First Impression: Included Viking CaribbeanTours

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.


Viking Caribbean tours



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.


Viking Caribbean tours


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.


Viking Caribbean tours


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.


Viking Caribbean tours


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.


Viking Caribbean tours


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.


Viking Caribbean tours


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.


Viking Caribbean tours


Talking to others on our tour later in the day, some had suggestions to make the experience better, others simply checked the appropriate boxes.


Viking Caribbean tours


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.


Viking Caribbean tours


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.


Viking Caribbean tours


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.


Viking Caribbean tours



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

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Viking Caribbean: Pre-Cruise Countdown

  1. Coming Up: Viking West Indies Explorer, Epic Invasion
  2. Viking Cruises Caribbean: Island Connected Dining Like Never Before
  3. Viking Cruises Caribbean: Panoramic Island Hopping\
  4. Viking Cruises West Indies Explorer Countdown
  5. Viking Caribbean Shoreside Focus Different, Included
  6. Thinkable World Of Viking To Meet The Caribbean
  7. In The Viking Caribbean, No Smuggling Skills Needed, Door Wide Open
  8. Uniquely Different Viking Ocean Cruises: Specific Features That Caribbean Travel Will Like 
  9. Follow Viking Star In Real Time Satellite View
  10. Flexibility Enables Surprise Viking Exploration, Again
  11. Coming To North America: Our Viking Adventure Begins 
  12. Viking Introduces Previously Ignored Caribbean 
  13. Viking Welcome Home: It Can Happen Anywhere
  14. Exploring Iceland Like Vikings: Thoughtfully
  15. Vikings Explore Prince Christian Sound, Very Carefully
  16. Spectacular Travel Moments With Viking Ocean Cruises
  17. Interesting Viking Tour Brings Global View In Very Simple Terms 
  18. Viking Star Passes Ultimate Cruise Traveler Test
  19. Viking Caribbean: Something New For Someone New
  20. Aggressive Repositioning Itinerary Highlights Viking Commitment To Travelers
  21. Thoughtful Canadian Port Choice Typical Of Viking Destination Focus 
  22. Features Not Part Of The Viking Caribbean Experience
  23. Viking Star Caribbean Dining: New Cuisine For Cruise Travelers
  24. Actually, Viking Star Is Designed For Caribbean Cruising
  25. Incomparable Viking Star
  26. Viking Star Base Features To Elevate Caribbean Cruise Experience
  27. In The Wake Of Vikings [PHOTOS] 
  28. Viking Caribbean Preview: Your Questions Answered
  29. Viking Caribbean Preview: More Of Your Questions Answered
  30. Reader Question Highlights Viking Attention To Detail 
  31. Slideshow: Favorite Viking Star Features I Can’t Wait To See
  32. Viking World Cruise: I Could Do That
  33. Viking Star Arrives In New York City  

Flickr photo albums

  1. A Day In Reykjavik, Iceland
  2. Icelandic Air
  3. In The Steps Of Vikings: Cruising Prince Christian Sound
  4. Nanortalik, Greenland
  5. Qaqortoq, Greenland
  6. Viking Star Penthouse Verandah Staterooms
  7. Viking Star Ship Shots
  8. Viking Star At Sea
  9. Northern Lights
  10. Viking Star Culinary: Mamsens
  11. Viking Star Nordic Spa
  12. Viking Star Living Room Bar
  13. Viking Star Culinary Sampling
  14. Viking Star Explorer’s Lounge
  15. Viking Star Pool Grill
  16. Viking Star Past Guest Party
  17. Viking Star Living Room
  18. Saguenay, Quebec, Canada
  19. Viking Star Infinity Pool
  20. Sailing To Canada On Viking Star
  21. Viking Star Top Deck Spaces
  22. Viking Star Aquavit Bar
  23. Viking Star Crew
  24. Viking Star Main Pool Area
  25. Greenland From The Deck Of Viking Star
  26. Viking Documentation
  27. Al Fresco Seating Areas

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