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About CelticMutt

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    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    Jackson, NJ
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  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Viking Sea
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    South Seas

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  1. I thought I'd wait a few days and let the jet lag wear off before ending up. I'll start with the obvious positives and then touch on some of the things I thought Viking could have done better. We loved the cruise! The ship is beautiful; service is outstanding and the food was wonderful in every one of the restaurants including room service. Entertainment is certainly improving. (Daniel on guitar; Tim on piano and the four kids who did the primary shows were all great!) We had an aft DV cabin (5111) which was cool for views, but a long walk from everything. We didn't do much of the enrichment aspects - had already lost too many brain cells. The planetarium was a bit too… Schmaltzy! We only saw one of them (Mars) but decided to pass on the other two that we had tickets for because we would’ve sooner been in a ship environment than watching what is basically a sci-fi cartoon! I’d suggest using the planetarium for more of its original purpose – to show the stars’ and planets’ positions. Included wines and beers were pretty good, but I feel the Silver Spirits package is a steal at $20 PP per day because of the wine upgrades and the ability to have a couple of drinks a day at no extra charge. The itinerary was excellent, but could have been better supported by the excursions - especially the included ones. All four of us would highly recommend this cruise! Now for some recos that we felt Viking could work on: - "Viking Air" needs some serious work. We paid the upgrade to choose our own flights and thought we had our “to” and “from” schedules pretty set. (We had opted for business class throughout.) Total travel time out was to have been about 30 hours (Newark to Dallas to Sydney and then to Cairns - and Aukland to Frisco to Newark home - at about 20 hours. While maintaining our home flights, Viking Air arbitrarily chose to radically change our "to" flights which amended travel time to over 40 hours and necessitated a 5 AM flight out of Newark. We knew nothing about the change until we saw it in our revised itinerary on "My Viking Journey". This really could have been done better! - We opted for the "pre" extension in Cairns because we wanted to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. We were booked at the Sheraton Grand Mirage for the three days. The hotel was ... just OK. Pretty, but spread over a large amount of land which necessitates a lot of walking. A lot of pools (we upgraded to a swim-out), but the fresh water pool was closed for repairs and ALL the salt water pools had green algae coating the bottoms. The two included tours here couldn't have been more different. The rain forest tour was great in spite of a deluge. The very commercial tour to a snorkeling platform on the GBR was a big disappointment. Way too many people made the water cloudy and choked with OPF (other people's flippers!) One of the other passenger groups opted for a private Viator snorkel and were very happy with it. So I'd very much recommend that alternative. - As I noted before, leaving the hotel and getting to the ship was a mess. There were about 100 people in our group and getting them and their baggage moved seemed to be ill-planned especially at Sydney Airport. We waited in line for almost 90 minutes while 3 busses loaded everyone. Each bus's driver was the only person to load the baggage per bus which took about 30 minutes for each bus. A much better idea would have been to put all the luggage on one truck and just board the passengers. They did this on the way home and it worked fine. - As stated above, the included excursions need a lot of work. Most of them were quick bus rides through the port city. "Extra" extensions were a lot better, but were very pricey. (And the Southern Alps tour's lunch of a saran-wrapped mystery meat sandwich could have been a whole lot better. Like the wonderful lunch buffet at the geothermal tour!!) I know it sounds like I'm spending more time on the negatives than on the really significant positives, but I also know that Viking reads this kind of input and I'd sooner deliver a constructive criticism than a simple complement. Well, while actually both are important, you don’t have to do anything with a positive, but to maintain it. Working on a negative necessitates a lot more effort! We'd take this cruise again in a minute and would highly recommend to others. Unfortunately, when you hit a couple of negatives early, it can affect your attitude. Luckily when this happened there was alcohol!! 😉 A Votre Sante! Bill
