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60 Viking Spirit (Retired) Cruise Reviews

My wife, her 3 sisters, and mother had been on 3 previous Viking River Cruises and loved them all. Despite being a Francophile and loving French cuisine and French music, I had never been to France. This was our honeymoon. When we landed ... Read More
My wife, her 3 sisters, and mother had been on 3 previous Viking River Cruises and loved them all. Despite being a Francophile and loving French cuisine and French music, I had never been to France. This was our honeymoon. When we landed at de Gaulle, we were met by a very courteous Viking representative who accompanied us to and with our transport to the ship. On the ship, we were quickly shown our cabin, which, to my surprise, was quite spacious. My wife had thought that I, being 6'2" would feel cramped. Quite the contrary, I thought the room was just what was needed for this cruise: comfortable with just the right amenities. The crew on the Viking Spirit were extremely friendly, helpful, and courteous. The food on board was wonderful and there was always something for every taste. I should give particular kudos to our Program Director, Sylvie, our concierge, Anna Maria, and our Matre d' (whose name, sadly, I cannot remember). Sylvie was just the right combination of expertise, humor, and deep love of her country, which helped everyone enjoy the cruise that much more. At the completion of the cruise, we extended our stay in Paris for three days, helped by Viking's representatives there. That stay, too, was wonderful. In all our time in France, the food was fabulous, the people were warm and friendly, and the whole experience left me wanting more, which we will have next July when we do the Portraits of Southern France Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
Fabulous trip, much more wonderful than we expected! Hotel in Paris (Ampere) was stunning, comfortable and warm. Our Hotel Representative was extremely helpful and pleasant. The service getting to and from the hotel and ship was ... Read More
Fabulous trip, much more wonderful than we expected! Hotel in Paris (Ampere) was stunning, comfortable and warm. Our Hotel Representative was extremely helpful and pleasant. The service getting to and from the hotel and ship was stellar. Once on board we found the staff welcoming and helpful. The other passengers were terrific and we had a great time with all of them. The food was amazing. And when we came back from excursions the staff was waiting with a treat that reflected our tour. Not to be missed -- Monet's gardens in Giverny. Absolutely incredible! We celebrated my husband's birthday on board; a cake was provided for our table, and he received a lovely note from the staff that evening. We were so impressed we booked the Christmas itinerary in December of 2016 in an Explorer Suite! Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
This was my first riverboat cruise vs. many ocean cruises. The cost is certainly more substantial than a ocean cruiser and I don't feel its worth it. True the tours are included with some optional tours at a cost as well as beer and ... Read More
This was my first riverboat cruise vs. many ocean cruises. The cost is certainly more substantial than a ocean cruiser and I don't feel its worth it. True the tours are included with some optional tours at a cost as well as beer and wine at meals only. And the wine and beer served is marginal at best. The ship is 10+ years old but the crew keeps it clean and shiny. The cabin was pretty roomy and the public rooms were nice as well. The crew on this vessel were second to none. From the Program Director- Annika to the Hotel Mgr.-Bea to the Maitre D- Brigetta. They were always visible and wanting to please. We didn't realize how good they were until we boarded the Viking Hermod for the second leg of the trip. It was like night and day. Read my not too good review of the Hermod. The trip was sold as a 14 day trip on the Spirit and Hermod. One issue was the Viking menu repeats every 7 days. So the dinners were the same on both trips-that was a disappointment. The other issue was the lack of entertainment in the evening. One night an opera troupe from Paris performed and the other was a music trivia night. Both were great but the other 5 nights there was no entertainment or programs after dinner. It was as though Viking wanted you to go to sleep after dinner or have an evening cocktail at your own cost. The WiFi worked very well in the cabin and public rooms. The tv in the cabin was a small flat screen and had a sports channel so we could watch both Wimbeldon and the World Cup. Unfortunately there weren't any tvs in the public rooms to watch with your fellow guests. I can't say enough about the crew-Viking should recognize the crew on this ship. Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
My wife and I have traveled extensively, and I grew up as an Air Force brat and lived all over the world, so I'd like to propose that I know a little bit about travel, to know when I am being treated well, and to also know when it is ... Read More
My wife and I have traveled extensively, and I grew up as an Air Force brat and lived all over the world, so I'd like to propose that I know a little bit about travel, to know when I am being treated well, and to also know when it is or is not, a problem that the Cruise Company should have handled better. My wife and I enjoyed a Paris to Normandy cruise last year with Viking, and we are going to go on another Viking Cruise in April this year, so that ought to give you an idea of how much we liked Viking. But I've read some absolutely ridiculous and laughable reviews in this website, people claiming that situations were not right, or that various conditions on a river should have been prevented by Viking, ie; 1) One review of the Viking Le Rhone River cruise, said that they were mad about the river being too shallow for the Viking ship to proceed to where it was supposed to go. You have to ask yourself, how was Viking supposed to anticipate that condition? How can the river being shallow, be Viking's fault? The reviewer went on to complain that Viking closed the sun deck too often. Yes, Viking does not allow people on the sun deck when the ship goes through low bridges, but at all other times, the sun deck is always open. Then the reviewer went on to complain that the Captain did not speak English? Hello, you are in Europe and not everyone is going to speak English to you ! 2) Another reviewer complained about being just below the "runner's deck" (must have been referring to the sun deck?) and was aggravated that passengers's that were running, were interrupting their sleep. Hello, didn't you look at the ship's deck plan? When you are on a ship, you are going to find that some people and situations are ok, and scenarios might not be what you would prefer. 3) Another reviewer complained that their room was too small? Hello, didn't you look at the ship's room plan information? There is a large amount of information on the Viking website, showing and describing each room category. Besides, who wants to spend any more time in your stateroom, than you have to, when the lovely sites of each river bank are sliding by? I am not associated with Viking, I am just another Viking customer, but the number of people who do not perform even the slightest amount of research before paying their money to go on these cruises, astounds me! My wife and I generally research trips, to insure that we are going to get the best bang for our buck. If you select a trip, do yourself a favor and research what it is all about, and stop using these forums as a place for you to vent about what you didn't get ! Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
This trip was all that we had hoped for and more. We started our trip with an apartment rental in Paris for one week. Being senior citizens with some walking issues we found this to be a relaxing way to see Paris on our own terms. We ... Read More
This trip was all that we had hoped for and more. We started our trip with an apartment rental in Paris for one week. Being senior citizens with some walking issues we found this to be a relaxing way to see Paris on our own terms. We boarded the ship early on Sunday and everything was ready, even lunch. The crew was very welcoming and friendly, as they were throughout the whole week. The cabin was a good size with lots of storage..more than some cruise ships we have been on. It seemed as though our cabin attendant was busy, busy, busy. She was always cheerful and accommodating . There was always plenty of bottled water available at no cost. The food was very good and the service was a little spotty at times. On the walking tours my. husband and I dragged the group down and at one point a fellow passenger commented that we didn't thank them for waiting for us.. After that we broke off from the group and met them on the bus later. My husband has since had a hip replacement. Next time we will lead the pack.. We took this particular cruise to be in Normandy near June 6th..we were there on the 5th. At the American cemetery Viking gave us all a rose to put on a grave and there was a ceremony which was very moving. Because of the 70th anniversary there we hundreds of re-enacters with old uniforms and jeeps and tents set up in the fields. It was a "happening". Monet's garden was wonderful. Les Andelys was a pretty little town with only 3 shops , just my speed. All in all it was a wonderful trip. There is a ton of walking, as there is on every tour. I would not hesitate to recommend this ship to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
1) Ship's Staff: The crew is divided into those that are directly associated with the ship and it's functions, and staff that are responsible for the hotel, food, and associated hotel functions. I use the word "hotel" ... Read More
1) Ship's Staff: The crew is divided into those that are directly associated with the ship and it's functions, and staff that are responsible for the hotel, food, and associated hotel functions. I use the word "hotel" to describe the fact that the ship is really a floating hotel. To sum up, everyone was incredibly friendly, helpful and willing to answer any type of question given to them. As just an example, the concierge would be at the front desk, and she would provide people with city maps, restaurant suggestions, suggested places to shop - at any time. 2) Cabins: There are five pricing levels of cabins on the Viking Spirit, ie; the lowest price is the "standard Stateroom E" which is also on the lowest area of the ship. This is a 120 square foot room with pullman style beds, and a small non-opening window. "Deluxe Stateroom D" is the next sized cabin at 170 square foot, with a larger window and a regular bed. "Deluxe Stateroom C" is also 170 square foot with a window and a standard bed, however, this is on a higher level of the ship. "Deluxe Stateroom B" is 170 square foot with a hotel sized bed and is also located higher on the ship. "Deluxe Stateroom A" is located on the highest area of the ship for cabins, and is also 170 square feet. We took the "B" class of cabin, and it was roomy enough to allow floor stretching, the window opened and provided us with refreshing breezes as the ship sailed along the Seine. 3) Food: This is where the Viking ships really shine! Breakfast (as I previously mentioned), could be made to order omelettes, ham, cheeses, fresh breads and croissants, or you could have oatmeal with various types of fruit, juices, coffee or tea. Lunches would be either in the lounge for lighter fare (salads, small sandwiches, etc) or in the dining room for something more substantial. Dinners would be generally a 3 course affair starting with salads or some other finger food with various types of main courses such as Coq au Vin, Chateaubriand, Frog Legs, Escargot or most frequently, additional courses of American or French items. Desserts were varied, cakes, pastries, ice cream, chocolates, etc. Wine is included with meals, and the varietal would vary based upon what the main courses were, ie; Malbec, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Merlot, etc. Every meal we had was excellent, well prepared, service was prompt and friendly, and the wine was poured as soon as your glass was half full! 4) Lounge and Entertainment: The entire forward area of the ship contains the lounge, room enough for all 145 passengers, a nice bar, surrounded by large windows that provided a panoramic view of the scenery the ship is passing. All meetings were held here, as Viking would hold "briefings" to bring the passengers up to date on tours and/or ship's activities. In the evenings, there was an entertainer, who would play an electronic keyboard to provide us with music to listen, or dance to. 5) Bus Tours: Always well organized, comfortable air conditioned buses, and a tour guide for each bus. Viking provides each cabin with two radio reception devices with an ear bud, that one wears on each tour, and the radio receives tour guide narration such that everyone can hear everything being said without the tour guide having to shout. However, bus touring can be tedious, as you are tied to their schedule and/or the return of the very last folks who may have forgotten about the departure time. 6) Pricing: As I may have said earlier, these are not inexpensive cruises, for example, Deluxe Stateroom E lowest fare is $1,956 per person. Deluxe Stateroom A (summer rate) is $3,906 per person and these rates float up or down, based upon the time of year of your cruise. Summer is the higher rate time frame, and winter is lowest. There are three Viking ships performing the Paris to Normandy cruises, so there is just about always a Viking ship moving up and down the Seine. Note also that airfare (if you use Viking air arrangements) is not included in the cabin prices, it is an additional cost. 7) Passengers: This is not a "young person" kind of cruise, the majority of our passenger list was 65 years or older, mostly retired, but everyone was very friendly and looking forward to each stop along the way. There were 2 - 3 families aboard who frequently were seen playing board games provided by the ship. Yes, there were at least 2 or 3 people who were grumpy, and complained, but everyone figured out who they were and stayed away from them! 8) What would we do differently: Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind, is that we felt we did not have enough time in Paris, and since it is one of our most favorite European cities, and also since we had my in-laws with us and we wanted them to be able to enjoy Paris, we came away feeling that we should have spent more time in Paris at the beginning or end of the cruise. Viking does offer "extended stay" or "early arrival" options, if you have taken advantage of their arranged flights, you can easily add on more Paris time, or one could arrange their own flights and then just go where ever after the cruise. 