We did the Empires of the Mediterranean tour with a couple days under Viking's care on each end. Prior to the cruise, we arrived in Istanbul and were bused another 6 hours out to Turkey's Aegean coast. It was a very long day, Philadelphia through London to Istanbul and then the bus ride. Nice hotel, what I saw of it. The next morning, up and at 'em, we toured the ruins of Troy, and then the Gallipoli Battlefield National Park. Eye-popping, both of them.
The next day, back on the bus, back to Istanbul, with stops at the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, then finally to the ship. Stateroom was great, but we could have used a tip that you put your key card in a slot by the door to work the lights! The next day, we took a cruise up and down the Bosporus. What vistas, what history!
When we returned, our luggage had finally caught up with us. This was a weak spot in the travel arrangements. Viking booked us through Heathrow, with a change of airlines, and only one and a half hours layover. We made our flight (barely). Our luggage did not. If you have Viking make air arrangements (generally a good idea since it includes airport pick-up and return) don't let them do this. More layover equals more luggage.
Once at sea, our stops included Ephesus, Athens, Santorini, Kotor and Dubrovnik. We were unable to dock in Pula due to high seas and arrived in Venice a day early as a result.
The Viking Star is brand new and a marvelous boat. It hosts about 950 passengers, medium-sized for an ocean liner. All rooms have ocean balconies. The food is tremendous, in the buffet and the specialty and sit-down restaurants! The staff works like mad to please the guests. There are fitness rooms and other equipment here and there on board.
There's a theater in the bow where they put on live shows and also lectures by some very interesting folks, the themes generally tied to our ports of call. One exception was a talk on the history of the British colony Gibraltar, which was off our route, but the guy who gave the talk used to be the territory's Governor, so we cut him some slack. Each cabin has a wall-mounted flat screen TV with some video-on-demand and replays of the lectures, in case you missed one. Access to news from the outside world was iffy.
Most of the shore excursions, both included and optional, were excellent. Athens was the least: we were driven around town at breakneck speed to spend ten minutes here, and another ten minutes there. The optional dinner tour was changed without notice, to something not quite as nice but Viking refunded half its cost so all is forgiven.
With two Viking cruises under our belt, my experience is the passengers are an older demographic so I'm not sure how you'd occupy children. There's a nightclub open until the wee hours for those with restless energy. I needed my rest so I'd have some energy.
Post-cruise we were taken to a canal-side hotel in Venice, where we enjoyed the sights and foods. Keep in mind, all transportation in the central area is by boat. Buses are boats, taxis are boats, limousines are boats. There's a lot of water traffic wakes and you can get bounced around but good. I found it unpleasant. And San Marcos Piazza floods at high tide much of the year. That was a surprise.
The cabin was plenty roomy for my wife and me. The bed was comfy. The bathroom was quite nice. One perk we liked was USB charging ports for phones, et al. Closet space was cramped. Our steward was very attentive. The balcony is a big asset. It gives you a great perch for photos and vistas whether in port or sailing. This cruise had one day totally at sea and it was kind of bouncy, but that might have been the only time my wife took a nap. Most of the time we were either busy or snoring through the night.
Still used as a mosque, shoes off, head coverings on for women. It's seen better days.
How often can you ply the waves separating two continents, Europe on one side, Asia the other. Pricey real estate bumps up against fortifications built as the ottomans closed the noose around Constantinople.
Just whirling around Istanbul by bus, it's a glorious collision of past and present.