Get ready for your off-ship tour!

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!!!]

Categories: Uncategorized | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Get ready for your off-ship tour!

  1. Ellen

    Your trip sounds wonderful and you have been so informative. How has your weather been. Pictures look like sunshine every day! What have your temps been during day & evening ?
    We leave in 2wwwks!


    • As I write this (10:22 pm, Sunday–yes, I’m perched in the bed writing and Mom’s in the lounge dancing. Do I somehow feel there’s a bit of role reversal going on here???) we’re in the midst of a thunderstorm with the accompanying flashes of lightening and steady, heavy rain (uh oh, my worries for too high of a water level on the Danube are growing…). Today was an “away” tour in Rothenburg and it was low 80s and a bit breezy up there. Back down by the Main, though, in Wurzburg, it was much warmer, high 80s.

      Since we arrived in Amsterdam one week back, we’ve had rain in Amsterdam as well as two times on the rivers and once overnight at least for a portion. However the rain hasn’t “stuck.” In fact, the Atla’s crew pulled all the seat cushions and closed the glass doors for the deck outside the Aquavit Terrace when it rained yesterday, only to have the sun arrive 40 minutes later and they had to reverse the process.

      I’d put the weather for Amsterdam, Cologne and Budapest on my iPhone for *months* before we left on this cruise and I delighted in looking at it. I’ll bet you’re doing something similar!


      • Ellen gross

        Hope the rain has stopped for you. Our trip begins in Prague as we sail (or is is float? ) down the Danube to Budapest. Since we are not traveling North to the places you are now, I am enjoying your critique of sites and commentary. how are your clothes working out? Is it really tough walking on the cobblestones?
        Continue to have a wonderful journey.


      • My wardrobe is working out well, Ellen, with the exception that I mentioned in the Regensburg post (I would have switched out one pair of cropped slacks for a pair of long pants; it was chilly on my ankles for more than a few days).

        Cobblestones are not painful to walk on (at least not for me, I’m finding), but I really do have to concentrate on lifting my toes higher when I walk–if you unthinkingly walk with those toes not high it’s very easy to catch the toe of your shoe on a stone and tumble forward.

        As far as colors–it’s been great to have just two colors for the bottoms (black and mushroom) for both pants and crops because everything matches everything else. I’d definitely choose darker colors for my basics on the bottom (spots don’t show as easily). I like the scarves (they add a versatility–and don’t I look so very continental in those photos?) and even bought an additional one at Regensburg. Everyone here (as in “off the ship”) seems to wear scarves so you’ll feel right at home with them.


  2. Kathleen

    Actually no your not kidding πŸ™‚


  3. Karen Baker

    I love all the info that you provide about the ship and the tours. If some one is going to take that same cruise you are on…you are a fountain of information. And …I can tell we are related ha ha as I like you…. I prefer my own company far over others πŸ˜€


  4. Henry Adams

    My wife and I will be on the same cruise departing Amsterdam on Aug 23rd, and I have spent many hours online at variou sites including Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor, but your blog has provided more useful and entertaining information than all other sources combined. I look forward to your next blog entry and hope you and your mother continue to enjoy your trip.


  5. Lily1234

    By the way, is there a clock of some sort in your stateroom??


    • Great question! No physical clock, but there is the TV and the day/date/time is on the first screen when you turn it on.

      I’ve been using my iPhone’s clock app for our alarm, but I hearc that you can put in a request for a wake-up call, too.


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