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131 France River Cruise Reviews

We just got back from our Paris to Normandy cruise with Avalon and have nothing but positive to say. Embarkation: We arrived a few days early on our own and were able to get directions from the cruise director to give to our taxi driver. ... Read More
We just got back from our Paris to Normandy cruise with Avalon and have nothing but positive to say. Embarkation: We arrived a few days early on our own and were able to get directions from the cruise director to give to our taxi driver. We were told to be there between 4 and 5, but due to being a little neurotic arrived at 3:30. As we walked up to the ship to just hang out until 4, the crew saw us and allowed us to board. They grabbed our bags and took us to the reception desk. Within minutes we had our key and were settled in our room. The Room: We were in suite 306. This was on the Royal Deck. The room had a floor to ceiling sliding door that went just about the whole way across the wall. We had a beautiful view of La Seine. The bed was roomy and comfortable (queen size with a thick foam top). There was a fluffy, white comforter on top. The room was subtly decorated with a burgundy geometric carpeting, a large mirror over the desk across from the bed and simple picture over the bed. There was ample storage under the desk and in the entrance way for all of our clothing. On either side of the bed were nightstands with reading lights and plugs for charging your phone, ipad, kindle, etc. In addition to the storage under the desk was a stocked mini fridge. The pricing were actually quite reasonable. Under the bed was ample room for storing our suitcases out of the way. Finally, a small flat screen TV was over the corner of the desk. Our only complaint on the cruise would be the lack of US channels. We understand we were cruising, but just one or two channels of something other than news or finance would have been great. They did offer on demand shows and movies, which did provide a nice alternative. Considering we were on a tour that covered WWII history, there was a nice selection of movies related to that topic. The bathroom had tons of storage along the sink and was stocked with amenities from L'Occitane. A hairdryer was included in the cabinet. The shower was roomy with excellent water pressure. The hot water was very hot. There was ample lighting and towels were replaced daily. The food The main breakfast was a buffet with many selections. There were always fruits, breads, cereals and cheeses. The chef had a specialty each day. The bagettes were delicious and addictive! The staff kept your coffee or tea filled and removed used plates quickly. There were several juice choices including champagne for mimosas. Along with the buffet items were some standing items you could get from the kitchen. You just needed to ask the waitstaff. In addition to the main breakfast (usually from 7-9), there were early riser and late riser options that were mainly breads and cereals. Lunch was also a buffet with new chef selections each day at the carving station, using including a pasta. As always, lots of breads and cheeses. There was always a salad bar and two soup choices. Beer and soda were included with the meal, if requested. There were standing items that could be ordered off the menu. If you were in the mood for something a little lighter, a smaller lunch was offered in the lounge. It was a nice alternative as it wasn't as crowded and the pianist would play. Dinner was at a standing time each evening. It usually consisted of 4 courses - salad, soup, entree and dessert. On a few nights, we had an amuse bouche to start us off and on the second to last evening was a gala - more on that in a bit. The table had bread and a choice of butter or oil/spices for you to get started. there was usually a different salad each evening in addition to the standing Caesar (which was delicious). The soups followed, which were amazing. You always had a choice of two. For the entree, the chef would prepare a choice of two or three dishes and if you weren't inclinded to those, there were standing items - Caesar salad, steak, chicken or salmon. Finally, there were several dessert choices. For the gala, we had a 7 course meal with wine pairing. The baked alaska dessert was brought out by the kitchen with the lights out and sparklers lit - a nice touch. The seating was always open so you could sit with the same folks or move around and meet new ones. We chose the latter and met so many wonderful people from all over. The nice thing about the smaller ships is you really do get to know people. You'll see them again when you're out in town or walking around the ship. It's an intimate experience. A selection of local wines and beers were included with dinner, in additon to soda. You can see how hard the waitstaff work. They're trying to keep the meals coming while refilling the glasses and clearing the plates. A big kudos to these folks. On several days, there was cake and coffee/tea served in the lounge in the afternoon. And, at any time you could get coffee/capuccino/water/juice and a snack from the aft lounge. This was quite a popular area for people to gather. There were also daily news postings and games for people to use. The ship We found the size to be perfect. Not too big, not too small. There was always seating to be found no matter where you were on board. The dining room was on the second deck and had walls of windows on either side. It was roomy and you never felt like you were right on top of anyone else. The lounge was on the 3rd deck front area of the boat and was surrounded by windows. There were comfy seating groups including couches and club chairs, with table to put your drinks and snacks. The bar was also in here and the piano player. You could reach a small outside seating area from the lounge. The snack area was on the 3rd deck in the aft area. Plenty of seating and windows with doors leading to another outside seating area and steps to the upper deck. The upper deck was immense! Tons of lounge chairs, table with chairs, covers from the sun and a hot tub. My husband and I made good use of the hot tub. Given that we were among the youngest on the ship (we're 44/50), we usually had it to ourselves for as long as we wanted. The only issue we had was that it closed at 8. After a long day of walking, it would have been nice to hop in it to relax the muscles, but dinner didn't end until around 9 each night. The itinerary After the standard safety drill, we set sail from Paris in the evening the first day. While dining, we swung by a great view of the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty. Great way to take off! We sailed all evening and awoke to the small town of Vernon. We chose to go on the tour of Monet's home. We were fortunate to have wonderful weather the entire time and spring had sprung early in France so the flowers were in bloom. It was a lovely location. We did not do the afternoon bus tour but chose to walk around Vernon on our own and did some hot tub time. We arrived in Rouen the next day. We awoke to being right in the city. There was a train that woke us up and we worried about spending two nights there, but it was only an issue when we first arrived. We did our own walking tour of the city in the morning - a really great place. Along the river it looks modern, but a few blocks in and your in the old world, with a beautiful town square containing a memorial to Joan of Arc making where she was burned at the stake. There were also many, many churches to explore. Rouen is know as the spire capitol and you can see why. The afternoon trip was to Honfleur, an artsy little port town with really cool buildings and loads of side streets filled with shops and galleries. It was one of my favorite places on the trip. Our next day had us up bright and early to head to Omaha Beach. It took about an hour and a half to get to the first stop - the WWII museum where the artificial harbor was built - fascinating. Next stop was at the cliff overlooking Omaha beach. This was an amazing spot with lots of German bunkers still remaining and a gorgeous view - well worth the stop. We hit Omaha Beach next and just spent a few minutes there. I'm sure there was alot to see, but we were cramming alot into the day. Our final stop was the cemetery and there just aren't words that express what it was like there. I will say that I'm proud of how they've taken such care to give our boys such a beautiful resting place. A little after we arrived, they had a short ceremony which included the playing of the national anthem. I don't think there was a dry eye to be found. Just a beautiful, meaningful experience that I will never forget. Our itinerary had us waking up in a new location in a tiny town with one small street and Richard the Lionhearted's castle on top of a hill. When we first started out, it was foggy and you couldn't even tell there was a castle up there. But, we did the hike up the hill (about 20-25 min) and after waiting about half an hour were rewarded with the fog lifting and the most amazing view ever. We explored the castle, made our way into town and walked around a bit, then headed back to the ship. This was the only tour that day as we headed out at lunchtime onto our next stop. It was fantastic because we were exhausted from the first few days of going non stop. The weather was gorgeous so we headed to the hot tub - of course!! With the sun shining and the boat crusing along, we spent a glorious afternoon recouperating. It was perfect timing. We pulled into Conflans that late that evening and docked for the night. The next morning, we chose to do a self walking tour of the town. There was a great market going on that we went to then just explored. A really interesting place to check out. We chose not to go to Van Gogh's or Napoleon's summer home. We just preferred to take it easy. The next day we sailed back to Paris. It was another great day of sailing with beautiful weather. In the afternoon a group headed off to Versailles that we would pick up along the river closer into the city. That night was our gala followed by a bus tour of the city at night. It was a great evening and nice to get out and see Paris lit up. Our last full day was in Paris with loads of options for excursions. We chose to take the metro to Montmartre. After all that walking, guess where we spent our afternoon? Yes! The hot tub. I know we spent more time in there than anyone else, but hey, it was our vacation and with returning to work the day after we got back home, we needed some relaxation in addition to the exploration. Just sitting up on that top deck in the hot tub with the Eiffel Tower in the back ground was a surreal experience. I highly recommend it if you go on the cruise. Disembarkation The night before a poster was put up telling everyone what time they would be leaving. In addition, they gave colored ribbons to be attached to your suitcases. We were told when to have our suitcases outside our stateroom and when we would be getting on the bus. Jean Loup was checking all the flights and making sure if there were delays, he worked with the folks impacted. The morning of departure we had time to get breakfast and relax a few minutes before heading into Paris traffic and the nightmare that is CDG airport. A few things of note Our cruise director, Jean Loup, was simply fantastic. He answered every question, kept people informed and managed to get everyone where they needed to be. He would leave a sheet on our bed each evening while we were at dinner with the next day's itinerary, a map of the area and a weather report. He was a large part of this cruise being so good. My husband and I are low key so we didn't spend a lot of time in the lounge, be we did go to the staff show that was really entertaining and Jean Loup arranged for a string trio to play one evening while we were sailing. It was so lovely to listen to them and watch the scenery go by. The boat was smooth. You could hardly tell you were moving unless you looked out the window. The captain was very good, squeezing us into several locks and was always smiling. When we would set sail, he would play the music from 'Columbus' - very cool. One final note - I should disclose that we won this cruise through an Avalon Facebook contest. I do feel that if we had paid for this we would have gotten our money's worth. Avalon did not require/ask that we give this review. We are not receiving any compensation for writing this review.   Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
