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badtwin

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Everything posted by badtwin

  1. I appreciate this post although it is a little late for us. We take our first Viking river cruise in 50 days. Before we booked, we were seriously considering booking a second Mediterranean cruise on HAL. Then we got a Viking brochure in the mail with pricing we had never seen before for one of our bucket list cruises - the Grand European. I did a ton of research comparing ocean to river cruises and we felt we could accept those differences but I have to say I never really considered comparing the river cruise lines. I guess we watch too much Masterpiece Mystery on PBS and have seen too many ads. I was not really aware there were so many options. That said, I a still happy with our choice. Bikes would have been nice but we have located a few possibilities for rentals along the way. We plan to buy local snacks and wines in Amsterdam to fill the fridge for those times food is not offered. We rarely use exercise rooms on cruises as we focus on walking when traveling. We will miss a hot tub though. So I don't consider this post "Viking bashing" as much as useful information to those who are trying to decide among options and to be aware that there are other river cruise lines - they just don't advertise as much on American TV. Thanks to the OP
  2. Just wanted to mention a few others have said their Viking ship docked a little further away from Centraal in a more industrial area but that Viking ran shuttles between the Centraal area and the ship. I suppose it depends on the day you leave and other traffic. It did not seem like a big deal to those involved but nice to know so you aren't surprised. Our flight gets in around 8 a.m. We plan on dropping our luggage at the ship and heading out for a little shopping for some wine and nibbles for our room. We liked Albert Heijn, a local supermarket, just for the experience. Be aware there are little ones and bigger ones with more selection. Gall & Gall may have more upscale stuff. When we were there before we loved the canal tour. Do take care to watch the bike lanes if you go out sight seeing.
  3. Thank you for that response. Really excited to hear this is a possibility. I think we are going to get registered with one of the bike rental companies and load the app and then wait and see how the weather looks (I was thinking more of rain but good reminder about the wind) and see how we feel by that point in the cruise. I really don't want to skip the Abbey tour in Melk so we will have already done some walking.
  4. We are doing a Viking cruise with stops on the Danube of Melk in the morning and Krems in the afternoon. The ship takes about 2 hours, but has a 3-4 stop in Krems. The bike path is supposedly around 24 miles and mostly downhill. Would it be possible for us to bike on our own between ports? I know it is "possible" to rent bikes and ride one way. I was more wondering if Viking lets you skip sections of the cruise to travel on your own and if anyone else ever tired such a thing. Any advice would be appreciated.
  5. Not sure if this would be considered hijacking the topic but has anyone looked into renting bikes near the cruise port or otherwise in Vienna? There seem like several options in town but not sure what is close to the port. Also, for those who have been to Schonbrunn, any estimate on distance and what kind of walk it would be We will probably get a 24 hour transit pass to see things on our own but just wondering about distances.
  6. Thank goodness he at least had the robe! I am reminded when I first raised the idea of cruising, DH was hesitant because of the dress code. He wore a suit and tie to work five days a week and did not want to "dress up" on his vacation. We started with a Caribbean cruise and a more relaxed line. Two cruises ago, he bought a tux just to wear on cruise formal night. Turns out we both enjoy the routine of returning from a day seeing the sights, showering and dressing for dinner on our cruises. I will miss formal night on our upcoming river cruise but it will sure cut down on the luggage.
  7. We don't usually shop cruises so far in advance, but over eighteen months ago I found a HAL itinerary I really liked - a 13 night Mediterranean that included two stops in Malta and one in Ravenna Italy that were of particular interest. While we were still watching and waiting for the right deal, one of the Malta stops got changed to Naples which was disappointing. Then we booked something else and I quit watching but the other day got a price notice from a website that will not be named and had to check it out and noticed that Ravenna was gone from the itinerary. I checked and Ravenna was gone from the two or three HAL cruises we had been considering. Needless to say we are much relieved we had booked the other cruise as the most important port (to us) were no longer included. My question is if this is a frequent issue with HAL (or any other lines you know) or is it just a quirk on the route I was considering. As I said, we don't usually look for a cruise that far ahead of time, so maybe it is more common than I know. I can understand when weather conditions make it impossible to visit a port while on the cruise, but I never really considered that a cruise I booked could change quite that much after booking. Thanks for your insights.
  8. We had been planning our second HAL cruise for several months after absolutely loving our first experience. Then we got an offer for a river cruise (an amazing offer admittedly) and started really comparing the pricing - drinks, tours, transfers etc. Then I found this discussion when I asked about how the food compared. I can't say that the thought of the extra charge for another entree was the deciding factor, but it said something about the HAL experience I didn't like. We cruise for the ports, not all the on-board glitz. We like to come back to the ship after a day in port, shower and dress up, and enjoy dinner in the MDR. I pay enough for my wine - I shouldn't have to pay extra for food in the basic venues. So HAL, if you are reading this, you lost two cruisers who are fast approaching the age where two cruises a year will be likely. I will be watching this topic to see if we try HAL again or return to Celebrity.
  9. Will my DH feel out of place with blazer on Viking? He was going to take one in case the dining room was chilly. Not a sweater guy and sweatshirt or fleece pullover seems too casual.
