000 a day for their cruise, they don’t need to be forced to pay another $6,000 for Business Class if all they want (or require) is a little more legroom and seat width. Remember, you’re dealing with a more elderly clientele that’s not as spry as they used to be and may have to make more visits to the restroom.

The other predominant complaint about destination services was the lack of geographic knowledge and strong accents in this obviously offshore service center. As several guests said, some outlandish flight solutions were proposed because the service personnel was obviously reading from their display without understanding the route the computer suggested. One example, provided by another guest, was sending them from Bali to San Francisco via “some airport in the Middle East.”

An even stronger reaction occurred when guests were told the day they could book excursions and specialty restaurants via their home computers on a specified date and time. They signed on but learned that few reservations were available. Some guests attributed this to a computer glitch; others because nearly all reservations had gone to higher-paying guests.

Disappointed guests were told to book once they were on the ship. In some cases, this was four months before they were scheduled to sail. This was strongly resented, since among the things that throw off high-end guests are uncertainty and lack of control. It’s something that Viking will have to learn if they are to be considered on par with the Big Three. What should have happened was that a second sign-up period be scheduled within a few weeks after more excursions or buses were added.

Once on the ship, there have been a few customer service problems that I’ve noted halfway through the cruise that probably wouldn’t have occurred on the Big Three.

For some reason, the ship refuses to change even small amount of money into Australian currency. This is a usual courtesy afforded on high-end ships, since it avoids interruptions in guest schedules.

Also, although the menus for specialty restaurants is published each day on the TV, this doesn’t occur for The Restaurant, the main dining room. Or the menu can be published in the nightly publication for the next day. Again, this saves time for guests who don’t have to visit The Restaurant twice a day.

Is Viking Ocean Ready for Prime Time?

Once the back office and call center problems are cleaned up, Viking Ocean can hold its own with any of the Big Three. The ships are gorgeous and new, and we were told onboard that 70% of the guests have travelled on Viking before. They already trust the brand. What’s needed now is to earn the trust of Big Three clients. Given the huge choice of destinations and the nautical innovations of the 10 ships, this can be easily accomplished.

Dr. Steve Frankel and his wife have cruised on most of the Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal, Azamara, Oceania, Regent, and Windstar ships. Steve is the founder of Cruises & Cameras Travel Services, LLC. He has been recognized as a “2021 Top Travel Specialist” by Conde Nast Traveler magazine and a “Travel Expert Select “by the Signature Travel Network. His specialties are luxury small-ship cruises and COVID-19 safety measures, and has a doctorate in Educational Research with minors in Marketing and Quantitative Business Analysis. He’s also earned a Certificate in Epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University. Previously, he managed qualitative and quantitative research in the private & public sectors. He’s a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has written 13 books and hundreds of articles. His email address is

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