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My wife and I enjoyed this cruise for the most part, in spite of the numerous issues encountered, and were able to achieve our fundamental goals of relaxing and reconnecting during this much-anticipated, 25th wedding anniversary trip. However, much of this relaxation was achieved irrespective of Viking, and NOT because of them, and the experience was overpriced for what was delivered. This candid review is designed to assist others who are researching Viking Ocean cruises, are not biased, and are inclined to thoroughly research a vacation provider and weigh all available options prior to committing scarce leisure time and discretionary dollars to milestone events such as anniversaries. 'TIPS' for Viking corporate are interspersed throughout this review. It is said one never gets a second chance to make a first impression, but this advice is perhaps lost on Viking, primarily due to its 'loyal following' of 'low-budget' travelers. So if you are new to Viking, you had better be prepared for some not-so-standard ways of doing things. Otherwise you will feel like you have been left out of a good thing. And you very likely will be, left out that is. The first little discomfort occurred when we arrived at the airport in San Juan. We collected our luggage without delay or incident by the first of many 'red shirts', and then were directed to a motor coach for the included airport transfer (a result of paying for the Viking Air Plus). Because we wanted to have a carry on with us for when we arrived in our state room we had to travel on the motor coach with a very large carry on in our lap, as the motor coach driver made no attempt or offer to allow us to stow the carry on suitcase UNDER the bus, and there was no way anyone was going to fit a carry on in the overhead of the bus. We were not the only ones who had to do this. Hey Viking, there is really no excuse to treat a guest like this, and had we known how impersonal and uncomfortable this first experience would have been, we would have gladly paid for a private transfer. But it gets better ... read on. Arriving at the cruise port we were greeted by what could accurately be described as subtle disorganization. The security folks had their situation in order, but the red-shirted Viking folks appeared to not be completely ready for our bus to arrive. They were scurrying about and having personal conversations. My wife and I were directed to approach a table where a seated man took our booklet without so much as any eye contact, handed us two room cards and mumbled, "Welcome to Viking." We had to ask him where to go next, and he simply motioned with his arm in a gesture that implied, "Go over there now, that way ..." We proceeded out of the dirty and dilapidated security building to the ship, up the boarding ramp, and received a more proper greeting with both smiles and eye contact, but not one person indicated how we would locate our cabin, or seemed interested in helping us to locate it. We moved through the area and found the elevator foyer, then selected floor '5' and were up and away towards our assumed floor. It was then a long walk down a hallway to our cabin. We swiped the key, but the door would not open. We tried the second key. No joy. We looked around for Viking staff to help, but saw no one. So off we went back down the long hallway toward the elevator where we encountered a staff person who was cleaning, and who indicated we would have to go back down to 'guest services' to have them give us a new key. "Where is that?" we wondered as he quickly disappeared into a nearby cabin. So we waited and waited for the elevator. No joy. We then decided to take the stairs down five flights to guest services, where a crowd of folks were waiting to be served by one of two Viking staff (one desk was empty). As we waited a third staff member showed up and asked if they could help. We explained that our room key did not work, and the woman simply smiled and stated, "We just wanted to make you come down here to get a new key." She seemed joking but also slightly and sardonically serious. It was not the last time we would encounter this type of staff behavior on the Viking Sea. We had now been on the ship for 15 minutes, and we were dehydrated, hot, tired, and in need of a rest room, but we were headed back up to our cabin for a second attempt at entry. This time we were greeted by a steward (one of two who worked this section of the ship cabins) who seemed clueless that we had already been to the room once before. So we played along. He began to hurriedly explain everything about the room and the ship in a very thick accent and also a very rapid speech pattern. At this point my wife's bladder was about to burst, so I interrupted his auto-pilot talk to let him know that we were both exhausted and my wife needed to use the bathroom. But he just kept going like the energizer bunny. So we let him play himself out. Ten long minutes went by. He finally left. To be honest we did not catch much of what he attempted to convey, and so he may very well have discharged his 'duty' to greet the guest and tell them about the ship and the room. We will never know. But this little introductory charade set the tone for the entire cruise. TIP - Viking needs to do a better job of teaching staff who greet guests and introduce them to their room to: A. Make sure that cabin staff are available when the guest is coming to open their room for the first time. Had this individual been anywhere near when we first arrived on our floor, he could have let us in the room when our key did not work - and then gone to get a new key for us. But he was nowhere to be found. B. Learn to read a guest's body language (or at the very least recognize when a guest tells them they are fatigued or need to use the rest room), to ask the guest if they can come back later to give their 'talk.' He honestly had no clue how to do this, and even when told made no effort. He just wanted to get his talk done and check it off of his 'to do' list. Mission accomplished. One of the first things that our cabin steward told us that we did comprehend, in spite of our pee-pee dance, was that our first shore excursion had been cancelled. Yep, you read that right. He got that one taken care of immediately. He explained that we could call the 'Excursion Staff' to find out more, but then did not know the extension to use to reach them on the phone. But we could just call down and someone would help us, or so we thought. After he left, and we used the rest room, I called down to guest services and was transferred to shore excursions. But no one answered, and so I went back down a second time to the same area as I had been for the key fiasco. Another line of folks - the very line I had predicted would be present, and for that reason, had researched and 'pre-booked' all, and I mean ALL, of our shore excursions IN ADVANCE of the cruise. Yet here I was standing in line on my $18,000, eleven-day vacation. After ten minutes a third staff member appeared to fill one of the unused desks, and asked how they could assist me. I told them that my wife and I understood they had cancelled the first night shore excursion in Puerto Rico due to lack of sign up. We were going to learn to 'salsa dance,' make 'monfongo' and make 'mohitos.' This was also to be our first dinner and so we had not made any dinner reservations on the boat that night. (Strike four at this point, but who likes to count on vacation?... Side Note: no reservations were available that night, of course.) "Yes, it is unfortunately beyond our control." (Voice of Chekov on Star Trek - Another Side Note: This proved to be an often-used excuse on this cruise.) I asked the shore excursion staff member if they could recommend a restaurant in Puerto Rico where my wife and I could at least experience some of the same cuisine that was advertised on the cancelled shore excursion. "I am not sure because I am not familiar with this port." (Wow, but he was serious.) "Is anyone in shore excursions available that might know?" I asked. "Let me make a call." More waiting. No joy. "The tour operator we use for this excursion is closed today as it is Sunday, so I am afraid that I can not help you. But you can walk back off the boat and through port security to the front of where the bus left