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This was our first river cruise and Viking delivers a great experience. The entire staff goes out of their way to make sure your every need is seen to. Our activities director, Clara, was on top of everything at all times and her perky, funny personality really spiced up the experience. My wife and I actually felt sorry for her because the itinerary had to be changed due to a French national holiday which likely created a lot of extra coordination, but mostly because we kept seeing her have to deal with cranky and sometimes rude passengers. That brings me to the make up of the passengers. This is a couples cruise for the elderly. I would estimate the average age of the passengers was over 70 (some in their 80s). They were probably 99% Americans as well. My wife and I are in our 50s and we were easily the youngest passengers. This wasn't a problem for us and we managed to mingle well with the other passengers but, if you aren't elderly, then you need to understand that a certain amount of patience with cranky people with generally limited mobility on the tours will be necessary. The food was superb and we both felt we ate too much on the cruise. I especially liked the deserts and the waiters were always willing to bring me two so that I could try more than one. The wait staff, especially Daniel, Marius, and Catalina had great funny personalities and we never wanted for anything. Some other reviews have complained that the dinner process was too long but we never felt that way. As for seating, It is true that some people rush after the evening activities briefing to get their favorite seating in the dining room but we never found it a problem. We sat at different tables the first few evenings meeting new people and eventually a group of us and two other couples eventually all started sitting together and it was a great time each evening sharing what we had seen during the day tours. We arrived around noon on the first day and the Concierge, Duro called down and asked for our room to be made up right away. We had lunch in the lounge while waiting. On the last day, our arranged transportation wasn't picking us up until noon but we had to check out of our room by 9 am. The staff took our bags and staged them for us and we offered free light breakfast and lunch in the lounge while waiting for our ride. Some thoughts about the tours: Paris on the first day. This half day tour was just right and the tour guide, Thierry made it very enjoyable. The brief visit to Notre Dame was just right as this is really an over hyped tourist trap that you can get the scope of in 20 minutes. (Yes, it was disappointing for us after having visited so many fantastic churches in Italy and Spain. We went up to the Sacre Coeur basilica on one of our free days and that was far more impressive.) Rouen. A nice walking tour through a charming old town area. The church of Joan of Arc was extremely disappointing. In the free time after the tour, we walked over to the ancient Abbatiale Saint-Ouen which is a beautiful church that is also a monastery. There was a very interesting modern art exhibition in the church that made the stop worthwhile. Normandy. This was a long day but did not disappoint. The US cemetery is in amazing condition and being able to stand on both Omaha and Juno beaches was worth the trip to France. The lunch at the Sixth of June restaurant was very good and we all had a great time. As a caution, you need to understand that you will spend HOURS on the tour bus this day. The restroom on the bus is worthless so make sure you use the ones at the Juno beach museum and at the US cemetery or you may have trouble. Les Andyles. If you can make the walk to the castle ruins, the view is spectacular. The walk is steep and probably a third of the people turned back after a half way up the hill. If you have mobility issues, don't try. Send your spouse up to take pictures and spend your time looking at the old church in the town. Conflan. We didn't go on this tour because we chose the Versailles option. Versailles. If you want to spend time crushed in to a few small rooms with thousands of rude Chinese tourists, this tour is for you. We were there in the off-season so I can only imagine what a god awful experience this would be in the Spring or Summer. The displays were disappointing and the whole place reeked of lack of upkeep. France really doesn't seem to invest much money in their cash cow tourist sites unlike the other great European countries. The one thing that was nice was walking through the gardens. These at least do seem to have some effort underway to restore the various statues and fountains. I want to be clear that our disappointment had nothing to do with Viking or our tour guides. They were doing an admirable job given the circumstances. Louvre. We didn't go on this tour. We had received great advice to avoid it and go to the L'Orangerie and Orsay museums instead which we did on our own time and they did not disappoint. You can buy a pass for both at either of them that offers a discounted rate and they are very near each other. Being able to walk right up to the Van Goghs at the Orsay without crowds in your way was very satisfying. The Starry Night painting is amazing. Vernon. This tour was not available because the Monet properties were closed for the season. Viking took us instead to Auverse-sur-Oise with is were Van Gogh lived near the end of his life. This turned out to be one of the most interesting walking tours of the entire cruise for us. The guides were very knowledgeable and told the story of Vincent very well. The walk up to the cemetery and wheat field may be too much for some with limited mobility so be warned. Thoughts on Paris. We did not do the Viking extension but did spend three nights before and two after the cruise in Paris on our own. The wife and I have been to Italy a few times and Spain as well. Neither of us thought Paris was up to par compared to Florence or the cities of Andalusia for example. Paris is a filthy city with residents who universally walk around town with a scowl on their faces. The food is bland and over priced. Sure, there is some interesting architecture (largely copies along Roman and Greek themes), but you can see that elsewhere. If you go there looking for the most romantic city in the world you may be disappointed. We did enjoy a nice walk from the ship to the Eiffel tower along the water front the first evening on the ship. The lights on the tower are nice in the evening. The neighborhood around the Sacre Coeur was enjoyable. We also spent a day taking the train out to Chartes and had a nice day walking around the old town by the river.  

