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Viking Venus Review

5.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating
113 reviews

Ancient Mediterranean Treasures - Just past the end of the tourist season.

Review for Viking Venus to the Eastern Mediterranean
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gvansteeter
First Time Cruiser • Age 60s

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Sail Date: Nov 2022
Cabin: Deluxe Veranda Stateroom
Great dome of the Hagia Sofia Mosque.

We chose this cruise because of some of the excursions offered. All were of particular interest to us. In order: 1) Athens, Greece: Acropolis, Agora, Athens Flea Market (saturdays), and all of the little but ancient Greek and Byzantine churches. We did not actually participate in the standard excursion but did "our own thing" while in Athens. The stay at the Athens Marriott was nice, the breakfast buffet was superb. I recommend that you pay for entrance into the Acropolis Museum as the top floor is a life-size recreation of the top of the Parthenon, with explanations of what happened to the bas-reliefs on the sides and the statues of the pediments on the ends, plus the entire museum is sited over an important excavation that you can view through transparent floors or gain closer access to. The Agora or "Market Place" or "Forum" is an important site as this is where the concept of democratic government was first conceived nearly 2,500 years ago. 2) Crete. This was a little of a disappointment since we were to dock at Heraklion and then visit the Temple of Knossos, which were of great interest to us. Due to inclement weather, the ship's master decided to dock at the better protected harbour in the Bay of Souda. The excursion was changed to visit the ancient town of Chania, whic focused on the 'Old Town". Being out of tourist season, many of the shops were not opened until late in the excursion, but many did open and we had fun looking for gifts for some of our relations. The tour of the walls, the waterfront of the harbor, specifically calling out the Old Venetian Port and the Lighthouse, along a number of the interesting little things (like the former Mosque on the Waterfront), were still interesting. There is the Maritime Museum of Crete, but the ladies in our party weren't particularly interested in that, so we skipped it. Incidentally, they did offer, at additional cost, an extended excursion to Knossos from Souda, but we were concerned that there wouldn't be enough time to explore it properly so we elected not to go on that. This was our decision, and not Viking's fault. 3) We then proceeded to Rhodes. The standard excursion offered was a tour of the Medieval City of Rhodes along with a tour of the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. The Palace was amazing, although truth must be told that most of this structure was actually built for Benito Mussolini, upon the ruins of the ancient palace which had been destroyed previously, EXCEPT FOR ONE ROOM! That room was preserved and was shown on the excursion. I will tell you that some of the most fun Greeks I encountered were in the "Old Town". Everybody was friendly and most spoke English reasonably well. 4) Kusadasi, Turkey was the next port of call. Pronounced Kushadahsee. Here, tthe standard excursion was a trip to the ancient site of Ephesus, which in ancient times was actually a port city! It was the Christian congregation here that was the target of the Letters to the Ephesians that are included in the New Testament, and it is also believed that Mary, the virgin-mother of Jesus Christ, ended her days here. The standard excursion includes the Ancient Greek Theater, a 25,000 seat amphitheater, as well as the Celsius Kutuphanesi or ancient library facade of marble which included both Greek and Roman inscriptions. The facade has been about 70% restored and is supported by steel girders (much of eastern Turkey experiences earthquakes). Ephesus was an amazing site and is worthy of more time than an excursion cruise can accomodate. Be aware that on your way out to re-board the buses, that you will be swarmed by merchants trying to sell you photos, post-card, spices and other things. 5) Cannakale (Chawn-awk-kah-lay) was our next destination. Unfortunately, due to weather conditions (high winds), the ship master deemed it too risky to dock at port. We watched the tugs attempt to pull the Venus in for about 1/2 hour before they gave it up as a bad job. Although we understand the necessity of the shipmaster to keep his command and passengers/crew safe, we were bitterly disappointed as the excursion here was the ancient site of Troy and/or the optional excursion to Gallipoli, and one of the most anticipated visits for our trip. This is not Viking's fault, but it does illustrate a problem that oceanic cruises face vs. river cruises - specifically the likelihood of not being able to dock due to inclement weather. You should take this into account when planning a oceanic cruise. Anyway, there were no alternate ports available, so we ended up cruising north through the Darenelles and into the Sea of Marmara at a leisurely pace of about... well... enough to maintain headway until we arrived at Istanbul, Turkey. 