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Twitchly

Review: Viking Sky, Trade Routes of the Middle Ages

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Warning: wordy post follows. Will attach photos later.

 

Traveled in April 2018

 

ABOUT US (for context)

 

We’re in our 50s, and this was our first cruise together. (I went on a cruise once long ago for work, which was a very different sort of experience.) We did it in honor of our 25th anniversary. We’re somewhat introverted. We enjoy meeting new people and chatting, but we’re also quite content to read a good book or do our own thing. We had put off cruising until now because the stereotypical image of cruising – casinos, Vegas-style shows, parties and games, glitzy shopping, crowds, constant socializing – didn’t appeal to us at all. I’d also traveled extensively throughout my 20s, living overseas and spending as much as 6 months at a time backpacking around the world on my own, and the whole packaged tour thing didn’t really appeal. But the more we learned about Viking Ocean, the more it seemed a different sort of animal altogether, and we finally decided to give it a try. We’re so glad we did! It was a world away from the kind of travel I’d done in the past, and I did find it hard to spend such a short time in each place we visited. But we both enjoyed the pampering and the ease involved in this kind of trip, and we definitely hope to do it again.

 

ABOUT THE SHIP (VIKING SKY)

 

The Room

 

We had a penthouse veranda (PV) room on the 4th level (4019), which was actually a bit larger than I thought it would be based on the photos.

 

Pros:

The room was pretty quiet. We only occasionally heard our neighbors.

The couch was full size, not a loveseat, and quite comfortable.

There was plenty of storage for our stuff, with room to spare. (We brought two carry-ons and one regular suitcase, all of which fit easily under the bed.)

The room has a thermostat, though it’s a little cryptic. We turned ours all the way down at night and found it comfortable.

The bathroom is roomy for a cruise ship, roughly the size of a regular hotel bathroom. The heated floors and anti-fog mirror are very nice. With drawers and shelves, there was loads of storage here, too.

The décor is understated and reflects the ocean vibe throughout the ship. We liked it very much.

 

Cons:

The bed was not quite as comfortable as we would have liked. It seemed to barrel in the center, so we rolled toward each other somewhat. The mattress and pillows were quite firm. We slept fine, however.

The shower was possessed. It would swing from scalding to freezing with no intervention on our part and very little notice. A plumber came and worked on it (Viking is very responsive to complaints!) and there was some improvement initially, but within a couple days it reverted to its original state. The plumber came again but was unable to fix it. Fortunately, the shower is large enough that we were able to jump out of the stream of water when needed and wait until the temperature swung back to bearable. A couple of crew members mentioned that their showers did the same thing.

There are two configurations of the Penthouse Veranda, and we had the one with the sliding glass door. The other configuration, with the hinged door and separate window (as appears in the marketing materials) looks like it would allow you to sit on the couch and look outside. Ours did not. I minded that more than I thought I would. Next time, I would try to get that other configuration.

 

Public spaces on the ship

 

As everyone says, it’s a lovely ship. In fact, it grew on us as the cruise went on. We loved the openness to the sea throughout much of the ship, with the exception of the Living Room with its atrium (ostensibly the heart of the ship). While the Living Room is quite lovely, it has sheers covering all the windows, which means it doesn’t offer any view. We much preferred to see outside during daylight hours, which extended until late evening on our cruise, so we ended up hardly using the Living Room at all.

 

Our favorite indoor spot was probably the Explorer’s Lounge, a glass-fronted area in the front of the ship, which turned out to be an excellent place for a view when the ship entered and exited ports. The lounge is split into two levels, with a bar on the first floor and live music in the evening (which varied between a pianist, a guitarist, and a classical trio, all excellent) Like much of the rest of the ship, it featured lots of interesting books along the walls. One section had wonderfully comfortable chairs and couches alongside a very authentic-looking “fire” (there are no real fires on the ship due to safety concerns).

 

We also liked the seating areas by the windows alongside the Wintergarden (very quiet most of the time) and the chaise loungers along the windows on both sides of the pool (piped-in music). The latter seats were very popular and difficult to get.

 

The Wintergarden is the quietest interior public space on the ship when not hosting afternoon tea or other events. No piped-in music! The space is gorgeous, with bright skylight ceiling and intricate Nordic touches. (Look for the ravens.) But again, we used it less than we thought we would because it lacked those close-up sea views. It does offer views through other seating areas that flank it.

