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bradpole

Viking Star Venice to Athens 5.7.2019

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Hello everyone!

 

I type to you from the Athens airport, literally the first downtime we have had since arriving in Venice back on May 3rd.  I will try to do a full review once we get home but wanted to post a quick note to see if anyone had any specific questions that I could answer.  

 

First a few random thoughts in no particular order...

 

Overall we loved the cruise, the ports were amazing (with the exception of Corfu, we just didn’t enjoy that stop as much as the others) and have already started to think when and how we’ll return to the Adriatic!  Physically the ship is near perfection!  I have never enjoyed a ship more than Viking Star!  The ship was so comfortable, from the Living Room on decks 1-3, the Wintergarden, or the Explorers Lounge, every spot was just so inviting.  We are normally book worms and spend most of our time on the ship buried in our Kindles, this cruise I found myself reading the random books scattered all over just as much as my Kindle.  

 

The crew!  There aren’t enough words to describe just how friendly the crew Viking has onboard truly are.  Thinking back I think there was literally one instance of a crew member who didn’t seem to genuinely care, perhaps it was just an off moment for him.  From our cabin attendants, to waiters, to bar servers, officers, even the deck attendants washing the decks, literally every single one of them would stop and say, “Good morning!”  Whatever criteria they use for hiring they shouldn’t Change a thing!  

 

In addition to the cruise we did three nights in Venice pre and 2 nights in Athens post cruise.  We didn’t want to leave either city!  I remember saying at breakfast our final morning in Venice, “this is the first precruise city we have visited where I don’t want to board the ship, I want more time here!”  We booked our air and hotels independently, and did a mixture of both independent tours as well as a couple of the included tours.  

 

First let let me answer the question everyone we know has already asked us, “would we sail Viking Oceans again?”  Sadly, most likely not.  I’ll detail our reasons later. Although we LOVED the ship, and the amazing crew Viking just isn’t a good fit for us.  We’ll most likely stick with Oceania.  This isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with Viking Oceans, they sure have a dedicated customer base and rapid expansion plans so they must be doing something right for some people.  

 

Our first view of Viking Star from our water taxi as we arrived at the pier to board in Venice.  

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I will watch this thread with interest as I am interested in the reference to Oceania. I have been looking at both companies and have reservations about Viking but more about Oceania. Nothing derogatory in either case, I am not sure they are quite what I am after.

Personally speaking I found Venice too hot and oppressive (weather wise) and far too crowded. The architecture / history and such was great but I can’t see me going again. We are in Athens, for a cruise, in October and am looking forward to that.

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We are taking this cruise in September.  I'm very interested in which included tours you took and whether you scheduled any private tours while on the cruise.  Looking forward to your review.

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Posted (edited)

Doing this cruise in the end of July. I am looking forward to your review.

 

I do have one question. My son-in-law is going with us and he is a night owl. He just asked me how late food or snacks are served on the ship.

 

I recently looked at a schedule posted for a different itinerary and ship. The latest any food place was open was midnight. Did you notice if this was different on the Star? 

Edited by Homosassa

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We are boarding in Venice on June 18 after spending almost a month traveling around Europe.

I am very interested in hearing your thoughts.  Thanks for writing.

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I was on the same cruise as Brad.  We also had pre-cruise days in Venice and post days in Athens.  We did not have a good start.  Our flight was delayed in Richmond, VA due to late arrival and we could not make our connection in JFK.  We ended up staying home overnight and leaving the next day arriving in Venice a day late on Sunday to all day rain and wind.  As Brad said we needed more time in Venice.

i agree with what Brad said about the Viking Star and the crew.  It is a very nice and well trained crew.  If they have time they are happy to chat with you from the assistant waiters and housekeeping staff to the officers.  They do everything they can to please you, if possible.

The one difference I have from Brad is that we enjoyed Viking Ocean enough that we are doing them again.  We are not late night people and are not looking for a party to go to.  Also, not looking for a casino and we enjoyed the age 18 and over Policy.

As for the excursions we did 3 included tours, 2 optional excursions and 3 private tours.  We did not do any tours in Venice on day 1 since we were there already on our own.  Choices of private tours were based on being able to get cheaper private tours versus Viking optional tours or wanting to go somewhere for which Viking did not offer a tour.  On 2 of the days we did tours and some things on our own - such as the Dubrovnik wall walk in the morning and the included tour in the afternoon.

On our arrival day in Athens we did a private tour to Ancient Corinth; were dropped off in Athens; did the Acropolis in the afternoon and returned to the ship via the Viking shuttle.

My negative comments on ports would be the short amount of time in Zadar and Kotor.

We are returning home tomorrow (19th) from Athens worn out and used up.

Thought we would slow down some in Athens but too much to see.

Can slow down once we get home.

