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cruzzzinma

Viking West Indies Explorer, Feb 5-15 2017 - Wonderful!

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We are long time Celebrity cruisers and first-time Viking Ocean cruisers. We've done two Viking river cruises.

 

There are many, many dedicated Viking cruisers on Viking Ocean.

 

We are in our 60s, wanted to try a more upscale cruise line and didn't want to fly too far because we are going to Europe and New Zealand later in the year.

 

What did we love? Fantastic food, quietness - especially lack of loud music, lots of uncrowded places to sit and read, and no photographers, kids, or large scooters.

 

What could Viking do better? Footstools on the balcony, more shady places to sit outside, add gratuities to cruise fare in lieu of paying onboard, pools that aren't over your head, and more variety to shore excursions - too much bus riding on included excursions.

 

VIking Air: We used Viking Air and paid a $50 per person deviation fee to come to San Juan three days early. The reservations were gruesome, but I would have picked them if I had been booking. Both arrival and departure flights left really early but got us where we needed to be by late afternoon.

 

Embarkation: Easiest ever! We stayed at the Sheraton Old San Juan, left about 11:30 and walked, with our bags, to the pier. From the time we got there to the time we boarded, maybe 10-15 minutes. All cabins were ready by 2 PM.

 

Ship: Amazing! Lots of nooks and crannies just "to be." Never seemed crowded. Bars always open for something to drink. DV cabin was comfortable. I think we'd upsize to a Penthouse Veranda next time. Had a nonalcoholic minibar and coffee pot but never used either.

 

Service: Excellent all over the ship. Cabin attendants great but not intrusive. Except in the restaurant at peak times, I thought there was plenty of staff. Room service took 7-10 minutes to deliver coffee and juices each day. If we had had a set time each day, we could have done a standing order.

 

Activities: Music in many areas after about 6. No bang-bang music or photographers. We attended the ABBA show and have tickets for Rat Pack. Enrichment talks almost every night.

 

Launderette: Loved being able to do our own laundry! No clothes washed on boil or dried on super hot.

 

Food: Very good to excellent. Specialty restaurant reservations made before the cruise were really messed up but they seem to accommodate most. We ate in Manfredi's four times and the Chef's Table twice. Manfredi's is excellent and the Chef's Table is a little weird where the Chef seemed unnecessarily preoccupied with foam. The food in the restaurant is excellent but was really loud during peak dining times.

 

Alcohol: We bought the Silver Spirits Package at $20 per person per day. One of the bar tenders let us taste the daily wine and the premium wines the first day. We thought the premium wines were better and opted to upgrade. Cocktails were mostly $7.50-$9.00.

 

Valuables: I wasn't afraid to leave anything valuable anywhere. I knew it would be safe.

 

Excursions: Mixed Reviews!

San Juan: Included walking tour could have been good. Our guide was SLOW and breathless. It took forever. Our guide didn't guide in areas where other guides stayed with their group We were exhausted from all the standing around.

 

Tortola: Escape to Jost Van Dyke (optional tour at $89 per person.) Beach day - transferred by catamaran from the cruise pier. We got there early before the ship excursions from the Norwegian Epic.

 

Antigua: Included tour "Rich History and Lush Landscapes" was a bus ride with three photo op stops.

 

St Lucia: Included tour "Breathtaking Vistas and Bananas" was a bus ride with photo op stops (a pattern is developing) and a stop at Stony Hill, a private home. beautiful but strangely weird.

 

Barbados: Included tour "Classic Caribbean Beauty Amid a Rich Past" .. bus ride...photo ops

 

Guadalupe: Self declared seaday. There had been complaints about the included tour and Viking made changes. E heard complaints that night.

 

St. Martin: We bought a day pass at the Sonesta Great Bay Resort that included food and drinks. It was a great beach day.

 

St Kitts: cancelled the included tour and booked optional tour ($79 per person) on the Rail Road. We had a 45 minute bus tour followed by a two hours on a train that travelled 18 miles on the north side of the island. Everyone seem to enjoy it and the rum drinks made it extra special.

 

St. Thomas: booked the included tour but decided to self-declare another seaday today.

 

Will we cruise Viking Ocean again? A resounding probably. We loved the ship. We love sea days and Viking doesn't do them. Realistically, if we choose other luxury lines in the areas we plan to cruise, we still won't have sea days. This cruise was all about it was he ship for us. If we cruise VIking again, I would research the the ports and really plan excursions.

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Cruizzzinma, appreciate your thorough review. It is very helpful to know what to expect in port with respect to the excursions.

It confirms what we are already planning, as we have a couple ports booked with private excursions for our December cruise (which we always do regardless of Cruiseline). You also just helped me make up my mind for a couple of ports that I was on the fence about....thinking that a local taxi will be a good choice. Long bus rides may work well for some, but it is not our idea of spending a day anyplace we are visiting.