 

The artwork throughout is interesting and engaging. I kept meaning to do the audio art tour and never got around to it, one of my regrets.

 

And yes, the public bathrooms are delightful with their Scandinavian decor and piped-in birdsong. The elevator shaft near the Living Room is also fun, with its glass wall allowing you to glimpse trolls hidden among birch trees as you ascend to your room.

 

Onboard activities and entertainment

 

As I mentioned, we’re not the most social creatures on the planet, and planned activities aren’t really our thing. That said, we inadvertently ended up in the middle of a trivia game in the Explorer Lounge that ended up being a lot of fun. While DH didn’t care to repeat the experience, I did participate in another one later on. I also went to a scarf-tying “class,” which was really a way to get you into the Nordic shop but was both fun and informative.

 

DH made good use of the spa and enjoyed its hot/cold Nordic routine. He also swam in the infinity pool and main pool using a tether, which gave him a good workout, and he used the gym as well. He says the massage he got was excellent (though expensive).

 

We both used the walking track on sea days, which was enjoyable. There’s a sitting area off the track that was practically unused during our trip, probably because of the cool weather. It was the perfect spot to bundle up and ponder the world as you watch the sea go by.

 

As for the entertainment, we absolutely loved the two local shows we saw at the beginning and end of the trip. In Barcelona, a gypsy musical group gave a wonderfully energetic performance with some mild humor thrown in, and in Bergen we got to listen to a very stirring violinist. We also attended a “sampler” performance at the beginning of the cruise, which featured numbers by the in-house entertainment crew, and we quickly realized this really wouldn’t be our cup of tea so didn’t attend any of the other shows. We also didn’t go to hear the band in Torshavn, the ship’s night club and can’t comment on the dancing there.

 

In the evenings, various musicians played instrumental music in different public spaces on the ship (guitarist, pianist, classical trio) and they were very good.

 

A real highlight for us were the enrichment lectures. We had three British historians on board, all professors who obviously loved their subjects (roughly, the natural world, nautical history, and art) and loved to teach. It showed. They were a wonderful combination of enlightening and entertaining. I’m not sure I could pick a favorite. The naturalist gave nighttime stargazing talks up on the top deck; two lecturers gave a wonderful historical tour of the port at Portsmouth from within the Explorer’s Lounge as we left the port. One of the gentlemen had a delivery that put me to sleep every single time, in spite of how interesting he was. Something about that soothing Scots voice just conked me out. In the end, I only watched his lectures later on the TV in our stateroom so I wouldn’t embarrass myself.

 

The port talks, which we also primarily watched in our stateroom, were also reasonably well done and informative, a nice intro to where we were docking the next day.

 

The food

 

We ate twice at the two specialty restaurants, Manfredi’s and the Chef’s Table, and I’d have to say we ended up preferring the Chef’s Table. It really depends on the menu. We changed one of our reservations there to a day with a menu that looked more interesting to us and were glad we did. We tend to like creative dishes, and that’s what they had. Manfredi’s was fine, no complaints, but it didn’t feel as memorable to us as the Chef’s Table.

 

The main dining room was also fine, and we ate there several times. It’s the spot where we were most likely to chat with other diners. Viking has cleverly set things up so that you can have your table for 2, but they’re close enough together that it’s easy to engage with folks around you.

 

We had waffles twice at Mamsen’s, the Norwegian restaurant in the Explorer’s Lounge, and they were outstanding. Who would’ve thought of putting coriander in waffles?? The Norwegians did, obviously, and what a great thing it is. This was our farewell meal on disembarkment day. We also had open-face sandwiches there once, which were good, and “success cake,” which was outstanding. The only negative about Mamsen’s was the difficulty we had finding someone to serve us, especially in the evenings. The counter was frequently unmanned during open hours, and we would wait around for a while to see if someone would show up. Several times we just gave up.

 

By far, we ate most of our meals in the World Cafe. The food changed daily and was far better than we expected for what’s basically a buffet. We took our meals outside when possible, which was lovely. We liked the casual atmosphere and the ability to see everything that was on offer. Dressing up and being served in a more formal atmosphere is fun once in a while but not, for us, something we’d want to do every day.