River Cruise from Avignon to Lyon aboard the SS Catherine. 4/6/2014-4/13/2014. Summary: We would do it again. Uniworld cannot be beat. Service: 5/5 stars. Shore tours: 5 stars. Food quality and presentation: 5 stars. Room (Suite) design ... Read More
River Cruise from Avignon to Lyon aboard the SS Catherine. 4/6/2014-4/13/2014. Summary: We would do it again. Uniworld cannot be beat. Service: 5/5 stars. Shore tours: 5 stars. Food quality and presentation: 5 stars. Room (Suite) design and dockage: 3.5 stars. Program: 4 stars. Our credentials: this was our first ever river cruise. We have been on 5 ocean cruises on different lines. Of those we found Celebrity to be the top, Carnival the bottom. Princess and RCL were the others. We are in our early 70s. We have experienced a range of hotels from Red Roof Inns to the Marriott Marquis on Times Square. Similar dining experience. Background: This was the first commercial cruise for this ship. Our Travel agent recommended Uniworld over Viking because of service and passenger/size ratio. For virtually the same size ship Uniworld books a max of 160 passengers and Viking is closer to 200. Also, Uniworld fares include tips, most shore tours, and bar….including most spirits. The complimentary mini bar and carafes of spirits in your room are tailored to your preferences. Uniworld also includes transfers even if you book alternate transportation. The only requirement is that you meet up with their “standard” transfer points; usually an airport, or possibly a hotel on their pre-post stay itineraries. Passenger demographics: On this cruise they told us there were 114 passengers. We are not sure if that included the several Uniworld “suits” on board to check out cruise #1. Of the “paying” passengers about 30? were travel agents. They pretty much hung together and did not want to talk about their jobs or what special accommodation was made to have them on board. These were mostly women in their 40s. Of the remainder most passengers were couples between 50 and 60. No children. Service: Simply the best we could ever ask for. Each individual—whether one of the 2 butlers assigned to the 6 suites, a server, a housekeeper, or a sailing crew member—always had a smile and a greeting. Every one was willing to help in whatever way they could. As an example of their care, there was even a Uniworld rep at the departure airport. She greeted us as the transfer bus unloaded us at the airport, offering whatever assistance we might need to complete our departing flight arrangements. Food: The menus and presentation were simply top notch. Breakfast and Lunch were mostly buffets. Thankful for these; we could measure our portions to accommodate our senior stomach capacities. Dinner was served with several options for appetizers and main course. The cuisine competes with the finest of any shore restaurant. As an example: the breakfast buffet was more than a buffet. One could also order from the galley any form of eggs cooked to order; including eggs benedict. Room design: We were booked in a regular suite. On board there is one level higher—Royal Suite. There was ample room to move around. The negatives with regard to design are two: First, the outboard horizontal up/down half of the window was clever (the upper half was powered up and down) but the horizontal frame was about at eye level when sitting in the “full” balcony. Call “full” maybe 2’X8’? Second, there are sliding glass doors inboard of the balcony. These doors separate the balcony from the inboard sitting area of the wuite. So picture a balcony 8’ wide with 4 2’ sliding sections. The maximum opening is now 4’. Very annoying to squeeze past them to sit on the balcony. We used the balcony rarely due to the obstructed view. Fortunately the weather was unexpectedly warm and sunny so the outside decks—esp the sun deck—were totally acceptable. Dockage: For 2 of our 7 days/nights there was another ship docked against ours, on our side. Thus for privacy reasons we had the curtains closed, making for a virtual inside cabin. And since the curtains are on the inboard side of the “full” balcony its square footage was not usable. Shore Tours: These were well organized and guided by true professionals. Our Shore Tour Director, Emmanuelle, was a vivacious bundle of energy and information. She handled the stress of the first set of tours for the season with cool and entertaining professionalism. Every night she gave a talk about what to expect on the next day’s tour, including some local sayings/language. Our guide in Viviers ended our tour at her home, where she and a neighbor friend served bread, wine, and cheese! Be sure to try to get on Frances’ tour in Viviers! Shore Tours: Gentle Walking: One of the attractions of Uniworld was its offering of Gentle Walking for its shore tours. On some tours Gentle Walking was treated very well……taxis available to meet at intermediate stops for instance. On other tours Gentle Walking appeared to be an after thought. Some tours had no accommodation for Gentle Walking from the general tour. For example, Emmanuelle described the general tour as “level, with few steps”. But level cobblestone is not the same as level concrete. We rate their Gentle Walking as a nice thought but needs more attention. Program: To our mind the most negative aspect of the cruise was Uniworld’s decision to have unannounced, private, invitation-only parties most nights in the most intimate bar—the Bar du Leopard. This usually included dinner for a dozen or two. It virtually closed that bar/lounge—and thus the general access to the indoor swimming pool—between 7 and 9 each night. Unknowingly, we received this “special” honor one night (This night was for Suite occupants.). We feel guilty because we thought it was a one night only event but now realize that 90 % of the paying passengers were excluded each night. When we complained to the Cruise Director she told us we could use the lounge because “there were only 14 in tonight’s party”. But who wants to be a party crasher? The whole approach just seemed contrary to one of the guiding principles of France: Egalité. As far as we know not everyone was included in one of these soirees. We even know of some who got invitations to more than one. This was the only situation where we felt unwelcome and Uniworld appeared to us to be inhospitable. It is actually sad that the hospitality offered by every Uniworld individual gets tarnished by such an organizational decision. Tips: Even knowing tips were included we did leave some tips for the people who helped us personally the most: the butlers and the housekeeper. Certainly these were nowhere near the amounts one would leave if tips were not included. We never felt the slightest pressure to enhance the included tip schedule.   Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
Let me first begin telling about my Amazing Journey sailing the Bordeaux Region of France aboard Uniworld’s River Royale by mentioning how wonderful it is that Uniworld is now an All Inclusive Boutique River Cruise. All the gratuities ... Read More
Let me first begin telling about my Amazing Journey sailing the Bordeaux Region of France aboard Uniworld’s River Royale by mentioning how wonderful it is that Uniworld is now an All Inclusive Boutique River Cruise. All the gratuities onboard and onshore are now included along with unlimited beverages including wines, beers, spirits, cocktails, sodas, and coffees. Schedules Airport Transfers are also complimentary along with outstanding Excursions – no need to pay for extra excursions although a few optional tours are also available. When I sailed my first Uniworld River Cruise two years ago on the River Antoinette I noticed barely anyone went to the Lounge after Dinner. Now, with open bar, many people stopped in for a drink after dinner. I noticed by midweek many friendships were being made and by the Farewell Dinner there were over 70 people in the Lounge after Dinner. I was traveling with my 30 year old Son who is in the Wine Business. With his depth of knowledge in the Industry he was amazed at what he was seeing and learning at the Wine Estates, and Châteaux’s. Bordeaux offers so much to Wine Lovers and to see the major areas of the region in just one week was outstanding. From touring Chateaux's in Margaux, exploring the beautiful historic town of St Emillon, to enjoying the sweet liquid gold of Sauterns, no wine enthusiast would leave this trip disappointed. We were in Category 1, Stateroom 302. The cabins are smaller than on ocean ships but adequate and well designed. On a River Cruise you spend very little time in the Cabin so we were fine. The Dinners in the Dining Room were beyond outstanding with always a choice of Meat, Seafood, or a Vegetarian Dish. The Food Presentation was to perfection with Incredible Deserts to end a 5 Star Dining Experience! There was a Sommelier onboard who every night paired a Red and White Wine for your Dinner Entrée. I am so grateful to the entire Staff onboard the River Royale that made this such a wonderful cruise and memories to share with my Son. As people have said on other posts “You get what you pay for” and with Uniworld you are getting the Best.   Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
We booked Viking Forseti out of Bordeaux on 26 April, 2014. We traveled first to Paris and stayed 3 nights catching the TGV high speed train to Bordeaux, a delightful experience. We had received an e-mail from Viking prior to sailing that ... Read More
We booked Viking Forseti out of Bordeaux on 26 April, 2014. We traveled first to Paris and stayed 3 nights catching the TGV high speed train to Bordeaux, a delightful experience. We had received an e-mail from Viking prior to sailing that explained that while all venues would be seen, the sailing schedule to them might be altered due to river conditions and delayed French approval of the ship's planned itinerary. When we arrived, the ship's personnel were very courteous and were fabulous throughout the cruise. They were a highly enthusiastic crew and exceeded the on board experience we had received on two prior Viking sailings-Christmas Markets and City of Lights. The dining experience was extraordinary with gourmet meals presented at every seating. Kudos to Victor, the head chef, Thomas the Hotel Director and Mieke, the Cruise Director for what was a special experience on board. Especially fabulous was the chateau dinner, wherein the entire dining team moved their act to a chateau ashore. As the chateau dinner was served on Sunday night we received word from Mieke that the mayor of Blye had cancelled our ship's visit to Blye as the weather was expected to be stormy; instead the ship returned to Bordeaux that night and we took buses to Blye instead. In Blye at the citadel we noticed the long boat that was parked alongside us in Bordeaux was parked there. Later, Meike explained that this was due to the Forsetti's length when compared to the other boat and that the strong currents could have possibly been a problem for our boat at the dock in Blye. Another excursion to Cadillac and the Sauternes Vineyard was also modified to be a bus trip and this was explained to have been because the French government had yet to approve this itinerary. Seeing the Bordeaux countryside more from the bus than from the ship was unexpected and not what we thought we were getting, but the buses were new and the views were impressive for a region of France we had never seen before. In summary, this was a cruise with pluses and minuses. The ship and dining experience was unsurpassed in our 25 years of sailing. The Viking personnel were great. The problem is that when we see those great Viking commercials showing the long boats passing by wonderful venues with spectacular vistas, we expect the cruise we book to replicate this. This one did not. What we had was a land/sea tour of the wine country in and around Bordeaux. The accommodations were excellent, the personnel extraordinary and the dining and wine experience, superlative. The tours to the various vineyards, castles and and chateaux's were very fine indeed, especially the chateaux dinner and the Sauternes Vineyard tour. If you are a wine lover and want to learn of the specifics of the Bordeaux wine industry, this trip is for you as long as you don't care if you get to the venues by bus or by boat!   Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
This was our first Viking cruise, but our fourth river cruise. Our comments: 1. Loved the ship--it is gorgeous.The central atrium was awesome 2. We had a French balcony, and the room was the smallest we have ever had. Ditto for the ... Read More
