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7 Viking Spirit (Retired) Cruise Reviews for River Cruises to France

We had previously taken the Rhine River cruise with Viking. I enjoyed it but was left somewhat ambivalent as I really like to have control over my itinerary. This cruise really sold me on what Viking has to offer. After three days in Paris ... Read More
We had previously taken the Rhine River cruise with Viking. I enjoyed it but was left somewhat ambivalent as I really like to have control over my itinerary. This cruise really sold me on what Viking has to offer. After three days in Paris on our own in a rather cramped room with less than friendly personnel, walking onto the Spirit was a delight. (Do they give the crew happy pills every morning?) We were welcomed by Bea, the "hotel" manager and later met the precious Clara, the activity director. The biggest surprise of the week was learning at the end of the cruise that it had been Clara's first week in this position. She had been such a pro - master organizer and information giver. I can't remember other names, but to the one the crew were so cheerful and eager to please all week. Our cabin - #210 - B category (I believe ) did not have the French balcony (we had had one on the earlier cruise), and we did not miss it one bit. I liked the location of our room as it was a quick walk up to the lobby and lounge - further to the dining room.The bed was so comfortable, and there was a place for everything. We were able to put our suitcases and carry-ons under the bed and forget about them. We thought that the food was much better than on the Rhine River cruise - cheers to the chef. Your wine glass is never allowed to go empty; service, overall was impeccable. The tea party with macarons, etc. one afternoon was enjoyable as were all of the on-board activities. We really enjoyed the fellow travelers, about our age for the most part - 50's-70's. As a fellow cruiser said, you meet the nicest people and really feel that you have found your tribe. As far as the itinerary, my husband and I were very pleased. We loved visiting the smaller villages - Giverny, Vernon, and Les Andelys. A high point was Normandy. It would have been great to have had longer there, but it was a long day as it was. Versailles was crowded and chaotic, but we both said we were glad that we went. Another high point was the day sailing from Rouen to Les Andelys - such pretty scenery. I would really like to be able to offer some constructive criticism, but I honestly could not find fault with anything. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
We arrived in Paris 4 days before the cruise, stayed at a lovely small boutique hotel close to the port and had a grand time seeing the sights on our own and using tour companies found on TripAdvisor. We traveled by metro and the train, ... Read More
We arrived in Paris 4 days before the cruise, stayed at a lovely small boutique hotel close to the port and had a grand time seeing the sights on our own and using tour companies found on TripAdvisor. We traveled by metro and the train, and it was easy and affordable. I urge everyone to do a before of after Paris visit of several days at least, as there's rather minimal time exploring Paris itself on this cruise. After a 5 minute taxi ride, we arrived at the port at 12:30 pm, were greeted by Patricia the Program Director, and Sascha, the Hotel Manager, and had a nice light lunch in the lounge. We selected a cabin with a large window that could open which was lovely for views along the river. The room was of sufficient size, with plenty of drawers and closet space. Luggage was stored under the bed. There was a 115 V socket and several european sockets. All of our electronic devices worked fine, and we did not need a converter. We did bring adapter plugs. The room was kept clean and tidy, and we paid our housekeeper an extra tip at the end of the trip. As mentioned previously, the hair dryer is not as powerful as we're used to at home but did manage to dry my hair. We utilized the laundry service, as we limted how much we brought along, and it was delivered back to us in perfect condition the next day. The excursions have been reviewed elsewhere. Our favorite was the visit to Monet's house and gardens. The gardens are extraordinary, with an amazing abundance of beautiful flowers. There is also a Paris city bus tour with a stop at Notre Dame, a walking tour through Rouen with a "leisure" group for slow walkers, a visit to the Normandy beaches and museums, a stop in Las Andelys and optional tour to Versailles. I found the shopping best in the 2 stores in Las Andelys, and we took the half day Versailles excursion which we found to be sufficient. Back at the boat, we had breakfast in the dining room, the light lunch in the lounge (there is also lunch in the dining room) and dinner in the dining room. We thought the food was excellent but service a bit slow for dinner, especially for our table of 4, the first one in the middle upon entrance. I suggest avoiding that one, as we were usually the last ones served. People tended to stick with the original table selected on this cruise, so moving seemed like it would be a bit of a challenge. Everyone appeared to be working hard, so it seemed like an additional waiter might have helped. As typical of prior river cruises, onboard entertainment was limited. We attended an interesting lecture on Joan of Arc, a French lesson, a tour of the galley, an optional oyster eating event and a music quiz that was more amusing than expected. There was also a painting class and a piano player in the evening. The last night there were some classically trained singers, who were very good, but I didn't stay for long due to packing requirements. All of the major staff members were personable and helpful. Patricia was very orgainized, with a bubbly personality. A final word on the debarkation: We were assigned a bus for CDG airport 3 hours before the plane's departure. It took 1 hour to get to the airport, and because of a great deal of traffic, left off at Arrivals. Getting through the chaotic maze at CDG was an obstacle course, and even though we were on priority lanes throughout and moved as fast as possible, it took over an hour to get to our gate. Within 10 minutes the plane began boarding. if you prefer a more leisurely airport experience, I strongly recommend getting yourself on a bus that gives you more time. Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
