What a great trip and the itinerary was perfect. We opted for the additional excursion to Cascais and Sintra which turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. The walking tour of Lisbon was special - such a beautiful city and ... Read More
What a great trip and the itinerary was perfect. We opted for the additional excursion to Cascais and Sintra which turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. The walking tour of Lisbon was special - such a beautiful city and learning about the history was memorable, thanks to the local guide. The cruise on the Douro was wonderful and the excursions to the Sandeman winery and to Favaios were special. The scenery along the Douro was reminiscent of the Mosel River - you know you're in wine country. We enjoyed the excursions to Lamego and the the Mateus Palace. Salamanca and Santiago de Campostella are not to be missed, they added so much to the travel experience we enjoyed.
We owe a special thanks to Bruno, our Viking rep. in Lisbon for his help and guidance for the first two days. All in all, the local guides were great for each of the excursions. Read Less
Never been to Europe. Took two cruises One from Budapest to Amsterdam then went to Paris for Paris out to Normandy and back to Paris. Each ship had great crews, the excursions were wonderful, food and service just spectacular. It was ... Read More
Never been to Europe. Took two cruises One from Budapest to Amsterdam then went to Paris for Paris out to Normandy and back to Paris. Each ship had great crews, the excursions were wonderful, food and service just spectacular. It was a trip of a lifetime. I was espescially impressed with Nuremburg WWII for the Budapest to Amsterdam trip. Then for the Paris trip, Normandy and the beaches (Omaha especially) were inspirational. The US cemetary will be in my memory forever. Then the other places for the excursions such as Monets home and the village. Then Paris and the sights seen both before and after the cruise were spectacular. Napoleons home, the versailles and so many other things all packed into just a short time. I feel like it could not have been better.
On the Budapesat to Amsterdam cruise, there were so many great sights and excufrsions. The Sound of Music day was wonderful as was he time spent in Vienna, Austria. So many of the areas are in my memory, but I have trouble remembering how to spell the area properly. On each ship the program director, Caitlyn O'Dowd(the Mirmar) and the Rolf Lionel were both great at the job they did. Read Less
This was the inaugural cruise for the American Cruise Lines ship, American Constilattion. As with the previousv14 cruises, the ship, personnel, and the onshore sites, were outstanding. The sites included Colonial Williamsburg, Crisfield ... Read More
This was the inaugural cruise for the American Cruise Lines ship, American Constilattion. As with the previousv14 cruises, the ship, personnel, and the onshore sites, were outstanding. The sites included Colonial Williamsburg, Crisfield Maryland (Bluecrab capital), and included the naval academy at Annapolis. The dining staff was very friendly and accommodating when requests for a change in meals. We later decided to extend our cruise with an additional week, and while not originally booked, the American Cruise Lines was able to extend our cruise.
We originally met, married on American Cruise Lines ship American Independence. We were traveling as separate individuals, but stated, through the help of the personnel, we were married as the first couple to be married on an American Cruise Lines ship.
We always consider American Cruise Lines as our cruise line.
We have taken cruise in Maine, Alaska, the Mississippi, and costal southeast.
While pricey in regards to the BIG ships, the difference is worth the cost.
SMALL BOAT CRUISING DONE RIGHT. Read Less
Traveled in style on this brand new ship in American Cruise Lines inventory, great tour of the Chesapeake Bay. This was my eleventh cruise with ACL, and it was fantastic!!!!!! The crew was well trained, and ready to assist in any way ... Read More
Traveled in style on this brand new ship in American Cruise Lines inventory, great tour of the Chesapeake Bay. This was my eleventh cruise with ACL, and it was fantastic!!!!!! The crew was well trained, and ready to assist in any way possible. Shore tours were well planned and very organized, which is a hallmark of American Cruise Lines. The Captain kept us up to date on landmarks and points of interest along the way. On board area specialist extremely knowledgeable about the history of the Bay, its geological background, and how evolution has made it as it is today, still a great source of seafood, crabbing specially.
The cruise was well worth the money!!!! Well done, once again, American Cruise Lines. I will be back for two more cruises this year, Columbia and Snake rivers and Alaska, and am planning already for 2018, so you have a customer for "life"!!!!!! Read Less
Paris is always a great destination. Just walking around the city is a great pleasure. Lunch in a little brasserie near Notre Dame added to that pleasure. And, a visit to Notre Dame is good anytime - a place of peace.
We had never been ... Read More
Paris is always a great destination. Just walking around the city is a great pleasure. Lunch in a little brasserie near Notre Dame added to that pleasure. And, a visit to Notre Dame is good anytime - a place of peace.
We had never been to see Monet's gardens. This was a reason for the trip. The gardens more than lived up to expectations even though we were too early for the lilies to be in bloom. Our guide was wonderful, very knowledgeable. We took lots of photos, and had to buy a guide to the gardens to figure out all the variety of flowers. (The gift shop was an excellent shopping stop.)
Omaha Beach and the American cemetery were very moving places. Rouen and the smaller towns along the way were most pleasant. And then, there was the simple pleasure of cruising on the Seine River.
As always on Viking, the food was excellent, the service friendly and unparalleled, and the cabins most comfortable at the end of a hard day of tourism. We always like that we unpack once and the hotel goes with us on the journey. Read Less
One of my friends and I have been talking about taking a river cruise for years. Let's face it - those Viking commercials are very inviting. Now that my three kids are grown, in the spring of 2016 we decided now was the time to start ... Read More
One of my friends and I have been talking about taking a river cruise for years. Let's face it - those Viking commercials are very inviting. Now that my three kids are grown, in the spring of 2016 we decided now was the time to start planning. I first sent for brochures from several river cruise companies to compare intineraries etc. My friend and I have both travelled to Europe previously and wanted to go someplace new so we chose to take a Danube river cruise. I then met with a local travel agent who specificalizes in river cruises. She steered me away from Viking and helped me narrow our choices to AMA or Avalon. When she quoted out the price it was much higher than we had anticipated so we chose to watch and wait. By the fall of 2016 Avalon came out with a great sale - $1000 off per person + free air. That seemed too good to be true. I called the travel agent and we were booked within a few days! We ended up choosing this itinerary since it was short and we did not know if we would like river cruising. About a week after we booked my 27 year old daughter decided she wanted to go with us. She was able to get the single supplement waived and she booked as well. She could not get the single supplement waiver and free air but she was able to book on the same flights we were on so we could fly together.
We all absolutely loved this cruise!! Everything about it was wonderful. It was a nice mix of small towns and big cities. We added a few days to the end of cruise and took the train to Budapest. We wished we had chosen a longer intinerary that included Budapest so we could stay on the ship.
The ship: Our ship was the Avalon Passion. This was a new ship in 2016 and it was beautiful. Everything was sparkling clean and very tastefully decorated. The ship was actually much longer than I had anticipated. The rooms were spacious and that wall of windows was in the room was just awesome. We loved waking up in the morning and looking out at the river going by. The lounges, sky deck and dining room were equally beautiful.
The age of passengers: Our sailing had a mix of American, Canadian, British, Australians, New Zealanders, one mom/daughter from India and two young ladies from Korea. I had expected mostly retirement age passangers but that was not the case at all. There was a real mix of 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s on up. I am in my early 50s and I felt like one of the older people on the cruise. There were quite a few mother/daughter pairs and several groups of younger women traveling together. We had a wonderful time chatting with everyone and hearing about everyone's travel experiences.