9) Using Viking arranged Flights: I cannot sufficiently put into words how uncomfortable the Air France flights were, the plane was completely full, the seats were uncomfortable and very narrow, and it was difficult to find a way to achieve any level of restful comfort. Let me put this into perspective for you - I have been traveling the world my entire life, all over the Pacific Ocean, and all over Europe when I worked for Siemens and later, Alcatel. The point being, Celeste andI have flown extensively on many airlines, and the Air France flights we had were among the worst we've ever experienced. Do yourself a favor, make your own air flight arrangements and do not utilize coach ticketing. We've had very good luck with Lufthansa in the past, good seats and good service. We've also flown United quite a few times to Europe, and using their "economy plus" seating provides a very comfortable seat. Pros and Cons of a River Cruise .vs. Ocean Cruises Pros - Outstanding food and wine, fresh croissants & bread at every meal. Their wine selections were excellent and there was a broad selection of varietals. - Fewer passengers with more opportunity to get to know people. As an example, the Viking Spirit carried 145 passengers, and most ocean going cruise ships will contain one to three thousand or more. - More personalized service, the staff are very friendly. - Easy to walk off the ship, no queues to stand in, no boat to haul you ashore. - More time to explore. - Wonderful views of the shoreline along the river. Cons No gym, pools, or jacuzzis. Less Entertainment, no gambling (if you like that kind of thing). Expensive, of course, this depends on the Ocean Cruise you are comparing. Fewer things to do and see on the ship. Older clientele (could be an advantage depending on your preference).   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
My wife and I took the Paris to Normandy cruise May 18, 2014 on the Viking Spirit. I will try to add information that I didn’t see in other reviews. I can reiterate that it is a great vacation, the crew is very customer focused, and we ... Read More
My wife and I took the Paris to Normandy cruise May 18, 2014 on the Viking Spirit. I will try to add information that I didn’t see in other reviews. I can reiterate that it is a great vacation, the crew is very customer focused, and we thoroughly enjoyed the trip. - We used frequent flyer miles to get to Paris, so we took a cab from the airport to the boat. You can buy a transfer from Viking, but they talked me out of it based on cost. We later found out that it is not much more expensive than the cab. The taxi cab driver had difficulty finding the boat, despite my providing the Viking supplied map of it’s location. I was calling the boat to get better information on it’s location when we came across it as we drove north from Pont de Grenelle along Port de Grenelle. There are many boats docked in this area and the Viking sign was partially blocked by a structure. Fare was 62 Euros from CDG for the two of us with 4 bags. - The crew tries to get you in to your room before the official 3PM check in time. We got in by 1PM and sat in the lounge until then. They turn around the boat from the previous cruise in a few hours, since everyone from the previous trip has to be out by 9AM. We found the room cleaning staff very responsive, and they came in a second time each day and made the bed if required. - The boat is docked like a floating hotel for the first 24 hours, so if you didn’t want to do their bus tour, you could explore Paris on your own via the subway. They indicated that the violent crime rate in the city is very low, but there are many pick pockets. There was a report of someone’s phone being swiped on our cruise when they were out on the subway. Watch out for the kids, since they can’t be prosecuted. Each room has a good safe for storing your passport and money, so there is no need to go out with a lot of valuables. - Food is quite good, and you can explore the local French cuisine at dinner if you order from the left side of the menu. There is the same steak, fish, and chicken every night on the right side of the menu if you aren’t feeling adventurous. Quantity of food is adequate, but not excessive. My wife and I lost weight on the cruise, probably because all the walking compensated for the wine and the deserts. We were told at the galley tour that the menu doesn’t change from week to week, but it is different every night of the cruise. At lunch, there is a lack of protein as all the options don’t involve much meat. You can do the salad buffet and order off a menu. Breakfast had an extensive buffet, and you could order poached eggs, eggs benedict, French toast, or pancakes. I always wanted to have French toast in France. - Les Andelys is a one street village with exactly two stores. One store had some good scarves. The hike up the hill to the ruins provided awesome views of the river and country side. The best and most extensive souvenirs were from the store at the Palace of Versailles. The souvenirs were higher quality there with stuff you might actually want to give to people as gifts when you get back. - Dress code is business casual for dinner. Slacks and a shirt for men, and slacks, blouse, and scarf (there were a lot of scarves) for women. Only at the Captains dinner did about 1/3 of men wear a jacket. There were a few dresses, and a couple of ties. - Viking says that other cruise lines include the crew gratuity in the bill, but Viking does not. They provide a recommended gratuity in the booklet they send you a couple of weeks before the cruise. It is 2 Euros per day per person for the cruise director and 10 Euros per day per person per day split among the crew. You pay it when you settle up the bill on the last night. Total for us was 12 Euros x 2 people x 7 days = 168. The crew works hard for it and I think the fact that it is not automatically added to the bill provides motivation to put in their best effort. You also need to bring some 2 Euro and 1 Euro coin for the daily trips. 2 Euros per person for the guide and 1 Euro per person for the driver. So plan on 6 Euros per day for tips. - It is a very international crew. French captain, German cruise management, wait staff from Hungary, Bulgaria, Rumania, etc. Everyone did pretty well with their English and was very friendly and helpful. Our cruise director was Anika, already mentioned in some other reviews. She is very organized, has a good sense of humor, excellent English, and does everything possible to make the cruise enjoyable for everyone. She was very accessible during the entire cruise. She took photos of folks during the excursions and you can get a CD of them at the end of the cruise for 12.50 euros. The wait staff made a couple of order mistakes, maybe because of their limited command of the English language, but when informed of the error, they rapidly fixed it, no questions. They accommodated any request that was possible, e.g., dressing on the side for the salad, an extra appetizer or desert, etc. - We had one need for some pharmaceutical supplies and the front desk seemed to be quite knowledgeable about where the English speaking pharmacies are located at each stop. They handed me a map, and they are easy to find, since they are clearly marked with a green cross sign. - Most people who did Versailles did the half day tour. The full day gives you an extra 3 hours to explore on your own and then they bus you to Paris to meet up with the boat that has taken off at noon. The half day seemed quite adequate, since it also includes some free time to explore. - The cruise is very conducive to making friends. Although most of the passengers were in their 60’s and 70’s, there were many younger, and even a couple of kids. Everyone was from the US or Canada. - One of the enjoyable parts of the cruise that is not highlighted that much is the beautiful scenery along the river north of Paris. There are many chateaus along the river, and it is very relaxing to just sit in the lounge or on the top deck. - The boat is very high tech. Twin radar antennas on the bow, as well as sonar. Glass displays in the control cabin, twin propellers in the rear with 360 degree control and bow thrusters. The boat can rotate in a complete circle in the middle of the river without going forward or backward. Vibration levels and noise in our 3rd floor cabin were barely perceptible. Wifi was slow but adequate, and worked better when the boat was docked. The boat was very clean, and a crew member could be seen cleaning it every day.   Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
This Danube River cruise was our 4th Viking River cruise and we have always enjoyed them. It is a great way to see Europe without having to pack up every day and move to another place. This cruise however was disappointing. The reason for ... Read More
This Danube River cruise was our 4th Viking River cruise and we have always enjoyed them. It is a great way to see Europe without having to pack up every day and move to another place. This cruise however was disappointing. The reason for this is the "rafting up" the boats do when they dock. Out of 8 nights, 6 were tied up next to another boat so when we opened our curtains, we were looking into someone's bedroom on another boat. I wouldn't have minded as much if we had paid for a cabin below without a french balcony but why pay the extra money to have no view but another bedroom? When we made our reservations we should have been told that there was not enough dock space and this was a possibility. It was definately not what we paid for. We also found the excursions were not as interesting as the other cruises we have been on. The food was delicious and rooms comfortable . Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
We reside in Larkspur, California a small town in the County of Marin just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. My wife and I (my wife in particular) were looking forward to returning to France after our last visit in 2001. We had ... Read More
We reside in Larkspur, California a small town in the County of Marin just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. My wife and I (my wife in particular) were looking forward to returning to France after our last visit in 2001. We had heard about the Viking Travel lines via a travel agent. To take advantage of special pricing opportunities we booked our passage on Viking nearly a year earlier. From San Francisco we took a connecting flight to Los Angeles International Airport to where we were directed to another terminal from where our Air France Air Bus 380 would take us to Paris. We were very fortunate in being abl;e to take advantage of an upgrade to business class by Air France. The flight and service on Air France was absolutely suburb! The voyage was most comfortable and the food and beverages offered were excellent. Upon arrival at CDG airport our processing through customs was prompt, the officials most courteous, and our meeting with Viking representatives went without a hitch. We were promptly taken to our ship, given our room assignments along with staff introductions. Later, we were given a tour of some Paris' important sites, particularly along Notre Dame, with a lecture as to the historical significance of the area. From that half day excursion we returned to ship where we were treated to a wonderful meal and the opportunity to meet various fellow voyagers. The port and shore excursions were fascinating (Giverney, Rouen, Omaha Beach, Conflans, etc.). Frankly, the entire voyage was well organized and there are more than enough activities to fill the day. We appreciate the efforts of Anika, our Recreational Director; Beate, our Maitre D' Hotel; our chef Pablo; ;our captain, Fanzy; and the attentive ship service staff which also includes those who managed and maintained the ship). Our first class room was a delight and it was fascinating to see the french countryside move on by through our bedroom window during the night. The ambiance of that room, along with the fabulous meals and entertainment offered were the best. Our departure from the ship was bittersweet as over just a few days we had become attached to the ship and the crew. It was as though we were leaving our family. With Viking we had made arrangements for an extended stay but one in which we had selected a hotel in the Latin Quarter which had been recommended by a family friend. The transfer from the disembarkation point to that hotel went fairly smoothly despite our limited language skills. The hotel was lovely and the our additional week's stay was also delightful. Everything seemed to work out quite well up to and including our flight home from Paris. Viking had helped secure our flight home via a direct Air France Flight to San Francisco, very close to our home. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
