The Active World of Viking River Cruises
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
If you’ve never been on a river cruise before, you might form the impression that a European river cruise is a staid, laid-back experience with very little to do. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
This morning, guests aboard Viking River Cruises Viking Hild set off for our first tour: a morning exploration of the town of Trier, Germany – considered by many to be the oldest town in the entire country.
Breakfast was served in The Restaurant on Deck 2 prior to the start of the tour. Viking puts on an excellent buffet breakfast that includes all the usual items, like omelettes, fruit, toast, bacon, and whatnot. But the real gems are in the little touches: small plates of cheese, gherkin pickles, and smoked salmon, for example. Homemade yogurt. Fresh breads. Help-yourself-mimosas.
All meals on Viking’s river cruise ships are served open-seating, and there’s not a bad table in the house aboard the Viking Longships, all of which have floor-to-ceiling windows in every public room.
To prepare for our first day ashore on our 12-day Paris to the Swiss Alps river cruise tour, guests were orientated on the disembarkation system for tours: simply go to reception to collect your excursion group number and ship “passport” card prior to leaving the ship (or prior to breakfast, if you want to beat the rush!), and head ashore. On the return, hand both cards (but not your stateroom keycard) back in. Voila!
The Old City of Trier
This morning, our included walking tour took us through the German city of Trier. Approximately four hours in length, it went at a gentle pace and included five groups: four “regular” walking groups; and one “gentle” walking group that is suitable for those with mobility difficulties, or those who want to take extra time admiring the sights.
This is one city you’ll want to bring your cameras for. After a panoramic photo opportunity from a hillside overlooking the town, we were able to see some of Trier’s many Roman monuments, including the overwhelming Trier Cathedral, which was begun in 1035 and remodelled extensively over the intervening years.
Standing over 100 feet in height, its interior is spartan and crisp. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has been meticulously restored both inside and out. Its cavernous interior was one of the highlights of this tour for me; I’ve never seen such an imposing interior space, particularly one with no support columns whatsoever. It’s an engineering marvel.
One of the reasons I like taking Viking’s guided tours so much is that they provide you with information you wouldn’t be able to come by easily otherwise. In most cases, guides are all locals – and no one knows the area better than a local!
We also got to see the Black Gate: a city gate built in the 2nd century. Originally part of Trier’s defences, the gate was eventually converted into a church that was used for seven centuries before it was abandoned and the gate attained monument status in the late 18th century.
Guests were also given time to stroll around the Hauptmarkt – or main square – in Old Trier, for a chance to do some shopping or, as our guide said, “have a nice glass of wine.” The time was 11:15 in the morning. When in Germany…
Not wanting to hit the Weisswein quite that early, I opted for a fresh pretzel (a ‘bretzel’) and a coffee.
I didn’t know much about Trier before coming here. That’s the great advantage of river cruising: it’s a great way to see Europe’s little hidden gems. Trier is definitely one of them!
Scenic Cruising the Moselle
As much as I love exploring picturesque little towns and villages, I really, really love scenic cruising – especially aboard Viking’s spectacular Longships, with their floor-to-ceiling windows at every turn.
I took a book up on to the Sun DEck, with every intention of reading it. Instead, I spent four hours (yes, four!) admiring the gorgeous scenery of the Moselle as Viking Hild made her way up the river towards Bernkastel-Kues, where we arrived just after 1700 hours this evening.
The Moselle is home to sweet