2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
Recommendation of friends who were on their third SCenic cruise. This was my second SCenic river cruise so, obviously compared it with the Danube cruise I went on last year. It was a good experience (not quite as good as the DAnube ... Read More
Recommendation of friends who were on their third SCenic cruise. This was my second SCenic river cruise so, obviously compared it with the Danube cruise I went on last year. It was a good experience (not quite as good as the DAnube cruise I did last year)? The entertainment was good but only for two nights, the rock group was excellent, a great night. the Pope's palace concert good as was the evening drinks visit to castle of Tournon. Although Pianist Richard did his best he was not quite 'in tune' with his audience. The shore excursions were very good except for the village of Oignt where we were promised crafts shops and coffee shops, none of which were open! We wondered why we were only give 45 minutes there, just enough to visit the disgusting toilets!!! Dining was very good but breakfast buffet could have been a bit more efficient, often scrambled egg, potatoes etc. All gone and not replenished very quickly. Wine with meals excellent and special requests fulfilled. Bar service during the day also very good, although not so go up on top deck in the afternoons, seemed to be only one attendant on duty and not to be seen regularly. Captains, senior staff etc.very 'visible' and approachable. All in all, despite minor criticisms I would recommend this cruise to my friends, I had a good time and appreciate everyone's efforts to make my time on board enjoyable. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2016
A friend chose this trip because it find into her working schedule. I had taken a Viking cruise before and knew that it would be well run, have interesting side trips. At the last minute my friend had to cancel because of illness and ... Read More
A friend chose this trip because it find into her working schedule. I had taken a Viking cruise before and knew that it would be well run, have interesting side trips. At the last minute my friend had to cancel because of illness and surgery, but another friend took her place. She is disabled and had an extremely difficult time walking. The crew could not have been more helpful to her and supportive of her disability and saw to it that she participated as much as any other traveller on the cruise. Kudos to Viking and their staff!! Cabin was lovely, dining was fine; service was wonderful [attentive and friendly but not hovering]. The best shore excursion was a tour of a vineyard and a sublime luncheon on the estate. Also was lots of fun was the trip to the cognac chateau and the crafting of our own blend. All in all, I never regret traveling on a Viking trip and will do it as often as possible. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2015
We went on the Portraits of Southern France cruise on October 11, 2015. It was our 3rd Viking Cruise, and we have one more booked and others in planning. In short, we love Viking. In fact, our trip to China with them (May 2015) was the ... Read More
We went on the Portraits of Southern France cruise on October 11, 2015. It was our 3rd Viking Cruise, and we have one more booked and others in planning. In short, we love Viking. In fact, our trip to China with them (May 2015) was the best vacation we've ever taken, and we've been on 39 other vacations to foreign countries. But, now you know a little bit about us, a couple near 70, let me go over some of my thoughts about our France trip, which included a 3-day post-extension to Paris with Viking. The best part, as it always is on the Viking cruises, were the people we met. With open seating at the long, leisurely meals and with a small ship, meeting people becomes very easy to do, and the Viking travelers are quite varied in (generally retired) occupations and home towns. We made many good friends. Our tour director Julian was wonderful. The best things about him were his humor as well as his clear explanations of many choices we had each day. Actually the most fun we had on the cruise were a couple of crazy group games Julian lead on two nights. We all laughed hard as we competed vigorously in competitions that as best I can remember had no prizes whatsoever. The rest of the crew were fantastic and the service was great. They made us really feel at home. Ok, so you are expecting in a review to hear about places, not people. It's the wrong thing to look for, but I'll humor you by listing the cities visited in order of how much we enjoyed them. And, I'll throw a couple non-cities into the mix. They are (with the best first): Lyon, Avignon, Cruising on the rivers, Cluny, Paris, Auxerre, Beaune, Vienne, Steam train, Arles and Tournon. The food at breakfast, as it is on every Viking cruise, is always fantastic. The lunches and dinners on this cruise were a bit hit-and-miss but definitely mainly hits. The local guides varied widely. The best, as the guide in Vienne, knew how to entertain and to tell stories. The worse, as the guide in Paris, tried to machine-gun facts into our ears as rapidly as dryly as possible lest we fail the pop quiz that they appeared to be preparing us for. Sometimes, I turned off the headset and admired the wonderful views all around us. Viking could use a good guide training program. Overall we had an absolutely wonderful time. There were only two major drawbacks. One, don't go in the fall or later unless you have to. In mid-October, we frequently froze with temps starting in the upper 30s many days and only warming up to the 40s. We wore down jackets and sometimes thermal underwear. More than the cold, the skies were mainly overcast, which can turn pretty landscapes into pretty dreary landscapes. Second, until Viking changes hotels from the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel, don't book the Paris extension. The room was tiny and in bad shape and had all the charm and uncomfortable furniture of a college dorm room. The breakfast room was hot, in a windowless basement with mediocre food and coffee that was never, ever hot. A terrible way to start each day. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2015
I had my doubts about river cruising. The Viking cruise was first class all the way. The ship was modern, clean and spacious. Although our standard room was small, we spent very little time in it so it didn't make a difference. Opt ... Read More
I had my doubts about river cruising. The Viking cruise was first class all the way. The ship was modern, clean and spacious. Although our standard room was small, we spent very little time in it so it didn't make a difference. Opt for a less expensive room. The food was great. The chef was always available and each night gave his recommendations. There was always a choice of appetizers, entrees and dessert. Wine, beer and soft drinks are no extra cost at meals. The excursions were well planned and very organized. It was like clock-work. We would definitely do another Viking cruise. One thing- most of the passengers were retirement age like us. We enjoyed that. The people were mature and respectful and quite interesting. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2015