We took the Viking river cruise "Paris & the Heart of Normandy" during the last week of March 2014. We arrived in Paris on Sunday morning and were met at the airport by friendly Viking personnel, and taken by bus to the ship, ... Read More
We took the Viking river cruise "Paris & the Heart of Normandy" during the last week of March 2014. We arrived in Paris on Sunday morning and were met at the airport by friendly Viking personnel, and taken by bus to the ship, docked at the Quai de Grenelle with a great view of the Eiffel Tower. I was so excited to be in Paris, a city I have always wanted to visit. Our stateroom, 302, was a decent size. I especially liked that there was plenty of drawer space so we could fully unpack and had room for everything. We had to store our suitcases under the desk as there was no other place to put them. The bed was very comfortable and we never had a problem sleeping. The bathroom was tiny, but everything worked well. Loved the L'Occitaine soap, shampoo, lotion, etc. The best thing about the stateroom was the large window that opened - great for viewing and taking photos from the room. Meals were very good. Breakfast was a buffet, with an omelet station, along with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, yogurt, croissants, etc. There was also a menu where you could order eggs benedict, pancakes, French toast. We rarely ate lunch, but they served a hot lunch in the dining room, and also set up a buffet in the lounge that usually included salads, soup, sandwiches, etc. Dinners were 3 or 4 courses - appetizer, main course (usually a choice of 3), dessert, and a cheese plate. All were very good, some were outstanding. We had the best boeuf bourgignon one night, and the cheese plates were always interesting. We also had duck a l'orange, coq au vin, chateaubriand, all very well done. They also had an "American" menu - steak, grilled chicken - but we always stuck with the more interesting choices. We purchased the "Silver Spirits" package, so all our drinks were included. We had a lot of fun working with Ladislav and Peter in the lounge to choose our bottle of wine for dinner every night. Wine and beer with meals is included in the price of the cruise, but they do have a much nicer wine list available that we made good use of. We were also able to enjoy a mimosa with breakfast and after dinner drinks in the lounge. There was always entertainment in the lounge after dinner. The piano player, Blondie, was enjoyable. We also had French lessons, a lecture about painters and the Seine, a fun music trivia quiz, and a group the presented songs and music "Spirit of France." The staff on the ship could not have been better - all of them worked very hard to provide each passenger with a wonderful experience. Annika, the Program Director, was a total delight - her talks about each stop, her attempts to teach us all a little French, her singing on the music quiz night, she was the best and made every day special. I didn't envy her the job of herding several bus loads of senior citizens and trying to get tours started on time. Beate the Hotel Manager and Birgitte the restaurant manager were a pleasure to deal with, and I was impressed to see them pitching in and helping clear tables, seat people, clean up, and not just supervise. All of the tours we took were very good, lots of interesting information. Our least favorite was the optional (extra cost) tour of the Louvre. Not Viking's fault - the tour guide was excellent, but the Louvre was horrible, terribly overcrowded, just a madhouse and very uncomfortable. We dropped out of that tour earl, just couldn't stand the constant pushing and jostling. Our favorites - hard to choose - Normandy where we got to see my husband's uncle's grave in the American cemetery. Annika had told us to find a cemetery staff member to help us find the grave - not only did they do so, but gave us American and French flags and roses to place at the marker, but rubbed sand from Omaha Beach into the lettering so we could read it for photos, and also took photos of us at the marker. Very special experience. We also really enjoyed the Auvers-sur-Oise tour to see where Van Gogh spent his last days and his grave, the tour of Rouen and all the history from the Vikings to Joan of Arc to World War II. We also purchased the optional tour to Versailles and it was money well spent. We arrived there early and were among the first groups allowed into the palace. Again, the tour guide was excellent and very informative about the history of the palace. I would highly recommend Viking cruises based on our experience. We are already thinking about which river cruise to take next!!   Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
We have taken 5 European river cruises, using different cruise lines. We have enjoyed them all and would recommend any of them to our friends and family. All the crews have been very nice but the entire staff on the Viking Spirit outshone ... Read More
We have taken 5 European river cruises, using different cruise lines. We have enjoyed them all and would recommend any of them to our friends and family. All the crews have been very nice but the entire staff on the Viking Spirit outshone them all! From the moment we arrived at the ship, we were greeted like family and were treated that way throughout the entire cruise! The cruise director escorted us to our cabin, which was already ready for occupancy mid-morning. The hotel manager came by and offered to show us around the ship. When we looked out the window, we noticed that the ship's captain was helping the sailors transfer the luggage. It is hard to describe adequately the incredible atmosphere the staff created throughout the entire week. The cruise director was loads of fun, accompanied us on all the excursions and was always there to help with a smile. The itinerary was perfect! Everything ran very smoothly and we could not have had a better experience! When the week ended, it was very hard for us to leave these people behind. The hugs we gave were reciprocated by hugs that were just as genuine and heartfelt as ours were. We can't say enough good things about the Spirit. Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
This was our first river cruise and we recommend it and plan on river cruising again. We chose Viking because the catalog we received in the mail included an itinerary we had always wanted to do. The age demographic is largely 70+ . Being ... Read More
This was our first river cruise and we recommend it and plan on river cruising again. We chose Viking because the catalog we received in the mail included an itinerary we had always wanted to do. The age demographic is largely 70+ . Being considering younger we did make friends and connect with others our age We departed December 8, 2013 on the Paris Normandy cruise. We visited with family in UK prior to the trip so we did not do the pre stay or post stay in Paris. We did add on transfers once we arrived back in CDG and were very well taken care for our 30 minute ride to the ship. Our cabin was a corner one next to the staircases but was very well laid out and spacious and we liked it over the conventional cabins down the hall. Great storage and use of space. The staff were extremely courteous and helpful throughout the duration of the cruise. Each evening there was a debriefing of next day excursions or ship program. Very well organized. You leave the ship - you turn in your room key and get a pass which you turn in upon your return. This was a very efficient way of figuring out who was on or off the ship. There is only one dining time and it is open seating. The food was very good. Not excellent but very good. The portions are not those you would find on ocean liner cruisers, which is fine unless you are there for a food frenzy. The food was always elegantly presented . They tried hard to make it regionally based upon the day's visit. The breakfast buffet was very generous but repetitive, however, you could order a la carte. We lunched in the dining room most days vs. the buffet. I feel the lunch menus could have been a little bit more imaginative and did get the feeling that we were at the end of the season when coming to menu creation. At the captain's farewell cocktail they ran out of hors d'oeuvres after being passed to only half of the lounge. When pointed out they did bring more to the entire lounge. I admit I am a food and service snob and did note that one time they used a saucer as a serving dish and I suspect that the crab meat on crab cake night was fake crab meat. To my husband's delight one day they did serve hot dogs :(n For wine lovers such as us ...we would very often buy a bottle of wine at the many local wine shops and they either corked it right there at the shop or the ship would do it for you. There was not any question bringing it on board and they were happy to offer a corkage service at no charge. The entertainment on board is limited. There was a resident piano player who was somewhat engaged. They did have a spirit of Normandy night with local entertainers which was good. Most nights we were tired from daily activities we crashed after dinner. They did offer some "cultural" activities during sailing. Some things they listed as on board events were pretty lame. Would have liked to seen more educational topical info as in lectures relating to upcoming stops. The excursions were excellent and the guides were all fabulous. We opted not to do the intro to Paris half day tour the first day since we had been to the cite several times before and explored Montmartre and Ile st. Louis instead. Visit this small island on the seine by foot when you walk to the left side of Notre Dame and over the bridge. It is literally far from the madding crowd of tourists with small, and I mean, small restaurants and shops. Be sure and get ice cream! Beautiful gift shops and galleries. The Metro is extremely easy to use and in fact if you take the walking, get acquainted, walking tour the first day and the guide instructs you on how to use the Metro. Taxis are very expensive and Metro is the way to go. Our first excursion out of Paris was to the site of Vincent Van Gogh's last days. This particular day was bitter cold and we did not layer properly. Loved all we learned about this very troubled and brilliant artist. Rouen is great shopping. Wish there had been more to the Joan of Arc site. We did take advantage to leave the ship for dinner and dine at a local restaurant recommended by the ship. A Petite Auberge. A delightful culinary experience at what we thought was a very reasonable price. Recommend doing this to get a true local flavor outside of the ship dining experience. The highlight of our cruise was the visit to the Normandy Beaches. It was somewhat of a pilgrimage for us after losing my 95 year old Father-in-law this year who was a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge. You can read and study in history books, or online, but when you are there it is totally incredible. Very emotional day. They had a ceremony for our tour group at the monument which was very poignant. The day of the castle tour I chose to shop the two gift shops with other female companions. Two nice shops for last minute gifts. My husband did the castle tour which is ancient ruins on hillside and a challenging hike for most. This is a short 2 hour dock. The final day was Versailles. Our other reason for picking this itinerary. We opted for the whole day tour and I think this was a mistake. Unless you did not complete all you wanted to see in Paris prior to this point then opt for the half day tour. I really regret doing the full day. Half day or full day you get to see the same tour of Versailles Palace with free time to browse the gardens and gift shop. The whole day gives you 1.5 hours in the town of Versailles for lunch and shopping. Quaint but just more shopping and eating. Back to Paris on the bus and they drop you off for 2.5 hours at the Champs Élysées and return you to the boat at 0630 pm in time for dinner on the last night. Meanwhile the boat sails from Conflans to Paris during the afternoon and you leisurely enjoy the afternoon on the river. The coaches were all very clean. Follow the tipping guide .......if you are lucky enough to get Thierry as your guide in Paris or Versailles you are blessed and consider that a huge bonus. He is very entertaining! Dressing tips: Dining dressing is casual. Many do not change from day clothes. The captains toast/dinner was really no different than any other night. Ladies ..just take a different scarf and jewelry and wear the same outfit. Layer for those excursions at this time of year. Temperature in the cabin was a little erratic. I do have to say the linens and bed comforters were super soft and comfortable. On a final note. They only gave us a two hour window for check in at CDG and it was a very tight time frame. Long lines at check in and security and when we arrived at the gate they were boarding the plane. No duty free shop time! Would we travel Viking again? Possibly...it was great value for the money but I would explore other river cruises first. Bon voyage!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
My DH and I disembarked from the Viking Spirit last Sunday from our Viking Paris to Normandy cruise. This was our third cruise, first river cruise and first visit to France. This was a great cruise. When we chose to go in mid-November we ... Read More
