Two ships, five countries, and one very festive Live Voyage Report

The Christmas Market in front of Vienna's Rathaus is the largest of the 27 markets within the city limits. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The Christmas Market in front of Vienna’s Rathaus is the largest of the 27 markets within the city limits. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Three years ago at this time, I had never taken a river cruise. Today, I am a river cruise fanatic – particularly when it comes to sailing through Europe’s Christmas Markets. As fantastic as the warm summer months are for enjoying meals in outdoor cafes and cycling along Europe’s many pathways, there’s nothing like the storybook winter wonderland on showcase during the months of November and December.

For a look at our Rhine Christmas Markets Voyage aboard Viking Baldur, Click Here!

Viking Odin arrives in Hoorn. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

We’ll be sailing aboard two Viking Longships: Viking Forseti in France, and Viking Baldur on the Danube. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Beginning November 22, 2014, I’m doing double-duty with Viking River Cruises as I travel first to Bordeaux, France to experience their brand-new Chateaux, Rivers and Wine itinerary before carrying on to Budapest, Hungary for a weeklong Christmas Markets sailing on Viking’s Danube Waltz cruise to Passau, Germany.

We're headed back to Bordeaux in November to report live from the full Chateaux, Rivers and Wine itinerary with Viking River Cruises! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

We’re headed back to Bordeaux in November to report live from the full Chateaux, Rivers and Wine itinerary with Viking River Cruises! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

I had a tantalising glimpse of Viking’s new Chateaux, Rivers and Wine itinerary earlier this year during the Viking Longship Christening Ceremonies. It’s a brand-new run for them, sailing aboard Viking Forseti roundtrip from Bordeaux.

Bordeaux alone would be worth going back for. Locals told us that prior to 2000, Bordeaux had fallen into a state of disrepair and neglect, which is hard to imagine when presented with the immensely-romantic city it has developed into today. It’s as clean and modern as Nice, but as statuesque as Paris.

The House of CAMUS is situated in the picturesque countryside, and is worth visiting for the history and scenery alone. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The House of CAMUS is situated in the picturesque countryside, and is worth visiting for the history and scenery alone. Viking offers a visit here as an optional tour on their Chateaux, Rivers and Wine itinerary. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The real pull of this itinerary, though, can be found in the French love of fine wine, great food and exceptional cognac. Over the course of seven days, guests have the option to sample all three in abundance, as Viking Forseti sails the Dordogne, Garonne and Gironde rivers to Saint-Emilion before returning to Bordeaux.

The full itinerary, both here and onboard:

DAYPORTACTIVITIES
November 22, 2014Bordeaux, FranceArrival; free time.
November 23Gironde River / Pauillac, FranceScenic Cruising / Medoc and Margaux wine country visit; wine tasting & evening at leisure
November 24Blaye, FranceTour of Citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage site; afternoon free time or optional excursion to Cognac
November 25Libourne, FranceTour of Saint-Emilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site & Pomerol wine region; afternoon at leisure or optional excursion to Bergerac
November 26Garonne River / Cadillac, FranceScenic Cruising / Excursion to Sauternes wine region & wine tasting
November 27Cadillac, France / Bordeaux, FranceMorning city tour / evening at leisure in Bordeaux
November 28Bordeaux, FranceTour of city center, a UNESCO World Heritage site; afternoon at leisure
November 29, 2014Bordeaux, FranceDisembark Viking Forseti; flight to Budapest, Hungary for the start of our next Live Voyage Report!

My personal hope? Bordeaux’s Christmas Market will be up and running by the time Viking Forseti pulls into port near the end of the voyage. What could be better than spiced wine from the region’s legendary vineyards?

Welcome Aboard! Viking Freya lying in wait at her Budapest dock on a grey December afternoon. Notice the green illumination on the Chain Bridge in the background: for the first few moments when the lights are switched on, the structure temporarily glows green. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Welcome Aboard! Viking Freya lying in wait at her Budapest dock on a grey December afternoon. Notice the green illumination on the Chain Bridge in the background: for the first few moments when the lights are switched on, the structure temporarily glows green. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Since I’m already in Europe – and because it seems a shame to go all the way over so close to my favorite time of year only to return home – I’ll be up early at the end of my cruise to fly from Bordeaux to Budapest to embark Viking Baldurfor a voyage along the Christmas Markets of the Danube!

