Viking Rinda Cruise Review by jdbirch
- Sail Date: April 2016
- Destination: Europe River
- Cabin Type: Veranda Stateroom
OK, we’re not rookies at this… this is our fifth Viking cruise, and this was our least favorite of the batch. Not Viking’s fault, it’s just that this itinerary wasn’t the greatest – the river is tree-lined, not much traffic compared to other rivers. There was one castle (Richard the Lion Hearted), whereas the Danube and Rhine have one every couple of miles, it seems, with more open banks to see the sights. The crew was fine and professional, but former crews made me feel very “long-lost cousin” welcome (sneak you another pudding?) that had me reaching deep into my wallet at the end of the wonderful week. Two memorable visits to Giverny and the D-day beaches, some ordinary towns.
Changes we didn’t appreciate: bring back the bordello lavender soap, you cheapskates! Introduce the crew, for crying out loud! Those dishwashers deserve their moment in the sun, and so do the cooking staff- we’ve had standing ovations in the past for the soup chef and baker….. You’re in France, don’t you think you can get some better wine? I sure can, even if it’s not made by my cousin…. Have a wine tasting, then call ahead to get a few cases of the winners for dinner that night – how hard is that? What happened to the tour the kitchen and shop with the chef? Don’t use liability as an excuse…. There’s some pretty good shopping across the bridge in La Peq – isn’t anyone going to tell the passengers? Maybe a map?
Log of the journey:
April 20 – Arrive CDG at 1:00, bus with 6 people total, two of whom live in our old home town. Arrive at longship at 2:00 in beautiful downtown La Peq(just kidding). Light lunch of sandwiches, artichoke soup (not that good). Looks like the baker is a winner. 3:00 – bus up hill to Ste Germaine a mile away. Don’t miss this trip, the castle is pretty good and the museum in the chapel is worth the trip. Specializing in stone carvings going back to Roman times. Church across street is good, where James II died, maybe. Dinner: cheese plate, sea bass, chocolate pudding. Very good Camembert…. And to jet-lagged bed.
April 21 – Possible tour of Paris, maybe back for lunch (hour each way) or lunch on your own. SUGGESTION for Viking: for anybody comfortable on your own, run a shuttle the mile to the RER station and we’ll take care of ourselves! Since we were in Paris for a few days last year, we opt for the feet up and relaxing day. For lunch, on the internet and find Creperie La Peq. Directions: out the ship, turn left and go downriver a couple hundred yards on the walkway until the sidewalk ends at the apartments, then turn right a block and go to the main street. See the shopping center across the street? Top floor has the creperie and an organic grocery. The proprietor greeted us with a Kir / cider, then we split a Cheese / ham crepe, then ended with a Calvados flaming apple crepe, washed down with some more cider. Know your NBA, the chef’s a fan. He gave us all the drinks as a welcome, and I rarely leave a 40% tip, but I want this guy to stay in business…. Go there! Stop at the flower shop and price flowers for the stateroom, decide to do without. Go to MonoPrix, buy some cough drops for my cold and some brandy for the stateroom. Dinner: boullabaise (ex), shrimp(ex), veal tenderloin(ex), and a Grand Marnier soufflé for dessert. Gonna be a long week if they’re all this good. Meanwhile, we’re cruising – up river where we’re pointing, through the locks to a place wide enough to turn around, then back through the locks. Maybe use a shorter boat, like on the Doure? Some discussion at briefing and dinner about the docking in La Peq vs. the promised “next to the Eiffel Tower”. My view is that the manager whose palm had been greased died/ retired/ got caught, since it is hard to believe that the size of the longship was never matched to the size of the river. Some people heard about La Peq in advance, some didn’t. We didn’t, but we read cruise critic, and you should, too.
April 22 – Vernon and Giverny. Giverny – magnificent gardens even in late April (pansies and a lot of bulbs – the gardeners here know their stuff) Be aware that in summer you get in a long line and shuffle your feet for a couple of hours to get around the ponds, because everyone wants a selfie on the bridge. Silk scarves a decent buy, according to the missus. Lunch: Mussels! Normandy mixed pork fry, chocolate fountain, olives/ tapenade/ cheese board. Dang! Vernon: waddle out on tour of the timbered houses. Houses lean on each other for support. Decent tour, old church has most of its windows blown out in WW II, replaced by poor modern designs. Caution: irregular floor in church. Stop at the memorial next to the ship, read, and thank a veteran – British in this case. Dinner: Cheese, dry pork t-loin, some asparagus soup that never came, wanted flan but got ice cream. Crummy wines. During dinner, we move so we’re the 3rd ship out from the pier now.
