This is the inside story of our January 2019 cruise on Viking Sea, one of five ships currently in the Viking Ocean Cruises fleet. Expect to hear a lot more about Viking in the coming years, as they have 12 additional cruise ships coming, in the next 8 years!
The cruise reviews here on my web site have been evolving over the last year or two, now that I think of myself more as a YouTube video creator than a photographer. Some of my previous cruise reviews have featured over 100 still photos, but these days I'm shooting a lot more video and a lot less stills... so what you'll see on this page is all the videos from our cruise on Viking Sea, plus a few still photos to add even more details to the story. Think of this page as kind of like the director's commentary on a movie. I'll show you the videos that everyone can see on YouTube, but I'll share some additional details that you wouldn't get from only watching the videos.
I hope you're comfortable and not in a hurry... with plenty of free time to enjoy the full story of what I think for a lot of people would be a bucket-list cruise. This is going to take a while!
In fact, I used the term "bucket list cruise" in the title of the first video I want to share with you. More than any of the other videos you'll see here, this first video really shows the fun we had... and I think will make you see why this particular cruise should be on your bucket list.
To start the video playing, click the triangle in the middle of the video screen
To make the video fill the screen (recommended) click the little symbol in the lower right corner of the video player
A cruise with Viking Ocean Cruises is very different than a cruise with any of the other major cruise lines. To truly understand what's so special about Viking, you have to realize these key facts:
A cruise with Viking is completely un-crowded. While most of the cruise ships we sail on these days carry at least 3,000 passengers, and some carry as many as 6,000 passengers, a Viking Ocean Cruise ship carries only 930 passengers. Yet the ships are still large and modern. The net effect is that you just don't feel crowded on a Viking Ocean Cruise... because you aren't!
Many things that would cost you extra on the other cruise lines are included at no extra charge on Viking. A few examples are: Internet access, alternative dining, room service, beer/wine/soda at lunch and dinner, the entire contents of the fully-stocked refrigerator in your cabin, specialty coffees, teas, bottled water, self-service laundry facilities, the thermal suite in the spa, port taxes and fees, and movies on demand in your cabin.
They are not constantly trying to get extra revenue from you once you are onboard. A few examples: Viking does not have bingo, a casino, art auctions, photographers, or pressure you in to purchasing products during spa treatments.
Every Viking cabin has a balcony, even the least expensive cabins. There are no "inside" cabins or "ocean-view" cabins.
Smoking is nearly completely prohibited on the ship. There is one small smoking area on one portion of one side of the very highest deck of the ship. Other than in that one area where you would probably never go, it is a non-smoking ship.
There are no formal nights. In the evenings, if you attend a show or eat in a restaurant other than the buffet, they do ask that you dress a little nicer than casual... in other words, no shorts, no jeans, no t-shirts. But it's a fairly casual ship. There is no need for men to bring a coat and tie, unless they want to.
The cabins have some of the best design details you'll find among all the cruise lines. A few examples are: heated floors in the cabin bathroom and a heated mirror that will not fog up when you take a shower, electrical outlets and USB charging ports on both sides of the bed as well as at the desk, and a clever desk design that provides a big mirror for applying makeup.
It's one thing for me to describe the clever design of the cabins with words,
but much more effective to show it to you in a video:
In this next video, I go in to more detail about "The Viking Difference"...
all those things that make a cruise on Viking better than other cruises you may have been on:
Let's take a look at one more video.
This one's about one of the greatest features of a Viking Ocean cruise ship:
the thermal suite within the spa...
So, that's it for the four major videos that I produced about this cruise. Now I'd like to share a few still photos from the cruise, and provide some additional insight that I wasn't able to offer in the videos. Let's start by talking about the ship's pools. There are three of them... the indoor pool within the spa, which you saw in that previous video... an outdoor infinity pool back at the aft end of the ship... and what I would call the "main pool" or "mid-ship pool" which is located at the center of the ship, underneath a retractable glass dome. Let's start by talking about that mid-ship pool...
