The second of two full days in San Juan brought the first of eight included tours in as many ports of call. Our 11-night West Indies Explorer sailing on Viking Star has a lot riding on the quality and engagement of those tours. More than a line item on a list of included features, many of the culturally curious travelers on our sailing chose Viking to satisfy that shared hunger. After the first of those Viking Caribbean tours, the verdict is in.
Included tours are a signature element of the Viking experience, by river or ocean. Still, there is a world of difference between moving less than 200 people off a Viking River Cruise Longship and three or four times that many off an Viking Ocean cruise ship. Or so one would think, right? Not really, as it turns out.
Divided up into nine nicely-sized groups, Viking travelers on the included Old San Juan Walking Tour could have chosen from a number of optional tours that are more interest-specific. We’ll get into those shortly.
Today’s tour was all about San Juan; white sand beaches, Spanish colonial ambiance, architecture, music and cuisine. We touched on all those topics while leisurely strolling upward through Old San Juan toward Fort San Felipe del Morro, our first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We have visited San Juan many times over the years, taken and enjoyed tours with other lines too. A significant difference here: smaller groups, a certified local guide and a little Viking bonus along with us. Many cruise lines bring strong speakers along for an enriching talk or two while sailing, usually when at sea.
Our Viking Resident Historian happened to be on our tour and would be with us for the entire voyage, providing continuity in the experience as we sailed from port to port. That’s a Viking difference with the potential to add unique detail and clarity to the experience. We’ll see how that plays out over the course of the sailing. So far? A solid win.
At the end of all tours and many of the elements of sailing (embarkation, dining, etc) Viking sends quick surveys to guests via their Stateroom Host (cabin steward on other lines). They are just a few specific questions designed to give the cruise line immediate feedback while the experience is fresh in the mind of passengers. We had that for this tour as well.
Talking to others on our tour later in the day, some had suggestions to make the experience better, others simply checked the appropriate boxes.
Some of the most significant feedback of the tour actually came as the experience was happening. The Old San Juan Historical Walking Tour was planned to be a bit over two hours in total. Noted as a walking tour and not suggested for those with mobility issues, our local guide took it slow on the mostly uphill route.
Pausing three different times, those along with us on the tour were given the option to go back now, wait at a certain place for the rest of the tour to come back or keep going. Not one of those on the tour chose to go back or stop. The experience was just so good that no one wanted to miss a minute of it.
That level of engagement on a hot and humid day in San Juan kept the group going, asking questions, pausing for photo opportunities and taking in the scene as that leisurely pace allowed. Still, there were other, optional choices for more specific interests.
Much like the flavor of optional tours on Viking River Cruises (not everyone would enjoy a Mozart and Strauss concert in Vienna), the Viking Ocean cruise optional tours provide more. Also offered on our West Indies Explorer sailing, some longer tours for an additional fee. While Viking provides great detail on these experiences, I’ll give you the twitter version:
- El Yunque Rainforest Nature Walk – A discovery tour of Puerto Rico’s lush rainforest, the only one in the U.S. National Forest System. Photo ops include 20 orchid, 250 tree and 50 fern species + stops at La Coca Falls, Yokahu Lookout Tower + more 4.5 hours ($89)
- Horseback Riding In The Foothills Of The Rainforest – A gentle ride through the tropical foothills of El Yunque Rainforest on a gentle but spirited Paso Fino horse. 4.5 hours ($129)
- Casa Bacardi Visitor Center & Rum Connoisseur- a guided tour through the Bacardi plant. 4.5 hours ($159)
- San Juan & the Art Museum of Puerto Rico– A guided tour much like the included walking tour with a scenic drive to modern San Juan as well. 4 hours ($79)
- Bacardi Night – A tour of the distillery including demonstration and tasting of Bacardi’s legendary cocktails, a salsa dance presentation as well as Puerto Rican-inspired appetizers. 4 hours $259
Up next: Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.
First, another lovely sundown as Viking Star pulled away from the San Juan Cruise Terminal.
A favorite place for sailaway from any port of call? The Explorer’s Lounge where Viking travelers recount the day ashore; what they saw, what they did, what it meant to them.
A favorite place accessible from the Explorer’s Lounge at sailaway: outside, overlooking the bow of Viking Star.
