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  1. I've put together the following but I would want to emphasise that my wife & I were first-time Viking cruisers so don't have any previous Viking experience to compare against, and this was Viking's first cruise with their COVID protocols in place so the experience of subsequent cruisers is likely to be different as the protocols get eased. COVID Protocols There were several layers to testing and keeping everyone safe: Social distancing. Where necessary, some chairs/seats were marked with a "do not sit" sign. There was additional signage to show that certain seats could only be used by passengers from the same stateroom. Elevators and pools were capacity-restricted. Seating in excursion buses and coaches was also socially distanced. Masks in public areas, only to be removed if eating/drinking. Passengers were really good at complying with this, often being embarrassed or apologising if (for example) they went up to the buffet and had forgotten to put their mask back on. Temperature checks. Facial-recognition & temperature-checking camera systems at the World Cafe, the Restaurant and Guest Services. My wife & I did not need to remove our masks but some passengers did in order for the facial recognition to work. Sanitising. In addition to soap & water at the World Cafe, there were automated sanitisers ALL OVER THE PLACE! These were *really good* systems as well, dispensing a short burst of spray rather than sanitiser liquid which can often be hard to dry on your hands. PCR tests. OK, possibly the worst aspect in terms of generating 2ml of saliva each morning but it was in the comfort and privacy of your own stateroom and I would much rather go through this than be on a cruise ship that wasn't testing and therefore run the risk of the virus spreading. It was made clear that the rules are likely to change over time. Certainly, on the last night in the Star Theatre, they did reduce the amount of social distancing (i.e. more seats could be used) but it wasn't entirely clear to me if that was going to be permanent for the next cruise or just because we were leaving the ship the next morning. It would be interesting to hear from subsequent cruisers to see if anything else has changed. Entertainment & Enrichment There wasn't a lot of non-enrichment going on - two movies, one trivia quiz. Everything else was lectures and port talks. I hope that this mix is adjusted on future cruises as, for me, the lecture topics didn't really appeal. We loved the three musical shows and Sofia (the piano player) is outstanding. The stateroom TV has a wide selection of movies and some interesting music on demand. There was a lot of pre-recorded Viking material plus recordings of lectures/talks that took place during the cruise. Live TV was about 50% news channels and the rest was a mix of content but, without an EPG of any sort, it was almost impossible to find something of interest to watch. I realise that the simplicity of the remote control is something that the Chairman has pushed for but I'd love to see the capability/flexibility of connecting your own laptop/table to the TV for watching your own content. Internet access was really good. It is made clear up front that it is not to be used for streaming but everything else I used it for worked absolutely fine. The fact that it is free to crew and guests alike is a big gold star for Viking. Food The quality of the food was great to excellent. The temperature of the food was excellent and side dishes like the steamed vegetables were cooked perfectly. Menu choices were varied and we rarely chose one of the "always available" menu items. What was an absolute bonus was chatting to the staff in the World Cafe about the room service menu and being told that we could order items from that and eat them in the Cafe. The room service menu has some *really* nice items - I can definitely recommend the apple pie! The afternoon tea is a delightful experience and you can have coffee if you don't like tea 🙂 It was really nice being able to take a glass of wine away from the meal to finish at your own pace elsewhere, e.g. in the Star Theatre. Staff/crew I am blown away by the staff & crew of the Viking Venus. They are all happy (particularly the captain!) and eager to talk to you. Many ask your name and then remember you next time they see you, and the next time, and the next ... 