Well.. Its not easy as a Ren alumni to make the switch to another cruise line.. But after much research.. And because we found a special rate for 'renegades' on the Yahoo board..(Thanks.. Shirley B ) Anyway, we have just booked Viking Avignon-Chalon on 10/22/02.. I have lots of questions for anyone who has taken this trip.. Were there any disappointing tours?? Was there any place where you arranged tours on your own?? How would you rate the hotels?? Especially, were they centrally located?? Did you bring a laptop or find any convenient cyber cafes?? Any thoughts by Viking to make computers available?? Also we are hoping to contact fellow cruisers on the 10/22 Burgundy Cruise (or 10/26 without the hotel add-ons) and maybe meet in Nice at the Grand Aston Hotel or else on board the Burgundy .. Please email us direct.
Just finished this cruise and it was great! BTW - this ship has the highest cust sat ratings of the whole fleet.
Here's some tips:
Go to all discussions -- cause you'll learn some valuable tips about what to visit. For instance - one of the world's best chocolate factories.
Overall - we like all the excursions and thought it was useful.
--Arles was not pleasant - don't waste a lot of time there. The optional excursion to the Camargue was wonderful.
-- My BF liked the Pope's Palace in Avignon and thought it was the most impressive building we saw. If I had it to do over, I wouldn't have gone inside. So you may want to visit the website to determine how interested you are. The gift shop was WAY WAY WAY overpriced and I wasn't the only person who made that comment.
--The trip to the winery was a great experience.
The Pont de Gard was interesting but staying in Avignon would have been better.
--Didn't do the steam train excursion and was told we were smart. Instead we visited the wine shop and chocolate factory. (Don't eat too much at lunch or you won't be able to try all the free samples at this place.) There's a great and cheap internet cafe at this stop. The front desk can point it out for you on the map.
--Do the Ghost Walk with Christian and Marc.
--In Lyon, we had lunch at Pierre Obin. $300 for 2 .... but I'd do it again in a second.
Do optional the nightlights tour of Lyon.
--As for Beane .... BF liked it and wasn't as interested. The winery you go to let's the tourist have the cheap stuff. So you can ask to sample some nicer stuff. But it's interesting to see a "real" wine cellar.
The crew is great about pointing out the internet cafes - so just ask.
Tell Christian and Marc "Hello" -- they are damn near perfect hosts! Marc was able to track down our lost luggage from Air France and Christian just went out of his way to ensure everyone is pleased.
My 17-year-old son and I got back from Viking's last Saone-Rhone cruise of the season last week. I agree that Marc and Christian are topnotch people, and I'd also like to put in a plug for Florian (the maitre d'), Eduardo (our waiter much of the time), and our housekeeper, Teresa.
A few reactions to earlier comments:
1) The Pont du Gard was well worth the trip. I strongly suggest that people take the time to climb up to the overlook on the far side of the aqueduct, then cross back to the visitor center's side and walk down the river a bit for another view. (That's assuming you're fit and frisky; the climb up may be a bit too time-consuming if you aren't used to walking.)
2) Arles is a pleasant town, although it's certainly smaller and offers less for the casual visitor than Avignon does.
3) The steam-train ride was a nice excursion, and it offered a taste of countryside between visits to towns and cities. I wouldn't rate it at the top of my favorite tours on the itinerary, though.
4) The night walk in Viviers was one of the high points of the tirp. We went with Chris (who took the steeper route), while less energetic passengers went with Marc.
5) I enjoyed the Papal Palaces a great deal; my son less so, because the rooms didn't have many of their original decorations or furnishings (although the restored wall paintings and floor in the Pope's bedchamber were very fine indeed).
6) I looked at only a few items in the gift shop, and I'd have to say that the prices looked more reasonable than prices for comparable items on most seagoing cruise ships. It was quite toward the end of our voyage, and I would have eagerly paid US $55 for one of the Viking nylon jackets with polar fleece linings (the same jackets worn by the crew) if they'd had one in my size. $55 seemed like a pretty good price to me.
I'll be publishing an in-depth illustrated article on the VIKING BURGUNDY and our cruise itinerary in a few weeks at Europeforvisitors.com.