Was it good? No. Was it bad? No. I need to make it clear from the outset that to some extent we were comparing this cruise to our only other river cruise, which was on Scenic. So business class to economy is probably the best explanation I can provide. Similar price differential.
Viva departs from St Denis, which is more than 5 miles from the city centre of Paris. It shares a wharf with a cement company. Apparently it's too big a vessel to navigate into the more interesting areas of the city. No mention of this when booking. As we had been to Paris several times before this was not a big loss to us, but if you were expecting to glide past the tower etc .... some grumbling heard. So don't book this cruise if you want to sail through Paris.
We spent our first day sitting at St Denis in this middle of nowhere because of a strike somewhere. Nothing the ship could do about that but it did provide some short notice excursions, so credit due (that doesn't mean they were free!).
This meant the itinerary for the next few days had to be adjusted and we lost one port. No offer of compensation. Except for Rouen, where we stayed overnight and had much history, we stopped at several small, pretty, but meaningless towns before returning to spend another afternoon and night at St. Denis. Boring.
The itinerary aside, what about the boat?
The cabin. Ours was on the top deck. Corridor smelt like a sewer. Room small but adequate. No odour problem. No fridge. Aircon struggled when temperatures rose. Sparse but functional shower room. Exceptional cabin attendant Csilla (sorry if I got the spelling wrong). The cabin was value for money.
The boat. Apparently there was a spa, gym and hot tub upfront. Never got to any, but that's our fault. Lounge with bar, cafe and restaurant all aft on deck two. Restaurant aircon was poor. Far too warm. So people went early so they could sit in the cafe, which was a cool extension of the restaurant. Most entertainment was in the Lounge; most entertainment was DJ Andy. Who tried hard.
The food. Not bad. Not good. This is a German ship that mainly offers German inspired catering. Sometimes a struggle to satisfy an English pallet, but generally good quality. However some translations into English needed to be much improved otherwise people with allergies could be caught-out.
The staff. Room attendant great. Bar and wait staff so-so. Sometimes brilliant; next time chatting together and ignoring guests. But generally cheerful.
The senior staff. Difficult to comment. Saw the Captain a few times but never spoke. First failure on many cruises. It was only half-way through the cruise I realised the lady who was wearing a flack jacket on even the warmest days was the Hotel Director. She did smile at me once in passing.
The drink. Only low quality alcohol free to Premium guests. We bought some wine at prices which were very reasonable compared to ocean cruises ships.
The summary. My wife and I have been fortunate enough to have sailed the Suez Canal; the Panama Canal; the Kiel Canal ... even the Amazon. We have hired our own small craft on French rivers and canals. Good fun. But if you want a good river cruise holiday in France I would suggest the Rhone. You choose the cruise line!
The security. My final point has to be about the apparent lack of security on this boat. Those who have travelled the oceans will be well aware of the hoops we have to jump-through each time we board a cruise ship. On Viva anybody could walk on-board and as long as they didn't want a drink, which entailed showing your room card, enjoy lunch, maybe try the hot-tub or the gym, then walk-off.
Long queues but house and gardens well worth the wait.View All 64 Versailles Reviews