 

Stan

 

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1 hour ago, Homosassa said:

Doing this cruise in the end of July. I am looking forward to your review.

 

I do have one question. My son-in-law is going with us and he is a night owl. He just asked me how late food or snacks are served on the ship.

 

I recently looked at a schedule posted for a different itinerary and ship. The latest any food place was open was midnight. Did you notice if this was different on the Star? 

 

Most of the real restaurants stop serving by 9:30 ish.  The one that opens late is Mamsen's but that is more like fancy snack after dinner in your den.  The room service is available 24 hours,available at no extra cost.  I have only traveled on the Star for both my cruises.

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Travelingman, what company did you use for the visit to Corinth?  We've spent time in Athens and are looking for something different to do.

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We are sailing the same trip in September with stays in Athens and Venice. We found warmpenguin.com had a variety of tours available in Athens. Another site was toursbylocals.com that had tours in both Venice and Athens.  We booked Toursbymilo in Kotor. This will be our third VO cruise and are completely satisfied with the ship,food and service. Happy that all passengers are adults  and no casino.

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59 minutes ago, KyOh said:

Travelingman, what company did you use for the visit to Corinth?  We've spent time in Athens and are looking for something different to do.

 

It was with privategreecetours dot(.) com.

We did 1/2 day tour but they also offer all day tours with visits to other sites.

 

Stan

 

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Bradpole and travelingman - thank you for your reviews!  We are sailing on this same itinerary Venice to Athens in September.  Would be curious to know more about your excursions; which included tours did you take and which optional tours did you take?  Which optional excursions seem to be full or sold out?  

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, KyOh said:

 

, what company did you use for the visit to Corinth?  We've spent time in Athens and are looking for something different to do.

Hello everyone...what a long day!  We finally made it home!  I started typing up some random comments/thoughts on the plane and will hopefully get them posted tomorrow or Monday.  

 

In Athens we used George's Taxi for three services, I'll go into a little more detail of the tours later.  The ancient Corinth tour was our favorite.  simply breathtaking views after we viewed the ruins and the canal.  

Our first day:

https://www.taxigreece.com/tour/cape-sounio-tour/

Our second day, disembarkation day:  (tour as well as hotel drop off after tour)

https://www.taxigreece.com/tour/ancient-corinth-corinth-canal-tour/

And this morning we arranged them to pick us up at our hotel to bring us to the airport.  

 

We had wonderful service from "George's Taxi" and when we finally do get back to Athens would have no issue using them again!.  

 

That's all for now, just getting the dog settled back in and we're looking forward to a well deserved sleep!

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8 hours ago, travelingman said:

My negative comments on ports would be the short amount of time in Zadar and Kotor.

I couldn't agree more, especially Kotor!  We wished we stayed later in Kotor and either had a sea day between Kotor and Corfu for some MUCH needed rest or simply skipped Corfu (just our opinion on Corfu)

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16 hours ago, bradpole said:

r. Although we LOVED the ship, and the amazing crew Viking just isn’t a good fit for us.  We’ll most likely stick with Oceania.  

16 hours ago, bradpole said:

 

I am very anxious to know why it wasn't a good fit for you.

Thanks.

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Going the other direction, Athens to Venice, you get a longer day in Kotor ( Zadar too I think), but a shorter day in Dubrovnik.

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20 hours ago, MBP&O2/O said:

I will watch this thread with interest as I am interested in the reference to Oceania. I have been looking at both companies and have reservations about Viking but more about Oceania. Nothing derogatory in either case, I am not sure they are quite what I am after.

Personally speaking I found Venice too hot and oppressive (weather wise) and far too crowded. The architecture / history and such was great but I can’t see me going again. We are in Athens, for a cruise, in October and am looking forward to that.

You might find a trip to Delphi very worthwhile - although it's a long road trip to get there.  Alternatively, there's always Epidaurus etc.

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Before I get into the detailed meat of my review let me address why I said we most likely won’t book Viking Ocean Cruises again.  Keep in mind these are just our opinions.  I know some people will completely disagree, and that’s fine.  I’m not out to start a fight, just offering my point of view.  

 

Several of these we knew beforehand but still wanted to experience Viking.  First off the cabin.  Viking as most know only offer Balcony cabins.  We are rarely in our cabin, so the extra expense of the balcony isn’t worth it for us.  We much prefer interior rooms, for both their affordability and ability to sleep in total darkness should we want to sleep in.  Don’t get me wrong we enjoyed our balcony, especially sitting there during the scenic cruise out of Kotor, Montenegro, but had we not had a balcony sitting out on deck our in a public lounge would have been just as lovely for us.  