Crew: I cannot say enough about how attentive and friendly the crew was. They went above and beyond on a daily basis. Our cruise director was Andrej (sp?). He was awesome. He was a kind person with a quirky sense of humor. His nightly port talks were always informative and entertaining at the same time. We added three days at the end of cruise and travelled on our own to Budapest. He gave us a Budapest map and recommended some sights and restaturants for us to see during our time there. So nice of him! Our server at dinner was Liza from the Phillipines. We sat in her section most meals since she was so nice and friendly. She got to know what we liked and we looked forward to seeing her at every meal. Valentin was the person who cleaned our room daily. He always had a smile on his face and left us a wonderful towel animal on our last day.
Food: My friend and my daughter are both vegetarians and I am a "meat and potatoes" kind of person so it is not easy to find meals we all like. Avalon started their Avalon Fresh menu offerings in 2017 offereing enhanced menu options for vegetarians which sounded like a good fit for our group. Each one of us ended up loving the food!! It was so nice to have a floating restaurant with awesome food each day instead of searching around for a restaurant in each city. Breakfast and lunch were buffet with loads of choices. We loved the Belgian waffles and made to order omelets at breakfast. We loved all the desserts too. Dinner had several choices and none of us had any problem finding something we liked. We tried different wines each night and Liza just kept filling our glasses. In addition to the meals every day about 4pm was cake time with several different cakes to try. And...on the third floor was a lounge with cookies and cakes all day long. I have to admit - we visited the "cookie room" on more than one night about 11pm.
Entertainment: We came on this cruise to sightsee at the various cities and were not expecing much in the way of entertainment. We did end up taking part in some of the nightly entertainment and it was really nice. Every night there was a piano player playing which was nice if you wanted to grab a drink or dance a little. One night there was a wine tasting demonstration which was perfect since we were sailing through the Wachau Valley past numerous vineyards. One night we had a singer/guitar player who played a mix of country and oldies. He was quite good and the dance floor was full for most of the night. The Australians were a bit rowdier than the rest of us and frankly made it so much more fun.
I cannot think of anything I would change from this cruise. I can't wait to take another Avalon cruise. I am hooked! Read Less
We just came back from our great cruise down the Danube River starting in Budapest and ending in Prague. Absolutely a wonderful time. Ibbi is the cruise director and so nice, patient and knowledgeable. The captain has quite a sense of ... Read More
We just came back from our great cruise down the Danube River starting in Budapest and ending in Prague. Absolutely a wonderful time. Ibbi is the cruise director and so nice, patient and knowledgeable. The captain has quite a sense of humor, the bar staff is great and Hristina cleaned our room and we felt at home. The rooms are quite small. Be sure to bring a converter. There is one 115 volt and one 220 European plug. We bought a converter and were able to charge our tablets and phones with the converter. The food is wonderful and very high quality. The wines and drinks are all top notch. Igor gave a wine talk every night about the wines which came from the region we toured. The beds were comfortable. The bathroom is also very small but adequate. Loved the coffee machines at each end of our floor for cafe latte every morning. There is also a washing machine that is available to use for free along with soap and an ironing board and iron to use. i also had a massage which was superb.
Now, a few little things. The wifi was very spotty and sometimes frustrating to use. We were out in the country and it must not be available in those areas. The only tour that I thought was poor was the "Panoramic Passau" tour. We just went to each side of the valley and looked down at the town. There was a castle that would have been interesting to tour.
The Budapest tour was great as were most of the others. The BMW plant was so interesting. There are options with most tours for "gentle walking" for older people that couldn't walk much. There was usually a van that took you closer and you didn't have to walk much. People on the cruise were mostly American, but also some Canadians, Australians, South African and someone from New Zealand. People were very friendly and everyone just joined others for dinner, lunch, etc.
All in all, I would highly recommend this cruise company. Others were saying that some cruise companies are cheaper to start with but Uniworld is all inclusive. No extra charge for drinks, wines, tours, etc. I think there were 2 extra "Bespoke" tours which if you chose to take cost extra. One was a musical concert and one was to a concentration camp.
The staff was superb and loved working for Uniworld. They said they are paid well and every 2 months get travel money and 2 weeks off to go home.
We ended in Prague and stayed at the Imperial Hotel. It is an art deco hotel in a good location. However, I thought the beds were uncomfortable. Breakfast was provided. We had a tour of Prague and were done about 12:30 pm. The tour of Prague was really about 3-4 hours of walking and seeing the sights. We should have planned ahead for a tour on our own or made dinner reservations ahead of time. You do need to have Czech crowns for money in Prague. In Budapest Euros are usually accepted. Have some coins where ever you go to use the toilet. This isn't free in Europe unless you eat a restaurant. My last tip is to book through Costco. We got a $1140 Costco giftcard and $100 ship board credit as part of the deal. Read Less
We looked at dozens of cruises but liked what we saw from Scenic. We travelled to Amsterdam with Eurostar, so easy and seamless. We were warmly welcomed on arrival on the Ruby and so it continued for the whole week. The ship is ... Read More
We looked at dozens of cruises but liked what we saw from Scenic. We travelled to Amsterdam with Eurostar, so easy and seamless. We were warmly welcomed on arrival on the Ruby and so it continued for the whole week. The ship is wonderful, the cabins smart and spotlessly clean with everything you could possibly need. We loved the verandah which gave us a quiet space to sit if we wanted to. The butler service is a great addition and he was marvellous. The food was delicious, plenty of choice at every mealtime. The Gala Dinner and our dinner in Portobello's were memorable. The tours were excellent and the Guides were extremely knowledgeable. I don't think I can honestly say there was anything that could be improved. Well done Scenic. We've booked for Bordeaux river cruise next year, can't wait for 2018, we hope it comes round really quickly for us. Read Less
We did a Rhine River Cruise on the AMACerto in May of 2016 and loved it. We booked this longer cruise soon after. The 2016 cruise was all on the Rhine and only 7 days. This one was on the Rhine, Maine and Danube, 14 days. We requested that ... Read More
We did a Rhine River Cruise on the AMACerto in May of 2016 and loved it. We booked this longer cruise soon after. The 2016 cruise was all on the Rhine and only 7 days. This one was on the Rhine, Maine and Danube, 14 days. We requested that the same Cruise Manager be assigned to our cruise and she was!
AMA crews are the best. Everyone without exception is dedicated to making sure you have the best possible time. Cruise Manager Martina Valachova makes everything always the best. As she admits, she always says that, but, "This time I really mean it!" Captain Vlad, Hotel Manager Daniel, Purser Cristine, Reception host Adam, Matre'd Alin, and all the servers and operational crew always went out of their way to meet every need.
We had the same suite that we had in 2016, but there were some upgrades: free laundry (only in the suites, but fees for others are very reasonable), personal butler (again only for suites). People in the other cabins were uniformly pleased with their accommodations, too.
As usual, way too much great food and beer and wine included at lunch and dinner. One seating and open seating, so you can find a private place or sit with 8 or 10 other passengers. And vary it as you feel like it at the time. Maximum of 164 passengers and we only had 133. So it is never crowded.
We didn't do all of the entertainment, but the several we did attend were terrific. The entertainers all come from the area we are in at the time. They hop on and off at the nearest locks or piers if in town.
The shore excursions are mostly included, but their are several optional ones that you can sign up for for an extra fee if you want to. The included ones are all led by local guides who are pros at it!