 

The crew

 

After the lovely aesthetics, I’d say the best part about the ship was the crew. They were friendly without being obsequious, and they were on top of everything. Our room stewards were helpful and excellent without ever intruding, though we did learn to put a “do not disturb” sign on our door if we didn’t want people knocking and walking in. (That was startling the first couple of times.) We usually got room service for breakfast due to our early morning excursions, and it always — every single time — arrived a few minutes earlier than we requested, and piping hot. The bartenders were great fun, and one of them up in the Explorer’s Lounge made the best Negronis I’ve ever had. He added a little soda to them, he said, and an extra twist of orange peel. We probably had our best discussions with them. Basically, everything was beautifully run. They simply do an excellent job.

 

ABOUT THE PORTS

 

Itinerary: Trade Routes of the Middle Ages

 

Day 0: Pre-cruise private extension: An extra day in Barcelona

Day 1-2: Barcelona, Spain

Day 3: Cartagena, Spain

Day 4: Malaga (Granada), Spain

Day 5: Sea

Day 6: Porto, Portugal

Day 7: Sea

Day 8: Falmouth (Cornwall), UK

Day 9: Portsmouth, UK

Day 10: LeHavre, France

Day 11: Bruges, Belgium

Day 12: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Day 13: Sea

Day 14-15: Bergen, Norway

 

Day 16-17: Bergen to Oslo train ride extension and our own extra day in Oslo

Day 18: Fly home

 

Barcelona: We did the included tour, which was somewhat truncated because of a Catalan demonstration going on. (We hit demonstrations both days in Barcelona.) It was just OK. We ended up leaving the tour and going off on our own in the Gothic Quarter. Prior to the official start of the cruise, we bought tickets ourselves for the magnificent Palau de la Musica Catalana, which I highly recommend. We also walked the Barcelonetta, the local city beach, and had lunch there at one of the beachside cafes.

 

Cartagena: We did the Wine and Tapas walking tour, which was probably our least favorite of the optional excursions on this cruise. Cartagena is a lovely town with pastel buildings and marble pedestrian streets, but our (sweet) Finnish guide was far too taciturn; we had to pull information out of her. And the 3 places we stopped for tapas weren’t that great. It’s very easy to walk off the ship and into town; I’d do this place on our own next time.

 

Malaga (Granada): We took the optional excursion to the Alhambra, which was excellent. We had two guides, a fascinating German woman for the (long) bus ride and an equally fascinating Dutch man for the Alhambra itself. From the bus guide, a longtime resident of that area, we learned about the region and what it’s like to live there. The Alhambra guide directed our attention to details I would’ve certainly missed as he told us about the history of the place and herded us through the other hundreds of tourists in the place. I would love to go back and stay overnight or something when the place is less crowded. (This excursion was listed by Viking as the most demanding, probably because of the amount of walking and the uneven ground. I was a little apprehensive beforehand because I’m just an average walker, but it turned out I had no difficulty. I did hold my DH’s arm a few times on the rougher spots.) The included lunch at the Alhambra Hotel was easily the best Spanish food we’ve had, a touristy buffet that still managed to be excellent.

 

Porto: A somewhat gritty city that looks like it has struggled economically. DH loved it and wants to return. We took the included tour, which included a nice amount of walking and left us free time in the historic district along the river. We stopped at a sidewalk cafe and had a fabulous drink made of white sherry and soda as we watched the Douro float past the famous sherry houses across the way.

 

Falmouth (Cornwall): We took the optional tour of Cornwall that included Land’s End and the surreally picturesque artist town of St. Ives. When you think “British seaside holiday,” this is the place you picture. The tour featured probably our favorite guide (very fun as well as informative) and included the best fish and chips lunch I’ve ever had (massive pieces of perfectly fried cod, not greasy, very flavorful) at a cute little restaurant. It also allowed us plenty of free time in St. Ives, which we made good use of by wandering the windy streets and having an outstanding cream tea (tea with scones slathered with Cornwall cream) at an unassuming little place.

 

Portsmouth: This is one of those ports most people get out of to view other areas. Unless you’re a big fan of British nautical history, you’ll probably want to take an optional excursion. London is the usual tour people take, but a marathon made it off limits during our trip. We took the tour of Stonehenge and Salisbury, which was reasonably good, though I think I’d have preferred more time in Salisbury and less at Stonehenge. The cathedral was interesting enough, and we were lucky to get to hear the choir rehearse. The tour also featured another wonderful lunch at the lovely White Hart Inn.

