My husband and I cruised this time last year celebrating our anniversary on the Viking Sea and wanted to return to do almost the same cruise (two different islands this time) to see how the islands in Caribbean had recovered from the devastating damage from the hurricane in September 2017. This was our 35th cruise having cruised with Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America and Norwegian. The average age of cruisers on this ship is probably 65-70 years of age. We cannot begin to say enough great things about Viking Ocean Cruises.....that is why we returned.
When our flight landed in San Juan, we were met in Baggage Claim by the Viking Reps. Once we collected our luggage, we had a very short wait time to board the bus that took us to the ship (included as part of the cruise). Once we arrived at the ship, Viking was very efficient in checking us in and getting us on board. Since arriving around dinner time, we found our cabin and decided to go to The Restaurant to eat. No matter where you eat, the food is always delicious and presented wonderfully. The waiters in all the restaurants and the buffet (World Cafe) are very friendly and efficient. After dinner, we toured the ship as it is very easy to find your way around and very tastefully decorated that invites you in just sit and relax, read, etc. One of our favorite places is the Explorer's Lounge especially when it is time for the ship to sale. The view is wonderful as you could step outside and watch as the ropes were pulled in and we left a wonderful day on the islands. I am sure the Captain appreciated my help in guiding the ship out !!! One evening, the officers hosted a sail away party at the front of the ship on deck 3 with drinks and hor d'oeuvres as we watched the ropes pulled in and we slowly sailed out of port.
We chose a Penthouse Veranda suite this time as it is a bit larger than what we had last year with more drawer space to place our clothes. That is another thing - you do not have to carry as much clothing as they have laundromats that are free to use and they supply the laundry detergent. Our cabin was just the right amount of space for two, not feeling crowded and the bathrooms are the best I have ever been in on any ship.
Part of this cruise is spending the night on board ship (instead of a hotel) and taking the included shore excursion the next day. We did the included shore excursion last year and wanted to repeat it to see what a different tour guide would say and take us. We have been to Old San Juan several times and thought we knew a lot about it...until we took these walking tours. Last year we listen to a very knowledgeable guide tell us things we did not know. Viking supplies each cruiser an audiovox to use on tours such as these so that if you are in the back of the group, you can hear the tour guide as if you are walking right next to them. This year, our guide took us to Fort San Cristobal and gave us a narrated guided to of this very interesting old fort. Because of the Government shutdown, the Park Rangers of the fort agreed to work that day as the local city government offered to pay them to work that day as several cruise ships were in port. So glad they did!!!
That evening, Viking hosted a Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle in the Wintergarden with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Several of the officers and department heads along with the Cruise Director were in attendance. Wonderful to chat not only with them, but we got to meet the people we chatted with on the Cruise Critic Roll Call.
We had two reservations each during the cruise with the specialty restaurants - The Chef's Table and Manfredi's. The menu at the The Chef's Table is a set menu with wine pairings that changes every three days. I was able to capture another reservation there so we could try another menu. Meals were very delicious. We definitely enjoyed Manfredi's as well as I wanted to try different items on their menu. What we enjoy most about the dining experience is there is no formal night. However, you do need to dress in business casual for the restaurants. No problem! We did dine in the World Cafe for breakfast, most lunches and several dinners. Many of the same items served in the evening at The Restaurant are served in the World Cafe as well. Viking also includes beer and wine in the restaurants at lunch and dinner as part of your cruise.
Viking Ocean Cruises includes at no cost an 'included' shore excursion at each port. If you prefer to do something different, they have other shore excursions you can choose from for a cost to you. We took the St. Kitts Scenic Railway shore excursion this time and it was worth every penny we paid for it. We rode the bus to where we boarded the train and along the way, the driver, James Gardener, told us about the island and landmarks that we passed. He was great. Each railway train car had a tour guide as well that narrated the tour as we passed by landmarks. Sweet Pea was her name and she was great as well. A special treat on the train was the 'choir' (two girls and a guy) that traveled from car to car and sang several songs to us a couple of times. I highly recommend this tour.
We went to the LivNordic Spa and enjoyed the pool experience there several times. Other cruise lines charge for the use of this type of experience, but not Viking.
Since we have been to the Southern Caribbean many times, we went to the beach at several islands. We went to Reduit Beach in St. Lucia - a beautiful beach, but the day we were there, there were big waves and swells. At Barbados, we went to Brown's Beach which is close to where the ship docked. It is a beautiful white sand beach with clear water and no rocks. Great walking beach. This is the locals favorite. At St. Martin, we went to Orient Beach. It has slowly begun to build back as the hurricane devastated that beach. It was a little windy and rainy until the clouds passed over, then a beautiful day.
We enjoyed this cruise even more than last year's, and we loved last year's. So if you are thinking about trying a cruise where there are no children (and I love my grandchildren), no casino, and no formal nights, give this one a try. You won't regret it.
Our cabin was just the right amount of storage space with plenty of drawer space, roomy closet, and the best bathroom of any cruise I have taken.