The mid-ship pool, with the overhead glass dome closed
When I sailed on the Viking Star two years ago, I was very disappointed to discover that the two outdoor pools were so deep that it was impossible to stand up in the pool with your head above water. With a deep water level like that, you can only swim, tread water, or cling on to the edge of the pool. It's impossible to just stand in the pool and relax, or to stand in the pool and have a conversation with one of your fellow passengers. The best cruise ships I've been on have been designed for the Caribbean... where the weather is warm and it's fun to escape the heat by standing in the pool for extended periods of time, socializing with the other guests, and even enjoying a cocktail. It's not that different than going to a good beach in the Caribbean... almost no one actual wants to swim in the ocean water, they all want to stand in the water, with their head above water, to stay cool on a warm day. It's fun to spend long periods of time this way, chatting with other people.
When I saw the deep pools on Viking Star two years ago, I chalked it up to the folks at Viking primarily designing the ships for cooler-weather cruising and not really thinking about what a ship would need for great Caribbean cruising. Imagine yourself cruising around Scandinavia. You wouldn't really use the pool as a way to stay cool... you'd be looking for a place to actually swim. So, deep pools make sense if your ships are designed for cold weather cruising. But in the Caribbean, deep pools are not what most passengers prefer.
In a video I made about Viking Star two years ago, I had a lot of nice things to say about Viking, but I also pointed out a few things that I thought they hadn't gotten right. One of them was the depth of the two outdoor pools. Viking Star was the first ship built for Viking Ocean Cruises, and Viking Sea was the second. I was really curious to see if they had decided to put deep pools on their second ship, or if they managed to figure out that a deep pool isn't necessarily a good thing for a cruise ship.
I checked the pool depth on the first day I got onboard the Viking Sea, and I was so excited to discover that Viking had realized their mistake with their first ship and did things a little differently on their second ship! I'm not saying that they actually made this change because they heard it from me in my video two years ago... they could easily have gotten the same feedback from a hundred other passengers. I'll never know! But I was so excited to see that they came up with an elegant compromise to the conundrum of weather to make the pool deep enough for swimming, or slightly more shallow for standing and socializing!
Here's what they did...
A compromise, basically: they designed a shallow end in to the mid-ship pool. The infinity pool at the aft of the ship is identical to the one on the Viking Star, but the mid-ship pool on the Viking Sea has a shallow end that the mid-ship pool on Viking Star doesn't have. This allows you to stand up with your head above water at one end of the mid-ship pool, but not at the other. Seems like a good compromise to me!
While we're talking about the pools, I should mention that I actually brought a pool thermometer with me on the cruise! People looked at me a little odd when I used it, but I thought it would be useful to be able to mention the exact temperature of the pools and Jacuzzis rather than just describing whether they seemed too cold, too warm, or just right. The water in the mid-ship pool was 89 degrees, and the water in the Jacuzzi next to it was 102 degrees. The infinity pool was at 86 degrees and the Jacuzzi next to it was 102 degrees. And the indoor pool within the spa's thermal suite was a delightful 95 degrees, and the Jacuzzi in the thermal suite was 101 degrees. That really made me happy, because two years ago on the Viking Star I noticed that the water in the indoor pool within the spa was way too chilly for my tastes. I imagine that I was not the only one to mention it to Viking, and I'm glad to see that they heard the feedback and adjust the spa's pool temperature quite a bit higher on the Viking Sea.
As we sailed away from the island of Antigua,
it was a great time to enjoy the infinity pool at the back of the ship
Something important I'd like to point out about the infinity pool is that the water level is not always as low as what you see in that photo. When the ship is in port and not in motion, they raise the water level in the infinity pool all the way up to the edge, where that one guy has his hands. The water level is lowered when the ship is in motion, so that the water doesn't spill over the top with the movement of the ship. Since I shot almost all of my photos and videos at sunset, as the ship was sailing away from one port or another, you see a low water level in all my photos and videos. But in real life, if you use the infinity pool during the day when the ship is tied up at a dock, you'll get the full infinity effect because the water level will be all the way up to the top.