This was our first Viking cruise, but our fourth river cruise. Our comments: 1. Loved the ship--it is gorgeous.The central atrium was awesome 2. We had a French balcony, and the room was the smallest we have ever had. Ditto for the bathroom. BUT--it really wasn't a problem as they have put so much thought in to the design. There is lots of storage, and the shower configuration really helps create space in the bathroom. Kudos' to the designers. 3. Staff was outstanding. We actually enjoyed the personalities of the staff --young, enthusiastic, and a whole lot of fun with extremely attentive service. 4. Two big negatives however: first, the sun-deck is not available for a good part of this cruise as the bridges are so low. So the only outdoor space available is the small Atrium area at the bow of the ship--which, while it is lovely, is simply not big enough for all the passengers who want to be outside. Second, the docking locations in most of the cities was awful. One of the big advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock in the center of town and walk on and off the boat at will. In both Chalon-sur-Saone and Lyon the docking space was difficult for even the local taxi drivers to find--and you HAD to taxi to and from the ship. 5. We would definitely cruise with Viking again, but would ask more detailed questions about dockages and the suns-deck availability. We've never been on a river cruise where the sundeck was so unavailable..... Lyon we had previously been to so we went to the Paul Bocuse Culinary School restaurant and it was awesome.Beaune had a great included walking tour.Cluny, an optional additional expense tour was outstanding.Viviers night walk, included tour, was also spectacular.Arles--it was very festive for Easter, so we skipped the Viking tour and went to the bullfight. They DO kill the bulls, so some of us left almost immediately.Avignon--outstanding, included walking tour.In general the ports are low key, best for experienced travelers ...... Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
The cruise that began in Bordeaux April 19 was disappointing in many ways, despite the pleasant and and attentive staff. (The concierge was exceptionally helpful.) 1. It began with a stench from a sewage pump-out that for hours permeated ... Read More
The cruise that began in Bordeaux April 19 was disappointing in many ways, despite the pleasant and and attentive staff. (The concierge was exceptionally helpful.) 1. It began with a stench from a sewage pump-out that for hours permeated our cabin so strongly that you could taste it. 2. The best cruising on the planned itinerary, from Bordeaux to Cadillac along the Garonne, was cancelled, but not, as we were told on board, because of river conditions. The real reason was that the boat didn't have a permit to turn around in the river at Cadillac, and the dock there required some work to accommodate the new class of longer ships. Viking customer relations staff have since conceded that we were misled as to the reason for the changed itinerary. Viking could easily have advised us in advance of the change, which had also occurred with previous sailings from Bordeaux this year. Their only advance warning was that the itinerary could change due to the river conditions.i That was not the case, and according to authorities in Cadillac, Viking knew full well that the ship could not visit there until well into May. 3. As it was, the boat spent an excessive amount of time docked in Bordeaux, a little of it taking on fuel beside a scrap yard to the accompaniment of a crane dropping heavy metal onto a pile. 4. At least half of the time in port passengers had to clamber up and down long flights of stairs and cross another boat to get to shore. Daunting, to say the least, for many older people. 5. Dining aboard rated no more than a three on the usual scale of one to six for ocean cruises, and was distinctly below some other river cruise fare. It was adequate for older North Americans who like small portions blandly prepared. 6. The included table wine was also adequate. Those who wanted fine wine were able to bring their own bottles to the table without a corkage fee. Knowledgable wine drinkers complained about the quality of wine provided on vineyard excursions. 7. Wine ranged from fair to terrible with a dinner (prepared and served by Viking staff) on an excursion to a mediocre vineyard where the "chateau" displayed for sale only very large bottles of (presumably) table wine. 8. Ship's staff milked the room shamelessly for applause, apparently due for their taking the trouble. 9. French law requires service to be included in the price, top ups -- usually minor -- are entirely at the discretion of patrons. Viking recommends a hefty level of gratuities to be paid before leaving. The manager on board said he had never eaten in a French restaurant and was unaware of the law. Viking customer relations staff have since said they complied with French law because tipping is voluntary. One can reasonably conclude that Viking (and other lines?) take advantage of patrons who don't know the law. 10. Teething pains on a fairly new ship are forgivable. We felt entitled, however, to a cash refund, at the least for the portion of the itinerary that Viking knew in advance would not take place for reasons that had nothing to do with river conditions. Customer relations offered only some discount when and if we book with Viking again. Given the corporate attitude, that won't happen. (This writer, formerly an official responsible for consumer assistance programs and enforcement of consumer protection laws, has had very satisfactory experiences on half a dozen river cruises and dozens of ocean cruises.)   Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
After 7 days on the Viking Spirit, we transferred to the Viking Hermod. Our room was a french balcony and we were quite surprised that it seemed much smaller than our window room on the Viking Spirit. Our friends on the Hermod had a ... Read More
After 7 days on the Viking Spirit, we transferred to the Viking Hermod. Our room was a french balcony and we were quite surprised that it seemed much smaller than our window room on the Viking Spirit. Our friends on the Hermod had a verandah cabin and it was much more spacious than our cabin. But not a big deal, as we were not in our cabins much. Here are the two big negatives of the Hermod: 1. On our cruise down the Rhone River from Chalon-sur-Saone to Avignon, the top observation deck was closed the entire cruise due to low bridges. 2. Service in the dining room, especially dinner, was at times poor due to wait staff not understanding English. Wait help is mainly Slovakian, Bulgarian, and Hungarian and many do not understand English. Many times I would order something and be served something much different than I ordered. 3. Cruise director was a step down from Viking Spirit, did not really explain next day's tours as completely as did the director on the Spirit. Big positive for Hermod: coldest fridge I have ever had in a ship cabin ! Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
We just returned from our 3rd Tauck trip and in the past we could never say a bad word about them - this trip sure changed that. The Tauck land portion was up to their usual standards, but unfortunately the Swiss Emerald was certainly ... Read More
We just returned from our 3rd Tauck trip and in the past we could never say a bad word about them - this trip sure changed that. The Tauck land portion was up to their usual standards, but unfortunately the Swiss Emerald was certainly not. The staff was very uncaring, and not at all what we expected. Our room wasn't cleaned several times during the cruise and when we complained the response was, in a word, surly. Service in the restaurant was very poor. Once they took your order you didn't see the staff again until the food was served, and then if there was anything you needed (like a 2nd glass of wine) you had to literally get up and go find someone. Also, the menu was very limited with only two choices of entree's most nights, no salads, and the only appetizer was of their choice. There are many other choices on the rivers in Europe but Tauck shouldn't be one of them.   Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
This was our fourth Viking Cruise and we have enjoyed every one, matter of fact we have our fifth cruise already booked. We sailed north on the Rhone River leaving from Avignon after enjoying the pre tour in Nice where we visited Monaco. ... Read More
This was our fourth Viking Cruise and we have enjoyed every one, matter of fact we have our fifth cruise already booked. We sailed north on the Rhone River leaving from Avignon after enjoying the pre tour in Nice where we visited Monaco. Viking has really been good to us, for some reason unknown to us we were upgraded in to the Explore Suite. This is a fantastic accommodation with two river views off the stern of the ship. This is a new Long Ship having made its first cruise only four weeks before our trip. Mark our program director was always there to make sure everyone on the ship was taken care of. The itinerary laid out for the trip was perfect, we never felt rushed and enjoyed all of well spoken local guides. Life on the ship was enhanced with great food, free wine for lunch and dinner and friendly staff. The Portraits of Southern France cruise is very relaxing as well as educational if interested in wine. We also extended the trip with the Paris extension where we found the hotel very nice but it would have nicer if it was closer to the inner city, but the Metro station was just out side the hotel. David Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
This was a well organized, relaxing, and enjoyable cruise. It was my second cruise on the Viking The on the Viking River Cruise line. They never disappoint. The communications prior to the trip were detailed and beautifully presented. ... Read More
This was a well organized, relaxing, and enjoyable cruise. It was my second cruise on the Viking The on the Viking River Cruise line. They never disappoint. The communications prior to the trip were detailed and beautifully presented. The hotel in Paris was very good, served a full breakfast and was not far from the Metro Our room overlooked the Eifffel Tower. What a view! Transfers to the ship embarkation were timely and well organized. The ship was beautiful and very clean. Dining room was beautiful. Activities, entertainment, and shore excursions were very appropriate for the guests. Cabin was small but we spent very little time in except to change clothes and sleep. Beds were very comfortable. Beautiful views from our window, The food was the best ever. Kudos to the chef and his staff for their preparation. The entire staff was friendly and always accommodating. They were very eager to meet the guests needs. Service was exemplary. Disembarkation was perfectly arranged and uncomplicated. Absolutely cannot wait until I take my next cruise. They continue to impress me. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
No matter how calm an ocean is I get seasick because there always is a swell - a river cruise is perfect. My husband and I and our 2 sons (adults - not young children) were on the cruise (we always take them so they can be tour guides and ... Read More
No matter how calm an ocean is I get seasick because there always is a swell - a river cruise is perfect. My husband and I and our 2 sons (adults - not young children) were on the cruise (we always take them so they can be tour guides and we tag along) Our suite was very comfortable and the room staff were terrific. I have food allergies and the Maître d' gave me a menu every morning of the meals for me to choose from and ensured that my choices were free of the allergens (sometimes being specially made) and served them to me personally as well as serving our sons who are vegetarian. Excursions were very good for the most part with most having 2 or 3 choices for difficulty of walking. Buses from the ship to the start of the excursion were sometimes parked in very difficult places entailing long treks to and from the buses to the start/finish of the excursion -- but you can't have old European towns and cities and big streets. I liked the use of local guides because they were so enthusiastic and informative. The ship's cruise director was phenomenal. I would take the same cruise just because of her; however, we are getting old and decrepit and have a lot more world to see so need to find another cruise. The biggest downside were the 50-plus locks that we had to go through which put the schedule way off at times. Prague was a gorgeous city as is Paris - It would have been nice if we could have actually embarked and disembarked in those cities - the cruise was in fact a cruise of Germany. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