  2. As our final excursion we had chosen to do the morning Sky Tower and the Sea Life Aquarium. We arrived at the aquarium after a brief bus ride to the city. Just a quick note that the aquarium is virtually all underground – a negative for one of the more claustrophobic members of our group. Also, since in our case the visit was on the Saturday the aquarium was teaming with children. That being said, the walk-through had some excellent points of reference. The Penguin colony exhibit was excellent. Seeing that many penguins in a water/snow environment was pretty cool! Another highlight was a moving walkway that circulated through and under an extremely large tank enclosure that included sharks and rays. The bus then moved us back into the city proper for a 15 minute ride to the sky tower. The tower is impressive and dominates the entire skyline of the city. There is an high-speed elevator that takes you to the 50th floor and the café as well as another elevator that takes you to the observation deck on the 60th floor. From there you can do (or observe) a controlled drop to the ground level at 50 miles an hour or go outside of the enclosure (tethered of course) for a full walk around and lean out. (Not my thing!!) We had originally scheduled the included city tour for the afternoon, but since we had already had a bus drive through the city and were concerned about packing for a very early check out the next day, we decided to pass on this excursion. We had a very nice farewell dinner at The Restaurant and made it an early night because of the aforementioned early check out. On Sunday those of our group with late flights out of Auckland had to be in the atrium by 730 and were transferred to the Stamford Hotel to a large meeting room and supplied with coffee and muffins for our remaining time in the city. We parked our carry-ons at the hotel (bags had already been transferred to the airport by truck – something that should have been done On our arrival in Sydney!) and proceeded to have a very nice walk along the waterfront and a great lunch at Jack Tars. The food was great although a bit pricey, but the waterfront views and people watching we’re a lot of fun! It was then back to the hotel for the 45 minute ride to the airport and our 7:45 PM Auckland to San Francisco; San Francisco to Newark return home. Made for a LONG Day, but not nearly as long as our travel to Australia! We were sad to leave the Orion, but after three weeks it was good to be getting home! It was a wonderful vacation – we loved Australia and we’re especially fond of New Zealand. The ship was a wonderful experience – much like our other experiences on Viking. I’d highly recommend this cruise by biking! Within the next couple of days I’ll do a full pros and cons on the trip as an overview. Saúde! Bill
  3. No real “list”! The standard wines that are served with lunch and dinner are pretty good. They have a tendency to vary both the white and the red on a daily basis that matches as close to possible the area that the ship is in. We had taken the silver package which gives you the opportunity of choosing a higher grade wine; most of which were actually excellent. Our traveling companions are very wine knowledgeable and we’re both very satisfied with the reds and whites that were served with the package. (Perhaps a little less so with the “standard” wines.) Just a note here that the wine package costs $20 per day per person. That’s about two drinks and the opportunity of upgrading your mind as well. We found the package well worth the money. Whakahari! (Maori) Bill PS: just be careful with this one; “WH” is pronounced as an “F” in Maori!
  4. Sorry about my delay in posting over the course of the past two days, but those two days on board get kind of hectic. As said above drinks in Torshavn are included, but as always the limit is $15 per drink. On Thursday we opted for the geothermal tour and Maoricultural visit. It lasted about 6 hours (an hour and 15 minute bus ride each direction but included an excellent buffet lunch that was extensive and very complete. Probably had the best hand carved ham station I’ve ever eaten! After lunch our guide, Justin, (who was absolutely wonderful!) Showed us through the parks and we were able to explore the thermal region of Rotorua, which is sacred to the Māori for its bubbling mudpots, spewing geysers, (The locals refer to them as “geezers” which considering the average age on board is pretty fitting!) there are also silica terraces and fumaroles. We were also able to see a live Kiwi bird Which apparently isn’t very common even though they are in an enclosure. Finally, we had about a half an hour cultural dance and singing exhibition that was well-performed and occurred in a sacred building with beautiful carvings! fter a long day we just decided to have a couple of cocktails and dine in the world Café for dinner. This was the only time we opted to do so and it’s actually very good! Especially since you don’t have to get dressed up. Just wanted to mention one of the outstanding service people on the Orion in the restaurant. Her name was Roselin and she was outstanding! (Just sorry that I don’t have a picture of her to share with you.) Everything is winding down – tomorrow is our last excursion day. Planning on seeing the aquarium and the sky tower. Manuia! Bill
  5. The following appears to be a post that didn’t send, but may be a repeat. Sorry if so! ”Had a great dinner at The Restaurant last night. Their everyday menu includes a sirloin steak you just have to try! Perfect cook and not a smidge of fat or gristle. Went to the Beatles tribute show last night done by the four young singers that do the standard shows. They were wonderful! Had a nightcap at Torshavn listening to Daniel the resident guitarist. Perfect day! Doing the included Wellington city tour this afternoon. Supposed to be one of the most “livable” cities in the world! Gotta do a tip of the hat to one of the most personable barkeeps we’ve come across in a long time; Jovica from Macedonia! He’s kept us laughing! (And I think he might hurt me if I don’t say something nice!😀) На здравје! (Macedonian naturally!) Bill
  6. Here’s a snap of Boban. Told him you were asking about him at dinner last night. Tell him I was the guy that helped identify the actors in the photos in the restaurant reception area.
