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Found 117 results

  1. Little Monty

    Crossing the Tasman Sea

    Hello again. I just wanted to add some interim thoughts about trip so far (Auckland NZ to Sydney Aust on Orion). Firstly the itinerary. It is good, for us DW retired on 21 Dec and we booked this in April 2018 to coincide with her retirement. We were just looking for a couple of weeks, low stress, itinerary not so important. We have been to NZ probably more than 10 times (manly South Island for skiiing .. we are too old to ski now). The itinerary is good, but it could be much better. I know theses things are planned years in advance and any change would be years away .. but if this was a 16 night cruise and not 14 it would allow a visit to Doubtful Sound (on the west coast) and an overnight in Hobart. Doubtful Sound is magnificent (quite similar the the fjords of Norway, on slightly less grand scale). Tasmania is also a magnificent pristine environment and there would be no worries fill up an overnight stay with great excursions. So there for what it is worth .. the addition of an extra 2 days would turn a very good itinerary to something really special. I will write this on my Feedback form, please feel free to let Viking know if you agree. For those of you in Europe / USA etc .. in my humble opinion 4 sea days are too many for a 14 night cruise. It doesn’t bother us as DW is just looking to chill out for 2 weeks, but for you to travel all this way for this itinerary, I just don’t think it does justice to these beautiful parts of the world. Just my opinion of course. We knew when we booked crossing the Tasman Sea from Dunedin to Hobart would be a challenge. Grab a map and find Invercargill on the far southern tip of the South Island. We cruised in the general area of Invercargill but did not visit. On you map look south from Invercargill - nothing for a 1000 miles till you reach Antarctica. Now look east or west from Invercargill - either way the first land you will reach is Argentina. This is wild, open ocean. I had convinced myself that the seas would be kind, but the last 2 days have been very uncomfortable. For the first part of the trip out of Dunedin we were buffeted by a big swell coming from the Southern Ocean. We were heading south then west and we were right in its path ( hitting us on the port side with much side to side rolling. Once we cleared NZ the swell seemed change to be more directly into us. We had a dream run on Star for Viking Homelands in 2017 and only one sea day (which was dead calm). For this one we left Dunedin at 6pm Saturday night. We were at sea all day yesterday and again today. Tomorrow we reach Hobart at midday ... 66 hours on the open ocean (although we arrive in Hobart via the Derwent River which should be calm), The seas between midnight last night and 6am where worse than anything I have experienced in my very limited cruising career. The banging / shaking / rolling kept me awake all night. I have have been taking seasick medication supplemented by ginger tablets for the past couple of days but even with that I felt very unwell this morning. I have been drinking green tea to settle my tummy and thankfully now (11am) the swell does seem to be less fierce. Unless you are a very experienced cruiser / yachtsman etc I would be surprised if you don’t find this crossing a challenge. These conditions are apparently quite common - but of course there would be days when seas are calm and some will wonder what all the fuss is about. And of course most importantly, I am a bit of a wimp and if anyone was going to feel unwell, it was me. I have spoken to others and they have confirmed there are a number on board who are under the weather so at least I am not alone. Dont let me put you off - please come to this lovely part of the world .. but please do be prepared. Most of you will likely have no problems at all and most of you have much more experience with the open ocean than I do .. any no doubt know how to deal with the situation. We just hit two really big waves (not over the bow big, but big enough). I might go and have a lie down 💤 😴 Regards, Monty
  2. Looking at travelling in the Med on Viking Sea with a group of 8 friends. Have cruised before with the same group on the Silver Muse where we loved sitting outside after dinner in comfortable seats having a few post dinner beverages. Does the Viking Sea have comfortable outdoor seating near a bar? The bars I have seen in the interactive plans all seem enclosed. Thanks for any info.
  3. terrydtx