My husband and I always wanted to visit the Normandy coast of France, and decided to try a river cruise. I had read some reviews to skip the cruise line's travel arrangements, which I'm glad I did. Others on the trip complained ... Read More
My husband and I always wanted to visit the Normandy coast of France, and decided to try a river cruise. I had read some reviews to skip the cruise line's travel arrangements, which I'm glad I did. Others on the trip complained about early airline booking times. I booked our flight on Air France and arrived in Paris early afternoon. We took the train to the nearest station where the boat was supposed to be docked, but it wasn't there. Luckily, my cell phone worked and I was able to get through to the company and they sent a car to pick us up. Apparently, the ship was moved further up river, but they did not notify us. If you buy your flight through Viking, they pick you up at the airport. But this is the only problem we had. We were greeted at the ship and given the keys to our room. Of course it's small but I loved it! We had a cabin with a large window that opened. The bed was comfortable, which surprised me. We unpacked our suitcases and put them under the bed. No more packing and unpacking as you travel from city to city! The ship was clean. I had read some reviews the food was so so but I did not find that to be the case. The food and dining service was outstanding! I could stay on that boat for ever! The shore excursions were great. There were local guides that took small groups to the various points of interest. There was also plenty of free time to spend as you wished. The concierge was helpful and the staff always friendly. Overall we had a fantastic vacation! I totally recommend Viking, and can't wait to sail again on my next river cruise!   Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
This was our second Viking river cruise, and we were on the first sailing of the Hermod. We were promptly met at the Marseilles airport by a Viking rep, who directed us to baggage claim and instructed us where to meet after we gathered our ... Read More
This was our second Viking river cruise, and we were on the first sailing of the Hermod. We were promptly met at the Marseilles airport by a Viking rep, who directed us to baggage claim and instructed us where to meet after we gathered our bags. We only had a short wait for another arriving group before our bus left for Avignon and the Hermod. We were warmly greeted at the dock and our cabins were ready, as was a light lunch buffet. After enjoying our lunch on the Aquavit Terrace, we did a bit of unpacking before joining the others who had already arrived for a introductory walking tour of Avignon's city center, designed to help clear the head of jet lag. We enjoyed the walking tour, using the Quiet Vox headset system provided by Viking. I really enjoy this headset system, as it employs an over the ear headset, rather than earbuds. I find the earbuds uncomfortable, and I don't even notice the Quiet Vox headset. Our cabin was a verandah cabin on the top deck of cabins. It was compact, due to the verandah, but was nicely appointed. There was plenty of space under the bed for our luggage to be stored. The closet had one side for hanging clothes and the second side had shelves and a good-size safe. There was a long counter across from the bed, with both 110 and 220 outlets at each end. Under the counter were a mini-fridge and two dressers for storage. Above the counter were a large flat-screen TV and a mirror. Under the mirror counter space was a stool, so that one could sit to do one's hair and/or makeup. The bathroom was also compact, but again, very nicely appointed. There was a nice, deep sink, with a long counter. There were an assortment of L'Occitane toiletries and nice, plush towels. The shower had glass doors that opened out, and the shower head slid up or down on a pole; nice for adjusting the height of the shower spray. Water pressure and heat were very good. Bath floor was heated. Blow dryer provided. From this wonderful start to our cruise to the end, it was a great experience. Disembarkation was as seamless as embarkation. Viking even provided a rep at the departure airport to assist until all were checked in. That extra measure of follow-thru was greatly appreciated. The crew and staff were outstanding, customer service was exceptional. Food was very good at all meals. The ports were a good mix of larger cities and smaller towns. Our guides were outstanding and easy to understand. They were enthusiastic and so knowledgeable. Optional tours were great and a very good value for the money. Interesting activities provided onboard when cruising. Could not have been happier with this itinerary. Looking forward to cruising with Viking again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
We took the Viking river cruise "Paris & the Heart of Normandy" during the last week of March 2014. We arrived in Paris on Sunday morning and were met at the airport by friendly Viking personnel, and taken by bus to the ship, ... Read More
We took the Viking river cruise "Paris & the Heart of Normandy" during the last week of March 2014. We arrived in Paris on Sunday morning and were met at the airport by friendly Viking personnel, and taken by bus to the ship, docked at the Quai de Grenelle with a great view of the Eiffel Tower. I was so excited to be in Paris, a city I have always wanted to visit. Our stateroom, 302, was a decent size. I especially liked that there was plenty of drawer space so we could fully unpack and had room for everything. We had to store our suitcases under the desk as there was no other place to put them. The bed was very comfortable and we never had a problem sleeping. The bathroom was tiny, but everything worked well. Loved the L'Occitaine soap, shampoo, lotion, etc. The best thing about the stateroom was the large window that opened - great for viewing and taking photos from the room. Meals were very good. Breakfast was a buffet, with an omelet station, along with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, yogurt, croissants, etc. There was also a menu where you could order eggs benedict, pancakes, French toast. We rarely ate lunch, but they served a hot lunch in the dining room, and also set up a buffet in the lounge that usually included salads, soup, sandwiches, etc. Dinners were 3 or 4 courses - appetizer, main course (usually a choice of 3), dessert, and a cheese plate. All were very good, some were outstanding. We had the best boeuf bourgignon one night, and the cheese plates were always interesting. We also had duck a l'orange, coq au vin, chateaubriand, all very well done. They also had an "American" menu - steak, grilled chicken - but we always stuck with the more interesting choices. We purchased the "Silver Spirits" package, so all our drinks were included. We had a lot of fun working with Ladislav and Peter in the lounge to choose our bottle of wine for dinner every night. Wine and beer with meals is included in the price of the cruise, but they do have a much nicer wine list available that we made good use of. We were also able to enjoy a mimosa with breakfast and after dinner drinks in the lounge. There was always entertainment in the lounge after dinner. The piano player, Blondie, was enjoyable. We also had French lessons, a lecture about painters and the Seine, a fun music trivia quiz, and a group the presented songs and music "Spirit of France." The staff on the ship could not have been better - all of them worked very hard to provide each passenger with a wonderful experience. Annika, the Program Director, was a total delight - her talks about each stop, her attempts to teach us all a little French, her singing on the music quiz night, she was the best and made every day special. I didn't envy her the job of herding several bus loads of senior citizens and trying to get tours started on time. Beate the Hotel Manager and Birgitte the restaurant manager were a pleasure to deal with, and I was impressed to see them pitching in and helping clear tables, seat people, clean up, and not just supervise. All of the tours we took were very good, lots of interesting information. Our least favorite was the optional (extra cost) tour of the Louvre. Not Viking's fault - the tour guide was excellent, but the Louvre was horrible, terribly overcrowded, just a madhouse and very uncomfortable. We dropped out of that tour earl, just couldn't stand the constant pushing and jostling. Our favorites - hard to choose - Normandy where we got to see my husband's uncle's grave in the American cemetery. Annika had told us to find a cemetery staff member to help us find the grave - not only did they do so, but gave us American and French flags and roses to place at the marker, but rubbed sand from Omaha Beach into the lettering so we could read it for photos, and also took photos of us at the marker. Very special experience. We also really enjoyed the Auvers-sur-Oise tour to see where Van Gogh spent his last days and his grave, the tour of Rouen and all the history from the Vikings to Joan of Arc to World War II. We also purchased the optional tour to Versailles and it was money well spent. We arrived there early and were among the first groups allowed into the palace. Again, the tour guide was excellent and very informative about the history of the palace. I would highly recommend Viking cruises based on our experience. We are already thinking about which river cruise to take next!!   Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
My husband and I were on the maiden voyage of the Bordeaux trip from Viking. I must say that we were pleasantly surprised. We travel extensively throughout the world, taking cruises and land travel. We have never experienced a river ... Read More
My husband and I were on the maiden voyage of the Bordeaux trip from Viking. I must say that we were pleasantly surprised. We travel extensively throughout the world, taking cruises and land travel. We have never experienced a river cruise. We make it a point when travelling to eat in some of the finest restaurants in the world. While the food onboard the Forseti was not exactly what I would call 5 star I never expected it to be. We never had a complaint except for the last evening. Supposed to be steak on the menu? Pot roast! Were there people who complained? Absolutely. If something was ordered not to our taste then we ordered something else. No problem. Granted the weather played havoc with our tours, but it didn't stop us from enjoying them. Leaving the boat were umbrellas for all (it rained almost everyday) and bottles of water. The buses were brand new with fully appointed bathrooms. The guides were superb and very knowledgable about the area. Were there ports we could have done without? Yes, but this was the maiden voyage,there are kinks to work out. One of the highlights was dinner in a Chateau within a vineyard. Viking brought over the entire kitchen and wait staff, china, silverware centerpieces and kitchen equipment. They prepared a lovely meal. Did some complain? Of course! What would a trip be without whiners? The included tours were lovely and everyone was told whether there would be a lot of walking so there was an option as to participation. The miedeval town of Blye was interesting, the wine tasting at Chateau Lynch-Bage,superb and the walk around Saint-Emilion charming. We make an unplanned stop at Chateau Margaux for a photo op. The extra tours, while they were pricey were unbelievable. and really worth the money. we went truffle hunting and after the hunt the farmer's wife prepared a three course lunch for 32 people. Every course had truffles in them. Delicious! Another trip was to the beach town of Arcachon and Cape Ferrat. It took 2 hours to get there but was definitely worth it That day the sun was shining and it was beautiful. We went to a small oyster fishing village by catamaran. We had fresh oysters served to us by the fisherman with wine and bread. Returning to Arcachon we had a wonderful seafood lunch in a restaurant La Scala, next to the water. We found the staff to be lovely, constantly asking how everything was and were very concerned with our answers and suggestions. The rooms although small were spotless. The activities on board are non-existent, but we made friends with fellow passengers and talked and laughed every evening. Our experience was so positive that we are considering another Viking cruise next year. We have found that a smile and a kind word go a long way for making any trip memorable. Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
