Home » Cruise: 11th April – 22nd April, 2019

Back at it - Swiss Alps to Paris
11th-22nd April, 2019

The Cruise

After seeing the last of the guests off on their post extension in Paris, it was time to pack and head back to Zurich.
 
I really enjoy the Swiss Alps to Paris run. The itinerary is varied and guests get to visit 4 countries.
 
The difference in countries is remarkable, both in their geography and the cultures. I guess this is what makes cruising Europe such a deeply satisfying experience.
 
There are so many takeaways  from any trip. I sail these itineraries all the time and I can honestly say that it is never the same and I am learning and seeing new things all the time.
 
swiss alps to Paris
 

The first real challenge of the cruise – Departing for the Viking Idi from the hotel

This is a critical morning for me as a PD. This is the first real logistics that need to be dealt with, aside from the city tour the previous day.

The luggage truck needs to be confirmed and waiting, as do the motor coaches.

If I mess this up, it would be an uphill battle to convince the guests that everything on the cruise would run smoothly. So, as the saying goes; “get it right the first time”.

Friday morning at it was time to leave for the ship waiting in Basel. The morning starts early for me and the hotel staff as we start sorting through the luggage left outside the rooms, as directed, the night before.

For simplicity, the luggage is divided into 4 colors and guests receive these color assignments along with their luggage tags in the welcome letters when they arrive at the hotel.

Guests then have assigned times to come down and identify their luggage in those individual color groupings and then go to breakfast.

Prepping the departure

Meanwhile, the luggage is loaded onto a luggage truck for transport to the ship. The idea here is to make sure the luggage is waiting in their assigned staterooms on board by the time they get to the ship.

The guests are then coming to the lobby at their assigned departure time and I lead them to the coaches.

The first of the Optional tours is sent off. This is the highlight of the Swiss Alps to Paris river cruise cruise.

These guests then go in another direction as they will meet us later that day in a port outside of Basel while the three regular groups with the included excursion head off to Basel and a morning tour there.

Thankfully this morning, everything went well and guests seemed happy. We were off to a flying (cruising) start!

Weather is always a factor..

The weather on the cruise remained a bit so-so, as it had the previous cruise. The great advantage of coming to Europe early or late in the season is the fact that it is not too hot and the European crowds are still thin.

Sometimes you can get 10 days of the most gorgeous weather with blue skies and warm temps.

Sometimes you may not be lucky and get grey skies, rain and really cold wind. This cruise got a majority of the latter, sadly.

Still, this Swiss Alps to Paris cruise was made up of an eclectic group of guests who all seemed to have a great time and, regardless of a few challenges along the way from weather to a lock delay in Strasbourg, all had good spirits and a fun outlook.

It was a busier cruise for me than usual. The delays we experienced meant a lot of re-organization and re scheduling.

My job, like all our PD’s with Viking, is to make sure that whatever the change of plans is, it does not take away from the guests enjoyment and expectations.

Final stop of the cruise before heading to Paris

Trier was a bit of a nightmare for me. This was our last stop on the cruises before leaving Idi for Paris.

All was good, the guests had got their tour and free-time. It was back to the motor coaches as I led 180+ people from the meeting point of Porta Nigra – see left (The Roman Black Gate) to the area where the motor coaches waited.

I got everyone on the coaches and started my counts. 100% on three of the coaches but the 4th coach was missing two!

This is where a PD starts to feel the strain. Two people missing means 2 people stranded someplace in town. Urgh…

The PD challenge. Find your missing guests in a busy town, make decisions on the spot and try not to inconvenience too much those guests who had got their timing right…Those who don’t become the missing guests – the nightmare!

Observations along the way

Mike, my city host in Paris is great at what he does. He is organized and gets things done, plus his French is way better than my 5 years French at school.

Although, I must say, I am fascinated how words, phrases and understanding come back from the deep recesses of ones’ mind. Although I won’t pretend to understand a great deal (partly because the French speak so fast), I was happy to see that I could get back on my French horse and learn it again.

Understanding the French

Understanding the French

A word about the French – I think they get a bad rep, generally. I always hear people talk about the rude French.

Yes, there are those who may seem abrupt but I believe it is a cultural aspect. Of course, there are some who are rude and deserve to be called so, but that is for every nation, not just the French. Can they appear unhelpful?

Yes. They can seem a little snotty at times. They do not suffer fools or tourists gladly. Tourist friendly, not so much. But I have got to understand their nature in my many visits to France.

They are very gracious and willing to help overall, but we also need to adapt our way of thinking and appear less arrogant or, frankly, stupid at times.

We are all capable of asking silly questions. They are not silly unto themselves, but our phraseology is different.  

For example: “Where can I buy croissants?”

 In a Frenchman’s concept of that question – it is literal. In their mind they are thinking “At a bakery” DUH! And not whereabouts is the bakery or the place you can get croissants.

 In English, we know the place to get croissants. Our question really is..  “ Where do I find the bakery where we can buy croissants?”

So, in defense of the French, when they hear a question like “Where can I get croissants” they respond with a somewhat sardonic response of “I don’t know…Ask that person…or, at the bakery”

Their irritation at what they perceive as a stupid question is translated by a rude or dismissive response.