you, and ask someone on the street who is wearing a red viking shirt." Yep, those were almost his exact words. (A concierge at any four star hotel would easily know more than this.) And so that is what we did, walk back out to the street and look for a red shirt. Luckily we did find a restaurant that first night in port, and had some delicious Monfongo, albeit on our own, with almost no help from Viking, save for the lady at the bus stop in the red shirt who gave us the wrong directions to the restaurant, but whom we did tip. Hurray! We were now on our first, and last, Viking cruise... So that was our first impression of the Viking Sea. But more surprises awaited ... Here's a snap shot of some: SHIP ENTERTANMENT - Little effort on the part of Viking to advertise the ship entertainment to 'new cruisers' or really make individuals aware of the 'what', the 'how' and the 'when' IN ADVANCE, so that they might more fully enjoy the cruise. Because of this, we did not find out about any of the specialty shows, save for one that we discovered from talking with another guest) until after the 'professional cruisers' had scooped up all the available shows. Shame on Viking for operating the shows in this manner. Really, shame on you. ES1 cabins should have priority booking of these shows. That's a no-brainer Viking, and it is definitely WITHIN YOUR CONTROL. A show was the one thing my wife really wanted to do, and Viking dropped the ball big time on this one. Another thing Viking should do is make the port talks available via LIVE BROADCAST from within your cabin. We missed almost all of them. Shame on Viking for not having this piece of techno in 2018 on a boat built in 2015. No excuse for that except they don't care to THINK about the guest experience FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE GUEST. The DINING EXPERIENCE - We used all six of our allowed reservations at the two premium restaurants on the boat, and were allowed a seventh reservation thanks to the FANTASTIC maître d of the CHEF's Table. Our first reservation meal was at Manfredi's. It was a disaster. I had to send back two steaks, before receiving a lecture from Hector on how brown sugar caramelized and appears to both look (and somehow oddly TASTE) like a BURNT mess. (This dish is the acclaimed "Bistecca Fiorentina-a prime, aged and well-seasoned rib eye.") However, it seems I was not alone in having this experience, as numerous other steaks were sent back by others we spoke to, including one that was served at the next table on our second night at the Manfredi's. Lots of similar disappointment from others were expressed to us about Manfredi's. Anyway, our first meal at Manfredi's was also served with COLD potatoes and COLD asparagus. Or perhaps this was because I had to wait for the third stake to be served. All I can say is that the massively overweight men who eat stake at this restaurant may not actually be chewing or tasting their food, and that is why you read those rave reviews about steak at this restaurant. Your best bet at Manfredi's is to order ITALIAN food, and go with what they recommend (which will never be the steak). That is what we did the last two reservations we were allowed, and they got it 100% perfect. Good recovery Hector! But it would have been nice if you would have allowed us an extra reservation to make up for the disaster on the first night there. We were told by the maître d at Manfredi's said that he would NOT do that even after we explained how disappointed we were with the first experience. Hey 'Bagus' or whatever you name is, there's an old Italian saying, "You make your bed, you sleep in it." TIP: Viking should re-assign the maître d at Manfredi's. He's lost his give a damn. The CHEF's TABLE was amazing, and the maître d (who is from Latvia) is the MOST professional maître d I have ever experienced, and I was trained as one in my youth. He is genuinely friendly with EVERY guest, makes an effort to know your name, and is a consummate gentleman in every way. He actually CARES about your experience and wants you to be comfortable and satisfied. Viking is lucky to have this man at the helm of the Chef's Table. The food is creative, fantastic, perfectly proportioned and the service is first rate. You will only be disappointed if you A. Are morbidly obese and are used to shoveling huge portions in your trough. B. As a kid you were very picky about your food, your clothes, your friends, everything in general it seems you were somehow, or in some way not satisfied with, just because you needed extra attention - You won't like it. Stay away. C. You are used to eating at a 'fast-paced' eating establishment (not a restaurant), and need to have your food served rapidly because your blood sugar might get dangerously low and/or your cell-phone addiction has made it impossible for you to spend more than five minutes in an unoccupied time zone (otherwise and formally known as 'life.') You won't like it. Don't eat there. That way folks that don't like burnt stake from Manfredi's can have a heavenly meal at the Chef's Table, since all the fat cats will be on the Italian side of the boat. I wonder if the captain has to compensate for the inevitable list that might occur? The SPA - This is THE reason to sail with Viking, but sadly many guests are too cheap to book a treatment. Those that do are in for a treat, and we were not disappointed, save for one experience at the Spa counter, as all of our massages and facials were amazing and professional. My wife and I had five treatments each, probably more than most. We attempted to upgrade one of our treatments and were met with some skepticism and a hint of condescension from the counter staff member 'Liesel.' She kept having to go to a side room and confer with a faceless colleague, who apparently eventually decided that she would not allow us to PAY MORE for an upgraded treatment. "I'm sorry but it is not possible" (AKA "it is beyond our control.") You would think they would go the extra mile for repeat customers, but Viking appears to be more interested in getting new customers in the Spa, than folks that are already booked. Oh well, they will find out the hard way what happens when one ignores the loyal customer base. We had the same issue with the Spa during pre-booking before the cruise, as the website would NOT allow us to book spa treatments for each of the cruise days, only allowing a block of 3-4 days for spa booking. When we called to inquire why, we were told we could simply sign up once on the ship. Booking spa treatments is further complicated by the fact that spa staff may not be able to view your excursion or dinner reservation schedule, making it very difficult to book spa treatments unless you carry around a current copy of your activity schedule with you. The Spa also seems to suffer from the same malady as the ship entertainment philosophy, and that is to 'keep it secret.' Why? Really why is that? It serves no purpose other than to frustrate your guests. In order for my wife and I to find out about the spa we had to insist that someone explain the spa to us, and this was AFTER our first treatment. We were then told that we could sign up and pay for a $39, one hour tour that was limited to only 10 guests so that we could learn more about the Spa. TIP: Hey Viking Spa Staff, Its 2018. We spent over $1,800 in your spa and we tipped 20%! You would think that you could tell us how to use the spa at no charge, but yet you want another $39, per person. What does that say about you? Seriously. Also, there should be no need to restrict advance bookings for spa treatments, and your booking software is wholly inadequate for planning purposes. I do NOT want to spend my vacation PLANNING my vacation WHILE I AM ON MY VACATION by standing in line at a spa counter or a shore excursion desk to be told that it is now too late to accommodate me. Förstå? The Included Shore Excursions - We booked three and went on two. The first was a walking tour of Puerto Rico with head sets. It was very good, but the tour guide got behind schedule - waiting for all the morbidly obese (or waddlers is what we called them). So we missed several sights that would have occurred at the end of the tour. The tour guide kept going even though she was over time, but we had to leave the tour to get back to the boat for a spa treatment we had booked. The