Just returned from Viking River Cruise's Portraits of Southern France on the Viking Neptune. This was our first cruise with Viking and it will be our last. On the positive side, the crew was friendly and hard working, the tour guides were great, the free wi-fi was nice as were the bottles of water that were provided for each excursion.
When we went to our cabin the first day, the hallway smelled like sewage. The smell lingered for a couple of days until a fellow passenger complained. The ship is old, shows signs of wear and rooms look like they could use a good cleaning. The bathrooms are dark and the tiles are old and looked dirty. The carpeting in our friend's room was stained and dirty and they had dust bunnies that were never vacuumed the entire week. Not sure the bathroom floors were ever cleaned either during the trip. The bathrooms are elevated about 3-4 inches (for plumbing I guess) and were an accident waiting to happen if you didn't pay attention stepping in and out over the raised lip in the doorway. Also, Viking did not provide clocks in the rooms and it was a good thing we brought our own.
With few exceptions, the "gourmet" food was not very good and food service was s-l-o-w due to inadequate staffing levels. The pastries and French fries were good. A shrimp roll looked like someone had ladled tons of louis dressing on a hot dog bun and sprinkled a few cocktail shrimp. Steaks that were ordered rare to medium rare were served medium to well done on a regular basis and they were chewy. Sushi rice was densely packed and lacked any hint of rice wine vinegar. An appetizer sushi made of some kind of mousse was sliced so thin that it disintegrated into a mess when you tried to pick it up. Ice cream never made it to the table before it was melted. Our table seemed to hit the jackpot for damaged dinnerware. Throughout the cruise, we were given cracked coffee cups and water glasses that were badly chipped. One glass was chipped half way around the rim. Coffee and tea were never offered after lunch or dinner and we even had to ask for coffee one morning at breakfast. The wait staff of six did try hard to serve everyone, but it was extremely difficult since they had to take and serve drink orders, serve wine, take and serve meal selections as well as clear the tables. Even the maitre d' was clearing tables. Complimentary wine, beer and sodas were offered with lunch and dinner, but they served that same Viking-labeled bottle of red and white wine every meal. It would have been nice if they had served some of the local wines with some of the meals since we were in the heart of wine country. One passenger was so unhappy that he was ready to quit the cruise after the third day. There was a lot of grumbling among the passengers about the food and service.
We booked our air transportation with Viking, which was a BIG mistake. They booked us on a 6:00 a.m. return flight out of Lyon. We got up at 1:30 a.m. to close our account and leave the ship at 3:00 a.m. for the hour and 45 minute drive from our last port, Chalon-sur-Saone to the Lyon airport. We complained about the booking when we got our flights 90 days prior to the cruise and were told that there was nothing Viking could do because the selection was computer generated and there were no other flights available by then. By the way, Avalon lets passengers choose their flights almost a year in advance.
Needless to say, based on our experience, we and our friends will not be sailing with Viking again nor would we recommend them to anyone. Go with someone else.