2020 WEST INDIES EXPLORER
Viking Ocean Cruises
Call on a new port every day with our destination-focused Caribbean itinerary, and experience a dazzling blend of turquoise waters, emerald isles and European legacies. After time to explore the colonial treasures of San Juan, immerse yourself in the British, French and Dutch cultures of the Lesser Antilles. Cruise spectacular azure waters from Tortola and St. Lucia to Guadeloupe, St. Martin and St. Thomas.
I visited the area in 2008 on the Star Crapper cruise, in 2012 on the Caribbean Gems cruise, 2016 on an Oceania Cruise, and 2017 on a Road Scholar trip. Specifically: Tortola (BVI) 2016, Antigua 2008, St Lucia, Barbados, Guadeloupe and St Kitts in 2008 and 2012, St Martin in 2016, and San Juan in 2016 and 2017. The US Virgin Islands (St Thomas) is new.
There are INCLUDED tours at each port, but usually a variety of optional ($$) tours available as well – alternates or maybe 2nd excursions.
Although the pre-cruise option doesn’t specifically list any excursions, due to the awful air schedule if I don’t use it, I’m probably stuck. And it does include transfers and breakfasts. Stay for two nights (on a bed & breakfast basis) at your beachside (horrors) hotel. And it also reduces the average cost / day.
Day 1, Jan 29 – Arrive in San Juan
Take a “convenient” direct flight and transfer to the hotel. With a 10AM flight I wouldn't have to schedule the SuperShuttle before about 7:45.
|United UA 1297||IAH-SJU||10:15A – 4:30P||4:15|
Arrive and transfer (included??) to the hotel. With the 4PM arrival, I wouldn't get to the hotel before about 5:30. Find something for dinner (not included). Live on “island time” in San Juan, once the center of a thriving Spanish colony and now the capital of America’s largest overseas territory. An intoxicating blend of old and new, the city boasts the narrow lanes and colonial charms of Old Spain while offering the fine amenities of a resort city. You’ll be met at the airport and transferred to your centrally located hotel. Upon arrival, you can relax on the beach or explore the local sights and sounds of the Caribbean.
Day 2, Jan 30 – Explore San Juan on my own
Breakfast is included today. Explore San Juan on your own today. You might start your day with a swim in the warm waters of Condado Beach. Later, stroll the narrow streets of the Old Town, lined with rose, blue and yellow houses and kissed by Caribbean breezes. Visit the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, the second oldest cathedral in the Americas, where Juan Ponce de León is entombed. Or pack a picnic lunch for the vast lawn of Fort San Felipe del Morro, where locals let their kites loose on the wind.
Day 3/1, Jan 31 - San Juan, Puerto Rico
After breakfast, transfer to a waiting area to embark about 11AM on your ship (the VIKING SEA) today. My prison cell is a veranda category V2 (cheapest) #3075 (it is by the blue dot on the starboard side aft of deck 3 on the deck plan below). You will stay aboard your ship overnight, giving you ample time to explore El Viejo San Juan, or Old San Juan, with its seductive colonial charms, easy island tempo and authentic culture. Wander its narrow lanes, literally paved with history, laid with blue adoquín stone once used to ballast Spanish galleons. This evening, stroll the Old Town’s azure byways romantically illuminated by street lamps.
The ship: VIKING SEA
Fortunately it is not OUR "Viking Sea" but
I would like to see one of these, though not cruise on it.
Day 4/2, Feb 1 - San Juan, Puerto Rico (depart 6PM)
You have another day to take in the history and architectural beauty of San Juan, from its fanciful Condado district to the magnificent 16th-century Fort San Felipe del Morro, set on a promontory at the entrance to San Juan Bay. Or visit the lush woodland of El Yunque national rainforest. Later today, you will sail away into the Caribbean’s blue waters. With Viking’s destination-focused itinerary, you will call on a new port daily, with not a single day spent at sea.
*? OPTIONAL: EL YUNQUE RAINFOREST: WALK THROUGH THE ONLY NATIONAL TROPICAL RAINFOREST IN THE US (4 hours)
I've visited this before on my first trip in 2017 but that would be 3 years ago and it gives something to do today. As I remember, some of the walk areas are a bit rough/quite irregular. Discover Puerto Rico’s lush rainforest, covering 28,000 acres. El Yunque contains 75% of the virgin forests in Puerto Rico and is the only tropical rainforest in the US national forest system. On this guided tour, you will admire some of the forest's 240 tree species and 150 types of ferns. You might also spot some of the 20 orchid species that thrive here. And you will surely hear the tiny endemic coqui tree frogs and perhaps spot the Puerto Rican parrot. You will stop at El Portal to get a better understanding of the needs and complexities of tropical forests and the practices for their sound management and preservation. Enjoy a photo stop at La Coca Falls and the Yokahú Tower, and follow an informative nature trail that helps you explore the rainforest up close. This low-impact, 25-minute walk will allow for a genuine hands-on experience that you will never forget.