second included excursion was terrible, with the open-air van transport having a non-working, glitchy speaker, so none of us could clearly hear the tour guide, who did not seem to care that the speaker was on the fritz. Total waist of time which took us to a few VERY crowded vista view points and a tourist shop with banana coladas. The viking excursion staff actually told us to skip the third tour we had scheduled stating we could see it on out own due to the town being so small, so we did. But she neglected to tell us the town closed early the day we were in port, so by the time we went down to spend an hour in town, ALMOST ALL OF THE TOWN WAS CLOSED UP INCLUDING THE FORT MUSEUM, save for one tee-shirt/dive shop. Thanks for the tip, Viking Shore Excursion Staff. They really should fire most all of you as you are clueless, except for Daniel. Seriously. The OPTIONAL Shore Excursions - We booked ALL of the expensive excursions on every day of the cruise because they sounded so amazing. Sadly, Viking Ocean in the Caribbean appears to be heavily patronized by British loyalist who have a penurious affinity for thriftiness, and are too cheap to sign up for anything that cost them one extra cent. This suspicion was also confirmed by one of Viking's staff members, in confidence of course. And so four of our optional excursions were cancelled on this cruise due to lack of sign up. Yep, four of them. "It is beyond our control," says the voice of Chekov. Judy, the shore excursion lady said that Viking would try to have one optional excursion make that we were looking forward to, and so Viking appeared to 'come through'. But it was the 'how' they did it that was the EPIC fail. This was supposed to be a 'LUXURY' cruise by catamaran to the famous Ladera resort on St. Lucia. The way Viking made this happen was to cram us (what was to be 14 but luckily turned out to be only 8) on an already FULL and OLD catamaran, so that we could make it to the island where Ladera was located. When we arrived at Ladera it was raining (no stunning views), but this is 'beyond Viking's control.' However the excursion description stated that we would get to tour the beautiful resort and see the incredible botanical gardens. After a drink with a seat to view the enveloping fog, followed by our protracted lunch, our red-shirt Viking guide informed the eight in our small group that "well it seems the resort is full, so there will be no tour, and we will go back to the ship now." I said, "Wait a minute, what about the botanical gardens?" The tour guide actually had this look which conveyed a "How dare you ask about that ..." She went away to inquire and came back to tell us that we could quickly tour the garden. And thank GOD I asked, because the small and kind gnome of a man from the resort that gave us the garden tour was incredible and so passionate, and for ten meager minutes shared his knowledge of the garden and the herbal medicine with us, lovingly allowing us to sample many plants. We were all amazed. But the entire hour we sat starring out into the fog waiting for lunch could and should have been spent with this marvelous master gardener. But alas, Viking was only trying to 'make the tour happen' and 'get us back to the boat on account of some light rain.' Mission accomplished Judy. Tell me how it is that you do not know of this gardening-demi god of a man at Ladera? Isn't Viking supposed to be all about the 'unique, signature experience?' What a crock. Judy, if you ever get tired of pretending to be an excursion director, I hear prison's are looking for help on almost every continent. This wasn't the first sour experience we had with Ms. Judy, the excursion director. Two other incidents are worthy of note. Once such occurrence was whilst (ooh I used a British word) we were queueing (ooh another one) for a shuttle bus to an excursion. It was lightly raining and she was wearing a red Viking rain coat. One of the guest commented on the jacket, and she stated boldly "Well they don't really work and on our salary we can't afford ones that do." I thought this was an incredible statement to make in the presence of guests, but everyone seemed to just chuckle and laugh it off. Funny? I suppose. But telling, very telling to the astute observer. One of our best excursion days resulted from a cancelled port of call. St. Martin was removed from the itinerary due to an Atlantic swell and high waves. Viking had already cancelled the sailing excursion in this port BEFORE the cruise even left San Juan, so we had located our own charter for the day in advance at home. When St. Martin was cancelled and another day was planned to be in Antigua, we decided to make a beach day of it. But again, Shore Excursion staff excelled at being ignorant and restrictive. Case in point, our boat had to move during the night in Antigua to the 'commercial port' about 1.5 miles from town. The next morning we were told that a 'shuttle bus' (which held about 20 persons) would be available starting at 8:30 a.m. My wife and I predicted long lines of folks waiting to do the same thing we wanted to do that day, so we set off from the ship a little before 8:00 a.m. to make the 1.5 mile walk into town and grab a taxi. Why? Because the Shore Excursion staff told us that no taxis could come near to the commercial port, which proved to be FALSE. Lucky for us, within one minute of leaving the commercial port security check point we were picked up by a taxi, and paid the driver a very nice sum to be our personal transport for the day. He took us to the nicest beach available that day, "Half Moon Bay." Due to the odd storm that had closed St. Martin and was hitting the East Cost, the Atlantic was actually calm that day, while the Caribbean side of the island had roads that washed out. His decision was spot on. Bizarre weather, but it all worked out, no thanks to Viking's shore excursion staff, and thanks to us risking a 1.5 mile walk that turned out to be misinformation, and the luck of a great taxi driver. This was the best day of our cruise, and Viking had little to do with it, other than the Captain's SMART decision to remain in port in Antigua. THANK YOU TO THE CAPTAIN we never got to meet because no one told us about the opportunity to meet you. The other incident with Ms. Judy occurred when we were disembarking on the last day of the cruise. We had attempted to follow all the directions provided by Viking regarding what to do as we prepared to exit the ship, but had neglected to place our name and cabin number on the small green tag we were required to place on our luggage for transfers. My wife was in the rest room when an announcement was made for our group to exit the boat, and so we were 4 minutes late coming down the boarding ramp and into the security terminal. As we approached we were greeted by a very hectic and frantic Ms. Judy who blurted, "IS THIS YOUR LUGGAGE!?" It was the only luggage left in the area. We said yes. "WELL YOU REALLY SOULD LEARN TO PUT YOUR NAME ON IT. WE HAD NO IDEA WHO IT BELONGED TO. PLEASE PUT YOUR NAME ON YOUR LUGGAGE IN FUTURE." The chiding was so fresh and sincere, such an ungracious farewell on her part that I did not have the heart to tell her that there was a small area of the luggage where our name was stamped into a custom, riveted label, on the side seam of each piece. Probably not worthy of mention that I also have tracking devices in my luggage. Ah but the details Judy, they are of no consequence. I really wanted to tell her, "It was beyond your control," but simply chose to ignore her, and move off toward the patiently waiting, and oddly contrasting, genuinely friendly customs agents, who probably have a higher salary than she does. So ended our 25th Anniversary Viking Ocean 'Edda'. A enjoyable cruise never-the-less, but not one worth the exorbitant cost (almost $1k per person per day). We could have done something much more luxurious for this price, and with staff who were more organized, professional and genuinely caring. TIP: Viking should hire a new excursion director, forthwith (ooh another British word!!!) PS: Hey Viking, even though you were told on three occasions in advance of this trip, you did nothing to celebrate or recognize our 25th anniversary. We won't make the mistake of booking another Viking cruise because our next cruise choice will be "WITHIN OUR CONTROL."

