Ottawa Citizen


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


A Paris-to-Swiss Alps cruise

I could 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 portion 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, 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 portsandbo­, sponsored by Expedia CruiseShip­Centers, 1-800-707-7327, www.cruiseship­, 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 portsandbo­

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 ?? AARON SAUNDERS ?? Viking’s newest river cruise itinerary visits ports along the Rhine and Moselle rivers, and includes overland extensions in Paris and Zurich.
AARON SAUNDERS Viking’s newest river cruise itinerary visits ports along the Rhine and Moselle rivers, and includes overland extensions in Paris and Zurich.
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