If you have never taken a river cruise or never on an AMA ship, do it at the next opportunity. Only one thing, these are not oriented toward families. There is very little for young kids to do. But for adults who want to see and learn about some part of the world, a river cruise can't be beat. Read Less
I had heard from family and friends that Portugal was a great country to tour: beautiful, safe, tons of history, warm, and Mediterranean. Also, the American dollar has strong purchasing power. We had loved a previous self-toured trip of ... Read More
I had heard from family and friends that Portugal was a great country to tour: beautiful, safe, tons of history, warm, and Mediterranean. Also, the American dollar has strong purchasing power. We had loved a previous self-toured trip of Spain, but missed seeing the Northwest corner, including Santiago de Compostela. We went in early May, so Portugal was warm but not stifling, and outside of forest-fire season. This trip allowed us to add on a couple of days in Lisbon (beautiful city) and to also see medieval Sintra through a Viking one-day special on the front end, and then add to our 8-day trip on the back end with a trip into NW Spain for Santiago de Compostela, famous medieval site for pilgrimages to see St. James' holy relics. Portugal is not large, so we had plenty of time on our coach from Lisbon to Porto for a lovely stop and tour (included in the price) at Coimbre, site of a medieval university and town where J.K. Rowling lived and was influenced for her imaginary Hogwarts Wizarding School. Lunch included live, haunting fado performance. The Douro River is short, so you spend more time in ports touring (or shopping). Viking arranged several interesting presentations on board--history, Port wine, olive oil, a cork merchant (great gifts in jewelry, hats and bags), two entertaining musical groups (Don't miss the male college performers)--in addition to exciting architectural tours and wine tastings on land. We enjoyed our fellow travelers--many from Britain, as well as U.S. Our coach Portuguese tour guide, George, was very knowledgeable and interesting. We recommend it! Read Less
I chose this cruise and ship because I was impressed by the indoor pool / cinema feature and I liked the itinerary which took me to 5 countries I might not have otherwise visited....Hungary, Croatia, Serbia , Bulgaria and Romania. It was ... Read More
I chose this cruise and ship because I was impressed by the indoor pool / cinema feature and I liked the itinerary which took me to 5 countries I might not have otherwise visited....Hungary, Croatia, Serbia , Bulgaria and Romania. It was very informative and the ship, staff, food and facilities onboard were excellent. The gym and pool I used a lot and the talk/ slide show by the cruise director was very good. All local guides were very well informed and I enjoyed all the meals onboard. Having bikes available to use was a bonus. We had lovely weather which helped. A GPS tracking system showing where the ship was at any tome would be a very good addition, however we were given complimentary guide books and river maps which was a nice touch. I would definitely recommend this cruise to friends who wanted to visit eastern Europe on a travelling hotel! Read Less
AMAWaterways provided the perfect experience for us and our friends to enjoy a vacation in Europe together! We were 4 couples from all over the US. We wanted time to visit and party together but also have time to persue our own ... Read More
AMAWaterways provided the perfect experience for us and our friends to enjoy a vacation in Europe together! We were 4 couples from all over the US. We wanted time to visit and party together but also have time to persue our own interests. Personally, this was our third AMAWaterways River Cruise in two years. We have enjoyed the Seine and the Mosel, Rhine and Main previously. The "floating hotel"/ship was fantastic. Our room was comfortable and spotless. The food was award-winning and always delicious. We seemed to eat continuously. The crew was superb, friendly and culturally diverse. The excursions were delightful! They thought of everything, thank goodness!! The local guides were top notch. Entertainment on board included an in-house musician who played the piano beautifully. Local entertainers were quality vocalists, musicians, and folk dancers. Fun, fun, fun!! The only problem any of us could think of was it was just 7 days long. Read Less
We just finished our first river cruise on Viking Kvasir from Amsterdam to Bazel. We were in Europe for a month (Amsterdam for three days, Paris for a week, and London for 9 days) and this was the highlight of the trip. 186 passengers ... Read More
We just finished our first river cruise on Viking Kvasir from Amsterdam to Bazel. We were in Europe for a month (Amsterdam for three days, Paris for a week, and London for 9 days) and this was the highlight of the trip. 186 passengers and 53 crew. Food, Service and Crew were fantastic. We liked the single dining seating. The chef enjoyed his food as much as we did. He was about 6' 4" and weighed about 300+. The resident piano/sax player was very good. We have done 18 ocean cruises so sailing on a small "boat" was very different. We liked the daily excurions, both included and extra, and how well planned they were. On a smaller venue you get to meet just about everyone. Friends have sailed Avalon and Circle but I believe Viking is the best. May spend a little more, but WELL worth it. We are looking forward to next river cruise. Read Less
We wanted to try River Cruising but didn't want to spend the luxury prices so we chose Gate1. We would use them agAin. The food ranged from good to excellent. The staff was extremely friendly and accommodating. The ship was well ... Read More
We wanted to try River Cruising but didn't want to spend the luxury prices so we chose Gate1. We would use them agAin. The food ranged from good to excellent. The staff was extremely friendly and accommodating. The ship was well maintained and very clean. With only about 100 passengers it was a more intimate environment and all the other passengers were nice. The included tours were an overview of the area but there was plenty of time for exploring. All the tours and guides were well organized and interesting. The internet has capAcity issues so don't think you'll be able to depend on it during high use times. The cabins are small and laundry is expensive. The cabins are comfortable and clean. The dress for dinner is business casual with a slightly dressier dinner one night. The lectures were not that helpful but the excellent local guides made up for it. Overall. We would recommend it for a relaxing educational vacation with no hassles. Read Less
Loved our initial Viking cruise. Chose this one from personal recommendation of others who took it previously. The length of time was great, just enough for a first time on a longship. Had wonderful experiences meeting others, making ... Read More
Loved our initial Viking cruise. Chose this one from personal recommendation of others who took it previously. The length of time was great, just enough for a first time on a longship. Had wonderful experiences meeting others, making new friends. Accommodations were top-notch; service was impeccable. The included excursions were thorough, safe, and enjoyable, even though our weather was a bit brisk for April! We loved coming back to the ship where refreshments and comfort awaited us. The optional excursions we took were well worth the money - we enjoyed the extra experiences and were made to feel comfortable during all the trips ashore. The ship was clean, kept at a good temperature; the housekeeping services were excellent. Servers at all levels were polite, courteous, helpful, always with smiling faces. We loved the itinerary that took us into Budapest at night - breathtaking! We hope to take another Viking cruise again, taking along some friends to enjoy the experience! Read Less
So wonderful to unpack once and ride the Rhine for 7 days. The staff were all very nice, helpful. The food for all three meals was excellent by their chef. Our table waiter was Deyan and he is the best, very jolly! Mimi cleaned our room ... Read More
So wonderful to unpack once and ride the Rhine for 7 days. The staff were all very nice, helpful. The food for all three meals was excellent by their chef. Our table waiter was Deyan and he is the best, very jolly! Mimi cleaned our room daily and we loved her; she is so sweet! Other staff who did a wonderful job were Kata(tour guide wunderbar!), Guido(cruise manager), Alex(reception), Eliza(reception), Captain Rudi, Eduardo, and Marianna. Checkin was good and they offered us snacks and champagne. Each lunch and dinner was free wine and beer from the local towns we stopped in. We went from Amsterdam to Germany, France, back to Germany, then extended our stay 4 nights in Lucerne and Zurich Switzerland. Each city stop there were usually 3 optional tours included in cost. Tours were for slow, medium and fast walkers. Modern buses met us at docking to take us on tours. Every afternoon 3-4 was afternoon snacks and drinks. Ordering drinks outside of lunch and dinner at the lounge bar were reasonable like 6-7 Euros average. There is open seating(7-9am breakfast; lunch time varies; dinner usually 7-9pm but can vary). Late breakfast for those who sleep in.
