Bonjour, Avignon!

Welcome to the Viking River Cruises Longships Class of 2014 in beautiful Avignon, France! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Welcome to the Viking River Cruises Longships Class of 2014 in beautiful Avignon, France! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The agent checking me in to my KLM flight from Vancouver to Amsterdam spied my bright-red Viking River Cruises tag when I put my luggage up on the belt. “Going on a river cruise?”

Sort of, I replied. I explained that Viking was christening 16 Viking Longships in a ceremony in Avignon – 14 new, two launched last year but never christened. “I’ve always wanted to take a river cruise,” she continued. “I see their ads on TV all the time. Don’t they do something with Downton Abbey?”

Our brand-new Viking River Cruises motorcoach waiting at Marseille Airport. The coach - a Mercedes-Benz - was brand new. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Our brand-new Viking River Cruises motorcoach waiting at Marseille Airport. The coach – a Mercedes-Benz – was brand new. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Indeed they do. Viking has supported PBS MASTERPIECE as a National Corporate Sponsor since 2011. In 2012, when Viking announced they were renewing their sponsorship for two additional years, Viking’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, Richard Marnell said, “Our partnership over the last year has been an overwhelming success, and we are proud to continue our association with the finest programming on television.”

Two years to the month after the launch of the first Viking Longships, it’s that brand awareness that Viking has able to cultivate that impresses me more than anything else. It’s certainly not easy to do, but now, when people who haven’t river cruised think ‘river cruising’, they picture Viking.

Inside the new branded coaches Viking is utilising. Note the Viking black and red colour branding on the seats. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Inside the new branded coaches Viking is utilising. Note the Viking black and red colour branding on the seats. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Things got off to a good start as my KLM flight from Vancouver touched down nearly an hour ahead of schedule at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, leaving me with ample time to connect to my Air France flight to Marseille. It was my first time flying with the national carrier of France, and I was impressed. Even aboard my small, all-economy-class Airbus A319, seats were spacious and comfortable. I’m glad I’ll be taking them back to Canada in a week’s time!

It was wheels-down at Marseille-Provence Airport just after 2pm local time and after retrieving my luggage, I was greeted by the Viking River Cruises representative and whisked to the waiting motorcoach – a brand-new Mercedes Benz decked out in a custom Viking graphic wrap on the outside.

Two of the newest Viking Longships side-by-side in Avignon, France on March 17, 2014. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Two of the newest Viking Longships side-by-side in Avignon, France on March 17, 2014. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

I can’t be entirely sure, but I’m guessing the red, black and white interior design of the coach – Viking’s colours – isn’t by accident. For an hour, we drove in comfort to our destination on this auspicious day: Avignon, France.

Bordered by the Rhone River, Avignon is often nicknamed the “City of Popes” thanks to the abundant presence of Popes and Antipopes in the city during the Papal Schism that swept Europe between 1378 and 1418.

During that fun-loving time, much of Medieval Europe was split in their support for the Papal seat in Avignon versus Rome. Several men claimed – at the same time – to be the rightful Pope, and so began 40 years of strife, political turmoil, and delightful misunderstandings.

Upper decks of all three vessels present here in Avignon are decked out with balloons in Viking's colours. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Upper decks of all three vessels present here in Avignon are decked out with balloons in Viking’s colours. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Click here to continue reading!

Our Live Voyage Report from the 2014 Viking Longships Christening Ceremonies continues tomorrow from Avignon as the latest Viking Longships are christened! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

One Response to Viking Longships 2014 Live Report – Day 1

  1. My boss, me and 2 other collegues still have the cuts in our fingers of tying those 18.000 ballons with nylon threads to those wonderful ships. We battled a horrible mistral wind for 2 days. But thanks to lots of help of the very nice crew of those beautiful ships, we managed to get the job done. And now, back in Holland, we are happy to see the result of our work on your site!

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