 

LeHavre: If you don’t mind a long bus ride and a “panoramic” tour that doesn’t let you get out of the bus much, you can go to Paris from this port, but most people who did seemed to regret it. We took the optional tour to Giverny to see Monet’s Gardens, which were in spectacular bloom in late April and were a major highlight of our trip. Just wow. After the gardens we ate at an extremely picturesque restaurant in the countryside that used to be a mill; the meal was probably the best of our cruise. Another wow. Then we went on to the medieval city of Rouen, which was more interesting than I thought it would be. I broke off while the others went to see a cathedral, and I very much enjoyed wandering around the main square area. There are some nice perfume shops here, so I did some sniffing, which is something I enjoy.

 

Bruges: What a city! We decided to do our own thing here. You have to take some sort of transportation to get from the ship into Bruges (about 30 minutes), so we booked a seat on a shuttle ahead of time. But it turns out you don’t need to do that; you can just show up and get a seat. Basically, you take a free shuttle from the ship to the gate of the port. Then you walk out the gates of the port, turn right, walk about 3 minutes, and you’ll see a place to get tickets for Bruges. The shuttle ran every half hour and was perfectly fine. Bruges itself is simply splendid. It has retained its historic architecture due to benign commercial neglect (it was once a port town but the coastline silted up) and a blind eye from the ****s, and it’s like walking around in a storybook. We had the famous Belgian fries for lunch in one of the main squares, did a little shopping (chocolates and soap), and just walked around. We definitely want to return to this beautiful city.

 

Amsterdam: And now for our least favorite port on this trip. We did the included tour, which was fine and included a canal ride (though our fellow cruisers became inexplicably rude and talked right over the tour guide the entire time, something that thankfully didn’t happen anywhere else on our trip). Then we spent the rest of the day wandering around Amsterdam and continually stumbling into pot shops, tacky tourist stores, and women stripping in windows. We checked our map and no, we weren’t in the red light district, but it appears the zeitgeist of that district has spread a bit in central Amsterdam. We found it depressing, especially seeing all the stoned kids outside the head shops and all these women from Eastern Europe and various developing countries having to make a living like this. I suspect there are much more pleasant places in Amsterdam, but after walking about 5 miles we finally gave up and returned to the ship. If we were to return to Amsterdam, we would focus on the museums and probably find a way to get out of the coarse and gritty center. I especially wish we had gotten out into the Dutch countryside.

 

Bergen: We were surprised by how much we loved Bergen. I think we were expecting another Reykjavik, which we had visited the previous fall and enjoyed but wouldn’t necessarily revisit. Bergen has a much more established and historic feel — and, frankly, more money. Both Bergen and Oslo felt rich to us, and not just because of the high prices of everything. We did two back-to-back optional tours here: in the morning we visited a tiny Norwegian farm, and in the afternoon we visited Grieg’s house and the (remade) Stave church. Both were good tours. I wanted to see the farm because my great-grandparents grew up on farms in Norway. The gentleman who owns this farm is really what made this excursion special: he’s an entertaining speaker and guide, and he creates a lovely experience for you, which includes a glass of excellent juice in his cellar, some wonderful pastries (he’s also a baker) in a quaint farmhouse, and a song or two on the piano. He also talks about what it’s like to farm in Norway, which I found very interesting. In the afternoon, the visit to Grieg’s house was fine but what I really enjoyed was the piano concert in the small, beautiful concert hall next door. Absolutely marvelous. The Stave church was a bit of a letdown; it was off season so we weren’t allowed inside. And it’s not original. But it was nice to see.

 

Bergen to Oslo post-cruise: We also did this post-cruise excursion, which included a tour of Bergen itself; a highlight for me was a visit to the open-air folk museum, much like our Colonial Williamsburg. There was another marathon happening, which turned out to be more fun than problematic. At one point I saw a male runner in wearing nothing but some tattoos and a neon green G-string that didn’t actually do much toward hiding the family jewels. Hello, Norway! The hotel selected by Viking (Radisson Blu) was unremarkable and somewhat dark, but it’s in a fantastic location right on the wharf. We had an internal-facing room, which was a bummer; not sure how one gets an external room, but I would try to find out next time. The next day we took the 7-hour train trip to Oslo, which is nothing short of spectacular. While views are excellent on both sides, I would suggest sitting on the left if you want to take pictures out the window. We were on the right, and the sun created reflections that made picture-taking difficult. Also, I think there were more views out the right side, but the views out of the left side were more stunning, especially early on. You really can’t go wrong on either side, frankly. The extension included a quick tour of Oslo after the train ride followed by dinner along the harbor. We had a wonderful guide on the train (Viking rents out an entire car for its cruisers) and another guide once we got to Oslo.

