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Viking River Cruise & Swimming

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by , August 16th, 2015 at 03:58 PM (4987 Views)
I had no where else to post this. Cruiscritic.com shut me out for some reason, and tripadvisor was surprisingly not very good about a dedicated Viking thread. So i'll add some swimming stuff and post it all here:

Viking Longships do NOT have pools! FYI there is a very close pool where you might be docked, Piscine Keller (google it for info. there is a good blurb that tells you exactly where to go and how to get from the front through the lockers to the pool). It is about 7 minute walk from the dock and open to the public, 3 Euros.

Viking River Cruise, Paris to Paris & Normandy (P2PN) 07/19-07/26/2015

My review is tailored for the Paris to Paris and Normandy (P2PN) on Viking, the same principles apply to any of the inclusive river cruises of this category (Viking, Uniworld, Tauck, AMA Waterways, Grand Circle, A-Rosa etc). I will stay away from boat specific comments, because the Viking Pride (along with Neptune, Spirit, and Legend) will be retired after this year. Welcome to the age of the Viking Longships (more on that later)!

Do you whisper to friends, ďI hear itís all really old people. Like 70!Ē, and that is one of the only limiting factors (not price, or time)? The answer is, ďYes, pretty old!Ē But, you can still have a ton of fun!!!!

Before the specific stuff and helpful hints, this entry will focus on general stuff you need to know about river cruising:

River vs. Ocean cruising: Ocean cruises have 700-5,000 people on board. They are usually a destination in themselves, with multiple restaurants, activities, spa, pools, theatres, etc. A river cruise is essentially a floating hotel (150-200 on European rivers). Itís not intended to have a lot of entertainment on board, just to get you from one place to the next. Iím paraphrasing from other sites, but here are two examples: You go on an ocean cruise to drink yourself silly. You go on a river cruise to enrich your mind with the culture of the locale. You can workout on a cruise ship in the gym, pool, or deck space. On a river cruise, there are limited amenities on board, but all of Europe is your gym. Viking in particular has refrained from adding bikes, pool, gym, spas to their Longships. They do a have a walking track on the deck.

If you read various reviews and the bad ones, you should realize that what they are complaining about are things (1) you would have known if you bothered to read any of these reviews; (2)not Vikings fault, and/or (3) haters gonna hate.

What happens if your cruise is interrupted or cancelled??!!! Why does this happen??? River cruising IMO has very little margin for error. If the river levels are too low/too high, then you simply canít sail in certain areas. You must be bussed, housed in a hotel, or do the river cruise Chinese fire drill (switch ships!) The ship will either be lightened enough without passengers and baggage to sail and meet you, or you will literally switch ships on the other side of the bridge/lock/low water level. The Viking Longships are identical, so they will literally take one ship and swap with the other, you get your same room number, and everyone goes on their merry way! (ie, your boat canít fit under a bridge due to high water. the cruise going the opposite direction also has this problem. So you switch ships, since theirs is on the other side of the bridge in the direction you want to go, and vice versa!) You also get to meet an entirely new crew!!!

River levels and conditions change on a dime, so that is why they donít cancel them with much notice. If the river conditions are not conducive to sailing, then yes, itís a real challenge to all 150 of you plus Uniworld, Tauck, and AMA Wís passengers a nice hotel room in a quaint little village, not to mention the complains about hotel quality.

One of the benefits of river cruising is you literally dock by the small towns. All you do is step of the ship and you are there. In Andeley, it took about 50 steps from the ship to the center of town. But on the flip side, you will have other ships dock right alongside you and your window may be 6 inches from the other ship, or that quaint pub you saw from your window Ė yep, they are drinking and singing in your ears at nighttime. (And I heard other passengers complaining to Viking staff about this Ė but I think the passengers should have known this happens Ė and brought earplugs!)

I would not get a verandah room on Viking Longships. I hear you get a bit more space inside with the french balconcy rooms. Always go for the bigger room at the cheaper price (ie, 2nd floor vs. 3rd floor, go with 2nd floor cheaper room). Itís a crap shoot whether youíll get a good view from your room or not. My girls almost never got a good view. They were docked along the pier or had another ship next to them the entire time. If you are traveling with others, get rooms on opposite sides so someone may have a view! The top deck is the very best place to watch, anyway!

People complain a lot about other ships docking by yours and having to go either over the top deck or through your lobby to get to their ship (and vice versa). River cruising 101 Ė you should have known about this! I thought this was fun and part of the comraderie of river cruising! Waving like an idiot to other ships, especially another Viking ship, where they will toot their horns, wow, that was fun!!! Plus you get a sneak peak at other cruise line ship!

