BY BOAT FROM PARIS TO SWISS ALPS, WITH SUR­PRISES EN ROUTE

Vik­ing’s new­est 12-day river cruise voy­age adds ports of call, guided tours, ho­tel stays

Regina Leader-Post - - TRAVEL - AARON SAUN­DERS

I could per­son­ally spend all year river cruis­ing around Europe and never tire of it. A river cruise of­fers the abil­ity to see Europe in a con­ve­nient way, and trav­ellers have more choices than ever be­fore. Just be­cause you’ve cruised the Danube or the Rhine once in the past cer­tainly doesn’t mean you’ve seen it all.

That’s the les­son I learned re­cently, as I sailed aboard one of Vik­ing River Cruises’ (cruise. cen­ter/vikingriver) new­est itin­er­ar­ies in Europe: the 12-day Paris to the Swiss Alps cruise tour.

Many river cruise itin­er­ar­ies in­clude just the cruise po­tion of the jour­ney it­self; any ad­di­tional pre- and post-stays are of­fered for an ad­di­tional cost. That’s not the case with the Paris to the Swiss Alps voy­age, which starts off with a two-night ho­tel stay in Paris and con­cludes with a twonight ho­tel stay in Zurich as part of the over­all itin­er­ary.

I’ve al­ways been im­pressed by the level of or­ga­ni­za­tion and plan­ning that Vik­ing puts into its itin­er­ar­ies, and I wasn’t dis­ap­pointed by this lat­est jour­ney. Both the In­cluded and Op­tional (ad­di­tional cost) Vik­ing tours were avail­able in Paris, and I spent the ex­tra money for a guided tour of Mont­martre on a beau­ti­ful af­ter­noon with un­sea­son­ably warm tem­per­a­tures.

Ev­ery­thing they say about Paris in the spring­time, how­ever cliche, is ab­so­lutely true. Flow­ers are in bloom, birds sing in the trees, and cafes are full of lo­cals and tourists alike. Vik­ing ded­i­cates a pro­gram di­rec­tor to ac­com­pany guests for the full length of the tour from Paris to Zurich, and she was able to pro­vide some ex­cel­lent in­sight into the city she calls home.

Now, Vik­ing hasn’t just taken your av­er­age Rhine river cruise and tacked on a cou­ple of nights in Paris. I’ve done the usual Rhine itin­er­ary (from Basel to Amsterdam) twice now, and I was pleased to see a col­lec­tion of brand new ports of call for this new Paris to Zurich itin­er­ary that ac­tu­ally be­gins its first few days along the Moselle River.

Af­ter be­ing trans­ferred from Paris, guests joined the brand new 190-guest Vik­ing Hild in Trier, Ger­many. Trier was the sur­prise sleeper hit of this trip, with its im­pos­ing Ro­man mon­u­ments and hills of vi­brant red sand­stone rock. Vik­ing took guests on an in­cluded walk­ing tour with free time of this quaint Ger­man vil­lage be­fore we set sail down the Moselle.

If you’ve never sailed the Moselle be­fore (and I hadn’t), get ready to spend a lot of time out on deck. Our scenic cruis­ing be­came the high­lights of my day as Vik­ing Hild wound her way through the nar­row chan­nel that some­times re­sem­bled the view from a French barge canal cruise. Campers and passersby would wave, kids would race the ship and the sound­track was so vi­brant and rich with the sounds of spring­time that it sounded like an over­done Walt Dis­ney movie. In short, it was in­credi­ble.

This Paris to the Swiss Alps itin­er­ary in­cludes calls on the sto­ry­book Ger­man vil­lages of Bernkas­tel-Kues and Cochem be­fore Vik­ing Hild swings south­bound onto the Rhine River, where port calls in Mainz (home of the Guten­berg mov­able type print­ing press), Speyer, and Stras­bourg, France, await be­fore the cruise por­tion of the itin­er­ary ter­mi­nates in Basel, Switzer­land. There, we were trans­ferred by coach to Zurich for our in­cluded two-day stay and our guided walk­ing tour of the old his­toric city, capped off by a cruise on Lake Geneva.

Of course, I never get tired of sail­ing on the Vik­ing Long­ships. Th­ese thought­fully de­signed ships of­fer plenty of floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows, and more nat­u­ral light than most other ships. On­board herb gar­dens, so­lar pan­els, fresh flow­ers and sooth­ing Scan­di­na­vian decor are just the ic­ing on the cake.

I also ap­pre­ci­ate that Vik­ing is mostly in­clu­sive — with beer, wine and soft drinks pro­vided com­pli­men­tary at lunch and din­ner, and free tour op­tions pro­vided in ev­ery port of call. Break­fast was in­cluded each day with our over­land ho­tel stays, and Vik­ing made sure the Wi-Fi was al­ways free of charge.

This itin­er­ary is a real win­ner. I en­joyed it so much, I’d gladly re­peat it. If you’ve done the clas­sic Rhine Get­away voy­age and think you’ve seen the Rhine, think again: Vik­ing’s Paris to the Swiss Alps voy­age of­fers all the beauty of the Rhine, and then some.

Happy cruis­ing.

Visit port­sand­bows.com, spon­sored by Ex­pe­dia CruiseShipCen­ters, 1-800-707-7327, www.cruiseshipcen­ters.com, for daily up­dates on the lat­est cruise news, best deals and be­hind-the-scenes sto­ries from the in­dus­try. You can also sign up for an email news­let­ter on the site for even more cruise in­for­ma­tion. Aaron Saun­ders may be con­tacted di­rectly at port­sand­bowsaaron@gmail.com

AARON SAUN­DERS

Vik­ing’s new­est river cruise itin­er­ary vis­its hid­den ports along the Rhine River, plus over­land ex­ten­sions in Paris and Zurich.

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