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travelgenie

Questions about Empires of the Med.

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We are cruising the Star in the fall, Venice to Athens. After several Viking river cruises, this will be our first ocean experience with them. Our port stops will be Venice, Koper, Zadar, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Corfu, Katakolon, Santorini and ending in Athens.  We have cruised out of Venice twice with other lines, so I am familiar with that situation but am wondering the docking locations of these stops. The convenience and possibility of exploring on our own? Long bus trips with ships excursions? While I appreciate the port intensive itinerary, I am now questioning the process of the up early, long bus rides, rushed tour, very little or no free time, that we just experienced on our last river cruise this past fall. To be fair, our fall river cruise was impacted from extreme low water levels, the reason for the long bus rides and condensed tours. Having booked the Empires of the Med prior to our river cruise, it is still too fresh in my mind and the thoughts of getting back on a bus is not pleasant at the moment. I would appreciate any feedback and suggestions concerning this itinerary.

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We are taking this same cruise in May. We booked private excursions in Koper, Kotor, Corfu, Katakolon and Athens. Zadar and Dubrovnik we will explore on our own. Plan on taking the including tour in Santorini which is mainly transportation and explore on our own. We are also spending five nights in Venice before, and five nights in Crete after, both on our own.

 

We took the Homelands cruise in August and were not at all impressed with the Viking excursions, included or paid. We booked many ahead of time and ended up cancelling six. We are experienced travelers and prefer to do our own thing at our own pace.

 

There are plenty of tour operators in each of these ports that can easily be researched and booked on line. The tours we booked are just for the two of us in a sedan. Trip Advisor is excellent for finding them. Use google maps satellite view to figure out the docking location. The tour operators know where you will be docked.

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51 minutes ago, travelgenie said:

We are cruising the Star in the fall, Venice to Athens. After several Viking river cruises, this will be our first ocean experience with them. Our port stops will be Venice, Koper, Zadar, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Corfu, Katakolon, Santorini and ending in Athens.  We have cruised out of Venice twice with other lines, so I am familiar with that situation but am wondering the docking locations of these stops. The convenience and possibility of exploring on our own? Long bus trips with ships excursions? While I appreciate the port intensive itinerary, I am now questioning the process of the up early, long bus rides, rushed tour, very little or no free time, that we just experienced on our last river cruise this past fall. To be fair, our fall river cruise was impacted from extreme low water levels, the reason for the long bus rides and condensed tours. Having booked the Empires of the Med prior to our river cruise, it is still too fresh in my mind and the thoughts of getting back on a bus is not pleasant at the moment. I would appreciate any feedback and suggestions concerning this itinerary.

We are on this cruise in April so our excursions have been downloaded and we will be booking soon.  You should look at the excursions that are listed on the itinerary page.  There was very few, if any, changes from those that they show as "examples" to what was actually offered which you will see in MVJ about 100 days out.  As you will see the included tours are mostly between 2.5-4 hours.  Most do seems to include some time on a bus but not much.  They are mostly overviews of the ports and from what I have read you are free to leave them at anytime. We only found 3 ports that we wanted to do an optional tour to get away from the ports. Zadar, going to Krka NP, is a good example.   We are not fond of 7-8 hour tours either and am happy that we are going to be able to see much of what we want without doing so in most ports.  I always start with either a guide book or using google to see "top sights, etc."  to research before deciding on excursions.  

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We took this cruise almost 2 years ago and just loved it!

 My recollection about bus trips:

Athens (we did the reverse trip) - we did not take the included tour having been in Athens several times before. We took the optional Cape Sounio excursion, which we really enjoyed. Did have to take a bus there.

 

Santorini - We took a bus to Oia for walking tour and had free time. then bus went back to Thira, where we had plenty of free time to explore and eat out on our own.

 

Katakilon - did not take the included tour here. I know they did have to bus to Olympia.

 

Corfu - we took the included tour, which was a walking tour through the old town. We then explored for several hours on our own.

 

Kotor - walking tour - you just walk right off the boat into the old town. One of my favorite included tours. Then had all late morning and afternoon to explore on our own.

 

Dubrovnik - you don't dock right at the old town. so must take a bus to the walled town. Plenty of time after the tour to explore on your own. Shuttle buses run to take you back.

