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bradpole

Viking Star Venice to Athens 5.7.2019

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1 hour ago, bradpole said:

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.  

Room service, like other venues for food, can be expanded by just asking.  During opening hours for Manfredi's and the Dining Room, we were able to get dishes from those venues room service as well.  They don't seem to publish this but it is handy.

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Your review is priceless.  Thanks for the insightful comments and tips.

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Some random photos from Murano and the Catholic Cemetary.  (San Michele Cemetery, which was an the next stop after Murano on our way back to the main part of Venice).  

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Monday morning we awoke to blue skies!  Finally!!!  Our first stop was visit the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore.  What a view!  Personally visiting this bell tower was worth the extra effort to reach this island rather than climb the one in St. Mark’s square.  First of all we were treated to a wonderful view of St. Mark’s square with the Dolomites in the background.  Second of all, no crowds!  
 

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We then continued to explore this fascinating city and made a quick tour of the Venice Opera House.  After a wonderful lunch a small restaurant in the Dorsodouro we took a gondola ride. Was it expensive, yes!  Was it worth it, absolutely! For 30 minutes we were treated to peaceful views that simply weren’t possible by foot.  

 

Since the weather so spectacular we then made our way to Plaza da Roma to board the number 1 waterbus to take the scenic ride down the grand canal with blue skies.  Since we boarded where that particular line starts we were able to get prime seats in the rear outside, no obstructions of the amazing views as we went down the canal.  The rest of the day is truly a blur, skimming back over our photos we ate some more and wandered around with no particular destination in mind. Once again after another exhausting day we made our way back to our lovely hotel and quickly fell fast asleep!  


 

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Pictures from our ride down the Grand Canal.  

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A couple of other notes about Venice, before arriving we did purchase “the Chorus Pass” for Euro12 which gives you free admission into a number of churches that would normally charge Euro3 admission.  I then mapped out all the churches on google maps and we did hit a number of them during our wanders around the city. We visited a good number of churches on the list, some were closed, or some we just couldn’t find.  Even if you don’t purchase the Chorus pass it worthwhile to see if you can visit a church as you walk past it. Some churches looked very plain on the outside but WOW once you were inside!

 

We weren’t able to do this, but I wanted to mention it.  There’s a very large department store next to the Rialto Bridge which has an observation deck on the roof.  Visiting it is free, but you need a timed ticket.

https://www.dfs.com/en/venice/t-fondaco-rooftop-terrace.  

 

iPhone use in Venice (and the other ports).  I had done extensive research on how we could affordably use our iPhones on this cruise, mainly for google maps and last minute research while out and about.  In doing research I found the best option for us purchasing prepaid sim cards from Netherlands Vodafone. The sim cards worked in every port with no additional fees except Montenegro.  If you google, “dutch vodafone sim card” you can see how to go about this method. The sim cards were about $5 each, and we paid Euro20 for 6 gigs of data, which was more than enough for us.  The key is activating these before you depart for Europe! I simply swapped our AT&T sim cards just before boarding our flight to Venice and upon arrival we had fully functioning iPhones. Google maps is pretty useless in Venice for “turn by turn directions” but just having it as a guide really helps to know if you’re going in the right direction!  I honestly I think I’d still be lost in Venice if didn’t have the little glowing blue dot showing me where I was a few times! Trust me there were several times of us looking at google maps and saying, “how did we end up here!?” Google Maps did work for transit directions. The few times we needed to take the waterbus (to Murano, and to the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore) it accurately told us the closest boarding point and which route to take.  

 

Venice vaporetto, taking the vaporetto or water bus is expensive!  A single ride I think is Euro7! We purchased the tourist 48 hour pass for Euro30 per person.  These can be easily purchased at a vending machine with Euros or a credit card. Just be sure to tap you pass on the white card reader before boarding any vaporetto.  Also, not every boarding point sells tickets! We knew we were going to use these on Sunday and Monday so while out and about on Saturday we purchased them when we passed a vending machine that sold them.  The 48 hour clock doesn’t start ticking until your first use. We didn’t take many vaporetto rides but we did encounter ticket checkers twice while onboard the busy route 1 bus!


