Our cruise happened to coincide with a severe heat wave in France. High temperatures each day were 90-100+ degrees for the entire cruise. This would have been tolerable if the ship’s air conditioning hadn't started ... Read More
Our cruise happened to coincide with a severe heat wave in France. High temperatures each day were 90-100+ degrees for the entire cruise. This would have been tolerable if the ship’s air conditioning hadn't started breaking down on Saturday and had pretty much failed completely by Monday in much of the ship. Cabins were only slightly cooler. We were eating in 95+ degree temps in the dining room at dinner Sunday-Tuesday. People brought pillows and bedding up on the sun deck at night to escape the heat in their cabins. The crew did not acknowledge the problem until Monday at the evening briefing. They did declare an open bar, but that was all and then they ran out of ice. The problem was not fixed until 2am Wednesday morning just before we got off. Viking is giving everyone a 25% refund on the cruise in the form of a voucher to be used within 1 year for another cruise. Reasonable if not generous compensation.
It is interesting to note that other reviews mentioned that another Viking ship on this route, the Hermod, also had A/C trouble on this route during this time. There may be a fleet wide design problem that needs to be addressed.
In the mean time, you can add heat waves/air conditioning failures to high rivers/low bridges as risks to be assessed when thinking about taking this cruise.
Wednesday embarkation was quick and easy. A light Lunch was available from 11 am. A short city walk in Avignon started at 2:30.
The following Wednesday departure included breakfast. The night before, they figure out when you need to leave based on your travel plans. Some people had to leave at 2 am! You can stay on the ship in the morning until you are scheduled to go but everyone needs to be out of their cabins by 9 am and off the ship by noon. If you stay on the ship until after 11 am, you can grab some of the lunch probably meant for the new passengers.
Ports of call.
The itinerary was ok, but not spectacular in regard to scenery and sites. I would call it a real second string list. Several of the small towns in the middle seemed identical without much to distinguish them. I can’t even remember their names. I wish they had included Marseille on the coast and eliminated one of the others. There were Roman ruins in several locations that were a high light.
The scenery on the river while cruising varies a little bit. Going north, you start out in the flats for a couple of days. Trees line the bank, so you can't see much. It is pretty, but not spectacular. As you go north, the country gets hillier, but no mountains, gorges, or castles. At the end, Burgundy is flatter again. It starts to get light at about 5:30 am. A special treat is to get up the mornings you are cruising and watch an incredible sunrise as you glide down the river. There are lots of swans on the river. An unexpected delight.
Unlike ocean cruising, there is absolutely no rocking or sense of motion. We would wake up and have to open the curtains to see if we were moving. The engines are super quiet and smooth. The only time we felt anything was when the ship bumped the sides of the locks. Many of the locks are only a few inches wider than the ship. You can reach out your window and touch the walls. The locks are a minor interruption. Each takes 20 min or so and it is interesting to see the ship rise in each one.
Staff was uniformly excellent. They were hard working, gracious, and provided excellent service.
Times for all activities vary from day to day. There is no set schedule like on a large ship. You really need to go to the daily briefing just before dinner to find out what is happening the next day and when. This info is also printed out each evening and left in your cabin. After the briefing, dinner is served. Because there are about 8 waiters for 150 people, they want everyone to arrive at dinner at the same time, not straggle in over the next hour like on big ships. Drinks in the dining room are included. Any drinks purchased in the lounge upstairs need to be paid for.
The Delling is 1 year old and still in immaculate condition. Only trouble in our room was toilet flush button was difficult to work. Also, the cabin door would not lock unless pulled shut.
Huge expanses of glass everywhere on the ship are great except when it is sunny it can get hot even with the A/C working. There are sheer curtains but no blackout curtains in the public areas. Cabins have blackout and sheer curtains.
Hallways are relatively narrow. Two people cannot pass without turning sideways and making room for each other. In our room, there was 18" between 2 sides of bed and the window or cabinets. 2 people could not pass each other to get to the other side of the bed.
The bathroom was very small, but had an amazingly efficient layout. The shower stall is long, but very narrow, about 4’ x 2’, but the shower head is very adjustable. We had no problems with water on floor. Lighting for the big mirror in the bath made everything look orange. L'occitane products were a plus. Cabin attendants were very attentive, but unobtrusive.
The Aquavit Terrace up front is mostly without a cover and can get hot when the sun is out. It is well shielded from wind and is a great place to watch the scenery go by. This is the only place you can be outside when the sun deck is closed. A continental breakfast and light lunch & dinner are served there. Up on the sun deck, there is some shade, but much if it is open and uncovered. Cruising speeds are slow, so there is not much wind.
Reliable, sort of fast Wifi is really only available in the center common areas of the ship. Trying to do anything In your stateroom is irritatingly slow. Near the reception desk is best. You have to log on each day with your cabin # and name, no password.
Going north, a cabin on the left side of the ship will face away from the dock most of the time with the exception of Charon where you see a concrete wall 2 ' away. Nice way to end the cruise.
