There will be time to write about the trip itself and all the wonderful things to which we were exposed, but first, I need to write about the culture of these cruises. We went on what they call a Viking 'long' ship so named as an homage to the real Viking long ships...although this ship was one of the long rivers ships as well. These trips are very expensive and so only a specific demographic is going to cross that aluminum bridge from foreign soil to the ship. The passengers are almost all over the age of 60. A few are very old and even use canes to get around. One dear soul had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer and he plowed through each and every day with much aplomb although he needed a wheel chair for most things. The passengers are all former or current professionals or from successful well-paying careers. They are mostly Jewish, Catholic, Presbyterian, and Methodist with maybe just a few other beliefs thrown in. They are liberal, moderate and conservative. Most are Canadians or British, a few from New Zealand and Australian, and all the rest from all over the world but mostly the United States.
You usually eat breakfast, lunch and dinner on the ship at family style tables in the terrace cafe or the more formal dining room and thus the culture seems to be getting to know as many people as you can. Most tables in the dining room seat six to eight. It is not as artificial as it sounds because after such good food and wine that flows like water you find that the things you share with these people are substantial and the differences few. Grandchildren, aches and pains, interest in the global economy, history of the world and the area in which you are traveling, and personal experiences are the topics of conversation. I met a forensic scientist/lawyer who wrote a book on how to investigate a bomb explosion, a forestry scientist who saved a forest in Canada, several computer people who invented their own programs, chemists, a dermatologist, a dentist, an engineer on the Alaska pipe line, lawyers, educators, librarians, etc. They played golf or violins or chess in their spare time.
They were not shy and were leaders in their communities. They were upper middle class. This is not a place that I see myself fitting into...but maybe I do? Many were great at remembering names...but if your name was not Johan, Malcolm, Moira, Barbara, Bill or Sandy (both a male and female were named that last one) I had trouble calling you by name. Meeting a dozen or so passengers each day is a challenge indeed even though many of us wore name tags part of the day!
The staff that kept the ship clean and kept the wine flowing were mostly from the Philippines. They worked 8 months on and 4 months off (the last unpaid I think, although Viking paid for their way home). The professional staff (engineers, chefs, cruise directors, hotel managers) came from the local area: Germany, Austria, Romania, Slovakia, etc and work six weeks on and two off. They are the most well-trained staff you will ever encounter. They politely and with genuine permanent smiles put up with forgetfulness, hearing problems, stress over travel and just plan crankiness in people who were adjusting to time changes. The staff were really wonderful and worth the recommended tip at the end of the cruise. The food was delicious and fresh if not exactly 4 star. Serving 190 people three meals a day does not lend itself to high end food. but the desserts and pastries were phenomenal, and they would take back anything you did not like and bring you something else. 'Malcolm's' wife had them take back the filet mignon twice before it was cooked to her non-pink preference. (I think the Chef was considering slitting his wrists by then, but he overcooked it like shoe leather for her on the final try.)
The cruise director has a full schedule planned for each day. You can participate in all or none of the activities. Some tours are more leisurely for the slow walking set. We participated in everything and even added three optional tours which meant we were exhausted at the end of each day. They even had evening musicians, dancers, singers and lectures if you could keep your eyes open after dinner or if you were hyper-active. Needless to say, 80% of us were in bed by 10:00 P.M.
The rooms were small but large enough to sleep in for a week's trip. We got the cheapest rooms which meant the window was tiny and above our heads unlike all the balcony or french balcony windows on the decks above. We reached it after a long walk down the hall on the lowest level and it WAS quiet.
We could still see out across the water from a window at the top of our wall and determine if we were moving or at dock. The stability of the ship is so good that most of the time you could only tell movement by the sound of rushing water or the movement of the tree line past the window. At the end, we did not regret getting the cheaper room because we were on the sundeck or the front lounge or off the ship most of the time. The only disadvantage is if you wanted scenery without people you had to search for a little corner on the above levels.
|This little dog took hubby's book for a read, but did not lose his place.|
|X-rated photo of hubby taking a shower.|