When the water level is all the way up to the edge, I consider it too high to really enjoy this pool. You can't stand up with your head above water. But when the ship is in motion and they lower the water level like you see in that photo, it's easy to stand in the pool and be able to breathe. And since you're usually on some shore excursion during the day, and mostly interested in swimming in this pool in the late afternoon or evening when the water level will be lowered, it seemed to work out pretty well.
One other thing I'd like to
mention regarding that photo of the infinity pool...
Notice the girl using her cell phone beside the pool. This is one of the great things about Viking... unlimited internet access for all your electronic devices, at no additional charge. On every other cruise line I've sailed with, they've treated Internet access like it was the most rare and most valuable thing in their universe. Somewhat like water in a desert... you had to conserve every last drop, and it was going to cost you dearly. But on Viking, they treated Internet access like you and I would treat it at home... available all the time, on any device, with good upload and download speeds, and without any reason to conserve using it. Finally, one of the cruise lines realized that in this day and age, we expect all of our devices to be able to connect to the Internet and work the same at sea as they work at home! The one big difference, of course, is that on a cruise ship you need to turn off your cellular connection and make your internet connection via the ship's wi-fi network. If you forget to turn off the cell service, you could end up with one nasty bill from your cell provider after you get home! But as long as you turn off your cellular service (the easy way: turn on airplane mode) and connect to the ship's wi-fi, everything will be fine.
Generally speaking, the Internet worked really well on the Viking Sea. I uploaded several large HD YouTube videos from the ship... something that simply would have been impossible on many of the other cruise ships I've sailed on. There were two different points during the cruise when the Internet service just stopped completely for a couple of hours at a time. But that was something like four or five hours total, on a 10-day cruise. For Internet at sea, that's pretty good uptime.
Now it's one thing for me to say that the Internet worked well onboard the ship, but you may be wondering "how well?" I used Speedtest.net to measure the quality of the Internet connection numerous times during the cruise, on both my cell phone and my laptop computer. It's important to make multiple measurements on multiple days, at various times of the day, because Internet service at sea is always prone to ups and downs. Sometimes it's faster or slower than others. By doing lots of different measurements, you can average it all out and get a sense of how good the usability of the Internet really is.
Let's start with the bad news. The one thing that's very difficult to get with Internet service at sea is low latency. This is measured by ping time. The lower the number, the better. At home, using a cable modem, I typically get a ping time of about 6 ms. Of course, my cable company is using a fiber optic cable, and you'll never ever get low latency like that on a ship at sea, because ships have to use satellites to connect to the Internet. I found the latency of the Viking Sea's Internet connection to be fairly consistently around 670 ms. As I said, I'm starting with the bad news! A 670 ms ping time tells us that there is a LOT of latency in the Internet connection. What this means to you when you try to use the Internet on the ship is that things will be slow to respond to your clicks. You'll click on something, and there will be a very noticeable delay before anything actually happens. It makes using the Internet a little more clunky than what you're used to at home, but it's not a deal breaker. The Internet is still useable. By comparison, the very lowest Internet latency I've ever seen at sea was on Royal Caribbean. They have an exclusive deal with the best satellite network in the world: O3B networks. The secret to the O3B network is a whole bunch of small satellites orbiting the earth in a very low orbit. By keeping their satellites low... in other words, closer to the ground than most other satellites are... the signal has to travel a much shorter distance from the ship to the satellite, and this reduces latency. On Royal Caribbean, you generally get a ping time of about 185 ms... the lowest latency of any Internet access you'll find at sea. At 670 ms, Viking's latency is about the same as what you'll find on most cruise ships these days, other than Royal Caribbean.