This was our third Viking river cruise and they just keep getting better and better. Pick up at airport was flawless and when we arrived on board our cabin was ready and waiting. Cabin was roomy, clean as a whistle and comfortable. ... Read More
This was our third Viking river cruise and they just keep getting better and better. Pick up at airport was flawless and when we arrived on board our cabin was ready and waiting. Cabin was roomy, clean as a whistle and comfortable. Throughout the cruise, the housekeeping service was excellent. Meals were well prepared, a variety of dishes was served and the desserts were fabulous! No complaints whatsoever on the dining experienc. in particular, the maitre-de each evening selected special wines for us to complment the various offerings. Tres bien! The excursions were well planned and efficiently run. Originally, since we departed prior to April 1, we were not supposed to visit Giverney, which opens Apr. 1. However, since our cruise overlapped that date, the Program Director rearranged our itnerary so that we could indeed visit this beautiful site, where Monet lived and worked. The trip to Normandy and Onmaha Beach was breathtaking and really the emotional high point of our trip. We will never forget it. The Program Director and his staff arranged for us to participate in a moving and very special ceremony at the American Cemetery. The crew was attentive, friendly and efficient. No request went unfulfilled and the overall cruise experience was outstanding. The Neptune is an older ship, as compared witty the new longboats, but it has an Intimacy and charm that we loved.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
Arriving on our sparkling new boat, Heimdal in March of this year, we grabbed one of Viking's trademark red umbrellas for a walking tour of Avignon in the rain. Others hadn't arrived from their pre-cruise visit to Paris, so we ... Read More
Arriving on our sparkling new boat, Heimdal in March of this year, we grabbed one of Viking's trademark red umbrellas for a walking tour of Avignon in the rain. Others hadn't arrived from their pre-cruise visit to Paris, so we took full advantage of the glistening cobblestones leading through the Roman Ruins and mighty ramparts of the ancient city. Returning to linen tablecloths and fresh flowers greeting us for dinner, we enjoyed a typical gourmet meal and quiet evening in port. The exterior glass walls of our room continually offered the grandest views throughout our week in Southern France. Imagine laying on your comfortable bed in your own home while the French countryside passed slowly by along the banks of Arles, Avignon, Tournon and Lyon. The views were made even more spectacular from the rooftop deck wrapped snugly in the warm blankets brought to you by the courteous crew, sipping a steamy mug of cocoa. Our days were filled with fascinating tours hosted by the most talented and informed guides imaginable, thankfully transmitted to my ear as I wandered about the city snapping photos without losing neither my group nor my wife. Walking in Van Gogh's footsteps, capturing images later discovered to mimic paintings of the master, impacted my life in ways unimaginable. Sadly, I cannot show you these beautiful photos which we will forever treasure. One surreal moment of our voyage included our late-night stroll through sleepy Vivier, along the sycamore lined streets that wound upward between closely grouped homes, rewarding travelers with a panorama from atop this lovely medieval city. Our visit to Tain L'Hermitage became very special as the daughter of noted French painter Pierre Palué invited us into her home to view many of his works, including those of his friends. What visit to Southern France would be complete without wineries and chocolatiers? Viking did not disappoint. Tasty tours highlighted the traditions of their craft. When asked if his vineyards were irrigated, a vintner replied, "Non. The vines must suffer." We never suffered for lack of luxury. As we boarded ship following our many adventures, friendly faces greeted us with refreshments fitting weather and occasion. We cherish our week on the Rhone and hungrily anticipate all that Viking has to offer, sometimes revisiting during differing seasons. The Christmas Markets throughout Europe are not to be missed. Can I rank one Viking Cruise above another? The answer is an affirmative, "No." One cannot rank the Mona Lisa above Starry Night. Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
We have taken 5 European river cruises, using different cruise lines. We have enjoyed them all and would recommend any of them to our friends and family. All the crews have been very nice but the entire staff on the Viking Spirit outshone ... Read More
We have taken 5 European river cruises, using different cruise lines. We have enjoyed them all and would recommend any of them to our friends and family. All the crews have been very nice but the entire staff on the Viking Spirit outshone them all! From the moment we arrived at the ship, we were greeted like family and were treated that way throughout the entire cruise! The cruise director escorted us to our cabin, which was already ready for occupancy mid-morning. The hotel manager came by and offered to show us around the ship. When we looked out the window, we noticed that the ship's captain was helping the sailors transfer the luggage. It is hard to describe adequately the incredible atmosphere the staff created throughout the entire week. The cruise director was loads of fun, accompanied us on all the excursions and was always there to help with a smile. The itinerary was perfect! Everything ran very smoothly and we could not have had a better experience! When the week ended, it was very hard for us to leave these people behind. The hugs we gave were reciprocated by hugs that were just as genuine and heartfelt as ours were. We can't say enough good things about the Spirit. Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
FRENCH WATERWAYS HOLIDAY CRUISE: HIGHLIGHTS OF BURGUNDY, PROVENCE & PARIS, by VANTAGE DELUXE WORLD TOURS, 11 nights on the ship & 4 night extension. 12/1/2013 INTRODUCTION: Since there seems to be a scarcity of reviews for Vantage ... Read More
FRENCH WATERWAYS HOLIDAY CRUISE: HIGHLIGHTS OF BURGUNDY, PROVENCE & PARIS, by VANTAGE DELUXE WORLD TOURS, 11 nights on the ship & 4 night extension. 12/1/2013 INTRODUCTION: Since there seems to be a scarcity of reviews for Vantage Deluxe World Travel river cruises I’d like to add some reflections on our recent cruise and a few comments on the company and their new offering: "French Waterways Holiday Cruise: Highlights of Burgundy, Provence & Paris" on the Discovery 2 beginning December 1 . Before I begin, let me say that while my husband and I have lived abroad and traveled for business and pleasure throughout our lives we are not particularly experienced with river cruising. This was our first Vantage cruise. Our only other river cruise was with Avalon on the Danube. We are in our early sixties. VANTAGE MARKETING: I admit that at the outset I was concerned about signing on with Vantage because there is so little information about it on Cruise Critic or other sites, our travel agent didn’t know of the company, and pricing for the French Holiday Cruise seemed rather low for what they were offering. Apparently Vantage doesn’t advertise much in travel magazines or on TV and they don’t market through travel agents, so the line doesn’t get a lot of mentions or reviews in the press or on blogs. They rely on ‘Word of Mouth’, direct mail, past passengers, or their online site to attract business. I think this keeps their pricing very competitive or somewhat less than other river cruise lines like Avalon, Uniworld, Tauck and Viking. In fact, while on the cruise we learned that the Vantage ‘Affinity’ program of ‘friends recruiting friends’ accrued big discounts and ‘bonuses’ for participating returning passengers and was very popular. I found out Vantage is family owned by Hank Lewis, and has been around for thirty years as a tour operator featuring land tours and cruises on mostly leased ships. It shares a tenuous link with Grand Circle Tours (the two companies are owned by (estranged) brothers). Only in the last few years has Vantage advanced beyond being just a ‘tour operator’ and has contracted to build and own their own river cruise ships and is now a bona fide ‘cruise line’. THE PASSENGERS: An extremely high percentage of passengers on our cruise seemed to be veterans of Vantage tours—it was not unusual for passengers we met to have cruised or toured five, ten or fifteen times with the company, so there is a very loyal following and the Word of Mouth marketing and affinity plan seems to be a big success. We felt like we were two of just a handful of ‘first time’ Vantage cruisers (we could tell because veteran cruisers had variously colored name tags). It seemed to us that the Vantage cruise attracted a more mature and almost exclusively American traveler; whereas our Avalon cruise attracted perhaps 25% of its cruisers from other English speaking countries and a higher percentage of cruisers under age 60. The Vantage cruisers seemed to be retired singles and couples, many over age 70 to age 85, who were teachers, homemakers, managers, and others retired from law enforcement, government and business, among other occupations. Otherwise there was not a lot of diversity among the passengers. We are age 63 and felt like we were among the young cruisers. BOOKING: We knew no one who had cruised with Vantage though and found Vantage through googling, so I had no clue what to expect. In September, three months before the cruise date, I was looking around on line for a winter river cruise to celebrate our anniversary. (One note about shopping for a Vantage cruise: on the online catalog page for the French Waterways cruise I found a “Compare & Save” page link on the right hand side that outlined on a chart the differences between the Vantage cruise and similar cruises on Uniworld, Viking, etc. Whether the info is wholly accurate, I don’t know, but it was helpful to me nevertheless.) So I did some comparison shopping and also signed up for the Vantage ‘E-mail alerts’ on deals and news along with other companies’ alerts. I received regular blurbs and one day this French trip was featured at an extremely attractive reduction; I suppose to fill out the passenger roster since it was just ten weeks or so till embarkation. I called to inquire and it sounded so good I was dubious. But the agent said ‘What’s not to like? It’s wine and chocolate and Christmas in France?!’ And I had to agree, and we signed on to this French Holiday Cruise featuring a new 2013 winter itinerary. Booking with Vantage is exclusively online or by phone with the home office: the company has no travel agent partnerships. I requested that the included airfare would get us a non-stop to Paris and they did. After Vantage bought the air tickets we called Delta ourselves, gave them our frequent flyer numbers and asked for the ‘Economy Plus’ upgrade for a minimal payment to ensure more spacious seating and free drinks on the plane. We did not have any problems or frustrations with the Boston home office. The customer service agents were courteous, efficient, and answered my inquiries in a timely manner. The Vantage on-line ‘trip portfolio’ e-mails kept us up to date on our timeline. (I think the ‘higher ups’ at Vantage have made better home office customer interaction a priority in the past year or so and this initiative seemed to have worked in our case). I will add that there was a Vantage disclaimer in our contract that changes may be made in the itinerary and tour plans, and well there should have been, because indeed weather caused some changes in itinerary and events. (Weather necessitated changes in our Avalon cruise, too.) For example, the advertised ‘Can Can’ evening in Paris, morphed into a ‘Illuminated Night River Cruise’ and the visit to Dijon was dropped because of weather complications. We bought the trip insurance, including medical, from Vantage, but I understand there are better deals out there if one wanted to check around. SHIP ACCOMMODATIONS: Overall the trip was actually better than we envisaged. The ‘Discovery 2’ is a new addition to the Vantage fleet, carried about 160 passengers, and was very comfortable, convenient, and clean. The ship design seemed to be a twin to our Avalon ship ‘Tranquility’ if you know of that boat, but with some updates like more suites, better stateroom storage, free wi-fi