Viking could be so much more if it simply tried a bit harder.

Viking Sea Cruise Review by Goodguys

20 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: February 2018
  • Destination: Caribbean
My wife and I enjoyed this cruise for the most part, in spite of the numerous issues encountered, and were able to achieve our fundamental goals of relaxing and reconnecting during this much-anticipated, 25th wedding anniversary trip. However, much of this relaxation was achieved irrespective of Viking, and NOT because of them, and the experience was overpriced for what was delivered. This candid review is designed to assist others who are researching Viking Ocean cruises, are not biased, and are inclined to thoroughly research a vacation provider and weigh all available options prior to committing scarce leisure time and discretionary dollars to milestone events such as anniversaries. 'TIPS' for Viking corporate are interspersed throughout this review.

It is said one never gets a second chance to make a first impression, but this advice is perhaps lost on Viking, primarily due to its 'loyal following' of 'low-budget' travelers. So if you are new to Viking, you had better be prepared for some not-so-standard ways of doing things. Otherwise you will feel like you have been left out of a good thing. And you very likely will be, left out that is.

The first little discomfort occurred when we arrived at the airport in San Juan. We collected our luggage without delay or incident by the first of many 'red shirts', and then were directed to a motor coach for the included airport transfer (a result of paying for the Viking Air Plus). Because we wanted to have a carry on with us for when we arrived in our state room we had to travel on the motor coach with a very large carry on in our lap, as the motor coach driver made no attempt or offer to allow us to stow the carry on suitcase UNDER the bus, and there was no way anyone was going to fit a carry on in the overhead of the bus. We were not the only ones who had to do this. Hey Viking, there is really no excuse to treat a guest like this, and had we known how impersonal and uncomfortable this first experience would have been, we would have gladly paid for a private transfer. But it gets better ... read on.

Arriving at the cruise port we were greeted by what could accurately be described as subtle disorganization. The security folks had their situation in order, but the red-shirted Viking folks appeared to not be completely ready for our bus to arrive. They were scurrying about and having personal conversations. My wife and I were directed to approach a table where a seated man took our booklet without so much as any eye contact, handed us two room cards and mumbled, "Welcome to Viking." We had to ask him where to go next, and he simply motioned with his arm in a gesture that implied, "Go over there now, that way ..."

We proceeded out of the dirty and dilapidated security building to the ship, up the boarding ramp, and received a more proper greeting with both smiles and eye contact, but not one person indicated how we would locate our cabin, or seemed interested in helping us to locate it. We moved through the area and found the elevator foyer, then selected floor '5' and were up and away towards our assumed floor. It was then a long walk down a hallway to our cabin. We swiped the key, but the door would not open. We tried the second key. No joy. We looked around for Viking staff to help, but saw no one. So off we went back down the long hallway toward the elevator where we encountered a staff person who was cleaning, and who indicated we would have to go back down to 'guest services' to have them give us a new key. "Where is that?" we wondered as he quickly disappeared into a nearby cabin.

So we waited and waited for the elevator. No joy. We then decided to take the stairs down five flights to guest services, where a crowd of folks were waiting to be served by one of two Viking staff (one desk was empty). As we waited a third staff member showed up and asked if they could help. We explained that our room key did not work, and the woman simply smiled and stated, "We just wanted to make you come down here to get a new key." She seemed joking but also slightly and sardonically serious. It was not the last time we would encounter this type of staff behavior on the Viking Sea.

We had now been on the ship for 15 minutes, and we were dehydrated, hot, tired, and in need of a rest room, but we were headed back up to our cabin for a second attempt at entry. This time we were greeted by a steward (one of two who worked this section of the ship cabins) who seemed clueless that we had already been to the room once before. So we played along. He began to hurriedly explain everything about the room and the ship in a very thick accent and also a very rapid speech pattern. At this point my wife's bladder was about to burst, so I interrupted his auto-pilot talk to let him know that we were both exhausted and my wife needed to use the bathroom. But he just kept going like the energizer bunny. So we let him play himself out. Ten long minutes went by. He finally left. To be honest we did not catch much of what he attempted to convey, and so he may very well have discharged his 'duty' to greet the guest and tell them about the ship and the room. We will never know. But this little introductory charade set the tone for the entire cruise.

TIP - Viking needs to do a better job of teaching staff who greet guests and introduce them to their room to: A. Make sure that cabin staff are available when the guest is coming to open their room for the first time. Had this individual been anywhere near when we first arrived on our floor, he could have let us in the room when our key did not work - and then gone to get a new key for us. But he was nowhere to be found. B. Learn to read a guest's body language (or at the very least recognize when a guest tells them they are fatigued or need to use the rest room), to ask the guest if they can come back later to give their 'talk.' He honestly had no clue how to do this, and even when told made no effort. He just wanted to get his talk done and check it off of his 'to do' list. Mission accomplished.

One of the first things that our cabin steward told us that we did comprehend, in spite of our pee-pee dance, was that our first shore excursion had been cancelled. Yep, you read that right. He got that one taken care of immediately. He explained that we could call the 'Excursion Staff' to find out more, but then did not know the extension to use to reach them on the phone. But we could just call down and someone would help us, or so we thought.