Now the good news! Besides ping times, the two other big things that determine the quality of an Internet connection are download speeds and upload speeds... and in these areas, Viking's Internet connection is quite good for a ship at sea. During most of my tests on Viking Sea, I measure download speeds between 30 Mbps and 55 Mbps... which would be quite acceptable for an Internet connection at home, and for a cruise ship is fantastic! Where you'll notice the advantages of a fast download speeds like that will be when you are visiting a web site that features a lot of pictures or videos... like Facebook, for example. Lots of data to download, and it downloads pretty quick on the Viking Sea. Fast download speeds like that are also great for watching YouTube videos, Netflix, FaceTime, Skype, etc. By way of comparison, on Royal Caribbean, using the O3B satellite network, I would typically get download speeds between 3 and 10 Mbps.
The third measurement in an Internet speedtest is upload speed. For a guy like me, who wants to upload big HD videos to YouTube, this is a big deal... but for the average Internet user, ping time and download speeds are more important. But I was delighted to get upload speeds over 20 Mbps at times during my cruise, and most often at least 10 Mbps. It wasn't the fastest upload speeds I had ever seen on a cruise ship, but it was a lot faster than I had gotten on Royal Caribbean and most of the other cruise lines I had been on.
So, the latency of the signal on
Viking makes the Internet feel a little more clunky than what you are used to on
land, but the upload and download speeds are quite good and overall you will
find the Internet quite usable during a cruise on Viking. And the best
part is that you can keep all of your devices constantly connected to the
Internet, and it's all included in your basic cruise fare, with no additional
charges. Viking is really great at certain things, and this is one of
One Of The Most Beautiful Ship Interiors
Another thing that Viking excels
at is the beautiful interior design of their ships. To say that there is a
Scandinavian influence would be a huge understatement! Let me show you
some of the most comfortable and interesting parts of the ship.
This is one of many comfortable little seating areas around the ship. This particular one has great views out those big picture windows, and the seating has very thick padding to make it super comfortable. Notice all the detail in that metal work between the three seating nooks visible in the photo. Is that the statue of liberty in the metal work? I never even noticed that in person, but it sure looks like it in the photo! All throughout the ship, there are little details like that with points of interest.
The next photo shows a very comfortable area to stretch out an relax, not far from the mid-ship swimming pool. You can't beat the views!
Notice how thick the pads are on the loungers. Comfy!
In this next photo, you can see the type of loungers which are located directly adjacent to the swimming pool.
These loungers next to the pool don't have cushions, since people with wet swimsuits tend to sit on them. At first glance, you might think that these loungers look too short to be comfortable to lie down on, but there's a clever design trick involved. It's almost impossible to see in this photo, but these loungers all have little ottomans (footrests) tucked underneath them. All you have to do is pull out the little footrest from underneath the lounger, and you can stretch out and relax.
Also, notice that the staff has placed a towel at each of the loungers. After so many cruises on the other major cruise lines, I had just come to accept that it was normal to always have to check out a towel on a cruise ship and check it back in when you were done with it. Cruise lines protect their towels as if people are always going to steal the towels unless the towels are accounted for at all times. That seemed normal to me, until I cruised with Viking and they didn't do any towel check outs and check ins at all. Towels are abundant and not accounted for. It makes so much more sense, really. Am I really tempted to steal a towel and take it home with me? Not in the least. I have towels at home... and don't need any more. And even if I did steal one, would it really cost the cruise line so much that they would have to devote several crew members to doing nothing but checking out and checking in towels all day long?
One of the most iconic interior design features of the ship is known as the Wintergarden...