April 23 – Vernon to Rouen. Up at 7 for some coffee and birding in the lounge. Lecture on the life of Joan of Arc at 10, half listen while I have the binoculars at the ready. Lunch: Smoked fish, 2 kinds! Dang… Arrive Rouen, walk around. Have one of the guides who stops every block to deliver a 15 minute lecture, so I go on my own again, and see 2 churches that the group doesn’t (the Abbey has a good art museum inside), finally meet up with my wife again at the Joan of Arc church (modern, cool..) Decent street market near the Joan of Arc. Pretty decent town, and the cathedral is not to be missed. The carillon was down for repair, and that whole business was fascinating (science teacher, what can I say…) Dinner: Grilled shrimp with flavorless soufflé / hollandaise, halibut with underdone risotto, chocolate tart. Another great cheese plate. Should put the cheese guy in charge of the wine, too.
April 24 – Dday beaches on the bucket list. Breakfast moved up to 6:30 to help with the 2 hour bus ride starting at 8. View Juno beach, then the Omaha museum. Rush through the museum to get an idea, then get in line for the movie, then you get another half hour for the museum parts you like. Building has tanks and artillery on outside, view of sunken piers rusting offshore (see, I have binoculars…) Toilet across street is decently clean, donation requested. Walk a block to restaurant, lunch upstairs (ordinary chicken and vegetables, lot better wine than the ship). Back on the bus, off to the bunkers, then the memorial gardens and a few thousand white crosses to ponder, all younger than you. Viking gives you a rose to place wherever you choose, so Ernie from Michigan is awarded the honor. And geez, there’s a lot of “known but to God” crosses….. Back in the bus for one more minor stop, then the 2 hour grind back to the ship. A double aquavit from the bar gets my temperature back up to normal (40, misty, windy) Dinner backed up a half an hour: onion soup, beef burgundy, chocolate pudding, all good.
April 25 – Rouen to Les Andelys. Leisure breakfast, cruising. I generally have the same thing every morning –a coffee from the machine (better than the dining room), then a couple of croissants to start with the excellent butter, a couple of salmon plates (take a fork along to get extra onions), then some of the salami and cheese. The fruit is pretty much unripe at this time of year. Disembarking briefing at 10, lemon tart demonstration at 11 (hard area at end of bar, if you want a good seat). This is when I find out from the director that we’re skipping Conflans “to give more time to Les Andelys”. When we dock after lunch, I last one block on the tour as we PASS the church to go someplace else. I quit, enter and enjoy the church, then hike inland a bit (the town is in a valley about 3 blocks wide, can’t get lost) I see the veteran’s memorial and cemetery in town, the tour didn’t. I wasn’t going up to Richard’s castle, since it’s still 40 and windy anyway. There’s a little bit of souvenir shopping a block from the ship, but not much. Dinner: 5 course. Pot pie chicken, lobster Bisque, Filet, Crepe suzettes/brulee, cheese – all good to ex.
April 26 – back in La Peq, and visit pharmacy near MonoPrix for some allergy meds. Lunch is fish/chips, mushy peas, chick consommé (good) Shuttle to Paris at 2, and we get dropped about a mile from the island. Hike there, downwind, and we’re getting some hail/snow (groppel) on the way, buy our soccer shirts for the grandkids, and return upwind with no snow but misty. 45 minute walk…. Last dinner: Escargots (in pastry, not that good), Lamb shanks (ok) with some kind of carrot mash, raspberry cake(ex). Same crummy wines.
April 27 – departure is professional and swift, Viking knows how to do it.
On our last Viking cruise on the Rhone, we got in the habit of buying a bottle of 10 euro wine, a mini-baguette, some olives, a piece of Rocquefort (we were with friends). We’d return to the ship about 4, and the bartender would open the wine and give us 4 glasses. I recommend that.
Warning: we had a 2nd deck veranda, even though it was April and we figured we’d never use it. In La Peq, the pier came right about the level of our guardrail for 2 days. On three days, we were the “2nd ship out from the pier” and our nice big window faced another nice big window 10 feet away, and you have to climb up to the top deck and cross over the other ship, then back down one flight. This is not particularly handicapped friendly for anyone, so be warned. If you use a chair/walker, you’re in trouble.
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