July 2015 - Viking Rinda to Europe
We were extremely excited to be taking the Paris-Normandy river cruise, especially after having been told by 3 different Viking River Cruise agents that we would have 3 nights docked by the Eiffel Tower. We could watch the tower lights at night, or walk across a bridge and have our morning cup of coffee at the tower.
Instead, we had to walk 30 minutes with our luggage from the train station in Le Pecq to the dock because there weren't any taxis when we arrived. Our view was a parking lot with cracks in the pavement where a few cars and trucks were parked. Two weeks before we sailed, I received an email from Viking telling us of last minute problems securing a permit to dock at the Eiffel Tower and instead we would be in Le Pecq. We were coming in from Disneyland Paris (first time in France and we don't speak French) and we had to learn how to use the train system to get to Le Pec because none of the Viking representatives were able to help us.
Checking reviews I quickly learned that we were a victim of a true 'bait and switch' scheme, Viking knew they were never going to dock in Paris with the Rinda. We did NOT get the cruise that we paid for. Many of the passengers were angry about being in Le Pecq instead of Paris, and it created a sour atmosphere on the ship and especially riding the bus back and forth to Paris from Le Pecq,usually in heavy city traffic.
The food onboard was nothing special, sometimes arriving cold or under-cooked and passengers sending their meals back to the kitchen. When I inquired at Giverny about help arranging a side trip to another local attraction, which we were told many times is an option for us throughout the cruise, I was told to 'make the arrangements myself'.
The upper deck is the only location for sitting outside. One end of the deck is reserved for the crew to take breaks and they are permitted to smoke there. Near the middle of the deck is the "Smoking Area" for passengers. The cigar, pipe, and cigarette smoke was impossible to avoid when sitting on the lounge chairs on this deck - again, this is the only available place on the ship to sit outside. The smoke was especially strong while docked in port, when no air was moving on a hot summer night.
Since many of us asked about seeing Paris at night, a quick trip into Paris was added to the itinerary on our last night aboard. After a long day touring, when we all should have been packing our bags, a large group took the bus ride into the city for a whirlwind blitz and a ~15-minute stop at the Eiffel Tower at 11pm to watch the sparkling light show that happens on the hour. Our choice was to either lose sleep or see Paris at night.
We decided to make the best of this bad situation. For us, though, there are many other cruise lines are sailing the rivers and oceans, so we definitely will NOT be cruising with Viking Cruises again.