First off, for those familiar with ocean cruises, forget everything you know. There is no shuffleboard, no Lido deck, no swimming pool, no endless buffett, no thousands of passengers. Our ship is carrying about 130 passengers, in 3 levels of rooms. There is one dining room, one lounge, the deck available for walking or sitting when the bridges aren’t too low.
Most of the passengers are from the US, with some from Canada, the UK and Australia. Viking’s cruises are run in English, so that somewhat explains the country origin. There are 2 women here from Peru though. The average age is probably somewhere in the 60’s. With the exception of families traveling together, Ellen and I are probably pretty close to the youngest on the ship.
The cruise includes 3 meals a day. Breakfast is always in the dining room, a buffet of breads, cheeses and fresh fruit. Lunch offers a choice between a sit-down meal and much the same food in the lounge served buffet style. Dinner is in the dining room, usually a four course meal of appetizer, soup, main dish and dessert. Usually there is a choice of 2 appetizers and soups, 3 different main courses and 2 desserts. Viking has made a bigger deal of trotting out the chef before each meal to review the menu, and since we are in France, there also are recommended wines paired with each dish. The food is good but not spectacular, and not worthy of specific reports of what we ate. It is the one downside of touring Europe this way that you are often setting sail right before dinner, and thus cannot eat dinner in the citiies we visit. One reason we try to pick something up for lunch while in town is so that we can somewhat sample the food in town. In Lyon last night, we arrived arround 3:30pm and stayed overnight, making it the perfect opportunity to have dinner off the ship. Add to that that Lyon is known as the gastronomical capital of France, and probably at least 1/2 the ship decided to forgo the already paid-for dinner with a meal in town.
The ship usually travels either in the evenings or in the early mornings. That depends somewhat on the locks, there are 19 of which on this particular trip. We often wake up around 6am when the ship sets sail. The rivers we have been on, the Rhone and the Saone, are not very crowded with river traffic, so we generally have the river to ourselves. Days are sometimes scheduled in borth morning and afternoon, sometimes just one or the other. There have been a few optional excursions (which means at extra cost). The trip to St. Remy and the wine tasting outside of Avignon were optional trips.
This afternoon we were able to go up in small groups to the bridge, to see how the captain steers the ship, with help from radar and sonar. The ship has 2 diesel engines, and generally travels at about 12-15 mph. This ship was originally built for the Danube, but the dimensions also work for the locks on this route.
One full day left of the trip. We are sneaking out for dinner on shore again tonight, we will be in Macon in a few minutes.