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WanderingBrit

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Everything posted by WanderingBrit

  1. Unless it's free I would not use a cruise line provided air, as I'm not willing to cede that much control to someone else. We also have a ton of points and can only leverage them when booking direct with the airline.
  2. Yes, they do - not because it's any great distance but more because of port security. It's a little shuttle bus that just runs back and forth from the dock to the pleasure harbor, which is very central to "down town". We were fortunate to hit Torshavn on one of its rare dry and sunny days, and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. We were docked where shown, bus drop off/pick up is the red dot by the bus symbol
  3. When I've done the side by side cost comparison Viking has been pretty evenly priced when I consider all the aspects we value: - No children - No formal nights - No assigned dining time or location - A simple, low effort, dining option any time that's all we have the energy for (The World Cafe on Viking) - No casino, or art auction - No additional charge for "specialty" dining, or using the spa - Included drinks, in cabin and at meals - An included excursion and onboard enrichment talks If an alternative cruise line doesn't match those criteria we're not likely to consider them, and so the cost comparison is not one that arises. If there's one that's a close match we should consider, please suggest it!
  4. Understood - you don't need to rebook or change anything, just ask for deferred final payment.
  5. You should be able to get the same deferred final payment date for your 2026 cruise on the basis of already having a July 2024 cruise booked. Just ask them to change the date for your 2026 cruise. We did basically the same thing: Booked a 2025 cruise with a 2023 cruise booked, got 6 month final payment. Recently booked a 2026 cruise and requested 6 month final payment based on the 2025 cruise reservation - which hasn't been fully paid yet.
  6. On Jupiter last year they had two binders of recipes on the shelf behind this station, and the staff would make just about anything they could find the ingredients for. My wife found it was a useful option for made to order vegetarian dishes if nothing on the World Cafe appealed, as they could just about always make a vegetable stir fry with garlic & ginger.
  7. That's not what it says, reading what you subsequently posted.
  8. We enjoyed the Herdalssetra Mountain Farm out of Geiranger - a scenic drive and very engaging Goat farm/farmers. In Alesund we took our longest excursion "Mt Stranda & Troll Brewery" which is a lot of time in a coach. Mt Stranda was a bust because of low cloud and rain - rode the cable car up and turned straight around to come back again. Nice lunch at the visitor center. Troll Brewery was fine, but seen one, seen them all. The entirely electric ferry crossings were the coolest part of the day. In Flam we were really looking forward to the taking the railway up and cycling down, but the rain was absolutely torrential - kept getting severe weather and flooding alerts on our phones - so we ended up just taking an expensive train roundtrip. Bergen we walked into town, got absolutely soaked to the skin and came back again only to wait for an hour in dripping wet clothes because of a problem with the gangway. We'd paid for an eBike excursion but bailed because of the 55mph winds and rain. Norwegian weather in August can be atrocious.
  9. That's not what the Viking FAQ states. The dress code applies to all "dining venues, performances, and special events". I would interpret that to include all areas in the ship where live music is performed in the evening, including Explorers Lounge. As I said in my reply, enforcement is another issue - but the published dress code is what it is.
  10. That is what the dress code calls for, yes. As to what is actually enforced - another matter.
  11. I never saw anyone else on a rower - I'm 10K every day on my Concept 2 at home so have around 43 minutes just staring at folks 🙂 - but the ellipticals, treadmills, and bikes were well used. I don't think anyone else was on them quite as long as it took me to finish my daily row. The resistance machines next to the rower got pretty regular use too, and there'd often be a couple of folks with yoga mats or free weights in the larger open space.
  12. There were plenty of folks in the gym just after it opened at 06:00, and we weren't missing time in port or anything else 🙂
  13. This may vary a bit from itinerary to itinerary, but I'm pretty sure the Gym was 06:00-20:00 - we used to get there just after 06:00. I can't help with Spa hours.
  14. Oh that's right, I did have an original topic entirely unrelated to tipping, didn't I? 🤣
  15. It looks as if the Gnocchi is back to a more traditional recipe rather than the Polenta patties we had last summer? Quite a disappointment after how good the Gnocchi had been previously.