A very nice touch when we got to airport in Zurich on our last day, one of our local Swiss tour guides we had the day before (Marc) met us there and helped with bags and routing to our gate! A river cruise is much better than an ocean cruise; we are hooked. Our anniversary so they gave us a small cake and sang to us.
Our favorite cities? Riquewihr France(beautiful medieval buildings) and Lucerne Zwitzerland. Read Less
This was our second AmaWaterways cruise and our third river cruise. We have done over 25 ocean cruises. River cruising has become our preference. The small number of people, the exceptional service and outstanding food are all very ... Read More
This was our second AmaWaterways cruise and our third river cruise. We have done over 25 ocean cruises. River cruising has become our preference. The small number of people, the exceptional service and outstanding food are all very attractive features vs. an ocean cruise.Our travel agent contacted us just before Christmas with a very attractive offer on this cruise, and we took it. It was over Easter week, which seems to be a slow period. The ship was not completely full and some of the guests were travel agents and others not paying full or any fare, I believe. Nevertheless it was a great group.
Our Cruise Manager was Victor, who although seemingly a bit gruff at first, got to know everyone by name and gave very personal service to each individual. The crew were fabulous and uniformly friendly. One of our favourites was Anton, a waiter in the area where we normally sat in the Dining Room.
The excursions included in the fare were all fantastic and we especially enjoyed Honfleur, Monet's Gardens at Giveryney, and the World War 2 beaches and cemeteries in Normandy. Canadians and British (there were no British on this cruise) got their own separate tour to our own WW2 beaches and the Americans went to theirs.
The ship, although built in 2009, was in terrific condition, and looked like it had been refurbished in its winter layover. It is shorter than the newer vessels, and so carries a few less people. But I liked the dining room layout better than the AmaSonata we had been on previously. It has quite a few tables for two, which we greatly prefer. An exception is the Chef's Table alternate restaurant at the stern, where everyone is entitled to one meal during the cruise. It seats 24 people, but they are all at tables for six. We did not enjoy this especially, being seated with people with whom we had little in common. I did not enjoy the food here either and would probably skip it next time.
Embarkation and especially disembarkationn was flawless. We bought an Ama transfer to the airport at the end of the cruise and it was great- including being met by someone at the airport to guide us through checkin. This kind of personal attention, including Victor coming our to our luxurious van to say goodbye, is long remembered and is such a contrast to ocean cruises where they typically can't wait to get rid of you at the end of the cruise, and where you are on your own once you step off the ship.
We will definitely sail on Ama again. Read Less
We chose this cruise because it represented a luxurious value for money experience. It met and exceeded all our expectations, with excellent service, itinerary, food and company. The Cruise Director, Frank was excellent - entertaining and ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it represented a luxurious value for money experience. It met and exceeded all our expectations, with excellent service, itinerary, food and company. The Cruise Director, Frank was excellent - entertaining and knowledgeable. The ship was comfortable and clean with a pleasing variety of venues to sit & relax. Our room was very comfortable and excellently serviced & equipped. The daily tours & visits to various towns were well combined with guided tours and free time. A particular highlight of the cruise was the day of sailing through the Rhine Gorge. The use of the Tailor Made device was fantastic during this time, with a good amount of information on each of the sights and excellent reminders that we were approaching them. Another highlight was the trip to Salzburg and the Sound of Music show with the beautiful fresh snow thrown in! One tiny drawback was the rather tacky ending to the show, a let down after such excellent music for the rest of the day.
Thank you for a wonderful experience! Read Less
For a trip of a lifetime it was far beyond anything we could have expected. The boat...amazing. No sway, very luxurious. The roooms were bigger than we thought they would be. And we had a room next to our friends so sitting out on our ... Read More
For a trip of a lifetime it was far beyond anything we could have expected. The boat...amazing. No sway, very luxurious. The roooms were bigger than we thought they would be. And we had a room next to our friends so sitting out on our veranda at nite was great. The food, WOW. I've eaten at alot of high end restaurants and the food on the ship was the best I've ever had, every night surprisingly it got better, even though I thought the food was the best I've ever tasted that nite. Thanks Chef Bobby. The staff was incredible. We mostly had Adrian and Krista look after us and they spoiled us rotten, we didn't want to leave the ship. the excursions were out of this world, I had black forest cake in the black forest WOOO! Just the history you experience makes you feel like your in a great dream that you don't want to end. We started out with four people in our group and by the end we had 17 people with us for dinner each nite. Great bunch of people. Gigi the lounge pianist was incredible. We interacted with him every nite and he took requests and even learned a song for someone in our group. We love you Gigi. He had as must fun as we did. We talked to just about everyone on the ship asking them where they were from and about their lives. Incredible bunch of people. I think they liked us too because one nite the Chef and the Captain came out and partied and danced with us in the lounge to the amazement of the servers haha. It was like one big happy bunch of friends, our gang and the crew.
We booked our flight through Viking so we had everything taken care of from the time we landed until the time we left. We didn't have to worry about anything they had it all under control. What a load off that is. We got the silver package which lets you choose spirits, wine and beer off a high end list of alcohols. They give you wine or beer with lunch and dinner but you get a separate upscale menu for drinks if you have the silver package. That made our trip as well, because it let you try some of the finer alcohol with the food you were eating, and Krista was very knowledgeable about pairings and would recommend us to try this or that with certain foods. It ups the quality of your meals 10 fold and you have the added bonus of not having to sing for anything. Once we said we had the silver package Krista said she would take care of what ever we needed. And she did. Ivan the bartender was also amazing. We wanted to have mamosas on our balcony while cruising the Rhine at night and Ivan put a bottle of champagne, a bottle of orange juice and 4 glasses for us and our friends and walked it to our room for us.
The excursions were so organized and timed our perfectly with one exception at one castle. there wasn't enough time to shop afterwards so it was really rushed. Everyone made them aware of that and all the future trips should have more time. All the other excursions were relaxed and their lollipop system for hearing the guide worked really well. The bus drivers were amazing drivers, and very professional.
Top notch from start to end. Even though it's an expensive trip both my wife and I felt like we got our moneys worth and more. My wife said I have to end before I write a book lol.
the best ship (Hlin)
the best food
the best crew
the best excursions
= the best trip ever
Thank you Viking Read Less
We had a not exactly great experience (Well, to be honest it was awful) on the Scenic Pearl in 2016 and had almost thought of cancelling this cruise. But the two ships and experiences were like Chalk & Cheese. Spirit is only one year ... Read More
We had a not exactly great experience (Well, to be honest it was awful) on the Scenic Pearl in 2016 and had almost thought of cancelling this cruise. But the two ships and experiences were like Chalk & Cheese. Spirit is only one year old and is immaculate. We had a Grand Deluxe Cabin (#303) which was superb ( A few niggles with the glass toilet door and the lack of long hanging space in an otherwise HUGE dressing room)
The staff - from the guides to the butler to the dining staff and cruise director (Paula) couldn't do enough for you. Indeed that was the major difference with the Scenic Pearl where you thought that they couldn't care less about you. The Spirit staff are excellent.
The food on board was equally good. We particularly like the 11 course tasting menu offered one evening.
The excursions were well thought out - offering a mix of top tourist locations and off-the-beaten-track locations. The markets were fantastic - The WET market I Sa Dec was truly amazing! The ox cart ride, tuk tuk ride to 'Tea at Raffles' were amongst other high spots. But, to be honest, they were all good.
We also did the pre cruise trip to Angkor Wat and the post cruise stay in Saigon. Both excellent and not to be missed. The Hyatt hotels used in both locations were to notch. If there was one #1 evening it was Show & Dinner at the Kraven Temple put on just for us! 300 dancers, soldiers etc. A truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
So THANKYOU SCENIC for restoring our faith in you.
