Paris, 3 day add-on at the beginning. Hotel Meridien Etoile, very plain, small, but comfortable rooms, pretty good service, and wonderful breakfast buffets. Metro stop less than a block away, and lots of taxis available. Across the street from a nice urban shopping center. A very nice bar with good music in the evenings.
Chalons-sur-Saone was the advertised embarkation point. On arrival we were informed that with high water on the Saone, the ship couldn't safely sail under bridges, and we would bus to Lyon, with a stop in Dijon on the way. The bus ride was several hours long, but in a nice bus with a friendly, informative tour guide along the way.
Dijon was perfectly lovely, with a lunch stop and a nice variety of interesting restaurants from which to choose. Beautiful medieval buildings, Marielle was great at telling us about the sights we saw, and a pleasant walk through the town.
Embarkation in Lyon was smooth, and the staff welcomed passengers warmly. We More
were 3 days in port at Lyon, so the cruise had a good long start as a stay in a floating hotel. The ship was comfortable, the staff wonderful, and if I ever have to be "stuck" someplace, I would freely choose Lyon. A fabulous old city, and at the same time, a vibrant, modern, liveable place. Magali, our tour guide, was engaging, helpful, and exceptionally interesting and informative. On our own, we arranged dinner at Auberge du Pont de Collonges, the flagship restaurant of world-famous Chef Paul Bocuse. Fabulous! A geat foodie experience, and we won't be buying a new car for a few years, as a consequence. We particularly liked the cathedral on the hill, the old-city pedestrian way, and the public market.
While in Lyon, we had bus tours to Perouges, a quaint medieval village, the Cluny Abbey, and Beaune, with a most interesting hospital museum dating from 1443, Tremendously interesting places, with engaging, informative tour guides, but long bus rides, sometimes in stalled city traffic.
Finally underway, we cruised in an afternoon to Vienne, with a walking and portable train tour. The walk was a bit of a hurry-up, but interesting, with 2 beautiful churches and lots of Roman ruins. Cruised the evening to Tournon, stayed overnight. In the AM was a walking tour of Tain l'Hermitage, a winery, and chocolate shop; fun and interesting.
Then followed the only real daytime cruise of the journey, from Tournon to Viviers. Charming, picturesque, quant riverside villages, churches, castles, a wonderful Taste of Provence dinner aboard, and a nighttime walk in Viviers, a medieval village. The cruise was a bit disappointing in that the upper deck was closed due to low bridges. Cruised on to Avignon during the night, and docked in the middle of the city, next to another ship.
Can't say enough good about Avignon, and tours to Arles a short distance away. The walking tours were, again, a bit like Rawhide (Keep 'em rollin', rollin', rollin') but so many interesting sights to see, fine restaurants, lively street scene, Papal Palace, etc.
Disembarkation was painless, and again, a somewhat long bus ride to the Marseilles Airport.
Lots of plusses on this cruise. We're quite experienced France tourists, and we saw so many new placers, an experience greatly enhance by Viking tours, both included and optional, and the excellent guides who led them. A couple of the shipboard meals were truly excellent. Cannot say enough nice things about the Viking Buri Staff, from the Captain and First Officer, to the Tour Director and Concierge, to the dining room and housekeeping staff, and a most excellent musician to entertain us. The ship was comfortable and well laid-out.
Objectively, and not too critically, some things were sub-optimal. The cruise actually encompassed very little cruising. There was a lot more bus-riding than cruising! PBS Viking ads show svelte Ralph Lauren/Saks 5th 40-50-somethings sipping wine while cruising on the top deck along picturesque waterways. On our cruise, the average daily high temp., F, was under 100, but not by much, and the average age of passengers was also under 100, but not by much. Lots of golf shirts, large white tenny-runners, baggy pink polyester pantsuits, floppy-goofy hats, and endless restroom stops. The food and wine on board, with a couple of exceptions, were very ordinary and uninspiring.
Overall, a fine experience, due to the location of the cruise, and the superb effort of the Viking staff. Might well do another river cruise in the future. Less
Viking Buri Cruises to France