They actually made a big design mistake in this area! They were thinking about cold climates when they designed this part of the ship, not warm climates like the Caribbean. If you look carefully at the photo, you can see the heating and air conditioning vents, which are circular openings in that white metal structure just below the glass roof. The mistake they made was sharing one heating and air conditioning system between both the Wintergarden and the mid-ship pool area, which is right next door. This creates a big problem in achieving a comfortable temperature in both of those two spaces at the same time, since they both share one heating and cooling system. If the glass dome over the mid-ship pool is closed on a warm day in the Caribbean due to rain showers, it gets way too hot in that area around the pool... like sitting in a car with all the windows closed on a warm sunny day. So, a tremendous amount of air conditioning is needed to keep the mid-ship pool area cool when the glass dome is closed on a warm day. But, as I mentioned, the Wintergarden shares the same air conditioning system with the mid-ship pool... so, when the dome is closed, the air conditioning system is blowing all sorts of cold air in and the Wintergarden becomes like a freezer! I'm sure it all works fine in a cold weather climate like Scandinavia, which is what the ship was designed for. But in the Caribbean, it's a real problem. I spoke to one of the ship's officers about it, and he explained that the Viking Sea would be going in to dry dock soon for some maintenance and they expect to fix that design issue at that time. I would imagine that the newer ships in the fleet were designed with independent HVAC systems for the two areas... as the problem became apparent two years ago when Viking Star made her very first Caribbean cruises.
The mid-ship pool is just out of
view to the left of this next photo.
The hedge that separates the pool from this seating area is a nice little design element.
Up at the very front of the ship is an area known as the Explorers lounge.
In one corner of the lounge is an area with bookshelves full of interesting reading material.
In another corner of the Explorers Lounge, there's a fireplace...
That is not actually a real fire in the fireplace... they don't really like to have flames on cruise ships! It's little jets of steam blown up from below, lit by yellow and orange lighting. But it's a very realistic simulation of a real fire, even if you're sitting right next to it. It's quite comforting, even after you figure out it isn't really fire.
Interesting trivia fact:
On the other side of that fireplace is "the boardroom", which is part of the owner's suite where the Chairman of Viking Cruises, Torstein Hagen, stays when he's aboard. When you're sitting in the Explorers Lounge, next to the fireplace, you can actually look through the fireplace and see the big conference table in the boardroom. Two years ago, when I sailed on Viking Star, I was lucky enough to get a tour of the owner's suite, and to take some photos of it. Take a look at my Viking Star review, if you'd like to see those photos.
More Photos From Around The Ship
Our cruise was in January, and they showed the NFL football playoffs on the big screen at the mid-ship pool.
They also sometimes do "movies under the stars" out here in the evenings.
At lunch and dinner in the buffet, they serve ice cream in both cones and dishes.
My wife can't eat dairy products such as ice cream,
so she really appreciated that they also served non-dairy sorbets.
On the ship, I sometimes shoot video using a big Canon DSLR mounted on a tripod.
But on a shore excursion, I pack lighter and just use a GoPro mounted on a selfie stick.
Here's something that isn't normally allowed... passengers on the bow of the ship.
They threw a party out there one afternoon, just before sailaway from St Thomas.
I snapped this photo of the back of the ship as we passed by on a catamaran during a shore excursion.
Notice those expensive suites on the corners, with the big balconies!
I watched just about every sailaway from back here at the infinity pool at the back of the ship.
If you go back and look at the photo before this, you can see what the infinity pool looks like to people ashore.
Something I've Never Seen Before
One morning I was sitting at the desk in our cabin and I heard an unusual noise coming from our balcony area. It was the sound of a lifeboat being released. I grabbed my GoPro and was able to capture this video of the process of launching a lifeboat from a cruise ship... something I had never seen before!
Time Lapse Sailaway Videos
In the videos that I've already shown you, there were a few bits and pieces of time-lapse videos I shot at sunset as the ship was sailing away from one island or another. If you'd like to watch the full-length time-lapse videos, here you go. Let's start with our sailaway from San Juan, Puerto Rico...
Next up is our sailaway from St Lucia...
Here's our sailaway from the port of Bridgetown, on the island of Barbados.
It actually begins with Carnival Fascination sailing out first, and then we follow them towards a beautiful sunset!
It was so warm during our sailaway from the island of Antigua that a couple of people watched from within the infinity pool...
A Few Notable Crew Members
Our Cruise Director was Jenna Beaudoin, a true pro.
