Viking Forseti Cruise Review by The Austrian: Our first Viking cruise
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Our first Viking cruise
Chateaux, Rivers & Wine - our first Viking experience.
Having sailed on several river cruises previously, we came with great expectations.
Here are some of our impressions:
1) Flight arrangements by Viking
We booked our cruise some 10 months prior to sailing, but our flight arrangements were made only 90 days prior. I wish we had booked our own flights. Our connections were not good; in fact we had a one hour, 10 minute connection at JFK on the return flight which required a miracle. Keep in mind that it takes time to get off the plane, then you hike a mile and are in line with hundreds of fellow travelers to go through immigration. You have to pick up your checked luggage for inspection, go through customs and return your luggage to be put on your next flight. Then you have to take the tram to change to a different terminal, go again through a security check and find your gate which is at the far end of the terminal - All this in just slightly More over an hour. Good luck.
The only way we could make it was to ask for airport assistance and we were assigned an individual who bypassed all the lines, scooted through restricted areas, made us jump over barricades, took shortcuts through secret tunnels and got us to the gate just on time.
“Richie Rich” was his nick name. He was a true character and his performance wound up to be one of the highlights of our trip.
2) Let’s come back to our cruise experience
Our pick-up at the Bordeaux airport went as planned. We were taken to the ship by bus and were welcomed by a friendly staff. A cold buffet lunch was offered. My first impression of the food was “Oh, my God” (it was not a good “Oh my God”). There were a few skimpy sandwiches, which reminded me of a school cafeteria lunch - not what I expected from French cuisine. Our last cruise on the Seine River with a different cruise line really had us spoiled. Throughout the cruise, our impression of the food was mixed. The only dinner that fully lived up to our expectations was the Captain’s dinner on the last night. Additionally, I appreciated the variety of delicious French cheeses which were always available.
3) The service staff was excellent. From the Austrian hotel manager to the Greek waitress to the Portuguese bar waiter we truly were impressed by the professionalism of the service staff. Whoever was in charge of selecting, training and supervising the staff should be complimented. The same was true for the housekeeping staff. All employees were extremely friendly and courteous, as well as top notch professionals. Their uniforms always crisp and spotless. It was a pleasure being surrounded by employees who really seemed to enjoy what they were doing.
4) The cleanliness of the ship left nothing to be desired. Our cabin was reasonably comfortable, the bathroom and shower were a good size for a river boat, the bed was comfortable, there was plenty of space for our wardrobe and the safe was in a convenient location. Our room was made up on time, the linens were crisp. Everything was quite satisfactory. We enjoyed the keyless entry system, which reminded us of the London underground, i.e. you could leave the magnetic card in your wallet and just hold the wallet close to the lock in order to open it. Very convenient and innovative.
5) The cruise itinerary was a little disappointing. Bordeaux was used as a base and the ship cruised up and down the 3 rivers (Garonne, Dordogne and Gironde) for very short distances. The scenery along the rivers was unexciting – mostly industrial and flatland. Unlike other river itineraries there were no vineyards visible from the ship and no mountains topped with historic castles.
The towns of Pauillac, Blaye, Libourne and Cadillac, where the ship anchored have historic sights and we enjoyed the sightseeing tours, as well as the history lessons given by the guides. Most guides were British and could be well understood by English speaking passengers.
6) Shore excursions:
Our charming tour director Alexandria was always busy. The daily briefings informed us as to what to expect the next day. Various history classes explained the past of the region back to roman times and beyond. As expected, the cruise was largely about wines. Various bus excursions took us past the most prestige chateaux and past endless acreage of meticulously planted vineyards. Some 8,000 chateaux of the Bordeaux region are nestled along narrow highways. We recognized several of the names, but of course many of them only have a local reputation. We stopped at the Chateau Giscours for a wine lesson and tasting which we enjoyed. The very pleasant ending of one of the excursions was a 5 course dinner at the Chateau Kirwan paired with their wines, which was delightful. The highlight was a 33 years old vintage of their wine.
7) Optional excursions:
We took two of the optional excursions which we enjoyed. The truffle tour took us on a 2 hour bus ride through the country side and wound up at the home of the truffle farmer. His demonstrations and lectures were quite interesting and being invited to his home for a lunch prepared by his wife was a humbling experience.
The optional tour to Arcachon was also quite enjoyable. The bus took us to the Arcachon Bay where we explored the area aboard a small ship. An oyster farmer explained his craft and a local fish restaurant served us one the best meals we had on this cruise. It was a nice excursion but a bit pricy.
8) The entertainment on board was not what we expected. Being in France we expected a more French atmosphere. The lounge pianist played mostly American tunes and the background music as well was not French. A pleasant surprise was the performance by 3 opera singers of the Bordeaux Grand Theater who came onboard to sing well known arias by French composers as well as folkloric music. It was very enjoyable.
9) Customer survey:
On the last day of our cruise we were handed a 4 page customer satisfaction survey.
As mentioned above, we there were parts of the cruise we enjoyed more, others we enjoyed less. I felt that the 4 options given to rate our satisfaction were poorly chosen.
The categories were “much higher than expected” “higher than expected” “as expected” and finely “less than expected”
For example, the cleanliness of the ship was immaculate, however if I gave it the highest rating “much higher than expected” that would mean I expected a dirty ship, which I certainly did not. Do you get my point?
I answered most categories with “as expected”, because I expected a certain level of quality. On the other hand there were areas below my expectations, but the answer on the questionnaire did not disserve the lowest rating.
It is my understanding that Bordeaux is a new itinerary for Viking. As this cruise becomes more established some of the low points will work themselves out. Less
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Cabin review: Main deck118
Our cabin was reasonably comfortable, the bathroom and shower were a good size for a river boat, the bed was comfortable, there was plenty of space for our wardrobe and the safe was in a convenient location. Our room was made up on time, the linens were crisp. Everything was quite satisfactory. We enjoyed the keyless entry system, which reminded us of the London underground, i.e. you could leave the magnetic card in your wallet and just hold the wallet close to the lock in order to open it. Very convenient and innovative.