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tomculb
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We are doing some future cruise window shopping, and I had some questions about Viking excursions. I recognize that these questions would be easier to answer if we had a specific cruise in mind, but we’re not that far along.

 

  1. Any generalities about the included excursions? At worst, I envision several hundred of us loaded onto a fleet of buses to drive around the city/town for an hour or two. We are fortunate in that age has not impaired our ability to walk and otherwise be active, and we would prefer that kind of thing to a lot of time on a bus.

  2. Conventional wisdom is that with excursions you pay for, you pay quite a premium for a cruise line sponsored one compared to a comparable private one you set up yourself. Is that generally true for Viking Oceans too?

  3. If you sign up for a cruise late, say less than 60 days prior to departure, does that limit your choices of excursions?

  4. The website doesn’t show arrival and departure times for any of the ports of call, and I’m leery of port stays that aren’t long enough to be meaningful.  By not showing that information, is VO hiding something I might like to know? And is an overnight really significant parts of two days (I remember seeing a different cruise line brag about an overnight when in fact the ship left at 1AM the day after it arrived in port).

 

Any and all observations would be appreciated.

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2 minutes ago, tomculb said:

 

 

We are doing some future cruise window shopping, and I had some questions about Viking excursions. I recognize that these questions would be easier to answer if we had a specific cruise in mind, but we’re not that far along.

 

  1. Any generalities about the included excursions? At worst, I envision several hundred of us loaded onto a fleet of buses to drive around the city/town for an hour or two. We are fortunate in that age has not impaired our ability to walk and otherwise be active, and we would prefer that kind of thing to a lot of time on a bus.

  2. Conventional wisdom is that with excursions you pay for, you pay quite a premium for a cruise line sponsored one compared to a comparable private one you set up yourself. Is that generally true for Viking Oceans too?

  3. If you sign up for a cruise late, say less than 60 days prior to departure, does that limit your choices of excursions?

  4. The website doesn’t show arrival and departure times for any of the ports of call, and I’m leery of port stays that aren’t long enough to be meaningful.  By not showing that information, is VO hiding something I might like to know? And is an overnight really significant parts of two days (I remember seeing a different cruise line brag about an overnight when in fact the ship left at 1AM the day after it arrived in port).

 

Any and all observations would be appreciated.

Tomculb:

A couple observations from our 3 Viking Ocean Cruises thus far:

1.  Included Excursions:  they certainly can be buses for a couple hours and these have not been the best.  However, several of the ones we have had are "demanding" walking tours.  The trick is to look carefully at the descriptions and read between the lines.  When they say demanding it usually is and when they say several miles on cobblestones, it usually is.  When they say you will have ample time for shopping, it means lots of filler time.  We've had some outstanding included excursions in Stavanger, Norway; Copenhagen; St. Kitts; San Juan (very good!) Puerto Rico; Malaga, Spain, and Amsterdam -  plus some rather not so good ones.  I would say 50-50.

2.  Paid Excursions - we've had way better fortune with these - in fact some incredible tours!  Yes, they tend to be more expensive, but we always felt that the extra was essentially "Trip Insurance" since you never have to worry about not making it back to the ship, and if the port gets cancelled, no hassles getting your money back.  There certainly are pluses and minus, and we've done a combination of Viking and individual private tours. 

3.  Often excursions that are popular fill out fast, before others can sign up.  Many times, however, people sign up and then cancel so always check to see if spots open up - we've had that happen many many times.  Other times, the location has just a limited number of spots for Viking, so likely they won't open up (like the Alhambra tour in Granada).

4.  You can always find the arrival and departure times (at least planned) on your own itinerary when you do the cruise and before you make any excursion decision.  That is not the issue - the issue may be that if you book a private tour knowing this, the times could radically change close to departure for various reasons , and you might have to cancel or change your private tour.  If you are with a Viking tour, it will be taken care of.  An overnight in a port is indeed significant.  For us this allows us to look seriously into private tours since there is no concern about making it back to the ship on time.

Hope this helps!

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1.  You may find quite reliable information about arrival and departure times from looking at a combination of whatsinport.com and the relevant port websites.

 

2.  We don't like a lot of time on a coach either - but for far flung excursions it can be more reliable than taking a privately organised excursion; and at least you have a chance of having an experienced/knowledgeable tour guide.  Yes, I agree that going on a coach can limit your ability to have a good walk, but that can always be achieved.  We've had excursions where we've said to the tour guide that we want to do our own thing for a short while, and we've happily agreed a meeting time and place - and it's worked beautifully.

