This was our fourth cruise on Viking having previously cruised in Russia, on the Danube and on the Rhine. This time we persuaded five friends to join us.
There are sometimes complaints about the flights (and flight times) selected by Viking. My advice woiuld be to research which flights are available then pay the small amount extra and ask Viking flights if they can get the flights and seats you want. I did this on Lufthansa and we flew when we wanted to, got the seats we wanted and got our Star Alliance mileage. A word of warning about Delta; these flights are discounted fares and Delta will only give 25% of the actual miles flown if you collect Skymiles. Also Delta partners with Air France which does not respect seat bookings and you may find yourself in another area of the aircraft and split up if you are a couple.
Now to the ship. The Neptune is not new and therefore shows some wear and tear. It is however extremely clean both inside and out and was kept that way for the duration of the voyage. The cabins (we had a B) are not large but the storage is excellent and the bathroom well appointed. Our cabin stewardess was a phantom but every time we returned to the cabin she had been there to tidy up, put out fresh towels etc.
We were on the last cruise of the season and felt the chefs and dining room staff did an excellent job. They were beginning to run out of a few things but the staff bent over backwards to keep everyone happy. I am not a wine expert but I would classify the wines as drinkable. There is always the option to buy wine at one of the tastings and have the wine steward open them for you.
The captain handled the ship with great expertise; watching her dock the Neptune was a treat. She was always to be seen around the ship and was very pleasant. She did not however speak any English.
The excursion were enjoyable with clean buses with good drivers where used and any local guides were informative and spoke English well. Frequently on this trip, plans for excursions were changed due to the high water mentioned in the previous review. Now it rains too much or it doesn't rain enough; a fact of life and certainly not Viking or any other cruise line's fault. Where Viking missed the boat so to speak was information. The Cruise Director and the "concierge staff" answered questions with fixed smiles and shrugs of the shoulders. We were told the locks were closed. No, the water flowing into the locks was too strong. No, it was French law we couldn't be on board! I speak enough French to understand most of what is said and I found the captain's briefing on the situation was loosely translated by the Cruise Director, telling us what she thought we wanted to hear rather than what was being said. It didn't take the lawyers on board long to realize that the real issue was liability!
If one reads these review boards one knows that these water situations occur with some frequency. It would certainly be a big improvement if Viking had printed material ready to distribute explaing how water conditions effect the ship and what the captains are required by law and/or the company to do.
Cruising is like most things- caveat emptor. If being switched to buses, or missing a port or two or even moving to hotels is not for you then don't river cruise on any line. And do your research, if you have mobility issues remember some of the excursions cannot avoid steep climbs/descents, rough terrain/cobblestones.