Based on a wonderful Rhine cruise on Viking last year, we booked the Portraits of Southern France river cruise for this year. What a mistake. We arrived in France at the tail end of the European heat wave. The temperature was in the upper ... Read More
Based on a wonderful Rhine cruise on Viking last year, we booked the Portraits of Southern France river cruise for this year. What a mistake. We arrived in France at the tail end of the European heat wave. The temperature was in the upper 90s. The air conditioning on the ship was not functioning properly and the cabins/restaurant areas were very warm to the point of being uncomfortable. We were never addressed by the Captain to explain the problem. Various crew members gave different reasons. It was obvious that there had been some instruction not to comment to guests. I felt so sorry for the restaurant servers who had to work so hard in the heat. The problem was finally fixed on Day 5 of the trip. Thank goodness the weather broke and became cooler. On the evening before the problem was fixed, however, our cabin was 81 degrees. We could not open our doors because there was an invasion of spiders. The ship had to call for pest extermination. The we could not use the veranda since it had been sprayed with pesticide. The other not so great part was dinner in the restaurant. Again, some offerings were hit and miss. The serving portions were also very small. There was nothing available for snacks for that 9PM hunger attack. We were fortunate that we had a suite that was supplied with fruit. The ports of call were mostly great. Lyon was fantastic. The small French villages and cities were beautiful. We especially enjoyed our excursion to Beaune. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
From when we started the booking process until we were helped to check in at the airport for the return flight, everything was excellent. We were met at the airport by a Viking representative and led to a Mercedes taxi to meet the boat at ... Read More
From when we started the booking process until we were helped to check in at the airport for the return flight, everything was excellent. We were met at the airport by a Viking representative and led to a Mercedes taxi to meet the boat at Avignon. We had previously been bused on other cruises, but as we were the only couple on this flight and they didn't want us to have to wait, we were on our way immediately. We were met at the ship by the Program Director which made us feel very special. Our room was immediately available which was so nice after the long journey. We chose this cruise because we had been on two others and thoroughly enjoyed the "Viking Experience". It was nice this time because we could look forward to the elements that we enjoy about Viking. Everything is so well organized and efficient. Nothing is too much trouble. The boat itself is spotlessly clean and the rooms are tidied and checked twice a day. The food is delicious and plentiful and the wines have been carefully selected and flow freely at lunch and dinner. We like the fact that the cruises are smaller and are really only catered to adults. We enjoyed the onboard talks and games. The tour guides were very knowledgeable and we enjoyed all the excursions. We would be very happy to enjoy another river cruise and are hoping to do one of the ocean cruises in the not too distant future. Viking is definitely the way to go! Thanks very much. Read Less
20 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2015
The ship was very nice, had the best crew. We lucked out on our first cruise with Vantage we got what we thought one of the best rooms onboard. This is a very laid back company, nobody is in a hurry to do anything. The tours are not all ... Read More
The ship was very nice, had the best crew. We lucked out on our first cruise with Vantage we got what we thought one of the best rooms onboard. This is a very laid back company, nobody is in a hurry to do anything. The tours are not all paid for. They never get around to leaving until 9 or after. Walking is a must. Some of the most historical places we didn't get to see. We had 172 onboard, we were all bused one right after another lined up in generally 4 buses. Guess the only thing to see is grape vines, and more grapevines. We did get to go to a goat cheese factory, which we got to sample, with more wine. If you like layed back cruises, and lots and lots of wine, this is the cruise for you. The people on the cruise couldn't have been better, and the food was good. The only thing wrong was the temperture. We thought the air-conditioner was turned off about 12 then turned back on about 5. Over half of the passengers got colds and coughed, thank goodness we took plenty of cold medicine, which we shared with all. The people got hot in the night, and caught colds. We asked the crew, they said no, but it probably was computerize control. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2014
We just returned from our long-anticipated Viking river cruise in France and came away wishing we had paid closer attention to the itinerary (Portraits of France) as our expectations were not met. We made assumptions (based on ... Read More
We just returned from our long-anticipated Viking river cruise in France and came away wishing we had paid closer attention to the itinerary (Portraits of France) as our expectations were not met. We made assumptions (based on Viking's marketing and other friends cruise experiences in other countries and on other cruise lines) about what a river cruise would entail and felt if we had known what to pay attention to, we would have chosen a different itinerary and possibly a different cruise line. Our main disappointments were as follows: 1) there was minimal to no time to spend on either our balcony or topside due to touring schedule and/or time of day we were sailing.We expected to see scenic vistas while sailing, but instead saw miles of flat farmland...AND much of the sailing took place at night and we saw nothing 2) we also anticipated time to leisurely stroll through quaint towns where we docked, but instead oftentimes were docked in industrial settings where our stateroom view was an abandoned,graffiti-laden warehouses. On only two occasions were we close enough to walk into the town for a very short period of time. 3) the 7 day agenda was very structured and very fast-paced....not conducive to relaxation and independent exploration. 4) dinners got tedious as there was only one dining time (7pm) and we quickly saw that passengers would line up 15-20 minutes early outside the dining rom in order to secure specific seating. The 'Captain's Dinner' was quite humorous because the Captain did not attend it nor did the Captain speak English (all passengers were from U.S., Canada and Australia). 5) do NOT pay extra for the elite beverage package...definitely not worth the cost. My advice to anyone looking to take a river cruise: pay attention to the # of passengers, the sailing timeline, the scenery that you can expect to see, the amount of free time and proximity to towns, the ability to dine off the ship at least once. AND...read reviews from passengers who have been on the cruise ( ship and itinerary) you are considering! Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2014
