As we had heard from others that traveled with Viking was of the same quality and service as AMA Waterways and they had the itinerary that we wanted, we booked a cruise with them. On 9/3/10 we embarked on Viking MS Maribelle in Lyon on their Southern France Serenade 8 day cruise on the Rhone and Saone Rivers. Our first impression of the ship was that it was an old ship and that it did not have the luxury appearance of their Neptune ship. When we got to our stateroom, we were disappointed to see that it did not have a bed, but had two small couches which turned into separate small twin beds with hard mattresses. This was the same setup throught the ship. My husband who is tall could barely fit and if you turned too quickly, you hit the wall. Next came the very small shower that when you turned on the water, the curtain stuck to your body.
The dinning experience can be described as the same level and quality as eating at a Denny's restaurant. The food was without taste and of poor quality. They added so much ice to their orange juice that when it melted, it was more water then orange juice. They served their left over smoked fish from the night before for their breakfast. You got the feeling that they were rationing their food throughout the trip, not that it matter as it was of poor taste that you did not want large portions anyway. They offered wine with dinner at no cost, but it was cheap wine, so you were not too eager to drink much of it.
The cruise director though friendly, provided minimal service. He did not go out of his way to provide more service then required. Some of the waiters had a difficult time understanding English and made it hard to get service from them. The maitre'd came across as very rigid and strict with rules that it made you feel uncomfortable asking for service. The stateroom cleaning staff, however, were very good. They service your room efficiently and left your room sparkling clean.
The entertainment was very poor. The one musician aboard played the same beat to every song in a Hungarian tone. This was not conducive to wanting to stay and enjoy hearing him play or enjoy dancing to the music.
The one thing that was good about this cruise, were the port and shore excursions. We saw some very beautiful areas of France and sites.
During the cruise, we heard that Viking leased the ship Ms Maribelle and it's crew as there was a high demand for this itinerary. In my opinion they were more concerned with making money, then providing quality and excellent service. Throughout our trip, we heard the same complains from a number of passengers and it became a joke to talk about the quality and service of the ship. We could not wait to get off the ship. It was very upsetting to feel this way after having travel so far and having spend the money and receive this kind of treatment.
In summary, we would not recommend this cruise to anyone and would not recommend Viking as it appears they cared more about making money and little about the service and quality they provide.