Home » Cruise: 2nd May – 12th May, 2019

city of lights starting in Paris

City of Lights - Paris to Prague
Land and Cruise: 1st May to 12th May

So, back here in the French capital. It is the official start to the City of Lights  cruise and I am ready to meet and greet our next group of guests. I got into the city the night before the guests arrival. This gives me the usual prep time and to be fresh and ready for welcoming some tired guests from their transatlantic air odyssey.

paris to prague

The origin of the moniker “City of Lights”

However, before we talk about the cruise, it might be good just to clarify what the actual title “City of Lights” means.

Most people, myself included at one time, believed the moniker came from the fact that Paris dazzles at night.

It is true, Paris is ablaze with lights, all across the city, from the Eiffel tower to the boulevards and bridges. But, this is not the reason it is called as such.

Before you rush to say it came from the Age of Enlightenment, a time of scientific discovery and breakthrough, you would be partially correct.

Actually, it was Louis XIV who decided to make Paris safe back in1667. He ordered, it is said, a quadrupling of the number of policemen on patrol in the city.

Every main street in the city had lanterns placed to light the area and stop criminals hiding in the shadows. But the King did not stop there.

He made this illumination of Paris a community affair with having residents light candles and oil lamps and place them at their windows.

The crime rate dropped and the city gained the name of  La Ville-Lumière (‘The City of Light’).

It was only then that the concept of enlightenment in human discovery and expression gained traction and the city became known as the City of Light (s), connecting with the Kings campaign to light up Paris.

The scent and feel of Paris

Perhaps it is the male in me, but I refer to Paris in the female gender. I see the city as being feminine, classy and beautiful.

So, what is it? “Paris est beau” or “Paris est belle”? Turns out it can be both. The city is referred in spoken French as the masculine. But it is also described as “la ville de Paris” – feminine.

Whatever the semantics and gender appropriation, I still see Paris as female.

Paris is fast becoming an old acquaintance. The city is like that friend or lover, if you’re a romantic like me,  who you think you know well but she still manages to surprise you with yet another revelation of herself.

I guess that’s what makes Paris the ultimate “Je ne sais quoi”, an indefinable attractive quality that draws you in.

 

The night view outside the Pullman Hotel (video)

The City of Lights day arrives

I was at the Pullman hotel again, in Paris. The first greeting the guests get at the hotel is the Eiffel Tower standing as a glamorous sentinel, looming close-by.

It truly is spectacular – especially for the guests who have never been to Paris before.

I love watching their reaction as they step out the vans…just immediately disarming themselves of the carry-on luggage and standing in awe, drinking it all in.

Again, over the next day, our guests for the City of Lights itinerary, are treated to a variety of tours, with the included tour of Paris on the coach and an hour or so of walking about.

Many also opt for the afternoon optional tours of the Montmartre Hill, Palais de Versailles and a few may have taken the full day optional to Giverney.

It’s a busy day for those with stamina…doing the included tour, going for lunch afterwards and returning after to go on tour again.

taste of travel

Meeting the guests

The fatigued but genuine smiles I was responded with, told me that we had a nice positive group of guests joining us.

They seemed in good spirits and many decided to either leave luggage and head out for an exploratory walk or to wait in the lobby for a short while before receiving their room keys.

Paris and the City of Lights cruise is a little different to our operation from the Swiss Alps. Guests are mostly arriving in small vans, 6 or 8 at a time and not the large groups on a motor coach we received in Zurich.

This makes the day busier for me and the city host as there is no real break as the phone is ringing all the time from the airport reps to let us know to expect a van of 4, 6, 8 or 10.

Montmatre Hill

helpful tipsThe City of Lights If you have the stamina, truly consider taking the Montmatre Hill excursion.

It is a fantastic way to get a real feel for Paris by joining your guide from the hotel and traveling on the Metro as well as taking the venicular up the hill to visit the Sacre Couer (Sacred Heart) cathedral and getting time to explore the streets of cafes and art.

Montmartre Paris

The history is captivating. Even though a hill in the city of Paris, this was once an independent village and prided itself on its self imposed social exile from the Parisiens.

The people of Montmatre – know as Montmartrois, delighted in their individuality and looked on the Parisians as another population that did not belong to them.

