I just returned from a Viking River Cruise in France, Paris and Normandy on the Rolf.  I have been dreaming of a river cruise for many years now and I finally was able to go on one.  Now that I own and operate my own wellness tour company, I continue to assist clients with their world travels, but my primary focus is Italy and wellness.  I love to explore and travel to different destinations to open my mind, heart and spirit to other cultures and ways of life.  I prefer to travel in various means like cruises, groups or solo.  I feel it makes me a better tour operator and an agent for those seeking advice and guidance.  I have several pros and cons about river cruising and Viking.  In this blog, I outline the pros of river cruising.
1.       Intimacy – the small feel of a river cruise is a wonderful way to travel.  With only a couple hundred of guests on board, getting to know the crew and other fellow cruisers provides that special touch that only a small intimate trip could offer.  At Via Mondo, the land tours are designed to create intimacy found on river cruises.  With only 14 guests per trip, 7 passengers vans and 6 attendees for all excursions, intimacy is our primary focus and we make every effort to provide you with those special moments.
2.       Flexibility – During meals, it was open dining and in my opinion, that was ideal in order to mingle and meet several cruise goers every day.  I learn so much from other travelers and most times, more so then the particular day tour or excursion already scheduled.  The day trips were optional and many times, guests on board were able to choose their excursion.  With Via Mondo, excursions are planned in advance, but customizable.  Prior to departure, we get to know you to customize each excursion specifically to your needs.  Personal experience is highlighted on each tour and we go above and beyond by highlighting each day and moment.
3.       Security – On board and during our outings, I also felt safe and secure.  All the guides were exceptional!  Not only are the guides knowledgeable, but they made us feel comfortable and welcome.  Via Mondo’s goal is to offer local experiences with host guides who are knowledgeable and personable for a far richer and informative cultural contact through small group gatherings.  We pride ourselves as your long lost cousins you wish you had in Italy and to us, you are family.
4.       Facility – The Rolf is a brand new ship with just over 200 days on the water.  An infant, let’s say.  The ship was always clean and in great condition.  All the amenities and fixtures were state of the art.  The electronics were of high value, and the linens and bedding first quality.  The ship had an elegant look with soft lightening in cream and white color tone.  For land packages, there are 3 items to look for: location, customer service and amenities.  All hotels, B&B, villas and farm houses are reviewed for these 3 features in order for you to wander around with ease and receive high quality service from the staff.  As a wellness tour operator, we look at facilities for their special amenities like spas, yoga classes, gym or workout room, and access to hiking trails, bike equipment and other activities particular to that location.
5.       Inclusive – River cruises offer more with included day tours, beverages during meals and transfers with airfare.  I’ve cruised on large cruise liners and none of these features are included.  Instead, those features are additional.  Before putting this tour company together, I reviewed and studied all types of land and sea operators.  The goal was to create tours to minimize the hassle, but maximize the fluidity of the process.  On all Via Mondo tours, beverages are included during scheduled meals, personalized day tours are part of the package and transfers are included whether you purchase air through us or not.  I wanted to ensemble tours that focused more on the experience than anything else.  It was important to add value on every trip.
Overall, I was pleased with the cruise, loved France and would take another river cruise, although, I prefer my lifestyle trips, and feel they offer a better experience and value to travelers.  They incorporate rich day excursions, intimate connections and overall, full participation for a more memorable vacation that will last a lifetime.