Beginning November 30, I’ll be experiencing Viking’s Danube Waltz itinerary for the first time and despite the number of times I have done the Danube, I have never done this particular voyage before. Some notable firsts for me will be a tour of Salzburg, Austria – which promises to be stunning, given the elaborate Christmas Markets that pop up there – and the town of Krems, Austria, which is actually Austria’s fifth-largest city. Situated in the Wachau Valley just 70 kilometres west of Vienna, it is noted for its Steiner Tor, a medieval city gate dating back to the 15th Century.

Christmas decorations line all of Budapest's street lamps. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Christmas decorations line all of Budapest’s street lamps. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

This voyage is also noteworthy for its unique call on Bratislava, Slovakia, one of my favorite ports of call and one that I have never visited during the winter months. It’s also noteworthy for terminating in Passau, Germany instead of Nuremberg. Following the conclusion of the cruise, most guests – including myself – will depart from Munich’s Franz Josef Strauss Airport.

The full itinerary, both here and onboard:

DAYPORTACTIVITIES
November 29, 2014Budapest, HungaryFlight from Bordeaux, France to Budapest, Hungary. Overnight in Budapest
November 30Budapest, HungaryEmbark Viking Baldur; free time to visit the Christmas Market. Traditional Hungarian dinner onboard.
December 1, 2014Budapest, HungaryCity tour of Buda and Pest, including Castle District - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
December 2Bratislava, SlovakiaCity tour through Slovakia's capital
December 3Vienna, AustriaRingstrasse tour or free time; optional excursion to the Christmas Market at Schonbrunn Palace; optional evening concert.
December 4Durnstein & Melk, AustriaFree time or optional walking tour in Durnstein; tour of Melk Abbey.
December 5Linz, AustriaFull day excursion to Salzburg, Austria; free time. Return to ship late at night.
December 6Passau, GermanyWalking tour & free time
December 7, 2014Passau, GermanyDisembark Viking Baldur; transfer to Munich, Germany for onward journey home.

To ensure there are no issues with flights between France and Hungary, we’ll be spending an extra night in Budapest prior to embarking Viking Baldur. More details on that to follow!

Our 15-day Live Voyage Report will take us through 12 cities, five different countries, seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and two separate Viking Longships.

November never looked so good!

The attractive Viking Embla followed in our wake after our departure from Visegrad. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Viking Embla sailing the Danube in December of 2012. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report coverage will begin from Viking Forseti in Bordeaux, France, on November 22, 2014 and continue until November 29, 2014. Live Coverage will begin from Budapest, Hungary and Viking Baldur on November 30, 2014 and will run until Sunday, December 7.

 

This week, Ralph Grizzle is currently sailing aboard AmaWaterways’ AmaVida through Portugal’s famed Douro River Valley. It’s a one-of-a-kind river cruise that calls for a one-of-a-kind style of reporting, so Ralph’s trying something a little different this time: a video-based Live Voyage Report. Below is the video from his day along the Douro – shot today, on July 24, 2014:

Ralph writes:

This week, we’re traveling from Copenhagen to Portugal to river cruise along the beautiful Douro River. We’ll be cruising through the heart of the Duoro Valley, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and known for its wine production. In fact, ours is a special wine-themed cruise on AmaVida, operated by AmaWaterways. Join us for an inspiring week in Portugal. We’ll be posting daily “video vignettes” on Live Voyage Reports, River Cruise Advisor and Avid Cruiser— or follow along using your favorite social media portal.

You can follow along with the rest of Ralph’s video missives, live from the Douro River on our sister-site, Live Voyage Reports.

 

 

Earlier this year, we wrote about the new ship that Adventure Canada will be getting for the 2015 cruise season: the 198-guest Ocean Endeavour. Now, it’s time to talk about the itinerary that will welcome her into service: the Mighty St. Lawrence.

Adventure Canada's 2015 Mighty St. Lawrence Itinerary sails from Quebec City to Saint Pierre, in Saint Pierre et Miquelon.

Adventure Canada’s 2015 Mighty St. Lawrence Itinerary sails from Quebec City to Saint Pierre, in Saint Pierre et Miquelon.

