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5 Europe - Western Mediterranean River Cruise Reviews

We had done a river cruise with Viking and we were anxious to try their Ocean Cruise once it launched My husband and I travelled alone. We had planned to go with dear friends, but lost one before the voyage and decided to go ourselves ... Read More
We had done a river cruise with Viking and we were anxious to try their Ocean Cruise once it launched My husband and I travelled alone. We had planned to go with dear friends, but lost one before the voyage and decided to go ourselves to honor her wishes. The cabin was pleasant and spacious. We loved our verandah. The dining choices were great and we especially enjoyed the Chefs Table. The destination choices were great and we saw so many wonderful countries, cities and towns while not needed to pack and unpack. We kept very busy with the choice of shore excursions and shipboard activities...most very well done. In fact, we probably could have used an extra day at sea to just relax - a fact that surprised us. The highlight tours was definitely Pompeii and St. Paul.de Vence, but all but one were terrific. We did buy several of the additionally offered shore excursions. We have already booked another cruise for the Baltic in 2017 Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
We chose this cruise (technically, two cruises back-to-back) to visit a number of places in the Eastern Mediterranean, especially Barcelona, Nice, Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Malta and Tunisia. Unfortunately, political conditions arose that ... Read More
We chose this cruise (technically, two cruises back-to-back) to visit a number of places in the Eastern Mediterranean, especially Barcelona, Nice, Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Malta and Tunisia. Unfortunately, political conditions arose that forced Tunisia off the itinerary; however, Crete was added and that was certainly satisfactory. We also chose this cruise because it included both Christmas and New Year's Eve. The tours were excellent and we chose to go on as many as we could. I would note that we have gone on five Viking cruises and have found the tours offered to be uniformly outstanding - especially with the great guides. We did arrive in Barcelona a day early and toured on our own before joining the group on board. From La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona to Monaco, Nice, Aix de Provence Rome, Crete and Malta, we saw all of the main the sights with thorough trips, yet adequate "fun stops" at restaurants and markets. Two of the highlights were a private after-hours tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel and a wonderful concert in a cathedral in Malta. We were told that the Vatican Museum tour was limited to eight people (plus guides) and we were very skeptical - thinking it would be "groups of eight" from a number of cruise vessels or other tours. NOPE! It really was just the eight of us, two guides, Vatican security and the cleaning crew through the whole Museum and the Sistine Chapel. One tour was a visit to the salt processing (sal de mer) location in Sicily, together with a tour of a family-owned (multiple generations) olive farm and processing plant. The tour ended with a delightful sampling of olive oils, then moving into bruschetta, pate, pesto, cheese and wine in abundance. Two of the staff also provided traditional Sicilian music with a guitar and accordion and there was some dancing involved by those of us on the tour and various staff and family members. The on board accommodations were up to the usual excellent Viking standards. We went to two of the "specialty restaurants" (including one "Chef's Table" seating) and they were both very nice; but, as always, we most enjoyed the large multi-station buffet. We tend to choose the quieter bars and those were good. We went to several on-board lectures and a couple of shows. Again, these were fun, informative and entertaining. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
We are a family of 14 people (4 generations!) who just completed a cruise of Portugal's Douro River on the ms Douro Spirit with Vantage Deluxe World Travel. It was the first river cruise for all but one of us and was a magnificent ... Read More
We are a family of 14 people (4 generations!) who just completed a cruise of Portugal's Douro River on the ms Douro Spirit with Vantage Deluxe World Travel. It was the first river cruise for all but one of us and was a magnificent experience. Douro River ships are small-ish, because the lock system on the Douro can't accommodate larger ships, but the ship was outfitted very nicely and our rooms were terrific. Vantage distinguishes itself with exceptional service -- everyone was extremely friendly, charmingly helpful, and genuinely kind. Vantage's travelers are a mature group of people, so our family stood out from the rest (ages 10 - 80). Everyone was very friendly and glad to share their cruise with such a relatively young and boisterous group. Vantage managed every detail like clockwork. The 7 day cruise was the centerpiece of a 13 day tour, and our accommodations off the ship were incredible -- Vantage put us up in two of the finest hotels I've ever experienced, including a hotel in Porto, Portugal that is actually a baroque palace built in 1742. This was an incredible experience, and we are now a very happy family! Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
My husband and I are veteran cruisers, mostly on the smaller lines like Windstar and SeaDream, a few on the mid sized Oceania ships and one each on Celebrity Eclipse and Oceania Marina just to try the larger experience. We prefer the ... Read More
My husband and I are veteran cruisers, mostly on the smaller lines like Windstar and SeaDream, a few on the mid sized Oceania ships and one each on Celebrity Eclipse and Oceania Marina just to try the larger experience. We prefer the smaller, and since we are always looking for a convenient way to travel in Europe that avoids renting a car, which we do only when absolutely necessary, a river cruise seemed like a good idea. After some research we settled on Uniworld and the recently refurbished River Royale sailing the Saone and Rhone rivers in southern France. After four cold and rainy days in Paris we took the train from Paris Bercy to Chalon-sur-Saone where, on the advice of a Tripadvisor friend, arranged for a taxi to pick us up and take us to the ship for 12E (A.B. TAXIS www.taxi-chalon.com). They were right where they said they would be and easily recognizable as they had emailed me a picture of their vehicle. It was a short ride but not walkable with luggage. We were welcomed on the boat and informed a light lunch would be served at 12:30 as our cabins would not be available until 3:00. After soup and a sandwich we ventured into Chalon only to discover the Sunday market was just finishing at 1:30pm. I wish I had known. The town was lovely, but largely shut down for the rest of the day. At 3:00 we were shown our cabin on the lowest deck (the least expensive) and one on the second lowest, an offered upgrade for about $400 instead of the $1000 quoted precruise. The cabins were identical except for the large picture windows instead of portholes. We opted for the upgrade and enjoyed it, especially since the weather was not conducive to sitting up on the top deck, but because much of the sailing was done after dark, and we were often docked against the pier or with another boat rafted along side eliminating any view at port, I'm not sure it would have been worth the price if paid in full. Generalities about the River Royale: 1. First and foremost, the food was amazing, the best I have ever enjoyed on any cruise line and equal competition for the high end meals we had in Paris before the sail. The food was fresh, inventive, varied and in keeping with different French cuisines. The pastry was particularly exemplary. And, while I'm at it, the wait staff was professional, efficient and always ready to do more than was asked. Absolutely no complaints. 