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My Article on my latest Viking River Cruise has been published. This is my expanded post on #myvikingstory: 10 Days on Viking’s Rhine River Getaway. Part One

My Article on my latest Viking River Cruise has been published. This is my expanded post on #myvikingstory: 10 Days on Viking’s Rhine River Getaway. Part One
 The focus of The Daily Meal, is, of course, food.  And so everything I write for them is about Food Events, Wine Touring and Culinary Travel.  I’m proud of my work and have acquired quite a portfolio of stories.  But many of my trips are about so much more than food.  And so today, I am posting an expanded view of my most recent Viking Adventure or as the hashtag  says: #myvikingstory.   Interspersed is the actual article from The Daily Meal. If you’d like to read that separately, here’s the link: https://www.thedailymeal.com/travel/viking-river-cruises-turns-its-rhine-river-getaway-culinary-adventure. But if you want to go along for my whole ten day trip, this is for you.  In two parts.  Here’s the first:

As river cruising grows and grows in popularity, Viking River Cruises, the industry giant and its most award-winning cruise line, has added something new.  Its world-wide itineraries now feature Culinary Tours, Wine Tastings and multiple opportunities to sample local cuisine on board and ashore, at virtually every port.  We went along for the ride on Viking’s “Rhine River Getaway” to sample what was on offer.  Miraculously, we didn’t gain an ounce but it wasn’t for lack of trying on Viking’s part.  Fortunately, there’s a lot of activity with along with a lot of delicious food.
Appetizer Course, Air France Business Class
Day 1: New York to Europe. I flew out of New York on Air France.  I have a fondness for this airline as I have an incredible track record of upgrades.   This was no exception. Business Class on Air France might as well be on a different plane from the one you in the back. The service, the lie-flat seats, the comfort and the perks –like use of the Air France lounge—all contrive to make this a flying experience to, believe it or not, look forward to.   The Business Class menu is by Daniel Boulud, the Lyonnais Chef who is now the pride of New York. I have to say that catering out of New York does not compare to catering out of Paris. Chef Boulud’s dinner was not up to his standards.  Flying from Paris to Budapest, I once had a cheese sandwich which was far tastier than my dinner from New York to Paris. But dinner was fine, the wines were even finer and oh, that lie-flat bed.
Beautiful Basel
Day 2. Basel, Switzerland. I arrived in Paris at a ridiculous hour of the morning with a 3-hour layover for my flight to Basel.  It was a Sunday morning so the airport and the plane were empty.  The flight to Basel lasts just over an hour and in the best thing you can say about air travel today, it was ‘uneventful’.   Basel’s airport serves three countries: France, Germany and Switzerland.  There are two exits from the airport.  One leads to the European Union countries of France and Germany, the other into Switzerland.  One wrong turn and you’ve entered the wrong country.  Fortunately, I didn’t.  Once outside the terminal, one of Viking’s familiar Mercedes buses awaited and we were soon at our destination, our sparkling white ship.
In Basel, we joined Viking Hlin, one of Viking’s fleet of Longships. “The Rhine River Getaway” can be taken in either direction from Basel to Amsterdam or vice-versa. While we waited for our staterooms to be readied, Viking offered an Introductory Walk which took in parts of the old city, its cathedral and landmarks.  Quite a few of our fellow passengers opted for the walk. The rest waited aboard ship until the cabins were available.
Balcony Stateroom about Viking Longship
Viking Longships staterooms are amazing feats of Scandinavian design, somehow managing to encompass a King-Sized bed, an in-room refrigerator, a bathroom with a heated floor, a balcony with space for two chairs, plenty of space to stow a week’s worth of clothing, a 40 inch television and multiple outlets for the endless number of electronic devices we travel with– all in 210 square feet of space.  The blond wood accents keep the staterooms light and bright as well truly well-thought out lighting with bedside controls.  Aside from an occasional swoosh from the adjoining bathroom, the Longship’s staterooms are miraculously soundproofed so your neighbor’s television never interrupts the quiet.
Tasting in Strasbourg