    Cabin 6002 on Viking Sea

    We are booked on the Viking Sea for the Sept 21 2020 Venice to Athens cruise. The last forward port side PV1 cabin was 6002 which is only two cabins from the Bridge. Any thing bad we should know about this location and does the Bridge block any of the balcony views?
  4. I've only sailed on O the past few years which I think was smart casual...no jeans but I was given a pass at breakfast. I don't want to be publicly shamed, so what is permissible in the MDR? Harry
  5. Our first ocean cruise but have done VR previously. Thanks so much to those who contribute to the boards on Cruise Critic as I felt very prepared in terms of expectations. Ship was very lovely and the staff was absolutely amazing. How these folks remember peoples names, drink preferences, etc is beyond me. Was worried that 900 guests was too big but we never really saw crowds except a couple of times in World Cafe where we had to circle a couple of times to get a table. Agree with others that have posted that some of the included excursions were not all that great especially compared to what we've experienced on river cruises. We did a combination of included, a couple of optional and just our own thing. Some of the port areas were somewhat disappointing in that you would need to take a taxi to get somewhere for other than shopping. We enjoyed the caves in Barbados, kind of wished I had skipped the train in St Kitts and done Nevis instead as people raved about it. We did a private tour in St Lucia which was wonderful. We did a beach day in St Martin. In retrospect I wish I had booked one of the catamaran tours. Food was mostly pretty good although I thought there were a few things that could have been better - more spice or flavor to shrimp dishes, lobster dinner was abit overcooked, some beef not so tender - I did think their NY strip was much better than their rib eye. We ate at both specialty restaurants twice and enjoyed them both. Loved room service for breakfast. There was a small outbreak of norovirus during the cruise which the staff/crew handled amazingly well and were able to contain quickly although there was obviously some impact to the guests. We had a PV which was lovely so if we do ocean again I'm now probably spoiled and won't want to downsize. All in all a very good way to experience VO and a smaller cruise experience, great weather, beautiful islands, met some wonderful people and were totally spoiled by the staff.
  6. We are going on the Viking Sea on one of their West Indies Explorer cruises - this one starting from San Juan, Puerto Rico on March 9th , 2019. We heard a lot about the beauty of the Andromeda Gardens in Barbados, and as Viking does not provide any excursions there, we had thought of taking an excursion from another tour provider. We have the details and timings of that excursion, the tour excursion starts at 8.00-8.15am and it lasts for five and a half hours. The agent we spoke to on the phone said a pick-up at the cruise port could be arranged but she has to be sure that the ship docks in time for us to catch the excursion. The problem is finding the time Viking Sea docks at Bridgetown, Barbados on March 14th. We went onto port information websites like www.cruisemapper.com , and although we found that the Viking Sea is listed as docking there on that particular day, unlike other ships listed, there is no arrival and departure times mentioned. That seems rather odd. Surely, Viking would have known its schedule, especially when they have been plying this route so regularly for a couple of years. We dare not book the excursion until we know that the Viking Sea is docked at Bridgetown in time for us to go on it. It would be appreciated if anyone of you have any information about this (Viking Sea arrival/departure schedule on March 14th). Also, as this is a regular Viking cruise, if you have been on this cruise in the past, perhaps you might recall what time Viking docks and what time it leaves. We looked for the Viking Rollcall for the West Indies Explorer cruise starting March 9th, 2019, but it does not appear to be there yet. So we could not ask anyone in the roll call. May we take the opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year!
