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SM77

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  1. So much for the calm seas that we had outrunning Trevor, it’s the middle of the night and we are rolling a bit. We have been both plagued with allergies and have been feeling poorly since Cairns so we have taken advantage of the sea days and stayed in the cabin resting. We did celebrate our anniversary in Manfredi’s - we were treated to champagne and a lovely cake. A wonderful evening. We did the included tour of Darwin which was not much. We went to the museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory which was not part of the tour description or really described in the port talk. The guide wanted us to spend two hours there, we agreed as a bus, an hour & a half would be plenty. We did drive out to Eastern Point and passed by the few interesting buildings in the CBD. We got dropped off by the shuttle stop so we could do a little shopping. Not much of a shopping area but there was a very nice independent bookstore. It was brutally hot & humid. I was so glad that we did our shopping so that we wouldn’t need to go out the next day. Everyone was wiped out by the heat & humidity. Speaking of the next morning, it was quite a storm. We were having breakfast in the World Cafe watching the sky get darker & darker and boom, a huge wind gust came through and everything on the outdoor tables came crashing to the deck and the skies opened up. You could feel the ship being pushed by the wind. Staff & crew were running around to clear off the tables & secure the chairs, getting soaked in the process. The rain was blowing horizontal & coming in at the base of the side glass doors. This was going on for a while & we were back in our cabin before the captain announced that the gangway was closed. The captain did mention the wind speed was about 55 knots. So glad we had planned to stay on board. The good news after the storm was that the temperature dropped to the mid-70’s.
  2. We are on the Orion, one of the newest ships. Amazing, internet access & speed have been very good, the best of any ocean or river cruise I have taken. I think the latest technology on this particular ship makes a huge difference.
  3. October 2018 we started a Mediterranean cruise from Athens. We used Michael’s Amazing Tours for our airport & port transfers and a full day tour of Athens & Cape Sounion. Fabulous service - highly recommend them. Check them out on TripAdvisor- small business owner, easy to work with via email.
  4. CharTrav, You might find it useful to look at some earlier live posts from Little Monty who did the cruise from Bali to Auckland. My only regret is that I didn’t think about how much more time I would have liked in Sydney. We went with doing both segments since it is such a long journey from the U.S. east coast. And I really wanted to go to Tasmania but could have skipped the two sea days to get there from Dunedin - even on a good day it’s a hard passage for those who get seasick easily. I’m assuming heading eastbound, the ship sails in mid-day so you get the full effect of sailing into Sydney Harbor. That is not to be missed. For us, this was the easiest way to go, minimal work on our part & being taken care of the entire time. Yes, there are some trade-offs but we are fine with that. It is a lot of work to plan an entire itinerary & I don’t have the patience to do it all. I have a hard enough time just planning the odd free day! Hope this helps. I have found excellent information and advice on many of the Cruise Critic boards.