Hence, to understand why people seem rude, we need to back up and try and understand how they perceive our questions.

I think it is very much a built-in arrogance that we native English speakers assume that everyone speaks English and should understand what we mean. That’s obviously not how it works.

Flying AirFrance. Flying to Zurich for the start of another Swiss Alps to Paris cruise

Air France

After the final departures of guests from Paris, it was time to head back to the next cruise. Flying Air France actually was a good experience.

Aside from them screwing me over with an extended leg room seat bought and paid for, I was pretty happy. The equipment looked fresh with clean seats and cabin. Snacks were sufficient and service was good.

CDG is not my favorite airport and there seems to be a lot of refurbishing going on when I was there.

The airport is huge and sprawling and getting the Terminal right the first time is vital. If you get dropped off at the wrong terminal, prepare for a serious mission to get to the other terminal.

On a happier note, I think someone high up in the company has issued orders for the Air France personnel to get their standards in order.

I have seen some definite improvements although, I am told that their customer service is still lagging.

Fortunately, I have not had to deal with them recently with any missed connections, lost baggage and the like.

However, I have heard some nightmare stories from guests and others regarding the way they were re-compensated (or not-more commonly) or treated with a care-less attitude to their issues.

I sincerely hope that Air France makes the effort to get ALL and not just some of their departments improved.

The flight was smooth and just a couple of hours I was back in Zurich. Again, I have found the cabin crew to be polite and helpful.

One of the guys did look miserable, but I think that was just his face. He broke a smile when I remarked on something, so there was some hope.

Swiss Alps to Paris Cruise. The Sheraton, Zurich

Back at the Sheraton hotel and back to work. My first task was to check in and start to get the Welcome letters ready. Then it was time for a good night rest. Guests would be coming in the following day.

The Sheraton, Zurich is out of the city. However, this is not a real inconvenience for our guests.

The tram is just outside the hotel and is so easy to travel on. A 15 minute ride and you’re in the city.

Guests generally make their own plans, just asking for venues to eat close-by and spend their time at leisure when not on tour.

Zurich offers great Fondue restaurants, a few good museums, which many of our guests who have extended their included land portion with an extra couple of days before, will visit.

sheraton zurich
Sheraton Zurich gym
Sheraton Zurich room

The hotel itself is really nice. From my side, the staff there are great and do their level best to have rooms ready even though standard check-in time is 3:00pm.

Guests arriving at 7 and 8 am in the morning would be in for a long wait if it were not for the efforts of the Sheraton staff to make sure they have some early rooms available if they can manage it.

The rooms are large and airy. Beds are great – I can definitely vouch for that! The gym is well equipped with mostly aerobic equipment and the area, although a bit out of the main city center, offers up a lot of comfort for those who want to just chill and later in the week, enjoy the included tour of Zurich with Viking.

However, I would urge anyone considering staying at this hotel, either as a Viking guest or as a traveler, to take the easy transport into the city. It is safe and it is clean and the old town area of Zurich with the lake is a real treasure.

Taking an Optional Viking Excursion

As with the previous cruise, Swiss Alps to Paris, Viking offers many optional excursions available on the cruise as well as Pre and Post. These are excursions you can do in addition to the included and some take the place of the included tour.

Yes, these come at an extra cost but the variety and specialty of these optional excursions is exceptional. Overall, this is good value for those seeking something a little more in-depth.

 Look, you would be fine doing just the included tours and get to see a great overview and hear the history and have a feel of the culture of any of the Viking destinations.

However, for those with more specific tastes, there are options and these are very popular with our guests.

 
  • The Palace of Versailles
  • Paris Cabaret with Dinner
  • Montmartre Hill
  • Bernkastel-Kues Wine Tasting
  • Vineyards & Vistas by Canoe
  • Bicycling the Moselle
  • Historic Mainz & St. Stephen’s Church
  • Heidelberg & Martin Luther’s Worms
  • Alasatian Wine Tasting
  • Taste the Best of Alsace
  • Mercedes-Benz Factory
  • Strasbourg from the Top
  • Highlights of the Alps
  • Make Your Own Swiss Cheese

The highlight of the Swiss Alps to Paris  Optional Excursions

helpful tipsProbably the most memorable of the optional excursions, the Swiss Highlights would definitely be a must-see for me. You’re in Switzerland and you want to see the Alps.

Sure, on a clear day you can see them from a distance from Zurich, but the real McCoy is seeing them up close and personal.

There is something deliciously whimsical and magical about the Swiss Alps. It’s a sense that is almost impossible to describe.

The pastoral green that rests in lush lazy grass carpeted valleys , vividly contrasting against the blinding white of snow covered peaks is a thing of unspeakable beauty.

The guests who were lucky enough to enjoy this optional tour had a full day in one of the most breathtaking and stunning scenery parts of the world.

Walled in by the dramatic snow covered Swiss Alps as their frame and the lush green meadows and idyllic Swiss villages that dotted the hillsides as their canvas, this is truly a remarkable experience.

Riding the Cogwheel train as it chugs it’s way through the passes is just something that will stay with you forever. All those pics you have seen of Switzerland, as beautiful as they may be, do it no justice when you see them for real!

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