🙂. Some, like Putu (who some may know from other cruises), go above and beyond by recommending custom options - Putu particularly loved coming up with ice cream combos 🙂 Excursions Often the trickiest part to evaluate a cruise for because they are not operated by the cruise company itself. That said, they are *picked* by the cruise company so I do hold them somewhat responsible. As first-time Viking cruisers, we wanted to try both included and optional excursions. We'd already been to Liverpool so picked the included excursion which was a coach ride around parts of Liverpool but it was really let down by the commentary. Our guide said at least 3 times that he was rusty because he hadn't done this for so long. The route picked was all over the place, again with commentary about how it was disrupted by roadworks. I couldn't help but feel that some homework should have been done to be less rusty and plan the route in advance. For the remaining ports, we picked optional walking tours. Of the two we did (because the Isles of Scilly was skipped), we enjoyed the Lizard the best for the scenery and the commentary. The Jurassic excursion was, we felt, paced too quickly, leaving us with almost no opportunity to actually take in the scenery or stop for photos. To cap it off, we had time to ourselves at the end, with the guide recommending we went to the pub ... which didn't really feel like that was within the Viking excursion rules but hey ho! I was a bit disappointed with the pricing of the optional excursions. $99 for a walking tour per person seemed quite high. The Ship Venus is, to a large degree, identical to her sister ships so there probably isn't a lot of comparison to make here. All I would say, as a first-time Viking cruiser, is that the atmosphere was calm and quiet. There were so many times when we'd be walking around and see absolutely nobody. It does leave me with a niggling concern as to what a full ship will feel like - do the pool areas get crammed? Does the spa pool area get too busy? I hope we find out next year 🙂
  2. I've just checked with Guest Services. Breakfast is available in the World Cafe, the Restaurant or Room Service. It starts at 6:00am 🙂
  3. In case the disembarkation procedure is particularly different from previous Viking cruises, here is what the procedure sheet says: Viking Venus is due to dock in the port of Portsmouth at Berth 2, 00:00 AM. PREPARING YOUR LUGGAGE We have provided colour-coded luggage tags to help you locate and identify your luggage in the terminal. Please fill out the information on these tags, remove any old tags and attach the new ones. Please leave your tagged luggage outside your stateroom on the evening of Friday, May 28th, no later than 9:00 PM, for complimentary delivery to the terminal. Any luggage not left outside your stateroom will be your responsibility to transport, as no onboard porterage is available on disembarkation day. Passports, medications, breakables and valuables should be kept in your possession or in your carry-on luggage. YOUR DEPARTURE All staterooms must be vacated by 7:30 AM. Please check for any personal items before you leave, especially inside the safe. When you disembark we kindly ask that you have your passport and stateroom key card readily available. A shuttle service has been arranged to transport you to the terminal. This service will run continuously between 7:15 AM and 8:30 AM. The shuttle service is not mandatory and if you wish to walk to the Terminal you can take this option. Once you reach the terminal, luggage will be separated by the colour-coded tags. It will be your responsibility to personally identify all your luggage. Bags often look similar to one another, so please make sure you have identified your own luggage to avoid any confusion. Porters will be available to assist you. -------- Please note that I have not included the section on setting the shipboard account as that does seem rather standard. It is interesting to note that, when embarking, the shuttle service from the Terminal to the ship was mandatory but, now we're leaving the Viking Bubble, it isn't 🙂 No mention of breakfast so I need to check with Guest Services as to our options. I think that everything is running normally as the App does list breakfast menus but we're still having some IT glitches (no Daily on the TV or the app today) so I want to double-check.
  4. They only held trivia once on this cruise, on the Sunday in the Explorers' Lounge. I'm not sure why it isn't being held today 😞 Speaking of trivia, here is some other information about non-lecture events: One movie in the Star Theater - "Midway". One movie Under the Stars (a.k.a the Pool Deck) - "The Commitments". Three musical shows in the Star Theater - "The Beatles Songbook", "A Musical Journey to the Sounds of the Sixties" and "The ABBA Songbook".