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Thanks for a great review, we are also using Viking for a cruise in November. I did plan to use the included excursion for our stop in Cuba on the first day, but after reading your review know that I will be booking my own tours. Also, I'm a little bit confused by why you had to have tickets for the rat pack? Do you have to get tickets for the evening shows?

 

 

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Thanks for a great review, we are also using Viking for a cruise in November. I did plan to use the included excursion for our stop in Cuba on the first day, but after reading your review know that I will be booking my own tours. Also, I'm a little bit confused by why you had to have tickets for the rat pack? Do you have to get tickets for the evening shows?

 

 

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Just for Rat Pack - they repeat this show three times in Torsheven (I don't think that is spelled right) and they still had tickets for tonight's show last night.

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Thanks for your detailed review. As a long time Celebrity cruiser, I am glad I can save some money with the self service laundry, and the Silver beverage package on the Viking Sea next year.

Does Viking bartenders make a variety of good martinis?

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Does Viking bartenders make a variety of good martinis?

 

Both the lemon drop and the vodka martinis were good. Plenty of bartenders and they are always ready to serve you, even if you only want coffee or sparkling water.

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On our seven night cruise in November, we will be staying in Cuba overnight, but also have one Sea day on the schedule. We will probably also use our day in Cozumel as a Sea day, because we have been there several times. What types of activities did you find during the day, or did you spend most time by the pool?

 

 

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Thanks for a great review, we are also using Viking for a cruise in November. I did plan to use the included excursion for our stop in Cuba on the first day, but after reading your review know that I will be booking my own tours. Also, I'm a little bit confused by why you had to have tickets for the rat pack? Do you have to get tickets for the evening shows?

 

You can get good info on included excursions with Viking, especially if you are at a new port for you. Their optional excursions offer insight into what else is available there and can be a springboard for investigating other options. We did all 3 choices, included, optional and DIY. Your objective for the cruise plots your decision.

 

The Rat Pack Show and the girls show are held in a small venue and there is just so much seating. They give you tickets on request and these shows are repeated usually(I was on a 14 night cruise). You could show up and be seated if others don't show that have tickets. There are no assigned seats. It just takes a minute at the Explore's Desk and I would ask upon boarding when tickets will be available, though the information will be in the Daily. All shows in the main theater require no tickets.

 

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Not sure what has just happened but I hope the info is still in the quote section as I was told my message was too short. From the preview, I see it is in there.

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What types of activities did you find during the day, or did you spend most time by the pool?

 

We found places to read or hung out at the pool. I threw away our dailies but I don't think there were activities during the day except for spa discounts. In the afternoons, there was trivia and tea. Music started about 5, I think.

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Thank you very much for the info. I think the included tour on Cuba will be great for the first day, and I'm going to use your suggestion and look at some of the paid excursions for the second day.

 

 

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Thanks so much for your review! I'm looking forward to our West Indies Explorer in March of 2018. I've been to San Juan, Tortola & St Thomas, but these are all new ports for my husband! I do wish there were a couple of sea days - I love my sea days, but I think we will pick a port to spend time on the ship.

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Thanks for the useful information. We are also taking the West Indies sailing the first week in November, and had been thinking that it sounded like we might have to make our own sea day to get in some relaxation. Is there any of the islands that you felt like you wouldn't have minded missing the included tour? It does sound like an awful lot of bus touring, even though we love to hear the history and see the scenery of the places we visit. Is there any island that you feel was a "be sure not to miss this one" tour? Unfortunately, we are not big on beaches or snorkeling, so that often does not leave a lot else to do on excursions. Thanks for your help!

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Is there any of the islands that you felt like you wouldn't have minded missing the included tour?

We recently returned from this trip too. Looking back, I thought Tortola in the British Virgin Islands was least interesting. There, the included tour "featured" an hour-long stop at Pusser's Landing, for shopping and buying a drink, which I thought was mostly wasted time. But that was the first port of call, so not much use in creating your own sea day in the middle of the cruise, at least if you experience the same order of ports. I think Barbados was an island I would have been most disappointed to miss. Our experience with Guadeloupe was unusual in that we did the Kitchen Table that day and did not see any of the island other than the local fish, fruits, and vegetable market. The rest of the day for us was like a sea day. But remember, as others have said, there are few organized activities on ship while in port.

 

The map showing the itinerary in the catalog showed a different order for the ports than we actually experienced. So you may need to consider what to skip after your receive your cruise documents.

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Is there any of the islands that you felt like you wouldn't have minded missing the included tour?

 

 

Honestly, the islands starting running together. I would choose sea days just to breakup the trip.

