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Mr Beans

Just back Viking Sea West Indies -my thoughts/thanks

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Our first ocean cruise but have done VR previously.  Thanks so much to those who contribute to the boards on Cruise Critic as I felt very prepared in terms of expectations.  Ship was very lovely and the staff was absolutely amazing.  How these folks remember peoples names, drink preferences, etc is beyond me.  Was worried that 900 guests was too big but we never really saw crowds except a couple of times in World Cafe where we had to circle a couple of times to get a table.   Agree with others that have posted that some of the included excursions were not all that great especially compared to what we've experienced on river cruises.  We did a combination of included, a couple of optional and just our own thing.  Some of the port areas were somewhat disappointing in that you would need to take a taxi to get somewhere for other than shopping.  We enjoyed the caves in Barbados, kind of wished I had skipped the train in St Kitts and done Nevis instead as people raved about it.  We did a private tour in St Lucia which was wonderful.  We did a beach day in St Martin.  In retrospect I wish I had booked one of the catamaran tours.  Food was mostly pretty good although I thought there were a few things that could have been better - more spice or flavor to shrimp dishes, lobster dinner was abit overcooked, some beef not so tender - I did think their NY strip was much better than their rib eye.  We ate at both specialty restaurants twice and enjoyed them both.  Loved room service for breakfast.  There was a small outbreak of norovirus during the cruise which the staff/crew handled amazingly well and were able to contain quickly although there was obviously some impact to the guests.  We had a PV which was lovely so if we do ocean again I'm now probably spoiled and won't want to downsize.  All in all a very good way to experience VO and a smaller cruise experience, great weather, beautiful islands, met some wonderful people and were totally spoiled by the staff.

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Thanks Mr. Beans for the informative post. We are taking our first VO cruise this summer. Yo do cause me concern when you say, " a couple of times in World Cafe where we had to circle a couple of times to get a table." Please tell me if you had to wait for tables in the Restaurant also and if there was a problem with queues elsewhere.

Many thanks.

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Thank you for your review, we will be on the Viking Sea for our first VO cruise in September 2020. We have only been on mainstream cruise lines and my fear is Viking will spoil us and we may never be able to go back to mainstream. My sister and BIL did  a cruise on the Orion last October and they have exclusively cruised with Celebrity and after she returned she said she could never go back to Celebrity. It's like once you fly Business or Premium Economy class overseas you can never do coach again.

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Thanks for the great review; it brought back fond memories of our West Indies Sea cruise last December (17)  😁  We only did one included tour in Guadeloupe and a paid rainforest by tram in St Lucia- enjoyed both,  but went to beaches or stayed onboard since DH had a terrible cough.  It was wonderful ; yes, spoiled forever with outstanding food and service.   We went again on the Sky (had a PV) , unfortunate rainy weather entire cruise . We are looking forward to an amazing Med Odyssey on the Star in May .  The only place we had trouble finding a table was outside near the pool grill, but there's not many.   Enjoy planning your next VO cruise! 

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3 hours ago, lextrvlr said:

Thanks Mr. Beans for the informative post. We are taking our first VO cruise this summer. Yo do cause me concern when you say, " a couple of times in World Cafe where we had to circle a couple of times to get a table." Please tell me if you had to wait for tables in the Restaurant also and if there was a problem with queues elsewhere.

Many thanks.

Once was during the Seafood Buffet night which was pretty popular, also we tend to eat around 7ish.  Never had to wait in the dining room .  

 

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On our Cuba trip, the World Cafe tended to become congested between about 5 and 7.  Part of the issue was groups of two claiming a table for six, etc.

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10 minutes ago, Cienfuegos said:

On our Cuba trip, the World Cafe tended to become congested between about 5 and 7.  Part of the issue was groups of two claiming a table for six, etc.

The World Cafe does not open for dinner until 6. When it first opens, I've never seen it other than almost empty.  When two people "claim" a table for six, you ought to ask whether they are holding chairs for someone, but otherwise, most people do that because they are looking to socialize. If they want privacy, joining them is a a good way for them to quickly learn that a table for six is not the way to do it. 

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3 hours ago, Richard2 said:

The World Cafe does not open for dinner until 6. When it first opens, I've never seen it other than almost empty.  When two people "claim" a table for six, you ought to ask whether they are holding chairs for someone, but otherwise, most people do that because they are looking to socialize. If they want privacy, joining them is a a good way for them to quickly learn that a table for six is not the way to do it. 