Some other random Venice Photos

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Tuesday morning arrived, and as I stated before I was actually a little sad.  This was the first time I didn’t want to board the ship, I was enjoying Venice that much!  The day prior we asked our hotel to arrange a water taxi to take us to the ship. Once again expensive, yes!  However it is truly a convenient and wonderful experience! I’ll say one thing, the port of Venice is not a cruise terminal you want to depart from if you can’t easily handle your luggage!  Our taxi driver unloaded our luggage which we then needed to bring up a ramp to an agent who loaded it on a trolley. We then had a pretty long walk to the cruise terminal. This wasn’t an issue for us, I just wanted to call it out for anyone with mobility issues.  Arriving the terminal we were quickly checked in and with ship cards and shore excursion tickets in hand we then waited minutes to board the ship. One interesting procedure is they don’t take a photo for the ship’s security system. The handheld device they use for check in downloads your passport photo.  Boarding began before 10:30 and we were one of the first few people on the ship. After boarding the ship we were able to leave our carry on luggage in the Torshavn lounge, which was later delivered to the cabin. We then made our way to the World Cafe for our first lunch onboard. After lunch we quickly left the ship and made our way back into Venice for one last exploration of the city.   

 

<<<CABIN COMMENTS>>> (iphone photos 0705 shows the side table)

We had a DV6 and although the cabin was much larger than what we are used to the storage space was pretty minimal.  The bathroom was large and wonderful! The huge shower and heater floor were a treat! In addition the storage in the bathroom was well thought out, unlike the rest of the cabin.  The bathroom had two large drawers, and a couple of shelves under the sink. There were also a few smaller shelves on each side of the mirror. This was truly the best bathroom we’ve ever had at sea!  Another treat is the night light, normally we bring little battery operated “tea lights” so we don’t have to blind ourselves during the night with the bright bathroom light. The included nightlight (operated via switch next to the bed) was incredibly thoughtful!  I think the bathroom was larger than some cabins we’ve had in the past but it doesn’t forgive the absolute lack of storage in the rest of the cabin.

 

The desk has no drawers or shelves, just one very oversized warm (or very slightly chilled) mini bar stocked with 6 cans of warm soda.  We would have much rather had several drawers there instead of the useless mini bar. Although it was wonderful the side tables next to the bed had USB chargers and outlets (both US 110 and European 220) there was minimal storage available there.  One thin drawer and some open space under it as well as a large ‘kick plate’ that wasted space that could have been a drawer (see the picture). A bigger drawer or two would have been much more useful. This brings us to the closet. Pretty darn big, but just 1 shelf at the top and a hanging rod. Once again how about some drawers or more shelves!  Obviously this is a known issue because one of the first things our cabin attendant asked was, “how many more hangers do you need? 20? 30?” We thought he was kidding (we hadn’t yet started to unpacked) then quickly realized people most likely do ask for that many hangers to hang things that could go on a shelf or in a drawer! After we unpacked we joked we were glad we flew to the cruise and had luggage restrictions.  Most US domestic cruises we drive to the port and massively overpack, this would have been a problem! This cruise we had a bare minimum (for us) of clothes. One appreciated feature was the bed was high enough off the ground for us to EASILY slip our luggage under the bed. One of our suitcases is a bit thick and on other ships it is always a challenge to fit it under the bed.

 

Before I jump into the ports, let me talk about one thing regarding the ship, Entertainment.  Overall we were very pleased with the entertainment. We set our expectation pretty low (expecting similar or less than Oceania) but were pleasantly surprised with the quality, variety, and frequency of the entertainment which was available onboard.  Of particular highlight for us was the solo guitarist, the Viking Band and singers, and the Piano player. There were also 4 vocalists who performed a couple of stage shows; an Abba Tribute, a general “Best of…”, and a Beatles tribute. All were enjoyable!   The Viking Bank and singers did a particular job and on several nights had a pretty large crowd in the Living room with numerous people dancing! There were also numerous lectures available during the day and evening, sadly we just didn’t have the energy to attend.


 

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We always have them remove the coffee maker and that gives us another handy shelf.  I love the coffee at the bar in the living room!

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Bradpole, I like your Avatar.  Nice shot of QE2's funnel.  I have sailed Cunard all my life until Carnivalization became complete.  QE2 remains my favorite ship of all time.🍸

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5 hours ago, bradpole said:

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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Thank you for this advice.

I did book this tour through Viator.  Looking forward to it.  Although our third time in Venice, we have never done this.

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Wednesday, Koper Slovenia.  

(no other cruise ships in port with us)

We did not utilize the included Viking tour in this port.  We were one of the first people off the ship when it was cleared.  We found a very pleasant taxi driver who we arranged a tour to Piran and the countryside with.  At this point I can no longer remember how much this tour was, but it was very reasonable. Once we arrived in Piran he dropped us off at the town square and agreed to pick us up in 90 minutes.  We wandered the streets and made our way up to the church for spectacular views. Sadly we were too early to climb the bell tower. We continued on up to the ancient walls and enjoyed the view from there.  After reuniting with our taxi he drove us the long way back to the ship offering several photo stops along the way as well as some local commentary about the sights and the region. After being dropped off at the ship we had a quick lunch and returned back to Koper to wander the old town.  Should we return to Koper again we hope to be able to explore Ljubljana next time. One thing to note, upon returning to the ship in Koper our passports were stamped with an exit stamp by the local authorities. This exit stamp would later become confusing for the Greek Passport Control agent at the Athens Airport.  He was very concerned that we had an exit stamp from Slovenia but no entry stamp back into the EU when entered Greece. He eventually mumbled a bunch of stuff in Greek, stamped our passports and we proceeded to the airport security.