  16. You'll find the topic of mattress toppers comes up quite a bit over on the VV forum
  17. Very mellow, at least in our experience. We've never been awake late enough to sample Jazz at Torshavn, so can't comment on that. We attended only one musical review in the theatre and found it underwhelming - a repertoire of pop classics all delivered with the same modest energy level. There will soften be a movie on the big screen above the pool, with popcorn. There's usually classical music in The Living room, piano or strings, and a musician in The Explorer's Lounge - guitarist or pianist accompanying themselves as they sing typically. It's very relaxing and entirely conducive to early-to-bed types like us 🙂
  18. We just returned from a week aboard Virgin Voyages sailing the West Indies, our last two cruises have been Viking Ocean. Virgin has been voted #1 in the large ship class in the same awards where Viking is voted #1 for small ship, and they are both unusual in having reasonably inclusive pricing, both are adult only, and prices are closer than you might imagine once you take into account Viking's included excursions and drinks with meals. Here are some highly subjective observations: Pre-cruise planning Virgin opens dining reservations and excursions earlier to those in higher grade cabins, just like Viking. There are no guaranteed reservations to any of the dining venues that require them on Virgin, which is pretty much all of them other than The Galley Final payment for Virgin is at 120 days prior to sailing - swoon! Gratuities are included on Virgin, as are port fees and taxes. The price is the price. Virgin includes soda, tea and coffee, and basic WiFi, and there is no drinks package though there is the concept of a Bar Tab with a bonus added depending on how much you purchased. All current Virgin ships are basically the same, much like the Viking Ocean fleet. At full capacity a Lady Ship is ~2,600 guests, almost 3X a Viking Ocean Embarkation Virgin Suite guests get to board earlier than others, starting at 1:30pm, followed by those who have paid extra for various packages, and then general passage guests based on the boarding time they were able to select. Guests may stay aboard until 10:30am on disembarkation day. Cabins are available immediately on boarding Entertainment may only booked when on the ships WiFi, which means those who board earlier have an advantage Ship and Accommodation Incredibly subjective, but Viking has a more comfortable and relaxed decor. The Virgin decor is very modern, shiny marble and bright colors, and there is pop/rock music almost everywhere, almost all the time Virgin has no library and very little art work. You'll get used to seeing a lot of red and gray when on deck 🙂 Other than suites, all Virgin beds are convertible couches which means that the mattress isn't actually a mattress but a couch cushion. We're told they're too firm for many people - we were in a Rock Star Suite and so had a real mattress The lowest level of balcony on Virgin is the Sea Terrace, and it's quite a bit smaller than a DV - the bathroom being especially cramped by comparison. Virgin has various suite grades which offer different sizes of cabin and balcony, many have balconies bigger than Viking Explorer suites. There are only 78 suites out of ~1,400 cabins Virgin suites all include an in-room minibar with 4 half bottles of spirits, white/rose/red wine and champagne, along with 4 beers. It is not refilled unless you're a Mega Rock Star There is only one space that spans more than a single floor, The Roundabout, and it's really only open between floors directly over the spiral staircase. The design is deliberately more like a super yacht with a series of small spaces and no large atrium There's a "Social Club" with board games, Foosball, a free arcade of 80's classic games, air hockey, etc. The Thermal Spa costs extra - I think $59 for a 3 hour visit Towels are everywhere with no check in/out including for taking ashore. The largest pool has a smaller swimmable section than the main pool on Viking! Enormous gym with both cardio and weights, a running track, basketball/pickleball court, punch bags - lots of opportunities for exercise Food Virgin has no main dining room, and all dining venues are included with no upcharge. There's a small charge for room service delivery, but it's waived if you are in a suite or order anything chargeable (like alcohol or a specialty coffee) All venues are very attuned to allergies and food restrictions. Every single meal started with a question about allergies; Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten Free are called out on the menu and the kitchens are able to answer very specific questions around ingredients. The Galley is their version of a buffet and offers a food court experience; you can collect food at a station or raise a flag for table service. There is food available 24x7 from Diner-n-Dash Pink Agave is a very sophisticated restaurant with a Mexican themed menu. There's no hint of "traditional American Mexican" decor or color cues anywhere to be seen in what is a very nice venue. The Wake is a steak/seafood venue open for brunch/lunch/dinner, with a stylish vibe. Extra Virgin is an Italian restaurant, but we found the decor a bit confusing - it felt a little school dining hall. Razzle Dazzle is "vegetable forward", open for breakfast/lunch/dinner and where we had more meals than any other location. We found the dishes to be creative and extremely well