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Viking Star, Viking Homelands cruise

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We were told by Viking that you can using the OBC for anything except tips.

Has any one booked excursions while on board and can comment on availability?

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These comments are more for the first time cruiser than veterans with far more experience than we have...

 

Re onboard credit use:

You CANNOT Viking's on board credit for tips or for the end of trip big gratuity bill. You can buy gift items, spa stuff, etc. but we would have been hard pressed to use up $400 in 15 days. (We just don't buy that much stuff.) Now, if you are dying to buy an expensive Viking logo fleece...

 

As for excursions, our strategy was to start by each of us making an independent list without telling the other, including choosing one we REALLY wanted to do. We signed up for those first choices. Beyond that, we looked to see what we both shared and we looked at our total bill to help us decide. In one case, my husband went solo on an excursion I did not care enough about. Just spending some local time people watching and talking with locals is often the most fun. We probably booked optionals in 1/3 of the ports at most. We had advice from friends to see the Vasa in Stockholm, for example, so that was on our must-do list and WELL worth the $.

 

DO plan to book your definites using the My Viking Journey site as soon as your cabin category opens for booking them. Yes, you have to pay by CC then. This does get the expense taken care of in advance, though. Somewhere I posted about how to book separate excursions for the two of you at the same time. The site is not intuitive about this.

 

As for booking excursions while on board, it is a gamble. Some are pretty full while others have plenty of space. If you go to the Explorer Desk the FIRST day and book then to use a shipboard credit, you're more likely to get things -- especially if booking for ports later in the cruise. Some people book optionals after hearing explanations at the port talk, but that's really risky. The availability for last minute optional excursions is one big difference between V River and V Oceans. There is more often space on river cruises because there are fewer people.

 

Some general excursion observations from summer 2015:

 

1. Some excursions get canceled, including my "must-have" choice. I was able to book another, but was pretty disappointed. There were not enough people signed up for it. I did not find out until about 48 hr before (letter left in cabin). Another cancellation was due to the local vendor not having two boats available for a fjord excursion. Half of us got "cut" from the list... about 12 hr ahead of time. That was a bummer. We booked an alternate, but it was not what we had looked forward to. Knowing all this, I think the next time we'll VERIFY our optionals early in our next cruise so we are not surprised. One important note is that 2015 was the FIRST summer for the ship and the itinerary, so they were still working out kinks. We noticed that they have since adjusted some things. I would guess that the cancellation rate has dropped after these adjustments. They probably had some local vendors who did not work out and also have a better sense of what is an is not popular with passengers.

 

2. The optionals that include a "snack" or "meal" always cost more and often are not worth the extra $. The exception is chocolate making in Tallinn!

 

3. Optionals that include admission to a site are often worth it because Viking gets you in at the front of the line. But check prices on do-it-yourself admission to sites, too. Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic ar both good places to research. Example of a GOOD do it yourself option is to do the local canal boat trip in Copenhagen that leaves from right in the center of the Newhaun (sp?) area. Easy to get to and cheap on your own. When in doubt, don't always pay Viking to get you into something you could walk to.

 

4. Read descriptions carefully. We are not big fans of bus rides, so we choose canal boats or walking tours over "panoramic tours" hands down. We look for walking excursions and ones with some free time. These tend to be cheaper, too. If the description does not say "walking" or only mentions "view the xxx" it may be from a bus window. In general, walking or water transport gives you a more interesting viewpoint and better photo ops. Example: Canal Boat tour in SPB.

 

5. If a trip gets cancelled and you book an alternative, you will get your money back on the CC you used to book it -- usually coming through after you're home. They charge the REPLACEMENT excursion on the spot when you book it, even if it's the same price. That's a bit annoying, so plan on the cash flow on your card.

 

I am sure others completely disagree with me, and I take no offense. To each his own.

Edited by eaglewatchers

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Thanks

West Indies cruise we decided to use the remainder of the OBC in the gift shop on the last day and besides being overpriced, there was little to choose from. I guess we will pre book the "must see" tours and then once on board we will see what is available. to replace the included tours. For major cities we like to use do the local "hop an hop off tours" but that won't work on the Homelands tour.

