We chose Viking Sea because of the Amazon itinerary and of its excellent reputation as a newer ship. Because of port problems in San Juan, Puerto Rico due to the hurricane, we chose the cruise line's airfare and didn't spend any ... Read More
We chose Viking Sea because of the Amazon itinerary and of its excellent reputation as a newer ship. Because of port problems in San Juan, Puerto Rico due to the hurricane, we chose the cruise line's airfare and didn't spend any time in San Juan prior to the cruise, which we usually do when on a cruise. Connections being what they are, we arrived to the ship at about 11 p.m., and had been told by the greeters that a snack had been prepared and it would be happy hour for us. After stumbling about, we found where the snacks were, and the bar was still open. It hadn't been longer that 15 minutes when it was announced that the snack bar was closing. The next day, I checked on our room TV, and I had been charged for my wine, which I thought was complimentary. The charge was subsequently removed. Quite an interesting start to the cruise!
The ship itself is beautiful, with plenty of public area. Our room on the stern of the ship was well thought-out, and incorporated items which we have found lacking on other cruise lines. Any minor needs were quickly taken care of by the extremely efficient and personable crew. We continued to have a "vibrating safe" which we shimmed with cardboard...not big thing. A big thing, however, was the sliding door to the verandah. If you are both out on the verandah at sea, there is no way to secure the 200+ pound sliding glass from the outside. Consequently, when the ship rolled (as it does on the stern), this huge door would slide from side to side. This was extremely dangerous, and we ended up placing a rubber door stop in the track.
Dining was nice, with efficient waiters and good food. We ate at The Restaurant a few times, and always had to wait at least 15 minutes. This was a mystery to us since they would have sections of the restaurant closed off while we sat there waiting. The specialty restaurants were excellent, except for one night in the Italian restaurant when the swordfish was like shoe leather. I continue to be disappointed by the casual dining experience of virtually every ship that we have cruised on (about 15), and especially by this new ship. The trend for casual dining continues to grow, and the ships haven't kept up with this trend. Consequently, if you are eating at "prime time", there aren't enough tables. We ended up eating late dinners, early breakfasts, and lunches out by the pool.
Although entertainment is not stressed as a prime feature, it was very good and educational. The theater could only hold about half of the passengers, so there were usually two presentations. When there weren't two shows, it was chaos...with overflow set up in the lounges, etc. Often, we would just watch a "rerun" in our room TV to avoid the crowds.
The ship had never been to the Amazon, and it showed. First, due to an inability to resupply the ship in Barbados on time, we had to miss Devil's Island as a stop. Second, as new cruisers aboard Viking, we were unfamiliar with the headsets provided, and there was no instruction provided either in writing next to the headsets or verbally by the excursion director. We figured that ours were defective, and missed out on a lot of good inormation. When I told the Excursion Director, she blamed things on the local guide, who should not be expected to tell us how to operate the headsets. Parintins and Manaus visits went smoothly, and the included tours were very nice. Belem, however, was the nightmare of tender experiences. We felt that the entire tender operation was disorganized and inefficient...from allocating tender passes to the actual operations. Obviously, it would be a challenge to basically tender all of the passengers, since shore excursions are included for everyone. However, there has to be a better method than having to stand in a line at the same time with all of the other passengers to get a pass. Particularly in Belem, where there was no terminal (none in any of the Brazil ports, actually), everyone was crowded randomly under an awning to avoid the rain, and people started passing out. It was an absolute nightmare, compounded by the aforementioned medical emergencies. The culture and natural beauty of Brazil was something to behold, however.
The Caribbean was a dream compared to Brazil, and it was most enjoyable after Brazil.
We plan to return to Brazil and spend more time exploring the country, particularly since we went through so much angst and expense to obtain a tourist visa. If you don't have a Brazilian visa, then don't bother going until they simplify their process for issuing the visas. We also plan to cruise again on Viking ocean cruises, since we know that they will be getting better organizationally with time and experience. Read Less