She has a lovely speaking voice, and she sings well, too.
Her home town is Charlotte, North Carolina.
Our Captain was Johan Malmberg
This was his last cruise before starting a long vacation break
One member of the entertainment staff that really stood out was this singer, Hannah Stokes.
Cute as a button, and wow... this girl could sing!
She did "Bridge Over Troubled Water" one night, and knocked my socks off!
Here's Hannah and the three other lead singers, in an Abba tribute
One more photo from the Abba show
This duo from the Philippines was also quite talented, but I always find it odd to hear songs sung with a Filipino accent. Since Viking's typical passenger is American, I think Viking would be smart to do talent auditions in places like Nashville, Branson, New York, and Los Angeles... rather than in Manila.
This is Stefanija, who worked in the pastry section of the buffet every morning. She really brightened up my cruise with a beautiful smile every morning, and a helpful attitude. She went out of her way each morning to provide me with a warmed up croissant. I always prefer croissants warmed up a little, rather than at room temperature. On most cruise ships, that's not going to happen. But on Viking, they aim to please! I asked about getting a warmed up croissant one morning, and even though that probably was not a request she had ever received before, she was happy to do it for me. And we did it that way every morning for the rest of the cruise. On the last day, she took the time to tell me how much she enjoyed being able to do something special for me each morning. The only other cruises where I've seen that level of customer service was in The Haven on Norwegian Cruise Line. It was impressive!
I apologize for the poor quality of this photo, which I captured from a GoPro video. This is Kateryna, our stateroom steward. No discussion of the exceptional crew on Viking Sea would be complete without mentioning Kateryna. Her smile was continuous, genuine, and delightful... and her attitude was positive every time we spoke with her. Out of all 46 cruises we've been on, she is one of only two stateroom stewards that stood far above the rest... and she's the only stateroom steward I adored enough to give a hug to!
Room For Improvement
I love the Viking Ocean cruise ships, and they're certainly among the best cruise ships in the world, but there's always room for improvement! Just in case anyone from Viking is reading this... may I suggest two things you could improve upon?
I love this Al Fresco dining area at the back end of the ship. When the weather is nice, as it often is in the Caribbean, it's great to grab some food in the buffet and take it out here, near the infinity pool, to eat. But Viking made one little mistake when they designed this part of the ship! In the upper left corner of the photo, look at that area that is open to the sky above. I don't know what they were thinking in leaving that space open to the air like that. If they had sealed that up rather than leaving it open, that dining area underneath it would be totally shielded from rain. Yes, it does sometimes rain during a cruise! This could have been such a great area to eat outdoors on a warm day, even if there were showers. But with that big hole in the roof, this whole area gets wet if there's any rain. That was a mistake in their design, which I hope they'll fix in their future ships.
The only other thing I'd like to suggest they change is a simple fix that they could easily and inexpensively implement fleet-wide, right away if they wanted to. Keeping in mind that the target customer for a Viking Ocean cruise is an English-speaking American citizen, take a look at this next picture and see if you could figure out how this door could be better.
That, of course, is the door to a restroom in one of the common areas on Viking Sea. But is it a men's restroom, or a women's restroom? Think about it. Are you absolutely positively 100% sure you know the answer? Without ANY doubt in your mind at all? I'm not. Please Viking, underneath the little symbol that we're all supposed to be able to understand, would you please put the word "Men" on the doors of your men's restrooms, and the word "Women" on the door of your women's restrooms? Thanks!
And if you want to know the story behind that request, you'll have to read my review of our 2016 cruise on the Viking Star!
A Norovirus Outbreak
One of the things that scares some people off from cruising is fear of catching norovirus onboard. Cruise ships are required to report norovirus outbreaks to the Centers For Disease Control when more than 2% of the passengers or crew show symptoms. On big mega ships like Oasis Of The Seas, which carries over six thousand passengers, 2% of the passengers is an awful lot of people! So, when there was a Norovirus outbreak on Oasis Of The Seas in January of 2019, affecting 561 passengers and 31 crew members, it made the news. And when people hear a report like that in the news, they tend to think that norovirus is much more common on a cruise ship than it really is.