My DH and I disembarked from the Viking Spirit last Sunday from our Viking Paris to Normandy cruise. This was our third cruise, first river cruise and first visit to France. This was a great cruise. When we chose to go in mid-November we knew it would be chilly and rainy. We did have some rain, but other than Rouen, never more than a drizzle while were outside touring. The Spirit is small and intimate. The crew and staff were very friendly. The Seine and the villages were incredible. It is a quieter experience than an ocean cruise with “BIG EXCURSIONS” at every port. For us, the whole purpose of this trip was the trip to the Normandy Beaches – it was the only BIG EXCURSION. This virtually all-inclusive cruise meant our end of cruise bill was a very nice surprise – just under 475 Euros. That included about 200 Euros in tips shared among the Program Director and the staff, 150 Euros for the Versailles excursion, 50 Euros for laundry onboard the ship, and 60-70 Euros for the bar bill (both hard and soft drinks.) We spent another 50 Euros on additional tips to specific individuals. Unlike ocean cruises, they did not push shopping or spend a lot of time in places for shopping. began our trip with a Viking three day pre-cruise extension in Paris and used Viking transfers at each point in the trip. The Viking transfers were excellent. People were friendly. We greeted people with “bonjour” and departed with “merci” and “au revoir.” We know some very rudimentary French phrases and thankfully almost everyone we met spoke far better English than we spoke French. Pre-cruise extension (through Viking): We stayed at Le Méridien Etoile in Paris 17 Porte Maillot. Viking has a concierge onsite for about two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. He gave us a welcome packet that included recommended restaurants and lots of transportation information from the hotel. We arrived at the hotel about 10:30 AM and had room keys in hand by about 11:00. Paris is very expensive and the hotel’s bar and restaurant were no exception. The hotel is a two-minute walk from the Port Maillot metro station and RER train station. Many bus lines are within a five-minute walk. All are very easy to use. We followed Rick Steve’s Guidebook recommendation to buy 2 carnets (20) of metro tickets and ended up with only two tickets remaining. There’s also a shopping mall across the street that includes a grocery store with a great wine selection. This was a great hotel and worked for us. There are mixed reviews on this hotel because it is very upscale and modern but is not in the city center. If you are looking for a luxury boutique hotel, this hotel is not for you. However it was a fifteen-minute metro ride from the Louvre. The rooms were a bit smaller than American hotel rooms, which is typical in Paris, but not as tiny as some reviews indicated. The Viking package included breakfast at the hotel – a fantastic breakfast buffet with both European and American breakfast items. The hotel concierge desk was very helpful, especially when the Viking concierge was not there. By the third day, we figured out that we should have discussed our itinerary for the day with the Viking concierge to get transportation instructions from point A to point B to Point C. We walked about 10,000 miles in Paris and missed some transportation options that would have made our days a little less intense. We had a wonderful time in Paris but were exhausted. We walked a lot! I am glad we did this before rather than after the cruise. The trans-atlantic flight home would have tough when were this tired. We booked Eiffel Tower summit tickets online before we left. We tried to buy the Paris Two Day Museum Pass when we arrived but could not find anyplace that sold it. We bought advance tickets to the Louvre and D’Orsay from the Hotel concierge. There were incredibly long lines at the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the D’Orsay. Don’t go without a pass or advance tickets that let you enter through a much less busy entrance. We did see places to buy the museum passes as we departed the Louvre. Based on the places we went, the cost of the advance tickets and other entrance fees were about the same cost as the 2 Day museum pass. We elected not to go to Versailles during our precruise stay because we had other things we wanted to do. Embarkation: A day or two before embarkation, the Viking concierge told us that because of recent rainfall, the Seine was probably still too high to get the Viking Spirit into Paris. We were bussed about and hour to Conflans to embark. We learned mid-week that we were going to be able to sail to Paris upon our return. When we arrived at the ship, bags were unloaded immediately and senior staff greeted us. Our cabin (a deluxe B) was very comfortable and had a lot of storage. The bed, pillows and towels were great. I picked this particular cabin level because the window opened. It was smaller than the concierge cabins we stayed in on Celebrity cruises but it was fine. The bathroom was cruise-ship compact and the shower design DID NOT LEAK WATER onto the bathroom floor. They had L’Occitane products (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, bar soap and shower gel). A hair dryer was provided. The vanity included one 110 outlet and two 240 outlets. Viking provided a large bottle of water in the cabin that was replenished as needed. Another reviewer mentioned that when someone is seated at the vanity table (where the outlets are accessible), the other person couldn’t get to the window side of the bed. I wished I’d remembered that because I would have put my clothes on the window side so DH could have had access to his clothes while I was drying my hair. We never bothered changing the clothes from one side to the other. Coffee and tea were provided 24/7 along with cookies and muffins at different times of the day. I did not like the coffee from the coffee machine, which produced all kinds of coffee drinks. Wine, beer and soft drinks were free with meals. Coffee was strong and excellent in the dining room. Items can be ordered from the bar at other times. The bar prices were very reasonable (I.E., about 6 Euros for a martini and 2.20 Euros for a soda or sparkling water.) Viking also offered a beverage package, which we did not buy since a wide range of beverages were provided during meal times and we didn’t think we’d it would be a good value for us. We did bring wine onboard and bought beverages at the bar. The bar staff worked very hard but it seemed like they need more staff at peak times. They never remembered our drink orders. There were port talks every evening in the lounge that provided details for the next day. When leaving the ship, we gave our room keys to reception and they give us a card with our group number and boarding passes to return to the ship. The boarding passes had contact information for the ship in case we needed it. When we returned from the tour, we handed both the passes and the group card back into reception and they give us back our room keys. It is the manual version of scanning your seapass whenever disembark/embark the ship. It was very fast to get on and off. Passengers were divided into two to four groups for the excursions. The concierge put people traveling together into the same tour groups and accommodated requests to put us in the same groups as our new friends. Attire: Daytime - whatever you were comfortable in for touring. Comfortable clothes (many wore a lot of jeans) and our rain coats because of the weather. We wore comfortable, water-proof, hiking shoes appropriate for gravel and cobblestones. If you want to blend in, daytime attire for Paris is different - is very upscale with perfect hair and makeup for women and more tailored clothes for men. Dinner Attire – Business casual (light) onboard. Khakis, nice jeans, collared shirts for men. No sloppy t-shirts, etc. Some people changed for dinner, others did not. Food: Breakfast - served in the dining room every morning. There was a very good breakfast buffet. We could also order omelets, pancakes, French toast and other items off a menu. Lunch – usually served in the both the lounge (sandwiches and salads) and in the dining room for a salad bar and made to order items. We ate in the dining room, except for one day and were very happy with the meals. Dinner - There is one open-seating for dinner in the dining room. Everything was ordered off the menu. Everyone goes in together and finds a table. There were tables for four, six and eight. There might have been a few tables for two. They do not allow you to reserve tables and I think this policy should be reconsidered. There were two groups of people - those who sat with different people every night and those who always sat together. We sat with two other couples whenever we could. Each “sit together” group learned to dispatch someone to get a table as soon as the doors to the dining room opened in the evening. The dinners themselves were good to excellent. Beverage service was fairly good and unlimited. Food service was a little slow especially when the dining room was full. There were things I loved and some I didn’t care for and the waiters always asked if I’d prefer something else. Beef seemed inconsistent but the fish was always excellent. There was always something on the menu that appealed to me. Dinner was relaxed and took a couple of hours. A pianist entertained in the lounge sometimes during the day and everyday before dinner. He was wonderful. There was after dinner entertainment in the lounge on some nights but we didn't go. This trip was about the daytime tours for us and after dinner we went to our cabin. Some minor annoyances: little things like ordering the entire meal at once, bread plates on the table through dessert and having a server reach across me to pick plates were aggravating. The staff worked very hard but needed better training to serve properly. I don’t think there was enough staff to give superior service to the number of guests in the dining room. Excursions Monday - morning excursion was a bus tour around Paris with stops at the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. We had an excruciating 1½ hour bus ride in rush hour traffic back to Paris. Our guide, Thierry, was excellent and is one of the Rick Steve’s guides in Paris. We had a ride through the city center, stopped for a toilet break and a great view of the Eiffel Tower. 
The last stop was Notre Dame and that visit was fast (since we lost a lot of time in rush hour traffic.) Viking took us to lunch – three courses: french onion soup, duck and dessert, two beverages (wine or soft drinks) and coffee and we finished about 2:00 PM. There were three options for the afternoon. Bus back to the ship after lunch, Paris on your own, or optional Louvre tour with a guide (you had to pay extra.) For those of us staying in Paris, there was a 5:30 PM bus back to the ship in Conflans. Annika, the Program Director, and Thierry, our guide, had lunch with us. Both spent a lot of time with each couple ensuring that we knew how to get where we wanted to go and how to get from where were to the late bus pickup point. The rush hour bus ride back to the ship was just as excruciating as the morning ride. Tuesday – We skipped the shore excursion, which was a short bus ride into the village of Auvers-sur-Oise, favored by van Gogh and other artists. We’d spent five exhausting days in Paris and needed a break. We stayed on board the Spirit with about a dozen others and sailed from Conflans, stopped briefly to pick up the people who went on the shore excursion and sailed onto Rouen. We had pretty scenery and a relaxing morning. Feedback on the shore excursion was that it was very interesting. This was the only day we ate lunch in the lounge. They served a special Norman buffet with lots of interesting food. However, we decided that the lounge tables were too small and too low to eat comfortably especially in a very large group. Wednesday – Rouen. We spent the morning cruising down the Seine toward Rouen. The countryside was beautiful and it was a relaxing. Annika gave a lecture about Joan of Arc in the lounge that was very good. They also have some of the same information in the daily paper. We arrived in Rouen after lunch and there was a walking tour around the town in pouring rain. It is a picturesque town with historic buildings and streets. It had lots of shopping opportunities. We are not big shoppers but we bought two Christmas ornaments and two macaroons. We were cold and wet so we headed back to the ship. We were a little concerned when we docked because our cabin was on the river-side and there was a brightly lit carnival across the river. I don’t know whether the lights would have bothered us but they were turned off by the time we went to bed. We overnighted here so we could have had dinner you off the ship, but we ate onboard. Thursday – Normandy Beaches. This is the day we were waiting for and the reason we chose this cruise. There were two tour options – American or Commonwealth. We choose American beaches. We had a two-hour (but we knew that when we booked.) very rainy bus ride from Rouen. We had an excellent guide on our bus and our tour. We drove past Gold Beach, Courseulles sur Mer and Juno Beach on our way. Our first stop was the Arromanches Debarkment Museum was very well done and the only shopping opportunity. We saw the remnants of Mulberry A. The rain stopped and it was just cold and windy. After visiting the museum, we met the whole group for lunch in Arromanches where Viking provided lunch at a local restaurant. Afterward, we headed back to the bus for the afternoon tour. We visited the American Military Cemetery and then the museum. Both were very emotional experiences. We also saw German bunkers and machine gun nests. Our last stop was Omaha Beach. We walked on the beach and looked at the sheer bluffs that the Americans had to scale. It was an amazing day. The bus ride back to the boat was uneventful. Friday – Les Andeles. We spent the morning cruising back toward Paris and stopped just after lunch in Les Andeles for about two hours. It’s a very small quaint village with shops and the remains of the castle of Richard the Lionhart perched on the bluff. The shore excursion was a walking tour was through the little town and then up to the castle remains. The hike was vertical up the castle but the views were breathtaking. There were two shops in the village that were interesting. One was a store with home goods. It was too crowded with other passengers so we headed to the other shop, a small clothing/accessory store with ornaments, scarves and jewelry, and other items. 