 

Zadar - we took the Krka National Park optional excursion - this did include a bus ride and a boat ride to get to the park. Free time in the park then back. We docked right in old town of Zadar so easy to walk around the town on your own.

 

Koper - also docks right at the town. Included tour was a walking tour. We did the walking tour then caught a public bus to Piran and toured it on our own. Plenty of free time at this stop.

 

hope this helps - it's a great cruise and you'll have a wonderful time!

 

 

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This was our first ocean cruise, and one of our best vacations ever. We also had taken a Viking river cruise first, which convinced us to give an ocean cruise a try. We  took our second cruise this fall, and have another VO this April, and hope to do others in the future. We used a mix of included and optional excursions, depending on what we wanted to see in each port. Viking provides free shuttle service in several of the ports, so after our tours in Athens and Dubrovnik, we remained behind to explore on our own. For the included tour on Santorini, you are given a ticket for the cable cars to make your own way down to the tender location in time to be back on board before sail away. We enjoyed a lovely lunch on our own there.

 

I do a lot of research before making my decisions, and using the information on the Viking website about the excursions, Google maps to figure out the distances, and Pinterest to see what the sights I don't know look like, I have been really happy with our selected excursions with Viking.

 

Enjoy your trip!

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We did this cruise as well and thoroughly enjoyed it. As mentioned above, several of the ports allow you to walk right off the ship and in to town and in others the bus ride is a short shuttle to town. Yes, there are some excursions with longer bus rides, but we avoided those.  I wish Viking would include bus times in the descriptions of shore excursions — they do in the port talks but it is too late to cancel paid excursions at that point — but I generally look at Google maps to figure out the distance between the port and the excursion destination to get an idea of how much time will be spent on a bus.  With a little planning you can definitely avoid spending too much time on buses. I think you’ll really enjoy this cruise. 

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On 1/17/2019 at 9:39 AM, travelgenie said:

We are cruising the Star in the fall, Venice to Athens. After several Viking river cruises, this will be our first ocean experience with them. Our port stops will be Venice, Koper, Zadar, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Corfu, Katakolon, Santorini and ending in Athens.  We have cruised out of Venice twice with other lines, so I am familiar with that situation but am wondering the docking locations of these stops. The convenience and possibility of exploring on our own? Long bus trips with ships excursions? While I appreciate the port intensive itinerary, I am now questioning the process of the up early, long bus rides, rushed tour, very little or no free time, that we just experienced on our last river cruise this past fall. To be fair, our fall river cruise was impacted from extreme low water levels, the reason for the long bus rides and condensed tours. Having booked the Empires of the Med prior to our river cruise, it is still too fresh in my mind and the thoughts of getting back on a bus is not pleasant at the moment. I would appreciate any feedback and suggestions concerning this itinerary.

 We took that cruise last March with the Tuscany and 4 day Athens extensions. I'm a bit of a history nut so did a lot of research before the cruise. Koper and Zadar were weathered out as well as Katakolon....but they added Split. Venice, Dubrovnik and Athens had shuttles. Tours: We did the opera in Venice which was kind of neat. The included tour in Dubrovnik, explored on our own, then but tickets to walk the wall.Take the included Koper tour then explore and/or take a walk up to the old castle. In Corfu we did the Palace of Achilles and city tour. It was better than just the included city tour. On Santorini, we opted for the ancient city and Oia/Theria tour. The ruins are interesting. If you have only the one day do the ultimate acropolis then go to the old Agora and walk it and go to the museum if there is a  shuttle. We did the museum and when they dropped us off at the shuttle point and we went to the temple of Zeus right across the street. Then go to the old Agora , walk the grounds and go to the Stoa museum. Right outside the entry gate is a restaurant call DiaDio's. Good house wine and get the seafood plate. Enough to share. The metro is user friendly too. Carry plenty of 1 and 50 cent euro coins. Bathrooms are rare and they cost.

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On 1/17/2019 at 11:26 AM, TGBoss said:

We took this cruise almost 2 years ago and just loved it!

 My recollection about bus trips:

Athens (we did the reverse trip) - we did not take the included tour having been in Athens several times before. We took the optional Cape Sounio excursion, which we really enjoyed. Did have to take a bus there.

 

Santorini - We took a bus to Oia for walking tour and had free time. then bus went back to Thira, where we had plenty of free time to explore and eat out on our own.

 

Katakilon - did not take the included tour here. I know they did have to bus to Olympia.