Pampered and Relaxed Trip to Normandy

Viking Spirit (Retired) Cruise Review by somerset0

2 people found this helpful
Trip Details
This was our first river cruise and Viking delivers a great experience. The entire staff goes out of their way to make sure your every need is seen to. Our activities director, Clara, was on top of everything at all times and her perky, funny personality really spiced up the experience. My wife and I actually felt sorry for her because the itinerary had to be changed due to a French national holiday which likely created a lot of extra coordination, but mostly because we kept seeing her have to deal with cranky and sometimes rude passengers.
That brings me to the make up of the passengers. This is a couples cruise for the elderly. I would estimate the average age of the passengers was over 70 (some in their 80s). They were probably 99% Americans as well. My wife and I are in our 50s and we were easily the youngest passengers. This wasn't a problem for us and we managed to mingle well with the other passengers but, if you aren't elderly, then you need to understand that a certain amount of patience with cranky people with generally limited mobility on the tours will be necessary.
The food was superb and we both felt we ate too much on the cruise. I especially liked the deserts and the waiters were always willing to bring me two so that I could try more than one. The wait staff, especially Daniel, Marius, and Catalina had great funny personalities and we never wanted for anything. Some other reviews have complained that the dinner process was too long but we never felt that way. As for seating, It is true that some people rush after the evening activities briefing to get their favorite seating in the dining room but we never found it a problem. We sat at different tables the first few evenings meeting new people and eventually a group of us and two other couples eventually all started sitting together and it was a great time each evening sharing what we had seen during the day tours.
We arrived around noon on the first day and the Concierge, Duro called down and asked for our room to be made up right away. We had lunch in the lounge while waiting. On the last day, our arranged transportation wasn't picking us up until noon but we had to check out of our room by 9 am. The staff took our bags and staged them for us and we offered free light breakfast and lunch in the lounge while waiting for our ride.
Some thoughts about the tours:
Paris on the first day. This half day tour was just right and the tour guide, Thierry made it very enjoyable. The brief visit to Notre Dame was just right as this is really an over hyped tourist trap that you can get the scope of in 20 minutes. (Yes, it was disappointing for us after having visited so many fantastic churches in Italy and Spain. We went up to the Sacre Coeur basilica on one of our free days and that was far more impressive.)
Rouen. A nice walking tour through a charming old town area. The church of Joan of Arc was extremely disappointing. In the free time after the tour, we walked over to the ancient Abbatiale Saint-Ouen which is a beautiful church that is also a monastery. There was a very interesting modern art exhibition in the church that made the stop worthwhile.
Normandy. This was a long day but did not disappoint. The US cemetery is in amazing condition and being able to stand on both Omaha and Juno beaches was worth the trip to France. The lunch at the Sixth of June restaurant was very good and we all had a great time. As a caution, you need to understand that you will spend HOURS on the tour bus this day. The restroom on the bus is worthless so make sure you use the ones at the Juno beach museum and at the US cemetery or you may have trouble.
Les Andyles. If you can make the walk to the castle ruins, the view is spectacular. The walk is steep and probably a third of the people turned back after a half way up the hill. If you have mobility issues, don't try. Send your spouse up to take pictures and spend your time looking at the old church in the town.
Conflan. We didn't go on this tour because we chose the Versailles option.
Versailles. If you want to spend time crushed in to a few small rooms with thousands of rude Chinese tourists, this tour is for you. We were there in the off-season so I can only imagine what a god awful experience this would be in the Spring or Summer. The displays were disappointing and the whole place reeked of lack of upkeep. France really doesn't seem to invest much money in their cash cow tourist sites unlike the other great European countries. The one thing that was nice was walking through the gardens. These at least do seem to have some effort underway to restore the various statues and fountains. I want to be clear that our disappointment had nothing to do with Viking or our tour guides. They were doing an admirable job given the circumstances.
Louvre. We didn't go on this tour. We had received great advice to avoid it and go to the L'Orangerie and Orsay museums instead which we did on our own time and they did not disappoint. You can buy a pass for both at either of them that offers a discounted rate and they are very near each other. Being able to walk right up to the Van Goghs at the Orsay without crowds in your way was very satisfying. The Starry Night painting is amazing.
Vernon. This tour was not available because the Monet properties were closed for the season. Viking took us instead to Auverse-sur-Oise with is were Van Gogh lived near the end of his life. This turned out to be one of the most interesting walking tours of the entire cruise for us. The guides were very knowledgeable and told the story of Vincent very well. The walk up to the cemetery and wheat field may be too much for some with limited mobility so be warned.
Thoughts on Paris. We did not do the Viking extension but did spend three nights before and two after the cruise in Paris on our own. The wife and I have been to Italy a few times and Spain as well. Neither of us thought Paris was up to par compared to Florence or the cities of Andalusia for example. Paris is a filthy city with residents who universally walk around town with a scowl on their faces. The food is bland and over priced. Sure, there is some interesting architecture (largely copies along Roman and Greek themes), but you can see that elsewhere. If you go there looking for the most romantic city in the world you may be disappointed. We did enjoy a nice walk from the ship to the Eiffel tower along the water front the first evening on the ship. The lights on the tower are nice in the evening. The neighborhood around the Sacre Coeur was enjoyable. We also spent a day taking the train out to Chartes and had a nice day walking around the old town by the river.
 
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Cabin Review

Cabin 201
The room was nicer than the hotel room we had in Paris. Very nice.
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