Day 5/3, Feb 2 - Tortola, British Virgin Islands (Road Town) (7:30-6)
Witness the lush beauty that once lured the pirates Blackbeard and Captain Kidd to Tortola, part of the British Virgin Islands. You will traverse Tortola, ascending to its greatest heights to admire spectacular Caribbean vistas. Experience some of its British flavor, pass through charming fishing villages and cast your eyes on magnificent blue-green seascapes. Alternately, take to the waters to explore the grottoes of Virgin Gorda.
** INCLUDED: NORTH SHORE & PUSSER’S: BRITISH NAVAL HISTORY AMID TROPICAL BEAUTY (3 hours)
Experience the spellbinding beauty of the British Virgin Islands during an island drive high into the mountains. You will meet your guide for a brief overview of the capital, Road Town, before ascending Fort Hill to scenic Belle Vue. Immense tropical beauty unfurls all around you as you follow the Ridge Road to Great Mountain, where incredible views greet you. Next, as you descend Windy Hill Road to the North Shore of Tortola, as you reach sea level, you will pass through the charming fishing villages of Carrot Bay, Apple Bay and Cappoon’s Bay. Then you will head back up into the mountains to Zion Hill and the western end of the island, where more vistas await at picturesque Pusser’s Landing. You will have time to browse the boutiques and the spice shop here before returning to your ship along the coastal road.
Day 6/4, Feb 3, St. John’s, Antigua (7:30-5)
Visit Antigua today, once Britain’s “Gateway to the Caribbean.” On an island tour from our berth in St. John’s, you will admire lush green beauty all around and visit English Harbor. Its restored Georgian dockyard, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is named for Admiral Horatio Nelson, who commanded the Crown’s fleet here in the 18th century. Today, yachts line the quays. But the island’s beautiful scenery has not changed since Nelson’s day, blanketed with tropical forests and punctuated by sheer cliffs dropping into blue waters.
** INCLUDED: AMAZING ANTIGUA: BRITISH NAVAL HISTORY AMID TROPICAL BEAUTY (3 hours)
Uncover Antigua’s British-flavored past and its lush landscapes as you travel to the heart of the island. Drive with your guide into the tropical countryside, passing picturesque everyday villages and gently rolling hills. At English Harbor, used by the British fleet in the 18th century, you will take in fantastic coastal views from Shirley Heights Lookout, 446 feet above the sea on a sheer cliff. This was the principal British fortification. Back at the harbor’s edge, stop to explore Nelson’s Dockyard, one of the Caribbean’s most celebrated sites. The yard was named for Admiral Horatio Nelson, who commanded the navy here for three years. It is the last remaining Georgian dockyard still in use today. Explore the Admiral’s Inn, the excellent museum and the art gallery. You will have time to admire the sleek yachts tied to the old stone quay. Enjoy a drink here before returning to your ship.
OPTIONAL: ANTIGUA BY SEA & LAND: TROPICAL SPLENDOR SPILLS INTO A MARINE WONDERLAND (6 hours)
Take in Antigua’s fascinating culture and history and its coastal beauty. Begin with a drive into Antigua’s lush tropical countryside where everyday West Indian village life and culture unfolds. Follow the rolling hills to English Harbor in the south, passing a magnificent vista of Falmouth Harbor along the way. You will tour Nelson’s Dockyard, the naval base for the Crown in the 18th century. Today, its remarkably preserved buildings comprise the only remaining Georgian dockyard in the world. After a tour and free time in the museum, continue to Dow’s Hill Interpretation Center at Shirley Heights. Here, a multimedia presentation traces the island’s history. From atop Shirley Heights, marvel at sweeping island views. Continue along Fig Tree Drive into Antigua’s lush rainforest, where you will embark a sleek catamaran to sail back to St. John’s, passing picturesque beaches and pausing to snorkel among stunning coral reefs along the way.
Day 7/5, Feb 4, St Lucia (Castries) (8-6)
Call on the lush and mountainous island of St. Lucia, with its sheltered harbors, quiet byways and Creole-inspired cuisine. A short drive from our berth in Castries, admire breathtaking views of azure waters and hillsides shrouded in tropical green. Witness the art of batik making here and glimpse prolific banana plantations. Or, venture across the island to view the spectacular Pitons, towering twin peaks draped in forests.
