My wife and I took the Paris to Normandy cruise May 18, 2014 on the Viking Spirit. I will try to add information that I didn’t see in other reviews. I can reiterate that it is a great vacation, the crew is very customer focused, and we thoroughly enjoyed the trip.
- We used frequent flyer miles to get to Paris, so we took a cab from the airport to the boat. You can buy a transfer from Viking, but they talked me out of it based on cost. We later found out that it is not much more expensive than the cab. The taxi cab driver had difficulty finding the boat, despite my providing the Viking supplied map of it’s location. I was calling the boat to get better information on it’s location when we came across it as we drove north from Pont de Grenelle along Port de Grenelle. There are many boats docked in this area and the Viking sign was partially blocked by a structure. Fare was 62 Euros from CDG for the two of us with 4 bags.
- The crew tries to get you in to your room before the official 3PM check in time. We got in by 1PM and sat in the lounge until then. They turn around the boat from the previous cruise in a few hours, since everyone from the previous trip has to be out by 9AM. We found the room cleaning staff very responsive, and they came in a second time each day and made the bed if required.
- The boat is docked like a floating hotel for the first 24 hours, so if you didn’t want to do their bus tour, you could explore Paris on your own via the subway. They indicated that the violent crime rate in the city is very low, but there are many pick pockets. There was a report of someone’s phone being swiped on our cruise when they were out on the subway. Watch out for the kids, since they can’t be prosecuted. Each room has a good safe for storing your passport and money, so there is no need to go out with a lot of valuables.
- Food is quite good, and you can explore the local French cuisine at dinner if you order from the left side of the menu. There is the same steak, fish, and chicken every night on the right side of the menu if you aren’t feeling adventurous. Quantity of food is adequate, but not excessive. My wife and I lost weight on the cruise, probably because all the walking compensated for the wine and the deserts. We were told at the galley tour that the menu doesn’t change from week to week, but it is different every night of the cruise. At lunch, there is a lack of protein as all the options don’t involve much meat. You can do the salad buffet and order off a menu. Breakfast had an extensive buffet, and you could order poached eggs, eggs benedict, French toast, or pancakes. I always wanted to have French toast in France.
- Les Andelys is a one street village with exactly two stores. One store had some good scarves. The hike up the hill to the ruins provided awesome views of the river and country side. The best and most extensive souvenirs were from the store at the Palace of Versailles. The souvenirs were higher quality there with stuff you might actually want to give to people as gifts when you get back.
- Dress code is business casual for dinner. Slacks and a shirt for men, and slacks, blouse, and scarf (there were a lot of scarves) for women. Only at the Captains dinner did about 1/3 of men wear a jacket. There were a few dresses, and a couple of ties.
- Viking says that other cruise lines include the crew gratuity in the bill, but Viking does not. They provide a recommended gratuity in the booklet they send you a couple of weeks before the cruise. It is 2 Euros per day per person for the cruise director and 10 Euros per day per person per day split among the crew. You pay it when you settle up the bill on the last night. Total for us was 12 Euros x 2 people x 7 days = 168. The crew works hard for it and I think the fact that it is not automatically added to the bill provides motivation to put in their best effort. You also need to bring some 2 Euro and 1 Euro coin for the daily trips. 2 Euros per person for the guide and 1 Euro per person for the driver. So plan on 6 Euros per day for tips.
- It is a very international crew. French captain, German cruise management, wait staff from Hungary, Bulgaria, Rumania, etc. Everyone did pretty well with their English and was very friendly and helpful. Our cruise director was Anika, already mentioned in some other reviews. She is very organized, has a good sense of humor, excellent English, and does everything possible to make the cruise enjoyable for everyone. She was very accessible during the entire cruise. She took photos of folks during the excursions and you can get a CD of them at the end of the cruise for 12.50 euros. The wait staff made a couple of order mistakes, maybe because of their limited command of the English language, but when informed of the error, they rapidly fixed it, no questions. They accommodated any request that was possible, e.g., dressing on the side for the salad, an extra appetizer or desert, etc.
- We had one need for some pharmaceutical supplies and the front desk seemed to be quite knowledgeable about where the English speaking pharmacies are located at each stop. They handed me a map, and they are easy to find, since they are clearly marked with a green cross sign.
- Most people who did Versailles did the half day tour. The full day gives you an extra 3 hours to explore on your own and then they bus you to Paris to meet up with the boat that has taken off at noon. The half day seemed quite adequate, since it also includes some free time to explore.
- The cruise is very conducive to making friends. Although most of the passengers were in their 60’s and 70’s, there were many younger, and even a couple of kids. Everyone was from the US or Canada.
- One of the enjoyable parts of the cruise that is not highlighted that much is the beautiful scenery along the river north of Paris. There are many chateaus along the river, and it is very relaxing to just sit in the lounge or on the top deck.
- The boat is very high tech. Twin radar antennas on the bow, as well as sonar. Glass displays in the control cabin, twin propellers in the rear with 360 degree control and bow thrusters. The boat can rotate in a complete circle in the middle of the river without going forward or backward. Vibration levels and noise in our 3rd floor cabin were barely perceptible. Wifi was slow but adequate, and worked better when the boat was docked. The boat was very clean, and a crew member could be seen cleaning it every day.