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We did Viking homelands starting in Bergen on May 6. The currency issue is mostly solved through the use of credit cards. I charged a bottle of water in Norway which translated back to about $3 without issue. Currency is needed for tips, restrooms and postage. Postage can be avoided by having the ship mail anything home and charging your room account. It took a couple of days to realize that this was the correct answer. Guides were happy to take US dollar bills or Euro coins. Less happy to take left over bills from the prior country. Spending Norwegian krona as a tip in Denmark got me a strange look even through it was a bigger than average tip. You may get away with using dollars in restrooms which are attended; but don't count on it. It's easier to buy a coffee in MacDonalds and get the restroom code in the case of a real need. Most venues with an entry fee provide a free, but often crowded restroom.

 

I bought Norwegian krona which was a mistake and Euros. The ATM in Bergen had a 200 krona minimum which was far too much and came as 2 100 krona notes. We did the rest on Euros and plastic.

 

All the tours in Russia came with a bag of coins for restroom entries.

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From our experience on Viking Homelands in May 2017. The choice of excursions is of course personal, but here's a couple of thoughts.

 

The Eidfjord port is tiny and there's pretty much nothing to do there. The included tour and the simpler optional tours spend much of their time at a small nature center which isn't worth much and can't handle the crowds. I'd either take one of the more involved tours or think of it as a day at sea allowing for some pretty photography.

 

You have to either get a Russian visa or spend the time in St Petersburg with a tour (Viking or private). The included tour is a bus ride with a couple of photo stops. We took the canal tour plus museum tours. These do fill, so book early. I believe that you can exchange them if you see something better on board subject to availability.

 

There were shuttle buses at each port where the walk to town was not trivial. No tour was an option that we selected a couple of times.

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We're on the Homelands cruise this August and are interested in the Dale factory tour in Bergen. The factory tour is not something we can do on our own since Dale only offers group tours. Has anyone been on it and recommend it? Or is it sufficient to go on our own and see part of the museum and browse the outlet?

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From our experience on Viking Homelands in May 2017. The choice of excursions is of course personal, but here's a couple of thoughts.

 

The Eidfjord port is tiny and there's pretty much nothing to do there. The included tour and the simpler optional tours spend much of their time at a small nature center which isn't worth much and can't handle the crowds. I'd either take one of the more involved tours or think of it as a day at sea allowing for some pretty photography.

 

You have to either get a Russian visa or spend the time in St Petersburg with a tour (Viking or private). The included tour is a bus ride with a couple of photo stops. We took the canal tour plus museum tours. These do fill, so book early. I believe that you can exchange them if you see something better on board subject to availability.

 

There were shuttle buses at each port where the walk to town was not trivial. No tour was an option that we selected a couple of times.

 

Thanks chipmunkbob

What did you do in Berlin?

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In Eidfjord there are 2 lovely walks you can do independently. Go to the tourist information office very near the ship, they will give you a map which has a yellow walk, takes about 90 mins walking, down the side of the pretty river, to a lake then up into the hills and farmland. You will come across an ancient burial site, it is a lovely way to spend the morning. In the afternoon do the blue walk, about 60mins round the old village, there are various placards around telling you what you can see.

I really recommend it, some real exercise to ensure you will appreciate your dinner later, without feeling guilty!

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In Bergen you can take the funicular up to the top of the mountain on your own. No need to pay $99 each for the expensive optional Viking tour. I bought a round-trip ticket but I ended up taking the 3 km trail down to the city on my own. You have to have a good sense of direction to figure out the last half km for the optimal approach to the boat. Viking feeds us so well that you have to work out a few miles a day to avoid getting fat.

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Anybody have any experience with Ålborg excursions? We aren't traveling till July 2018, but my husband's family history is deeply rooted in that part of Denmark, and we want to make the most of our time there.

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Thanks chipmunkbob

What did you do in Berlin?