Since our only visit to France had been on an ocean cruise stop in Cannes, we wanted to get a better feel for the country, the culture, and the history (oh yes, and the wines!). The cruise traveled from the Mediterranean to the Normandy ... Read More
Since our only visit to France had been on an ocean cruise stop in Cannes, we wanted to get a better feel for the country, the culture, and the history (oh yes, and the wines!). The cruise traveled from the Mediterranean to the Normandy Coast, with Paris in between. What more can you ask for? Along the Rhône, Saône, and Seine rivers we stopped at numerous towns and cities for (included) excursions of towns such as Avignon, Perouges, Dijon, Giverny, and Honfleur. Most notable were excursions to wineries in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Beaune, and the Pont du Gard and the Normandy D-Day landmarks and American Cemetery. The entire journey required two different riverboats, but the connection was something special as well. The included connection was from Dijon to Paris aboard the TGV, or Train à Gran Vitesse, France's high-speed train. What a pleasure to sit in power reclining seats and travel over 200 mph in smooth, quiet comfort. The real beauty for us is the way Vantage takes care of everything, from handling our luggage at the airport to escorting us through the Paris train station. There are no worries about catching a ride, how to get to a sightseeing attraction, or even "where are the restrooms?" QuietVox headsets are provided for all excursions, so you can comfortably hear your English-speaking guide even if you're half a block away. all excursions are divided into groups of 20-30 guests, so crowding is not an issue. Dining is superb, and the chefs go out of their way to provide local delights as well as traditional American fare. An example: "Rack of lamb with Dijon mustard crust, rosemary potato gratin, and ratatouille Provencale". Make no mistake, this is NOT a cruise for children (there were none on our voyage), but adults will find it very relaxing and most interesting. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2014
Although all details of our outward and homeward journeys from and to Bristol went according to plan, felt that as we lived in Bristol and had an airport that flew direct to Marseille, the fact that we had to go via Amsterdam which ... Read More
Although all details of our outward and homeward journeys from and to Bristol went according to plan, felt that as we lived in Bristol and had an airport that flew direct to Marseille, the fact that we had to go via Amsterdam which incorporated 2 flights each way was definitely not in our best interest. The 'Buri' was indeed all that we had hoped for and more in that it was kept immaculately clean and well maintained and the staff were all very friendly and willing to help in any way they could. The food was definitely all that we had anticipated with wine flowing freely during lunch and dinner periods. We had previously spent a river cruise on the Rhine not with Viking, and were disappointed that when we docked we then had to be coached to places of interest, whereas on the Rhine we actually docked at the places of interest and were able to wander at will and not constantly being put onto coaches. The guides that were provided for these on shore excursions were excellent and very knowledgeable, and although my husband is hard of hearing, with the 'walkie talkie' devices we were given, he was able to heard all the relevant information, which certainly helped with his enjoyment of this holiday. However, we were not impressed that the sun deck was not accessible for quite a large amount of the time we were on board,and also that the latter part of our 'cruise' we were berthed in Lyon and had to be coached to the latter destination as the ship couldn't navigate under the bridges owing to the swollen river! We felt that the Viking ships were too large for this particular river and would have been better being one deck less, thus allowing people to enjoy the advertised river cruise and not glorified coach trip. Perhaps a suggestion to remedy this complaint might be to make use of local day excursion boats instead of coaches, thus still having a river view of the surrounding countryside. Our friends had paid £800 more than us for a balcony and spent 3 days not being able to pull their curtains back as we were moored alongside another Viking ship until such time as the river allowed the inside ship to sail. and their cabin looked directly into the other ship, which reading other reviews appears to be a common complaint. All in all we did enjoy the trip - staff and ship first class, but feel that the above issues do need to be resolved before we will be taking a cruise with Viking again, or in fact any river cruise line if this is common practice. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
This was my second Uniworld cruise and it was as perfect as the last. The ship was beautiful, the food was great and the staff was professional and attentive. The excursions were well planned and all of the guides were both knowledgeable ... Read More
This was my second Uniworld cruise and it was as perfect as the last. The ship was beautiful, the food was great and the staff was professional and attentive. The excursions were well planned and all of the guides were both knowledgeable and professional. After I climbed the many steep and winding stairs to the top of the castle of the Duke of Anjou in Tarascon and then down again my knee was officially wrecked. But Uniworld has a program called "gentile walking" tours and for that I was grateful. In essence they are slower and avoids steep stair cases. When some attraction has to be eliminated, due to its strenuous nature (steep stairs) another is added to complete the experience. I rather preferred it, the groups were smaller and the guides very attentive to our needs. We opted for the extension to Paris at the end of our cruise. An Uniworld agent escorted us to the train station and remained with us until we arrived and were situated at the hotel in Paris where another Uniworld rep/guide took over. Now she was amazing. One of the most adorable, conscientious, attentive person's I have ever met. Whatever you asked she tired to make it happen. In all a wonderful trip. I am already planning another Uniworld cruise for next year. I also liked that there was no "nickel and diming" everything was included even all tips, water bottles and liquor on the ship.   Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2014
This cruise line has been little reviewed on Cruise Critic. Vantage is in an expansion phase but is sometimes forgotten in a market dominated by big cruise lines such as Viking. My wife and I are very itinerary focused and all of the stops ... Read More
