World Cruise # 2 In 50 Days

Viking Sun - cruise mapperHard to believe it has been 18 long months since my last post, when we booked our 2nd World Cruise with Viking Ocean. Upon booking, it was almost 600 days to embarkation, which at the time seemed like a lifetime. However, on November 15th it was only 50 days until embarkation. Prior to the first World Cruise, I posted updates at 300, 200, 100 and 50 days, but for this cruise, this is the 2nd and most likely the final post before we arrive in San Pedro. Since we haven’t travelled much lately, what have we been doing and what has changed?

Itinerary

With the almost constant turmoil somewhere in the World, we have received a number of changes to the itinerary:

  • Tunisia – as expected Tunis was cancelled and we gained a 2nd day in Malta. Bonus, we get an overnight stay in Valletta.
  • Brunei – this was a surprise, but Brunei was cancelled and we get an overnight in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Since Brunei was one of the ports we have not visited before, we were a tad disappointed with this change.
  • Haikou (China) – Viking advised previous passenger feedback was negative, so they cancelled the call to provide 3 full days in both Hong Kong and Saigon.
  • Colombo (Sri Lanka) – with an overnight in port, when it was cancelled we gained 2 new ports – Phuket (Thailand) and Chennai (India)
  • With the current troubles in Hong Kong, we may receive more changes.
Viking World Wonders Cruise Map

Updated Itinerary Map

Visas

These can be major work when booking a World Cruise, as multiple Visas may be required. Viking includes acquiring Visas as part of the cruise package. This required sending our passports to Washington DC, for all Visas except China, which we had to acquire in Vancouver. Visas – complete

Flights

I provided our preferred flights to our Travel Agent, who called Viking Air and booked exactly what we requested, including reserving seats. Flights – complete

Luggage Shipping

This is another benefit that Viking provides. They provided a link to Luggage Forward, for booking a pick-up date & time. Two cases will be picked up December 18th for shipment to the ship.

Research

This was a major undertaking, comprising research on the ship, ports of call, tour operators, etc. Previously we cruised with Princess, so we knew both the company and had sailed on all classes of ships, but Viking and Viking Sun is new for us.

Ship's Sections

Viking Sun Schematic

Ports of Call – with over 50 ports, I visited our local library and borrowed books for each of our ports. Coupled with Google, I developed a file for each port including our potential berth, other ships in port, currency, exchange rate, points of interest, local tour providers, etc.

Tours – based on the research we have arranged activities in every port – these include included ship tours, optional ship tours, private tours and a couple of Ho-Ho buses. The highlight will be the 4-day overland in Egypt, visiting both the Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Cairo and the Pyramids/Sphinx at Giza.

World Cruise # 2

Since Judi got sick down in Indio and returned home for treatment, our 2018 travel plans were cancelled and 2019 is still being developed, but 2020 is well underway. We have just booked our 2nd World Cruise to celebrate our 40th anniversary.

We board the Viking Sun in Los Angeles on 4th January 2020 and will spend 118 nights aboard, departing in London on 2nd May.

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Stockholm City Drive & Vasa Museum

Stockholm is a long and complicated pilotage from the Baltic through the archipelago of islands, so many cruise ships opt for Nynashamn, located on the Baltic about 40 miles south of Stockholm. Unfortunately, our ship was one of the ones opting for Nynashamn, rather than the scenic cruising in/out of Stockholm. Normally the ship docks alongside, but due to weather issues, we had to anchor and tender ashore.

We signed up for another ship’s tour, which comprised a city drive and visit to the Vasa Museum.

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Porvoo – Finland’s 2nd Oldest Town

After two very busy days in St Petersburg, we had a quiet evening on board the ship, as we cruised at a sedate speed, the few miles from St Petersburg to Helsinki, Finland. Arriving early in the morning, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the restaurant before heading ashore for our tour. We signed up for a ship’s tour to Porvoo, one of Finland’s six medieval towns that dates from the 14th Century.

Located about 30 miles East of Helsinki, we spent about an hour on the bus before arriving in the old town.