 

Included wines and beers at lunch and dinner.  We don’t drink.  We knew ahead of this inclusion, so it wasn’t a surprise, but still something we paid for we didn’t use.  Also, back in the days when we did drink we much preferred Oceania’s “lunch and dinner wine package” that basically lets you order nearly any wine by the glass form the wine list, not just the white or red of the day.  Yes, the silver package is an option but that’s even more expense.  

Included Tours.  Generally we prefer to do things independently, even if they end up being a little more expensive than a ships tour.  Normally they end up being less, however just the freedom to do what we want when we want instead of waiting for others is priceless for us.  We did end up taking the included tour in Corfu (we shouldn’t have, it was a waste of time I’ll get to this in more detail later), Olympia, and Santorini.  All three tours were well run, on time, efficient, mostly enjoyable, and served their purpose.  One thing I will say, Viking tours do run on time!  This is much appreciated!

 

Food.  This is one of the most important areas for us.  When Viking Oceans launched I read many articles where the chairman of the company was targeting Oceania cruisers on his value.  One area they aren’t close to Oceania on is food.  Trust me we didn’t go hungry.  I’m already missing my morning waffle from Mamsen’s and my afternoon slice of Norwegian Success Cake...yuummmm!  But on a whole we found the food disappointing. 

In both the world cafe and the pool grill they pre cook too much food and warm it up.  I would much rather order, be given a number or give them my name, have the item cooked fresh and either brought to me or me pick it up than having it simply warmed up as they are currently doing.  The night they had had the Greek buffet at the pool grill, there was an entire stack of Gyros sitting there, given the small number of passengers they could have been wrapped ‘ala minute’ and been fresh and wonderful rather than pre wrapped and cold.  We thought most of the food simply looked good, but was lacking taste or quality.  With the exception of our reservation at Manfredi’s we ate our meals in the world cafe.  Given how exhausted we were from the ports we didn’t want long dinners in the restaurant much preferring the casual atmosphere to the World Cafe.  We truly missed the fresh, cooked to order, burgers, steaks, lobster tails, and other delicious food found in Oceania’s Terrace Cafe and Waves Grill (aka pool grill).  Overall we found the food in the world cafe simply mediocre.  At breakfast there were Eggs Benedict on offer each morning, but the eggs weren’t cooked to order, they were pre plated.  Even Holland America Line poaches their eggs to order in the buffet for Eggs Benedict.  Was it a step up from the mass market lines?  Some items yes, other not so much.  

 

We had high hopes for a much better meal when we had our reservation in Manfredi’s sadly we left that venue disappointed.  We would rate the food simply, “fine” nothing too memorable and the service a bit sloppy for such a wonderful looking venue.  For example courses were brought to the table before clearing the prior course’s plates.  We left before dessert and had gelato in the World Cafe.  We later cancelled our second reservation for Mandredi’s and our one reservation for Chef’s Table not wanting long meals that we most likely weren’t going to be wowed over on.  

One last area I’ll compare Oceania and Viking on is Afternoon Tea.  The Wintergarden is a lovely venue!  Sometimes kept a bit too warm, but simply a lovely venue to relax with a book or enjoy afternoon tea.  We enjoyed the long list of teas available that come in leaf form rather than a tea bag (like the do on Oceania).  The tower of sandwiches and treats looks nice, but is such a waste of food if you don’t want all of it.  We prefer waiters coming around with trays of sandwich and you just choose the 1 or 2 that you want.  The same goes for the wonderful cart of sweet treats they bring around, choose as many (or as few) cookies, cakes, tarts, as you want.  The first two days on the Star afternoon tea was pretty packed, later in the week there were fewer and fewer tables occupied each day.  I’m guessing other passengers were as underwhelmed as we were?

Given the price point of Viking Ocean we really expected better quality and better tasting food.  They really need to step thing up in this area.  They can, they just need to make the effort.  

I’ll stop by “complaining” about the food.  Like I said, we didn’t go hungry, we just didn’t walk away impressed.  

 

More to come… much much much more to come!  
(hopefully including lots of wonderful photos from the ports and what we did in each port!!!)
 

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Though you have given credence to my apprehension with regard to dining on Viking, I do greatly appreciate your honesty. We are about to find out for ourselves on our first Viking cruise.

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22 hours ago, Dauntless said:

 

Most of the real restaurants stop serving by 9:30 ish.  The one that opens late is Mamsen's but that is more like fancy snack after dinner in your den.  The room service is available 24 hours,available at no extra cost.  I have only traveled on the Star for both my cruises.

Thank you.

 

(Slapping forehead) Of course, room service - I knew it was available but just didn't think about it when I was asked.

 

 

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23 hours ago, Dauntless said:

The room service is available 24 hours,available at no extra cost.

Although we didn't order room service I did glance over the menu, it looked pretty extensive.  It had a wide variety of items from sandwiches to even a steak for dinner.  

