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131 France River Cruise Reviews

Our Seine River cruise with Vantage had everything we were looking for. Our stateroom and meals were comfortable, clean and inviting and the meals were varied and met all our needs. My wife is a diabetic and facilities were available for ... Read More
Our Seine River cruise with Vantage had everything we were looking for. Our stateroom and meals were comfortable, clean and inviting and the meals were varied and met all our needs. My wife is a diabetic and facilities were available for refrigeration for her meds and the menu, with Healthy Options met her needs in selecting foods that her diet demanded. But we were there for the chance to see some of the culture of Normandy and the history there. All the overnight stays were in sites which offered us chances to become involved in the Impressionist art scene, historic abbeys and cathedrals, sites with historical references to the Vikings, the conquest of William of Normandy, and artifacts related to Richard the Lionheart. The more recent history involving the D Day Invasion and other World War II sites are also there. The day at the Normandy Beaches and the American Cemetery were enhanced by our guide Richard who was excellent. The little towns of Vernon, Giverney, Les Andlys, and Honfleur were picturesque and made you feel like you had stepped back into the past. Our trip to Etretat was very interesting. Top all this off with Paris, Versailles, and the Louvre and what more could you ask of a trip to France. My wife took over a thousand pictures. How much price can be put on sailing into Rouen and see the Cathedral lit up at night, watching the Eiffel Tower twinkle from the top deck of the ship, just being to step back into the past and walk down streets lined with half timbered buildings? This trip was all we were looking for. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
We did the cruise-only portion of the Paris to Monaco tour package. The ship was sold out months before departure from Chalon-sur-Saone on 02SEP14. Unlike many cruises on the Rhone River which start and return to Lyon repeating most of the ... Read More
We did the cruise-only portion of the Paris to Monaco tour package. The ship was sold out months before departure from Chalon-sur-Saone on 02SEP14. Unlike many cruises on the Rhone River which start and return to Lyon repeating most of the river views, the Avalon Scenery begins in Chalon-sur-Saone and finishes at the mouth of the Rhone in Arles using both the lovely and picturesque Saone as well as the Rhone rivers. There were double day stops, a sense of easing through southern France. In short, the pace was efficiently lovely. Local tours were provided as needed and were outstanding. Extra excursions offered more to those with additional interests like wine tasting. The staterooms were more than adequate, well appointed and quiet. The housekeeping we got was cheery and efficient. The ship was well appointed and functioned very well without any sense of it all being simply routine. The meals, buffet breakfast and lunch and smoothly served dinner offered lots of choice and new items appeared daily. The dining room needs to be altered to absorb more of the conversational noise especially for those siting in the mid section of the dining room where conversations were almost impossible. Although seating was open, most sat at the same tables every evening. I would advise future cruisers on the Avalon Scenery to head for one of the tables at the far end of the dining room on the first night to stake out a place so that conversations are possible without shouting to each other. Tony, our cruise director, was attentive and aware of the needs of the passengers. He was amusing and made sure we all got as much from our cruise experience as possible. Alternate arrangements that are common on River cruises were explained he usually showed us how to get extra benefit from the new situation. Given the lower fare than competing cruises that use the Rhone, this was money well spent. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
Having just returned from the Paris/Normandy cruise on the River Baroness, we could not fault the Uniworld service or friendliness and consideration of the staff or the fact that the food was good. However, for the sake of those ... Read More
Having just returned from the Paris/Normandy cruise on the River Baroness, we could not fault the Uniworld service or friendliness and consideration of the staff or the fact that the food was good. However, for the sake of those considering this or any river cruise there are other factors to think carefully about when booking. This is a costly vacation so take into account personality factors and your likes and dislikes. This is the only reason we are writing this review. We have travelled the world, cruised on ocean liners, been independent in cities where we’d just rent a car and go, booked private houses in foreign countries and enjoyed being locals. When we travel we like to explore and walk as much as possible. We also like some “personal space” from time to time. We only picked this itinerary because of the Normandy Beach inclusion specifically and we’d be cruising a river inland vs. an ocean. So, we'd never done a river cruise, and thought we should at least try it. We also thought that for the most part we’d be “berthed” close to places that we could walk off the ship, and those places would not be mostly in areas either noisy or industrial. The impression in the brochure makes you feel like you will be close to a tow path with a village nearby when “letting the serene Seine carry you through the countryside”. The impression in the brochure is also that the berth in Paris is very near the Eiffel Tower. The berth is long way from the Eiffel Tower. Even with a Google map printout of the location, our taxi driver had difficulty and could not find the ship immediately. In the spring, while travelling, we spoke to a couple who had been on Uniworld. They were similar to us in personality and likes when travelling. They were sociable, but also liked to choose when to be social and when to have quiet time, in fact the woman said she “needed” to have that option. She didn’t want to put me off but said she ended up just wanting to be off the ship after three days to find a place she felt less confined. I thought she may be exaggerating. The first shock to us after spending three days in a small room in a boutique Paris hotel (they are all small), was that the room we had in Paris was large compared to the cabin on the Baroness. Others on the ship told us this is Uniworld’s oldest as well as their smallest ship. They also said they didn’t like the cabins either, but insisted we not let it put us off future river cruising. Honestly we felt cramped in the cabin, and the bathroom, as both are very tight. It’s a challenge and you better not be a slob on this ship. You need to be organized in a room this small. I wish I could post my pictures of the cabin on this review. I think the brochure must be done with a different lens. You can get one person on each side of the bed, but don’t try squeezing past each other (and we are not big people). There is one chair with no room to pull it out and sit on, as it would block up the space, and the only place to sit is on the bed. It got even worse the two days we were berthed at Rouen, with another ship right beside us cutting out the view and light from the room. It was like having a huge truck parked in front of your living room window. I wish I could post that picture also. Yes, people will say “well you are not in your cabin much” but some of us don’t always want to be with everyone else socializing 24/7 and simply want to enjoy a spot where you can chill out. We were lucky we could use the sun deck as an alternative to the Monet lounge, which I agree with a previous reviewer – needs an overhaul and is not that comfy. You are either in your cabin, the dining room when open, the Monet lounge, or on the bus doing the excursions. There is the sun deck when the weather is nice, but if not, then you are limited to the lounge or your cabin when the dining room is closed. The dining room and the lounge both have low ceilings, and the noise intensifies due to that, so trying to talk or socialize when there is a lecture, music, or scheduling talk going on ruins other’s enjoyment of whatever they are listening to. What we missed were more quiet spots, and we were not alone in wishing that. Others mentioned it also. It was also our first time on a daily basis being shuttled to excursions and being in a group following a guide twice a day. We did not think we’d spend as much time on the buses as we did. At Vernon you are berthed in a sort of industrial area, but you really only get on the bus from the ship, back again, and your off somewhere else. I think our nicest spot to berth was Les Andelys, but you are not there long either. In Rouen we were close to the city, and could walk ashore, which was a bonus. We were also next to a main highway and bridge so there was a lot of traffic and construction noise. Plus we had the other ship right next to us outside the window most of the time. On the return towards Paris we berthed in St. Denis suburb, in a rough looking area, and we did walk ashore so can attest to it. It was the “dump your car parts, oil change, old tires by the sidewalk” capital of France we think. You can’t have it all I guess – close enough to walk ashore meant not an ideal spot, and other spots you were bussed for a good distance to reach your destinations. This meant a schedule of getting up early, all rushing to dine to eat breakfast, then all heading for the bus. After the tour, it was back on the bus, back to the restaurant for lunch, and return to another bus for the next destination after lunch. For us this is a schedule………and we don’t go on vacations to have to follow schedules that tightly. We are not saying this is wrong. Some people may feel intimidated in a foreign place and not wish to go anywhere on their own. This is an all inclusive floating hotel that you never have to get off except with a guide if you don’t want to. Some love to follow the bus, never have to eat ashore and struggle with a foreign menu, love to stay with the same folks all the time, sit at the same table, get the same seat on the bus. They like the security of it all and the service which Uniworld provides – and that service is very good. If you are this type of person, this is the trip for you. We found very quickly that we were not this type of person. After days of sharing the tours the first few days we choose not to do the walking tour of Rouen, but had a later breakfast after the main crowds left. We simply got a map and headed out, taking in the vendors at the market, finding the historic spots on our own, opting to see what was up little alleys, and we saw and found it all without having to wait for stragglers or follow the guide. Yes, you do get a lot more history with the guide, (and hopefully retain it all by the end of the day) but we’d done some homework, and we managed just fine. In fact, we hit the tour group many times as we walked. We found we enjoyed the freedom more. We had signed and paid for the optional tour of Versailles, but after we hit the crowds there and got back on the bus, we looked at each other and said “we’re not going on another bus, or another tour, or another crush of people”. We were bus and tour sick. So, like two other couples, we were the only folks left on the last day. We had a “sea day” and enjoyed being on vacation with no schedule. Again, this is not saying anything against Uniworld, (apart from the fact that the cabins are smaller than they look on the brochure, and the Monet Lounge is tres “shabby chic”). The staff did a wonderful job. However if you are the type of person who: likes a little more space in your cabin and light through the window all the time; likes quiet time occasionally; hates to dawdle behind a crowd and guides with lollypops (felt a bit like being back at school some days); does not wish to get up too early on vacation; doesn’t like to be bussed almost every day somewhere on a schedule and wishes there was more free time rather than travel time; and lastly, thinks you are travelling up the Seine seeing scenic spots and tying up in quiet little villages all the time--------------- if you are all or most of the aforementioned - then don’t choose this tour. I’m not disparaging it for others. It simply did not fit our “type” of travel personality. We felt confined in the cabin, often in the lounge, on the tours, and ultimately, like the lady we met, felt confined by the whole boat experience, and because of that we know we will never go river cruising again. It’s a personal choice, but I do think you should be aware of all this before you make the choice. We are glad that we did Paris on our own ahead of time, as being on a panoramic tour on a tour bus at the end would have just been a snapshot of a wonderful city that needs to be experienced with time for walking along the Seine, checking out the architecture, sitting at a café, having time to really spend in a Museum, lining up to choose the pasty of the day, seeing the lights, sitting in a green metal chair in the many parks and watching the Parisians relax at the end of their work day. You need time for Paris, so, if you do choose this tour, make sure you spend time in Paris at either the beginning or end, because you really can’t see Paris properly any other way.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