BTW - V few English people on board. Almost everyone was Ozzie! But extremely friendly and they also helped to make the trip memorable Read Less
They met us at the airport, led us to the bus taking us to the port. We had not one minute to worry about anything. The ship was clean, the food was good, and the staff were wonderful. From the Captain, Hotel Director, Cruise Director ... Read More
They met us at the airport, led us to the bus taking us to the port. We had not one minute to worry about anything. The ship was clean, the food was good, and the staff were wonderful. From the Captain, Hotel Director, Cruise Director to the kitchen staff--they were wonderful.
They met every request with a smile. Our cabin was always and promptly cleaned. We enjoyed all the shore excursions. In fact, most days we did both morning and afternoon tours. The end of the tour, they got us to their staff at the airport, and the staff walked us wherever we needed to go and offered to stay with us through each step.
We came home happy and relaxed--like you should be after a vacation.
Would we go again? You bet. We are already looking at other Ama cruises and are excited to find many places we'd like to see. Read Less
This was my second cruise with Uniworld. We had such a great time we decided to try it again. We couldn't believe that it surpassed our expectations. The ship, crew, room, food, excursions, and entertainment were all top notch. I ... Read More
This was my second cruise with Uniworld. We had such a great time we decided to try it again. We couldn't believe that it surpassed our expectations. The ship, crew, room, food, excursions, and entertainment were all top notch. I was speaking to two couples who had been on a river cruise on every line. They said that by far this was the best. to quote them "we feel pampered". The concierge, Valerie, did a fabulous job. Every tour was well planned. They had strenuous activity and a gentle walkers group with everything in between. We had arrived in Lyon several days early to enjoy the city. I, however, got a big surprise. Everything in Lyon was in full bloom and I got an allergy attack. Valerie arranged for a doctor to come on board. The doctor gave me several prescriptions to have filled. Just as I was getting ready to go to have them filled I received a call from Ivana, the manager, and she told me that she would be happy to do it for me. Talk about great service. The food was delicious and had great variety. They had several excursions to pick from each day, and they also had varied entertainment each evening. Our cabin, 303, was lovely and kept spotlessly clean. Our waiter, Daniel, was super. All in all it was a great trip. We are planning another one for November. Read Less
My husband gave me this cruise as a Xmas gift. What a gift!!!!! We went on Danube cruise from 4/1 to 4-8. It was awesome, fantastic, outstanding cruise. Everything was perfect. The cities we visited were lovely, fellow passengers ... Read More
My husband gave me this cruise as a Xmas gift. What a gift!!!!! We went on Danube cruise from 4/1 to 4-8. It was awesome, fantastic, outstanding cruise. Everything was perfect. The cities we visited were lovely, fellow passengers were friendly, staff was outstanding, meals were delicious, guides on excursions were great, loved the daily excursions. The views from our stateroom were absolutely incredible. Staff were friendly and very professional. Communication was very good. Daily verbal briefings about excursions supplemented by daily newsletter. Viking knows how to do cruises right. Transportation to and from ship went very smoothly and we even were docked overnight from city of origin of cruise which is great in case your flight is delayed. I have been on ocean cruises previously which were great but I found the river cruise to e much more to my liking although I would have liked a gym and on board ship but no room for these. Read Less
We booked a pre-extension excursion in Lake Luzern prior to our Rhine River trip. The Palace Hotel was beautiful. We had a view of the Lake from our room. Transfers from Airport/Hotel/Ship were so easy! Please allow Viking staff to do ... Read More
We booked a pre-extension excursion in Lake Luzern prior to our Rhine River trip. The Palace Hotel was beautiful. We had a view of the Lake from our room. Transfers from Airport/Hotel/Ship were so easy! Please allow Viking staff to do this.....you will be well cared for.
Embarkation was easy and smooth. Cabin was well appointed with everything you need. I LOVE the heated bathroom floors...so nice! The housekeeping staff work SO hard and do a great job. All the ships' service staff are amazing....thank you Hemët!!!
Chef Peter cut herbs from the Decktop Roof Herb Garden for our meals everyday. Everything is so fresh and tasty. Wine selections were subperb. Special guest performers at night were unbelievable. Don't miss these lounge activities in the evening following dinner. They really add to the cruise experience.
All included excursions are above and beyond what you would expect. Beautiful Viking Buses transport you to locations of interest and there is plenty of time to view all the special sights. You never feel rushed. Local guides are so knowledgeable. If you get a chance, please take the Colmar WWII excursion with JOSEPH! He makes you feel like you were there. We had Dinner in Rudësheim at a wonderful restaurant with a great German Band. Food was excellent and the entertainment was so much fun.
While all the excursions are great, this is where Viking goes over and beyond.....our traveling friends' father was deeply involved in capturing the Bridge at Remagen during the war. We cruised by the remains of the bridge at 5:00am and the Mani Captain put a spotlight on the Bridge as we sailed by in the dark so we could "toast" to Benny and Bernie, the two Army soldiers who held the bridge for the 1st Army! How wonderful is that?
Program Director, George, makes traveling fun and easy. We don't know how he is able to watch over all the excursions, keep track of the buses and make sure we enjoy EVERY day onboard......but he does.
Our final day is always hectic for travelers, but not so with the staff. Transfers to the airport are so well organized and they make sure you get to where you need to be. I left my phone onboard Read Less
29/03/17 Fly from London Heathrow to Marseille then coached to Avignon to embark on “Viking Heimdal” for 7 night cruise to Lyon.
30/03/17 Moored in Tarascon and coached to Arles.
31/03/17 Return to Avignon.
... Read More
29/03/17 Fly from London Heathrow to Marseille then coached to Avignon to embark on “Viking Heimdal” for 7 night cruise to Lyon.
30/03/17 Moored in Tarascon and coached to Arles.
31/03/17 Return to Avignon.
02/04/17 Tournon and Vienne.
05/04/17 Disembark ship and fly from Lyon to London Heathrow.
The “Viking Heimdal” is one of Viking's new Longships and first entered service in 2014, so is quite new. She is 443 ft (135 metres) long, is designed to just fit in the Rhone's locks and has 4 decks (but only an elevator between decks 2 and 3). The Ship is a very comfortable base for 190 passengers in 85 cabins and has a crew of 51. Diesel-Electric Hybrid engines provide ample whisper quiet propulsion with extremely low emissions. Heimdal was the name of the guardian of the Norse Gods.
I would estimate that vast majority of passengers were either North American/Canadian and British, with a split of around 50/50. The age profile was very similar to most of our sea cruises, with a large percentage of senior citizens. Many of the North Americans were going on to Paris after the cruise, either by air or by train. It was a very amiable cruise and we didn't witness a single serious argument or notice any over indulgence of the included wine or beer.
The crew were mostly European with the majority of the housekeeping and dining room staff being from Eastern European countries. Having experienced many sea cruises, we have never had a better or more (professionally) friendly crew than on this ship. Nothing was too much trouble for them and they always had a smile on their faces.
The Hotel Manager, Englishman Chris Harrington, was very professional and had a very good sense of humour. He was able to transfer us from our cabin on deck 1 to a cabin on deck 3 when some passengers did not turn up. My wife Chris had a very painful left knee and negotiating the stairs between decks 1 and 2 several times a day would have been very difficult and painful for her. We had asked Veronika Etenyi of Guest Services if this would be possible and together with Chris Harrington they made the cabin on deck 3 available to us. We were very grateful to them both for this.