It is a delightful area to explore and I highly recommend it. Learn about the name: The “Hill of the Martyr “and learn of the legend of the Saint, St Denis.

This is truly a fabulous taste of the city and you can sense the difference of this place and that of the rest of Paris.

For many guests, a return to the hotel after the afternoon excursion is an excuse to have an early night but, many guests opt for the trifecta of tours, adding the Paris Cabaret – Paradis Latin as their evening excursion.

The City of Lights Cruise

The itinerary has some elements of the previous Swiss Alps cruise I was doing at season start. However, the differences are apparent as we leave the Moselle river and turn into the Rhine at Koblenz.

Day 4 — Trier & Bernkastel, Germany

Day 5 — Cochem, Germany

Day 6 — Koblenz, Germany

Day 8 — Würzburg, Germany

Day 11 — Prague, Czech Republic

Day 12 — Prague, Czech Republic

On the road to Trier

The drive from Paris takes a little while. First you drive through the province of Champagne and eventually get to Reims for the pit stop.

I watched as the guests stepped off the coaches and stretched out after a 2.5 hour drive to this point. They seemed in good spirits and went about getting their coffees and eats.

Depending on the time, I vary the stops.Generally, for snacking and bathroom breaks I allow for 40 mins.

All the guests on my bus were on time and ready to move on. Another 2 hours or so we arrived in Luxembourg for the walking tour and some free time.

This is when some other guests took advantage of the time and had their lunch there whilst others just wanted to explore.

Leaving Luxembourg we made another stop about 20 mins later for the American War cemetery and then headed for Trier and the ship.

Getting cruising

Once on the ship, all the guests joined me for the cruise portion briefing. This is when I can truly address them as a total group and let them know what is coming up in the City of Lights program.

The cruise section was underway. 2 days into the cruise and the guests were totally at home.

The Viking Idi crew are fabulous at their job and it is amazing to me how quickly they connect with the guests and help create the fun ambience.

The weather was still not great. The summer was having a serious battle with winter to loosen the icy grip. It started to get warmer as the week went on.

By the time we left the ship for Marksburg Castle and others for the Ehrenbreitstein fortress, it was suitably warmer. I took the groups going to Marksburg castle.

The guests always enjoy the castle. It is the most authentic castle on the Rhine and truly shows what life in a castle was like back in the Middle Ages.

That afternoon it was sailing time through the middle Rhine, watching those magnificent castles go on by.

The day is filled with fascinating history and the romantic Rhine. Our adventure continued with the next day traveling to Heidelberg. Then came Wurtzburg the following day.

Wurtzburg

Tips and hints

Wurtzburg is an exciting place to visit. Certainly, if you enjoy a good mix of history and free time, this is a tour you will enjoy.

The included tour takes in the Bishops Palace, known as the Residenz. It is a fascinating walk through the ostentatious, almost obscene wealth of the Prince Bishops lifestyle of the time.

The architecture, grand staircase and Fresco ceiling are breath taking. The gardens are truly beautiful. However, the optional tour is Rothenburg.

Located in Middle Franconia, this is a walled medieval town that is well preserved. Not damaged in WW2, this magnificent example of Middle Ages architecture and memorabilia.

Instead of taking the included tour, guests head off in their own coaches to Rothenburg.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber translates to Red fortress above the Tauber (river). It is a sight to behold as you head up towards the sandstone walls of the town.

Prepare for some time travel.This is a great day out, enjoying the history of the town, getting in some free time and having lunch at the famous Glocke restaurant.

Guests then head back to Wurtzburg and have the opportunity to see the town but will not have time to explore it.

However, they will visit the Bishops Rezidence as well. Those who are too fatigued to take on another tour with the Residenz, have the option to return with the motor coaches back to the ship and skip the tour.

I personally recommend this day out as it is truly memorable and really interesting. To get to Rothenburg you travel what they call the “romantic way” and get to enjoy the meandering country roads along the Tauber river.

It is really special and certainly worth the extra money spent.

The show must go on

On this cruise, I had about 18 people sign up for a hike in the Wurtzburg Hills. The weather was not great in the afternoon, cold with some dark foreboding clouds starting to gather.

However, even though we had this weather, 10 guests wanted to go on the hike. The guide looked horrified. I smiled and shrugged. “They want to go, what can I say?”

