Viking Spirit Cruise Review by LFS517: Absolutely Wonderful
We took the Viking river cruise "Paris & the Heart of Normandy" during the last week of March 2014. We arrived in Paris on Sunday morning and were met at the airport by friendly Viking personnel, and taken by bus to the ship, docked at the Quai de Grenelle with a great view of the Eiffel Tower. I was so excited to be in Paris, a city I have always wanted to visit. Our stateroom, 302, was a decent size. I especially liked that there was plenty of drawer space so we could fully unpack and had room for everything. We had to store our suitcases under the desk as there was no other place to put them. The bed was very comfortable and we never had a problem sleeping. The bathroom was tiny, but everything worked well. Loved the L'Occitaine soap, shampoo, lotion, etc. The best thing about the stateroom was the large window that opened - great for viewing and taking photos from the room. Meals were very good. Breakfast was a buffet, with an omelet station, along with scrambled eggs, bacon, More
sausage, fruit, yogurt, croissants, etc. There was also a menu where you could order eggs benedict, pancakes, French toast. We rarely ate lunch, but they served a hot lunch in the dining room, and also set up a buffet in the lounge that usually included salads, soup, sandwiches, etc. Dinners were 3 or 4 courses - appetizer, main course (usually a choice of 3), dessert, and a cheese plate. All were very good, some were outstanding. We had the best boeuf bourgignon one night, and the cheese plates were always interesting. We also had duck a l'orange, coq au vin, chateaubriand, all very well done. They also had an "American" menu - steak, grilled chicken - but we always stuck with the more interesting choices. We purchased the "Silver Spirits" package, so all our drinks were included. We had a lot of fun working with Ladislav and Peter in the lounge to choose our bottle of wine for dinner every night. Wine and beer with meals is included in the price of the cruise, but they do have a much nicer wine list available that we made good use of. We were also able to enjoy a mimosa with breakfast and after dinner drinks in the lounge. There was always entertainment in the lounge after dinner. The piano player, Blondie, was enjoyable. We also had French lessons, a lecture about painters and the Seine, a fun music trivia quiz, and a group the presented songs and music "Spirit of France." The staff on the ship could not have been better - all of them worked very hard to provide each passenger with a wonderful experience. Annika, the Program Director, was a total delight - her talks about each stop, her attempts to teach us all a little French, her singing on the music quiz night, she was the best and made every day special. I didn't envy her the job of herding several bus loads of senior citizens and trying to get tours started on time. Beate the Hotel Manager and Birgitte the restaurant manager were a pleasure to deal with, and I was impressed to see them pitching in and helping clear tables, seat people, clean up, and not just supervise.
All of the tours we took were very good, lots of interesting information. Our least favorite was the optional (extra cost) tour of the Louvre. Not Viking's fault - the tour guide was excellent, but the Louvre was horrible, terribly overcrowded, just a madhouse and very uncomfortable. We dropped out of that tour earl, just couldn't stand the constant pushing and jostling. Our favorites - hard to choose - Normandy where we got to see my husband's uncle's grave in the American cemetery. Annika had told us to find a cemetery staff member to help us find the grave - not only did they do so, but gave us American and French flags and roses to place at the marker, but rubbed sand from Omaha Beach into the lettering so we could read it for photos, and also took photos of us at the marker. Very special experience. We also really enjoyed the Auvers-sur-Oise tour to see where Van Gogh spent his last days and his grave, the tour of Rouen and all the history from the Vikings to Joan of Arc to World War II. We also purchased the optional tour to Versailles and it was money well spent. We arrived there early and were among the first groups allowed into the palace. Again, the tour guide was excellent and very informative about the history of the palace.
I would highly recommend Viking cruises based on our experience. We are already thinking about which river cruise to take next!! Less
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Cabin review: 302
Good room, lots of drawer space to fully unpack. Comfortable bed, small but working bathroom. L'Occitaine bath accessories (soap, shampoo, lotion). Loved the big window that opened for good views while cruising.