Our cruise on the Delling down the Rhone from Lyon to Avignon had many excellent features (like service, food, and accommodations on the ship) but also some disappointments. There were about 185 passengers; any more would have been too many for us.
The first thing to be said about it is that there was very little cruising and a lot of walking and bus-riding. In retrospect, we suppose this was to be expected since the distance is only about 150 miles. During shore excursions, one sees some very nice aspects of this region in France, especially Roman ruins, wineries, a canyon, and farms. But during the few hours we were actually cruising during daylight, we weren’t passing the beautiful castles one sees in the ads, but rather a lot of factories, nuclear power plants, etc. As senior citizens, one of us having had recent knee surgery, we were pleased about the “leisure” and “easy” tour offerings. Still, there was a lot of walking. Our cruising was further limited by an accident involving another boat that closed down the river for many hours, so we were bused to Arles rather than sailing there on the Viking Delling. We also spent a lot of time in locks: the first time was technically interesting, but later times were boring. Further detracting from use of our veranda were the frequent times that we looked out onto another vessel a few feet away, tied up to ours, rather than looking out to the river. We heard that Budapest to Amsterdam cruising was much better.
On the positive side, our large stateroom (with adjoining living room) was excellent as a generally docked, small hotel room. There were many modern, attractive features and the bathroom was superior. The service was generally excellent. We were brought champagne, fresh fruits, flowers, and wine. The meal service was excellent almost all the time, whether picking items up from the buffet or ordering them from the menu (the chef was German; he did superbly on French cuisine and less so on occasional German cuisine). The only exception was sub-standard orange juice; why don’t they offer fresh-squeezed? The expedition leader, Mia, was exceptional with a marvelous sense of humor; she should be offered a big raise. The waiters were generally very good, only occasionally serving items to the wrong person. Most of the tour guides were very informative and professional; the buses were Mercedes-Benz. Entertainment in the lounge was high quality, including a fine talk about the French Resistance during WW II. So the Delling as a fine hotel was distinctly superior to our other decent first Viking experience on the Yangtze River in China.
We signed up for three optional excursions at extra cost. One was excellent, despite the long bus ride: Beaujolais and Truffles, which visited a winery in a castle, a truffle farm featuring a delightful dog, and a goat cheese farm. However another excursion, said to be one of the most popular offerings, was poor: on the Chateauneuf-du-Pape tour, we were left standing for a long while in an uninteresting town square while the guide was gone…and then taken to a new winery with no place to sit as we stood listening to long lectures in French that were briefly summarized by our guide in English. The included tour in Vienne failed to go near the most important ruin in the town, the huge Roman amphitheater. We walked to it on our own and found out why: The view from the base is deliberately blocked by opaque screening, which has the evident purpose of forcing you to pay to enter a small venue from which you can glimpse the amphitheater through dirty, foggy windows. One negative feature of the included excursions is a feature of France: few and terrible toilets. Often you either have to pay (at a turnstile or by buying coffee in a café) or instead use what the guides pejoratively called “Turkish toilets,” which were holes in the ground. The buses had mini-toilets in compartments that were too small for large adults.
We were glad that we didn’t purchase the expensive Silver Spirits beverage package. Given all the free alcohol otherwise available (e.g. during ship-wide cocktail parties) and the wine freely available during lunches and dinners, we wouldn’t have come close to getting our money’s worth. Our stateroom had two fancy screens, but they were inadequately managed. They showed us the weather forecast in Arles when we were in Avignon, and the forecast for Avignon when we were visiting Arles. And the forecast was totally turned off for the 24 hours preceding the day it would have been most useful: the day we departed the ship. We were also unhappy about the failure of a promise on our departure: a group of about two dozen of us on a bus to the Marseille Airport were promised that we would be met by a Viking agent who would accompany us all the way to Security. We were met, but the woman left us on the sidewalk outside the terminal. Upon entering the terminal, there were no indications of what to do and she was long gone.
All things considered it was a fine way to see aspects of Lyon and Provence, with luxurious comfort and meals on our usually-docked ship.
The stateroom was excellent. There were fancy controls for temperature and most of the lights. Special reading lights were embedded in the headboard. The closet, refrigerator, and safe were useful. The two screens provided CNN; one could also watch propaganda on "Fox News." The weather information was incomplete. The furniture and bed were comfortable. The bathroom was fine, with much storage space and a sufficiently large shower. The toilet made a brief loud bang when flushed. The veranda was nice when it wasn't blocked by another attached cruise ship.
Bus tour to Basilica of Notre Dame at the top of the Fourviere, with views of the city, then some interesting building-side murals, and then a brief walk througha traboule (narrow passageway). It was OK, but a lot of crowds and traffic.View All 47 City Tour Reviews
A long bus drive, much through pretty, hilly vineyards, to a castle with a good wine-tasting in the cellar. Then lunch at a truffle farm, followed by watching the owner's dog dig for black truffles. Finally a visit to a goat cheese farm, with opportunities to pet the goats and drink some more wine with goat cheese. Very nice.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Our next stop after Lyon was Vienne with an OK city tour but not of the Roman amphitheater. The ship then stopped in Tournon-sur-Rhone, but we didn't see it since we departed very early on an all-day Optional Tour, "Charming Ardeche". I don't know if this questionnaire will give us an opportunity to review that, but it was Very Good.
The walking tour included the immense and impressive Popes Palace. With over 200 steps, the "leisure" tour did not include this, but the guides enabled me (who was able to go into the Palace) to meet up with my wife (who with her cane was on the leisure tour) afterwards. Other parts of the walled city were visited, as well.
The walking tour was OK. But the various groups got held up at the amphitheater by inadequate toilet facilities. We looked through the bars at the theater, then passed city hall. Even the leisure tour got to be a very long walk so we stopped following the tour and instead found a wonderful restaurant (La Plaza) for lunch. The time spent going to and from Arles and in Arles was extended due to the fact that we were bused there and back due to a river accident (not Viking's fault) that prohibited the Delling from going to Arles.