 

3.  With a VO excursion, you know that VO are responsible for you, and that the ship will wait for you.  Take a privately run excursion, and you can run the risk of the ship (and your possessions, medication etc) leaving without you.

 

For us - it's always a mix - if a port doesn't hold much interest for us, or we don't feel it's going to be safe, or if we know we are going to be desperate for a run - then we don't book an excursion.  Either we then do our own exploration (like in Split for example, or Gerainger or Reykjavik) simply because the close by items of interest can be included on a nice walk; or we go for a run (route planned beforehand).

 

However, some excursions (like Olympia from Katakolon or Delphi from Piraeus) are longish outings, and for those we would always use the VO trips.  We have never used a private excursion, and we never will.

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All the information that has been given so far is accurate. Here are a couple more random points.

In many locations, Viking provides free shuttle service to a predetermined point for guests. We have often used these, sometimes to remain after a tour, and also to return to the destination after a morning tour.

 

Since we have only cruised with Viking, I can't say for sure, but I have read that the Viking optional tours are more reasonably priced than other cruise lines' excursions. The optional tours often have smaller groups than the included tours. Tour times are usually staggered, so not all passengers descend on a site at the same time. 

 

Port times can vary from sailing to sailing, so they are not listed on the website. If you ask for a quote from a Viking agent, they will be printed on your invoice. That's not the most efficient way to get the information, but at least you can find out before booking.

 

On our three cruises, we have used a mix of included and optional tours with great success. Some have been really special, most have be quite satisfactory, and one was disappointing (poor guide). As mentioned earlier, it's important to read descriptions carefully. Most tours involve part bus tours with some part walking. 

 

Only once have we used a private tour, in St. Petersburg. That was based on our desire to see as much as possible while there, the excellent reputation of the company, and our fear of being shut out of desired tours. After the fact, I may have eliminated some stops in favor of more time at others, and most of the Viking excursions did not fill up. I could have used Viking after all. But our tour with Alla was excellent, and less expensive than Viking's would have been. For Granada, we would have also sought a private tour if we had not already seen the Alhambra. That tour does sell out, as space is limited, and it is a spectacular sight. 

 

In the future, I will continue to use a mix of Viking included and optional excursions, both for the convenience, and our satisfaction with past tours. 

Edited by lackcreativity
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You could try searching by port name in this forum to get more detail on the included excursions for each port.

Some ports are easy to explore on foot from the ship. Some ports Viking has a shuttle running to the city center or main tourist area so that you can explore on your own schedule. Some ports you may want to visit a town that is further from the port---for example going to Seville if you port in Cadiz. 

We did a combination of Viking included tours, Viking optional tours, private tours and exploring on our own. The Viking included tours were somewhat disappointing but did give a brief overview for places we had no been before. We then explored on our own after the included tour, so tried to always do them first thing in the AM. 

The Viking optional tours are roughly comparable to what other lines charge. You can do things more economically on your own but obviously you incur some risk doing that. I would not do an all day private tour that goes 2 hours away from port. But we have done 3 hour private foodie walking tours when we have a 10 hour port day. 

 

 

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10 hours ago, tomculb said:

Any generalities about the included excursions? At worst, I envision several hundred of us loaded onto a fleet of buses to drive around the city/town for an hour or two. We are fortunate in that age has not impaired our ability to walk and otherwise be active, and we would prefer that kind of thing to a lot of time on a bus.

 

Viking does not run the tours in each port; they hire a third-party service and then work with them to develop tours that they think will be attractive to their guests. The included tours are meant to be an introduction to the area and depending on where you, they may be a bus tour or a walking tour. They tend to be shorter rather than longer so that guests have the opportunity to do other tours (thru Viking, privately, or "on your own"). As WineLover said, you have to read between the lines when you read the descriptions. On bus tours, looking at a map and "asking for directions" will give you an idea of how much time you will spend just getting there and back.

 

10 hours ago, tomculb said:

Conventional wisdom is that with excursions you pay for, you pay quite a premium for a cruise line sponsored one compared to a comparable private one you set up yourself. Is that generally true for Viking Oceans too?

