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Rawmac

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  1. I know a nippy sweetie only as slang for a dram. I've never heard it used as a confectionery item before. Imbibing on public transport is not regarded with favour.
  2. What Hotels? Banff Springs? Chateau Lake Louise? Jasper Park Lodge? The bus is very friendly, but for some unaccountable reason, the Canadians don't approve of a nippy sweetie in the back-seat-bar en route! The French influence, I suppose. Wonderful vistas. A good start to your holiday among the Canadians, most of whom have MacGenes. There are a number of charlatan websites advertised in Google, which will get your travel documentation (eg ESOS) for you, maybe, just perhaps, but always for a price, a large price, the price being the only certain thing. DO NOT USE THEM!!! It is easier, cheaper and better to get them yourselves, online, at the cost charged by the relevant authorities. (Look up Martin Lewis' website to get chapter and verse, if you need it.)
  3. We were mostly busy trying to buy cheap items like postcards in order to break British Pound notes into coins to use as tips for the tour guides and bus drivers. This was further complicated by the information we got that Scotland prints their own "British" pound notes, and some shops in England will not accept them.  So any pound notes we got in change in Scotland, we tried to spend in Scotland. (whether this is a big concern or not, we decided not to risk it). The UK has not had "Pound notes", ie £1, for over 30 years, we have pound coins instead, recently redesigned with 12 sides and 2 metals to frustrate the forgers. There is also a bimetallic £2 coin. These are gold coloured, shrapnel is silver coloured and the small stuff is copper coloured. The lowest denomination note, and the smallest, is now the blue polymer £5 note, with bigger brown £10, even bigger purple £20 and biggest red £50 notes (not common and you might have difficulty using them) as well. Euro notes are different colours from Pounds. (Why are all US dollar bills the same colour???) Scottish notes are legal currency (not "tender", a fine definition) across the UK, but shopkeepers can accept or reject any form of payment they wish, eg £50 notes, $$$, or even barter. Suggest that if your Scottish notes are rejected, walk out of the shop. If perchance you do get a pound note, a one pound note, it is either a forgery or a valuable rarity.
  4. The Rocky Mountaineer travels low down, in the valleys and lower passes. Coaches use the higher passes. The views are better, and that's what you want. Isn't it?
  5. This is an honest (Fifer) suggestion for an ethnic minority (tongue in cheek) of explorers. Perhaps Viking's London office wants to protect its own client base from the trials and tribulations of a new route on a new ship with new ports and new tour companies. Yes? We followed the exploits of Orion after we left her last year in Beijing (new ship with new route and new ports and new tour companies) and were disappointed but not surprised to read the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Pacific to Alaska. Having done the Canadian Pacific Hotels coach tour many years ago from Calgary to Vancouver (excellent) and then sailed the Inside Passage (OK), we found that the cruise itself was not awfully different scenically from west Norway cruises, and quite a bit more expensive and time-consuming. Viking must have a significant problem breaking into local tourist-aligned businesses, based in small towns with a limited (experienced?) workforce and facilities, long the established patch of the large cruise companies. Thus Viking gets the scraps. So, until Viking sorts itself out in the world outside Europe, perhaps you would be better to stick to more local routes, unless of course you crave the excitement of the unknown, and want to take your lang spoon with you. PS The London office doesn't seem to attract the sort of whinges aimed elsewhere, for some reason. We don't seem to have a "Tell Us". Possibly haven't needed one.
  6. A fellow-passenger (male) always packed his (laundered) clothing and stuff in a cheap suitcase which he disposed of when disembarking, leaving him with his wallet, air ticket, passport and camera in a small back-pack. This gave him freedom when flying late, he said, discouraged spending on tourist tee-shirts and tat, and removed the stress of airport baggage handling. His wife did not follow his example!