 

I highly recommend adding another day to Oslo if you can. We did, and it made everything more relaxing. Oslo is also a lovely city, and the hotel that Viking picked for us — the Hotel Bristol — is a wonderfully atmospheric historic place with loads of books and dark wood. (Though we once again had an internal room.) We had a nice dinner there.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS (because this isn’t long enough already!)

 

So that’s our first cruise. Would we do another? Yes, we’d like to. We both still work, and these trips aren’t cheap, so I don’t think we’ll become serial cruisers at this point like so many people we met. We also did find it a bit unsatisfying to spend so little time at so many places. I think we’d ideally like to mix it up a bit between doing whiplash tourism like cruising and following the more sedate approach of renting a place for a week or two to really get to know it and doing day trips. Both have their attractions. But as far as ocean cruising goes, with very few exceptions I don’t know how you’d improve on our Viking experience.

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Thank you for this great review - I really appreciate the detail.

Question for you - do you know how you would go about looking into the configuration of the cabin? I have the same one as you mentioned and I would like to check.

 

 

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Great review. Thank you for taking the time to share so many Port details. We were on a previous Viking trip which included some of these ports, but several were different and sound quite lovely. I had overlooked this itinerary because I thought it might be too much of the same, but after reading this, maybe not. Plus I would gladly revisit most of the ports we stopped in already. So again, thank you.

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Thank you for a wonderfully sensitively written review.

For us these are all things to look forward to in the fall.

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Fantastic!! Glad you had a great time and thank you for your review. You made it live for me and I can’t wait to follow the route.

Thank you again :)

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Thanks, Twitchly! I’d been looking forward to your impressions and felt sure you would enjoy your cruise. We agree on several things about the ship especially the World Cafe and also the Living Room vs the Explorer’s Lounge! I’m very proud that you heard the bathroom birds and found the trolls in the elevator shaft. Details just make these ships!

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Loved reading your review. I like this itinerary. Glad you included your experiences of the shore excursions.

Best to you and your husband and hope the future includes another Viking cruise.

 

 

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Twitchly,

 

We are taking this cruise in October, so I have been watching for a review. I'm so happy you have provided such a helpful description of your experience. The port details will be most useful when we finally get to make our decisions on excursions.

 

Glad you enjoyed your first Viking cruise.

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I’m glad you loved St. Ives and am amazed that a cruise ship excursion came to a little Cornish town. We have a house in St Ives so obviously love it too!

We’re going on our first cruise too - Viking Homelands in June and really enjoyed your insights. Being free and easy sort of travellers the thought of getting up at the crack of dawn and being herded on excursions slightly horrifies me but I guess to see so many places in a short space of time it’s necessary. We can always go back and visit the places we like at leisure I suppose!

Hope you will visit St Ives again one day!

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I knew you would write a lovely trip report, Twitchly, and you did. Well done!

 

Sent from my SM-G960U using Forums mobile app

Edited by dln929
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Thank you for this great review - I really appreciate the detail.

Question for you - do you know how you would go about looking into the configuration of the cabin? I have the same one as you mentioned and I would like to check.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Forums

 

 

I’m not sure how one would find out. I would start by asking Viking directly until I found someone who could tell me.

 

Someone in this forum said a crew member showed them the “ribs” of the ship that dictated room configuration, so there’s definitely a structural pattern.

 

I believe the room next to ours, 4020, had the other configuration, but I’d check to make sure.

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I’m glad you loved St. Ives and am amazed that a cruise ship excursion came to a little Cornish town. We have a house in St Ives so obviously love it too!

 

 

Oh, lucky you! We adored St. Ives — really, all of Cornwall. Apparently only the smaller ships dock at Falmouth, so we were fortunate to be able to visit.