After he left, and we used the rest room, I called down to guest services and was transferred to shore excursions. But no one answered, and so I went back down a second time to the same area as I had been for the key fiasco. Another line of folks - the very line I had predicted would be present, and for that reason, had researched and 'pre-booked' all, and I mean ALL, of our shore excursions IN ADVANCE of the cruise. Yet here I was standing in line on my $18,000, eleven-day vacation. After ten minutes a third staff member appeared to fill one of the unused desks, and asked how they could assist me. I told them that my wife and I understood they had cancelled the first night shore excursion in Puerto Rico due to lack of sign up. We were going to learn to 'salsa dance,' make 'monfongo' and make 'mohitos.' This was also to be our first dinner and so we had not made any dinner reservations on the boat that night. (Strike four at this point, but who likes to count on vacation?... Side Note: no reservations were available that night, of course.)

"Yes, it is unfortunately beyond our control." (Voice of Chekov on Star Trek - Another Side Note: This proved to be an often-used excuse on this cruise.) I asked the shore excursion staff member if they could recommend a restaurant in Puerto Rico where my wife and I could at least experience some of the same cuisine that was advertised on the cancelled shore excursion. "I am not sure because I am not familiar with this port." (Wow, but he was serious.) "Is anyone in shore excursions available that might know?" I asked. "Let me make a call." More waiting. No joy. "The tour operator we use for this excursion is closed today as it is Sunday, so I am afraid that I can not help you. But you can walk back off the boat and through port security to the front of where the bus left you, and ask someone on the street who is wearing a red viking shirt." Yep, those were almost his exact words. (A concierge at any four star hotel would easily know more than this.)

And so that is what we did, walk back out to the street and look for a red shirt. Luckily we did find a restaurant that first night in port, and had some delicious Monfongo, albeit on our own, with almost no help from Viking, save for the lady at the bus stop in the red shirt who gave us the wrong directions to the restaurant, but whom we did tip. Hurray! We were now on our first, and last, Viking cruise...

So that was our first impression of the Viking Sea. But more surprises awaited ... Here's a snap shot of some:

SHIP ENTERTANMENT - Little effort on the part of Viking to advertise the ship entertainment to 'new cruisers' or really make individuals aware of the 'what', the 'how' and the 'when' IN ADVANCE, so that they might more fully enjoy the cruise. Because of this, we did not find out about any of the specialty shows, save for one that we discovered from talking with another guest) until after the 'professional cruisers' had scooped up all the available shows. Shame on Viking for operating the shows in this manner. Really, shame on you. ES1 cabins should have priority booking of these shows. That's a no-brainer Viking, and it is definitely WITHIN YOUR CONTROL. A show was the one thing my wife really wanted to do, and Viking dropped the ball big time on this one. Another thing Viking should do is make the port talks available via LIVE BROADCAST from within your cabin. We missed almost all of them. Shame on Viking for not having this piece of techno in 2018 on a boat built in 2015. No excuse for that except they don't care to THINK about the guest experience FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE GUEST.

The DINING EXPERIENCE - We used all six of our allowed reservations at the two premium restaurants on the boat, and were allowed a seventh reservation thanks to the FANTASTIC maître d of the CHEF's Table. Our first reservation meal was at Manfredi's. It was a disaster. I had to send back two steaks, before receiving a lecture from Hector on how brown sugar caramelized and appears to both look (and somehow oddly TASTE) like a BURNT mess. (This dish is the acclaimed "Bistecca Fiorentina-a prime, aged and well-seasoned rib eye.") However, it seems I was not alone in having this experience, as numerous other steaks were sent back by others we spoke to, including one that was served at the next table on our second night at the Manfredi's. Lots of similar disappointment from others were expressed to us about Manfredi's. Anyway, our first meal at Manfredi's was also served with COLD potatoes and COLD asparagus. Or perhaps this was because I had to wait for the third stake to be served. All I can say is that the massively overweight men who eat stake at this restaurant may not actually be chewing or tasting their food, and that is why you read those rave reviews about steak at this restaurant. Your best bet at Manfredi's is to order ITALIAN food, and go with what they recommend (which will never be the steak). That is what we did the last two reservations we were allowed, and they got it 100% perfect. Good recovery Hector! But it would have been nice if you would have allowed us an extra reservation to make up for the disaster on the first night there. We were told by the maître d at Manfredi's said that he would NOT do that even after we explained how disappointed we were with the first experience. Hey 'Bagus' or whatever you name is, there's an old Italian saying, "You make your bed, you sleep in it."

TIP: Viking should re-assign the maître d at Manfredi's. He's lost his give a damn.

The CHEF's TABLE was amazing, and the maître d (who is from Latvia) is the MOST professional maître d I have ever experienced, and I was trained as one in my youth. He is genuinely friendly with EVERY guest, makes an effort to know your name, and is a consummate gentleman in every way. He actually CARES about your experience and wants you to be comfortable and satisfied. Viking is lucky to have this man at the helm of the Chef's Table. The food is creative, fantastic, perfectly proportioned and the service is first rate. You will only be disappointed if you A. Are morbidly obese and are used to shoveling huge portions in your trough. B. As a kid you were very picky about your food, your clothes, your friends, everything in general it seems you were somehow, or in some way not satisfied with, just because you needed extra attention - You won't like it. Stay away. C. You are used to eating at a 'fast-paced' eating establishment (not a restaurant), and need to have your food served rapidly because your blood sugar might get dangerously low and/or your cell-phone addiction has made it impossible for you to spend more than five minutes in an unoccupied time zone (otherwise and formally known as 'life.') You won't like it. Don't eat there. That way folks that don't like burnt stake from Manfredi's can have a heavenly meal at the Chef's Table, since all the fat cats will be on the Italian side of the boat. I wonder if the captain has to compensate for the inevitable list that might occur?