We got there ahead of the crowd and bought two Christmas ornaments. The power-shoppers came in and we left to head back to the ship. Annika gave a debarkation talk that afternoon. Viking provided color-coded luggage tags that corresponded to departure time and location. Saturday– Conflans and Versailles. Shore excursion options included Conflans on your own or a guided walking tour of Conflans. The optional (you have to pay for it) excursions were ½ day trip to Versailles or a full day trip to Versailles and Paris. We opted for the ½ day in Versailles, which I think, was the best option. The full day included the palace and gardens and an additional two hours to explore the gardens followed by a bus trip to Paris with two hours on your own in Paris. It was cold in windy in November and the gardens, while incredible, were past their prime. We would not have wanted to have the two extra hours in Versailles. Versailles is incredibly crowded but we were one of the first groups scheduled to go in. By the time we left, it was very crowded. Our guide was very good and I am glad we elected to do the Viking excursion rather than do it on our own. We headed back to the ship for lunch and sailed for Paris. We got back to the ship about 12:00. I think was the only time that anyone got left behind. The daily said departure time was 1:00PM. The sign at reception said “be back by 12:45PM.” Someone in our group said that Annika had briefed us that we would depart immediately once the busses were offloaded. I think we sailed between 12:30 and 12:45 before all the boarding passes had been turned in and all keys returned. After paging for people in a couple of cabins, we returned to Conflans and pick them up. They had crossed the street to go into shops. We docked about a half-mile from the Eiffel Tower about 6:00 PM. Sunday – Our departure time was 7:30 AM so our luggage had to be out by 6:45AM. We put it out early and went to breakfast. When we arrived at our departure terminal at Charles De Gaule, a Viking representative was waiting for us. She went with us to the check-in kiosks, thank goodness, and helped is through it.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
Viking River Cruise to Normandy Beach. This is just one person’s opinion. I love being on the water be it a boat or a ship. And I’ve done many cruises on the bigger cruise ships. This was my first Riverboat Cruise. And my review is ... Read More
Viking River Cruise to Normandy Beach. This is just one person’s opinion. I love being on the water be it a boat or a ship. And I’ve done many cruises on the bigger cruise ships. This was my first Riverboat Cruise. And my review is only regarding the Paris to Normandy cruise. First, let me say that the Viking Spirit was clean; the food was good; and the crew was friendly and helpful. It’s an 8-day cruise including 2 days in Paris. So, it takes 6 days to go to Omaha beach and back to Paris. The trip stops along the way at towns with one or two churches, souvenir shops and restaurants. The cruise is really short hops from town to town until you get to the port for Omaha Beach. There, you get on a bus and take a 2+-hour bus ride each way to the beach and the adjoining American Cemetery. There, the ceremony for us was moving and well worth seeing and experiencing. It took 6 days of cruising to get to Omaha beach and back when it is just about a 3 hour drive to get there from Paris. It’s just me but for this particular cruise, I think I would rather do the day trip to Normandy and then see more of France in its warmer regions. Mind you, I haven’t given up on Riverboat Cruises. On the plus side, the Captain was cordial and very informative in the wheelhouse tour. The cruise director, Anaka was charming and efficient; and Eva in particular, and the rest of the dining staff were friendly and personable. The food was very good and just the right amount. Not too much. The recommendations for the main course by the chef each night was always a beef dish which I don't eat but the fish, chicken and vegetarian dishes were all very good. I have nothing bad to say about Viking. I would recommend Viking for River Cruises. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
My DH and I (early 40's) disembarked from the Viking Spirit last Sunday from our Paris to Normandy cruise. I expected it to be good, but it really was great. I had read every single comment and review that I could get my hands on ... Read More
My DH and I (early 40's) disembarked from the Viking Spirit last Sunday from our Paris to Normandy cruise. I expected it to be good, but it really was great. I had read every single comment and review that I could get my hands on prior to this trip so I knew there were some things that people had complaints about. But I've also traveled enough to know that some people aren't happy doing anything so I took it all with a grain of salt. As it turned out, we had a fabulous vacation. Here are my thoughts on the ship and crew and also some notes about the trip in general.Sunday (and first impressions) We had arrived in Paris a few days early on our own so we gave the address of the ship to the Taxi driver and he took us there with no issues. The moment we stepped out of the taxi our bags were whisked away and we were greeted by Markus (the hotel manager) and Clara (the concierge). We arrived around 1:30 pm and our cabin (225) was ready so Markus took us there and made us feel welcome. On a side note, others who arrived earlier from the airport had their cabins available and were able to freshen up pretty quickly. We found the housekeeping crew to be very efficient so that’s not surprising.They had a light lunch available in the lounge so we had a nice lunch and then unpacked. We found our room very comfortable and the storage more than enough. The bed was great. The window is much bigger than I thought it would be so I was really happy about that. I picked this particular cabin level because the window opened and that was very important to me. True, when someone is seated at the vanity table, the other person can’t get by to the window side of the bed. We solved this issue by putting my clothes in the drawers on the window side of the bed so that when I was at the vanity, my husband could access the closet, the bathroom and his clothes without issue.The bathroom is compact, but that’s to be expected on a ship. The space was manageable and it had a small clothes line and a medicine cabinet with more than enough room for our toiletries. There was a shelf under the sink that offered more storage, but we didn't need it. They had L’Occitane products (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, bar soap and shower gel) that I loved. There is a hair dryer in the dresser drawer, but it’s a 1200 watt. Americans are used to an 1800 watt so if that’s a big deal for you, bring your own. It did take a little longer to dry my hair, but I knew that ahead of time and the slight inconvenience certainly isn't worth lugging your own hair dryer about. We did stay in 3 other hotels in France with the same hair dryer so it must be a standard. And if memory serves, there is one 110 outlet and two 240 outlets at the vanity. Our apple products and my curling iron didn't require a converter so we just had two small adapters and made it through fine.Also in the room is a very large bottle of water that they replenish whenever you need it. There is also bottled water available on tables when you leave for tours and of course it’s always available in the lounge. There is a coffee/tea bar on one side of reception with a magical coffee machine that makes every kind of coffee drink I could ever want. And I did notice they had cookies and other goodies out on that table at various times. Wine, beer and soft drinks are free with meals and then normal bar prices during off times. The bar staff is very good. They remembered my husband’s beer and scotch brands immediately.After dressing for dinner, we went into the lounge for the Captain’s welcome reception and then the introduction of the Program Director, Anika, and the Maître D, Joey. Anika then gave a port talk for the next morning (her first of many). Now, I had read a review that said that there wasn't enough seating for all of the guests. That’s just not true. There is ample seating. What happens is that people sit toward the back of the room to be the first to leave for dinner. So the seating at the very front (bow of the ship) is vacant. If you get there right when it starts it looks like there is nowhere to sit. So get there a little early. And I do recommend going to all of them. Anika is engaging and funny and when you leave you have a clue about what’s going on the next day.For tours, you give your room keys to reception and they give you a card that has your group number on it and also a card that is essentially a “boarding pass” for the ship. It has contact information for the ship should you run into trouble anywhere. You board the bus that has your group number and that is also your guide. When you return from the tour, you hand both the pass and the group card back into reception and they give you back your room keys. It’s very organized and the best way for them to know who is on and off the ship. I did read some complaints that there were huge backups to get back on the ship but never did we experience this. We might have waited a couple of minutes, but nothing major. It seemed a very organized way to get people into groups and also make sure everyone is accounted for on the ship.Now we come to dinner. If you've been on an ocean cruise, you need to throw your expectations out the window. This isn't a feeding frenzy where there are multiple venues for multiple times. There is ONE seating for dinner. Everyone goes in together and finds a table. There were tables for 4, tables for 6 and I think a few tables for 8. One of the things DH and I don’t particularly like is having to sit with different people for each meal. Luckily, we met one couple at the onset (Bob and Ann) and ended up sitting with them each evening. We sat near the back on the right and Zoran was our server with Filip assisting. Both were exceptional. Also we had during the course of the week Lukas and Bernadette for lunches and both of them were exceptional.The dinners themselves were really, really good. True, there were a couple of things that weren't quite to my taste during the week (one soup and one dessert), but the rest were quite good. There was always something on the menu that appealed to me. There were 3 options on the right side of the menu that were staples (steak, chicken and something else) in case the offerings for that day didn't sound appealing to you, but I never ordered from that side. In fact, only once did one of our 4 go to that side of the menu. And my DH and I aren't foodies, but Bob and Ann are very well traveled and knowledgeable about food and they agreed that everything was excellent. The portions were not huge, but then not small either. After a starter, a main and a dessert (plus cheese plate for DH), we left dinners full but not stuffed. And they would bring you more if you wanted it, but we never did. A couple of times they brought around a platter of one of the mains that I guess they had extra left over in case you wanted an additional portion. Everyone seemed to be served around the same time but the meals did take a couple of hours. Honestly, we enjoyed our company so much that we couldn't believe that it would be 9-9:30 when we got up from dinner. But I don’t recall ever having to wait. It was just a nice leisurely pace and to us that didn't seem too slow or too rushed.I know they had some entertainment in the lounge on some nights but I can’t comment as we didn't go. This trip was about the daytime tours for us and after dinner we went to our cabin each night to prepare for the next day and relax before bed.Monday morning - bus tour around Paris with stops at the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. We had been in Paris for a few days and had been to the Eiffel Tower and to Notre Dame so weren't planning to do this, but then decided to go ahead to get an overview. I’m really glad we did. Our guide, Thierry, was incredibly funny. He is one of the Rick Steve’s guides in Paris and did a great job. We stopped for a great view of the Eiffel Tower in which to take pictures and then DH and I got to see some of the areas we hadn't had time for that we will plan to stop at on our next visit. The last stop was Notre Dame and since we had done that already, we broke from the group and did a little shopping and then had coffee at a nearby café waiting for group and the bus to arrive. The group had the tour of Notre Dame and then some free time.Monday afternoon – optional tour of the Louvre. Since we did the Louvre earlier, we skipped this tour. I can’t remember how much it was (maybe 49 euros?). After speaking to other passengers, it seems like they did pretty much the route that we did, hitting the highlights of Mona Lisa, Venus DeMilo, etc. But here’s my thing with the Louvre. I don’t think it should be done that way. The Louvre is MASSIVE, crowded and there are stairs everywhere. To get to each main piece it’s up the stairs, down the stairs, up the stairs, down the stairs, passing artwork that