We went on the Portraits of Southern France cruise on October 11, 2015. It was our 3rd Viking Cruise, and we have one more booked and others in planning. In short, we love Viking. In fact, our trip to China with them (May 2015) was the best vacation we've ever taken, and we've been on 39 other vacations to foreign countries.
But, now you know a little bit about us, a couple near 70, let me go over some of my thoughts about our France trip, which included a 3-day post-extension to Paris with Viking.
The best part, as it always is on the Viking cruises, were the people we met. With open seating at the long, leisurely meals and with a small ship, meeting people becomes very easy to do, and the Viking travelers are quite varied in (generally retired) occupations and home towns. We made many good friends.
Our tour director Julian was wonderful. The best things about him were his humor as well as his clear explanations of many choices we had each day. Actually the most fun we had on the cruise were a couple of crazy group games Julian lead on two nights. We all laughed hard as we competed vigorously in competitions that as best I can remember had no prizes whatsoever. The rest of the crew were fantastic and the service was great. They made us really feel at home.
Ok, so you are expecting in a review to hear about places, not people. It's the wrong thing to look for, but I'll humor you by listing the cities visited in order of how much we enjoyed them. And, I'll throw a couple non-cities into the mix. They are (with the best first): Lyon, Avignon, Cruising on the rivers, Cluny, Paris, Auxerre, Beaune, Vienne, Steam train, Arles and Tournon.
The food at breakfast, as it is on every Viking cruise, is always fantastic. The lunches and dinners on this cruise were a bit hit-and-miss but definitely mainly hits.
The local guides varied widely. The best, as the guide in Vienne, knew how to entertain and to tell stories. The worse, as the guide in Paris, tried to machine-gun facts into our ears as rapidly as dryly as possible lest we fail the pop quiz that they appeared to be preparing us for. Sometimes, I turned off the headset and admired the wonderful views all around us. Viking could use a good guide training program.
Overall we had an absolutely wonderful time.
There were only two major drawbacks. One, don't go in the fall or later unless you have to. In mid-October, we frequently froze with temps starting in the upper 30s many days and only warming up to the 40s. We wore down jackets and sometimes thermal underwear. More than the cold, the skies were mainly overcast, which can turn pretty landscapes into pretty dreary landscapes. Second, until Viking changes hotels from the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel, don't book the Paris extension. The room was tiny and in bad shape and had all the charm and uncomfortable furniture of a college dorm room. The breakfast room was hot, in a windowless basement with mediocre food and coffee that was never, ever hot. A terrible way to start each day.
Viking Longships are all perfectly designed with every inch of the Veranda staterooms well thought out. We love the ships. They are so perfect in our opinion.