and lots of free movies and television channels, and an elevator. Our middle priced stateroom was big enough, had the ‘French balcony’ window, a comfortable enough bed given it was actually two twins pushed together (which seems to be the normal river cruise configuration), a thermostat and plenty of heat, and a nice bathroom. We had our own tour guide ‘whisper box’ ear phones and transmitter charger on our desk in the room which was very convenient. (The only negative to the room was that it could have used another layer of sound insulation in the wall for privacy’s sake.) Overall the ship décor reminded me of a Courtyard by Marriott or similar nice new mid-range hotel. The ship’s crew were exceptionally helpful, cheerful and smart looking. They were English speaking, and hailed from Rumania, Philippines, Hungary and France among other places and this added to the diversity and friendly ambiance of the experience. Like most other river cruise lines (except Tauck), we were expected to tip the crew at the end of the voyage and we were provided guidelines on amounts from Vantage. The ship offered room service for breakfast, onboard laundry, and a gym. There is an optional casual breakfast, lunch, and dinner in an upper deck viewing lounge. The chef was pretty good at creating tasty dishes to suit most appetites and he offered a vegetarian entrée and buffet or a served three course meal, your choice. The dining room servers poured free-flowing complimentary (pretty good) table wine with our three course meals or there was a wine list for extra cost, as well. During our cruise the top open air lounge deck was often closed because of high winds or low bridge clearances, but one night we sat out and enjoyed the lights of Lyon and had complimentary cocoa and coffee there. The dress code was casual although jeans and shorts are not allowed in the dining room for dinner. I would say that the Vantage passengers were more casually dressed than our Avalon group—we seldom saw a sport jacket or a skirt, and the passengers were cautioned once about wearing jeans to dinner. All in all, the onboard experience was very nice and much like our Avalon Tranquility experience. THE VANTAGE CRUISE DIRECTORS & LOCAL GUIDES: One difference between this Vantage cruise and our Avalon cruise was that the Vantage passengers were divided into four distinct groups (with color coded dots on the name tags and luggage). Each group was assigned a ‘cruise director’ for the duration of the voyage to facilitate day tours in conjunction with our local special guides and to execute administrative duties and passenger/client services. In contrast, Avalon engaged just one ‘cruise director’ (and perhaps he had an assistant, I can’t remember) for the 160 tour members and used local guides to assist passengers on day trips. Vantage’s approach provided for more personal engagement with each passenger, especially for many of those of a ‘certain age’ who had mobility problems or who were inexperienced (or just nervous and unsure) travelers. The division in to four groups for the duration, though efficient, was a little limiting as far as socializing with the whole coterie of other ship mates. The cruise directors, in my view, were capable, enthusiastic and helpful and very good communicators. They did a good job of problem solving with unexpected weather changes and traveler complaints and comments, and they were proficient at troubleshooting. The ‘local guides’ were very proficient and engaging, but most of them did not provide much more than a ‘tourist view’ of their city or town. You know, ‘on our left is the Romanesque cathedral, on our right is the medieval town water well’ type of presentation. There were a few ‘cultural connection’ talks onboard but they were fairly ‘light’ in content. In general the complexities of French culture, history, or geo-political issues were glossed over or not delved in to at all. We did not find this omission on the Avalon cruise where the single cruise director filled in each day trip and evening port talk with discussion of political issues, social themes, historical and cultural clashes and foodie insights. I suspect that perhaps a large number of Vantage passengers are satisfied with a ‘lighter’ treatment of ‘the country revealed before them’ and that a more scholarly and complex discussion of the region would not be much appreciated by many. THE ITINERARY: This ‘French Waterways Holiday Cruise on the Rhone through the Cote Azure, Provence, Burgundy and Paris’, was a new itinerary for Vantage and overall it was very interesting and enjoyable. We flew to Nice, were met at the airport, checked in with our bona fides, had a nice welcome dinner and introductory talk, and stayed one night in a very nice Fairmont Hotel next the Grand Casino in Monaco. Next day we bussed our way along the scenic Cote D’Azur to embarkation at Tarascon-sur-Rhone where we began our cruise up river to visit picturesque medieval villages and then to the grand finale of beautiful Paris. Along the cruise the cruise directors and crew had a few kinks to work out because we experienced a few days of high winds, known as the infamous ‘Le Mistral’ of the Rhone River Valley, high and low water, and fog, so day trips on the bus had to be rearranged. We stayed an extra day in Lyon but missed a visit to Dijon because of these issues and then transferred to a bus for a five hour ride to Paris instead of sailing a little longer on in the boat. Vantage did offer us a $200 credit on a 2014 voyage for these inconveniences and omissions. My husband and I were on the cruise mainly looking for relaxation and an unhurried and hassle free way to see southern France and to tour the wine country without the summer crowd and hot weather so we were fairly satisfied and happy with the itinerary of day tours and did not mind particularly the rerouting. Others were a little miffed about this. Along the same lines, others on board expected this French tour to be more like the German ‘Christmas Markets’ tours and for the markets to be the focal point of the itinerary. Some of these passengers expressed disappointment that the French towns and markets were not as numerous or as showy as the German markets and felt the “French Holiday Cruise” catalog description was deceptive. (Although I did not share this point of view about the description.) To answer the complaint that the cruise was ‘light’ on the Xmas market scene, I think the tour directors went out of their way in Paris, Lyon, Vienne and Avignon to add extra market shopping and browsing time for those who were interested. Despite other travelers’ dismay at the day tour and Christmas shopping choices, my husband and I enjoyed the very excellent wine tour and tasting at the Chateauneuf-du-Pape winery, the Beaujolais wine country tour, the truffle farm visit, and the guided town and city walking tours. We also enjoyed the La Mirande cooking class (when we got over the high price they charged and that the Vantage catalog description for the lesson was not wholly accurate). As a serendipitous bonus treat, we were excited and delighted to learn that our ship would dock in Lyon on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, in time for us to experience the unique four day Lyon ‘Fete des Lumieres’. This is a world famous holiday festival in veneration of Mary, the holy mother. The festival show cased more than 30 creative light shows on the city plazas, lighted installation art and sculpture exhibits throughout the town center and draws five million tourists each year to Lyon. We spent two evenings in port (one more night than was originally planned, in lieu of cruising up river toward Dijon because of fog and winds.) walking the city discovering the lighting extravaganzas, drinking wine, and visiting with the locals. We were happy Lyon and this event were given two evenings in the schedule. Now another couple of points on the basic itinerary: Four of our day trips/dinners were ‘optional tours’ at additional cost. I believe adding these ‘extra cost’ events is a new policy for Vantage. Formerly all day tours were ‘included’ in the tour price. Of course, for those who are concerned about being stifled by too much ‘tour group’ togetherness, anyone can opt out of any of the day tours and go on their own, visit friends in town, skip an onboard meal and eat in town, or just stay on the boat. The choice is yours. The only stipulation is to keep the cruise director advised if you are leaving the day tour or if you will not return to the ship in time for sailing so that the bus or boat isn’t delayed while a search for you is launched. Conceivably, if you are sure to arrange with the Vantage admins, you can miss the sailing and catch up with the ship at the next port. Of course, this would be at your own expense for taxis, etc. Over all I would say that the Vantage day tours were very nice—the busses were comfortable, the local guides were engaging, and although the towns and shops were often in various stages of winter hibernation or even closed for the season, enough were open, and the Christmas markets were fun (in the French style). Vantage delivered pretty much what I was expecting in day tours and itinerary, given the ‘affordable’ and ‘sale’ cruise price we paid and the fact that this wasn’t really high tourist season for the Rhone Valley. PARIS EXTENSION: I am so happy that we added the four night ‘Paris Extension’ (again at a bargain rate) to cap our itinerary. After all, who doesn’t like Paris? And the Rhone cruise was the perfect lead up to this grand finale. The weather was splendid, the city was beautiful in its Christmas decoration, and we loved our long walks through the City. Our hotel, Le Meridien Etoile, was comfortable and well located near the Metro stop and the Champs Elysees, and better than we expected given the bargain rate we paid for the extension package. A very nice buffet breakfast in the hotel (a E 29 value) was included and we had free Wi-Fi in the room. But be warned the room service, hotel extras, cocktail bar and dining room are very expensive. If you are a Starwood Hotels affinity group member I would advise the hotel clerk at check in for possible premium treatment and points. The Paris day tours were fine but the evening dinners left a bit to be desired—the dinner venues were cramped and the menus were not too special even though the restaurants chosen (i.e., La Coupole and Bofingers) were well known and carried historic pedigrees. Were we to do it again, we would skip the arranged dinners. I am sure our Cruise Director was taking notes on the comments and short falls in the planning for these evenings and next trip there will be changes made to better serve those who choose to stay longer in Paris. The best of the Paris Extension in our view was our self-guided long walks through the neighborhoods, museums, and street markets, and our afternoon visits to the cafes on the Left Bank. We used John Baxter’s “The Most Beautiful Walk in the World”, The ‘Cadogan Guide’ for Paris, and Rick Steve’s ‘Paris’ guide for suggestions on routes to follow. And we brought a good city map. RECOMMENDATION: I would recommend this Vantage French Holiday tour to those looking for a relaxed pace, a convenient ‘hotel room’ that moves along with you, and/or to travelers who appreciate the ‘cruise director’s organizational and admin skills. This cruise may also appeal to those who are seeking an overview of the Cote d’Azur, the Rhone River valley, and Paris ‘out of season’, enabling them to enjoy the ship amenities and the advantage of cool weather and streets relatively free of tourists. I would not recommend the cruise to anyone who already knows Provence and French wine country well, likes fast paced days and night time revelry and who is very independent, or who is under, say, age 60 and likes an energetic youthful atmosphere. I liked the less sumptuous holiday markets and atmosphere on this French Waterways cruise, but if you are looking for your first ‘Christmas Market’ cruise with all the bells and whistles, check out the German itineraries first. Some would say these French village cruise ports and the Rhone shoreside scenery at this time of year are a little low key and not as lively and beautiful as the Danube ports of-call in high seasons of Christmas or summertime (although I found the scenery mysterious and Grimm’s fairy tale like especially when the countryside was laden with a covering of frost.). I am particularly happy that Vantage is offering this rare opportunity to tour the Rhone Valley at this time of year. The itinerary was unique among the cruise companies I researched and we did not see another