We just returned from our long-anticipated Viking river cruise in France and came away wishing we had paid closer attention to the itinerary (Portraits of France) as our expectations were not met. We made assumptions (based on ... Read More
We just returned from our long-anticipated Viking river cruise in France and came away wishing we had paid closer attention to the itinerary (Portraits of France) as our expectations were not met. We made assumptions (based on Viking's marketing and other friends cruise experiences in other countries and on other cruise lines) about what a river cruise would entail and felt if we had known what to pay attention to, we would have chosen a different itinerary and possibly a different cruise line. Our main disappointments were as follows: 1) there was minimal to no time to spend on either our balcony or topside due to touring schedule and/or time of day we were sailing.We expected to see scenic vistas while sailing, but instead saw miles of flat farmland...AND much of the sailing took place at night and we saw nothing 2) we also anticipated time to leisurely stroll through quaint towns where we docked, but instead oftentimes were docked in industrial settings where our stateroom view was an abandoned,graffiti-laden warehouses. On only two occasions were we close enough to walk into the town for a very short period of time. 3) the 7 day agenda was very structured and very fast-paced....not conducive to relaxation and independent exploration. 4) dinners got tedious as there was only one dining time (7pm) and we quickly saw that passengers would line up 15-20 minutes early outside the dining rom in order to secure specific seating. The 'Captain's Dinner' was quite humorous because the Captain did not attend it nor did the Captain speak English (all passengers were from U.S., Canada and Australia). 5) do NOT pay extra for the elite beverage package...definitely not worth the cost. My advice to anyone looking to take a river cruise: pay attention to the # of passengers, the sailing timeline, the scenery that you can expect to see, the amount of free time and proximity to towns, the ability to dine off the ship at least once. AND...read reviews from passengers who have been on the cruise ( ship and itinerary) you are considering! Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
Since our only visit to France had been on an ocean cruise stop in Cannes, we wanted to get a better feel for the country, the culture, and the history (oh yes, and the wines!). The cruise traveled from the Mediterranean to the Normandy ... Read More
Since our only visit to France had been on an ocean cruise stop in Cannes, we wanted to get a better feel for the country, the culture, and the history (oh yes, and the wines!). The cruise traveled from the Mediterranean to the Normandy Coast, with Paris in between. What more can you ask for? Along the Rhône, Saône, and Seine rivers we stopped at numerous towns and cities for (included) excursions of towns such as Avignon, Perouges, Dijon, Giverny, and Honfleur. Most notable were excursions to wineries in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Beaune, and the Pont du Gard and the Normandy D-Day landmarks and American Cemetery. The entire journey required two different riverboats, but the connection was something special as well. The included connection was from Dijon to Paris aboard the TGV, or Train à Gran Vitesse, France's high-speed train. What a pleasure to sit in power reclining seats and travel over 200 mph in smooth, quiet comfort. The real beauty for us is the way Vantage takes care of everything, from handling our luggage at the airport to escorting us through the Paris train station. There are no worries about catching a ride, how to get to a sightseeing attraction, or even "where are the restrooms?" QuietVox headsets are provided for all excursions, so you can comfortably hear your English-speaking guide even if you're half a block away. all excursions are divided into groups of 20-30 guests, so crowding is not an issue. Dining is superb, and the chefs go out of their way to provide local delights as well as traditional American fare. An example: "Rack of lamb with Dijon mustard crust, rosemary potato gratin, and ratatouille Provencale". Make no mistake, this is NOT a cruise for children (there were none on our voyage), but adults will find it very relaxing and most interesting. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
What a spectacular trip that has given us so many great memories. Having arrived two days early we stayed at the Holiday Inn, Notre Dame. An accommodating staff, who prepared us for the events to come. Our embarkation, was easy- ... Read More
What a spectacular trip that has given us so many great memories. Having arrived two days early we stayed at the Holiday Inn, Notre Dame. An accommodating staff, who prepared us for the events to come. Our embarkation, was easy- peasy and our stateroom on the AMALEGRO was more than just great, with plenty of room, storage and even an in room computer. The ship is spacious, extremely clean, tastefully appointed, and well managed. The meals were especially good, with variety and special attention to guests special occasions. Regional specialties were often served at different stops. Dining room service and attention was first rate. Hats off to the wait staff, and Pavil the maitre d' for always watching out for our every need. The shore excursions were excellent and we had the added bonus of the 70th Anniversary of D-Day to make our stay at Caudebec-en-Caux and our transport to the Normandy beaches the next day above our expectations. Our Normandy trip will be a lifetime memory. Our guide was one of the few non French tour guides (an American who resides in France) and she took us thru to the June 6, 1944, experience as if we were there - very emotional. Upon our return from the beaches, we had the surprise of the locals celebrating the 70th anniversary of their liberation that lasted late into the evening. Dozens of locals were dressed as G.I.s and World War 2 outfits, many of whom were driving fully restored war era Jeeps, toting gear and memorabilia. The evening was capped with a full orchestra playing Glen Miller songs, dressed in military garb and playing the tunes flawlessly. A memorable evening! We cannot applaud the staff enough. Annie, our cruise director, was always involved in our experience. She made sure we got off on excursions in a timely fashion & always cheered us with her ingratiating personality and smile. She even gave some really good singing performances and you could often find her on the dance floor after dinner adding to the fun or getting it started. Captain Franch was a joy. Although his English skills were limited, his engaging personality communicated with all the guests just fine. The entire staff was friendly, helpful and clearly enjoyed their work. This is a well managed and cared for ship. A rose for me upon arrival, a gift at disembarkation and a hand written THANK YOU card from the Captain and senior staff when we got home … very classy. Will cruise AmaWaterways again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
As experienced cruisers with 17 ocean cruisers under our belt, we were excited to embark on our first river cruise choosing the new longship Viking Heimdal sailing the Portraits of Southern France itinerary. We are busy professionals and ... Read More
As experienced cruisers with 17 ocean cruisers under our belt, we were excited to embark on our first river cruise choosing the new longship Viking Heimdal sailing the Portraits of Southern France itinerary. We are busy professionals and love the true getaway that a cruise experience can provide however we were admittedly a bit concerned that we might find the river cruise experience to be a tad sedate. Much to our pleasure we thoroughly enjoyed our experience. Despite many logistics issues due to both high river height and lock maintenance which required significant and ongoing shifting of our itinerary, our trip was fabulous and we both agreed on the flight home that it was one of the best and most relaxing vacations we have taken. We booked this trip fairly last minute so we used Viking Air (not our typical approach with cruises). Our experience on Lufthansa was one of the only downsides of our trip. It was not awful but just not very good, seemed a bit of a budget experience and the fact that we were booked on 3 flights to get home from France added to the disappointment. We also had to pay for pre-assigned seat assignments on each leg of our trip which was a late surprise, costing us $300 total, and the irony is that we ended up switching seats with a family with two very small children who were being split up for an 8 hour flight.....so much for our pre-assigned seats. Now for the good stuff- the cruise was great. The ship was elegant and understated with easily accessible common areas. The staff and service were just superb. We enjoyed the small footprint of the ship and the intimate atmosphere provided when traveling with only 180 passengers. Given that our cruise last summer was on a 4000 passenger ship, it was quite a dramatic difference. The food quality was top-notch and it was bolstered by the overflowing enthusiastic attitude of our young chef (only 26 years old) and her staff. This was highlighted on one special evening where they served a buffet of Provence food and allowed all of us into the galley where they were dancing with passengers in-between serving us. As I mentioned the itinerary was a daily challenge. Not worth going into all the changes but I think there was not a single day on the ship that was not impacted. The staff did a great job balancing this. The result was that we were able to experience just about everything that was promised with one exception. However, in order to do so we spent more time on bus rides than we had planned. BTW - the buses were high quality and comfortable; some even included TV screens showing the view from the front of the bus. However, the increased bus time was the cause of great disappointment and upset to a few but most passengers focused on having a great time. The weather was superb in the mid 70s to low 80s on most days, so this helped to make the trip wonderful and hearing how the folks on the previous week were faced with rain almost every day, made it even sweeter. The excursions were high quality with generally good guides. Sharing stories with fellow passengers, we can report that the vast majority were happy with the excursions. One fairly universal disappointment was the inaccessibility of the top deck for almost the entire trip. At first it seemed this was a result of high water levels but ship staff revealed that this was more the norm than an exception, due to the large number of low bridges and locks on this itinerary combined with the river height. On the next to the last night the Captain took the ship out for a spin by the bridge in Avignon and he treated everyone to an open bar on the top deck in an attempt to make up for all the issues we had dealt with. It was a nice gesture and a beautiful experience. Other pluses of the cruise were the fellow passengers, very reliable free wireless, and other amenities such as free water bottles for excursions and occasional sweet treats greeting us upon return to the ship. The atmosphere was very casual with few dressing up at all and most only on the night of the Captains dinner. Even on that night the dress was what I would call resort casual for most. The bar staff were extremely congenial and competent. We noticed that the whole staff had a real "pitch in" attitude with many doing several jobs as demand required. The on-board musician was a low light but he was augmented with a few outside acts which helped to provide some variety and I found myself enjoying him a bit more later in the week. Our only regret is that we didn't have more time on our own to wander around and enjoy, especially in Avignon which was truly a fabulous city. We are already talking about another river cruise on Viking...now we just have to decide which one. We are so happy we tried a river cruise, while we still love the ocean, river cruising is our new pleasure. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