According to the Centers For Disease Control, outbreaks of norovirus are "relatively infrequent" on cruise ships. From 2008 to 2014, 74 million passengers sailed on cruise ships in the CDCís jurisdiction. Only .17% of passengers were reported with any kind of gastrointestinal illness and only about 10% of those cases was an actual case of norovirus. So, only .017% of passengers got norovirus! In other words, your odds of not getting norovirus on a cruise are about 5706 to 1!
My casual observations over 46 cruises also back this up. While I have sometimes come home from a cruise with a sinus infection, I've never caught norovirus on a cruise and don't know anyone who has. In only two of my 46 cruises was there ever a norovirus outbreak. But it just so happened that Viking Sea was one of those two cruises where a norovirus outbreak occurred!
Out of 925 passengers onboard Viking Sea the week we were aboard, only 38 passengers (and no crew members at all) were stricken with norovirus. That's 4.1% of the passengers, but then again 95.9% of the passengers were fine. The crew was extremely professional in the way they handled it. A number of measures were put in place to prevent the spread of the disease. Swimming pools and Jacuzzis were closed for a few days until new cases stopped occurring. Passengers were not allowed to dish up their own food in the buffet, and were required to wash their hands (not just use hand sanitizer) before entering any of the restaurants. The Captain was very honest with the passengers about the outbreak, and made numerous public address announcements about it, and even had a letter about the outbreak delivered to all cabins.
I was impressed with how the crew of Viking Sea handled the situation. It was handled MUCH better than another cruise line handled it, during our one other experience with a norovirus outbreak on one of our cruises. And I was pleased to find out, via the Centers For Disease Control, that Viking was able to contain the norovirus outbreak to just our one 10-day cruise, and that it did not affect the passengers on the next cruise. On some cruise ships, it goes on for weeks, if not properly dealt with. The crew of Viking Sea dealt with it extremely well.
Getting There Is Half The Fun!
When booking a Viking cruise, you'll probably find it to your advantage to book your air travel through Viking. In most cases, you'll find it much less expensive than booking your flights directly with one of the airlines... especially if you're flying from somewhere that does not have non-stop air service to San Juan. However, I'm not like most people! Thanks to the advertising revenue from the YouTube videos, saving money isn't the top travel priority for me. Convenience is actually the number one thing I consider when making travel arrangements. I'd much rather pay more and have a great flight, than save all sorts of money and have to endure a bad flight.
During my first Viking cruise, two years ago on Viking Star, I learned a valuable travel lesson, the hard way! The lesson I learned was that I must never, ever, let anyone arrange my flights for me. I need to ALWAYS be the one making the travel arrangements, so that I can arrange them for my maximum convenience and comfort. We ended up with the absolute worst possible flights from California to Puerto Rico prior to our Viking cruise two years ago... because I was trying to save money by booking my flights through Viking. Yes, I saved a ton of money... but it was totally not worth it! When you let the cruise line make the flight arrangements for you, they'll find the flights that work best for them, not you! Generally, that means the cheapest possible flights, at the most inconvenient times.
So, this time around, there was no way I was going to let Viking book my flights! It cost me a ton of money, but we had a pretty great trip from California to Puerto Rico this time around! Some of which you'll see in this next video...
That was the first time we had ever flown in a Boeing 767 aircraft. 767s have been in service since the 1980s, but somehow I never made it on to one until now. I've flown in much nicer planes, such as the 777... and my all-time favorite airplane is the 787 Dreamliner. Funny story about the Dreamliner... we used to be on a much tighter travel budget than we are now, so we always used to fly in coach. Always. But these days, thanks to YouTube, we can afford to fly in First Class a lot of the time. The very first time we ever flew in first class, we were on a 787 Dreamliner. That's kind of like saying that the very first time you ever made love, it was to Jennifer Aniston! That very first flight in the front of a Dreamliner set the bar VERY high! And whenever we have the opportunity, it's still always a thrill to fly in a Dreamliner again. I found our flight to Puerto Rico in the 767 to be really interesting... because it was like seeing the inspiration for the Dreamliner. It wasn't a Dreamliner, a Dreamliner is hugely better, but you could see a lot of things in the 767 that the Dreamliner's designers took and improved upon. So, our flight in Business Class on the 767 was convenient and comfortable, and I loved seeing the plane that inspired my favorite plane.
We arrived in San Juan the evening before our cruise began, so we spent one night in a hotel prior to the cruise. If you're going to be cruising from San Juan and you need a hotel, may I suggest the Sheraton in Old San Juan? It's got a great thing going for it that cruisers will love: it's located right across the street from the pier where the cruise ships dock! So, if you book one of the rooms facing the water... when you wake up in the morning, you can look out the window and see your cruise ship!
Another thing the Sheraton has going for it is a pretty cool rooftop swimming pool, which also happens to have a view of the cruise ships. You can see the Viking Sea in the upper right corner of this photo of the Sheraton's rooftop pool...
Need A Travel Agent?
Booking a cruise can be confusing, especially if you haven't been on many cruises before. There are lots of first-time cruiser mistakes that a travel agent can keep you from making.
If you're interested in booking a cruise with any cruise line... please feel free to use the services of my travel agent, Caitlin Gallagher. She's extremely pleasant to deal with, easy to talk to since she lives in the United States and speaks without any kind of an accent, and quite experienced and knowledgeable about different types of cruising. Caitlin is the owner of Ambren Travel. Visit her web site, check out the Ambren Travel Facebook page, or contact her using the information below.
Here are a few files I brought back from my cruise, that you might want to download and look at:
All 11 Viking Daily Newsletters (Big high resolution scan, 27 megabytes)
List of all the shore excursions offered, including prices
Information about the unlimited beverage package
Room Service Menu
The Cruise Ships We've Been On
If you've enjoyed this page, you would probably also enjoy reading my web pages about:
December 2018 country music cruise on the Norwegian Getaway
May 2018 Panama Canal cruise on the Norwegian Bliss
January 2018 cruise on MSC Seaside in a suite with a private Jacuzzi
September 2017 Carnival Vista cruise in a Havana Suite
October 2017 Norwegian Sky cruise in the owner's suite
The $1600 per night owners suite: January 2017 Norwegian Pearl
An Un-crowded Small Ship Experience: Viking Star
One Of The Best Waterslides At Sea: Liberty Of The Seas
Quite Possibly The Best Cruise Ship In The World: Anthem Of The Seas
January 2017 Allure Of The Seas
One of the best cruise ships we've ever experienced: The Norwegian Escape
2015 Carnival Breeze back-to-back cruises
Back-to-back cruises on Independence Of The Seas
World's largest cruise ship: Allure Of The Seas
2015 Carnival Freedom repositioning cruise
Our first VIP cruise in The Haven: The Norwegian Getaway
Our June 2014 Alaska cruisetour with Princess
Our first cruise with Princess! January 2014 Sapphire Princess
2014 back-to-back eastern/western Caribbean cruises on the Carnival Glory
The completely refurbished Carnival Sunshine
One of Carnival's best ships, the Carnival Breeze
A sister ship to the Breeze, the Carnival Magic
Our 2013 cruise on the Carnival Conquest
One of the oldest ships in the fleet, the Carnival Inspiration
Our first Caribbean cruise: the Carnival Glory
Our many cruises on the Carnival Spirit
Our February 2010 cruise on the Carnival Splendor
Our January 2008 cruise on the Carnival Elation
Our April 2008 cruise on the Norwegian Star
Our first cruise! 1996 on Carnival Cruise Line's MS Holiday
Click here to see the complete chronology of all the cruises we've ever taken.
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