 

We did the included tour which was a train ride to Berlin, a one hour overview of the city on buses and about 3.5 hours of free time. Viking chartered the train which made reasonable time going to Berlin. It was scheduled to leave at 6:30AM. Getting 600 people off a ship and onto the correct car on the train took an extra 20 minutes. They dropped some people with tours external to the city somewhere along the way; but we were at the Ostbahnhof by 9:15. You can skip the bus tour, but it was an interesting reminder of the recent history of Berlin from a competent guide ending about 10:45. Optional programs which were in the city also picked up their buses here. We followed a preplanned walking tour and had a wurst in a park beer garden. We were to meet the bus to the train station at 2:30 with a desired train departure of 3:15. Berlin is under a lot of construction and the last Viking optional tour was almost an hour late to the train station. The train was after 6:00 at the ship and it took a while to board 600 people through German security. They do wait for you if you're on a formal tour. They don't if you're on your own and don't make it to the bus pickup point on time.

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Anybody have any experience with Ålborg excursions? We aren't traveling till July 2018, but my husband's family history is deeply rooted in that part of Denmark, and we want to make the most of our time there.

 

Which direction are you traveling? From Stockholm, not much time in port after included excursion but from Bergen you have time to get a few things done. Aalborg was one of my favorite ports, as you are not overwhelmed by being in a capital without enough time.

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We did the included tour which was a train ride to Berlin, a one hour overview of the city on buses and about 3.5 hours of free time. Viking chartered the train which made reasonable time going to Berlin. It was scheduled to leave at 6:30AM. Getting 600 people off a ship and onto the correct car on the train took an extra 20 minutes. They dropped some people with tours external to the city somewhere along the way; but we were at the Ostbahnhof by 9:15. You can skip the bus tour, but it was an interesting reminder of the recent history of Berlin from a competent guide ending about 10:45. Optional programs which were in the city also picked up their buses here. We followed a preplanned walking tour and had a wurst in a park beer garden. We were to meet the bus to the train station at 2:30 with a desired train departure of 3:15. Berlin is under a lot of construction and the last Viking optional tour was almost an hour late to the train station. The train was after 6:00 at the ship and it took a while to board 600 people through German security. They do wait for you if you're on a formal tour. They don't if you're on your own and don't make it to the bus pickup point on time.

 

Thanks chipmunkbob

We are also planning to do our own walking tour. Where was the spot where you had to meet the Viking bus? Gendarmenmarket?

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One more thought while I'm on this forum. If you are doing Viking Homelands originating in Bergen, be very conscious of your flight arrangements. We were booked on British Airways from New York with a two hour connection in London Heathrow. It was booked by Viking because they offered "free" airfare at the time we booked. If that works, it's almost perfect; but the weather in NY on the day we left was horrible. We left NY three hours late and missed the only connection to Bergen from Heathrow that day. I had called Viking from JFK airport when it became obvious that we were not going to make our connection and asked what to do. They instructed me to go the BA transfers desk and they were obligated to make things good on any airline available. We did that and the British Air agent started to book us on the same flight the next day. It seems that BA and SAS have no business relationship and you can't use a BA ticket on SAS. I protested enough that the BA agent agreed to call Viking in the US (at 9:30 AM London time, 12:30 AM US West Coast) and got through. It seems that Viking had actually caught on that we and a bunch of others didn't make the London to Bergen connection and had begun the process of rebooking us on an SAS flight through Oslo leaving at 3:00PM. Not optimal, but weather happens and we got to the ship 10 hours late. We had to claim our baggage in London, explain our situation to a UK immigration officer in some detail, claim our ticket at SAS and recheck our luggage at SAS paying a 60GBP luggage fee because the new ticket didn't include luggage. I'm expecting trip insurance to reimburse that fee; but we paid it once SAS made clear that we could pay it or not get on the flight. They would not call Viking.

 

SAS delivered an on-time pair of flights. Viking met us at the airport. There were about 20 of us who had missed the London connection and wound up on this path to Bergen.

