Wednesday, 5 May 2010
Viking Spirit on the Seine - April 2010
By Peter Ruck, GM of Baldwins Travel and ACE Ambassador.
While the skies over Europe were closed I had a window of opportunity to take my wife away while her parents were in respite. With Kim in Viking River Cruises reservations’ help, we suddenly found ourselves on a very late cruise down the Seine. Eurostar was very busy and quite expensive, but we made it. A guy with a Viking Cruises sign at the Gare Du Nord was a welcome sight and we were quickly transferred to the Spirit – our home for the next week. It spends the first and last night of the trip in Paris enabling you to see the usual sights of Paris or on one of their special (extra price) excursions to The Louvre at the beginning or Palace of Versailles at the end of the cruise. The British have all excursions (6 on this cruise) apart from these two included in the cost.
Cabins on board are sufficiently furnished with more wardrobe and drawer space than a lot of ocean cruises. The lower deck cabins having a closed picture window as it is only cms above the water line. The other decks having picture windows that can be opened. If you arrive too early to occupy your cabin, luggage may be left and you do your own thing ashore or enjoy the simple soup and sandwich selection provided. As there were a vast number of U.S. passengers stuck in the States, and others who could not fly out, Viking, very generously allowed some to stay on board and enjoy the cruise again – quite something, compared with stories from other River Cruise companies I’ve heard!
Meals on board are as you’d expect from an ocean cruise: Early mini-breakfast followed by a full buffet and service breakfast, buffet and service lunch, afternoon tea with pastries and then full service dinner. The British on board benefited by the number of Americans who had wine included with lunch and dinner, so it was just easier to include it for everybody. I took advantage of both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage (Silver Spirit) package which covers all drinks on board, together with a bottle of champagne, and assorted gifts for an inclusive price. This differs depending upon the length of cruise.
We were blessed with good weather visiting Rouen, where Joan of Arc met her end at the hands of the English, the Normandy landings beaches, Les Andelys with its castle built by Richard the Lionheart, Conflans with its floating bargees homes and the delightful Vernon home to Giverny and Monet’s famous gardens – absolutely beautiful.
En-route we were given the opportunity to taste fresh French cuisine, scrumptious macaroons, take a watercolour painting class and discover the history of and taste French cheeses. Entertainment is low key with one performer mainly on key-board, although he sang and also played the alto-sax and a mean guitar! The quiz night on board went down well – we won!
This type of holiday is perfect for coach tour clients – except they only unpack once; mainstream cruisers as long as they don’t want to dress up on board, (these are very informal cruises) and they’ll like the shore excursions; city break visitors and it gives them all they need and more. The crew on board are really helpful and friendly. The standard of food and service is excellent as well. An all round thoroughly enjoyable experience.