This cruise line has been little reviewed on Cruise Critic. Vantage is in an expansion phase but is sometimes forgotten in a market dominated by big cruise lines such as Viking. My wife and I are very itinerary focused and all of the stops on this cruise were new to us. We took their French Waterways: Beaujolais and Burgundy cruise. We were slated to to fly in to Marseille and take a shuttle to Tarascon. There was a change and we were taken directly to Avignon where we spent our first three days. The main difference between Viking and Vantage is that Vantage cruises take 11 days staying extra days in port while Viking cruises cover the same ports in eight days. When you consider the long flight to Europe it makes more sense to have a longer stay than an eight day cruise. The Vantage cruise has competitive pricing and is only sold directly through their website or office in Boston. We were informed that the average age of a Vantage traveler is 60. For this cruise it was closer to 70. I see old people, wearing shorts, and lots of them! Vantage highlights that they cater to an American customer and the food/service reflect that focus. A typical day is stopping at a port, taking a city excursion (overview) from 9:00 a.m. to noon, lunch on the ship, and afternoon free time to further explore the port on their own. Most excursions are included in the fare but there may be additional extra excursions at additional cost. Audio Vox systems are used for excursions which make listening to the guides much easier (although they are not much help with the heavily-accented French guides). The greatest strength of a cruise of this nature is the opportunity to be immersed in the French culture. Fine foods, delicious wines, visiting small villages off the beaten path, and expert guides helps one to better understand the unique French contributions to our world. Food choices are limited but adequate. The service throughout the cruise was exceptional as all crew members are very focused on your satisfaction. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2014
We booked this cruise as at the last moment, the cruise we had planned on Danube from Budapest to Germany got canceled becuase the ship was damaged and had to go into dry dock for repairs. Our pick up at Marsailles airport was well done. ... Read More
We booked this cruise as at the last moment, the cruise we had planned on Danube from Budapest to Germany got canceled becuase the ship was damaged and had to go into dry dock for repairs. Our pick up at Marsailles airport was well done. So from June 22 through June 30 we were on the Viking Buri, a brand new ship for 2014. Upon arrival at the Buri, we were told we could not sail as scheduled the next day, Monday June 23, was Bastille Day, a French national holiday and the river locks would be closed! Question was immediate, why did not Viking know this in advance?? A preview of things to come! We remained tied up until Tuesday. As the river was up a bit (high water), the top (observation deck) was closed as the Buri was too high to pass under the bridges with the deck set up for use with chairs and awnings. We were told it took two hours to take down everything on the top deck and two hours to set it up so since the bridges were closer together than four hours, the deck would remain closed. So that meant 190 or so unhappy passengers would have to try to find room on the small bow observation deck where there was room for possibly 50+. Due to the river height the Buri was trapped at Lyon between low bridges. So we ended up in Lyon, where we stayed for four days. The Buri was tied up next to her sister ship which blocked any view of Lyon. The dock area was far from the city center dock so it meant getting a taxi or a long hoofing to get out of the industrial area into the city proper. We ended up getting bussed to the various sights but it was a long walk to get to the bus pickup area, a problem for those on board who could not walk long distances. The river at our docking area stank badly also making the observation bow deck unpleasant and generally prevented anyone from opening their cabin windows if they were on the left side of the Buri. Those on the right side looked directly into the sister ship, several feet away, not exactly pleasant. Our weather was hot (90+ F) but the Buir's cooling system kept the ship very comfortable. Naturally a fair number of passengers raised holy heck about the situation. Unfortunately there was nothing the staff, crew or ship's officers could do about the situation. Nothing was ever heard from Viking Corporate Management about the situation. Management did not handle the situation very well at all. Obviously some part of Management had put the new Bari and sister ship on this river without regard to the ships overall size and cruising conditions on the river. Essentially a very stupid Management decision. There was no mention at the time of any compensation or partial refund which would have gone a long way to calming some passengers (nor even a free open bar). Upon returning to the USA, I heard some had later received a letter about what happened, but I did not get one. Overall, very poorly handled by Viking!! The staff and crew were excellent under this trying situation. If you had to get trapped on the river, at least being in Lyon was better than being stuck in one of the other much smaller towns and villages. Many of us on board, did our best to make our extended Lyon stay as good as possible. Our shipmates overall were a good, friendly bunch of people from all over the world. Our dining was excellent with a variety of choices always available for each meal. Service by the wait staff was excellent. The lunch and dinner wine/beer or other selections were not top-shelf but still good. Our room was serviced very well each day. Several evenings there was entertainment in the lounge which most enjoyed. Some passengers who paid the somewhat expensive up-tic for drinks were disappointed at the lack of selection and variety. On a previous Alaska cruise in 2013, our small 50 passenger ship had a much better stocked bar and at lower prices. SUMMARY - I have been asked by friends if I would choose Viking again and, honestly, I have to say no, mostly due to the lack of response from their Top Managment. It is difficult to accept that Bastille Day popped up out of nowhere for them and that by late June, that no one was aware (concerned) that the ships could not always pass under the bridges on the sailing route. What really dismays me is that the Viking 2015 Cruise Brochure shows the Buir and her sister ship still scheduled to sail for this particular voyage. DON'T THEY LEARN ! ! ! ! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2014
We've just completed Viking's Portraits of Southern France on Viking Hermod (south to north). It was mostly enjoyable but the weakest out of our six European cruises. We really enjoyed the friendly passenger mix of US, Canada and ... Read More