Trip interruptions happen periodically, not rarely- this is why itís so important to read up on your exact itinerary before you go. I would go so far as to map out and identify hotels in the areas you would be going, and see if there are rail service or other means of transportation. This is the apocalypse scenario where you get to the cruise only to find out itís cancelled.

Our room was 170 square feet, 2nd floor. On the Longships, the comparable priced room is 150 square feet. The room size met my expectations Ė we asked for 2 twin configuration. I still had just enough space to have my yoga mat fully placed, albeit at an angle towards the doorway. I was too shy to do yoga on the top deck. I was able to do yoga everyday if I wanted, but I did a routine about every other day. In the future, I would have no qualms about taking my mat and going to the top deck Ė I donít think it would fit in a 150 square foot room.

I didnít see the lowest level rooms, but from what another passenger told me (and snarky reviews), those rooms are tight. But I donít have any sympathy for those that write bad comments Ė you were too cheap to upgrade, and werenít able to transition to a positive attitude of just enjoying the outside space. Next time, pony up for a better room size! Itís right there on the website for you to see the deck plan and room size! That all said, Iím actually interested in staying in one of the lowest class rooms to find out if the price differential is worth it. I think it would be fun! Iíd just be mentally calculating how many more souveniers I could buy with the room savings. Maybe that cockoo clock on the Rhine Getaway!

There were ample free toiletries; shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap, shower cap. You could steal a bunch and they'd just bring you another set. It got tedious after the first three days of stealing 2 sets a day, so I gave up after that. Plus it was getting too heavy for my luggage.

Viking Air/Viking Transfers:
If you buy air through Viking, the transfer is free. We booked independently, and bought the Viking transfer. The transfer was more expensive than other options, but totally worth it. They were very reliable, a price we pay a premium for in a foreign country. I may try booking with Viking air at some point, but will probably try to use miles and get biz class seats. That still costs plenty for a family of 4 in the required taxes, etc. I just priced DFW Ė AMS return on BSL Ė DFW (Rhine Getaway) for 4 and the taxes/fees are about $2,000 USD even with miles. The bad reviews using Viking are that they wonít tell you until very close to the flight what your exact flights are, and the connections are too tight. I worry about short connections so that is why I would chose to book air early and on my own for a family of 4. If I were a solo traveler or just with one other adult, and/or having a few days pre-cruse in the departure city, I may try booking through Viking air.

We all know there isnít such thing as full price. Itís always Ĺ price of the brochure. The specials are when there is free air (or a surcharge based on departure city). However, the fine print also says you canít get frequent flyer miles. I suppose you can always ask, but who knows. For free airfare, it may be worth it, but also depends on what fees/taxes/charges you still have to pay, even with ďfree airfareĒ. Your transfers are free when you book with Viking air. We paid 120/PP

Big Box, travel agent, or through Viking directly? In the future, I may try the big box or a travel agent. But for now, the trips and confidence in the booking is too important, so I would book directly through Viking. The finer point is that if you book anywhere else, you arenít really booking with Viking. You are paying someone who hopefully is going to turn around and buy it from Viking on your behalf. Your contract is with them, not with Viking. God forbid that person, business, or big box goes out of business. And it does happen. Iíd rather pass on the onboard credit and gift card extra to make sure my next several trips are booked directly with Viking and to have that peace of mind.

If possible, I would book pre and post extensions, and on my own. We simply didnít have the time. But the P2PN trip was a good one for getting flights right when the cruise started, because you were in port the first night, and sailed at midday the next day, so worst case is you could probably still catch the boat in Paris before it started sailing. For any other cruise in the future, I would always book a pre-cruise extension. The ones through Viking are really expensive and so Iíd do that part on my own.

I'll post more on the details of the excursion, probably something on food, and day-by-day commentary, particularly how to fit in exercise/swimming if possible.

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Comments

  1. Celestial's Avatar
    I'm so glad you posted this here! We've been considering this, and you gave a lovely review. I agree, all the boat changing etc sounds rather more like an adventure than a problem. All of Europe is an adventure in that sort of way (in my limited backpacking, hostel type of experiences - while preggers no less)
  2. chowmi's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Celestial
    I'm so glad you posted this here! We've been considering this, and you gave a lovely review. I agree, all the boat changing etc sounds rather more like an adventure than a problem. All of Europe is an adventure in that sort of way (in my limited backpacking, hostel type of experiences - while preggers no less)
    Glad you like the first part! I'm going to write some more on the food and helpful tips, and things I would do differently. That part is coming soon! If ever you want more details, feel free to PM me. I will eventually scan all the Viking Dailys (tells you what's happening the next day plus some interesting facts), so if you ever want them, send me an email and I will reply back with PDF attachments.