I’m Late…Late For A Very Important Date

The elegant Viking Vidar at her berth in Cologne near Zoobrucke on July 15, 2015. Photo ©  2015 Aaron Saunders

The elegant Viking Vidar at her berth in Cologne near Zoobrucke on July 15, 2015. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 This morning, as the hands of the clock struck ten, I embarked Viking River Cruises’ brand-new Viking Longship Vidar in the city of Cologne, Germany. For me, it’s Day 1 of my journey on this 15-day Grand European Tour that departed Amsterdam, Netherlands on Monday, but for the rest of the guests onboard, it’s Day 3. So why did I arrive three days late? Well, the benefit of being a travel writer is that you get to see the world. The downside is that you are subject to some very bizarre events. On my previous voyage – an exciting voyage through Arctic Svalbard which you can read about by clicking here – fog delayed our charter flight out of a remote place called Longyearbyen. By two days. That’s like having the Space Shuttle arrive late to rescue you from Mars. You’re that cut-off.

Cologne's Cathedral, or Dom, towers over the city. Heavily bombed during World War II, the process to rebuild Cologne - and the cathedral - was a long one. Photo ©  2015 Aaron Saunders

Cologne’s Cathedral, or Dom, towers over the city. Heavily bombed during World War II, the process to rebuild Cologne – and the cathedral – was a long one. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

It turned into a spectacular adventure, and a real crowning achievement to our flawless voyage. But for me, it meant having to work ahead to reach Viking Vidar. And I learned a few things along the way:

  • Double-check that the ship’s phone number is in your pre-cruise booklet. Mine wasn’t. If yours isn’t, call Viking and jot it down. It’s important to let the cruise line know you will be arriving late.
  • Carry airline reservation phone numbers with you. My scheduled flights to Amsterdam with KLM were suddenly no good. No problem: I’ll call KLM and change it. Only I don’t have their number. It’s not on any of my E-ticket recipts – and Longyearbyen isn’t known for its snappy broadband internet service. Jot these down before you leave home.
  • Have a backup plan. I didn’t – and it took a lot of time to research my options. For example: flying from Oslo to Cologne yesterday would have cost $956, plus hotel. Overnighting in Amsterdam and flying here this morning at 6:00a.m. went for $420 – plus hotel at €150. Vastly cheaper. Though I don’t think KLM feels as warm-and-fuzzy as I do: there were seven of us on the flight to Cologne this morning, on an 80-seater Fokker F70.

There were some more fun theatrics en-route. On my flight from Oslo to Amsterdam, the girl sitting next to me knocked her glass of red wine over, and it slid off her tray table and found a home soaking into my jeans. Normally, I’d just change jeans – but my luggage was checked through to Cologne. I wouldn’t see it in Amsterdam. Nor would I be able to extract a change of clothes from it. So I’d spent the next 24 hours smelling like cheap airline Merlot.

A pretty summer's day along the Rhine in Cologne, Germany. Photo ©  2015 Aaron Saunders

A pretty summer’s day along the Rhine in Cologne, Germany. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

This morning, my cab driver from Cologne-Bonn International played the whole Nein-sprechen-ze-English game, which annoyed me, as it became very apparent he spoke wunderbar English. He looked at the address. “Zoobrucke?! You want to go to the Zoo Bridge?” Yes, I replied. I did. “Mein Schiff: Viking Vidar. Viking River Cruises.” Ahso!, he replied. And, by some miracle and €34 later, I arrived just as the sleek Viking Vidar was pulling up to her berth –underneath the so-called “Zoo Bridge.”

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Our Live Voyage Report from onboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Vidar’s Grand European Tour continues tomorrow as we arrive in Koblenz, Germany and the Middle Rhine! Be sure to follow along with our adventures on Twitter @deckchairblog.

 

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