For context we are a couple in our mid forties who have taken many ocean cruises. We took the "France's Finest" trip which is two 1 week itineraries combined. This is a review of Paris and the Heart of Normandy on the Viking ... Read More
For context we are a couple in our mid forties who have taken many ocean cruises. We took the "France's Finest" trip which is two 1 week itineraries combined. This is a review of Paris and the Heart of Normandy on the Viking Neptune.
When we were on the ship we were mainly pleased because we had nothing to compare it to, but after our second week on the Heimdal we can see that the Neptune has had better days. It is an older ship that has been decently maintained but it simply doesn't have the same features / amentities. That being said, our stateroom was quite large. We had more storage space than we needed. We were happy we hadn't paid for a balcony because the way the ship docked most days (right up against the pier or tethered to another ship) there would have been few opportunities to comfortably use it. The cabin had one North American style outlet but it wouldn't take a grounded or polarized plug. There was one available Euro outlet plus another behind the tv and two more tucked behind the bed if you needed them. The bed was large and comfortable, the window was very large, shower was small and with a flimsy curtain but there was ample hot water and good water pressure. The supplied toiletries had a very strong citrus scent. The provide a hair dryer and face cloths. The room did not have black out curtains. The only real problem with the cabin was the thin walls. We heard the tv next door, we heard people talking next door. The ship operations are also quite loud. Rooms 200 - 215 are right below the lounge so every evening you can hear the activities from above. The newer ships have a better layout to avoid this issue. The noise will last until about 10:30 pm each night.
The staff are very friendly. We appreciated the availability of a concierge to assist with land arrangements. Program director was very engaging and enthusiastic. Twice daily housekeeping was well done. We found the ship was very well organized, everything ran much more smoothly than a standard ocean cruise. Less paperwork, less lining up and waiting, less bureaucracy.
The itinerary was well paced and included one morning and one afternoon (on different days) of sailing which was very relaxing. Also there was never a requirement to participate in any of the included tours so you could spend the entire week relaxing on board if you so chose. There were many tours included in the price plus some optionals at extra cost. I would not suggest taking the optional tour to Versailles unless you will have no other opportunity to go on your own. I have been to Versailles twice and it is a full day trip to see everything, appreciate everything and do it at an enjoyable pace. This tour is 3 hours in total and does not include time to see the Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon and Hamlet. The tour of Giverny was wonderful. Les Andelys is a visit to ruins of a castle. The walk could be very challenging for some, the town itself has nothing to offer. The day spent at Normandy beaches is long and taxing but worth it. We were the only Canadians on our cruise and they offered to arrange for us to go on the "Commonwealth" tour instead of the US version wihtout us having to even ask. It included Canadian cemetary, a commonwealth cemetary, Juno beach, Pegasus Bridge and the Bayeux Tapestry. There were only 7 people who decided to take this tour so it was more enjoyable than going on a full bus. We did not do most of the provided city tours because the pace was much too slow for us. They need to break the tours into pace groups. I think the average age on this cruise was 70. The ship provides a detailed map of each port and the ship generally docks in the center of town so you can easily walk to all of the sights if you prefer to explore independently.
The food was okay but nothing spectacular. Perhaps it is because we didn't have a French chef making our french food on our french cruise. Our largest complaint about the entire cruise was the dinners. Each evening was a 2 hour ordeal. We enjoy a nice dinner out but sometimes you just want to eat and then relax. The cruise is meant to be social with one seating for dinner and no assigned seats. You sit with different people each night and socialize. It becomes tiring night after night.
Tips do not automatically go on the bill but you can charge them to your room when you settle your account. There were cool towels on arrival, bottled water available for each excursion, umbrellas available to borrow, free wifi which was slow in the cabin, coffee machine, ice machine, cookies in the afternoon, turn down service, free wine with lunch and dinner, a daily briefing on upcoming events, prompt laundry service, water is provided in room daily but not enough for 2 people. This is not a cruise for children which adds to relaxing vibe of the ship.
We were surprised to learn that Viking does not offer much for customer loyalty. Returning guests get $200 off the price (which amounts to nothing) and it's only valid if you travel within 2 years. The service and product are very good and are enough to bring guests back but we are used to much better perks for repeat business. Read Less