 

Lessons from this:

Weather happens. It happens more in summer when thunderstorms are frequent. Give yourself some extra time on that connection to Bergen

 

Bergen is far from the center of the airline universe. If you miss your connection, there's not a lot of backup. Airline working relationships seem to be less strong. British Airways was trying to be helpful, but didn't have much to work with given their partnerships. They didn't seem to accept the idea from Viking that I was their problem using any available airline

 

Viking was very helpful here but had no real way of contacting me. My cell phone doesn't work in England. Without BA calling Viking, I might have had a path to Bergen and not known it. Try and get a Viking phone number for the country that you're connecting in. Maybe, there is an email path here; but you never know if email is actually read.

 

Your travel agent might be able to help if you booked air through them; but they're likely to be sleeping when this happens. If you booked on the internet, you're stuck with what the airline will give you.

 

I'd consider starting in Stockholm because there are more options for a missed connection or going a day early to Oslo and getting to Bergen by bus or train if I were doing it again.

 

We had a good trip. We lost Saturday afternoon in Bergen for this adventure.

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Thanks chipmunkbob

We are also planning to do our own walking tour. Where was the spot where you had to meet the Viking bus? Gendarmenmarket?

 

 

Yes, that's correct; but they trained us to think of it as across the street from the only Hilton in Berlin.

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Yes, that's correct; but they trained us to think of it as across the street from the only Hilton in Berlin.

 

 

 

 

Thanks;)

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One more thought while I'm on this forum. If you are doing Viking Homelands originating in Bergen, be very conscious of your flight arrangements. We were booked on British Airways from New York with a two hour connection in London Heathrow. It was booked by Viking because they offered "free" airfare at the time we booked. If that works, it's almost perfect; but the weather in NY on the day we left was horrible. We left NY three hours late and missed the only connection to Bergen from Heathrow that day. I had called Viking from JFK airport when it became obvious that we were not going to make our connection and asked what to do. They instructed me to go the BA transfers desk and they were obligated to make things good on any airline available. We did that and the British Air agent started to book us on the same flight the next day. It seems that BA and SAS have no business relationship and you can't use a BA ticket on SAS. I protested enough that the BA agent agreed to call Viking in the US (at 9:30 AM London time, 12:30 AM US West Coast) and got through. It seems that Viking had actually caught on that we and a bunch of others didn't make the London to Bergen connection and had begun the process of rebooking us on an SAS flight through Oslo leaving at 3:00PM. Not optimal, but weather happens and we got to the ship 10 hours late. We had to claim our baggage in London, explain our situation to a UK immigration officer in some detail, claim our ticket at SAS and recheck our luggage at SAS paying a 60GBP luggage fee because the new ticket didn't include luggage. I'm expecting trip insurance to reimburse that fee; but we paid it once SAS made clear that we could pay it or not get on the flight. They would not call Viking.

 

SAS delivered an on-time pair of flights. Viking met us at the airport. There were about 20 of us who had missed the London connection and wound up on this path to Bergen.

 

Lessons from this:

Weather happens. It happens more in summer when thunderstorms are frequent. Give yourself some extra time on that connection to Bergen

 

Bergen is far from the center of the airline universe. If you miss your connection, there's not a lot of backup. Airline working relationships seem to be less strong. British Airways was trying to be helpful, but didn't have much to work with given their partnerships. They didn't seem to accept the idea from Viking that I was their problem using any available airline

 

Viking was very helpful here but had no real way of contacting me. My cell phone doesn't work in England. Without BA calling Viking, I might have had a path to Bergen and not known it. Try and get a Viking phone number for the country that you're connecting in. Maybe, there is an email path here; but you never know if email is actually read.

 

Your travel agent might be able to help if you booked air through them; but they're likely to be sleeping when this happens. If you booked on the internet, you're stuck with what the airline will give you.

 

I'd consider starting in Stockholm because there are more options for a missed connection or going a day early to Oslo and getting to Bergen by bus or train if I were doing it again.

 

We had a good trip. We lost Saturday afternoon in Bergen for this adventure.