  5. We were not surprised by the captain’s announcement. We had been watching BBC news & they had mentioned something building & heading southwest towards the peninsula below Thursday Island. We’ve been extremely fortunate to have had such fabulous weather until now. Of course we are disappointed in missing the opportunity to see Thursday Island but if we have to miss a port this would be the one that we are ok w/ missing. We are on our way up the coast on our Sea day, it is raining & the seas have a few whitecaps. I think the captain is trying to get around the peninsula before the storm hits the peninsula. Please forgive my simplistic explanation, I’m not a meteorologist nor a sea navigator. CharTrav - thanks for the weather link! Love all the tropical flora but it doesn’t love me. I’ve have developed a cough from all the pollen so I have been feeling poorly, so our visits to Townsville & Cairns have been limited to the included tours. Our weakest tour guide was in Cairns - she wasn’t very specific about meeting instructions & was confused about where to get maps of the botanical gardens. We went to Palm Cove which was very nice but not clear as to why it was part of the Cairns city tour aside that is was a very nice place. We had a fabulous day on the Barrier Reef. The cataraman picked all 180 Viking guests right at the ship & we headed directly to the pontoon. Plenty of crew, went over medical fitness for snorkeling, went over the basics of snorkeling, safety signals, etc. They provided all equipment including stinger suits. There was another cataraman with other clients(120) that we would share the pontoon with. A crew member told me that the cataraman that we were on can hold 300 passengers. I didn’t quite understand how it would all work but essentially the pontoon is just the platform to do the snorkeling from, any scuba diving, riding on the glass bottom boat. The cataraman is where the restrooms are, where lunch, snacks, & drinks are provided, so the cataraman is tied up to the pontoon. Yes, it was busy w/ 300 passengers but for a novice it was perfect. Plenty of staff to help you get outfited, fitted for a life jacket (almost all of us had life jackets due to medical background), etc. I had a little trouble getting off the platform so the young man helped me sit down(which is no easy feat with bad knees) - there is a roped area that you can stay within & they have plenty of spotters to keep an eye out for you. So I snorkeled which was a lot harder than when I did it in my 20’s in a lagoon in the Philippines some 35 plus years ago. This probably would not have been good for anyone that was an experienced snorkeler - too many novices around. You could have hired a guide to take further out which one couple I spoke to did and they had a great time. Some complained that it was too crowded. I didn’t think it was too bad. Sounds like they can have a lot more than 300. We had perfect weather conditions. Unfortunately, the Barrier Reef is getting bleached due to warmer sea waters, however the fish are still brilliant & beautiful. This was my once in a lifetime experience & I did it!
  6. Your question whether the excursions run both east & westbound would be best answered by Tellus@viking.com. With regards to your second question about the pricing being adjusted for the time off the ship, I would doubt that is considered. We’ve done other extensive excursions & the pricing is usually reflective of the costliness of the excursion. This is an optional excursion.
  7. Aussie Cruise Nuts, Thanks so much for posting the photos - it will be a nice memento from our stay in Brisbane. We had an outstanding excursion despite the warmth! We did a city tour - got to see City Hall, Custom’s House, Anzac Square (that’s where the shuttle stopped), St. John’s, Roma Street Parkland, went over Story & William Jolly bridges. And the best part of our excursion, we went to the Lone Pine Sanctuary. Viking (or the tour company) arranged for each bus to have ten minutes w/ a gamekeeper holding the koala while we each took turns gently patting the koala’s back & take a photo w/ the koala. It was fascinating to be this close & the little guy was very alert and interested in his surroundings. Folks also had the opportunity to hold & have a professional photo w/ a koala for a fee. It was fun to observe the koalas in their habitat. We also got to feed and pet kangaroos & wallabies. We were amazed at the number of new buildings going up. It is certainly a big city. Today we are at sea, enjoying another glorious sunny & very warm day. I think weather looks good for Whitsundays & Townsville. You will love being on the Orion - the staff are wonderful. I think compared to other Viking (& other cruises we have taken) - the Orion staff have been the most friendly & taking extra efforts & initiative to ensure that you have an exceptional cruise. We have been very pleased.
  8. Thanks LM for the welcome! We are at Sea today & it’s been fun sitting on the balcony looking for wildlife & enjoying the calm waters. Speaking of ports, kudos to Viking for providing a water ferry from White Bay Cruise Terminal to Circular Quay, especially on the transition day when we had free time to explore. It really made a difference in enjoying Sydney - I was really stressing over what was the best way to get to Circular Quay & Viking took care of it! Plus it was a great ride in the Harbour.
