Summer 2016 Viking “City of Lights” Cruise

Day 1 – June 20, Monday
AF065 LAX to CDG.
The Air France Airbus A380-800 was a nice way to fly. The flight left at 3:30 p.m., right on time. Spent some time in the Skyteam Korean Air/Delta/Air France lounge prior to departure. We were in seats 63A and 63B and we boarded on the upper turtle deck air-stair. Very nice business class seats.

Day 2 – June 21, Tuesday
We arrived in Paris about 11:30 a.m., collected our luggage and looked for our AirFrance Le-Bus Direct bus transfer to the hotel. We booked the bus fare online prior to leaving. We were on Line 2, the Green Line, from CDG to Tour Eiffel. Porte Mailott was the first stop and it took about 45 minutes from the airport. The fee per person was 17.00€.

We stayed at the Le Meridian Etoile on Boulevard Gouvion. A Viking representative, Francois, was there for our check-in and she gave us a vicinity map and had our room check-in already covered. We just had to wait for a couple of hours for the keys.

For a late lunch, we wandered down the road from the hotel to La Trattoria di Bellagio (101 Avenue des Ternes, 75017 Paris), the food was OK, not great. Across the hotel was the Hyatt Regency and the mall. I dragged Sandy to the Orange Boutique store to pick up a sim card for the iPhone 5. For 40€, we picked up a 2 week phone/data plan (2 hours, 2000 text and 2GB data) that was plenty. The Orange store was just past the Arc de Triomphe. It was a Euro Cup special promotion. I could not find a data plan for the iPad Mini 4. I found out later that I should have purchased another Apple Sim Card and I could have gotten an iPad plan online. The Apple sim card in the iPad IS universal BUT IT IS LOCKED TO ATT in the U.S.

Dinner was wine and cheese from the mall across the street, in-room dining! We were tired.

Day 3 – June 22, Wednesday
Breakfast at the hotel was included each day. It was very nice and expansive, but very crowded due to the ongoing Euro Soccer Cup. Lots of fans throughout the hotel, restaurants and Paris!

This was our day to explore Paris via L’Open Tour. We met the bus at the Arc de Triomphe stop late morning. We ended the tour at the same place, it was fast, hot and a whirlwind tour. We had lunch at Bistro Romain Champs Elysees, they are on Yelp and Travelocity. It was a great place to people watch, the food and beer, Kronenbourgh 1664, was fair.

Dinner was at the steak place, Brasserie Le Sud, attached to the hotel. Sandy’s salmon was wonderful and my skirt steak (from Argentina) was pretty chewy!

Day 4 – June 23, Thursday
We were on our own, bought an all-day metro pass and took it to the Notre Dame stop. There is no cost to tour the cathedral, it was amazing.

Lunch was at Cafe Notre Dame across from the cathedral. We had ham and cheese baguettes with french fries and were able to use the bathrooms with FREE tokens.

Sandy set us up for a 6:00 p.m. champagne cruise. We had to get to the dock at the base of the Eiffel Tower and had planned on taking the metro again. But, we met a nice rick-shaw driver, Kevin, and he gave us a bicycle tour of the Notre Dame to Eiffel Tower path. He was a great tour guide!

We arrived in plenty of time for the River Seine evening champagne tasting tour. We used Vedettes de Paris as the booking agent. The tour lasted 1 hour and we took a tour up and down the Seine sipping and learning about champagne.

We took another rickshaw back to the Arc, this one was battery operated by a quiet lady with no conversation. She tried to upcharge us with “fee per person”.

Dinner was at La Maison on Rue Saint-Ferdinand, recommended by Francois and shown on our map. We met Paul and Darlene, future cruise friends, sitting next to us at dinner. Paul’s NY steak looked great. I had Sea Breem, a dinner special. It was perch with lots of bones, awful! Sandy had a sausage special, presented in a spiral fashion, which also was pretty weird! We should have stayed with safe choices!

Day 5 – June 24, Friday
Paris City Tour with Viking busses, we were on the Orange Bus. This was one of the 2 extra paid excursions. We toured the city and went to Notre Dame (again), a pre-arranged lunch at a restaurant near Notre Dame, and then the Louvre. We had very little time in both places but it was fun. Dinner was a glass of wine and a sprite at the bar. I was feeling a little out of sorts and not too hungry.

Day 6 – June 25, Saturday
Paris to Trier and the Viking Odin, Germany via bus.

Luggage out the door at 6:30 a.m., and 7:45 a.m. departure on the bus with breakfast in-between. We were on a schedule.

We made a stop at the Autogrill (near the Aire de Riems Champagne) on the way to Luxembourg for lunch. On our own for lunch and to explore. Lunch was at Brasserie du Cercle, good Italian pasta.

We had a tour of the American Cemetery after boarding. From there, we motored for another 2 hours or so to Trier and boarded the Viking Odin with the crew welcoming us aboard. We arrived about 5:00 p.m. A VERY LONG DAY. It drizzled/rain most of the day.

We had a bottle of champagne in Room 312, a Veranda Suite (code AA). Room 312 had a bedroom, bath and small living room. The windows in the bedroom were full sliders and there was a little patio off the living room where we could sit outside. We met our steward attendant, Dorina. Dinner was Chateaubriand. It was probably one of the better meals on the boat. Dinner is free seating and we were able to mingle throughout the dinners meeting different people. The wine was very fluid.

The Odin was docked for the night, I thought we would be cruising but we didn’t leave until the next morning.

Day 7 – June 26, Sunday
Trier to Schweich to Bernkastel
A 9:00 a.m. shore excursion was available to explore Trier. We just decided to pass and explore the boat and relax a little. At about 10:00 a.m., the boat cast off, the tourists would catch up with us as the boat sailed down the Moselle River. The Moselle flows through the Lorraine region.

The Odin traveled backward for about 1/2 hour, at a fork in the river, the boat turned around and resumed floating down the Moselle river. Somewhere in the discussions, it was mentioned that we would travel through 42 locks. With its bow and stern thrusters, the boat could slip sideways pretty much anywhere it needed to be.

The travel plan was to travel down the Moselle river, then upstream on the Rhine and upstream on the Main to Bamburg, our final river destination. A bus trip to Prague would complete the vacation.

This is the way it would work most times, we get dropped off and the boat sails away to our next port, where we catch up with it after our shore excursion.

We were headed for Schweich and by the time we arrived, the tours were back and re-boarded. We then had our 12:30 afternoon safety briefing, everyone donning their life vests in their assigned evacuation area. We were in the lounge, right side group.

At 3:30 p.m., there was a live cooking demonstration by the head chef in making Ofenschlupfer, or german bread pudding. A volunteer was requested and Sandy volunteered to be the chef’s assistant. We have some cute pics of her in her chef’s hat and apron! (see IMG_4341.jpg)

We floated to our next location, Bernkastel, we arrived about 5:30 p.m. We had signed up for an optional Bernkastel Walking and Wine Tasting tour. (We signed up for 2 optional tours on this cruise, this was the 2nd.) The excursions are timed so lunch and dinner meals sometimes shift slightly. Dinner tonight was at 7:30. The wine tasting was at Dr. Pauly’s Wein Probier-Keller winery. The tasting took place in their cellar area and we tasted 4 rieslings. They ranged in price from 12.50 to 24.50€. Interesting, the area of the Rhine is noted for white wines, 92% and 8% red wines. Our favorite was #2, the 2014 “Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Riesling Feinherb”. They are all a little sweet. (see IMG_4367.jpg)

Day 8 – June 27, Monday
We arrived at 8:00 a.m. in Cochem and took the shore excursion, the Cochem Walking Tour and Visit to Reichburg Castle. (see IMG_4400.jpg). The castle was built in the 1100’s. It was razed to the ground in 1689 by troops of Louis XIV. In 1866, it was restored with a mixture of styles. We were back on board for lunch. We went searching for the purple peach jam mentioned during the castle tour, we found it with help from the tourist information center. The peach is a Mosel Vineyard Peach.

By 7:00 p.m., we had sailed down to Winningen to prepare for tomorrow.

The evenings entertainment was the Fischer Family, a group of “traveling troubadours”. We swore that one of the women had to be a cross-dresser (from afar), but she was just of hearty German stock! We missed the show, too crowded.

Day 9 – June 28, Tuesday
Winningen/Koblenz to Lahnstein to Aschaffenburg
Our morning excursion was the included Marksburg Castle tour (see IMG_4455 to IMG-4503.jpg). Once we were off, the ship cast off headed for Lahnstein where we would catch up to it before lunch.

Somewhere in the journey, we transitioned to the Rhine River, there is a peninsula and statue. (see Ehrenbreitstein fortress (23).JPG, this is a Viking USB stick picture).

See the picture of the Lorelei Rock, the mermaid. We were floating in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The “Lorelei maiden used to sit and sing sweet songs. Woe to the sailor who passed the rock at nightfall and was lured to his doom …”

Day 10 – June 29, Wednesday
Aschaffenburg to Miltenberg to Karlstadt
Wednesday morning we woke up to Aschaffenburg with our shore excursion to the Heidelberg Castle. The ship headed off to Miltenberg. This tour was from 9:00-5:45 p.m., a long day! Heidelberg has its university, “Germany’s answer to Oxford”.

The Heidelberg Castle tour was amazing (see IMG_4659 to IMG-4713.jpg). This was a long day. Mark Twain visited here, the largest wine barrel in the world (250 years old, shaped from 130 oak trees with a capacity of 50,000 gallons) is here.

This was the place to shop with shopping stretching for 1 mile in the center of town. We crossed the Alte Brucke (Old Bridge) to rub the monkey for good fortune!