Perhaps it was 6 pm, but World Cafe was crowded.  I'm sure there have been cruises where it hasn't been crowded, that's a good thing.

 

We do ask if we may join a table, and we've never been refused.  Perhaps we come across as friendly, and not boorish.

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On 2/1/2019 at 7:13 AM, Mr Beans said:

Our first ocean cruise but have done VR previously.  Thanks so much to those who contribute to the boards on Cruise Critic as I felt very prepared in terms of expectations.  Ship was very lovely and the staff was absolutely amazing.  How these folks remember peoples names, drink preferences, etc is beyond me.  Was worried that 900 guests was too big but we never really saw crowds except a couple of times in World Cafe where we had to circle a couple of times to get a table.   Agree with others that have posted that some of the included excursions were not all that great especially compared to what we've experienced on river cruises.  We did a combination of included, a couple of optional and just our own thing.  Some of the port areas were somewhat disappointing in that you would need to take a taxi to get somewhere for other than shopping.  We enjoyed the caves in Barbados, kind of wished I had skipped the train in St Kitts and done Nevis instead as people raved about it.  We did a private tour in St Lucia which was wonderful.  We did a beach day in St Martin.  In retrospect I wish I had booked one of the catamaran tours.  Food was mostly pretty good although I thought there were a few things that could have been better - more spice or flavor to shrimp dishes, lobster dinner was abit overcooked, some beef not so tender - I did think their NY strip was much better than their rib eye.  We ate at both specialty restaurants twice and enjoyed them both.  Loved room service for breakfast.  There was a small outbreak of norovirus during the cruise which the staff/crew handled amazingly well and were able to contain quickly although there was obviously some impact to the guests.  We had a PV which was lovely so if we do ocean again I'm now probably spoiled and won't want to downsize.  All in all a very good way to experience VO and a smaller cruise experience, great weather, beautiful islands, met some wonderful people and were totally spoiled by the staff.

 

Thank you for the great comments Mr Beans.   Wife and I are doing this cruise in 10 days and a little apprehensive - as I've heard the port excursions are not so good.  We do have a PV room so glad you enjoyed that.  And we booked the St Kitts train which now I wish we had not then.  The Catamaran tours filled up fast.  As for taking private tours, did you have any concern that you wouldn't make it back to the ship in time? 

We went on the Viking SKY Homelands cruise last May and absolutely loved it!  Per others comments - we never had ANY lines to eat anywhere.  Sometimes one side of the World Cafe was full and the other side was empty (go figure!).  We also didn't get advance reservations for the specialty restaurants, but found many people must have cancelled during the cruise because they opened up quite a bit later! 

We are just hoping that the wonderful experience we had in the Baltics is repeated!

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2 hours ago, CCWineLover said:

 

Thank you for the great comments Mr Beans.   Wife and I are doing this cruise in 10 days and a little apprehensive - as I've heard the port excursions are not so good.  We do have a PV room so glad you enjoyed that.  And we booked the St Kitts train which now I wish we had not then.  The Catamaran tours filled up fast.  As for taking private tours, did you have any concern that you wouldn't make it back to the ship in time? 

We went on the Viking SKY Homelands cruise last May and absolutely loved it!  Per others comments - we never had ANY lines to eat anywhere.  Sometimes one side of the World Cafe was full and the other side was empty (go figure!).  We also didn't get advance reservations for the specialty restaurants, but found many people must have cancelled during the cruise because they opened up quite a bit later! 

We are just hoping that the wonderful experience we had in the Baltics is repeated!

The train wasn't awful - just alittle more low key than I was expecting, basically a ride through the countryside, with entertainment and rum drinks.  In St Lucia we used Cosol, yes I was concerned about getting back, many of these companies guarantee to be back and ask for your ship info prior, I knew it was to be about a 6 hour tour but obviously we went much longer, picked up at 8:20 and we got back a little before 4pm.  St Thomas & St Martin were the 2 ports with lots of shopping and restaurants, all others were pretty small.

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Thanks for posting your thoughts on VO.  This is pretty much what friends that sailed with VO in January reported back.  Ship beautiful, service mostly good to very good (some disconnects, including reception who could not get their bill straight in 3 separate visits to address discrepancies),  included excursions mediocre, food pretty good but not memorable.   They did like Chef's Table and enjoyed the burgers.  Wines and liquors with Silver Package were not premium, based on their comments.   No Grey Goose or premium scotch, even to purchase (at least on their sailing). 