My wife, her 3 sisters, and mother had been on 3 previous Viking River Cruises and loved them all. Despite being a Francophile and loving French cuisine and French music, I had never been to France. This was our honeymoon. When we landed ... Read More
My wife, her 3 sisters, and mother had been on 3 previous Viking River Cruises and loved them all. Despite being a Francophile and loving French cuisine and French music, I had never been to France. This was our honeymoon. When we landed at de Gaulle, we were met by a very courteous Viking representative who accompanied us to and with our transport to the ship. On the ship, we were quickly shown our cabin, which, to my surprise, was quite spacious. My wife had thought that I, being 6'2" would feel cramped. Quite the contrary, I thought the room was just what was needed for this cruise: comfortable with just the right amenities. The crew on the Viking Spirit were extremely friendly, helpful, and courteous. The food on board was wonderful and there was always something for every taste. I should give particular kudos to our Program Director, Sylvie, our concierge, Anna Maria, and our Matre d' (whose name, sadly, I cannot remember). Sylvie was just the right combination of expertise, humor, and deep love of her country, which helped everyone enjoy the cruise that much more. At the completion of the cruise, we extended our stay in Paris for three days, helped by Viking's representatives there. That stay, too, was wonderful. In all our time in France, the food was fabulous, the people were warm and friendly, and the whole experience left me wanting more, which we will have next July when we do the Portraits of Southern France Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
My wife and I took the Paris to Normandy cruise May 18, 2014 on the Viking Spirit. I will try to add information that I didn’t see in other reviews. I can reiterate that it is a great vacation, the crew is very customer focused, and we ... Read More
My wife and I took the Paris to Normandy cruise May 18, 2014 on the Viking Spirit. I will try to add information that I didn’t see in other reviews. I can reiterate that it is a great vacation, the crew is very customer focused, and we thoroughly enjoyed the trip. - We used frequent flyer miles to get to Paris, so we took a cab from the airport to the boat. You can buy a transfer from Viking, but they talked me out of it based on cost. We later found out that it is not much more expensive than the cab. The taxi cab driver had difficulty finding the boat, despite my providing the Viking supplied map of it’s location. I was calling the boat to get better information on it’s location when we came across it as we drove north from Pont de Grenelle along Port de Grenelle. There are many boats docked in this area and the Viking sign was partially blocked by a structure. Fare was 62 Euros from CDG for the two of us with 4 bags. - The crew tries to get you in to your room before the official 3PM check in time. We got in by 1PM and sat in the lounge until then. They turn around the boat from the previous cruise in a few hours, since everyone from the previous trip has to be out by 9AM. We found the room cleaning staff very responsive, and they came in a second time each day and made the bed if required. - The boat is docked like a floating hotel for the first 24 hours, so if you didn’t want to do their bus tour, you could explore Paris on your own via the subway. They indicated that the violent crime rate in the city is very low, but there are many pick pockets. There was a report of someone’s phone being swiped on our cruise when they were out on the subway. Watch out for the kids, since they can’t be prosecuted. Each room has a good safe for storing your passport and money, so there is no need to go out with a lot of valuables. - Food is quite good, and you can explore the local French cuisine at dinner if you order from the left side of the menu. There is the same steak, fish, and chicken every night on the right side of the menu if you aren’t feeling adventurous. Quantity of food is adequate, but not excessive. My wife and I lost weight on the cruise, probably because all the walking compensated for the wine and the deserts. We were told at the galley tour that the menu doesn’t change from week to week, but it is different every night of the cruise. At lunch, there is a lack of protein as all the options don’t involve much meat. You can do the salad buffet and order off a menu. Breakfast had an extensive buffet, and you could order poached eggs, eggs benedict, French toast, or pancakes. I always wanted to have French toast in France. - Les Andelys is a one street village with exactly two stores. One store had some good scarves. The hike up the hill to the ruins provided awesome views of the river and country side. The best and most extensive souvenirs were from the store at