While Viking includes a complementary guided tour at every stop including our Basel walk, many of its culinary offerings require an extra fee for  extras including meals, samples, instruction–ranging from $49.00 to $199.00 for a day-long Culinary adventure. But even if you don’t spring for these, there are many great food opportunities along the way.  We’d barely had time to unpack before the first (complementary) Wine and Cheese tasting took place in the ship’s airy Lounge.  Here we sampled the wines we were to drink as our Longship traveled through one of the world’s great wine-growing regions.  Included in our fare, these wines were selected to be served at lunch and dinner.  Reislings predominated, not surprisingly since they account for 80 percent of the wine grown on the banks of the Rhine.  Also on the list were several

Reislings in Germany, Pinot Noir in Alsace

Rheingau Reds.  Lighter than their Spanish or French counterparts, these German wines were wonderful complements to lighter items on the Chef’s menus.  As to the cheeses, every country we passed through was represented from Swiss Comté to German Munster to France’s Tomme d’Alsace and Tomme de Savoie.

The first night aboard ship, we got a look at our thoroughly International passenger mix.  Past Viking trips had been overwhelmingly American, spurred to travel on Viking when the ship sponsored “Downton Abbey” at the height of that TV series’ popularity.  Aboard this trip were 26 Brits, 10 Canadians, 2 Australians, 2 Mainland Chinese and the rest Americans including 48 Chinese Americans. And among all those passengers, 21 of us were Journalists. There were Travel Writers from Canada and all over the US, Bloggers who specialize in Fitness Travel, 50 plus Travel, River Cruise Travel, Instagram wonders with thousands of followers and just 2 Public Relations people to stir us all in the right direction.
Remind you of anything?
Day 3.  Breisach Germany for the Black Forest and an optional side trip to Colmar, France. The culinary event for today was held in Germany’s Black Forest.  And you can likely guess what was served. It was a Schwarzwderkirschtorte.  And I’m giving you five seconds to figure out that that must mean “Black Forest Cake”.  This four-layer chocolate sponge cake is flavored with Cherry Schnaps (Kirschwasser) which is also added to its mounds of whipped cream, cherries and chocolate shavings.  The recipe is thought to date from the 16thcentury.  There’s even the quaint suggestion that the cake got its name from the traditional costume worn by women in The Black Forest.  See what you think: Their dress was black (think chocolate flakes, their blouse white like the cream and their hat, pictured here has red pom-poms that look for all the world like cherries.
Proud Cake Demonstrator and Electrician

On our Viking tour to somewhere called Hofgut Sternen, a kind of un-Viking like ‘theme park’, a Black Forest cake was put together before our eyes.  Layers of chocolate sponge cake were covered in mounds of whipped cream, while sour cherries occupied a single layer and the local Kirschwasser moistened the surprisingly light and not-too-sweet cake.  A young man took us through each step.  At the end of his demonstration, wanting some background, I asked where he had

Back aboard Viking Hlin, a contemporary take on a classic

gone to Culinary School.  He hadn’t.  Instead, he was an electrician in his native Croatia.  Welcome to the European Union.  His cake, however, was no match for the contemporary version created by the Hlin’s on-board pastry chef. Served that night, it was the first of many exquisite desserts on board.  These are all created by a chef whose background clearly did include culinary school.

Hotel de Ville, Strasbourg
Strasbourg’s moving War Memorial
Day 4. Kehl, Germany, the port for Strasbourg, France.  For a passionate foodie, today’s All-Day excursion, “Taste the Best of Alsace” was sheer nirvana.  The “Grand Ile” of Strasbourg is the first of 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites on this itinerary.  And what a splendid place it is!  Viking prides itself on the quality of its guides and here in Strasbourg, ours was top drawer.  She’d been the President of the local guides association and it showed in her ability to share her city with us.  The city has a tortured history. Strasbourg alternated between being part of France and part of Germany, often within the same war, as was the case in World War II.  A very moving War Memorial in front of the Hotel de Ville, shows a grieving mother. Her two sons, one facing France and the other Germany, hold hands, united in death in a city divided by war.  The Monument makes no mention of either country– just the years of the wars that consumed Europe for generations.
The dual cultures of Strasbourg are part of the city’s culinary heritage.   One example: The hearty breads of Germany live side by side the delicacy of French pastries.  Blending both food and history in one monumental walk, we took in bakeries and cheese shops, a wine-tasting with cheese pairings, a shop that made nothing but gingerbread and even a hands-on cooking class.  There we made Tartes Flambées or Flammekeuche, a sweet or savory Alsacienne version of Pizza that gives the real deal a run for its money.

