Viking Orion Review

A nice cruise on a nice ship

Review for Australia & New Zealand Cruise on Viking Orion
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CanuckCruiser604
10+ Cruises • Age 60s

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Sail Date: Feb 2024

This was my second Viking Ocean cruise so obviously I liked my first one. For reference, I would classify Viking as perhaps a rung below lines like Silversea and Regent, but above Oceania or Celebrity. This was my first visit to this part of the world, and generally it was an excellent cruise with a few hiccups here and there. I probably preferred my first Viking cruise to this one for a few reasons, some of which were out of Vikings control. One was bad weather, as high winds forced us to miss Hobart, which was a disappointment for us although Viking did try to make it up by getting us into Melbourne a half day early.

Another was that for most of the ports on this cruise, we were stuck in a very industrial port which we were not allowed to just walk off the ship from. We had to take shuttles into town. One of my complaints with Viking is that we didn't have much time in many of the ports. In Napier, for example, we were only docked from noon to 6pm. For some reason, unlike every other cruise I've been on, Viking requires passengers to be back on board the ship an hour before departure. I guess too many people come back late. But given that the last shuttle back leaves 30 minutes before we have to be back, it means that for a 6pm departure the last shuttle leaves town at 4:30. That reduces time in some ports by 25%. It felt very rushed at times.

Lots of reviews have gotten into details about the ship so I won't dwell on the design, etc. It definitely caters to an older crowd, we were one of the younger couples at 63. Service is outstanding in all departments, and the ship rarely felt crowded except at certain meal times.

Cabin Review

On our previous Viking cruise we were in a junior suite, 400 sq ft, but we downsized a bit for this cruise (338 sf). It was fine! We had plenty of room in our suite, the bathroom was large, and the TV system was good. No complaints here.

Port Reviews

Auckland

We came four days early pre cruise so we could enjoy Auckland, and it was great. Such a lively city especially around the waterfront area with tons of restaurants. We did both the Auckland art gallery (quite nice) and the Auckland Museum (very good), as well as the Maritime Museum (interesting).

We took the ferry to Waiheke Island and took the Hop On Hop Off bus for a tour around the island, and wandered around the small town and had lunch. That was an enjoyable day.

We really liked the city a lot.

Christchurch

The ship docks in Lyttleton, a very industrial port, so you cannot just walk off the ship and must take a shuttle into town. It drops you off beside the art gallery, which is very close to the city tram that runs around the town. We prepaid $35 each for tickets to the tram and just hopped on for the tour (about 50 minutes all around).

We got off to tour the Quake Museum, a small but interesting museum about the earthquake in 2011.

Later we wandered around Riverside Market which was a lively area, and had lunch nearby. Regent Street had some interesting shops. We thought about trying punting on the river, but it was all sold out for the day (there were other cruise ships in port so it was busy). So we spent time in the Botanic Garden which was lovely.

We enjoyed our time in Christchurch.

Dunedin

Yet another industrial port (Port Chalmers) and forced to take a shuttle into town a fair distance (30 mins), arriving at the Octagon area of the city. From here, we walked quite a long distance (30 mins) up some steep hills to Olveston House. They do hour long guided tours only here, so we did that and found it very interesting. It was a beautiful old home with mostly original furnishings and artifacts.

We walked back to the Octagon and then south a few blocks to the Railway Station, which is magnificent looking. Just a five minute walk from here is the Toitu Settlers Museum, which was excellent and highly recommended. We spent about 90 minutes here before taking the shuttle back to the ship.

Napier

Once again we were in an industrial port and had to take a shuttle into town. It was a short ride though, as Napier is not a very big town. Our arrival coincided with Napier's Art Deco Festival, so that was great. We could just wander around town and enjoy the classic cars, people dressed in costumes, and various dance or musical events.

The town is lovely and well worth a couple of hours wandering around the six or eight square block area that is all art deco inspired. You can also walk along the waterfront which is quite nice. We weren't in port very long so we didn't have time to visit any wineries or further afield.