My partner were on our first cruise. The car parking and check-in at Dover were excellent; we were given clear directions to the car-park, porters took our luggage from the car and it next turned up outside our cabin. We had a forward ... Read More
My partner were on our first cruise. The car parking and check-in at Dover were excellent; we were given clear directions to the car-park, porters took our luggage from the car and it next turned up outside our cabin. We had a forward cabin on deck 4 (picture window, not portholes); comfortable beds, plenty of hanging space, a little short of drawer space. Decent size towels and changed as required; hand and shower wash toiletries supplied. Duvet covers changed daily. A full tea/coffee making tray provided. We had failed to noet that. although it is a UK ship, the electrics are continental 2 pin! Reception loaned us 2 adaptors for the trip, for a small returnable deposit. The structure of the cabin creaked and groaned a bit on the two nights when the sea was a bit rough but were excellently sound proofed The staff were all cheerful, polite and competent - dining-room, bar, reception and cabin. There are two sittings for dinner 6.15 and 8.15 pm with tables for 2,4,6, or 8. Choose time and number when you book. There are three restaurants where one can have breakfast and lunch but the menu is the same in each. The food was excellent with a wide selection; good food, nicely cooked and presented,,on hot plates and as good as you would eat in any up market holiday hotel. Drinks prices were on a par with UK bar/hotel prices, but we found that the £8 per person/day All Inclusive package represented good value and, even at the £10 it has gone up to it is still worth doing. A gin and tonic and a pint of draught bitter is about £8.60 and wine is around £4 a glass so spending your daily allowance involves normal holiday drinking and nothing excessive! There was an outbreak of noro-virus, almost as soon as we sailed. Strict health precautions were enforced which basically meant that whenever you entered or left a public room you were required to sanitise your hands with an alcohol based gel. People who got the virus were treated free by the ship's doctor and anyone who accepted the request to stay in their cabin for 48 hours was give a pro-rata 2 day refund on their fare.. There was a huge range of onboard activities including talks, demonstrations of art and craft, dancing, bridge, truly something for almost everyone.. We did not attend any of the evening entertainments but heard good reports of them from those who did. The shores excursions in Nantes, La Rochelle, and Bordeaux were excellent but seemed a bit pricy at £49 per person for a 1/2 day. There were about 8 excursions offered at each port and the full range can be seen on the Fred Olsen website. The arrangements of getting on and off the boat for these tours was poor, bordering on shambolic! Many passengers had a range of mobility issues which made them a bit slow, the gangways were steep and at one time there were 300 passengers who had got off tour buses, trying to get back on board via a one-way gangway with 300 passengers trying to get off and board the coaches! Disembarking and baggage collection were speedy enough and efficient. Overall, my idea of a good cruise, Braemar was full but did not seem to be (900+ passengers) and I was sufficiently impressed that I booked a cruise on the same boat for next year, while I was on-board! 5% discount too! Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
We arrived in Paris 4 days before the cruise, stayed at a lovely small boutique hotel close to the port and had a grand time seeing the sights on our own and using tour companies found on TripAdvisor. We traveled by metro and the train, ... Read More
We arrived in Paris 4 days before the cruise, stayed at a lovely small boutique hotel close to the port and had a grand time seeing the sights on our own and using tour companies found on TripAdvisor. We traveled by metro and the train, and it was easy and affordable. I urge everyone to do a before of after Paris visit of several days at least, as there's rather minimal time exploring Paris itself on this cruise. After a 5 minute taxi ride, we arrived at the port at 12:30 pm, were greeted by Patricia the Program Director, and Sascha, the Hotel Manager, and had a nice light lunch in the lounge. We selected a cabin with a large window that could open which was lovely for views along the river. The room was of sufficient size, with plenty of drawers and closet space. Luggage was stored under the bed. There was a 115 V socket and several european sockets. All of our electronic devices worked fine, and we did not need a converter. We did bring adapter plugs. The room was kept clean and tidy, and we paid our housekeeper an extra tip at the end of the trip. As mentioned previously, the hair dryer is not as powerful as we're used to at home but did manage to dry my hair. We utilized the laundry service, as we limted how much we brought along, and it was delivered back to us in perfect condition the next day. The excursions have been reviewed elsewhere. Our favorite was the visit to Monet's house and gardens. The gardens are extraordinary, with an amazing abundance of beautiful flowers. There is also a Paris city bus tour with a stop at Notre Dame, a walking tour through Rouen with a "leisure" group for slow walkers, a visit to the Normandy beaches and museums, a stop in Las Andelys and optional tour to Versailles. I found the shopping best in the 2 stores in Las Andelys, and we took the half day Versailles excursion which we found to be sufficient. Back at the boat, we had breakfast in the dining room, the light lunch in the lounge (there is also lunch in the dining room) and dinner in the dining room. We thought the food was excellent but service a bit slow for dinner, especially for our table of 4, the first one in the middle upon entrance. I suggest avoiding that one, as we were usually the last ones served. People tended to stick with the original table selected on this cruise, so moving seemed like it would be a bit of a challenge. Everyone appeared to be working hard, so it seemed like an additional waiter might have helped. As typical of prior river cruises, onboard entertainment was limited. We attended an interesting lecture on Joan of Arc, a French lesson, a tour of the galley, an optional oyster eating event and a music quiz that was more amusing than expected. There was also a painting class and a piano player in the evening. The last night there were some classically trained singers, who were very good, but I didn't stay for long due to packing requirements. All of the major staff members were personable and helpful. Patricia was very orgainized, with a bubbly personality. A final word on the debarkation: We were assigned a bus for CDG airport 3 hours before the plane's departure. It took 1 hour to get to the airport, and because of a great deal of traffic, left off at Arrivals. Getting through the chaotic maze at CDG was an obstacle course, and even though we were on priority lanes throughout and moved as fast as possible, it took over an hour to get to our gate. Within 10 minutes the plane began boarding. if you prefer a more leisurely airport experience, I strongly recommend getting yourself on a bus that gives you more time. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
Well, this was our first River Cruise and we were excited. However we were a little put back when 2 days before we left we were told the first part of the trip was out due to high river levels. So we stayed moored at Lyon for 3 days. We ... Read More
Well, this was our first River Cruise and we were excited. However we were a little put back when 2 days before we left we were told the first part of the trip was out due to high river levels. So we stayed moored at Lyon for 3 days. We had just 2 days cruising and another 2 moored in Avignon. The sun deck was closed the entire time we cruised and the bar was very limited in wine choice until they re-stocked after 3 days. No complaints about the crew. They tried hard and the food was ok as were the tours, although they involved much longer bus drives than planned due to the changed locations. We wanted a cruise , we could have stayed in hotels anywhere with bigger rooms and more amenities at a much lower cost. Beware the Portraits of Southern France because the boats are really too big for these rivers and this will continue to occur regularly in the future. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
Most nights we were docked back at Bordeaux. It's just a crazy cruise itinerary. Seeing the same place over and over was a tad boring. All of the bus trips took hours and hours to get to the area. By the time you got back to the ship, ... Read More
Most nights we were docked back at Bordeaux. It's just a crazy cruise itinerary. Seeing the same place over and over was a tad boring. All of the bus trips took hours and hours to get to the area. By the time you got back to the ship, there was no time to do local walking except after dark. The tour guides on the bus would tell you to go to sleep because there was nothing to see on the way to the truffles, Bay of Arcachon & Cognac. The tours themselves were worth the drive, but our legs swelled up from all the sitting. We could not do some tours because the other ones conflicted. On the drive through PAUILLAC (MARGAUX), FRANCE we were driving around and around the same areas back and forth. The dinner at a chateaux was not really in a chateaux, but rather a new building built to hold events. We were not allowed in the real chateaux. The food was prepared and served by the same Viking staff from the ship. Wine was from the local vineyard. I did not like this cruise and would advise people rent a car to see the region. The rivers are a muddy run off mess with nothing to see along the way, unlike the Elba Viking cruise we had been on previously. Our room was large and we had a balcony, which was below the dock most of the time. Useless for views. Most of the time traveling was at night. The trip to SAINT-ÉMILION was a fiasco with busses not appearing on time and people feeling stranded by the guides. The town is not an easy walk for some people and the cripples were not warned. I am glad I saw it while still in good health. They should rename the cruise "Bordeaux to Bordeaux". Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
My friend and I took the Paris & Heart of Normandy Tour departing July 4. I was disappointed with this tour and have already advised at least three people who were considering Viking to go with a different cruise line. First, my ... Read More
My friend and I took the Paris & Heart of Normandy Tour departing July 4. I was disappointed with this tour and have already advised at least three people who were considering Viking to go with a different cruise line. First, my friend and I had a problem getting updates and documentation. One of us lives in NYC and the other in Houston. First, all emails were sent to Texas, even though several of them should have been directed to NYC, then, when documentation was sent, it all went to NYC. Only after calling and having duplicate documentation sent did Texas receive paperwork. We booked transfers through Viking. My flight arrived, and I found the Viking rep with no problem. However, seven people were supposed to have arrived, but I was the only one. I had to wait for 40 minutes and finally, when the other six had not yet arrived, I said that I was tired of waiting and wanted to go to the ship. Otherwise, I would have still been sitting at the airport. I was tired, having flown from Houston, my friend had arrived in Paris hours earlier, and it wasn't my fault about the other people. There was little entertainment on board, and I especially regretted that the last afternoon of our cruise, when it took seven hours to float to Paris from Conflans, the only entertainment was how to make a chocolate lava cake. This was the last day of our cruise! On other days, there was also very little in the way of entertainment, and, as I am hard-or-hearing and the TVs were not close-captioned, I couldn't even watch TV. In each port, local tour guides were used. When we went to Giverny, one of the tour guides didn't show up, so my friend ended up in a group that should have been halved, and the tour guide left several people, including my friend who is handicapped, behind. I could only understand one or two of the guides, even with the audio system provided. Think you will see Paris? Forget it. We got out of the bus for a view of the Eiffel Tower (which can be seen from the ship), and other than that, all pictures had to be taken out of a moving bus window on a day when it was raining. There was a little free time to go exploring but was on the first day of the tour (the day that I finally arrived at the ship at 3 PM, was tired, and wanted dinner at 7), or the evening before we all left the ship to go home. Since we didn't get into Paris until 7 PM and dinner was at 7:15, that didn't leave much time as my transfer to the airport was at 4:45 AM. Also, my friend uses a walker, and no-one told us that, in Paris, there were about 50 metal steps from the quay to street level. We had to enlist the help of strangers. We thought there was very little time to shop or explore. For example, when we were in Vernon, it was Sunday, and the few shops there were were closed, except for the pastry shops. After coming home, people have asked how the French people were. I have to say that I honestly don't know since I didn't have much interaction with them. The food was OK, probably above average but not extraordinary. However, although wine was included at lunch and dinner, all of the white was Chardonnay and all the red was Merlot. These are not my favorite varieties, so by the end of the cruise, I was drinking Diet Coke. Petty maybe, but the carpets were stained and either needed a good cleaning or to be replaced. It was so chilly and rainy in France, in July, that we didn't get to enjoy the deck at all. One of the good things was the wonderful server we had in the dining room, Simone. She was attentive, remembered us, and was exceptional. Also, the program director, Karine, did go out of her way to accommodate my friend on the tour of the American Cemetery and Omaha Beach by reserving a front seat for us so that she could easily get on/off/on the bus. However, having traveled with another line previously, I would not book another cruise with Viking. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
We sailed with Avalon "Scenery" for a river cruise through Burgundy and Provence, embarking on July 1, 2014-CANADA DAY. When booking the trip over a year ago, space was limited as river cruises are so popular. We chose the upper ... Read More
We sailed with Avalon "Scenery" for a river cruise through Burgundy and Provence, embarking on July 1, 2014-CANADA DAY. When booking the trip over a year ago, space was limited as river cruises are so popular. We chose the upper floor, cabin #305 and the premium was well worth the location for our own reasons. The cabin was more spacious than regular cruise lines we had sailed in the past. The use of space was so well thought over, utilizing every nook & cranny. We called it a "barge" before leaving for our trip not knowing what to expect...it truly did not disapoint ! The ship was spotless and had been refurbished in 2013. Although still a very new ship (built in 2008), it was a pleasant surprise from photo's shown in the brochure that appeared to be a little dated. Pictures do not do this ship justice. The staff were very pleasant, helpful and funny....we had an awesome crew serving us at dinner. A huge thanks to a few chosen, "Oleg, Dimi and Daniel". The dining room was very noisy but you soon adjusted as everyone was simply having a great time. Food was exceptional and the free wine just kept coming- thanks to Dimi. On CANADA DAY we were surprised to arrive in the dining room to find red & white balloons, honoring our countries flag. They celebrated Canada's Birthday with a cake as they did again for our American friends on July 4th...such a nice touch :) There was plenty of space indoor and outdoor to enjoy as you wished. With only 126 passengers, it was a refreshing change from the large cruise ships. We never felt crowded- always found great spots to curl up in and watch the scenery pass or read a book. It was peaceful-no barside reggae music, no loud poolside games, no constant announcements. One final note. We had been told that the average age onboard river cruises would be in the 70-80's range. It varied and there was a good range of ages on our specific cruise. Everyone got along very well, everyone kept up the pace, and everyone enjoyed the others company regardless of age. We were there to have a good time - and we had a great time! KUDO"S TO AVALON Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
First, comments about the Uniworld experience. My husband and I have previously cruised with AMA on the Danube, and with Scenic Tours on the Saone and Rhone river. Service: excellent, décor: boutique hotel, beds and bedding: excellent, ... Read More
First, comments about the Uniworld experience. My husband and I have previously cruised with AMA on the Danube, and with Scenic Tours on the Saone and Rhone river. Service: excellent, décor: boutique hotel, beds and bedding: excellent, food: excellent to outstanding, wine: average to very good, tours: well-organized and interesting, Al Fresco dining option: fantastic, no announcements in your room: FANTASTIC (I hope all cruise lines will copy this)daily tour talks: available in your cabin on the t.v. (another excellent and innovative service). Bikes: available as well as Go Active bike tours. I haven’t ridden a bike in 35 years and now have gone on 2 of the Uniworld bike tours in Bordeaux. Wireless: included and in your cabin! All-inclusive: very good but not yet excellent. It was lovely to have drinks in the lounge and on the deck without worrying about cost. My husband and I cruised with Scenic Tours last year, and they are all-inclusive. We did not have any extra charges for tours. Uniworld still charges for “optional” tour. Scenic had 3 tours available each day, and no surcharge. Uniworld has usually 1 or 2 tours a day, and then very expensive optional tours that can be cancelled because not enough people signed up. A cooking class tour was a very expensive optional tour on Uniworld, but with Scenic we had a cooking class at the Paul Bocuse culinary school and it was included. On Uniworld, there is a different white and red wine served in the dining room. When we asked for a wine that is served on a different night, we were told that wasn’t possible by the waiter. Our cruise manager clarified this situation once she knew about it, and waiters then did serve any of the wines that are part of the “all inclusive” wine list. Which brings me to my last point, customer service: excellent. Our complaints and concerns were addressed promptly and graciously. Thank you to Georgina, our hotel manager. Paris to Normandy on the River Baroness Positive: visit to Giverney, visit to Juno and Omaha Beach, Uniworld provided a wreath for a powerful service at the American Cemetery – I had a lump in my throat the entire day. Rouen and the cathedral light show were lovely. Excellent, informative and interesting guides. Negative: there is no way I would have booked this trip with Uniworld had I understood how very, very small are the cabins. You can barely get a suitcase under the bed, and you can barely walk around the bed. There is chair in the room but you cannot put it beside the glass window and look at the river. The bathroom, very nicely done, is claustrophobic. My husband and I are not very large, but I can’t imagine how a large person could move in that space. The closet is so small that not only did all of our clothes not fit in it, but the clothes hangers don’t fit in it. You cannot close the closet door with your clothes on the hangers and the closet light shines all night long. For the same money or less, you can have almost the same itinerary on a competitor’s boat and have a much larger cabin. Because Uniworld combines 2 or more river cruises, our next boat, the River Royale, was a surprise. We had a lovely cabin with a much roomier bathroom, 2 chairs and a table, ample closet space – and for the same price as the River Baroness. My husband sent an irate email to our travel agent once we could compare the two exactly same priced one week cruises. Passengers who had been on the Uniworld Rhone river cruise on the exquisite S.S. Catherine were somewhat horrified when their next week was on the cramped River Baroness. Bordeaux, Vineyards and Chateaux on the River Royale Positive: Focus on food and wine – and the food was divine! We promised ourselves to have a light lunch – and would have 3 or 4 courses - the food was just that good. Excellent meals on the ship and at the Chateau for lunch. Bike riding in bucolic vineyards, visiting charming small towns like Saint Emilion and Bergerac. Wine tasting Sauternes. Seeing famous chateaus and vineyards for real after having only seen them on labels. Arachon oyster tasting! Wine tasting in the Claret Room, Shopping in Bordeaux – same shops and fashion as Paris but in a calmer, smaller and very beautiful area. Younger and more active crowd on this cruise -families, 20,30, 40 something’s plus the usual 50 to 80 crowd. Negatives: the Gironde Estuary, Dordogne and Gironde River are brown – not what I was expecting! A different shore and water look from the other rivers I have cruised. In 2014, there are only 3 cruise companies in Bordeaux. Next year, there will be more. Half of the time, we were tied up to another ship, meaning you need to keep your curtains drawn so you don’t look into another person’s cabin. Viking cruise passengers couldn’t use their balconies when that side of the ship was tied to a ship. Without more docks, I can’t imagine where all of these ships will anchor!   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
Viking's advertising misleading. Promises of food and comfortable river cruise experience far from truth. This is a coach tour disguised as river cruise! More time spent in being herded and rushed on and off buses than river cruising. ... Read More
Viking's advertising misleading. Promises of food and comfortable river cruise experience far from truth. This is a coach tour disguised as river cruise! More time spent in being herded and rushed on and off buses than river cruising. Food adequate, mass produced, certainly not the delights advertised. Signed up for premium liquor service but choices not available. Top suite category (AA) under running track. Only sailed one of seven days as "river too high to sail under bridges". The river is often too high, wrong boat. No information from crew, Captain didn't speak English. Last two days spent moored against sister Viking ship so view from Starboard side was looking into another ship. No explanation or apology. The list goes on but suffice it to say that we would not advise anyone to make the very expensive mistake which we made, at a cost of US Dollars $12,000 excluding airfares. Viking offered us a derisory US$500 each off our next Viking cruise with them, but even if they offered us a free cruise we would never go with them again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
Tauck's French Escapade River Cruise Review July 18-31, 2014. South to North Overview: This Tauck adventure features 4 nights in hotels, 2 in Monte Carlo and 2 in Paris. In between there is a 9 night river cruise on the Rhone & ... Read More
Tauck's French Escapade River Cruise Review July 18-31, 2014. South to North Overview: This Tauck adventure features 4 nights in hotels, 2 in Monte Carlo and 2 in Paris. In between there is a 9 night river cruise on the Rhone & Saone Rivers on the 118 passenger Swiss Emerald. This was a high end vacation with a first class river cruise and 2 first class hotels. A rail trip on the 200mph TGV connected us between Lyon & Paris. Booking: Our travel agent made all the arrangements thru Tauck including the extra hotel nights in Paris, plus airport transfers on both ends. We booked a year in advance in order to get one of the eight 300sf suites that the boat had. The other cabins were under 200sf. Two couples booked just the 9 night river cruise and did not do the hotel portions of the trip. Tauck accommodated them and did not charge them for those portions of the trip. Using a travel agent for this type of trip saves you time and hassle. Passengers: There were 106 passengers, mostly from the US. There were 2 couples from Malaysia and 12 Aussies. The passengers were mostly in their 60's & 70's with a few older and younger couples. There were 2 teenagers, who despite having to be with old folks all the time, seemed to have a good time. There were a few people who had walking difficulties, but they were able to participate in all the tours, although they skipped the buildings that had dozens of steps. The crew always had one tour for people who were slow walkers. The passengers seemed to all get along well. The ability to walk stairs is a requirement to be on this trip. Food & Beverage: All beverages (including cocktails, beer, wine, etc) from the bar were included in the cruise as were all the excursions. The only money you could spend on the cruise were from the gift store, for massages and laundry. Tips for everything related to Tauck were included. The food was amazing. I would compare it to Oceania Cruise Line ships. Dinners were 5 courses and presented very well. The wines were from the region and were great. Lunch and breakfast featured wonderful buffets or you could order from your table. Tour Guides: There were 3 tour guides who stayed with us from beginning to end and a Cruise Director on the boat, all excellent. Mistral Winds: Provance can have very strong northerly winds, ranging from 30 to 70mph, called Mistral Winds. We had strong winds (30mph) for several days, but they helped cool things off and keep the bugs away. Cabins: They ranged in size from 150 sf to 300sf. The large cabins get booked way in advance, with waiting lists in case someone in the large cabins cancels. The cabins each had 2 110v outlets that required a 2 prong Northern European adaptor to use. There were also two 220v outlets where you might need a bulky converter to convert to 110v to charge your camera batteries if your 110 outlets are in use. Apple products can be charged from a 220v plug without a voltage converter, as Apple has built their charging units to take 220v or 110v current. The beds come with a thick comforter and no separate sheet that so many hotels use today. We prefer a sheet and a blanket, which they switched to after I asked the room steward. Robes and slippers are provided in the cabins. Rain: It does rain in France. The ship provides large umbrellas for the passengers. You may need a small umbrella for your hotel days. A light raincoat with hood is very handy as the winds are sometimes too strong for the umbrellas. Entertainment: Don't expect much. There brought a few local acts for after dinner. There were a couple nights where the passengers played games organized by the Tour Guides which were fun. Prizes were awarded to the winning teams. Having after dinner drinks on the top deck was great if it wasn't raining. The lounge had a pianist who was excellent. Workout room: Small - 4 pieces of cardio equipment and. Few 2 LB dumbells. Bring your own resistance bands for weight work. You get plenty cardio on the walks and bike rides. Attire: Most dinners on the ship were Country Club casual, (nice shirt, no shorts). Most guys brought a jacket for the 2 or 3 special dinners. Lunch was casual, shorts were fine. Bring a light jacket that doubles as a raincoat with a hood for cool evenings on deck and wet touring days. The museums in Europe are all warm and humid. Wear short sleeve shirts and shorts and bring a jacket that you can tied around your waist. A fan is a good thing to bring along. The air does not move in these museums. Shoes: You'll need a good pair of walking shoes as most daily walks were over cobblestones with many steps, often without handrails. Lightweight sandals don't usually have the lateral support for the cobblestones. Laundry: The ship provided 1 day laundry service for a fee, not cheap, but it's better than dragging 14 days worth if clothes. The weather was sometimes humid, so you need to wash some cloths. The drip dry clothes could be washed in the sink dried in a day hanging in the shower. The cotton clothes took forever to dry. Air Package: We bought the air sea package and let Tauck set up the flights. Next time I'll have our travel agent book the flights. We had Delta flights from LAX to Nice via JFK. Coming home, we flew Air France & KLM from Paris to LAX via Amsterdam. I would have preferred a direct Paris to LAX flight. That would have saved about 4 hours. Tauck will still provide the transfers if you arrange your own flights. Bicycles: The boat had 11 bicycles, single speed, pedal brakes, not the greatest bikes, but we used them and got around fine. Jacuzzi: There was a 4 person jacuzzi on the top deck that couldn't be used while we were moving, due to low bridges, which required that the jacuzzi vanity screens to come down to clear the bridges. The jacuzzi was available in port. Day to Day Notes: Day 1 Sat - Arrival: We flew into Nice from JFK, an 8 hour overnight flight arriving around 11:45 am. We cleared immigration in under 5 minutes and then waited about 30 minutes for the bags. Passport control was quick. Once we collected our bags, we found the man with the Tauck sign and 8 of us settled into a van for a 30 minute ride to Monte Carlo. Tauck has a meeting room at the Fairmont, just past reception where you got your first daily program and instructions for the hotel stay portion of the trip. There was a welcome reception and dinner that night at 6:30pm for the Tauck guests. It was a great way to meet your fellow travelers. Fairmont Hotel: We checked into the Fairmont Hotel overlooking the Mediterranean Sea for 2 nights. Since we were in one of Tauck's highest suite, we got a hotel room right on the water, with an amazing view. On Saturday night, there was a 20 minute fireworks show that we could see from our balcony. Apparently, this was some kind of fireworks completion held on 4 Saturday nights during the summer. The fireworks are shot from a barge in the harbor that the Fairmont overlooks. The Fairmont normally charges $20/night for wi-fi. Since we booked the Fairmont and pre-paid the hotel bill thru Tauck, we got it for free. I had the Tauck tour guide go to the hotel registration deck to make sure that was the case, and it was. Day 2 Sun - Monte Carlo: After a free breakfast for Tauck guests on Sunday morning at the hotel, we boarded buses for a tour of Monte Carlo. They took us up to the old city for an orientation tour with great overlooks of Monte Carlo. We had free time to shop and then back to the hotel for lunch on your own. At 2pm we boarded tour buses to visit the Rothchild's palace and gardens, which was worth seeing, then back to the hotel by 5:30. Dinner was on your own in Monte Carlo on Sunday night. Monday morning, after a free breakfast, we boarded buses for a trip to Nice and then into Arles to board the Swiss Emerald around 5:30pm. Day 3 Mon - Nice: Tauck gave us a walking tour and then we had 3+ hours to explore the City and have lunch on our own. Nice has an impressive beach Promenade with an excellent bike trail along the beach. Bicycles could be rented at one of the many kiosks for a few Euros on a credit card. The drive to the boat in Arles was not terribly scenic, but the tour guides comments made the trip ok. We boarded the Swiss Emerald at 5:30pm. Embarkation: We arrived at the boat and were welcomed with champaign. We waited in the lounge getting to know each other. Small groups of passengers were led to the check-in desk and shown to their rooms. We met back in the lounge at 6:30 to meet the Captain and the staff. The Captain's Dinner was then served. Day 4 Tues - Arles: We had a morning walking tour of Arles, Vincent Van Gogh's home for 2 years. We had a bus ride to the Country to see a working ranch. The ranch family fed us lunch and then put on a show with bull's chasing young men in a bull ring. The bulls are not hurt. The bulls usually live a full life and die of natural causes in their 20's. Still, it was impressive to the bulls going after the young guys in the ring, who would jump over 2 walls when the bulls got close. The horns on the bulls were covered to protect the runners. Day 5 Wed - Avignon: In the morning We had a walking tour of the old portion of Avignon including the Pope's Palace. The walk included about 200 steps, but there was frequent places to sit and listen to the your guide thru the Vox system. We finished that tour about11:00 am and had time to explore the town before returning to the boat for lunch. After a wonderful lunch, we checked out 2 bicycles and helmets and rode a path along the Rhone. The trail was only 2 miles long. We then rode into the old City of Avignon, a city full of cars and not many places to ride a bike comfortably. At 3:30 we loaded up buses and went to the country side to visit a first class winery, the Pope’s former vineyard when the Pope resided in Avignon in the 1300's. We had a wine tasting and a country bus ride. After dinner, there was a duo doing French songs with accordion. Day 6 Thursday - Viviers: Local guides showed us how to play a French version of Bocce Ball, called Petanque. We played the game and had a refreshment and then walked the old town and visited the Cathedral. We were back to the boat for lunch. The boat sailed at 1pm and we spent the rest of the day cruising the Rhone northbound going thru a few locks and under some low bridges. Staff gave talks on the locks, on the French language and on Vincent Van Gogh's life. We had a few sprinkles in the afternoon and some wind, but very pleasant overall. A good day to be on the Rhone River. Day 7 Friday - Vienne: Tauck provided us with a 90 minute walking/tram tour of the old City of Vienne. The best part was the fantastic view of the Rhone River Valley from the highest point in the City. Our tour included 2 churches/cathedrals. We then had 1:45 minutes on our own. We checked out bicycles and explored the trail along the west side of the Rhone. The town is on the east side, so you take a pedestrian bridge across the river to get to the west side. The trail is basically south if this bridge and it runs for miles. The trail is separated from the adjacent street. At 12:15, the boat left Vienne for points north. We boated thru Lyon and turned into the Saone River, but did not stop in Lyon, as Lyon would be our last stop in a few days. Day 8 Sat - Chalon-sur-Saone: A walking tour of the City left the boat at 9:00 & returned at 11:30 . We skipped the walking tour and rode bicycles around the City, which was fun. At 1:30, there was a coach tour to the Country side to visit two wineries. We stayed in Chalon overnight. There was a crew talent show after dinner. It rained for short bursts today. Day 9 Sunday - Macon: We took a coach tour of Chateau de Cormatin at 8:15 from Chalon Sur Saone as the boat sailed north to Macon. We also visited the town of mid evil town Tornau. We met the boat in Macon after 1:00, followed by lunch on the boat. At 2:45, there was a walking tour in Macon, we rode bikes again. Since it was Sunday, not much was open. At 4:45, the staff explained how the Paris portion of the trip would work and asked us to sign up for which Museum we wanted to visit on Thursday. Most people chose the Louvre. Day 10 Monday - On the way to Lyon: We left the boat at 8:30 for a coach tour of the Abbey of Cluny, the National Stud Farm in Cluny, and then onto the Chateau de la Barge for lunch. We met the boat at 3:45 in Trevoux. At 4:30pm, we left for Lyon, arriving at 8:00pm, while we were having dinner. There was light to medium rain throughout the day. Navigation Note: We side tied to a river boat that looked just like ours run by Travel Marvel, named Excellence Rhone, carrying mostly Aussies. They had been stuck in Lyon for 3 days instead of taking the Saone River portion of their cruise. The company that manages that boat would not allow their Captain to go under the low bridges that we had just gone under twice on our cruise. Their daily tours still took them to the area that they would have seen had they sailed the Saone, but they had longer bus rides to get there. Plus they missed 3 days of River cruising. The passengers were not happy about that "Corporate" Decision. Tauck left that decision up to our Captain to determine if we would clear the lowest bridges, which we did by 6" or so. Day 11 Tuesday - All Day in Lyon: In the morning we had a coach tour of the old City of Lyon. The tour included a walk thru the spectacular Basilica on the hill over looking Lyon. This was the prettiest church we have seen so far on this trip. Following that we did a walking tour of the portion of the Old City near the Saone River and then back to the boat for lunch. At 2:30, the Tour Directors led walking tours of areas in Lyon where there was good shopping. Our Cruise Director led 7 of us on a 1.5 hour bike ride along the Rhone River including a bike ride thru a large City Park with a zoo and lagoon. It was an easy ride, no hills. Day 12 Wednesday. On to Paris! The ride on the TGV was fast and smooth. After we arrived, we waited at the train station while members of our group went to the bathroom, which took over 30 minutes as there were limited facilities in the train station, (please people use the toilet on the train!) We then boarded buses for a 3+ hour tour of Paris. There were 2 stops for pictures. We arrived at the Intercontinental LeGrand Hotel around 5:30. We were given our room keys on the bus, which was nice. Dinner was on our own. There were plenty of good restaurants within 5 to 10 minutes walk from the hotel. There were some complaints about the hotel, but we had no problems. Paris hotel rooms tend to be smaller than in America. Day 13 Thursday - a full day in Paris: We started with a breakfast for the Tauck group in a separate dining room in the LeGrand, then it was off to one of 3 museums for a 90 minute guided tour. You had to pick between the Louvre, the Orangerie or the Orsay. Most people chose the Louvre. Tauck provided buses to and from the museums. You could stay longer at the Museum, which we did at the Louvre. Since we all went in as a group, we didn't get an individual ticket, so we had to stay in the Scully section of the Louvre where the Mona Lisa and lots of the big name exhibits were located. Once you leave that section of the Museum, you had to have a ticket to get into the other sections, which we didn't have. We then walked over to Notre Dame Cathedral, about a 20 minute walk. We got there about 12:30 and it only took 10 minutes to get in, free of course. Later in the day, that line was much longer. You'll spend about 30 minutes in the Cathedral. You can walk around the outside easily to view this amazing building. The line to walk up the towers was hours long and you had to buy a ticket. Tonight was the farewell dinner at the fabulous and famous Fouquet on the Champs Elysees. Day 14 Friday: Tauck provides transportation to the airport in small groups as everyone is going home on different days and times. We stayed 2 extra days in Paris. There is so much to see in Paris that you need the extra days to see the sights and dine in French style. We just walked along the streets and picked a restaurant that looked good, and they always were. Ken's Paris notes & tips: Buy tickets to the major attractions from the concierge at your hotel before you go to avoid long ticket lines. We found no vendors on the streets that sold tickets to attractions like you see in New York or Las Vegas. Get the audio guides at the attractions, they cost 5€ cash each set. Guided tours are great, but the schedule for those tours doesn't easily line up with where you are. It's hard to hit a time specific for these tours given Paris traffic and your need to see as much of Paris as you can in a few days. Buy tickets for the L'Open Paris Hop on Hop Off, a double decker sighting seeing bus that allows you to hop on & off. (http://www.paris.opentour.com/fr/) We paid 38€ each for a two day pass. The one day pass was 31€. The concierge sold us the vouchers. This company has 4 routes, which covers a very large amount of the City. The "Big Bus" is cheaper but has only one route and covers a lot less of the City. It is wonder watching this amazing City from above the street level on the open upper deck. Everywhere you look in Paris, there is something worth seeing. Bicycle rentals are available all over the City in on-street kiosk style bike racks. The system is called Velib. Just put in a credit card, open an account and then pick your bike from the racks. The cost is only 1€ per hour. The bikes have 3 speeds, hand brakes, headlines, taillights, baskets and locks. There are many bike lanes and paths in Paris and most bike riders use the busy Paris streets without a problem. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g187147-c183666/Paris:France:Velib.Bike.Sharing.System.In.Paris.html If you go to Versailles, take a 1/2 day private tour including transportation from your hotel. Your concierge will arrange it. The tour guide can skip the lines. It takes about 30 minutes to get out to Versailles. You can take the subway to Versailles on your own, but the ticket lines are hours long. Doing the Louvre on your own is a long day. The lines are daunting. Get a guide who can skip the ticket lines. Do the Seine River Cruise on your own. The boats leave the docks every 20 minutes or so, and tickets are cheap and you can just walk up and buy them. The docks are located near the Eiffel Tower at the Bateau Mouches. Don't be intimidated by all the tour buses. During the summer, the lights on the buildings take effect around 10pm, if you want to see Paris at night. The last boat goes out at 11pm. The tour takes 55 minutes. Other folks reported that the Seine Dinner River cruises were great. http://www.bateaux-mouches.fr/en Do walk along the Seine River walkways. There are lower walkways and upper walkways along the streets over looking the river. There is a section of the lower walkway where the City imports sand every summer to create beaches with lounge chairs, umbrellas, Volleyball courts, dance floors, misters - all free. The Parisians flock to this area on nice days. Feel free to email me with questions at kentennis@cox.net   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
My husband & I recently returned from our first river cruise. We chose Uniworld because we had heard such great things about the company & Paris to Normandy for an itinerary as we love Paris & we are both WWII buffs. We came in ... Read More
My husband & I recently returned from our first river cruise. We chose Uniworld because we had heard such great things about the company & Paris to Normandy for an itinerary as we love Paris & we are both WWII buffs. We came in a day early to get over the jetlag but did not stay at the hotel that Uniworld uses (we stayed at a hotel in the 1st arr. that we have previously stayed at) so had to pay for our own taxi to the ship, no big deal but the cabbie did have some trouble finding the dock:) Also, we were just on this leg of the journey, there were a lot of people on the Grand France itinerary onboard but alas, that was not us. Now, on to the River Baroness: Our first impression was that it was nice, decently appointed but some of the areas looked a lot smaller than they do in the brochure or online:) The lounge was badly in need of a redo, the chairs & couches were rather broken in to say the least & the whole area could use a new coat of paint. We always found it to be rather warm & stuffy in there as well. The restaurant was nice with large windows on both sides that gave a nice view of the river (or the riverboat we were tied up to). Our cabin was VERY small (they must have used a wide angle lens when they took photos of it) & the closet was tiny, you had to have the hangers sideways in order to close the closet doors. Also, there is no dresser in the room, just 2 small night tables. We are average/small sized people & had trouble moving about our cabin but we had a lot of laughs trying to do so. The bathroom was really tiny although the shower was large. I was always banging my knees or elbows in the bathroom but again, we had a lot of laughs over it. Our favorite area was the top deck, it was so nice & the chairs & loungers were very comfortable. It was a treat to sit up there with a glass of champagne & watch the Normandy coastline float by. We still miss that! The staff: From housekeeping to the bar staff to the waiters everyone was so friendly & helpful, always smiling & remembering your preferences, they would pour the champagne as we walked into the bar or just deliver up to the deck if we were up there (thank goodness the alcohol was all-inclusive or we would have been in real trouble:) Top notch all the way. Our cruise director Ann was ok, rather impersonal but she did give a talk before dinner each night about what would be taking place the next day. The food was very good to excellent at all meals & they also offer "Al Fresco" dining up on the sundeck, we signed up for it 2x over the cruise & enjoyed it very much. All our excursions were terrific, the local guides really know their stuff & seem very passionate about what they do. We did the walking tour of Paris (fabulous), Giverny (wow), the hike up to Chateau Gaillard (really steep climb but worth it), The Normandy beaches (so moving, so many houses there are still flying American & British flags), The walking tour of Rouen (quite nice), The extra excursion to Etratat (worth every penny, the cliffs were amazing, the trip to the cider farm (rather dull), Honfleur (such a great place) & walked in the footsteps of Van Gogh (great but don't wear good shoes, you walk thru the fields that he painted in & my cute canvas shoes got destroyed, guess I should have taken the tour title literally:) We did have one MAJOR problem on our sailing, we were supposed to set sail Sunday night but because it was Bastille Day on Monday all the locks we had to go thru on the river were closed. Therefore, we would be in Paris on Monday instead of Giverny & so on for the rest of the week. Too bad almost everything in Paris was closed for the holiday. We then lost out on our Saturday in Paris at the end. We had saved a number of things we wanted to do in Paris for this day & as such missed out on them all. Uniworld chose to inform the hundred or so passengers this on Sunday night before our welcome dinner. Talk about a bunch of surprised people!!! You can't tell us they didn't know about this major change in our schedule well before we were due to set sail. How could they not check into whether the locks would be open or not on such a major holiday as Bastille Day?? Shame on Uniworld for springing this on everyone at literally the last minute. Talk about starting off on the wrong foot. Overall, we had a very nice cruise on a good ship & we like river cruising but I think if we were to do another one we would go with Tauck (we've done 8 land tours with them & they are just perfect in every way). We cut thru a Tauck ship on disembarkation day & it was gorgeous, very high end & trendy & a lot roomier than our ship. Sorry this so long but I hope it helps someone heading out to Normandy!!   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
Scenic Emerald – South of France July 14th 2014 Cruise Review We arrived in Paris after a long delay in Singapore so were pretty ratty and ready for a rest. Thankfully, our luggage wasn’t lost, we passed through immigration without a ... Read More
Scenic Emerald – South of France July 14th 2014 Cruise Review We arrived in Paris after a long delay in Singapore so were pretty ratty and ready for a rest. Thankfully, our luggage wasn’t lost, we passed through immigration without a hitch and met up with our Scenic transfer driver in the arrivals hall. All good so far The Marriot Ambassador is ok for a major chain hotel. Expensive bar, ordinary breakfast buffet and small room but then I think that’s pretty standard for Europe hotels. We met our fellow cruisers on the Sunday night (the night before Bastille Day) subsequently everything was closed, even the hotel restaurant ! We were left there all wondering what we were supposed to do for dinner. Hubby and I decided the pasta we had for lunch was laying pretty heavy so decided to skip dinner and headed to bed early. The morning of the ‘cruise’ package started with everyone clambering for breakfast which apparently caught the hotel out as they ran out of juice glasses, coffee cups etc. I don’t think this was their first rodeo so was a bit surprised but we were looking forward to our cruise of a lifetime and nothing was raining on this parade ! We had been instructed to put our luggage outside our rooms the night before as this was to be transported to the ship by truck to save us all having to drag it onto the TGV. Great idea ! The transfer to the TGV was smooth and without incident and we were on our way. After a very smooth 2 or so hours we arrived at Dijon where we disembarked the TGV and were loaded onto luxury coaches. A quick lunch stop in Dijon was delicious with some local fois gras with toast. Yum. Back on the coaches and finally on to Chalon-sur-Saone where the shiny lovely Scenic Emerald awaited us. We felt like royalty boarding with all the staff on deck with their dress black uniforms on and welcoming us aboard. When inside the foyer we were allocated a hospitality crew person who escorted us to our cabin balcony suite 207. We highly recommend this suite. Just far enough away from the noise but really close to all facilities. The room was sparkling clean and bright. The bathroom ensuite was very reasonably spacey with a great selection of shampoos, soap etc. At 5.30pm we all had to assemble on the top deck for a safety discussion and instructions on how to put on life jackets etc. With all accounted for we went back down to the Emerald lounge for a well-earned champers. I cannot understate how hard the crew work on the ship. The bar boys are just phenomenal with their energy and funny antics. They really make the day bright when you see their smiling faces and they have a bit of a joke with you once they get to know you a little. They remember names and what your ‘usual’ is too ! Amazing ! Day one we visited the Patriarche Cellars for a wine tasting. The wines we tasted were ‘green’ and acidic and we were really surprised that they gave us such young undrinkable wines to taste as there was no way we were going to part with any Euros in their showroom upstairs ! pity because the cellar and underground tasting rooms were a lovely experience. Back to our home on the river and treated to a magnificent dinner. I could rave about each night’s dinner and lunch but to be honest just be assured the food is aplenty and of 5 star standard. A special night was our dinner date with some new friends we made in the ‘La Mour’ restaurant. Everyone gets to book one dinner there where the service is only to cater for about 30 people (instead of the usual whole ship in the main dining room seating about 140ish people each sitting). The LaMour restaurant is a very special experience indeed. 6 courses of absolutely deliciousness. One comment on the main dining room would be the NOISE ! I don’t know if everyone had their hearing aids turned down but god it was noisy !! I think Scenic need to consider some foam tiles on the ceiling or something because often it was so bad we couldn’t have a conversation across a table. (one of my very few complaints !). With regard to shore tours, we were predominantly interested in wine tasting as this was one of the main interests for choosing this cruise. The wine tastings varied from undrinkable to yum I’ll buy a bottle. It’s all very subjective and I would still encourage anyone interested in the local wines to do the tastings as it is still really interesting to get a different slant on wines and not just our one sided Aussie pallets. One tour that was one of the highlights of our tour was the visit to the Paul Bocuse Culinary Institute in Lyon. What a fantastic experience. If you consider yourself a bit of a ‘foodie’ then this is the trip for you. We were treated to a masterclass with one of the Executive chefs. He cooked a delicious red mullet dish that was to die for. We got the recipe and full instructions so we could make notes etc too. He was so lovely and helpful and happily signed our recipes at the end of the class. Another highlight among our tours was the villages of Luberon region Gordes and Fontaine de Vaucluse. Beautiful villages with lovely medieval cobbled streets with little shops and delicious cafes. However, the absolute highlight of the cruise for us was our visit to Avignon. This place is definitely on our must do again list ! It is perfectly preserved walled city which includes the Palais-des-Papes (palace of the Popes). We were lucky enough to be there when the annual performing arts festival was on so every street and corner had a different act ranging from soccer ball tossing acrobats to a didgeridoo playing Aussie to a whole troupe of bagpipe playing artists. Just phenomenal and a real experience. The video camera got a real workout that day! If there was one tour I would not recommend it was the ornithological park. To be honest it was quite hot and there was little shade. The birdlife wasn’t that interesting to us and we were happy to get back on the air conditioned bus. It came as part of the full day touring that everyone did so I guess we were pretty much locked in to going but given a choice I’d rather stay on the boat and sail on to the next port to meet the coaches. Kurt our cruise director was absolute gold. He was professional, friendly, funny, very careful, extremely competent and caring. He worked so hard to make sure everyone was having the best time. If we do another Scenic cruise I certainly hope he is on it ! All the crew were terrific. Our personal butler Ica and lovely housekeeping lady Simonetta were always looking after us. Nothing was too much trouble and we felt very special. Hubby had a ‘slept on the pillow chocolate’ incident ! Simonetta took it in her stride saying that he wasn’t the first person to do it and she definitely knew the difference between chocolate and any other um stuff you might find in a bed. All in all she made an embarrassing situation funny and let him off with a small wag of her finger hahaha ! The mini-bar was refreshed at least twice per day with chocolates, pringles and white wine. We loved to sit on the balcony before the daily cruise report by Kurt at about 6.30 before dinner. We loved the balcony and having that private area where we could retreat for an hour or so to gather you thoughts before we went into the next activities of eating and frivolity! The night time entertainment was mixed with the onboard pianist (who put up with our karaoke !) and a mixture of ‘Gypsy Kings’ type band, a fabulous piano acordian player and a local gypsy dancing group. All in all we were happy just to catch up with new friends for a few drinks (which were always kept topped up !) in the Emerald lounge. There is also a great area at the front of the dining room where you can sit open air for light lunches and was also great for when we were casting off and setting sail for a new port. Also great for going through the numerous lochs. That was an interesting experience too. One of the lochs was a 23 metre drop ! It was so funny on the way down they played the theme from Titanic ! When were down to the required level and the exit doors opened the theme changed to the Love Boat ! crazy musical director haha ! We would highly recommend this cruise. We found that we were of the ‘younger’ age group being in our early 50s. I would guess the average age somewhere up around mid to late 70s. Most were still pretty able but there were a few that were quite physically challenged needing walking sticks etc. However, they were all there for a fun time and we didn’t feel that the age of the clientele was any problem. Everyone mixed with most people and with no fixed seating in the dining room you could either sit with your regular new friends or seek out new ones if you moved tables. Scenic have got a great strategy for their river cruises and are to be congratulated for tailoring these holidays for the Aussie market. There were a few Canadians, a few British and a few NZ but 98% Aussies. We will definitely consider doing the Amsterdam to Budapest cruise as many on this cruise had done it before and highly recommended it also. Thankyou to Scenic and your crew for making this a cruise of a lifetime and a holiday we will remember very fondly in many years to come. Five star and all inclusive all the way !   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
Let me start out in the order of events during my families amazing time in Paris and northern France. I chose this vacation in celebration of my Mothers 80th birthday and to also show my appreciation to my Stepfather as well. I have been ... Read More
Let me start out in the order of events during my families amazing time in Paris and northern France. I chose this vacation in celebration of my Mothers 80th birthday and to also show my appreciation to my Stepfather as well. I have been on many Ocean cruises in the past and was always interested in what it would be like to take a river cruise. Let me tell you, i don't think i would ever go back, Avalon River cruises are amazing and top notch . We arrived in Paris four days before the cruise to get over our jet lag and take some time to explore the beautiful city. I chose a apartment in the Latin Quarter which was very nice and close to everything. On the day of the cruise we arrived at the Pullman hotel which was the pre-criuse meeting location around 10:30am. We checked our luggage with the porter there and didnt see our thing until we arrived in our staterooms later on that afternoon. Avalon offers a optional excursion to the Effel Tower which leaves from the hotel at 1pm, so we decided to go on that since i have never been up the tower and it would give us something to do since you can not board the ship until 4-5pm . The tour was a lot of fun and we got to meet some new fellow passengers. After the tour, the bus takes you directly to the ship. Arrival to the ship was so nice, you just walk on , no security scanners , or long lines , it was simple. Everyone including the cruise director(Tony Willamson), who was amazing , greated you and offered you a drink and then eventually escorted you to your state room. The entire ship was so clean and beautiful , like it was brand new and The Creativity is one of Avalons older ships , you would never know its kept up so well. The staterooms were very nice and lots of places to store your things. The bathrooms were so clean and modern, i have never seen anything like that on other cruises. The dinning room was elegant and the wait staff were friendly and very accommodating . The food was different every day for dinner and was fresh and bought in the local markets in the region. The Wine at dinner was wonderful, and your glass was never empty . Every night we would sit with different people which was fun, you actually get to know almost everyone on the ship since there is only around 130 people tops. The portions of the food were small but plenty , i was always satisfied every night . Breakfast and Lunch were great as well, more of a buffet style . Excursions: Vernon, was our first stop. you have a choice of two included guided tours , one was the Bizy Castle or Giverny, we chose Monet's gardens since i love his works and my Mother is into gardening. It was one of the high points of our trip, it was truly amazing. Rouen, was our next port. We took the morning guided tour , the cathedral was breathtaking as well as the town. We had lunch back at the ship and then took a optional tour of the town of Honfleur, it was a beautiful town located on a harbor , great place to sit at a cafe and take in the surroundings , loved it. Normandy beach Landings , was a all day tour on our second day in Rouen. It was around a hour drive to the war museum and beach area. It was so such a moving experience , i have always wanted to see this area of France. I felt so overwhelmed with emotion and proud of all those young service men and women who sacraficed there lives to protect our freedoms. Les Andelys was next. We decided to take it easy that morning and opt out of going on the guided tour of the town, instead we decided to go into town by oursellves on our own time. It was a charming little town, some really nice shops , bought a few things there. After strolling around the town i decided to run up the hill to see the castle built by Richard the lion heart , it had some wonderful views from up there. Conflans was our last stop before going into Paris, we went on the Auvers-Sur-oise , the tour was very informative about the final years of Vincent Van Gogh, the tour took us to his apartment where he lived and through the town and then to his final resting place . After we got back to the boat we were off to Paris. It was a lazy afternoon , which was nice after all the excursions we were on all week, i even relaxed in the whirl pool , very nice. That night was the Captains Farewell dinner, it was a festive night with a crew performance and five coarse dinner and baked alaskan," dellish" ;-) later we took the optional evening tour of Paris at night, it was so beautiful to see at night , especially the Eiffel tower when it strobes at 11pm. On the final day we took the optional tour of the Louvre, it was a lot to take in but we were thrilled to see most of the popular works , such as the Venus De Milo, Winged victory , and of coarse the Rock star, Mona Lisa. All in all, Avalons Creativity and staff and crew made this a vacation we will never forget. They went far and beyond to make us and everyone feel special and cared for. I rarely write reviews, but i felt i needed to for this particular event. i want people to know that this cruise was well worth the money , it was very well organized , i never had to worry about anything. We are definitely choosing Avalon again on our next adventure . Bon Voyage!!!   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
