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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.
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.
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!
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....
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.
Scenic Emerald-Paris to Barcelona Sept 2013
Freedom OTS-E. Caribbean March 2013
Scenic Emerald Amsterdam to Budapest Sept 2012
Emerald Princess-S. Caribbean Jan 2012
AMA Amalegro Prague to Paris Sept 2011
Oceania Insignia Venice -Barcelona -September 2010
Coral Princess Panama Canal FLL to LA Dec 2009
Emerald Princess Baltic Aug 2009
Caribbean Princess S. Caribbean B2B Nov 2008
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!!
__________________ Peg Viking Forseti 10-4-2014 Bordeaux
Viking Rinda 12-7-2013 Christmas Markets
Viking Neptune 10-21-12 Rhone River
Celebrity Constellation 9-7-2011 Amsterdam-Istanbul
Celebrity Constellation 7-3-2010 Baltic
RCCL Voyager of the Seas 2-14-2010 Caribbean
Celebrity Summit 6-16-2008 Mediterranean
SS Rembrant 7-20-2000 St. Lawrence
M/V Atlantic 8-28-1988 Bermuda
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.
Viking Freya 12/13 (Heart of Germany), Sapphire Princess 4/13 (Coastal), Ruby Princess 12/12 (CRB), Viking Pride (Paris/Normandy) 10/12, Star Princess 12/11 (S. America), Caribbean Princess 5/11 (CRB), Sapphire Princess 2/11 (MEX), Emerald Princess 12/10 (CRB), Viking Sky 11/10 (Danube), Golden Princes 5/10 (Coastal), Vision of the Seas 2/09 (CRB), Crown Princess 12/08 (CRB) ,Crown Princess 8/08 (Scandinavia and Russia), Golden Princess 3/08 (MEX), Island Princess 12/07 (PAN CANAL), Emerald Princess 5/07(MED) , Grand Princess 2/07 (W. CRB), Viking Surkov 8/06 (RUSSIA), Sapphire Princess 3/06 (MEX), Golden Princess 12/05 (S. CRB), Viking Century Star 5/05 (CHINA), Sea Voyager 12/04 (PAN CANAL), Splendour of the Seas 10/04 (MED), Golden Princess 3/04 (E. CRB), Polaris 5/03 (GALAPAGOS), Sovereign of the Seas 3/03 (BAHAMAS), Norwegian Sun 12/02 (W. CRB), Legend of the Seas 5/02 (ALASKA), Norway 12/01 (E. CRB), Miriam 5/01 (EGYPT), Sunbird 3/00 (S. CRB), Song of America 3/98(MEX)
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.