  9. We are on the Orion now (continuing from Auckland, heading to Brisbane) & just finished our third show. For the Sydney to Bali, you can now reserve your spot for which show you want using the interactive TV. It worked well & the person checks you in at the door. There are three rows, four seats on either side of an aisle. Two single seats in the ‘Fourth Row’. We had two passengers sit in those last seats today; I thought the number of tickets per show was 24 but maybe I’m miscounting. It is announced that you can leave, but you need to let the tech person know so he can turn on the lights so you can exit safely(there are steps & the door is hard to see). As for the shows, we were planning to skip the ‘Space’ show since Cruise Critic feedback was very negative but Viking changed it to ‘Journey to Space’ (2015) which was a 45 minute documentary about the Space Shuttle trips to the International Space Station. The other two were about Dolphins & Whales(2008) and Life Under the Arctic Sky (2016) which is about Northern Lights and Arctic people called the Sami’s & their reindeer. We thought the Space film was the best of the three. It’s all about seeing 3D film projected on a dome. Even the Space documentary felt ‘dated’. I don’t know how many short 3D films are available to be shown. The computer needed re-booting today so we didn’t start on time. The other day I heard that the projector got too hot so they couldn’t run the film that night. It seems to be an expensive experience since you have to have a tech person dedicated to running the show each time. The shows run five times per day on a Sea day, less on a port day depending on which port. I’m glad that I got to experience it & see the three shows but I wouldn’t repeat them. As I have mentioned in the my other post - Live from Orion Auckland to Bali - Crossing the Tasman Sea, I think the planetarium takes up a lot of space on the upper level of the Explorer Lounge which cuts into nice open reading space for people. The astronomy lectures have been in the Star theater. I don’t think it’s what we envisioned it to be.
  10. It was a beautiful area. We had sunny, warm, & humid weather, a preview of what’s to come. We did the included tour which focused on the coast line. Great views from the fort. The memorial walk along the coast most enjoyed. I had skipped it since it involved steps at the end & I didn’t want to hold up anyone. We stopped at one beach - the tour was originally advertised as two hours but it was three. Probably lengthened to allow for the opportunities to get off the bus more. We had a great tour guide & bus driver. The driver was maneuvering in tight residential areas. There was a shuttle into town but we did not go in. Newcastle has a population of 850K in the city, 1.5 million in the greater metro area.
  11. I do have an account at Wells Fargo & do the exact same thing that jiminy_Cfan does. I like to give tips in the local currency to the guides. Usually we charge everything else on a card that doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee.
  12. We are currently sailing towards Sydney. Unfortunately the skies are gray & we are getting a bit of rain. Hopefully it will clear up as we approach Sydney Harbor. Viking thinks of everything - tomorrow is the ‘free’ day for a number of us continuing onto Bali & beyond. In addition to a couple of excursions, Viking is offering a water shuttle from White Bay to Circular Quay. So we will hop on that instead of trying to find our way on the public ferries from East Balmain. The seas have been much calmer once we left the Tasman Sea so I am thankful. Like Stretch Cruz, our best bus tour driver was for Melbourne. He was an excellent safe driver & covered a lot of places. Surprisingly in Hobart we had both the tour guide & separate bus driver. Also a wonderful bus tour, our guide added in Rosny Point which brought us across the Hobart Bridge as well. Loved visiting Hobart. We been having a hard time finding souvenir tee shirts but a nice young woman at the Made in Tansmania shop told us about a place next to Mawson’s Hut so we got Tansmania tee shirts! We saw two of the films - Dolphins & Whales and Space. Both were quite good, they must of replaced the previous space film after the feedback. The planetarium is quite nice, but I think losing the seating space on the upper level is a shame. We tried out the spa facilities & the steam room & jacuzzi are great! This is a really nice perk but can be crowded, especially on a Sea day. We are loving this cruise & are looking forward to our second leg!
  13. I did stop by Guest Services to discuss. It seems that the wait staff do not have a device to immediately swipe your room key so they just take the room number verbally. However the wait staff can see your images when pulling up the cabin number so that is some checking. The best that Viking can figure out who ordered the wine is to talk w/ the waiter(if he/she remembers). I would like to think it was a mistake, didn’t hear the room number clearly, etc. I think someone got a free bottle of sparkling wine. Or if they correctly remember & add it to their bill once they check their charges. Not that I have cruised that much, but we have never experienced this before. We tend not to run up purchases on our account, I prefer to pre-pay as much as possible before cruising. And we would not run up a big bar bill either. I’m just glad I noticed the charge now. I wonder how often does this occur. On a different note, last night was quite a bumpy night so those who didn’t bring meds & are prone to seasickness would have been miserable. I felt a little bit crummy this AM but it passed quickly. I’m just glad I had my patches. I don’t think I could survive on a transatlantic cruise. We should arrive in Hobart by 10 AM according to the captain. So excited to see Tasmania!
