My Viking River Cruise through France: One Insider’s Perspective

By Laura L.
Current Marketing Coordinator and Former PVM

In early August, I had the honor of cruising with Viking River Cruises on their Paris and the Heart of Normandy itinerary. Viking is one of many cruise lines (both river and ocean) that we work with through Online Vacation Center, so upon boarding, I thought I was already quite familiar with Viking and their customer service experience. However, I have to say that from the second I boarded the Viking Kadlin, I was both really surprised and impressed. 

The Ship

First of all, the attention to detail was incredible. The Viking Kadlin, like many of the Viking Longships, was brand new. It was impeccably clean and offered unlimited coffees and cookies 24/7 (you can probably imagine where I spent a lot of my time), a full bar, a large and well-designed main dining room, a library, and my favorite: the upstairs Sun Deck, offering 360-degree views of the surrounding rivers and villages we sailed by. Every iota of space on the ship is well used, from the (surprising) amount of storage in the bathroom of every room to the hallways on every floor. There was ample light making the ship seem not small, but cozy. The staff onboard went above and beyond repeatedly to make sure that guests had any and everything they needed—whether that be a special dinner reservation made off the ship in Paris or more towels for the stateroom.  Wi-Fi is satellite based, so sometimes the connection speed was spotty, but overall it worked well and was free. Also, I personally thought the food was excellent—Viking features local dishes, ingredients and wine. In addition, I’m gluten free, and Viking accommodated me brilliantly—I enjoyed more than my fair share of gluten-free croissants and decadent French sauces!

The Location

I originally selected the Paris and the Heart of Normandy itinerary for the location. Not only had I never been to northern France before, it was also easy to reach (I could fly in and out of Paris, roundtrip) and this itinerary was short and sweet—8 days and 7 nights.

This itinerary starts and ends with a day in Paris, providing guests with plenty of time to explore this beautiful city. I skipped the included walking tours on both days, which were great options provided by Viking, but they mostly took place outside the city center (such as seeing Napoleon’s wife, Josephine’s home just outside Paris). Instead, I took advantage of Viking’s free city shuttle and explored Paris on my own, including the Musee d’Orsay and Sacre Coeur!

The Itinerary

The second week of August (when I visited) is apparently one of the best times to go because the majority of locals go to the French Riviera on vacation. The city is calm and basically empty, so it’s a perfect time to explore cafes and the tourist destinations without worry about enormous lines.

After the first free day in Paris, we cruised up the Seine to Giverny, where Claude Monet had his large estate surrounded by gardens, including his famed Japanese garden and lily pad pond. Viking provided a transfer to the Giverny gardens and a local guide who led us on a 2 hour walking tours of both the house and gardens. It was really stunning—the hundreds (if not thousands) of species of flowers were almost overwhelming; several of the gardens were organized not by species, just by color. The amount of colors bursting throughout the gardens were mesmerizing… I think I took around 500 photos in just 2 hours!

After Giverny, we sailed north closer to Le Havre, stopping in Rouen, and experiencing a full day tour of the Normandy American Cemetery, Omaha Beach, the D-Day Museum, and other WWII sites. The American Cemetery was massive and incredibly moving; I wish we had a little more time to spend there (we were given about 1.5 hours). After our time in Normandy, we cruised back along the Seine for our final day in Paris and for the return flight home.

Overall, I had an incredible time and think this is the perfect way to leisurely enjoy a destination, regardless if it’s a place you’ve never been or a place you’ve visited a dozen times. Viking gives a lot of options and opportunities for you to customize your experience to be exactly what you want it to be, making it ideal for many different types of travelers (experienced, laid back, etc.).

Viking Pros:

  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Free Walking Tours
  • New Ships
  • Extreme attention to detail and customer service
  • Intimate, resort-like setting

Viking Cons:

  • Slow paced, which is perfect for relaxing but if you like to stay super busy, you’ll have to pack your own schedule full of activities
  • Only walking tours are included, so if you’re not up for the physicality of the tours, you won’t be able to participate
  • No casino, no large shows onboard