And so they did. Within 30 mins of their departure, the heavens opened. My thoughts went to them and I shuddered at the idea of greeting our intrepid hikers afterwards.

However, a few hours later they returned and had a great time, smiling and damp. This is a new optional excursion and it certainly does offer another aspect of Wurtzburg.

You walk up to the pilgrimage chapel, across vineyards and the fortress on the hill (once the original Prince Bishop palace). For those seeking some activity, this is a good bet.

Bamberg

(pictured with the old town hall)
Bamberg, GermanyAnother fascinating German town, the place of smoked beer and once a bastion of the witch trials. This is a great day in good weather but can be a bit long if it’s cold.
 
As an included tour, it rates as a popular destination. A walking tour taking in the rose garden, the cathedral and the old town, the excursion is really good.
 
After the tour, free time and plenty of it. This day, it was a bit cold and rainy. Guests did the tour and then were due to meet me at 5:15pm to join the ship.
 
As I walked up towards the meeting place, I called the ship. Captain came back with “Bad news Rob. We got held up at a lock. We will be there in about an hour” Great!
 
Now I was on a mission. I had to think of a way to kill some time. Normally I would take guests to the Seehof Palace to kill time but the weather was not good for that.
 
I waved to the waiting guests as they started to clamber onto the arriving motor coaches. I kept walking, right past the coaches. I knew of a restaurant just on the corner.
 
My plan was to take the guests in and offer beers and warmth.
 
The manager stared at me in disbelief when I said I had 160+ guests to visit. I think he expected me to say 20.
 
Unfortunately they had a conference arriving in an hour and had to prepare. I asked him to call the other close-by restaurants.
 
Each one of them had a reason not to cater for us. I had no choice. Back to the buses I went. We had to go wait at the port.
 
The coaches arrived at Bamberg port which is about 15 mins drive from the town. We parked and I went and shared the information with the guests on all the buses.
 
One of the drivers was ready for action. His bus scored! When I went back awhile later to check on the guests, he had served them beer and was playing a movie. Now that’s what I call proactive!
 
The ship arrived and we all got ourselves on board. I did the port talk twice that night. Guests came into the lounge from dinner and looked tired.
 
The next day was Nuremberg and then straight to Prague. They had to pack. So, I did a talk for them and then the rest started to filter in. Take two…
The cruise section was over.

Astronomical ClockPrague, Czech Republic

The morning was a short drive to Nuremberg and then guests got their lunch on their own and we got ourselves heading to Prague.
 
A pit stop just after the border of the Czech Republic and then continuing on to the city of Prague.
 
Prague in the Czech Republic rates as one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Known as the city of 100 Spires, it certainly lives up to its moniker.
 
Our tour the following morning was an overview of the city and then a walking tour out to Charles Bridge and then into the old city center.
 
It truly is an amazing place to explore, steeped in history and just ablaze with fairytale-like architecture.
 
Every time I am in Prague people remark how it feels like Disneyland. Well, there’s a good reason it does.
 
So much of the Disney creation was inspired by European cities and castles. Prague, without a doubt, was the main source of inspiration.
 
There is nothing that you could want for in this city as it reveals eye candy all the way. Green parks, the weird, edgy art, the river Vltava, the old Jewish quarter, the John Lennon wall of grafitti, the town hall and the incredible astronomical clock. The list goes on…
 
city of lights Prague John Lennon Wall John Lennon Wall
 The cruise starts to wind down, with guests choosing to visit Prague on their own and stay in town or to come back, rest up and go out again.
 
Some would be doing the optional excursion in the evening with the Folkloric dinner and others would just be planning their time with a few more extra days they booked over and above the 2 days post package.
 
I had a couple who were heading for the extended UK post excursion and another couple going to meet a Viking Ocean ship for a cruise around the Med. Sweet! Now that’s what I call a real vacation.
 
Viking river cruise and Ocean.What’s the real difference between  Viking river cruises vs ocean cruises? Well, certainly there is a big difference if you compare a Viking river cruise with other ocean products. Less of one with Viking Ocean compared to Viking River.
 
My last morning was an early rise of 3am to make sure we were ready for the airport departures that started an hour later.
 
It’s a strange experience making so many friends and saying goodbye once again. It’s the way of the program directors life, I guess. A lot of hello’s and about as many goodbyes.
 

City of Lights masterpiece destination

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