Fyi...we are at brussels airport in the brussels airways lounge...absolutely wonderful to hang out here. we are 6 hours ahead of est. brussels airlines has a wonderful "loft" lounge for gold alliance members to enjoy. Located on the 3rd level of terminal a, it was a gem...but hard to find. With a 2 hr. Layover, it proved a lovely experience. Clean, well equipped, wonderful selection of food and beverages, we happily took advantage of the “gold” star alliance perk.
Flight arrived at venice airport on time, no jet way, had to carry hand luggage from plane to terminal. (difficult for some) getting to the ship from the airport was easy, viking people everywhere you turned, impossible to get lost. Dropped off checked luggage with porters, then about a 5 minute walk to the bus. Weather is perfect, overcast, about 50. Boarded bus with about 30 others then off to the star... About a 20 minute ride.
Registration and check in was excellent. Process quick, took about 5 minutes, pass thru security, then elevator to deck 2 on the star. looking around... We appear to be the “older guests” on this trip. I am 75, my wife will be 70 next week.
Champaign greeting, our cabin was ready so we dropped off our hand carry, put some away then went to the world cafe for a lovely and delicious lunch. then a nap!
Tight on time, still getting to know what's where on the ship and where best to eat dinner, we decide to go to world cafe on deck 7 as we have the opera event tonight - at 7:30. a quick meal...absolutely delicious!! Turkey, filet minion, pasta and everything appropriate for thanksgiving dinner (buffet) was the for all to enjoy.
Bus to water shuttle then a 40 minute walk (in the dark) over 5 bridges and finally to the venue (zeno palace). Mr. Zeno (16th century palace still in the family) occupy the palace. He was there to greet us before the performance with stories about the family. If you’re doing this, do bring a flashlight and watch for steps on the bridges... Two persons fell with surface transitions from ramp to steps. a local opera company of talented singers, a pianist and violinist treated us to a 2 hour selection of classical music and famous italian melodies. (wines and beverages were served) as much as we were tired, the optional "evening and sights of classical venice" was well worth the price and time. the walk back seemed to take less time, then the water shuttle, bus and security at the terminal and we were "home".
Still struggling to figure out how to work the fancy coffee maker in the cabin, mdw took our mugs to deck 7 and made tea and coffee for our late night drinks. viking needs to re-think the coffee maker and it’s shelf placement (in those cabins that include the machine). It’s near impossible to use and reach and the “regular” coffee is far from the delicious brew served by room service and on the breakfast tables.
Clock set for 7am. Tour of venice (in daylight) scheduled for the 27th...more about that later! Need a rest!
Venice day 2 – Nov 27th
Another absolutely beautiful day! Sun is shining, temperature about 50. Breakfast in the world cafe - diane had set the alarm incorrectly so we were running a bit late (or so we thought). omelets to order, i had my usual, salmon with a bagel. Diane arrived a few minutes later and had her one over easy, on corned beef hash, just as she likes. Coffee served by waiter is great, however, from the machines, it’s like mud.
We rushed back to the cabin for jackets, camera etc. Found our room attendants tutu and faz just finishing up then back to deck 2 to disembark for the 4 hr. Included tour of venice only then to find that our tour number time had been revised. We had an hour - so we walked the ship to see where the different shops and dining rooms on deck 2 were and look at the menus.
Ship communication – needs work. Announcements about tour times and gangway locations need repeating and it would be very helpful if posted daily at or on each of the electronic displays next to the elevators.
9:50 we were off the ship, thru the terminal and to the shuttle bus. Shuttle bus.. Much too crowded, the next stop, the water shuttle and an hour water tour of the venice lagoon (using vox sound transmitters.) pleasant ride, good pictures and historical info. Pointed out were the many islands (of the 400 bridges and 118 islands) along this route and places of interest we would see during our walking tour later. Places like st. Marks basilica and square, the doge's palace etc.
The streets were very crowded with tourists, two ships in port and the beautiful day, plus the high tide and the sidewalks (with raised platforms for high water) only added to the congestion. Trying to listen to our guide as other languages were being broadcast by guides with amplifiers made it like being at the tower of babble.
Picture taking was again ideal with the clear day. two stories learned thus far... The body of st. Mark was smuggled from his burial place in alexandria egypt, and reinterred in the basilica here to declare him the patron st. Of venice. also the vivaldi (composer) had been a priest at the church of vivaldi's of la pieta.
We walked back to the water shuttle on our own shopped for souvenirs, then at 12:30 departed, returned to the ship, freshened up, then had a delightful lunch in world cafe - probably would have loved to try the lunch specialties in the pool cafe, however, the smell of freshly varnished surfaces made it impossible to sit in that area. Perhaps we’ll try tomorrow.
