Longtime Cruise Specialists Voyage Host, Tom Mullen, is accompanying a group of Cruise Specialists clients on the Viking Ocean Cruises Grand Polynesia Voyage. This Grand Voyage departed from the Port of Los Angeles on January 5, 2022. Its planned 32-night itinerary on board Viking Orion is slated to visit the Marquesas Islands and Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea in French Polynesia, plus three glorious weeks at sea.
Cruise Specialists Vice President Teresa Tennant and Director of Sales Susan Rios met with clients as they arrived at the pier in Los Angeles. Here, clients also met Tom, and Cruise Specialists was able to assist clients with any last-minute questions. Clients were so upbeat and ready for an adventure—you could feel their energy and excitement to be cruising again!
About Tom Mullen: A native of Birmingham, England, Tom has been hosting World and Grand Voyages for Cruise Specialists for more than 30 years. He has spent nearly his entire adult life working aboard cruise ships and with guests! Tom has a wealth of knowledge about port and ship life that he shares with our clients. He enjoys the personal relationships that he builds with clients, whether he has known them for 30 years or this is their first time sailing with Cruise Specialists.
We look forward to sharing “Tom’s Postcards” from the Viking Orion!
Ahoy from the Viking Orion!
It’s now been a full first week on board this wonderful ship, and where do I begin?
Embarkation Day in Los Angeles was a gorgeous day of sunshine. We arrived at the San Pedro terminal at the Port of Los Angeles to be greeted by Viking personnel. The terminal was well organized with ample room for social distancing, or as we say in the U.K, “for hands, face and space.”
Team members from our Cruise Specialists home office, Susan Rios and Teresa Tennant, were on hand to greet guests with me and assist with last-minute needs. It was a joy to see the wonderful team from Cruise Specialists in person after nearly two full years apart! Our bright green Cruise Specialists luggage tags were also easily identifiable.
We went through the check-in area efficiently and submitted the usual documents, such as passport, credit card, security photo, and very importantly—our COVID vaccination card. Additional pre-cruise COVID measures had also taken place, which Viking was excellent about communicating with us well ahead of time.
We headed up to the gangway, being greeted by the Assistant Cruise Director, Mr. Michael Bowie, who was also our entertainer for the first evening.
Tom’s Stateroom and Packing Tips
I arrived in my cabin, a Deluxe Veranda (DV6), which is just wonderful. I was greeted by my two room stewards from Indonesia, Mohammid and Yasa. They presented me with a non-invasive saliva PCR COVID test and I remained in my room until I was cleared to leave the cabin with my negative test about 4 hours later. Viking Cruises has PCR test labs (which is considered the gold standard in testing) on each of its ships and we will take these quick and easy tests each day.
We presented each of our clients with a welcome gift of a Cruise Specialists tote or mini-messenger bag, which will be handy for shore tours.
I unpacked in less than a half hour. I always pack color-coordinated outfits to facilitate different options for each day, evening and event. So, you may notice me wearing a lot of blues in the pictures I send back! This voyage will not have any formal nights so I brought a dress jacket for Sundays and plenty of Hawaiian shirts.
Lecture Series and Enrichment
Viking is known for its Culture Curriculum with enrichment programs and an excellent lecture series.
The highlight of this voyage is a lecture on the historic Bayeux Tapestry by the ship’s Resident Historian, Dr. Michael Fuller. Viking supplements this with additional ways to immerse guests in learning about the tapestry. Reproductions of the Bayeux Tapestry are also featured in stairwells of the ship. Dr. Fuller gave a Cruise Specialists client and myself a tour of the stairwell artwork as well. I recommend that everyone attends the lectures and tours the stairwells to gain the full picture! Plus, it is good exercise to walk all of the decks.
A Bayeux Tapestry stitch class is also being offered and is proving to be popular among passengers.
Other lectures on this voyage include:
- The history behind the musical, The South Pacific
- The story behind Mutiny on the Bounty
- Learning about the Ancient Mariners
- Flora of French Polynesia
- Gods of Polynesia
- Whales of Polynesia
… and a lecture on my all-time favorite explorer, Thor Heyerdahl!
An onboard museum also shares interesting Viking history and pieces of art relevant to that time period.
Special Events and Entertainment
Because this is a Grand Voyage, we have been treated to a number of special events over and above what one might typically expect. On the second night of the voyage, Captain Richard Svardmark welcomed us on board with a socially distanced reception. Entertainers were also present to give us a taste of what to expect while on board.
I am hosting small groups at a time of Cruise Specialists guests in Viking’s specialty Italian restaurant, Manfredi’s. All of the dining venues have set up lovely arrangements to provide space between tables.
I am looking forward to trying many different types of culinary dishes. There is a good cross section of menu choices including a specialty of the day. I found it interesting that you could order full portions, half portions or even quarter portions, which I had not seen on any other voyages I have been on. As expected on Viking Cruises, the food in Manfredi’s is of a high quality, conversation flows well and oh, the wine! As I like to say, “to lubricate one’s lungs during dinner,” Viking provides complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner.
Yesterday, we had the Crossing the Equator Ceremony. It was a small affair; however, the ship gave us all a glass of “fluid intake” to toast King Neptune and the Pollywogs, those who are crossing the Equator for the first time. Traditionally, the Pollywogs “kiss the fish” to mark the occasion. Due to current health and safety restrictions, this did not take place and even the fish was wearing a mask! It was all good fun on a beautiful day with smooth seas.
In preparation for our first port of call, today’s lecture is on The Marquesas: History, Culture, Myths and Taboo Practices.
I am looking forward to sharing more updates as we progress along on this joy-filled voyage!