This was our fifth river cruise, fourth on Viking, the last was the Danube two years ago. We did not use Viking's pre-hotel stay as due to a committment we could only spend two nights in Paris pre-cruise. The hotel we stayed at (near Louvre) booked a cab take us to the dock to board Viking Pride (24 Euros) and we arrived around 12:30PM, our bags were taken and we went to the lounge area to meet our fellow travelers and relax until the cabins were available at 3PM. The Pride was docked alongside a nice park and a small town area was located within walking distance. A walking tour of the area was arranged for those wanting to stretch their legs.
We had a standard "C" cabin on mid-deck with a window just above water level. The cabin was comfortable and had both a European as well as American electrical outlet. There was a TV in the room and included CNN, Fox, Sky News, ESPN (yes, we got to see college and NFL games on Saturday/Sunday), National Geographic, Sky Cinema and itinerary and movie channels. Itinerary related movies included shows related to the Eiffel Tower, Musical Paris and Post Impressionist painting. Other movies included Rocky Horror Picture Show, Moulin Rouge, and Perfume, the story of a murderer. (Note: cabin 240 is situated by the ice machine. We were asked not to get ice after 10PM)
Most travelers were Americans with a few Canadians as well.
Viking's crew was outstanding. Robert Horwath the Hotel Manager was everywhere, easily approachable, and what we'd call had a "happy" staff. The staff worked tirelessly, never complained. Cornelia Svatek was the Program Director. She and her staff were always available, helpful and extremely knowledgeable of the areas we were visiting. We were impressed with the increase in number of options provided, on-your-own flyers for each stop, and the Concierge service now available on Viking. If there is something you want to do outside the offerings provided, just ask and it can probably be arranged.
While not one of the newer Viking Ship's, we thought Pride was in great shape. The crew could be seen cleaning constantly and were pleased with all areas of the ship.
We are not foodies and found the food good to excellent depending upon the choices. A nice variety of food was served and always available options such as Caesar salad and Steak were offered. Also, a nice change since our last cruise is that complimentary beer, wine and soft drinks is also now offered at lunch. Lunch offered options of either buffet in the lounge or as seated in the dining room. Again, nice change and provided options. Menus for all meals were posted pre-meal in the reception area. The breakfast buffet was plentiful and you could also order special items from the kitchen. The create-your-own oatmeal area was a hit with a number of passengers. Juice, rolls and the always present coffee machine available in the reception area for early risers, and the coffee machine made great coffee.
We found internet access much improved from two years ago and never had a problem connecting. Best connections were in the reception area (or above in the small library area) and toward the rear of the lounge. We connected successfully on our laptop, iPad and iPhones with no issues, and it's free!
We had rain on-and-off during the week and luckily went prepared with water proof jackets, small umbrellas and clothing for layering. We also took large zip lock bags for our cameras and they came in handy on several occasions. There were days we seemed to go through three seasons in a day and even experienced a hail storm in Rouen. Luckily, for most outdoor sightseeing it was either overcast or partly cloudy to sunny so just go prepared for anything if travelling this time of year.
We really enjoyed all of the stops along the Seine. Our favorites were Monet's gardens and the day trip to visit the areas and beaches involved in D-Day. At Monet's gardens a few lily pads were still in bloom and lots of other flowers blooming within the confines of the gardens. After touring the gardens before returning to the meeting spot, we walked into the little town of Giverny to the church where we found Monet's grave site. The day to the D-Day beaches and cemetery was very moving. Two versions of the excursion were offered, one for Americans and another for Canadian/British passengers and a nice lunch was included in the outing. At the cemetery, the group gathered at the main monument and sang along to the National Anthem played by a carillon, followed by taps and a moment of silence, and there were few dry eyes during this moving ceremony. We each were given a rose to place at a cross of our choice, and the staff offered to look up the location of anyone buried at the cemetery to help you find it. After the cemetery the bus took us to Omaha beach where we had about 15 minutes to walk on the beach and view the monuments there.
We took the optional half-day trip to Versailles and the last day of the cruise. We got a tour of Versailles and then were free to wander through the palace and/or the gardens after the tour. An extended tour was offered allowing more time at Versailles and then a drop off at the Champs-Elysees for some time prior to returning to the ship.
During the cruise, a number of on-board presentations were held and the usual cocktail hour followed by daily briefing was held in the lounge prior to dinner. Piano music and vocals were provided each evening and during lunch. Other presentations/events included French lessons, music quiz, nautical talk, preview of other Viking cruises, guest music by "Spirit of France", cooking demonstration, galley tour, guest lecturer on "Painters on the Seine" (who was really good), history of Joan of Arc and I'm sure I'm missing a few but you get the idea.
Optionals for the cruise included:
Louvre Tour -- 59 Euros, Versailles -- 79 Euros half day/89 Euros full day, Painting class (in Vernon) 10 Euros, Oyster and Champagne tasting (on board) 35 Euros.
We really felt that except for the occasional weather issues, it was one of the better trips we've had. We hit it right voyage with a great crew, wonderful fellow passengers, and a for us a very interesting and comprehensive overview of Paris and northern France.