executed. Test Kitchen is a 2 hour experience, with often experimental presentations There's a pizza place open until late at night, Tapas available at The Dock, a Poke Bowl place on the top deck, A bar/snack counter in The Social Club, a free Ice Cream bar ... The Galley has grab and go boxes of food in chillers - this is probably the single best innovation we found. Salads, smoked turkey sub, charcuterie selection, overnight oats, fruit - all in reusable plastic containers you can take to enjoy anywhere There's a Bento Box counter with grab and go Sushi, fruit, Salmon Teriyaki, etc. A limited choice version of Coke Freestyle machines provides (included) soda in The Galley, but soda is available at all the bars and is included There are no single use plastics anywhere on board - no bottled water but plenty of filtered water stations to refill your own bottle, and carafes in your room. We found food to be better than Viking in terms of variety and quality of execution - a foodie paradise. How they achieve this while serving 3 times the passengers I don't know, but we consistently had creative dishes prepared impeccably. Entertainment Virgin has two primary venues, one of which has configurable bleacher style seating. Both have a bar There are many bars both indoors and out, and a dedicated champagne lounge that is very swanky. The shows we saw were exceptional, there's no charge for any of them including the dinner theatre which served a Grilled Sea Bass that was better than any fish I've had on Viking. Music reviews, variety shows, Cirque de Soleil class performances, audience participation game shows .... There are musicians and small groups performing around the ship every evening, they tend to rock/pop/soul/jazz/folk You'll find pop-up performances by magicians and comedians around the ship, and even "secret" shows in crew areas that are by invite only There are loud parties late into the night in the venues and on-deck, but plenty of places to avoid them (as we did) Virgin entertainment is adult focused, in terms of language and subject matter - one of the headliners is a Drag Queen after all. Trivia, coffee/beer/cocktail tasting classes, food/drink photography classes, lots and lots of organized activities across the day A variety of included exercise classes - we did a dawn Yoga Flow session, there are Boy Band Dance classes, VHS Workout, spin classes, many, many to choose from The overall entertainment vibe reminded me of Edinburgh during fringe, and I absolutely loved it Crew/Service/Passengers You don't have to be Tattooed in order to work or cruise with Virgin, but you'll blend in better if you are 🙂 If you're not, then there's a Tattoo parlor on board to fix you up! There is no dress code at all, though some venues ask you to put something over a bathing suit. Dress up or dress down, it's whatever makes you comfortable There are no rank insignia on crew, though they all wear variations of a relaxed uniform so you can tell who is crew and who is not. The vibe is extremely inclusive: age, gender identity, ethnic origin, economic means, every shape and size of human fits right in Virgin service is no match to Viking, but the sheer size of ship and lower crew/passenger ratio means this is hardly surprising. There are many places onboard Virgin where you could sit and never be approached by someone asking if you needed anything. Your post-cruise questionnaire asks you point blank if you were ever approached by a member of crew seeking a tip - it really is a gratuities included experience. This is not destination focused travel. There are no port talks, no on-board lecturers, and 2 out of 3 excursions we booked weren't what was advertised. There are no crew on shore at excursion time, and certainly none accompanying you on an excursion. It's as if you booked a Viator excursion but did so through the ship, as there's really no tie to Virgin at all once you're off the end of the gangway. Closing thoughts This clarified for me the understanding that there is a difference between travel facilitated by a cruise ship, and a cruise vacation. For us Viking is a comfortable way to travel and get a taste of destinations, while not having to pack and unpack. We don't see the ship-time as a vacation itself, more a place to regroup between adventures. On Virgin Voyages the cruise is the vacation, whether you call at ports or not. Food, entertainment, and on-board activities are what it's all about. You'll stop at different places, but most guests just go ashore to a beach that's different than the one they visited yesterday.
  19. They get the rating because more people voted for them, it's not more complicated than that. They're not the best at everything, but clearly enough people find the balance of comfort, value, and destination focus to make them worth voting for.
  20. “Safe” is the perfect way to describe Viking food; it’s generally competent but not very creative. We just finished a week in the Caribbean on Virgin, and overall food was better than Viking with a few really standout meals. Vastly better options for those with dietary restrictions too.
  21. We were “just” regular Rock Stars, and it might not have gone as smoothly without Red Glove and our agent.
  22. Were the weirdos who mask while onboard, only removing them when sitting to eat or drink. We were masked for all the shows, and in excursion buses. So far, so good, and we’ve been traveling quite a lot since May ‘21 - 7 international trips with our next in May.
