January 9, 2022.
Today’s big event was the 10:00 a.m. webinar in the Star Theater to reveal the upcoming changes to our cruise itinerary from the time we leave Los Angeles on January 12th until we reach Jeddah Saudi Arabia on March 29th.
We’ve been prepared all along for changes due to ongoing port of call Covid restrictions. In fact, we’ve spent quite a few hours speculating on alternate port options.
As “homeless” people since selling our (already downsized from a house) condo when I retired in 2017 and the last of our furnishings, etc. in 2018, we’ve learned to be flexible in ways we never imagined when we were younger. Almost five months on a luxurious cruise ship is certainly not a bad way to live, and we have faith in Viking as a company to keep us safe, and compensate us (if necessary) for missed opportunities compared to what we originally booked.
I really just want calm seas and warm sunshine every day, things over which Viking unfortunately has no more control than they have over ever-changing Covid restrictions in countries around the world.
Until today, our latest itinerary was westward: LA to Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas, Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Fiji, Singapore, 3 stops in Malaysia, Thailand, 4 stops in India, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and 2 stops in Oman…. then on to Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Monaco, Spain, Portugal, England, and Norway.
Our new tentative itinerary – knowing that things can STILL change at any time – is eastward. Viking’s Chairman, Torstein Hagen, likened the changed to famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen changing his goal from exploring the North Pole to exploring the South Pole instead.
We’re now scheduled to travel from LA to Cabo, then Puerto Vallarta Mexico, Puntarenas Costa Rico, Panama City, and down the west coast of Central and South America (skipping closed Peru and Ecuador) to Santiago/Valparaiso Chile, which was our 2019 starting point. From there we sail to Puerto Montt, Chile (and its German heritage!), cruise past the Amalia Glacier, Punta Arenas Chile, around Cape Horn (!) to Montevideo and Punta Del Este Uruguay and then across the Atlantic to the Cape Verde Islands. Next comes Madeira Portugal, Cádiz and Seville Spain, the Strait of Gibraltar, Granada/Málaga Spain, Palma de Mallorca, Sardinia/Cagliari Italy, Valetta Malta, Corfu Greece, Kotor Montenegro, Split Croatia, 2 days in Venice (!), Zadar and Dubrovnik Croatia, Olympua/Katakolon and Nafplio on Greece’s Peleponnesian Peninsula , and Heraklion on Crete.
We’ll transit the Suez Canal to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, after which we u-turn to go back through the canal and rejoin our original itinerary in Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Greece, Monaco, Italy and Portugal to continue on to London and Bergen.
No Pacific islands. Also no India, among other places, but we Canadians weren’t going to be able to get off the ship there anyway, since India is not currently issuing e-visas to Canadians or UK citizens, and it’s too late to get a regular sticker visa (which would necessitate a visit to the consulate, physical passports in hand). In fact, India COMPLETELY closed to everyone just 3 days ago.
The other major difference in our itinerary is that we’ll be staying for the most part in a Viking “bubble”, which means that we will not be allowed to explore destinations on our own, but only with Viking-approved guides and on Viking-approved modes of transportation. (How DOES one health-check a camel?) Viking can even arrange “bubbled” shopping for those of us who only packed warm weather clothing.
We’re MORE than content with the changes, although certainly not 100% of those on board feel that same way. It’s a huge change to the cruise we purchased back in 2020, and many passengers far more well-travelled than we will have already been to many of the “new” ports. We can certainly understand their disappointment. Viking is offering a 110% future travel voucher for anyone wanting to cancel due to all these changes; that seems more than fair, and in line with what we have come to expect from Viking.
Obviously, with the pandemic continuing to impact the entire planet, nothing is set in stone. The only thing we know for certain is that the Viking Star needs to be in Bergen Norway by mid May, with me – and Ted ! – on board. How we get there is, to some degree, irrelevant.
Our family and friends will just have to keep following along to see where we are. We may need to consider a future grand cruise in the Pacific to see the places not on this itinerary. We’ll see in May whether where we’ve gone means cancelling our November Mediterranean/Atlantic crossing cruise as too repetitive and simply find somewhere warm for November 2022 before we winter in Mexico.
Chairman Hagen translated a Norwegian saying for us: “Only those who wander find new roads”.
Here’s to new roads!