Next, the muster station drill... Not happy with the new life jacket policy...we are still waiting for the promised 2 life jackets in the cabin. (never did deliver them) met guests elaine and vj. then a nap and 6:15 dinner in "the restaurant" where we shard a table with john, mary, hayne & jan... Our waiter was angelo with whom we sailed on viking prestige ... His service ... Outstanding as expected.
Wine flowed freely, all had the boston lettuce salad, diane made a dinner entree from 2 crab cake appetizers, i had the ny strip steak, one person had whole lobster, another the lasagna and hayne had the beef wellington. Deserts ranged from gelato, to ny cheesecake. Everything was outstanding!
Back to the cabin ... Tomorrow, split croatia...
Date: Wed, 2 Dec 2015 02:39:49 -0500
Hello friends & family...having a wonderful time, weather has been ideal, looks to be in the 60's today for our naples tour. Just that we have been too busy to write and i have been fighting off a cold...
Subject: Naples - Herculaneum - From Dec 2
Herculaneum ... Described as "the other pompeii" or as our guide carmine described it, hollywood ... It was the summer resort where many "upper class” came to enjoy the seafront town. located at the base of mt. Vesuvius it was destroyed by the eruption of 79ad, not by fire but by mud. The town remained buried for 1,600 years and is today, a unesco world heritage site. carmine pointed out the many homes, beautiful mosaics, colorful fresco's, many structures still intact with beds, roofs, doors (petrified wood) some sliding pocket doors still operational, pictures capture many of the beautifully preserved artifacts. Hygiene practices were outstanding. Importance of available clean water, sewers, toilets and baths was obvious here even in this ancient city. the site is funded in part by the hp foundation. many steps, uneven stone streets, high curbs make for difficult walking, no handrails along steps. No places to sit or rest during the tour, lavatories are free. Many tourists still made the journey with canes in hand! worth the price and effort. back to the comfortable coach for the ride back to the ship.
Lunch in the world cafe.. With wine!
Date: Thu, 3 Dec 2015 17:27:26 -0500
Learned last night about the horrific shooting in san bernardino - 14 dead, 17 wounded... Will this never end?? will try to catch up over the next few days, however, today was another spectacular day. breakfast in the world cafe, omelets to order, diane had her usual eggs with corned beef hash. early bus for our tour of rome and the vatican.
Bus 11, with guide roberta, just steps from the ship, we were on our way promptly at 8:15 for the 80km hour and 15 minute ride to vatican city. temperature reached mid 70's today, sunny. security everywhere, just didn't seem any more that one would expect at tourist sites like those we are at. spent some time discussing the styles of architecture, ruins being discovered as new building foundations are excavated. We passed the colosseum, many renaissance fountains and unique blend of ancient and modern. we used the hour of free time to wander onto the vatican city piazza to marvel of its size and incredible beauty. took loads of pictures to share... Then back on the bus, for the ride back to the viking star. I snoozed a little. back at 2:30 we had a light late lunch at the pool grill. nap time...
6:30 our reservations at manfredi's (specialty italian). wow, definitely the best meal we have ever had on any ship! This was our 70th cruise! started with mushroom soup, then we each had the veal scaloppini (diane marsala, i the lemon sauce) veal is from from colorado. we also shared a shrimp scampi with pasta as a side dish. desert, pistachio cake, ricotta cheese cake, coffee. absolutely the best, great food & service! Every bit a gourmet meal!
Date: Fri, 4 Dec 2015 01:48:26 -0500
Subject: Day 9 - Florence/Pisa
It's 7:30 am as i write this, still dark, sunrise due in about 10 minutes. Plan to take the included tour (4 hrs) of tuscany to pisa. ship due to arrive at 9, our tour begins at 9:30. hoping that today continues as lovely as each of the previous 8, with comfortable temperatures, bright sunshine, good tour guides and interesting new information.
I'm finally feeling about 90% better, been taking meds plus amoxicillin ... Seems to be working. Many other guests coughing and sneezing... Appears the ship is taking steps to control handling of utensils and handling of items such as salt, pepper etc.
