Our second cruise with Viking was as excellent as our first. It started the day before we left with the wonderful surprise that instead of the standard stateroom we had booked, we'd been moved to a French balcony on the third level.
The transfer from the Marseilles airport was easy, even though our flight was delayed over an hour, and Viking took us directly to the Delling. As we arrived late, lunch was over, and yet the bartender was able to find us a sandwich and a cool glass of wine to settle in.
Our (upgraded) cabin was smaller in square feet than we had a few years ago on the Viking Sun but was designed nicely so there was plenty of room to store our clothes and toiletries and tuck the suitcases under the bed. We never felt cramped during the cruise, even though the only place to sit was on the bed. We really appreciated the ability to open the slider during the cruise and breathe the fresh air of Southern France or peek out at the locks we went through.
The crew and staff on the Delling were fantastic. Our cruise director, Michael, was funny at the right times and serious when he needed to be. We had hoped to go the limestone caves outside of Arles and Michael did everything he could to try to arrange it, but as the late November sailing was after the "season", it was impossible. Still, we appreciated the effort.
The food was fantastic with excellent chef's choices every day and plenty to choose from besides. My husband described the duck at the Flavors of Provence dinner as the best he'd ever had and I loved the varying selection of cheeses every day at breakfast. Since most of our meals were on board, we really appreciated all the regional specialties that were part of the menus. We had everything from escargot to Chateaubriand and each meal seemed to be better than the last.
We chose to purchase the Silver Spirits package and that meant that we were able to enjoy a different bottle of wine each night. There was a nice selection of regional wines, which we mostly stuck to, and also selections from other wine areas. Our waiters were always quick to bring us the wine menu and keep our glasses full. For those without the package there was a generous supply of wine each lunch an dinner and many treats throughout the cruise.
One thing I really like about Viking is how they will always welcome you back to the ship after a day of touring with some regional drink. Since it was November, ours were always warm and so toasty!
The best entertainment was Les Gitans, a gypsy group that was fantastic. We also enjoyed the lecture on the French resistance. We learned so much!
Viking's service is without parallel. They did their best not to disrupt any of the tours despite the French strike which closed down or slowed down many of the roundabouts. They were able to reroute or adjust so that everyone got to do everything they wanted and more!
I think the only disappointment on this cruise was that there is actually very little cruising and it mostly happens during dinner. Also be aware that disembarkation is very early, in our case 3:30 a.m.
That said, the cruise was fantastic and I can't wait to go with Viking again.
Avignon: The gothic cathedral in Avignon is amazing and so well preserved. We also enjoyed walking along the river to the Pont and up to the gardens next to the Palace. We happened to be in town for a wine festival and so enjoyed some wine tasting at Les Halles that wasn't expected.
Chateauneuf du Pape Wine Tasting: This was a fun little tour where we learned what makes Chateauneuf du Pape wines so delicious and also had a chance to do a tasting.
Arles: We walked in the footsteps of Van Gogh and the ancient Romans. After the tour there was enough time to try Du Bar a l'Huitre where we had a nice fish stew on the terrace and watched the people walk by.
Viviers: This ancient village was a lovely surprise, complete with cobblestone alleyways and a cathedral. Our guide, like all the guides, was so knowledgeable and really brought this little town to life. It's so fun to explore a place you've never heard of before and learn so much.
Rhone Valley Vineyard Hike: This hike took us up the slopes near the Hermitage wine region of the Rhone where we learned what makes Hermitage special and how the wines nearby are made. It also felt good to stretch our legs on a beautiful day. The wine tasting here was also very delicious but because we had to reroute our walk to catch the bus (the strike interfered) we didn't have time to make purchases.
Beaujolais Wine Country: This cruise is a wine lover's delight. More information on viniculture made our day so enjoyable.
Lyon: We had two chances to eat off the ship in Lyon, one at Merle in Les Halles (oysters!) and another at a Bouchon. These meals were memorable and worth skipping the also delicious meals on the ship.
The room is well designed for storage with three large drawers and shelves in the closet. There's plenty of room of toiletries on bathroom shelves. The French balcony allows for great views. There is no seating except on the bed.
Be sure to join the tour of the Pope's Palace. The optional tour of the Chateauneuf du Pape area is also very good.
Loved walking in the footsteps of Van Gogh and so glad I read "The Yellow House" before we cruised. Check out the Viking reading list for great ideas to bring the area alive.
I now have a much greater appreciation for Beaujolais.