 

Corfu - we took the included tour, which was a walking tour through the old town. We then explored for several hours on our own.

 

Kotor - walking tour - you just walk right off the boat into the old town. One of my favorite included tours. Then had all late morning and afternoon to explore on our own.

 

Dubrovnik - you don't dock right at the old town. so must take a bus to the walled town. Plenty of time after the tour to explore on your own. Shuttle buses run to take you back.

 

Zadar - we took the Krka National Park optional excursion - this did include a bus ride and a boat ride to get to the park. Free time in the park then back. We docked right in old town of Zadar so easy to walk around the town on your own.

 

Koper - also docks right at the town. Included tour was a walking tour. We did the walking tour then caught a public bus to Piran and toured it on our own. Plenty of free time at this stop.

 

hope this helps - it's a great cruise and you'll have a wonderful time!

 

 

I have a question regarding the sail in to Kotor.  From looking at maps I am assuming we will pass with the island on port side, and of course we are on Starboard.  Is is close enough to get a good look and picture?  Should I plan on getting out on deck so I don't miss it?  We are leaving at 11pm so sail out not a good option.  That leads to another question. Do Viking ships have cameras on the front of the ships  to watch on the cabin TVs?

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On ‎1‎/‎17‎/‎2019 at 3:39 PM, travelgenie said:

We are cruising the Star in the fall, Venice to Athens. After several Viking river cruises, this will be our first ocean experience with them. Our port stops will be Venice, Koper, Zadar, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Corfu, Katakolon, Santorini and ending in Athens.  We have cruised out of Venice twice with other lines, so I am familiar with that situation but am wondering the docking locations of these stops. The convenience and possibility of exploring on our own? Long bus trips with ships excursions? While I appreciate the port intensive itinerary, I am now questioning the process of the up early, long bus rides, rushed tour, very little or no free time, that we just experienced on our last river cruise this past fall. To be fair, our fall river cruise was impacted from extreme low water levels, the reason for the long bus rides and condensed tours. Having booked the Empires of the Med prior to our river cruise, it is still too fresh in my mind and the thoughts of getting back on a bus is not pleasant at the moment. I would appreciate any feedback and suggestions concerning this itinerary.

Ok, we had covered many of your port of call before we took a Venice to Athens trip with VO in 2018.  Superb.  

 

The only place where we thought it wise to take a longish coach trip (included, I may add) was the trip to Olympia - we'd do it again in a heartbeat.  I know what you mean about getting back on a coach, however, Olympia is wonderful.  Not too happy about the facilities on the site (left a little bit to be desired), but the actual site - fantastic.  We were there with VO during November, and to be able to photograph the archeological items of interest with little wild cyclamen dotted around here and there added to the aesthetic value of the photographs, it added interest and softened the view.  There is also a very interesting museum at the site, and a small gift shop.

 

Dubrovnik - the walking tour provided us with a coach ride into the old town, but we left the walking tour guide and did our own thing at our own pace and caught a free shuttle bus back to the ship.  

 

Kotor - didn't take any excursions as we simply wanted to run, which was great as the ship berths really close to the old town and it was simple to work out a nice and safe-ish running route.

 

Corfu - head into the old town, it's easily walkable.

 

Athens - do yourself a big favour and have the 4 day extension in Athens - we'll never ever forget it, truly wonderful.  If you get to stay in the Hilton in Athens, there's a wonderful little restaurant behind it (just a short walk and cross over two road crossings) called OROSCOPO, again, we'd go back in a heartbeat.

 

Hope your Venice to Athens is as wonderful as our memories.

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Parsley, I was happy to read your post as it is the first I have seen regarding the Athens Extension.  We have never done a pre or post extention before but felt this one looked worth doing with the 3 excursions, transfers and all.  I calculated what the cost would be if done on our own  and the cost came pretty close.  There are no details in MVJ so am assuming we will get the information along with our cruise documents.  I am wondering about a few things:  1. Did you have the same guide on all the excursions? 2. Are the two full day excursions really long, tiring or manageable/not too rushed?  Our last day goes to Delphi and then to the pier for embarkation.  Was your schedule the same and do you remember about what time you arrived at the ship?  I am assuming mid to later afternoon but of course not an issue since we are overnight there.  

