The 3/30 Viking Burgundy cruise from Avignon to Avignon was a cruise of highs and lows. A summary:
The highs – best food on a cruise ship (7 previous cruises: Princess, Celebrity and Renaissance), best bed on a cruise ship, best tours (first 5), best weather (15 minutes of rain).
The lows – poor cruise manager and reception staff (lack of knowledge, inexperienced), lack of accurate itinerary (itinerary not distributed until 3rd day of cruise), worst cabin from noise perspective (under wooden floor in reception), Jacuzzi not operating entire trip.
First cruise of the season with 80%+ new staff caused “glitches” but staff all friendly just not adequately trained/experienced. Many appeared to be in jobs above their past experience. For example, our waiter had been an assistant waiter on Princess and he said this was much harder (second night) but seemed to grow into the job. Tough to get accurate answers from reception – at first the Jacuzzi couldn’t be filled in Avignon due to regulations then it was a bad pump. At first the answer was no laundry service then a laundry price list appeared in the cabin. “Well we will know for next week” was the cruise managers’ answer to a question about a tour (the same itinerary was repeated the following week 4/5).
The first day we had a lunch buffet then 4 course sit-downs for rest of the cruise. We expected a buffet but were pleasantly surprised because the buffet was a bit chaotic. Dinners were 5 course affairs. The good food went a long way to smoothing the rough spots.
A tour group of about 45 Brits had their tables reserved in the dining room, the rest had first come first seated. I found out later from the Brit tour leader that she made some suggestions that were implemented during cruise. She also gave us some shopping tips for Avignon. Wish I had met her earlier.
We went 3 days early and did the parts of Provence the cruise was not doing or so we thought based on two itineraries from Viking. But they changed itinerary and repeated two stops we had made on our own. Had some really great food while on our own - even a truffle omelet. I recommend that you not go all the way to Europe for just a week.
The good thing is that most of the issues can be corrected fairly easily IF Viking acts to correct them - better training, fix Jacuzzi when it breaks, carpeting in reception to limit noise, better communications (itinerary, tours).
All in all a good cruise for the price we paid. It could have been great. We have always found the French people gracious and this time was no different.
I’ll be interested in how the April 5 group sees their cruise.