This was our first river cruise. We had been on 6 or 7 ocean cruises around the world (Australia, Black Sea, South America) and weren't sure what to expect. We were on the Frances' Finest cruise, which was actually two cruises back to back. The first part went from Paris to Rouen and then returned to Paris. The second part was from Chalon-sur-Saone to Avignon.(We were taken by motor coach from Paris to Chalon-sur-Saone)
We were met at the Paris airport by a Viking representative. I needed to pick up a few toiletries and she helped me find what I needed. We were bused to the ship (docked within sight of the Eiffel Tower and the Paris Statue of Liberty). The first ship, Viking Spirit, was well laid out and our cabin was very comfortable. We appreciated the open seating at dinners, and on the first evening, selected a table for six where we sat every evening. In that way we had the same waiter and he quickly learned what we were drinking (my glass of white wine and my wife's diet Coke.) We had different dinner partners each evening and met many fascinating people (the husband and wife doctor team being two of them). A buffet lunch was served every day in the lounge and we found it convenient to eat there instead of the dining room.
The second ship (from Chalon-sur-Saone to Avignon) was the Viking Europe which is the sister ship to the Spirit. It is, therefore, laid out exactly the same and Viking even assigned us to the same cabin number on both ships.
The ships docked near the center of each town and it was easy to simply walk into the town center if we decided not to go on the tour for that day. The tours were included with the cruise and were guided by a local who knew a great deal about the area. There were a couple of tours which were extra, but well worth the money (Versaille, for instance). With our Quietvox audio devices which we used on all the tours, it was easy to hear what the guide was saying, even if you wander away from the group to take pictures or whatever.
The Viking staff on both ships was outstanding. They were very professional and at the same time very friendly. In fact, on one of the ships I was greeted by name every time I returned from tours to pick up my room key.
We enjoyed this cruise so much that we have booked a Viking cruise in Germany for next year. We recommend Viking to any one who enjoys small ship cruising.