Awhile back I took my first river cruise on Viking River Cruises and instantly fell in love with this burgeoning mode of escape from the ordinary. As a quick aside, over on my own blog site at Travel By Terry, you will find a couple of posts (January 22, 2013 & January 24, 2013) where I talk about several entertaining aspects of that enriching experience not mentioned in this post. If you are among those who have never had the pleasure of seeing the world through a Viking River Cruise, let me share with you why I personally find the experience so satisfying. (By the way, this is not one of those all too frequent cases when my tastes run counter to the rest of the known universe.) I must be in respectable company because river cruising is one of the fastest growing travel industry segments.
Step on and Settle into Luxury
Like many of you, I previously visited various parts of Europe utilizing the “planes, trains and automobiles” approach (a great movie, by the way.( You are not going to find me disparaging train travel because it is a highly romantic way to roam around Europe. However, unless your wallet or purse is considerably more bulbous than mine and you can afford to ride the rails on the Venice Simplon – Orient Express or the Royal Scotsman, you are never going to mistake a normal train’s sleeping or dining cars for a suite at the Dorchester in London.
However, when you board your Viking river cruise vessel, you are stepping onto a floating luxury hotel with appealing accommodations, sumptuous cuisine, convivial traveling companions and stellar service. Like all cruise experiences, it affords the opportunity to unpack one time, stow away your gear and nestle in for the duration. This is made to order for those of us who despise living out of an open suitcase.
A great thing about river cruising is the small, intimate ships. I was on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas a while back and had a great experience. The ship offered a world of amenities but it was larger than some shopping malls I have frequented. With 6,000+ passengers, it is the polar opposite of being on a vessel with less than 200 guests. The latter greatly increases the likelihood of establishing new and lasting friendships and trust me when I say, I can use all the help I can get. I suspect posting candid blog pictures of the few friends I do have may not be aiding the situation.
Step Into Another World
When you step off the gangplank of your river cruise vessel, you are quite literally stepping into another world, (that is, unless the houses up and down your street happen to resemble this one.) It is amazing what a skilled pastry chef can do with gingerbread! Even the cars look realistic!
If you happen to be as much of a history buff as I am (please note, not history in the buff . . . for that see cruises / nude), there is enough knowledge disseminated by genuine local experts to have your head spinning like Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
For others, a history lecture may conjure up suppressed memories of a tyrannical college professor who wouldn’t recognize a brilliant essay if it was inserted crossways up his . . . ahem . . . robe all the way to his goofy mortar board. Sorry, I digress. Some memories die hard. Anyway, If history is not your cup of tea, the great thing is you can sit on the deck with a literal cup of tea and gaze for hours at fairytale palaces, captivating castles and picturesque villages.
Step Off and Enjoy
And when I say step off, I mean that quite literally. In many cases culture and history, art and architecture, music and museums are all a short walk from the ship. When you disembark, typically you are in the heart of a great city. Viking is well-known for their informative walking tours complete with headsets for easy listening. And for those with more mundane interests, well, there are always plenty of these establishments. I was escorted out of this particular shop for excessive drooling.
Finally, here is a little insider’s tip. There are two brand new Viking itineraries that are going to be very popular when they launch in 2014. However, the early bird can book the elusive worm if you act now. Don’t let another raptor beak you to it!
1) Châteaux, Rivers & Wine – (Bordeaux – Saint-Émilion – Bordeaux)
2) Memories of Mandalay – (Bangkok – Mandalay – Yangon or Bangkok – Yangon – Mandalay)
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you have caught a raging case of river fever. It is highly contagious and the only known cure is booking your own magical river cruise experience, preferably before the sun sets today. You don’t even want to hear about the night sweats and hallucinations.
About Terry Denton
Inveterate traveler, proficient writer, avid golfer, unremarkable person. Co-owner of Travel Leaders / Main Street Travel of Fort Worth, Texas