  7. We are booked on the Mediterranean & Adriatic Sojourn sailing on the Sea from Barcelona to Athens starting May 6, 2020. This is a b2b2b cruise that overlaps 5 other cruises: Barcelona to Rome (Iconic Western Med), Rome to Venice (Italian Sojourn), Venice to Athens (Venice, the Adriatic, & Greece), Barcelona to Venice (Mediterranean & Italian Sojourn), and Rome to Athens (Italy, the Adriatic & Greece). Of course, these same cruises operate in the opposite direction. Regardless of direction, the excursion offerings for the 2019 and 2020 sailings are the same. I've started a roll call for our sailing with plans to share my roll call with roll calls for the other five (only 2 started right now). But then I got thinking that if the excursion offerings are the same for 2019 and 2020, I should post where I can reach those who are taking or planning to take these 12 (counting the reverse) cruises in 2019 or 2020. So I’m posting here on the general VO forum. As part of my now normal (since we started river and ocean cruising a few years ago) pre-cruise planning process I prepare a set of materials to help select which excursions to book (optional) or reserve (included) using initially the material provided at the Viking site (the itinerary with daily narrative and excursion descriptions) and later, when My Viking Journey goes live, adding times and costs. All the daily narratives and excursion descriptions (with durations, times, and costs) go into a Word document. The excursion data (port, name, date, start and end times, cost, duration, etc) go into an Excel spreadsheet initially using the basic list of excursions and itinerary provided with the cruise invoice and then expanded after MVJ goes live. We use it to indicate our preferences and estimate the total cost after spending time reading the excursion descriptions gathered together in the Word doc. I just finished the initial process last night. As I have done for past cruises I saved the consolidated excursion report in PDF and uploaded it to DropBox to share. You can download it from here, no Dropbox account required: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/i2htjserg89tovd/AAB8eRRjK7Pe6jBPXPGC9hF5a?dl=0 For those who are booked on or considering doing any of these cruises involving Venice on the Sea (ending, starting, going through), please note I found errors in the narratives and lists of excursion offerings for our cruise. To put it mildly, they were simply wonkers. To figure out what they should be, I inspected the daily narratives and excursion offerings for the other 4 cruises that end, start, or go through Venice. Some were ok in all respects; some had the correct narrative but the wrong list of excursions while others were the inverse. Prepared a spreadsheet with the results of my review along with the corrections to make and provided it to my Viking TA to pass on to the folks who maintain the VO web site last week. They haven’t been applied yet; checked last night. Until they do, have uploaded the spreadsheet with the corrections I gave Viking to Dropbox, available at the same link as above, which is to a folder not a specific file. The consolidated excursion report contains the corrections I sent Viking. Sent from my iPhone using Forums
  8. I just posted some info on this roll call regarding TJ Travel excursion in St. Petersburg. The info my be helpful if you are stopping in this port.
  9. We are just off the 22-day inaugural Viking Sea “From the Caribbean to the Amazon” cruise (Dec. 16, 2017 to Jan. 6, 2018). While comments about this voyage exist in several threads across the CC boards, I thought I would provide my review in a separate, purpose written site. Having completed 37 cruise with Princess, this was our 3rd Viking Ocean cruise. I’ll try to keep this short and to the point. Summary: Wonderful ship,excellent pols and spa, nice fitness center, great crew and staff attitude, splendid staterooms, very good food. Long mealtimes (too few table staff), and weak, boring at times entertainment. Only two guest entertainers in 22 days! The Amazon ports are uninteresting and some were plain filthy and sketchy (several passengers were victims of pickpocketing and theft – jewelry pulled from their person resulting in mild injury along the way). The Good: Cabins are nice size, comfortable beds, excellent TV entertainment system, and depending on cabin class, either plenty of drawer storage or not enough, a binary choice. The ship is nicely laid out and appointed. The Holiday decorations were tastefully done, nothing extravagant. The food quality is by and large excellent, with a few misses but hey, that’s life. Nicely prepared, reasonable portions, and interesting. The two specialty restaurants are a nice, price-included option if you like the menu choices. The steak in Manfredi’s is superb, but be sure to peruse the fixed menu of the Chef’s Table for the day you want to make a reservation to be sure it’s something you like. The buffet, Pool Grill and Mamsens turned out great food, and the nice al fresco eating area on deck was a favorite hangout of ours. The Caribbean ports were a nice visit, and the Boi Bumba folkloric include show ashore in Paritins, Brazil on Christmas Day was spectacular. The enrichment destination lecturers remain a stalwart