deserves attention in its own right. If I remember correctly, Thierry told us that if you spent 1 minute in front of each piece it would take 3 years to see everything. In the future, I believe we’ll take one wing and slowly make our way through. But I completely understand why they do the tour the way they do because it’s exactly what WE did. But just note that you’re in for an exhausting 4 hours.Tuesday - Giverny and Monet’s house and gardens. I must admit, this was the part that I was looking forward to and it didn't disappoint. We started early and our guide was Christophe. He was kind of like a nutty professor, but very knowledgeable and we liked him a lot. The water garden and the main gardens were beautiful. The house was interesting but I could have skipped it and been fine. One lady in our group got yelled at in the kitchen for taking photos. I’m not sure what was unclear about that. There are signs entering the house and then the person taking your ticket looks you straight in the eye and says, “No photos in the house.” Yet a man and woman in our group took pictures in every single room, which irritated me to no end. Please obey the instructions!Afterward, we went to the little café in Giverny and went into some of the small shops, but you also have the option of visiting the museum or walking to the church where Monet and his family are buried. On the bus, people remarked that they were happy with whichever option they had chosen.After lunch, we had free time to walk around the town of Vernon. I believe there was a painting lecture back on the ship and then a class to do your own impressionist painting for 10 euros. Even though I can’t even draw stick figures, I kind of regret not doing that. Vernon has some shops and we visited the grocery store to get a couple of sodas and to look at the different products. Everyone was really friendly, but of course we are very conscious of following the French etiquette rules of greeting the people you are to interact with using “bonjour” when arriving and then saying “merci” and “au revoir” when leaving. I noticed some others from the ship who didn’t do this and they didn't have the same friendly encounters that we did.Wednesday – Rouen. We spent the morning cruising down the Seine toward Rouen. The countryside was very pretty and it was a relaxing cruise. There was a lecture about Joan of Arc in the lounge. I didn't go, but my DH said it was good. They did also have some of the same information in the daily paper for this day and I was able to read up on that. We arrived in Rouen after lunch and there was a walking tour around the town. I had twisted my knee before the trip and the Louvre (up the stairs, down the stairs) had aggravated it so I decided to stay aboard an ice it because I knew after the tour I wanted to go into the town and visit a pottery shop that I had seen on the Rick Steve’s France DVD. My DH did the tour and the tour guide was Christophe (from the day before). He really enjoyed it. They were unable to go into the cathedral because there was a service inside, but they did get to hear the bells ring and see the outside.After DH returned from the tour, he and I walked around the town and the cobblestones made me extra glad I had stayed aboard and missed the tour. I found the pottery shop, but actually ended up buying from one around the corner 2 small handpainted dishes. I also bought a purse from the Longchamps store and some chocolates from the cholatier. There are a lot of shopping opportunities here in Rouen. We overnighted here so you could have had dinner off the ship, but we liked the dinners aboard so came back to dress for dinner.Thursday – Normandy Beaches. This is the day my DH was anticipating. When they had the welcome briefing at the beginning of the tour Anika said that if anyone was interesting in doing a tour that focused on the British Commonwealth instead of the American one to sign up. And since we were coming back to Normandy the following week and hiring a personal guide for the American sector, we eagerly signed up for the Commonwealth one. As it turned out, there were 10 of us for the British Commonwealth tour and we had a very nice touring bus for just the 10 of us.As part of the Commonwealth tour (and since there’s not as many British/Canadian stops), the first stop is in Bayeux to view the Bayeux Tapestry, which is 950 years old and depicts the story of William the Conquerer. After that, we met up with the whole group for lunch in Arromanches and here is where we lost most of our 10. 2 split off to take a taxi to Utah beach, as they had family connections. 3 split off to join the American tours (they wanted to visit the Tapestry and then the American Cemetery). 1 had mobility issues and only wanted to visited the tapestry so just stayed on the bus the rest of the time. So basically we ended up with 4 of us doing the rest of the tour. We went to the British/Canadian cemetery, Juno beach and then Pegasus Bridge. We had Christophe again and he and my DH got on famously so they talked war the whole 2 hour ride back to the ship.Friday – Les Andeles. We spent the morning cruising back down the Seine toward Paris and stopped just after lunch in Les Andeles. It’s a very small village with 2 shops and the remains of the castle of Richard the Lionhart perches on the bluff. The walking tour was through the little town and then UP to the castle remains. There was no way my knee was going to allow me to do that climb (and it IS a climb) so I peeled off the walking tour to visit the shops. One is a lovely store with home goods (pillow and candles and decorative items). There were a LOT of things I could have bought but in the end just bought a magnet. The other store is a small clothing/accessory store with scarves and jewelry, some purses and vintage lace items. Our stay in Les Andeles was short. We left at 3:00 to continue our journey. My DH really enjoyed the walking tour but did say that unless you’re reasonably fit, you shouldn’t attempt it. However, if you do and it gets to be too much, you can simply turn around and go back down.Friday afternoon debarkation talk. I must say, Viking has this down to a science. Anika gave a talk about how the debarkation would work for Sunday. They had people doing transfers to the airport, transfers to a hotel for the 3 day extension, transfers to the Vikings southern France cruise and then people like us who needed a taxi to go to the next step of our trip. They have different color tags that correspond to what time you need to leave the ship for your circumstance. Then, there is a sticker for the tag that tells what airport terminal you are going to. So if you left at 7:30 for CDG Terminal 2, you had a red tag with a Terminal 2 sticker. This allowed the people moving and loading the luggage to know where to send your luggage and at what time. It really was very organized. You just had to look up your cabin number on the form to find the color tag to get and the correct sticker. But if you don’t understand (and a few of the older guests didn’t), just go to Anika after the talk and she’ll help you. Saturday– Conflans and Versailles. There were several options here. You could stay and visit Conflans on your own. You could stay and take a walking tour of Conflans (which highlights the pretty house boats). You could take a ½ day trip to Versailles. You could do the full day trip to Versailles. With the full trip, you do the ½ day trip with everyone then you have several more hours in the gardens while the ship is sailing back to Paris. After Versailles, you get on a bus, drive to Paris and then have 2 hours in Paris before the ship docks and the bus brings you back.We did the ½ day tour of Versailles and I believe of the 2, that is the best option for the weather we had in May. Since spring is VERY late to Paris this year, it was around 50 degrees. The tulips had gone and there really was nothing else in bloom. So even though the gardens are massive, I believe we had more than enough time to get an overview. Plus, I wouldn’t have wanted to spend a whole day walking around Versailles then another 2 hours shopping in Paris before I could rejoin the ship.We loved Versailles and had the same guide as on our City tour of Paris (Thierry). We actually knew he was going to be the guide because he had mentioned it before so we asked specifically to be in our group and Anika arranged it for us. One thing about Versailles is that it’s incredibly crowded but since we were one of the first groups scheduled we got to go in and have a reasonably uncrowded experience. By the time we left, the line to get in was crazy. I would hate to see it when it’s sunny and warm!Sunday – Anika had arranged for a taxi to take us to the train station for our train to Bayeux to continue our journey. It went off without a hitch. We had an early breakfast then went back our room to gather our things. We had to have our luggage out into the hallway 45 minutes before our departure time. We then vacated our room to sit in the lounge until time for us to go to allow Maria (our room attendant) to get in and clean for the next guest. Either way, though, they ask you to vacate your room by 9am to give them a chance to do their work. But we were out by 7:15 and sat in the lounge talking until our taxi pulled up right on time at 8am.Overall: This was a great cruise. We did have some rain and it was colder than we would have liked, but we had clear skies for the main things so we were lucky in that regard. Here are just some other observations:Breakfast: served in the dining room every morning. There is an extensive breakfast buffet, plus some items you can order off the menu (or you can do a combination of both). Very good. Especially loved the oatmeal with lots of toppings.Lunch – usually served in the lounge for sandwiches and salads and then in the dining room for a salad bar and made to order items. We always ate in the dining room and were very happy with the meals.Internet – was very slow at times in our cabin, better earlier in the mornings. The lounge seems to be the best place for internet so if I were downloading something or attaching pictures to emails I would go to the lounge. Not a big inconvenience since we were in the lounge a lot. We took our ipad and it was fine. They do have a couple of laptops available to borrow if you just want to check in.Daytime Attire - for the daytime, whatever you were comfortable in for touring. We wore jeans mostly and our rain coats because of the weather. Wear comfortable, broken-in shoes that are appropriate for gravel and cobblestones. Some people wore t-shirts and shorts to breakfast and lunch, which was perfectly fine.Dinner Attire – mostly golf shirts or long sleeved collared shirts for the men with casual slacks. Several men wore nice jeans with their nice shirts and after seeing that, my DH wore his nice, dark jeans a couple of times without feeling at all out of place. At the Captain’s farewell dinner, there were 3 men in sport coats and 1 man with a tie. Everyone else dressed the same as any other dinner. For the women, it was mostly slacks and blouses. I brought a black pair of trousers, a black pair of dress crepe pants and then blouses and scarves that took up almost no room in the suitcase. I did see a few dresses.Information: Viking has a whole website section entitled YOUR TRIP. Ready it. Read every section in it. It’s the best way to know what to expect. For example: Tipping the Guides: Yes, the Viking people get gratuities (and they earn every penny), but you also have to tip the guides and the bus drivers after every encounter because they do not get part of the Viking staff tips. Some people didn’t read this and just totally stiffed the tour guides and bus drivers. Also, TIP IN EUROS, just as the Viking instructions ask you to! When you land at the airport, head to the ATM and get Euros. On every tour, we saw people tipping in dollars. You are in a foreign country and you should tip in the currency that is local to that country. I can’t imagine showing your appreciation in a currency that the guide/bus driver then has to take the currency exchange to get changed into money they can actually use.Laundry: We were in France for 2 weeks so we had to think about packing light vs. laundry. Yes, the laundry on the ship is comparable to what you pay at a hotel, but it’s a very expensive vacation so up front we budgeted some money for laundry and were happy we did. Other people were talking about doing laundry in their cabins and having it hanging all over the room to dry but this was a vacation for us so we let the ship take care of it and they did a great job. So whatever you’re comfortable with. Well, I think that’s it. The only (and I mean ONLY) suggestion that I had that I put on the survey was not a reflection of Viking, but more of some of the passengers. As Americans, I think sometimes we think that all cultures are the like ours when they aren't. I think it would be REALLY helpful for Viking to give just a short cultural talk on the first day for those people who don't really research the culture where they are going. I knew from research that the French aren't rude at all, they are FORMAL. If the person speaks even any English, they are more apt to help you if you approach them by saying "Bonjour, Parlez vous Anglais, sil-vous-plait?" rather than just saying, "Do you speak English?" Also, as I mentioned before, the formal rules of greeting and thanking people in shops. We had kind encounters and help where ever we went by following these rules and other people who didn't know these rules, well, didn't. And they were left with a bad impression of the French.We thought this would be our only river cruise but we were so impressed with the experience and the organization that we are looking forward to doing more and will definitely go with Viking. The food was great, the crew and guides were exceptional and the whole experience was completely organized and professional. It really did exceed our expectations.Melody Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