  23. I haven’t found any write up on this topic with respect to Virgin Voyages, so I will share our experiences in case others may find it helpful. This was our first cruise with Virgin Voyages. Firstly the legal boundaries, as I understand them: it is legal to “scatter” ashes at sea within certain constraints: You must be in International Waters, which typically means 12 miles from coast The ashes must be in a biodegradable container, and you may expect to be asked for a Certificate of Biodegradability from the manufacturer You may not throw anything additional into the water, such as balloons, ribbons, etc Securing the agreement and participation of the vessel you are on is key - they will almost certainly take a dim view of you just throwing something overboard on your own. Since I read conflicting reports of other documentation that might be required, I obtained a death certificate and certificate of cremation - made a little more challenging because we live in the USA but Dad died and was cremated in his home town of Southampton, UK. I carried this paperwork with me and the non-metallic container of ashes in my carry on luggage, as advised by the TSA website (https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/cremated-remains) First, our background: my father passed in 2000 and I had a container of his partial ashes at home. After serving in the Royal Navy in WWII, his life at seat picked up again towards the end of the 1950’s when he started ferrying yachts to the West Indies from the UK after refit. By 1962 he was skippering Idalia (https://www.frickers.co.uk/art/blog/2021/07/27/harland-wolff/) for Lord Camrose, alternating between cruising the Mediterranean based in Malta, and the West Indies. It was during a winter season cruise of The West Indies that he met my mother, who was working as a teacher on the island of Bequia - paid in chickens for the most part! I’d been thinking for some time of trying to scatter his ashes at sea in the waters he cruised, but no easy path presented itself. Somewhere along the way I discovered that cruise lines will often be supportive of a "sea burial", and the seed of an idea was planted. The newly announced “South Eastern Caribbean Isles” itinerary on VV looked promising, as it called on several ports I remember Dad talking about including Saint Lucia and Antigua - and the passage to Barbados would put us cleanly in International Waters. That it was adults only was clearly a plus, as we had previously sailed only with Viking and were curious to see another adult only cruise line. The VV website specifically calls out spreading ashes as a possibility in the policies, (https://www.virginvoyages.com/help-and-support/the-days-at-sea/onboard-policies) and so I contacted Sailor Services to confirm feasibility for this specific cruise. About 36 hours later I had confirmation and so we booked in February of 2023 for a February 2024 sailing. We were originally booked on Brilliant Lady, but were transferred to Valiant when BL was a no-show. I used that switch as an opportunity to reach out to Sailor Services to confirm that the Celebration of Life was still “on”. Generally I found that neither Sailor Services nor Voyage Services were very responsive, and I only ever got traction when I copied in the Red Glove Services team that are part of the Rock Star pre-cruise support. As we got closer to sailing I did get more detailed information: 14 days prior to sailing, send the certificate of biodegradability to Voyage Services At embarkation let the staff in the terminal know you are carrying ashes prior to security screening I shopped Amazon and found that biodegradable paper pouches for ashes were pretty easy to source, though not inexpensive. The one I selected included a digital image of the biodegrable certificate. We did as instructed, sending in the biodegradable certificate, and got no reply from Voyage Services until I once again copied in Red Glove Services for help. At embarkation no one had any idea why I was telling them anything about human ashes, and rather wished I would stop mentioning it. So I did. Once onboard we met our Rock Star Agent, Kimberly Kendall, who knew about the Celebration of Life - which was reassuring. We then heard from Roxann in Sailor Services with a proposed time slot - 06:20 on the morning prior to arrival in Barbados, consistent with what I had guessed. This was presented as the only viable opportunity on our particular itinerary. We were to meet at Sailor Services and then proceed to the Starboard corner of deck 7 at The Dock. At 06:00 we opened our cabin door to find Kimberly already standing in the hallway waiting for us - at 6 in the morning! She escorted us down to 5 where we met Roxann, there was a call to confirm everything was a go, then we headed up to 7. On the way aft through The Dock House we were greeted by the ship’s Environmental Officer, there to ensure nothing improper was thrown overboard. Once outside on the deck at The Dock it was an appropriately grey and damp early morning, though the ever present musical background didn't really fit the tone. Either Kimberly or Roxann jumped on a call without us asking and had the music nixed instantly. No preparations had been made to the deck area, such as fencing off a spot or clearing away last night's empties, but we hadn't expected otherwise. Our escorts discretely held back while we made our way to the corner of the deck and had our moment. I said goodbye and we stood watching the ashes container bob for a minute in the wake before it vanished. That done we all went our separate ways. The next day there was a certificate in the cabin that captured the date, time, and lat/long of our Celebration of Life Ceremony, along with a very touching personal note from Kimberly.
  24. That’s because we were barely moving 🤪 With so little distance to cover we were dawdling along, barely 10kts at times.
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