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St Petersburg Day 2 – Catherine’s Palace, Peterhof Palace and Hydrofoil

Departing Peter and Paul Fortress, we settled into the bus for the almost 1 hour trip to Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin, a St Petersburg suburb. It was only about 20 miles, but took almost an hour. Yes, St Petersburg traffic is similar to any major city.

For me, one of the Alla Tours selling points was rather than lunch in a fancy restaurant, they provided a quality boxed lunch to eat on the bus. We had limited time, so I was happy enjoying lunch on the bus, rather than losing an hour sight-seeing while sitting in a restaurant.

This is the 4th and final post covering our 2 days in St Petersburg. Some may say they kept the extreme opulence and more than a little gold, to the end of the tour.

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St Petersburg Day 2 – Canal Cruise, Palace Square and Peter and Paul Fortress

Our 2nd and final day in St Petersburg started with an early breakfast, then off ashore to join the 2nd installment of our Grand Tour with Alla Tours. Although we breezed through immigration yesterday, we still departed the ship about 15 minutes early. However, immigration was even faster. With no queues, we walked straight up to a booth handed over our passports, which were scanned and within a couple of minutes were in the terminal.

While yesterday was a very busy day, with minimal commuting between stops, today would be a slower day with a canal cruise, hydrofoil ride and a couple of 1 hour drives through the outlying areas.

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St Petersburg – Church of Spilled Blood, St Issac’s Cathedral & Yusupov Palace

After a delicious lunch in a 5-star restaurant, we re-boarded the mini-bus to visit more of downtown St Petersburg’s spectacular attractions. This afternoon’s schedule includes a couple of Russian Orthodox churches and another palace, which is still being restored. The tour included both the opulence of the formal rooms and the rather stark confines of the basement.

Departing the restaurant, it was a short drive to our first stop, which included passing the Faberge Museum, as we drove along the banks of the Fontanka River. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time in the schedule to visit this museum.

Enjoy the many photographs of the remainder of our first day in St. Petersburg.

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St Petersburg – Subway, Kazan Cathedral & Winter Palace

Departing the ship, you pass through immigration, before accessing the passenger terminal.  Having read and heard of potential delays, we departed the ship well before our Alla Tours meeting time. However, this was one of the shortest and smoothest transits through immigration we have ever experienced. The Russian officials had every booth open, resulting in very short queues. We had 1 couple ahead of us, so within 5 minutes of departing the ship, we were in the passenger terminal, where we met the Alla Tours representatives.

An excellent start to 2 very busy days in St Petersburg, which I will cover in 4 posts.

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St Petersburg – Introduction to a 2-Day Port Visit

In the 1600’s, the ruling Swedish colonists, constructed a fort at the mouth of the Neva River. During the Great Northern War, Tsar Peter I, also known as Peter the Great, won those coastal lands, providing Russia with his long sought Baltic coastline. On winning control, he inaugurated the city of St Petersburg in 1703, with construction of Peter and Paul Fortress.

A very new city by European standards, its magnificent architecture, river and canal network has the city frequently referred to as, “Venice of the North”. A very apt reference.

During WWI, St Petersburg was deemed to sound too German, so the Tsar changed the name to Petrograd, which was subsequently changed to Leningrad, by the communists, after the 1917 revolution. In 1991, the citizens voted on renaming the city, with the majority favouring a return to St Petersburg.

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Baltic Cruise – Tallinn Old Town Walking Tour

Next to St Petersburg, walking the walled “Old Town”, with its well preserved 13th Century narrow, winding cobbled streets and fascinating architecture, this was one of our pre-cruise highlights. Tallinn, one of Europe’s best preserved medieval cities, was originally home to wealthy merchants, but now with a plethora of cafes, restaurants/bars, museums and churches, it is now a popular tourist destination.

Being mid-September, it was approaching the end of the season and we were the only cruise ship in town, so the crowds were reasonable. During mid-summer with up to 6 mega cruise ships, it can be extremely busy, as most tours follow a similar route.

In 1997, the well preserved “Old City” was incorporated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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