Viking, well yes, they have great advertisements, and gorgeous photos of the new 'longboats', however here are the facts. 1). They must have your whole entire cruise fee payable immediately payable upon booking. 2). Watch out, ... Read More
Viking, well yes, they have great advertisements, and gorgeous photos of the new 'longboats', however here are the facts. 1). They must have your whole entire cruise fee payable immediately payable upon booking. 2). Watch out, depending upon where your cruise goes, look at the following : River swelling, lock strikes, time of year for river swelling ( and/or depleting) etc. ALL of those affect your cruise. 3). Speaking of which: those nice photos of your upper deck cruising through those lovely rivers, ahem, on our 8 day cruise recently, only ONE DAY was the upper deck open. Check it out people , Viking is misrepresenting their cruises, letting you think you can sit 'above the ship ' and watch the scenery, when in fact, on our last 2 Viking cruises,the UPPER DECK WAS 'CLOSED'. Yes, that means, NO nice viewing, cruising scenery like they show in their advertisements. And, if there are ANY swollen river delays, that can happen, well, guess what, you are put onto a ghastly bus , no fun, and bussed to the next destination, Our advise is: CAREFULLY CHECK, where are you going on your river cruise, what time of year, what are the rivers like ( heavy rains affect river cruise travel, people !!!), that means your boat STOPS until the river cooperates. I'd like to say that Viking is great, however I think they treat passengers like us ( active adult ) like children. I.e: not telling us "what is happening & when ". This , in my opinion , is their most serious flaw. For an example, our cruise was supposed to start in Chalon, France. So, we purchased the 3-day pre cruise Paris stay. Then, they told us at the Paris hotel, that instead of traveling to Chalon that we now would be bussed to Lyon,, due to ( take note : River swelling !). Okay. We were told 4 hours bus ride. We got on the bus and the lady told us 9-10 hour bus ride. ******VIKING: NOT OKAY! ***** We are not children ! and many people were upset by this. We could have just calmly had a quiet bus ride to Lyon, but no, a talkative ( microphone) lady kept us awake the whole time. And, because English was her second language, every 2nd word was ' uh uh uh ' .....it was PAINFUL. We finally arrived in Lyon missed 3 days of our cruise, people : watch out, that means Viking is dependent on RIVER WATER LEVELS!!!! They do not tell you this as you are sending them your full deposit amount $$$.... In addition, if Viking had told us that the bus ride was 9-10 hours, we would have taken the train(3+hours) and with no loud , bad, tour guide microphoning us for the whole way. On a positive note: the crew of the Viking Heimdal was superb. We do think, however, that the Viking Heimdal crew was very hard working and maybe overworked ? It seemed to us that they did not have enough crew members for that was required. The staff worked incredibly hard , many hours every day and night, however, we, as cruise guests, think they could use more staff. It almost seemed like they had a skeleton crew, just making due, until more staff could come aboard. Kudos to Kornelia, awesome hard work. Our suggestion is: check out Viking, but first, check out when , time of year, are you going, and what other river cruise line does the same itinerary, because , we saw river cruise boats that had their upper deck open while ours on Viking , was closed. Big thing as you are cruising European rivers ! Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
This was my second Uniworld cruise and it was as perfect as the last. The ship was beautiful, the food was great and the staff was professional and attentive. The excursions were well planned and all of the guides were both knowledgeable ... Read More
This was my second Uniworld cruise and it was as perfect as the last. The ship was beautiful, the food was great and the staff was professional and attentive. The excursions were well planned and all of the guides were both knowledgeable and professional. After I climbed the many steep and winding stairs to the top of the castle of the Duke of Anjou in Tarascon and then down again my knee was officially wrecked. But Uniworld has a program called "gentile walking" tours and for that I was grateful. In essence they are slower and avoids steep stair cases. When some attraction has to be eliminated, due to its strenuous nature (steep stairs) another is added to complete the experience. I rather preferred it, the groups were smaller and the guides very attentive to our needs. We opted for the extension to Paris at the end of our cruise. An Uniworld agent escorted us to the train station and remained with us until we arrived and were situated at the hotel in Paris where another Uniworld rep/guide took over. Now she was amazing. One of the most adorable, conscientious, attentive person's I have ever met. Whatever you asked she tired to make it happen. In all a wonderful trip. I am already planning another Uniworld cruise for next year. I also liked that there was no "nickel and diming" everything was included even all tips, water bottles and liquor on the ship.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
We recently had a wonderful holiday with AMA Waterways on their Provence and Spain itinerary. This was our second river cruise in just over a year and we are hooked! The trip started with a 3-night stay at the conveniently located Pullman ... Read More
We recently had a wonderful holiday with AMA Waterways on their Provence and Spain itinerary. This was our second river cruise in just over a year and we are hooked! The trip started with a 3-night stay at the conveniently located Pullman Montparnasse in Paris. This hotel was very busy as it catered to tour groups so the downside was line-ups and not such great service for breakfast but, apart from the very awkward to access bathtub, the room was well-appointed and we had a great view of Paris. Save on expensive taxi fares by taking the Air France shuttle bus from the airport. It only cost 16 Euros and stops at the Gare de Lyon and Gare Montparnasse right opposite the hotel. Our charming, efficient and excellent Tour Director, Abel, met us at the hotel and stayed with us throughout our entire trip. He did a wonderful job and we were sad to say goodbye to him. We boarded the cruise in Lyon after an efficient TGV high-speed train ride from Paris (lovely train but smelly washrooms). We were impressed with the ship. It has a very welcoming feel to it and we soon made ourselves at home. The public areas were well designed and very conducive to meeting fellow cruisers. The food was delicious with plenty of variety and the service throughout the ship was exemplary. Wine and beer were included both at lunch and dinner. The in-house entertainment was a bit weak with a pianist who played "elevator music" where everything pretty well sounded the same. He was very nice and friendly but didn't play anything we could dance to. He rarely sang. Some of the guest entertainers were better. We thoroughly enjoyed the entire itinerary. We loved Lyon-such an interesting city with so much to do. The included excursions offered a wide variety of things to see with some ports offering several options. We particularly enjoyed visiting the hilltop villages of Oignt in the Beaujolais region, pretty Grignan and the picturesque Les Baux-de-Provence. We also loved just being able to wander around the towns where we were docked. We were busy all the time but it was still relaxing and we had plenty of time to explore on our own. With the odd exception, the tour guides were excellent. Our cruise finished in Arles in the South of France but we were then taken by coach to Barcelona for three nights. This was an enjoyable journey with a two-hour en route stop in the charming French town of Perpignan. In beautiful Barcelona we stayed at the lovely, modern Le Meridien Hotel located right on the bustling La Rambla-perfect location within walking distance of the Gothic District, Plaza Catalunya with its department stores, the marina area and La Boqueria market and a multitude of bars and restaurants. We loved our room with its huge walk-in rain shower and plentiful lighting including motion-sensor nightlights. Apart from the included sightseeing tour, we would recommend taking the optional tour to spectacular Montserrat with its mountain-top monastery. Again, we saved on a taxi transfer to the airport by taking the very efficient airport shuttle bus from the Plaza Catalunya. It runs every 5 minutes and only costs 5.90 Euros. On a Sunday, it only took about 20 minutes. It was within easy walking distance of our hotel. We recommend this cruise itinerary. It was well-organized, varied and allowed us to stay in two of our favourite cities and visit areas of France we had never seen.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
We loved our 7 day cruise on the Viking Forseti. We stayed in Bordeaux for a week before the cruise at a wonderful apartment (Wellkhome Apartments, 14 rue Blanc Dutrouilh, Bordeaux) & loved it so much we didn't mind the overlap of ... Read More
We loved our 7 day cruise on the Viking Forseti. We stayed in Bordeaux for a week before the cruise at a wonderful apartment (Wellkhome Apartments, 14 rue Blanc Dutrouilh, Bordeaux) & loved it so much we didn't mind the overlap of Bordeaux featured on the cruise itinerary. The Forseti was lovely - new, modern, beautifully furnished & comfortable. The included tours were also good but found the bus drivers drove too quickly to really take in the beautiful Chateaux we passed & photography was not possible. However, the tours themselves, with local guides, were very good. The food was very good & we loved eating lunch on the back deck. The staff were very professional, friendly & helpful. We had the Silver Drinks Package & found it of great value. Loved that we could have a glass of Veuve Cliquot any time we wanted & the wines at lunch & dinner were very good. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
This was our second Viking River Cruise and it was wonderful. We could not have been happier with the food (every meal surpassed the previous meal!) , the accomodations, the daily adventures, and free time. With only about 150 passengers, ... Read More
This was our second Viking River Cruise and it was wonderful. We could not have been happier with the food (every meal surpassed the previous meal!) , the accomodations, the daily adventures, and free time. With only about 150 passengers, we made several new friends, had the opportunity to talk to many of our fellow passengers and the crew. The crew members are friendly, helpful and truly care about your satisfaction with the cruise. The historical sites we visited were meaninful and unforgetable starting with Paris, on to Monet's Garden, castles, churches and especially the beaches or Normandy. We will not hesitate to travel with Viking again soon. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
My wife and I have been on cruises before. This was head and shoulders superior to our prior experiences. We choose cruises by the cruise line and the places where the cruise is going. We want to go places of interest and not merely be in ... Read More
My wife and I have been on cruises before. This was head and shoulders superior to our prior experiences. We choose cruises by the cruise line and the places where the cruise is going. We want to go places of interest and not merely be in warm waters in the Caribbean. This cruise went to places of great interest starting with Paris, Monet's gardens, Normandy and many intermediate stops of great interest. The people running the cruise on board were outstanding in every respect. The educational value and on line tour guides were exceptional. The food was beyond our expectations. The unexpected minor surprises such as the musician singing French songs as we returned from a tour and his continued playing during the meal which followed were nice. Being greeted as we returned from a tour by a special drink is another example of positives. The onboard special event and previews were both entertaining and helpful. The emotional tour of Normandy, the American military cemetery and Omaha beach are experiences we will never forget. The Guillard Castle was special. Interestingly, while on most tours some people complain about many things, the people on this cruise seemed to be very happy with the experience. Our experience was so positive that within 48 hours of returning home we booked a Viking Danube cruise for next year.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014

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