We booked the "France's Finest" cruise which is a combination of the 7 day Lyon and Provence cruise and the 7 day Paris to Normandy cruise. We had never been on a river cruise and did so on the recommendation of friends who ... Read More
We booked the "France's Finest" cruise which is a combination of the 7 day Lyon and Provence cruise and the 7 day Paris to Normandy cruise. We had never been on a river cruise and did so on the recommendation of friends who had.
We arrive in Marseilles and there was a Viking representative waiting for us to take us to the port in Avignon. We boarded, secured our room key and were able to get into our room promptly.
We booked the lowest level room because we had read that the balconies were not necessary on such a busy cruise and for the fact that sometimes the ships were stacked against each other in port which means you would be looking into another ship's rooms. That and being October, we weren't sure what sort of weather we would have. On ocean cruises we always book a balcony but it is usually summer and I do not regret not having a balcony. Our stateroom was 118 and was very nice. All rooms are pretty small, but storage is not an issue as there is room under the bed for suitcases, plenty of drawers and a nice closet. There is always a bottle of water, you get you own ice, the listening devices for the tours on the counter that you must always remember to charge and take with you. The window is large but high and set back from the room so there is a large shelf there. If you are in port and against the docking area, you will have to close your drapes. I liked with room because we were usually facing the river in most ports. The bathroom is small, of course, but there is plenty of area for toiletries and a nice size shower with great water pressure. Lunch was being served so we took advantage of that as we were tired and needed to freshen up before dinner.
After resting, we made it to dinner even though we were exhausted. Met wonderful people and had an excellent meal. We purchased the beverage package even though you do get wine and beer included with dinner. I'm glad we did but not sure I would do again unless it was part of a promotion.
Let me say at this point that the staff and crew of this ship were amazing. It did not matter if you met up with the captain or the kitchen staff, they all would greet you, wish you a nice day or ask your plans. Our room was spotless as was the entire ship. Our Program Director was Patricia on this leg of the cruise and she was truly special. She knew everything and was on pretty much every excursion. I don't know when she sleeps! And the food! Oh my! The selection is amazing and the quality even more so. The wait staff is helpful and fun. We usually tried to sit in the same area for dinner on both cruises and these people go to know us and did things without having to be asked. They are truly wonderful!
Here is a rundown of the ports. I would suggest you do the included walking tours at each port. There is a wealth of information available through these guides and it will still leave you time to do other things. As with everything, there are guides who are better than others. The headsets are great but sometimes the accents are heavy and it might be a little hard to understand at times.
Arles: We did the waking tour at 9:00 AM where we visited many of the town's sites. Beautiful town and October was such a great time to visit. The town is beautiful and the connection to van Gogh makes it very special. Weather perfect. In the afternoon we chose to do the Les Baux and Carrieres de Lumieres Show. The show was amazing and the town of Les Baux was worth the trip.
Avginon: Even though we boarded here, we cruised to Arles first and then returned to Avignon. We also did the walking tour which included the Pope's Palace, a must see in this town, as well as a stop at Les Halles, the great market. We were able to spend time here, sample many treats and gaze longingly at amazing pastries! After lunch we did the Chateauneuf du Pape tour and tasting. I learned more at this tasting than I have at any other. Wine was amazing and we taken to the vineyards to see the vines and how they grow in rocks.The view from the castle ruins is beautiful and the stop in the small town allowed us to grab a coffee or do some shopping. Loved this excursion!
Viviers: The walking tour here looks intimidating as you walk to the cathedral above the town, but it is very leisurely and beautiful. The view from the cathedral is very pretty and again, the weather was perfect. We were sailing not long after our return, but during the afternoon there was a cooking demonstration, galley tour, French tea time and and French lesson. I did them all and so enjoyed every one!
Tournon: Short tour of the town and then on to the Tournon Steam Train tour. Again, the weather was perfect and this train ride was beautiful. Returned to the ship docked in Vienne and did the walking tour in the afternoon. This town was probably my least favorite but the tram ride to the to the cathedral provided beautiful views of the town and the river.
Lyon: What a beautiful city! We did the city tour which included time in the old town. Plenty of shopping and eating here. You could return to the ship or stay and get back on your own. We were spending the night so many folks returned in the afternoon.
The next day was disembarkation day. Since we were going on the Paris to Normandy cruise, we were taken to the train station and took the high speed train, first class, into Paris. Took about 2 hours and it was a very relaxing trip! Once off the train we were met by a Viking representative who took us to our next ship, the Rhinda.
Everything about this cruise was perfect. Fellow cruisers are well-traveled and for the most part in their 50's and 60's. There were some young people but they are definitely in the minority. If this makes you think quiet and stodgy, you are wrong. These people love to party and everyone is so friendly that even if you are traveling alone or as a couple, you will meet people you will come to know very well through meals and excursions. That was one of the highlights of this cruise! This is the first time we have vacationed in October and it could not have been a better time. Crowds are small, weather might be cool in the morning but wonderful in the afternoon. Even the evenings were warm enough to be out and about. I loved being here in October. There is an elevator aboard but it only goes between the 2nd and third levels, not the bottom level where our cabin was. If you are in any unable to use stairs, you might want to check on this before you book a room on this level.
This was a wonderful cruise from beginning to end mainly because of the wonderful staff and lovely ports. I will continue the review of the Rhinda on that page. Read Less