Back from “the Secrets of the South Mediterranean” cruise: Rome, Malta, Algeria, Tunisia, Sardinia, Valencia, and Barcelona via Viking Ocean Cruises. "Bookended" Rome and Barcelona with additional non-cruise days; highly recommended. Great time with friends.
Booking the cruise; boarding process; and settling into the cabin all excellent. One of the party had a slight mishap and lost her passport just prior to departure. She had to stay back to visit the US Embassy in Rome and get an emergency replacement, but Viking provided good support and assistance to get her to the next port of call, Malta.
Malta has a long and colorful history. Viking Excursion tour guide was well versed in local history and culture. Many stops and ample opportunity to mix with locals. English is a legacy language in Malta, it being a former British Empire colony. Lots of local history of WWII during which the Maltese people suffered greatly.
Algeria and Tunisia are brand new destinations on this cruise. Viking Ocean Cruises has only gone there starting this year and we were only the second shipset of tourists to get there on Viking. Both countries were rather restrictive and a ‘police escort’ – with armed guards – was needed. Not as scary as it sounds . . . . basically, the local government made this a requirement on Viking for stopping at the port. Not so much a concern about crime or terrorism, but more to provide needed jobs to the ‘police/security guards’ in their country.
Unemployment very high there in Algeria and Tunisia. People in these two countries seem to be very friendly, even though we had very little opportunity to interact. Because this is also a ‘new’ industry - cruise tourism to the locals, no hawkers or other tourist trap vendors are yet plainly visible; and everyone waved at the tourist buses as we passed their locations. Almost made me feel like being a zoo animal being watched as we drove by them!!!!
Algeria seemed to be more restrictive than Tunisia. The daytime excursion was only a bus tour of the countryside and we were only given one stop for a restroom break (also a rather primitive ‘event’, as the toilets are few and definitely NOT modern . . . . . the ladies, of course, had it the worst of it) No facilities on the tour bus. If you recall your history lessons, Algeria had a very difficult War of Independence from their former French colonial roots; it still seems to haunt them now. But expect Tourism will help the local economy and offer opportunities for local growth and prosperity.
In comparison, Tunisia seems to have evolved fairly well. Tunisia is building up their infrastructure to accommodate more tourism, which they feel will boost their economy and provide more jobs than other paths. Docks and boarding in Tunisia was fabulous. Easy access to excursion buses; ample opportunity in conveniently located tourist shops. People seemed more open and friendly to strangers. Viking Excursions offer variety over and beyond the included offerings.
Sardinia is part of Italy, but unlike anything in Rome or N. Italy. It is a culture unto itself. Viking provided tour was good, but I heard the additional, supplemental tours even better.
Valencia and Barcelona wonderful. Did NOT partake of Viking offerings for tours or events, rather booked through another site to attend concerts; flamenco show; and other activities. Must Sees: Gaudi (anything, but in particular the Cathedral); Hop On / Hop Off is a good deal and you can buy ahead of time and save a bit.
Our cabin was right next to the elevators at the aft portion of the ship. NO PROBLEMS!!! I was concerned about noise from other passengers near the elevator, but it was absolutely quiet. And very convenient: was able to access all floors with the elevators so close; on the same side of the ship as the self-laundrette (Viking provides free use of the washer and dryer; plus soap; and softener). Great Value. Good Balconies on the Port Side of the ship. Cabin itself was very clean; daily linen; roomy for two; exceptional housekeeping.
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