 

Also, thanks so much for the restaurant recommendation near the Hilton.  The hotel's restaurants seem extremely pricey so was hoping there would be some good choices nearby.  Oroscopo looks great, and certainly walkable.  I couldn't find their hours on their site, although it mentions lunch and dinner.  We don't eat late so am hoping they don't close after lunch and not open again until evening.  Do you know?  Thanks for any information you can share. 

Edited by Ready to Sail!

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19 minutes ago, Ready to Sail! said:

Parsley, I was happy to read your post as it is the first I have seen regarding the Athens Extension.  We have never done a pre or post extention before but felt this one looked worth doing with the 3 excursions, transfers and all.  I calculated what the cost would be if done on our own  and the cost came pretty close.  There are no details in MVJ so am assuming we will get the information along with our cruise documents.  I am wondering about a few things:  1. Did you have the same guide on all the excursions? 2. Are the two full day excursions really long, tiring or manageable/not too rushed?  Our last day goes to Delphi and then to the pier for embarkation.  Was your schedule the same and do you remember about what time you arrived at the ship?  I am assuming mid to later afternoon but of course not an issue since we are overnight there.  

 

Also, thanks so much for the restaurant recommendation near the Hilton.  The hotel's restaurants seem extremely pricey so was hoping there would be some good choices nearby.  Oroscopo looks great, and certainly walkable.  I couldn't find their hours on their site, although it mentions lunch and dinner.  We don't eat late so am hoping they don't close after lunch and not open again until evening.  Do you know?  Thanks for any information you can share. 

I edited this post to correct a couple of spelling errors and after I saved it all these A's came up at the end of each sentence.  Very weird.  The first time there was only one so I went back to edit again and take the one out and then all the others came up.  I don't dare try again!!!

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21 hours ago, Ready to Sail! said:

I have a question regarding the sail in to Kotor.  From looking at maps I am assuming we will pass with the island on port side, and of course we are on Starboard.  Is is close enough to get a good look and picture?  Should I plan on getting out on deck so I don't miss it?  We are leaving at 11pm so sail out not a good option.  That leads to another question. Do Viking ships have cameras on the front of the ships  to watch on the cabin TVs?

We slept in for the cruise in. But to get a good photo you may have to go up to the sport's deck or track on deck 2. Better view going out. Weather was cool so everyone piled in the explorer longe and grabbed a seat and a drink to enjoy the cruise back out to the Adriatic.

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4 hours ago, Ready to Sail! said:

I edited this post to correct a couple of spelling errors and after I saved it all these A's came up at the end of each sentence.  Very weird.  The first time there was only one so I went back to edit again and take the one out and then all the others came up.  I don't dare try again!!!

There is a little restaurant called Pita Pan right around the corner from the Hilton. Sort of their fast food versions of gyros. We ate there twice,  good food, decent wine and not too expensive.  There is a little grocery store about 1/4 mile further down where you can by wine instead of the $18 a glass at the Hilton.

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26 minutes ago, Mullet62 said:

We slept in for the cruise in. But to get a good photo you may have to go up to the sport's deck or track on deck 2. Better view going out. Weather was cool so everyone piled in the explorer longe and grabbed a seat and a drink to enjoy the cruise back out to the Adriatic.

Well, as I said, we are sailing out at 11pm so will have to enjoy our sail in, docking at 8am. 

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17 minutes ago, Mullet62 said:

There is a little restaurant called Pita Pan right around the corner from the Hilton. Sort of their fast food versions of gyros. We ate there twice,  good food, decent wine and not too expensive.  There is a little grocery store about 1/4 mile further down where you can by wine instead of the $18 a glass at the Hilton.

Thanks. Cute name, I'll put it on my list.  Did the grocery store sell hard liquor? We wanted to get a bottle for the cruise.  

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14 hours ago, Ready to Sail! said:

I edited this post to correct a couple of spelling errors and after I saved it all these A's came up at the end of each sentence.  Very weird.  The first time there was only one so I went back to edit again and take the one out and then all the others came up.  I don't dare try again!!!

You  can find out more about Oroscopo from their own website.  We did find though, that a couple of other restaurants en route to Oroscopo we not 'busy' - Oroscopo was never empty; and we think that this observation speaks for itself.  Maybe there was something wrong with the other restaurants, either too pricey or food/atmostphere not up to much.  Oroscopo had a nice mix of tourists and local people in there.