of strength in the Viking offering, excellent stuff there all the time. There was an excellent couple singing pop tunes for dancing in Torshavn, if you could find room to dance. Areas for improvement: One needs to remember you are not cruising the Med, and the ports have neither the history nor the ambiance of a Barcelona or Florence. However, the Amazon ports were generally reflective of an impoverished area. Dirty streets, crumbling infrastructure, and a populace looking to make a living off of the visitors, either by selling to or taking from. I had one tour-stop store submit a $480 charge to my credit card bank for a $43 purchase. This issue is under dispute now. A few passengers fell victim to theft and mugging. Some of the price-included Viking tours were crude walk-bys while others were very well done. We took only one extra excursion, Meeting of the Rivers and it was fine. My biggest gripe remains the poor entertainment package. On some nights it consisted solely of a movie in the theater that was also available on your TV. How does the movie “Some Like it Hot” qualify as ship-wide entertainment after dinner? We had only one couple for dancers and three male and three female singers. They were talented and put on a good show, except three of the shows set in the theater were previously done on earlier cruises as specialty acts in Torshavn, the inadequately small, windowless box of a nightclub with a very tiny dance floor. The two production shows were fine. Guest entertainers were limited to two. Mel Mellers is credible funny-man magician who did 2 acts, and Lee Bradley wowed us twice with his operatic tenor singing. He was outstanding. But…that’s it for 22 days. Oh, they threw in two sessions of Balderdash and one of Majority Rules. Seriously, do audience participation games really make up a credible evening main entertainment? Surely not for the prices paid for this cruise they don’t. Sea day afternoon activities were also seemingly light. Recommendations: Return to the earlier dining room staffing levels so it doesn’t take 2 or 2.5 hrs to have dinner. Have more waiters roaming the open air dining tables on deck 7 so you can get your drinks with your meal and not have to wait so long that either you have finished before they arrive, or you wait till the food is cold for the beverage to come. And find a useful purpose for Torshavn, but move the dancing up to the Explorers Lounge. This is a much better venue. And please improve your afternoon and after- dinner activity offerings beyond just one at each time. Also, link the live TV to the gym video screens equipment rather than the street scenes making it seem as if you are cycling among the pedestrians. I have never written such a negative review of a cruise in all our voyages, and it pains me to have to write this. We have a reservation on the Viking Sun 2019 World cruise made last July while sailing the Into the Midnight Sun aboard Viking Star, but this Amazon River cruise has badly shaken us and we are re-considering. We could not stand 127 days like the 22 we just endured.
  10. We are new to Viking and also to smaller ship cruising. We have a Caribbean cruise this spring on Viking Sea category PV1 on hold and not sure what the best cabin selection would be. We currently have 5084 but wondering if there is any advantage to being on Deck 6 forward or aft. I read somewhere about differences in the windows or patio doors? Also wondering if motion would be more of a concern in one location or the other. Would appreciate any comments or recommendations.
  11. Viking says they don't know yet :eek:. Port authority has list of other cruise ships docking location for Jan 2019 in San Juan. Anyone taken the West Indies cruise and where did the Viking ship dock in San Juan- pier 1,2,3 or 4? Thanks-DebbyLA
  12. Well I finally got the video finished and published to You Tube. Here is the link to my You Tube Channel If that doesn't work, just go to You Tube and search either Into the Midnight Sun or just Midnight Sun. There are 3 parts, each about 10 minutes long (You Tube wouldn't let upload the whole video at once). Part 1: Bergen to Tromso Part 2: Honnigsvag to Edinburgh Part 3: London Note: Since there are SO many videos of the ship my videos focus on the destinations. I provide information on both excursions booked through the ship and those booked privately. Enjoy! p.s. I'd really appreciate it if you would subscribe to my channel. That way you won't miss any of our upcoming trips: "19-Night Holy Land and Arabian Gems" (Athens to Dubai) on Seabourn Encore, "Grand European River Cruise"Budapest to Amsterdam" on Viking Vali, "Magnificent Capitals" (Athens to Venice) on Viking Sea. Let me know if you have any questions!
  13. Celiac Cruiser