We've just completed Viking's Portraits of Southern France on Viking Hermod (south to north). It was mostly enjoyable but the weakest out of our six European cruises. We really enjoyed the friendly passenger mix of US, Canada and several from Great Britain making for good conversation and company. The ship: Hermod was lovely as is usual with Viking's ships. Not enough seating in the lounge however and we had to stand several nights at the pre-dinner talk along with many others who stood or skipped the activity. Husband found the cabin fine but I did not like the tiny window (too dirty to view from this cruise) and increased ship noise. In general, I do not like the cabin size in the new Viking French balcony rooms (same on lower deck even though they list them as larger - must include the high shelf space in front of the window?) which have no space on either side of the bed and a useless bedside shelf where bedding easily swipes anything off of it. Room and bed comfort and closet and storage space (improved from first longboats) are otherwise very nice. Everything in the cabin worked well and the plugs are numerous and very handy. Internet: Very poor. I was surprised because we'd heard that it had improved this year. We had trouble even getting on for several of the days with both an i-Pad and a Samsung tablet. So did others around us. Unusable in the lower cabins but also very poor upstairs. It seems that the antennae is lowered often on this cruise and the signal is not a strong one at the best of times. The crew: The crew with one exception were friendly, enthusiastic and went out of their way to be helpful. The front desk and dining room staff were especially good as was the Chief Engineer. He always had a moment to interact with passengers and we enjoyed his company the most. The program director might be good at organizing but is not a people person. His talks were short, data driven and included little other than what was in Viking's written material. He did not enjoy or encourage questions. We found his lack of enthusiasm affected our choices of activities. This is the first trip that we haven't done most or all of the optional tours - this trip we did none because they seemed boring before we even signed up after listening to his brief, dry descriptions. We hope they were better than that. The room stewards were terrific with very fast laundry service and everything onboard was sparkling clean except cabin windows (on the outside). We had trouble seeing out with all the bird and waterspots on our lower deck window (worse than other ships) and they weren't touched the entire trip. We didn't dock often next to another ship and that was a big plus or would have been if we could see out. The food: Very good. The chef and his crew were quite skilled at presentation and did a good job. All the meat we saw was rare even when ordered otherwise (we find this the usual case on board V ships). We do find Viking's standardized menus a bit predictable and how can they not have fresh, from scratch pastry when in France!?! What a waste of opportunity to please and impress. The entertainment: Lacking. Before I start, we really enjoyed the pianist. He was wonderful. Talks were not inspiring. The cooking demonstration was appreciated but very simple and not special for being in France. Evening entertainment was almost non existent this trip. We were really spoiled on our Christmas Douro trip with two lunches included off the ship and two dinners off the ship which added so much atmosphere and felt very special with the entertainment offered at each as well as onboard. This trip had the least special touches of our six cruises. The itinerary: Great potential but mostly unrealized. Too much time was spent getting from airport to ship at both ends of the trip. The airport greeter was just that - she was nice but only got us from the main lobby to the bus and then left for home. There was no help with luggage at the airport either direction. Another loss of meaningful time was that spent in getting to and from destinations from uninspiring docking points. There was little sightseeing where docked and even less information given about options. The south to north itinerary seems negatively affected with some of the more appealing optional tours unavailable in this direction. Scheduling tours around the lunch meal (both morning and afternoon tours) back onboard was a real negative. Tours were continually rushed to get us back in time for lunch or dinner with insufficient free time other than the scheduled stops. The few choices where you could stay in town (some distance from the ship) were all day or nothing it seemed. We would have loved to stay in town for lunch and have an hour or two to explore rather than have to stay all day or nothing. We like a little time to relax before dinner and this itinerary did not allow for good choices. This itinerary offers nothing extra and nothing that felt special especially south to north. Arles' free time was only shopping in a gift shop at the Van Gogh hospital stop unless you chose to stay the entire day. Tain l'Hermitage's free time was only at the chocolate shop. Our favorite stop here was the Musee Pierre Palue. Beaune's free time was so short we had to skip the wine tasting to even have time for a cup of chocolate in a local cafe. Avignon's free time was also short but it was one of the few places we could walk back to the ship on our own which we did. Lyon's free time was on a holiday so stores, etc. were closed and we didn't know that until the night before. The restaurant recommendations were all very high priced in Lyon. We really missed the previous Viking system with a program director and a couple of assistants who usually stayed with each group in addition to the local guides. Our previous program director's were more hands-on and interactive with the passengers. The program director seemed to do little other than take a few photos and discouraged questions at his short presentations. The new concierge system seems lacking in value even though she was nice. Note that the upper decks is most often closed on this cruise due to the numerous very low bridges on the river. One in particular we were holding our breath when we went under and the chief engineer was on the stairs watching inch by inch to make sure we cleared. I don't know what they do if there is rain that brings up the water level. The local guides: We were very lucky with our local guides and each day they were the value added. They knew the locales, the stops and the local people at each. They shared their enthusiasm as well as their extensive knowledge. They made the trip for us and were the highlight each day. Without "great" guides our ratings would be lower. The air arrangements: We tried this for the first time using Viking's air arrangements. In spite of Viking's efforts, it was not something we want to do again unless we have to. They use a computerized system which does not take into account time for immigration, customs, terminal transfers for local to international, etc. Transfer times at airports (such as Paris) were too short and we found planes already boarding before we could even get to them while rushing all the way. We were especially displeased with having to arise before 5am in Lisbon to get to Marseille and our boat by 7pm -- we were routed Lisbon to London to Marseille. A direct flight is less than 2 1/2 hours and we chose the south to north route distinctly because there was a direct flight from our pre-cruise stay in Lisbon. Also we were not pleased with having to leave the ship before dawn because Viking backtracks so far to the airport at the end of the cruise. Thanks to Viking's efforts, we did enjoy entering the US through Seattle instead of San Francisco avoiding the usual nightmare. Delta reassigned our confirmed seats the week before we left on the trip necessitating upgrading our seats to avoid sitting next to the lavatory or in the back row. We felt trapped into this and wonder if that is Delta's usual way of handling discounted tickets in order to sell upgrades. The value: Because we got a good sale on the trip with air we felt we got our money's worth - sort of. We would rather have better discounts on the trip itself and leave the air arrangements to us. We did not feel that the itinerary or entertainment was up to Viking standards. We love France so we're disappointed that the trip felt so rushed and generic when such potential went unrealized. Viking can do better and, in our experience, usually does. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2014
