The crew, the staff, the boat. We splurged on an Executive Suite and didn't regret it for a moment. Spacious and well laid out, the stateroom easily allowed this earlier-riser husband to avoid disturbing late-sleeper ... Read More
The crew, the staff, the boat. We splurged on an Executive Suite and didn't regret it for a moment. Spacious and well laid out, the stateroom easily allowed this earlier-riser husband to avoid disturbing late-sleeper wife. The views from the wrap-around balcony were sensational throughout the cruise.
Considering the limits of time and space, the kitchen crew did a remarkable job three meals a day. A few of the dishes were exceptional, but no one would mistake the Buri for a three-star restaurant.
We took Viking's offer of a three-day pre-cruise Paris stay. The hotel located two Metro stops west of La Place de L'Étoile, was relatively, if not optimally, convenient and well-appointed. It was rated four stars. I hadn't previously been aware of the chasm that exists between the fourth and fifth stars.
The travel arrangements:
We had Viking arrange all our travel plans, to, from, and within France. For the trans-Atlantic flights we upgraded to business class. We had no choice of airline, and found Air France's version of "classe affaires" to be shockingly substandard. Both flights were on old planes with obsolete technology. On both flights there were glitches with the entertainment system; it didn't work at all on the flight to Paris and had to be rebooted twice at twenty minutes a shot on the return flight. The comfort and "extras" both in the air and on the ground didn't hold a candle to those of almost any Asian airline or, say, Virgin "Upper Class."
The transfer from Paris to Chalon-sur-Sâone, the point of embarcation for the cruise, was via a FOUR-AND-A-HALF HOUR BUS TRIP!! Really!!! There's a 1.5 hour TGV from Paris to Dijon, where the bus stopped for a brief tour anyway, but that was apparently not an option with Viking.
Compared to others, our flights to and from France were relatively painless. A couple from England with Viking-arranged travel plans had to be bussed to Marseille from Avignon, fly to Amsterdam, endure a five-hour layover before hopping a puddle jumper to Manchester. Total time: about the same as ours to Washington DC.
The excursions. Most excursions started between 8-9 AM and lasted almost exactly four hours. Most involved uncomfortable bus trips; all involved following guides carrying identifying "lollipops" and individual electronic devices as, because of the size of the group (usually 30+) the guide would have otherwise been inaudible. The feeling of being rounded up and herded each morning was inescapable. The one-size-fits-all approach was not what I had hoped for on a "no compromises" vacation. In the 9 years since I've been retired I'd always been able to say I had never been bored. This, sadly, is no longer true.
We take one major, blow-the-budget, no compromise trip a year. This was the eighth since my retirement and by far the least memorable. We gave it a shot: I had never wanted to go on a cruise, but was convinced that a river cruise with Viking would change my mind. It didn't. Big trips take lots of planning. The genesis of this trip was to see how well we could do leaving the planning to others. It won't happen again. I will NEVER AGAIN ride on an inter-urban bus nor be rendered a passive gawker on a tour made as impersonal and generic as possible by an "audio device" (a term that by the end of the tour had become an expression "that will live in infamy" with me) that all-but-precludes any meaningful interaction with the guide. Read Less