Day 1 - Viking Transfers - Well worth it!
We arrived in Marseilles after barely making our connection in Paris. Coming down to baggage claim we were met by Serge, a lively older local driver, holding a Viking sign. We were surprised since we were apparently the only 2 people on our flight and Serge said he frequently drives Viking guests from Marseilles to Avignon. After loading our luggage we started the 45-60 minute drive in Serge's taxi. About half way into the drive I started to get a little nervous about the escalating fare showing on the taxi's fare meter. Although I used Viking's travel and knew transfers were included, I started wondering if Serge was going to try to charge me for the fare upon arrival. Serge's English was "much better in October than it is in March" so I didn't bother trying to ask him why he was running the meter. By the time we arrived at the boat, the fare total was just a few cents under 170 Euros. After unloading our luggage, Serge went in and shook hands with the boat staff, grabbed a cup of coffee, jumped back into his vehicle and made the long drive back to Marseilles.
I found out later that a large number of the Viking guests were arriving in Marseilles after connecting through Amsterdam and didn't arrive until 3 hours after us where Viking had a large bus waiting for them. Rather than make us wait at the airport for the rest of the cruisers, Viking provided us with a cab (at considerable expense) to get us to the boat. Score 1 big point for Viking - we were already impressed.
Given that this was the first cruise of the year, our cabin was ready and waiting for us when we arrived. The boat and our stateroom were impeccably clean and polished. We had a room on the upper deck with a large window, queen bed, lots of storage and a small bathroom - all in all it was more than enough room for the very limited amount of time we actually spent in the room. I've read some other threads about balcony's and I honestly feel that opening the window in our room would have provided as much ventilation as opening the door onto a balcony. I probably wouldn't spend the extra dollars for a balcony and after taking this cruise, I probably wouldn't even pay to stay on the top deck again - the middle deck (with the same size room and window as we had on the top deck) would be sufficient for our purposes. We proceeded to take a much needed nap to get over the jet lag. Waking refreshed, we grabbed lunch in the Viking lounge and then joined our Program Director Valerie for an informal walk through Avignon to get the blood pumping through our tired legs.
Dinner, as would be the case all week, was delicious. We followed dinner with a drink in the lounge with some new found friends and called it an early night as jet lag was taking it's toll!
Day 2 - Cast off and a cruise to Arles
I didn't even hear or feel the boat cast off at 5:30 AM as the cruise started to Arles. I woke up to a darkness of a lock wall blocking the sunlight into the room and watch the captain guide the ship into the lock with only about 1 foot of clearance on either side. As a river boater myself, I was duly impressed! The breakfast buffet was tremendous, steel cut oatmeal and all the toppings, french cheeses, meats, and pastries, scrambled eggs and sausage and bacon, and smoked salmon were some of the items available daily. You can also order eggs and pancakes from the menu - I didn't do this until the final day when I ordered eggs benedict and wish I would have done it earlier in the week. As good as the buffet was, the eggs benedict were perfect! You can't go wrong no matter what you do.
The walking through Arles was fun. I absolutely fell in love with the south of France, all the towns are so quaint and contain so much history. Arles had a pretty complete Roman arena that we visited that is still used today for concerts and bullfights. We took the regular tour (Viking also offers "leisure" tours for those that have mobility issues) but found that there were people on our tour that probably should have taken the leisure tour. My only suggestion for Viking on the end of week questionnaire was that since they already offer a "leisure" tour, they should also offer a "vigorous" tour for those that really are able to get around. My wife and I are in our early 50's, half marathon runner and were a little disappointed about the pace of some of the tours. It's a small complaint but one that we found was shared by others on the cruise.
We didn't take the optional tour to St. Remy, choosing instead to explore Arles on our own. This was the only optional tour of the week that we skipped.
Lunch and dinner were delicions again.
OK, this post is already long enough, I'll add another few days later if anyone is interested!