2. Admittedly, at about 120 passengers, the River Royale is a small ship, but I was very impressed with the constant eagerness to please, to answer any question, to help with any problem. No one was excluded. For example, the captain modeled the life vest at the safety briefing and the second captain helped with luggage on disembarkation. The staff offered to help passengers make their way with their luggage to the train station after the cruise since it was within walking distance but a bit of a challenge for older people with heavy suitcases. I though this was above and beyond the call of duty but seemed par for the course for the River Royale team. A scale was even provided so luggage could be weighed to avoid additional airline fees; so thoughtful. Although passengers had to be out of their cabins by 8:00 on disembarkation, no one was rushed off the boat and those with later arrangements were even offered lunch. When a cruise line continues to happily offer assistance once the cruise is completed and the gratuities have been submitted, well, in my opinion, that is remarkable. 3. The boat is in fine shape and plenty large enough for what it does. Due to challenging weather the upper deck was not used much and I was there only to watch us go through a lock or two. The gym was small and could have used some heavier weights, but it was a pretty lonely place anyway and I doubt the average passenger had similar concerns. Open seating during meals was delightful and meeting other passengers was a great deal of the fun. 4. Perhaps I should have studied the brochure more carefully before leaving but I was disappointed to learn that the 'optional tours' were an additional fee as I thought the Uniworld cruises were all inclusive. That being said, we very much enjoyed the included and non included tours we attended. The English speaking guides were quite good and the 'voice boxes' that allowed them to speak into a microphone straight into your ear eliminated all the jostling in groups when no one can hear. Also, some interesting twists to the tours such as an organ concert (included) or cooking lessons and wine tastings (optional) were a very nice addition to the more common walking tour. I should also mention that several "gentle" tours were offered for those with mobility issues and included more time on a bus. 5. The stops were a nice mix of smaller towns and larger cities. The boat was always docked an easy walk into town. We often came back to the boat for lunch or to grab an umbrella and went right back out again. 6. Unless all the optional tours are taken, there is a fair amount of free time, usually a half day, and I wished I had done more research on the individual ports so that our time could have been used more efficiently. Those who were big shoppers had more than enough to keep them busy. 7. The onboard entertainment was minimal, which was fine by us since we are early to bed, early to rise types and enjoy lingering at dinner with new friends. The pianist was talented and twice entertainers from shore came on board although we did not see their performances. 8. Really enjoyed Emmanuelle, our cruise director. A native of Marseille, she was funny, knowledgeable, approachable, efficient and eager to please. She is very good at what she does. Also, Marius of the wait staff was a star. 9. My only real issue regards the tipping policy which was mentioned 2 or 3 times in print and as many times verbally, making me for one, increasingly uncomfortable. In my opinion, tips should be included or, if not, should be mentioned once at the end of the voyage. For such a tasteful and refined experience, this was the one off note. After the cruise we visited Les Baux with Sylvain of Taxi Provence Tours before he dropped us at our hotel in St. Remy. He did a very nice job and I would recommend him. Also, our transfer to the Marseilles airport was done by Delphine of Transferts Service-Roch Voyages and she was lovely -- highly recommended. I would be more than happy to answer anyone's question regarding this cruise. My hat is off to Uniworld and I look forward to more trips with them in the near future. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
Viking Sky. We booked directly with Viking. The staff were courteous and efficient and communication was good. After a hellish experience with Lufthansa, things went well from the airport to the ship. As expected, our cabin was ... Read More
Viking Sky. We booked directly with Viking. The staff were courteous and efficient and communication was good. After a hellish experience with Lufthansa, things went well from the airport to the ship. As expected, our cabin was smaller than one gets on an ocean cruiser, but was adequate. Water in the bathroom was inconsistent. On hot it sometimes ran cold, and on cold it was often scalding hot. This made taking a shower hazardous The dining room was fine, but not the workers therein. It was evident that the wait staff were recruited from the part of Europe which had suffered Soviet control and so some of them had little idea of civility. Three of them were appallingly rude or offhand. Some passengers complained to the hotel manager about one of them. The staff were not used to the idea that westerners like coffee and were reluctant to offer it. The better staff kept us plied with free wine at dinner, so we were happy. Breakfast was adequate, the same every day. Main features were cold scrambled egg, hash brown patties cooked so hard as to be unchewable, brittle bacon. But there was porridge and lots of fruity-salady stuff. Lunch and dinner were ho-hum, but one cannot expect an extensive menu from the kitchen of a small boat. Shore excursions were walking tours, buses used only to take us to some of the sites. In such cold weather this proved to be too strenuous for us geriatrics, so we missed quite a bit. It would be helpful if the program staff would give some indication of the difficulty of the excursions (as does Holland America). Value for money -- with the free air fare and off-season prices -- one could not do better. Answering the criticisms would improve things greatly and not cost Viking anything. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010

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