the Palace of Versailles. The souvenirs were higher quality there with stuff you might actually want to give to people as gifts when you get back. - Dress code is business casual for dinner. Slacks and a shirt for men, and slacks, blouse, and scarf (there were a lot of scarves) for women. Only at the Captains dinner did about 1/3 of men wear a jacket. There were a few dresses, and a couple of ties. - Viking says that other cruise lines include the crew gratuity in the bill, but Viking does not. They provide a recommended gratuity in the booklet they send you a couple of weeks before the cruise. It is 2 Euros per day per person for the cruise director and 10 Euros per day per person per day split among the crew. You pay it when you settle up the bill on the last night. Total for us was 12 Euros x 2 people x 7 days = 168. The crew works hard for it and I think the fact that it is not automatically added to the bill provides motivation to put in their best effort. You also need to bring some 2 Euro and 1 Euro coin for the daily trips. 2 Euros per person for the guide and 1 Euro per person for the driver. So plan on 6 Euros per day for tips. - It is a very international crew. French captain, German cruise management, wait staff from Hungary, Bulgaria, Rumania, etc. Everyone did pretty well with their English and was very friendly and helpful. Our cruise director was Anika, already mentioned in some other reviews. She is very organized, has a good sense of humor, excellent English, and does everything possible to make the cruise enjoyable for everyone. She was very accessible during the entire cruise. She took photos of folks during the excursions and you can get a CD of them at the end of the cruise for 12.50 euros. The wait staff made a couple of order mistakes, maybe because of their limited command of the English language, but when informed of the error, they rapidly fixed it, no questions. They accommodated any request that was possible, e.g., dressing on the side for the salad, an extra appetizer or desert, etc. - We had one need for some pharmaceutical supplies and the front desk seemed to be quite knowledgeable about where the English speaking pharmacies are located at each stop. They handed me a map, and they are easy to find, since they are clearly marked with a green cross sign. - Most people who did Versailles did the half day tour. The full day gives you an extra 3 hours to explore on your own and then they bus you to Paris to meet up with the boat that has taken off at noon. The half day seemed quite adequate, since it also includes some free time to explore. - The cruise is very conducive to making friends. Although most of the passengers were in their 60’s and 70’s, there were many younger, and even a couple of kids. Everyone was from the US or Canada. - One of the enjoyable parts of the cruise that is not highlighted that much is the beautiful scenery along the river north of Paris. There are many chateaus along the river, and it is very relaxing to just sit in the lounge or on the top deck. - The boat is very high tech. Twin radar antennas on the bow, as well as sonar. Glass displays in the control cabin, twin propellers in the rear with 360 degree control and bow thrusters. The boat can rotate in a complete circle in the middle of the river without going forward or backward. Vibration levels and noise in our 3rd floor cabin were barely perceptible. Wifi was slow but adequate, and worked better when the boat was docked. The boat was very clean, and a crew member could be seen cleaning it every day.   Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
We took the Viking river cruise "Paris & the Heart of Normandy" during the last week of March 2014. We arrived in Paris on Sunday morning and were met at the airport by friendly Viking personnel, and taken by bus to the ship, ... Read More
We took the Viking river cruise "Paris & the Heart of Normandy" during the last week of March 2014. We arrived in Paris on Sunday morning and were met at the airport by friendly Viking personnel, and taken by bus to the ship, docked at the Quai de Grenelle with a great view of the Eiffel Tower. I was so excited to be in Paris, a city I have always wanted to visit. Our stateroom, 302, was a decent size. I especially liked that there was plenty of drawer space so we could fully unpack and had room for everything. We had to store our suitcases under the desk as there was no other place to put them. The bed was very comfortable and we never had a problem sleeping. The bathroom was tiny, but everything worked well. Loved the L'Occitaine soap, shampoo, lotion, etc. The best thing about the stateroom was the large window that opened - great for viewing and taking photos from the room. Meals were very good. Breakfast was a buffet, with an omelet station, along with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, yogurt, croissants, etc. There was also a menu where you could order eggs benedict, pancakes, French toast. We rarely ate lunch, but they served a hot lunch in the dining room, and also set up a buffet in the lounge that usually included salads, soup, sandwiches, etc. Dinners were 3 or 4 courses - appetizer, main course (usually a choice of 3), dessert, and a cheese plate. All were very good, some were outstanding. We had the best boeuf bourgignon one night, and the cheese plates were always interesting. We also had duck a l'orange, coq au vin, chateaubriand, all very well done. They also had an "American" menu - steak, grilled chicken - but we always stuck with the more interesting choices. We purchased the "Silver Spirits" package, so all our drinks were included. We had a lot of fun working with Ladislav and Peter in