    Gluten Free on Viking Sea

    I am happy to report that several recent changes on the Viking Sea are making it much easier to select food choices that are gluten-free. I am on board right now and can report that effective yesterday, they changed the individual name placards for each dish in the World Cafe to indicate that a dish is gluten free (where appropriate). They plan to make similar notations on The Restaurant menu. (They currently notate Vegetarian, Heart Healthy and No sugar added.) This is good news for travelers who require (or desire) a gluten free diet. It also relieves the Dining / Cooking staff from being asked over and over again about the gluten content. I can also report that gluten free breakfast pastries are made on board with their gluten free whole grain flour. Gluten free waffles are available at Mamsen's. Yummm. These specialty items are not publicized but you only need to ask for them. They take cross contamination seriously and for example, they use a dedicated waffle iron in the kitchen not the one out front for the regular waffles. They fry their French fries in a dedicated fryer. I hear that gluten free pasta is available to substitute for regular pasta at each dining establishment. I haven't verified that yet except at Manfreddi's. It was excellent there.
  14. Greetings, we are first time Viking cruisers, traveling on the Sky, Iceland to Bergen June 2019. We currently have a DV cabin midships right at the stairs. I want more space, especially storage, and am considering upgrade to PV. The lowest price is a cabin very far forward, deck 5. Is this a bad idea for a switch? I have scoured the forum to read that heavy seas cause the anchor chain to clang and the bow of the ship to be smacked & tossed by waves. No predicting the weather, but we have never had a cabin on any ship (6 cruises) that far forward. I am a light sleeper, have gotten seasick, but a very rare occurrence in a small closed space. I really want more space/storage, but is this a potential problem. TIA
  15. Since 2010, we have taken 2 RCL cruises, 2 Oceania cruises and now Viking Oceans "Secrets of the Southern Med" cruise. We enjoyed all and each had pros and cons. We still chose cruises by itinerary and price. Someday I do hope to take one for luxury but happy with the value cruises so far. Yes, Oceania and Viking are more upscale than RCL but RCL cruisers had more fun for their money than some Oceania and Viking cruisers. The other thing I have to say is that cruises will never be my first choice for Europe-not enough time in port. I love them for beach destinations and for transatlantic (I hope to convince DH lots of sea days will be worth that one of these days). Anyway, I liked everything about the Viking Sea and as it sounds like all the ships are the same, I would happily take any of them for the right itinerary. We being really fond of value (cheap if you want) took the lowest category cabin. This beats most other ships because even the lowest category cabins have balconies. Since we cruised in January (end of the month), we used it less than sometimes but more than I thought we would as we lucked out on weather. I have no idea if some cabins have bigger balconies but there was all the room we want for sitting and looking out with a nice drink. The bed was comfortable, the space big enough for the time we spent there (prefer the other ship spaces if awake), and the small number of drawers a minor inconvenience for us for a 7 day cruise. The bathrooms are plenty big enough (especially the showers if you are a bargain traveler) and the warm floors nice in January. As many have said, there are quiet nooks and crannies all over the ship. I like the white and quiet blue decor and the great art work. The theater was relatively comfortable with blankets and tables and the atrium featured good music day and night. There are some shops but no art work, photographers etc. Food was plentiful and available most hours of the day once you figured out the schedules. I ate several breakfasts (early do not know if it was as nice later) and lunch in Momsens and enjoyed the Scandinavian tastes (thin good waffles, open faced sandwiches but good soup and oatmeal too) which was peaceful. We did not enjoy our Scandinavian Chef's Table meal (agree with those who say to give up that concept and make it French or something). I went up to Momsens and got a cold cuts plate because I was still hungry. DH went one afternoon and got an open faced sandwich to tide him over until dinner. We liked what we had at Manfredis (good mussels and fish of the day) but did not work hard enough to get more reservations there. DH liked the Restaurant because he likes dinner slow, I liked it ok but Oceania is better for that aside from the wine-ok though not great but after all free. The World cafe is ok for lunch, dinner not our first choice. We only had breakfast or lunch at the Restaurant on debarkation day. It was good if you were killing time for a late departure and actually a good breakfast. We went once to tea late. Go when it starts if you want to be sure of a seat. We got some scones and tea late but seating was not good. We did not send for food in the room. Oceania has better special restaurants and bread but I would not chose it over Viking based on the food. Viking Oceans is a step above Viking Rivers but both are good. The excursions are not perfect yet. We always loved the Viking River included excursions but they do not work as well on ocean cruises where you are not close to where the walks begin. They may have to ditch them eventually but have some other things that will replace them on ocean cruises. The included and extra excursions were a necessity in Tunis and Algiers where efforts to revive the tourist industries involve extra security at the moment. Both are great ports but Algiers requires expensive visas to tour on your own so use ship tours. You can tour on your own in Tunis but do not be surprised at the amount of security around your taxi (we did this with no problem). The ports on this cruise were great. Sardinia did not have a long enough stop to enjoy all there is to see (it would be great if they stay longer in the future). In Valencia, there is a free shuttle all day after your included tour (very good) but it is not well marked, just keep walking past where you see the blue dome across the bridge until you see somebody with a red scarf. We are not that big on entertainment and it was okay for the shows but not better than other lines. We did enjoy their ABBA show. There was a great art woman art historian who gave 2 very good lectures and also a marine biologist who did a good job. The best show was on the last night when they introduced crew members from all parts of the ship and cruise director Heather sang for us (we missed her show). This might be something to replace some of the included excursions. I took a cooking class on the sea day. We did prep and then ate what the chef cooked in the demo. The price was similar to others I have taken (both on RCL and Oceania). I would do this again. The facility is very nice. We did our own trip to Civitivecchia from Rome as we went ahead of time. It is easy to take a train from Rome. You can then take a bus for a few euro to a point where you catch a bus to the ship. Embarkation was pretty straight forward and our luggage was taken from next to the bus and appeared in our room fairly fast (we spent the day touring so arrived well after 2 pm). Debarkation was also easy. Even if using your own transport, you can set your luggage out at 10 pm and pick it up as you exit the terminal (that was convenient). Taxis and shuttles are easy to find. Lastly, each floor has a good laundry room with three washers and dryers so we did not send laundry out and they have the soap they want used there to add to the machines. I am actively looking for a cruise somewhere we have not already been because I enjoyed the ship itself so much. They did a very nice meet and greet for cc members. Try Viking Oceans to see if you like it.
  16. sjde