river cruiser sailing the Rhone. I spied just one French river cruiser that nested next to our ship in Lyon for the festival (and two Viking ships laid up for the winter.) This Vantage cruise experience did not quite reach Avalon or certainly not Tauck level of deluxe/luxury, but neither did the expense come close to Tauck or Avalon’s pricing. Still the cruise was a treat for us and an excellent value, and at some point we most likely will book another Vantage cruise. RANDOM THOUGHTS: (1) I would encourage prospective Vantage travelers to learn some basic French phrases and to read a book or two on culture and history of the region. (Look at YouTube for lots of videos on learning French phrases.) Taking some time to do some basic research provided us great benefit on the trip: I felt the French locals were more engaging and fun to interact with because we tried to demonstrate the courtesies the Frenchmen expect. If we uttered even a fractured French phrase we received a pleasant response and smile in return. Check out YouTube for tour and French Language phrase videos and I listed a few of our favorite ‘background’ resources below. (2) The weather from the Cote d’Azur and then up along the Rhone and Saone Rivers and thence to Paris at this time of year is quite variable. Be sure to check weatherunderground.com or your favorite online weather site the day before you leave for the ‘ten day forecast’ for several ports of call, including Monte Carlo, Aix en Provence, Lyon, on up north to Paris, to give you a sense of the range of weather ahead and for clues on what to pack. We lucked out with clear sunny weather with s few days of cold wind, fog, and frost as we progressed north (but I think our trip was unseasonably dry and warmish). Temps reached 70 F in Monaco, but it was a very cold 35 F and very windy on the upper Rhone. Paris couldn’t have been more splendid at 50 F and sunny. (3) And were I travelling on this tour again, to better assimilate with the French and not stick out like a hokey American, I would give consideration to dressing more in the manner of the French—that is, I would leave the Nike’s and white athletic shoes, keds, T shirts, ball caps, and jeans at home, particularly during wintertime. If you are a ‘fashionista’ or want to be reasonably a la mode on your trip, you’ll want to know the basic French mantra for winter wear appears to be ‘Dress In Any Color As Long As It’s Black’. (Forget American favorites navy blue and khaki for winter in France). Wear black or dark European style (i.e., Ecco, Rieker, Mephisto) walking shoes (have a look at Travelsmith.com for ideas). And bring a hat and a set of that silk/wool underwear for warmth. For good measure and to accessorize in the French fashion, women will want to bring scarves to add that finishing touch to their outfit. (From my observation French women would not be caught dead without a warm and pretty scarf adroitly draped around their neck.) As my friend from Paris told me, ‘the French view their cities as their living rooms and like to dress up to show a little in respect for the stunning interiors, splendid city architecture, and festive events. Seen in that perspective I understand their point of view on dressing well. (4) The last tip to consider: Try to be in fairly good physical condition even though Vantage does a good job in accommodating those with mobility issues. There are lots of steps and cobblestones to negotiate. And the best interactions we had with Frenchmen were during our self-guided ambles through the towns and Paris. Several of these walks were as long as eight miles and I couldn’t have done it day after day if I hadn’t set up my walking conditioning program several months before the cruise. I bought a FitBit pedometer for this and it provides lots of fun and encouragement. SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR READING & RESEARCH (all available on Amazon and very inexpensive when you purchase ‘used’): “Paris: The Novel” by David Rutherford, the popular historical novel writer. Long, but covers a lot of history through storytelling. “The Most Beautiful Walk in the World”, Memoirs of a Parisian flaneur, by John Baxter, expatriate and ‘New Yorker’ contributor. This book is charming and informational. “Chocolat”, both a novel and a film, set in an old French town. The story features the mysterious effect of ‘The Mistral’ winter winds of the Rhone Valley (which we experienced on our cruise). Music by Edith Piaf, John Aznavour, Jeanne-Pierre Rampal, and others. “A Moveable Feast” by Hemingway, his memoirs of life on the Left Bank in Paris. Also “Paris Wife”, his story from another (fictional) point of view. “Two Towns in Provence” and other stories by the eminent food writer M.F.K. Fisher. “The Pillars of the Earth”, Ken Follett, the best seller historical novel of the building of a great cathedral, cited by a couple of our guides. Rick Steves’ travel videos and guides on France and his opinionated ‘The Politics of Travel’ video. And the more sophisticated but hard to find ‘Cadogan Guides’. “Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong (Why We Love France, but not the French)”, Jean Benoit Nadeau & Julie Barlow, 2003, an interestingly written ‘enthno-anthropological’ analysis and memoir focusing on culture and politics by two reporters living in France. Also, for basic French language prompts check out ‘About.com French Language’ or the many French language videos on YouTube. Bon Voyage, mes amis!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
This was our first river cruise and we recommend it and plan on river cruising again. We chose Viking because the catalog we received in the mail included an itinerary we had always wanted to do. The age demographic is largely 70+ . Being ... Read More
This was our first river cruise and we recommend it and plan on river cruising again. We chose Viking because the catalog we received in the mail included an itinerary we had always wanted to do. The age demographic is largely 70+ . Being considering younger we did make friends and connect with others our age We departed December 8, 2013 on the Paris Normandy cruise. We visited with family in UK prior to the trip so we did not do the pre stay or post stay in Paris. We did add on transfers once we arrived back in CDG and were very well taken care for our 30 minute ride to the ship. Our cabin was a corner one next to the staircases but was very well laid out and spacious and we liked it over the conventional cabins down the hall. Great storage and use of space. The staff were extremely courteous and helpful throughout the duration of the cruise. Each evening there was a debriefing of next day excursions or ship program. Very well organized. You leave the ship - you turn in your room key and get a pass which you turn in upon your return. This was a very efficient way of figuring out who was on or off the ship. There is only one dining time and it is open seating. The food was very good. Not excellent but very good. The portions are not those you would find on ocean liner cruisers, which is fine unless you are there for a food frenzy. The food was always elegantly presented . They tried hard to make it regionally based upon the day's visit. The breakfast buffet was very generous but repetitive, however, you could order a la carte. We lunched in the dining room most days vs. the buffet. I feel the lunch menus could have been a little bit more imaginative and did get the feeling that we were at the end of the season when coming to menu creation. At the captain's farewell cocktail they ran out of hors d'oeuvres after being passed to only half of the lounge. When pointed out they did bring more to the entire lounge. I admit I am a food and service snob and did note that one time they used a saucer as a serving dish and I suspect that the crab meat on crab cake night was fake crab meat. To my husband's delight one day they did serve hot dogs :(n For wine lovers such as us ...we would very often buy a bottle of wine at the many local wine shops and they either corked it right there at the shop or the ship would do it for you. There was not any question bringing it on board and they were happy to offer a corkage service at no charge. The entertainment on board is limited. There was a resident piano player who was somewhat engaged. They did have a spirit of Normandy night with local entertainers which was good. Most nights we were tired from daily activities we crashed after dinner. They did offer some "cultural" activities during sailing. Some things they listed as on board events were pretty lame. Would have liked to seen more educational topical info as in lectures relating to upcoming stops. The excursions were excellent and the guides were all fabulous. We opted not to do the intro to Paris half day tour the first day since we had been to the cite several times before and explored Montmartre and Ile st. Louis instead. Visit this small island on the seine by foot when you walk to the left side of Notre Dame and over the bridge. It is literally far from the madding crowd of tourists with small, and I mean, small restaurants and shops. Be sure and get ice cream! Beautiful gift shops and galleries. The Metro is extremely easy to use and in fact if you take the walking, get acquainted, walking tour the first day and the guide instructs you on how to use the Metro. Taxis are very expensive and Metro is the way to go. Our first excursion out of Paris was to the site of Vincent Van Gogh's last days. This particular day was bitter cold and we did not layer properly. Loved all we learned about this very troubled and brilliant artist. Rouen is great shopping. Wish there had been more to the Joan of Arc site. We did take advantage to leave the ship for dinner and dine at a local restaurant recommended by the ship. A Petite Auberge. A delightful culinary experience at what we thought was a very reasonable price. Recommend doing this to get a true local flavor outside of the ship dining experience. The highlight of our cruise was the visit to the Normandy Beaches. It was somewhat of a pilgrimage for us after losing my 95 year old Father-in-law this year who was a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge. You can read and study in history books, or online, but when you are there it is totally incredible. Very emotional day. They had a ceremony for our tour group at the monument which was very poignant. The day of the castle tour I chose to shop the two gift shops with other female companions. Two nice shops for last minute gifts. My husband did the castle tour which is ancient ruins on hillside and a challenging hike for most. This is a short 2 hour dock. The final day was Versailles. Our other reason for picking this itinerary. We opted for the whole day tour and I think this was a mistake. Unless you did not complete all you wanted to see in Paris prior to this point then opt for the half day tour. I really regret doing the full day. Half day or full day you get to see the same tour of Versailles Palace with free time to browse the gardens and gift shop. The whole day gives you 1.5 hours in the town of Versailles for lunch and shopping. Quaint but just more shopping and eating. Back to Paris on the bus and they drop you off for 2.5 hours at the Champs Élysées and return you to the boat at 0630 pm in time for dinner on the last night. Meanwhile the boat sails from Conflans to Paris during the afternoon and you leisurely enjoy the afternoon on the river. The coaches were all very clean. Follow the tipping guide .......if you are lucky enough to get Thierry as your guide in Paris or Versailles you are blessed and consider that a huge bonus. He is very entertaining! Dressing tips: Dining dressing is casual. Many do not change from day clothes. The captains toast/dinner was really no different than any other night. Ladies ..just take a different scarf and jewelry and wear the same outfit. Layer for those excursions at this time of year. Temperature in the cabin was a little erratic. I do have to say the linens and bed comforters were super soft and comfortable. On a final note. They only gave us a two hour window for check in at CDG and it was a very tight time frame. Long lines at check in and security and when we arrived at the gate they were boarding the plane. No duty free shop time! Would we travel Viking again? Possibly...it was great value for the money but I would explore other river cruises first. Bon voyage!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
