Sailing As Vikings, We Come Prepared

Preparing for an 8-day sailing with Viking River Cruises through Southern France, we’re starting early with the calendar reading over a month to go until our mid-August adventure begins.  The idea is that by spending a little time each day in focused thought about the trip (as opposed to random dreaming) we will begin with a broad base of knowledge, adding an extra measure of depth to the experience.  In other words, rather than cramming for the final on the flight over there, we’ll bite off a bit of the knowledge apple each day, resulting in a better working knowledge on the ground.

This idea has its origins in a recommendation we have made for years to those on big ocean cruise liners: memorize the deck plans. With big ships, there many on board features. Walking on to the bog ship with a good working knowledge of where venues are located can actually add a good half day of quality time, otherwise spent bumping into walls and getting lost.  On a river cruise that pre-cruise learning focus needs to be where the river cruise experience gets its magic: at the destinations visited along the way. After sailing as Vikings on a stretch of the Rhine river on multiple times, learning more about what we see on each voyage, the logic behind a focused learning plan seems solid.

Early on in our experience with Viking River Cruises, Chairman Torstein Hagan said “a river cruise is a thinking man’s cruise.”  In advance of sailing, we’re taking that thought a bit further this time, diving in deep on the thinking element.

We began this series with details on the international flights that would bring us to Marseilles then on to Avignon, France for the first day aboard Viking Hermod.  Now we begin to gather resources for our daily pre-cruise orientation and begin on the Viking River Cruises web site.  On the Prepare For Your Trip page, a link to Recommended Reading takes us to a partner site that features media custom-selected for the Portraits of Southern France itinerary.  Bundled together are four resources that look to have in-depth information about the places we will visit and Southern France in general.

  • Long Ago in France, The Years in Dijon by MK Fisher is described as “A memoir of Fisher’s years in France in the late ’20s and early ’30s, a time of exuberant discoveries of the glories of French food and French culture,” this one should add some depth to our existing knowledge.
  • The Road from the Past, Traveling through History in France by Ina Caro- This one looks to have a good overview of the area, allowing “Time travel through France by way of its finest castles, chateaux, cathedrals and monasteries. This unusual travelogue is an invaluable companion for traveling in Paris, southern France, the Dordogne and the Loire Valley, combining personal observation with large doses of well-presented history.”
  • Eyewitness Guide Provence & the Cote D’Azur by Roger Williams is an illustrated, colorful guide to the art and architecture, literature, history and attractions of Provence. With photographs and site plans, maps and sections on the Riviera, the Var, Bouches-du-Rhone, Vaucluse and the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, this should come in handy as well
  • Rhone Valley Map – A colorful, detailed map of the Rhone Valley from Lyon to the Mediterranean at a scale of 1:200,000.  This one is a no-brainer.  I wish I had bought one of these on the first day of our first Viking River Cruise, to keep the entire journey in perspective.

Bundled as a package,  the $69 charge looks to be a bargain and just what we need to supplement other preparation efforts.  Ordered at this point, these materials should arrive in advance of what Viking sends about 3 weeks before  the departure date.  Then, we will receive a package containing detailed, personalized travel documents, luggage tags and other items we will need when we travel.   Today, let’s take a quick look at the itinerary and dig a little deeper into our accommodations aboard Viking Hermod.

08/16- Arrive Marseilles, France -overnight
08/17- Avignon overnight
08/18- Arles, France
08/19- Tournon & Vivers, France
08/20- Lyon & Vienne, France
08/21- Lyon, France
08/22- Beaune, France
08/23- Cahlon-Sur-Saone, France
08/24- Depart Lyon, France

This time, we’re in a category AA Veranda Suite with these features:

  • Suite size: 275 sq. ft.
  • Hotel-style beds 79 inches x 63 inches (with optional twin-bed configuration)
  • Full-size veranda off the spacious living room
  • Floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, known as a French balcony, in the bedroom
  • Large private bathroom with shower and premium bath products
  • Telephone, refrigerator, safe, hair dryer & bottled water replenished daily
  • Bathrobe and slippers available upon request
  • Individual climate control
  • Space under bed for storing suitcases
  • Voltage: 220V and 110V in stateroom
  • Two Sony 40-inch flat-panel TVs with premium entertainment package including: BBC News, CNBC, CNN, National Geographic, TNT Series, Sky Sports, videos on demand and “View From the Bridge

I like that this one is actually two separate rooms which will allow me to work while Lisa sleeps.  Here are some views of these spacious accommodations.  Sailing as Vikings, we come prepared but need to be rested for battle as well: