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Everything posted by Karen_Travels

  1. Aloha! Thanks for the info on the WC GBR tour. That's crazy that you all had to hike to get to the boat. I remember you all saying you weren't happy with the Viking excursion. Those massive tour boats are annoying. I hope it was at least only Viking people not a mix with families with children 😱. Although any boat with that many people trying to get in and out of the water is not a good time, particularly if they are new to snorkeling. Madness! Interesting to know they had a scuba option. One person on our cruise asked Viking about that and was never able to get an answer - then the excursion was full, anyway, before he had a chance. Sadly, other than the handful of us who could book a heli tour, there are really no other options to get to the GBR from Cairns given our limited time there. I'm not counting a half-day to Green Island because it sounds like the snorkeling there is terrible. Oh, good. I'd planned on having to wear a stinger suit. I had not heard they were terrible to get on and off. UGH, another thing to dread. It's tempting, but they'd probably frown on me bringing scissors to use to extract my mom from their stinker suit. Hah Strange that it sounds like there were enough spaces available to go to the GBR for the WC but not for our cruise. I agree it sounds like the Viking GBR tour sucked but I'd rather do that than not to get to see the reef at all. Interesting that the 2020 WC will be there longer. That arrival will be too late for most of the regular full day tours (unless there is a helicopter involved) but at least something should be available to work with that later departure time. Did any of you snorkel/dive out of Bali? That would be another option but the popular snorkeling places off Bali get very mixed reviews online. To me it sounds like the people who like Blue Lagoon, etc. might not have experience snorkeling elsewhere to compare it to whereas the conditions off the neighbor islands sound far more impressive but require a full day tour to get there. Unfortunately, I doubtful we'll have that much time in Bali given we already have one full day and one half day of land tour scheduled seeing some temples, etc. We'd still want to see the GBR, however. It was the main reason why we selected the Bali to Sydney itinerary. I looked at Whitsunday but the port times/logistics didn't seem to work for private tours and the Viking cruise/snorkel there is $599! 😲. The only other place that seems possible is when we're docked in Townsville. Then we could ferry over to Magnetic Island where there are two snorkel trails that are a swim out from shore or there are some small boats that do snorkel tours around the island. A $1K heli trip to Orpheus Island is beyond our budget. Thanks, everyone, for all the information and insights. If any of you have more suggestions, your help is most appreciated! I feel so bad for the folks on our cruise who haven't found any way to make it out to the GBR. Aloha! Karen 😃
  2. Aloha Jim (and anyone else from the WC), Question for you: How long was your ship docked in Cairns? For our upcoming Bali to Sydney cruise we are only in port from 8 am to 6 pm which pretty much precludes booking an independent snorkel trip to the GBR. The Viking GBR tour filled up before most of the cabin categories were able to book excursions so there is now much venting and unhappiness on our roll call. I don't remember seeing anyone from your cruise report this problem so I'm wondering if you were in port longer. Viking clearly grossly miscalculated the amount of interest there would be in seeing the GBR this time! Fortunately, I snagged us spots on a half-day heli/snorkel cruise months ago, thanks to the suggestion of someone on this thread (whew and thanks!). I'd be pretty bitter (like my future shipmates) if I was going that far only to be forced to miss the GBR. I'm just wondering why things seem to be going so badly for Viking at Cairns this time. Perhaps a larger percentage of WC travelers had already spent time at the GBR during previous trips so your fellow travelers were less inclined to want a snorkel tour? Or were you there long enough for people to be able to schedule their own? It also sounded like Viking offered two snorkel options for the WC instead of reserving only one snorkel boat for us. It seems strange. I'm just was curious about your experience in Cairns and any thoughts you might have on this. Thanks much! Karen 😃
  3. On Viking River I did have the crew once call (without my asking!) to find a restaurant that was safe for me during a "lunch on your own" portion of a full day excursion. I am gluten free but have other allergies, too. That was wonderful of them to do but appreciate Viking Ocean has a lot more passengers to assist so I'm not sure what to expect there. I travel with the assumption I won't be able to eat anything on excursions so I bring prepackaged GF snack bars on cruises. Because they are sealed by the manufacturers I've never had problems taking them through customs/security at ports. Frankly, even if the folks on shore say the food is safe for me to eat I really don't trust it. I've been burned too many times by restaurants who don't understand gluten free and I certainly don't want to spend a big chunk of my vacation feeling sick. Some countries also sell wheat products for people with Celiac Disease that are actually low gluten rather than gluten free. That's still too much gluten for me. I will say that countries are likely to restrict the importation of fruits, vegetables, meat, alcohol, and cheeses. If you just brought some GF bread or rolls to eat while ashore you're unlikely to have problems at the port but that would depend on the country and the person working the port .
  4. If someone from Viking is checking the boards - I think we would all like to know if Viking River has been testing a new dinner format (buffets each night in main dining room, apparently in addition to menu service - much like has been traditionally done only for breakfast and lunch). Is this something Viking has been trying out this summer on their Budapest to Bucharest (Passage to Eastern Europe) cruise? Did they switch to this format for a single cruise or have they switched to a new dinner format permanently? More information on this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! To the OP: I would suggest re-reading what I wrote as clearly you took it the wrong way and my apologies for any confusion. I said it "reads more like" something, not that it was. I asked about the dates of travel because it would be helpful to know if people in the Budapest to Bucharest cruise sailings before and after yours had the same nightly dinner buffet experience. If not, it would seem that Viking was testing something different for that one cruise. I commented that EVERYONE should do research prior to booking a cruise. I, in no way, said the OP had not done that research although I did interpret some of the OP comments as implying something came as a surprise. My apologies for any times I misinterpreted your comments (like regarding the French Balconies). I commented that I had researched before our trip to make sure we were on the same floor as the restaurant so we could use the elevator from that floor to the lounge level. That and the fact that my mom prefers to avoid stairs meant the elevator was useful for us. It would obviously not be useful for everyone and, as I discussed, it does not completely eliminate the need to climb stairs so people need to be aware of that. OP talked about the apples and oranges differences between river and ocean cruises. I agreed that they are very different and people should really look into what will work best for them and what type of vacation they want. That's why everyone should do research by reading reviews like the ones on Cruise Critic. I don't know why me commenting how important it is to check out details prior to cruising was taken in such a negative way. There is a learning curve on learning how to read cruise company descriptions of what is being offered. (e.g. "panoramic tour" is travel code for "tour on a bus" and if the cruise line isn't specific about transportation it is likely to be by motor coach, AKA "a bus") Sites like this are a huge help in figuring out what to expect. I'm sorry the OP was so terribly disappointed with his Viking River cruise experience. That is very sad. The review also left me with questions - like if waiting in line for a dinner buffet was annoying, why not order off the menu for table service, instead? Was that also not satisfactory? Were they not offering evening food service on the lounge level (usually there is a light buffet there) on that cruise? Or had that been replaced by something else? Viking was doing tests of a reservation-only Italian specialty restaurant on some of their river cruises for a while but rumor was this had been discontinued. Perhaps they are trying a different dining experiment now? Again, whether service was good is a subjective (but important!) experience. I wouldn't interpret people saying "my food was great!" to be a disagreement with someone else's comment that they thought the food was terrible. People are simply offering their own subjective perspectives. However, whenever anyone reports the configuration or basic operation of a cruise ship is quite different from the previous reviews/experiences that have been shared, I think it is natural for people to have more questions to try to better understand. For example, the number of common areas, the available dining options, and claims that Viking is misrepresenting their cabin sizes should be facts that people can attempt to verify. My thanks to Bruin Steve and all those who have taken the time to provide reviews and other information. I find it very helpful! Happy cruising, everyone!
  5. 🤔Hmmm...yes, I would be interested in the dates of your cruise since your review reads more like a promo for Celebrity than an accurate remembrance of a Viking cruise. On Viking river cruises there is usually a small buffet by the terrace/bar in the evening but NO dinner buffet in the main restaurant (other than the one theme night as others have mentioned). Dinners don't require that everyone be there at 7pm (unlike ocean cruises with fixed seating times) although no surprise that the first people there would tend to sit by the windows. People also do tend to sit the same place each time. Viking dinners in the main restaurant are sit down meals ordered from menus that feature three different options for each course and that usually include one "local specialty" item for each course. In addition, there is always the option of ordering steak, salmon, chicken, and something vegetarian as entrees. If Viking was, in fact, trying out a buffet for just the one cruise you were on clearly that was a failure. In that case, your negative review is understandable although people should realize that what you described is substantially different from what anyone could expect on a Viking river cruise. However, if Viking WAS experimenting on that one cruise, that would explain why Viking's service was so different on your cruise than any others people seem to have experienced. The crew would be trying to adjust to a nightly dinner buffet that is not a part of any other Viking cruise others have reviewed. On our two Viking European river cruises the waiters quickly learned our preferences and brought us drinks, etc. most times without needing to ask. The service was friendly and excellent. There is nightly entertainment in the bar. It is limited (usually a soloist or small band) but it isn't a one night-only situation. Odd that you have a real estate background and were unfamiliar with "French balcony" which is a typical real estate term but perhaps there aren't many of those where you live. Yes, French balconies are not the same as other types of balconies. People should understand that before they book. River boats are also much smaller and their cabins are, as well. The cabin for our upcoming Viking Ocean cruise is in the cheapest category (although the cheapest Viking Ocean cabin has a balcony with a table & chairs, unlike the cheapest Celebrity cabins which are windowless interiors). It has about twice the square footage of a Viking River French Balcony cabin. I will say that Viking has nicely sized bathrooms (with heated floors!) so that does take up some of the square footage. That works for me as I like being able to shower without constantly hitting my elbows or getting the TP wet! 😂 Totally worth it as a trade off, IMHO. It is important, however, to get the double doors to the shower closed completely in order to avoid leaks! 😉 We used the elevator (easier on my mom's knees) but it wasn't used by many people. It is important to realize it only goes two floors. We researched ahead of time so we knew not to book an aquarium level cabin if we wanted to avoid stairs (but, as mentioned, the sun deck is only accessible by stairs). People should be aware that river boats are made for people who are able to climb stairs, etc. Wheelchairs & scooters are not permitted and some Viking river boats do not have elevators at all. The day of scenic cruising can be seen and heard from the top deck of the boat OR from the restaurant or bar so those were options if you didn't want to share space with others on the top deck. It's true, river cruises aren't for everyone. People who want to spend time in the spa, pool, gym, surf machine, go-cart track, or watching Broadway shows do need to stick to ocean ships. River cruises are focused on seeing the various cities/ports along the way and they offer a very different experience. Everyone should do research before booking a cruise to make sure the style of ship/boat, itinerary, and amenities will fulfill his/her vacation preferences. Just be sure you base your decisions on good reviews from people who have actually traveled on the ships and itineraries you are considering. Happy cruising, everyone, regardless of what kind of cruise(s) you prefer! 🏝
  6. We were on Viking (Budapest to Passau) so I'm not familiar with the Uniworld excursions. I will say, however, as much as we loved Budapest (and we spent extra days there) the highlight of our trip was an excursion to Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic. On Viking this is offered as an included optional excursion out of Linz. This town is a UNESCO World Heritage site with great Renaissance architecture. The center of the town is pedestrian only and it has cute little shops and restaurants. There's the castle with the moat where the bears live and the location along the Vltava River is very scenic. We had a walking tour of the historic center of town and then were able to shop, eat, and explore on our own. To get there we had a scenic ride through the Austrian countryside which we enjoyed as well. If you're interested and Uniworld doesn't offer this as an excursion you could probably arrange something on your own.
  7. I would say that the river cruises can be quite active, it just depends on what you'd specifically like to do. I've only done Viking so I can speak for other lines. For the European cruises (other than Portugal) the river boats don't have a pool or gym but I can't say that I missed either. Generally the included excursions are walking tours that last two hours or so. After that there is usually plenty of time to explore on your own. Of course you can spend your whole time in port doing your own thing if that's what you prefer. I'd say more than half the time the boat stayed in port until the evening so there was time to catch dinner or other entertainment. The boats would offer optional excursions to pub hop (to try different types of beer), visit a concert venue, have dinner somewhere special, etc. In a few smaller villages the stops were shorter so we could make our way to the next port but that was plenty of time to explore the village, anyway. I never missed having a pool or gym since we pretty much spent all day walking around. People with more energy that I have would then top off the day with trivia or dancing in the bar. In terms of ages I'd say most people were in their 60s but there is quite a range. I'm in my mid-50s and my mom is in her early 80s. She was probably one of the older people on board. On cruises we've seen a honeymooning couple in their late 20s, a big extended family traveling together probably ranging from teens to 70, and some couples in their 40s and 50s. I'd agree that it is good to do river cruises while younger/fitter. Some of the Viking river boats don't have elevators and the ones that do only have elevators that go between two floors (where the restaurant, bar, and non-aquarium level cabins are located) so stairs are needed to go up to the sundeck and sometimes to get out onto the dock. Europe is not as accessible as the US and Canada so there is plenty of walking, stairs, places with no ramps, and uneven footing like cobblestones. (Castles have stairs! Lots of stairs! :')) On river cruises I've seen a couple of people using walkers and a few using canes but not onboard. They seemed to use them for extra stability when walking around the cities/towns. There are no scooters or wheelchairs used onboard (although I've seen a loaner wheelchair onboard which I think is in case someone is injured). This is quite different from ocean cruises which are more accessible and may allow scooters and/or wheelchairs. Some ocean cruises seem to mostly have people who never leave the ship. They just go to the spa, pool, casino, and other entertainment. Again, there is quite a range on that depending on the cruise line and the itinerary. Longer/more exotic cruises tend to have people are more interested in exploring than drinking, for example. River cruises are more consistently for people who actively want to get out and explore wherever the boat goes. If you are looking for more active types of exploration, I suggest scheduling your river cruise during warmer months. The days are longer and there are more likely to be optional excursions offered that are more athletic. For example, we did the Rhine Getaway last December. It was lovely but due to the time of year there was more emphasis on Christmas markets. That same cruise offered in the summer includes optional excursions like biking through Kinderdijk (home of the windmills!) which were not offered for the December cruise. I'm also guessing that more younger (i.e. working aged) people are likely to be on the summer cruises since that's when most working folks take vacations. They are also probably more likely to take the shorter cruises (limited vacation time!) so the longer itineraries might have more retirees. I haven't been on the Romantic Danube cruise but I LOVED the Danube Waltz that goes to some of the same places (all of which I quite enjoyed). The Waltz doesn't travel as far but it does go to more countries so that made the difference when we were picking out which to go on. Plus the Waltz includes an optional included excursion to Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic which regularly shows up on lists of the top however many places to see in the world. Český Krumlov was the highlight of the trip for us but it was all wonderful. That said, I thought Budapest was amazing. The architecture, in particular, is simply spectacular (don't miss seeing the buildings along the river illuminated at night - breathtaking!). Vienna, Krems, and Passau were also quite lovely and interesting. We also preferred the Danube over the Rhine in terms of the variety of places visited so I'm sure you'll truly enjoy the Romantic Danube. Hope that helps and happy cruising!
  8. We've done the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel and the Danube from Budapest to Passau. Both Viking river trips were wonderful but we thought the Danube was considerably more scenic, particularly with regards to variety. The Rhine has lots of castles, mostly in ruins. Castle. Castle, Castle. Interesting but not a huge variety of architectural styles or different types of vegetation. The Danube has the beautiful scenic valley as other people have mentioned. It also seemed to have a wonderful variety of towns along the way. It visited more different countries and the historic towns were more often located within an easy walk of where our boat was docked that when we were on the Rhine. On the Danube it seemed like either the towns we visited had not been destroyed in a war or had at least been rebuilt so that they looked the same. Budapest was incredible with breathtaking architecture (particularly when seen at night! Wow!) but then we also visited some lovely quaint villages. Quite the range. Our Danube cruise also included the option to take an (included) optional excursion to Český Krumlov in the the Czech Republic. This World Heritage Site was the highlight of a trip that had many, many wonderful experiences. The town is located on a different river so it was a bus ride to get there. That was actually interesting as it gave us a chance to see more of the area. The town is wonderful and it includes a castle (not in ruins!) with a moat where bears live. The town is very well preserved and the pedestrian-only nature of the inner city helped to preserve the feeling that we had been transported to a different time. I can't remember really going through any industrial areas on the Danube although of course the boat did a lot of traveling at night. There were a few industrial buildings on the Rhine but not a lot. Good luck with your trip planning!
  9. We were there in December so it was snowy in the Black Forest. The included Viking excursion to the Black Forest gave us a chance to look at the area from the bus on the way up and back. The stop was at a tourist venue (perhaps where all the tours go?). It has a small art gallery, a glass blowing demo, a Black Forest cake making demo, and a clock making demo. There was time to wander around and shop, of course! There is also a small cafeteria-style restaurant where people can stop for a meal, beverage, and/or a slice of Black Forest cake. We skipped the scenic walk because it was icy out and we preferred to remain fracture-free for the remainder of our trip. It was interesting to see the area but it was mostly a "now we can say we've been there" type of experience. My mom was surprised at the ingredients in the traditional Black Forest Cake so I guess that was the one big reveal of the experience. We really enjoyed Colmar. We did the paid Viking excursion there to see the town. It was a bit different when we were there since there was an emphasis on the Christmas markets that time of year. The town itself is quite pretty and good for photos. Our tour included seeing a statue by the artist who created the Statue of Liberty. There is a museum there with more about him that we did not enter. The town has plenty of cute shops and eateries. It's certainly worth a visit. I would say it was one of our favorite places we stopped on that cruise even though we had a bad tour guide and we had a little trouble finding our way to the Little Venice part of town and then back to our meeting spot - and we were using a map! lol Outside of the older part of Colmar we did a drive by of a smaller, artist model sized version of the Statue of Liberty. Keep in mind that (if I recall correctly) the Viking boat moves during the day of the Black Forest/Colmar tours so make sure your private tour knows where to drop you back off at the end of the day! You probably are already aware of that but thought I should mention it, just in case.
  10. Exactly! My toothpaste will probably be the only thing I have left in the original container. No cereal boxes to read and probably I won't even be able to find mattress warning labels to try to decipher! :eek::')
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