  10. DH and I booked our first river cruise yesterday. Viking Grand European, Amsterdam to Budapest September 29. I was looking at the roll calls and was confused - seemed like all the same cruise were on a single thread, regardless of departure. This does not seem efficient. Am I missing something?
  11. I have read a lot of this topic but admit I skipped a few pages in the middle so I hope this is not redundant. My concern about this policy is less about being charged for an extra entree (which I will admit to ordering on occasion) and more about whether this is just a test run at up-charging for other things in the MDR. If they find they can get away with charging extra for the second serving, then maybe they start charging for the first serving of the better entrees, or even have one side of the menu available at an extra charge. It is one thing to offer specialty restaurants or even special parts of the ship to those willing to pay more. It is quite another to charge in the MDR. I would also mention if anyone at HAL is "listening" (since my two efforts to email you on your miserable webpage went down in flames) that my DH and I, recent HAL converts and close to retirement travelers, had been planning a HAL cruise this fall and have pretty much decided to go with another line. Not because of this food issue per se, but more because of what it reflects in terms of customer service.
  12. Thanks to everyone. Our main focus picking cruises is usually itinerary and timing and have had some "interesting" food experiences. (MSC and Costa come to mind ) We don't necessarily mind a different dining experience (except for NCL - never again) as long as we have factored it into the decision. This all helps a lot.
  13. DH and I have been watching the price on a couple of HAL Mediterranean cruises, having really enjoyed our first HAL cruise a year ago. We just got a brochure for Viking River cruises with some fairly competitive pricing and are adding one of those to our "watching list." I searched these boards and I can't find much discussion of Viking River food. I don't think we are food snobs and really enjoy the MDR on both HAL and Celebrity. We both like large slabs of red cow - prime rib and steaks - which seem plentiful on both big lines. Can anyone tell me about how the food on Viking River cruises would compare? I suspect it will be good but worry their effort to incorporate regional specialties may be at the expense of american style beef.
  14. Our first cruise was on Costa Magica in 2009, so things could have changed a bit. We enjoyed it and would cruise Costa again for the right price and itinerary. What has been said is true - some language issues, food is more Italian based, the ship decor is flamboyant, and lots of cigarette smoke. And there is a definite "cultural difference" that seems rude by American standards. For the on-board cruise experience, we much prefer Celebrity or HAL. As someone once described it to us, they are "noticeably nicer." The food is more upscale, the staff was better, and there was much less smoking. (And no or fewer speedos.) It really comes down to what is more important to you - the ports or particular aspects of the on-board experience. If you love all those nice touches you get with HAL, Costa may be disappointing. If you want a decent floating hotel, Costa would probably be okay.
  15. We have been on a few cruises to Europe now and I always view topics like these as reminders to be aware and not be stupid, but not as a suggestion we must travel in fear. This one is for Barcelona but it could be Rome or Athens or any number of other cities. Many Americans live in towns that do not have the type of crowds that encourage pickpockets and other street crime (probably smaller towns all over the word can claim the same) and we need a reminder to protect ourselves and our belongings by taking reasonable precautions. As tourists, we are attractive targets because we probably are carrying too much cash and too many credit cards and we are distracted by the sights and sounds we are enjoying. No need to be fearful but there is a need to be aware and act accordingly.
  16. We walked the Mediterranean steps and just to be clear, they were more like the Mediterranean Goat Path in a lot of places. There was also quite a bit of brush along the way. An actual run would be difficult in some parts and downright dangerous in a few but if you do a lot of rugged trail running, in might be an option for parts. The views were wonderful and you got away from a lot of the crowds.
  17. My recollection is that Lisbon has a lot of different travel cards and options and it really depends on what other things you might want to do and see. There are lots of websites out there that can explain the difference in detail. Some passes include tourist attractions or a percentage discount on admission The public transportation system has its own cards. One thing to know is that all public transport is cheaper if you pay with some kind of card, as opposed to cash when boarding. We were there for one day and settled for a day pass which allowed unlimited travel on subway, buses and trolleys. It was around 6 euro and was worth it just so we didn't have to think about it. They also have a card you load for per trip travel (called zapping I think) but we didn't want to do the math and limit ourselves if we changed our minds. You purchase the cards at a vending machine which was easy to use once we found one at a subway station. Short answer - I would get some sort of pass, but can't tell you which one would best fit all your plans.
  18. This is a very easy town to see alone if you are reasonably mobile. In addition to venues mentioned by campolady, I would also suggest the Civil War museum if that sort of thing interests you. The entrance is at the base of the big outside elevator and the museum is located in the tunnels in which the the city residents took refuge during bombings. Not a big museum - no more than an hour as I recall. We also saved a few euros buying a pass for several venues at once. I think this is mentioned in Tom's port guide.
  19. Not sure if it was Barcelona or another Spanish port, but on our cruise in May, we met a very well-traveled couple who take all the precautions. Nevertheless, she reported that while on a bus, she looked down just in time to see a woman with her hand in her husband's ZIPPERED front pocket. Our friend grabbed the pick-pocket's arm and scared her away. Moral - even zipper pockets are not safe in a crowd. Use a safety pin or keep your own hand on your own wallet at all times in those situations. As an added precaution, when my husband and I are sight-seeing, we try to keep him on my left - that way I block access to his right front pocket and he is on the side I carry my cross-body bag if I am using it that day.
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