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Shore excursions discussion


ClevelandKid
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Hi all,

 

Since cruising doesn't begin for another 2+ months, here is a question to get you in the mood and provide me with info.

 

Knowing up front that this is a personal preference, but wanting to get your input anyways - on the shore excursions, do you prefer a fully guided tour? A tour with a guide during transit but on your own once you hit your destination?  Or a day long trip to a destination that leaves you on your own (think a beach)?  We have done the Venice to Athens cruise and the Caribbean cruise, and on the Venice to Athens cruise we and every other cruise ship in port that day went tripping over each other in sightseeing.  On the Caribbean cruise there was a lot of free time, but you also miss a lot.  Just looking for your spin on things and why.

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I always prefer a fully guided tour with six people tops and based upon our interests and ability.  Of couse this involves prior research into what there is to do and see as well as personally coordinating with the guide prior to the trip to get their suggestions.  We did this in almost all of the ports visited on the South America and Chilean Fjords cruise.

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Probably the best advice would be to thoroughly research the port and immediate area to decide what interests you, then determine the best way to accomplish. In addition, I also consider how many ships are in port, how big they are and how many non-cruise ship tourists will also be present.

 

Whether we book a guide varies by the attractions and whether we select a ship's tour, private tour or simply wandering around on our own. In one port we may even use multiple options - example, during our 3-days in Sydney last year:

  • Day 1 - preference was a small group, fully guided tour to the Blue Mountains that was not possible due to the fires. Next option was self-guided day on local ferries heading to Manly Beach
  • Day 2 - Booked an early morning limo to the Opera House for the back-stage tour, followed by a walk around The Rocks. Could have booked with the ship at significant extra cost.
  • Day 3 - Booked a ship's tour to Hunter Valley with a guide. Due to the distance and being departure day, we didn't want the risk of missing the ship. Tour only had 2 couples, so was perfect size.

Please note that the Meddy & Caribbean are probably 2 of the most congested cruising regions.

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I know how much walking you do around the Rocks. It’s exhausting so stops are necessary and hydration is paramount. I have counted the steps from the shuttle boat to the Fortune of War and I salute you. 🍺😎

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Posted (edited)

Thanks!  I have to admit that after the first cruise we did (Venice to Athens), how crowded a tour was likely to be floated to the top of my decision tree.  I now look at it - does the port have such an interesting destination that it outweighs the 10 tour buses from 3 different cruise lines each with 60 people in it, with another 10 tour buses coming in an hour?  Would I do the Louvre or St Peter's with a ton of other groups?  Absolutely.  Would I do the Hapsburg's castle again? Nope

 

Interesting though - while the Caribbean is a hot cruising area, there are usually enough places to spread out that it doesn't feel that bad.  We did the catamaran tour and went to a beach where we were the only people there.

Edited by ClevelandKid
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You are so right that this is a personal preference, but for us it also changes from place to place.  We did a private group tour for our three days in Saint Petersburg, but for the most part, we stick to Viking's excursions. We sometimes use the included tours as long as there is a walking component, and sometimes optional ones. We have never been on a bus with more than 30 people, and we like the convenience of Viking taking care of everything. We like having a guide, but often stay after a tour and return on the Viking shuttle to get time on our own. In Brugge we did a "Brugge on your Own" tour because it gave us the longest time in a city on our bucket list. It was a good day, but I did rather miss having a guide. 

 

We always schedule our trips around April or September, which helps avoid the worst crowds and the hottest weather. Once, we were the first ship of the season and the only ship of the day for Santorini. Not everything was open yet, but we met shop owners touching up the paint and got to really chat with the server in the place we had lunch. That was on a Viking included excursion, with a guided portion followed by time on our own. Perfection!

 

The longer we have been away from traveling, the more I expect I will enjoy whatever form our next experience takes. Next on the schedule ( after three missed trips thanks to covid) is Barcelona to Venice in April 2022. I can't wait!

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7 hours ago, Jim Avery said:

I know how much walking you do around the Rocks. It’s exhausting so stops are necessary and hydration is paramount. I have counted the steps from the shuttle boat to the Fortune of War and I salute you. 🍺😎

 

You bet, those few stairs up from First Fleet Park up to George Street required a pint, then the hike up the street to the crosswalk required another. Therefore, from the tender dock, the FoW was at least 2 pints to replace the hydration. The Taproom was only a couple hundred yards, but some was uphill, so it was another 2 pints for hydration purposes. 😁🍺

 

It was thirsty work, but somebody had to do it.

