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About Rawmac

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  1. Also, when leaving the bathroom, protect your hands with a dry paper towel or tissue (carry your own) when grasping the door handle, as the previous person leaving has probably not sung "Happy Birthday" at all. There are many other ways to pass on viruses, bacteria and fungi, such as putting belongings (hats, especially hats, books, bags, clothing, etc) on tables at mealtimes, handling food, cutlery and plates in the World Cafe then returning them to the servery, not washing thoroughly on return from shoreside, or tours, using machines in the gym without wiping down when finished, and so on . . . and on . . . . . .and on. Norovirus cost my wife a tour to Jerusalem, the main reason for going on the cruise in the first place, so I feel strongly about hygiene issues on board. Possibly, a pointed mention by the captain during the safety induction on day one, and some reminders at noon and in the theatre (port talks, shows) would help (although there are those who rudely try to over-talk the Captain during his broadcasts!) with perhaps some time in the paint locker for non-conformers. Yes? Who just may be those who brought the bugs on board in the first place. Somebody did. Wash, wash and keep washing. Please. For the rest of us. Then use your anti-everything gel. By the way, how has a thread about Viking Star's mechanical issues been hijacked into Security Officers, norovirus and passengers' personal hygiene. I have noticed this "ignoring of the thread title" happening with increasing frequency lately, with most hijacks heading towards Alaskan excursions!!!! Surely some of these hijackers should start a thread of their own? And some definitely not. Should I have set an example with this in a new thread?
  2. I cannot understand how such an insignificant topic as this has reached 34 posts, despite detailed information from Peregrina and Dauntless of what there is and how to go about it, having been there, done that and got the tee-shirt (to be put in a drawer). And it has cropped up before, to be found using "Search". Why does each item brought on board have to be removed from a suitcase and stored in a drawer? Discuss! Or maybe not. Or perhaps rent a bit of the hold from the Captain? For what it's worth, the "new" drawers in the wardrobe on Orion measure 49x38x16cm and the drop from the hanging rail above this chest of drawers is 98cm. There is thus ~50cm "short" hanging width (suitable for men's shirts and the like), and over 50cm full length hanging. If he's lucky and really quick off the mark, the man could grab a wee bit of the short hanging for a few of his shirts, and then store next day's and next week's clothes in his case under the bed. His socks won't crease! This method maximises domestic harmony and avoids "his" clothes encroaching on "her" space. Somewhere on this message board I believe I have seen a photograph of these drawers in the wardrobe, but can't remember where. We have always found ample room in DV cabins on VO for 20kg of luggage each plus carry-ons. VR is tighter, but as river cruises are often shorter, with a bit of organisation there has been little problem.
  3. Along with the increased competition for sailors, hotel staff and dock space and passengers, where will Viking get the required number of high quality, experienced, knowledgeable, English-speaking tour guides for their "included" tours, as the good ones will likely be reserved for the "paid-for" more-profitable excursions? Other cruise lines will be chasing them too. And where will Viking get the experienced, knowledgeable shoreside and home office staff and supervision to devise, design and put in place top class tours and excursions for us, especially with the expansion over the next years which Viking promises? There are several threads in which customers suggest strongly that Viking is not doing at all well in these areas at the moment, especially on the new cruises in the Far East, so in the future what can we expect . . . . ???? If they want to continue as a port-oriented cruise line, perhaps Viking management should concentrate on consolidating and improving what they have at the moment, and overcome their evident "non-ship" and excursion weaknesses rather than plunging into continued expansion which may well be difficult to sustain against larger expanding rivals. The competition might just also have some T&Cs which Viking could look at and benefit from adopting, to make their packages more appealing to Joe Public.
  4. To get back on topic . . . . . The tours being criticised are associated with Orion in her first few months, sailing in seas not familiar to Viking (despite Viking River being in China for many years). Excursions are designed and purchased by shoreside, who are charged with and responsible for providing good quality experiences for customers. This entails a duty of care, involving ensuring that the contractors and tour providers deliver a product of acceptable standard, presumably/hopefully by having "experts" taking "dry runs" of the tours, and visiting the places of interest, and not just by reading up Lonely Planet or TripAdviser. In this, the ship has had little or no part, but has to eventually deal with customers who are not happy with Viking's offerings. Certainly, the on-board excursions director on the recent new "Far East Discovery" cruise had a miserable time having to apologise day after day for tours which were so far from an acceptable standard. A no-win situation not of his making. Lesson One for Viking is that the efforts of their shoreside/head-office staff responsible for provision of these tours require critical review, appraisal and significant improvement, and when working in new areas, much more in-depth assessment of their contractors, their offerings and the quality of the guides (eg language, local knowledge) is required. Otherwise, we are better served, and cheaper, to take a red or yellow HoHo bus. Lesson Two is to believe and take account of the comments on the post-tour and overall cruise questionnaires, to understand that many of the criticisms originate/arise back in shoreside offices and that this part of their business is failing them. Sometimes miserably. I am full of sympathy for the on-board tours staff who do their best with what has been given them, and who must long for a Homelands cruise where the tours have all been sorted and guides are always up to Viking's desired standard. I also have sympathy for the ship, which gets ***** for almost everything but ** at best for excursions. Captain_Morgan makes a good point that there are nearly always local tour operators available with whom to arrange private tours or activities. Perhaps customers would be better to use them when cruising in new (to Viking) seas, like Far East and Alaska. But Viking customers should not feel they should have to search for independent tour providers, unless they specifically want to, and some do. We look to choose our tours from a selection which we presume has been vetted and approved to high standard, expecting this work to have been already done for us. To Missymssy, I would say that you will greatly enjoy your VO cruise, but be prepared for some flexibility on tours. Watch the message boards and roll calls for live opinions, ask questions on them and have some alternates to fall back on if you need/want to cancel ship's tours.