 

I should mention that I visited St. Ives once before during one of my backpacking expeditions in the distant past, and I found it much changed from what I remembered. It was busier now, for one thing (the weather was probably a factor — gorgeous on this trip, dreary on my previous visit), and generally seemed more prosperous. When I visited back in the ‘80s it was a very quiet place and, while picturesque, seemed a little sad. Lots of artists and galleries back then, though.

 

We’re going on our first cruise too - Viking Homelands in June and really enjoyed your insights. Being free and easy sort of travellers the thought of getting up at the crack of dawn and being herded on excursions slightly horrifies me but I guess to see so many places in a short space of time it’s necessary. We can always go back and visit the places we like at leisure I suppose!

 

Hope you will visit St Ives again one day!

 

 

Yes, you have to steel yourself to the whole herding thing (not to mention the early mornings). I bleated like a sheep a couple of times, which probably wasn’t appreciated. But you do have opportunities to break away and wander on your own, too. I hope you enjoy your upcoming cruise.

 

And yes, we would dearly love to return to St. Ives some day!

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I’m not sure how one would find out. I would start by asking Viking directly until I found someone who could tell me.

 

Someone in this forum said a crew member showed them the “ribs” of the ship that dictated room configuration, so there’s definitely a structural pattern.

 

I believe the room next to ours, 4020, had the other configuration, but I’d check to make sure.

 

I posted on this a while back. We had the door and window configuration. It was our cabin neighbor, retired US Navy, who explained to me that the PV cabins lined up on the structural “ribs” would have the door/windows as they could not accommodate the sliders. We really enjoyed being able to sit on the couch and look out the window. I as well would not have thought of the difference in the “view” with the slider.

As far as how to be sure and have this configuration I have no idea. If anyone finds out it would be good information to have.

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Here are a few photos, as promised. I took a bazillion and am slowly combing through them.

 

The Alhambra:

 

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Monet’s Garden:

 

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More photos ... will try to post additional shots soon.

 

Our restaurant in Giverny:

 

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Bruges:

 

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Bergen:

 

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Nice review and pictures!

 

Same cruise, different experiences...

 

Traveled in April 2018 - Trade Routes of the Middle Ages

 

Barcelona pre-cruise extension:

We wanted a few days to recover from jet lag and explore a city I had visited during my college days. Our flight was early and as the only Viking passengers, so we had private car take us to the hotel. Astonishing, our room was ready by 9:00 a.m. Location of Renaissance was easy walking to various sights. Transfer to ship included a panoramic bus trip.

 

Barcelona: We skipped the included panoramic tour, which would have taken us back to some of the places we had already visited. Spent time walking through the Gothic Quarter, thankful for the prime docking location near the Columbus monument.

 

Cartagena: the included walking tour was a delight, as was our guide. The bus tour gave us time to see the countryside and learn the history of the area.

 

Malaga (Granada): optional excursion - Andalusian hospitality was a small group, 16 people. Olive and almond growing area of Alfarnate. Lunch in the homes of locals.

 

Porto: optional excursion - Aveleda winery. Didn’t really tour the winery but the grounds. The gardens in spring bloom were wonderful to this gardener from Wisconsin, 28 inches of snow the weekend we sailed. Perfect opportunity to stock up on some regional wines to enjoy on the ship.

 

Falmouth (Cornwall): included tour of the countryside. Yes, another bus ride with local commentary. But a sunny day in England was reason enough to rejoice. The volunteers at the port were so very welcoming.

 

Portsmouth: ah, a tour that overlapped Twitchly. I found most of the time at Stonehenge to be waiting for the shuttle bus. As Viking arrived with their 4 buses to merge with other tours. The lunch was nice, but I would have preferred more time for independent exploration of Salisbury.

 

LeHavre: independent tour of DDay beaches. Thanks to this forum and our role call, we arranged a private tour, 3 couples with a local enthusiast. One of the highlights.

 

Bruges: optional tour - Ghent, city of chocolate. A smaller group broken into 2 groups for a walking tour and visit to a chocolatier with free time to explore.

 

Amsterdam: included tour, one of our favorite guides. Canal and bus. Watch out for the bicycles. Another city from my past travels.

 

Bergen: family time. My husband contacted his second cousin who lives near Bergen. We thought we’d meet for coffee or lunch. Well, the family threw us a party with 18 new found relatives in the village of Helle, 50km from Bergen. Highlight of highlights.