  7. Up early this AM for the Sheep Station and Te Mata Peak excursion leaving at 8:30. Nice city tour of Napier. Cool little city because after the earthquake in the 1930s most of the downtown was re-designed into art deco style. Beautiful buildings. We then proceeded up the Te Mata peak for incredible 360° views of the entire local area. Absolutely breathtaking. We then proceeded on to a local sheep ranch (Stations they call them) for an incredibly cool demonstration of sheepherding by two distinct types of sheep dogs. One does the fine work And looks like a typical border collie mix; one gets the sheep fast moving and while he had border collie blood in him, he was a little bit bigger and brought him here with a very loud bark! We then went inside for a very cool demonstration of sheep shearing that was done by the sixth generation owner’s son (Actually they are partners). We made it back to the ship at 1:30 and were greeted by a large portion of the crew lined up outside singing us welcome in front of a fair collection of antique autos. Very cool! We are currently in the sun at the pool I’m a gorgeous afternoon as we sail out of Napier. Another great day in paradise! Chinese new year is over, but Gān Bēi anyway! Bill
  8. Claymation; believe it was an English TV show. Shear, shorn; Shaun!🤪
  9. We just did the included city tour of Wellington this afternoon. We were lucky enough to get not only a good guide/bus driver, but actually a very entertaining one. (A bit unPC, but who the hell cares!) The city is incredibly beautiful! It was interesting to see the amount of effort the Kiwis have spent in restoring their cities to pre-earthquake status! Leaving port was one of the most spectacular sellouts I’ve ever seen! Just did the World Cafe for dinner because aft was the place to see the sunset and the lands’s end of the southern island! Early evening for us because we have an early excursion tomorrow. (Ever see “Shaun the Sheep”?!) Chok dee! Bill ps: I believe I’ve run a couple of the bars out of Mount Gay. Not sure if I’m proud or appalled!
  10. While very clever, I’m going to have a real tough time walking up to any bar and ordering a gay Irishman! Sláinte! Bill
  11. Had a great dinner at The Restaurant last night. Their everyday menu includes a sirloin steak you just have to try! Perfect cook and not a smidge of fat or gristle. Went to the Beatles tribute show last night done by the four young singers that do the standard shows. They were wonderful! Had a nightcap at Torshavn listening to Daniel the resident guitarist. Perfect day! Doing the included Wellington city tour this afternoon. Supposed to be one of the most “livable” cities in the world! Gotta do a tip of the hat to one of the most personable barkeeps we’ve come across in a long time; Jovica from Macedonia! He’s kept us laughing! (And I think he might hurt me if I don’t say something nice!😀) На здравје! (Macedonian naturally!) Bill
  12. Oh, and here’s the same locale from the movie. Obviously a better photographer; a different season and now the castle itself has been dismantled and removed.
  13. In ChristChurch, New Zealand for the day. Just got back from our all day long excursion out to the Southern Alps and to see some of the actual scenery from Lord of the Rings. Same location, but they dismantled the castle! Beautiful scenery, but a long time on a bus to get there! If you’re a LotRs fan it is really worth the time on the bus and the scenery is breathtaking, but 8 hours is a long day. Stop for lunch could have been a bit better; one slice of mystery meat on a small sandwich! But our bus driver/tour guide Kris was excellent! Learned a lot about the production of the movie! Saúde!, Bill
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