The Programme Director, Christine Couper was an excellent organiser and kept us well informed of the following day's programme at a pre-dinner talk in the lounge each evening. Although originally from England, Christine now lives in France. Like most of the crew she seemed to be busy from first thing in the morning to last thing at night.
There were two dining areas on the ship, the Main Dining Room on deck 2 aft and the Aquavit Terrace Buffet on deck 3 fore. We thought that the Main Dining Room was very elegant and had tables for 4 and 8 people. The Aquavit buffet had tables for 2 or 4 and had an inside section and an outside section. The UPVC sliding doors separating the 2 sections could be opened right up in warm weather. We ate all our dinners in the Main Dining Room but had some lunches in the Aquavit Buffet – it was very pleasant to sit and eat outdoors in the sun when possible.
Rather stupidly I had expected the standards of the meals on a river cruiser to be somewhat below that of the big sea going ships we had sailed on – how wrong could I have been? Greek Executive Chef Daniel Papadimus and his small staff (a sous chef, 8 chefs and two dishwashers) produced meals that would have graced the table of any top restaurant. We were given a conducted tour of the galley by Chef Daniel and were surprised how small it was – about 4 times the size of our kitchen at home. Gas cooking is not allowed on these ships so induction hobs are used instead. Some of them very powerful. There are only 2 ovens in the galley, but they are computer controlled and state of the art, each costing more than a BMW car!
The choice of dishes for each course was perhaps smaller than some of the bigger ships, but there was always a good choice. For guests who did not like anything from the main courses on the menu there were always alternatives that were available every day :- Caesar's Salad, Chicken, seared salmon fillet or prime rib eye steak.
The daily soup was unbelievably good and a lot of the passengers congratulated Chef Daniel on producing the best soups that they had ever tasted (and I wouldn't argue with them, they were superb). The dishes were all very well seasoned and it was rare to see people using the condiments on the tables. On the top sun deck, aft, there is a very healthy looking herb garden which ensures that only the freshest herbs are used in the galley.
Wines and beers were complimentary during lunch and dinner in both eating venues and were of a very acceptable quality and the waiters were very generous in their topping up. I like red wines and the complimentary red wines during the week were Argentinian Malbec, a French Shiraz and a French Bordeaux – I was not disappointed.
The Maitre D', Imre Kalmar, was first class and ensured that all guests enjoyed their meals to the full. He would put many of the big ship Maitre D's to shame, he was always available and happy to give advice when asked. It was very clear that he was well respected by his staff.
On the 3rd April, our penultimate day, we were treated to a 'Taste of Provence' lunch with typical Provence dishes, bouillabaisse, various breads and cheeses. It was absolutely delightful and was enjoyed by everyone, including the staff who dressed up in French costume. Just one small negative – it was on the same day as our lovely 'Farewell Dinner' – there is only so much food I can eat in one day!!!!
There was a well tuned grand piano in the ship's lounge and very talented pianist Daniele kept us entertained with a wide range of music. Together with Christine Couper he also did some musical quizzes on some evenings. On the second evening a local man playing a piano accordion played tunes for us and we saw him the next day playing outside the Palace de Papes. On another evening a group of four musicians/singers (a male pianist/singer, a female saxophonist/singer a male singer and a female singer) gave us a concert in the lounge. They were very good and were much appreciated by us passengers.
The ship is far too small to have any production shows like the big ships but, to be fair, we didn't find that we missed them. By the time we had showered and changed in the early evening, attended the 7:15pm briefing by Christine, eaten a very leisurely and enjoyable dinner, sat for a while in the lounge, we were ready to retire to our cabins, tired but very happy. Most excursions started at 9:00am, one at 8:30am, so we didn't have any late nights.
Virtually the whole of the top sun deck (deck 4) is available to passengers and has a good selection of seating and sunbeds, many under a shaded awning. At the rear of this deck there are 2 small putting practice greens and a floor shuffle-board game. Between them is the chef's herb garden where a good variety of herbs are growing, allowing the chefs to collect fresh herbs as necessary. There always seemed to be ample seating on this deck for passengers.
All equipment on the top sun deck including the seating, railings, awnings and parasols has to be collapsible in order to allow the ship to pass under certain very low bridges. Even the wheelhouse is lowered to the deck below, with a sunroof for the crew to be able to see to navigate. During these (very infrequent) times passengers are obviously excluded from this top deck.
The front of deck 3 has the Aquavit Terrace Buffet Restaurant with tables and chairs, half being outside at the very front of the ship and the remainder being under a glazed roof, so very airy. Between the two sections are UPVC sliding doors that can be fully opened up to allow fresh air into the whole area. Outside of mealtimes these areas are available to passengers to relax in or out of the sunshine and there are even some rocking chairs available. At the very front of this area is the ship's bell and this is surrounded by flowering plants and shrubs, making a it very pleasant area.
Behind the Aquavit Terrace is the ship's lounge which is very light and airy due to the large picture windows and light, modern décor. There is a well stocked bar here, with the bar wood built in a clinker fashion, like the original Viking longships. There is a variety of comfortable chairs and tables which seemed to accommodate most if not all of the ship's passengers. A baby grand piano, played by excellent pianist Daniele provided music in the evening and occasionally during the day. Each evening, at around 7:00pm, the Programme Director, Christine Couper, gave a brief talk about the following day's programme and excursions and this lounge was also the venue for performances by visiting local entertainers.
Self serve coffee and tea stations are provided on decks 2 and 3, two per deck and had machines dispensing various types of coffee, hot chocolate and hot water (for tea). Cookies and madeleines and occasional meringues were available at all times at these stations.
A small library on deck 3 amidships had a selection of books, most of which covered the areas that the ship would be visiting, i.e. Provence and the Rhone River areas. They were excellent if anybody wanted to learn a lot more about any of the places we would be visiting.
Below the library, on deck 2, is the reception desk , manned 24 hours a day, and a small shop which sold mainly “Viking” branded goods including polo shirts and jackets.
29/03/17 - Avignon
By the time that we had embarked on the ship we were very tired. We had left home at 3:00am, Chris had managed a couple of hours sleep the previous afternoon, but I had not slept at all. Because of this we decided to stay on the ship and relax.
30/03/17 – Tarascon (for Arles)
Today we were booked on the included 'Arles City Walk' which involved a short coach journey from Tarascon where we were berthed to the ancient town of Arles. Veronika of the ship's Guest Services had told us that 'Leisurely Group' tours were available for the walking excursions, designed for people who had reduced mobility. These were ideal for us, as I walk with a walking stick and so was Chris who had a very sore knee. These tours visit most of the sights of the main tours but have their own guide who makes sure that steps, steep hills and uneven ground are avoided where possible. We signed up for the 'Leisurely Group' for all our walking tours.
The town was captured by the Romans in 123 BC and turned it into an important City, with a canal to the Mediterranean being constructed in 104 BC. It is famous for its well preserved Roman remains.
Our coach dropped us near the centre of Arles and we divided into two groups, our 'Leisurely Group' being led by our excellent guide Anna. We made our way to the Amphitheatre (aka the Arena) which reminded us very much of the one in Rome. Built in 90 AD the Arena was designed to seat 20,000 spectators. In Medieval times it was turned into a defensive fort with four towers although only three remain today. It still hosts bullfighting, although it would certainly not appeal to us!
From the Arena we moved on to the Church of St. Trophime which has an amazingly ornately carved frontage. Built between the 12th and 15th centuries it is in the Romanesque style. The carvings on the frontage represented a lot of stories from the Bible and Anna was able to explain what they all represented. After leaving the church we passed the Hotel de Ville (the Town Hall).