If you hadn’t signed up for the “Taste” tour, back on board Viking Hlin, Executive Chef

Cooking Class:  Tarte Flamee or Flammekeuche

Mladen Arezina was giving a full-on demonstration of Flammekeuche himself.  Menus aboard all Viking Longships emanate from Chef Anthony Mauboussin, Viking’s Executive Chef.  Working out of his home in Chamonix, France, Chef Mauboussin creates menu items that reflect time and place of every Viking destination.  These recipes also provide a standard of excellence for all Viking’s Chefs to follow.   Vikling Hlin’s chef, who hails from Belgrade, Serbia, has some leeway if he runs out of an ingredient but overall, his dishes reflect Viking’s strict commitment to its signature recipes and their consistent quality.  The chef also has the use of an entire herb garden which grows merrily along on the top deck of the Hlin.

Heidelberg as seen from the Schloss

Day 5. Manheim, Germany for Heidelberg then on to Rudesheim, Germany. One of our fellow press people advised staying on the Hlin if you’d seen Heidelberg before.  I cannot imagine missing this city no matter how many times I’d been there.   Mannheim is a good hour away from Heidelberg, by Viking Tour Bus.  The site of one of the world’s most famous Universities dating from 1836, Heidelberg is still a college town. Its population is 150,000, one quarter of whom are students.  It is also a scientific hub and the third richest city in Germany.  You can tell how affluent it is by the glorious

Dedicated to Elizabeth Stuart

homes that line the banks of the river Neckar.  But it’s Heidelberg’s Castle that dominates the town from its hillside 260 feet above town. The first of our Schlosses as Castles are called in Germany,  Heidelberger Schloss dates from 1214 with later additions that establish it was one of the greatest Renaissance structures north of the Alps.  The stories surrounding the castle are the stuff of fairytales, of an English Princess, Elizabeth Stuart, whose adoring husband added to the palace in her honor, of battles and fires and all manner of dramas.  It’s a vast place with extraordinary statuary covering its facades.  The place is so fascinating and its history so intriguing, the only regret is that time spent at the Palace is time not spent in the romantic town at its base. Since our Coach ride to Heidelberg took longer because of road work, all too soon, the Viking Tour ended and we travelled back to the Hlin docked in Gernsheim which quickly departed for an afternoon on the Rhine.  At about 5 o’clock we docked in Rudesheim.

Schloss Johannisberg

Overlooking this resort town, Schloss Johannisberg is considered one of the world’s premiere producers of Reisling.   Wine grapes have been grown on this property for 1200 years.  The Schloss itself is massive, a replacement for one destroyed in World War II. The caves of the original castle survived.  Here under the direction of the winemaker, Dieter Salomon, a tasting was hel

d exclusively for Viking guests.  Salomon

Johannisberg, it’s beauty a match for its wines.

surprised tasters with the depth of fruit flavors of the same Reisling varietal.  The Gelblack-trocken had hints of sweet pears, quince and apricots.  The Rotlack-Kabinett-feinherb was slightly off-dry with an apple aroma.  And the Grünlack Spätlese combined pear and peach notes. All of these wines were available at the Vineyards Wine Shop.  And here, as everywhere else, Viking encourages its passengers to bring aboard their ‘souvenirs’ and enjoy them aboard ship.

There are two Culinary Options. One included dinner at the Schloss’ restaurant, a forgettable meal punctuated with memorable wine.  We could have opted for another local specialty: Bier.  A group of Viking passengers had a dinner and beer tasting in Rudesheim itself.  Again the liquid portion of the tasting outshone the food.  We may well have all been spoiled by Viking’s excellent and varied menu aboard ship which a shore side chef would find to be tough competition.
At this, the half-point mark in our journey, before anyone is exhausted, I will take a break and continue Part 2 in our next post.  Any guesses where we’re going next?  Stay tuned.

