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:

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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:

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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.

 

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