  5. I'm working my way through it now - it is a fascinating read. We are definitely planning to do a WC with Viking but it won't be for many years yet. Still, we've got a couple of other Viking cruises lined up to keep us happy in 2022 and 2023 🙂
  6. The following should be read in the context that (a) this is our first cruise with Viking and (b) due to reduced passenger counts and COVID protocols, I don't see this as being entirely representative of cruising with Viking 🙂 That said ... we are loving this cruise. We feel very safe, both on the ship and off. The crew are amazing. So many of them have asked for our names and then recognise us when they see us again, even with our masks on. There is *so* much seating around the ship compared with other cruiselines we've been with (Disney, P & O) and each area has its own feel to it. The crew, particularly in the Living Room, Explorers' Lounge and World Cafe, are attentive to providing food and beverage service without being pushy/nagging. Indeed, we've observed (for example) that if (say) you've had orange juice for breakfast and they see you've drunk it all, they ask if you want more and, if you don't, they take the glass away so that you don't keep on being asked. What we've particularly liked is that, because wine is included in lunch and dinner, there is no problem whatsoever with taking any wine left over at the end of the meal away with you, e.g. to the Star Theatre. Entertainment-wise, we've loved Sofia, the onboard pianist who we've listened to in the Atrium/Living Room area and also in the Wintergarden while having afternoon tea(!). Last night, we went to the Star Theatre to listen to the Viking Venus Vocalists sing a select of Beatles songs. Tonight, they are singing songs from the 60s. Apart from that, we've not attended any lectures but I have watched a couple of the port talks on the stateroom TV (they are all recorded and available afterwards on demand). To be honest, the post from @Peregrina651 in the "Tell Me Why" post suggested by @Clay Clayton pretty much sums up why we decided to try Viking. We are very much looking forward to the "full" Viking experience next year and beyond.
  7. @rachiem I meant to add the following points: If you want to do the included tour, you still need to book it. Some of the included tours are being run at multiple times so you need to pick the time that works best for you. Viking are maintaining social distancing on buses so need to get the numbers right. If you want to book an optional tour, it was the case that for the current Venus cruise, the optional tours could only be booked onboard. This *should* be possible via the stateroom TV, the Viking app or via Guest Services. Again, for the current cruise, I had to book via Guest Services but hopefully the IT glitches have been ironed out now. Also ... if you do want to book an optional tour, try to book it as quickly as possible when you have boarded. I've heard from guests on the current cruise that they could not get one or more of the optional tours because they had sold out.
  8. There is one included tour for each port, typically a coach ride. There are optional alternatives but there is a charge.
  9. This is the first Viking cruise for my wife & I so I cannot make any comparisons with a "normal" Viking cruise but I will try to provide detail/depth as to the current experience. To a large degree, my wife & I are keeping ourselves to ourselves. The seating is marked for social distancing and there are signs making it clear that adjacent seats can only be used by two people from the same household so any interaction between guests tends to be at something of a distance. We were talking to a couple at the Portsmouth port terminal and we've seen them on a couple of occasions during the cruise and talked more with them but it has been at the World Cafe as we've been leaving. The crew/staff are very interactive though and very happy to see guests on board. We've had quite a few conversations with crew and a lot of laughs. We haven't been wearing our masks when walking around the prom deck but we've seen some guests who have kept them on. I *think* that Viking have only asked that masks are worn inside. There was a trivia session on the first sea day but we missed it. Today has been turned into an ad-hoc sea day so only lectures, although I'm looking forward to the Viking singers tonight singing Beatles songs. Books ... there are books *everywhere* and they seem to cover a wide range of fiction and non-fiction from what I've seen. I'm not sure how many guests are reading them - I haven't seen any guidance about disinfecting them, etc. With regards to the Scilly Isles, I think it was *primarily* called off because it was a tender-port. For Falmouth and Portland, we dock and the captain seemed pretty certain that we'll be OK at those ports. The weather forecast does look as if it gets better ... just in time for us to finish the cruise 🙂
  10. Absolutely. The captain made it very clear that this will not impact on our arrival at Liverpool. Again, I suspect that this is one of the reasons why this first cruise is a small set of passengers. When we checked in at the port terminal, it was clear that staff were being trained on how to register the contact tracing devices, etc, and I suspect that there are other areas of the ship, including the PCR lab, where crew are finding the optimal way to do things.