 



6 thoughts on “My Article on my latest Viking River Cruise has been published. This is my expanded post on #myvikingstory: 10 Days on Viking’s Rhine River Getaway. Part One”

  • Hi Monte – it was so nice meeting you on the cruise and wow! what a write up. I opted for more of the sightseeing tours rather than the culinary one so thanks for sharing such a detailed story of the experience. Should have joined the Schloss Johannisberg wine tasting in hindsight… 😉

    Sher
    https://shershegoes.com

  • It was so great meeting you and Lily and I do hope we get a chance to get together once I get back to the city in October. Take care and have a great summer. I'll be sending you Part 2 on Monday! All best, MM

  • Where to start? I have good and bad experiences on my Rhine Getaway. Even before stating I asked my sales consultant about the water levels and was told that a ship swap was a distant possibility. And if I chose to cancel or rebook I would lose the total amount. SO I proceeded to “enjoy” my Rhine river getaway. First let me say that we did indeed swap ships. This gave us a unique perspective to compare two ships and staff. The first ship the KARA was beautiful and the front desk, waiters, and bartenders, were beautiful in spirit and accommodating our every request. We purchased the silver drink package (150 per person) and I can report to you that it was a bargain, as there are eaters and drinkers and we are definitely drinkers. SO if you enjoy drinks you must purchase this package. OK so we are on the KARA, for two days and then we are told that we will do a ship sway. So here we go packing everything again. And we need to be bussed to the next ship. As a result we had to leave the people with whom we became friends, (the ships staff), and boarded a bus for a long trip to our reduced excursion. I cried when we left that friendly staff. They even got a cab to deliver our lost luggage and deliver it to the next port of call. And did our laundry for free while the bags were lost. AND even members of the crew offered their personal clothing until ours arrived. The KARA crew was EXCELLENT. God how I will miss them. OK so reduced time at our next excursion, back on a bus and then we boarded the HLIN. BIG DIFFERENCE!!!!!! I expected the bartenders and staff to be “same but different”. Now I am an outgoing and friendly guy but almost IMMEDIATELY I found the attitude VERY DIFFERENT and cold. This was not just my opinion, but ALL of the fellow passengers with whom I came into conversation with. If it were just me, I could write it off BUT is was unanimous! Even the guests in the SUITE at the rear of the ship (the executive presidential suite), the largest in the ship, with whom we became friends, said that the bartender was downright RUDE. They had planned to go on another Viking cruise and were making plans told me that they will go one Tauk or Crystal instead. They told me that that trip was around 25K and they planned to “vote with their wallets”. And eschew any future Viking cruises.

    As I said before we were one of the lucky ones who went on the Rhine. Our captain told us the Elbe and Danube were now completely closed to river traffic of large ships. One a positive note I spent MANY hours in the wheelhouse with out captain, Adam, who as an engineer appreciates all the technical details of captaining a longboat. Radar, FLIR, river navigation systems, sonar, and all the logistics were explained to me. As we became closer he showed me pictures of his beautiful Polish wife and handsome son. For me this was the best part of the cruise. The captain on the HLIN made this ship OK for me but the rest forget it. We made friends with a guest who was a professional chef and he had “words” with the HLIN chef about things I dont know about like the temperature of a “sear”. I tried the “stew” which consisted of boiled cubes of some kind of meat, cubed potatoes and carrots in a broth. NOT stew in my definition. Almost the same meals every day. Now I am very easy to please BUT if you are looking for above average meals, you wont find it here. I did the poached salmon almost every night. My wife had a “ribeye, which she could not eat. Our table guests looked at the food presented and many had the ceaser salad instead which was actually pretty good.

    So would I do it again you are asking. Are you sitting down? IF and this is a big IF Viking makes it worth my while I may consider them again. But after reading the other reviews and what Viking did after they returned home, I think not. Now I know that Viking can not control the water levels, but that is not the issue. The insincerity and holding back of information is what I have an issue with. They got our money and it seems that it was all they wanted. It was MUCH worse for the Danube travelers. All in alI guess I was pretty lucky in the end

    • I send you my sympathy on having the change ships, midstream so to speak. It was a terribly hot summer in Europe with very little rain. I myself was on a Danube Cruise and we were very much in the same predicament. The difference was that we never changed ships. We were just inconvenienced by the driving distances that were necessary to take in the itinerary when we could not travel above Passau. Just another sign of Climate Change, I am afraid. But hardly the fault of the cruise lines. You didn’t mention the ports you visited on this trip. I loved Strasbourg in particular, and Heidelberg, Cologne, Kinderdijk and of course, Amsterdam. I hope you won’t give up the ghost on Viking. And I’d highly recommend Viking Ocean. It is simply spectacular. My best to you!

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