This was our fourth cruise on Viking having previously cruised in Russia, on the Danube and on the Rhine. This time we persuaded five friends to join us. There are sometimes complaints about the flights (and flight times) selected by ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise on Viking having previously cruised in Russia, on the Danube and on the Rhine. This time we persuaded five friends to join us. There are sometimes complaints about the flights (and flight times) selected by Viking. My advice woiuld be to research which flights are available then pay the small amount extra and ask Viking flights if they can get the flights and seats you want. I did this on Lufthansa and we flew when we wanted to, got the seats we wanted and got our Star Alliance mileage. A word of warning about Delta; these flights are discounted fares and Delta will only give 25% of the actual miles flown if you collect Skymiles. Also Delta partners with Air France which does not respect seat bookings and you may find yourself in another area of the aircraft and split up if you are a couple. Now to the ship. The Neptune is not new and therefore shows some wear and tear. It is however extremely clean both inside and out and was kept that way for the duration of the voyage. The cabins (we had a B) are not large but the storage is excellent and the bathroom well appointed. Our cabin stewardess was a phantom but every time we returned to the cabin she had been there to tidy up, put out fresh towels etc. We were on the last cruise of the season and felt the chefs and dining room staff did an excellent job. They were beginning to run out of a few things but the staff bent over backwards to keep everyone happy. I am not a wine expert but I would classify the wines as drinkable. There is always the option to buy wine at one of the tastings and have the wine steward open them for you. The captain handled the ship with great expertise; watching her dock the Neptune was a treat. She was always to be seen around the ship and was very pleasant. She did not however speak any English. The excursion were enjoyable with clean buses with good drivers where used and any local guides were informative and spoke English well. Frequently on this trip, plans for excursions were changed due to the high water mentioned in the previous review. Now it rains too much or it doesn't rain enough; a fact of life and certainly not Viking or any other cruise line's fault. Where Viking missed the boat so to speak was information. The Cruise Director and the "concierge staff" answered questions with fixed smiles and shrugs of the shoulders. We were told the locks were closed. No, the water flowing into the locks was too strong. No, it was French law we couldn't be on board! I speak enough French to understand most of what is said and I found the captain's briefing on the situation was loosely translated by the Cruise Director, telling us what she thought we wanted to hear rather than what was being said. It didn't take the lawyers on board long to realize that the real issue was liability! If one reads these review boards one knows that these water situations occur with some frequency. It would certainly be a big improvement if Viking had printed material ready to distribute explaing how water conditions effect the ship and what the captains are required by law and/or the company to do. Cruising is like most things- caveat emptor. If being switched to buses, or missing a port or two or even moving to hotels is not for you then don't river cruise on any line. And do your research, if you have mobility issues remember some of the excursions cannot avoid steep climbs/descents, rough terrain/cobblestones.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
My wife and I had a wonderful time on the Avalon Scenery cruise on the Soane and Rhone Rivers and would highly recommend it to anyone who would appreciate the lovely scenery, the medieval towns, the lush vineyards in the company of a ... Read More
My wife and I had a wonderful time on the Avalon Scenery cruise on the Soane and Rhone Rivers and would highly recommend it to anyone who would appreciate the lovely scenery, the medieval towns, the lush vineyards in the company of a terrific crew and staff. The only jarring note was the painfully loud dining room, which others have mentioned. It desperately needs more sound dampening. Part of the problem is likely caused by the average age of the voyagers, which I would peg at about 70. So there might be some hearing issues that contribute to the loud voices. In any event, a quiet, relaxing dinner on board the boat was impossible. If it was not for this, I would give the trip five stars. Our trip started in Paris at the Pullman Montparnasse. It is not a typical Parisian hotel, but, for our purposes, it was more than adequate. The breakfasts buffets were staggering in their breadth and quality. The rooms were clean, and, best of all, the location is a couple of blocks from the Montparnasse Metro Station. We arrived a day early and found this a great location for exploring Paris. After a couple of days in Paris, we left by bus to embark on our boat. The rooms on the boat are small but are very well designed. We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of storage. The bathroom is small but fine and very clean. We loved having the floor to ceiling windows in our cabin. We saw many other tour boats with much smaller windows. The beds were quite comfortable. The food on the boat was wonderful. Not five star French food, but very well prepared and quite a good variety at all meals. Good quality wine was freely poured at dinner, which might also have contributed to the noise factor. You had your choice of a light lunch or a full lunch; we were never disappointed with either. One common complaint that we heard was about the woeful wifi. It was spotty in our cabin but completely unavailable in others, and not ever available in the coffee lounge in the rear of the ship. There are only two computers for general use and even there the internet connection there was often questionable. This needs to be improved. The staff on the Scenery was simply terrific. Everyone was always accommodating, always with a genuine smile. The tour guides were all well prepared and insightful. Their English was quite good and they were filled with entertaining information about all of the stops whether it was a vineyard, a castle, a cathedral or a medieval village. We enjoyed all of the excursions. We had not realized how many Roman structures still exist, nor did we know that there are a number of towns that retain much of their medieval character. Fascinating! I recommend the wine tastings which were all enjoyable and educational although none of the wines was really special. And do not miss the paid excursions to Pont du Gard and the medieval village of Les Baux. Don’t let the noisy dining room stop you from taking this trip on Avalon; you will never forget it. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
Given the fact that this was on the lower price end of the other cruise ships for a similar itinerary, it was TOP NOTCH. 5 star * * * * * The onboard experience reminds me of how "it used to be" in the USA. And for a reasonable ... Read More
Given the fact that this was on the lower price end of the other cruise ships for a similar itinerary, it was TOP NOTCH. 5 star * * * * * The onboard experience reminds me of how "it used to be" in the USA. And for a reasonable price. The boat was amazingly well maintained and CLEAN. The crew was always at work cleaning, painting, or fixing something. We were in steerage due to late booking but liked it because of less foot traffic outside our cabin and being close to the dining room. There was one sitting for all meals (lite breakfast and lunch in the lounge). Nice selection and excellent quality of foods. Very well prepared and tasty. Staff was superb---efficient, kind, and funny. Guests with special dietary needs were looked after as well as anyone with limited mobility. Yvette our cruise director was awesome----she had a down-to-earth sophistication, was on top of everything, had infinite patience with the "difficult" passengers, and had a good sense of humor. The included tours were excellent---the guides knew their stuff and were SO funny and clever. My husband and I are fit 61 year olds and were on the young side of the 130 passengers. There was one 52 year old who was the "baby." We figure the age range was from late 60's to mid 80's. Mostly American and a lively, fun group. Fly in at least a day early to get acclimated-----we are SO glad we did. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
This was our second scenic cruise, the first being the Budapest to Amsterdam. Once again Scenic was fantastic, but a word of advice. If you are going on the South of France cruise do not expect a lot of cruising with scenic views as you ... Read More
This was our second scenic cruise, the first being the Budapest to Amsterdam. Once again Scenic was fantastic, but a word of advice. If you are going on the South of France cruise do not expect a lot of cruising with scenic views as you sail along. We probably had half a day of such cruising. The area along the banks of the Saone and the Rhone is not very scenic, unless you are entering major cities such as Lyon and Avignon. However, the tours from our berthing ports were fantastic. They were all well organised and we travelled in comfort. On this cruise we choose not to have a balcony cabin and I think it was a wise choice as I do not think you would get much use from it. Highlights of the tour include very informative wine tastings and instruction, a dinner at the home of a host family, a visit to an olive farm and olive oil tasting, a visit to a truffle farm and watching chinook the truffle hunting dog at work, the roman aqueduct in Pont Du Gard, Chateauneuf-Du-Pape, free time to wander in the towns and villages, etc. and I cant leave out our cruise director Yvonne who was a delight. Scenic advertise as all inclusive and it was. You might expect that alcohol may be slow in coming and slow on refills, but that was far from the case. The staff were attentive and the bar staff generous in the pourings. I am sure if you wanted to you could find something to complain about, but hey your are on holidays in another country relax and enjoy the ride. We certainly did! Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
This was my first river cruise ever, so forgive my starry-eyed perspective! Loved almost everything about this cruise: Topping the list: the itinerary: Giverny, Honfleurs, Normandy Beaches, Rouen, Les Andelys, and Auvers les Oise. Close ... Read More
This was my first river cruise ever, so forgive my starry-eyed perspective! Loved almost everything about this cruise: Topping the list: the itinerary: Giverny, Honfleurs, Normandy Beaches, Rouen, Les Andelys, and Auvers les Oise. Close behind: the food & wine, plus the dining service. Next: Sebastien, Cruise Director: Competent above all, then entertaining, friendly, funny and expert in a crisis! (Crisis was NOT AMALegro's fault.) One of the locks on the Seine broke. It was late Saturday night into Sunday, and we were at the mercy of French divers! All told, ship stalled 14 hours. Sebastien and his crew were masterful to minimize interruption to passengers. The first 8 hours or so, passengers were mostly sleeping, but then it was time for excursions. AMA brought their busses some 30km away from where we were supposed to be to pick us up. Guides met us at excursion launching locations. Crew made makeshift gangplanks to offload all passengers. All told, it was an adventure handled extremely well, even though unexpected. Everything else worked like clockwork. I know reviews are supposed to be balanced with the minuses as well as the plusses. Only "minus" that comes to mind is that one of the Guides, a Frenchwoman who accompanied us to the Normandy Beaches, had extremely inaccurate pronunciation of English/American words, so it was a lot of work to understand the huge amount of information she had. And it was such a serious topic. We wanted to learn everything there was to learn, but ended up missing so much because we got behind regularly, puzzling over the translation. The other guides, two Italians and another French woman, were, simply put, fabulous! Funny, interesting, informed, energetic, and all around delightful. OH! And by the way, maybe all the cruise lines do this for excursions, but we were offered, on all outings, the choice of "active, regular or gentle" walking groups, and I found that to be extremely passenger and service oriented. A great beginning to river cruising. Thank you AMA! Read Less
Sail Date August 2013

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