 

Not always the case. It differs from port to port. Easy to make blanket statements but it doesn't always give the true picture for any given port.You won't know if conventional wisdom is accurate for that port until you start looking at the options.

 

11 hours ago, tomculb said:

The website doesn’t show arrival and departure times for any of the ports of call, and I’m leery of port stays that aren’t long enough to be meaningful.  By not showing that information, is VO hiding something I might like to know? And is an overnight really significant parts of two days (I remember seeing a different cruise line brag about an overnight when in fact the ship left at 1AM the day after it arrived in port).

 

Viking is not hiding anything. They don't give port times on the website because they can change from sail date to sail date. Viking likes to give a longer day rather than a shorter day in as many ports as possible but port time is drive by many things, including how long it took to get there from the last port and how long it will take to get to the next. Viking likes itineraries that are port intensive and they try to give you as many hours in a port as possible.

 

Barring unforeseen circumstances, when Viking says they overnight in a port, you will wake up the next morning in that port. Many times an overnight port is an embarkation/disembarkation port and usually you will have one day for embarking or disembarking and one day for touring.

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You will find lots of excursion information in the "Cruise Reviews" at the bottom of each page, as well as in individual threads here.  However, be careful if your chosen cruise is a new one, or to an area of the world new to Viking, where they have to employ tour companies of whom they have no experience.  This was the case last autumn in China, where we had tour guides whose English was negligible, and the structure of several included tours (and some for which we paid) was dire.  All is recorded in the Cruise Reviews.  

 

 

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6 hours ago, Vineyard View said:

Broker1217 - how do you use the search you referenced for Viking excisions only, or am I misunderstanding?  When I use search for St Kitts, it populates posts from all cruise lines. Thanks much!

 

Click your cursor in the search box and  drop down menu will appear---one of the search options is 'this forum'.

It  took me awhile to find this and I had the same issue.

 

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Broker1217, thank you. I never knew this existed and can see how it will be very helpful. 

 

Regarding private excursions, we do this a lot when we travel. Our experience has been that if they are not less expensive (which is most of the time) then they are more inclusive in what they offer - meaning what you see or do could equal more than one ship excursion.

What I have read a number of times is that the Excursions that Viking offers for a cost are often less expensive than the main line cruise companies. 

The free shuttle busses, when offered, are a great deal to make the day your own way. Mainstream cruise lines often charge for this type of service. 

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We have done 1 Viking Ocean cruise, 2 Viking river cruises, and we are currently a few weeks away from booking excursions for our 2nd ocean cruise, and in the checking out phase for a 3rd ocean cruise that is still over a year away. All in different parts of the world. 

 

Viking has river cruising tours down to a science, and I think they are quickly learning to translate that to the ocean cruise tours, though the port situations present a different challenge. 

 

Our ocean cruise was in the Caribbean, and Viking had not had a lot of experience in that area. The included tours were mostly bus tours, but the 1 we did took us to lovely estate with impressive views. The other we did was a walking tour in St Croix. We enjoyed this very much and had ample time docked right in the town to shop and explore a historic fort.  

 

We have done a mix of included and optional tours on all of our Viking cruises. Most were great, a few fabulous and out of all, only 1 was not so great. Mostly due to a long bus ride over twisty winding narrow roads in Guadeloupe with a tour guide who didn’t have a good grasp of English, so he frequently just spoke to us in French 😳

 

Our upcoming cruise is the Eastern Seaboard Explorer from Montreal to NYC. We will be again booking a mix of tours. The Canadian ports are all new and we have some optional tours picked out, the rest will be included tours. We are also stopping in Portland, ME and Boston, MA. We have been to both of these ports before and feel quite comfortable doing things on our own. 

 

Our year away cruise is the Trade Routes of the Middle Ages from Bergen, Norway to Barcelona.  I think we will also be doing a mix again. We have been to Amsterdam many times and will do that on our own. The other ports are all new except Portsmouth and that has some optional tours that sound interesting or we may just wander around on our own. The only included tour that involves a long bus ride is LeHavre to Paris and I think we will skip that one. 

 

I would suggest when you are looking at the itineraries, click on the individual ports to see what excursions might be offered. Read the descriptions.  Check maps and that will give you a good idea what’s involved and what is possible. 

 

We have found Viking’s optional excursions to be reasonably priced and for the most part great value. I would say they are less expensive than, or in line with other cruise lines. And usually quite excellent. 

 

I hope this helps!

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