We then moved on to the former Arles Hospital (now offices and shops) where the artist Vincent Van Gogh was hospitalised for a period after he cut his ear off. The gardens were very recognisable from a couple of paintings that Van Gogh did whilst there. We also passed the famous 'Yellow Cafe' also made famous in one of his paintings.
After we had met up with the other group and been transported back to our ship at Tarascon by coach we had lunch in the Aquavit Buffet restaurant. Chris was rather tired, so decided to rest her knee in the afternoon, but I decided to go out and take some photographs of the castle in the town. The castle, built in the 15th century to protect Provence from attack is a very strong castle built on solid rock to prevent undermining during a siege. We left Tarascon at around 6:45 pm to return to Avignon, arriving between 9:00 and 10:00 pm.
31/3/17 – Avignon
After breakfast, at 9:00 am, we left the ship and met our guide Isabelle for our included leisurely walking tour of Avignon. We entered the city by going under the busy road via an underpass and then through a small gate in the city walls. Our first stop was at the Place de la Republique where we saw the beautiful Hotel de Ville building. We then continued on to the huge Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) which was an amazing sight. Construction began in 1252 AD and the Papacy was relocated here in 1309 by Pope Clement V when life became rather dangerous in Rome. It housed a total of 7 Popes, not all officially accepted, until the Papacy was returned to Rome in 1377. The Palace was sacked by the revolutionaries during the French Revolution and was further damaged when it later became a prison and military base. The amazing huge and defensive palace is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is slowly being repaired and renovated. We were glad that we were on the leisurely tour as the other tour had to negotiate around 120 steps on their visit to the interior of the palace.
Our next stop was to the Basilique Saint-Pierre, rebuilt in 1385, has magnificently carved 4 metre high twin walnut doors. From here we moved on to a large indoor market with stalls selling almost any type of food or spice that you could think of. We left the rest of the party there and made our way back to the ship, stopping only for coffees, as we were booked on an afternoon tour.
After lunch on the ship we went on the optional Pont du Gard Aqueduct Tour led by a guide name Mary who had a trainee named Camille shadowing her. We had a very pleasant coach drive of about 35 minutes through some very pretty countryside. Arriving at the complex we had to wait for a short time whilst Mary purchased 38 tickets and then visited the site's museum which was very interesting. We then walked to the aqueduct which was an amazing structure.
The aqueduct, built in the 1st century AD was part of the 50km (31 mile) water supply to the city of Nimes from a spring at Uzes, requiring just a gradient of 1 in 18,241 over the distance. Although mostly underground the system required to span the Gardon River and so a bridge 160ft high with 3 tiers of arches was built without concrete, the stones fitting precisely where needed. The water supply delivered 200,000 m³ (44,000,000 imp. gallons) of clean water to Nimes every day! In the 18th century a road bridge was added to the structure and it still used by pedestrians today.
Close to the bridge are some very old olive trees that were planted in 908 AD and are still very healthy today. Amazing to think that these trees were 158 years old when the Normans invade England in 1066. We had some free time to get drinks/snacks, visit the gift shops or revisit the museum before we had to climb back into our coaches for the drive back to our ship.
01/04/17 - Viviers
This morning we had a bit of a lie in as our included Viviers Leisurely Walking Tour did not start until 9:30 am. Our guide was a very amusing chap named Pierre who was also a ballroom dancing teacher. Together with his wife they had been ballroom champions and, during the tour, he mostly walked backwards, which I thought may have been useful in his dancing days.
Viviers proved to be a most delightful Medieval town with many old buildings and narrow streets. There is the ruins of a castle and city walls together with the smallest Cathedral in France in the town but these were up a very steep hill, so our tour did not include this. However, us leisurely walkers were more than happy exploring the little medieval streets with a very knowledgable and amusing guide. It rained twice during our tour but we had our own umbrellas (the ship also supplies them if required) and we still had a very good time.
We spent the afternoon on the ship, watching the lovely countryside and watching the ship pass through 2 locks. On this journey we would rise up 120 metres via around 11 locks.
02/04/17 – Tournon & Vienne
We got up this morning to persistent drizzle which was a shame as we were going on a steam train ride through the unspoilt Doux Valley where there are no roads. After a 20 minute coach drive we got off at the Gare de Tournon St-Jean where we had about 20 minutes to visit the gift shop or visit the toilets whilst the engineers prepared our Mallet locomotive. These locomotives are articulated in order that they can negotiate the tight bends of the 1 metre gauge track. Our locomotive, No. 403, had been running on this route since 1903! The track runs from Tournon to Mastrou with a length of 33 km, but we would just be going from Tournon to Colombier le Vieux and back today. Our guide was named Phillipe and was a doppelgänger for Jeremy Corbyn, but had a much better sense of humour!
Our group had been allocated the last carriage, No. 8, which had rather small windows which could be lowered with a leather strap (like the trains of my youth), but we kept them closed as the rain was still falling. The journey was quite interesting but would have been much more so had we been able to open the windows to take photographs. The countryside was beautiful and at one stage a canal, designed just to deliver water to a hydro-electric power plant, ran alongside the track. This had been built by German soldiers during World War 1.
When we arrived at the Columbier le Vieux station we got out whilst the locomotive was uncoupled, run onto a turntable and manually turned through 180 degrees by the footplate man. There was a rather wet stall where a local farmer was selling goat's cheese and honey products and a rather elaborate hen house, resembling a child's doll house. When the locomotive was re coupled to the train we found that we were now the first carriage, directly behind the locomotive.
We sat on the opposite side of the carriage on the way back to Tournon, so that we got a somewhat different view from our little windows. Once back at Tournon we re boarded our coaches for the drive to Andance – our ship had repositioned whilst we were on our train tour. It had been a very enjoyable morning's excursion, but could have been much better had it not been so wet.
The ship stopped in Andance just long enough to take all the excursionists on board and then set sail towards Vienne whilst we enjoyed lunch. At 2:30 pm the ship made a brief stop at Chavanay to discharge the passengers, including us, who were going on the included Vienne walking tour. Our coach took us into the small city of Vienne. Our guide for the Leisurely Tour was named Lytse (pronounced Litsee). Fortunately the rain had stopped.
Our coach dropped us alongside a tractor unit, disguised as a train, pulling 3 carriages and, once aboard, we set off through the town and then started to climb up a steep hill to Mont Pipet. The road was very narrow, with extremely tight turns and we could see why the coaches would be unable to take this route.
On top of Mont Pipet we stopped to visit the chapel there and also to admire the fantastic views over the city and the River Rhone from a large viewing area, Directly below us was a Roman semicircular theatre built into the hillside, which could seat 8,000. We re boarded our tram unit and were taken down the hill back into the town and were discharged close to Temple Square, where we went on a walking tour.
We visited the Temple of Augusta and Livia, a rectangular building of the Corinthian order, which was erected by the emperor Claudius (10 BC to 54AD). The temple is in amazing condition, mainly due to its being converted to a church in the 4th century. It looked as if it would have been more at home in Rome or Athens.
Leaving the temple we made our way to the huge Gothic Cathedral of St. Maurice which is a French Heritage site. Work on the present building started in 1130 AD and it now has 3 aisles and an apse. We spent quite a lot of time inside the Cathedral and Lytse was a very knowledgable guide. The Cathedral is currently being renovated whereby half of it was bright and clean whilst the other half still had the grime of centuries. After this visit we joined up with the other excursion party and we boarded our coach for the short ride to a quay at Vienne where our ship, having relocated, was now waiting for us. A very busy day, but very enjoyable.