We go in two weeks for the first time and have booked all private, non VO tours (sounds like that was a great decision).  We are bringing a few good bottles of wine onboard to enjoy with dinner and have modest expectations for food.  We do expect to be impressed with ship and service.  And Cuba is a place we have long wanted to visit.  We are traveling with a group of friends and that makes for a great trip!

 

 

 

Edited by caviargal

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We also are taking the NYC- San Juan Cruise this October, so we will share some of the same ports as the West Indies. I have been researching private tours. I spend a lot of time vetting the companies reading between CC ports of call and Trip Advisor, posting questions on both and reading reviews. It is time consuming, but what I do before trips. That way my concern about getting back in time with the company I choose gets to a comfort level, knowing there is no absolute guarantee.   We are booking 2 different catamaran trips independently. I am considering St Martin because there is a MSC ship in port that day that will bring a lot of people into port - a booked water day takes us away from all that. Did you feel that the shopping in St Martin, but mostly the restaurants were worth taking time to do?  I haven’t been there for many years. 

Thank you for this review and information. 

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Vineyard View -  We stayed in Philipsburg mainly because there were a number of ships in port that day.  We took a water taxi to the beach area and did a fairly quick walk around on Front St.  Most of the shopping is jewelry and the usual stuff.  We did not check out the restaurants - I hadn't seen any during my initial research that I wanted to go to.  Would have liked to have gone over to the french side to eat but wasn't sure how much would actually be open

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2 hours ago, Vineyard View said:

We also are taking the NYC- San Juan Cruise this October, so we will share some of the same ports as the West Indies. I have been researching private tours. I spend a lot of time vetting the companies reading between CC ports of call and Trip Advisor, posting questions on both and reading reviews. It is time consuming, but what I do before trips. That way my concern about getting back in time with the company I choose gets to a comfort level, knowing there is no absolute guarantee.   We are booking 2 different catamaran trips independently. I am considering St Martin because there is a MSC ship in port that day that will bring a lot of people into port - a booked water day takes us away from all that. Did you feel that the shopping in St Martin, but mostly the restaurants were worth taking time to do?  I haven’t been there for many years. 

Thank you for this review and information. 

 

We generally take a taxi to the beach on the French side and plan our day around a nice lunch.  If you are a fan of French wine and cuisine, I would say it is worth it.  I find it much more charming and interesting than the Dutch side, and shopping on the French side is less cruise ship passenger oriented.

Edited by caviargal

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Vineyard View, we have been to St Martin/Sint Maarten several times mainly due to better air connections to SXM from time to time.  The island, imho, and both sides, is not that unusual from any other Caribbean island.  We find the food and French slanted shopping better on St. Barts and the shopping/ food in Philipsburg reminds us of a cleaner St.Thomas.  Still, it beats working.  Now there is one unique thing on St Martin.  The Princess Juliana Airport is right on top of Maho Beach and the Sunset Bar.  If airplanes are remotely interesting to you this is the closest you can get legally anywhere in the world to landing and taking off jets.  For those who are curious you can Google "St. Martin landings" and see lots of crazy airliner videos.   I am just weird enough to like a few beers and playing with the big jets.😎🍺

Edited by Jim Avery

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5 hours ago, Jim Avery said:

Vineyard View, we have been to St Martin/Sint Maarten several times mainly due to better air connections to SXM from time to time.  The island, imho, and both sides, is not that unusual from any other Caribbean island.  We find the food and French slanted shopping better on St. Barts and the shopping/ food in Philipsburg reminds us of a cleaner St.Thomas.  Still, it beats working.  Now there is one unique thing on St Martin.  The Princess Juliana Airport is right on top of Maho Beach and the Sunset Bar.  If airplanes are remotely interesting to you this is the closest you can get legally anywhere in the world to landing and taking off jets.  For those who are curious you can Google "St. Martin landings" and see lots of crazy airliner videos.   I am just weird enough to like a few beers and playing with the big jets.😎🍺

Jim:

Me too!  Love to sit and watch those huge 747's come in! (i.e. KLM from Amsterdam)...  Sadly it may be a thing of the past as the 747's are being phased out.  But still you cannot get much closer to jets landing.  There are some incredible pics out there on the net that people should see!   Personally I plan to do that our our upcoming West Indies Explorer Cruise!