Arriving on our sparkling new boat, Heimdal in March of this year, we grabbed one of Viking's trademark red umbrellas for a walking tour of Avignon in the rain. Others hadn't arrived from their pre-cruise visit to Paris, so we ... Read More
Arriving on our sparkling new boat, Heimdal in March of this year, we grabbed one of Viking's trademark red umbrellas for a walking tour of Avignon in the rain. Others hadn't arrived from their pre-cruise visit to Paris, so we took full advantage of the glistening cobblestones leading through the Roman Ruins and mighty ramparts of the ancient city. Returning to linen tablecloths and fresh flowers greeting us for dinner, we enjoyed a typical gourmet meal and quiet evening in port. The exterior glass walls of our room continually offered the grandest views throughout our week in Southern France. Imagine laying on your comfortable bed in your own home while the French countryside passed slowly by along the banks of Arles, Avignon, Tournon and Lyon. The views were made even more spectacular from the rooftop deck wrapped snugly in the warm blankets brought to you by the courteous crew, sipping a steamy mug of cocoa. Our days were filled with fascinating tours hosted by the most talented and informed guides imaginable, thankfully transmitted to my ear as I wandered about the city snapping photos without losing neither my group nor my wife. Walking in Van Gogh's footsteps, capturing images later discovered to mimic paintings of the master, impacted my life in ways unimaginable. Sadly, I cannot show you these beautiful photos which we will forever treasure. One surreal moment of our voyage included our late-night stroll through sleepy Vivier, along the sycamore lined streets that wound upward between closely grouped homes, rewarding travelers with a panorama from atop this lovely medieval city. Our visit to Tain L'Hermitage became very special as the daughter of noted French painter Pierre Palué invited us into her home to view many of his works, including those of his friends. What visit to Southern France would be complete without wineries and chocolatiers? Viking did not disappoint. Tasty tours highlighted the traditions of their craft. When asked if his vineyards were irrigated, a vintner replied, "Non. The vines must suffer." We never suffered for lack of luxury. As we boarded ship following our many adventures, friendly faces greeted us with refreshments fitting weather and occasion. We cherish our week on the Rhone and hungrily anticipate all that Viking has to offer, sometimes revisiting during differing seasons. The Christmas Markets throughout Europe are not to be missed. Can I rank one Viking Cruise above another? The answer is an affirmative, "No." One cannot rank the Mona Lisa above Starry Night. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2012
I took my 12 yr old daughter on the River Royale and did the 3 night Paris post cruise extension as well. This was our first river cruise and I was very impressed by Uniworld. The ship was not the over the top boutique decor I had ... Read More
I took my 12 yr old daughter on the River Royale and did the 3 night Paris post cruise extension as well. This was our first river cruise and I was very impressed by Uniworld. The ship was not the over the top boutique decor I had anticipated, so that was a nice surprise. Very clean and beautiful. We had a cabin on the Burgundy deck with a full window (does not open). Air conditioner worked great. There was one chair by window and a nice size ledge to put drinks on while you watch the scenery go by (other person sits on bed). Bathroom had big containers that they refill with shower lotion (soap), shampoo, liquid soap at sink and moisturizer at sink. There was a small bottle of hair conditioner and small necessities provided (nail file,shower cap,cotton balls, q-tips). Also, a robe per person and complimentary slippers per person. Towels were big and soft. Light up makeup/magnifying mirror. Big roomy drawer under sink to hold all your bathroom necessities. Closet had loads of hangers, safe, and plenty of shelves for clothes. Had to use laundry service towards end of cruise. There is a canvas bag you put your dirty clothes in, fill out the included form, leave on bed and 24 hours later, you have pressed and folded clothes. Very nice, worth the price. No iron or ironing board in cabin, although, there could of been room to set up board in front of window. But I brought my steamer. One 110V outlet next to window on vanity. Complimentary reusable water bottles to take with you on shore. Glass water bottle constantly refilled with purified water in your room, 2 glasses, ice bucket, pen and paper. You can also fill your water bottles right outside the restaurant. There is a station with water, ice and ice tea and glasses. Bed was very comfortable. Down top, fluffy pillows. I-home alarm clock you can use to play/recharge your Iphone or Ipod. Nice heavy curtains to block our light in morning. Never heard a peep from other cabins. Food was amazing! Chef Manuel did an awesome job. Waiters were very professional, friendly, nice smiles! Wines flowed freely. There were good enough. Better wines were available for purchase. Breakfast had mimosas, lunch wine and beer, dinner wine and beer. Breakfast buffet and lunch buffets were excellent. Dinner was a choice on a set menu, or you could always order a steak, salmon, or chicken. People were a little more dressy at dinner than I expected, but still business casual would be fine. On this "family friendly" cruise, there were 5 other children besides my daughter. 12 year old triplets, a 14 year old and his 16 year old brother. There was a staff member that was dedicated to the children. He would take them on special outings and even played card games with them in the lounge. Very sweet, Pierre. There was a cabin that was converted into a game room with a Wi player. The kids all had a good time. I think 12 and up is a good age for this kind of cruise. Every morning there was a tour into the town or village after breakfast. No sleeping in, unless you were willing to skip the tour. Most afternoons were free to take an optional tour or just relax on the boat or explore on your own. The tour guides were all very good and the Vox system to hear them was great. I had to buy insect repellent during the first tour in Arles and Pierre was in our tour group and he came in to the pharmacy with me and helped me with the purchase. There always seemed to be a staff member along on each tour group which was nice. The lounge was a nice place to hang out in. Piano, well, keyboard player in evenings. Nice place to read in afternoons. Kids played monopoly and cards there, too. At 4 o'clock, they would set up tea and little sandwiches and such in the lounge. Just outside the lounge was posted the day's menus and a little table with apples and candies all day. Front desk staff was always very helpful and could mail postcards, make change, etc. Postcards available for sale and the gift shop downstairs was wonderful, although only open limited hours. The top deck (sun deck) had nice loungers, tables and chairs, shade canopies, a jacuzzi and a waiter would come around at times for drink orders. All in all, a very impressive, wonderful, excellent cruise! Can't wait to go on the next one! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2012