03/04/17 – Lyon
Our ship had departed from Vienne and we were able to watch her sail into Lyon whilst we had breakfast. The plan had been to moor at the quay and another Viking ship would be mooring alongside us. However, when we got to the quay, we found that the other ship had beaten us to it and we had to moor alongside them.
We were booked on the Lyon City Tour and, as we exited our ship, we had to pass across our sister ship, the “Viking Delling” to reach the gangplank to the quay. It was rather odd to be passing across another ship that was exactly the same as our ship (in design and décor etc.) but with different staff.
Our coach took us up to the top of a hill where the beautiful Fourvieres Bascilica was situated. This minor Basilica was built between 1872 and 1884, so not as old as most of the religious buildings that we had visited on this cruise. There were a lot of steps to reach the entrance but our guide, Celine, took us to a doorway on the side where there was an elevator to take us up into the ground floor of the Basilica. The interior was amazing, with a myriad of small mosaics depicting scenes from the Bible, one of the most beautiful interiors that I have ever seen.
Close to the Basilica there is a metal tower that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Eiffel Tower of Paris. The Tour Metallique de Fourviere was erected between 1892 and 1894 and is 85.9 metres high, weighs 210 tons and, at 372 metres, is the highest point in Lyon. During the Exposition Universelle of 1914 it had a restaurant and an elevator taking 22 persons at a time to the summit. It was used as an observation tower until 1953 but is now just a television tower.
In front of the Basilica there is a viewing site that gives amazing views over the city of Lyon and the River Rhone. After a few minutes free time there we re boarded our coach to continue our conducted tour of Lyon. We stopped for a photo opportunity at a high rise building that's side had been painted with windows and balconies with figures from Lyon's history on show. These figures are repainted every few years and most are aged to show them a little older.
We then went on a walking tour of the older parts of the city with our guide Celine which mainly consisted of large blocks of high Renaissance apartment buildings with very narrow streets between them. Celine pointed out that some of the doors in these buildings, identified by small seals, could be opened to reveal passages that ran right through the buildings to the other sides. Spiral staircases along these passages gave access to the apartments above them. These 'secret' passages were used by silk merchants to go to and from the markets safely and were called 'traboules'. During World War II the French Resistance members used these traboules to harass the Nazi occupiers and escape from them when chased. Only a few of these passages are open to the public nowadays, but I found these passages to be very interesting and was very glad to have been able to visit them. We then had some free time to further explore the old quarter before we boarded our coach for the short ride back to our ship.
We found that another ship, the “Swiss Corona” was moored where we had been on the quay and our ship was now moored alongside her. Both ships were very different in design and so we couldn't get across to our ship by walking through the other. As all the river ships are the same height, we had to climb up the stairs to their sun deck, pass across to our sun deck and then go down the stairs to deck 3 on our ship. Great fun (but not if you have a sore knee!).
04/04/17 – Lyon
This morning we were up fairly early again as we were booked on the Beaujolais Wine excursion leaving at 08:30 am. We boarded our coach and met our guide, another Phillipe and we started driving off into the hilly Beaujolais countryside which was absolutely beautiful. We passed through some lovely little villages and everywhere looked well cared for and neat, a pleasure to visit.
After a really enjoyable ride we arrived at the Chateau de Chasselas Winery which was just stunning. A beautiful four storey house was within a rectangular walled courtyard with four towers with turrets and several outbuildings. We were met at the entrance by the owner Jean-Marc Veyron la Croix who showed us his vineyards and explained how the grapes were grown. Jean-Marc produces a very high quality wine and only one branch of each vine remains unpruned and this is looped down and tied. Fewer grapes will result from this method but they will be of a higher quality and produce better wine (this is not the inferior Beaujolais nouveau wine). Jean- Marc explained that he had not started life as a winemaker, he had been in the fashion business, but had bought the chateau and business in 1999 after a previous owner had partially renovated it. He had spent a year studying winemaking but had found that there was no substitute for hands on experience.
After visiting the vineyards Jean Marc took us into a tasting cellar where we sampled 4 separate wines – a red, two whites and a champagne type wine – and they were delicious. We were also given some nibbles to eat with them and I only saw one person use the 'spit bowls' that were provided, most of us quaffed the lovely wine down.. After the tasting Jean-Marc led us to his little shop where he had various wines, wine drinking accessories and books etc. for sale. I would have loved to have purchased some of his wines but we were flying home the next day, so it was impossible. (The passengers on the next cruise, from Lyon to Avignon,would have been able to buy wines to consume on the ship, Viking do not charge any corkage fees).
We were a little reluctant to leave the chateau and its interesting owner, but at least we had some more lovely countryside to look at on our way back. Back on the ship we learned that other coaches on our Beaujolais Wine Tour had gone to other wineries and ours seemed to be the best, I think we were rather lucky.
A couple of days before we were due to leave the ship we were allocated a leaving time and suitcase labels, we were to put our suitcases outside our door at 5:15 am and would be leaving the ship at 6:15 am. The previous evening I settled our account by credit card and paid gratuities for the crew. The following morning we were up early, packed our nightclothes inside our suitcases and then put them outside the cabin door. We went to the Aquavit Buffet for a continental breakfast and then, at 6:15 am, said farewell to the lovely ship and headed for a waiting coach on the quay. We identified our luggage which was then put on the coach and we boarded it for the journey to Lyon Airport.
At the Airport we were met by two local Viking representatives who guided us to the check-in desk for our British Airways flight to London Heathrow which was scheduled to take off at 10:00 am. Unfortunately the check-in did not open until 8:00am, so we had quite a long wait. After standing for some time we decided to find a seat where we could still keep an eye on our queueing luggage (most passengers did this). The check-in opened on time and we were soon issued with boarding passes for an aisle and middle seat in row 22.
Again, the flight was not fully booked and we found that we had all 3 seats to ourselves. We took off on time and had a very pleasant flight, arriving at Heathrow Terminal 3 on time. As usual, it seemed to be miles and miles of walking before we reached Immigration, but once there we were fast tracked through because we both had walking sticks. We then passed through to the baggage reclaim area and I could see both our cases already on the carousel. We phoned our taxi and he picked us up from outside the Arrivals Hall after a few minutes wait.
This was our first river cruise and, in the main, it exceeded most of our expectations. The ship was very well designed and maintained and the staff very friendly, but always efficient. Compared with our sea cruises it seemed a little expensive but, when you factor in the included excursions at every place we visited, the complimentary (and generous) wine or beer with lunch and dinner, tea and coffee (with cookies and other biscuits available 24/7) and free Wi-Fi, then you begin to realise that the cruise is actually good value. There were a lot of small things which, although of no great importance in themselves, nevertheless increased our feelings that this was a quality company and product. Complimentary bottled water in our cabin was replenished as necessary and, each time we left the ship to go on an excursion, complimentary bottles of water were handed out by the staff, Similarly, if the weather looked to be possibly inclement, Viking umbrellas were also available for all passengers.
The excursions were all well organised, ran to time and had excellent and very knowledgeable guides. Viking use mainly their own coaches and they were always very comfortable and clean and driven by excellent drivers.
But it was the staff that really made our holiday. Captain Scheen has a great team with Programme Director Christine Couper, Hotel Manager Chris Harrington and Maitre d' Imre Kalmar heading a very happy and efficient crew.
We did not find river cruising as relaxing as sea cruising, perhaps due to having no 'sea days' and the fact that we did at least one excursion each day and two on some. We did however love visiting so many different places in such a short time.
Will we continue river cruising? A big resounding YES! The River Douro in Portugal looks very tempting, so that might be our next adventure. Read Less