 

Iceland post-cruise extension: Early in the season, the weather thought we should experience sun, rain, snow and wind. Dressed appropriately, and enjoyed the stark beauty. Reykjavik is surprisingly modern. The hotel, a Hilton, wasn’t near the city center, but we adventured in our free time using the bus system.

 

Sea Days: a welcome reprieve from touring.

 

Other onboard activities: cooking demo, galley tour, bridge tour, cooking class, movies under the stars, wine tasting, future cruise deals.

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Twitchly and AuntieWerewolf10

 

 

 

 

Thank you so MUCH wow we are sailing on the Viking Sun October 6th in the opposite direction. Your insight for every port was excellent.

 

Thank you again.

Edited by Travelerstory

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AuntieWerewolf10,

 

We’re booked on this cruise in October and are interested in a more in-depth Normandy tour. So I wonder if you would share the details of your tour. Many thanks for your consideration.

 

Nice review and pictures!

 

Same cruise, different experiences...

 

Traveled in April 2018 - Trade Routes of the Middle Ages

 

Barcelona pre-cruise extension:

We wanted a few days to recover from jet lag and explore a city I had visited during my college days. Our flight was early and as the only Viking passengers, so we had private car take us to the hotel. Astonishing, our room was ready by 9:00 a.m. Location of Renaissance was easy walking to various sights. Transfer to ship included a panoramic bus trip.

 

Barcelona: We skipped the included panoramic tour, which would have taken us back to some of the places we had already visited. Spent time walking through the Gothic Quarter, thankful for the prime docking location near the Columbus monument.

 

Cartagena: the included walking tour was a delight, as was our guide. The bus tour gave us time to see the countryside and learn the history of the area.

 

Malaga (Granada): optional excursion - Andalusian hospitality was a small group, 16 people. Olive and almond growing area of Alfarnate. Lunch in the homes of locals.

 

Porto: optional excursion - Aveleda winery. Didn’t really tour the winery but the grounds. The gardens in spring bloom were wonderful to this gardener from Wisconsin, 28 inches of snow the weekend we sailed. Perfect opportunity to stock up on some regional wines to enjoy on the ship.

 

Falmouth (Cornwall): included tour of the countryside. Yes, another bus ride with local commentary. But a sunny day in England was reason enough to rejoice. The volunteers at the port were so very welcoming.

 

Portsmouth: ah, a tour that overlapped Twitchly. I found most of the time at Stonehenge to be waiting for the shuttle bus. As Viking arrived with their 4 buses to merge with other tours. The lunch was nice, but I would have preferred more time for independent exploration of Salisbury.

 

LeHavre: independent tour of DDay beaches. Thanks to this forum and our role call, we arranged a private tour, 3 couples with a local enthusiast. One of the highlights.

 

Bruges: optional tour - Ghent, city of chocolate. A smaller group broken into 2 groups for a walking tour and visit to a chocolatier with free time to explore.

 

Amsterdam: included tour, one of our favorite guides. Canal and bus. Watch out for the bicycles. Another city from my past travels.

 

Bergen: family time. My husband contacted his second cousin who lives near Bergen. We thought we’d meet for coffee or lunch. Well, the family threw us a party with 18 new found relatives in the village of Helle, 50km from Bergen. Highlight of highlights.

 

Iceland post-cruise extension: Early in the season, the weather thought we should experience sun, rain, snow and wind. Dressed appropriately, and enjoyed the stark beauty. Reykjavik is surprisingly modern. The hotel, a Hilton, wasn’t near the city center, but we adventured in our free time using the bus system.

 

Sea Days: a welcome reprieve from touring.

 

Other onboard activities: cooking demo, galley tour, bridge tour, cooking class, movies under the stars, wine tasting, future cruise deals.

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AuntieWerewolf10,

 

We’re booked on this cruise in October and are interested in a more in-depth Normandy tour. So I wonder if you would share the details of your tour. Many thanks for your consideration.

 

This tour was high on my husband’s must do list. His father was in Patton’s army and came to France in August following D Day.

 

I contacted two companies in January for our April tour.

- Overload put us on a waitlist to see if there was enough interest. Never heard from them again, but I did see their vehicles at some of the locations.

