My Viking Ocean cruise started in the cultural city of Bangkok. Boarding Viking Orion was seamless and everyone was in an excited frame of mind. There were people from the USA, Canada, South America, UK and Australia all keen to get onboard and experience the Viking hospitality.
With a capacity of 930 passengers you always feel that Viking staff are always there for you. They always greet you with a smile and a hello and often stop for a chat to ask how your day was. And because Viking care about their passengers they include so much. From free Wifi to Spa facilities, to a choice of 10 complimentary dining venues including the Chefs Table, to an included excursion in every port and gratuities already included in your fare, it feels like luxury for a moderate price. You can also enjoy wine, beer and soft drink with your lunch and dinner or enjoy complimentary 24 hour room service if you want to relax in your verandah stateroom or suite.
Our two night stay in Bangkok included a Panoramic Tour of the beautiful city and lunch at a local restaurant so we could sample the light, fresh cuisine of Thailand. The highlights of Bangkok included visiting Bangkok’s famous flower market, the vibrant Chinatown and the ornate Marble Temple with its beauty and history.
Our next stop was the Cambodian coastal town of Sihanoukville. Here we experienced the local markets with its abundance of jewelry, clothing, fruits and vegetables. A visit to Wat Krom and the adjacent monastery with its vivid murals and brightly colored sculptures was followed by a stroll along Independence Beach, where Jacqueline Kennedy explored in 1967. The city relies on Tourism and fishing with the Chinese investing heavily in the area looking at building Casino’s and Hotels for future visitors.
Enjoying the beautiful Viking Orion on a seaday gave you time to enjoy the many spa facilities, listen to the Guest Lecturers which included Tom Macan, Vikings Resident Historian, Jim Teslow, Vikings Resident Astronomer or Colonel Anthony Coutts-Briton an ex British Army Officer whose specialties were European, US and Asia battlefields. A Port Talk prior to arriving in the next port was a must to learn more about the next amazing port in Viking Orions journey.
Three days in Ho Chi Minh City was a time to experience the fascinating French and Vietnamese cultures that make up this city. The included excursion gave you a brief glimpse of a vibrant city with highlights such as the Opera House and the Grand Post Office, which was designed by Gustave Eiffel. History and culture abound throughout Ho Chi Minh, formerly known as Saigon, and the opportunity to explore the local Ben Thanh Markets, the largest in Ho Chi Minh is something to experience. A Pedal Cab tour around the city is also another fun way of exploring the energetic streets of Old Saigon.
Dinner at the Chefs Table is something that must be experienced on Viking Orion. Included in your fare you can dine at this specialty restaurant and every couple of days the menu changes from Asian to Mexican to Spanish and other culinary delights. The Sommeliers will pair the wines for you to enjoy with the multicourse experience.
Danang (Chan May) is a bustling cultural centre not far from Hoi An and Hue. The included excursion will take you into Danang and the sands of My Khe, otherwise known as China Beach by the American Soldiers. The traditional round boats dot the shores and the rivers around the area. The historic town of Hoi An is a beautiful town to explore the Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese architecture. It is also renowned for its beautiful coloured lanterns and local silk products. Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with well preserved buildings and delicious cuisine. Hue is the home to two Nguyen Dynasty landmarks and the Imperial Citadel which was once the exclusive residence of the royal family and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Citadel was heavily damaged in the Vietnam War but has amazing architecture and gardens to explore
Viking Orion’s Wintergarden is a quiet, serene place to enjoy a late afternoon tea with fresh scones, sandwiches and sweet desserts. Accompany this with a fresh pot of tea and you will feel like you are English Royalty.
Halong Bay is a grand UNESCO World Heritage Site on the edge of the Gulf of Tonkin and stretches for 100 miles along Vietnam’s coast. The towering limestone islands that dot the landscape are a sight to behold. The included excursion has you embarking on an authentic junk to explore the waterways and the Sung Sot Cave with its impressive stalagmites and stalactites. There are quite a few stairs to climb on this excursion but you can stay on the Junk if you choose not to explore the caves. Other excursions you can experience from Halong Bay take you into Hanoi to explore the hustle and bustle of the Old Quarter or maybe enjoy a traditional water puppet show.
A highlight of the stay in Halong Bay was a wonderful Brunch provided by Viking Orion on the pool deck. A selection of breads, fruits, fresh juices, cheese, egg dishes, smoked salmon or sushi, fresh prawns, crab claws and desserts were accompanied by sparkling wine and a gorgeous Viking Ice Sculpture. Waited on by friendly, smiling faces of the waitstaff and the chefs left you wanting for nothing but a lay down by the pool and time to take in the ambience of the Viking Orion.
Time to relax in the ship’s spa is definitely something that must be done more than once during the journey. The steam room is followed by a visit to the Snow Grotto (wear your slippers in here!) and then relax in the hydrotherapy swim spa. The heated tile loungers are sure to put you in a relaxed state of mind if you aren’t already. All these wonderful experiences are complimentary.
Haikou is the capital of China’s Hainan province and is a very vibrant and remarkably modern city off the southern coast of mainland China. The included tour gave you a chance to explore the Old Town and it’s unique blend of European and Asian architecture. A visit to Wan Lu Yuan, otherwise know as Evergreen Park, is a beautiful green space in the heart of the city where locals and visitors enjoy walking trails and a picturesque lake. The hospitality and friendliness of the locals was something to remember.
The perfect way to start the day is with a dip in the refreshing Infinity Pool on the rear deck of the Viking Orion. Follow this with a breakfast that has options such as fresh fruit, fresh breads and pastries, made to order omelettes or eggs benedict, smoothies and freshly brewed coffee out on the deck and your ready for a day of relaxing or exploring.
The welcome into Hong Kong harbour started with a water spraying tugboat accompanying the Viking Orion into the magnificent Victoria Harbour with its skyscrapers and soaring mountains. After an included excursion ascending Victoria Peak on the famous cable car, walking through the Stanley Markets and embarking on a Sampan around Aberdeen and the harbour’s floating village, we were able to stand on the deck of the Viking Orion to watch the amazing lightshow around the harbour which was set to music (Viking Orion was given the soundtrack and this was played on the pool deck during the performance). A beautiful end to a fabulous 15 days on the Viking Orion.
Viking Ocean Cruises is said to be The Thinking Person’s Cruise – Created for discerning travellers with true explorer spirits. I can certainly highly recommend Viking Ocean Cruises and should you want to know more please ask. Having experienced this small ship, destination focused cruiseline I must say I will be definitely be cruising on her again and hope you will make the effort to experience Viking somewhere around the world. Maybe the home of Viking Cruise Lines next time – Scandanavia and Iceland sound good!