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Paris, Luxembourg and the Viking Hild
Monday, April 10, 2017
Our Program Director Emma pointed out the sign as it wooshed past on the motorway: Disneyland Paris, 15 kilometres. When a few guests on my coach expressed sighs of disappointment, she said the one thing that I’ve known for five years about Viking River Cruises. “If you want to go to Disneyland Paris as an optional tour, put it on your comment card,” she said. “You never know what they might do.”
Since first sailing with Viking back in 2012, I’ve seen the company refine its list of included and optional shore excursions to do just that: cater to the wishes of their guests. And today was a great example of that – despite the fact that Disneyland Paris zipped by.
Today is a huge logistical day on our Paris to the Swiss Alps river cruise tour that Viking has been able to turn into a rewarding experience. Technically speaking, Viking has to transport us from Paris to Trier, Germany, where the Viking Hild is waiting. It’s a five-hour drive away, through the beautiful – but somewhat monotonous – rolling countryside of France. So how do you do that and still make it fun?
After departing the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel at 0815 this morning, we boarded our coach, which was so new it still had a pleasant “new bus smell.” Viking chartered four coaches for this purpose, meaning everyone had ample space to spread out.
Program Director Emma outlined our schedule: we’d drive for two hours and the stop at a local truck stop for a bathroom and refreshment break. We’d then drive two and a half more hours to Luxembourg City, for a walking tour and lunch on our own. From there, Trier is only a 45-minute drive away.
In one single day, Viking is taking us to three countries: France, Luxembourg and Germany. That’s pretty cool, especially for so-called “country collectors” that want to challenge themselves to see how many places they can visit.
Lunch in Luxembourg
Now, the cool part of my day: we were guided around Luxembourg City by a spry, witty, clever, 86-year old man named Rene. He guided us all around the streets of Luxembourg, and toured us around the American Cemetery that commemorates the fallen soldiers of the Battle of the Bulge.
Luxembourg is a country in its own right – and not one of the places I’d choose to visit on my own. That’s why Viking’s choice to stop here this afternoon was so fantastic; I’ve unwittingly added a country to my list of places visited.
Embarking the Viking Hild
Early this evening, we arrived in Trier, where the glistening Viking Hild was waiting for us.
Viking Hild is one of Viking River Cruises’ newest Viking Longships. First launched in 2012, these ships (there are now over 50 on the rivers of Europe) revolutionized river cruising by challenging long-held beliefs about design concepts.
Traditionally speaking, river cruise ships were neither spacious nor particularly bright. Windows were small, ceilings low, and cabins – politely termed – cramped. A 90 square foot stateroom with one window and two fold out, Pullman-style berths wasn’t unusual.
And then Viking came along and started to change everything. Chairman Torstein Hagen – a veteran of the ocean cruise industry who built Viking from the ground up two decades ago in 1997 – mandated that he wanted an open-air lounge at the front of his new riverboats. Public rooms were to have floor-to-ceiling windows. True suites – with separate living and sleeping areas – were to be incorporated.
The result was the Viking Longships – and they revolutionized river cruising.
Five years on, stepping aboard Viking Hild is just as invigorating as when I first boarded Viking Odin (one of the first four Longships) in March of 2012.
Inside, the inviting two-story atrium reception lobby greets guests. Topped with a glass ceiling and flanked by a grand staircase, this is the central hub of every Viking Longship, including Viking Hild.
Once onboard, passports were collected and room keys handed over. It’s an easy, uncomplicated process, and before long, I was on my way to my Category A Veranda Stateroom on Deck 3; the uppermost accommodations deck aboard Viking Hild.
There are 39 staterooms with true Verandas aboard Viking Hild; another river cruising first. Traditionally, most river cruise staterooms only had French Balconies. There’s 22 French Balcony staterooms (Categories C and D) onboard, along with 25 standard “riverview” staterooms that feature half-height, fixed-window views. At the top end of the scale are seven Veranda Suites on Deck 3, and two massive Explorer Suites at the stern of Viking Hild that were an industry-first in terms of sheer size.
Viking has, in my opinion, some of the best-designed staterooms on the rivers of Europe, and my Category A Veranda Stateroom is no exception. Decorated with Viking’s trademark Scandinavian styling, these rooms are filled with plenty of thoughtful touches. Things like North American power outlets come standard here, along with a massive flat-panel interactive TV system that offers complimentary movies on-demand, music, and all the Downton Abbey you can handle.
Closet space is adequate for two, and both closets offer lighting that turns on when opened. There are also plenty of drawers in the room, and luggage can be easily slipped under the bed.
But it’s the stateroom bathrooms that have always won me over. It’s hard to beat a bathroom that offers a fully glass-enclosed shower, heated floors, and an anti-fog mirror. Viking used to have L’Occitane toiletries onboard, but switched to Freyja products last year in order to be more in-line with the new Viking Ocean Cruises ships, which are stocked with Freyja.
On the whole, the entire room is just a pleasure to be in – and I’m looking forward to having it as my home-away-from-home for the next week.
Beautiful (Viking) Evenings
Tonight, we had the traditional Captain’s Welcome Cocktail in the Viking Lounge, followed by the spectacular dining experience I’ve come to expect from Viking River Cruises. On the menu tonight: smoked salmon and caviar, chateaubriand, and sautéed scallops, to name a few items.
Dinner was exceptional, and it was followed by an event that kicked off this river cruise nicely: a local German “Oompah” band. I’ve never seen such a lively crowd on embarkation night on a river cruise before, with people dancing and joining conga lines and genuinely having a lovely time.
It’s exactly what I’d expect of Viking River Cruises – a line that has been exceeding my expectations for five straight years. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 days bring.
|Saturday, April 8, 2017||Paris, France|
|Sunday, April 9||Paris, France
|Monday, April 10||Trier, Germany (embarkation)|
|Tuesday, April 11||Trier, Germany / Bernkastel, Germany|
|Wednesday, April 12||Cochem, Germany|
|Thursday, April 13||Middle Rhine Cruising; Sankt Goar, Germany|
|Friday, April 14||Mainz, Germany|
|Saturday, April 15||Speyer, Germany|
|Sunday, April 16||Strasbourg, France|
|Monday, April 17||Basel, Switzerland (disembark); Zurich, Switzerland|
|Tuesday, April 18||Zurich, Switzerland; end of tour.|
On March 30, 2017 By Aaron Saunders
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