the lounge to choose our bottle of wine for dinner every night. Wine and beer with meals is included in the price of the cruise, but they do have a much nicer wine list available that we made good use of. We were also able to enjoy a mimosa with breakfast and after dinner drinks in the lounge. There was always entertainment in the lounge after dinner. The piano player, Blondie, was enjoyable. We also had French lessons, a lecture about painters and the Seine, a fun music trivia quiz, and a group the presented songs and music "Spirit of France." The staff on the ship could not have been better - all of them worked very hard to provide each passenger with a wonderful experience. Annika, the Program Director, was a total delight - her talks about each stop, her attempts to teach us all a little French, her singing on the music quiz night, she was the best and made every day special. I didn't envy her the job of herding several bus loads of senior citizens and trying to get tours started on time. Beate the Hotel Manager and Birgitte the restaurant manager were a pleasure to deal with, and I was impressed to see them pitching in and helping clear tables, seat people, clean up, and not just supervise. All of the tours we took were very good, lots of interesting information. Our least favorite was the optional (extra cost) tour of the Louvre. Not Viking's fault - the tour guide was excellent, but the Louvre was horrible, terribly overcrowded, just a madhouse and very uncomfortable. We dropped out of that tour earl, just couldn't stand the constant pushing and jostling. Our favorites - hard to choose - Normandy where we got to see my husband's uncle's grave in the American cemetery. Annika had told us to find a cemetery staff member to help us find the grave - not only did they do so, but gave us American and French flags and roses to place at the marker, but rubbed sand from Omaha Beach into the lettering so we could read it for photos, and also took photos of us at the marker. Very special experience. We also really enjoyed the Auvers-sur-Oise tour to see where Van Gogh spent his last days and his grave, the tour of Rouen and all the history from the Vikings to Joan of Arc to World War II. We also purchased the optional tour to Versailles and it was money well spent. We arrived there early and were among the first groups allowed into the palace. Again, the tour guide was excellent and very informative about the history of the palace. I would highly recommend Viking cruises based on our experience. We are already thinking about which river cruise to take next!!   Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
We have taken 5 European river cruises, using different cruise lines. We have enjoyed them all and would recommend any of them to our friends and family. All the crews have been very nice but the entire staff on the Viking Spirit outshone ... Read More
We have taken 5 European river cruises, using different cruise lines. We have enjoyed them all and would recommend any of them to our friends and family. All the crews have been very nice but the entire staff on the Viking Spirit outshone them all! From the moment we arrived at the ship, we were greeted like family and were treated that way throughout the entire cruise! The cruise director escorted us to our cabin, which was already ready for occupancy mid-morning. The hotel manager came by and offered to show us around the ship. When we looked out the window, we noticed that the ship's captain was helping the sailors transfer the luggage. It is hard to describe adequately the incredible atmosphere the staff created throughout the entire week. The cruise director was loads of fun, accompanied us on all the excursions and was always there to help with a smile. The itinerary was perfect! Everything ran very smoothly and we could not have had a better experience! When the week ended, it was very hard for us to leave these people behind. The hugs we gave were reciprocated by hugs that were just as genuine and heartfelt as ours were. We can't say enough good things about the Spirit. Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
This was our first river cruise and we recommend it and plan on river cruising again. We chose Viking because the catalog we received in the mail included an itinerary we had always wanted to do. The age demographic is largely 70+ . Being ... Read More
This was our first river cruise and we recommend it and plan on river cruising again. We chose Viking because the catalog we received in the mail included an itinerary we had always wanted to do. The age demographic is largely 70+ . Being considering younger we did make friends and connect with others our age We departed December 8, 2013 on the Paris Normandy cruise. We visited with family in UK prior to the trip so we did not do the pre stay or post stay in Paris. We did add on transfers once we arrived back in CDG and were very well taken care for our 30 minute ride to the ship. Our cabin was a corner one next to the staircases but was very well laid out and spacious and we liked it over the conventional cabins down the hall. Great storage and use of space. The staff were extremely courteous and helpful throughout the duration of the cruise. Each evening there was a debriefing of next day excursions or ship program. Very well organized. You leave the ship - you turn in your room key and get a pass which you turn in upon your return. This was a very efficient way of figuring out who was on or off the ship. There is only one dining time and it is open seating. The food was very good. Not excellent but very good. The portions are not those you would find on ocean liner cruisers, which is fine