My wife and I had booked a cruise on the Viking Neptune from Chalon sur Saomne to Avignon starting on 1 May 2013. We were surprised after we landed at Lyon airport to be taken not to Chalon sur Saone, but to Lyon where the Viking Neptune was moored on the Quay Claude Bernard in the Guillotiere area of the city. Sadly not the more interesting Presqu'ile or Fourviere areas as far as sighteeing was concerned. The reason was the ship could not move either upstream or downstream because the flooding river was too high to allow our ship to pass under the many bridges across the river. An "Act of God" maybe, but it was enough to ruin our holiday.
I am 83 and somehwat disabled, thanks to old Rugby football injuries, so can only walk very short distances with the aid of my stick, or at home my electric scooter. Our intention was, as with previous Viking cruises, to sit on the sun deck or in our cabin and enjoy the scenery as it passed by and perhaps to take a slow walk into the towns we moored at on the way down the river. We did manage atrip, whilst in Lyon to Paul Bocuse's brasserie Le Sud. This at least made up a little for our disappointment in Lyon as the food was superb and the wine just as good. I can well understand why his main establishment, a little way out of Lyon, merits 3 Michelin stars
On board ship the crew did their best; they were all very helpful and very pleasant with Susann, the Programme Director, and the equally charming Concierge going out of the way to hep us in a difficult situation. The food was edible apart from a so-called Salad Nicoise, which was a travesty with not a trace of green leaves, french beans or anchovies in sight. The wine was a pleasnt surprise because on previous cruises it was expensive and bore no relation to the area we were cruising through. On this cruise the wine at lunch and dinner was free and was mostly competent Cote du Rhone with no apparent restriction on the amount we consumed.
There were however major problems. For the first two and a half days our cabin had no view whatwsoever other than the side of an Avalon ship moored alongside us. Then the two shipes changed places and we had a view from our cabin of a swiftly flowing river. After two further days were were told we were all going to be taken by coach for a 4 hour journey down to Avignon to spend ther last 2 night in the Grand hotel, Avignon. I protested that 4 hours in a coach was longer than my injuries would permit so I was informed by the Hotel Manager of the Neptune I could take the TGV from Lyon to Avignon. This we did, but it all added to the considerable expesne I has already incurred with taxis in Lyon, more taxi to Lyon station, the rail fares and taxis from Lyon TGV station (well outside the city) to the Grand Hotel.
The Grand Hotel Avignon, despite its name, turned out to be an apartment Hotel just outside the city walls. Our room was fine, spacious, with a pleasant view of the city walls but no toiletries in the bathroom and we had to buy our own bottle of water from the Hotel bar. Lunch was provided on the first day at Brasserie Cintra but it was dreadful. As the Grand Hotel did not do meals, apart from a so-so breakfast, dinner was at the "83 Vernet" some distance from the Hotel and well beyond my walking capabilities so I had to take a taxi to and from the restaurant(not provided by Viking so further expense was incuired on both evenings).
We cheered ourselves up whilst in Avigno with two splendid lunches (at our own expense at the "Cloitre Saint Louis" 20 Rue du Portail Boquier and "La Cour d'Honneur" at 58 Rue Joseph Vernet. I can heartily recommend both restaurants to anyone who enjoys good food and wine - and especially to the organisers of Viking River cruises as they were vastly superior to what Viking provided in Avignon.
All in all a very unsatisfactory holiday with considerable additional expense incurred so I shall view any further Viking river cruise with considerable caution.
I consoled myself on my return home with a very much superior bottle of wine than any consumed on the holiday!