Posted February 5th, 2014, 02:27 PM
SDBeachLovers ~ WOW - visited San Diego for the first time last May and what I wouldn't give to be there right now! We're in the midsts of an ice storm on top of all the snow we've had over the past few days! Saw your name and beautiful memories of SD are filling my head!!!
Way early I had contacted Viking to see if we could purchase transfers but was told no, they are only available for those with Viking Air. An interesting note since 2 friends on the cruise also did the pre-Paris with Viking and so had the bus transfers included and reported that the bus was almost empty. Its a point I raise with Viking post-trip and their rep said she would discuss the policy with management - so maybe you should check with Viking about their transfers, if you want.
But back to Chalon and the French RR! First, let me say that, if we were to do this Paris/cruise/Nice trip again, we'd use the RR and are planning on using the RR Paris to Bordeaux for this year's trip.
We did buy the tickets ahead of time on the internet and had them sent here to NYC. Thought it'd just be easier to have them. I think you can only buy the tickets within 3 months of travel. What I do is put in the day of the week we want to travel and as close to the date to get an approximate price and time schedule. [For example - our cruise begins on Oct. 4th. When I look for tickets with Feb. Saturday dates fare is about $119 but have dropped to $69 by May dates.] Hope this makes sense!! You can also set an alert on the web site to let you know when tickets are available to purchase.
For Paris to Chalon - there's a non-stop train that leaves from Paris Bercy station and a one stop train that leaves from Paris Lyon station. Thinking we were very smart and with not changing trains, we took the non-stop at about 9:30am and took a cab to the station. Bercy station is very minimum - small area for coffee, croissant, etc and not a large seating area but we weren't there long. I did see 2 other couples with the red Viking luggage tags waiting, talked to them, and discovered that they, too, had tried to buy Viking transfers. Unfortunately the track number isn't posted too early so it's a bit of a rush to get to the train - check out the track locations when you arrive.
The train is actually very nice and comfortable with a section for luggage at the end of the car - filled by the time we got on! So we sat in a nice seats with our luggage on the table between us - really no problem - the car was crowded but not filled. Off we began - nice ride through the countryside until we stopped at a station and seemed to remain too long! We did notice train workers walking alongside the looking underneath and the French people on board beginning to talk loudly and one young lady seeing a lot of us staring explained there was a problem with the train and we'd probably have to exit!!! UGH!!! By the time we did get off with out luggage we found about 30 of us, I think all Americans, were heading towards the Viking cruise!! Those red tags came in handy!!! Luckily we were in a station, unluckily the train workers had disappeared!!! Plus none of us spoke French!!! (I felt like Gilligan's Island only on a train!!)
I had the Viking ship phone number - always keep it handy!! - and my husband had internation service on his cell so he called the ship. And lo and behoild the Cruise Director, Kurt, called him back!!! He said don't worry, take the next train that comes in and get off at Dijon and change trains to Chalon - we thought we were smart with the non-stop but wound up with 2 changes!!! He also assured us that the ship wouldn't be sailing until the following noon so we had plenty of time! Then he said that the French trains often break down and the workers just leave!!! He also said that TGV (company operating the train we were waiting for) should honor the tickets of SNCF (company who's train we had been on). But since we had never been asked for tickets on the original train we weren't worried and no one ever asked on the other trains!! Train came, we switched at Dijon and arrived safely at Chalon then took a cab to the ship - very happy to give over our luggage to the ship's crew!!
One thing to note as to luggage - Bercy was all one level. At Dijon we just crossed the platform to the next train. But at Chalon we had to go down a long flight of stairs walk under the other tracks and then up another stairs to the station. If I remember correctly that was street level. Just be aware that you'll have to carry your luggage as there are no elevators.
Hope my story doesn't dissuad you from taking the train - just leave yourself enough time "just in case"! And have Viking's number handy - I put it into my phone as soom as I get the itinerary book from them!!
And, looking on the bright side, the group of us became known as "the train people" and we made 2 friends from the group that we still stay in touch with! All in all it was only a minor hiccup and wouldnever keep me from using the French trains! We took a train from Avignon to Nice with no problems post-cruise!
Any other questions just ask away and I'll try to answer them without the long story!!!!
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