We used frequent flyer miles to make this trip possible. The service, meals, beverages, entertainment, and seats in Affaires class on Air France Boeing 777 eastbound and Airbus A300 westbound was surprisingly good. We arrived in Paris two days prior to sailing well rested and ready to explore the city. Two nights in the centrally located Hilton Arc d'Triomphe gave us a good spot to easily see everything on our list. We were blessed with excellent weather each day.
Embarkation on Viking Spirit, located next to the Pont de Grenelle and very close to the Eiffel Tower, was pretty easy for us as we are familiar with VRC boarding policy and did not arrive too early. We felt badly for those who arrived early in the day only to be required to wait until 3pm to gain access to cabins.
Cabin: adequate size-wise with plenty of storage space for 2 weeks of cruising. A pump of some sort ran at times during the night and we figured it must have had something to do with the sanititation system. We got used to it. We didn't notice bow thruster operation at all during the sailing. Bathroom was OK but the shower was a bit cramped. We thought the L'Occitane bathroom amenities were a step up from previous VRC trips. The audiovox headsets were in the cabin with their chargers and that is a big step forward from previous VRC experiences. At least one 1.5L bottle of water was in the cabin every day.
Dining: We felt as if the food offerings on this sailing were quite good. We dined nightly with three couples we met on day one and we enjoyed their company at the same table daily. I hope our paths cross in the future. Dining room service was good for all meals and our waiter Peter made certain our wine glasses were filled throughout our dinner. The selections for dinner starters, soups, entree's, and desserts were varied for the week and always presented in a professional manner. Again, we would assess the dining on this sailing to be better than what we have experienced with VRC in 3 previous river cruises.
Itinerary: Our stops in Vernon, Rouen, Conflans and Les Andelys were very nice with wonderful scenery and good local guides who were a wealth of information and personality each day. Our favorite excursion was to Arromanches for its D-Day Museum, Pont du Hoc, and views of the remains of the Mulberry Harbor from WWII. The fall foliage was in full bloom and we enjoyed views along the river and in each town.
Crew: We were impressed with the Captain (Davy) who was very visible and friendly every day of the trip. His positive enthusiasm seemed to filter down to the entire crew and that is the sign of a great leader. The cruise director and staff were top notch in all respects. Our cabin attendant was friendly and efficient and very "attention to detail" oriented.
Extras: The trip to the bridge was informative and the Captain again was very outgoing and anxious to answer questions. The "local" lunch served one day in the lounge was not one of our favorite meals--the mussels were tiny and a bit tough and the sausage and didn't taste good. The galley tour was quite revealing. It's amazing the crew can serve so many people quickly from a confined space. The galley space was clean and left us feeling the crew was paying close attention to cleanliness.
In every area of this sailing we were left with impression that VRC has stepped it up a notch and is listening to suggestions from passengers as how to make their product better. Well Done!
For Part 2 of France's Finest cruise go to my review at Viking Neptune.