Paris, Luxembourg and the Viking Hild
Monday, April 10, 2017
Our Program Director Emma pointed out the sign as it wooshed past on the motorway: Disneyland Paris, 15 kilometres. When a few guests on my coach expressed sighs of disappointment, she said the one thing that I’ve known for five years about Viking River Cruises. “If you want to go to Disneyland Paris as an optional tour, put it on your comment card,” she said. “You never know what they might do.”
Since first sailing with Viking back in 2012, I’ve seen the company refine its list of included and optional shore excursions to do just that: cater to the wishes of their guests. And today was a great example of that – despite the fact that Disneyland Paris zipped by.
Today is a huge logistical day on our Paris to the Swiss Alps river cruise tour that Viking has been able to turn into a rewarding experience. Technically speaking, Viking has to transport us from Paris to Trier, Germany, where the Viking Hild is waiting. It’s a five-hour drive away, through the beautiful – but somewhat monotonous – rolling countryside of France. So how do you do that and still make it fun?
After departing the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel at 0815 this morning, we boarded our coach, which was so new it still had a pleasant “new bus smell.” Viking chartered four coaches for this purpose, meaning everyone had ample space to spread out.
Program Director Emma outlined our schedule: we’d drive for two hours and the stop at a local truck stop for a bathroom and refreshment break. We’d then drive two and a half more hours to Luxembourg City, for a walking tour and lunch on our own. From there, Trier is only a 45-minute drive away.
In one single day, Viking is taking us to three countries: France, Luxembourg and Germany. That’s pretty cool, especially for so-called “country collectors” that want to challenge themselves to see how many places they can visit.
Lunch in Luxembourg
Now, the cool part of my day: we were guided around Luxembourg City by a spry, witty, clever, 86-year old man named Rene. He guided us all around the streets of Luxembourg, and toured us around the American Cemetery that commemorates the fallen soldiers of the Battle of the Bulge.
Luxembourg is a country in its own right – and not one of the places I’d choose to visit on my own. That’s why Viking’s choice to stop here this afternoon was so fantastic; I’ve unwittingly added a country to my list of places visited.
Embarking the Viking Hild
Early this evening, we arrived in Trier, where the glistening Viking Hild was waiting for us.
Viking Hild is one of Viking River Cruises’ newest Viking Longships. First launched in 2012, these ships (there are now over 50 on the rivers of Europe) revolutionized river cruising by challenging long-held beliefs about design concepts.
Traditionally speaking, river cruise ships were neither spacious nor particularly bright. Windows were small, ceilings low, and cabins – politely termed – cramped. A 90 square foot stateroom with one window and two fold out, Pullman-style berths wasn’t unusual.
And then Viking came along and started to change everything. Chairman Torstein Hagen – a veteran of the ocean cruise industry who built Viking from the ground up two decades ago in 1997 – mandated that he wanted an open-air lounge at the front of his new riverboats. Public rooms were to have floor-to-ceiling windows. True suites – with separate living and sleeping areas – were to be incorporated.
The result was the Viking Longships – and they revolutionized river cruising.