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  #1  
Old November 2nd, 2012, 09:31 AM
MeridianSkipper MeridianSkipper is offline
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Default Viking “Portraits of Southern France”


We returned on 28 October just beating the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. Traveling companions, who opted for further time in France, may have struggled to find a way home. As first -time Viking travelers, we were most impressed. The ship, Europe, was well-appointed, spotlessly clean, and comfortable. The well-trained, efficient crew was cordial and very responsive to passenger needs even needs that seemed somewhat outlandish.

Shore Excursions.
We especially liked Viking’s practice of not locking passengers into fixed excursion groups. The flexible groupings served the needs of those who enjoyed or required a slow pace while not holding back those who wanted to “get up and go.” The included excursion schedule was well planned and provided good coverage given the seven day schedule though we were a bit disappointed that coverage did not include Pont du Gard.
Four optional excursions were offered. We booked two, Les Baux and Halles de Lyon food market. Both were a bit disappointing more because of our personal preferences than because of presentation quality.
· The Les Baux excursion included an en-route stop at Saint Paul de Mausole mental- hospital, which accommodated Vincent van Gogh for a year. By our arrival there, we had reached Van Gogh information-overload and would have preferred to wander the streets of Arles.
· The food-marked visit was described as walk through the market with the chef but the cruise director did most of the talking. We would have preferred the chef’s insights.

Ship’s Food. Fine: good selection, well presented, plentiful wine.

Pre-cruise (Marseille). We were pleasantly surprised . Marseille has reputation for grit and crime. The city is undergoing massive upgrades and should be quite beautiful by the next cruise season. The Viking representative was most helpful, and the included tour more than adequate to gain a good understanding of the city. For a quick and easy view of the city, try the hop-on/hop off bus.

Viking Booked Air Travel. We were routed through Charles de Gaulle inbound and Schiphol outbound. Both airports were chaotic. While their airport has some failings, the French maintained their charm and were helpful. The Dutch and Delta airline departure-staff were neither cordial nor helpful. On a positive note, we reported our misgivings concerning Schiphol to Viking and received a very positive, same-day response.

The French. Many American seem to dislike the French. We’re not in that camp. We found them to be courteous, cordial, often funny and self-deprecating, and good ambassadors for their country.
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  #2  
Old November 2nd, 2012, 11:29 AM
Huffy2k Huffy2k is offline
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Thanks for the info! We are taking the exact cruise next March, also on the Viking Europe, sailing north from Avignon. This will also be our first river cruise so it's really encouraging to hear such positive feedback. Glad you were able to get in before Sandy hit!
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Old November 2nd, 2012, 10:49 PM
SfromATX SfromATX is offline
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Thanks for the review. My husband and I are leaving tomorrow for the Portraits of Southern France Viking cruise on the ship Europe, just as you have experienced. I'm glad to read your favorable review as we are already excited. This is our second Viking cruise and so far we have been very pleased so I am glad to read that you all are also. More when we return....
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Old November 3rd, 2012, 06:21 AM
nordski nordski is offline
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Valuable reflections and great to hear you had a wonderful time.

Your comments re: Schipol are particularly disturbing. In the past, we have far preferred it to CDG, largely because of size, and have recommended it to others.

Not having flown through there recently, it's a concern that it may well have deteriorated and we will temper our enthusiasm
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  #5  
Old November 3rd, 2012, 07:21 AM
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Thanks for your review!
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Old November 3rd, 2012, 08:54 AM
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newfirsttimer newfirsttimer is offline
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We flew through Amsterdam last month both pre and post cruise. While the inbound flight from Toronto was fantastic on KLM and the ability to just go downstairs to the train station, the homebound flight from Budapest through Amsterdam was as previously stated, chaotic. Long, long walks between terminals/gates, not enough seats outside the departure lounge and then when it came time to board, it was a 'free for all' and the attendants less than helpful. The flight itself was great.
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Old November 12th, 2012, 08:45 PM
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FotoPeg FotoPeg is offline
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MeridianSkipper ~ What a small world! We were on the Neptune cruising North to South while you were on the Europe - we passed as you were coming out of the lock near Vienne! We were up on deck cheering our sister ship!

Our cruise was also a first for us and was fantastic - I'm falling in love with River Cruising!!

So nice to hear from someone on the other ship!!
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Old November 13th, 2012, 10:45 AM
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WarEagle76 WarEagle76 is offline
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Thanks for the review as we'd like to take this cruise in the future. We also found the French to be very welcoming, helpful and cordial on our cruise last month from Paris to Normandy. Regarding CDG vs. AMS, based upon our experience if we have to connect in Europe, we always try to connect in AMS vs. CDG. We also prefer KLM to Air France. We used to be able to fly from Atlanta to almost anywhere in Europe non-stop on Delta, but they've been eliminating non-stop flights to a number of European cities. They announced recently they are beefing up Paris service and will be using CDG as a hub to other European cities in lieu of the non-stops.
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Old November 13th, 2012, 03:29 PM
SfromATX SfromATX is offline
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We just returned from Viking's Portraits of Southern France trip and we had an excellent experience (our second Viking cruise). If I ever get around to posting a review, it'll be five stars! As for the topic on this thread, the air travel, we used Viking's "pot-luck" air arrangements which turned out to be perfect for us, who have no real preference as to which lines we use. On the way to France, we flew Delta to Detroit, then to Paris CDG, with a very easy and accessible transfer to an Air France flight to Marseille. Our return air trip was AF from Lyon to CDG; again a very easy transfer to AF, non-stop to Atlanta, then home on Delta. We had no problems with CDG this time, as it had been a little confusing once before when we were there. As a side note, we met some terrific new friends from Atlanta on this cruise.
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