I had promised that I would give you one more installment on our recent vacation, one that would revolve around the central part of our "Paris To The Heart of Normandy" trip, the river cruise along the Seine River aboard Viking Kadlin.
We admit that the commercials that Viking ran over the years on PBS' "Downton Abbey" played a big part in our choosing to make this trip. We had also heard very good word of mouth referrals from various friends and acquaintances. Viking made it very easy to book our cruise back in September and they handled everything....flight reservations, airport pick-up and transfers, transportation for the various excursions and tours that we chose, everything. They also kept us well informed in the weeks leading up to our departure. They set the service bar high throughout the booking process and in the time leading up to our departure, and they more than delivered in that area once we boarded the ship and began our vacation.
We were greeted by the officers on the night we sailed.
"He is the Captain now."
The service throughout the entire trip was excellent. For example, you would leave for breakfast in the morning, and by the time you got back to your stateroom, it had already been cleaned and made up. The waitstaff, the bar service, the folks at the front desk, and the staff that organized the excursions and tours (and this included all of the local guides who took us to places like the Louvre, the Monet Foundation, the Palace of Versailles, and the D-Day beaches in Normandy...all provided by Viking) were friendly, prompt, and excellent.
The food was amazing and delicious, and there was plenty of it. Breakfast and lunches included buffets in addition to ordering off of a menu. Dinners were from a menu that included local foods and French dishes. And if that wasn't to your liking, you could also order a steak or chicken at dinner, or a hamburger or hot dog at lunch. Lunch and dinner also included beer and wine at no additional cost. It was amazingly generous.
Staterooms were snug, as they are on all cruise ships, I dare say, but it was comfortable and the use of all space in the room was incredibly efficient. We never felt like we were shoehorned into the room.
The ship would sail from port to port during daylight hours so you could take advantage of relaxing on the top deck and just take in some amazing views of the Normandy countryside.
See what I mean?
Unlike traditional cruises aboard the big liners (our Disney cruise to Alaska last year, for example), this Viking River Cruise was a bit more sedate. No swimming pool, no spa, no In-Your-Face 24/7 entertainment. It is a relaxing experience, although, truth be told, on some days, the excursions that we took lasted a good part of the day, and left us tired out by the time the day ended. However, as much as it seemed that we were always on the go, we did find time to relax and on the top deck, have a drink, and take in the countryside.
The riverboat is pretty big, probably about as long as a football field, but small when compared to a big ocean liner. There were only 190 passengers aboard. There are no children on any Viking cruise. They are very specific about that, so you will be part of an older demographic on a Viking cruise. That may not be for everyone, but we had no problem with it.
And the small number of passengers creates the opportunity to meet at one time or another just about everyone on board. On our first night out, the four off us were seated at a table for six when Vince and Linda, from Pompano, FL asked to join us. We then ate just about every meal thereafter with them, and found them to be an entertaining couple and excellent company. We also met and had wonderful conversations with many other people....
- Michael and Sandy from Baltimore. He's a retired attorney and they are veterans of several other Viking tours.
- Rebecca and Doug from Milwaukee. He just retired from his job and this trip was their celebration.
- Ted and Drucy from McLean, VA. Both are retired from careers at the State Department and were very, very interesting people.
- Audrey and Allen from Dallas, TX. At the age of 42, Audrey quit her job as a dental hygienist and went to dental school full time. She graduated at age 46 and now has her own dental practice. What a great story!
There were others as well, but these are the ones we shall most remember. Chances are that we shall never see any of these people again, but having all of our paths cross at this particular time and place contributed largely to making this a memorable week. I hope that some of them are saying the same things about us.
That's us with our "cruise pals", Linda and Vince.
If you are considering such a trip, I would strongly recommend that you consider a Viking river cruise. Viking also offers ocean cruises aboard larger ocean going ships, yet still smaller than the Carnivals, Princesses, and Disneys of the world. A Viking Ocean cruise carries a maximum of 900 passengers, and no children. I can tell you that while we haven't put much concrete thought into what the "next trip" is going to be, I can see that a return to Viking will be strongly considered.
We have been home for a week now, and already the memory of this vacation continues to grow and glow within us. It may well have been the best vacation that we have ever taken.
Well organized to the very end.
By the way, this shall be my last big installment on our French vacation. I realize that there is only so much that anyone wants to hear about someone else's vacation, so I will spare you that going forward (although I cannot promise that there might not be small references made from time to time). However, we are happy to talk about it with you at any time. Really, just ask, but if you say "I want to see all of your pictures", be advised that there are over 650 of them residing on our computer (both the blessing and the curse of digital photography), so we won't inflict that upon you, but we have put together an album of printed photos that is much more manageable and less time consuming.