At the risk of re-stating what the prior two reviewers stated, this cruise was a "5+ star" in all major categories. The staff were extremely friendly, courteous and always there to help. Our cruise director Gabrielle was totally ... Read More
At the risk of re-stating what the prior two reviewers stated, this cruise was a "5+ star" in all major categories. The staff were extremely friendly, courteous and always there to help. Our cruise director Gabrielle was totally awesome and ought to be on stage (in fact I heard at the end of our cruise that this is exactly what she will be doing)! Our room steward, Csaba, was equally wonderful and took great care of us, often with a lot of patience. The food was "5 Star" at every meal, and the dinners were always delicious and well-presented. They offered a nice selection, especially at the daily lunch buffet. We were certainly pleased with the luxury and comfort of our cabin, as well as the lounge and dining room. The top deck was a bit sparse, but no loss as we seldom had the opportunity to use it, as we seemed to be exploring the local towns and villages at each stop along the way. We would recommend this cruise to anyone except those wishing to travel with teenage children or younger--they'd be totally bored. Uniworld is a wee bit more pricey than some other popular lines, but several of our travelling companions commented on "you really get what you pay for" and that Uniworld was worth the extra cost. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2010
July 11-18, 2010, Arles to Chalon sur Saone After 56 ocean cruises, my wife and I decided to try a river cruise. We chose Burgundy and Provence because we especially like red wine, and the only white wine my wife likes has bubbles in it! ... Read More
July 11-18, 2010, Arles to Chalon sur Saone After 56 ocean cruises, my wife and I decided to try a river cruise. We chose Burgundy and Provence because we especially like red wine, and the only white wine my wife likes has bubbles in it! We are wine fans, but were not as familiar with the regions of France, so this itinerary was just right....through the heart of some of the best red wine regions in France. We flew to Marsailles and were met outside customs by the Uniworld representative a little after 10am, and advised that the bus transfer to the ship would be at 11am. We relaxed in the terminal enjoying coffee and french bread and at 11 went looking for the Uniworld bus. Unable to find it, we checked with the Information booth and she advised they left at 10:40. They called Uniworld and the representative arrived and told us they were waiting for a flight due about noon. We finally boarded the bus about 12:40 and arrived at the ship in Arles a bit after 2pm. The embarkation processing was very prompt and we were in a cabin quickly. The luggage arrived a few minutes later. The ship, new in 2006, has a crew of 34, and a capacity of 134. On this sailing there were 125 passengers. The crew are multi-tasked on embarkation and debarkation day, loading and delivering. The ship has one elevator, so it could accommodate a wheelchair, but it would not be able to go up to the sun deck. The sun deck has hot tub aft, and many chairs, tables, and chaise lounges. There are two large awnings, but they must be lowered to pass under some bridges. There are 3 passenger decks, the bottom with portholes, the middle deck with windows, and the top deck has French balconies for each cabin, with a glass door that opens and you can actually step out about 2 feet to a railing. That is what we had booked. Considering they urged us to travel with one piece of luggage and a carryon, the storage was adequate. The bathroom was adequate with a glass enclosed shower. There was a 110 volt razor outlet in the bathroom, and a 110 volt outlet on the dressing table in the cabin. A hair dryer was provided. Bottled water was complimentary. The middle deck is where the dining room is located. Dining is buffet style for breakfast and lunch, and open seating for diner, with tables for 2, 4, 6, and 8. Breakfast included French pastry, omelets to order, a rotating daily choice of fruit filled crepes, or pancakes or French toast. Dairy products and fresh fruit were available. Lunch had salads, hot entrees, small pre-made sandwiches, pasta, and a carving station. Soup was available to order from the waiters. If you sit in the same area each time, you will have the same wait staff. At dinner they offered a 5 course menu with a choice of 2 entrees. My wife, who prefers fish, was happy to be offered halibut, grouper, John Dory, dorado, pike, salmon, and trout. Meat entrees included pork loin, strip steak, lamb shank, veal filet mignon, chicken, beef tournedos, and rabbit. Steak, chicken and salmon were always available as options. This was an Epicurean Adventurer theme, and local recipes, food and wine were featured. Wine at dinner is complimentary, and ranged from Cote du Rhone (Syrah), to merlot, pinot noir from Burgundy, as well as several white wines from the regions. There is also a wine list available with wines for purchase. Dinner was generally at 7pm. I was impressed that at dinner the servings were not oversized. Sometimes on ocean cruises, if I eat the full 5 course meal, I'm stuffed! The portions served in the river cruise were modest and I didn't feel I had overeaten at any time. They also could accommodate special requests at dinner. Entertainment was limited to a pianist and small dance floor in the lounge on the top deck, where a bar is open all day, and continental breakfast and light lunch and tea are available during the day. On two evenings after dinner, a local pianist and vocalist played, and one afternoon a demonstration of silk painting was available. But with a city every day, walking excursions, and fine dining, not much more was needed. There was a flat screen television in the cabin with CNN, BBC, Sky News, and some movies. There is also a fitness room with 2 machines, a massage area, and a sauna, located aft on the top deck, just below the hot tub. Just outside the dining room on the middle deck is a boutique open a few hours a day, and a lounge with 2 computer stations, but no printer. Internet was available for 15 Euros for unlimited time during the week, and the satellite was generally available. In the lounge is a machine that makes instant beverages, including expresso, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. It is available 24 hours a day. There are also 6 bicycles available at no charge that can be used or reserved. They are beach cruiser style but have hand brakes and gears. We did use them in Lyon, the largest city visited during the cruise, to get around in the afternoon. Because the ship docks right in the towns, my wife was able to get up early and walk 5 miles each morning feeling safe and getting an early look at the new towns. Each evening