Viking River Cruises can best be described as affordable elegance. The Longships are clean, modern, nicely furnished- and all identical. The French Balcony cabin was small, comfortable, and cozy. The food was good and meals feature local ... Read More
Viking River Cruises can best be described as affordable elegance. The Longships are clean, modern, nicely furnished- and all identical. The French Balcony cabin was small, comfortable, and cozy. The food was good and meals feature local cuisine. Viking represents a good value for the money since a tour in every port is included; and unless you are a drinker, the soft drinks, wine, and beer provided at lunch and dinner- as well as coffee, tea, and hot chocolate available 24/7- means that you can do without paying extra for a drink package. You also save money since there are no speciality restaurants- there are plenty of options available in the dining room and Aquavit Terrace.
Day One: Flight to Paris with Air France
DD and I were picked up at the airport by Viking, meeting up after exiting the baggage claim area, and taken to the Rolf which docks in Le Pecq, a suburb of Paris. Our cabin was ready, so we dropped off our luggage and walked about a mile to the RER and took the train to Paris. We were able to see some of the sights before returning to the ship for dinner. Our favorite place to eat onboard was the Aquavit Terrace. The same menu is used in both the Aquavit Terrace and dining room, so as we like a more relaxed, casual dining experience, we ate most of our dinners there. Peter took great care of us during the cruise, and always kept our glasses full of Coke.
Day Two: Paris
We skipped the Paris tour in order to go to Disneyland Paris on our own. For Disney fans, it is a must-see, but don’t expect it to be the same as Disneyland or Disney World. A worker carrying a broom and dustpan walked right by some trash without picking it up. There are designated smoking areas, however, one guy walked by smoking a cigar, others smoked cigarettes as their walked along past attractions and shops. Lots of gum littering the streets, too. However, it is Disney- and Disney is always lots of fun. Note: make sure you know when your ship is leaving for the next port. On this day, we had to leave Disneyland at 3 in order to make it back in time before the ship left Le Pecq.
Day Three: Auvers-sur-Oise and Vernon
Since it was December, instead of going to Claude Monet’s home and viewing his gardens, we traveled to Auvers-sur-Oise and got to see the room in which Vincent Van Goth spent the last 70 days of his life, and where he also died. We saw a moving film about his life, and then walked to the graveyard where he is buried next to his brother, Theo. In the afternoon, we went on another walking tour, this time in Vernon, and viewed many lovely half-timbered homes centuries old.
Day Four: Rouen
This is the town in which Joan of Arc was sentenced to death and was burned at the stake. You will visit a church built near the site of her execution, as well as Notre Dame Cathedral, a favorite subject of Claude Monet. Many more beautiful half-timbered homes can be admired while walking through the town.
Day Five: Normandy Beaches
We were taken on an all-day trip to a museum at Gold Beach, a lunch at Le Meridien, the Normandy American Cemetery, and Omaha Beach. Very moving experience. We were given roses to be placed on a grave of our choice at the American Cemetery.
Day Six: Les Andelys
Lovely little town which is easy to walk through. We took a tour to Chateau Gaillard, built in the 12th century by Richard the Lionheart.
Day Seven: Le Pecq
We had to skip the port of Mantes-la-Jolie due to an impending strike announced by the lock workers so that we would make it back to Le Pecq before the workers walked off the job. Due to the demonstrations by the Yellow Jackets, the Palace of Versailles was closed. A visit to Chateau Chantilly was substituted. It was so nice of Viking to go out of their way to substitute the canceled excursion with something else. Many thanks to our Program Director, Michael, for putting the excursion together. The chateau is very impressive and majestic. The horse stables seen off to the distance could be mistaken for another chateau. After a visit here, President Nixon asked why he had always been taken to Versailles before, if he had know about Chantilly he said, he would have stayed there instead during his previous visits. In the afternoon, we visited Napoleon’s Chateau de Malmaison, which, although not as impressive as Chantilly, is an elegant manor house oozing with history. We took the optional tour, Paris by Night, after dinner which was a perfect way to end our trip.
Day Eight: Flight home via Delta
We liked the airlines and flights chosen by Viking, and the price we paid for the flights represented a great value. Having Viking pick us up at the airport and drop us off again for our return flight meant that we had an easy, no-stress way to start and end our vacation.
Fellow passengers, scheduling, and concluding thoughts
The passengers are mostly in their 60s and 70s, with a few young adults traveling together or with family. Most people were happy with the service onboard, however, there are always a few complainers. One passenger was unhappy that he couldn’t order another dessert after dinner since there was no remaining food left over at the end of the meal. You can order multiple desserts- but make sure that you order everything you want at the start when your order is taken. It definitely pays to be on time for meals: for example, our French Tea started at 4:00, by 4:07, I picked up the only remaining watercress sandwich, after which, the waiter took the sign and tray away. Cleaning up started at 4:30, and two ladies arriving at 4:45 were disappointed to find that everything tea related had been cleaned up. In general, know if there is another event scheduled in the same venue shortly after yours. That means that the crew will have to clean up quickly in order to set up for the next event, so get there early. This is true no matter what type of cruise you are on- river or ocean.
There are vegetarian options, but rather limited. Breakfast buffets in the dining room offered the best options for vegetarians to enjoy a good meal, so make sure you eat a hearty breakfast. Also, enjoy some of the local options- the bakeries are wonderful! Make sure that you check when the ship is due to sail. Always pick up your disembarkation cards before leaving the ship so that the front desk knows that you are not onboard and won’t sail off without you, hopefully. Pick up a card which has the ship’s current location printed on it so that you can give this card to a taxi if you should get lost or are pressed for time while returning to the ship.
The cabins have a fridge so you can buy your own beverages if you want to. You will receive two Cokes waiting for you the first day, along with bottles of water (replenished daily). Keep lots of Euros handy to use to tip your tour guides and drivers. All of the tours were wonderful. We enjoyed all of them very much and learned so much about the people and places related to each tour. The guides all did a fabulous job. The tours are tailored according to physical ability. There was always an easy walk option for people with mobility issues. We were always warned by our program director as to whether an excursion would be physically challenging or not. The tour guides always told us how to get back to the ship and ended the tour in a shopping district. Get your shop on!
This was my first Viking cruise and I have already booked my next Viking cruise. Can’t wait. Read Less