unless you are there for a food frenzy. The food was always elegantly presented . They tried hard to make it regionally based upon the day's visit. The breakfast buffet was very generous but repetitive, however, you could order a la carte. We lunched in the dining room most days vs. the buffet. I feel the lunch menus could have been a little bit more imaginative and did get the feeling that we were at the end of the season when coming to menu creation. At the captain's farewell cocktail they ran out of hors d'oeuvres after being passed to only half of the lounge. When pointed out they did bring more to the entire lounge. I admit I am a food and service snob and did note that one time they used a saucer as a serving dish and I suspect that the crab meat on crab cake night was fake crab meat. To my husband's delight one day they did serve hot dogs :(n For wine lovers such as us ...we would very often buy a bottle of wine at the many local wine shops and they either corked it right there at the shop or the ship would do it for you. There was not any question bringing it on board and they were happy to offer a corkage service at no charge. The entertainment on board is limited. There was a resident piano player who was somewhat engaged. They did have a spirit of Normandy night with local entertainers which was good. Most nights we were tired from daily activities we crashed after dinner. They did offer some "cultural" activities during sailing. Some things they listed as on board events were pretty lame. Would have liked to seen more educational topical info as in lectures relating to upcoming stops. The excursions were excellent and the guides were all fabulous. We opted not to do the intro to Paris half day tour the first day since we had been to the cite several times before and explored Montmartre and Ile st. Louis instead. Visit this small island on the seine by foot when you walk to the left side of Notre Dame and over the bridge. It is literally far from the madding crowd of tourists with small, and I mean, small restaurants and shops. Be sure and get ice cream! Beautiful gift shops and galleries. The Metro is extremely easy to use and in fact if you take the walking, get acquainted, walking tour the first day and the guide instructs you on how to use the Metro. Taxis are very expensive and Metro is the way to go. Our first excursion out of Paris was to the site of Vincent Van Gogh's last days. This particular day was bitter cold and we did not layer properly. Loved all we learned about this very troubled and brilliant artist. Rouen is great shopping. Wish there had been more to the Joan of Arc site. We did take advantage to leave the ship for dinner and dine at a local restaurant recommended by the ship. A Petite Auberge. A delightful culinary experience at what we thought was a very reasonable price. Recommend doing this to get a true local flavor outside of the ship dining experience. The highlight of our cruise was the visit to the Normandy Beaches. It was somewhat of a pilgrimage for us after losing my 95 year old Father-in-law this year who was a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge. You can read and study in history books, or online, but when you are there it is totally incredible. Very emotional day. They had a ceremony for our tour group at the monument which was very poignant. The day of the castle tour I chose to shop the two gift shops with other female companions. Two nice shops for last minute gifts. My husband did the castle tour which is ancient ruins on hillside and a challenging hike for most. This is a short 2 hour dock. The final day was Versailles. Our other reason for picking this itinerary. We opted for the whole day tour and I think this was a mistake. Unless you did not complete all you wanted to see in Paris prior to this point then opt for the half day tour. I really regret doing the full day. Half day or full day you get to see the same tour of Versailles Palace with free time to browse the gardens and gift shop. The whole day gives you 1.5 hours in the town of Versailles for lunch and shopping. Quaint but just more shopping and eating. Back to Paris on the bus and they drop you off for 2.5 hours at the Champs Élysées and return you to the boat at 0630 pm in time for dinner on the last night. Meanwhile the boat sails from Conflans to Paris during the afternoon and you leisurely enjoy the afternoon on the river. The coaches were all very clean. Follow the tipping guide .......if you are lucky enough to get Thierry as your guide in Paris or Versailles you are blessed and consider that a huge bonus. He is very entertaining! Dressing tips: Dining dressing is casual. Many do not change from day clothes. The captains toast/dinner was really no different than any other night. Ladies ..just take a different scarf and jewelry and wear the same outfit. Layer for those excursions at this time of year. Temperature in the cabin was a little erratic. I do have to say the linens and bed comforters were super soft and comfortable. On a final note. They only gave us a two hour window for check in at CDG and it was a very tight time frame. Long lines at check in and security and when we arrived at the gate they were boarding the plane. No duty free shop time! Would we travel Viking again? Possibly...it was great value for the money but I would explore other river cruises first. Bon voyage!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Viking Spirit (Retired) Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins N/A 4.8
Dining 3.0 4.8
Entertainment 4.0 4.1
Public Rooms N/A 4.8
Fitness Recreation N/A 3.5
Family 1.0 3.5
Rates 3.0 4.3

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