 

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Zadar Croatia

(one other ship in port with us, Costa Victoria which docked outside of town at the new port)

Once again we did not utilize the included tour in this port.  I had pre booked with Adriatic Transfers (who we highly recommend!) transportation to and from Krka National Park to view the incredible waterfalls for the very reasonable amount of 900Kruna (approx 120 Euros).  I researched renting a car and driving this ourselves but given the limited time in port I didn’t want to waste time getting to and from a rental agency and time required doing paperwork. Also, sadly due to our limited time in port we had to forgo the scenic boat ride that most people to use to arrive at the waterfalls.  Upon docking at the water organ (you’ll hear it!) our driver was waiting with a sign with our name on it. Our driver, David, filled the time of the drive too and from the park by pointing out local sights and filling us in on local history we didn’t know as well as talking about the war from his perspective (we did not bring up the war, he started to to talk about it).  Upon arrival at the park we purchased our admission tickets (Visa was accepted) and boarded the transfer bus to the trail where waterfall path begins. David gave us a tip, “go from right to left on the path” I’m glad we did, the waterfalls start out small building to the climax at the end! Just as we finished walking the path the first Viking Tour and Costa tours arrived, thankful we missed those crowds we began our ride back up the hill to David who was waiting with the car.  

 

On the way back David offered a small detour to a village on the top of a hill just on the outside of Zadar that had played a part in the war and gave us the story of what happened that day.  David is just a few years older than I am and to hear what he, his family, and friends lived through during his teenage years I can’t describe it other than saying, it was very moving.

 

We returned to the ship, had a quick lunch then went to explore the old town of Zadar.  Once again it started to rain which made the old stone streets rather slippery! We were able to climb the bell tower and take in the views of the city and surrounding area.  


 

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3 hours ago, Jim Avery said:

Bradpole, I like your Avatar.  Nice shot of QE2's funnel.  I have sailed Cunard all my life until Carnivalization became complete.  QE2 remains my favorite ship of all time.🍸

Thank you!  I'm a huge ocean liner fanatic, having always been fascinated by all things Cunard Line especially the QE2.  Thankfully we did have the opportunity to sail on her once, just before retirement.  

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11 hours ago, KyOh said:

We always have them remove the coffee maker and that gives us another handy shelf.  I love the coffee at the bar in the living room!

 

Considering what your increase is in the cost of DV to V, that's a big ticket item you are doing away with.   Not a coffee drinker but it was room service ordered for the cabin during make ready time for breakfast.  Even if i was a coffee drinker I would still pas for few more dollars in the wallet for other things.

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Dubrovnik, Croatia

(2 other cruise ships in port with us MSC Lirica and a very small coastal CroisiEurope ship the MS Belle de l’Adriatique)

Once again we did not utilize the included tour.  Our plans had been to take the included tour today but we changed our minds.  We decided it was better to get into town as soon as we could so we could walk the wall before it got busy.  We were glad we did, by the time we boarded the complimentary Viking shuttle bus from old town back to the ship, the path on the wall was literally “wall to wall people”.  We kept telling ourselves, “this isn’t even high tourist season yet!”

 

We were off the ship bright and early and took a Euro10 cab ride to old town, he dropped us off right in front of the Pile Gate.  We purchased our tickets for the walk and began the trek up the steps! All I can say is the views were amazing the entire walk! A couple of things to note, there are a couple of small cafes along the top of the wall, so you can stop and have a snack during the walk.  There’s also a complimentary WC (“bathroom”) midway around the top of the wall.

 

After exiting the wall walk where we began we then explored the old city until the crowds got to us and we made our way back to the Pile gate to board the bus back to the ship.  I had planned to return back into town and hike the path to the top of the mountain but that never happened. My mind wanted to do it, mainly for the view, but my legs said no! We left the ship to see how much a taxi driver would charge for a quick visit to the scenic overlook but their price was too high for us at that particular moment.  (Once again the amount escapes me but I think he quoted something something like Euro60 or Euro80 per hour).


 

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Kotor, Montenegro

(No other ships in port)

We did not utilize the included walking tour in this port.  