** INCLUDED: ST. LUCIA PANORAMA: BREATHTAKING VISTAS AND BANANAS (2 hours)
Marvel at the glorious mountain and seaside landscapes of St. Lucia’s northern half. Begin with a brief tour of Castries before ascending to the suburb of Morne Fortune for sweeping views of the city, its picturesque harbor and the distant island of Martinique. At the Morne complex, see the Inniskilling Monument, erected to honor the British regiment that overtook the French in 1796. This is also home to the University of the West Indies and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. Later, a drive along hillside country byways past small communities will lead to La Guerre and spectacular views of the Marquis Estate, once the largest banana plantation on the island. Continuing on, enjoy views of Rodney Bay and Pigeon Island before stopping at the resplendent estate at Stony Hill, a private home. You can stroll its lush tropical gardens and enjoy a cool refreshment before returning to your ship.
Day 8/6, Feb 5 - Bridgetown, Barbados (7:30-5)
Relish the intense Caribbean beauty of Barbados today when you call on its capital, Bridgetown, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will discover ample evidence of British rule here, from cricket matches and afternoon tea to the Commonwealth’s third oldest Parliament. Marvel at spectacular vistas from the heights of the Highland Adventure Center, descending to sea level for a tour of Bridgetown. Or, head underground to explore the stalactites and stalagmites of Harrison’s Cave.
** INCLUDED: PANORAMIC BARBADOS: CLASSIC CARIBBEAN BEAUTY AMID A RICH PAST (3 hours)
Discover the lush beauty and rich history of Barbados. Drive with your guide along the west coast through Holetown, landing place of the island's first settlers. Then ascend to Highland, passing sugarcane fields, charming villages and plantations along the way. At the Highland Adventure Center, enjoy breathtaking views of the east coast from 1,000 feet above sea level. Admire views of Mt. Hillaby, the island's tallest summit, then continue to Bridgetown for a brief tour along Broad Street and National Heroes Square. Next, visit St. James Parish Church which has stood proudly since the 17th century. Originally a wooden structure, it was replaced by a stone structure following the hurricane of 1780. The church contains many historic artifacts including the baptismal font from 1684 and the original church bell. Continue your drive along Barbados’s Gold Coast and witness its fine hotels and residences on your way back to port.
Day 9/7, Feb 6 - Guadeloupe (Pointe-à-Pitre) (7:30-6)
Experience the colorful culture and breathtaking natural beauty of French Guadeloupe, often called the “Butterfly Island” because its two main islands are joined with bridges. See both sides from our berth in Pointe-à-Pitre. The national parks of the west island attract adventurers to mountainous, lush rainforests. The flatter east island boasts a rich culture, fine Caribbean cuisine and craft villages awash in island flavors, from pungent spices to fresh tropical fruits. Experience both, or hike in Guadeloupe National Park to marvel at the towering Carbet Falls.
** INCLUDED: LOCAL MARKET, DRAMATIC LANDSCAPES & SAINT-FRANÇOIS LAGOON: SEE THE BEST OF GLORIOUS, COLORFUL GRANDE-TERRE ISLAND (3.5 hours)
Discover a fascinating outpost of France as you explore Grande-Terre, the eastern island of Guadeloupe. You will visit a local crafts market in the commune of Saint-François, where the brilliant flavors and colors of the island delight the senses, from pungent spices and tropical fruit to brightly painted hand-carved statuettes. Then continue to Castle Point, known locally as Pointe des Châteaux. This narrow, rocky peninsula is overlooked by a dramatic clifftop cross. Before returning to the pier, you will make a final stop at the beautiful Saint-François Lagoon. This stunning location is the perfect back drop for a stroll along the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea, or a refreshment at a traditional Caribbean shack on the shore. Treat yourself to a tropical cocktail or a chilled beer as you gaze out and admire the view, before returning to your ship.
OPTIONAL: POINTE DES CHÂTEAUX: A SCENIC DRIVE TO A DRAMATIC CROSS (5 hours)
Drive to one of Guadeloupe’s most spiritual, scenic spots, stopping along the way to visit the island’s highlights. Meet your guide and drive along a flat expanse through sugarcane fields and past plantations. Stop at the Morne-à-l’Eau cemetery, with its chessboard-pattern gravestones laid out in an amphitheater style. More than 1,800 graves are here and the site is registered as a French historic monument. Later, in the commune of Saint-François, visit the Kreol West Indies complex, featuring artifacts from the indigenous Arawak Indians, including a nice collection of artwork. Then, continue to the Pointe des Châteaux, also called Castle Point. This narrow, rocky peninsula is overlooked by a dramatic clifftop cross. You can ascend to its perch via the 146 steps if you would like. Enroute back to your ship, visit the Saint-François craftsman’s center, where the island’s artisans sell their wares.
Day 10/8, Feb 7 - St. Kitts (Basseterre), St. Kitts & Nevis (7:30-6)
Call on St. Kitts today, Britain’s first Caribbean settlement that grew into a sugar-producing powerhouse; 68 plantations operated at the height of the boom. You will learn about this lucrative colonial era at St. Kitts’s Fairview Great House & Botanical Garden, a fascinating repository of relics and beautifully preserved rooms that provide a glimpse of the lives of sugar barons. Or, visit the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
INCLUDED: HISTORIC BASSETERRE & FAIRVIEW GREAT HOUSE: LAND OF SUGAR BARONS (2 hours)
Enjoy an overview of the capital of St. Kitts & Nevis and get an up-close look at the island’s colonial splendor. Drive with your guide into Basseterre, one of the oldest towns in the Eastern Caribbean. Admire impressive Victorian and Georgian architecture and view important landmarks such as the Berkeley Memorial Clock Tower and Independence Square, once a slave market and today host to a picturesque fountain and a centuries-old church. Later, stop at the Fairview Great House and Botanical Garden. At this 300-year-old colonial property, you will explore perfectly preserved rooms, including the original kitchen with its volcanic stone and brick oven and the bathing room with its sun-warmed bath. Follow the stone bridge to the lush tropical botanical garden, where many of the plants such as palms and fruit trees date back as far as the 1700s. After free time, return to your ship.
*? OPTIONAL: SAFARI ISLAND DRIVE: EXPLORE ST. KITTS UP CLOSE ON AN OPEN AIR DRIVE (3.5 hours)
Set out on an island drive that showcases the magnificent beauty and natural wonders of St. Kitts. Drive with your guide in an open-sided safari vehicle to Romney Manor botanical gardens and Caribelle Batik Studios. Here, you will explore the lush gardens and see how local artisans produce colorful batik fabrics the island is known for. As you continue your drive, commentary from your guide provides insight about island culture and history, such as the first British landing at Old Road Town. After passing Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site once called the “Gibraltar of the Caribbean,” stop at Gibbons Hill to see where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean in a crash of waves. Later, stretch your legs at the stunning Black Rocks, formed by lava flows from Mt. Liamuiga, the island’s highest point. Your safari concludes with spectacular views of Frigate Bay from Timothy Hill.
OPTIONAL: ST. KITTS SCENIC RAILWAY: “THE LAST RAILWAY IN THE WEST INDIES” (3 hours)
Relax and take in the view on a scenic and historic train ride into the magnificent heart of an unspoiled country. Transfer with your guide to the island’s Needsmust Station, where you will board the only railcars of their kind in the world. The “Island Series” of the St. Kitts Scenic Railway are double-decked, with an open-air observation platform on top that puts you high above the sugarcane and island vegetation. You can also watch the lush countryside pass by from the lower air-conditioned parlor, featuring huge six-foot vaulted windows, colorful artwork of local artists and charming rattan furnishings. You will skirt the volcanic slopes of Mt. Liamuiga, cross numerous tall steel-girder bridges, see dramatic black-sand beaches and pass crumbling plantations. Along the way, gaze upon sweeping vistas of nearby Nevis, St. Bart’s, St. Martin, Saba, and St. Eustatius. Enjoy complimentary drinks and an engaging and fascinating narration throughout the trip.
*? OPTIONAL: SCENIC SAIL & RAILWAY: SIGHTSEEING BY TRAIN AND CATAMARAN (4 hours)
Take a scenic train ride through the countryside, and sail along St. Kitts’s scenic southwestern coast. You will travel in style on board custom, vintage rail cars, complete with complimentary beverages, live music entertainment, and a knowledgeable guide who will share insights about the island’s people and history. Originally built a century ago to transport sugar cane from plantations to sugar factories, this historic rail line offers views of majestic mountains, lush fields and historic estates. On September 21, 1998, Hurricane Georges severely damaged the island, leaving nearly $500 million of damage to property. Hear from your guide how the islanders came together to rebuild their lives after this devastating natural disaster. Next, you will have the chance to admire the island from the clear Caribbean waters that surround it. Board your catamaran and set sail along the coast of St. Kitts, enjoying its picturesque landscape from another perspective.
Day 11/9, Feb 8 - St. Martin (Philipsburg) (7:30-5:30)
Explore two countries on one island today when you call on St. Martin. You will dock on the Dutch side, in Philipsburg, and have the chance to contrast the two cultures. See the great salt pond on the Dutch side, the charming old village of Quartier-d’Orleans and the French capital, Marigot. Or, embark on an exhilarating experience copiloting a multimillion-dollar boat during a simulated “America’s Cup” race.
** INCLUDED: SCENIC ST. MARTIN: ISLAND DRIVE & GELATO TASTING (2.5 hours)
Discover an island straddled by two nations and marvel at the efforts of its post-hurricane recovery. This Caribbean gem is shared by France and The Netherlands and is the world’s smallest inhabited island that shares sovereignty. Its ability to reopen and welcome visitors is a testament to the strength of spirit and positivity in the face of disaster. Embark your coach and take a scenic drive through the colorful port city of Philipsburg before heading to the French capital of Marigot. Just four streets wide, it exudes the quaint, romantic character of a small village. Next, you will visit the island’s epicenter, Simpson Bay—a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. Stop at the renowned Carousel Bar and Gelato, where you will find an array of delicious foods to try. Take a ride on the old-fashioned Venetian carousel, which was imported piece by piece from Italy. En route to your ship, see the village of Cole Bay and stop at the famed Rotary Lookout Point for sweeping views of the glimmering sea and neighboring islands.
Day 12/10, Feb 9 - St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (Charlotte Amalie) (NEW) (7:30-6)
Explore one of the Caribbean’s most beloved islands today, St. Thomas. You will dock within walking distance of its capital, Charlotte Amalie, set on one of the most picturesque harbors in the region. Get acquainted with the beauty of St. Thomas during a scenic drive along a spectacular route, stopping at the famous Mountain Top for breathtaking views of the sea and surrounding islands. Alternately, you might cross the emerald-green island to Magens Bay, home to one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
** INCLUDED: SCENIC ISLAND TOUR AND MOUNTAIN TOP: SUBLIME CARIBBEAN VISTAS FROM A MOUNTAIN PEAK (2.5 hours)
Take a scenic drive along one of the most breathtaking routes on St. Thomas. Much of the island’s beauty lies in its endless undulating hills spilling down to stunning bays that shine a hundred shades of blue. It is all connected by a curving ribbon of roadways that hug emerald-green slopes, affording paradisiacal Caribbean views. As you drive with your local driver-guide, you will make frequent stops to take it all in. The pinnacle of your excursion is the world-famous Mountain Top, 2,100 feet above sea level. Browse the shopping area amid festive Caribbean music and enjoy a tasting of fine, locally produced rum. Or, or you might try the original banana daiquiri, said to have been invented here. From the observation deck, enjoy spectacular views of Magens Bay and the British Virgin Islands. If you would like, your driver-guide can drop you off in downtown Charlotte Amalie, where you can peruse the shops before returning to your ship on your own.
Day 13/11, Feb 10 - San Juan, Puerto Rico
Disembark this morning and return home. Again I’m stuck with non-stop problems. The only useful flight is late. I might get home about 10.
|United||San Juan – Houston||5:27P – 8:22P||4:55|
VIKING SEA – this one
Expand your horizons on this comfortable, award-winning ship, intimate and thoughtfully created by experienced nautical architects and designers to enrich your interaction with your destination in every way.
* Only 930 guests, * Length: 745 feet, Beam: 94.5 feet
V1 (bow) and V2 (stern) cabins are on deck 3:
* Size including veranda: 270 sq. ft.
* 11:00 a.m. embarkation, 3:00 p.m. stateroom access
* Shore excursion reservations: 60 days prior
* Large bathroom with oversize glass-enclosed walk-in shower
* Spacious closet & drawer storage
* 42" flat-screen LCD TV
* King-size (horrors!) Viking Explorer Bed with luxury linens
* Security safe, hair dryer, 110/220 volt outlets & USB ports
* Mini-bar with soft drinks, water & snacks
* Purified water refilled daily
DINING:, all on deck 7
The World Café is an exciting buffet option. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner this aft facing space has ample seating and innovative open kitchens. Watch expert chefs deftly prepare dishes while waiting for your omelet, pizza or browsing the sushi. The options for meals are deliciously plentiful in addition to a decadently well stocked dessert section. Enjoy your meal inside or outside on the Aquavit Terrace where the views from every table will surely thrill you.
Early and late riser’s breakfast is served at Mamsen’s. If you’re looking for a late night snack, you’ll find it’s on the menu. From “Waffle Hour” to gravlax, traditional sandwiches and more this traditional Scandinavian deli is situated in the beautiful Explorer’s Lounge. You’ll find this to be the perfect destination for a light bite or something a bit more substantial.
Relaxing poolside can surely help you work up an appetite. The Pool Grill is perfectly located to help you satisfy your hunger for burgers, salads and more.