- Normandy Guided Tours was more responsive and we were very pleased with Francis Paz, our guide. The cost was €880 for a 7 passenger van. We had three couples, so the cost based on the exchange rate was less than what Viking charges ($199). Deposit of €100 held the reservation. Balance was due in euros at end of tour. We found the other two couples via our CC roll call. Normandyguidedtours.com

 

Hope that helps your research. We did take a number of Viking included tours but felt a small group tour was a better use of our time for Normandy.

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Thanks for the prompt reply! I’ve put my husband, retired military, in charge of this research, but thought I’d check with you once I saw your post. We too want to get the most from this particular port visit.

 

This tour was high on my husband’s must do list. His father was in Patton’s army and came to France in August following D Day.

 

I contacted two companies in January for our April tour.

- Overload put us on a waitlist to see if there was enough interest. Never heard from them again, but I did see their vehicles at some of the locations.

- Normandy Guided Tours was more responsive and we were very pleased with Francis Paz, our guide. The cost was €880 for a 7 passenger van. We had three couples, so the cost based on the exchange rate was less than what Viking charges ($199). Deposit of €100 held the reservation. Balance was due in euros at end of tour. We found the other two couples via our CC roll call. Normandyguidedtours.com

 

Hope that helps your research. We did take a number of Viking included tours but felt a small group tour was a better use of our time for Normandy.

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Twitchly,

What a fabulous review! We leave on Viking Sky in just under three weeks, so I was very excited by your wonderful description. Our itinerary is Bergen to London, so I was particularly interested in Bergen and the the train to Oslo, which we will do in reverse. Glad I reserved seats on the right, as DH loves to take photos. So much to look forward to! Thanks!

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What a thoughtful, articulate and well written review. Thanks for sharing your experience. Best wishes from a kindred spirit traveler!

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Forums

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Thank you all for your complete reviews!  We are booked on for this cruise in October 6, 2019 and were hoping to find out from other cruisers the "real" info on ports.

 

We've done several Viking Ocean cruises, one of our favorite parts are the really interesting "expert" discussions.l  Also good to know that our thoughts about a couple of the ports are correct (Amsterdam, La Havre) -- no need to repeat included tours.

 

The one repeat we are looking forward to is Bergen.  That was our last stop following our "Into the Midnight Sun" cruise  and we simply did not have enough time there!  Normandy is also a "do not miss" tour!!!

 

Hope to see some/all on a Viking cruise soon!  😊

 

Sue and Joe

 

 

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12 hours ago, HHHawkeye said:

Thank you all for your complete reviews!  We are booked on for this cruise in October 6, 2019 and were hoping to find out from other cruisers the "real" info on ports.

 

We've done several Viking Ocean cruises, one of our favorite parts are the really interesting "expert" discussions.l  Also good to know that our thoughts about a couple of the ports are correct (Amsterdam, La Havre) -- no need to repeat included tours.

 

The one repeat we are looking forward to is Bergen.  That was our last stop following our "Into the Midnight Sun" cruise  and we simply did not have enough time there!  Normandy is also a "do not miss" tour!!!

 

Hope to see some/all on a Viking cruise soon!  😊

 

Sue and Joe

 

 

We did this cruise beginning on October 6, 2018, and enjoyed it very much, though the weather was not very cooperative, with the residue of two different hurricaines impacting our trip . We missed the stop in Falmouth as the port was closed, and that was a real disappointment, but c'est la vie! 

 

If you choose not to take the included tour to Paris from Le Havre, I'll cast my vote for Honfleur, a charming fishing village just a half hour from the port. 

 

From Malaga, if you have never been to Granada to see the Alhambra, that is a must-see in my book, but the Viking optional excursion did fill up fast, and so you may wish to pursue a private tour. We had been there before, so we opted to take the included excursion of Malaga, which was delightful. We stayed behind after the tour and returned to the ship on the Viking shuttle. On our own, we climbed (and it was quite strenuous) up through the Alcazaba, which offers a beautiful view of the city and a great tour of the fortress. At the top is the palace, which reminded me of a petite version of the Alhambra. It was worth the effort to make the climb.

 

From Zeebruge,  Bruges was a real highlight. We did the Bruges on Your Own Viking tour, though there are a number of other optional tours available that include Bruges. The included tour, however, does not go there.

 

Have fun planning, hope you have good weather, and enjoy your cruise!

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