It was a nice visit but not tons to do in Napier other than enjoy the town.

Tauranga

We did Viking's Scenic Bay of Plenty free excursion for 2.5 hours. It was okay. It was quite a long drive to Te Puke, the kiwi growing region, where we drove by some kiwi farms but weren't allowed off the bus for bio security reasons. Then we visited the community center to sample kiwis as well as other local products and to see a short maori dance.

We did our tour very early (7am) so that we could still spend time in Mount Maunganui, which is actually where the ship is docked. So we walked off the ship and walked all the way around the base of Mount Maunganui, which took about an hour. It was a fantastic walk. That brought us back into the main town where we shopped a bit and then returned to the ship.

Wellington

We did the free Viking tour, Highlights of Wellington and Te Papa Museum. The bus tour was fairly short and there really wasn't much to see from the bus, so we were happy to get quite a bit of time in the museum, which was excellent. It's a large museum (six floors) and quite extensive. Our tour gave us 90 minutes here which was a bit rushed, so we told our driver we would stay behind and not return to the ship, which we did. We finished touring the museum and had lunch in the area.

After lunch we wandered around the city a bit before taking the cable car up the mountain to the Botanic Gardens. The gardens were very nice and we decided that rather than taking the cable car back down we would just wander through the gardens back into the city. It took about an hour to get to the "Beehive" building which is where the shuttle stop was to return to the ship.

Melbourne

Because our ship missed Hobart, we ended up with extra time in Melbourne as the ship overnighted here. And that was great because Melbourne is a big city with a fair bit to do.

Once again we had to take a shuttle into town, it dropped us off by the Sky Tower which we did on the first afternoon. The views were great. It may have been quicker though to take the tram or bus into the city, as the shuttle was pretty slow (30 minutes plus). And also, we were sharing shuttles with the Queen Mary II, a much larger ship, so lines were huge.

We toured the Victoria Public Market which is huge! Tons of shops selling both cheap flea market type stuff, to artisanal crafts etc. Plus a huge food market and lots of restaurants and food trucks. A very lively spot on a Saturday!

We also used the free city trams to get around the CBD. Make sure you grab a map so you can find your way around.

It's lovely to walk along the riverfront and into the gardens. Very close by is the National Gallery of Victoria, a must visit. It's free and very worthwhile for both modern, contemporary art, as well as masters such as Picasso, Rembrandt, Dali, Matisse, and so on. We spent 90 minutes here and it was one of the more interesting museums I've been to.

Sydney (Australia)

Since our Viking ship was small and could sail under the Harbour Bridge, we were docked in White Bay, not at Circular Quay in the heart of the CBD. It didn't bother me as we were staying in Sydney for a few days, but it was really hard to get a taxi from White Bay!

We did the Viking Blue Mountains excursion and it was very good (9 hours). Quite a lot of driving, maybe 90 minutes each way, but we really enjoyed our time at Scenic World, where we got to ride the steepest railway in the world (fun!), plus the gondola and cable car for great views. The scenery was outstanding and it was a good tour.

As for Sydney itself, its a very big and lively city with lots to do. We thought that Taranga Zoo was fantastic and easy to get to by ferry from Circular Quay. You don't need to buy a transit pass, you can just use your credit card to tap on and tap off (don't forget!) for ferries, buses, and trams. Easy! We took the train across the bay to Milson's Point and then walked back to the city over the Harbour Bridge. It was a great walk. Make sure you stop at the Pylon Museum (10am) and hike the 200 stairs to the top for unbelievable views of the city and harbour.

We also enjoyed the Art Gallery of NSW, a nice mix of modern and old art. Check out the magnificent Queen Victoria Building for shops and restaurants.

We did an hour long tour of the Opera House which was very good. We were lucky enough to watch the Symphony practice for 15 minutes in the grand theatre, which is lovely.

The Botanic Gardens are also lovely. Tons more to do in this vibrant city and I'll have to return one day.

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