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Two ships, five countries, and one very festive Live Voyage Report
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.
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.
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 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:
|November 22, 2014||Bordeaux, France||Arrival; free time.|
|November 23||Gironde River / Pauillac, France||Scenic Cruising / Medoc and Margaux wine country visit; wine tasting & evening at leisure|
|November 24||Blaye, France||Tour of Citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage site; afternoon free time or optional excursion to Cognac|
|November 25||Libourne, France||Tour of Saint-Emilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site & Pomerol wine region; afternoon at leisure or optional excursion to Bergerac|
|November 26||Garonne River / Cadillac, France||Scenic Cruising / Excursion to Sauternes wine region & wine tasting|
|November 27||Cadillac, France / Bordeaux, France||Morning city tour / evening at leisure in Bordeaux|
|November 28||Bordeaux, France||Tour of city center, a UNESCO World Heritage site; afternoon at leisure|
|November 29, 2014||Bordeaux, France||Disembark 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?
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.
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:
|November 29, 2014||Budapest, Hungary||Flight from Bordeaux, France to Budapest, Hungary. Overnight in Budapest|
|November 30||Budapest, Hungary||Embark Viking Baldur; free time to visit the Christmas Market. Traditional Hungarian dinner onboard.|
|December 1, 2014||Budapest, Hungary||City tour of Buda and Pest, including Castle District - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.|
|December 2||Bratislava, Slovakia||City tour through Slovakia's capital|
|December 3||Vienna, Austria||Ringstrasse tour or free time; optional excursion to the Christmas Market at Schonbrunn Palace; optional evening concert.|
|December 4||Durnstein & Melk, Austria||Free time or optional walking tour in Durnstein; tour of Melk Abbey.|
|December 5||Linz, Austria||Full day excursion to Salzburg, Austria; free time. Return to ship late at night.|
|December 6||Passau, Germany||Walking tour & free time|
|December 7, 2014||Passau, Germany||Disembark 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!
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:
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.
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:
|June 14, 2015||Quebec City, Quebec|
|June 16||Saguenay Fjord|
|June 17||Lower St. Lawrence|
|June 18||Mingan Islands National Park|
|June 19||Anticosti Island|
|June 20||Forillon National Park / Gaspe|
|June 21||Ile Bonaventure Provincial Park|
|June 22||Magdalene Islands|
|June 23||South Coast, Newfoundland|
|June 24||Saint 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.
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 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.
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.
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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