 

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Thank you all. I appreciate your responses. 

 

Thank you you for clarifying shopping in Phillipsburg- I can skip the jewelry! I had a feeling it was still like this. 

 

Caviargal, do you have any restaurant recommendations?  I cannot remember if there are water taxis to the French side? If not how long is a taxi ride approximately?

 

thanks Jim for the Maho recommendation. I went the last time. Will see if others traveling with us are interested.  I agree that St Martin is not an island with striking differences. But it’s the Caribbean, it’s beautiful, it’s vacation! I think we will  most likely book with a catamaran. There is also a speedboat option, but not sure about that idea. The problem with the catamarans are the requirements for minimum group size. I get the reasoning for that. In the end, you are absolutely right, it beats working!  

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Coming out of lurking mode momentarily to say not to skip the shopping on the dutch side if you are looking for high-end watches, etc.  DW knew prices in California for such things and found that they were MUCH cheaper on Sint Maarten.  The $$$ we saved on a few items more than paid for our entire Regent cruise, even after patriotically paying the US import duties....

 

In particular, I can recommend the store on Front St named after an early James Bond movie, where gold was the main subject 🙂  Not only were the prices good, a couple of years later on a return visit they helped out of a jam (lost day-pack that was eventually found with all contents in place).  They remembered us from our first visit, since we single-handedly markedly increased the GDP of the Netherlands :classic_tongue:

 

 

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4 hours ago, Ragnar Danneskjold said:

Coming out of lurking mode momentarily to say not to skip the shopping on the dutch side if you are looking for high-end watches, etc.  DW knew prices in California for such things and found that they were MUCH cheaper on Sint Maarten.  The $$$ we saved on a few items more than paid for our entire Regent cruise, even after patriotically paying the US import duties....

 

In particular, I can recommend the store on Front St named after an early James Bond movie, where gold was the main subject 🙂  Not only were the prices good, a couple of years later on a return visit they helped out of a jam (lost day-pack that was eventually found with all contents in place).  They remembered us from our first visit, since we single-handedly markedly increased the GDP of the Netherlands :classic_tongue:

 

 

 

Perfect information for us, Ragnar.  We are specifically going to be shopping on our West Indies Explorer cruise for high-end watches - so this is great to know!     I won't wait for St. Thomas then.  Good recommendation on James Bond store 🙂

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5 hours ago, Ragnar Danneskjold said:

Coming out of lurking mode momentarily to say not to skip the shopping on the dutch side if you are looking for high-end watches, etc.  DW knew prices in California for such things and found that they were MUCH cheaper on Sint Maarten.  The $$$ we saved on a few items more than paid for our entire Regent cruise, even after patriotically paying the US import duties....

 

In particular, I can recommend the store on Front St named after an early James Bond movie, where gold was the main subject 🙂  Not only were the prices good, a couple of years later on a return visit they helped out of a jam (lost day-pack that was eventually found with all contents in place).  They remembered us from our first visit, since we single-handedly markedly increased the GDP of the Netherlands :classic_tongue:

 

 

  

Ragnar---can you give a little guidance on the brands that you found to be a bargain? Patek Phillipe? Montblanc, Jaeger, Cartier?

We are in the market for Cartier, Hermes or maybe A Lange & Sohne.

Thanks!

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On 2/7/2019 at 5:31 PM, broker1217 said:

  

Ragnar---can you give a little guidance on the brands that you found to be a bargain? Patek Phillipe? Montblanc, Jaeger, Cartier?

We are in the market for Cartier, Hermes or maybe A Lange & Sohne.

Thanks!

 

Sorry, been a while since we were there last.  I know the brands “R” and “Ch” were a “bargain”, according to DW.  I was only there to provide the credit card :classic_love:

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On 2/5/2019 at 1:24 PM, CCWineLover said:

 

Thank you for the great comments Mr Beans.   Wife and I are doing this cruise in 10 days and a little apprehensive - as I've heard the port excursions are not so good.  We do have a PV room so glad you enjoyed that.  And we booked the St Kitts train which now I wish we had not then.  The Catamaran tours filled up fast.  As for taking private tours, did you have any concern that you wouldn't make it back to the ship in time? 

We went on the Viking SKY Homelands cruise last May and absolutely loved it!  Per others comments - we never had ANY lines to eat anywhere.  Sometimes one side of the World Cafe was full and the other side was empty (go figure!).  We also didn't get advance reservations for the specialty restaurants, but found many people must have cancelled during the cruise because they opened up quite a bit later! 

