Time on the Atla is a delight.
Time off the Atla is also fun. And educational. And challenging (who can find the public bathroom first?). And exciting.
Before this trip, I really had no idea how the whole “tour thing” was going to work for me. As I may have shared, I’m not someone who’d be voted “Miss Popularity-Who-Everyone-Loves-Immediately-And-Who-Is-Happiest-Being-Surrounded-By-Others.” Especially that last part.
Mark and I backpack and, backcountry curmudgeons that we are, we’ll hike clear to another lake so we don’t have to “share” it with others too close by. I couldn’t really imagine myself joining in on a group tour without some form of restraint (chemical or physical) being necessary.
Thankfully I’ve discovered I have it in me to take a group tour. And like it. Most of the time.
The times I don’t, it’s typically because I find the group moves too slowly getting someplace. I’m not advocating speeding through entire attractions, but I do like the idea of walking to that attraction at a nice, going-somewhere pace and then having more time when there to explore because the time wasn’t spent ambling to get there. Caspar and Lucia (the concierge) have been great about setting up a “leisurely” tour group (folks who self-select), but I’d really like a “more active” group option as well…
However the information imparted over the QuietVox (the devices we dangle from our necks that attach to an over-the-ear-speaker so we can hear the guide) has (so far) been so valuable, interesting and, in some cases, fun, that I’ve been able to swallow my frustration (smile, Tonya, smile) at the slow walking pace. And, as I’ve heard mentioned on the CruiseCritic forum, having the tour guide in your ear means you can meander quite a ways away from their physical side to take photos or look at something more interesting—yet you can still know where they are. Warning: Castle walls are very thick; the QuietVox doesn’t “carry” near as far in a castle. Stay closer to your group.
Here’s how Viking handles off-ship tours:
The night before a tour (in fact every single cruise day), you’ll hear your cruise director offer a summary of the next day’s activities. You’ll learn what time you need to be on the bus or meet the guide. Remember, punctual is the key in this case. Do not be late.
Plug in your QuietVox in the charger in your room so it gets a full overnight charge. Before heading off the ship to meet your local tour guide, pack up your QuietVox, your wallet (easy to forget since you don’t “use” money on the ship), your camera (of course!) and anything you’ll need that day to be more comfortable. At the reception desk, tell them your room number and receive a boarding pass with your name on it (this is used throughout the cruise) and a card telling you what tour group you’ll be in that day. Also pick up a city map at the reception desk and a business card saying where the ship will be docked that day and emergency shipboard phone numbers (but hope you don’t need this card; better safe than sorry, though).
Crew members will offer you bottles of water as you disembark for the tour. You can take one if you want, but I’ll tell you water gets really heavy and, since I hate carrying anything extra around, I smile and decline the bottle. Now, if it were a bus tour only, I might have a different response.
Your QuietVox device is Bluetooth; this means that once you are in the tour group with your guide, you only need to turn the device on (same dial as the volume control) then stand near the guide. The guide’s own Bluetooth speaker system will “pair” with yours (you’ll see the same number in the top display) and you’ll be good to go the rest of the tour, even if you stray quite far from them.
Feel free to amble over to a different guide and quietly join their group if something about your own guide doesn’t “fit” you (turn off your QuietVox receiver, stand near to the “new” guide to link up to their system or you may still be hearing your previous guide’s chatter). Each guide we’ve had brings their own personality and outlook to the job and it’s fine to move to one that seems better suited to your needs. You may also find a group which better matches you (either in physical condition or tour interests).
After your tour, turn off the QuietVox to save the battery. Return it to the charger when you get back to the ship. Also give the crew member at the front ship entrance your boarding pass (that’s how they check to see if everyone has returned to the ship—and they really do check it before the ship heads off) and your group number card.
There, that wasn’t so tough was it? But do you think you could step up your walking pace a bit? There’s a gal from California back here who’d like to get there a little faster… [just kidding!!!]