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Thank you Hawkmoth; I will keep your advice in mind when we choose our excursions and which days to opt out of them. Another question: is there any port where we dock close to shopping opportunities? I am particularly thinking of local crafts and goods. What local products did you find interesting? Are there free shuttles in every port? Where do they take you? Thank you for your advice.

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I cannot recall any port that did not have shopping right off the ship. But mostly that is the ubiquitous Diamonds International and the like, organized in a "mall" obviously built to engage disembarking cruisers.. We did visit a local fruit, vegetable, and fish market withing a block or two of the ship in Guadeloupe, but otherwise, I don't have much help to offer you. You will likely have to get off the regular path to get away from the usual stuff.

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Thanks for peeking my interest once again, as I have been looking at the sailings on Viking Ocean. No plans on their particular river cruising, but I will definitely keep this information in mind when I absolutely do not want to have a long flight overseas...actually, i never want to, but I put up with it.

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We recently returned from this trip too. Looking back, I thought Tortola in the British Virgin Islands was least interesting. There, the included tour "featured" an hour-long stop at Pusser's Landing, for shopping and buying a drink, which I thought was mostly wasted time. But that was the first port of call, so not much use in creating your own sea day in the middle of the cruise, at least if you experience the same order of ports. I think Barbados was an island I would have been most disappointed to miss. Our experience with Guadeloupe was unusual in that we did the Kitchen Table that day and did not see any of the island other than the local fish, fruits, and vegetable market. The rest of the day for us was like a sea day. But remember, as others have said, there are few organized activities on ship while in port.

 

The map showing the itinerary in the catalog showed a different order for the ports than we actually experienced. So you may need to consider what to skip after your receive your cruise documents.

 

I have a different take on Tortola. Found it to be one of the more interesting islands. We hired a local cab driver to give us a tour. No time whatsoever at Pusser's Landing which is basically a tourist trap. And exactly the sort of thing a big bus tour would hit. Yuk. I don't do big bus tours. Our cab driver gave us an excellent feel for the history of the island.

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I have a different take on Tortola. Found it to be one of the more interesting islands. We hired a local cab driver to give us a tour. No time whatsoever at Pusser's Landing which is basically a tourist trap. And exactly the sort of thing a big bus tour would hit. Yuk. I don't do big bus tours. Our cab driver gave us an excellent feel for the history of the island.

Thanks for that perspective. I wish we had done the same. On this cruise, we went with the flow, not wanting to invest a lot of time planning for ourselves. Your experience shows why it makes sense to do that.

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Thank you for taking the time to do a very complete review.

Will be on this cruise 1/6/18 and for the first time will be going solo. This in itself may be a challenge but I should be fine - especially considering the cost for solo passengers!! LOL

Have been to all the ports of call before with the exception of Guadalupe so will be looking at optional tours. Have always done private tours before but I suspect being a single might be more difficult to find a group looking for just one more to join them,

Thank you again for your review. I am anticipating enjoying the Viking Sea just as much as my previous cruise on the Viking Riverboat Bragi - Budapest to Amsterdam.

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I am anticipating enjoying the Viking Sea just as much as my previous cruise on the Viking Riverboat Bragi - Budapest to Amsterdam.

 

Personally, I think the Viking Ocean ship experience is much nicer than the Viking River experience. If you like Viking River, you will adore Viking Ocean.

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Personally, I think the Viking Ocean ship experience is much nicer than the Viking River experience. If you like Viking River, you will adore Viking Ocean.

 

I hesitate to agree with your statement that Viking Ocean is much nicer than Viking Rivers, because it feels rather like an insult to Viking Rivers. We really enjoyed our first Viking river cruise, and never thought that we wanted to take an ocean cruise before that experience.

However, we did ultimately take a cruise with Viking Oceans, and I must admit that you are right. Viking Oceans is like a bigger version of the river cruise, in a very good way. With more to choose from in terms of food, excursions, onboard activities, and beautiful places to spend time on the ship, we did indeed adore Viking Oceans! Even though it is bigger, it never feels crowded, or overwhelming.

I expect we will return to Viking Rivers one day, but for now we are looking forward to our second Viking Oceans cruise.

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I hesitate to agree with your statement that Viking Ocean is much nicer than Viking Rivers, because it feels rather like an insult to Viking Rivers. We really enjoyed our first Viking river cruise, and never thought that we wanted to take an ocean cruise before that experience.

However, we did ultimately take a cruise with Viking Oceans, and I must admit that you are right. Viking Oceans is like a bigger version of the river cruise, in a very good way. With more to choose from in terms of food, excursions, onboard activities, and beautiful places to spend time on the ship, we did indeed adore Viking Oceans! Even though it is bigger, it never feels crowded, or overwhelming.

I expect we will return to Viking Rivers one day, but for now we are looking forward to our second Viking Oceans cruise.

 

My thoughts, as well, but much better stated!

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