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nicomendoza

Quality of Included Tours

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Posted (edited)

New to Viking and will be on an 8-Day Venice, Adriatic and Greece cruise. Just wanted to ask about quality of the included excursions/tours. 

 

We like to explore new places and we took to cruising to be able to see the highlights of every city we visit. 

 

We don’t need a tour to be in-depth nor too active, but it would also be disappointing if we simply drove around without being able to walk up to and learn more about even a few important places on each city up close. 

 

Do the included tours cut it? When is it good to take an included tour and when should we go for an optional tour?

 

Thanks and we’re looking forward to our trip!

Edited by nicomendoza
Improved clarity

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Posted (edited)

If it says "panoramic" it's mostly a bus tour.  Panoramic tours usually have photo stops where you get out, maybe walk around a bit.
If the optional tour goes specifically to something(s) you want to see, consider booking it.
On Ocean (vs River, which has more fine included walking tours) I take mostly optional tours to get to see what I want to see in-depth.

Another Ocean tactic is take the included but use the shuttle (usually provided, see important Viking Daily for precise details) to walk around on your own & come back on your own.

Edited by philw1776

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Quality of tours is so dependent on the guide.  We've had very, very good ones and some that seemed to barely know their way around.  Tours described as "panoramic" are mostly bus rides with perhaps a few photo stops.  Even those can give you an idea of what you may want to go back and see.  That's usually doable since Viking often provides shuttle service from the ship to a central location.  You can also bail out of a panoramic tour and take an Uber or taxi back to the ship.  We've done that, just let your guide know.  In many cases you can take both the included and an optional tour in the same port, departing on the included in the morning and to optional in the afternoon.  We did that many times on our last cruise and never had a miss, although we did miss a lunch or two.  

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we've had good luck with many of the included tours. we usually try to book a morning one, then go off on our own and tour and eat lunch off the ship. 

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We've always had the perfect guides.  We do like TGBoss and get the included tour in the morning and strike out after it to see/do what we want.  I do a lot of research before any cruise and have the highlights of each port printed out.  Part of my research is must eat restaurants to have lunch.  Missing a meal on the ship is no biggie to us.  Experiencing the real food of the country is more important.  The free shuttles are extremely helpful. 

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Posted (edited)

Although the quality of the included tours are highly dependent on the guide, we've noticed the quality of included tours on our VO cruises has not been as consistently high as on the European rivers. Viking has a much longer history on the rivers and as the market leader it has been able to maintain contracts with tour operators that align with the Viking experience. It is much more of a hit or miss with the ocean ports, in part because Viking is a relative latecomer and ocean cruising is straining resources in many ports.

 

We tend to eschew the panoramic tours since they are on large coaches (accommodating 50 guests) and don't stop often enough for photos. The included walking tours feature religious sites and other architectural points of interest and usually allow some free time, but not enough for our interests. Invariably, we have seen a shop we wanted to visit but there was insufficient time while on the tour and we were unable to find our way back during the free time.

 

There are ports where optional "leisurely" walking tours are offered. These are often similar to an included walking tour but go at a slower pace, which is helpful for those with mobility concerns.

 

When we have had specific questions about particular excursions we have contacted Guest Services (using the phone number under Contact Us on the MyVikingJourney site) and have received detailed information by email. It may take a week or two, but here is an example:

 

I wanted to relay some information I received from my London office about the questions you had inquired about.

 

The bus size used in Rome varies between 25 and 49, depending on how many people sign up for each tour.

Highlights of Rome and Colosseum - Ocean shore excursion

1.)     Details of shore excursions are subject to change. The detail and timings given here are for guidance and cannot be guaranteed. The order of visits may vary.

2.)     Optional Tour

3.)     Duration:-  10 ½ hours

4.)     Itinerary

5.)     1 hr 45 min                Transfer from the ship to Rome, comfort stop en route.

6.)     30 min                        Arrive Rome and scenic drive, passing the Colosseum, Forum Romanum etc

7.)     1 hr 45 min                Stop at San Gregorio and inside visit of the Colosseum

8.)     30 min                        Return to the coach, proceed to Ludovisi passing the Circus Maximum

9.)     2 hours                      Guided walking tour, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon (inside visit) ending at Piazza Navona.

10.) 2 hr                             Free time for lunch (not included) at Piazza Navona

11.) 15 min                        Meet the guide and return to the coach

12.) 15 min                        Drive along the Tiber to Castel Sant Angelo and St Basilica in the background

13.) 1 hour 30 min           Transfer back to the ship.

