Home » Cruise: 28th March- 8th April, 2019

28th March - 8th April
Swiss Alps
Zurich - Paris

My first cruise of the season

There is something about the new season start and the first cruise of the season for me. After the Viking  European winter break and going to our season start up sessions in the winter harbor, I feel a real refreshed sense of anticipation and excitement.

Zurich lake front

first cruise of the season backacheHowever,  my start was marred during the last few days of the  startup in Cologne. I woke up and felt a real pain in my back. I thought it was the way I slept and shrugged it off. After a hot shower I felt no relief. When it took 20 minutes to put a sock on, I realized I had a real problem.

Trips to the physio in Cologne and I received little relief. I had a new appreciation for anyone who has back issues. This was the first time in my life I had been afflicted with back pain and it was excruciating and totally debilitating. There was no way I could do any long distance traveling on train or bus.

The best laid plans…

I called corporate and explained my issue. I had no choice but to delay my first cruise of the season while I got myself fixed.

An 8 day visit to my lady who lives in Serbia was my salvation. We headed to Novi Sad and I began daily treatment with acupuncture and physio. Medicated with muscle relaxants, rest and good food, I was on the mend.

By day 6,  I was good and I am, to this day, so grateful for the good care I received from all concerned.

So, it was a return to business. But instead of doing my assigned route of Paris to the Swiss Alps as my first cruise of the season, I was  switched to the other direction. My colleague, Sabine, doing what was my stretch and me doing what was hers. So, Zurich to Paris it would be..

The travel up to Zurich was a short flight from Belgrade but long enough for me to start putting my notes and ideas together for the first cruise.

As this was my first cruise in this operation, doing the pre and post, I had a lot to learn in a short space of time.

Unlike other cruises I am used to, the pre and post was a completely different animal.

*Pre and Post simply means the guests enjoy a few days land package at either end of a cruise filled with itinerary highlights.

 Getting the first cruise of the season underway –  impressions

first impressionsMeeting guests for the first time in the hotel is tricky. I have a city host with me and frankly, the guests really have no idea who I am. I am not in a suit looking official with stripes and a title.

I am in our familiar red excursion gear and look just like our airport reps and city hosts in the same uniform.

Getting a connection with people without a welcome meeting (because guests are coming in at different times) makes the task of being memorable very challenging.

The guests receive a welcome letter, outlining the coming days events and I am situated at a well branded Viking desk in the hotel lobby. So, I answer questions and try to connect in a very sporadic process.

Even with greetings on the motor coaches when the guests first arrive, most are so jaded by long air travel, they see me, hear me, and frankly, most forget me. They are concerned with getting their luggage and their room.

My challenge is to break the ice and try and make their wait for their rooms comfortable and enjoyable.

I know exactly how it feels to get off a long haul flight, tackle the passport control, walk miles to find your luggage belt….wait with some degree of stress for your bags to come out and eventually wheel the trolley out of the arrivals and get on the coach.

By this time, you feel a bit jaded and just ready to have a shower and fighting the temptation to grab a nap.

airport s around the world

helpful tips*For those who are well traveled, you will know this is the worst thing to do when you have journeyed across time zones – sleep and you will be cursed with jet-lag for days. Try and hang in there and go to sleep at bedtime in the new time zone.

The Viking Experience begins. Anticipation is high for my first cruise of the season

Fortunately Viking helpfully provide Viking reps at the airport so our guests can immediately feel secure the moment they step into the arrival hall.

They are directed to the motor coach or van and whisked off to the hotel where they will meet me and the city host.

Zurich is a great starting point. The day after most guests arrival we head out for a tour of the city, taking in the charms of Altstadt (old town)

Most of us imagine Zurich as the powerhouse of finance and banking, and it certainly is. But happily, the less clinical aspect of commerce is lost in the area of the old town where you can absorb all the eye candy of centuries old architecture and history.

The city is blessed with Lake Zurich, and while our shoulder season guests coming in early spring were not able to enjoy the lake boat ride, the summer months offer this too as a part of the included excursion.

The following day it was time to get going for the ship. Motor coaches arrived in the morning and we were off for a short ride to Basel.

A city tour and we were then going to be heading for the ship with my “Viking family” waiting.

Nothing is perfect

Of course, nothing is perfect. I had just broken away from the completed tour for a coffee and my phone rang.

The guide informed me that one of the guests (who I will not name, simply refer to as Mrs W – but her name is indelibly printed in my mind) had fallen and gashed her nose and forehead.

I left my coffee and went rushing in pursuit of the lady. I met them halfway, the poor woman was bleeding profusely from her forehead and nose and was being helped along by her husband and one of our motor coach guides.

I took her to the pharmacy where she got checked out and then they advised me that she needs to go to the clinic.

The European sense of distance

I should know this by now. If ever you get directions from a European and they tell you it is only a few hundred meters, don’t believe them. We walked….and walked…and walked. Those few hundred meters turned out to be close on a mile.

Eventually I asked Mrs W and her husband to take a seat at a nearby coffee shop and I would go on ahead. I sprinted another couple of blocks and found the clinic.

On return I met up with the couple, making their own way as Mrs W had done what no man would do…asked directions.

So we got her in the clinic and happily, after a very impressive and quick examination, her injuries were cleaned up and the gashes glued (not sutured) to save scarring. Mrs W looked much better and we got a taxi to the ship.

I had called ahead, so the ship had her stateroom ready and happily all was good. Mrs W was in good spirits and although a bit battered, the experience was an anecdote and not the ruination of her cruise.

In fact it worked out perfectly. The guests from the tour started to arrive and I was able to personally welcome them on board.

The life of a program director is never dull. I guess that it is the draw for me. I love the challenges and the unforeseen. It is never “ground hog day”.

Certainly, it was an interesting start to my first cruise of the season but, I guess, this is a normal part of the way things go.

Getting to know guests is half the fun, really. People come from all parts. Whilst mostly US citizens, they still come from totally different backgrounds and viewpoints.

I find it fascinating. We have a smaller mix of Canadians and sometimes Australians and Brits.

The Swiss Alps to Paris Cruise Itinerary
Day by Day

1

 

Zürich, Switzerland

2

 

Zürich, Switzerland

3

 

Basel, Switzerland

4

 

Strasbourg, France

5

 

Speyer, Germany

6

 

Mainz, Germany

7

 

Koblenz, Germany

8

 

Cochem, Germany

9

 

Bernkastel/ Trier,  Germany

10

 

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

11

 

Paris, France

12

 

Paris, France

The weather was a bit iffy during the cruise. We had a few nice days but mostly cloudy and rainy. I recall the day in beautiful Mainz as being really cold.

It was actually, to my African sensibilities, freezing. I don’t recall feeling that cold except for a stretch a few years back when I did the Christmas cruises.

The guests were great! I enjoyed them and particularly their good spirits at the weather.

They were always laughing at me with my Michelin man appearance of layers of clothing with a parka jacket and my Viking red jacket worn over the top. Overall, it was a fantastic cruise with little issues to deal with considering the dynamic of the rivers.

Naturally the guests loved the crew. Such a great group of people that I am blessed to work with. Their attention to detail and service always amazes me and makes me proud.

Pullman Hotel ParisOnce we left the ship in Trier it was onto the coaches and off to Paris with a stop first in Luxembourg. Then we continued and eventually made it to the hotel.

We stayed at the Pullman hotel that is so beautifully placed right at the Eiffel Tower. Walking out of the hotel and seeing that famous landmark was an absolute delight.

I really enjoyed this first cruise of the season.

It was a great start! Now, onto the next..Cruise: 11th April – 22nd April, 2019 .

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