  7. If you look down this page by 14 threads (Tuesday 2 July) , you will find the answer to your latest question.
  8. Did the included tour in Tianjin take you to the Great Wall? How was that? Did yo hear any comments on the included Tianjin tour? Yes, we visited the Great Wall from Tianjin on the last day of the cruise. The Wall is a three-hour drive from the ship in a comfortable coach with a good guide, who had a lot to tell us. I found the journey through the countryside interesting. In the bus park at the Wall, we were pointed in the right direction and then left to our own devices. The guide did not accompany us. We were able to walk parts of the Wall, steep and not easy in places, but most managed some bits. There were stalls selling tourist "tat" for which the currency seemed to be dollars -- yuan were not appreciated! After a couple of hours, we met our guide again and were taken to a restaurant for lunch. I cannot judge the food quality, but it seemed to be OK. The return to the ship was quiet, with the guide speaking for only a short time. This was the only time those not on the post-cruise extension were anywhere near "Beijing" itself, as they would fly home the next day. Most of us seemed to be satisfied with the tour, we had walked the Wall and had been told a lot of its history. The box was ticked. Some were unhappy with the meal, others wanted more toilet breaks, but most were glad that this last tour was much better than those earlier in the cruise.
  9. Most comparisons seem to be between VO, Az and Oc. How about Orion versus Star, Sky, Sea, Sun, Jupiter? I am interested to find out why Orion gets such a consistently bad press. Did the champagne bottle not break at the launch? Or did someone drink the champagne and substitute cheap fizz? I have my own ideas, and wonder if they are the same as yours. By the way, I have seen precious few adverse comments about the London office, and have none to add myself. Are we just lucky, or what? Should this be on a thread on its own??????
  10. We did the "3-day" post-extension in Beijing last autumn, following the Far East Discovery cruise from Hong Kong on Orion. I assume that you will do much the same. We did not get an itinerary until mid-cruise despite asking often prior to leaving home. We docked in Tianjin, Beijing's port three hours by coach from the capital where we arrived soon after noon (those leaving China went straight to the airport and saw none of Beijing). Our luggage was taken from the coach by the hotel staff (JW Marriott Beijing Central) as we were off, off to T Square and the Forbidden City. Our local guide for our whole stay was top notch, excellent English, very knowledgeable about Beijing and about China/Chinese, a sense of humour and did not hang about. She was a regular Viking guide and knew all about us "Round Eyes" and how to deal with us. Great person. T Square is big, really big, and busy, and we spent about 45 minutes crossing it, and then into the Forbidden City for a couple of hours. Reading up beforehand, and a small B****z guide book is essential. Then back to the hotel, get settled in (very nice hotel, no problems). So that was half a day of our 3 days. Next morning after breakfast (bit unusual for non-orientals) we went to the Summer Palace, sailed on the lake and visited the pandas at the zoo (only the pandas, nothing else, except the shop, which sold everything panda). We ate a Chinese lunch and then walked through the Lama Temple, which was extraordinary, with a commentary from our excellent guide. Evening was free for eating or shopping (mall next to hotel). Last morning, up early, breakfast and on to coach for airport -- a two-hour moving traffic jam in rush hour. Saw tall buildings, most devoid of architectural merit. Had an interesting lecture from our ever-present guide about all things Chinese and how fast China was developing. No planning department hold-ups here. That was our third "day", only a transfer to the airport. Although expensive, our tours in Beijing were wonderful, excellent and full of wonder, and by far the best tours of the holiday. In fact, the best tours I have ever been on. They were a totally superior class from those provided by the ship. So if you are on a pre-cruise extension, you get the best bit first. If you have the guide we had. I have already posted several times about the Far East Discovery cruise on Orion. Lovely ship, good food, excellent junior staff, dire excursions, management not award-winning, shoreside support lets the whole show down.