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If it is a city we have been to  before but it has been a while since we last visited it, we will sometimes take Vikings Complimentary Panarama tour to reacquaint ourselves with the area and then head out on our own to visit our favorite spots.   If we have not visited the city before we will research the place, determine what we want to see, and then research the tour companies to determine which can best satisfy our requirements.  Since my wife has hearing challenges, we seldom will book a tour with more than three other couples.  We have been very successful in using Cruise Critic to put together these private tours.  We seldom take cruise ship tours unless they offer special access to a site that you can not arrange on your own or unless there is a significate risk in making it back to the ship before it departs - both these situations are rare.  If you don't want to take the effort and time to research a location, then I would probably recommend you book a ship's tour.

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29 minutes ago, Dukefan said:

If it is a city we have been to  before but it has been a while since we last visited it, we will sometimes take Vikings Complimentary Panarama tour to reacquaint ourselves with the area and then head out on our own to visit our favorite spots.   If we have not visited the city before we will research the place, determine what we want to see, and then research the tour companies to determine which can best satisfy our requirements.  Since my wife has hearing challenges, we seldom will book a tour with more than three other couples.  We have been very successful in using Cruise Critic to put together these private tours.  We seldom take cruise ship tours unless they offer special access to a site that you can not arrange on your own or unless there is a significate risk in making it back to the ship before it departs - both these situations are rare.  If you don't want to take the effort and time to research a location, then I would probably recommend you book a ship's tour.

Dukefan - you sound just like us!  (my wife also has the hearing problems that have caused us to avoid the large Viking excursions - unless they are extra special).  It will be interesting to see how long it will be a Viking Excursions only required set of rules until people are allowed to wander on their own or take private excursions.  Maybe 2023?

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19 hours ago, Heidi13 said:

 

You bet, those few stairs up from First Fleet Park up to George Street required a pint, then the hike up the street to the crosswalk required another. Therefore, from the tender dock, the FoW was at least 2 pints to replace the hydration. The Taproom was only a couple hundred yards, but some was uphill, so it was another 2 pints for hydration purposes. 😁🍺

 

It was thirsty work, but somebody had to do it.

 

What - your routes didn't include shrimp tacos for additional sustenance at the Glenmore roof??

 

Never mind - FoW is always well stocked with Toohey's, and has the "New" if your timing is right. 🍻🥌

IMG_0014.jpeg

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37 minutes ago, CurlerRob said:

 

What - your routes didn't include shrimp tacos for additional sustenance at the Glenmore roof??

 

Never mind - FoW is always well stocked with Toohey's, and has the "New" if your timing is right. 🍻🥌

IMG_0014.jpeg

 

 

Glenmore for lunch was next on the agenda, but DW's back gave out, so it was back to the tenders.

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, CCWineLover said:

Dukefan - you sound just like us!  (my wife also has the hearing problems that have caused us to avoid the large Viking excursions - unless they are extra special).  It will be interesting to see how long it will be a Viking Excursions only required set of rules until people are allowed to wander on their own or take private excursions.  Maybe 2023?

CCWineLover

I love your CC name since I also am a also wine lover.  Hopefully we can bump into each other on a future cruise and discuss our favorite wines and our cellars.   I have taken a couple of wine trips to Paso Robles during the pass few years (last time in October 2019).  There are several wonderful wineries in your area.  I am currently on the mailing lists of a few of them since I am a fan on Rhone style wines which are popular from this region.

 

I am hopeful that Viking will allow folks to wander on their own and take private excursions much sooner than 2023.  Hopefully a year or so from now in mid- 2022!  It will depend on how vaccines go and their experience when they start cruising again this summer maybe.

Edited by Dukefan
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I suspect the opportunity to go off on one's own will be largely dependent on the host country's situation. 

 

IF (and a big one) the host country has its medical situation under control, and only vaccinated passengers and crew are on the ship, it might be business as it used to be...

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On 3/25/2021 at 1:30 PM, Heidi13 said:

 

 

Glenmore for lunch was next on the agenda, but DW's back gave out, so it was back to the tenders.

Here’s hoping you have better luck in 2023!  🍺🥌

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14 hours ago, CurlerRob said:

Here’s hoping you have better luck in 2023!  🍺🥌

 

Thanks, in addition to the Glenmore, also hoping to try the pub at OPT, which didn't exist when I was docked at OPT every couple of weeks.

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