My wife and I are avid cruisers. This cruise was my 15th and it was my wife's 11th cruise. All of our previous cruises had been ocean cruises. We thought we'd try a river cruise because there are parts of Europe we'd like ... Read More
My wife and I are avid cruisers. This cruise was my 15th and it was my wife's 11th cruise. All of our previous cruises had been ocean cruises. We thought we'd try a river cruise because there are parts of Europe we'd like to see that are not easily accessed by an ocean cruise ship. We started this trip with a pre-cruise stay in Paris. The only things I booked with VRC (Viking River Cruises) was the cruise and a departure transfer. We stayed in a wonderful boutique hotel in the heart of Saint-Germain. Guests on our cruise who used VRC for the pre-cruise arrangements got to stay at the Le Meridian Etoile, which is a huge hotel with a modern decor. I was glad we opted to make our own reservations for a hotel in Paris. The Viking Spirit is a very comfortable ship. It doesnt take long to figure out where everything is because it is so small. The decor of the ship was consistent with what we paid for the cruise. Not overly fancy, just comfortable. The cruise was memorable, but I have to say that VRC didnt knock my socks off. VRC did an excellent job organizing the included excursions at each port of call. The tour guides were knowledgeable, friendly and easy to understand. The way their itinerary is arranged for the whole week works very well. They continued to be very organized when it was time for us to leave the ship. We were taken to the airport in plenty of time to catch our flight home and there was a staff member from the ship with us at the airport making sure we found our proper check-in point. What I found disappointing was the finer points of this cruise. VRC is very good at producing promotional videos. Leading up to my cruise on the Viking Spirit, I watched just about all of the promotional videos that are available on VRCs web site. A primary theme in the videos is the elegant travel that VRC provides. Ive been on a lot of cruises, some with excellent service and some with average service. The service on the Viking Spirit was a little disappointing. With the exception of the soups, which were excellent, the food was pretty average. We ate at a local restaurant one night when the ship was in Rouen. The meal at the restaurant was outstanding, which is what I would have expected of the food being served on the ship. The food on the ship just didn't seem to match what Id seen in the promotional videos. Another low point was the service in the lounge and in the dining room. One thing my wife and I enjoy when we are cruising is to have a cocktail in the ships lounge before dinner. At cocktail time, I almost always order the same drink. On cruises where I've been served by the same person on more than one occasion, the server will sometimes make a point to remember me and my preferred drink. Such was not the case on the Viking Spirit. In the lounge, I was served by one of 3 people during the entire cruise and no one remembered what I ordered each evening. What made it worse was that I frequently had to get the attention a server to take our order because no one would ask us if we wanted anything. This average level of service continued in the dining room. It was apparent that many of the ships staff members had multiple jobs. We would see servers from the lounge also working in the dining room. One evening, a server excused herself before we had finished our meal explaining that she had to start her second job. The same person who took our dinner order would serve the meal and would also bus the table. It became obvious that VRC had a minimum number of staff, which was just enough to get by running the ship. Dinners frequently took over 2 hours for 3 courses. Yes, we were not in a hurry to go anywhere, but it should not take that long to serve dinner to everyone on a ship that size. Little things like leaving the bread plates on the table through dessert and having a server stand on my right side and reach across my face to pick up a plate on my left side diminished the experience. I do not fault the staff on the Viking Spirit. They worked very hard and their hearts were certainly in the right place. VRC had not equipped them to do an excellent job. They hadn't been trained to serve properly and there was not enough staff to adequately handle the number of guests. After my cruise on the Viking Spirit, it was obvious to me why VRC had the money to christen 10 new ships at the same time earlier this year. They must be making huge profits off these cruises. My next river cruise may or may not be with VRC. Dont misunderstand me. I had a fabulous trip. But, I had such high expectations for VRC and what was ultimately delivered fell short of those expectations. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
Our trip began with a flight to Paris. We made our own flight arrangements. We purchased the transfers offered by Viking and it was worth it. They were right there waiting for us when we got off the plane and gathered our luggage and ... Read More
Our trip began with a flight to Paris. We made our own flight arrangements. We purchased the transfers offered by Viking and it was worth it. They were right there waiting for us when we got off the plane and gathered our luggage and two other couples and whisked us away. We made if to the ship around 11:00 am. They had a lunch ready for us and our cabin was a ready for us. We had plenty of time to walk past the Eiffel tower and stroll with the people of Paris. I can't say enough about the staff of the Viking. They were all very friendly. They never failed to greet you and went out of their way to meet everyone's needs. Our program director, Annika was extremely organized and all activities went off without a hitch. I had been told by a friend that the tours on a river cruise she had done were held up by too many elderly people with mobility issues. However, in areas that might be more difficult, Viking offered a separate tour for anyone who didn't want cobblestones or stairs. We never felt anyone delayed us. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and are currently looking into booking another one!! Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
I've been a travel agent for over 30 years and have taken twenty-some cruises - all ocean liners. My teenaged daughter wanted Europe for her senior spring break, so we decided on a river cruise - and the rest of my family came along. ... Read More
I've been a travel agent for over 30 years and have taken twenty-some cruises - all ocean liners. My teenaged daughter wanted Europe for her senior spring break, so we decided on a river cruise - and the rest of my family came along. Travelling with eleven people, we had a 10, 12, 18 and 22 year old. The "adults" ranged from 46 - 72. The kids had a good time on the cruise; they knew it was not rock climbing walls and pool games from the start. Granted, it was in the 30's and 40's weather wise, so there was not much "sun deck" activity to be had, but they enjoyed the small French towns, the sights and monuments of Paris and the Normandy Beaches. MEALS: I was impressed with the staff; they went out of their way to make the "young ones" feel welcome. They accommodated every request (and there were a lot, considering we were 11 people). Joseph ran the dining room with professionalism and was quick to help with any need; he set up a special table to host all 11 of us. They could not "reserve" a table for us, but one of us went early each evening to hold the table for 11. We could not sit there on the Captains Farewell dinner, as the Captain needed it. We told them we'd have been happy to have him pull up a chair; apparently he found other guests that he preferred to dine with! Eva was our server most nights, and she was so quick and friendly. All the staff was happy to accommodate any menu special requests. Food was very good, and since portions were not hugh, we ordered more than one entree at times. We actually drank the entire supply of Diet Coke the ship had, so on day #4, they bought more for us to keep us supplied the rest of the voyage. We were known as "that family" to fellow passengers and crew. We did not, however, exhaust their endless supply of chardonney and merlot. I think Viking should have more staff just to ease the burden on the servers, but they did an excellent job of running at top speed to keep on top of everything. Wine and soft drinks were included with meals. ROOMS: Compact and efficient. This is one of their older ships (built 2001) so did not have balcony staterooms. The beds were wonderfully comfy - cabins didn't have much "hang out" space so you did not stay there much. One chair, desk, and dresser space, but we did not need more than that. One suggestion - room darkening curtains as some nights the city lights intruded the darkness. Only one outlet in each room - remember your converters! BOARDING: We arrived early afternoon, and were welcomed with lunch. Rooms were ready shortly afterwards. Security - or lack of - was surprising. I am used to X-ray machines and the like. The only "security" was a sign out front that said "registered guests only". You could have walked on off the street, but I think they know the guests after the first day. TOURS: They left ON TIME. Happy about that. Some were better than others; some guides were on the boring side and some were entertaining. Suggestion: they have a leisure group (slower walkers) but they need to have a "faster group". The pace of the tours was slow to accomodate all fitness levels. An accelerated group would have been able to cover more ground in the same amount of time. We tipped each guide at the end of the tour about one Euro per person. Definately needed more time in Normandy and the Beaches...way too rushed. When you went off the ship for a tour, you turned in your room key and they handed you a card with your group number. This is how they know if you are on/off the ship. When you return from the tour, you have to wait in line and trade your group card for your room key again. Sometimes this took a while - you would think they would come up with a quicker system for this process. You had to wait outside until the line progressed, so I can see this would be no fun in the rain. ENTERTAINMENT: none that I saw. They had a music trivia, a dance night, a couple speakers, and such events. I can't say how they were either way as I never went. We had more fun hanging out in the lobby playing games and chatting on our own. They did have movies in the cabins that often related to the ports, and were great for downtime. INTERNET: Free and worked well most of the time, depending where on the ship you were. WEATHER: April in Paris is more like December in Michigan. In the 30's and 40's- but we knew it was a gamble. Bring mittens, scarfs and warm coats. Skip tennis shoes and track suits - passengers who wore them looked like transplanted American tourists. We wanted to make an attemp to blend in! LANGUAGE: Ship personnel spoke English well, and we tried our Rosetta Stone French. Locals spoke some English in the smaller towns, and some not at all. No issue in Paris -most everyone would speak English, especially when you tried to speak French to start. They thought it way easier to speak English rather than listen to our French. FELLOW PASSENGERS: All well travelled. Mostly couples in their 50's - 80's. Some mother /daughter pairs on board, but the majority of guest were in their 60's/70's. DRESS: casual. Daytime we were in jeans/pants and sweaters/shirts. Dinner attire was pants and sweaters or shirts, for summertime you would be fine in capris, pants or skirts with polo or dress shirts. The Captains farewell dinner was a bit dressier - I only saw a couple dresses, but most people had nice blouses and dress pants or dress shirt/pants for men. VALUE: I liked not having to pay for every little drink and tour. We all spent very little as we bought one optional shore excursion and a couple drinks when we had beverages outside of meal times. The cruises are expensive, but at least you are not nickeled and dimed for every little thing. Overall I'd travel on a river cruise again, but not every year. It was a great change and I loved docking right in the center of the towns. You felt like you were walking in the Beauty and the Beast Movie - the smaller towns were just like the village in the movie. Viking staff did their utmost to make the week a success. Kudos to the staff of the Viking Spirit. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