6) Istanbul, Turkey. HOLY ... well... an amazing and gigantic city of 16 million officially, but more likely over 20 million due to refugees from a number of conflicts and disasters plaguing the northern Mediterranean. Traffic was incredible and travelling distance was irrelevant. For example, the distance from our hotel (The Conrad Istanbul Bosphorous) to the Hagia Sophia (or Ayosofya) was only 6.7 km (just over 4 miles) but it took 70 minutes to travel the distance. So don't be surprised if the cab drivers are requesting 400-500 Turkish Lira for the trip. Keep in mind that at the time we were in Istanbul, the exchange rate was about 18.5 TL to the USD, which meant that the 600 TL we gave the driver was only about $32 USD, so for us it was a no-brainer. The harbor excursion from the Venus, where we traveled by tour boat from Galataport to the Winter Palace and back, was interesting but the audio system on the boat was difficult to understand, and those of us in the back of the tour-boat didn't really hear what the guide was saying. So this excursion was only "so-so" in our opinion. As we had extended our stay in Istanbul an additional day, we took the Viking excursion to visit the "Old City" wherein we visited the following locations: a) the Suleymaniye Cami, or Blue Mosque, b) the Hippodrome, c) the Hagia Sofia, and d) the "Grand Bazaar." The Blue Mosque was disappointing only because it is currently be renovated both inside and out, so personal photos could only capture so much of this amazing house of worship. As there are many great images on the internet of the Blue Mosque, which is renowned for the blue tiles that adorn the interior, the only disappointment was that we couldn't see all of it 'in the flesh', as it were. The Hippodrome is really a tour in name only, as the Hippodrome was built over many, many years ago and what remains are some statues and obelisks, although these were interesting. The Ayosofya is an ancient Greek Orthodox church that was converted into a mosque by the Ottomans when they rose to power. Easily the most impressive site on this excursion, the only "downer" is that even in the off-season, the line to enter it was easily an hour-long wait. But it was worth it! What a magnificent structure! Finally, after these, we did a walking tour of the Grand Bazaar. Frankly, our guide gave us pretty vague directions and we ended up going in the wrong direction, but thanks to Google maps, we got straightened out. The Bazaar is immense. Much of it is indoors. It's like the tightest, most dense indoor-mall you've ever visited, with most stall fronts or store fronts being only 10-12 feet wide. Unless you have some idea of what you are looking for before you enter the bazaar, be prepared to be completely overwhelmed. It just goes on and on and on. A WORD OF WARNING ABOUT THIS EXCURSION: It is classified as a "moderately difficult" excursion, and Viking MEANS IT! The whole of 'Old Town' is extremely hilly with steep, narrow roads. If you need a cane or other aid to walk, or if you cannot walk for sustained periods, THIS EXCURSION IS NOT FOR YOU! The only reason I mention this is that there were several lovely older persons on this excursion, and they struggled to keep up with the tour group or negotiating the grades. Even the Grand Bazaar, although indoors, follows the terrain! Several ended up dropping out.

I hope that my review above has done a good job of highlighting the very good reasons for why you may want to participate in the Ancient Mediterranean Treasures cruise, as well as some of the relatively minor disappointments. As this was my first cruise ever, I did not know what to expect, and the overall satisfaction of my experience was "Wonderful!" Howver, I'm going to end this review with a couple of general observations, some positive and some negative.

1) The Viking Venus is a new ship, having been built in 2020 and launched and entering service in 2021. As such, the ship felt "showroom" new. The food was excellent, even in the Restaurant and World Cafe (which is a buffet). The service was as expected, and our steward (Mannik) was attentive. To my knowlege, all of the staterooms have verandas so you can watch the world go sliding by from your own stateroom. However, this is NOT a Viking "longboat". She can accomodate over 900 passengers, so you will not get the intimate experience that you might expect from a Viking river cruise.

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Deluxe Veranda Stateroom

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