Departing June 14, 2015, this itinerary marks Adventure Canada’s return to La Belle Province of Quebec, gateway to historic Quebec City and the start of the fabled St. Lawrence Seaway that leads into the Atlantic Ocean. The full itinerary:

DAYPORT
June 14, 2015Quebec City, Quebec
June 16Saguenay Fjord
June 17Lower St. Lawrence
June 18Mingan Islands National Park
June 19Anticosti Island
June 20Forillon National Park / Gaspe
June 21Ile Bonaventure Provincial Park
June 22Magdalene Islands
June 23South Coast, Newfoundland
June 24Saint Pierre, France

The Ocean Endeavour leaves from Quebec City, within sight of the historic Chateau Frontenac. From there, she sails into Saguenay Fjord before entering the Lower St. Lawrence River on Day 3. This is particularly noteworthy as some of the best whale-watching in all of Canada can be found between the cliffs of the Saguenay Fjord, which itself is one of the best feeding grounds for marine and bird species.

Anticosti National Park is larger than Prince Edward Island, yet largely uninhabited. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Anticosti National Park is larger than Prince Edward Island, yet largely uninhabited. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

On Day 4, Ocean Endeavour calls on Mingan Islands National Park. On Day 5, it’s time to visit Anticosti Island. On Day 6, Forillon National Park. If you haven’t heard of any of those before, don’t worry: that’s the entire point. This isn’t your average Canadian Maritimes cruise; Adventure Canada has designed an itinerary that goes where the big ships can’t. In fact, wave to them as they sail past, blissfully unaware of the treasures that they’re missing out on.

Anticosti Island, in particular, is quite noteworthy. It’s larger than Prince Edward Island, but very sparsely populated. In ancient seafaring times, it was known as the “Cemetery of the Gulf” due to the number of wrecks off its shores. Today, you can go hiking in the complete wilderness on this pristine island.

The reddish shores of the Magdalene Islands are explored on Day 8 of Adventure Canada's Mighty St. Lawrence itinerary. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The reddish shores of the Magdalene Islands are explored on Day 8 of Adventure Canada’s Mighty St. Lawrence itinerary. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The Magdalene Islands, visited on Day 8, are also noteworthy for their famous red cliffs. Explorer Jacques Cartier was the first European to visit Magdalene, which up until the 20th Century were completely cut off from the outside world during the winter months due to the thick ice pack that tended to form around them. In the heat of June, however, ice is no longer a concern for Ocean Endeavour.

The voyage ends in Saint Pierre, France - part of Saint. Pierre and Miquelon, the only remnant of New France that remains under French control. Located just south of Newfoundland, Saint Pierre is home to approximately six thousand residents and is located nearly four thousand kilometres from Brest, France, but just 25 kilometres from Newfoundland. Because it is difficult to reach, Adventure Canada has arranged for a charter flight between Saint Pierre and St. John’s, Newfoundland at an extra cost of $295 per person.

Adventure Canada has secured the 1982-built Ocean Endeavour - formerly Kristina Katarina - to operate their expedition adventures in 2015. Photo courtesy of Adventure Canada

Adventure Canada has secured the 1982-built Ocean Endeavour – formerly Kristina Katarina – to operate their expedition adventures in 2015. Photo courtesy of Adventure Canada

Ocean Endeavour represents an upgrade from the cozy, comfortable Sea Adventurer that Adventure Canada uses for their Arctic and Antarctic expedition cruise programmes this year. Formerly Kristina Cruises’ Kristina Katarina, she recently underwent a major refurbishment program that has left her interiors looking like a boutique hotel. Ten categories of staterooms and suites are complemented by three bars and lounges, a sauna, day spa, open and covered pool deck with swimming pool and a hot tub, as well as a special “mud room” for storing outdoor gear and equipment.

The large amount of open deck space aboard Ocean Endeavour, coupled with a total of three lounges, will give guests more options during their expedition sailings. Photo courtesy of Adventure Canada

The large amount of open deck space aboard Ocean Endeavour, coupled with a total of three lounges, will give guests more options during their expedition sailings. Photo courtesy of Adventure Canada

Expedition voyages along the St. Lawrence Seaway are quite rare; expect this one to sell out quickly!

More information on this exciting itinerary can be found by visiting the Adventure Canada website.

 

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