 

What an exciting "adventure" (note the sarcasm there). It is always a good idea to look carefully and consider the connection times when planning a trip ... we have missed a few connections when the times have been short but fortunately we didn't lose too much cruise time on either trip. We recently changed our air itinerary for our Paris/Normandy cruise ... they had us connecting in Iceland with just an hour ... and Iceland Air's on time performance isn't the best. We will now be going directly to Paris.

 

For the Homelands cruise I would agree that a Stockholm start might be best if you have the choice ... not only do you have more air flexibility (we flew direct Chicago to Stockholm) but frankly the scenery coming into Norway is breathtaking ... many on our cruise commented that had they started in Bergen the rest of the cruise would have seemed somehow anti-climatic. Just sayin'.

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The only problem with the Stockholm start is that you end up being somewhere on a Sunday when nothing is open. If you start in Bergen, the mid-cruise Sunday hits on a seas day so you miss nothing.

 

We chose to deviate in our air to Bergen and fly over a day early. Heathrow was a pain, for sure. We made it with a 90 min turnaround, but NO time to spare. We then had an extra day to get over jet lag and explore. The cab ride into town wasn't too terribly costly, and we were able to walk to the ship the next day. Found a hotel on Trip Advisor.

 

Some things to think about.

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Which direction are you traveling? From Stockholm, not much time in port after included excursion but from Bergen you have time to get a few things done. Aalborg was one of my favorite ports, as you are not overwhelmed by being in a capital without enough time.

 

We noticed that too, and decided to begin in Bergen for that very reason, since Ålborg will be an important stop for us. Glad you enjoyed it. Did you do an excursion?

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The only problem with the Stockholm start is that you end up being somewhere on a Sunday when nothing is open. If you start in Bergen, the mid-cruise Sunday hits on a seas day so you miss nothing.

 

We chose to deviate in our air to Bergen and fly over a day early. Heathrow was a pain, for sure. We made it with a 90 min turnaround, but NO time to spare. We then had an extra day to get over jet lag and explore. The cab ride into town wasn't too terribly costly, and we were able to walk to the ship the next day. Found a hotel on Trip Advisor.

 

Some things to think about.

 

We stared in Stockholm in September and we were in Gdansk on Sunday. On May 20 this year, the Stockholm start was on Saturday. Same ship. I'm just noting that with more ships on these itineraries they all don't wind up in the same port as the previous cruise might have. Just something to think about. This year I think there are 2 ships leaving from each end and made Gdansk on Saturday. Sunday would be at sea if you started in Bergen and Berlin if you started in Copenhagen. Last year we were both in Gdansk on the Sunday. I believe the times in port overall(duration) are a little longer from Stockholm but the half day ports are in the morning and the other way they are in the afternoon. It's a trade off so choose what's important for you and make your plans.

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We noticed that too, and decided to begin in Bergen for that very reason, since Ålborg will be an important stop for us. Glad you enjoyed it. Did you do an excursion?

 

Not enough time going from Stockholm if you do the included excursion.

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Anybody have any experience with Ålborg excursions? We aren't traveling till July 2018, but my husband's family history is deeply rooted in that part of Denmark, and we want to make the most of our time there.

We just left Aalborg a couple of hours ago. We did the included tour. It was 2 1/2 hours walking tour (in the rain for us). It was a great introduction to the city. I only wish we had more time in port as it is small and easy to explore. We left at 1pm.

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When we did it in 2015 (Bergen to Stockholm), Aalborg was an afternoon stop. I think we left around dinner time. The dock is VERY accessible. You can walk about one block and be in the middle of town. We did a pub crawl, and it was terrific. The guide was a hoot. We then had about 90 min on our own. This is one port where you could easily just go off on your own if you have some idea where you want to go.

 

Enjoy,

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Someone earlier in this thread asked about Eidfjord. We were there yesterday. I have to say it was one of my favorite stops. We were booked for the nature center but decided to skip it. I had read about the choice of two walks prior to leaving home and decided to take the yellow walk. We absolutely loved it. Such a nice treat to be in the outdoors soaking up the beauty up close and personal and not spend the day on a bus or nature center. The fresh air was wonderful.

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