The SPA - This is THE reason to sail with Viking, but sadly many guests are too cheap to book a treatment. Those that do are in for a treat, and we were not disappointed, save for one experience at the Spa counter, as all of our massages and facials were amazing and professional. My wife and I had five treatments each, probably more than most. We attempted to upgrade one of our treatments and were met with some skepticism and a hint of condescension from the counter staff member 'Liesel.' She kept having to go to a side room and confer with a faceless colleague, who apparently eventually decided that she would not allow us to PAY MORE for an upgraded treatment. "I'm sorry but it is not possible" (AKA "it is beyond our control.") You would think they would go the extra mile for repeat customers, but Viking appears to be more interested in getting new customers in the Spa, than folks that are already booked. Oh well, they will find out the hard way what happens when one ignores the loyal customer base. We had the same issue with the Spa during pre-booking before the cruise, as the website would NOT allow us to book spa treatments for each of the cruise days, only allowing a block of 3-4 days for spa booking. When we called to inquire why, we were told we could simply sign up once on the ship. Booking spa treatments is further complicated by the fact that spa staff may not be able to view your excursion or dinner reservation schedule, making it very difficult to book spa treatments unless you carry around a current copy of your activity schedule with you. The Spa also seems to suffer from the same malady as the ship entertainment philosophy, and that is to 'keep it secret.' Why? Really why is that? It serves no purpose other than to frustrate your guests. In order for my wife and I to find out about the spa we had to insist that someone explain the spa to us, and this was AFTER our first treatment. We were then told that we could sign up and pay for a $39, one hour tour that was limited to only 10 guests so that we could learn more about the Spa.

TIP: Hey Viking Spa Staff, Its 2018. We spent over $1,800 in your spa and we tipped 20%! You would think that you could tell us how to use the spa at no charge, but yet you want another $39, per person. What does that say about you? Seriously. Also, there should be no need to restrict advance bookings for spa treatments, and your booking software is wholly inadequate for planning purposes. I do NOT want to spend my vacation PLANNING my vacation WHILE I AM ON MY VACATION by standing in line at a spa counter or a shore excursion desk to be told that it is now too late to accommodate me. Förstå?

The Included Shore Excursions - We booked three and went on two. The first was a walking tour of Puerto Rico with head sets. It was very good, but the tour guide got behind schedule - waiting for all the morbidly obese (or waddlers is what we called them). So we missed several sights that would have occurred at the end of the tour. The tour guide kept going even though she was over time, but we had to leave the tour to get back to the boat for a spa treatment we had booked. The second included excursion was terrible, with the open-air van transport having a non-working, glitchy speaker, so none of us could clearly hear the tour guide, who did not seem to care that the speaker was on the fritz. Total waist of time which took us to a few VERY crowded vista view points and a tourist shop with banana coladas. The viking excursion staff actually told us to skip the third tour we had scheduled stating we could see it on out own due to the town being so small, so we did. But she neglected to tell us the town closed early the day we were in port, so by the time we went down to spend an hour in town, ALMOST ALL OF THE TOWN WAS CLOSED UP INCLUDING THE FORT MUSEUM, save for one tee-shirt/dive shop. Thanks for the tip, Viking Shore Excursion Staff. They really should fire most all of you as you are clueless, except for Daniel. Seriously.

The OPTIONAL Shore Excursions - We booked ALL of the expensive excursions on every day of the cruise because they sounded so amazing. Sadly, Viking Ocean in the Caribbean appears to be heavily patronized by British loyalist who have a penurious affinity for thriftiness, and are too cheap to sign up for anything that cost them one extra cent. This suspicion was also confirmed by one of Viking's staff members, in confidence of course. And so four of our optional excursions were cancelled on this cruise due to lack of sign up. Yep, four of them. "It is beyond our control," says the voice of Chekov.

Judy, the shore excursion lady said that Viking would try to have one optional excursion make that we were looking forward to, and so Viking appeared to 'come through'. But it was the 'how' they did it that was the EPIC fail. This was supposed to be a 'LUXURY' cruise by catamaran to the famous Ladera resort on St. Lucia. The way Viking made this happen was to cram us (what was to be 14 but luckily turned out to be only 8) on an already FULL and OLD catamaran, so that we could make it to the island where Ladera was located. When we arrived at Ladera it was raining (no stunning views), but this is 'beyond Viking's control.'

However the excursion description stated that we would get to tour the beautiful resort and see the incredible botanical gardens. After a drink with a seat to view the enveloping fog, followed by our protracted lunch, our red-shirt Viking guide informed the eight in our small group that "well it seems the resort is full, so there will be no tour, and we will go back to the ship now." I said, "Wait a minute, what about the botanical gardens?" The tour guide actually had this look which conveyed a "How dare you ask about that ..." She went away to inquire and came back to tell us that we could quickly tour the garden. And thank GOD I asked, because the small and kind gnome of a man from the resort that gave us the garden tour was incredible and so passionate, and for ten meager minutes shared his knowledge of the garden and the herbal medicine with us, lovingly allowing us to sample many plants. We were all amazed. But the entire hour we sat starring out into the fog waiting for lunch could and should have been spent with this marvelous master gardener. But alas, Viking was only trying to 'make the tour happen' and 'get us back to the boat on account of some light rain.' Mission accomplished Judy. Tell me how it is that you do not know of this gardening-demi god of a man at Ladera? Isn't Viking supposed to be all about the 'unique, signature experience?' What a crock. Judy, if you ever get tired of pretending to be an excursion director, I hear prison's are looking for help on almost every continent.

This wasn't the first sour experience we had with Ms. Judy, the excursion director. Two other incidents are worthy of note. Once such occurrence was whilst (ooh I used a British word) we were queueing (ooh another one) for a shuttle bus to an excursion. It was lightly raining and she was wearing a red Viking rain coat. One of the guest commented on the jacket, and she stated boldly "Well they don't really work and on our salary we can't afford ones that do." I thought this was an incredible statement to make in the presence of guests, but everyone seemed to just chuckle and laugh it off. Funny? I suppose. But telling, very telling to the astute observer.

