We love Viking. The ships are immaculately maintained, the crew holds itself to very high standards, and the dining is exceptional. The Viking Sea is no exception to this. However, we were very disappointed with our shore excursion ... Read More
We love Viking. The ships are immaculately maintained, the crew holds itself to very high standards, and the dining is exceptional. The Viking Sea is no exception to this. However, we were very disappointed with our shore excursion experience. And upfront I'm going to say that as this cruise was the very first time Viking had ever been to these ports, and therefore no experience to rely on, maybe my expectations were a little high. The problems we encountered were with excursion providers that Viking has never dwelt with before and probably won't be using again. We arrived several days early in Montreal and therefore passed on any of the excursions that stayed in Montreal. We took an "optional" excursion to a sugar shack to taste and learn about the production of Maple syrup. This is the only excursion that we fully enjoyed. It went well and I would highly recommend it to future cruisers.
Our next stop was Quebec. This is where our non-satisfactory experiences started. We opted for an excursion that was billed as a stroll through lower Quebec followed by a ride in the funicular to upper Quebec where we would catch a ride in a horse drawn carriage for a tour of upper Quebec. As it turned out, our walking part of the tour was a race through lower Quebec, up the funicular, then a quick march further up the hill to a park where we caught our carriage ride. This was all because not enough time was given for us to get to the scheduled carriage ride. Ugh!!! Next stop on the cruise was Sagueny. This was the only rainy day on our trip. We opted for the included excursion which hauled a large percentage of the Viking Sea passengers to a large auditorium/theater where the locals re-enacted the local history complete with horses and cannons. As this is a French speaking community, Viking had requested that the re-enactment be done in English for us. This was done with a voice over that included all of the singing. The English speaking was a real help, however, the singing really should have not been translated to English. It would have been a lot more enjoyable in French, even if I couldn't understand it. The battle re-enactments didn't hold back on the cannon fire and accompanying smoke. For me this was way too loud, I had to resort to holding my fingers in my ears, and the smoke caused my asthma to flare. This was all unexpected as I haven't had an asthma attack in years. I managed to catch an early bus back to the ship to get my asthma inhaler.
Our next stop was scheduled to be Prince Edward Island. However, due to a preceived abundance of whales in the area, Canada limited our cruising speed to 10 kts. This speed precluded our ability to make it there and an itinerary change was instituted taking us to Gaspe instead. Gaspe is a small port, nothing quaint about it. Mostly modern buildings in the town. The included tour took us on a bus to a nearby national forest with views of the changing colors along the way. We got to stop in the park at a bay with a boat dock and ramp. It was a nice stop, but not much to do than streach your legs and take some pictures. We then followed the road to the end and headed back to the ship. On our way back we were allowed to stop at a church where we had some very good views of the hills and color change in the trees. Again, nice to stop and take some pictures. Back to the ship. On leaving port, the city gave us a sendoff with a fireworks show.
Next stop was Halifax. Our tour took us to Peggy's Cove. A very picturesque little touristy hamlet. This excursion went pretty well.
On to Boston. Boston was a disaster!!! The bus company that Viking hired to take us on our included excursion was supposed to provide both a driver and a guide. The buses arrive with no guides and the union drivers were not receptive to Vikings requests for continuous service. All buses would be taking breaks for lunch and diner at the same time. Can't blame Viking to trying on this. However, Viking screwed up when they didn't let everyone know what was happening. They decided to continue as if nothing were wrong and only told the passengers the problem with not tour guides when they arrived at their assigned departure points. Vikings adjustment was to tell everyone the problem and let them know that the buses would take them to a common drop-off point in the city only. I dare say that everyone would have made some adjustments to their plans if they knew ahead of time. Our tour was scheduled for 1:30 in the afternoon. So we took a shuttle into town in the morning for a quick look around. Then returned to the ship for lunch to be followed with our tour at 1:30. Had we been told of the problem earlier we would have stayed in town, had a local lunch and spent a lot more time walking the Freedom Trail.
Last stop was New York. We took two tours. One during the day, an included bus tour of the city. We stopped at the 9/11 memorial and Battery Park, And one after dark that include a stop across the river for some night time pictures. And then a stop to go up to the observation deck of the Empire State Building. Both tours went off with hitches. Read Less