    Viking Star & Sea

    I've been on Azamara and Oceania. How does Viking compare?
  17. Trying my hand at a live report of the Viking Sea sailing from the West Indies to Iberia. We booked this cruise in the summer of 2016! At last,we get to go-Viking. "The word "Viking" is really a verb meaning to go on waterborne journey whether by river or sea.The farmers would typically "go-Viking during the period after the Spring sowing(while the crops were growing),returning for the late summer harvest." Norway by AlastairMiller It is Spring by the calendar but I still see snow here in MN. Having a prelude of two night in San Juan,staying at the El Convento hotel. Worth the deviation fee with Viking Air. with air plus, I got the best flights despite the hurricane scrabbling for me the most direct route . I am flying AA to CLT then to San Juan. First flight leaves at 5 am. Glad I live 5 minutes from the airport. Being of Danish heritage , I was smitten by the design of the Viking Ocean ships interiors. Coming from Celebrity ships I was ready for a change. We have a very active roll call. Some are already in San Juan. We are having gathering on Monday evening at the Sheraton old San Juan. Looking forward to meeting fellow cruisers for this Viking journey of six sea days across the Atlantic Ocean . Would be happy to answer any questions along the way. Sent from my iPad using Forums
  18. Is anyone else frustrated about the current transfer from the Viking Sea to the Viking Star? I was booked on the Viking Homelands cruise July 31, 2016. The Sea will not be ready by then. On May 8 Viking customer relations emailed me that an agent would call me May 8 about a new booking on the Star. The agent never called. I called the redeployment twice a day since May 8 yet no one ever answered. I sent a letter to customer relations in Los Angeles May 16. Again, no reply. I called my original booking agent (he is not on the redeployment team), and he said I had been given a new booking number on the Star but it was then cancelled!!! Viking is holding my $18,000 and will not contact me. I fear the Star will fill all the Penthouse Veranda cabins before I can get a new booking. I absolutely do not know what to do.
  19. I went to this site to find information on Canadian ports; found a review of Viking Sea instead. http://www.avidcruiser.com/2016/05/06/viking-sea-best-ship/
  20. CretaMed88

    Viking Sea

    Viking Sea departing from Piraeus Port on 27.3.2017 [YOUTUBE]TOdOoB4AW8E[/YOUTUBE]
  21. In case anyone was planning on booking, we received an email today from Viking that the stop in Caracas has been cancelled and replaced by St Kitts. It will likely we a sea day for us since we have been to St Kitts many times. Sent from my SM-G920V using Tapatalk
  22. Kudos to Viking Ocean and their beautiful ships. They beat out some other luxury ships in this category. I paid my final payment on Friday , so I am happy dancing! March 2018 TA cannot come soon enough for me.
  23. My wife and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary aboard the Sea on the Oct. 4th sailing from Venice to Barcelona. Has anyone attempted to have flowers deliverd during a cruise? Do they even have them available? Thanks, Bruce
  24. Canadian Sunset

    Swimming Pool on Viking Sea

    Does anyone know if the pool is enclosed during cooler weather?We're travelling during November/December 2016 and I was hoping to be able to swim on sea days (we have three).
  25. CretaMed88

    Viking Sea - 1st cruise

    Viking Sea making her maiden trip and though her maiden arrival at Piraeus Port Look her arrival at Athens historical port,early this morning 4LQ2s-dCouw