One of our best excursion days resulted from a cancelled port of call. St. Martin was removed from the itinerary due to an Atlantic swell and high waves. Viking had already cancelled the sailing excursion in this port BEFORE the cruise even left San Juan, so we had located our own charter for the day in advance at home. When St. Martin was cancelled and another day was planned to be in Antigua, we decided to make a beach day of it. But again, Shore Excursion staff excelled at being ignorant and restrictive. Case in point, our boat had to move during the night in Antigua to the 'commercial port' about 1.5 miles from town. The next morning we were told that a 'shuttle bus' (which held about 20 persons) would be available starting at 8:30 a.m. My wife and I predicted long lines of folks waiting to do the same thing we wanted to do that day, so we set off from the ship a little before 8:00 a.m. to make the 1.5 mile walk into town and grab a taxi. Why? Because the Shore Excursion staff told us that no taxis could come near to the commercial port, which proved to be FALSE. Lucky for us, within one minute of leaving the commercial port security check point we were picked up by a taxi, and paid the driver a very nice sum to be our personal transport for the day. He took us to the nicest beach available that day, "Half Moon Bay." Due to the odd storm that had closed St. Martin and was hitting the East Cost, the Atlantic was actually calm that day, while the Caribbean side of the island had roads that washed out. His decision was spot on. Bizarre weather, but it all worked out, no thanks to Viking's shore excursion staff, and thanks to us risking a 1.5 mile walk that turned out to be misinformation, and the luck of a great taxi driver. This was the best day of our cruise, and Viking had little to do with it, other than the Captain's SMART decision to remain in port in Antigua. THANK YOU TO THE CAPTAIN we never got to meet because no one told us about the opportunity to meet you.

The other incident with Ms. Judy occurred when we were disembarking on the last day of the cruise. We had attempted to follow all the directions provided by Viking regarding what to do as we prepared to exit the ship, but had neglected to place our name and cabin number on the small green tag we were required to place on our luggage for transfers. My wife was in the rest room when an announcement was made for our group to exit the boat, and so we were 4 minutes late coming down the boarding ramp and into the security terminal. As we approached we were greeted by a very hectic and frantic Ms. Judy who blurted, "IS THIS YOUR LUGGAGE!?" It was the only luggage left in the area. We said yes. "WELL YOU REALLY SOULD LEARN TO PUT YOUR NAME ON IT. WE HAD NO IDEA WHO IT BELONGED TO. PLEASE PUT YOUR NAME ON YOUR LUGGAGE IN FUTURE."

The chiding was so fresh and sincere, such an ungracious farewell on her part that I did not have the heart to tell her that there was a small area of the luggage where our name was stamped into a custom, riveted label, on the side seam of each piece. Probably not worthy of mention that I also have tracking devices in my luggage. Ah but the details Judy, they are of no consequence. I really wanted to tell her, "It was beyond your control," but simply chose to ignore her, and move off toward the patiently waiting, and oddly contrasting, genuinely friendly customs agents, who probably have a higher salary than she does.

So ended our 25th Anniversary Viking Ocean 'Edda'. A enjoyable cruise never-the-less, but not one worth the exorbitant cost (almost $1k per person per day). We could have done something much more luxurious for this price, and with staff who were more organized, professional and genuinely caring.

TIP: Viking should hire a new excursion director, forthwith (ooh another British word!!!)

PS: Hey Viking, even though you were told on three occasions in advance of this trip, you did nothing to celebrate or recognize our 25th anniversary. We won't make the mistake of booking another Viking cruise because our next cruise choice will be "WITHIN OUR CONTROL."
Viking Cruises, Community Team has responded
Dear Goodguys, We appreciate you taking the time to review your journey. We’re sorry to hear that the service, itinerary, and the steak at Manfredi’s did not live up to your expectations, and would love the opportunity to learn from your experience. Rest assured, your comments about your West Indies Explorer itinerary have been recorded for review by our Executive Team. Should you wish to share additional details about your trip through the Caribbean, we would be happy to hear from you at TellUs@vikingcruises.com. Thank you for your feedback, and we look forward to hearing from you. Kind regards, Viking Cruises
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of The Independent Traveler, Inc.
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Cabin Review

Cabin 5000
Cabin 5000 is one of four 'ES1' category rooms. Other than the 'owner's suite,' it is the second most expensive cabin on the ship. The photos on the Viking website represent a very accurate description of this cabin, albeit the pictures do make the room appear to be larger than it is. If you are reasonably fit, and not morbidly/clinically obese and/or 'life-style-choice' disabled (as were approximately 40-45% of the 900 guests on our cruise), you will have no problem getting around this room and enjoying its numerous amenities. We will begin with what was lacking in ES1 5000, and finish up with the best thing about our room.

The three biggest issues which made our cabin difficult to fully enjoy, and hence the 'average' rating we gave it were as follows. The first to make itself known was our bed. Viking uses a single mattress on top of a FLAT spring, singly layer of BARE wire (similar to military or summer camp beds you may have encountered). This facilitates your ability to place your full size luggage UNDER the bed for storage. But this also allows the mattress to wear out prematurely as it lacks critical support, that and the fact that your bed has a very good chance of being previously slept in by one of those 300-pound-plus size individuals that seem to frequent Viking's cruises. Our bed was clearly worn out, with almost no support, and with a noticeable, slight sag. You will eventually fall asleep in this bed to be sure (and if your bed at home is also worn out - as is the case with 80% of beds in households in the USA - you may not notice at all), BUT anyone who is used to a supportive and functional bed will most certainly NOT wake up refreshed after a night on a shabby 'Viking' mattress.

TIP: Viking should re-evaluate its mattresses, and plan on replacing them more frequently. There is no excuse to keep beds in expensive state rooms which are past their service life, and that life is NOT determined by some arbitrary manufacturer recommendation, but rather a simply matter of someone at Viking inspecting the bed for signs of sag, deformation, etc, and then someone who is authorized to make the decision should replace the mattress as soon as is possible. Had our cabin bed been any worse, which is completely feasible given what we witnessed in terms of Viking guest services 'receptibility' to other issues we brought to their attention, the cabin room rating would have been deservedly 'poor.'

The second issue with our cabin did not become evident until we were at sea and the boat was experiencing wave action. As we attempted to fall asleep on our aforementioned summer-camp mattress, a very loud squeak announced itself, which we determined was emanating from the ceiling in the small hallway directly outside of our bedroom. We were fortunate in that we could somewhat mitigate this annoying and loud creak with white noise from a smart phone; however, any other activity in the cabin had to compete with this loud creak when the boat was at sea (watching TV, having a conversation, a meal, etc.). Viking apparently knew about this issue, as there was a red dot on the ceiling precisely where this creak was located. The ceilings do not appear to be easily accessible; therefore, probably not an easy fix for Viking. If you are annoyed by repetitive and irritating sounds at night, beware of staying in ES1 5000.