 

As far as I can remember it didn't close mid afternoon when we were there, and even though we hadn't booked a table, the MD always found a table for us, in a particularly charming manner.

 

The tours that we had on the extension were unbelievable - Mycenae, Epidaurus etc, the Peleponese area, and above all, Delphi.  It's right near a small ski resort, so you can imagine beautiful scenery all around (once you leave the main road/motorway).  The restaurants used on the tours are superb, and we can't wait to return.  The guides were extremely helpful, thoughtful and knowledgeable - there's a Greek word for that!

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15 hours ago, Parsley Cruises said:

You  can find out more about Oroscopo from their own website.  We did find though, that a couple of other restaurants en route to Oroscopo we not 'busy' - Oroscopo was never empty; and we think that this observation speaks for itself.  Maybe there was something wrong with the other restaurants, either too pricey or food/atmostphere not up to much.  Oroscopo had a nice mix of tourists and local people in there.

 

As far as I can remember it didn't close mid afternoon when we were there, and even though we hadn't booked a table, the MD always found a table for us, in a particularly charming manner.

 

The tours that we had on the extension were unbelievable - Mycenae, Epidaurus etc, the Peleponese area, and above all, Delphi.  It's right near a small ski resort, so you can imagine beautiful scenery all around (once you leave the main road/motorway).  The restaurants used on the tours are superb, and we can't wait to return.  The guides were extremely helpful, thoughtful and knowledgeable - there's a Greek word for that!

I had googled Oroscopo as soon as I read your post and was immediately sure we will definitely  go there.  Interesting that they are both Italian and Greek, and their pizza looks wonderful.  Italy/Europe has THE  best pizza.  Wood fired ovens not so common in the states.  We're looking forward to the excursions also, and the free day so we can go to the Archaeological Museum and a few other sites we won't get to on the tours.  It's going to be a busy 4 days. Again, thanks for the positive feed back.    

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6 hours ago, Ready to Sail! said:

I had googled Oroscopo as soon as I read your post and was immediately sure we will definitely  go there.  Interesting that they are both Italian and Greek, and their pizza looks wonderful.  Italy/Europe has THE  best pizza.  Wood fired ovens not so common in the states.  We're looking forward to the excursions also, and the free day so we can go to the Archaeological Museum and a few other sites we won't get to on the tours.  It's going to be a busy 4 days. Again, thanks for the positive feed back.    

Be very careful going to the Archeological Museum, it’s in a dodgy area.  Generally when you’re out and about in Athens there are lots of stray dogs, especially at tourist spots like the Acropolis.

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We went to the Archeological Museum on the included Athens tour.  It is splendid.  We have been to Athens many times and also stayed in the Hilton 3 times and had dinner at the Oroscopo. Lovely wine by the carafe for just a few euros. The second carafe tasted even better.

I have never had any problem with stray dogs whilst at the Acropolis or indeed anywhere else in Athens.   The ones I have seen just lay in the sun.

There are dodgy areas in all over the world.  I would take normal precautions in Athens, Barcelona etc. and also my home city of London. 

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Ah yes, well - if you are used to living in London then I can appreciate where you are coming from.  We are used to wide open spaces and very little crowding.  We noticed the poor dogs in Athens - they were seriously in need of a lot of tlc, and we didn't much like the people who were monitoring them (eg using the dogs for begging purposes).  

 

 

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We  just did the Eastern & Western Mediterranean this past Fall on Oceania.  If you are ending in Athens and staying a few days, I highly recommend Michael's Amazing Tours for transfers from port to hotel, hotel to airport, and for any touring of Athens - we did a full day private tour of Athens & Cape Sounion - private driver guide(he is not a licensed Athens tour guide) - we covered so many sites - it was fabulous.  The private tour can hold up to 4 passengers - same price.

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Does anyone know if the optional Viking excursion 'Acropolis & Plaka District by Foot' includes a guided walking tour while at the Acropolis.  Or is it entirely self-guided?
 

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Call Viking, they can tell you. You might want to consider the full acropolis tour. Museum is awesome. That one I know is guided. Viking had a shuttle that ran from the port to the Temple of Zeus. After the tour, we had time to wander the temple grounds, then walked to the Ancient Agora wandered around and went to the Angora museum, had lunch at DiaDos right outside the Angora gate and caught the shuttle back to the ship. Nice to know, bathrooms are at all these locations. 

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