before dinner they have a short presentation about the next day's agenda, including what time the morning excursions would depart. Each day there was a free excursion, all but two walking through the town with a local English speaking guide and a AudioVox set with earphones so we could hear the guide without being right next to them. We would walk through the area, narrated by the guide, and generally there was some time to walk independently before returning with the group, or we could remain on our own. One of the free excursions was by bus where we rode through the Burgundy vineyard areas and visited Beaune, followed by time on our own in the Saturday market, and a ride back. There are four optional afternoon tours available, at reasonable cost, that included a visit to an olive farm, a visit to lavender fields, a visit to a Roman aqueduct and wine tasting in Chateauneuf de Pape, a visit to a working 17th century chateau followed by Burgundy wine tasting, The vessel accounts for passenger leaving and returning to the ship by issuing cards for each person in the cabin. You collect your cards at the purser's desk when you leave, and return them when you return. The mix of passengers ranged from a credentialed chef from a community college in Illinois with a group of students, a group of 20-30 year olds, a good number of 60 somethings from England and Australia, and the rest North Americans, and one German couple. On Monday in Arles we had an informative lecture about Van Gogh, who lived there for 2 years and painted "Starry Night" and others there, before the morning excursion visited a Roman amphitheater, where they still hold bull fights, and other local sites. In the afternoon we walked around the town again, and stopped at a supermarket to purchase wine to take back aboard. We had a day and a half in Arles. On Tuesday we were in Avignon, a walled city to where the popes in the 1300's had fled from Italy and built a place for the popes. It is open for touring and our morning walking tour went into the walled city and to the palace. There was a room where the wines of the area were available for tasting or purchase. The tour then visited an indoor market where every kind of local fruit, fish, meat and cheese was available. In the afternoon we went on the optional tour by bus to the Roman aqueduct and the wine tasting at a winery in Chateauneuf de Pape. Wednesday we were in Viviers and the morning walking tour into this medieval village ended with an organ recital in St Vincent Cathedral. Thursday the ship was berthed in Tain L'Hermitage. The morning tour walked to a local winery for a tour, explanation and wine tasting. We then continued across the river on a pedestrian bridge to Tournon for a guided walking tour. Some of the vineyards on the hillsides here, especially on the L'Hermitage side, were originally planted by the Romans. Friday we berthed in Lyon, the second largest city in France and a city known for its food. The morning tour was by bus to the basilica which is Lyon's hallmark church overlooking the city, and narrated drive through the city. After lunch we rode bicycles back into the town, where we spent several hours. The ship is required to pass through about 10 or more locks sailing up-river on the Rhone and Saone rivers, at least one of which raises the ship 75 feet. Saturday we arrived in Chalon sur Saone, and in the morning traveled by bus through the Burgundy countryside to Beaune. It is a historic, walled city that for centuries has been at the heart of France's wine trade. It was, and still is, an affluent city. The land the vineyards are on is very expensive, and the wines produced, some of the best in France, are auctioned here. We had a guided tour through th Hospices de Beaune, a hospital built to serve the indigent centuries ago, and was still operated until the 1970's. It is now set up as a museum. We were then free to spend an hour on our own in the Saturday market, where vendors offered samples of cheese, sausage, and other wares. We purchased wine for our coming visit to Paris there, including an outstanding local sparkling white wine, a cremant, and a pinot noir. In the afternoon we walked throughout Chalon sur Saone visiting shops, watching two wedding parties, and sampling some wine. There is no need to put luggage out the last night. On Sunday, breakfast was available early for those with early departures. They arranged taxi for us and two other couples that were taking a train, and moved our luggage to the pier for the taxi at 7:45am. The taxi was only 12 euros for 3 couples and all out luggage. I had purchased tickets online from Rail Europe in advance for a train from Chalon to Dijon, and a high speed train with reserved seats from Dijon to Paris Lyon station for $69 per person. There was a long queue for taxis at the Paris Lyon station, but we were at our hotel by 2 pm. I had selected a hotel on the Left Bank in the Latin Quarter, just blocks from Notre Dame Cathedral, a brand new Holiday Inn with ultra modern room and bathroom treatments, and a refrigerator in the room. It was a block from Rue St Michele and literally dozens of bistros and a french bakery was half a block away. Also nearby was a bank, the BNP Paribas, with ATM's that Bank of America had advised me in advance would charge no ATM fee for using BofA debit cards to get Euros. I used this bank any time in France I needed Euros, and there were branches all over. With just 2 days in Paris we elected to purchase a 2 day hop-on/hop-off bus ticket for 32 Euros per person. There are 4 routes, and we chose the Paris Grand Tour route on Sunday, which included Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Eiffel Tower, and much more. With the Louvre alone needing most of a day, we left entry for another trip. The other routes we rode on Monday included the Montemarte Grand Boulevards, with a view of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the Moulon Rouge, and fashionable shopping districts. Next was the Blue route which included the site of the Bastille Monument, and Bercy, including the national library, the sports stadium, city hall, and the train station we had arrived at. Last was the Orange, Montparnasse - St-Germain route which included the Latin Quarter, Luxembourg Gardens, the Pantheon, and more. We ate the first evening in a bistro. Most offer a 3 course fixed price menu for about 14.50 euros per person. The second evening , we chose a small very nice restaurant overlooking the Seine and Notre Dame and paid a bit more, which with a bottle of Rhone wine ran about the same as a nice restaurant in the US. After dinner, we walked across the Seine, past Notre Dame to a bridge where we could see the Eiffel tower lit at night, and saw the hourly light show at midnight. We had arranged a private shuttle through the hotel from the hotel to the airport, about 20 miles away, about 40 minutes in traffic, and 60 euros. We look back on this trip as truly memorable. We loved the personal attention on the small ship, berthing in town, walking through the small towns sampling wines and visiting markets, and everything about Paris. And I learned much more about French wines and wine production requirements there. We'll do it again, perhaps Paris and Normandy next. Read Less

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