Tom called the Captain the “Warden” and our Cabin “The Cell!”
The sun and warm breezes followed us as we crossed Eastern Europe. Today it is drizzling while we float through the Iron Gate (locks) area with archaeological evidence of peoples dating back to the Romans. Multi-colored leafed mountains on both sides wave at us as we paddle for the fjord ahead.
Viking Cruises plan and orchestrate trips very well, even down to the last day when they picked us up at our hotel (with boxed breakfast in tow) in Bucharest at 4:30 a.m. There are included excursions for every day. They add shorter excursions (extra cost) if you think you will be bored or can’t spend a whole day on a bus or you can’t walk very far.
The Viking Lif
The Viking Lif hosts 180 passengers and about 80% of them have traveled the world for a very long time. We met a second woman who had traveled to more than 100 countries! Our first woman was in Turkey. Last night we talked with a man who had traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan for his job.
Many passengers are in their 80’s. There is plenty enough room for everyone on the ship except in the staterooms. Twinkers and Hillary (our beloved canines) share a bigger space than we did. When we arrived on the ship, I wondered if Tom would fit into the shower. It is 50% smaller than the one on our RV. If you ever book a cruise on Viking, choose a suite so you can breathe! Tom calls the room our cell!
During the first four days of our cruise sewer gas escaped from the shower in our room. Tom complained several times and they told us that the design of the longboat was problematic. Finally they gave us another stateroom but it also smelled–but less! The smell made us nauseous. If you cruise on a Viking ship book a cabin on the second or third floor! Some passengers knew about the problems because they had been on Viking ships in the past. They booked a higher level cabin!
Ocean Cruises versus River Cruises
While on ocean cruise ships (not river boats), many sea and land adventures are offered. And if you don’t want to choose an excursion there are plenty of drivers waiting at the dock to take you anywhere. We usually rent a car or hike the towns where we dock. There were no cabs (or anyone other than chartered buses) waiting at our docks for this ship. I asked one person working on the ship if he was getting off the boat and he said, “There is nothing here to see!”
Viking prefers adventures of the mind, eyes, and stomach. When we visit a town (all 180 of us) we are taken to “free” places such as churches, synagogues, (no mosques) with a local guide. We had never been on tours that were so large with so many people. Sometimes we listen to classical or Christian concerts. On a farm in Osijek, Croatia horses danced, sat, and played coy for us! Here we learned how the locals defended themselves with horses and whips that sounded like bullets.
In Bucharest we were fed some type of chicken stew with a warm Pepsi or wine, your choice. It felt as if they were throwing feed at cows. Women pushed five foot carts in between the tables. The best thing about this meal was the ice cream.
The same meal was served at a very nice restaurant in Serbia. It tasted like leftovers! Feeding 180 people is a challenge! We never dreamed that everyone would go on all the excursions together!
Cooking, wine-tasting, opera, and specialty foods fill in the hours. Last night on the ship our dinner was a Taste of Serbia. I thought most of the food came out of cans because we attend Serbian Fests in Kansas City with real fresh food. And a lot of the food on the ship seemed as if it had been pre-cooked, stored in plastic, or frozen. The beef stew tasted slimy with lots of salt. It was probably pre-cooked in plastic bags — like those you can buy at Walmart. Rarely did we enjoy lunch or dinner. Breakfast was okay.
Beer, wine, and soft drinks are free flowing and free at every meal. Plus, you can buy a liquor package that will allow you to drink any spirit 24 hours a day. (A lot of people spent their time on the cruise drinking and they were over the edge!) In between meals they greet you at the door with Hungarian specialties or some unknown blue or yellow alcoholic concoction.
They played music for us, danced for us, sang for us, and took care of us. We have been on scores of ships and have never met such gentle and helpful people. This is reflective of their captain (the warden) who appears also to be a kind and gentle soul. My favorite person on the ship was Pedro, the piano player. He was from Portugal. I recognized that he was playing music from the same Fake Book (Song Book) I use.
WIFI went up in Smoke!
This trip was very challenging! While the longship of Viking claims it has WIFI, it flickers on and off. It is so unstable that I could not post any blogs. Their WIFI is suspicious too. Sometimes it appeared that I was trying to enter a Spanish porthole and at other times it is French or Hungarian or whatever! It was like a puff of smoke floating across the Danube.
Ocean Cruises versus River Cruises, again!
Before the cruise I made several calls to Viking. No one could give us any info about times at port or when the excursions ran before our cruise. They even changed the date of the first excursion which messed up our flights. (I thought this was odd.) The lack of information was frustrating because we would have liked to have toured more on our own. We never knew how far a town was from a port and we did not know the names of the ports (If they were cities!) ahead of time. Ocean ships always have port times posted and list the name of the port where the ship would be docked.
The planning and control on the Lif was too much for us! (I know I am just droning on here!) One passenger told us that we were on this trip twenty years too soon! Within a couple of days, the cruise began to feel like a jail. They dictated when breakfast, lunch, or dinner would be served. (On ocean cruises you can dine at any moment because food of some type is always available!) We were obliged to attend a briefing on rules for the next day’s activities right before dinner. And there were lots of rules! Then on the excursions we rarely had a few minutes of freedom.
Fake Information from Guides
I became frustrated with a couple of the guides whose knowledge of religions was about “zero” but they kept spouting inaccuracies. A few passengers were talking about the guides who had trouble with “real” facts. I guess this is the Trump Age with Fake News everywhere!
(Dr.) Larry our Room Attendant took care of all of us!
Both Tom and I contracted diseases on this trip. I became ill in Budapest with what, I believe, was Strep Throat. Don’t worry, I brought antibiotics with us. Tom became ill about the same time we boarded the ship and the rest of the passengers on the ship followed with their own versions of respiratory and intestinal disturbances. I believe he has had some type of flu, even though he had a flu shot. (Three weeks later we are still recovering.) We began to worry when his fever was very high. The bed was his companion for almost two days. We do not remember a trip when both of us became ill so quickly. These are joys of traveling and flying next to very sick people!
We met a few women who were traveling by themselves. They told us that they like the planning, cultural events, and security that they find on Viking cruises. Some people had cruised eight times on Viking! You don’t have to worry about anything and, especially, you don’t have to make many decisions about what to eat or where to visit. It is sort of like cruising on a floating assisted-living island!
Maybe you would like a Viking Cruise too! Everything is planned down to the millisecond!
As always, this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge