Viking Ocean Cruises - From the Caribbean to the Amazon
December 17 - 19 - Home to San Juan
December 18 - We arrived in Charlotte around 6:30 AM EST. All of us got a little sleep on the plane, but not much given that our flight time was only 5 hours. During our nearly 3 1/2 hour layover, we had breakfast and killed time until our next flight to San Juan. This flight left around 10:00 AM and arrived in San Juan around 2:45 PM AST. Both of our planes were Airbus A321s (I think) and were very clean and almost comfortable.
In San Juan, we put on our Viking ID patches, picked up our luggage and met the Viking representatives who had us put our bags in a common pool. They escorted us and several other passengers to a bus, stowed our luggage in a separate truck and drove us to the port where the Viking Sea awaited us. The weather was sunny and warm with clear blue skies.
We checked in at the terminal where we traded our passports and Brazil visas for our stateroom key card. The boarding process was very smooth and efficient, unlike our experience with Holland America where there were mobs of people arriving at the same time.
The first thing that we did when we boarded was to find our staterooms. CruiseCritic has a good review of the cabins. We had a deluxe veranda cabin. It was a little small, but it was very clean and compact with a small veranda. We toured the ship, went back to our cabin where our luggage magically appeared, cleaned up and had an early dinner in the World Cafe (the ship's buffet). I had some really good sushi and crab legs. We also had unlimited wine to enhance our taste buds. The buffet was barely occupied which was welcomed compared to previous cruises. We had a chance to chat with the buffet waitstaff and discovered that the crew was from lots a different countries. We were used to food staff from one country and housekeeping staff from another country. This new arrangement was refreshing.
Bedtime was early and Tylenol PM helped me sleep through the night although the lack of sleep the night before helped.
December 19 - Weather high 84, low 72 with no precipitation. Map of San Juan.
Because we had booked an early excursion, Ann and I were up at 6:00 and zombied our way to deck 7 and the World Cafe for breakfast. Again, it was uncrowded and we had our choice of tables. There was a large variety of very good breakfast choices along with coffee, juice and breakfast smoothies served at the table. There also was a self served espresso/cappuccino/latte machine that I didn't notice until a few days later.
Our "Historic Old San Juan by Foot" tour started at 8:30. This was an included tour which means that it was free. Viking has an included tour at every port as well as several optional tours that are not free. We chose this tour because we wanted to see Old San Juan and we wanted one that was short knowing that we would be tired from our trek to get here.
The weather was warm and sunny. Slathered with sun screen and covered with broad brimmed hats, we joined several other passengers and set off with our guide. We walked along wide and narrow streets bordered by colorful old buildings as our guide pointed out points of interest. We passed Teatro Tapia and Plaza Colon before entering Castillo de San Cristobal, the largest fortress built in the New World. We spent time here touring the barracks, the prison and the ramparts where we had panoramic views of the beautiful city.
Leaving the fortress, we walked west through the old town passing Abraham Lincoln Elementary School with a stone-faced old Abe sitting on an ornate stone chair with lion feet legs. Along the way glimpsed inside houses with their doors open to the cooling breeze. We stopped at a plaza while most of us went into the San Juan Bautista Cathedral. Continuing, we passed through one of the city gates and out to the Paseo del Morro, a recreational trail that runs along the harbor. Turning back through the gate, we walked along a street that was decorated overhead with colorful umbrellas before descending to the pier where our ship was docked and the tour ended.
Before embarking, we went on a quest to find clip-on sunglasses for Ann. The local CVS was across the street so we went inside where we ran into the Bensons and Matutes who were also buying things that they forgot to pack. The Matutes arrived very late the night before. There were dozens of other people shopping in CVS. This is a high-revenue store for CVS because it is so close to the cruise terminals. We got our clip-ons, went back to the ship and met our companions for lunch.
The clip-ons didn't fit so we took them back to CVS for a refund. The clerk told us where to find a store that might have ones that fit. After looking in a couple of shops, we ended at a 99 Cent Store and bought some large clunky sunglasses that fit over Ann's regular glasses. This worked out well.
Late in the afternoon we participated in the required safety drill. We followed directions to our meeting spot and watched as the crew demonstrated how to put on life jackets. At 7:00, we met the Bensons and Matutes for dinner at Manfredi's, the ships Italian restaurant. The food and service were excellent. The wine was flowing. After that it was time for bed.
December 17 - This was almost a normal day for us. We got up at our normal time, ate our normal breakfast, I took Fripp for his normal walk and Ann went on her normal Monday swim. Abnormal started soon after. I dropped Fripp at the Wag Hotel for his new boarding experience. We arranged for a deluxe kennel with all-day play time with other dogs. His kennel had a video cam so that we could watch him while we were gone.
Our afternoon was spent with last-minute packing and other chores to shutter our house. After dinner, Ellen and John Benson picked us up in their car driven by Sam. He dropped us at SFO for our red eye flight on American Airlines. Our plane left nearly on time around 10:30. We were on a red eye flight because took advantage of Viking's offer of free flights with an early sign up for our cruise.