Choosing the right shore excursions for you
As very recent veterans of a Viking River Cruise and a Viking Ocean Cruise we know that Viking’s shore excursions cover a lot of interests. It can be hard to choose when the options all sound so tempting. Here are some of the things we consider when selecting shore excursions.
What do you care about and what can you comfortably do?
Are you on your cruise to relax and rewind? Are you a history buff? A fan of museums? Someone who wants to find the exit sign the minute you get into a museum? Interested in getting a glimpse of local life? Really only interested in drinking the local beer? Inclined to enjoy active outings such as kayaking? Want to see somewhere famous without having to wait in long lines?
Everyone has their own interests and if yours is just to go shopping everywhere then shop away! Viking Cruises offers a wide variety of shore excursions and some are sure to tickle your fancy.
If you spend time reading the descriptions in MyVikingJourney before you sign up you can get the right mix for you. (If there’s something that’s really important to you sign up as early as you can to save a spot and let them know there’s interest.)
Be sure to read the level of difficulty for each outing you’re considering. If it says “Moderate” it probably isn’t a good fit for someone with mobility issues. On excursions marked Moderate we often walked over 3 miles and did not have access to elevators except in rare exceptions. Also, be sure you have footwear that can handle cobblestone streets if you’re going to be in Europe.
Getting a feel for local life
If there’s a city tour option where you ride local transportation you get a more intimate feel for a place than if you’re looking at it from a bus. It might turn out to be more intimate than you want! Be sure you’re willing to embrace the experience.
Sometimes Viking offers a shuttle bus when the ships are going to be in port for a while. We love using that time to go into towns and explore on our own and sometimes get a bit off the beaten path. It’s a cliché but there’s a reason so many people say they like to sit in cafes and engage in a little people watching. We love to check out the passing parade. We hope they aren’t checking us out but giggling tends to draw attention.
Shuttle buses and the flexibility they provide are great for shoppers. They can spend unhurried time delighting their credit card issuers.
When you want to see something very specific
When you think of Moscow do you picture the iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral? Then don’t miss a chance to go and see it in person. The city tours that Viking provides in every city almost always take you to the iconic sites. They do an excellent job of having local guides who know the best spots to photograph a place, where the bus can park closest to the entrance and other things to make your experience a good one.
We like that the city tours almost always include some free time. That can be the time to quickly scratch that shopping itch.
When you don’t want to stand in line with other tourists
It’s become fashionable for people to say they’re travelers, not tourists. But when you’re standing in a long line the distinction won’t do you any good. We love Viking’s shore excursions that offer privileged access. We even like how snooty that sounds.
Basically, those tours usually cost a bit of a premium but you can get in without any lines and before the crowds descend. They often include access to exhibits and places other visitors can’t get to. We liked having lunch in the staff canteen at The Hermitage’s storage facility.
When you want to participate in the local working world
If you suggest we do arts and crafts at home you won’t get a favorable response. But given the chance to paint matryoshka dolls in Russia we were all over it. The woman running the workshop was bossy and made us think of an old Monty Python skit but that made it even better. She realized on sight that Blonde isn’t good at following the rules and expressed her ongoing dismay. That also made it more fun. The staff of Viking is always so polite and accommodating that it was actually a hoot to encounter someone who was demanding something of us.
Viking offers ways to participate or observe local working life at many destinations and if that’s for you pick an activity that calls your name. (It’s possible you’d rather make beer than paint dolls.)
When you want to see the non-obvious sites
You may have to skip seeing more conventional choices at your destination. Sometimes you can fit both in. We did a Viking shore excursion in Aalborg, Denmark that we may remember long after we’ve forgotten certain museums or historical sites.
This was a case where fitness counted as there was a walk through soft, deep sand. To our amazement, we were pulled much of the way by a team of horses as we sat in a very basic open wagon. The views were spectacular, the air sharp and clean and other tourists – er, travelers weren’t there.
When you get the chance to cross something off your Bucket List
Probably due to reading way too many travel magazines we had seen Pulpit Rock for years and wanted to experience it in person. The fact that it’s in a beautiful archipelago near Stavanger, Norway was a bonus.
Most cruises will have something that you’ve heard or read about for years. For many people that doesn’t mean they need to see it but if there’s something that’s called out to you for a while, seize the opportunity.
Don’t over do it
We probably signed up for a few more Viking shore excursions than we should have. A couple times we only had half an hour to run back to the ship and get some lunch before going on our next outing. It’s your vacation, don’t put yourself into a panic like we unnecessarily did. On our next Viking cruise, we plan to make more of an effort to decide what’s important to us before we start throwing shore excursions in our shopping cart like it’s a going out of business sale.
Viking provides excellent guides, so many nice little touches like that yummy Danish pastry that still haunts our dreams and so much interesting information that it’s hard to go wrong. Just remember what interests you and be true to that and you’ll be a happy cruiser.
Disclosure so we don’t get thrown in a federal prison: We were the guests of Viking on both our river and ocean cruises. (This disclosure alone may not be enough to keep us out of a federal prison now that we think about it.)