  5. Dauntless, my information comes from actually being on Viking River cruises (plural) and Viking Ocean cruises (plural). The "director" to which I refer on my river cruises was the main man on board for all excursions and entertainment activities, and ranked far above your "tour guide". Knowing the VO practice, I was very surprised that the river "director" was blatantly and repeatedly touting for tips as our cruise neared its end.
  6. "extra for the cruise director is not Viking's policy." Not so! On each of the Viking River boats we have been on, the Cruise Directors have worked very hard and persistently to persuade us to remember them at tipping time, requesting (begging for? Please!) a few euros ppd. 190 pax x €3 x 7 days amounts to nearly €4000, for a week's work, would you believe. This has never been the case on VO. Cruise Critic's regular articles on tipping identify the Cruise Director as one of the people we should NOT tip!
  7. I understand that Emirates release booking references not before 30 days prior to flying. Only then can you get into the Emirates website to book seats, etc. This from the Customer Contact Centre at 03453 555 111. BTW, note that you can only take one item of baggage into the cabin, so no extra handbag or laptop case. (https://www.skyscanner.ae/tips-and-inspiration/tips/how-to-beat-emirates-hand-luggage-rules)
  8. Please don't use US$ for tips in Europe. Not wanted and shows a lack of consideration. Use Euros or local currency, to show respect.
  9. We did the Orion Hong Kong to Beijing cruise in October '18. This was our opinion: Hong Kong Included: Short sail on junk in harbour, which was nice. Good bus tour on hairy roads with an excellent driver and excellent guide. Enjoyed it. Xaimen island Gardens optional: Dreadful. Dire. Young guide had only fractured English, and little knowledge. Xaimen included: Even worse than Gardens. Extreme language problems. Shown pigeons being fed in a park!!! Okinawa included: Bus tour. Interesting visit to war memorial. Good knowledgeable guide. Good tour Shanghai Maglev train and 88-floor tower optional: Good guide. Pricey tour. Enjoyed it. Boxes ticked. Shanghai included: Bus tour then Museum. Poor guide, poor bus tour (Heavy traffic), not all of museum open. Escaped early! Quingdao included: Bus to Olympic sailing venue. Guide left us to wander on our own on sunny shorefront. Why were we here? Dalian Included: Longest brand new empty cruise terminal in the world between ship and coach. Why were we here? Great Wall included: Good guide, with good English. Long bus trip >3 hrs, countryside very interesting , as was lunch! This was what we came for. Couple of hours to wander the Wall and environs. Excellent. Post-cruise extension: Disembarked and bussed to Marriott in Beijing. Interesting countryside. Top-notch professional guide with excellent English, and knew it all, and how to look after westerners. We were lucky here. Dumped luggage and off to T Square and the Forbidden City. Learned a lot. Good pace, but plenty time to look around. Guide stayed with us in hotel to answer questions and look after us. Next day, same guide, off to Summer Palace and sail on the lake, then to the zoo and the pandas. Good lunch, then off to the Lama Temple, again with full commentary from guide. Very good day. Last day, off to airport through Beijing traffic, again with our guide telling us about all sorts of things Chinese. Post-cruise extension tours were excellent in all respects, and what we had expected throughout from Viking. The Orion onboard Shore Excursion Manager, Manuel, was put in an impossible situation by Viking shoreside who designed and organised the included tours. The poor man was in a state of continuous embarrassment and apology and we felt so sorry for him. The excellent post-cruise extension was obviously designed and organised by someone else! Below, in the Review section, you can read a full review about the return cruise from Beijing to Hong Kong.
  10. Sorry. I was being a wee bit cynical. Well, maybe not just a wee bit! To charge for items and services in excess of what is received by passengers in order to increase profit does not endear Viking to me. Most other cruise lines do have single supplements, but those I have come across in the past charge amounts which can be understood and withstand scrutiny. Viking's does not. T&Cs for singletons and especially for their extensions are not readily available, they do not feature in the brochures and costs can be found by careful reading of the invoice.