  11. Some thoughts/comments from embarkation this morning. I doubt I've included everything and I know from other posts that there are other cruisers on this particular cruise so shout out if you have questions ... We had opted for CPS parking which, as previously commented, was changed from "valet parking" to self-parking. This actually worked really well. We drove towards the cruise terminal as sign-posted and were stopped by a CPS representative who checked our car registration number. He then directed us towards the multi-storey car park. Please note that I do *not* know if this is the same car park used by people who had booked to park directly. Upon entering the multi-storey car park, we were asked to stop briefly while they off-loaded our suitcases for delivery to the ship and they took photos of the car. We were then directed around the corner where we parked the car, got out and walked off to the ship, which was a very short walk indeed. Processing at the port terminal was well organised but didn't take advantage of things that we'd already done like the Comfort Check-in. By that, I mean that in addition to having our temperatures taken, we answered the same questions as we had answered on the health questionnaire and then, after waiting in a seated area to prevent crowding in the queue, we were checked-in but that process involved taking our photos all over again (something that Comfort Check-in had dealt with). The check-in staff handed us our room cards and individual contact tracing devices. These are small white discs on red Viking lanyards. I think that these are essentially self-contained versions of what the NHS Covid App does - ping out an ID reference and keep track of any heard IDs so that, should you test positive for Covid at some point, the crew can determine who you've been in contact with and when. Viking make it clear that no personal information or GPS location data is collected. The next steps involved another temperature check (this time by thermal camera) then X-ray scans of carry-on items then a bus to the ship. Seats on the bus (and in the pre-queue waiting area) were clearly marked to ensure social distancing, as are all of the seating areas around the ship. At the ship, hand sanitisers before boarding, room card scanning upon boarding then we were taken to one of the two emergency muster stations - the theatre or the restaurant - for a brief demonstration of how to put on the life jackets. Apparently these are a new design. They certainly looked smaller than ones I've seen on other cruise lines but I don't know if they are new to Viking. After that, straight to our cabins where we had to watch the emergency information video, provide a 2ml saliva sample for PCR testing and fill out an anonymous form about when we'd had our vaccinations. I ended up having to watch the emergency information video twice because the first time we watched it, the system didn't display a prompt at the end to confirm we'd watched it. This was the first of many tiny IT glitches 🙂 With that done, I went down to Guest Services to book the non-included excursions we wanted to do while my wife unpacked the suitcases which had already been delivered to our room. Unfortunately, I couldn't book the excursions on the TV or via the Viking app because of ... those tiny IT glitches 🙂 That's it for now. From then on, it was what I feel was standard fare for being on a Viking ship but I'm happy to answer any questions.
  12. I guess that makes sense. It allows Viking to make sure that the ship & crew have bedded in and that their health protocols are working. Speaking of health protocols, the captain has just announced a delayed departure from Portsmouth because they are still carrying out the PCR tests... It will be interesting to see how frequently Viking ask us to get tested.
  13. I did notice that CPS had added some extra codes for Venus cruises before 22nd May so this explains that. Lucky friends!
  14. Here you go: Arriving by car: Designated car parking for Viking guests is available at Portsmouth’s cruise terminal. Upon arrival, a port representative will be on hand to guide you to your parking spot and the bag drop area. Your luggage will be delivered directly to your stateroom. Car parking is charged at £10/day. Payment can be made in advance online at https://www.cruiseparking.co.uk or upon arrival on site by card. No cash payments are accepted. The cruise terminal is a 5-minute walk from the car park. Please arrive at the cruise terminal at your allocated embarkation time slot where you will be greeted by a Viking Representative. o The car park address is: Portsmouth International Port, George Byng Way, Portsmouth PO2 8SP. Sorry I omitted it - I wasn't sure how useful that bit would be. Having read it a few times as I don't think it is entirely clear, I think it reads as if there will be a bag drop area at the car park.
  15. Key points from the latest update received by email from Viking: Upon arrival at the cruise terminal, passengers will be provided with a welcome pack containing a cruise card and a contact-tracing dongle. After passing through security, a designated shuttle bus will transfer passengers to the ship. Passengers will then proceed to their stateroom where they will be required to provide a saliva sample. Passengers are asked to refrain from consuming any food or beverage item or smoking for at least one hour before submitting the saliva sample. While waiting for the test results, vaccinated guests will be able to use the public spaces onboard while observing current mask and social distancing requirements, or they may remain in their statement and enjoy a welcome snack and complimentary refreshments. Passengers will be tested periodically on board the ship as required by Viking. All guests must leave the ship by 8:30AM on the morning of departure.
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