This was our first river cruise and we will definitely cruise with Viking again ... however, this cruise did not, as advertised, leave from Paris. Anyone who has researched this Viking itinerary probably knows this, but not docking in Paris was a big deal, and a big letdown for us. We were not officially notified by Viking until about two weeks before departure. A friend cruised this itinerary in March and showed us photos of the Eiffel Tower from the dock. Awesome, but he was on a different ship. The Rinda, according to Viking, has not been approved by the authorities to dock in Paris proper. To be fair to Viking, they probably were hoping to get the permit by the cruise date, thus the delay in notifying us. We docked in Le Peq, about 11 (long) miles from the city, a ride which could and often did, take up to 45 or more minutes. We were denied the charm of having a floating hotel in the city. As it happened, the Tour de France ended our last day and I thought it would have been pretty cool to mingle with the crowd at the finish line on the Champs Elyees. Unfortunately it was a showery day so I chose not to take the bus into the city. Another passenger did, and got soaked. Again, it would have been nice to have been in town.
In hindsight (20/20) I would have booked this itinerary on a different cruise line. But the ship was wonderful, our room excellent, perfectly designed to provide maximum living space. The crew was well-trained, delightful and attentive. We traveled with two other couples and we all enjoyed the evening cocktail hour and presentation by the cruise director (Michael), the hotel manager (nicknamed Joey after the "Friends" character), and the chef, who would describe the evening meal and wines. I am not a foodie but loved the dinners. Wine and beer at meals is a nice touch and a big difference from an ocean cruise. The Captain was a young, handsome man of few words. The places we stopped were all interesting. A highlight for us was the laser light show on the facade of the Rouen cathedral. Worth the wait, as it didn't start until 11 PM due to the long days. Much has been written about the Normandy excursion and it is very moving, inspirational and sad. In summary, despite the disappointment of not docking in Paris, the cruise was sensational - ship, crew, itinerary, food, ambience, fellow passengers.
A note of caution: it's a very small ship compared to an ocean liner and you are much more in touch with the other passengers. One group was WAY late returning to the shuttle from Paris back to the boat and I growled at them (my mistake), and I had words with a woman who claimed to have a reserved dinner table (not the case). Next cruise I'll be more careful. One last item: on this particular route (an maybe for other and all similar cruises), the upgrade for a balcony was not worth it. Half the time we were below street level and in Le Peq we faced a very unpleasant, graffiti-covered alley. The ship is so open, you can enjoy the outdoors topside. We only spent a few minutes on our balcony the entire trip. Oh, and kudos to Viking, they comped our trip to the airport. Last note, we were surprised at the lack of security getting on and off the ship. Nothing like a big ship: metal detectors, etc. It looked very easy for any ne'er-do-well simply to walk on board.
Great cabin, perfectly designed, more than enough storage, would skip the balcony next time and save the money.