  14. Stretchcruz, Nice to hear that they are trying to make up for mishaps in the Restaurant. We had a very good lunch today @ the Restaurant & management was eager to find out how our meals were. Tonight I had checked our onboard account & there was a $25 charge from the Aquavit bar from 2/27. We did not order anything from the bar so I called Guest Services. They asked if we had ordered a bottle of sparkling wine & I said no. Guest Services said that they will have finance take it off in the AM. We have never ordered any drinks from the bar but I thought the bar staff used the Viking card to charge to the cabin. Just taking the cabin number verbally results in mistakes like this or for someone to give someone else’s cabin number. This has never happened before to us.
  15. So after a wonderful week in New Zealand , we are heading across the Tasman Sea. Last night was a bit bumpy; we have had a few bumpy nights on this cruise already. As Stretchcruz mentioned, we left Dunedin two hours late. Not sure if the ship was traveling faster last night to make up for the lost time, hence the rougher passage. There are a few white caps; I made sure that I put a patch on last night so that I wouldn’t get seasick. It’s hard for me walking around but folks seem to be OK. So this might be a better passage than what Little Monty experienced. We have been lucky & had very good tour/bus drivers throughout our NZ week, including yesterday in Dunedin. We were the early City Tour which started late because we got into port late. We also ran almost three hours instead of 2.5 hours. I’m sure the PM city tour groups were frustrated w/ the delay w/ the PM tours. We definitely needed 3 hours & could have spent more time @ the railroad station than what we were allowed. I gave that as our feedback. There was a free shuttle that we could have taken back if we wanted to stay in Dunedin longer (& the rail station was in walking distance) but the ride back to Port Chalmers is 30 minutes & we were tired & hungry (we had skipped breakfast). From my perspective, Tauranga, Napier, & Dunedin were the best ports. I understand that Christchurch was one of the missed ports on an earlier cruise. Lyttleon is a really small harbor w/ a narrow opening. It was quite interesting to watch the Orion maneuver into port. Can understand if there was any wind why the port would be skipped. Too much of a chance to take out one of the piers. There wasn’t that much to see in Christchurch, lots of newer buildings, empty lots where buildings once stood, a heavily damaged Christchurch Cathedral (which will be restored to its former beauty). The ship is gorgeous. Staff is really wonderful. Food is very good, not exceptional. I think I have been spoiled by Oceania’s cuisine. Manfredi’s was very good, but we found the service to be very slow. We had a 6:00 PM reservation, took two hours for dinner. We went to the Chef’s Table last night. Service was much better. The México menu was fine, but not something I would sign up for again. We were disappointed on the Baltic w/ the Asian Peking Duck dinner as well. On this trip, we will also try the Thailand & the other Asian Cantonese menu. On a very positive note, there’s a food station opposite the WC bar that does omelets for breakfast, pasta for lunch & Asian for dinner! The Asian offerings include a different stir fry dish every night & every night, pork dumpling soup, chicken noodle soup, dan dan noodles. The pork dumpling are the best. It’s actually pork wontons w/ a very thin egg noodle wrapper. Almost as good as any Cantonese-styled pork wontons. Between the sushi, sashimi, & this Asian station, I am set. We usually don’t go to the Restaurant since we think it takes too long, so I sympathize w/ others on the slowness of that venue. Since it is a Sea day, we will chance the Restaurant for lunch as a change. The pool grill is excellent and we just love the gelato offerings. Haven’t had a chance to have afternoon tea yet. Internet has has been pretty good. Logging on was easy, your cabin # & last name. It easily re-establishes connection when you come back on. In fact, outside of the ship, on a bus, I was still getting WiFi. My Apple Map gps only works in port. Apple News doesn’t load so I haven’t been reading my usual news feeds. That’s all for now.
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