We are just hoping that the wonderful experience we had in the Baltics is repeated!

 

We loved the St Kitts Railway!  I should mention that we are rail fans so the train itself probably interested us more than others. The tour itself covered a lot of the island and our guide was great. The local a capela group was quite good and we just enjoyed the whole trip. 

 

If you still feel you might not like it, stop by the shore excursion desks when you board.  Many people were exchanging excursions when we went last year. 

 

We did mostly optional excursions and enjoyed every one,but the one in Guadeloupe. It was the Jacques Cousteau one and there were a lot of things that we weren’t happy about. The guide kept lapsing Into French for long stretches for one. 

 

All the other ones we did were fabulous. We did mostly tours that included or consisted of Catamaran sails. St Lucia was the best, then Antigua and St Thomas. We also did the Photography Tour in Barbados and that was also great!  Small group in a van and we went to off the beaten path spots. 

 

We did included tours in San Juan, St Croix, St Kitts and St Martin and enjoyed them. Our excursion in Antigua had the included tour as the first part, then that group went back to the ship while we continued on to the Catamaran.  

 

The only line I encountered on our cruise was the gelato bar 😁. Sometimes there were a few people ahead of me. 

 

We ate dinner in the Restaurant, but breakfast and lunch in the World Cafe. We never had a problem finding a table. We never waited at the Restaurant except for the last night. We wanted a particular serving team and they were very popular. 

 

Enjoy your cruise!  We are doing the Canada cruise in the fall on the Viking Sea - same PV cabin. We loved it!

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We enjoyed the St Kitts railway, as well.  Several double deck open rail cars pulled through former sugar cane fields, through little villages, etc.  Lovely scenery, and a view of Nevis, across the water. At the end of the one way trip, we boarded a catamaran for the remainder of the island's circumnavigation.  Fine views of many lovely homes along the water.

 

This was on a 2016 Celebrity cruise.  Other groups took the catamaran trip first, followed by the train.

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Cyber Kat, 

Did you write a review for your West Indies trip? Where can I find it - love to read it to get ready for our trip, thanks.

 

 Ruimin 

 

 

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13 hours ago, Cyber Kat said:

 

We loved the St Kitts Railway!  I should mention that we are rail fans so the train itself probably interested us more than others. The tour itself covered a lot of the island and our guide was great. The local a capela group was quite good and we just enjoyed the whole trip. 

 

If you still feel you might not like it, stop by the shore excursion desks when you board.  Many people were exchanging excursions when we went last year. 

 

We did mostly optional excursions and enjoyed every one,but the one in Guadeloupe. It was the Jacques Cousteau one and there were a lot of things that we weren’t happy about. The guide kept lapsing Into French for long stretches for one. 

 

All the other ones we did were fabulous. We did mostly tours that included or consisted of Catamaran sails. St Lucia was the best, then Antigua and St Thomas. We also did the Photography Tour in Barbados and that was also great!  Small group in a van and we went to off the beaten path spots. 

 

We did included tours in San Juan, St Croix, St Kitts and St Martin and enjoyed them. Our excursion in Antigua had the included tour as the first part, then that group went back to the ship while we continued on to the Catamaran.  

 

The only line I encountered on our cruise was the gelato bar 😁. Sometimes there were a few people ahead of me. 

 

We ate dinner in the Restaurant, but breakfast and lunch in the World Cafe. We never had a problem finding a table. We never waited at the Restaurant except for the last night. We wanted a particular serving team and they were very popular. 

 

Enjoy your cruise!  We are doing the Canada cruise in the fall on the Viking Sea - same PV cabin. We loved it!

 

Thank you Cyber Kat!  That is good news.  We love trains too so we should enjoy the St. Kitts Railway.

Thank you also for your other comments.  We may try to do a Catamaran Sail then if they are available when we get on board in a few days.   And, wonderful to hear about the Photography Tour in Barbados.  I love photography and it sounded so good, but hadn't heard anyone comment on it.  Good to know - now I'll really look forward to it!

 

Our neighbors and good friends just booked the Canada cruise for Sept 26 Montreal to NYC so perhaps you are on the same ship.  They are Viking newbies so I showed them how to sign up on Cruise Critic and they did also sign up for the Meet & Mingle.

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