Viking does not always have the best docking spots. Maybe because their ships are so big. In Arles, we were a 20 minute bus ride away from town while other ships were docked in town. In Chalon, the dock is an abandoned wharf with rusting warehouses and 20 minutes from town. This was the worst spot of the cruise and it is unfortunate that it came on the last (or first) day of the cruise depending on your direction.
Much has been written about the sun deck being closed a lot due to low bridges. I would estimate it was unavailable about 1/4 to 1/3 of the time. There are just chairs and loungers, umbrellas, putting course, shuffleboard, and the herb garden up there. Nothing else, you have to bring up food and drinks from below as there are no waiters. It was hot and kind of desolate up there anyway.
Food and Dining.
In the dining room, tables are set for 4, 6, 8, or 10. No tables for couples. Tables around the outside of the room are a bit quieter than those in the center. In the center of the dining room is a buffet line. There can be quite a bit of congestion there with people queuing up for breakfast eggs and hot lunch entres. I would avoid sitting near it except at dinner when it is not used. The tables near the edge may or may not have a view depending on what is going on. If they are in the sun, they can be quite hot, even with the sheer drapes closed. Get in early to get the most desirable tables. They fill up quickly. If you sit at the same table you can get to know your waiter and they will remember your preferences. There are no assigned seats, but after a couple of days we ended up looking for people we knew and sitting with them. Meeting new people at each meal the first couple of days can be exhausting.
The food on board was generally very good, but there wasn't nearly the variety of a large ship. Some of the dishes were themed around the area we were cruising. I'm sorry, but there was no Baked Alaska Parade. Much but not all of the food is made on board with exceptions like bread. We saw the executive chef in the local markets shopping for local delicacies . There are usually 3 courses plus cheese plate with 3 selections per course. Menus always had meat, fish, and vegetarian options with salmon and rib eye always available. Portions were European sized, ie small, but adequate. The wine included was ok, nothing special. The red changed from merlot to Burgundy as we sailed north. Several people we knew had the upgraded Silver spirits package and were happy with it. Dinner usually lasted about 2 hours from 7-9. Food is not continuously available except some pastries at the coffee stations, and there is no room service.
The bottled mineral water, Harz Quell, handed out for tours, had a pronounced mineral taste that we didn't like. The bottled water provided in the cabins and the water in the dining room was fine.
About 90% of people on board were 60+ year old retirees with a couple of extended family groups that included working age adults and school aged kids. About 75% were American with about 20% British/Australian/Canadian, and 5% other. Most were very pleasant and easy going.
A word to other Americans, most people on this cruise are relatively successful. Please resist the urge to spew your conservative political views, name drop your famous friends, reveal the square footage of your house(s), etc in the first 10 minutes of sitting down with you at dinner. We don’t care. We are on vacation and will never see you again. Your cringe inducing attempt to establish your social status is really obnoxious. If you want to establish your alpha status in this group, buy your table, or even the whole dining room a round of drinks or something so we can toast your success and hopefully not have to listen to you.
On the other hand, one of the joys of cruising is meeting people from around the world. We met 2 lovely couples from Australia and spending time with them was one of the highlights of the cruise.
Tours, Entertainment, and Enrichment.
The entertainment was ok. The highlight was one evening when a group of young people from Lyon did some classical and jazz songs. The nightly pianist in the lounge was ok.
The on board "enrichment" lectures and demonstrations, all 2 or 3 of them, were disappointing in quantity and quality and no where near as good as bigger ships. At least there were no “art” auctions or jewelry sales to avoid.
The included walking tours in each town ranged from ok to pretty good. The quality of the tour guides seemed to go up as we went north. In the south, the guides seemed especially lackluster. Generally though, the quality of your tour guide seemed to depend on the luck of the draw at each stop.
There are included tours, alternative tours, and optional tours. The alternative tours do not cost. The optional tours do cost extra. Not all optional tours listed on the brochure are available. It depends on the schedule and direction of your ship. Alternative tours can be taken instead of the included tours and generally have a more specific focus like Roman architecture or Van Gogh. Optional tours are at other times so you can usually go after the included tours.
They do not explain any of this well and want you to sign up for alternative and optional tours on the first night. If you don't, they may run out of room. They want you to sign up so they will know how many buses and guides they will need. The only optional tour we took to Baux was worth the cost. You are supposed to tip the guides 2€ and drivers 1€,so keep a bunch of change and small bills for that. They don't change money on the ship.
Unless you skip a walking tour or ditch it (which may not be possible if you were bussed somewhere and it drives the guides crazy anyway) you will not have much free time at each port. Maybe an hour here and there.
On the narrow gauge train ride excursion, they warn about ash from the coal burning engine. Do not wear contact lenses on this trip!
A thumb drive of over 500 pictures taken by the cruise director was available at the end of the cruise for about 18 euros. If it is available, it is well worth it and an easy way to get a lot of pictures, but keep in mind that they are not made by a professionally photographer.
Despite the heat and A/C failure, we had an entertaining and relaxing time which was what we wanted. We will probably take other Viking river cruises. Read Less