TIP: Viking should decide what it wants to do with these known creaks in cabins. Do you want to fix them, or do you want to 'upgrade' guests to a room with a very noticeable creak, hoping they will simply ignore the 'minor' inconvenience? Seriously, the 'excuse factory' must be working overtime at Viking corporate on this one.

The final issue was not actually in our room, but immediately outside of our room. On our fist morning to exit our room we discovered a very large 'walker/wheel chair' directly IN FRONT of our cabin room door. This assistive device belonged to one of the morbidly obese individuals who occupied the cabin immediately next to ours, whose cabin door was only three feet from ours due to the front layout of cabin 5000, and the side access to the adjoining cabin. The device appeared to be one that could easily be 'collapsed' for transport/storage, and a passageway to the other side of the ship was also located only a few feet away where it could have been kept. This left us wondering why an individual would be so discourteous as to think they could leave their oversized walker directly in front of another cabin's door. We were able to squeeze by this device using the remaining eight inches of space available in the narrow hallway, but Viking was perhaps violating some sort of safety rule by allowing such a contraption to partially block our only emergency exit from the room.

This issue portrays one of the 'biggest' issues on a Viking Ocean cruise, in our opinion, and that is the high percentage of fat, incredibly slow, out of shape and selfish/inconsiderate people who seem to gravitate to Viking. Case in point - the massively overweight person who occupied this room knew he was blocking our exit, as we met him in the hallway one afternoon. We were very cordial as we eyed his device to squeeze around it, and he was apparently very jealous that we had an explorer suite and made that clearly known to us. He was also clearly very capable of waking without the device (as we witnessed this), and also clearly capable of collapsing it and storing it in his room, or moving it to the adjacent hallway passage. Yet he chose to do the most convenient, albeit 'lazy', thing for him, and that was to leave it fully assembled and directly in front of his cabin room door, blocking the hallway and our exit from our room. This is an example of the 'lazy' choices he has made his whole life, resulting in his physical and medical conditions. Travelers should therefore be fully prepared to meet, and deal with the wake of, individuals exactly like this sort of 'guest' should you decide to book a Viking cruise.

TIP: Hey Viking, would you like to receive fine for blocking primary escape-route corridors? Is that what it would take to get your attention? Perhaps since there is no 'fire marshall' on a ocean cruise ship there are 'no worries' for Viking, but there are no shortage of lawyers. Never forget that.

There were a few other minor issues to mention with our room, minor for us, but might be major for some travelers. One of the TV remotes did not work, or there was some type of glitch in the system that caused us not to be able to turn on the TVs without calling guest services first. We were eventually able to get the TVs to come on after 15-20 minutes - perhaps someone was able to remotely reset them. This happened on two occasions.

On another occasion when we returned to the room we were greeted with the smell of what appeared to be paint thinner or paint fumes. We contacted guest services and an individual was dispatched; however, both this maintenance person and our cabin steward denied any knowledge of painting going on above or around or in our room. Very odd.

Once when we returned to our room from our morning excursion the floors had not been cleaned and there was urine and toilet paper in our toilet (not from us). This was explained as possibly backwash in the septic system of the boat. The room was vacuumed once we left and returned. Someone from maintenance had come to check the toilet, as he left his 'full-boat' access card in the key slot of the room, which we walked down to hand to guest services as it appeared to be a very important/security access card.

If you are assigned ES1 5000 be aware that, while you are at sea, you will NOT be able to have your porch lights on for safety reasons, and you can NOT have your blinds open when approaching of leaving port, again for security reasons because you are directly below the bridge. Probably a good reason to choose a rear/aft explorer suite if you are a big fan of enjoying views through the huge windows and/or you plan to enjoy hanging out on your spacious porch deck at night.

The best thing about our room was the Viking staff who serviced it. Although we got off to a rocky start, as previously mentioned with this review, the two nice young men did kept it clean and neat, and they repeatedly furnished it throughout the day when we were away by re-cleaning and restocking towels and water. Each day they would greet us by name if we passed them in the hall and ask if we needed anything. Viking is lucky to have staff of this quality (not all of them are), and should realize that staff such as this are NOT unique to or a product of Viking, but are perhaps the only thing that made our cabin stay more enjoyable during the cruise.

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Antigua
    Five stars only because we had to plan this ourselves on the run. Viking excursion staff did its best to mess up this day by telling us we should wait to take a shuttle bus at 8:30 a.m. which would have required waiting in a long line of hundreds of guests waiting to take one, 20-passenger shuttle bus, and they also told up no taxis were available unless we walked 1.5 miles to town, which proved to be 100% false. We quickly found a taxi and went to one of the only two beaches that day which were not impacted by the high winds and waves. Many thanks to our super friendly and knowledgable cab driver.
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  • La Sourfriere Volcano
    Worth every minute. But Viking needs to do a better job of estimating the length of this trek, as some folks needed extra time, and our group had to spit into two on the way down, resulting in the 'faster' (less patient) group having to wait at the trail head for us, and the slower (more careful) group getting short changed on their meal at the trail head and 'rushed' to eat and get on the bus.
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  • San Juan
    The shore excursion was cancelled. Bummer. And the Viking shore excursion staff had no idea or any suggestions on where to go for Monfongo. Yep, you read that right. Had we known that Viking was NOT committed to getting guests to sign up for shore excursions, we would have planned ALL of our shore time ourselves, IN ADVANCE of the trip, and had a much more wonderful and less expensive time at every port of call. Do not book Viking shore excursions. The excursion director is a witch and does not care about making guests happy.
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  • St. Kitts (Port Zante)
    This was a very good tour, but again was not our first choice as Viking had to cancel the original sail and tour with lunch and a tour of a botanical garden. The train was nice and scenic, not rushed as was the sail, so we were glad to have good weather on this excursion.
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  • St. Lucia
    Waste of time and money. Overpriced. Catamaran was overcrowded and OLD. The Viking guide was only interested in getting us back to the bus. There was NO tour of the resort, and we only got to see the botanical garden because one guest insisted that we see it and it was included. Even the botanical tour was rushed because we only had ten minutes to visit with the gardener.
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  • St. Maarten
    This port was cancelled. Viking cancelled the planned shore excursion which was a catamaran sail. They cancelled this several weeks before the cruise.
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  • Snorkeling
    The only catamaran cruise that actually made on our cruise which included snorkeling. The guides on this excursion were independent and were top notch, professional and we got to see sea turtles and an octopus!
    View All 327 Snorkeling Reviews