Wednesday Evening, August 6

Our ship the Viking Neptune moored on the Seine River in Paris...

Even though it wasn’t technically our last evening aboard the Neptune, this was the time appointed for the customary “Farewell Dinner.”  We went to our (by now) usual table in the far corner and found ourselves the only ones there when the meal commenced.  However, we were soon joined by Patrizia, the Maitre d’Hotel, and Dietmar, who was scheduled to be her replacement at the end of our cruise when she went on holiday.  They are both interesting, gregarious people, and it was fascinating to get their perspective on the activities in which the guests had been involved since our boarding.

Apparently the crew members work for four weeks doing back-to-back cruises, and then are off for two weeks to relax and decompress.  One of the most notable attributes of the typical Viking employee is incredible patience, coupled with the ability to project a cheerful disposition no matter what!  I have observed these amazing folks being confronted by nearly apoplectic guests about circumstances completely beyond their control and, while they may eventually exchange the smile for a demeanor more appropriate to the scenario, they always maintain an admirable (and sometimes enviable) calm. I applaud them all! To be completely honest, I can’t begin to tell you what was on the menu, but it really doesn’t matter. The truly significant part of the feast came at its close, when we were allowed to give the entire crew, from the galley to the pilot house, the standing ovation they so richly deserved.

Which leads me to what I suppose is the point of the evening’s festivities: unless you are a totally heartless curmudgeon, it is nearly impossible to avoid developing a bond with these bright, attractive young people.  So, although we still had one more night aboard, it was time to deal with the imminent severing of that tie that had grown so quickly and intensely.

Tomorrow will be a scattered day, with so many of our company being bundled off to half or full days at the palace of Versailles, and the rest of us steaming back to Paris to reacquire them at about 6:30 p.m.  For Gary and me it will be a time for packing and writing and perhaps some personal exploration after a guided walking tour of the quaint double-named town of Conflans St. Honorine.

So, until the next time – au revoir!

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