The sail in (and back out) of this port is amazing!  You’ll see by the photos I post, you don’t want to miss this sail in.  I haven’t mentioned this, but every morning I got up at 5 to jog and walk.  I was so thankful I was up for the sail in this morning. I didn’t get nearly as many laps in that morning as I did on others, I was enjoying the view too much!   Sadly our time was very limited in this port. All aboard was the incredibly early time of 2:30! Personally we wished the ship was in port much later here and there was a sea day the next day (or just skip the next port of Corfu).  Kotor was incredible, we really wanted more time here! After docking and hearing that the ship was cleared we were once again one of the first few people off the ship. I had a few plans of what I wanted to do and was hoping to find a taxi driver at a reasonable price.  We lucked out, the first driver we found outside the gate suggested an itinerary that matched what I wanted to accomplish for a reasonable fee. Sadly neither one of us can remember how much he charged (it was either 60 or 80 Euros). For the agreed upon amount it included a drive to nearby Budva, 90 minutes to explore the old town there, stops along the way, and a stop at the overlook of Kotor on the way back.  Budva was charming and we enjoyed the visit there. The stop on the old road back into Kotor was an amazing view! Before dropping us off at the ship he tried to upsell us to a visit to the “Lady of the rocks church,” had we had more time in port we would have done this, but there just wasn’t any time. After dropping us off at the ship we had a quick lunch and then went into the old walled city. While exploring the city we finally found the entrance to the path up the hill to the fort.  After paying our admission (Cash Euros only no credit cards) we began the trek up the hill! This path is NOT an easy walk. Some of it contains crude stairs, most is loose gravel. DH only made it up to the chapel, the heights were getting to him. I proceeded all the way up and was very glad I did, the view was amazing! If you have a fear of heights I don’t recommend going much higher than the chapel. There were portions of the path that didn’t have any protection from the cliff other than a rather short wall that barely went higher than knee level in a few spots.  The photo that has the arrow in it shows the location of the fort at the end of the path.

 

We lucked out on departure, our starboard side balcony was perfect for taking pictures with the position of the sun.  I thought the views on the sail in were wonderful, the views on the way out with the sun on the other side of the canyons made the way out simply breathtaking.  I’ve never been to Norway, but Kotor is exactly what I picture a Norwegian Fjord to be. Actually later in the cruise during the farewell speech the captain even said the sail in and out of Kotor reminded him of home in Norway.  


 

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Departure from Kotor:

(pictures just don't do the scenery justice)

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Corfu Greece.  

In the days prior to our arrival in Corfu we had to drop our passports off to the explorers desk (aka guest relations/Pursers office) so the Greek authorities could do a full passport inspection.  Passports were available for pickup later that evening in the Torshavn lounge.

This is the first port we took the included tour.  We figured why not, it included the ride into town and some commentary.  After boarding the bus we were driven past some ruins and taken to an overlook to view “Mouse Island”  (how exciting the view was...not). After reboarding the bus we were dropped off in front of the old fort and had a quick walking tour of a few sites in the old town.  The tour ended and we were free to explore on our own. We paid the admission to old fort and explored that. We then proceeded to walk through the old town towards the new fort.  Which after finally finding the entrance, it was closed for renovations! We then walked back to the ship. We could have taken the free shuttle but the walk to the ship looked only slightly longer than walking back through the town to the shuttle bus pickup point.  Before we could enter the port we had to go through security in the cruise terminal. Outside the terminal there was a shuttle operated by the port to take us back to the ship (or you could walk).

 

Overall we didn’t enjoy Corfu that much.  We just didn’t see why Viking stopped here.  The island was pretty dirty (garbage strike) and the old town felt pretty “gritty” if you ventured more than a street or two away from the main square.  If we are ever on another cruise that stops here, we’ll most likely stay onboard!

 

That night in the living room on deck 1 in celebration of Mother’s Day there was a chocolate buffet setup for everyone to enjoy while the Viking Band played.  It made for a very festive and fun evening onboard.


 

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Olympia Greece (actually Katakolon, but to keep things simple, I’ll just say Olympia)

(one other ship arrived late in the afternoon, MSC Lirica)

Today we once again took the included tour.  It was exactly what we wanted from Olympia. Transportation and admission to the site of the ancient olympics.  Upon arrival at the ancient site of Olympia our guide gave us our admission tickets to the site and told us what time to be back at the gate for the walk over to the museum.  We broke off from the group and explored the grounds on our own. We found this interesting, with the exception of a few moments when line of site was broken by large objects (large ruins) we could hear the guide giving her commentary the entire time!  The range on those quiet vox headsets is impressive! The same was true later in the museum. Nearly the entire time was explored the museum on our own we could hear the guide’s commentary. Upon returning to the ship we enjoyed lunch. I went back into town to snap a few photos and to see what was there, not much.  Where the ship docks is a small town with plenty of bars/restaurants and souvenir shops. The town was clean unlike Corfu the day prior.


 

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