We opted out of the university student lunch and did our own thing looking for schnitzel. Sandy found the Kathe’s Christmas Store and used her coupons passed out on the boat. Lunch was at Zum Guldenen Schaf, a place recommended by Boyen, our tour director, but it wasn’t the place he recommended. It was still pretty good!

The ship arrived in Miltenberg about 4:00 p.m. and cast off for Karlstadt about 5:30 p.m. The shore tour folks, us, boarded the busses and met the ship in Miltenberg. There was a delay in the ship in the lock or something, so we cooled our heels with free ice cream in a little park awaiting the Odin.

Day 11 – June 30, Thursday
Karlstadt to Wurzburg Alter Hafen to Zeil am Main.
Today was the Bishop’s Residenz and Walking Tour (see IMG_4729.img). We returned by 1:00 p.m. No photographs were allowed inside the residence, but the grounds and the surrounding area were allowed. Asian groups ignored the “no photo” signs and clicked away. The Bishops Residenz is “one of Germany’s finest baroque palace ensembles, built between 1720 and 1744.

We had free time and lunch at a little Italian cafe in one of the town squares. It was nice to people-watch and drink some Martinsbrau Marktheidenfeld (I think!).

The afternoon was shuttle service from where we docked into the city for the afternoon. I think we just relaxed on the boat.

This was the “Farewell Toast and Dinner” celebration, a day before the last day of the cruise.

Day 12 – July 1, Friday
Zeil am Main to Bamberg
The excursions didn’t start until 1:30 so the morning 10:00 a.m. disembarkation meeting was mandatory for at least one person in each party. It was a pretty simple process, orange tags on the suitcases by 6:30 a.m. and off the boat by 8:00 a.m. (tomorrow’s plan).

We had a leisurely lunch before the afternoon excursions.

The 1:30 p.m. Bamberg excursion was a walking tour of the town. We made a trek to the Schlenkerla brewery/beer garden to try the Rauchbier, or smoky beer. It was interesting, probably not one of my favorites. Bamberg is a beautiful town with a river running through it.

Day 13 – July 2, Saturday
Bamberg to Nuremberg to Prague.
We went to see the Zeppelin Field, walked around and then toured the city via bus. We got to see where the Nuremberg trials took place. Nuremberg is a walled city.

Lunch was on our own, we were dropped off in the center of town at the Hauptmarkt and given some free time. There was the Frauenkirche Clock (Männleinlaufen) that at noon, had a cuckoo clock display as the bells rang, it was pretty cool. We tried the finger-size brats at Bratwursthausle, they were pretty good, but the waiter had a bad attitude. Pretzels were charged by the item, not like here in the US.

On our way to Prague, we stopped in the Pilsner area, at a roadside Autogrill for a potty break. The big thing here was the Rozvadov McDonalds at the rest stop. The place was packed. Pilsner Urquell was all over the place, in that we were in the Pilsner area.

We stayed at the Prague Hilton, a nice big place, arriving about 5:00 p.m.

Dinner was at the hotel bar/restaurant, it was fair. Everyone was on their own for whatever.

Day 14 – July 3, Sunday
Breakfasts were included and again, there was plenty of choices.

There was a City of Prague tour included that we decided to skip and do our own thing. We walked around to the Charles Bridge, the Astronomical Clock and the Palladium Mall. Lunch was at La Corte (Na Porici 1053/44, Prague 1), an Italian place with authentic old family recipes. It was just OK, not spectacular.

Sandy had her shopping map laid out and we were headed to “Garnet” central. She was able to find them at Granat store near the 4 Celetna avenue.

Dinner was to be at Kolkovna Celnice (V Celnici 1031/4, Prague 1), a traditional Czech cuisine place, but the service was non-existent. We wanted to try this place because Paul and Darlene tried it the night before and the goulash was fantastic they said! We wandered across the square to Kings Court Brasserie for our last dinner and people watching. The schnitzel and creme brulee were delicious!

Prague was extremely crowded.

Day 15 – July 4, Monday
Prague to Paris
AF1383, an Airbus A321 left at 9:25 a.m. and arrived at 11:45 a.m. We were in seats 02A and 02B in business class. Viking was nice enough to get us on the 7:00 a.m. bus airport shuttle, even though we had NOT booked this airport transfer.

We stayed at the Hilton Paris CDG to lay over a day so that we could take the Airbus A380 back to LAX. The Hilton shuttle van picked us up and dropped us at the hotel, it was very convenient. The Hilton was OK, food was expensive and we streamed the TV show “Limitless” on the iPad with the Hilton Honors free WiFi.

Day 16 – July 5, Tuesday
Paris to LAX
AF066, an Airbus A380-800 left about 11:00 a.m. (scheduled at 10:30), we were in seats 61A and 61B. A nice flight.

Our Global Access card worked great (Sandy’s fingerprint scanner had a glitch and she had to process with the agent manually) and we cleared customs quickly with their scanning passport and fingerprint scanner system.

We took a $20 taxi to the Century Ave. Radisson hotel and had Douglas pick us up there, easy peasy!

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