Follow Along On Our Viking Ocean Cruises West Indies Explorer sailing:
Viking Ocean Cruises In The Caribbean
- Viking Star Arrives In New York
- In New York, My Viking Story Begins
- Viking Star Ambiance Sets The Mood For First Caribbean Sailing
- Viking Day At Sea Brings Relaxation, Reflection, Dining Pleasure
- Viking In The Caribbean: Enjoyable Hardware
- Onboard Viking Art Guide Brings Personal Self-Guided Experience
- Easy Embarkation Starts Viking Caribbean Season
- First Impression: Included Viking Caribbean Tours (this post)
Facebook Photo Albums-
- Viking Star Ambiance
- The Dawn Of A New Age In Cruise Travel
- Sailing Into San Juan At Sunrise
- San Juan Cruise Port
- San Juan Easy Embarkation
- San Juan Sunset
- Bonus San Juan Sunrise
- Vikings On Tour In San Juan
Flickr Photo Galleries
- Viking Star New York Sailaway
- New York By Day From The Deck Of Viking Star
- Viking Star Embarkation Ambiance
- Viking Star- Seen In New York City
- Viking Star World Cafe- First Look
- Viking Star Entertainment- First Look
- Viking Star Living Room- First Look
- Viking Star- Seen Around The Ship
- Alistar Miller- Viking Cruises Resident Photographer
- San Juan Sunrise
- San Juan Cruise Port
- San Juan Easy Embarkation
- San Juan Sunset
- Bonus San Juan Sunrise (because we were there for two days)
- San Juan Sunset Sailaway
- San Juan Touring With Viking Ocean Cruises
Viking Caribbean: Pre-Cruise Countdown
- Coming Up: Viking West Indies Explorer, Epic Invasion
- Viking Cruises Caribbean: Island Connected Dining Like Never Before
- Viking Cruises Caribbean: Panoramic Island Hopping\
- Viking Cruises West Indies Explorer Countdown
- Viking Caribbean Shoreside Focus Different, Included
- Thinkable World Of Viking To Meet The Caribbean
- In The Viking Caribbean, No Smuggling Skills Needed, Door Wide Open
- Uniquely Different Viking Ocean Cruises: Specific Features That Caribbean Travel Will Like
- Follow Viking Star In Real Time Satellite View
- Flexibility Enables Surprise Viking Exploration, Again
- Coming To North America: Our Viking Adventure Begins
- Viking Introduces Previously Ignored Caribbean
- Viking Welcome Home: It Can Happen Anywhere
- Exploring Iceland Like Vikings: Thoughtfully
- Vikings Explore Prince Christian Sound, Very Carefully
- Spectacular Travel Moments With Viking Ocean Cruises
- Interesting Viking Tour Brings Global View In Very Simple Terms
- Viking Star Passes Ultimate Cruise Traveler Test
- Viking Caribbean: Something New For Someone New
- Aggressive Repositioning Itinerary Highlights Viking Commitment To Travelers
- Thoughtful Canadian Port Choice Typical Of Viking Destination Focus
- Features Not Part Of The Viking Caribbean Experience
- Viking Star Caribbean Dining: New Cuisine For Cruise Travelers
- Actually, Viking Star Is Designed For Caribbean Cruising
- Incomparable Viking Star
- Viking Star Base Features To Elevate Caribbean Cruise Experience
- In The Wake Of Vikings [PHOTOS]
- Viking Caribbean Preview: Your Questions Answered
- Viking Caribbean Preview: More Of Your Questions Answered
- Reader Question Highlights Viking Attention To Detail
- Slideshow: Favorite Viking Star Features I Can’t Wait To See
- Viking World Cruise: I Could Do That
- Viking Star Arrives In New York City
Flickr photo albums
- A Day In Reykjavik, Iceland
- Icelandic Air
- In The Steps Of Vikings: Cruising Prince Christian Sound
- Nanortalik, Greenland
- Qaqortoq, Greenland
- Viking Star Penthouse Verandah Staterooms
- Viking Star Ship Shots
- Viking Star At Sea
- Northern Lights
- Viking Star Culinary: Mamsens
- Viking Star Nordic Spa
- Viking Star Living Room Bar
- Viking Star Culinary Sampling
- Viking Star Explorer’s Lounge
- Viking Star Pool Grill
- Viking Star Past Guest Party
- Viking Star Living Room
- Saguenay, Quebec, Canada
- Viking Star Infinity Pool
- Sailing To Canada On Viking Star
- Viking Star Top Deck Spaces
- Viking Star Aquavit Bar
- Viking Star Crew
- Viking Star Main Pool Area
- Greenland From The Deck Of Viking Star
- Viking Documentation
- Al Fresco Seating Areas
Facebook Photo Albums
- Exploring Reykjavik: A Day In Iceland
- Scenic Cruising Like Vikings
- Nanortalik, Greenland With Viking Ocean Cruises
- Qaqortoq, Greenland With Viking Ocean Cruises.