First day that the sun was not shining bright. Cool, about 50. Rain held off for the tour - just a light sprinkle as we were returning from the 3.5 hr tour. following breakfast, we departed from the port by bus (nice coach) on #20. Our guide was yvonne, who gave us an excellent overview of the areas during a brief 20 minute ride to the town of pisa. Once there, "tony" as she asked be called, spent the next hour with us as we visited the tourist sites. the leaning tower is visible from many points on the road as we make the drive to the town. pisa cathedral, baptistery and leaning tower! think we were able to capture some nice photos of the many interesting and ancient places. Security here is tight. All visitors are permitted into the tower but only after a metal detector wanding and backpack inspection. There are more military and police personnel here than at any of the other locations we have been. Good tour, about 45 minutes of walking, flat surfaces, no hills or steep grades.
Back to the ship, delicious shrimp with pasta lunch, glass of wine... Then to nap. great dinner more later - must rush off...
Dec 5th --Raining , 50 degrees this morning .... Soon after breakfast we were ready for our included walking tour of monaco. We followed our guide paula as she took us thru the terminal, parking garage and then thru several escalator and elevator sections to arrive in daylight in front of the oceanographic museum. See photos of jacques cousteau submarine on display. From there we meandered thru absolutely gorgeous palace gardens with magnificent views of the harbor, distant french hills and several interesting monuments. The gardens were still green, many of the flowers still in bloom, the scene is captured in a few of the photos should you care to see the link. Arriving in time to see the changing of the guard at the palace entrance just as the already weather related abbreviated event started, the rain went from light drizzle to heavy downfall. Interesting - the "citizens" of monaco do not pay taxes. There are about 6,000 of them. In order to become a citizen, one must be third generation, both parents of each generation must have been citizens. Hey... Even cars must meet minimum requirements to enter! Visited the st. Nicholas cathedral where prince rainier iii and princess grace were married and are now interred. Our guide gave us the latest local gossip on the grimaldi family. Security again, hardly noticeable. The walk back to the ship seemed to take less time. Drenched, we changed clothes, hung everything in the bathroom to dry (hopefully) ... Then to lunch!
Date: Mon, 7 Dec 2015 08:42:27 -0500
Subject: Toulon France
Toulon france included a 3 hr tour... 1hr boat ride followed by a walking tour. Most of the royal french naval ships normally in the harbor were out... Either in the mid east (on duty) or at a demonstration. The condensate on the boat windows and the chatter of guests made the brief far from informative. The walking tour was better. The Old town suffered severe damage during the war, especially since Toulon was the French Naval port With much of the "old city" streets under reconstruction and some of the buildings leaning dangerously. It's sunday, thus nearly all of the stores are closed. Passed by the street market place as we walked back to the ship, hundreds of vendor stalls selling all kinds of food, from fresh fish to fresh fruits... It's about 1pm so they are packing up what's left. Guide was sure to take us past the stadium - holds 15,000 and soon to be enlarged. Back to the ship to dry out and get a warm tea!
Dinner tonight with hayne and jan at manfredi's. Another delicious meal, service by angelo, rudi and arthur ... Made for a perfect ending to a lovely cruise experience with viking. Tomorrow, 4:30 am wake up for the flights home to nj.
Viking again took us to the airport and watched over us as we checked in to be sure we were on our way without any difficulties. My wife and i (both platinum premier 1k with united) took advantage of the associated privileges making for expedited check-in, lounge access and pre boarding. Paid extra for the lufthansa seats with more leg room. Well worth the 100.00 each! Both flights uneventful, food fair to poor, service excellent. Upon arrival in newark, we participate in the us gov. Goes program, again, bypassing the crowds upon arrival at customs and immigration.
Viking ocean reminds us more of viking river cruising .. In that the daily tours make for in depth and interesting learning experiences about each of the itinerates. We missed the daily on-board activities such as trivia... Viking ocean did have it only the one sea day ... And it was very well attended!
The ship is absolutely gorgeous and the attention to detail just incredible! Guest laundry rooms on each deck, (no charge, & soap included).
TV – large screen, good channels, Great “Ted” series and lectures (Movies also included)
Love the wi-fi not the fastest, but quite dependable... And too, it’s included!
Large showers enclosures, heated bathroom floor, great night lighting, balcony has both drapes and sheers, temperature in cabin wonderfully controlled, plenty of cabinets, self closing drawers and closet space (and lighting), comfortable beds! Entertainment always tasteful, shows nicely performed, talented musicians and singers.
Only minor observations:
1. Prefer life jackets to be in cabin (not at muster stations)
2. Make more “fuss” over explorer members (loyalty club) ... (perhaps a concierge room like rccl) bring back the explorer pins!!
3. Answer phones to Explorer desk (often never answered)
4. Overhead lighting in lavatory much too harsh, nice if could be dimmed.
5. Provide flash lights for evening walks.
6. Surprised to learn of a 22% tax on duty free purchases made onboard ship. Read Less