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Now onto the actual “cruise review” 

I don’t typically write detailed reviews but this cruise was so wonderful on in so many different ways I wanted to relive it one last time, and I figured the best way to do so was to give back to the wonderful cruise critic community.  

DH and I booked this cruise literally days after it was posted online for booking.  We have cruised many different cruise lines and have wanted to give Viking Ocean a try, when we saw this cruise we knew it was the winner.  

We booked our flights independently, and were very fortunate that American Airlines offered non stop flights from our home airport, PHL, into Venice and return out of Athens.  Normally I wouldn’t discuss flights, but our outbound flight wasn’t the “non stop” it was supposed to be.  Sadly mid-flight over the Atlantic we had a medical emergency onboard and we diverted to Shannon, Ireland so the passenger could receive medical attention.  We ended up arriving in Venice approx 3 hours late due to this, given the situation this was a slight inconvenience for us.  Other than that the flight was uneventful.  One benefit was during the approach and then the following takeoff we did get to enjoy some beautiful Irish scenery.  

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After arriving in Venice we took a private water taxi to our hotel.  Yes it is expensive, but convince one out.  We stayed at a lovely boutique hotel incredibly close to the Peggy Guggenheim museum, Locanda Ca’ Zose.  When we return to Venice we’ll most certainly stay here again.  The location was perfect for us.  Easy access to the Accademia Bridge, water bus stops, restaurants, and away from the crowds near St. Marks.  After settling into our room we immediately began our detailed exploration of Venice.  The magic of Venice soon won me over!  I was simply awe struck over the beauty of this magical city.  We didn’t want to make too many structured plans, wanting to explore and see things as we discovered them.  Wandering around and sampling some of the wonderful food available for takeaway as went.  
 

Our hotel and the view from our room as well as some random Venice pictures from that first day.  

Fans of the movies "The Italian Job" (the recent version) and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" will notice the church and square in the third picture we used in scenes of those movies.  

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Saturday evening we continued to wander around and visited our first grocery store.  We always enjoy seeing what local products are available as well as seeing how much products we’re used to seeing cost.  Anyone for some French’s Mustard for Euro3.15? 😮

 

 We eventually ended up at St. Mark’s square.  After a leisurely stroll back to the hotel we quickly found sleep!  

 

 

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If anyone is an early bird I highly recommend wandering venice first thing in the morning.  The city is magical when when there is no one else around.  Each morning we were there I would walk a few miles all over snapping pictures of the city before people awoke and the crowds descend upon the city.  These early morning walks were some of my favorite moments in the city.  Seeing areas like St. Mark’s Square and The Rialto bridge completely empty were surreal.  
 

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Sunday was a busy, and wet, day for us.  Sunday morning we visited the glass museum on Murano.  Had a wonderful lunch at a small restaurant, and stopped off at the Catholic Cemetery on the way back to the main section of Venice. After getting off the water bus in the Cannarego section. we meandered the streets and stumbled upon the most beautiful grocery store.  Yes a beautiful grocery store!  The store’s name is “Despar” however the name on the building is, “Teatro Italia”. 

 

We continued to wander the streets and alleys until we reached the grand canal and took our first water bus ride down the canal towards our hotel.  For those who have not yet had the experience of riding down the grand canal words can’t describe the experience.  Sadly it had yet to stop raining this entire day so many of our photos are a little dreary.  Thankfully before leaving we noticed the dreadful weather forecast of Rain, Rain, and more Rain and added pairs of good rain paints and rain jackets to our suitcase.  Had we not had these the day would have been miserable.  As most people were fighting the wind with their umbrellas we were good and dry.  Sunday evening was the one and only scheduled event we had.  We had booked through Viator an after-hours tour of the Doge’s Palace and St Mark’s Basilica.  WOW is all I can say.  The tour through the Doges palace was incredible informative and it was worth the price of the tour for the easy admission alone.  We visited all the main rooms and learned in detail their significance.  After a short break the highlight of the evening, the tour of St. Marks.  Photos weren’t allowed, I only managed to snap one or two before we were told no photographs.  The interior of the Basilica is simply amazing.  The tile works are breathtaking.  Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better we were brought into the main cathedral and asked to take a [much needed] seat.  That’s when the real treat began.  They turned on the lights!  WOW!  The gold mosaic tiles glowed!  The marble shined!  You could feel the history!  After sitting in awe for a few minutes were lead around the cathedral and shown up close many priceless works of art.  We also visited the crypt before ending the tour.  If you have the time BOOK THIS TOUR, you won’t be sorry!  We did not climb the Campanile of in St. Mark’s square instead opting to visit the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore instead the next day.  After this tour we made our way back to our hotel and collapsed in near exhaustion from our all our explorations around the city.  Below are a few pictures DH took inside the Basilica, even though he wasn’t supposed to! 
 

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