14.) Restrooms:- There are no toilets on the coach, rest stop en route, cafes in and around St Peters Square

15.) Suggested dress code:-  Comfortable clothing suited to the weather conditions, comfortable footwear. Covered shoulders and knees are required for visits to religious buildings.

16.) Access:- Not recommended for wheelchair users or those with mobility limitations, this tour involves extensive walking over uneven ground.

Edited by Hanoj
omitted words

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I feel that some of the included tours are now very poor indeed, we have fairly recently returned from the 36 night Cruise from Hong Kong to Vancouver and some of the included tours were infact just shuttle bus drop offs to the centre of town, especially the Alaskan part of the trip. They have to pay for all these new ships and this is obviously one way to cut back, compared to what you received a year or two ago. It is one of their main selling points for their Cruises that there is an included excursion in nearly every port but their standards are slipping and it is a very competitive industry and also their prices seem to be rising so I for one will look even more carefully at what they include compared to others before I put my money down.

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My suggestion is that you read the description Viking provides of the excursions carefully. We usually do a mix of included and optional excursions, with use of the free shuttle service to extend our time in port, or sometimes to return later in the day.

 

For example, the included excursion in Dubrovnik is a walking tour of the Old Town, with a guide who also took us to a small memorial to the mostly young men who died in the war and an inside visit to the Dominican Monastery. We remained after the tour and bought our own tickets to walk the medieval walls of the city.  We then had lunch in a local restaurant before taking the last shuttle of the day back to the ship. 

 

In Athens, we did an optional tour because the included one did not visit the Acropolis, which we wanted to do. Don't automatically exclude an included tour, but see what it offers, and what you want to do at that location.

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for all your great inputs. Obviously a lot to think about but I think we have much better picture now on how to decide. 

 

Can’t wait to finally go!

Edited by nicomendoza

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For me, the research before a trip is a great part of the fun! Our first ever ocean cruise was Viking's Empires of the Mediterranean, an itinerary very similar to yours. We did the included tours in Dubrovnik, Kotor, and Katakolon and all were very satisfactory. Sometimes, like in Dubrovnik, we stay beyond the tour and use the free shuttle to return later. In Corfu, we did an optional excursion because in browsing on Pinterest before the trip I saw a picture of the Achilleion Palace and decided I wanted to see it. That excursion also included a walking tour of the Old Town, which is part of the included excursion.

 

Our trip did not include a visit to Venice, but your included excursion there gets you a quick tour of San Marco Square and then time on your own to do whatever you wish. Only you can decide if you want to do anything more specific than to wander through Venice on your own ( a perfectly lovely way to spend a day). If you decide you want to see The Doge's Palace or the Basilica or the fabulous view from the Campanile, then you might want to book an optional excursion or at least get tickets in advance on the internet. We did that for the Campanile (the bell tower) on a recent visit to Venice, and it was terrific. You buy a timed ticket online and take the elevator to the top for a spectacular view. 

 

Have a wonderful trip.

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Nicomendoza,

We are on the 10-day Venice - Athens cruise departing April 6th. I believe there are a number of common ports between the two itineraries. If your cruise is before then, we would greatly appreciate it if you would post your opinion of the included tours. 

 

Thanks

Jack

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lackcreativity,

Would you mind providing the web site address for the online tickets. 

 

Thanks,

Jack

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1 hour ago, Jack E Dawson said:

lackcreativity,

Would you mind providing the web site address for the online tickets. 

 

Thanks,

Jack

https://www.venetoinside.com/attraction-tickets-in-veneto/tickets/st-marks-bell-tower-skip-the-line-entry/     

 

We have been to Venice three times, all on escorted land tours. Most sites in Venice we visited as part of these tours. On the last trip, we broke off from the group when they were visiting places23931120528_573cfc2848_k.thumb.jpg.864ee1754f453d4a15660d575d6042a1.jpg we had seen previously. That's when we went to the top of the Campanile. It has been several years since then, but I think the website above looks very familiar. I even remember their warnings about nonrefundable tickets, and not to be late etc. The cost is only 13 euros each, so it's not a big investment. The elevator is a real plus, as we usually are unable/unwilling to climb a ridiculous number of steps to reach these special views.

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@lackcreativity Thanks! Glad to know that you found the included tours satisfactory, we’re actually inclined to go included for most of the tours, save for a couple we’d like to do in depth. 

 

We got into cruising and like organized tours because as a couple we could be far from organized - we went for a week in Paris and never got to see Arc de Triomphe and totally missed the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. We also missed Waikiki in Hawaii and the Statue of Liberty in New York. We are that kind of traveller if left to our own. 

 

So for our 2 upcoming cruises, we’d like it to count LOL

 

Fingers crossed 🙂

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