My travelling companion chose the date--cruising along the Seine in December. Upside, France is wonderful anytime. We had cool weather but the decorations and the lack of the tons of tourists around during warmer weather made up for it, ... Read More
My travelling companion chose the date--cruising along the Seine in December. Upside, France is wonderful anytime. We had cool weather but the decorations and the lack of the tons of tourists around during warmer weather made up for it, at least for me. Moored alongside the quai within walking distance (15 min)of the Eiffel Tower was almost magical. It was great in the evening when the lights flashed on the Tower. Downside was that the metro took a fair bit of time to get into town. It is certainly doable but the metro station for the Quai de Grenelle did not have an elevator available. Also the one wicket closed for lunch so you needed change to buy a ticket from the machine during the clerk's lunch break. Lovely to have many excursions included in the package price as well as wine and bottled water. Local and ship guides were all very good. Apparently some people had a problem with the French accents but not me. (in Auvers sur Oise) Rouen is a super port with the ship moored not too far from town. Good to wander at will after the included excursions. Going ashore in the late evening after dinner showed that the town seemed almost deserted in the Dec. chill, though. My favourite day was visiting the Normandy coast with the "Commonwealth" tour including a trip to Bayeux to see the famous tapestry. Sailing leisurely with some cultural activities (including cooking options) thrown in is a pleasant way to travel. Because of heavy rain (umbrellas provided for tours) the river level was too high for us to journey back to Paris and pass under the various bridges as planned and we ended our trip in Conflans on the outskirts of the city. So, don't count on a return trip to the city. Some folks had dinner, theatre reservations and didn't get there. You can go by train, apparently it isn't too far, but...not as convenient. France in December....why not? Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
This was our second Viking River cruise, travelling back to back from the "Europe" Rhone/Saone cruise. Many of my comments are the same regarding the cabins, cleanliness, service, food. It would be really good if Viking ... Read More
This was our second Viking River cruise, travelling back to back from the "Europe" Rhone/Saone cruise. Many of my comments are the same regarding the cabins, cleanliness, service, food. It would be really good if Viking would put decent blockout curtains in the windows. On the nights in Rouen there was a carnival/funfair across the other bank of the river and the noise and lights were quite penetrating into our cabin, with the curtains doing little to keep out the bright and strobing carnival lights. Not Viking's fault I know, but blockout curtains would have removed the annoying flickering lights. We enjoyed the trip to the Normandy beaches but would have preferred it if the guides had promoted the information centre at the American Cemetery. There was at least an hour and a half worth of material there to be viewed and discovered and it was disappointing that we only found it in the last half hour of our time there. No emphasis was put on this centre whatsoever and yet it contains more information than the guides gave us at any time. There are also clean, queueless toilets on the lower floor which were greatly appreciated by those who found them. Our tour was a bit muddled because of a general strike which also involved lock masters - so we visited the ports in a different order than planned. It was good that the captain had this flexibility. Most of the little towns start to look a little bit the same after a while, but the guide who took our group on the tour of Auvers sur Oise made the town, and Van Gogh come alive - she was indeed "the best tour guide in the world"!! This cruise was calmer, easier and more relaxed than the first cruise we did the previous week. This may have been part due to familiarity with the vessel, some of the crew and many of the passengers, but I certainly found it a more pleasant cruise. And of course, time in Paris at each end of the cruise was well spent. We had an interesting experience when we, and others, were treated to a very sleazy display by a senior member of the ship's crew. Unfortunately it made it difficult to view this crew member with any respect for the rest of the cruise and as it was someone with whom one almost had to have daily contact, it was a little discomfiting. That wasn't Viking's fault either, just very poor judgement and behaviour by the person involved, which let down the company. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
My wife and I have traveled to many parts of the world and have enjoyed our time away no matter where we have traveled. The US offers many wonderful things to see and we enjoy baseball and travel to different places to see the games. ... Read More
My wife and I have traveled to many parts of the world and have enjoyed our time away no matter where we have traveled. The US offers many wonderful things to see and we enjoy baseball and travel to different places to see the games. Well, it took many years but my wife finally convinced me to go to France. I only asked that the trip include a visit to Normandy. Friends of ours had done a barge cruise in France and they had a great time. I researched several companies and Viking was highly recommended and had the itinerary we wanted. We booked our cruise for September 2012, and let me tell you we had the MOST wonderful time. From the time we stepped off the plane at CD we were treated with the utmost respect and we had a wonderful experience. The staff was all friendly and accommodated our every request. The meals were very good, the drinks were fairly priced and the excursions were all well organized. We had great tour guides, the where so French it seemed like a Monty Python sketch at times. The captain of the Spirit,Davey, was very reassuring and the fact that the first mate spoke no english made it even more interesting. Normandy was outstanding and I am SO glad my wife convinced me to go. We are looking at Amsterdam in 2014. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
We embarked in Paris and spent the first full day and a half in the City of Lights. Our stateroom, not in the highest category, was superb. Lots of room! In fact, the highest category stateroom was the same size as ours. The staff did ... Read More
We embarked in Paris and spent the first full day and a half in the City of Lights. Our stateroom, not in the highest category, was superb. Lots of room! In fact, the highest category stateroom was the same size as ours. The staff did their best to help in any way they were able---friendly and informative. They began with a short tour of the area near the docking point in Paris (where we could see the Eiffel Tower from the deck!). This tour was an orientation to getting around the city--how to find the Metro; buying tickets for the Metro; how to read the Metro maps; grocery stores; drug stores; cafes; money. I found it very helpful. We took an optional tour of the Louvre which was my least favorite part of the week! Why? Sunday afternoon at the Louvre is best described as a madhouse! I know trying to convince someone NOT to see the Mona Lisa is futile but prepare to be jostled about. You will feel as if you are the midst of a cattle-drive. But the rest of the week was great! The meals were good, the service was good, the tours were good but highly dependent on the tour guide--- make sure you fill out a opinion card after your tours. We visited Monet's garden at Giverney--don't miss it! But I turned off the earphones for the guide--imagine hearing someone babbling the entire time you want peace--like at the pond area. The optional tour to Versailles was very good. We had an excellent guide who made things alive for us. We traveled from town to town sometimes in the morning or overnight. It was a really nice way to travel!! The only downside to this trip was a virus that went through the boat the last night. They brought a MD on board to see folks (at 120 euros each). At that point things became unpleasant as guests began to find fault with staff (i.e., "I saw someone cough into their hand" or "They should have ....you fill in the blank"). I work in healthcare and unfortunately, people get sick. And if you are in a confined area, more people get sick. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
We took the VRC trip from Paris to Normandy (and back) in April 2012. We loved all the ports. The walkability at each site was terrific. The VRC tour guides were so informative and friendly. If you love history, this is a great cruise! (My ... Read More
We took the VRC trip from Paris to Normandy (and back) in April 2012. We loved all the ports. The walkability at each site was terrific. The VRC tour guides were so informative and friendly. If you love history, this is a great cruise! (My only suggestion is to have VRC staff provide MORE onboard educational discussions about the history of the area while sailing.) We really liked the ability of a river cruise to pull into small towns and explore them, rather than having all ports be busy cities. The food was very good on the Spirit, with a variety of choices. We loved our waiter, Marco, who served us dinner each night. It was easy to mix and mingle with shipmates, very casual atmosphere. We now are excited about our upcoming VRC, on the Rhine!   Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
My husband and I took our first cruise this past December with Viking. We spent a wonderful relaxing time on board the Viking Spirit and enjoyed our Christmas in France. The Spirit is one of the older ships in the Viking fleet but it was ... Read More
My husband and I took our first cruise this past December with Viking. We spent a wonderful relaxing time on board the Viking Spirit and enjoyed our Christmas in France. The Spirit is one of the older ships in the Viking fleet but it was quite comfortable and the service and staff was first class. The meals were very good and reflected the regions we were cruising. Wine was provided with the meals and the wait staff was very attentive to our needs. There was always plenty to do. Each day we had one or two excursions off the ship plus at night there were lectures or local entertainment in the lounge. The staff was wonderful and tried to accommodate all our needs. They went out of their way to provide a bus ( at a nominal fee) for about 40 people who decided to attend Midnight Mass at Notre Dame on Christmas Eve and also arranged for us to take a night tour of Paris on Christmas night. The only complaint we had was the internet service was extremely slow. My husband had his own laptop and spent too much time trying to connect to check email etc. We had the best cabin on the ship and it was a bit small and so was the bathroom but not uncomfortable since we were not in the room often except to sleep. The beds and linens were very nice and the bath products were L'Occitane which was a lovely touch. We are planning an extended trip for next spring on one of the new Longships. Can't wait! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
This was a marvelous introduction to river cruising. Prior to this trip, we had taken several land/bus cruises and one experience was better than the other. Italy, Ireland, England and Sicily. But returning from Sicily in May, 2011, ... Read More
This was a marvelous introduction to river cruising. Prior to this trip, we had taken several land/bus cruises and one experience was better than the other. Italy, Ireland, England and Sicily. But returning from Sicily in May, 2011, what comes in an email but a terrific offer for a Christmas tour - on a river? We could not resist. The accommodation, the food, the entertainment, the hospitality, the crew and the ports we visited could not have been better. We lucked out with the weather as Winter is always iffy but it only rained one day and not for very long. Oh the sites we saw! Normandy, several medieval villages alongside the Seine and Versailles! How does one explain Versailles to anyone who has not seen it? Breathtaking. And Normandy were all those brave soldiers landed and many died to liberate France. What a moving location to visit. And Paris! What a city. Even after the marvels of Rome, London, Dublin and Capri, nothing prepares you for Paris. A romantic wonder by day or night. From the Eiffel Tower to the heights of Monmarte, Paris has to be seen to be believed and appreciated. Viking Tours has won our hearts and we are planning on returning again next year to one of those fabulous river cruises they offer. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Viking Spirit (Retired) Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins N/A 4.8
Dining 3.0 4.8
Entertainment 4.0 4.1
Public Rooms N/A 4.8
Fitness Recreation N/A 3.5
Family 1.0 3.5
Rates 3.0 4.3

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