This was the second part of the France's Finest 14 day cruise we booked. The first leg was from Avignon to Lyon. We were taken to the train station in Lyon for the high speed train trip, first class, to Paris. This took about 2 ... Read More
This was the second part of the France's Finest 14 day cruise we booked. The first leg was from Avignon to Lyon. We were taken to the train station in Lyon for the high speed train trip, first class, to Paris. This took about 2 hours. We were met by a Viking representative and taken by small luxury van to the port in Le Pecq outside of Paris.
Our embarkation was smooth and within minutes we were in our room. Lunch was also being served for the new passengers and it was nice to be well rested and able to take advantage of the ship at this time. This leg we also chose the lowest category as we did not wish to have a balcony due to the time of year (October) and being told that sometimes the ships are stacked and you are facing another ship. Considering how little time we spent in our room, we are glad we did not spend the extra money. We were in room 123, which was the opposite side from our room on the Delling the previous week. We preferred the even side as in most ports we were facing the river, not the port.
The room is well planned and lit. There is room under the bed for luggage, a water bottled filled daily on your desk, small listening devices for the tours (make sure they are always charged and take them with you for every tour), as well as a real hair dryer, not like some that we have had on ocean cruises. The bathroom is small but plenty of room for toiletries and great water pressure in the shower. The room is impeccably clean and remained that way throughout the cruise.
Let me say now that the staff on the Rinda was wonderful. From the captain to the kitchen staff, to the great Program Director, Susann, they could not have been more friendly or helpful. The; ship is beautiful and clean. The food is outstanding with so many choices. The wait staff if also amazing. We tried to keep the same server thoughout and we had the most wonderful waiter, Paul. He took care of our table of 5 women and one man with humor and perfect service.
I highly recommend taking advantage of the included walking tours. They are filled with good information and will provide you a glimpse of the town where you may choose tor return on your own.
Paris: We opted for the Paris City Tour with Louvre Optional Excursion, but you could simply do the city tour for free and stay in the city until the shuttle returned. By bus we drove through the city seeing the Champs-elysees, a photo stop at the Eiffel Tower and a stop at Notre Dame Cathedral. Here we had a tour and time to explore on our own. Due to the timing of this excursion, rather than returning to the ship for lunch, we had lunch at a local cafe which was included. It was cool but nice enough to sit outside. Nothing like sitting in an outdoor cafe in Paris! From here we continue on to the Louvre. We had a tour guide who showed us the highlights. We actually got to see the Mona Lisa up front as the crowds were so small in October. We had some time to visit an amazing chocolate shop within the Louvre, La Maison du Chocolat. Wow! Some of the best chocolate ever. Great tour.
Vernon: We oped for the Monet Foundation tour in Giverny that included the house and gardens. We were concerned that in October there might not be much to see in the garden but we were wrong. Beautiful colors everywhere! We had plenty of time to shop both in the Monet shop and in the town and visit the church where Monet is buried. This was a fabulous, included excursion. In the afternoon we took the walking tour of Vernon. This turned out to be one of our favorite towns. Our guide was wonderful and the shopping was really good! Very scenic.
Rouen: Took the walking tour of Rouen in the afternoon and it is a beautiful town where you can get right off the ship and explore on your own. Beautiful architecture and history and great shopping, too! The cathedral is beautiful and the church dedicated to St. Joan of Arc is modern but also beautiful. There was a festival going on and it was extremely busy and crowded but that didn't take away from our enjoying of Rouen.
Rouen, day 2, to Normandy: The Normandy beaches tour is an all day tour and included. We began in Arromanches for a tour of the museum that included a movie about the Normandy invasion. Very informative and sobering. Lunch was included here and we did have time to shop in this beautiful seaside town. Next we drove to Longues sur Mer to see the various gun batteries along the sea. Many still remain and it is hard to believe such ugliness could have been in the beautiful place. We then went to the American cemetery. It is hard to describe this place and all that it means. When we got off the bus we were given long stemmed roses to place on a grave. My husband and I looked for soldiers from our state. There was a ceremony at the memorial where all veterans in our group participated. It was moving and very sad. When they played taps, there was not one person with dry eyes. Our program director was probably the most emotional and she isn't American. We had time to visit the museum here, too, and it is heartbreaking and moving but a must see. We then went to Omaha Beach were we could walk on the beach and view the beautiful memorial there. This is one of the most important tours we have ever taken. There is also a tour for Canadians and Brits. Highly recommended. It is a long day, but worth it.
Les Andelys: Beautiful town. We did not take the walking tour as my husband got a virus and wasn't feeling up to climbing to the castle, which was OK by me! We walked the town on our own and did some shopping and returned to the ship. It was another beautiful day so I found a nice spot and read looking out over this picturesque town! Getting back to my husband, he did not make it to dinner that night because he wanted to feel better for our trip to Versailles the next day. I went to dinner and saw they were serving French onion soup and I asked our waiter if I could get a bowl to take to my husband. Not 2 minutes later, Susann, our Program Director, came to my table with a tray with soup and break and butter for him. I walked with her to our room to give it to him and he was so shocked an happy. From then on every time she saw us she would ask how he was. That is the kind of service you receive on this ship!
Paris: We opted for the Versailles excursion. We drove to Versailles where we were put into groups for the tour. We had a great tour guide who was British and really knew his way around! His tour was informative and fun. We toured the gardens first and they were beautiful but Paris had recently had a frost and all the flowers were gone. Still beautiful in the October sun and blue sky! The inside tour was very informative and beautiful. If you don't want to pay for this excursion, the staff will happily show you how to get a bus from the port to Versailles. There you can pay your own admission but in busy times, this may not be the best way to go. We were there in October and it was still very busy and having a guide was very helpful. We returned to the ship for lunch. You could also opt to get a shuttle into the city and do your own thing all day until the shuttle returned at 6:00 PM. There were many folks who did this. There is a Paris by Night excursion and our friends had told us it was just drive by's. I guess if you haven't seen Paris at night it would be worth it, but just know you do not stop anywhere.
Disembarking was quick and we were transported to the airport. Some were opting for an extension in Paris or on their own.
There are many presentations throughout the week as well as food sampling and special menus for both lunch and dinner. There are games in the bar at night, music playing and many fun things to do. The majority of the people on this cruise are in their 50's or 60's although you may find younger people. But this doesn't mean quiet and stodgy! These people like to party! Most are very well traveled and very friendly. On such a small cruise you are bound to meet people that you will enjoy dinner with as well as the excursion. This was one of the best things about this cruise! We had the beverage package even though you do have wine and beer included for lunch and dinner. I'm glad we did but not sure I would to it again.
We loved this entire cruise. People ask if we preferred the southern cruise over the northern and there is no way to answer that. They are both spectacular in the sites and experiences. We are so looking forward to our next Viking River Cruise next December for the Christmas markets. Read Less