  11. Also, single passengers who occupy a twin cabin on board, and are charged a fare uplift of 100%, will find that they also pay an uplift of 100% on their extension. Not only paying double on the hotel room (which is probably on a room rate, anyway, not per capita), they also pay double for any meals, tours and et ceteras included in the extension. How does Viking justify this, either financially or morally, when their outlay is only for a single person and their ill-gotten profit is thereby significantly increased? Perhaps TellUs will tell us. Please!
  12. Unlike Eglesbrech, I have done it. Often. His comments are valueless. The bus leaves Buchanan St Bus station at around 4 am, and may have started off from Edinburgh should there have been demand. It will arrive at the dockside at about 2 pm, having stopped to uplift passengers at various service areas on the M6, for breakfast and for lunch (driver's break). The coaches are modern, comfortable and the temperature will be adjusted as requested. Whether the journey is boring or interesting depends on you. Should there be traffic problems, the driver will be notified and he will use his favourite side roads to avoid trouble. In extremis, the ship won't sail without you. You can't lose your luggage. The drivers use the Holiday Inn close to the bus station, not overly expensive. A taxi to the bus station costs much less than a taxi to the airport, and is painless! If you can travel by coach without sickness problems, and if you book your cruise early enough to get the offer of free coach travel, it is very well worth considering. I have also often used Flybe to fly to Southampton the day before sailing, staying overnight at Travelodge, Premier Inn or similar and getting a taxi to the ship. This is definitely more hassle than the coach, perhaps less comfortable and costs a fair bit. You choose.
  13. All passengers are required to attend a face-to-face meeting with Israeli Immigration officials on arrival in Israel. Passengers are given a 3-day Israeli Shore pass, which must be carried at all times, along with your passport and stateroom keycard when going ashore. Thus, once through Immigration on arrival, everything is civilised and painless. Viking ships read each passenger's keycard on leaving the ship and again when returning on board, so the ship knows exactly where each passenger is. To leave the ship on Port A, intending to return in Port B would create mayhem, and probably prevent the ship from leaving on time unless clear arrangements were made beforehand, in which case, there would probably be no problem. In Israel, there would be no immigration concerns. This Immigration information was taken from the Viking Daily of 15/11/17 in Ashdod. I have actually been on Viking Star in Israel on this cruise.
  14. Perhaps it might just not be a good idea to book a new itinerary, one that Viking has not used before. Journeys into the unknown can be fraught, and even disappointing! Or you can stay on board and enjoy the ship.
  15. FAR EAST DISCOVERY PART 2 Now we come to the bad bit: Excursions There were good included excursions in Hong Kong (excellent guide, well-planned route, saw a lot, learned a lot), Okinawa (good guide, but long hours on the coach). But Viking has not done due diligence on the rest of the ports. In Xaimen, the guides were students with, at best, broken English and no guiding experience at all. The itinerary was of little interest. Lots of complaints. In Shanghai, we were taken to the museum, where we spent a long time before being dropped off (mercifully) at the shuttle bus stop, and most fled back to the ship. In Quingdao, we were taken near to the site of the Olympic sailing, and as the weather was fine, we had a nice walk along the shore. In Dalian, we were dropped off unescorted in the midst of the business district, and left to wonder why we were there, before getting the bus back to the ship. We berthed at Tianjin, the port for Beijing which is three hours away. So to get to the Great Wall (included tour) we had a long coach journey there and back. The guide was good. Knew her stuff, and could speak quite good English. I enjoyed the journey, saw the countryside, enjoyed the Wall and enjoyed the Chinese lunch. Some were not happy, why I don't know. Beijing Extension. The two-night Beijing extension started with the three-hour disembarkation and educational journey from Tianjin (NOTE: those not on the extension went straight to Beijing airport, and didn't see Beijing at all.) and went straight for lunch, then T Square and the Forbidden City, a substantial walk. The Guide was all a guide should be, and spoke better English than some of us. She was excellent and very professional. The Marriott hotel was fine, with rather interesting breakfasts! The second day, with the same guide, was the Secret Garden (nice sail on the lake), pandas, excellent lunch and the afternoon in the Lama Temple. Again, all was explained by our guide, who next day shepherded us onto our transfer to Beijing airport. This expensive extension was well up to our expectations of Viking, and eclipsed the rest of the excursions. To have not done it would have left us with a big question mark over whether to sail with ever Viking again. By the way, we had no information at all re the extension before the middle of the cruise itself, leading to the impression that Viking were winging it. And, for the single travellers, Viking requires a totally unjustifiable 100% uplift, all of which goes into their profit with no expense to them. Overview A badly designed cruise. The ship's company did their level best, but what they had been given was so bad that they struggled. The pax also did their best, but there is a limit . . . . I never wish to see or breathe in a Chinese toilet again.
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