Our short but sweet “Journey to Antiquities” cruise is over but will remain a special memory for a long, long time! We boarded the beautiful Star in Athens and we were able to go to our stateroom immediately. A last minute upgrade put us in a Penthouse Junior Suite which was a lovely space but the inclusion of free laundry (including dry cleaning!) was the biggest perk! Our housekeeping team was phenomenal … at every step they were eager to make sure that we were comfortable and had whatever we needed and/or wanted.
This was a somewhat abbreviated version of the cruise. We had two sea days which were the 24th and 25th. That meant that we had only four ports before disembarking in Rome. We really didn’t miss the extra stops as we truly enjoy the time we spend on the ship and we were looking for some R&R on this trip. There were two sea days (back to back the 24th and 25th). There were lots of on board activities planned but the first day we had some really rough seas and ended up hunkering down in the cabin … navigating the ship was a challenge for all but the most sure footed! Things finally settled down during the night and we enjoyed a calm and peaceful Christmas day!
Dining was, as always, a pleasure. We are not fussy eaters and although I love to cook I do enjoy occasionally having someone else do the shopping, chopping, serving and clean up! We skipped the Chef’s Table this trip as the menus were ones we have had twice before but we enjoyed two lovely dinners at Manfredi’s. We always enjoy The Restaurant and enjoyed most of our dinners there. The service was great and the food as good as we remembered! This trip we enjoyed some lunches at the Pool Grill which were very enjoyable … we often skip the grill as it can get crowded but they seem to have added some seating to the area around the grill and seating was much easier than it seemed to have been in the past.
We did a mix of included and optional tours and enjoyed them all.
Athens - We did the combination Acropolis & Plaka District by Foot in Athens. It was a nice tour and not as physically challenging as we anticipated. We had thought we might stay in town and take the shuttle back to the ship but when all was said and done it would only have been about an hour and a half of extra time and the traffic was pretty awful so we headed back to the ship with the tour guide.
Kusadasi (Ephesus) – We took the Ancient Ephesus tour which was great … the only thing we noticed was the fact that we were shadowed throughout the tour by groups on the included A Gentle Journey Into the Ancient World tour. Several members of our group commented that they weren’t sure what we were doing that was different but weren’t sure it was worth the cost of the excursion. Another note on the Ephesus/Kusadasi stop … we were, at the end of the tour, taken to an establishment that sold goods that were made by local artisans who were subsidized by the government and apparently recommended by Viking (and a host of other cruise lines) as authentic and of good quality. While we appreciate knowing where good quality products (rather than “made in China” junk), we weren’t in the market for high priced (no matter how high the quality) souvenirs. The people in the shop were very nice but it felt a little high pressure (we were outnumbered two to one!). If they continue to make this stop on the tour(s) keep in mind that it is easy to skip and get back to the ship on your own. The port is across the street from the shop and the ship was easy to see from the place where they have you exit the bus.
Chania (Crete) – We did the included tour here and enjoyed it very much. It is a charming town and there was a lot to see. I wish we had had more free time but it was adequate enough for non-shoppers.
In Naples we did the Sorrento and Pompeii combination. We did Sorrento first thing in the morning which was a change from the printed itinerary but our guide suggested that traffic along the main road into the city could be problematic later in the day. Sure enough as we were leaving town the traffic into town was horrendous! We enjoyed a relatively quick trip to Pompeii where we had time for a quick piece of pizza before we began our tour. Pompeii was fascinating and we would have liked to have had more time there but we did feel that we got a good overview during our tour. We enjoyed a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice after the tour and enjoyed a lovely drive back to the ship.
Another highlight of the trip was the extension Ultimate Italy / Umbria. The castle (yes, we stayed in a freaking castle!!!) was amazing and our guide took good care of us. There were only ten of us on the extension and everyone was friendly and respectful of the schedule and we enjoyed a great deal of friendly and lively conversation during some wonderful meals. The food was terrific! Although we had a crazy early departure time on the day we were to fly home Viking provided a private driver who got us to the airport comfortably and in plenty of time for a pre-flight breakfast. I would absolutely recommend this extension … or the one to Tuscany which we enjoyed last year! Both were awesome … but then of course Italy is awesome, isn’t it?
All in all … great cruise, great time! Can’t wait for the next one … summer on the river!
The cabin was lovely. It was a last minute (complementary) upgrade which we enjoyed very much. There was lots of room for storage and the bathroom had two sinks and a larger shower. There were two televisions which was nice they both worked on the same remote control frequency so turning on one turned on both ... although turning off one did necessarily do the same. Several times one of us had to get up and walk to the other television to turn it off before we went to sleep. Not a big deal ... we loved the room!