  11. The Viking "Single Supplement" is another full fare. Yes, 100%. Double! On the cruise and on pre- and post-extensions. And you pay for two air fares but only get one economy seat and one baggage allowance. Apart from having a cabin to yourself, there are no other "benefits" from paying twice. I don't know whether the "auto-gratuities" is doubled up, or whether the singleton is expected to do so, despite (presumably) only one bed to make up! To claw back some money's-worth entails serious eating each and every day (six meals a day to break even), and trying convince the excursions team that you have paid to join all included tours twice. Your ghostly cabin companion should also contribute to the ship's bar revenues, but may have the "free" drinks at lunch(es) and dinner(s). So, going singleton requires a visit to the Bank Manager first. Doubling the extensions prices is totally unjustifiable, as these prices include tours (for two persons, not just one), hotels (which will be room rate, not per person) and meals (can you eat two breakfasts?). This must be a nice little earner for Viking. The only justifications for not organising the extensions yourself would be a fear for self-transfers, . . . . or a lottery win. Bear in mind that extension days include transfers to/from airport/ship. A three day extension will have only one full day of tours; the first and last will be governed by your travel times and so may not have much value, at double cost. So, going singleton means you pay for lots and lots that you don't get. Better to find a friend!
  12. Yes. No problem. Cabin steward will do it, or contact Viking to have your requirement added to your booking.
  13. "In general, Orion seems to have more average/negative reviews than her sister ships. I noted Orion tends to sail in “newer” markets, such as Asia and Alaska. " We sailed on Orion from Hong Kong to Beijing last October. The onboard experience was generally fine but where things fell down was where shoreside had total responsibility, in particular with excursions, guides and choice of ports. Xaimen tours (2 days) were dire, and we wondered why we were in Quingdao and Dalien. Had we not booked the expensive Viking post-cruise extension, we would have seen absolutely nothing of the city of Beijing (except the airport of course). Onboard had nothing to do with the choice of ports, the hiring of tour companies and guides, and the selection, vetting, pricing and quality of excursions, but had to work with what they were given, and then deal with all the dissatisfied pax. These are home-office matters, in which home office personnel have singularly failed, and of course do not themselves have to face their failures in person. It would be interesting to know if the stream of criticism on this website has been noticed by Viking (Tell Us ????), acted on, . . . . . or even if they care. I find it very disappointing to read a continuing stream of posts from Orion pax as they have sailed around the Pacific that tours and excursions have been a constant source of discontent and criticism, the detail of which is similar time after time. Has Viking been employing the same shore-side excursion team, personnel and supervision for all these months of failures and complaint? It is people who put these things together, after all. I have seen little sign of improvement. I would be very wary of booking a Viking cruise to a new geographical area without using private tour companies which can be found and recommended elsewhere.
  14. The new Cuba restrictions seem to apply to US citizens and US cruise ships. BUT, what most of you appear to be unaware of, or choose to ignore, is that Viking is NOT a US company, and VO ships are NOT US ships. So, VO is not directly subject to this US legislation, is not banned from sailing to Cuba, but all US passengers themselves ARE. US passengers therefore will themselves have to cancel their own bookings (at their cost) (2019 Booking Conditions C2 and H1) or fall foul of this new law. How Viking choose to handle potential mass cancellations by future passengers is up to them, but this is not Viking's fault or responsibility in any way. VO has not cancelled cruises yet. Only non-US passengers on any cruises that Viking decides for business reasons to cancel/rearrange will be able to claim recompense from Viking. The vitriol in the above posts misdirected at Viking should be aimed instead at your government, which is 100% responsible for this problem. Viking is probably working this perceived problem, and as it is only a few days old, will not want to jump in with both feet at this stage. They will need to take legal advice, won't they? They may want to be helpful and contact those already booked on their Cuba cruises, but is it Viking's place to act first, so soon after this legislation has been announced? Before the ins and outs have been clarified? Before the US pax have written to cancel? Perhaps this thread should be put on hold for a time while things shake out?
  15. Rawmac

    excursions

    You will find lots of excursion information in the "Cruise Reviews" at the bottom of each page, as well as in individual threads here. However, be careful if your chosen cruise is a new one, or to an area of the world new to Viking, where they have to employ tour companies of whom they have no experience. This was the case last autumn in China, where we had tour guides whose English was negligible, and the structure of several included tours (and some for which we paid) was dire. All is recorded in the Cruise Reviews.
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